Saturday, June 30, 2012

Time in the Word - Pentecost 6 - Proper 9



The theme for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9) will focus upon the word of the minister (prophet). His work of proclamation is very difficult due to the unreceptive attitude of the people to whom he is sent to preach. Even Jesus in the Gospel lesson didn’t do a good work in His hometown because the people do not believe in Him. Ezekiel is called (Old Testament lesson) to preach to a people whom God describes as “impudent and stubborn.” Paul, (in the Epistle lesson) prays to have a thorn removed that he might be more effective in his ministry, but the request is denied. We are blessed with pastor and people work in harmony and peace. Yet we live in a broken world. May we pray the Spirit’s help to always be open and receptive to the preaching of God’s holy Word. 

Collect for Pentecost 6Grant, Lord, that the course of this world may be so governed by Your direction that Your Church may rejoice in serving You in godly peace and quietness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen

Collect for Proper 9 – O God, Your almighty power is made known chiefly in showing mercy. Grant us the fullness of Your grace that we may be called to repentance and made partakers of Your heavenly treasures; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen

Prayer in time of affliction and distress: Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure sufferings and death before we enter into eternal glory. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for our country: Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage. Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will. Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action. Make us who come from many nations with many different languages a untied people. Defend our liberties, and give those whom we have entrusted with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom that they may be justice and peace in our land. When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful. In troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Monday, 02 July 2012—Psalm 132:13-16; Antiphon, Psalm 34:8— David reminds us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” The circumstances surrounding each of our lessons for next week might suggest that all is not well. Yet the Psalmist reminds us that our Lord’s care for His people goes beyond circumstance. He is our Lord in good times and in stressful times. He is with us when we are successful in life and when there are objects “in our road”. Despite obstacles to ministry, the Lord’s church moves forward. As we see the Lord active in His church and in the individual lives of His people, we can join with the Psalmist and say, “taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Tuesday, 03 July 2012—Psalm 123—This Psalm of David is a prayer of God’s humble people for Him to show mercy and so foil the contempt of the proud. There are many obstacles to ministry in this world. This earth is fallen. Yet despite obstacles, the Lord has not left His church to ruin nor has He turned His back on us. To the contrary, this psalm speaks of God’s control of the universe, His church and His people. Fare thee well child of God the Lord remains constant regardless of the contempt and ridicule the world might bring upon us.

Wednesday, 04 July 2012—Ezekiel 2:1-5— Obstacles to ministry may occur with the rebelliousness of God’s people. Ezekiel receives the Spirit and is sent to preach to a rebellious people. In this passage, Ezekiel is commissioned to go to the exiles in Babylon to preach God’s Word. To do this he is empowered by the Spirit. The Lord warns him that the people may not listen to his preaching because they are a rebellious people. It is not important whether his preaching is accepted. At least, they will hear God’s Word and know a prophet was with them. Application to our day? How do you want people to respond to you? Would you rather be accepted or respected? What’s the difference? Which of the two is more difficult and why?

Thursday, 05 July 2012—2 Corinthians 12:1-10— Obstacles to ministry may occur with the handicap of the preacher.  Paul is promised grace to bear his thorn in the flesh. Paul is fed up with his opponents who cast doubt on his apostleship and boast about their work and religious experiences. This lesson is a part of the “terrible letter” (chapters 10-12) in which Paul makes a heated defense of his apostleship. If his opponents can boast of their accomplishments, he can, too. This passage is part of his boasting. Paul claims he, too, has had an abundance of revelations, but to keep him humble God gave him a thorn in the flesh. Repeatedly he prayed to have it removed, but God assured him His grace was enough to bear it. Now Paul boasts of his weaknesses, handicaps, and sufferings, for through weakness the power of Christ comes upon him. Americans love winners. There is an aversion in our day to weakness, pain, and suffering. Where are you weak? When has God said “no” to your prayers only to say, “My grace is sufficient”?  What life lessons can we gain through suffering, setback and loss?  

Friday, 06 July 2012—Mark 6:1–13—The rejection by one’s own people. Obstacles to ministry may occur with rejection. Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth takes offense at Him and His work.  Earlier Jesus was rejected by His family and religious leaders. Now He is rejected by the people (friends and relatives) of His hometown, Nazareth. They were astonished at His teaching and mighty works. They could not explain His greatness; they referred to Him as a carpenter and as the son of Mary along with brothers and sisters. Unable to explain Him, they took offense or were scandalized by Him. Jesus reacted by saying that a prophet was without honor among His own people. He was unable to do mighty works because of the people’s unbelief. Therefore, Jesus left with His disciples to teach in other towns. This week we celebrated our country’s independence. God has blessed America in that given our representative form of democracy and our rights to practice our faith as outlines in the constitution the Gospel has had free reign. Not all however is well within our country. Many would want to stifle the Gospel. We have no guarantee that America will last forever. The Lord could allow the Gospel to flourish in another place. Many of our Lutheran forefathers (and others) came to America to escape religious persecution happening in Europe. If the church in America received the same reception as did the Savior in His hometown would many simply stop coming?  How do some today practice their faith because it is convenient?      

Saturday, 07 July 2012— Luke 1:78-79 The first stanza of Sunday’s hymn of the day, O Christ, Our True and Only Light (LSB 839), asks the Savior to enlighten those who sit in night. There are many today missing from the Father’s table because they sit in ignorance. They know nothing of the saving work of Jesus Christ. While there are obstacles to ministry, there are tremendous opportunities to witness in the midst of our nation’s heartland. As the Lord gives us opportunity may we “gossip the Gospel” that souls may be won and the kingdom expanded.

Sources:
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House and from Lutheran Worship © 1980 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcut used with permission from WELS
Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series B – John Brokhoff © 1981 CSS Publishing, Lima, OH

Pentecost 5 - Proper 8


Proper 8
1 July 2012
Mark 5:35-43
Nothing will stand in His Way

INTRODUCTION: How willing is the Savior to help His own? Such a question is asked even of the most pious and devout believer. Is the Savior able to come to me when I need Him the most? When I call will He answer? Is my circumstance too bleak even for Jesus? The answer to these pressing questions is answered in our text for this day. When it comes to the Savior helping His own nothing will deter Him – not even death!  Let’s see how the cruel world reacts…

I.                    People’s opinions – Your daughter is dead! V.35

A.        This is the only way in which the world perceives reality.
1.          That there are certain challenges which not even Jesus can help. Who could bring someone back from the dead?
2.          If it’s believed that Jesus cannot help – then their statement is correct – “why trouble the Master?”

B.        Yet, how the world perceives reality may be deceiving.
1.          God’s masks – His power is seen in weakness; when we are brought low it is Christ who raises us up.
2.          Why trouble the Master? When tempted to give up and give in it is then that we need to seek Christ where He can be found. Instead of telling the Savior about your storm – tell our storm how big you Savior is.

Transition: People’s opinion will not deter Jesus from helping – nor will people ridicule and scorn.

II.                 Ridicule – They laughed at Him V.40

A.        They laugh because Jesus confronted their world view.
1.          That man is in control at all times and in every circumstance.
2.          That fact trumps faith {see C.S. Lewis and “Total Truth” etc.}

B.        They laugh because they really didn’t believe.
1.          That Jesus could intervene
2.          That Jesus could cure and heal
3.          That Jesus was the Christ

Transition: We cry to Jesus to help in every desperate situation. He will come to us without fail – even when death’s grim reality?

III.               Death’s stark reality – I say to you arise! V.41

A.        Jesus swallowed up death by His own death and resurrection. Because of the cross and empty tomb we are Easter People! Listen to how Mark describes it later on in his gospel account!
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. Mark 16:9-11

B.     Death is so limited…
it has not crippled love,
it has not shattered hope,
 it has not corroded faith,
 it has not eaten away peace,
   nor destroyed confidence.

It has not killed friendship,
it has not shut out memories,
it has not silenced courage,
it has not invaded the soul,
   nor reduced eternal life.

It has not quenched the Spirit,
It cannot, has not,
   nor will not lesson the power of the resurrection!

CONCLUSION: When we cry to Jesus for help in a desperate situation, He comes to us without fail!

Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Time in the Word Pentecost 5 - Proper 8


The Lord Jesus Is Faithful, and in Mercy He Raises You Up from Death to Life

The Lord is faithful. His steadfast love never ceases, and “His mercies never come to an end” (Lam. 3:22–23). To keep in repentance and to make our faith grow, He causes grief for a while, but He does not cast off forever; in due time, “He will have compassion” (Lam. 3:31–33). Therefore, “hope in Him,” and “wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord,” for “the Lord is good to those who wait for Him” (Lam. 3:24–26). That is what the woman did “who had a discharge of blood,” and the ruler whose daughter “was at the point of death.” Each waited on the mercy of the Lord Jesus, and each received His saving help (Mark 5:21–28). The woman had suffered much for twelve years, and the ruler’s daughter had already died before Jesus arrived. Yet, at the right time, the woman was immediately “healed of her disease,” and the little girl “got up and began walking around” (Mark 5:29, 42). Such is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” who humbled Himself, unto the extreme poverty of death, “so that you by His poverty might become rich,” unto life everlasting (2 Cor. 8:9).

Collect for Pentecost 5: Heavenly Father, during His earthly ministry Your Son Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. By the healing medicine of the Word and Sacraments pour into our hearts such love toward You that we may live eternally; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul, Apostles (29 June): Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer for one who is sick: O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need, look with favor upon Your servant(s) [name(s)]. Assure [him/her/them] of Your mercy, deliver [him/her/them] from the temptations of the evil one, and give [him/her/them] patience and comfort in [his/her/their] illness. If it please You, restore [him/her/them] to health, or give [him/her/them] grace to accept this tribulation with courage and hope; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,

Prayer for one near death: Eternal Father, You alone make the decisions concerning life and death. We ask You to show mercy to Your servant [name], whose death seems imminent. If it be Your gracious will, restore [him/her] and lengthen [his/her] earthly life; but if not, keep [him/her] in [his/her] baptismal grace and in Your abiding care. Give [him/her] a repentant heart, firm faith, and a lively hope. Let not the fear of death cause [him/her] to waver in confidence and trust. At Your chosen time, grant [him/her] a peaceful departure and a joyous entrance into everlasting life with the glorious company of all Your saints; through Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Prayer for the hope of eternal life in Christ: Almighty, everlasting God, Your Son has assured forgiveness of sins and deliverance from eternal death. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that our faith in Christ may increase daily and that we may hold fast to the hope that on the Last Day we shall be raised in glory to eternal life; through Jesus Christ,

Monday, 25 June 2012Psalm 121:5–8; Antiphon, Psalm 121:1–2—Like yesterdays Psalm of the Day (Psalm 124), this is a Song of Ascents, that pilgrims sang on their way up to Jerusalem. On the journey, they had to go through mountains, or hills. To whom do they—and we—look to keep them safe, not just on the way to Jerusalem, but throughout life? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth…The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life . . . The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012Psalm 30—This Psalm of David praises the Lord for having preserved his life, granting him healing. When he seemed to be at the brink of death, the Lord restored him to life among those who go down into the pit. More than just physical healing, however, the Lord also granted David spiritual healing: when David, trusting in himself, said, ‘I shall never be moved,’ the adversity made him repent of his pride. As a result of physical and spiritual healing, David proclaims, ‘You have turned for me my mourning into dancing . . . O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!’

Wednesday, 27 June 2012Lamentations 3:22–33—In the midst of a lament over the fall of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah extols the mercy of the Lord: His steadfast love never ceases…the Lord is good to those who wait for Him. When the Lord’s chastisement has brought about its intended results, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love. This gives comfort to us, too: when we repent of our sins, the Lord is quick to bestow forgiveness upon us.

Thursday, 28 June 20122 Corinthians 8:1–9, 13–15—When the Christians in Jerusalem were in distress, the churches in Macedonia, though they were also beset by poverty and affliction, gave beyond their means to support their suffering brethren. This was not of themselves, but a display of the grace of God that allowed them to give themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Paul then explains also the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Friday, 29 June 2012Mark 5:21–43—Jesus demonstrates His great love for those suffering from some of the consequences of the Fall, sickness and death. Out of compassion, he agrees to go to the home of Jairus, whose daughter is near death. On the way, he is sought out by a woman with an issue of blood. Tenderly, He tells her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well.’ At Jairus’ house, He is met with the news that the little girl is dead. Christ Jesus, who will conquer death on the cross, raises her from the dead, showing His power over death and beginning the work of the restoration of creation. This compassion and mercy flows from the great love God has for us.

Saturday, 30 June 2012—The first stanza of Sunday’s hymn of the day, In the Very Midst of Life (LSB 755), dates back to the ninth century. Luther altered it somewhat and added two stanzas. It is one of the foremost hymns we have for the dying. It strongly proclaims that by Jesus’ blood alone we have atonement for sin and, consequently, refuge from sin and peace with God.

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
Artwork by Ed Riojas © Higher Things
Lectionary summary on front page from the LCMS Commission on Worship
This week’s Time in the Word is written by The Revd Jeffrey M. Keuning.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pentecost 4 - Proper 7



Proper7
24 June 2012
Mark 4:35-41
Creatures in awe of Jesus’ authority over the creation

INTRODUCTION

A.            Following a day full of teaching activity...
1.            Jesus and His disciples got in a boat to sail across the Sea of Galilee –
2.            A windstorm arose, beating waves into the boat –
3.            Jesus was sleeping, but was wakened by His disciples fearing their lives –
4.            Jesus rebuked the wind and calmed the seas –
5.            He then reproached His disciples for their fear and lack of faith
6.            Filled with great fear, His disciples expressed their awe of Jesus to one another. –

B.            The account of Jesus calming the storm is well-known...
1.            Popular in many children's Bible classes
2.            The setting for the song “Jesus Savior Pilot Me”

I.             WE ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM STORMS    

A.            WE FACE STORMS BECAUSE WE ARE HUMANS...
1.            Being Jesus' disciples did not protect them from  storms.
2.            We live in a world where there are many storms, both literal and figurative.
3.            Christians experience literal tornados, hurricanes, just like everyone else.
4.            Christians likewise face storms such as sickness, accidents, disappointments, death.
5.            Paul certainly experience the perils of storms and shipwrecks - 2Co 11:25-26 -- Three times I was beaten with rods; jonce I was stoned; three times I kwas shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, min perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; Jesus does not promise exemption from the normal storms of life.

B.            WE FACE STORMS BECAUSE WE ARE CHRISTIANS...
1.            Jesus warned that we will experience tribulation as His disciples - John 16:33 - I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world 
2.            Paul did, and warned his fellow disciples - 2Corinthians 11:24-25; Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, Acts 14:22; strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.  2Timothy 3:12 -In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
3.            Peter wrote that we should not be surprised - 1Peter 4:12 - Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful        trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.-- Jesus does not promise exemption from the storms of religious persecution

Transition: So if we find ourselves in the midst of storms, whether literal or figurative, whether it’s because we are simply humans or because we are Christians, do not think it strange.  Instead take heart knowing that…

II.            JESUS HELPS US DEAL WITH STORMS

A.            THROUGH FAITH...
1.            During storms, we are often afraid ("we are perishing!") -    
2.            Jesus teaches that fear is indicative of a lack of faith –
3.            To overcome fear in storms, we need to grow in faith!
a.            Faith that God will protect us if it be His will - cf. Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
b.            Faith that God will deliver us to His heavenly city even if we die - Psalm 46:4-5, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.  Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.--Jesus reveals the role of faith in the midst of storms.

B.            THROUGH HIS WORD...
1.            Jesus' words prepare us to withstand the storms of life - Matthew 7:24-27.  Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
2.            How to pray in order to be heard by God - Matthew 6:5-8 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be     seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.       And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
3.            To lay up treasure in heaven instead of on earth - Matthew 6:19-20 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 
   But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
4.            To seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness - Matthew 6:31-34 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. -- Jesus shares the secrets to standing strong against the storms of life.

C.            THROUGH PRAYER...
1.            Jesus is key to receiving mercy and grace to help in time of need - Hebrews 4:14-16; Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace  with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
2.            In anxious times, God offers peace to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus through prayer. -- Jesus stands ready to calm our hearts and minds when facing storms.

D.            THROUGH HIS SACRIFICE...
1.            The greatest "storm" all of us will face will be the Day of Judgment - 2Peter 3:7, By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and  destruction of ungodly men.
2.  A day in which we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ - 2Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
3.            But Christ shed His blood to spare us on that Day - Romans 5:6-10 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still  sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
4.            By obeying the gospel, we can have our names added to the Lamb's book of life and escape condemnation for our sins - cf. Mark 16:15-16; He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. -- Jesus stands ready to save us and protect us from the "perfect storm" to come.

CONCLUSION

A.            Everyone will face one or more storms in his or her life...
1.            Whether literally or metaphorically
2.            Whether atheist or believer

B.            How shall we react when the time(s) come...
1.            Shall we cry out like the disciples who were weak in faith ("we   are perishing!")?
2.            Or shall we weather the storms with confident faith and calm repose?

C.            And how shall we stand on when the final storm comes...
1.            The "perfect storm", that is, the Day of Judgment?
2.            Shall we hear Jesus say, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for    you     from the foundation of the world"? Matthew 25:34
3.            Or will we hear Him say, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil    and his angels"? -  Matthew 25:41

When Jesus rebuked the wind and spoke to the sea, "Peace, be still", the wind ceased and there was a great calm.  The disciples, with fear and amazement, said: "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" The wind and the sea obeyed Jesus.  Shall we not obey Him who now has all authority in heaven and on earth? -  Matthew 28:18-20



Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things and woodcut  © WELS 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith


"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" - 1 Corinthians 2:2


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Time in the Word - Pentecost 4- Proper 7



The Word of Christ Bestows Peace on His Creation through His Forgiveness of Sins

In his anguish and affliction, Job must be reminded that, as a finite creature, he is in no position to question the Maker of the heavens and the earth. Job’s “words without knowledge” are unable to penetrate the wisdom of the Lord (Job 38:1–2). For the Lord has “prescribed limits” and “set bars and doors,” so that “here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:9–11). That’s how He humbles us unto repentance. But also by His powerful Word He calms the “great windstorm” and the waves “breaking into the boat.” He does not permit the chaos of this fallen world to overwhelm us or bring us to despair. By the Word of His Gospel, He speaks “Peace” to us, which bestows the “great calm” of His New Creation (Mark 4:37–39). Therefore, do not be afraid, and do not receive this grace of God in vain. “Now is the favorable time,” and “now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:1–2).

Collect for Pentecost 4: Almighty God, in Your mercy guide the course of this world so that Your Church may joyfully serve You in godly peace and quietness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for the Nativity of St John the Baptist (24June): Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation. Now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for Peace: O God, from whom come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, give to us, Your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey Your commandments and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness; 

Prayer for Peace: Almighty and everlasting God, King of Glory, and Lord of heaven and earth, by whose Spirit all things are governed, by whose providence all things are ordered, the God of peace and the author of all concord, grant us, we implore You, Your heavenly peace and concord that we may serve You in true fear, to the praise and glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, 

Prayer for one suffering from anxiety, apprehension, or fear: O most loving Father, You want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing You, and to lay all our cares on You, knowing that You care for us. Strengthen [name] in [his/her] faith in You. Grant that the fears and anxieties of this mortal life may not separate [him/her] from Your love shown to us in Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, 

Prayer at the close of the day: Abide with us, Lord, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent. Abide with us and with Your whole Church. Abide with us at the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world. Abide with us with Your grace and goodness, with Your holy Word ad Sacrament, with Your strength and blessing. Abide with us when the night of affliction and temptation comes upon us, the night of fear and despair, the night when death draws near. Abide with us and with all the faithful, now and forever.

Monday, 18 June 2012—Psalm 107:29–32; Antiphon, Psalm 107:28—This psalm recounts many of the things that the LORD has done for His people, and exhorts them to praise Him for them. In the section appointed for Sunday’s Introit, the LORD is given praise for manifesting His might by delivering His people from the storms of nature. This sets the theme for the day, where all the readings point to the authority of the Creator over His creation, and His continuing governance.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012—Psalm 124—This Song of Ascents, that pilgrims sang on their way up to Jerusalem, praises the Lord for His deliverance of His people from catastrophes of nature. Twice, it is sung, If the Lord had not been on our side…Those who sing the psalm recognize that their only hope of salvation is in the Lord. We echo this in the daily offices, such as Matins and Vespers, and when we confess our sins in the Divine Service, when we repeat verse eight: Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012—Job 38:1–11—At the end of the book of Job, God answers Job, who has demanded the opportunity to interrogate Him for the calamities which have befallen Job. God answers with an interrogation of His own: Who is Job to question the Creator of all things? The Lord, who laid the foundation of the earth and determined its measurements, who prescribed limits for the sea, knows what He is doing. How can the creature second-guess the Creator?

