Advent Midweek 2 LSB #’s 331:1-4, 331:5-6, 862
Text – Luke 1:5
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, & her name was Elizabeth.
In the 1st year of their marriage, with his wife sick with a fever, her husband insists, “I’m taking you to the hospital for a complete checkup.” In the 2nd year of their marriage, when his wife gets sick, her husband announces, “I’ve called the doctor & he’s going to rush right over.” In the 3rd year her husband says, “I’ll make you something to eat. Do we have any soup?”
In the 4th year of marriage, when his wife is sick again, her husband says, “After you’ve fed the kids & washed the dishes, you’d better get some rest, but don’t worry, I’ll cash the check from AFLAC.” Family life can be the best of times. It can be the worst of times.
On this 2nd Wednesday in Advent, we begin a new sermon series called “Family Life.” There’s much to learn from the families connected with the birth of Jesus. They faced infertility, rejection, frustration, loss, & so much more. Luke 1:5 introduces us to two of these families:
“In the time of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah.” This sermon has two parts. In the 1st Herod’s family will be highlighted. In the 2nd we will zero in on Zechariah’s family.
Herod’s family – This Herod is also called “Herod the Great.” And, yes, this is the same Herod who, when Jesus was born, ordered the execution of all the boys under the age of two in & around Bethlehem. In fact, to say that Herod was a monster, is putting it mildly. Born into a politically connected family in 73 BC, Herod was destined for a life of political hardball.
He married ten times & ordered the execution of two of his wives & three of his sons. When Herod’s father was poisoned by a political opponent, seething with revenge, he formed an ingenious plan. He invited his father’s killers over for a dinner party. As they arrived he had all of them murdered. By the age of 69 Herod knew he was dying & that no one would mourn his death. He longed for tears at his funeral, so he devised one final, desperate plan.
He would bring together the top leaders of the land for a meeting in Jericho &, once they arrived, he would have his fortress gates locked. Just before the moment of his death all the leaders would be massacred. One way or another, people would cry when Herod died.
In the late 1800s two paddleboats on the Mississippi River left Memphis, Tennessee on a race to New Orleans. As his boat fell behind, an enterprising sailor took some of the ship’s cargo & began throwing it into the ovens. When other sailors saw that the supplies burned just like coal, they threw more & more of it in.
That boat ended up winning the race, but in the process burned all its cargo. It is a tragic picture of Herod’s family. To win the race, eliminate every rival, & to be top dog, Herod burned all the cargo. He destroyed his family.
“Thank God,” I can hear us saying, “I am not like Herod. I never raise an angry hand against a child. I pay my taxes, & every now & then I slip a little money into the offering plate. Once at a nursing home I even played bingo with my grandmother.”
But, if we’re honest with ourselves, we sometimes see in the mirror a little Herod staring back at us. There’s a part of us all that would rather rule than serve, dominate rather than submit, get ahead & win even at the expense of people in our family.
We’ve all used words to slice & dice our spouse, made selfish decisions that hurt our children & ignored clear warnings from God’s word. The result? Though family can be the best of times, too often family is also the worst of times. That’s enough highlighting of Herod’s family. Let’s now zero-in on Zechariah.
Zechariah’s family – “They had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; & they both were advanced in years.” (Luke 1:7) In Luke 1:25, Elizabeth describes her barrenness as “a disgrace among the people.” In those days, if you had children you had everything. Conversely, if you had no children you had nothing.
Zechariah & Elizabeth longed for a child, but now it’s too late. That ship sailed & the train left the station. There was no going back. “They were old.” The pain of regret hits us most frequently when it comes to family.
Maybe you are like Zechariah & Elizabeth, wanting children but not able to conceive. Maybe you’re single, desperately wanting to be married, but it just has not happened. Maybe you’re married, & it hasn’t turned out like you had hoped. Like Zechariah & Elizabeth we can all feel disgrace & shame among the people.
End of story? No way! God intervened! He gave Elizabeth & Zechariah gifts – the same gifts He gives to our families. What are they?
God’s promises never end. Israel’s three matriarchs Sarah (Gn 11:30), Rebekah (Gn 25:31) & Rachel (Gn 29:31) were all barren at one time. So was Hannah, the mother of Samuel (1 Sm 2:5). All four women eventually had children. Elizabeth & Zechariah must have believed if God could do it before – not once, but four times – God can do it again!
Has family life left you frustrated & empty? Then hear this. If God was faithful to Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel & Hannah, He will be faithful to you. God loves you. His promises for you in Jesus Christ never, ever end! You may have given up on you. But God will never give up on you. He replaces barrenness & brokenness with goodness & grace!
God’s presence never disappoints. “[Zechariah] was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord & burn incense.” (Lk 1:9) Luke 23:45 records another time that someone has access to the temple; “The curtain of the temple was torn in two.” In Luke 1, Zechariah has access to God’s presence. In Luke 23, because of Christ’s death, we all have access to God’s presence. And the presence of Yahweh never disappoints!
God’s presence is most evident in the Lord’s Supper. The body that suffered & was crucified – that true body is present for you. The blood that was shed, spilled & splattered – that true blood is present for you. By the blood of Jesus you have access to the most holy presence of the most Holy God! And His presence forgives all your family failures – every last one of them!
God’s plan never fails. God gave Elizabeth & Zechariah a child, promising that John: “would go before the Lord, in the spirit & power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children.” (Lk 1:17) God’s plan & desire is to turn all hearts toward home, to replace vengeance & bitterness with forgiveness & love.
So one day a mother came home from the grocery store. Looking in her living room she saw her four children sitting in a circle. As she got closer, she saw that her children were playing with four of the cutest little skunks you’ve ever seen! The mother yelled, “Run, children, run!” So each child grabbed a skunk & began to scatter.
After that? Let’s just say that things began to get real stinky! Family life! It can be the worst of times. It can be the best of times. The next time it gets stinky in your family, don’t fly off the handle like Herod – you could lose it all. Instead, trust in God’s promises, God’s presence, & God’s plan. They are real. They are alive. And they work.
Don’t believe me? Then just ask Zechariah & Elizabeth! Amen.
Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall, where Jesus Christ is all in all! A home that is not wholly His – how sad & poor & dark it is! Oh, blest the house where faith is found & all in hope & love abound; they trust their God & serve Him still & do in all His holy will. Amen.
2nd Sunday of Advent – C LSB #’s 354, 347, 344
Text – Luke 3:4
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”
PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD
In 1 Samuel 3, verse 1 tells us: “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days…” 1400 years later, in the 3rd chapter of Luke’s gospel we hear: “…during the high priesthood of Annas & Caiaphas, the word of God came to John… in the wilderness.” (3:2 ESV)
In the centuries between, the Word of the Lord ebbed & flowed with the willingness of the people to listen. The high point was most likely during the reign of David, & a clear low point came about with God’s final words of the OT through the prophet Malachi:
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great & dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, & the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come & strike the land with a curse.” (4:5-6 ESV)
Ominous words to end the OT. And after them, the Word of the Lord flowed to a complete halt for over 400 years. That brings us to the Gospel of Luke: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’” John the Baptist was created & sent by Yahweh to bring the Word of the Lord to people willing to hear.
The Baptist does not come across as a kinder & gentler sort of prophet. His words are like fire & brimstone: “…You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? …Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down & thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7 & 9 ESV)
If you’ve had any experience with getting burned you are well aware that fire hurts, &
the wound it leaves can hurt for a long time. God uses fire as a way of picturing His wrath. For two or three hundred years Western Christians have been attempting to avoid altogether the topic or even the existence of God’s wrath. John the Baptist makes people feel uncomfortable.
And yet, the more our cultures have tried to place human beings in charge of daily life, & the more we have tried to hold Yahweh at arm’s length – nice to have gotten us started, God! – the less personal our Creator has become in our thinking, the weaker & more frivolous our conception of His personality.
He has turned from the medieval Father, angry with us for sinning, into a modern Father who is forgetful, neglectful, largely absent in fact from the hours of our faults & failures. John the Baptist reminds us that God does not like us to be sinning, & that He is as angry as hellfire about our failure to fear, to love & to trust in Him above anything that has been created.
God abhors the mess we make of our lives because He is a loving Father who knows how much better things could be. The OT is filled with stories of God calling His people to Himself through expressions of His distaste for their sins. He knows personally the damage sin has done.
The cracking & creaking of our lives demonstrates that whatever we have used to hold life together is not a worthy substitute for the Creator. Yahweh is a loving Father according to His very essence. So His wrath burns against anything that turns His children away from the good He intends for them. Fire hurts, & the wound it leaves can burn for eternity.
Sadly, human beings bring the fire upon themselves & in their twisted thinking they call it good. What is good they strive to call evil. In response to the same tendencies of his day, John the Baptist preached: “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’””
In other words, stop calling what is evil good! Stop calling what is good evil! Make
the path of Christ straight, not crooked! Speak the truth & do it with love. That sentence has two parts to it. Do you know which the followers of Jesus struggle with? People who follow Christ know the truth even when we lie. It’s love that we cannot comprehend or know apart from Jesus crucified!
Going back to Luke 3, the rulers of the earth are named – Roman & Jewish, imperial & local, secular & religious. If you examine it closely, you’ll find a striking contrast between the introductory clauses of 39 words & the main clause of only 11. Can you detect what the Holy Spirit is highlighting with such stark contrast? Here are the introductory clauses:
“In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, & Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, & his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea & Trachonitis, & Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas & Caiaphas.”
They are the ruling structure of the world – movers & shakers, rulers & powerbrokers. They were the very men who made the world go round – in the eyes of men. And the main clause, it could not be in sharper contrast to them: “…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” Neither to the rulers nor to their palaces does Yahweh come.
What is the Holy Spirit highlighting with such stark contrast? That God Almighty does not save His people through the human powers on earth. Instead, He works through the weak & the lowly, like a peasant family spending the night in a cattle stall, because there was no room for them at the inn where people of means & of power would stay.
Yet, St. Luke places this narrative in a historical context that is both Roman & Jewish, secular & religious, to show that the Word of God coming to John is a significant event in both salvation & world history. Though ‘the world’ does not believe in God, still He is their ruler & their Creator. God alone establishes their reality. Though human beings may fancy this to be true, there is no ‘your’ truth & ‘my’ truth. There is only His truth, & being corrupted by sin you & I cannot perceive truth unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. John the Baptist calls you & me to Prepare The Way Of The Lord, but that happens only by the power of God. Our Creator calls everyone to repent & return to Him. Some yield to His call. Others refuse.
Before God became silent, with the end of Malachi’s words, He gave His people this torah, this instruction: “Remember, see, & turn.” It is our sinful nature & that alone which separates us from our Creator. To prepare the way of the Lord is simply to surrender to Him.
God is love. As we submit to Him He will hold our lives together perfectly – perfectly according to His sight. Do you trust that God can see? Only as we submit to God can we speak the truth in love. Only as we submit to God can we love at all. We prepare for the cure through submitting to a crucified Savior. As we surrender to His will we prepare the way of the Lord.
John the Baptist was sent to point out how far from God His people had wandered. They were completely lost by the end of the OT, & things did not improve over the following 400 years. Yet, this is what our Creator saw with His perfect vision:
“…the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Your sinful nature has separated you from the perfect relationship your heavenly Father had designed for you. The church’s season of Advent is about preparing for the cure! We prepare through repentance, what the season of Advent used to signify. We prepare the way of the Lord through repentance but that still falls short of the cure.
Repentance is the preparation. Receiving adoption as children of God – that is the purpose. Being perfectly reunited with our Creator in a beautiful & harmonious relationship is the purpose that a repentant heart prepares you for. Our sinful nature leads us away from our Lord, & the Holy Spirit turns us back to Him through repentance. Hopefully you’ve heard by now that the very 1st of Martin Luther’s 95 theses stated that the whole life of the Christian should be one of repentance. Preparing the way of the Lord is what our lives should revolve around, because Jesus is the source of resurrection life that will last for eternity.
The confession of our sins is not to be something we do grudgingly. It is to be a yearning for our Lord’s forgiveness & for the life which that brings.
Since Christmas is over two weeks away, I expect many of you still have a fair of amount of preparing to do before it arrives. Even if our culture does, John the Baptist did not shy away from the truth of Yahweh’s coming wrath. It was not John’s purpose that people should suffer & die, but the end is drawing near. Christ will return. Jesus wants you to be ready.
This very moment His Word is near to you. That you are here today proves that your heavenly Father has begun a good work in you. Surrender to Him that He may bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Then, you will see with your own eyes the cure which the season of Advent is meant to prepare you for. Amen.
Hark, the herald’s voice is crying in the desert far & near, calling sinners to repentance, since the Kingdom now is here. O that warning cry obey! Now prepare for God a way; let the valleys rise to meet Him & the hills bow down to greet Him. “Comfort, comfort ye My people, speak ye peace,” thus saith our God; “Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning ’neath their sorrows’ load. Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them; tell her that her sins I cover & her warfare now is over.” Amen. LSB 347:3, 1.
 Luke 3:4 ESV
 Luke 3:1-2 ESV
 Galatians 4:4-5 ESV
1st Sunday in Advent – C LSB #’s 332:1-3, 5-7, 341, 349
Text – Luke 21:25-28
And there will be signs in sun & moon & stars, & on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea & the waves, people fainting with fear & with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power & great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up & raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
LIFT UP YOUR HEADS
On your mark, get set, go! None of you moved! Weren’t you ready? You still a bit sleepy? Okay, I’ll give you another chance. On your mark, get set, go! You know, those words usually have some effect on people, but you’re just sitting there. What’s up with that?
Don’t you understand what those words mean? Or is it simply that you don’t know where to run? Oh, I know, as Lutherans you’re not supposed to run in church. PAUSE
So how did that introduction make you feel? A bit uneasy? Were you concerned that you didn’t know what was going on? Did the thought occur to you that you might have missed something? And some of you probably thought I was getting ridiculous!
The point is, whatever your reasons were, you were not prepared to respond. I’m assuming that all of you have encountered some sort of real life situation like that. A time where you’ve heard words like these, “Oh, didn’t anyone tell you! You were supposed to… do whatever.” And, since no one told you, you weren’t prepared.
That can be an uncomfortable feeling. As the new pastor arriving in North Dakota, I was overwhelmed by all that I had to learn. My 1st three months were spent with that feeling of anxiety; the feeling that I was supposed to be doing something but I’d forgotten, or hadn’t even been told about yet. It was an almost constant feeling of being unprepared.
The Bible tells us that the 2nd coming of Christ will be like an event that no one told you about. It will be like no one told you about it, because no one knows when that day will be. In the gospel lesson for last week Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) As a result, many people will be unprepared for Christ’s return.
As Christians, we have a problem. We have an appointment to keep, but don’t know when that appointment is. We are to be prepared for the Day of Judgment, yet, we don’t know when that will be; & the Day of Judgment is no small potatoes.
It’s not like being unaware you’re supposed to start out this sermon by running up to the altar. You all missed that, but there were no consequences. Yet, if you are not prepared for the last day, you won’t get a 2nd chance. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said in one of his movies, “Hasta la vista, baby.” On that last day, the time for preparation will be over.
So how do we prepare for something, when we don’t know what time to be prepared? We are a very time oriented culture. Our lives are quite filled with schedules & deadlines. Almost everything we do is dictated somehow by the when of it. When do I have to be here, when do I have to be there, & when can I fit this into my schedule.
