Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

My Salvation Is Close at Hand - August 20, 2017 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8


“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Perhaps you have heard that sentiment before. The purpose of such sentiments is to get us to look at our lives, to see how we might be better people and perhaps even better Christians. It is a nice sentiment. I hope what you noticed about such a sentiment, as well as similar sentiments, it is a law statement. We know it is law, because it is asking us to do something. I could add other sentimental statements, or pious platitudes such as, “If you knew you were going to die in a month would you do anything different?” and of course I would have to follow that up with the law question, “Then why aren’t you?” The sentiment and the result are the same. The fact of the matter is, and this should not be a surprise to hear, we are conceived and born in sin, every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, we are continually at odds with our Lord and if we seriously and honestly looked at our lives we would be able to see how true this is. Thanks be to God that our Lord continues to be our Lord and continues to give us His many good gifts and blessings. Our Lord continues to be a gracious God as we see in our text.
 
Getting to our text, our Lord gives us the whole lot, both the law and the gospel. Verse one reads, “1Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed’” (v. 1). Our Lord begins by giving us the law, telling us that we are to maintain justice and do what is right. As sinners in a sin filled world we realize that for us to attempt to do this by ourselves is an impossibility. The Lord knows that this is a task we cannot perform which is why He does not stop with this command, but continues with the second part of the verse, giving us His gospel message.
 
Our Lord presents us with the Gospel by telling us, “for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.” Keeping this statement in its context we realize that this statement is being made to the children of Israel and that this is the promise that the Messiah will come to save them. The Lord’s salvation is the Messiah, namely Jesus Christ. This statement is not meant just for the Israelites, it is meant for us today. We have seen the salvation of the Lord. We have seen His righteousness, but we continue to look forward to His second revelation, when the Messiah will return on the last day to take us to be with Himself in heaven.
 
Our text picks up at verse six with the Lord including foreigners in His covenant. We read, “6‘And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered’” (v. 6-8). This is good news for us because we are the foreigners. We are the foreigners who will serve Him, who will love the name of the LORD, who will keep the Sabbath, who will hold fast to His covenant. We will do these things, not in and of ourselves, but because the Lord will work these good works in us. We will do these things, not to earn our salvation, but as a response of active obedience for our salvation which He has earned for us.
 
And because He works these good works in us He will bring us to His holy mountain and give us joy in His house of prayer. He will make our burnt offerings and sacrifices acceptable on His altar, in other words He will make our good works acceptable to Himself. He will gather still others besides us meaning that those who are included in His covenant will be a great number.
 
So we get to the question we ask about every text, what does this mean? What does this mean to us as a church, as a congregation? What does this mean to me personally? This means that we continually remind ourselves of  what God has done; what we cannot do; what God works in and through us; and what we gain.
 
We remember what God has done. Obviously to remember all that God has done would take several days, even years. With that said, it is important to remember what God has done. What He has done here at St. Matthew Lutheran church as a congregation as well as what He has done in our own lives. As a congregation He granted that people got together and saw the need to begin a Christian church. He has granted our church over 100 years even 117 years of being a church. He has granted us a place to worship as well as the continued freedom to worship. We are especially thankful as we are reminded that He has given us both the talents and abilities as well as the means to continue to be His church and his people in this place. He has given us this building in which we worship Him in divine service. Personally we remember and are ever so thankful that He has given us our very lives, at conception. He has given us new life through our baptism which we daily remember and through which we are daily strengthened. We remember that He gives us His Holy Precious Word as well as His true body and blood in His Holy Supper. We remember that He gives us the greatest and most wonderful gift of forgiveness as we confess our sins and hear His most precious words of forgiveness. His Word reminds us of all the prophecies which He has given and how Jesus fulfilled all those prophecies.
 
As I sat down thinking about what God has done for us I began to think about Dr. Martin Luther’s explanations to the articles of the Apostles’ Creed. Immediately I began type out his words, then I thought, maybe I should not take so much from Dr. Luther and I almost erased what I had typed. Then I thought a second time. Why not use Dr. Luther’s words? When I am through preaching you will go home and maybe, just maybe, you will say to yourself, what were those words Pastor Bogs was saying that said how much God has done for me. Then I thought, if I give you Dr. Luther’s words you can go home and if you have them memorized or if you remember them from your own conformation, or of you have forgotten them, then you look them up in your catechism and constantly be reminded of all that God has done for you.
 
With that in mind let us listen to Dr. Luther’s words as he reminds us so well what God has done for us in His explanations to the first and second article of the Apostles’ Creed. He says, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”
 
We remember what God has done, but we also remember what we cannot do. Again, Dr. Martin Luther said it so well in his explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed when he said, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason our strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”
 
In and of ourselves we can do no good thing. In and of ourselves we can only do the evil that is born in us. We cannot keep God’s Word. We cannot keep His commandments. We cannot do all the things that He would have us to do. We cannot even respond to all the good things that He has done and continues to do for us. As a matter of fact, apart from our Lord all we can do is rebel against Him as His enemies and we do this on a daily basis, breaking not one or two, but all the commandments.
 
Knowing that we can do no good thing in and of ourselves we are moved to remember what God works in and through us. It is God who works a renewing of our faith. It is God who works a renewing of our commitment to being in the Word. It is God who works in us the response to come to His House of worship. It is God who works in us a response to make regular and diligent use of His means of grace, those means through which He comes to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give to us. Any and all good works that we do we do because it is God working in and through us.
 
When we stop and think about it, it is rather amazing and to use the language from God’s Word, it is rather a mystery. None of us was here when this congregation began. Soon we will pass away and yet this congregation will continue on. This is not our church. This is not our congregation. As a matter of fact, if you look at the history of this congregation, it has gone through some tough times, mostly because of the attacks of Satan, working through those who have tried to undo what God has done. That the devil is working so hard might give us a little confidence that we are doing something right, because you know the devil is not going to waste his time on something he already has.
 
Because God works good works in and through us, we gain all the gifts which He has promised to us. Because of God’s good works, namely because of His work of sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to live for us, living perfectly as we cannot, and then taking our sins upon Himself and paying the price for our sins, by shedding His holy precious blood, because of Jesus, we gain eternal life with Him in heaven.
 
“1Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed’” (56:1). With the help of the Holy Spirit we respond by working to maintain justice and doing what is right. We respond, with His help to be the people He would have us to be in this place. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we pray that in this place God’s Word may continue to be proclaimed in all its truth and purity. We pray that the Holy Spirit may use us as His congregation for the extending of His kingdom, for the strengthening of His people and for the praise and glory of His Holy Name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, August 14, 2017

College Students and Intellectual Independence - A Plea


So, your grown up and you’re off to college. You’re ready to become an individual who thinks for yourself, wonderful. The temptation and challenge ahead of you is to not be fooled into a false intellectual independence. What I mean is that you may think you are becoming independent in your thinking by giving up the thinking, the moral and ethical values of your parents, those values on which you were raised, and deciding for yourself what are your moral and ethical values. Beware! What tends to happen is that you become deceived by those who would espouse another moral, ethical value than you were taught so that you have simply traded one intellectual thinking for another, a foreign one. In plan terms, you will be tempted to give up what your parents have taught for what your professor would have you think with his encouragement that he wants you to be a free independent thinker.

But, does your professor truly want you to be an independent thinker? More often than not he or she simply wants you to be one of his or her disciples regurgitating what they think and then telling you only then are you truly a free thinker. And unfortunately most of these professors have never actually had to live in the real world that you and your parents live in so they really have no clue about the affect of their ideas.

So, does your professor truly want you to be an independent thinker? I would suggest not and I might suggest a way to actually find out if they do want you to think for yourself. Beware that this suggestion might get you kicked out of class or given a bad grade, so perhaps it might best be done in as anonymous way as possible, like placing a note on the professors desk without them knowing. The note might say something like this: Dear Prof. As a members of this class we are wondering if you truly want us to be free thinkers? Will we be made fun of and called name, even down graded and ejected from class if we disagree with you or question any of your teaching? Or would you rather we simply regurgitate what you well us and keep quite in order to pass? Please give us an answer and an honest answer so we may know how to proceed in class.

Your professors response and answer or lack of answer should give you some insight into whether or not you are expected, encouraged, or discouraged in being a free thinker.

Having known people in the college teaching profession, and having read evaluations of professors it is well noted that most professors do not want any disagreement or contentiousness from the students. They simply want their students to speak and mimic them. Which brings me back to my original concern, that of your intellectual independence. Might I remind you that there are always people who think like you and who think different from you. You are never truly independent of everyone else when it comes to thinking, thus I would encourage you, do not give up the way in which your parents taught you. They live in the world. They know right from wrong. They are the ones who got you this far in life. Do not give up what they taught because you think you will be more intelligent if you speak like your professor rather than your parents, even if your parents are not professors or Doctors, they are life experienced, real world thinkers.

Give thanks to God for your parents, for their values, for their love and for instilling in you what is mete, right and salutary.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

He Has Endowed You with Splendor - August 6, 2017 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Text: Isaiah 55:1-5

Many of you got up this morning, as you do on most mornings; you took a shower, brushed your teeth, maybe you shaved, some of you put on make-up; you got up and got dressed; you got yourself ready to come to church, to worship, to divine service to be given the gifts the Lord has to give. We might say that you prepared yourself with as much outward beauty as you humanly could because you wanted to look your best when you came to the divine service of your Lord. Although it may not be as noticeable today as it is at Christmas and Easter, we do prepare ourselves, at least externally, when we come to divine service at our Lord’s house. Today we will be talking about being glorified and the difference between outward glory and inward glory.
 
Our text is a part of God’s invitation through Isaiah for the Israelites to come and take part in the Lord’s salvation. The time of our text is when the Israelites were in exile. The Israelites owned nothing and owed tribute for everything. They were a people without a country. They had nothing. Here in our text Isaiah offers the Israelites the prophecy that they will return from exile. He is giving them hope for the future. We can relate well to the Israelites, because we too are in exile in this world. We can relate to the popular hymn, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home.” We are strangers in this world. We own nothing and we owe all that we have to the Lord. We are living in exile here until we reach our permanent home in heaven.
 
The hope for the future that Isaiah gives is that the Israelites will no longer have to pay tribute. Their hope for the future is that they will be able to buy and eat without money or cost. Isaiah’s reference is, of course, to a spiritual eating and drinking. God’s salvation is without cost to us. What is behind this hopeful future is the prophecy which Isaiah spoke in chapter fifty-three. The cost for God’s salvation was paid for by the suffering servant, the Messiah, namely Jesus Christ and His suffering and death on the cross. Jesus paid the cost, the price for our sins, so that salvation costs us nothing.
 
Getting into our text, verse one reads, “1Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is. 55:1). Here we have the invitation and notice that this invitation is to all who are thirsty and this thirst does not mean a physical thirst. Spiritual thirst is what is important, is what is most important. The Apostle Peter reiterates this in one of his epistles when he says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). In the same way that you cannot force a person who is not hungry or thirsty to eat or drink, neither can you force a person who wants nothing to do with God to read His Word, to attend Bible Class and Divine Service, to have personal and family devotions and so forth. So, is Isaiah’s invitation to us? Isaiah’s invitation is to us if we are thirsty. How do we know if we are thirsty? We know we are thirsty, spiritually thirsty,  if we have a desire to be in God’s Word. We are thirsty if we are eager to come to divine service, if we are eager to read and study His Word, if we are eager and desire to confess our sins and hear God’s Word of forgiveness, if we are eager and desire to come to the Lord’s Table to eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins. On the other hand, we are not thirsty if we can easily find excuses as to why we do not have the time to be in His Word, to come to divine service and Bible class, to make use of the means of grace. We are not thirsty if we can easily find other things to do, other places to be, and truly do not desire to be where and when the gifts of God are given out. Let us be honest folks, the excuse that we do not have time is just that, an excuse. We find time or make time to do all the things we want to do, why cannot we find or make the time to be in God’s Word, except that we do not want to be in His Word. As we have said before, it is a matter of priorities. We make the time to do what is important to us.
 
Going on in verse two we read, “2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Is. 55:2). What is “not bread” and “what does not satisfy” are in reference to the things of this world. This almost sounds like a stewardship statement. On what are you spending your money? Are you spending your money on the things of this world, trying to make yourself happy in this world? or are you buying and eating what is good and in what your soul delights? In other words, are you spending your money on the things of this world in an attempt to make yourself happy? Things like your house or even a second home in which to vacation; a boat; an overwhelmingly consuming hobby, one that takes all your time, energy and finances? Are you spending your money on the things of this world in an attempt to make yourself happy and wondering why you are still unhappy? And so you double your spending thinking these things will make you happy and still wonder why they do not? The alternative our text suggests is to listen to the Lord, to eat what is good and to delight in His riches. In other words, the way to satisfy yourself is not in the things of this world, but to delight in the spiritual blessings of the Lord which are given and received through His Word and Sacraments.
 
Continuing on in verse three we read, “3Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David ” (Is. 55:3). God has made an everlasting covenant to all who believe in Him. His covenant is that He is our God and we are His people. He has chosen us to be His people and He has sent His “sure love” which He promised through “David” who is Jesus to seal and fulfill His covenant with us.
 
In verse four we read,“4Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples” (Is. 55:4). Jesus is our leader and commander. Jesus is the witness that God has accomplished what He said. Jesus is the witness who paid the cost for us to come, buy, eat and drink. Literally, Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross paid for our salvation.
 
Finally verse five reads, “5Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you” (Is. 55:5). We are the nations that “you do not know.” We did not know the Lord, but the Holy Spirit has worked through His Word and Sacraments to call us to faith, to strengthen us in our faith and to keep us in our faith.
 
Our Gospel reading for this morning reminds us, again, that Jesus is truly human and truly God. We see His humanity in His care and concern for the people. We see His divinity in His power over the things of this world, including and especially in our reading, that He blessed the fish and loaves so that they multiplied and were able to feed over five thousand people, perhaps, including women and children, over 15, 000 people. In our Epistle lesson Paul emulates Christ in his care and concern for his people, the children of Israel. Paul says he would give his life to save his people. Paul’s bottom line, if you will, in the epistle lesson is the fact and the reminder that one is a child of Abraham, not by birth, not by flesh, not by DNA, but by faith. As we have talked about in Bible class time and again, the covenant the Lord made, back in the Garden of Eden, first to Adam and Eve, was not a covenant of flesh, but a covenant of grace. The Lord did not make two covenants, one with Israel and one with Christians. The Lord made one covenant and that covenant is a covenant of grace and faith.  In other words, it is not what is on the outside that counts, not one’s DNA, but what is on the inside, faith in one’s heart, faith not in self but in Jesus.
 
If you have ever followed the history of the children of Israel, and we have been doing that in Bible Class, I contend that their history looks a lot like our history as a Christian America. Of course, at this point in our history, we are not that much of a Christian America and that is exactly the point. Just as Israel at one time, were God’s people, yet they gave up their covenant with the Lord, so at one point much or even most of America was a Christian land, but too many have given up their faith to follow the culture of this country and the world, rather than to follow the God of Holy Scripture. As we talked about last week and before, our problems all go back to the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve’s sin. Their sin has been genetically passed down to us today. We are conceived and born in sin. Our every inclination is to sin. It is this sin which separates us from God. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, the price for sin is death, physical death and worse eternal spiritual death. Thanks be to God that the price has been paid. Jesus paid the price for our sin by suffering the punishment for us, in our place, so that forgiveness costs us nothing, because Jesus paid the price.
 
As you may remember I began by talking about how we get ourselves ready to come to the divine service of our Lord, how we clean ourselves up and put on our finest for the Lord. Every Sunday morning, and maybe even every day we decorate our bodies, the outside shell of ourselves. The problem is that while we may be decorating our outsides, we still have the same cruddy inside. Although we are Christians and our sins have been forgiven, we remain at the same time sinner and saint. So, we may look good on the outside, but we are still sinners on the inside and there is no way that we can ever change that fact. We can change our appearance on the outside; we can change what others see, but we cannot change our inside. It is God alone who can change our inside. It is God alone who redecorates our inside with glory, and that is what is truly glory.
 
The invitation that Isaiah presented to the children of Israel from the Lord is the same invitation that our Lord offers us today through His Word and Sacraments. The invitation is for us to come, to buy and to eat, without cost. The invitation is to throw off the things of this world, the outward adornments, which do not satisfy and to put on the glory of our Lord, the true glory which He freely gives. We do this by being in God’s Word, by reading our Bibles, by having personal and family devotions, by attending Bible Class and divine service, by remembering our Baptism and how through our Baptism we were made God’s children, by confessing our sins, all our sins and by hearing His most beautiful and precious words of forgiveness, and by partaking in His Sacraments, especially by partaking in His true Body and true Blood, in, with and under the bread and wine in His Holy Meal. Indeed, it is through these very means that our Lord comes to us and gives to us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. God freely gives and we are given to. So let me continue to encourage you, rejoice, then, and be given the gifts the Lord has to give. Rejoice, and know that the Lord has endowed you with glory, for Jesus’ sake, and to Him be the glory. Amen.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Lord Set His Love on You and Chose You - July 30, 2017 - Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) - Text: Deuteronomy 7:6-9

How odd? One of the laws of nature, as it were, is that very often the littlest or the runt of a litter is left to die. Unless the newborn can take care of itself, fight its way to the mother for nourishment, it is left to die. How odd? We are conceived and born in sin. Our nature is to sin. Our nature is to disobey God, to refuse and reject the gifts He has to give. Our nature is to actually fight against God as His enemy. How odd? Even though our spiritual condition is at odds with our Lord, He loves us and cares for us. Rather than leave us to die, rather than fight with us or against us, He chooses us, He calls us, by name. He calls us to faith. He gives us faith. He redeems us, buying us back, purchasing us, not with silver or gold, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. How odd indeed?
 
As the cliche goes, let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with God’s first promise. After creating a perfect world, a world that God declared as good, even very good, God created and placed two people, Adam and Eve into the perfect world and the perfect garden He had created just for them. Because they had nothing of their own, God also gave them the ability to give to back to Him, that is He gave them a free will so that they could freely obey Him and in this way they could respond to all that He had given to them. At this point in history, before their fall into sin they did have perfect free will. They could freely decide to do what was good. Unfortunately they did not obey the Lord. Unfortunately they disobeyed and they sinned. This sin brought the punishment of death, physical death, but worse, apart from God’s intervention it would be eternal spiritual death, hell in other words. Fortunately, because God is love, He immediately stepped in and  made a promise. God’s promise was to Adam and Eve and to all people without regard to culture. God’s promise was that He would take care of Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience. He would provide someone who would pay the price for their sin.
 
As time went on, God narrowed the fulfillment of His promise to the line of Abraham, that is God promised that the Savior to be born would be born through the narrow family line of Abraham. Notice, Abraham did not choose God, God chose Him. There was nothing innately special about Abraham, as a matter of fact we are told about Abraham’s idols. Again, there was nothing innately special about Abraham simply that God chose Him. God promised Abraham that He would make him a great nation, that He would make him a prosperous people and most importantly that the Savior of all nations, the Savior of all people, the Savior of all cultures, the Savior of the world would be from His descendants.
 
And finally, at just the right time. At just the right time in history, at just the right time in the world, God fulfilled His promise. He fulfilled His promise in the birth of a child, the Christ child. This child whose birth we celebrate every Christmas was born for a purpose, to die. And that is what He did. After living a perfect life, which is the fullness of the Gospel, not simply that Jesus died, but that He lived perfectly for us in our place because we could not be perfect as God demands, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” After obeying all God’s commands perfectly. After fulfilling all the law perfectly, for us, in our place, He took all our sins and imperfection on Himself. He freely gave His life, exchanging His perfection for our imperfection, exchanging our sins for His life and He suffered and died, paying the price for our sins.
 
But let’s rewind and get back to our text. God through Moses tells us in our text for this morning that we are a treasure to God. We read verse six and seven, “6For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples” (v. 6-7). The children of Israel were God’s people, descendants of Abraham. They had a rather roller coaster existence. In our text, Moses reminded the children of Israel that they were a treasure to God, His chosen people.
 
Moses reminds them that God chose them. God chose them, not because of their size. They were not a great nation when God chose them, as a matter of fact, God chose them before they became a great nation and it was only because of the Lord that they would become a great nation. As we look back at their history we see that under the rule of King David and King Solomon they had their glory years as a nation, enjoying many blessings from the Lord. This was after many ups and downs and before many more ups and downs that followed in their history.
 
Moses reminds the people that it was not they who chose the Lord, but it was God who chose them and set His love on them. It was the Lord who promised that they would be His people and He would be their God. It was the Lord who delivered them time and again and it was the Lord who allowed for them to be disciplined time and again, because of His love for them.
 
Continuing on in our text Moses reminds the people that it was God who acted first. We read picking up at verse eight, “8but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” )v. 8-9( God remembered the oath, the promise He made. Actually we might say the Lord continually remembered the oath, the covenant, the promise He made. Even better, the Lord never forgot His oath, covenant and promise. The children of Israel constantly forgot, refused, and reject the Lord’s gifts and promises, but the Lord never did and He never does.
 
Moses reminds the people how the Lord had previously delivered them from slavery in Egypt. It was the Lord who had called them to be His people. It was the Lord who had made them a great nation, at least at the time that they were in Egypt they were becoming a great nation as in have a great number of people. It was because of the gifts and blessing and because of the Lord’s favor that they were the nation they were.
 
Mostly, Moses’ words remind us that God is faithful and His steadfast love and covenant last to a thousand generations. God never forgets nor does He ever go back on His promises. God’s Word is sure and true and God always does what He says. Even more than depending on the most dependable person we may imagine, we can depend on the Lord. Although we may struggle to keep our word and promises, the Lord’s Word never fails.
 
What Does This Mean? And what does this mean for us today? Today Moses’ words remind us that before God even began creating the world, He had us, you and me in mind. Before He began creation He chose us to love us. He looked through time to this very day and saw us. Now, that might be difficult for us to imagine, but as we said last week, God does not live in time as you and I do. God created time for us. God lives in the eternal present, so that everything that is happening to us through time is happening all at once for the Lord. Thus, it was and is easy for Him to have us in mind at the time of creation.
 
On our part, our condition is terminal, at least our physical condition is terminal. We are all dying. We will die. Our bodies will wear out. We are conceived and born in sin. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission, not doing what we should be doing and we sin sins of commission, doing what we should not be doing. We sin and the result is that we are dying. We are dying a physical death as our bodies age and are infected with sin. Remember, the judgement on sin is physical death. Yet even worse, we are dying a spiritual death, the result which, left to ourselves, would be a judgement of eternal spiritual death. Our need, our real need is forgiveness of sins. We cannot forgive ourselves. We cannot earn our forgiveness. Our forgiveness must come from outside of us. Our forgives has been purchased and won for us by Jesus. We need and we get help from outside ourselves.
 
So, we revel in, we delight in, we respond to all that our Lord does for us and gives to us. We revel in, we delight in, we respond to the fact that we love because He first loved us. We revel in, we delight in, we respond to the fact that, as Paul tells us in our epistle lesson, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” and “]nothing[ in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our Lord has taken care of our spiritual condition. Jesus has paid the price for our sin. The judgement we face will not be eternal spiritual death, but will be eternal life. His life for ours. Yes, we may have to suffer physical death, unless the Lord returns first, and that is a possibility. Either way, we will soon meet and be with the Lord and I would suggest that day will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. Thanks be to God that we are ready and we remain ready and in confidence we look forward to that day.
 
I believe the key to this morning’s text is the key to all of Holy Scripture. As I have said before, the direction of salvation is always top down, from heaven to earth, from God to man. Those who would espouse what we call decision theology, encouraging you to make a decision for Jesus, to choose Jesus as you personal Savior, reject original sin. In other words, they do not believe we are conceived and born in sin, nor that one’s will is tainted by sin, so we are able to choose Jesus. As we read our Bible, from the Old Testament though the New Testament, what we read is not an attempt on God’s part to get us to choose Him. Rather what we read time and again, like our text for this morning is the reminder that God chose us. I like the illustration and I know I have used it before, but it goes like this. Remember when you were in school. At recess time you would choose two people to pick teams to play a game. Suppose one of the captains was your best friend. Suppose you knew, you chose in your heart to be on your best friend’s team. Did that matter, your choosing? No, what mattered was that your friend chose you. It does not matter if we choose Jesus, which we cannot do because our will has been tainted by sin. What matters most is that He has already chosen us, you and me. He has chosen us. He gives us faith through the waters of Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness of sins through His Word, through confession and absolution and through His Holy Supper. He keeps us in faith through His Word and His Holy Supper. He has so many gifts and blessing He wants to give to us. My prayer is that you will continue to be given the gifts He has to give so that he may continue to stir in us our response of praise saying, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Apart from Me There Is No God - July 23, 2017 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11) - Text: Isaiah 44:6-8

We’re number one! We’re number one! Every team and everyone on the team likes to shout, we’re number one! It is a great feeling to be number one. In a couple months, Lord willing as we say, we will more than likely hear the chant, Astros, Astros, as the baseball season winds down and moves into the playoffs. And there is nothing wrong with following your favorite sports team, rooting for them to win. Sports are a great pastime. Unfortunately, it is when we put too much emphasis on sports, when sports become all consuming, that is when we forget what really matters. There was an article in one of the papers a while back giving a little background on sports and on the Olympics in particular and reminding us that the Olympics were originally a time to show off ones military might and to honor one or more of the Greek gods. Again, do not get me wrong, I like watching sports and the Olympics. I think that sports, watching sporting events and more particular participating for the exercise is a great idea, but I really do not like the glorification of athletes, no matter how good they are, nor the idea of a person being so tied to the winning or losing of a team that it affects their mood. When it comes to the Olympics, which now we see every other year, last year being the Summer games and next year being the Winter games, I am not so keen on the idea of the Greek gods being pushed on me, as if the Greek society was something special for being so open minded as having not one, but several gods. The upshot of this introduction being, according to some in our society, what a terrible, intolerant person I am for espousing only one God and saying there is only one way to heaven. And that is what are text is talking about today.
 
Our text begins by telling us that the LORD is the only God, as we read in verse six, “6Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god’” (v. 6). The LORD is Israel’s King and Redeemer. The LORD Almighty is the only one true God, the maker of heaven and earth. The LORD is the ruler over Israel, and not just the Israel of old, but of the new Israel. He is the ruler of the new Kingdom. He is ruler over all believers. The LORD is Israel’s Redeemer, again, not just Israel of old, but He is the Redeemer of all people. In other words, the LORD is Jesus and Jesus is the LORD.
 
The LORD is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. The LORD is eternal. He has no beginning and He has no end. He always was and always will be. He lives in the eternal present so for Him there is no yesterday, today and tomorrow there is only the present, the now, the eternal now. The LORD is God and God is the LORD. Jesus is God and God is Jesus. The LORD is Jesus and Jesus is the LORD.
 
The LORD is the only God, apart from Him there is no God. This belief flies smack in the face of those who say there is more than one way to heaven. I know you have heard the opinions of others, such statements as, “We need to be more open minded and tolerant of other religions.” “It does not matter what you believe, as long as you believe enough or are sincere in your faith, in what you believe.” If that were the case, that it does not matter in what or in whom you believe or that you simply are sincere or believe enough, then why did Jesus bother dying on the cross? If there are many ways to heaven, if sincerity of faith were the issue, then Jesus died on the cross for nothing. The LORD, God, says, that apart from Him there is no God and apart from Him there is no salvation. So, which is it? Are there many ways to the same place? or is there only one way?
 
Who knows the answer to that question? That question is best answered by someone who has been around for a long time and knows the answer. And who knows as the LORD knows. We read verse seven, “7Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen” (v. 7). Only the LORD knows what has happened since the beginning of the world, because He is the one who created the world and He is the only One who was there when He created the world. Darwin does not know what has happened since the beginning of the world, because he was not there. Scientific theories do not know what has happened since the beginning of the world, because they were not there, and that is why they are  only theories because they cannot be proven. God alone knows what happened at creation and what has happened since the beginning of our time because He alone was there and He alone tells us what happened in His Word.
 
The LORD has established His ancient people. That does not mean the children of Israel, but it means all the peoples that He has created. The LORD has established His ancient people that is all believers in Jesus. It is God’s will that all people hear His Word and come to faith. It is God’s will that all people hear His Word and are saved. That all people come to faith and are saved is God’s will, even though He also gives us the will to refuse and resists His salvation. And since the fall into sin, since we are all conceived and born in sin, and since our will has been tainted by sin, our only option, apart from the help of the Holy Spirit, is to refuse, resist and reject His salvation and we see people do just that, refuse, resist and reject His salvation week in and week out, day in and day out.
 
So, how do we know who is right and who is not? As we learned a couple weeks ago, we know that a true prophet is known by the truth of his prophecy. If his prophecies come true, all his prophecies, then he is a true prophet. If any one of his prophecies does not come true, then he is a false prophet. God challenges all prophets, especially those false prophets to whom He has not revealed the truth. He challenges the psychic friends hotline. He challenges fortune tellers. He challenges palm readers. He challenges them all to proclaim what has happened since the beginning of time and what will happen in the future. He challenges them because He knows they do not know what they are talking about, because only He knows what was, what is, and what will be.
 
God says to us, “do not be afraid, the Lord is on your side.” We read verse eight, “8Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any” (v. 8). These words are a reminder that we do not need to be afraid on two counts. First, we do not need to be afraid of those who will persecute us because of our lack of open mindedness, our intolerance, especially our intolerance of sin. We do not need to be afraid of those who would persecute us for saying there is only one God and that God is the LORD. We do not need not be afraid of those who would persecute us for saying that there is only one way to heaven. For the Bible tells us there are false gods and idols, but there is no true God besides the LORD.
 
Second, we do not need to be afraid of divine retribution, that is we do not need to be afraid because we have been sinful and we continue to sin. We do not need to be afraid because we have been saved. We do not need to fear eternal spiritual death, which would be the result of our sin, because Jesus has given His life, He has shed His blood for us on the cross. Jesus has suffered the eternal punishment, which should have been ours, for us, in our place. It has already been accomplished.
 
Isaiah reminds us that God is our Rock, our fortress. In the New Testament, in first Corinthians we are even told that the Rock is Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). Where do we go when the persecutions of this world are upon us? We go to the Rock, to Christ, who is our fortress and protection. Where do we go when our sinful nature is closing in on us, accusing us of a multitude of sin? We go to the Rock. It is this same Rock that becomes a crushing bolder on those who do not believe. The Rock is Christ the Lord, the King of all, the Judge of all, and the Redeemer of all.
 
Our text for today is one that can best be summarized by three times answering the question, “how is this done?” And we will answer that question with some catechism review. So, if you would like to follow along, you can open your hymnal to pages 322-323. How is this done? How does God know what has happened since the beginning of the world? This is done by God the Father who has created all things and still preserves them. Dr. Martin Luther expressed it best in his explanation to the First Article. I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
 
How is this done? How is it that the LORD is our Redeemer? Again, going back to Dr. Martin Luther. He expressed it best in his explanation to the Second Article. I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
 
And, how is this done? How is it that we have been established as the people of God? And one more time, going back to Dr. Martin Luther. He expressed it best in his explanation to the Third Article. I believe that I cannot by my own reason our strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
 
The world would have us believe that there are many ways to heaven. Actually, the many ways can be summed up in just two, because what seems to be the way of many ways, is just a variation of just the one way and that one way is through self. In reality then, there are basically only two religions in our world. All religions will fit into these two basic religion groups. All religions, except the Christian faith, can be summarized by saying that a person is saved by the good works they do that is by the character of the person. In other words, we become our own savior, our own god. The other way is the way of the Bible, the Christian church, which teaches that salvation comes from outside ourselves. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus and His saving work of living the perfect life for us, taking our sins and dying on the cross for us. So you can depend on yourself and the uncertainty of your life, or you can depend on the Lord and the certainty of Him, His Word and the giving of His life for yours. Praise the Lord that He has made us His own, by His grace through faith which He has given to us through the waters of Holy Baptism, which He strengthens in us through His Word and His Holy Supper, and He keeps us in faith so that we live under Him in His kingdom. And He stirs in us our response of faith to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Word Will Not Return Empty - July 16, 2017 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Isaiah 55:10-13


Have you ever tried to talk to someone, but the whole while it seems like their mind is somewhere else? If you are a parent, have you ever spoken to your child and felt as if the words you were saying were going in one ear and coming out the other? I suppose that even children feel that way, at times, about speaking to their parents. Have you ever sat watching a television show or the news, or gone to a movie, or read a book and when it was all over you thought to yourself, “What did I just see, read, hear, or whatever?” Our minds are remarkable things, but unless our attention is on whatever we are doing we may miss out. Although we live in a world that speaks of multitasking, that is doing more than one thing at a time, a wise pastor once told me, when we multitask, we are doing more than one thing half-heartedly and not giving one hundred percent to any task thus all the things we are doing while multi-tasking are not done with our best effort. This is especially true when it comes to God’s Word, to our lives and the priorities of our lives. Today our lessons focus our attention on the importance of God’s Word.
 
    Before we get to our text it is necessary to do a little background study. First, let us go back a couple of chapters and look at Isaiah chapter fifty-three. This is the chapter which prophecies the coming of the Messiah. In this chapter, chapter fifty-three Isaiah, describes the Messiah as a Suffering Servant Messiah. He tells us that the Messiah will come as a human being, that He will take all our sins on Himself, that He will suffer and die on the cross for us, in our place. He will suffer the suffering and death, the eternal spiritual death penalty pronounced in Eden, that is He will suffer hell, which should be ours to suffer, for us in our place so that we might be given forgiveness of sins, and with forgiveness we will be given life and salvation.
 
From Isaiah fifty-three we move to the next chapter, Isaiah fifty-four  in which we are given words of our future glory in heaven. These words are given to us only because of the work accomplished by the Messiah, the work prophesied in the previous chapter, chapter fifty-three. Next we move to the first part of chapter fifty-five, the verses right before our text. These verses invite us to take part in the salvation which is ours, gained for us by the Messiah.
 
All of this brings us to our text. The first verse of our text, verse ten reminds us that it is God who gives rain and snow. He gives the rain and the snow which, “come down from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread for the eater” (v. 10). These words are both literal and figurative. Our Great God gives us rain and snow to water the earth so that the plants bud and flourish. Our Great God also gives us His Word and sacraments which water us spiritually so that we may grow and flourish in our faith.
 
How do we respond to God’s gifts of His Word and sacraments? Are we joyfully given His gifts? Or do we neglect to be given, even refusing and rejecting by absenting ourselves from the very place His gifts are given out? Do we even refuse and neglect to believe His Word and promises? We neglect to be given God’s Word and promises when we are unfaithful in our worship attendance as well as our daily reading of God’s Word. To be honest, we can go so far as to say that we despise God’s Word and promises when we neglect to be in His Word. We are offered ample opportunity here at St. Matthew to be in the Word. We are offered the Word in the divine worship service every Sunday. We are offered Sunday morning Bible classes. We are offered other Bible studies during the week, a Wednesday study, a Thursday evening study a Saturday men’s and a Saturday women’s study. We make available the devotional book The Portals of Prayer for home personal and family devotions. The Sunday sermon is available online to read. All of these are ways in which we are given the opportunity to hear God’s Words and promises. If we are not taking part in these, then we might truly say we are despising God’s Word and refusing and rejecting His gifts.
 
Continuing in verse eleven of our text God tells us about the word that goes out from His mouth. He says, “it will not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (v. 11). As we have said many times, God’s Word is a word with power, power to give and do what it say. God’s Words and promises do what they say. God gives us His Word and Sacraments to give to us and to bring us to faith, to strengthen us in our faith, to remind us of our forgiveness, earned for us and given to us by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, and His Word and Sacraments remind us of the gift and promise of eternal salvation with Him in heaven.
 
As we journey through this life, we may see what we think are set backs and failures, but God’s Word never fails. God knows what is best for us in our life even when it might not look like that is so because we cannot see it. There may be times when we think we know what is best for ourselves and when God allows things to go not the way we want or think they should go, then at those times of difficulty we may think God’s Word has failed. It is at these times that we need to remind ourselves of God’s Word immediately preceding our text, verses eight and nine, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8-9). God has promised and He accomplishes the fact that His Word never fails. We might not see what good God has in mind, and this lack of vision may be especially true when we are in the middle of a difficult situation, but we can know for certain that God will work all things out for the best, for those who are called according to His purposes.
 
The last two verses of our text invite us to believe the truth of God’s Word and to look forward to the joy that will be ours in heaven, the joy of paradise restored. Just as Adam and Eve destroyed the perfection of Eden, so Jesus came and restores all things so that heaven is a place of eternal perfection.
 
Our Gospel reading for this morning is a beautiful application of Isaiah’s prophecy in our text. In Jesus’ parable of the Sower and seed we see that God is the sower and that what He sows is His Word. When His Word is not listened to or read, but is neglected, refused and rejected, it eventually dies off. In the same way, when we neglect, refuse and reject God’s Word we can eventually lose our faith.
 
When God’s Word is sown on fertile soil, that is when we listen to and strive, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live according to God’s Word, then His Word takes root, springs up and bears abundant fruit in our hearts and lives. This listening, taking root, springing up and bearing abundant fruit is our prayer each and every Sunday as well as each and every day, that is that the Lord will work through His Word so that His Word might take root in your lives, spring up, and bear abundant fruit. And we add that this work might be done to the praise and glory of Jesus name.
 
For whatever reason, God has chosen to come to us today through means. He comes to us through the means of grace, that is through the means of His Word as well as through the means of confession and absolution as well as His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God has chosen to come to us through these ordinary earthly means, water, wine, bread and word and through these ordinary means He has given to come to us to give to us and bring us to faith, to strengthen us in that faith which He gives, to remind us that we have already been forgiven, to remind us that we have the gift of heaven, that we have the promise of eternal life and salvation. God comes to us in His Word and Sacraments on a daily basis to give us His good gifts and blessings. The usual way we are given His good gifts and blessings is through the means which He has chosen to give them, His means of grace, His Word and Sacraments.
 
When we neglect to be given God’s many good gifts and blessings, when we refuse, reject and resist His Word and His sacraments, He cannot give us His gifts. Without His gifts we are lost and condemned creatures. Without His gifts we have no future, we have nothing for which to hope.  Without His gifts we have only ourselves in which to hope and if you have ever tried to hope in yourself you know that is not much for which to hope. When we depend on ourselves we fail. We even fall into despair. God is not just an answer to all that goes on in life, He is the only answer to make sense out of life.
 
God tells us that His Word never fails. His Word never fails because He is the one who has given us His Word. We fail, but God never fails. The exciting news is that even when we fail, even when we neglect God’s Word, even when we have fallen as far away from our Lord as far as we think we can fall, He is always right there, looking for us, working to bring us back into His fold. What has God done for you lately? He has given you each new day, because without Him you would not have any new days. He daily rains down His gifts of health and strength and daily food. He daily gives us all that we need to support this body and life, including clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children and all that we need to support this body and life. He gives us gifts talents and abilities as well us our jobs and the ability to work to make a living. He gives us our most important needs, our spiritual blessings, forgiveness of sins, faith, strengthening of faith, life, eternal life and salvation. He gives us His Word and Sacraments through which He comes to us with His good gifts and blessings. And the list can go on and on. God gives and gives and gives and we are given to. So to simplify matters we might just say, everything that we have spiritually as well as physically, emotionally and mentally, everything we have is a gift from God.
 
Daily we carry on a conversation with God. God speaks to us each and every day of our lives. He speaks to us through His Word. We speak back to Him in prayer. It is when we are in the Word and the Word, Jesus Christ, is in us that we know that God’s Word will accomplish what He sent it to do, give, strengthen and keep us in faith. I pray that the Lord will continue to open your hearts and minds so that you will hear His Word and so that Word might take root, spring up, and bear abundant fruit in your lives, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. And as always our response then is, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

May the Lord Do So - July 2, 2017 - Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 08) - Text: Jeremiah 28:5-9

Day after tomorrow, Tuesday, we celebrate our nations independence from other ruling authorities and what a wonderful thing to celebrate. Living outside the Houston city limits and not having any restrictions on shooting fireworks, I know how wonderful it is to celebrate the Fourth of July as every year people are still celebrating and shooting off fireworks at 1:00 in the morning. As I have said before, we do celebrate our independence from other forms of government, but we must never forget our dependency on our Lord. It is when we begin to forget our dependency on our Lord and begin to believe we can be independent of the Lord that what really happens is we begin placing our dependency on our human inventions that is when we begin to get into trouble.
 
When we listen to the people of our world we hear two distinct messages. The first message we hear are words of destruction. You know the people I am talking about, they will tell you that the world is going to end tomorrow. They tell you that things are as bad as they have ever been and that they will get worse. They will tell you how bad the economy is, how our oil supply is running out, and how the earth is heating up from man made global warming, or rather now global climate change. You might remember back in the 1980s it was said that we were going to have a global ice age. There are those who will tell you that there will be tomorrow. They will go so far as to tell you that things are so bad that the Lord will come soon to destroy this world. Just a word to the wise, don’t believe half of what they tell you. God is still in charge.
 
On the other hand we have the people of our world who only tell us words of peace. These are the people who tell you that nothing is wrong with our world. They may even tell you that it is all in how you look at things. They may tell you all we need is love and then we can have a peaceful existence. They will tell you we just need to be tolerant of others and accepting. They are the people who always find the silver lining in the clouds. Neither of these types of people are new and neither are completely right or completely wrong. As we look at our text we will see that Jeremiah was prophesying destruction and the professional prophets were prophesying peace, but in this case one was right and one was wrong as we shall see.
 
In order to better understand what is going on in our text, let us look at what was going on before we get to the words of the text. The chapter immediately preceding our text, chapter twenty-seven, is filled with Jeremiah’s words of destruction. Jeremiah received special revelation from the Lord to speak to the people. He knew that the words which he was speaking were true, because he had received them from the Lord. And as we were reminded last week, God’s Word does what it says. So, Jeremiah knew what he said would happen, not because he said it, but because God said it. His Words were God’s words.
 
At the beginning of chapter twenty-eight we read the words of the prophet Hananiah. His words are words of peace and prosperity. His words are words which the people wanted to hear. We read beginning at verses one, “1In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.” 5Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Hananiah the prophet in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 28:1-5).
 
The next verses are our text and they are Jeremiah’s response to all the good things which Hananiah prophesied. Jeremiah begins by saying that he does indeed hope that Hananiah’s prophecy will come true. He is no dummy. He too hopes for peace and prosperity, but Jeremiah knows the Word of the Lord. He knows that Hananiah’s prophecy will not come true because he is an ungodly prophet, he is not speaking from what God has said, and because the true Lord had already revealed to him what He would do.
 
In response to Hananiah’s prophecy, the Lord spoke to Jeremiah and instructed him to speak to Hananiah. We pick up reading at verse twelve, “12Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13“Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’” 17In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died” (Jeremiah 28:12-17).
 
Jeremiah truly wanted Hananiah’s words to come true, but he knew the difference between a true prophet and a false prophet as he told the people in verse eight and nine, “8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet” (28:8,9).
 
We are very much like the people of Jeremiah’s day. I would like to say that we do not like to hear about destruction and while that is true I do believe that we still like to hear good juicy gossip. We like to hear about the pain, problems and destruction of others. But, for the most part I believe that we would rather hear about peace and how things are getting better. I believe that we are at the point in our own nation of wanting peace at any cost and even at all cost. The big deal today is to be politically correct meaning that you go out of your way so as to not offend anyone, whether you agree with them or not. It is almost to the point that you cannot disagree with anyone and if you do, then it is you who has the problem.
 
The problem is that this position, peace at all cost, costs all things, including and especially peace, true peace. I believe our Gospel lesson from Matthew speaks loudly to this issue. Jesus tells us that He did not come to bring peace to earth, but to bring a sword. Hey folks, it may still be okay and fairly easy to be a Christian in Westfield, Spring, Humble, or Houston, but it is getting harder and harder to be a Christian in the rest of the United States and in the rest of the world.
 
But let us get back to being a Christian right here in our own neighborhood. I believe that it is getting harder to be a Christian in our own neighborhood. I believe that we have already let the our society tainted by our media influence our attitude toward how we are to be as Christians. I continually hear how Christians and especially Lutherans are seen as people who think we are better than others. This is especially true when it comes to discussing things like our practice of closed communion, our practice of excluding members of lodges, our practice of not having joint worship with other churches, and especially in our practice of preaching against the sins of abortion, homosexuality, living together, drug and alcohol abuse, and so on. As I have said before, the world hates Christians especially Christians who believe the exclusive claims of God’s Word, that is that there is only one way to eternal life and that only one way is through Jesus.
 
Unfortunately I also hear some our own members wanting peace and harmony at all cost. I keep hearing our own members talk about not wanting to offend anyone. Folks, the gospel is offensive. If we are not offending people with our message then I would wonder if we were truly proclaiming God’s Word. As we just heard in the Gospel lesson, Jesus said He came, not to bring peace but a sword. It is only when we are in the Word and the Word is in us that we can have true peace and harmony. The reverse is not true, that is that we can have true peace and harmony and then we are in the Word. That does not work. I have actually had people tell me, “Pastor, once I get my life straightened out, then I will be back in church.” It simply does not work that way. The only way to get our life straight is by being in the word and letting the Word have His way with us. It is the Word alone which brings true peace and harmony.
 
I believe I am beginning to understand the way Jeremiah felt when the Lord told him to proclaim His Word. In the same way that the people of his day were giving more credence to words other than to God’s Word, so too today. People actually listen to and believe the news media and the politicians more than and over God’s Word. It is frightening. I am all for peace and harmony. As Jeremiah says, “Amen!” to peace and harmony, “May the LORD do so!” At the same time we must not forget Jesus’ Words in Matthew, that Jesus came, not to bring peace, at least not a fake worldly peace, but rather He came to bring a sword. Nor must we forget His words that, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In other words, we must never forget the need to give up this world and our life in this world knowing that our Lord has a better place prepared for us.
 
How do we know what is true, what is God’s Word? Our Epistle lesson from Romans helps us out with that point. We know what is true and what is from God when what we hear speaks about our need to recognize and confess our sin and our Lord’s work to forgive us and save us. When we are spoken of as being able only to be given the gifts of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and our Lord being the one to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give, with no effort on our part, this speaking is how we know what is truly from God. Remember, faith plus anything means it is not faith but the anything that saves. Faith plus nothing. Faith that is given. Faith that is the instrument which is given which reaches out and takes hold of all the other gifts and blessings, this is saving faith. The direction of salvation is always from heaven to earth, from Jesus to us.
 
We may want to always hear good news, news about peace and prosperity in the land. Wanting to hear such news is good. The best news, the most trust worthy news is the news which our Lord gives to us in His Word, the news that He is our Savior. If you want true peace, true peace does not come from within. True peace is not simply a worldly peace. That peace, a worldly peace only lasts for a short while. True peace, peace which lasts, which transcends time is peace that comes from sins forgiven. With sins forgiven, with guilt washed away, that is true peace, peace which passes all understanding. I pray that the Lord will always give you a yearning to hear His Good News, the best news of all, that your sins are forgiven, and with sins forgiven you may respond and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

He Rescues - June 25, 2017 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 07) - Text: Jeremiah 20:7-13

The preacher in Ecclesiastes was right, there is nothing new under the sun. All these seeming new sins we have in our world today are nothing more than warmed over sins and some with new names. And today we do not even call it sin, we call it a mistake or an error in judgement, or a lapse in judgement, anything except sin. As we get into our text for this morning, if we did not know that it was written between 626 and 586 BC, we might think it was something being written today, here in the good old USA. I must confess, that especially as a pastor, I can relate to this text, but as a Christian who exercises your faith, I am sure that you also will relate to this text as well.
 
