Thanksgiving Eve – 2021 LSB #’s 806, 703, 885:1-5
Text – Psalm 50:14
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, & perform your vows to the Most High,
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PRIVILEGE
The word ‘privilege’ has become all too common in the recent language of our culture. It’s being thrown around so often that anymore it means almost nothing other than a slam against people who were born with light colored skin.
As for the title of the sermon, you may think it came from the conflict going on in our culture today. The truth is, I got the title from a sermon, written for Thanksgiving, in the year 1947. The preacher was writing from a viewpoint of the world, after WWII, when the United States was the preeminent nation in the world. He said:
“Of recent years, …the contrast between what we enjoy & of what others are deprived of has become so tremendous that many of us have become slightly uncomfortable in our prosperity. The smug superiority of the 1920’s was not a sign of good health, & we had to pay for it in the 1930’s.” Then he wrote, of life after Victory in Europe & Victory over Japan:
“Now comes the dawning realization that ‘to whom much is given, of him much shall be required’ (Luke 12:48); & that is all to the good. For the very idea of sharing is based on the stupendous truth that, in Christ, God has shared Himself with us, holding nothing back, pouring out all the love of His infinite nature in the cradle & the cross of His only-begotten Son.”
Since he was preaching in 1947 it seems that God’s Word is applicable across the ages. The Word of God also has a message to us about privilege & it is a much more beneficial message than that of our current culture. God’s Word is one that brings healing & hope to everyone, to those who lack privilege as well as to those who have received it. Psalm 50 offers that healing & hope to everyone throughout time & space.
Its opening words, “The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks & summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.” put this psalm in a cosmic setting. Yahweh is calling to the entire universe of His creation, putting the heavens & the earth on the witness stand to testify to the justice of His verdict.
All human beings have been offered the privileges that come with being a child of God. What have we done with them? How have we responded to those privileges? This should bring to mind the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke:
“When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; & when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (12:48b) In the secular sense, no human being can justifiably say they have not been blessed by God. In the spiritual sense that is even more true regarding every single child of God.
Our Lord has piled blessing upon blessing over us – every breath we take, every beat of our heart, every opportunity to gather in the house of God – all of these we do not cause, nor deserve. And those are just some of the basic blessings that we seldom give thought to, or thank God for. You & I have more luxuries than anyone in 1947 could have imagined.
The home in which my father’s parents lived, didn’t even have electricity until about 1947. That home didn’t have central heat until sometime in the 1960’s. I can still remember going with my father to get coal for grandma’s kitchen stove. It’s strange, now, given all the luxuries of life we are accustomed to, to think of our country in those days as prosperous.
That’s because we inherently focus too much on the material things of life. People, who have been saved from hell, purely by God’s grace & mercy, have been prosperous throughout the history of the world. That’s why Yahweh calls the heavens & the earth as witnesses to the justice of His verdict. Three verses into the Psalm, fire threatens to consume the sinners & a tempest threatens to drive them away like chaff. God’s warning is that divine judgment is coming, not just to the world, but to the people of His covenant.
The chosen people of God have a special responsibility given to them along with the privilege of eternal life that the Lord bestowed upon them. And that eternal life was not given to them because of anything special they had done to deserve it. In fact, they did nothing to earn God’s blessing.
Already back to the very beginning, what did Adam & Eve receive once they had rebelled against their Creator & defied His love for them? Did they get a knock upside the head? No! When they ran away to hide, Yahweh sought them out & blessed them with the promise of a Savior who would pay for their sin & restore all of creation.
At the time Psalm 50 was written, too many of God’s people were just going through the motions of worship. They publicly confessed God’s Word, but that was an abomination to Yahweh, because the lives they lived were totally at odds with His Word. As Jesus later said of the Pharisees:
“…you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones…” (Matthew 23:27 ESV) Since God was patient, they thought they were getting away with their focus on the material things of life at the expense of the spiritual things.
Their hearts were far from their Creator. Their knowledge of God & their lives before Him were in total contradiction. For the sake of His holiness, Yahweh had to unmask & punish them, in the hope that they would repent. In verse 21, Yahweh will set before the eyes of the sinner, the true state of his heart & life, so that he shall be terrified at it: “These things you have done, & I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you & lay the charge before you.” (Psalm 50:21 ESV) Light skinned people like us, may not appreciate being slandered with the phrase ‘white privilege,’ but you & I are not guiltless before God. Our sins also must be unmasked that we be terrified of them & repent.
That God has allowed us to live, & given the opportunity to repent of our sins, whatever they might be, should give us cause for thanksgiving, not just with outward motions, & not just on one day of the year. Your heart & mine should be bursting with joy every moment of our lives. That joy should then carry over into service to the people around us.
Yes, even on the one day a year that we dedicate to thanksgiving, we fail miserably, no matter how much turkey we eat. That failure, however, is not cause for despair. Instead, it is just cause to ask for another helping, not of gravy & mashed potatoes, but of forgiveness.
As Luther said in his 1st of the 95 theses, the entire life of a Christian should be one of repentance. And upon receiving that forgiveness, that privilege, it is our responsibility to give thanks, again & again. St. Paul wrote about that sort of living to the church at Philippi:
“Tell God what you need, & thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts & minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6b-7) Living in Christ does not appear to the world, nor to our sinful nature, as prosperity, but it is the life where we find peace.
There is much responsibility that comes with the privilege of being God’s child. How do you look at responsibility? Do you see it as a burden, or do you see it as a joy? As saint & sinner, we will see it both ways.
Our saintly nature will “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, & perform [our] vows to the Most High,” but we do this not of our own strength & faithfulness. We offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving by the strength & faithfulness of the Holy Spirit. True thanksgiving is more than a periodic expression of the mouth; it is an inner attitude which manifests itself in action. If we possess more than others, the way of Christ is not to say “Thank you” to God while holding onto “our” property with both hands.
The way of Christ shares what we have received with those who are in need. Our words of Thanksgiving are meaningless unless we remember those who live in fear & want, & our nation is full of people in those circumstances.
Right now, God’s Spirit is guiding us to repent of our sins, not of our privilege. God’s Spirit is also guiding us to use whatever privilege we have in service to the needs of our neighbor. Our saintly nature gives thanks for those opportunities to be a blessing to others.
Ultimately, the reason any of us here in America should be thankful is not for all the stuff we have. Certainly, we have a lot of it, but there are plenty of Christians on earth who have almost nothing & yet they are thankful, maybe more so, than we. You & I should be thankful that we are not going to end up forever & ever in the place called hell.
V. 7 include the words, “I am God, your God,” just as He spoke at Mt. Sinai. This connects us then to the Sinai event, also a foreshadowing of the Last Day when time comes to an end. What is happening in Psalm 50 is as awesome & consequential as the events on Mt. Sinai. With final judgment in the background, instruction & warning take prominence.
Still, the heavenly Father desires that everyone be ready for that Day. As St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” And that salvation, which is our most blessed privilege, is always the source of true thanksgiving. Amen.
How can I thank you, Lord, for all Your loving kindness, that You have patiently borne with me in my blindness! When dead in many sins & trespasses I lay, I kindled, holy God, Your anger every day. It is Your work alone that I am now converted; Over Satan’s work in me You have Your power asserted. Your mercy & Your grace that rise afresh each morn have turned my stony heart into a heart newborn. Grant that Your Spirit’s help to me be always given lest I should fall again & lose the way to heaven. Grant that He give me strength in my infirmity; may He renew my heart to serve You willingly. Amen. LSB 703:1-3.
 Lindemann, H., The Thanksgiving of the American Christian, Concordia Pulpit, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1948), p. 457-458.
Last Sunday of the Church Year – B (Proper 29) LSB #908, TLH #605, LSB #818
Text – Isaiah 51:6
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment & its inhabitants die like flies. But My salvation will last forever, My righteousness will never fail.
THE END OF THE WORLD
You’ve probably seen something like this on TV. A beautiful woman, a handsome man, a gold necklace with a glittering, sparkling diamond – his expression of eternal love to her. And you’re told, “A diamond is forever.” It is tempting to believe, is it not? PAUSE
Picture another scene: You’re driving through downtown, & you notice a man on a street corner ranting to the passersby. He has long scraggly hair. His clothes are worn & somewhat dirty. A shopping cart loaded with his life’s possessions is next to him. He’s waiving a Bible with his hand & he’s wearing a sandwich board that proclaims, “The end is near!”
You think to yourself, “Religious nut!” It’s tempting to believe, isn’t it? PAUSE I’m preaching on the end of the world today. Maybe that qualifies me as a religious nut in spite of the lack of hair or a shopping cart.
A young couple promised their four-year-old that they’d take him to the zoo. They didn’t set a specific date or time for the big event, so every day for a week their boy asked, “Is today the day?” Each time he was told, “No, not today.” A week passed, then a month, & the question came less frequently.
The boy had all but given up hope of going until one Saturday his father announced, “Today, we are going to the zoo.” Their son was filled with excitement & joy because his parents were making good on their promise.
Our heavenly Father will one day make good on His promise to end all the evil in this world & take His children to heaven. But that begs the question, “Do you consider every morning if this might be that day?” The early Christians eagerly looked for Jesus to make good on His promise. They expected it in their lifetime. But Jesus still has not returned. Generation after generation has passed, 2000 years have gone by, & the question, “Is it today?” is seldom asked by ‘normal’ people. Have you ever thought, “Is today the end of the world?”
I wondered about that as the stunning news reports came in on September 11, 2001. It is a question we should ask at least once in a while. That question will help us keep our bearings straight. It will help us get our priorities right. Maybe that preacher on the street corner isn’t such a nut after all, & maybe even a diamond is not forever.
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, & look at the earth beneath...” (Isaiah 51:6) God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, & let them serve as signs to mark seasons & days & years.” (Genesis 1:14) Those lights have now been there for thousands of years, yet Isaiah tells us, “The heavens will vanish like smoke.” PAUSE
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, & look at the earth beneath.” Whether you’ve looked at pictures of the Rocky Mountains, or climbed them, it’s difficult to imagine wearing even one of them out like a ragged old shirt. And whether you have sailed across the oceans or only stood upon their shores, it is incomprehensible to think they will ever dry up.
And yet Isaiah tells us, “The earth will wear out like a garment & its inhabitants die like flies.” The ‘End of the World!’ Is it today? The question seems ridiculous. Years ago we had plenty of warnings about Y2K & for the most part people ignored them. Let’s admit it, the ‘End of the World’ coming today sounds pretty far fetched, doesn’t it?
In fact, in the Gospel reading, Jesus Himself told us, “…You do not know when that time
will come.” (Mark 13:33b ESV) And it’s obvious that for most of us, our response is, “No sense thinking about it then.” But that is not how Jesus teaches us to react. Instead, He gives this order, “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back…” (Mark 13:35 NIV) Jesus Christ is that owner, & He instructs you & me to live as if today is The Day.
Never mind that it seems as improbable as the heavens vanishing like smoke or the earth wearing out like a garment. You cannot relate to those things happening anymore than you can truly relate to that religious nut – on the street corner – when he says, “The End is near!” That’s why funerals are such good “teaching” opportunities.
Death & the casket are difficult to ignore. That’s why they’re so emotionally disturbing. That’s why so many adults have no clue what to say to the survivors, because death & a casket intrude upon our own sense of well-being. They so rudely interrupt as I go through life trying to protect the false belief that I can take care of myself.
For the Introit, we read from Psalm 39, as David wrote, “O Lord, make me know my end & what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psalm 39:4 ESV) King David is asking God to confront him with his grave & his casket. King David wants to know how fleeting is his life. You did you reflect on that as we read it, didn’t you?
The end is near, probably less than 30 years for the majority of us in this room. In my 1st year of the ministry I officiated at 11 funerals, the 1st one being a mere 8 days after my installation. I have found that funerals help me to appreciate the fleeting nature of my life, & yours, & yours & yours. Each man’s life is but a breath, & then gone!
Around the world, millions of people have died from Covid just this year. For many other reasons, the social structure of our society is being ripped apart at the seams. Each of us here is 12 months older than we were one year ago. None of us knows what day our end will arrive, yet, I’m certain that through our struggles God is able to teach us about death, & about the End of the World. Of that End Jesus says, “If the owner comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.” (Matthew 13:36 NIV)
It’s apparent that many of us in churches across the U.S. have been sleeping for years. Jesus was telling us to watch, but we did not. And a lesson in that, for the future of every one of us, is that we should not be caught sleeping again. We are to be about the task, which God has assigned.
The task of the church is to be actively reaching out to our neighbor with the love of Christ. That takes thought, word & deed. God’s church is not simply a social club where we come to meet our own needs. It is a workplace where we labor to meet the needs of those who are not like us, who may not immediately appreciate the message of Christ that we offer.
And of death, God is able to teach us again to consider carefully the things of this world. Even the heavens & the earth will not remain. Their inhabitants will die like flies. St. Matthew Lutheran church is not permanent either. Whenever we encounter death, it should remind us that so too shall we. It should confront us with our own grave & our own casket. PAUSE
Such a grim sermon! But the text from Isaiah was written at a very grim time in the life of Israel. Their city of Jerusalem was about to be destroyed by the Babylonians & her people carried off into exile in a foreign land. Through the prophet Isaiah God was confronting His people with their casket & their grave, for they would die like flies. They did not listen.
Yet, even before this time of judgment arrives, God is already promising deliverance & hope as well. Though the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth wear out like a garment, its inhabitants die like flies, “My salvation,” says the Lord, “will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.” (Isaiah 51:6) A diamond may not be forever, but your salvation is. 70 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, & the exile to Babylon, God sent a promised one, King Cyrus of Persia, to set free the nation of Israel. He allowed them to return to their land & even built them a new temple to worship in.
That King Cyrus was a picture of another Promised One to come. This One would be born in Bethlehem, of a virgin, & she would call His name Immanuel. He also was sent by God to set free His chosen people.
As we are confronted with all the things in life that don’t go well, all the frustrations, the injustice, & even death, know this, the “End of the World” will be that time when our Promised One returns, as King. He will release us from our exile in this sinful world, & we shall be ushered into the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, our heavenly home.
The book of Revelation describes it this way, “It shone with the glory of God, & its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” (21:11 NIV) That sounds a bit like the diamond commercials, only this jewel, heaven, truly is forever. A glorious day it will be, full of excitement & joy, when Jesus returns to make good on His promise.
Everything in this life that we wrongly place too much value on, our Lord eventually removes from us. He wants us to know how fleeting are the things of this world, including our own life. And He removes those things because He has far greater treasures in store.
We want to cling to the vanishing smoke & the worn out garments. Our Savior wants to give us His eternal Kingdom. It’s in that light, the light of eternal & never-ending blessing, that Immanuel – God with us, would have you & me consider every morning, “Is it today?” Amen.
O sweet & blessed country, the home of God’s elect! O sweet & blessed country that eager hearts expect! Jesus, in mercy bring us to that dear land of rest, Who art with God the Father & Spirit ever blest. Amen. TLH 605:5.
 Bloomberg, November 1, 2021, 4:55 AM EDT
25th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 28) LSB #’s 730, 645, 587
Text – Mark 13:1-2
As He was leaving the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” Jesus replied. “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
NOT ONE STONE
On September 11th of 2001 – jet airplanes were hijacked & flown into the World Trade Center towers. To all the New Yorkers who lived there before that day, the skyline of New York City will never look the same. Those towers were the defining characteristic of the city’s skyline. They were massive & impressive beyond anything else ever built there.
Even after they were gone people could hardly believe it was possible. Engineers & architects took to their computers to figure out if it was mathematically conceivable. And in record numbers men, women & children across America took to their religion to discover if it was possible to find hope or comfort there.
It was a short-lived revival. In remote parts of the country, like North Dakota, the short-lived version never even took place. That’s because New York City is so far removed from their day-to-day existence, it’s as if NYC is on a different planet. In the rest of the country, as life returned to normal, not one stone of that religious revival has been left upon another.
Too many people think that God’s Word has nothing to do with their day-to-day lives. It’s pie in the sky & ivory tower kind of stuff; idealistic, & just as un--real--istic. In times of great catastrophe people are almost forced to religion out of confusion & terror, but once they get a grip on things they go right back to relying upon themselves.
They think you can’t heat the house with God’s Word, you can’t pay college tuition with it, & you can’t base your retirement plan on it. And even if people don’t openly say such things about God’s Word, they certainly live as if they’re true. The majority of Christians even, actually live as if they have very little confidence in God’s Word & wonder if they really can trust in it. The serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say…?” & then Eve doubted the truth of God’s Word. So did Adam. And ever since, mankind has been cursed with doubts about the usefulness of Holy Scripture. You & I are no exception.
For example, do you worry about where the economy is headed? Do you fear the loss of the familiar routine of your way of life? Are you concerned about what the future holds for your children or grandchildren? Maybe you struggle with doubting God’s Promises!
“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life & the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22 NIV)
Is God’s Word unfruitful in your life? If you believe the Bible’s teachings are unrealistic & out of touch with the real world, I’d suggest that Holy Scripture is unfruitful for you. Worrying about your life will make God’s Promises unfruitful.
Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NASB) Do you worry about things? Of course you do, & you struggle with doubting God’s promises. All of us do!
Each one struggles with unbelief in some way or another, because all of us are still 100% sinner. Sinful people naturally reject what God says. That is a fact of our condition. The key to our predicament is, “Who has overcome our condition for us?” It’s certainly not the massive stones or magnificent buildings of the sermon text.
The disciples of Jesus were obviously impressed with them & no doubt found great pride & a sense of permanence there. Sort of like people of our nation look at the White House or the Pentagon & think, what magnificent buildings & how proud we are of their beauty.
Then Jesus bursts the bubble of His disciples. He tells them, that of those magnificent
buildings, not one stone would be left upon another. And these weren’t your ordinary cement blocks that Jesus was talking about. Many of those stones were 25 feet long, 18 feet wide & 9 feet high, yet not one of them would be left upon another.
The disciples couldn’t believe it. They doubted Jesus’ word because they were unable to comprehend the scale of the destruction He was predicting, especially since they did not want to believe Him. They found comfort, security & pride in those massive stone buildings. They felt good about themselves because of what their people had accomplished there.
So here comes Jesus, tearing down their accomplishments & the source of their pride. It’s like ridiculing the dress that your prom date is wearing. It’s not a nice thing to do, unless you realize that what we’re talking about here is idolatry.
For the meaning of the 1st Commandment, Luther wrote, “We should fear, love & trust in God above all things,” even above the magnificent creations of mankind, & even above the church buildings that we worship in.
The disciples didn’t know it then, but the magnificent & awe inspiring Temple that they & Jesus were talking about, would in less than 40 years be destroyed by the Romans so that not one stone was left upon another. The Jews had been worshipping their Temple above the true God, so He removed the temple from them.
What might God remove from our lives? Is there anything that you hold in higher esteem than your Lord & Savior? Do you really trust in all of God’s Word above all things? Or, do you worry what’ll happen if St. Matthew Lutheran church disappears?
Is your home your castle, or is Christ the Rock in which you take refuge from the trials of life? Do you find more comfort in the Words of God, or in the approval of your family &
friends? Satan will use even those blessings to lead us away from salvation.
As the Gospel reading ends, Jesus gives some rather severe predictions concerning family & friends. He says fathers will betray their children to death, & children their parents. Have you considered how abortion & euthanasia fit those predictions quite well? Yet the pro-choice groups make them sound so logical, so acceptable, so reassuring; so worthy of our trust.
The point of today’s Gospel reading is this, “Where do you place your trust?” Do you place it in the science & the creations of mankind? Or, do you place your trust in the Words & promises of God, however far-fetched & unrealistic they might seem? Are you living by the sight of faith, or living by the sight of your worldly, physical eyes?
If you see the works that your hands have made & relax in a feeling of success, you may be like the rich fool whose life God took from him one night. If you look at the disintegration of our culture around you & you lose all hope & become discouraged with despair, then you are like Judas who gave up on Christ & killed himself.
Our Savior calls you & me to a sure & certain hope. He calls us to a hope more permanent than the most massive & extravagant building. That’s why Jesus tears down what we so stubbornly build up. The Law is meant to tear out every prop we build up under ourselves. We doubt God’s Word because we would rather trust our own efforts & common sense.
But those efforts & our wisdom only lead to destruction, where not even one stone is left upon another. Yet through Christ, we receive a kingdom that can never be shaken, though all the world & even the heavens may be falling & collapsing around us. He who stands firm to the end will be saved, & Christ is the Rock upon which our life everlasting is built.
Our lives can be shaken by illness or disaster yet God will not be shaken. Christ Jesus is the same yesterday & today & forever. The OT lesson tells us that at the end of time,
Michael, the great Archangel, will arise & protect God’s people. In spite of those times of
distress, greater than anything the world has ever seen, everyone whose name is written in the book of life will be delivered.
The picture is one of such certainty that God has already written the history! Our salvation, our rescue, our forgiveness is so assured that God Himself has already recorded it as done! His only begotten Son, the Creator of all that exists, has declared that your sins are as white as snow.
Even if Satan himself were elected as our next president, God’s declaration of your forgiveness cannot be erased. On Judgment Day, there will be no recall votes. Only God’s vote will count & in your Baptism Christ elected you as His own, for all of eternity.
In the coming weeks, months or years, whenever doubts & fears assail you, remember what Jesus has done, because He will be faithful unto the very end, & you will be saved. God’s Son will leave not one stone unturned in His search for those who are lost, or confused or hurting. Every sin you & I have ever committed was paid for on the cross.
It is possible to find peace, comfort & hope in that. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Sing verse 1 of LSB 645.
Stewardship 3 – 2021 LSB #’s 706, 782, 783
Text – 1 Peter 4:10
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
THE IMPORTANCE & PURPOSE OF Ministry
Changing diapers is a dirty business as every parent, & child care worker knows. It is also not an especially gratifying experience, as I heard someone comment over a baby’s loud objections to a clean diaper, “You’d think they would be grateful.”
I have also heard it said that, of the many blessings of being a grandparent, one of the best is to spend time playing happily with the grandchildren &, when the times comes, to hand the beloved bundle of joy back to the parents saying something to this effect, “I think she needs changing.”
It is not glorious work. I doubt any parents would list it among their top ten favorite things about being a parent. But it is necessary, & through this simple act parents love their children, in addition to all the other ways they show that love.
They are doing what God has given them to do. They are caring for those God has placed into their hands, they are doing ministry, ministering to their children, although this is likely not the first example that comes to mind when we hear the word ministry.
When the word usually gets tossed around, a word that follows close behind in our minds is ‘Pastor.’ And sure, that makes sense. I’m the one talking to you most often about ministry, about serving God & our neighbors, about living the Christian life. Yes, pastors do serve, & a great deal of our service is fulfilling the vocation of pastor, but that is not all we do.
We are also sons, brothers, husbands, friends, & we fulfill a host of other vocations that God has placed into our hands. We serve, but only a part of that service involves the title pastor. The gospel is proclaimed from the pulpit, through the Scriptures, through the entire worship service, but certainly God does not minister to His church only through pastors. The heavenly Father does not minister to us only here in this place. God works through pastors, musicians, teachers, & a small army that regularly works or volunteers here, so we can then go out there.
Out there are those who have not heard. Out there are those who wallow in darkness, chasing after peace & joy which the world cannot give. In here, & out there, are sinners, but the difference is we know our Savior; they do not. Christ works through us; all of us, to bring back the sheep of His hand that are lost.
Like the good shepherd He is, Christ searches for the lost in every way He can. He will search for them where you work, & He uses you to find them. He uses your words & your actions to minster to them. The example we set, how we live & work is important, but perhaps the most terrifying reality of serving Christ is that sometimes we get to mention Jesus by name.
The shepherd calls out using your voice. When those conversations happen, often when we don’t expect them & feel least prepared, there Christ is working through you, there the Holy Spirit is reaching out, there ministry is happening, regardless of the outcome. Like screaming babies, just because you show God’s love to someone does not mean they will be grateful.
And fear of that rejection, fear of failure, fear that we are not worthy enough, good enough, skilled enough, for God to work through us, is something that will pass, that must pass, because God has chosen you. He has chosen you to be His steward. As we read in the sermon text, we are given gifts to serve one another as “good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
Even before He chose you to be His steward, God chose you to be His child. He chose you to inherit His kingdom. He chose to forgive you, to bless you, to love you, & something we get to do, something we have to do, depending on how we’re feeling that particular day, is to share the love of God with a world desperately in need of His love. Yes, you are flawed. I am flawed. We are actually far more than just flawed; we are sinners & we know what we deserve, the same as everyone else out there. But we also know that Christ came for but one purpose – to save sinners, & He is pretty good at His job.
He saved you through the work of the Holy Spirit, & that same Spirit is at work through you, each & every day. You do not leave this place alone, but full of God’s grace, accompanied by the Spirit of God.
Knowing this, trusting in our Savior, then we can say goodbye to fear, march boldly forward proclaiming Christ at every turn, at least we wish we were like that. Because yes, it is going to be a struggle.
Remember, “Take up your cross & follow Me,” but if Christ can bring us through death, He can bring us through fear, at work, with our friends, at school, & everywhere in between. Jesus can & will work through us to serve a world in need of its Savior. Sometimes the response will be rejection, sometimes even worse; only one disciple lived to old age.
Sometimes we’ll be uncomfortable & wish we could pass off our vocation to someone else. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of people trying to do exactly this. Think of Moses trying to convince God that He really should send someone else.
Yet, if we trust God enough to believe that He loves us, died for us, & is coming back for us, we should trust Him to guide us in ministering to those that cross our path in this life, even knowing there will be times that we march forward reluctantly.
As we march forward, as we look to our vocations, who & what God has placed before us, we will also see that most of our service is pretty mundane stuff. We are not often called to walk on water, feed thousands with almost nothing, or to raise the dead. We are called to help those in need, to feed those who are hungry, to care for the sick. Often this starts in our very home with those closest to us. Any caregiver, nurse, really anyone in the medical field, knows that caring for the sick is rarely considered a glorious task. It is difficult, dirty, at times dangerous, & yet, hopefully we can see God at work. But you do not have to go to medical school to care & to serve.
From food banks & thrift stores, to caring for your own children or aging parents, God works through these vocations to further His kingdom. From medical mission work, & relief work of all kinds, around the world, to feeding & sheltering those in our own communities, God is at work through you as volunteers, paid workers, family members, friends, and the people of God.
In shanty towns, disaster areas, shelters, hospitals, work places, schools, homes, at diaper changing tables, God works through us to share His love, to share His good news, that just one more might be brought to the faith. There is no question, “Is God working through me, or will God work through me?” He already is, every day.
You are fellow workers because the Lord has created you & made you His sons & daughters. He has not made all of us pastors, or parents, or teachers. Instead, He has given each of us different combinations of vocations in which to serve.
Thank God, because the pulpit’s not big enough to hold everyone. But the Church is big enough for God to work through countless gifts, opportunities, even through countless sinners who have been made into saints through our one Savior.
That is why we are here at all. Christ called out to you. He brought you into His family through your Baptism, working through parents, grandparents, pastors & who knows how many others. Jesus is still calling to you, reminding you of His forgiveness, His love, His promise that He is always with you, & that we will forever be on His team, through faith. Amen.
Gracious God, You send great blessings new each morning all our days. For your mercies never ending, for Your love we offer praise. By Your Word You formed creation filled with creatures large & small; as we tend that endless treasure may our care encircle all. Heavenly Father, may our caring bear the imprint of Your grace; with the Son & Holy Spirit, praise be Yours in every place! Lord, we pray that we, Your people who Your gifts un-numbered claim, through the sharing of Your blessings may bring glory to Your name. Amen. LSB 782:1-2, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet