Thursday, December 25, 2003


December 25, 2003
Luke 2:10
A Heavenly Message

“Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy"

INTRODUCTION: The message of the angel to the shepherds was significant to say the least. The angel said “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” The same message which came to these watchers has come to us this day. What would this message say to us today?

I.        The message comes to men who were wide-awake.

A.     They were “keeping watch” over their flocks. That was their vocation, their job, their life’s calling. When the message came to them they were found faithfully performing the duties of their chosen craft. Where have you been placed?  The Gospel message is not for only one small aspect of our lives.

We cannot compartmentalize, placing Christ’s birth into only one small portion of our complicated life. Christ came to men, as they were busy doing their job, performing their task. The message of salvation was given to theses men where they lived. It fit into the environment into which they lived. Likewise, the significance and importance of Christ’s birth comes to you and me in our life, where we live and work.

B.     The time for the appointed message had come and it was given. It was given to them that they might believe. Likewise the message of the Savior’s birth has been given to you and to me, at this time and for this same reason that we might believe and live.

C.     God did not wait for the world to wake up. The angel would herald the message of Jesus’ birth without warning and it was given directly to these shepherds. It was important that these men knew that the Savior was born – immediately the message went out.

In your life, the Savior did not wait for another opportune time for you to hear this message of salvation. At the appointed time at the acceptable hour this message of salvation was given to you for your redemption and life. It was given to you directly – through the clear message of the Gospel – which is found in the pages of Scriptures and in the blessed Sacraments.

D.     If men sleep when the Lord comes, it is not His fault. The message of salvation has been delivered at the proper time. The carols, the greeting of this season; “merry, happy and blessed Christmas” as an expression is direct that all might know and believe that the Savior has been born, and has come to us for our salvation. The message is clear – Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy - for you a child is born, for you a son is given”, still many refuse to receive this message with joy.

II.     The message came to disinterested workers

A.     These men loved their flocks more then their own comforts. They worked the long hours because they felt a sense of duty and obligation to their jobs. Not much has changed over the years. There are countless people dedicating themselves to their jobs because they too feel a sense of obligation and purpose. Like these shepherds there are many people putting in long and tedious hours working at lonely and isolated jobs because of a sense of obligation and duty.

B.     The visions that have blessed the world came to these men who watched while nations slept!  The world hardly noticed that its Savior had been born. These men watch in wonder as the rest of the world slept. To us the announcement of Savior’s birth has been given. Does the world notice? Does this world seem to care? The only way in which the people of this world will know that to us a child is born and unto us a Son is given is for the Christian citizens to respond as these shepherds.

As nations slept these shepherds watched.  As this world sleeps we need to be vigilant waiting for our Savior’s visitation, and then telling other of the wonderful things we have heard and seen. As these same shepherds returned back to their jobs, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen as it was told unto them” we in kind respond with the same message.

III.   Is the fact significant that the message came to shepherds?

A.     What inference should we draw from this fact?  The Scripture is quite clear. “The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. While James mentions that God has chosen those who are “poor” in the eyes of this world to be rich in faith. (2:5)

Paul explains in 1Corinthians 1 “Brothers think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; nor many influential; not many were of noble birth…But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one many boast before Him” (vv.26-29)

These shepherds were by no means wise, or influential by the world’s standards, nor would we guess that they were of noble birth.  By the world’s standards the Savior was none of these either! Yet, the Savior makes Himself known to us in these hidden ways so that “no on may boast before Him”. No one would guess that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. No one would guess that He would be born in a stable. And no one would guess that His birth would be announced to shepherds. 

But that was exactly the way in which He chose to make Himself known – in these hidden ways; in words from the pages of Scripture, in the water of baptism, in elements of bread and wine; in absolution, which is spoken.

B.     This message has changed us. It certainly changed the shepherd’s lives. They had been told and they beheld the King, the Savior of the world, “wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger”. We too have heard and believe. For He has changed our life – as we have been drawn to Him.

CONCLUSION:  The message the shepherds received is for you this day “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy…” To common shepherds this message was given. To people of a common faith we hear and believe. A blessed Christmas in Jesus’ Name.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

mid-week Advent 3

Advent Mid-week 3
December 17, 2003
Zephaniah 3:14-15
“Rejoicing in God’s Mercy"

INTRODUCTION: The times in which the prophet Zephaniah lived were filled with challenge and intrigue – similar to our life and time. Sitting on the throne over Judah was a young king by the name of Josiah. He served at a time when the people’s hearts had grown cold as they had wandered far away from the Lord.

Yet, often we find that men are chosen in history to live and serve and lead at such critical times. It was during King Josiah’s reign that the book of the Law was discovered. Josiah found the long-lost books of the Law just before the faith in the land would have been snuffed out.

It was Josiah’s task to reform the people back to God and for this challenge God raised up the prophet Zephaniah as part of the effort to call Judah and especially Jerusalem back to God. It is within this context that our text for tonight was recorded in sacred Scripture.

As we are counting down the days before Christmas parties are in full gear – there are office parties, club and classroom celebrations not to mention family gatherings that are soon to commence. 

Yet how many times do people have parties only to complain about the company! “Did you see what she wore? How cheap could he be - serving that! Who do you think they were truing to impress? They only show up when they want something!  Sound familiar? Sadly it is true - people simply do not have reconciliation parties to celebrate true joy.

Turning to our text for tonight the prophet Zephaniah describes Judah as a young girl who should be at a party. The prophet writes, “Sing, O daughter of Zion, shout aloud, O Israel – Be glad and rejoice with all your heart O daughter of Jerusalem.” (Vs. 14)

There is true joy to be found when God and people are brought together and reconciled. The words of our text express the true spirit of Christmas as we find God’s joy over the return of His people. Advent is not all solemnity –there are reasons for us to rejoice. This evening lets concentrate on three good reasons for us to rejoice.

1.         Danger has passed – “the Lord has taken away your punishment.” (Vs. 15a)  At Christmas we rejoice that God has come to visit His people. At Christmas God broke into time and space to take upon Himself the burden of our sin. Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us.  He took on flesh to be our substitute. He was human in every respect yet without sin. Thus He is perfectly equipped to take away our punishment. Where Adam fell Jesus triumphed. Where Adam gave into temptation Jesus stood up to the test even the last temptation. “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross and even now we will believe in you!” 

Transition: “The Lord has taken away your punishment.” The danger has passed because Jesus has conquered and triumphed- taking our punishment that we deserved. With the punishment taken away our enemies are defeated.

2.         Our enemies are gone – “He has turned back your enemies” (Vs. 15b) Our enemies are numerous. Sin, death, the world and our own flesh, they all rise up to condemn us. The last enemy to be defeated is death. Death awaits us all – sacred Scripture is quite clear on the matter. “The soul that sins it shall die” and “The wages of sin is death”

Working behind these evil minions, forces and sources is the Devil himself “the father of lies” who deceives the whole earth.  “And there was a war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the Devil and Satan, he was thrown down to the earth and his angels were thrown down with him.” [Revelation 12:7-9]  “For God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.” [2 Peter 2:4] “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day” [Jude 6]

The Devil was no match for the Savior. Advent’s rejoicing and Christmas joy only makes sense with a clear view of the bloody cross. Matthew explains it this way: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of their tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” [Matthew 27:50-53]

Transition: There is reason for us to rejoice! Danger has now past, our enemies are gone. Out God reigns!

3.         God is in our midst – “The Lord the King of Israel is with you – never again will you fear any harm” (Vs. 15c)

Jesus has given us His promise. Never will I leave you – never will I forsake you. This is the promise conferred to us. Most promises we make are made with the best of intentions but they leave us disappointed and disturbed when they are broken. Christ can not break His promises. He is bound to keep them. He can never go back on His Word. To the contrary he has bound Himself to His word. When God’s Word is preached, read, shared or applied in Baptism and consumed in the Supper there God is conferring to us His promises – promises to bless us, to guide and sustain us. He bestows on us His blessings – forgiveness, life salvation. They can never be separated! Where there is the forgiveness of sins there is always life and salvation.

God is with us. Because He is in our midst, never again, never, ever will you fear any harm. Our enemies are defeated, danger is past us – God remains with us to bless and keep us. His gift, His blessings, His benediction turns the glow of Advent promises into the brilliance of Christmas fulfillment!

CONCLUSION: How long did the rejoicing in Judah and Israel last? About 20 years – Josiah’s 30 years of reforms bought Judah and Israel just a little bit of time [about two decades] before Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians. Over time Judah and Israel fell back into idol worship. Their rejoicing lasted but a season. For our rejoicing to be significant and lasting may our focus remain on Christ who alone has borne our sin reconciled us to the Father and also to each other.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Mid-week Advent 2

Advent Mid-week 2
December 10, 2003
Malachi 3: 1-4

The second candle is lit!  We are less than two weeks away from the birth of our Lord and Savior!  We are waiting with expectation!  I am like the little boy who is watching Mom put presents under the tree!  Wanting to open all the presents that belong to me, and to help others open their presents, just in case they don’t want to open theirs right away. 

We are waiting patently, but we are impatient!  Who can take the coming of Christ at Christmas?  Each year, Christmas is becoming more and more difficult to endure.  We all have experienced it with the buying and the exchanging of gifts, the cost of the gifts, what should you get that one member of the family who is so difficult to buy for, or, who seems to have everything.  And, if that were not enough, there are all the stresses and strains which come along during Christmas.  Social agencies report that at Christmas there are more personal problems that occur than at any other time of year.  It seems at Christmas there are more loneliness, more heartaches, and more disappointments.  Who can take Christmas!?

Our text from which our thoughts will focus, cuts away the fluff and focus on the real issue which is at hand, and that is the problem which all of us must deal with and that is how do you and I rest and find peace when we know that the Lord will return?  Malachi in verse two of our text asks us, “But who can endure the day of His coming?”

[1]    The first thing we must ask ourselves is this: can we endure the secularization of Christmas?  In a sense we can say that it is easy to endure the secularization of Christmas because Christians have been doing that for centuries.  The celebration of Christ’s coming to our world was introduced to the world because already pagans were celebrating the coming of Winter.  (December 21, “Winter Madness”) And times have not changed much over the years. 

It was Lutheran Christians who brought the celebration of our Lord’s natal day to Fort Wayne and the surrounding areas.  Soldiers at the fort saw December 25th, as just another day.  And other religious groups in the area believed that any type of celebration as pious and as Christianized as it was, was just not proper.

Today, it seems that merchants and store keepers, and internet businesses try to get as much “bang” for their buck as possible, offering sales and displays for their customers long before December, and in some locations long before November, or September!

Yes, it is easy for some to be distracted, and it is easy for one to focus on all of the lights, and trappings of the season, forgetting the reason for the season.  But you and I can endure the secularization of Christmas for as soon as December 25th comes around, the shopping frenzy will be over!  The real question for us is this: can we endure the refiner’s fire of cleansing of sin?  In short, can we take and can we endure the Holy presence of Jesus Christ?  That is the question, that is the issue which we must face!

[2]    When Malachi wrote this verse, he saw the coming of Christ.  He saw the Lord coming to the world, not as a baby, but as the King and Judge of all.  This is how we must see Him too!  We must see Him as Judge and King!

No wonder some are so miserable during this time of the year!  They look at their sin and they see nothing but despair and misery.  They try to be happy but they can’t.  The reality of their sinful condition jaunts them.  Who can endure the coming of the Lord?  The answer short and sweet is, NO ONE CAN!!  No one can stand before Jesus for He is a  holy and a perfect God.  Malachi tells us that.  He is a consuming and purifying fire.

That is why we need to look and see just who it is who was born there in the small city of Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago.  Yes!  It is a baby which we worship, but He is more than just a baby.  He is at the same time God made flesh.  He did not stay in the crib, but grew up to be a man.  He lived and died in our place, that we might be freed from sin and restored to be the children of God as we were created to be in the first place.

Without forgiveness we cannot come into the holy presence of our Lord.  We could not endure the refiner’s fire.  We could not endure His holy presence.  That is why if you and I are to make any sense of this celebration of Christmas – if we are to endure this season – we must look beyond the trappings and the lights and the sentimental sounds and realize with Simeon of old, that there is this little boy is all of God’s promise, all of God’s forgiveness, all of the remedies of our sin!

This is a merry Christmas for you and for me, for only one reason . . . and that is, that we see in the baby the answer to all our prayers; the solution for all of our problems; the only way out for our problem with sin.

If we focus only on trappings and the wrapping, and we cannot see God’s miracle of stamping out sin in this baby – then the misery and the pre and post Christmas blues will probably continue.

But our text reminds us to wake up and sing, rejoice, and shout!  For God has come to you!  He has been set to restore and rescue you!  He has come to bring you and me salvation and eternal life!  You and I will have a merry Christmas for here we stand, redeemed and saved and restored by a Savior who loves us with an everlasting love, who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us!

Who has promised to walk with us each day of our life!  In these days and weeks of preparation may we each see that the cross is only a few weeks away from the Creche and the cradle.  For it was at the cross, there at Golgotha, that salvation was completed.  When we do that, we will be able to take Christmas.  We will be able to enjoy the season.  And we will be able to understand that YES, in the baby Jesus, there really is PEACE on Earth and Good will to Men.  There is peace and safety for all who believe.

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord, to everlasting life.  Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving Day

November 27, 2003
Psalm 37:25

INTRODUCTION: With the recent “Luther”™ movie and its success there has been an increased interest in his life and work. The story is told that upon his death Luther’s family was going through his personal effects. In Luther’s coat pocket it is reported that his family found two small coins and a piece of paper. Written on this crumpled page were the words “We are beggars!”  This cryptic message of his are supposedly Luther’s final words. Appropriate? Most assuredly so! As we observe yet another national Thanksgiving, enacted by President Lincoln 140 years ago, let us consider the words of David as they are recorded in sacred Scripture in Psalm 37:25:  “I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread”

I.        David [and for that matter Luther also] had the perspective of seeing life from its complete perspective.

A.     David writes from the perspective of seeing all of life unfold before him. “I have been young and now I am old...” David reminds us.

1.      He had the experience of a lifetime to draw from. David was able to see life as a youth as well as an old man. He gained a wealth of knowledge that came with age and experience.  Whose advice would you take? A twenty something social worker or a sixty year old grandmother who has “been there” and “done that”?

2.      What have you learned? Life experience is such a great teacher.  A part of thanksgiving is to give back to the younger generation; teaching them that we are thankful in spite of what circumstances might dictate. 

B.      Perspective is an asset that was granted these two giants of faith. What did they learn?

1.                  David learned the hard way. He had everything and proceeded to throw it all away because of greed.  Through a series of calculated acts he proceeded to destroy two families; the family of Uriah and his own as we are reminded that a sword would not leave his family.

2.         Luther learned that we truly are beggars. We are sinners saved by grace – for by nature we are blind, dead, and enemies of God. Yet by God’s free grace and favor we are restored, redeemed and forgiven.

Transition:  Not only is there the perspective of a long life lived - there is also the perspective of a life lived in faith.

II.     David lived life from the perspective of seeing life lived out in its totality witnessing the hand of God in his life. He states in our text: “Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken.”

A.     Our sins cry out for us to be condemned.

1.      Our sin calls us Guilty! Because of sin we all face the prospect of facing the reality of grim death. By nature I am blind, dead and an enemy of God. I cannot do those things, which are pleasing in His sight. By definition I do those things, which I should not do and fail to live, as I ought. The Savior reminds us in John, chapter 3: “that which is born of flesh is flesh...” The sin of Adam, which led to a fallen nature, was passed on to his son Seth and to his sons all the way to this present generation. Thus David will remind us later in the Psalms “In sin my mother conceived me...” From the moment of conception we are found to be with a corrupt nature.

2.      Our guilt leads to punishment and embarrassment to feelings of hopelessness and abandonment. Confession some may say is good for the soul but absolution is necessary for that soul’s survival!

B.      Yet God will not abandon us past the point of no help!

1.      He did this in time when He sent Christ into the world to the bloody cross. Christ was abandoned and forsaken by God and by men as He took our sins to Himself. The Father forsook the Son on Good Friday so He would never have to forsake you who are His children!

2.      Think back to this past year. Are we only thankful when things have gone “our way”? Yet what has Scripture and experience taught us? He can not abandon us pas the point of no hope/help.              When things appear to be going against us, when all seems lost and so far beyond our grasp.

 He will never leave or forsake us. Thus we can say with the hymn writer: “Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee. Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!”

Transition: With David we are called to see life from the perspective of a long life and a life lived by faith. These perspectives can only drive us to one conclusion that God will provide for His own!

III.   We may be beggars yet God provides for us despite our condition of sin.

A.     God will provide our spiritual needs. David is quite clear; “I have not seen the righteous forsaken!”

1.      He will never turn His back on us.

2.      With St. Paul we can say “I am convinced that neither life nor death nor angels or principalities height, depth or anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is found in Christ Jesus our Savior.” [Romans 8]

B.     God most surely will provide for our physical needs also. “Nor will his children beg for bread”

1.      This has certainly been a challenging year. When we recall the year of our Lord 2003 we will remember the flood of the century – a year in which crops were seriously affected. And even those not effected by farming know the effects of rising prices, falling interest rates, and a flat economy, where one’s 401K turns into a 41K! Circumstances may cause some to say our situation is bleak yet David gives us a different picture – God’s children won’t beg for bread.

2.      Jesus puts it more succinctly; “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they?”  [Mathew 6:25-27]

CONCLUSION: In just three little words Luther summed up our entire life – we are beggars – yet God has not given up on us nor will He ever – He has promised to provide for us. Lord in Your mercy – hear our prayer:

            Heavenly Father, God of all grace, waken our hearts that we may never forget your blessings but steadfastly thank and praise you for all your goodness, that we may live in your fear until with all your saints we praise you eternally in your heavenly kingdom.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving Eve
November 26, 2003
Psalm 100:5

INTRODUCTION: In our Psalm for this evening David calls for us to praise the Lord. Yet David does not simply compel us to praise the Lord. He gives us significant reasons why the Lord is deserving of our praise. 

1.    The Lord is good – This is His essence. He is our good and gracious God and Father. In Psalm 36:5 David exclaims “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.” In His goodness the Lord’s benevolence reaches to the skies. He delights in doing good to us.

2.    His love endures forever – David will say elsewhere “The earth is full of His unfailing love” (Psalm 33:5) He befriends us – as He is our closest and dearest friend.  His love endures forever. It will never cease. It will not run out. It will never run cold.

The Lord’s unfailing love, kindness, and mercy is demonstrated and well documented throughout the pages of the Old Testament. In the book of Deuteronomy we are told “ Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; for He is the faithful God, keep His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep His commandments.” (VS..9)

Later on in the same chapter He reminds us “ If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep His covenant of live with you as He swore to your forefathers” (vs..12)

Concerning David the Lord reminds us In 2 Samuel 5:15: “But my love will never be taken away from him…” A question… Was David somehow different then others? Was he somehow superior? Was he smarter, stronger, better? Hardly! The sins of David are notorious and legendary. David was guilty of murder and adultery. His was the head of a dysfunctional family of which the Lord had predicted that a sword would never leave it.

No, the promise that the Lord’s love would not be taken away from David does not rest on David. Not in the slightest! Rather, it rests squarely on the love and mercy of God.

God loves us with an everlasting love despite our sin, despite our pettiness, despite our imperfection and guilt. We give thanks to God this night because His love endures forever. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him…” (John 4:16-17)

3.    His faithfulness continues through all generations – Each generation will witness the faithfulness of God for themselves. In the Old Testament we see the faithfulness of God in the giving of the Law, in the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land bondage and slavery. He sustained them through the wandering and pilgrimage years.

Despite their unfaithfulness He remained faithful – faithful to He word and promise in sending us His Son to bear our burdens and our cares to the cross.

To this present hour our Lord has proven to be faithful. This night in thankfulness we offer Him our worship and praise. It is fitting that we should do so for we are only beggars – all that we receive comes from the gracious hand of our Savior.

CONCLUSION: We say with the Psalmist the Lord is good, His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues throughout all generations. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gifts. 

Thursday, May 29, 2003


The Feast of the Lord’s Ascension
May 29, 2003
Luke 24:44-53

INTRODUCTION:  Picture in your mind the glorious Ascension of Jesus Christ. As He ascends into heaven in the presence of His disciples the conquering Savior lifts His hands to bless us. What would that say to us this night?

I.        Christ’s uplifted hands were nail-marked hands, which testified to His having suffered as the Scriptures had predicted. Jesus says in Vs. 46 of our text: “Thus it was written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day” All of the Scriptures have been fulfilled. Jesus has successfully completed every prophecy.

A.     The Scriptures make it clear that Christ suffered for our sins. 1 Peter 2:24 reminds us: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live unto righteousness for by His stripes we are healed.” One righteous man completing one righteous and unselfish act completed your redemption in time and space.

B.     The Scriptures make it clear that He and He alone was able to suffer sin’s punishment for us. 1 Peter 1:18-19 remind us: “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver and gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as a lamb, unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”   Christ has accounted for all sin. There is not one sin left. He is the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world. He is the world’s redeemer. He is our Savior and King.  

C.     Peter will say again in 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit...” When Christ died all sin died. When He arose triumphantly from the grave He gave us a guarantee of our eternal destiny. He now has gone to prepare a place for us. The glorious Ascension of Jesus Christ assures us that we have a destiny with Christ in glory.

Transition:  Jesus’ hands are lifted – lifted to bless us, lifted to remind us that we are the redeemed children of God.

II.     The nail scared hands of Jesus, lifted up tell us that He, the risen Lord, as made an effective sacrifice for sin.

A.     On the basis of His sacrifice and glorious resurrection the forgiveness of sins can now be proclaimed to all. In our text Jesus remind us in Vs. 47: ”...and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations – beginning from Jerusalem” 

The New Testament church started in Jerusalem but they didn’t remain there. They went into Judea, Samaria and to the utter most regions of the earth proclaiming a simple message of Christ’s resurrection. Yet, it was a powerful message for it literally turned the world upside down.

B.     As you and I daily confess our sins, we can be sure that His sacrifice will cleans us from all sin. This is what we read in 1 John 1:7: “...but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” This is a message the world still needs to hear. This is a message you and I need to hear each and every day. The blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from all sin.

CONCLUSION:  The Ascended Lord has accomplished for us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. In Jesus Christ all sin is forgiven period! In Jesus Christ all is well, all is well.  

Sunday, May 4, 2003

Confirmation 2003

Confirmation Sunday
May 4, 2003 
Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear – the Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid? 

INTRODUCTION:  Today is May 4, 2003 the day of your confirmation. I find it significant and truly fitting that you should be confirmed on this particular day for as you well know this is the day in which we honor the memory of two fathers of American Lutheranism; F C D Wyneken and F H Husmann.

Wyneken is the man with whom we are quite familiar. He’s the pastor with the yellow pants. He is the father of American Home Missions. He was pastor of this congregation for five years and later served as the 2nd President of our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod during the Civil War from this parish.

He was instrumental in securing mission dollars and mission minded people committing them to the American frontier. He played a significant role in establishing two seminaries within our national Church body. We have honored his memory by establishing one of the first consolidated Lutheran schools in our Synod in his name. 

Each of you will soon graduate from our Wyneken School. Yes, Alicia, Wyneken is the school where your father has taught for sixteen years and lest we forget, Nathan and Brandon, Wyneken married a Buuck!

Husmann might be a name you are not all too familiar with however he too is honored today. Husmann was elected the first secretary of our Synod one hundred six years ago. He was the pastor of St. John’s Bingen representing them at the signing of Synod’s charter in Chicago in 1847. Husmann was one of the first Lutheran missionaries to tread on American soil.

One of his responsibilities was to keep a diary of his activities. In that diary are the outlines of sermon, which he delivered in this area. He also recorded his activities as a pastor and the inner workings of the surrounding congregations. He writes extensively concerning our congregation. He helped us by establishing a particular parish practice. Someone once said: “You can spot a Lutheran five miles away!” well, it was Pr. Husmann who helped define American Lutheran practice.

While Husmann is closer connected to the Bingen congregation you have spent a considerable amount of time over the years at St. John’s during Wednesday morning chapel. I would venture to guess that we have averaged about 40 chapel serves each school year. Multiply that by 8 years and you have an estimated 320 chapel services which you have probably attended. Yes, May 4th is a significant day for St. John’s for St. Paul’s and for Zion congregation!  

May 4th is your day also. Between January 1988 (starting with Spencer) and July 1989 (concluding with Alicia)  - In roughly a year and a half there were a total of fourteen baptisms here at Zion. That’s an incredible number of baptisms for this parish! That is the time period in which you were baptized into Christ Jesus.

In 1989 alone there were a total of twenty-two baptisms! In the past fourteen years we have witnessed a phenomenal pattern of growth in this parish as whole families have come to make their home in Friedheim. Karly and Laura I didn’t have the privilege of baptizing you however you have come to this parish with your parents to make Friedheim a house of peace and a haven of rest for souls. Brett, Lydia, Joey, Cam and Sara we have literally watched you grow up among us. 

Today you confirm the faith into which you have been baptized. Today you affirm your faith in God alone while He pledges to you His commitment to you. We can be confident of this, “that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. {Philippians 1:6}

The verse you have selected for this important day is recorded in Psalm 27:1 It reads: The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear – the Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

We need not fear –

I.        Because the Lord is the light of my salvation.

A.     Light. Throughout the Scriptures light is often used to symbolize well-being, contentment and peace. Proverbs 13:9 reminds us: “The light of the righteous shines brightly but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.”  Solomon further explains in Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”  Psalm 43:3 tells us –“O send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to Thy holy hill, and to Thy dwelling places.”

There is joy and prosperity in knowing the Lord. With Him you will have all the guidance and protection you will ever need. When you say, “the Lord is my light” you are expressing confidence in Him as the source of your salvation.

B.     Psalm 3:8 reminds us: -“Salvation belongs to the LORD;” From the Lord comes deliverance. You can be confident that the Lord will continue to guide and direct you. The forgiveness of sins, life and salvation has all been given to you freely as a gift. What a joy it is to know that the Lord Jesus is the very source of your salvation.

Transition: The Lord Himself is the light of your salvation. He has promised to direct your life. We need not fear for He is near. He is your strength in every circumstance. With the Lord you can face any situation confidently. You do not need to be afraid.

II.     Because the Lord is the stronghold of my life.

A.     Psalm 9:9 tells us –“The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble,” Notice how clearly we are told that it is the Lord who directs our life. He is the one who influences our life. He is the one who knows our future. In every circumstance He will be there for you; in times of great joy and especially in times of trouble. He will be there for you - you can count on Him. Remember David’s words in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear”

B.     David reminds us in Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

The Lord will give to you His unfailing strength, as He alone is our refuge strength. He has promised to deliver you from all harm and danger. We can be confident that we are safe and secure for He directs your life. Remember the last petition of Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayer. It sums up what David is driving at in your verse for today. “Into Thy hands I commit myself my body and soul and all things. Let Thy Holy Angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me” When you are safely in the Lord’s hands all is well. 

CONCLUSION:   Remember the things that we taught you, cling to that which is good and remember that the Savior walks with you every day. “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear – the Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?”

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Easter Sunrise

Easter Dawn
April 20, 2003
Mark 16:1-8
Is it True?

INTRODUCTION: The resurrection of Jesus Christ happened 2,000 years ago. How can we, who are so far removed from that 1st Easter, be sure it happened? So much depends on whether it is true. Without the resurrection there is no hope for life beyond the grave. Without the resurrection there is no assurance that God is in control. Without the resurrection there is no guarantee that love is greater then hatred. How do we know that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is real?

1.                  First, there is circumstantial evidence – an empty tomb. Listen to verse 6 of our text for today “the angel said: “here is the place where they laid Him.”  On the way to the tomb, the three women were asking themselves “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb?” The question indicates that they did not expect a resurrection even though they must have heard Jesus say several times, “and on the third day I will rise again” If the resurrection were a fabrication and a hoax the question would not be asked. Well, who did roll away the stone?  Mark does not tell us. We learn from St. Paul that God Himself raised up Jesus. (Romans 4:24; 8:11) He moved the stone! Man could not do it – not the stone of death. All the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men would not be able to conquer death. This was the Father’s act of grace and victory!

The young man (whom we would presume to be an angel) identifies the risen one as the man Jesus from Nazareth who was crucified. This gives reality to the Easter story.  The risen Christ is not a spirit. The resurrected person was Jesus from the town of Nazareth. He was killed on a cross. He was truly dead and buried. There is no room here for a “spiritual” or a “symbolic” resurrection! We must not spiritualize the account. It was not a resurrection of the spirit or the soul of Jesus. The body, the whole person of Jesus rose from the dead on that first Easter.

2.                  Then there is the witness of God’s messenger, an angel, as well as the testimony of the Word of God. Listen to verse 15: “And entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting at the right wearing a white robe and they were amazed. And he said, “why seek the living among the dead. He is not here, He is risen from the dead,” There is no such thing as a dead Christ. Why seek the living among the dead?  He will not be found in the tombs of the dead. He is alive! Why seek Him there? The grave could not hold Him in. He rose from the dead on the third day. The disciples’ testimony is true. “We are witnesses of these events; We have seen Him with our own eyes.” This Jesus who was crucified is now alive forevermore. The grave could not hold Him. See the place where they laid Him. He is not here. He is risen from the dead!

3.                  Then there is the experience of the living Christ – He will be seen in Galilee. Listen to verse 7: “there you will see Him just as He said.”  The angel instructs the women to tell the disciples, and Peter, to meet Jesus in Galilee as Jesus had told them. In this account of the resurrection the risen Christ does not appear. He will meet them in Galilee.  Thus we are reminded by the message of the angel to heed the word of the Savior. Time and again He predicted His bodily resurrection.        The women found the tomb empty. Where would they find Him? At the very place where Jesus had directed them – in Galilee. Likewise, in your life and my life, we find the risen Savior at the place where He has directed us – in the waters of Baptism, in the elements of Bread and Wine, in His very words and promises of Holy Scripture. The women hurried off to Galilee and there they found Him as the angel predicted. Will you too find Him where He has directed you? Search the Scriptures. There you will find Him alive. He can not deny Himself. He is risen just as He said! 

CONCLUSION: He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!


April 20, 2003
Luke 16:19-31
"If only…"

INTRODUCTION: In recent years there has been much interest in finding evidence that would back up the claims of the Scriptures. Many theologians and scientists have studied the Shroud of Turin, which claims, to be the actual burial cloth of Christ, and yet, the verdict is still out. Some people say: "if only we could find something that would prove this or that" in the Bible "then we could believe!"  There is a tendency to try to find something that would confirm what is in the Bible. The idea is, then people would believe!  Unfortunately, such is not the case.  Let us this morning examine the conversation between the rich man and the Father. For in this conversation the Father gives us what we only need to believe in the reality of the resurrection.

I.        Like the rich man, some say "if only someone could return from the dead! Then people would believe"

A.     The rich man wanted someone sent back from the dead to warn his brothers of their potential doom.

B.     We might be tempted to think - if only there were something to confirm the truths of the Scriptures.

II.     The reality is that if someone could return from the dead, it would not be enough!

Jesus confirms this in verse 31.

There is plenty of evidence that Jesus is right
a.       God spoke at Sinai and it made little difference.

b.      The prophets of old performed mighty miracles but only a few believed.

c.       Jesus came into this world as the Son of God and He was crucified.

d.      Lazarus arose from the dead and this only hardened the opposition to Jesus (John 12:10)

e.       Jesus Himself rose from the dead, and the soldiers who were eyewitnesses to this event lied about it to save their own necks.

III.   The return of someone from the dead would serve no good purpose for good reasons.

God has made other provisions
a.       "Moses and the prophets" refers to the Bible

b.      God has already told us everything we need to know in His Word

B.     It is only His provisions which will work
a.       People do not fail to believe because of a lack of truth. They fail to believe because of the attitude of their heart. (Romans 10:8-10)

b.       Miracles may make people question and seek for the truth, but they will not make people believe.

CONCLUSION:  Even a voice of one who came back from the dead would not help because you need nothing else. The testimony of those eyewitnesses is sufficient evidence.  This evidence is the power of God to make you wise unto salvation. Today the Father calls you to believe this simple yet life-changing message. He is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia!  A blessed Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2003

Good Friday

Good Friday
April 18, 2003
Luke 23:46
7th Word - "The word of Conclusion"

INTRODUCTION:  "Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit" This is the 7th and last word of our Savior spoken from the cross. Having spoken these words the Son of God breathed His last and rendered up His life.  What can we draw from this final testimony of the Son of God?

1.                  Notice that Jesus dismisses His own spirit.

A.     Jesus' death is different from any other

1.      The wages of sin is death - the Bible tells us. Each man must die as a result of sin. We will face death because of our common corrupt nature - found in every person who has ever taken the breath of life.  Jesus' death is different, as He never sinned.

2.      The Bible further tells us; "It is appointed for man once to die and after this comes judgment" We will face the judgment seat of God once we die. There will be a day or reckoning for every soul upon this earth. Again, not so with Jesus. His was a perfect sacrifice. As He was innocent and yet charged and judged. Yet He bore our punishment for us - that His sentencing might be sufficient for the sin of the entire world.

B.     Jesus' death is absolutely voluntary - no one else- including His enemies or the devil himself -can take His life from Him. The death of Jesus is a supreme sacrifice.  Jesus tells us plainly "No one takes My life from Me - I lay it down and I take it up again"

Transition:   Jesus dismisses His life voluntarily. He does it of His own will. This selfless act is necessary and essential to your salvation.

2.                  This voluntary element is absolutely essential to salvation.

A.     It had to be voluntary for God to be just. There is an element of justice with God. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. Each sin must be dealt with. Total payment must be made. The debt for sin must be paid. Jesus Christ by His voluntary death paid the ultimate price for sin.

B.     It had to be voluntary for God to be God. People can't kill God. We can ignore Him.  We can defy Him. We can abandon and disown Him. But we can't kill Him. The devil thought in his heart of hearts that he had killed the Lord of life. Not so! Remember those words of Jesus "No one takes My life from Me - I lay it down and I take it up again.  That's why Jesus could pray "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit."

C.     It had to be voluntary to display fully His love. The death of Jesus was not a selfish act. It was a labor o life to demonstrate fully His love for us. Jesus says in John chapter three: "God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."

CONCLUSION:  See what manner of love the Farther has for us that we might be the children of God. As the Son has given up His life for you now you are free and your sins they are no more!

Thursday, April 17, 2003

M Thursday

Maundy Thursday 
April 17, 2003
John 19:30
6th Word - The word of completion

INTRODUCTION:  From the 6th hour to the 9th hour the Bible tells us, the sun was hidden from view. Darkness covered the land. Then at the 9th hour Jesus offered to us His 6th word - a word of completion. It is finished! When Jesus cried these words what exactly is finished? I would suggest four things were brought to completion on the day Christ died -

1                    The first thing to find its conclusion is the physical sufferings of Jesus.

A.     This was the plan of God from the very beginning. On the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus Jesus had to explain to the two from Scripture that the Son of God had to be arrested, tried, crucified, died and rise again.  The crucifixion of Christ was never a surprise to the Father. It happened all according to His divine plan.

B.      Because the Savior fulfilled this divine plan we no longer have to fear that we will have to suffer for our sins. Oh yes, there might be consequences that we might have to bear because of sin. For example; a thief might have to do time when caught.  Running a stop sign might mean an accident. However, we need not fear that we will have to suffer for our sins as punishment from God. All suffering for punishment was finished at the cross - mark the words of Jesus well: "It is finished!" 

2.                  The humiliation of Jesus Christ is now finished.

A.       Because Jesus has suffered all His mission of humiliation is finished. What is the humiliation? The humiliation are those steps Jesus deliberately took where He had all of the power and glory and majesty of God but refused to use it.

B.        Let's retrace those steps again-

Ø   He was born of the virgin Mary

Ø   He suffered

Ø   Under Pontius Pilate He was crucified

Ø   He died

Ø   He was buried

3.                  The whole program of the Old Testament is now finished.

A.     The gap bridging institutions of the Old Testament was no longer necessary nor are they valid. A question - why don't we sacrifice animals any more?  Why don't we observe ceremonies established in the Old Testament any more? There is a clear answer - "It is finished!" These things are no longer necessary because they were a focus of things to come. Their substance belongs to Christ.

B.      To symbolize that these practices had come to an end the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The rent of the veil in the middle of the temple speaks volumes - the animosity and the barrier that separated God and man are now broken down! Why do we have nothing hindering the chancel area in the front of the church? Because Jesus speaking from the cross said: "It is finished! The cross reminds us that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

4.                  The work of redemption is now finished!

A.       The center of Christ's of redemption is found at the cross. Throughout the pages of the Old Testament we see a common thread that says at the fullness of time, at just the right time - the Son of God would suffer and die on a cross for the redemption of man. The whole world's salvation is focused on the cross. Your personal redemption is found at the cross. When the Son of God suffered and died on the cross all sin was forgiven. At the cross all debts were canceled. So the cross now stands at the center of the entire world's and your personal salvation.

B.        What does this mean for us today?

1.   God and man are now reconciled. St. Paul tells us "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"

2.   The conflict of the ages is already won. Now there is peace on earth and good will toward men. The powers of sin death and Satan are now rendered powerless. They have no control over you. They are no longer in control. They can no longer have any power over you.

3.   Because of Jesus' work on the cross a door is now open to all to receive the Lord's free salvation. It is great and free. A glorious future awaits you because this redemptive work has been completed.

CONCLUSION: It is finished!  It is finished indeed! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

The 5th Word

April 9, 2003
John 19:28
5th Word - "The Word of Personal need"

INTRODUCTION: One can only imagine the personal sufferings of Jesus on the cross. There is trauma on a number of levels. Jesus suffered sleep depravation, the trauma of four trials; three Jewish and one Roman.  For a period of roughly twenty-four hours he was beaten flogged; spat upon, humiliated and mocked. Jesus shows us that there is human suffering on the cross as he cries His fifth word: "I thirst!"

1.                  The 5th word of Jesus "I thirst" shows us the extent of His physical suffering.

A.     One can only imagine the level of Jesus' suffering. The monitoring of physical pain has become a major concern of those in the health care field. Those enrolled in the hospice program, for example, must meet certain criteria. To enroll, they must have a physical sign off on their care. They must certify that the patient in question has six months or less to live. A terminal condition must be verified. The patient must also sign off on any prohibitive measures. In hospice care creature comforts and pain tolerance needs are the most critical issues.

In our day and time we strive to alleviate pain. We can do this with continuous dosages of morphine. The Romans of Jesus' day the focus was on inflicting pain and making a science out of it. Once I remember a twenty-six year old medical school resident at the Indiana University medical center telling a parent not to trust any pain medication older then he. Modern man is fixated on relieving pain. At the time of Christ the Romans spent decades perfecting the craft of human torture through the art and craft of crucifixion. As Jesus cried from the cross "I thirst" He was ravaged by extreme physical pain.

B.     Yet, in the midst of His sufferings and pain Jesus will not speak until words of concern for others are spoken first. Did you notice that? First He has compassion the world's sin followed by words of comfort for the dying thief. Next His own mother. Not until He has addressed the needs of others does He consider His own.

Jesus would not place His needs about any other. If this were not so His goal of winning the world's salvation would have been diverted. Had He placed His own needs above others the Father's plan of salvation would have been perverted. Jesus would not think of His own needs thus He remains for us the Lord's suffering servant being abandoned by God and by men

Transition:  Why was it necessary for Jesus to utter this phrase "I thirst"?  As Jesus cries out "I thirst" we find Him to be truly human.

2.                  These words demonstrate Christ's complete humanity.

A.     As true man Jesus felt separated by God. God the Father turned His back on the Son as He once turned His back on Adam and Eve, by the inhabitants of the world at the time of Noah, and by the citizens of Sodom and Gamier when He rained down fire from heaven. Now God will never turn His back on you for He did it once at the cross when He turned away from His own Son.

B.     As true man Jesus was allowed to feel extreme human pain.  We might have to experience extensive and extreme human pain but it will only last for a short season. Even if you have some sort of debilitating or disabling condition it will end in death.  Those who don't know Christ will continue enduring the same pain Christ endured into eternity because they rejected the Son of God.  The rich man crying out to the Father says "send even Lazarus to dip his finger in cool water and rub it on my tongue for I am in torment in this flame!" Any human pain the Christian will experience is temporary for Jesus has endured eternal physical pain at the cross.

C.     Thank God Jesus did suffer the manner in which He suffered. The fact that Jesus did suffer makes His humanity real for us. The work of Jesus, that suffering servant, is a valid and certain work - recognized by the Father. The Father accepts the Son's suffering for you. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us: "By His stripes you are healed".

Transition:  There is still a matter of Old Testament prophecy that needs to be cleared up.  Jesus' suffering fulfills prophetic predictions.

3.                  These words spoken from the cross shows the fulfillment of prophecy.

A.     Jesus' suffering was predicted in Psalm 22 and Psalm 69. Although they were written centuries before Jesus was born David speaks as if He is standing there at the cross.  Read through these wonderful Psalms this week. The prophecies have been fulfilled by Jesus at the cross when He cried out "I thirst"

B.     Fulfilled prophecy authenticates Christ.  If Jesus were to fail in any of the clear Old Testament prophecies which predict what the Son of God would do Jesus would be considered a fake, a fraud, a false Christ. Yet because prophecy has been fulfilled we can say with Thomas "Jesus you alone are my Lord and my God!"

CONCLUSION: The 5th word spoken from the cross: "I thirst" shows the extent of Jesus' human suffering. It helps us endure our own hurts and pains and authenticates Christ as our one and only Messiah - the Savior of the world.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

The 4th Word

April 2, 2003
Mark 15:34
4th word - "The word of Abandonment"

INTRODUCTION: Christ our Savior suspended on the cross cries out with a heart felt cry: "My God, why have You abandoned Me?"  To understand these words is to understand not only what the cross preaches but also what Jesus hanging on that cross offers for a lost and dying world.

1.                  These words express the extent of Jesus' suffering.

A.     Jesus endured enormous physical agony. Jesus endured a most shameful death. The Old Testament Scriptures remind us of the curse: "Cursed be anyone who hangs on a tree" Thus the sufferings Jesus endured from God were even more profound.

Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion.  It was reserved for the vilest of offenders. Crucifixion would take days for death to become a reality. It could take a week before crucifixion would run its full course. The cause of death by crucifixion was asphyxiation; a slow, methodical excruciating form of torture. Pain, dehydration, hallucinations were all accompanied this mad form of capital punishment.

B.     The silence of God and nature demonstrate how profound the death of God's only begotten Son would become. The sun hid its face - there was a total eclipse of the sun from noon until 3 PM as darkness covered the earth.

C.     What are we to make of all this?  What was God the Father doing as His Son was dying?  The Father was actually turning His back away from His Son. The Father abandoned His Son so that He would not have to abandon you for He bore your sins in His own body on the tree that dying to sin you might live unto righteousness.

2.                  Then there is the cause of Jesus' sufferings.

A.     On the cross, abandoned by God and by man Jesus Christ was made sin for us. He carried our sin; He became sin for us. At the cross we see the great exchange all of the world's sin including your own is placed on the shoulders of Jesus. Jesus became sin for us. At the cross the Father accepts the Son's sacrifice and removed your sin, stills the Father's anger, and forgives your sin. 

B.     Thus, all of the world's sin was poured out on Him. "In Adam we have all been one; one huge rebellious man. We all have heard that lonesome voice that called us when we ran" Jesus became the world's substitute. All of the world's hatred, misery, sins and guilt have been transferred to the Son of Man. If the world's sin has been transferred to Him what else remains on you?  There can be only one thing left -the Lord's innocence, righteousness and peace.

CONCLUSION:  At the cross the Father abandoned the Son so that you and I could never experience being abandoned by God. Thanks be to Jesus for this most precious gift.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The 3rd Word

March 26, 2003
John 19:25-27
3rd word - "The Word of dying concern"

INTRODUCTION:  In the midst of His suffering Jesus reaches out to two of His closest associates a dear friend and His own mother. Jesus says: "Woman behold your son…son, your mother"

1.                  Mary is suffering as she watches from a distance.

A.     Simeon of old had predicted that a sword would pierce her own heart when Jesus was but eight-days-old. I have been privileged to share in some tremendous joys among the families of Friedheim. Some of the most painful are the hurts of parents and children.  It is painful to be a parent at hospital when the surgeon gives the news that the procedure did not go well. To coax and prod and encourage a child who finds school a challenge is often so painful for the parent. Consider your own experiences of being a child - of being a parent.

B.     There is a special bond between mother and son; here at the cross Simeon's prophecy is being fulfilled. Now she is sharing in Jesus' suffering. On strictly human terms Mary is loosing her beloved son and there is nothing she can do to stop it!  She must watch from a distance, as her own son is tortured!

2.                  In calling His mother Jesus singles Mary out for attention.

A.       Notice that Jesus calls His mother "woman".  Why the term?  Why not "mother" or "Mom"?

1.    Jesus shows a desire to spare her the hurt of hearing from His dying lips "mother".  Jesus realizes that His fate is in the Father's hands - There is nothing that Mary can do not.

2.    Jesus also imparts for us a proper perspective - She is as any other woman. True, she bore Jesus in her womb but she would have to be saved like anyone else.

B.       In singling Mary out Jesus turns her over to John. John has received a stepmother. Mary a stepson. John will now have the responsibility to care form Mary as his own mother. This is the 4th commandment - the honor and care of parents.  Jesus would not be able to physically care for His mother so He chooses John. Whom do we choose when parents' cant care for themselves?

3.         By these words Jesus demonstrates:

A.         Proper families regard.

1. Parents own children spiritual and physical care, love and support.

2. Children owe parents love, honor, service, obedience. When they are older physical care and support.

B.          Jesus by these words demonstrated deep concern for others. Half of Jesus' last words on the cross are concerned with the needs of others.

CONCLUSION:  We are connected to each other by blood and by faith. May we show proper human regard especially with those from our own family.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The 2nd Word

March 19, 2003
Luke 23:39-43
2nd word - "the word of Compassion"

INTRODUCTION:  Each of us is terminal - all of us here in this room share two common realities - We're all sinners. Not a single person here can claim to be perfect. Every man, every woman, every boy and every girl - we're al sinners.

The second reality common to us all is that death is a reality for each must die. "The wages of sin is death" the Bible tells us. Each of us will face our end. When we close our eyes to death then we will meet our maker.

Then what?  That's the issue we will address tonight. The second word of Jesus from the cross is the word of compassion - "Today you will be with me in paradise!"

1.                  Notice first the penitent thief.

A.                His rebuke of the other thief and his request of Christ reveal a change in heart. First he coursed the Savior - he was exactly like the other thief; cursing Jesus, cursing the Romans, cursing life. But then he comes to his senses and realizes this reality known to man. He is going to die. He will meet his Maker - then what?

B.                 This thief in calling out to Jesus reveals the recognition of his own guilt. He comes to the realization that he is a sinner. He comes to his senses and realizes his own mortality. In calling out to Jesus he realizes that his sins have condemned him!

C.                In calling upon Jesus he expresses he knows in a cry of faith. He knows he is a sinner and he knows in death he will depart this world and meet him Maker. All he can request is that Jesus remember him. "Lord, remember me when you enter into Your kingdom!"

2.                  Notice Christ's reaction.

A.                First, Jesus expressed help. He will remember this repentant thief - but the Savior's help is beyond the thief's request. Jesus offer is beyond our comprehension. Jesus offer is beyond what we could ever ask or think. He gives us not what we want. He gives us what we really need.

B.                 Jesus' reaction reveals the nature of His work. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. He went to the bloody cross to offer us Himself as a sacrifice for sin. In Jesus Christ all sin is forgiven - period!  In speaking to this thief he shows him the reward of all who call upon the name of the Lord - they shall be saved!

C.                Christ's reaction shows us the place of the dead believer. We shall be with Christ eternally!  Mark the Savior's words. Today you will be with Me in paradise. Dead defined by the Christian is the separation of the soul from the body. Death to the Christian is our entrance into glory

3.                  Notice also a word of caution.

A.                Many have used this verse from the Lord's passion to excuse procrastination. I have plenty of time they reason - after all, the thief was given a final chance on his deathbed. This is true, yet who among us can predict their own death? What about sudden death? We dare not use the Lord's compassion as an excuse.

B.                 Notice also that two men come to their deathbeds. One repented - yet one did not repent. There can be for some a point of no return when they turn their back forever on the Lord.

C.                The third word of caution must remind us that while the Lord's grace is shown in Christ receiving this repentant thief - think how much was missed - consider the wasted opportunities - the misspent years that could not be reclaimed.

CONCLUSION:  Everyday is a gift. Every day is an opportunity to do good, to make a difference, to dream big and to act.  In Jesus Christ our destiny is secure - make good use of the present as you anticipate eternity.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The 1st Word

Luke 23:34
March 12, 2003
1st Word - "The word of Intercession"

INTRODUCTION:  As He began His passion knowing all that was going to take place; knowing all that would be required of Him Jesus took the time to pray. It is a simple prayer yet a profound petition. It gives us an overall picture of what this Jesus is all about.  Jesus - on the cross suspended between earth and heaven prays: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"

1.        The reason for this prayer is obvious.

A.                It tells why He was dying. He is dying for man is blind to his sin. In ignorance man falls to the wayside and follows a different road.

B.                 This prayer reveals Jesus' character. The ruthless world says: " Don't get mad - get even!"  The attitude of this present age says, "divide and conquer" "to the victor comes the spoils" "An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth."  Jesus responds by saying: "Father forgive them"

C.                This prayer becomes a perfect example for Jesus' followers - His disciples.  As the Savior has forgiven so we too forgive. A student is under his master and taught by Him. As the Savior has so taught us to forgive what else can we do but forgive?

D.                Jesus prays this pray to fulfill prophecy. As He prays for and asks for His accusers' pardon the events once predicted of old are beginning to take shape. God is acting - God is moving. 

2.        Who are the objects of this first prayer from the cross?

A.                First there are the soldiers who nailed Him there. Do they recognize Jesus to be the Savior, the world's redeemer? Or do they see Him as one of many upstarts among the Jews?  Do they simply see Him as one who is worthless? It does not matter what they thing of Him. He prays for them - regardless - regardless of whom they were, regardless of where they had been, regardless of what they had done.

B.                 Then there are the Jews who condemned Him to be nailed there. "It is necessary that one man die for the sake of the country".  That's how the High Priest and the leadership sized things up. Little did they know they were speaking prophetically. His death is sufficient for all.

C.                 The Savior prays for all who have in any way contributed to the sin load, which brought Him to the cross. The Savior, as He prays offers up this request to the Father for you and for me.  All who are in need of the Savior's mercy are included in this petition. How good it was of the Savior to pray for you and me.

Transition: Thus the Savior offered up a prayer as the first word from the cross. How was that prayer answered?

3.        Jesus prayer was answered in three specific ways.

A.                First, the soldiers and the Jews were spared then and there. The Lord's visitation was curtailed and halted. Jesus had told Peter in the garden  "are not 10,000 legion of angels at My disposal?  Yet all this must be done that the Scriptures may be fulfilled".

B.                 The Jewish nation was give 40 years of grace to receive the great message of the cross and empty tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead appeared to His disciples and ascended the early disciples didn't run off to Athens or Rome. They went right back to the very city where Jesus was crucified. Until Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 AD the inhabitants of that city had the very eyewitnesses of the resurrection living in their neighborhoods.

C.                This prayer was answered as all people have been forgiven - God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son - Now, people must simply receive the forgiveness, which has already been provided. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  "Whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life."

CONCLUSION: On the cross, suspended between earth and heaven the Savior prayed for you - Father forgive them for they know not what they do.