Monday, December 25, 2000


December 25, 2000 
Isaiah 9:2

"Light for the Darkness"

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shines.

Introduction:  It is significant that Jesus was born on a "Silent Night, a Holy Night" He came to a people who walked in darkness. He came as a light to eliminate the darkness. Jesus came to be a light to the people who walk in darkness.

1.     There is darkness. It is the darkness of the world - caused by sin - see 1 John 1:6-7 "If we say that we have fellowship him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not have the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin".

From the time in which our first parents, Adam and Eve fell into sin the people of this world have been living in a dream world.  That dream world consists in this; that the majority of people believe that they can please God even if they continue to walk in the darkness of sin.  This comes in various forms. Hardly any would believe that they are perfect.  Hardly a person on this earth will dare to believe that they are without sin.  But where people deceive themselves and live in denial is when they convince themselves that they can live a life of sin without any consequences.
They believe that God will either make up for their sins and shortcomings or they believe that God will somehow overlook and disregard their sin. But this does not stand the test of every man.  How can we have fellowship with a holy and righteous God when we walk in the shadow and the night of sin? Thus the evangelist John will remind us: "If we say that we have fellowship him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not have the truth."

We can try to fool our neighbors, families, friends and ourselves thinking that all is well. But the testimony of the clear Word of God's Law and the conviction of our own conscience will tells us that we can not stand before a holy and righteous God who is perfection and light.  If we are walking in the darkness of sin we have no fellowship with God.
What can we do? We can not deny the fact that we are sinners, try as we might we can not resist and conquer sin. We are a people walking in darkness, and surrounded by the shadow of death.

Transition:  This is how the world has existed from the time of Adam. But God our Father who has given us His Word and promise has determined to dispel the darkness of sin and death as His light shines upon us. That light came at Christmas and continues to shine ever so brightly as Christ; the light of the world, has shined upon us. "When Jesus enters meek and lowly To fill the home with sweetest peace; When hearts have felt His blessing holy And found from sin complete release, Then light and calm within shall reign And hearts divided love again" {TLH #65 stanza 2}

2.     Jesus is the light of the world - The prophet reminds us: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shines."

Christ has removed the darkness of sin. As He spoke the universe into existence with His Word saying "Let there be light" so He came into this world to shine His light upon a dark and sinful world to take away our sin and misery. 

He is the eternal light and has come to save us from our sin. He does not overlook our sin He eliminates it. He does not blink at sin, but He has entered time and space to be our substitute. He takes unto Himself all of the world's misery and sin and He will carry it to the cross where He will suffer, die and rise again to be victorious.  The miracle of Christmas is that God has made it clear that He is in the business of redeeming and saving His people. As light eliminates the darkness so the coming of Christ bring the dawn of a new day; full of light and life. Upon us the light of Christ has shown brightly eliminating all darkness of sin and error.

Conclusion:  The miracle of Christmas finds its basis in the truth that Christ has come to eliminate sin. As He began the world's creation by producing light on the first day He has shown brightly on this earth once again. In glory there is no need of sun, moon or stars for He will be the eternal light that lights up the entire city.  As He draws us toward His light once more on this Christmas morning may the brightness of Christ burn in your hearts ever more until we are each ushered into His glory. A Blessed Christmas!  Amen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Mid-week Advent 3

Advent 3 Midweek Service
December 20, 2000 
Philippians 4:1-13

"Rejoice in Jesus"

Introduction: During this Advent season may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding be yours today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your lives.  May you know of His peace and joy!  That is my prayer for you this night. Let's see how Paul explains to us that this peace is all made possible.

1.   BE ANXIOUS IN NOTHING; That's not always easy to do is it? We can talk about stress during the holidays and there are considerable stresses, which can come our way during this Advent and Christmas season.  We live in anxious anticipation. We want everything to be "just right" and we can fret about so many things. Like the father Griswald in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation we want everything to work out perfect. As we know, there are going to be interruptions, which come our way that can not be avoided.

Sometimes our anxieties are unfounded. The Christmas cards will be mailed; the gifts will be wrapped. All of the plans, chores and errands will eventually get done. The fact of the matter is that Christmas will come and go whether or not we have everything go according to plan. And yes, there are stresses and strains that come up during the holidays, which simply can not be avoided, and yet we worry so often about the small things.

All that being said, there are sometimes real and legitimate concerns that can plague us during the holiday. I have a friend whose department, for which he had worked at for over twenty-five years, was phased out by the company on Christmas Eve! Now that's anxiety that is founded! Possibly it might be an illness, or a loss which comes upon us, which can not be avoided.

Notice, what Paul does not say. He does not say: "don't be anxious" Cares and concerns will come our way and they have a tendency of coming to us at the most inappropriate times. We will become anxious, we will have concerns.  Rather, Paul warns us to be anxious in nothing. In other words, Paul reminds us that we can not expect to handle our problems by ourselves. Of course not, we’re sinners, and as sinners when we take matters into our own hands we have a tendency to mess things up and make things worse rather then better.  Problems; they tend to loom over us and can drive us to brink of despair. In our lesson for tonight Paul tells us how we should handle those setbacks and hardships, which come our way.  By these words Paul encourages us to…    

2.   BE PRAYERFUL IN EVERYTHING; The old axiom goes: "If your problem is big enough to worry about then it's big enough to pray about; and if it isn't too big to pray about then it certainly isn't anything to worry about".  Do you have concerns worries and anxieties? Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Take everything to God in prayer.  This is what Paul reminds us in our text for this evening. In everything; "by prayer and supplication make your requests known to God".  He already knows your need. You're not fooling Him by not praying about it.  The only one whom you are fooling is yourself. Take everything to God in prayer. We pray for two good reasons; God's command and our need.  Do you have a need then pray about it!

3.   BE THANKFUL IN ANYTHING; This is difficult. Our anxious moments can cause sleepless nights filled with dread, fear and doubt. Paul tells us to be thankful.  Not thankful that we have a weight and burden but because we already know that help is on the way. David reminds us " I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1) We thank God because He is able to do far more abundantly then we are able to ask or think. We remain thankful for He can will do for us what we are unable to do. 

THE END RESULT... PEACE. What does Paul mean when he tells us that that peace will be ours?  Peace does not mean the elimination of problems. Sometimes our problem might leave. But as we live in an imperfect world there will be other anxieties that will take their place. Rather the peace that Paul speaks of is a peace, which comes in knowing that Christ will always be with us; that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  This is why Jesus came to this earth on the first Christmas. He came to deliver us from our burden and to set us free from sin, death, and the devil. He came to take our burden to Himself. There is now "peace on earth good will toward men" for God is at peace; at peace at what Christ has done for you and me and what He will continue to do for us in the future. He will sustain us. He will guide us. He will uphold and defend us no matter what might come our way.

Conclusion:  What is my prayer for you this night?  May you know of His peace and joy! May the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, be yours tonight, tomorrow, and for the rest of your lives!  Amen.

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Mid-week Advent 2

Advent 2 Midweek Service 
December 13, 2000 
Epistle Text: Philippians 1:3-11

"Being Thankful to our All-Faithful God"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.   Dear friends in Christ, tonight's sermon text is our Epistle lesson from Philippians 1, verses 3-11.  Please join me in a word of prayer.    (Gracious God, our heavenly Father, we ask you to open our hearts and our minds to your precious Word.   Fill us with your truths and nourish our faith through thy Word and Holy Spirit.   Thank you for giving us your Son, Jesus, and thank you for our salvation in Him. Amen.)

Have you ever noticed in our society and country an attitude of unthankfulness and ungratefulness?   It may be quite apparent to some while others are somewhat unaware of it.  We can often observe that many people in our society today do not even give thanks to God for their daily bread.  Also, it is becoming less and less frequent for people in general to even acknowledge a gracious God who blesses, provides and forgives.   According to today's popular culture and contemporary society, it's cool and even right to give ourselves the credit for everything we have.   'You know, all that I have, "I have earned."  I provide for myself.'  As a whole, our society is taking God out of the equation of their lives and replacing Him with anything and everything.    Society is walking further and further away from

God and His truths given in the Holy Bible.   This is evident by the unthankfulness and ungratefulness being manifested in the lives of so many people.

Unfortunately, this is evident in our own lives as well. We too are fallen and sinful beings in total need of God's forgiveness. In our lives there are times when we act unthankful towards God, our family members, and even others.   We are guilty of taking the blessings of God for granted.   We are just as guilty of being selfish and full of pride as everyone else is. The one thing that is true of all us is that we are poor, miserable, sinners.    We are all in need of God's grace, mercy and forgiveness.    Let us give thanks to God for the forgiveness that we have in His Son, Jesus Christ.

In our text for today, the Apostle Paul says that he was thankful to God every time he remembered the saints at Philippi. Paul always prayed joyfully for them because of their partnership in the Gospel.   They were a source of love, support, and assistance for Paul.   For many of us here tonight, there may be a person or a number of people that have helped us in our lives and have really shown us the love of Jesus Christ. Every time we remember them, we can give thanks to God our Heavenly Father.   That's exactly how it was for the Apostle Paul.   Paul thanked God for the provisions and blessings he received from the people of Philippi.   Let us render thanks unto God for all the blessings we have received from Him also.

In light of this, we too, can admit that we have many temporal and eternal blessings in which we can thank God for.  In the temporal aspect of things, we can be thankful for our homes; many are homeless.    We can be thankful for our eyesight; many are blind.    We can be thankful for our food; many are hungry and worse off.    We can be thankful for our families; many are lonely.  We can be thankful for our jobs, many are unemployed. 

God has richly blessed us and for this we need to be thankful.    As believers in Christ we are to bear witness to our faith in the Lord and one easy way to do this is to show gratitude and thankfulness to our Lord.   Where we have fallen short of this by being ungrateful and unthankful, we ask God to forgive us for Christ's sake.

Furthermore, God our Redeemer has blessed us with more than just temporal things.   In Christ Jesus, God has blessed us with heavenly riches, those riches that last forever, eternal riches.  These riches are forgiveness of all our sins, salvation, and eternal life in heaven with Christ.   Like verse 6 tells us, we too can be totally confident that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus; which is the Resurrection.    God who has worked faith in our hearts will sustain such faith unto life everlasting. God does this through His Word and through the Sacraments. It is here that we are fed with the food and power that comes from on High.   God our heavenly Father is faithful to take care of us.   He will not abandon us even when we die.

The Holy Spirit, by the Gospel, keeps us in the true faith.

For this we can be most thankful.   We are indeed blessed by God with many temporal and eternal blessings.   Let us give thanks to God with a grateful heart for all our blessings. Let us give thanks to God for our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

I believe that it was Paul's desire for his audience to grow and mature in their love for one another.  Verse 9 tells us this:  "And this is my prayer - that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight."   In other words, real love does require growth and maturation.   Real love is active.   Real love is Christ who suffered, died, and rose again for our behalf; and for the world's behalf.   Real love is Christ in us.   Paul's charge to the Philippians to grow and mature in their love is our charge also.   This being so that we may be able to discern what is best and may remain pure and blameless until the day of Christ.   May we share together in God's grace, receive His forgiveness by faith, and obtain the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.  It is here in our faith, the faith that God has given to us and sustains that we are enabled to love by being thankful and grateful.   As Psalm 107:1 says, "O Let us give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good!"          Amen.

Jon Smithley

Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Mid-week Advent 1

Advent 1 Midweek Service 
December 6, 2000 
Thessalonians 3: 9-13

In this passage we find the first of two intercessory prayers in the letter (the other begins in 5:23). Obviously Paul is praying for the specific needs and concerns of a unique congregation dealing with specific problems. Because the prayer is so thoroughly rooted in its particular historical circumstances, it is not possible for us simply to repeat after him the words of his prayer (in contrast to the Lord's Prayer, which was given as a model prayer). However, let me not leave you with the impression that the words of the Lord's Prayer are simply to be repeated without thought. The Lord's Prayer unite us as a church. It is the family prayer of the church. In it we acknowledge God, as our Father, thus making us His children. Paul though, wants us to give attention to the pattern of his prayer and its underlying theological themes. Let us not confuse Paul's words with a rigid mold into which our prayers must be poured, for our prayers must be situated in and specific to our time just as Paul's were to his. It does mean, however, that his prayer can serve as a guide after which we might pattern our prayer life.

With respect to its underlying theology, Paul's prayer reminds us of how everything centers around the reality of God. Every time Paul prayed to God, it was an acknowledgment of God's priority over everything else, a remembering that it is "in Him that we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17: 28) In this respect, prayer becomes a means of bringing our vision and desires into line with God's will (rather than visa versa).

In our church, just as in churches of old, we come together on common ground. Our prayers unite us as a people. There is a church in Seoul, South Korea that has recently set all kinds of attendance marks. People have literally flocked to this church to find out its secret. They want to grab hold of that certain something, that same growth inspiring element that seemingly this church has found. Without going into vast detail let me say there are many disagreeable items about this church that one can point to, however, the pastor of this church has said something noteworthy, "We teach the people to pray!" However, their prayer life appears confused at best. For these members are praying for a religious revival, a spiritual awakening, an experience. Contrast that notion with the idea of why we are here this evening. We entered church as beggars, seeking to encounter Christ. There is good news to share with you, our church is a church of salvation, where we come not only looking for Christ, but finding Him. We find Him in baptism, we find Him in the Word, and we find Him at His table. We find His body hung on the cross. This is where we come face to face with the real presence of Christ. This is what Paul was after in this particular passage.

Whether our prayer is intercessory or petitionary, in which we ask God to grant our requests for others and ourselves; the very act of asking "reminds the believer that God is the source of all that is good, and that human beings are utterly dependent and stand in need of everything. We can do nothing without the good favor of God's grace. That grace that took Jesus from the tomb and awakened the world to His glorious resurrection. We are dead to sin. Without Christ's obedience on the cross, we are dead.

Paul's letters are full of his fervent intercessions and petitions for others and for himself. But even as he makes his requests known to God, he recognizes that it is God who is at work in him "to will and act according to his good purpose." (Phil. 2:13)

With respect to the pattern of Paul's prayer, two points stand out, one related to content and one to chronology or time. In terms of content, note that Paul grounds his petitions in thanksgiving, which amounts to both praise and acknowledgment of God as the one ultimately responsible for the blessings and growth the Thessalonians had experienced. Moreover, there is an interesting contrast in his actual petitions. His requests for the Thessalonians (3:12-13) are that they might experience spiritual growth.

Spiritual growth is an interesting topic nowadays. The world tells us to be glamorous, to have zeal and enthusiasm in all that we do. There is a saying that where Christ has built a church, Satan has built a chapel. Satan disguises his chapel to imitate Christ's church. Luther called Satan a monkey, for he knew that just as chimps in a zoo many times will imitate those outside the bars, so to does Satan try to imitate our Christian walk, leading us to believe that what we are doing will certainly be acceptable in God's eye. Satan will lead us into a sinful heap and leave us despondent.

CNN, CBS, ABC, or NBC, if they had covered the Apostolic Council of 49 AD chances are they would have folded their tents and gone home early. There was no social concern to cover, no outbreak of war pending. Yet, these men met in this counsel to fight for something which guns and all the battles of time could not win. They fought for the power of the gospel. These men were literally turning the world upside down with the gospel. The very gospel was at stake, this same gospel was at stake in Paul's day, and it is at stake today.

Paul also prayed that he might be able to minister to the people of Thessalonica (3: 10-11). That is, his prayer, like his behavior described in 2:1-3:5, is primarily other-directed. That is not to say that Paul never prayed for his own concerns, for we know that he did (2 Cor. 12:7-10). It is however, striking that in this letter, even in his prayers for himself, he models the concern for others that he will encourage the Thessalonians to practice (4:9-12).

In terms of chronology or time, we find the same "past-present-future" pattern that turns up elsewhere in the letter (4:13-18 and 5:8-11). That is, Paul rejoices and gives thanks for what God has done in the past (3:9); he prays for God to continue to act in the present (3:10-13a); and he prays for the present in light of what God will do in the future (3:13b). Once again he reminds us that the present is profoundly shaped by what God has done and will do.

And what has God done for us lately? We are transfigured people, changed every time we enter this holy sanctuary. When we confess the Apostle Creed what do we say, we do not say, "I see one holy Christian church, we say, I believe..." That's faith. It is that same faith that Paul spoke of. Many of Jesus' neighbors might be surprised to see Him as their judge. They may only have known Him as the carpenter's son who helped build their house. This faith, is called the invisible mark of the church. We can't see it, we can't lay hold of it, only Christ knows where to find it. This faith resides in our hearts.

Seeking the visible seems to be more appealing to humans. After all, we are visual people. The visible marks of the church are known as the means of grace. These are marks that we can lay hold of, we can employ all of our senses to identify these marks. Hearing His Word, partaking of His Sacraments. That is where we can actually come face to face with Christ.

A story from the Judean hillside where the angels came to proclaim the Christ to the shepherds certainly gives us the visible marks as well. If the angels had told the shepherds to go find their king, on their own, they might have gone to the temple, to Rome, to the universities. Instead, they gave them directions. Look for a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Two marks, swaddling clothes and a manger. That is what they were to look for. We to, this Advent Season look for those same visual cues. It is my prayer, as it was Paul's, and has been throughout the ages, that we would all come to that manger bedside. In Christ name we pray. AMEN!

Robert W. Armao

Thursday, November 23, 2000


Thanksgiving Day
"A Hymn at Harvest Time
November 23, 2000 
Psalm 65

Introduction:  This morning we will meditate upon one of the Psalms, that is suggested to be read at harvest time, Psalm 65.  If you wish you may turn into your hymnals to page 136 where you will find this Psalm.  Our Psalm for this morning is a Psalm that was sung by God's people at harvest time. As we remember the tender mercies of our God and King may we too sing a song of Thanksgiving unto the Lord our God.

But how should we sing?  David gives us three suggestions in three stanzas. On this Thanksgiving Day 2000, we worship God; approaching God, apprehending God and appreciating God.

I.  We worship approaching God (Psalm 65:1-4) As David begins stanza one the people approach God. They come to Him. But how do they come?         

A.  They come as a Silent People "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed." (v.1) God waits. He waits for praise to come. Shall we praise Him on this day of Thanksgiving or will this day be just like any other day of the year?  In a country, filled with so many opportunities do we take the time to return thanks and acknowledge the Creator? This is our opportunity today, to offer the Lord our worship and praise.

B.   A Seeking People - "O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come." (v.2) As we come we know that our Lord will hear us. This is why we approach Him. We come as He draws us to Himself to hear our cry and to answer our prayer.

C.  A Sinful People - "Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away." (v.3) We need to approach God for forgiveness and life. We are in need of restoration, forgiveness and life. We approach God this day seeking His pardon and His peace.

D.  A Satisfied People - "Blessed is the man who thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee that he may dwell in thy courts; we shall be satisfied with the goodness of they house, even of thy holy temple." (v.4) When we come we leave satisfied. He opens His hand and He satisfies the desire of every living thing. This is how the dear Lord chooses to deal with His people; He satisfies our every need.

Transition: David praises God for hearing prayer, pardoning sin, satisfying and protecting His people. These are the things that the Lord our God has done. We approach God. We come to worship apprehending all that God has done in our lives.

II.  We worship apprehending God (Psalm 65:5-8) God has the power to convert, to create and to control.

A.  God's Power to Convert -"By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea" (v.5)  

1.   The Hebrew People - "By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; " (v. 5a) By virtue of His righteousness God is able to convert us. This He did with the children of Israel making them His chosen people.

2.   The Heathen Peoples " who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea" (v.5b) But He also extends His kingdom to all who will come to Him in faith. "His kingdom shall stretch from short to shore 'till moons shall wax and wane no more" {TLH #511 stanza 1b}

B.  God's Power to Create -"Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains, being girded with power" (v.6) In ten short sentences God created the entire universe. By His same word He creates faith in our hearts. God's power is demonstrated in His Word which makes all things new.

C.   God's Power to Control (vv.7-8)

1.  The Restless Waves  "Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of the waves,"(65:7a) The forces of nature are powerful. Yet the wind and the waves are subject to Him. When Jesus says "peace be still" the elements are brought under His authority. Remember the words of amazement spoken by Jesus' disciples "who is this that even the wind and the waves obey Him?"  Who is this, He is the Mighty God who has the power to control even the forces of nature.

2.    The Restless World "and the tumult of the people. They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens; thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice" (65:7b-8)  St. Paul reminds us that the world seems to be groaning, waiting to be delivered.  Jesus is able to grant peace to a world that is restless and in search of peace. But His peace is not as the world sees peace. His is an everlasting peace. A peace that only He can give.

Transition: For fixing the mountains, calming the sea, preserving the succession of day and night, and making the earth fruitful; for these blessings we are truly thankful. Thanksgiving calls us to appreciate all of the blessings, which comes from the hand of God.

III.  We worship appreciating God Psalm 65:9-13

A.   The Plenty to the Heavens "Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it; though greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou has so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly; thou settlest the furrows thereof; thou makest it soft with showers; thou blessest the springing thereof." (vv.9-10) The ground becomes parched and dry. We cry for rain and the rain comes and the world is refreshed. The rain dissolves the high and hard clods of earth. We see this happen year after year. Who sends the rain? It is God. David simply calls for us to appreciate this mighty gift which comes from the Savior's hand.

B.   The Plenty of the Harvest - "They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks: the valleys also are covered over with corn they shout for joy the also sing." (vv.11-13)  With each harvest there is plenty. True, we could ask for more, but there is always a sufficient amount. The harvest abounds as God gives the increase.

Conclusion: Luther concludes the explanation of the first article of the Apostles' Creed with these words: "for all which it is my duty to thanks and praise, to serve and obey Him, this is most certainly true".  What more can be said? This is most certainly true!  A blessed Thanksgiving!  Amen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving Eve
"A Hymn of Praise
November 22, 2000 
Psalm 100

Introduction:  Yet another year has come and gone for us to remember the blessings which come to us from t he hand of our gracious God. Thanksgiving is a special time of the year for us as we recall the blessings, which the Savior has graciously showered down upon us and then in worship and praise we render to God what He is due.

Yet, how do we do it? David in Psalm 100 gives us a method for us to return our thanks back to God.  On page 144 - 145 in your hymnal you will find Psalm 100. Let's consider David's hymn of praise in which he thanks God for the blessings, which God has given. 

I.   Approaching God (Psalm 100:1-2)

A.  Universal Harmony "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands " (v.1) In tonight's Gospel lesson, the story of the ten lepers which were cleansed, we are reminded that only one returned to offer thanks. David urges all to render thanks to God; from the greatest to the least. All are to make a joyful noise unto the Lord; all are to unite in harmony together.

B.   Unrestrained Happiness "Serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing" (v.2) St. Paul reminds us that we are to worship God with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. When we are blessed we are a happy and a joyful people. Consider the blessings that you have received. They are too numerous to count. How do you respond with cold or a grateful heart? The sound of music, and singing suggests that we respond to God with a heart overflowing with joy and gratitude.

Transition: As we approach God in worship and praise we discover that it is the very nature of God to bless us. This is His nature.

II. Apprehending God  " Know ye that the Lord he is God it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves: we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture" (Psalm 100:3)

A.   Consider His Person -" Know ye that the Lord he is God…" Thanksgiving causes us to acknowledge God. He blesses us because He is God. He can do none other then to bless us. When we return thanks we return thanks to our Creator.

B.   Consider His Power - " it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves:" As thinking persons we can invent numerous things. God does us one better as He creates. He creates life, He creates eternal life. He is the one who has knit us together. We are fearfully and wondrously made.

C.   Consider His Purpose - "we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture " We have been created for a purpose. Christ Jesus has said "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly" (John) Jesus has come that we might be given His life; that we might have fellowship with Him; that we might dwell with Him.

Transition: Once we come to know and understand God we can truly appreciate what He has done for us and what He has promised that He will continue to do for us in the future. This is thanksgiving that comes to appreciate God.

  III.  Appreciating God (Psalm 100:4-5)  We do this in two ways:

A.   First, by Coming to Him - Thankfully  "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (v.4)

1.    Arriving at the Temple - "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise;" This is why you have come tonight. You have come; you have arrived at His temple to worship God and to thank Him.  But what's more; once you have arrived at His dwelling; His temple you will also be…

2.    Arriving at the Truth -" be thankful unto him, and bless his name" Pilate asked the question "what is truth?" Jesus answers than question with the words "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me" That is the ultimate truth to understand God and to know Him in a real and significant way.  We now know God as He comes to us through His Word and Sacrament to give us His life, His redemption, His freedom, His forgiveness.

B.   We also come to appreciate God by Communing with Him - Thoughtfully  " For the Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations." (v.5) David gives us three facts, which can not be disputed.

1.    An Essential Fact (God's Goodness) - "For the Lord is good," This is God's essence. He is Good. He wants nothing but the best for us. Nothing but good can come from Him.

2.    An Eternal Fact (God's Mercy) -" and his truth endureth" God's mercy will never die, it can never run out. While we might grow tired of certain things God's mercy will always satisfy for it is new to us each day and it will endure forever. It will never run out, it will never need to be replaced. It will always satisfy. God's mercy will endure forever.

3.    An Enduring Fact (God's Truth) -"to all generations" God's mercy and grace will withstand the test of time. It will last forever. This is God's promise to us. Great is His faithfulness!

Conclusion:  Great is Thy faithfulness. What a wonder to behold. All we have is but a gift. His story must be told.  A blessed thanksgiving to you and yours. Amen.

Sunday, October 29, 2000


“Where are you living BC or AD?”
October 29, 2000 
Jeremiah 31:31-34

Introduction:   Although Jesus Christ is the author of the New Covenant; which is His new plan and way of living, there are many in the church today who are living under the rules and regulations of the old covenant.  How is this possible?  These people choose to live and move in the Old Testament although they often claim that  they are New Testament people.  The question for us then to consider this morning is: “how do we keep ourselves living in the New Testament?” 

Ironically, it is in the Old Testament lesson, appointed to be read in churches on this Reformation Sunday that will help us to remain New Testament and new covenant people.  This lesson will help us make the transfer from the old covenant to the new covenant.  It will help us live under God’s new order.  Let’s examine this new covenant which was promised by the prophet Jeremiah and fulfilled by Jesus Christ. 

Again, recall our question for today; in which era are you living?

I.      The Old Covenant

A.   It was a broken covenant – “which they broke” v.32 The history of God’s people under the old plan and the former way of doing things is that they broke the agreements which God had established over and over again. They broke the covenant because they were in constant rebellion against God. Because they could not keep the commandments the people were living in open rebellion against God. Try as they might they could not live the perfect life. So likewise, those who try to come to God on their own terms are only fooling themselves. We can not come to God trying to reach perfection. It will not do. We can not come to God on our own no matter how hard and gallant the effort.

B.    It was an external covenant – “which I made with your fathers” v. 32 The old covenant will not do because it was made only with one race and class of people. The people of the old covenant had to be born into the covenant.  If you were not of the race which God had determined that He would bless mankind was out of luck. The covenant of the Old Testament was a closed covenant. It was only for one group of people. It was a covenant of class and of privilege. It was a right of birth.

Today people try to live under the old covenant when they come to believe that only their church and their opinion is the correct one. True God’s ways are known in the Scriptures, which are clearly marked. We need to follow those precepts. But we dare not think that our way is God’s way, or that because we are found to be from a certain group that we have become “the frozen chosen people of God" Remember John the Baptist’s words as he responded to the comment “we are Abraham’s seed and of a chosen class”. He said: “…and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” {Matthew 3:9}

Then, there were the people from our Gospel lesson: “They answered Him, "We are Abraham's offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that you say, 'You shall become free'?" { John 8:33}  To this Jesus responded: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  {John 8:34-36}

C.   It was a taught covenant – “each man taught to his neighbor” v.34 No one could know God personally under the regulations of the old covenant.  Each had to be taught. The relationship of the old covenant was a taught and learned religion. The people could know about God but they could not know God personally.

Transition:  That is why Jesus came that we might know Him, to have fellowship with  Him and to understand Him.  Jesus said: “ I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” {John 10:10} It is this new covenant which truly sets us free to be the people of God. 

II.     The New Covenant

A.  Heart – “I will write it upon their hearts” v. 33 The old covenant only went to the head. This new covenant is centered at the heart. Jesus came to make a change in us. He came to give us a real deep and personal relationship with Him. This covenant is aimed at the heart. Now God dwells within me, personally, and in a close intimate way.

B.  Mind - “they shall all know Me” v.34 Under the old system people could know many things about God but they could not really know God.  Now we can.  We have been renewed in the mind by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Now we have all that we need to really know God.  Our will is not fashioned according to His will. His plan becomes our plan. His way of living now becomes our way of living because we have been renewed in the mind. Because of the new covenant each of us can now know God.

C.  Soul – “I will forgive their iniquity” v.34  With this new covenant there is now the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.  In Jesus Christ all sin is forgiven – period! We have been set free from the powers of sin, of death and of the power of the enemy.  Jesus has said “once you know this truth, it will set you free!” We are truly free because God has forgiven all of our sins and He remembers them no more!

Conclusion:   This new covenant which Jeremiah promised that God would make has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  There is no need to rewrite another covenant. This covenant is once that will last for all time. We renew this covenant every time Jesus comes to us in His Word and where His Word is connected.  The father renews His covenant each time the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. It is renewed every time we witness a baptism and renew our own baptism.  We are new covenant people. Live under this freedom today and every day.  In Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

Sunday, June 11, 2000


Series B Pentecost
John 7:37-39b  
June 11, 2000
Quenching Your Spiritual Thirst 

Introduction: Our Lord Jesus Christ is the living water of life, which quenches spiritual thirst!  In Him you are satisfied.  Only in Him is satisfaction guaranteed! 

Anyone who has ever traveled in desert regions – be it Death Valley, the Sahara, our the Australian Outback – can only imagine the plight of a person who has run out of water!  Physical thirst is not a problem for us, although our drinking water may be chemically treated there is still plenty to go around. Even in the midst of last summer’s drought we still had enough to drink!

In our text for this morning Jesus speaks of another kind of thirst – a spiritual thirst – one which cries out for purpose and peace.  This type of thirst – the one of mind and heart certainly needs to be quenched. For we can not survive merely on water alone!  This morning’s passages from Holy Scripture leads us to ponder this question; what are you going to do about satisfying your own spiritual thirst?

I.  To do something about it, you first must realize that there is a true spiritual thirst. This is not easy.  Most folk don’t recognize a true genuine spiritual thirst.  That doesn’t mean that there have been some who have seen the need for God and have thirsted after Him. We need such people to model after.  Such a man was Augustine, who associated restlessness with a thirst for God. But again, such a man with such keen understanding is rare indeed.

A.   The spiritual leaders of Jesus day were unaware of their own spiritual thirst. 

1.   The verses just in front of our text describe Jesus’ verbal encounter with Jewish leaders at the feast.  They just could not see Jesus to be the only one to give us purpose and peace and so they rejected Him as the one who could help and heal. 

2.   Self-righteousness prevented these leaders from experiencing spiritual thirst. They did not grasp the meaning of Jesus words!  Oh that we could see in them that there is salvation and life! (vv.34-36)

B.   We are not always aware of our own spiritual thirst.

1.    Smugness and self-satisfaction prevent us from saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”

2.    We think we do not need to grow in grace and in the meaning of God in our lives.

Transition:  When we see that God has not yet filled every area of our lives, when we yearn for forgiveness, when we desire to be the kind of persons God would have us be – it is then, and only then that we are experiencing spiritual thirst!

II.  Jesus tells us how to quench this thirst.

A.   Jesus made a great claim in impressive circumstances.

1.   The libation of water had rich associations for the people of Jesus’ day. For example Moses and the rock of Mariah.

2.   Jesus proclaimed Himself as the source of salvation and the means of quenching spiritual thirst.

3.   Coming to Jesus quenches thirst, by believing in Him!

B.  Jesus takes the initiative in quenching our own thirst.

1.   By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost He quenched the apostles’ thirst.

2.   The Spirit comes to us in Word & Sacrament.

a.   To make Christ’s cross a living reality.

b.  To show Jesus in the middle of our struggle

c.   To assure us of god’s gracious concern for us!

III.  The Spirit enables us to be channels of living water for others.

A.  We can tear down walls of hatred and prejudice.

B.   We can be fountains of goodness to others until the fountain wells up into life everlasting, when we shall never thirst again!

CONCLUSION:  Again, we arrive at our question for this morning.  What are you going to do about spiritual thirst?  Jesus is the answer “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink!”  In Jesus' Name.  Amen.

Thursday, June 1, 2000


Ascension Day
Ephesians 1:16-23 
June 1, 2000
God is Alive in You

Introduction:  Is God alive and active in your life?  That is the question we will ask this evening? How can you tell, how can you know?  We can know for sure that God is active and working in our lives because of the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ.

As you scan the pages of the Scriptures we soon find that God is quite powerful. In six days, using just ten short phrases He brought the entire universe into existence! That is a mighty event which shows the awesome power of God.  But the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus shows us even more power! Consider God's power and presence in your life…

1.     In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His Ascension the power of God is shown.

A.   God raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:20

1.     To show His acceptance of the redemptive work of Christ (Romans 4:25)

2.     As the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

B.    God set Christ at His own right hand (Ephesians 1:20)

1.     A place of honor and power above every power (v.21)

2.     He put all things under His feet; Christ is conqueror over sin, death, and the Devil.

3.     He is Head over all things in the church (Ephesians 1:22)

a.     Christ dwells in each Christian and each Christian in Him

b.    He intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25)

c.     He rules all things in heaven and on earth.

II.     In the new life of the Christian

A.   The Ephesians were manifesting the new life of faith and love (Ephesians 1:15)

B.    Paul prays for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (John 17:17)

1. That you may know Christ

2. That you many know the hope of His calling

3. That you may know the riches of the glory of His inheritance (Ephesians 1:18)

Conclusion: God is a God of power. How comforting to our faith that God's power raised Christ and gave Him glory. Through the Word and Sacraments God's Spirit continues to comfort us with Christ and our Christian hope.

Sunday, May 7, 2000

Confirmation 2000

Isaiah 40:31 
May 7, 2000

But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will sour on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

As we approach Confirmation there are a number of metaphors I could use to describe you as a class.  I have chosen one in particular to describe you as a class.  To me, you remind me of a sunflower. You have grown and blossomed and matured, reaching upward to the light of God’s Word. You have become grounded in the truths of God’s Word and have developed deep roots of faith and maturity.

You’ve pressed me with important and serious questions. It’s been my privilege to watch you mature – especially during this past year. Each of you has tremendous potential – I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you in the years to come. Like our passage says you are going to soar on wings like eagles! The Best is yet to come! 

The text you have chosen was a favorite one of mine when I was in college – it speaks to us about what God is in the business of doing which is fortifying and giving strength to His people.  On this day when you pledge yourself to remain faithful to Christ- remember that He has a promise for you as well.  He will remain faithful to you – today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your lives.

{1}  Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.

A.                You will need continued strength from God. That is obvious! Yet, Isaiah’s words should remind us of a basic truth. Our need and God’s ability to meet our need; especially as we face the temptations of the devil, the world and our own human flesh.

1.      “Kids these days face too many temptations!” How often have we heard these or similar words?

2.       The reality is that temptation is not limited to teenagers! Temptation is something which each of us must face.  We all suffer under the same delusion that we make it apart from God! That what temptation is; the enticement to live our lives apart from God.

3.      The devil, the world, and the flesh can and will wear you out. Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and we do the same thing! It’s part of our human nature. But let’s not use temptation as an excuse or as a license to sin!

ILLUSTRATION:  My good friend Larry was a bright and talented kid.  He had but one problem – he really didn’t care about school.  He could have gotten straight “A’s” if he had wanted to.  The problem was he just didn’t care.  When he’d get his report card there would be a whole list of “C’s” for the quarter.  Exasperated his father would say “Larry how could you do that!”  And Larry would simply smile and say but one word “heredity!”

Our sinful nature and the temptation to sin is never a perfect out.  Isaiah reminds us that we must focus on God who gives us the strength to will and to do what is pleasing in His sight.

B.                  Therefore wait upon the Lord.

1.      How good are you at waiting? Some of us can be easily distracted. Therefore we need to focus our entire attention of Christ our Lord and our Redeemer.

2.      “Take 5” was a commercial that was aired last year by the Volunteers of America encouraging people to give 5% of their earnings to worthy causes and 5 hours a week volunteering for such causes. It that enough? We simply can’t give merely a portion of ourselves. Christ calls for total commitment.   Make Christ a priority! He must be first in your life. Wait upon the Lord. 

3.      Remember Luther’s axiom - Pray and Work!  Make it your aim to make something of your life. But above all, make Christ the centerpiece. Pray and Work.  Converse with Christ on a daily basis. Give Him the credit as you contribute to the betterment of others.   

TRANSITION: As you wait upon Christ it is He who will give you the strength to accomplish much in your life.  Isaiah reminds us that as we wait on God

{2}  They will run and not become weary.

A.                We seem to be running at this time of life.

1.      There are so many decisions we have to make; career, education, friends. The events of your life can become a distraction.  Therefore wait on Christ He will renew your strength.

2.      And speaking of running these days we seem to be running with information! We are on the verge (if not already) of a literal explosion in information - something we haven’t seen since the time of the Reformation.  This is an exciting time to be alive!

3.      Yet in all of this running there are some who wonder “will life ever come to me?  The answer to this question is found in your verse for today.  Life will come to you – and you will take advantage of it as you wait upon God.  He will give you strength He will give you rest. In all your busyness find your strength in Him.

B.                  In His Hand He will lift you up to carry you.

1.       That is what Jesus meant when He said “come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”

2.      In Him you will find rest for your souls. For Jesus has said “for My yoke is easy and My burden is light!” 

{3}   They will walk and not become faint.

A.                You have to walk before you run.

1.      The lessons you have learned are for life – apply them! 

2.      As you walk – walk with Christ.  Make it a habit.

B.                  As you walk the road of life with Christ hand in hand you won’t become faint.

1.      God will never give up on you! You’re His!  You were purchased with a price.  Therefore glorify Christ in you body. In all that you do live each day for Him. He will uphold you He will strengthen you.

2.      Likewise, we don’t give up on each other! How well do people honor those in people in our lives?  The people in your life are gifts that God has given to you.  The best way for us to honor God is to honor those people whom God has given to us.  You have bonded well as a class. You are also bonded to a group of people called the Church.  This is your extended family. These are the ones who will support you. These are the one who will pray for you. These are the ones who have promised to stand with you.

Remember the things that were taught you – cling to that which is good and remember you’re a sunflower! Walk tall and proud as you think of the blessings God has given to you as you live in the freedom which is yours in Christ. 

Sunday, April 23, 2000

Easter Dawn

Easter Dawn

Isaiah 25:6-9 
April 23, 2000 

Happiness is…Easter

Introduction: The one thing most people want is happiness. Our expressions at Easter indicate that Easter is supposed to be a happy time: “Easter joy”; or “Happy Easter”.  It is a time of rejoicing not because of our happy circumstances but because of what God has done for us in the Resurrection.  True Christians are happy regardless of the hardships, handicaps and misfortunes they may be experiencing. Their joy is based on God’s victory, which they can share.

Easter is happy because…

1.         It is a feast--v. 6  Isaiah tells us: "And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined."

There is nothing sectarian about God. "All peoples" are to get the benefit of God's conquest of evil, including death.  This must have been a shocking and revolutionary message for the nation of Israel.  Israel's enemies are among "all peoples"!  And yet, "all peoples" are brought to the Lord.  "ALL PEOPLES" receive the blessings of God!

By these words we see all sorts of people benefiting from God's gracious act. God is concerned with the salvation of all people.  "God so loved the world…that He gave His only begotten Son." God desires all people to live forever with Him. God wishes all people to repent and come to Him.  He does not desire the loss of one single soul.

In the Old Testament a feast is symbolic of the conclusion of God's salvation. It's a celebration at the conclusion of a job well done.  God has conquered all evil powers, including death.  Now comes the victory dinner. After a difficult or heavy job is done people like to celebrate a little. Easter is God's celebration!

It is God who provides and prepares for this celebration. Believers in Christ are God's invited guests. You are here this morning because God has invited you.  You are here today because this is the feast of victory of our God. In the Holy Communion God comes to us offering His gifts of salvation.

In that meal especially you and I celebrate His victory over death in the resurrection of His own Son.  This is why we celebrate communion on Easter and on Sunday, which is the  weekday in which Jesus rose from the dead. We celebrate with a feast, which has been prepared and furnished by God.

2.         It is a victory--v. 7 Isaiah continues: "And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the Vail that is spread over all nations."

We are victorious because Christ is victorious. God's promise to defeat death has been fulfilled.  God promised the covering that was cast over all people and the Vail that is spread over all the nations.  Death is what is common to each of us -  for it is the result of sin.  In overcoming sin for us Jesus has also overcome death!  Death no longer can rob us of that joy that Jesus has planned for us. Death has lost its sting! Death has lost its punch! Death is no match for God! Thanks be to Jesus who has overcome death for us!

3.         It is salvation--v. 9 Isaiah concludes: "And it shall be in that day Lo, this is our God: we have waited for Him and He will save us; this is the LORD: we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."

A Christian's happiness does not depend on his/her well being in this world. A person can be oppressed, persecuted, and defeated but can still be happy.  How is this so? Because of Jesus and because of Easter. The reason is the source of one's joy.  Our joy finds its focus in Christ. Because we are Easter people we can rejoice because God has defeated our worst enemy, He has defeated death!

Conclusion:  God has provided a banquet for each of us.  You are invited and the fare is only the best. Come to the banquet. He is the host. You are His guest! Come -for all things are now ready!  Amen.

Easter Festival

Easter Festival 

1 Corinthians 15:19-28 
April 23, 2000

The Reality of the Resurrection

Introduction:  Is the Resurrection as real as a fact? Some deny the historical reality of the Resurrection. It is held that the Resurrection was a matter of faith on the part of the disciples who passed on the myth to later generations.  Because something is believed to exist does not prove it exists. Faith is not enough. Faith must be based on facts. Paul is certain that the Resurrection is a fact.

What are the facts of the resurrection?

1.                  The fact of the tempt tomb. Paul considers the Resurrection to be a fact .  It is not a theory, a wish, and not even a faith. Thinking, wishing, or believing does not make anything a reality especially the Resurrection. The Resurrection is a hard, cold fact - and the fact that Paul places before us is an empty tomb. The tomb is empty. That is what Paul presents to us.

Jesus is not there - His tomb is empty. We can not return to pay homage at His tomb. He is not there. He died a physical death but He was raised back to life. In fact, Paul will go on to remind us that if we do away with this fact - the reality of the Resurrection - Christianity is no more! If there is no Resurrection - there isn't  any Christianity. Without this fact of the Resurrection the Christian faith has no foundation. If the church has no Resurrection to proclaim, it has no message of hope and there is no salvation to offer the world.

2.                   Then there is the fact of a resurrected Jesus. He appeared physically to His disciples. Some believe that the Resurrection is merely the thought of the first Christians that Jesus became alive in the minds of believers.  Paul will have nothing of that. To him it is all or nothing. Jesus appeared physically alive before His disciples for a period of 40 days to prove once and for all that He was truly alive. The empty tomb is one fact. Jesus' appearance alive physically is the second fact. For 40 days Jesus walked and talked, and ate with His disciples so that they could know that He truly was alive from the dead.

Each of the disciples of Jesus Christ, with the exclusion of John all died for one thing - their testimony that they saw Jesus alive from the dead. If Jesus had died and not risen from the dead then each of them died for what they knew was a lie. True, there have been many that have died for a good cause. But can you show me one place in human history were so many would have died for what they knew was a lie.  They said "We are witnesses of His Resurrection!"

3.                  The fact of a living Lord in the lives of His followers. Jesus changed their lives. Take Thomas for example. Before Jesus' appearance Thomas was a skeptic.  He wouldn't believe unless he saw Jesus with His own eyes.  But once he saw Jesus his life was changed forever.  Each of the followers of Christ had their lives turned upside down because of one thing the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His appearance to them.

            Because of the Resurrection Christ is in the business of changing our lives too. Because Jesus is alive you are made alive too.  The resurrection is not limited to life after death.  The resurrection can take place before death.  In baptism we die and are buried with Christ and we rise in newness of life. Here is a resurrection before the resurrection. Easter has a present day application for each of us. You can experience a resurrection with Christ here and now because in Christ you are a new creature.

Conclusion:  The Easter message is one, which brings life to each of us!  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  He has appeared again and again to His disciples, in fact, the one who has written to us this day is an eyewitness of Jesus Christ. Jesus appeared to Paul physically so that he too could say "I am an eye witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!"  Rejoice then this day for Christ is alive. And because He lives we will live also.  A blessed Easter! Amen.

Friday, April 21, 2000

Good Friday

Good Friday
April 21, 2000
Hebrews 4:14-5:10
Christ, Our Great High Priest

Introduction:  The entire concept of a priest may have lost some of its significance for us since we no longer observe the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.  But when the New Testament tells us that Jesus Christ is our  Great High Priest this is wonderful news for us.  Let’s see how Christ fulfills this important office for us.

I.                  Jesus Christ is a priest called by God.

A.    In the Old Testament, God called priests. (5:4)

1.     No one could usurp the office.

2.     Priests were called of God, as was Aaron (Ex. 28)

B.      God as the great High Priest designated Christ.

1.     Christ did not glorify Himself (5:5)

2.     The Father declared Him to be His eternal Son (5:5)

3.     The Father declared Him to be a priest (5:6)

II.                  As priest, Christ offers Himself and obtained eternal redemption (5:9)

A.    Priests offered up sacrifices for sins (5:1)

Thursday, April 20, 2000

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday
April 20, 2000
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 [18-21]

Holy Communion Is A Participation In Christ

Introduction:  In any poll ever taken of the greatest men in history, Jesus has always come at or near the top. Jesus is universally admired as a self-sacrificing human being and a gifted teacher. For us Christians, Jesus is far more, however. He is the Son of God and our beautiful Savior. As such He is surely worthy of all the admiration we have for Him.

But we do not just admire Jesus from a distance of almost 20 centuries. We actually approach Him so that we come very near to Him and He to us. That’s what Paul is saying in our text.  He reminds us that Holy Communion Is a Participation In Christ.

I.                  It is a exclusive participation

A.               The real Christ unites Himself with us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

1.      We take into ourselves His very body and blood.

2.      We participate intimately in God Himself

B.                 We participation in Christ excludes participation in idolatry.

1.         By worshiping the gods of money, prestige, and sex we divorce ourselves from Christ (1 Corinthians 6:25-20)

2.         God will have no other gods before Him (Zech. 1:14)

Transition: The exclusive participation in Christ in Holy Communion reminds us that we are to be done with participation in anything that usurps Christ’s place within.

II.         It is a satisfying participation.

A.       Christ satisfied us with His forgiveness.

1.      We need forgiveness for our unfaithfulness, an unfaithfulness that can never satisfy (Ezekiel 16:28).

2.      We receive full and free forgiveness, for Christ gave His body and blood to secure that forgiveness. His forgiveness takes away our guilt and calms our conscience (Psalm 65:4; 107:9).

B.         Christ satisfies us with abundant life (John 10:10)

1.      We need Christ’s life because we live in bodies that will die.

2.      We receive the life of Jesus, over whose body death no longer has dominion (Romans 6:9)

Transition: The satisfying participation in Christ in Holy Communion results in the life of Jesus being manifested in our mortal bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:10-11).

III.         It is a unifying participation.

A.    Since we partake of one bread we receive the one and the same Christ, we also are one body.

1.      Our oneness manifests itself in our united affirmation of the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion.

2.      Our oneness manifests itself in our unanimous confession of all that  Christ has taught (Matthew 28:20)

3.      Our oneness manifests itself in our sharing tasks, joys, and sorrows (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).

B.      As we participate in the one Christ, we have a oneness that enables us to stand against Satan.

1.      We will not be such easy prey for Satan when we remain in fellowship with one another.

2.      We can better escape Satan as we strengthen our fellowship by partaking of Holy Communion (Acts 2:42)

Conclusion:  The unifying participation in Christ in Holy Communion enables us to be a body of Christians who together confess Christ, support each other, and stand firm against temptation.  As members of families and as citizens of a country we all participate in many kinds of activities. But none of these compares with our participation with Christ in Holy Communion.

Sunday, April 16, 2000

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11; 15:1-39 
April 16, 2000

An Attitude of Opportunity - "When Triumph & Tragedy Kiss Each Other”

Introduction:  Passion –Palm Sunday consists of mixed emotions.  One does not know whether to laugh or cry, to celebrate or to mourn.  Palm Sunday seems to be triumph for Jesus and Passion Sunday is one of agony, suffering, and death.  Within a week this was Jesus’ experience, and we need to re-live it with Him.

How triumph turns to tragedy –

1.      Was Jesus a King? (v.2) The central issue in the trial, passion and death of Jesus was the matter of kingship. He was accused of making Himself a king. This claim was the subject of Pilate's interview with Jesus. His enemies rejected Jesus as a king.  They claimed to have no king but Caesar. Using the idea of a king, the soldiers had fun with Jesus dressing Him up as a king. While on the cross, His enemies used the King idea as the basis for mockery. The superscription on the cross identified Him as a king. But what a King! He was a king without a crown, throne, and scepter; He had no countries, no army, nor navy. All He had was a kingdom of truth and love.

2.      And yet there was no answer that Jesus would give to His accusers. (v.4) In the trial with Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, a distinctive feature was the silence of Jesus. He refused to defend Himself. To deny the charges, or to expose His enemies. Why did He give "no answer"? An answer would do no good because His enemies had made up their minds that he was guilty of death.  Moreover, they were not open to truth or to change. Jesus' silence indicated He was willing to die for the sins of the entire world.

3.      It was out of envy and spite that these false charges were leveled at Jesus (v.10). Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent of the charges. He realized that Jesus was brought to trial because of the envy of the religious leaders.  Well might they envy one who could heal the sick, raise the dead, still the storms, and captivate the people. If Pilate knew this, he had reason to release Him. Pilate was a person who knew what was right but he lacked the courage to act on it.

4.      After a night with no sleep, enduring four trials (three Jewish and one Roman) after repeated beatings and extreme cruelty Jesus was led through the streets of Jerusalem bearing His own cross.  But He fell under the load a pilgrim who had come to the city was compelled (v.21) to carry Jesus' cross to Calvary. His name was Simon, Simon from Cyrene. A cross may be carried voluntarily, but most crosses are thrust upon us.  If it is our own cross, we may choose to carry it. But, it is another matter if the cross belongs to another person. Life often thrusts a cross on us - it is unavoidable and inevitable. Even though the cross is compulsory, we gain from carrying it. Simon must have become a disciple for the early church; for he is identified as the father of Alexander and Rufus, men known by the church to be key leaders. Simon was a role model for his children in bearing the cross for Christ even when it was thrust upon him. May we model Simon as we bear under the crosses that are placed upon us.

5.      When Jesus died, the curtain between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place was torn from top to bottom (v. 38). The Holy of Holies was the place where God was identified with the Ark of the Covenant. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies but once a year. The torn curtain indicated that the crucified Christ broke down the partition between God and man. There was not restoration and peace between God and man. Where there was once enmity there was now a bond of peace.

6.      It took a hard man of war and a Gentile to see in the crucified 0ne that Jesus was the Son of God. (v.39)  This is a confession that Jesus is divine and the chosen Messiah. This conviction came as a conclusion to his experience at the cross. He saw and heard a man who acted like the Son of God would speak and act. His conclusion that seemed to explain everything to him was that Jesus was the Son of God. So, it must always be - the truth that Jesus is God's Son is not a priori thesis but a conclusion that is inescapable after experiencing the cross. May this be your story as you begin Holy Week this week.  In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Mid-week Lent 6

Midweek Lenten Service 6 
April 12, 2000
Zechariah 9:9-10

The Attitude of Opportunity 
What A King!

INTRODUCTION:   What kind of King do we want to rule over us? Though we do not have a king we do have a president; and in the midst of a national election year that is the question that many are asking themselves these days “what kind of leader do we want to lead us as a people?”  This can lead to a number of questions for us to consider.  Who or what is the master (king) of your life?  In our lesson for today we are told that the King is coming.  Is the King (Messiah) coming to take charge of your life?  Jesus offers to be our king in fulfillment of the promise “Lo, your King comes to you.”  What kind of King would He be?

1.                  A humble King – “humble and riding on an ass”. The Messiah comes riding on a common beast of burden. He is a humble king. He does not ride a horse, which is reserved for a mighty king.  An ass is a humble animal, which symbolizes peace.  The ass carried the Christ to the people. Today we see this same humble king coming to us to take away our sin. He has stilled God's anger and taken away our reproach. His innocent suffering and death save us.

2.                  A victorious King – “triumphant and victorious is He” Jesus began the week as He rode into the city of Jerusalem triumphant accepting the claim and the praises of the people.  By the end of the week He was condemned to die with two common thieves.  His early success turned to scorn along with it the horrors and tragedies of Good Friday.

            And yet, we too can triumph with Jesus even though we know that it meant the cross. Even in the midst of pain and gore there is joy.  Jesus endured the cross for the joy, which was set before Him.

            The joy is that the Savior is coming to die for our sins and to assume His rule over us in our daily lives. Because of the cross Jesus truly is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Yes, He is a victorious king.

3.                  A peaceful King – “He shall command peace to the nations.” His victory over sin, over death, and over the power of the enemy guarantees for us peace with God. He has become our peace.  Not a peace which is only temporary.  He gives us a peace that lasts.  And of His kingdom there shall be no end!  Jesus has come to bring blessings and life.  In Him there truly is peace on earth and good will to men. Rejoice in His mercy and the peace that He alone can give.

Conclusion: This is how God chooses to come to us.  He chooses to come to us in a sacramental way. This is how He chooses to deal with us.  We do not come to the King.  Rather, the King chooses to come to us. He comes to us personally to bless us.  We do not decide for Christ. Rather, He decides for us.  We do not choose Christ, but Christ chooses us. God initiates the act of grace. And we live and dwell in safety under the watchful eye of our gracious and humble peaceful king.