Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day
November 22, 2007
Luke 17:19 “Rise and go your way, you faith has made you well.”

Introduction: Two miracles take place in the healing of the ten lepers. Nine receive physical healing, but one got both physical and spiritual healing. It is the latter that we who are healthy need. Jesus said to the Samaritan that he was healed by his faith. Were not the other nine healed even without faith? Jesus is referring to the spiritual miracle that took place in the foreigner. “Well” comes from the word “save” and “wholeness”.  This second miracle made him whole in terms of gratitude - which was the outward sign - of his well-being inside.

Consider the Double Miracle

I.        What you are saved from – Ingratitude. This is illustrated by acts of selfishness, taking things for granted and negativism. 

A.     Selfishness. Sinful humans with their own agendas plans and attitudes crowd out a spirit of thanksgiving. We live in a land of plenty. We live in a time of so many opportunities. We live in an age in which there are countless advantages for us to succeed. Do we consider the needs and concerns of others or do we think and operate only for ourselves?

B.     Ingratitude raises its ugly head by taking things for granted. On this day of Thanksgiving we are challenged to contemplate our blessings. This past week when our students at Wyneken assembled for chapel I gave them an assignment. It’s an assignment which each of us should take.  Make an assessment of the blessings you have received. Recall those people the Lord has placed in your life – who have become a blessing to you. Then simply say “thank you!”  This helps us from taking things for granted.

C.     Negativism is also a cause for ingratitude. True we all have challenges in our lives. There are plenty of hurdles placed before us. There are enough voices in our world which simply say “no, you can’t!”  What should our attitude be? Thanksgiving is thanks living. If we truly live blessed and thankful lives negativism is eliminated from the equation.

Transition: We are saved from ingratitude. We are saved for gratitude. 

II.     What you are saved for – gratitude. How do we demonstrate an attitude of gratitude?  We do this by counting our blessings, recognizing God as the one who blesses us, and praising Him for His goodness.

A.     Counting your blessings – V. 15a “one of them when he saw he was healed, came back.”  This one lone leper realized his life had been saved. He saw He had been saved. There had been a change, a huge change in his life. Did he move on? Of  course not. He returned to give thanks.

B.     Recognizing God as the one who blesses us.  Vs. 16 “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.” This miracle had not happen by chance. It wasn’t luck, or fate, or his good fortune. It was the God and God alone who had healed him. It was God and God alone who had had mercy upon him. It was God and God alone who had intervened in his life. A change had taken in his life and he knew it.

C.     Praising God for His goodness – V. 15b “praising God in a loud voice.”  With such a change taking place in his life this leper returned to thank the God. He praised the Savior for the blessings he had received. How do we make thanksgiving a way of life? We do more then come to a worship service – in service we praise the name of our Lord. As God has blessed you – be a blessing – to those people in your life.

Conclusion: What you are saved for? We are saved for an attitude of gratitude. How do we demonstrate this attitude of gratitude?  We do this by - counting our blessings, recognizing God as the One who blesses us, and praising Him for His goodness. A blessed Thanksgiving in Jesus’ Name.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving Eve
November 21, 2007
1 Samuel 12:24
Serve the Lord

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.”

Introduction: It could be said that Samuel lived and served during a time of transition. He was the last judge to serve Israel as the nation desired to be ruled by a king. Although he resisted a monarchy nevertheless the Lord instructed Samuel to give the people a king.  By divine appointment Saul was brought into contact with Samuel, and Samuel was directed to anoint him as Israel’s first king.

At king Saul’s inauguration Samuel called the people to renewed faithfulness to the Lord who not only had given them a king but who had carried them through many perils.

As we gather together this night to celebrate yet another Thanksgiving Samuel’s words are quite fitting: “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.”-1 Samuel 12:24

At this time of Thanksgiving Samuel reminds us:

I.        Consider what great things He has done for you.

A.     Just consider the blessings God has showered down upon you. These blessings come indeed without our prayer. Luther in His explanation to the 4th Petition reminds us that He provides for us daily. Each and every day the Lord has made it His business to provide for His children – just as you provide for your children.  Our daily bread includes; “everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”  

Interesting enough, Luther also encourages us that in our prayers we should ask the Lord to lead us to know and understand this reality – namely - that He is the one who supplies our needs and then to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

B.     What follows the 4th Petition? Naturally it’s the 5th Petition. The Lord provides for our physical needs. He alone provides for our spiritual needs as well. 

When we petition God to forgive us Luther again would reminds us; “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor on their account deny our prayer; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them; but that He would grant them all to us by grace; for we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. 

So will we also heartily forgive and readily do good to, those who sin against us.”  
We need the Lord’s direction in our life for only with His strength are we able to heartily forgive and readily do good to those who have sinned against us! By ourselves we cannot do this. By His grace it becomes a reality in our lives.   

Transition: Once we have considered the wonders of His love we are moved to serve Him with our very lives.

II.     But be sure to fear the Lord…

A.     “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” is the way wise King Solomon instructs us in Proverbs 1:7.  Samuel and the wise king reach the same conclusion; - we need a loving reverence for God that includes submission to His lordship and confidence in His promises.

B.     Conversely, we are to reject any sort of foolishness. The fool; by definition - is that individual who hates knowledge and correction of any kind.  

Furthermore they are quick to quarrel, they are complacent, and they trust in themselves rather than in God.

Transition: Luther explains that proper respect for God is attained when we are to fear, love and trust in Him above all things. With a proper attitude toward God we can now help and serve our neighbor.

III.   Serve Him faithfully with all your heart.

A.     Best applied with the acronym - “JOY” - Jesus – others- you. Easy to put to memory – it takes a lifetime to live it daily in our lives.

B.     Thus we have the call to faithful service. God has given you a vocation to serve God and your neighbor faithfully in this generation. Each has a divine mission to serve God as we serve our neighbor – no one can be called to any higher service – what you do for Jesus as you serve your neighbor is your mission field!

Conclusion: With sincere and thankful hearts we consider the great things the Lord has done; we fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully from the heart.

When we begin to do this thanksgiving become a habit – it becomes thanks living. A blessed thanksgiving - to each of you - in Jesus’ Name.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Sunday, November 4, 2007

All Saints

November 4, 2007
Genesis 32:22-30

Sermon by Seminarian Chris Hull

In the strong name of our crucified and risen lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Let us pray.  If God Himself be for me, I may a host defy.  For when I pray before me, my foes confounded fly.  If Christ, my head, and master befriend me from above, what foe or what disaster can drive me from his love, Amen.

Your brother is coming with four hundred men behind him.  This is the news Jacob receives from his servants.  Jacob knows that Esau is not coming to give him a hug and butterfly kisses, but to chop off his head.  Why not, Jacob had stolen Esau’s birth rite and taken his blessing from his father Isaac.  He then ran from Esau and became a wealthy man under Laban.  Jacob has the birth rite, blessing from Isaac, and worldly goods, and yet he still fears his brother Esau. He sits alone waiting for day break when he will see his brother and possibly face his death.  In this moment, God appears in the form of a man and wrestles with Jacob.  God, the God who created the world and destroyed it in the flood, becomes a man and wrestles with the flesh of Jacob.  God cripples him, blesses him, and leaves Jacob with no fear of death, for after God, what can man do.  God cripples us his saints in order that he may bless us and forever destroy the fear we have of the devil, world, and our own sinful flesh.



            God wrestles with Jacob.  He does not come down in Jacob’s time of need and give him courage, nor does he send his angels to destroy Esau and his small army. Instead, he grapples and struggles with Jacob and his fear of Esau.  Jacob fears his brother and does not trust the promises of God.  God promised Jacob that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  How can he have many descendants if Esau kills him?  This is the question running through Jacob’s head.  He doubts the promise of God and therefore fears his brother.  He does not fear God, but instead fears the flesh and death.  Therefore, God struggles with Jacob in order to wrestle him away from his fear of death.

            We do this same thing today.  God has promised us everlasting life through the waters of Holy Baptism, yet we still go through this life in fear of sin, death, and the devil.  We fear that next bill in the mail, or that interview we have with the boss to see if we are needed for work through the next year or possibly that exam next week; instead of placing our trust in God that he will provide all that we need to support this body and life.  Like Jacob, we fear those things that do not have power over us.  We fear the devil and his temptations and the world with all its pressure.  We pray to God to take all these things away, but like Jacob, God will not tell us to run away from our troubles in life. God will instead come down and wrestle with us in order to take us away from these fears and instead trust in Him.


             While God wrestles with Jacob, He brings Jacob into submission by crippling him.  Jacob is winning the match and God must do something in order for Jacob to stop using his physical body in order to survive life.  God therefore places his hand on Jacob’s hip and dislocates it.  Jacob is left with a limp for the rest of his life.  He is left with a mark to show that God has humbled him and left him in total reliance on His promises.  Jacob cannot run away from Esau as he did before, but instead must face his brother and have faith that God will not let him die.  Jacob cannot trust in his strength, wisdom, wit, wealth, or any other human tool to overcome the wrath of his brother.  He must trust that God will protect him.

            As Jacob, we pray to God to be faithful to us, yet we still wish to fight our own fights.  We want to bring our own weapons to whatever challenge that comes upon us. When the devil tempts us, we actually believe that we can overcome him by our own reason and strength.  When the world weighs down on us, we think that we can lift that heavy burden with our own power and might.  However, we cannot do this because of our own sinful nature that only wants to give into the temptations of the devil and fear the persecutions of the world.  However, as Jacob, God dislocates our human reason and leaves us crippled.  God cripples us, not by placing his hand on us physically, but by placing the mighty hand of the Law on our hearts and minds. God brings us the Law to cripple us and show us that we cannot face the world and the devil on our own, because we cannot do anything but sin and give into the pleasures of the world.  God not only cripple us, but he kills us.  

God kills us by drowning us in the waters of Holy Baptism. God kills us so that we have no fear of the world and its trials and we are not overcome by the devil and all his minions. God leaves the mark of the cross on our foreheads and upon our hearts so that we may know that we are his and not our own.  We are Christ’s and he shall never abandon us in our hour of need.  He will wrestle us away from the snares of the devil and the burdens of the world.  We need only remember our crippling moment in our baptism, where God killed us and brought us back to a new life, and we may bow our head to the world and have no fear, for Christ has overcome the devil and the world for us.


            Jacob continues to cling to the body of God, demanding a blessing.  Jacob knows that he is weakened by the crushing blow to his hip and knows that only with the blessing of God is he able to face his brother and fear no ill.  Jacob proclaims his reliance on God and prays for a blessing.  God, who has wrestled with Jacob and crippled his leg is gracious and blesses him.  This was the point of the wrestling match the entire time.  God did not come down to challenge Jacob or to cripple him, but to bless him.  He blesses Jacob because Jacob is a weak sinful being.  Jacob is blessed by his birth rite, by his blessing from his father Isaac, and by the gifts given to him from Laban.  More importantly, Jacob received the promise from God that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens.  Nevertheless, God continues showering blessings upon Jacob because he loves him.  God wrestles with Jacob and cripples him so that he may receive the blessing and the promise of the Savior.

            God continues wrestling with us today.  God does even more for us this day than he did for his servant Jacob.  God not only leaves us needing his grace, he leaves us in need of his life giving breath.  God struggled with the flesh by sending his only begotten son into the flesh.  Christ wrestled with the sins of man and overcame the devil, the world, and our sinful condition. He overcame the devil with every nail driven into his hands on the cross.  He created the world anew when his precious blood drained from the tree onto the cursed ground.  Christ forever destroyed our sinful flesh when he resurrected gloriously from the tomb on the eighth day.  Christ struggled with the flesh and won the victory.  As God struggled with Jacob in order to bless him, so Christ struggled with the flesh in order to bless you.  We do not struggle because Christ has already struggled with us and has wrestled us away from the fear of death.

            Be comforted saints of God, for Christ continues blessing you today.  You         receive the birth rite of Christ as you die and resurrect with him through the waters of holy baptism.  On your foreheads bright and glorious shines the witness of Christ’s cross. Christ Himself comes to you this day in his very body and blood in order to grant you peace and forgiveness so that you may have the strength to face the snares and wickedness of the devil.  God has wrestled and struggled with you and now he blesses you as his own child.  Know that as you wrestle with the pains of the world, God struggles to wrestle you away and bring you into his blessed Gospel of light and release.  Christ has wrestled with the devil, killed sin, and death, and therefore now blesses you with the gift of inheritance and everlasting life.  You now have no need of fear, for you walk with the cross of Christ before you and the world can do nothing to you.  Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.