We are lost without a time target to shoot for. Since we don’t know when Christ will return we must be patient & persevering in our preparation. Those are skills our culture & society do not teach well. The Advent season of the church is designed to help us with that problem. During Advent you & I are to practice preparing for Christ’s return.
We use His 1st coming, His birth in Bethlehem, as the stand in. Yet the coming that we are actually preparing for is His second. The gospel of Mark says of this coming, “Make sure that, having come suddenly, He does not find you asleep.” In other words, “Be prepared.”
The words of the gospel lesson were prompted by a question directed to Jesus: “Teacher, when will these things be, & what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” (Luke 21:7 ESV) Our Lord used the opportunity to tell them something of the approaching Day of Judgment. The sermon text picks up with Jesus’ answer: “There will be miraculous signs in sun & moon & stars...” One of the old theologians of our church explained it like this:
“These signs will not be of the regular kind, like eclipses & other phenomena, which are governed by the fixed laws of nature. For these fixed laws will be repealed by the Creator, & the bonds which hold the entire universe together will dissolve. That universe will then crumble into utter chaos.”
If you’ve seen TV news coverage of a hurricane, you’ve seen how incomprehensible God’s might is to us puny human beings. Can you imagine what it’ll be like if the forces holding the earth in orbit, let go? Or if the forces holding the moon in place release? Verse 25 describes what the effects upon the seas will be as they roar while being tossed about.
It’s no surprise then that entire nations will be in anguish at the roaring & tossing of the seas. In the following verse Jesus says that men will faint from terror at the shaking of the heavenly bodies. Some commentators suggest that even fainting is too weak a word. They think that men will actually die from the terror caused by this collapsing of the universe.
Sounds like an important time to be prepared for. Are you on the mark? Are you ready? Or have you been spending all your time preparing for the celebration of the 1st coming of Christ? I’m not suggesting that Christmas is a waste of time, but it has already happened. It is no longer the focal point of our hopes or faith.
We now look to the 2nd coming of Christ for our final liberation from, as St. Paul put it, “This body of death.” Throughout the OT, from the 1st gospel promise in Genesis 3:15, to the Book of Malachi, God was giving us a shadow of the act of our salvation, the death of Christ upon the cross. That time has passed. Messiah Himself said from the cross, “It is finished.” Now, we look forward to His triumphant return. We look forward to seeing the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power & great glory. For us, who believe in Him as Lord & Savior, it will be a time of joy & relief. The struggles of faith will be over. No longer will we contend with sinful doubts or with the deceptions of Lucifer. A whole new & perfect world will arise.
To those who’ve refused to believe, it will be a time of great fear & bitter hatred. For them, as bad as life may have been here in time, it’ll be far worse in eternity. The collapse of our current universe will be a picnic, compared to the realities of hell & its eternal judgment.
As you prepare for Christmas this season of Advent, as you shop for gifts & plan for celebrations, think of the gifts God has given, & has prepared for us. Think of the eternal celebration He has made ready for you, & all of our brothers & sisters in Christ. Then, focus yourselves on what God can do to prepare you for that final day.
Through our baptism God daily drowns the old sinful nature in us. Daily He brings gifts of forgiveness, life & salvation. Through the sacrament of Holy Communion He strengthens our body & our soul, our faith & our trust in Him. He heals our diseases of mind, body & spirit. He draws us closer to Him, giving that peace that surpasses all human understanding.
Through our study & hearing of God’s word, He’ll guide & guard & protect us. He’ll give us the gifts of wisdom & courage even in the uncertain times of the end days. With planets & stars thundering through the heavens, when human reason & wisdom tell us to be terrified & flee, our God given wisdom & experience will tell us to trust Him & rejoice instead.
These gifts from God will never wear out or become old news, like the Christmas presents we give & receive. The gifts from our Savior were guaranteed by His own blood, shed upon that cross. These gifts have the same power over Satan that Christ showed by His glorious resurrection on that Sunday morning. That morning the women in their human wisdom, were concerned with practical things, like who would roll away the stone, but God, He was concerned with impractical things, like the salvation of a group of fearful & failing disciples.
Since you don’t know when it will be, does it still seem impractical for you to prepare your heart for the Last Day? Do you really have more important things to do? Or do you think you’re too weak to fend off Satan’s temptations? Then listen to Jesus: “Heaven & earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” And what do His words say?
They tell you He loves you enough to have died for you. On the Day of Judgment, when the sky truly is falling, His words tell you to stand up & lift up your heads – your redemption is drawing near. His words tell you NOT to let your hearts be troubled & NOT to be afraid. His words tell you that no one, not even Satan, can snatch you out of His protective hand.
The Son of God says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” It’s that very peace which will enable believers, on the final day, to look up at the universe collapsing all around & NOT be afraid. Behold, at that time you will see the Son of Man, coming in a cloud with power & great glory. And with Him, He will bring your eternal life in paradise. Amen.
The righteous King is bringing peace; He comes the pris’ners to release. His royal crown, self-sacrifice, its jewel, mercy without price. He brings our sorrows to an end. Shout out your joy to God, our friend. Our highest praise we bring, our God Redeemer King. Amen.
 John 14:27
Thanksgiving Eve – 2018 LSB #’s 966, 806, 895
Text – Philippians 2:14-15 NET
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you will be blameless & innocent, God’s children without blame in a generation of crooked & depraved people, among whom you shine like stars in the world.
HOW TO HAVE A BAD ATTITUDE
“Star light, star bright, the 1st star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might, get the wish I wish tonight.” It’s a nursery rhyme that many of you are familiar with. It speaks of stars as if they are lucky charms. You see a shooting star & then hope you get your wish. Human beings seem to always have had a fascination with stars.
The very Word of God suggests that you & I can shine like stars in our world. But it’s not speaking of people in the same way as talent shows like Dancing With the Stars. On that show the stars are famous because of their work in sports, movies, or music. They shine because of gifts that are peripheral to the one that matters most – life in Christ as Savior & Lord.
It is that life which draws people from the darkness of sin to the light of Christ. As Jesus stated, “My sheep hear my voice, & I know them, & they follow me.” (John 10:27 ESV) When St. Paul writes about you & me as stars he says we fulfill the roll of Christ’s voice by doing everything without complaining or arguing.
As we fill that role, some of the people we encounter in life will be drawn to the Son of God. We don’t know when or where or who, so we need always be ready. Of course, we will fail in that readiness & there is forgiveness for our failure. Then, Satan tempts us to use that forgiveness as an excuse for our complaining & arguing about the daily events of our lives.
That attitude blocks the amount of ‘shining’ we do as representatives & ambassadors of Christ. We should conclude from this Scripture reading that complaining & arguing is something Yahweh views as driven by a bad attitude. Since that is not a gift from the Holy Spirit, you might ask, “How does a child of God get a bad attitude? Where does it come from?” In general we could say it comes from our sinful nature, & that is most certainly true. However, I’d like to dig a little deeper on that. How does your bad attitude get from your sinful nature to your thoughts, & words & deeds? How does it end up out in the open where others notice it?
Here are some guidelines for how to make that happen:
Now that your bad attitude has moved from the hidden recesses of your sinful heart – out into the open – what happens next? Here are the 4 C’s of complaining or arguing. They are the results of having a bad attitude. Complaining is:
If you want to be blameless & innocent before that Judge, what does the Word of Lord instruct us to do? The sermon text tells us, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you will be blameless & innocent…” In other words, if the source of your thoughts, words & deeds is Christ, then you are truly alive & then you will not complain & argue.
In so doing you will be like Christ, who was led like a sheep to the slaughter: “…Like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7 ESV) That is how a person who is blameless & innocent will live. Do you know why Jesus lived that kind of life? Because He knew that we never could live such a perfect, innocent & blameless life.
Jesus knew that we needed Him to take our place. As we fill the role of shining like stars in the world you & I will fail, often! Without Jesus taking our place no one could be saved for with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27) You & I will not only fail to shine, we will fail to be ready to shine.
Jesus took our place, not only so we might be saved, but that others as well would be forgiven & rescued from their own bad attitudes. Now, we’re left with a choice to make. Satan will tempt us to take advantage of that forgiveness such that we don’t even concern ourselves with the results of our complaining & arguing.
We cannot choose to completely stop that behavior, but we can surrender to Jesus instead of complaining & arguing. We can turn to Jesus when we fail because we are comfortable with our bad attitude. We can turn to Jesus when we fail because we are comfortable with how self-righteous we feel while complaining about others, or arguing with them. Jesus has the power to turn us into stars if we only trust Him & follow His example of remaining silent like a sheep before its shearers. Making it a regular practice of thanking God for all the blessings He’s given us is one way to combat, or fight against our sinful desires to complain & argue. We act like that because we feel that things aren’t the way they should be.
We have that bad attitude because we aren’t grateful for everything God has already done, or for anything He will continue to do. The sermon hymn perfectly states how we can resist the Devil’s temptations to complain & argue. Give thanks with a grateful heart.
May that be what your celebration of thanksgiving revolves around this year – what the Lord has done for us. Then, by God’s grace & power, you will shine like stars in the world around you. Amen.
Give thanks with a grateful heart Give thanks to the Holy One Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son. Give thanks with a grateful heart Give thanks to the Holy One Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son. And now let the weak say, "I am strong,” Let the poor say, "I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us" And now let the weak say, "I am strong," Let the poor say, "I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us." Give thanks, give thanks. Amen. LSB 806
Stewardship 3 – 2018
Text – 2 Corinthians 8:3-5
For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, & beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – & this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves 1st to the Lord & then by the will of God to us.
embracing a lifestyle of giving joyfully & generously
Do you ever think about how much in life you take for granted? I can tell you some of the things I take for granted – clean water, good health, personal transportation, food, clothing, shelter. Yet one of the problems with taking things for granted is the fact that, by definition, we are not aware of the things we’re taking for granted, or we would not be taking them for granted.
I’ll tell you what else I often take for granted… it is the things God is doing here at our church through all of you – through your faithful gifts of time, through your talents & abilities, through your offerings, through your love & concern for other people. I decided to take a look & see what our Heavenly Father is accomplishing through you, His dear children.
However, in each of those situations, the power of our heavenly Father’s almighty word is coming to bear in the lives of real, living & eternal children of God. The central problem of our very existence is not that we take church for granted, or the schools, or Sunday morning Bible study. The heart wrenching pain that Jesus Christ has to suffer with is the fact that we take the universe creating, & eternal life-giving, Word of God for granted! As unbelievers we were dead in our sins & dead people can never earn eternal life.
To save us, our Creator had to give us that gift by His mercy & grace. Since we did nothing to earn it, it is natural for us to take it for granted. Often, I completely forget that without Jesus – life here on earth, & especially life after death – would be a source of fear & hopelessness. Isn’t it the same for you? Life gets busy. We forget Jesus!
It’s a blessing to hear the news of our forgiveness every day, because every day we forget to cherish it. So here is that Good News.
Jesus humbled Himself to be born as a baby in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect life in our place. He paid the price for every one of our sins on the cross of Calvary. He died there on our behalf. He defeated death for us when He rose again & ascended into Heaven. He promised to return & take us to be with Him. Who is Him? It’s the only-begotten Son of God, our Savior.
Just like everyone else, I need to be reminded every day that my eternity, my “forever & ever, amen,” has been changed because of Christ Jesus. Sinful beings take things for granted. We need reminding that every good thing comes from our Heavenly Father.
How do we get that reminder? It is through time spent in God’s Word. It is through deliberate action, led by the Holy Spirit, to be a disciple – to be striving to be more & more like Jesus. When that takes place, the feeling of entitlement, which Satan works within, will be turned into its opposite – Gratitude.
When God’s Word turns me away from my sinful attitudes I am grateful for all the things, large & small, in my life. I am grateful for my redemption & salvation through the work of Jesus Christ. And I am grateful TO someone: to our Heavenly Father. Living a grateful life is what this stewardship series, “Embracing Great Commission Stewardship,” is all about. It is about the connection between discipleship & stewardship.
In week one, I spoke with you about our calling as disciples of Christ. Last week, we talked about committing ourselves to God’s strong Word. By the power of the Holy Spirit, those things lead to a life of joyful, generous giving. That kind of giving flows out of gratitude. Gratitude is not taking things for granted.
Gratitude gives thanks & celebrates what God does for us every day of our lives. And then gratitude responds in a meaningful way as we embrace a lifestyle of giving joyfully & generously. A grateful heart is a gift that our heavenly Father longs to give to all His children.
One way I’ve seen that in action these past few months is the volunteers who’ve been helping to change out all of the old fluorescent lighting. It’s been a joyful & generous group that has put in many hours to retrofit so many light fixtures. And yesterday there was the group of people working for church cleanup day. Again & joyful & generous group.
There are literally hundreds of other projects being done, each & every day, to keep the school & the childcare programs running, & the building functioning. Offerings are being given & bills being paid. There are people praying for all of this. There are people doing all of this. It’s like the picture St. Paul painted for us in 2 Corinthians 8:3-5:
“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, & beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – & this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves 1st to the Lord & then by the will of God to us.”
You could define discipleship by the last verse – gave themselves 1st to the Lord & then to us. Discipleship led to what we read in verse 3 – they gave beyond their means. They gave generously. And in verse 4 – begging earnestly to take part, they gave joyfully. Discipleship leads to gratitude, which leads to joyful generosity. God ties all those together in your heart through faith in Jesus as your Savior.
As we become more & more like Jesus, our lifestyle becomes one of giving joyfully & generously. That is the gift of life that our Creator gives. It’s not something to be afraid of. That’s what it is to trust in God. Here’s a story which I hope will build trust in your heart that the work God is doing through all of us here is powerful, effective, & eternal.
A young man graduated from one of our Concordia Universities. He started as a missionary in Southern California & was working with a boy named Enrique. Enrique was about 12 or 13, & most of his family had been into drugs & gangs. There were two or three success stories in his family, but eventually most of the family members got into drugs.
The missionary got to know many of the gangbangers in the area because some were part of Enrique’s family. It’s a crazy & dangerous life. Enrique’s dad was deported 5 years ago & he talked about him all the time. They used to go fishing & motocross riding.
The missionary found that he made the biggest impression, & the best opportunity he had to share Jesus, when he took Enrique fishing. It was the 1st time since his dad was deported. The relationship changed, & Enrique began attending church faithfully.”
There are two points to take from that story:
That is what God does through each of us & all of us at our church. We have much to be grateful for, the offerings, the commitment of time, the gifts God has given us which we freely share within the ministries here. Consider what’s happening: Children, young people, couples, families, grandparents, all are hearing the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ every single day. In all different ways, the Holy Spirit, through us, is carrying the Gospel into the world.
Let’s pray: We praise you forever, Lord! You are king of the universe, & You rule with strength & power. We thank You & praise you, but why should we be impressed that we have given You offerings? They belong to You, & we’ve only given back what is already yours. Lord God, we bring offerings for the blessed work of church & school. They belong to You, & You gave them to us. We share the love & the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ with great joy, knowing it is Your Holy Spirit who is enlivening & blessing our work. Heavenly Father, always make us eager to give, & help us be faithful to You. We pray this by the mighty power & in the holy name of the One Who saves us, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The peace of God, that surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord, our Savior & our King, unto life, joyfully & generously, everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet