3rd Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 8) LSB #’s 913, 754, 575
Text – 1 Kings 19:10b
For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, & killed your prophets with the sword, & I, even I only, am left, & they seek my life, to take it away.
FORSAKING THE COVENANT
Do you intend to hear the Word of God & receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully? Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, & in faith, word & deed to remain true to God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, even to death? Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession & Church & to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?
Those are the words of a covenant sworn to by millions, upon millions, of Lutherans over the past several centuries. That’s just in our own denomination. Yet the number of our fellow members in the body of Christ that skip weekly services continues to grow. Being in the house of God isn’t that important to their way of thinking.
It’s a situation that faithful members of God’s kingdom today lament on a regular basis. The OT reading tells us that it’s nothing new. Even the great prophet Elijah had to deal with members who were not only forsaking the covenant, but killing prophets with the sword. Rather than suffer through the despair, Elijah wanted God to take him to heaven.
Elijah’s problem is the same one all of us deal with – we want to see results for all the time & effort we put in. Not seeing any, he felt alone, helpless & broken. In our terminology, he was suffering from depression, but God does not write out a prescription for Prozac. Rather, He comforts Elijah with His presence. He reconnects His prophet to the Vine.
But 1st, Yahweh shows Elijah results. A great & strong wind tore the mountains & broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord. After the wind an earthquake. After the earthquake a fire. Now there’s some power. Maybe it’ll put the fear of God into the people. Can you remember the last time you threw a temper tantrum? Our sinful nature loves that feeling of power as objects, or feelings, or relationships are destroyed while our anger is being vented upon others. Then, we see results. Isn’t it interesting to note that our concept of power in those circumstances never builds things up? Rather, it always tears things down.
Instead of coming to him in power & glory & might, Yahweh comes to Elijah in the sound of a whisper. Well how’s that going to drive the devil away? Lord, we need some explosions here! In the Gospel reading Jesus was in a situation similar to Elijah & His disciples ask if He wants them to call down fire from heaven to consume His enemies!
Maybe Elijah was thinking the same, given that God 1st sent the wind, the earthquake & the fire. But the Lord was not in any of those three:
“And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak & went out & stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him & said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:12b-13 ESV)
Has that question ever been directed to you? In the midst of a particularly dull & boring sermon haven’t you asked yourself that question? Have you considered all the time & effort you have put into being in church, serving on committees, & sitting through meetings, & then thought to yourself, “Why don’t I see results?”
It’s much easier to get down into the pit then to struggle out of it. What’s going to happen to this congregation? What are its prospects for the future? Jezebel & Ahab & Baal, they’re posting spectacular victories. What are we doing here? What is God doing – here? Satan is the master of working unbelief. Only Yahweh is able to overcome unbelief.
Yet He prefers to do that, not with thunder & lightning, but with the still small voice of a dark stall in Bethlehem, & with a bloody cross on a lonely hill at Golgotha. Think about the times in your life when God’s Spirit has touched you most deeply. Hasn’t it been in the quiet moments of some struggle, or during a time of suffering? Maybe it was a silent moment of discovery as you’re by yourself reading the Holy Word of God.
Maybe it’s a moment on your knees at the communion rail as you ponder the real presence of Jesus in the bread & wine – given for you for the remission of your sins. All those times that you yourself have forsaken the covenant, yet Jesus invites you back – quietly, gently & with a love that carried Him to the cross to breathe His last breath for you.
Instead of a way out of our struggles & our suffering & our sins, Yahweh sends the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity to take on human flesh so He can suffer & struggle with us, carrying our sins for us. In our weakness, & in our sinfulness, we look for a way out. In the extreme of that, more & more governments are allowing assisted suicide as a way out.
In the OT reading, God does not give Elijah a way out. Instead, He strengthens him & sends him back in: “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.” (19:15 ESV) Instead of a way out, the Book of Hebrews tells us that Yahweh provides a way through our suffering, struggles & sin:
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new & living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, & since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience & our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love & good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, & all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (10:19-25 ESV)
As the Lord asked Elijah, so He asks you, “What are you doing here? Are you here to encourage one another, & all the more as you see the Day drawing near?” Are you here so the Lord can reconnect you to the Vine? Are you here that your Creator might overcome the unbelief that lives in your heart? You see, the New Covenant that our heavenly Father enacted through His Son Jesus Christ, is a one way covenant. There are still two parties, but one party, Jesus, does everything to fulfill the covenant, & we, the other party, receive all the benefits as His gift. We do not earn heaven by keeping the covenant. There’s nothing for us to keep, but since we’re already included in the covenant, we can lose heaven if we forsake Jesus.
With all the blessings & comforts of life that we have in this country, it’s easy to be seduced into thinking we can, & are able, to get through life without regular attendance in the house of God. With that thinking we are risking heaven itself. Our time here is, by God’s design, a foreshadowing of heaven.
During these moments & hours in the house of our Lord, He is God with us by His specific Word & instruction. Yahweh is here to set us free from sin, to grant us health & healing, to draw us in to the new creation.
As we wait for Christ’s triumphant return, we find all kinds of unfaithfulness & disobedience, even among those who identify with Jesus Christ & His Church. Should we give up? Should we think our lives don’t matter? Should we wonder what God is up to? No. He has matters well in hand.
His plan is unfolding in a way that may appear excruciatingly slow, but the heavenly Father is faithful. From God’s dealings with Elijah, we learn what this means – believe the promises of our Lord, especially in the face of threat & trouble. We are privileged to live out the vocations to which Yahweh has called us, & He has all things under His control. Amen.
Entrust your days & burdens to God’s most loving hand; He cares for you while ruling the sky, the sea, the land. For He who guides the tempests along their thunderous ways will find for you a pathway & guide you all your days. Our hands & feet, Lord, strengthen; with joy our spirits bless until we see the ending of all our life’s distress. And so throughout our lifetime keep us within Your care & at our end then bring us to heaven to praise You there. Amen. LSB 754:1, 6.
5th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 7) LSB #’s 811, 643, 808
Text – Luke 8:39
“Return to your home, & declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
DECLARING WHAT GOD HAS DONE
Do you remember the story Jesus told about Lazarus & the rich man? Both men died & the rich man is suffering torment in the place of the dead. While there, he’s pictured as carrying on a conversation with Abraham. The rich man is worried about his five brothers. He asks if Lazarus could go back to earth & warn them so they don’t also end up in the place of torment.
“But Abraham said, ‘Moses & the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’” (Luke 16:29 NLT) Moses & the prophets had a special place in God’s plan of salvation for the world. Because of that, we don’t typically think of ourselves as prophets. Am I right? Raise your hand if you think of yourself as a prophet.
Feels conspicuous to be raising your hand, doesn’t it? Yet, it’s true! If you are a child of God, your calling may not be that of prophet, but you certainly do have a role to play in declaring what God has done. And that is essentially what the prophets were tasked with doing.
Your story may not have the drama of an entire legion of demons being cast out of you, but your rescue from slavery to sin is being orchestrated by the same Creator & Lord of the universe. His personal care & concern with all the details of your life is just as real.
The book of Isaiah began our reading this morning with a beautiful illustration of the grace of God. He seeks after those who have sought Him not!
“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually…” (Isaiah 65:1-3 ESV) It sounds very much like Yahweh is speaking of our own culture, but it provides the perfect picture of how the Good Shepherd seeks us out even when we are helplessly lost, without any ability to seek the LORD, or perhaps any notion the LORD even needs to be sought!
Still, the LORD reaches out & calls out, “Here am I!” Which is perfectly illustrated by the reading from the Gospel of Luke: “Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons.” (Luke 8:26-27a ESV) The man’s own words clarify that he was not seeking Jesus:
“When he saw Jesus, he cried out & fell down before Him & said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” (Luke 8:28 ESV) That’s not exactly a prayer asking Jesus to come into his heart. Yet, Jesus drives out the demons, & He sets the man free.
From our Christian perspective it’s a fascinating story of rescue & salvation. Jesus has traveled to a foreign region, engaged in a confrontational dialogue with a legion of demons, performed a violent & scandalous exorcism, & left behind a community gripped by terror.
From the perspective of our culture today, none of that would be politically correct. From the words of the Gospel it seems it was not politically correct in the country of the Gerasenes either:
“And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear.” (Luke 8:36-37a ESV) Unbelief is powerful in its ability to corrupt & destroy.
Apparently, the only thing more frightening than a naked, chain & shackle ripping,
graveyard-dwelling demoniac is this visitor from Nazareth who reigns over everything. The story ends with a man who has been saved, but a community still in need of saving. Who better, to declare what God has done, then a man of the community itself? So Jesus said to him, “Return to your home, & declare how much God has done for you.”
The tragic condition of the formerly demon-possessed man, the even more heartbreaking reaction of the unbelieving community after the exorcism, & the heart-rending denial of the Lord in our culture are marks of the great deceiver. Yet, we should notice that, as Luke writes it, it is not Jesus, nor the healed man, who relate the story of what happened. It is the herdsmen.
Jesus, & the man who was healed, are detached from all the chaos & anxiety & fear that’s surrounding them. They are remarkably calm & normal, even as everyone else is in an uproar. Such is the power of Jesus. The man had been rescued from the chaos of demon-possession, & now was being protected from the chaos of unbelief.
As you live your life in an increasingly chaotic world, a world permeated by unbelief, you too may remain calm & at peace. That peace which the Creator & Savior has offered to us, is something that people will notice. It’s true, they may not appreciate it. The world is full of people like the rich man Jesus talked about, people who refuse to trust God in this life.
Once they die it’s too late for them to be saved. There are people out there who will follow Jesus if & when they hear about Him. They will be His sheep & recognize His voice. Jesus left the man in the country of the Gerasenes so he could declare what God had done for him. That message would ring true in the ears of those who are Jesus’ sheep.
Jesus is searching for them through us. He is seeking them out in order to heal them, even if they don’t know they need it. Like the man possessed by the legion of demons, even in our lives, in the midst of crushing & overwhelming forces we cannot comprehend or battle, the power of Jesus is undiminished. The Gospel reading this morning falls within a series of four miracles Jesus performed – calming a storm, casting out demons, healing a woman, & raising a girl from the dead. Together, these show Jesus’ power & reign over every sphere of danger & calamity: nature, spiritual powers, disease, & death.
And the power Jesus displays is not might in the worldly sense of things, fighting fire with fire, or responding to power with even more overwhelming power. The Lord responds with a word, with peace, with calm, with, dare we say, a normal, everyday life. The demon possessed man is simply healed & then asked to declare what God has done.
And that is what it means to be a prophet. As you are a child of God, you are a prophet too, by the grace, power & wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing, the people of God from His dwelling take leave. The Supper is ended. O now be extended the fruits of this service in all who believe. The seed of His teaching, receptive souls reaching, shall blossom in action for God & for all. His grace did invite us, His love shall unite us to work for God’s kingdom & answer His call. With praise & thanksgiving to God ever living, the tasks of our everyday life we will face. Our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring, embracing His children of each tribe & race. With Your feast You feed us, with Your light now lead us; unite us as one in this life that we share. Then may all the living with praise & thanksgiving give honor to Christ & His name that we bear. Amen. LSB 643.
Trinity Sunday – C LSB #’s 905, 543, 507
Text – John 8:59
So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself & went out of the temple.
PICKING UP STONES
My sister & brother-in-law, along with Jan & I, spent some time last week walking the beaches along Lake Michigan, & because the summer weather hasn’t really arrived, the crowds have been light. That means there’s still a fresh crop of stones, left from the winter, scattered all along the beach. Many of them are perfect for skipping across the water.
At 1 Samuel 17:40, the prophet tells us, “Then he took his staff in his hand & chose five smooth stones from the brook & put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, & he approached the Philistine.” (ESV) Hopefully you recognize that as part of the story of David & Goliath. God’s chosen shepherd boy needed only one of those stones to fell the giant.
Picking up stones is something you can do simply for fun, like skipping them at the beach. Picking up stones is something you can do in service to the heavenly Father, even if it is to kill a wicked person. Picking up stones is something you can do while following the lead of Satan even if God prevents you from killing another person.
That’s what the Jewish people were doing, picking up stones to kill Jesus, but He disappeared before any of the stones could do harm. Earlier in chapter 8 the Pharisees had been after Jesus, but now it’s the common people, & they went hard. According to verse 31 they used to believe in Jesus, & by verse 44 He’s calling them the children of the devil.
When Jesus claims to be the eternal God in human flesh they can’t stand it any longer: “So they picked up stones to throw at Him...” Death by stoning was the legitimate penalty for blasphemy. The Book of Leviticus describes how that came about:
“One day a man who had an Israelite mother & an Egyptian father came out of his tent &
got into a fight with one of the Israelite men. During the fight, this son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the Name of the Lord with a curse. So the man was brought to Moses for judgment. …They kept the man in custody until the Lord’s will in the matter should become clear to them. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the blasphemer outside the camp, & tell all those who heard the curse to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death. Say to the people of Israel: Those who curse their God will be punished for their sin. Anyone who blasphemes the Name of the Lord must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. (Leviticus 24:10-16a NLT)
So if you aren’t God, & you claim to be, you are blaspheming the name of the Lord. When Jesus said, “…before Abraham was, I am,” the people lost it. Most people today would have no clue what Jesus meant by that statement, but the Jewish people of His day certainly did. It goes back to the very beginning of Israel’s formative event – the Exodus.
That monumental episode of Israel’s rescue from slavery began when Moses was called to lead them. He said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel & say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ & they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14 ESV)
When Jesus replied to the Jews, “…before Abraham was, I am,” they knew who this flesh & blood human being was claiming to be. “I am” is an English translation of the Hebrew name Yahweh. Do you remember how John began his Gospel? “In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, & the Word was God.” (John 1:1 ESV)
Right up front John is explaining what Jesus will tell the Jews by saying, “…before Abraham was, I am.” So John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, & the Word was God.” (John 1:1 ESV) Jesus did not say, “I was,” which would imply He was of the past. Jesus did not say, “I will be,” which would imply He is of the future.
Jesus simply said, “I am,” meaning He has always been, He is, & He will always continue to be. That can be only one of two things. Either this man Jesus is the height of arrogance & insanity, or He truly is the eternal & almighty God. There is no in between. So what on earth does that have to do with picking up stones? What does the Sunday of Holy Trinity have to do with our daily struggles, & with picking up stones? To answer, we know that when God finished His creation, He saw that it was very good. Nothing in all of His creation was picking up stones to kill something else. Today, we know that is no longer true.
Today, it is clear that this world, this creation is broken. It is broken in ways that tear our very heart & soul into pieces. We now live in a country where its people are all too ready to pick up stones for purpose of hurting others.
Politicians on the left & right, reporters that are progressive & others that are conservative, are out there trying to make the loudest possible noise for the sole purpose of harming those with whom they do not agree. Yes, they are using words & images, but they might as well be casting stones. Their anger has possessed them with such livid rage.
In their hearts the answer is clear – fight fire with fire! And we understand that attitude well, for it also lives in your heart & in mine. We have been right there picking up stones to make someone else pay for what they have said or done. And we know, or we have seen, where it leads – destruction & death. Kill it before it grows. Get them before they get you!
It’s the cycle of revenge, & of it there can be no end. The Devil & humankind have sinned against their Creator – Father, Son & Holy Spirit. And the wages of sin is death. The penalty must be paid if the Holy Trinity is righteous & just. In their wisdom they decided that the Son would enter their creation, to become one with it, to suffer & die for it.
Only that sacrifice can break the cycle of revenge. Only that sacrifice can give hope to creation of a new life unmarred & uncorrupted by any of the effects of sin. Still, it’s not an easy path, for those who reject God’s sacrifice continue to want revenge. Goliath wanted to destroy God’s people, & though David killed the giant, he later turned against the Lord in adultery & murder. Through His prophet, God called David back into His kingdom & also by God’s grace, David responded & returned to the Lord.
As the Jews confronted Jesus everyone knew that He was only in His 4th decade of life on earth. It seemed highly improbable to them that this was Yahweh Himself. He had been born in Bethlehem & raised in Nazareth. That He is Yahweh is the mystery of the incarnation. If we were designing things, would we choose so costly a way to save the world?
It’s much easier to just throw stones. But Jesus allowed human beings to reject Him & to kill Him so that the cycle of revenge would be brought to an end. As we live in Christ, we find that we already have everything God can give, so we give freely & do not seek revenge any longer. Instead, we grieve for those who harm us, as Jesus grieved for those who crucified Him.
Jesus is LIFE overriding death & making all things new. In heaven, the child snatched by violence or disease will run into your arms. The health that eludes you in the winter of life will return a thousand fold. The friends & family members who died in the faith will sit next to you, singing in the heavenly choir. We long for that time.
Jesus is the I AM who is bringing the new creation into being. Amen.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul! When I was sinking down, sinking down, when I was sinking down, sinking down, when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul. Amen. LSB 543:1-2.
Pentecost – 2019 LSB #’s 500, 730, 502
Text – John 14:27b-c
Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES
It’s the time of year for summer camp, & especially in places where it’s not as cloudy as Lansing, it’s common to take young people out on a nighttime hike to study the stars. Since most youth today have never hiked in the wild when it’s dark, the counselor gives an orientation lecture before they begin.
First, each child is to remain with their assigned partner for the hike – to look after each other. Second, should anyone get lost they need only look to the sky. The counselor explains how to find the North Star. And if the sky is too cloudy, you can normally see lights from the nearest town. The North Star or the city lights will give you direction.
You & I live in a world where people turn to various guides to find their way: money, materialism, power & pleasure, yet many still feel abandoned, empty, afraid & lost. They do not have the peace that surpasses all human understanding. So the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel is about Jesus’ total concern for the comfort, the confidence, the faith of His followers.
God is love so He never gives to you as the world gives. The world offers fame & fortune one day; takes it away the next. What have you done for me lately is the constant mantra. Who won the Super Bowl this past February, or the year before that, or three years ago? We hardly know & hardly care. It’s not relevant to the struggles of our lives in any way.
The world holds up events like the Super Bowl as the end all & be all of living. Billions of dollars are thrown around leading up to it, & yet, it’s here today & gone tomorrow. Even if your team wins, it doesn’t take long & the guidance that gives to you momentarily eventually leaves you with those feelings again – abandoned, empty, afraid & lost. The world offers you Facebook to keep in touch with all your friends, but then social media becomes your world. At some point you realize that you don’t know how to interact with real human beings in person. And that doesn’t even address how much of social media is actually very anti-social.
The world is filled with promises. In our country the 2020 presidential campaigns have begun. Guess how many promises you are going to hear in the next 17 months? Guess how many have any realistic chance of being fulfilled? Advertisements promise you the world if you buy their product, but you discover otherwise once it arrives in your home.
People make promises to love each other for richer, for poorer, in sickness & in health, till death parts them, or the divorce court. As one saying goes, “Promises are meant to be broken.” That’s not a very positive reality. The brokenness we experience in our day-to-day living is quite the opposite of what Jesus was talking about in the 27th verse of John 14:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” In our thinking, peace is the absence of conflict, but in Jesus’ mind the word shalom is life as our Creator intended it to be. It is a completely positive reality. It is the presence of life, health & wholeness, on a scale we will not know until after the resurrection of the dead.
Until then, the grace of God working in our lives gives us a glimpse here & there of the peace Jesus has left with us. When the people of God had finished conquering the land of Canaan, Yahweh’s grace left them with shalom in their new land. That shalom, like the Promised Land itself, was a picture of the eternal rest that was to come. We call it heaven.
Joshua was given these words to describe what Yahweh had done for His people Israel: “And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:44-45 ESV) Our Creator never fails to keep His promises. He never fails to bless you through them. The new heavens & the new earth will also be filled with promises, & not one of them will ever be broken.
God’s promises are meant to give you direction in this life, so you arrive in the next one. The world offers flames of glory that burn out all too quickly. The world welcomes you to join with it as it strives to gain status & wealth. Like, in the reading from Genesis, the world is still striving to make a name for itself through what human beings can do without God.
And like Satan, the only thing the world can do without God is to steal, kill & destroy. The only power that Lucifer has is to corrupt what the heavenly Father has already created. In Genesis, even God was impressed by the outward accomplishments of mankind. He said: “And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6b ESV)
The problem is those people were trying to do all of it for themselves. They said, if God is up there we’re going to build a tower & get there on our own. Jesus could tell that their hearts were not focused on Him. When your heart, or mine, is not focused on Christ, where does it lead? You’ve been there & done that. You can answer that question.
Even when the world gives something to us, it is never whole hearted, but always a giving that’s primarily looking out for its own interests. Jesus demonstrates the opposite on the cross where there is not a trace of selfishness. The world gives & does grudgingly. Jesus gives freely & gladly. Jesus gives & He does with the interest of the receiver at heart.
And that makes it all the more difficult for the disciples to hear that Jesus will be leaving them. So the Son of God tells them in V. 26 of the Gospel reading, “…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things & bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” After V. 26 Jesus tells us what is the natural result of the presence, within us, of God’s Spirit. It is peace, which involved the concept of perfect health, life & blessing. Peace in v. 27 is the 1st word in the sentence. In the Greek language that makes it emphatic: “Peace I leave with you!”
In other words, perfect health, life & blessing I leave with you. Stop being troubled! Stop being afraid! Having described the benefits of His coming death & resurrection, Jesus takes us right back to verse one of chapter 14 in John’s Gospel, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid!”
So before Pentecost the disciples are still cowardly & afraid. After Pentecost, they truly end up willing to die in order to spread the light of Jesus Christ into the darkness of their world. Nothing the world has to offer is that powerful, that wholesome & that eternal.
We, too, have the Holy Spirit at our side to lead us into all truth, that being Jesus, who is the way, the truth, & the life. We too have the Holy Spirit working through us to carry out the mission of Jesus since He has returned to the Father. His power is necessary – not to help us with our will, but to get into our heads & hearts the will of the Father through the Son.
Even God’s children are troubled inwardly. Christ’s total endeavor in our lives is to quiet our troubled hearts. So, a little girl was seen hopping along as she went through a cemetery. Someone asked if she was afraid to be there. She replied, “Oh, no, I’m just skipping through on my way home.” So are all of us! We are skipping through this world on our way home. Amen.
What is the world to me with all its vaunted pleasure when You, & You alone, Lord Jesus, are my treasure! You only, dearest Lord, my soul’s delight shall be; You are my peace, my rest. What is the world to me! The world seeks to be praised & honored by the mighty yet never once reflects that they are frail & flighty. But what I truly prize above all things is He, My Jesus, He alone. What is the world to me! Amen. LSB 730:1-2.
Memorial Day 2019
IF YOU CAN KEEP IT
In September of the year 1787, the Constitution of the United States was completed & signed. The delegates had been working on it for almost four months, & their deliberations had been held in strict secrecy. As a result, when the proceedings ended, anxious citizens had gathered outside Independence Hall to learn what had been produced behind closed doors.
As the delegates exited the building, so the story goes, a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
As we gather this morning, in honor of all who have given their lives for the freedoms of our nation, the question today as back in the day of Benjamin Franklin is: “Can we keep it?” There are powerful forces at work trying to divide the people of our nation. Benjamin Franklin no doubt saw the same thing going on in his day.
One of the ways I learned the value of our freedom was through these annual observances at the three cemeteries in Blumfield Township. My father, Clinton, was one of the founding members of Post 229, 70 years ago. The chief thing I remember of Memorial Day, from my youth, was attending these ceremonies & then the free pop & hot dogs at the township hall.
For as long as I can remember, men like Arnold Heidenberger have read the roll call, countless numbers of men have fired the 3-volley salute, & someone from the Frankentrost Band would play taps. The flag would be raised & the flag would be lowered, while our thoughts & prayers went out on behalf of all who gave their lives in the pursuit of “keeping” our republic.
In 1978 I enlisted in the Navy. In 1980 I began four years of service onboard one of our nuclear-powered submarines. As we prepared to leave port one April, at the time it was to be the longest continuously submerged mission any sub had ever attempted. Many of the crew were speculating that we would not make it back alive. That evening I boarded the boat just as taps was being played & I found it rather poetic to hear the sound of that bugle call as I descended the ladder for what might be the final time.
Obviously, I survived, but I gained a tremendous appreciation during those years for the sacrifices that all our military members, & their families, make during their time of service. Yes, our nation, our leaders & our people have been far from perfect in the conduct of our freedom, but thousands upon thousands of immigrants are crossing our southern border today to be free.
What has been lost upon many of the loudest voices in our day is the cost of that freedom. What has been lost upon many of the loudest voices in our day is the incredibly difficult task it is to keep our republic. Law & order is needed because, tyranny is the natural bent of the heart of all men. If the battle against it ends, then our freedoms will be lost.
For 100 years the men & women of the American Legion have been working in times of peace, as well as in times of war. They have been working to educate the people, & the children, of the high price of freedom & of the eternal vigilance that is necessary to defend it. Too many people today would trade our freedoms for what they suppose to be financial security.
Human beings need a call to higher service than the service to self alone. The American Legion & organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been providing opportunities for millions of American citizens to volunteer for the benefit of others. They have worked to remind people that freedom does not come without cost, & it is too valuable a blessing to just surrender.
Love for the freedoms & responsibilities that our constitution offers must be taught. Many of the loudest voices in our nation are now teaching young people that our country has been wrong to defend our freedoms; that it has been wrong to enforce the laws of our land. It is more important than ever, in our day, to educate people on the principle of limited government. If it takes over too many aspects of our lives it becomes a dictator by default. Government is not, by its nature, benevolent or good. Nazi Germany, the Communist Soviet Union & the Socialist Venezuela all had governments that took away the freedoms of their people.
Our declaration of independence states that mankind has certain unalienable rights which do not derive from government at all. Those rights come from our Creator & they are not determined by voting, nor by government bureaucracy. Government should be a tool to serve the people, not the other way around.
Freedom requires the diligence of the people who are blessed by it. Let us not forget the men & women who died to maintain our freedoms, whether the threats were from without or from within. Ceremonies like these may seem outdated in our high tech world, but technology will not teach our young people the value of freedom. Nor will it protect their freedoms.
May God bless us as we endeavor to maintain our freedom, & help us to use those freedoms for the good of all mankind wherever possible.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet