Advent 3 – "A Witness to the Light" – John 1:19-28 – 12/14/14

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A little boy wanted to land a part in the school play. He was so excited that his parents were concerned how he would handle it if he didn’t get a part. So when he came home from school they quickly asked him how the auditions went. The boy was ecstatic. He joyfully told his parents that his teacher had picked him out of all of the other kids to sit in the audience and clap as loud as he could.

I think that John the Baptist would have been wanted to land a part in his school play like that one too.

John was “supporting cast” and definitely not the “lead role.” He was the announcer who was to announce that the time had fully come and the curtain was about to rise. He was the light man, not the shoes of the lead man. His part was to shine the light on the main character when He came onto the stage. John’s big line in the divine drama was, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Artwork from the early Church depicts John the Baptist with an overly large mouth and a hyper-extended index finger pointing to Jesus. John was perfectly content to be known as the “big mouth with the big finger.”

John was born to be a witness. “He came as a WITNESS to bear WITNESS about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear WITNESS about the light.” Continue reading

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Mid-Week Advent 2 – "Come, Thou Precious Ransom, Come" – LSB #350 – 12/10/14

We begin with a bit of background about the author and translator of this hymn that will serve as the basis of our Advent preparations, “Come, Thou Ransom, Come.”

The author is the son of Johann Gottfried Olearius. If you’ll remember from last week, we said that the Olearius’ were a very Lutheran family who seemed to love the name “Johann.” And that makes things a little confusing when you’re trying to connect the right Johann Olearius to a particular hymn, especially since several of them were hymn-writers.

Johann Gottfried Olearius was the son of Gottfried Olearius, who may or may not be the same Johann Olearius whom we talked about last week who authored, “Comfort, Comfort My People.” It’s really confusing.

Johann Gottfried was a Lutheran pastor in Germany who, after he graduated from seminary was called to St. Mary’s Lutheran Church in Halle, where his father was also the pastor. Later, he became the ‘chief pastor.’ Then he became a ‘professor of Theology’ at the church school, until he went totally blind.

The translator of this hymn is August Crull. He was born in Germany. He came to the U.S. for college and graduated from Concordia College in St. Louis and Ft. Wayne. After college, he went to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis where he graduated in 1862. He served as an assistant pastor at Trinity Church in Milwaukee and Director of Lutheran High School. He served a parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan and then became of professor of German at Concordia College – Ft. Wayne, now the seminary. He had a passion for hymnody, translating 20 hymns from German to English and publishing a hymnal titled, “Hymn Book For The Use Of Evangelical Lutheran Schools and Congregations.”

Stanza 1:
Come, Thou precious Ransom, come, only hope for sinful mortals!
Come, O Savior of the world! open are to Thee all portals.
Come, Thy beauty let us see; anxiously we wait for Thee. Continue reading

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Advent 2 – "The Divine Thief" – 2 Peter 3:8-14 – 12/7/14

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The Church’s season of Advent is a time to ‘prepare.’ “Be prepared” is a good rule to live by for more than just for Boy Scouts. It’s good to ‘be prepared’ for Christmas. And it’s good to ‘be prepared’ for disasters. It’s good for men and women to ‘be prepared’ for marriage, and husbands and wives to ‘be prepared’ for children and we’re told that if you’re ‘prepared’ for retirement its going to go a lot better than if your not.

The Church’s season of Advent is a time to ‘prepare.’ The question is, “prepared for what?” If you ask Kohls, Best Buy and Home Depot, they’ll tell you that Advent is a time to “be prepared buy everything that money can buy.” And a lot of people observe the season of Advent as if that were the most important thing to ‘be prepared’ for.

L.L. Bean and Amazon have the slickest advertising and know how to get our attention and our orders. But today, it’s a very poorly dressed man, who only has a first name, and if you look closely you’d probably see locust legs stuck in his teeth. He’s no slick marketing guru. No consumer survey’s to determine what you want to hear. He says what we NEED to hear more than anything else. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Continue reading

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Mid-Week Advent – "Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People" – LSB #347 – 12/3/14

Our goal for these mid-week Advent services will be the same as it is for every other worship service we come here for – “we want to see Jesus.” That’s the goal of worship when we gather here on Sunday mornings or for mid-week Lenten services or for funeral and wedding services.

The path that we plan to follow in these three Advent services is to hold up Jesus Christ before our ears by weaving together selected readings from the Scriptures and selected hymns that are based on those readings.

We tend to be pretty familiar with the Christmas hymns in our hymnal. We even hear them sometimes in the stores where we do our Christmas shopping. But I can’t say that I’ve ever heard an Advent hymn while shopping. And yet, the Advent hymns in our hymnal are real treasures worth taking hold of.

In reviewing the Advent section in our hymnal, I noticed that there was a nice, neat package of three hymns written by Johann Olearius. And those are the three that we will consider together during these services.

So let’s begin with just a bit of background on him. Continue reading

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Advent 1 – Isaiah 64:1-9 – A Dangerous Prayer To Pray – 11/3014

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“Stir up your power, O Lord, and come…” we prayed. That’s a dangerous prayer to pray. When the Lord ‘stirs up His POWER’ He can be dangerous Lord.

• He is, after all, the Lord who, by His POWER, commanded the formless void, “let there be…” “and it was so.”
• This is the Lord, who, by His POWER, commanded the demons, “shut up, be gone” “And it was so.”
• This is the Lord, who by His POWER, whispered a Word to the stormy sea, “be still…” “And it was so.”
• And this is the Lord, who by His POWER, called to the dead, “Lazarus, come out!” “And it was so.”

Do we know what we’re doing when we pray as we have done, “Stir up your POWER, O Lord, and come…”? Are we at all prepared in the event that He answers our prayer?

POWER can be a dangerous thing. In the Greek of the New Testament, the word for POWER is “dunamis,” the word that we get ‘dynamite’ from. On this 1st Sunday in Advent, we prayed, “Light the fuse of your dynamite, O Lord, and come…”

We’re asking Him to “cause an explosion,” to “blow something up,” to “make something happen.” Continue reading

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Last Sunday of the Church Year – "Eternal Punishment" – Matthew 25:46 – 11/23/14

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“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats… And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

That’s the introduction and conclusion of our gospel reading for this Last Sunday of the Church Year. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…” a great SEPERATION will take place. For now, everything is co-mingled –good and bad, right and wrong, sadness and joy, the ugliness and beauty, saint and sinner.

For now says Jesus, ‘leave it that way.’ Let the weeds and the wheat grow together. But on the LAST DAY, “I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Mat.13:30)

But this is not really about weeds and wheat any more than about good fish and bad fish or sheep and goats. This is about men and women, boys and girls, real people, some whose names we know, some we only know by the fact that they share this planet with us, or they have in the past or they will in the future – all living together, and like it or not, no matter how hard we try SEPARATE AND SEGREGATE, co-mingled, co-habitating, co-dependent.

But ‘when the Son of Man comes in glory’ it will be a time of SEPARATION. Some to ETERNAL PUNISHMENT, some to ETERNAL LIFE.

Today, we are going to talk about ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. Continue reading

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Pentecost 23 – "the Day of the Lord" – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – 11/16/14

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Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “Concerning the times and the season, brothers and sisters, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

We've come to that time of year on to the Church’s calendar when our focus is directed to the Lord’s RETURN. Last Sunday, we made a point of saying that the focus of the Christian’s HOPE is the return of the Master to His servants.

Our HOPE is not in earthly governments, that they will finally get it right and establish “peace on earth and good will among men” – even though we carry out our daily vocation in life diligently working for exactly that.

The Christian HOPE is not in science, that scientists will finally the cure for every disease and starving body and we will live forever – even though we carry out or daily vocation in life diligently working for exactly that. Continue reading

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Pentecost 22 – "The Resurrection of the Body" – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – 11/9/14

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St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “We do not want you to be uniformed brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope…”

One of the members of the congregation in Thessalonica has died. He was a believer. He was baptized into Christ where he died with Christ while he was still alive, and was raised with Christ before he died. But now, the brother or sister in Christ has FALLEN ASLEEP.

To “fall asleep” is a good way to think about the death of the believer.

What is ‘SLEEP’ but a time of ‘REST.’ When our bodies are tired from a long day’s work, or as we get older, even a short day’s work, SLEEP is a needed and welcome relief. And if it’s a good sleep, we awake in the morning, refreshed and ready for a new day.

To all who have ears to hear, Jesus says, “come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you REST.” (Matthew 11:28). REST that awakens to a new day that never ends, fully refreshed and completely restored, never grow weary again.

Sleep is also the place where we find rest for the troubled mind and the anxious heart, troubled and anxious from the tensions and stresses and disappointments and sadness and grief that pile up and weigh heavy on me and that as hard as I try to ‘put them behind me,’ I can’t get them off my mind. Sometimes, it’s like a battle within me that I get so weary of fighting.

But in SLEEP, the battle suddenly stops. All of the mental clamor and commotion is switched off. It’s like a cease-fire is declared and everything is quite and there’s peace.

To all who have ears to hear, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

It’s as though, while we were sleeping, the whole world declared PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN. And every conflict is over, and every trouble is past, and every worry is gone.

“We do not want you to be uniformed brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope… Continue reading

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All Saints – "Victory's Spoils" – Revelation 7:9-17 – 11/2/14

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On this Sunday every year, were read the names of all those who were members of this congregation when they died. Some we never knew. Some we knew quite well. They were fathers and mothers, husbands and wives and even the sons of some among us here this morning. Time has passed and the anguish of the grave has faded. Death has lost the terrible sting that it once had. And we give thanks to God for that.

But why do we do this? Why do we name our dead before the Lord? Why do we place flowers at the foot of altar with the names of our loved ones on our lips and in our hearts?

We name our LIVING before the Lord every Sunday in our prayers asking for the Lord’s care for them. But we certainly don’t need to do that for the dead, as some do. We do not pray FOR THE DEAD, because simply put, they don’t need them. Their bodies are in the grave awaiting the resurrection of all flesh. And their souls are in heaven and they ‘with the Lord’ and every sickness and disease both of body and soul is over.

So then, why do we do this? What are we doing when we call out the names of those who have died in the faith as speak their names in our hearts as we do on this day? Continue reading

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Reformation – "Salvation Apart From The Law" – Romans 3:19-29 – 10/26/14

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As some of you know, I hit the big 6-0 this past week. And I’m starting to feel it. And I’m also starting to see it. Over the past several years I’ve been having a growing problem with mirrors. The older I get, the less I like them.

I don’t think I’m aging, but the mirror says otherwise. And mirrors don’t lie. They show you what YOU REALLY LOOK LIKE, not what YOU THINK YOU LOOK LIKE. Mirrors show me things I’d rather not see. A new wrinkle here, an age spot there, and the hair thing, when did that happen? The older I get the less I like mirrors.

The law of God is like a mirror. When we look into the law of God, we see ourselves for what we really are. And we never look as good as we think. One look into the mirror of God’s Law and we shriek, “Woe is me! For I am undone.”

“You shall have no other gods besides me,” says the Law of God. But we’ve got a legion of other gods besides the one, true God. Money especially. But there’s also my carrier and my hobbies and my friends. And the truth is, when push comes to shove, I put them all before God. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” says the Law of God. I thought looked okay because I’m not one of those people who use foul language and I don’t like it when I hear others use that GD talk. But neither do I use God’s name the way I should, “to call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks,” to witness to my neighbor who doesn’t know Christ. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD. Continue reading

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