Thursday, 21 June 2012—2 Corinthians 6:1–13—In Sunday’s epistle reading, St Paul speaks of his experiences as Christ’s Ambassador of Reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20). He tells of these things not to boast, but because what people see in the messenger affects the credibility of the message. In verse 6, he speaks of the reason he was able to withstand these hardships and still bring forth the fruits of righteousness: it is solely the work of God, especially the Holy Spirit. God, the Creator of all things, is also able to create the New Man, who lives before God in righteousness and purity,

Friday, 22 June 2012—Mark 4:35–41—Terrified by a storm which came upon them quickly on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were powerless to escape it or overcome it. Jesus, however, through whom all things were created (John 1:3), is able to calm the seas by the command of His voice. After all, He is God, who brought all things into existence by speaking, ‘Let there be…’ (Genesis 1)

Saturday, 23 June 2012Sunday’s hymn of the day, Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me (LSB 715), uses the imagery of a stormy sea to represent the trials and tribulations which are part of our lives as long as we live in this fallen, sinful world. But Jesus is able to still those seas, as He did the Sea of Galilee, and bring comfort to us. True comfort can come only through Jesus, for He is our Salvation.

The Revd Jeffrey M. Keuning, Pastor wrote this week’s “Time in the Word”. He serves St John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Casey, and Zion Lutheran Church, Dexter, Iowa
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
Artwork by Ed Riojas © WELS for personal and congregational use 
Lectionary summary on front page from the LCMS Commission on Worship

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pentecost 3 - Proper 6


June 17, 2012
Proper 6 –
Mark 4:26-34

Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark learn and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When there is life there is growth. Even after physical growth stops, human beings need to keep on growing intellectually and in other ways. Growth is necessary to experience life at its fullest. Growth is always a feature of God’s kingdom and specifically of the Word of the kingdom. The parables in Mark 4, beginning with the parable of the sower, focus on God’s Word. The text points out that the Word of God Grows.

I.             The Word grows gradually.

A.            As the seed is sown.
1.            Both pastors and lay Christians sow the seed of the Word.
2.            The sowing goes on wherever God’s Word is proclaimed, preached, taught and shared.  Gradual sowing is necessary for gradual growth.

B.            As the plant develops.
1.            We can prepare the ground and nurture the plant but the seed grows of itself, mysteriously.
2.            We may sometimes get discouraged because the growth is so gradual, but growth there will be present. Therefore, we can relax and let the Word work according to its own schedule.

Transition: While learning to be patient with growth that is gradual, we must also face up to the fact that.

II.            The Word grows inconspicuously.

A.            The Word is as inconspicuous as a mustard seed in the beginning stages of its growth.
1.            The great and the powerful in Christ’s day gave little notice to the Word growing in their midst.
2.            Those who wield power and influence in the world today are indifferent for the most part to the growth of the Word.

B.            So inconspicuous is the Word’s growth that we are often not aware of anything taking place.
1.            The sinners with whom Christ associated and the disciples whom He called often gave little evidence of spiritual growth.
2.            We cannot see faith, nor do we always see the various stages of growth. Conversions are not necessarily spectacular, nor do we always perceive growth in love and patience in ourselves and in others.

Transition: At the same time, there is evidence of rather impressive growth.

III.           The Word grows impressively.

A.            The Word that was sown in a little corner of the world has spread to many nations.
1.            The Word has produced a great bush with large branches in which all sorts of people find refuge and rest.
2.            The worldwide church attest to the growth power of the Word.

B.            The Word will continue to grow until it produces a harvest.
1.            We shall see this harvest on the Last Great Day.
2.            Then there will be a great gathering of ripened grain, of redeemed souls, for the heavenly garner.

We need never discount the power of God’s Word. The Word of God grows gradually and inconspicuously, but also impressively.


Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things
Wheat is ready for harvest pray for our farmers 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Time in the Word Pentecost 3 - Proper 6


The Cross of Christ Is the Tree of Life, Which Bears Abundant Fruit after Its Own Kind


The Parables of our Lord convey the mysteries of the Kingdom of God to those who are “able to hear it,” that is, “to His own disciples,” who are catechized to fear, love and trust in Him by faith (Mark 4:33–34). He “scatters seed on the ground,” which “sprouts and grows” unto life, even as “He sleeps and rises” (Mark 4:26–27). “On the mountain heights of Israel,” He plants a young and tender twig, and it becomes “a noble cedar.” Indeed, His own Cross becomes the Tree of Life, under which “every kind of bird” will dwell, and in which “birds of every sort will nest” (Ezek 17:22–25). His Cross is our resting place, even while now in mortal bodies, we “groan, being burdened” (2 Cor 5:1–4). Yet faith we live for God in Christ, who for our sake “died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15). We know that, in His resurrected body, “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1).

Collect for Pentecost 3: Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer for the Church: Almighty God, grant to Your Church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes down from above, that Your Word may not be bound but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and, in the confession of Your name, abide unto the end; 

Prayer for the mission of the Church and her missionaries: Almighty and gracious God, You want all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Magnify the power of the Gospel in the hearts of Your faithful people that Your Church may spread the good news of salvation. Protect, encourage, and bless all missionaries who proclaim the saving cross that Christ, being lifted up, may draw all people to Himself, 

Prayer for those outside the Church: Almighty and everlasting God, You desire not the death of a sinner but that all would repent and live. Hear our prayers for those outside the Church. Take away their iniquity, and turn them from their false gods to You, the living and true God. Gather them into Your holy Church to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, 

Prayer for persecuted Christians: Lord Jesus Christ, before whom all in heaven and earth shall bow, grant courage that Your children may confess Your saving name in the face of any opposition from a world hostile to the Gospel. Help them to remember Your faithful people who sacrificed much and even faced death rather than dishonor You when called upon to deny the faith. By Your Spirit, strengthen them to be faithful and to confess You boldly, knowing that You will confess Your own before the Father in heaven, with whom You and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, now and forever.

Monday, 11 June 2012Psalm 92:12–15; Antiphon, Psalm 92:1—This ‘Psalm for the Sabbath’ is a hymn of praise, in which the psalmist gives thanks to the LORD for His steadfast love and faithfulness. He declares us righteous and makes us flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. From ancient times, even until to-day, Lebanon has been known for its tall strong cedars: Cedars from Lebanon were used in constructing the temple, and the cedar appears on Lebanon’s national flag. We who are planted in the house of the LORD are strong in the LORD like these trees of renown.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012Psalm 1—Luther wrote that the psalter is the Bible in miniature. If so, then the opening six verses are the portal leading into a treasure-house of communion with God. Who is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners . . . but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His Law he meditates day in night? First, it is Christ. Secondly, it is all of us who have been incorporated into Christ—the holy Christian Church. The new man, created by Baptism, that comes forth daily and arises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012Ezekiel 17:22–24—Things looked bleak when Jerusalem fell and King Zedekiah died in exile (Ezekiel 17:11-21). Through the prophet Ezekiel, the LORD proclaims that He will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and…I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. This tender sprig will never be uprooted, for it is the promised Messiah, Jesus, who will be given the throne of His father David, and whose Messianic kingdom will be established forever.

Thursday, 14 June 20122 Corinthians 5:1–10—In Sunday’s epistle reading, St Paul looks forward to eternal life in heaven, when we shall live forever in our glorified bodies, no longer made frail by the ravages of sin. Paul has supreme confidence in what is to come, for his confidence rests, not in the whims of man, but in the surety of God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. The Christian, who lives by faith in the promises of the Lord, rejoices at the thought of being at home with the Lord.

Friday, 15 June 2012Mark 4:26–34—These parables serve as both warning and encouragement to us. We have a rĂ´le to play in the furtherance of God’s kingdom on earth by sharing the Good News of the Gospel with those around us, but we must never think that the triumph of the Kingdom is our triumph, for it is the Lord and His Word alone which are effective. But neither should we despair if the growth of the Lord’s Kingdom seems somehow unspectacular in our eyes. He alone is the Lord of the harvest (Mark 9:38); thus, we never cease praying “Thy Kingdom come” with patience and confidence.

Saturday, 16 June 2012—Sunday’s hymn of the day, Creator Spirit, By Whose Aid (LSB 500), is an eighth-century hymn written in praise of the Holy Spirit and the gifts He bestows on the Church. It first proclaims the Spirit as participating in the creation of all things, then testifies that He creates Christians by His gifts to us. The final stanza is a doxology: a hymn of praise to our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
Artwork by Ed Riojas © Higher Things
Lectionary summary on front page from the LCMS Commission on Worship
The Revd Jeffrey M. Keuning has written this week’s Time in the Word

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pentecost 2 - Proper 5


Proper 5
10 June 2012
Mark 3:20-35
Let the Evidence Stand

The gospels are a record of Jesus’ instruction to His disciples. Just as Jesus taught His disciples about the Father, so in turn, the disciples teach us about Jesus. The purpose of the gospels are to tell us who Jesus is and what He does. In writing his Gospel, Mark introduces you to Jesus.

Many opinions concerning Jesus’ person are common. Some proclaim Him a prophet, others a moral guide and compass. Some contend that He was crazy, and if not insane, possibly a man possessed. Still others saw Him as a man set on mysterious mission. Mark will tell us more concerning Jesus. By viewing His words and actions, Mark will say to us, “Let the evidence concerning Jesus stand.”

1.            The evidence shows that Jesus has defeated sin and Satan.

A.            Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness. When, for 40 days and nights He was tempted by    the Devil.
1.            Satan used all his wiles to stop Jesus’ mission of grace. He failed!
2.            We are comforted to know the strength of our Lord Jesus when we are tempted and confronted by our sin. We will be constantly tempted by the devil, world and flesh. When those times come, we look to Jesus who overcame for us and is the author and finisher of our faith. Don’t trust in yourself to tackle temptation. You will fall to temptation. Trust not in princes, they are but mortal. Trust in the LORD with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.(Proverbs 3:5-6)

B.            Jesus’ exorcisms are evidence that Satan is defeated.
1.            They show that the stronger Jesus has bound Satan.
2.            They show that Satan’s kingdom is coming to a defeated end.

C.            Jesus glorious resurrection proves that the victory over Satan is His. 
1.            Jesus’ death on the cross at Calvary destroyed sin, death, and the power of Satan. This all happened when Jesus cried from the cross, “It is finished!”
2.            His descent into Hell was public proof and the announcement of this victory.
3.            His glorious resurrection is convincing proof that the victory is His.

The evidence concerning Jesus is that He has defeated Satan. Because of this fact alone, He has the power to forgive and save.

2              The unforgivable sin suppresses the evidence about Jesus.

A.            We are comforted that no sin is too great to be forgiven.  Each of us sins against God and our neighbor terribly. Can they be forgiven? Satan would what you to doubt this. This is how he operates. In the beginning, he tempts us to think that any sin is but a trifle. But once you fall into sin, then he tempts to think it can’t be forgiven.
1.            Jesus’ perfect death paid the penalty of every sin.
2.            We can never sink so low that God’s love can’t be deeper. The Lord can never abandon you. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot protect you.

B.            But why, then is the unforgivable sin deemed “unforgivable”?
1.            It denies the clear evidence concerning Jesus. (As demonstrated by the scribes in our text.) They refused to let Jesus be Jesus.  His name means “Savior”. They denied He had any power to save. The unforgivable sin is simply that. It is a denial of Jesus. It’s the statement that Jesus is not God. It is a denial that Jesus did not come to seek and save the lost. It is unforgivable because it is a claim that Jesus can no longer help you.
2.            It resists and refuses the Holy Spirit who alone can bring man to repentance and faith.
3.            It refuses to accept the clear evidence concerning Christ and His work.
4.            Blaspheming the Holy Spirit removes the chance for forgiveness; it refuses to let God be God.

Jesus has the power to forgive and save. As a result, He gives an open invitation to become a part of His family – the church.

3              Jesus’ family is evidence by doing God’s will.

A.            Membership and inclusion into this family is open to all.
1.            It is universal “Whoever…” v. 35 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
2.            There are no distinct physical marks of who is a member. Membership is known only to God. That’s why we must always remember – the church is invisible because only God knows who are His.

B.            However, there is nonetheless evidence of such membership – doing the Father’s will.
1.            The Father’s will for us is to believe in Jesus. (John 5:39) You study[a] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,
2.            The Father’s will is to bring others into the kingdom. (Matthew 28:19-20) Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
3.            The Father’s will shall be self-evident. (Matthew 5:16, James 2:17) “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Let the evidence, concerning Jesus, stand. May it be evident in your life.

Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Time in the Word - Pentecost 2




Jesus Has Defeated the Devil and Released Us from the Bondage of Sin and Death

The devil deceived us, enticing us to disregard and disobey the Word of God, and driving us to hide “from the presence of the Lord God.” But the Lord in His mercy promised a Savior, who would set Himself against the devil on our behalf (Gen 3:8–15). The “stronger Man” come, the incarnate Son of God, conceived and born of the Woman. He “first binds the strong man,” Satan, by atoning for the sins of the world, thereby removing the condemnation of the Law and the fear of death (Mark 3:27). Now He plunders the devil’s house by calling all men to repent. Though He appears to be “out of His mind” (Mark 3:21), He fulfills the will of God and makes of us His own brothers and sisters. Therefore, “we do not lose heart,” despite the suffering, sin and death that we experience in this fallen world. “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.” By His grace, we are “being renewed day by day.” For the Gospel is daily bringing us into His presence, not for punishment, but for “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:14–17).

Collect for Pentecost 2: Almighty and eternal God, Your Son Jesus triumphed over the prince of demons and freed us from bondage to sin. Help us to stand firm against every assault of Satan, and enable us always to do Your will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer for deliverance from sin: We implore You, O Lord, in Your kindness to show us Your great mercy that we may be set free from our sins and rescued from the punishments that we rightfully deserve; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,

Prayer for pardon, growth in grace, and divine protection: O Lord, our God, we acknowledge Your great goodness toward us and praise You for the mercy and grace that our eyes have seen, our ears have heard, and our hearts have known. We sincerely repent of the sins of this day and those in the past. Pardon our offenses, correct and reform what is lacking in us, and help us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Inscribe Your law upon our hearts, and equip us to serve You with holy and blameless lives. May each day remind us of the coming of the night when no one can work. In the emptiness of this present age keep us united by a living faith through the power of Your Holy Spirit with Him who is the resurrection and the life, that we may escape the eternal bitter pains of condemnation.

By Your Holy Spirit bless the preaching of Your Word and the administration of Your Sacraments. Preserve these gifts to us and to all Christians. Guard and protect us from all dangers to body and soul. Grant that we may with faithful perseverance receive from You our sorrows as well as our joys, knowing that health and sickness, riches and poverty, and all things come by permission of Your fatherly hand. Keep us this day under Your protective care and preserve us, securely trusting in Your everlasting goodness and love, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord,

Monday, 4 June 2012Psalm 28:7–9; Antiphon: Psalm 28:6—Sunday’s Introit is a portion of a psalm by David, who, in the midst of adversity, realizes that he is unable to protect and preserve himself. His salvation is dependent on the Lord. Though we may not be facing the kind of earthly enemies which David did, as sinners, the preaching of the Law shows us that we are unable to save ourselves from our enemies: the devil, the world, and even our own flesh. With David, we exult in the Lord, who has brought us salvation from the consequences of our sin and continues to protect us from our enemies.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012Psalm 130—Psalm is a well-known penitential psalm. The superscript reads A Song of Ascents; that is, it was sung by pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem for a festival observance. By the singing of this psalm, they reminded each other that, with the Lord, there is forgiveness, and encouraging one another to hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012Genesis 3:8–15—When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, their relationship with God their Creator changed entirely. No longer did they wish to be in His presence; like disobedient children, they sought to be anywhere but. Nevertheless, the Lord sought them out. And when He cursed the serpent and the devil who spoke through the serpent, He made sure Adam and Eve also heard the blessing—the promise of a Deliverer, one who would redeem them from the consequence of their sin: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. This promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our Savior, who defeated the devil by His death on the cross, and claims us as His own.

Thursday, 7 June 20122 Corinthians 4:13—5:1—For the next several weeks, our Epistle readings will be taken from St Paul’s second letter to the Church at Corinth. This was a congregation which was beset by many problems; among them were false teachers in the congregation who questioned Paul’s authority and used the preaching of the Gospel solely for their own monetary benefit. It seems that they pointed to Paul’s hardships and tribulations as indicating his lack of authority. Paul looks past the physical and points to the saving message of the Gospel. That is what is important: the message, not the man. Paul looks forward to eternity in heaven, even as he knows that the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed.

Friday, 8 June 2012Mark 3:20–35—Jesus faces opposition from His family, who think that He is delusional, and also—especially—from the religious leaders of His day, who accuse Him of being possessed by the devil. Jesus shows the illogic of their accusation, and then turns the tables: it is not He that is under the dominion of Satan, but they, for they have rejected the Deliverer promised in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15). The Holy Spirit is sent forth into the world to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ; those who reject Him blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and consign themselves to everlasting punishment.

Saturday, 9 June 2012—How are we to withstand the evil schemes of the devil? The hymn of the day, Rise! To Arms! With Prayers Employ You (LSB #668), gives the answer: Pray to the Lord that He would give us the strength to withstand Satan. And so He has: we have the Word of God, the weapon glorious. The Word of God arms us for spiritual battle, for it tells of Christ, who has already won the victory.

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House



The Revd Jeffrey M. Keuning, Pastor St John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Csey IA and Zion Lutheran Church., Decter, IA



Artwork by Ed Riojas, ©Higher Things

Trinity


Deuteronomy6:4-5
How many Gods do you have?

Most people in our society today claim to be monotheists – professing to worship only one God. Is this so?  In many respects, people in our world are for the most part polytheists. They are content worshiping many gods. They are devoted to the persons in their lives and their things. 
In many areas of our society today, a person’s choice of God is much akin to Baskin Robins - with 31 flavors – one for each day of the month. Our Old Testament lesson declares that God is one, and that no other god has any reality. What would this say to our world today?
I.                      What makes a god?

A.      The one to whom you are totally devoted that is your god. Whatever that may be – that is your god. Where your heart is - there your treasure will be.

B.      What is your “passion” – this is your “god”
II.                  What “gods” are available in our time? This is indeed a timely discussion for us to have. Especially today, when seated before us are our high school seniors. Across our nation, our young graduates will be tempted to follow other gods. What gods are they?

A.      The god of success –
1.      The American Dream still lives, they will be told, “and       you should live it.” However, what does it mean to live that dream?
2.      The one with the most toys wins!
3.      Spend everything on self.

B.      The god of contentment –
1.      We have never had it so good
2.      What we consider necessities others regard as luxuries – e.g. the average “welfare” family often has – color televisions, air conditioning, two cars, DVD players, a VCR, etc.

True, we need money to live and thrive. We need careers, and good paying jobs, and an educational system that will train and educate our youth.  But what is adequate compensation? What is your net worth? Is it determined by how much we have saved in the bank? God has given each of us talents, abilities and gifts, which we can use to serve others. This is what molds us as persons. We are called to be productive yet we must remember our Creator who has endowed us with His gifts, which enable us to make an impact in our families, our community and our parish.

The issue is not money but the love of money, which attaches itself to pangs of lust, and greed, which forces us to turn, our energies inward rather than outward. Greed and covetousness is what turns us to selfishness and self-centeredness.

C.      The god of ease –
1.     The refrain, “I keep working for the week-end” was the mantra of our time twenty years ago, and remains so even to this day.  
2.      Retire early –
3.      Become completely focused on self.

D.              The result of basing our life on one pleasure stacked on another is that we run out of experiences or we exhaust ourselves and find ourselves still empty, still seeking contentment, still searching for peace.

E.      We need this balance in our lives for without it we will be seeking contentment by going from one pleasurable experience followed by another. Yet never understanding and experiencing the true joy which only comes with having a relationship with the one true God.  

III.           If God is your one God, you must love Him totally - God lays His command to love, “upon your heart” – v.6

A.      It is not enough to know you are to love God, nor to understand investigate, or discuss the command. God is not to be analyzed, scrutinized, or dissected. He is totally “other”. He is beyond comprehension.  

B.      It is to be a matter of the heart. It involves your feelings, your emotions, and your will.

C.      Our faith dare not be only cerebral, with a mere intellectual understanding of God. It must get deep into the psyche so that the whole person responds in obedience to God’s command. We are to love God with the whole heart, mind, and soul.

CONCLUSION: The words of our text for this morning make up the Shema, the chief and basic confession of the Old Testament – that there is one God and He is to be worshiped totally. Though God manifests Himself in three persons – He is one essence. To love and worship God calls for us to believe that God is one and He is to be loved with one’s total being.

Artwork by Ed Riojas, ©Higher Things