The context of our text is that Jeremiah was prophesying God’s truth, especially the truth of violence and destruction, of gloom and doom, and the other prophets, the king, and the people did not like it. We might liken what Jeremiah was doing to the pastor who continually preaches the truth of God’s Word, rightly dividing law and Gospel, no matter how politically incorrect, or against public opinion his proclamation might be. As we will see, Jeremiah was proclaiming what the Lord had given him to proclaim. Unfortunately, because of the sin of the children of Israel and because of their refusal to acknowledge and repent of their sin, the only thing the Lord was giving Jeremiah to proclaim was violence and destruction, or as we might say today, gloom and doom.
 
In particular, Jeremiah faces off against the temple-warden, Pashur, who holds him in contempt. Notice how everyone is against the messenger, as if the message does not mean anything, only a way to accuse the messenger. How often do we get mad at the Pastor for what he says, when he is only saying what God has given him to say?
 
Getting into our text, we begin with what I call “the Word,” that is, Jeremiah’s complaint. We begin at verses seven, “7O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long” (7-8). Jeremiah says that he was deceived by God into being a prophet. He thought that he would be able to prophecy good things, but now he has only violence and destruction, gloom and doom to prophecy. If he had only known that he was only going to be prophesying gloom and doom then he would not have signed up, or so he thinks.
 
He complains because he is ridiculed. He is ridiculed because he never prophecies good. All the other prophets are prophesying good things and he has to keep prophesying the bad. If only he could be like the other prophets then he would not be ridiculed, then he would be able to get along better, again, or so he thinks.
 
Notice how he turns to blame God for his troubles. It is God’s Word that has made him an insult and a reproach. It is all God’s fault that he is having so much trouble. Even Jeremiah has a hard time seeing that it is the people who have brought this violence and destruction on themselves. God is merely keeping His promises. He is merely dispensing justice. God is giving the people what they want. He is giving them their own way. Which suggests to us to be careful of wanting our own way, lest God would give us our own way, which leads to the road of violence and destruction.
 
At this point in our text we might ask ourselves, “are we more like Jeremiah, or the people?” Do we proclaim God’s Word as truth and have others complain of our “close mindedness,” or do we complain because the pastor proclaim’s God’s Word as truth and we complain to him about his “close mindedness?” Do we listen to the message, or do we blame God and miss the message all together?
 
Getting back to our text, we read what I call “the plan.” We pick up at verse nine, “9If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. 10For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! ‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my close friends, watching for my fall. ‘Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him’” (9-10). Jeremiah has a plan. He knows how he will get out of always being in trouble with everyone. He knows how he can be politically correct and not offend anyone. His plan is that he will just be quiet and say nothing. If he does not say anything, then no one can accuse him of anything. That sounds like a good plan. Perhaps we have felt that way before. And certainly this would be in line with what we have always been told as children, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” If only it were that easy.
 
There is just one minor flaw to his plan. He cannot do this. He cannot be quiet, because God’s Word is like an all consuming fire within him. He just has to say something. He just has to say what God tells him to say. He just has to, otherwise he will burn up.
 
He has to say what God gives him to say and, yet, the whole while his friends are waiting for him to get something wrong so they can accuse him of being a false prophet. Nice friends, right. His friends are watching his every move. They are writing down and documenting everything he has to say, looking, searching, waiting for him to say or do something wrong so they can say, “gotcha.”
 
At this point we might again ask ourselves, “are we more like Jeremiah? Do we try to hide God’s Word, do we just not say anything and not have others complain of our “close mindedness,” or does this merely apply to the pastor?” Do you stand out as being different in your workplace? Or do you say what everyone else is saying, not trying to rock the boat? Does your faith show, or do you try to hide it for fear of being set out as different? Please understand, I am not trying to make this a belittling issue. This is a tough thing and we believe the words of Jeremiah, he was ready to quit, or at least to try to quit.
 
The last section of our text is a word of good news and encouragement, what I call the “promise and praise.” We pick up at verse eleven, “11But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. 12O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause. 13Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers” (11-13). After all is said and done, Jeremiah knows that God’s Word does what it says. He knows that God is on his side and that the word which he prophesied, the Word of the Lord which he proclaimed, will happen, not because he proclaimed it, not because the words came out of his mouth, but because they are the Lord’s Words and the Lord does what He says.
 
Jeremiah knows that he holds the trump card. He knows that God will bring vengeance on his enemies. He knows that no matter how much his enemies watch him, how much they record, how much they wait, how long they wait for him to slip, their waiting and watching are in vane, because God will do what His Word says.
 
All of  this thinking, this inner struggle we hear Jeremiah doing ends up with his giving praise to the Lord because, as he says, “He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” Jeremiah puts his trust in the Lord knowing that the Lord will rescue him from the wicked.
 
The final upshot of all this is the fact that God’s Word does what it says. No matter what we might do, say, or think, no matter whether we confess God’s Word or not, no matter what we do, God’s Word will do what it says. No matter how much we do not say, or how quiet we try to be, God’s Word cannot be quieted. We have the advantage of looking back in time and seeing that God’s Word has accomplished what it says. The giver of peace, true peace has come. Jesus has already given His life on the cross for us. The violence and destruction, the gloom and doom that should have been ours has been dealt to Jesus. Jesus is the one who has rescued us from the hands of the wicked, from the devil. As the Lord examines our hearts and minds, by faith in Jesus, He sees Christ’s righteousness as ours. And God receives His just praise and glory.
 
The first question we might ask ourselves is, do we proclaim God’s Word, through our thoughts, words, and actions, or do we not want to cause any conflicts with our differences? The second question we might ask ourselves is, do we want a pastor who will preach God’s Word, whether we like it or not, or one who will preach what we want to hear, whether that leads to heaven or to hell? These questions are not new questions. This is not a new problem, this is an old problem, it just has a new name, political and religious correctness. The answer to how we deal with this problem is the answer of Jeremiah, the Lord’s Word will do what it says, “sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” If these problems only affected this life then we might have a different course of action or result. But the answer to these problems affects our more important life to come, our eternal spiritual life. Do we deny God, or proclaim Him no matter what happens in this world. Praise be the name of the Lord, because He is the one, the only one who can help us to profess, and confess our faith in Him through our thoughts, words and actions. And He does. By Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, He forgives us when we doubt, when we try to be quiet, when we try to hide and even more, He stirs in us to show forth His love for us.
 
By God’s grace, He has given us life, from the moment of conception. He has given us new life through the waters of Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness through confession and absolution. He gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Word and through His Holy Supper. All that we have is a gift from our great gift giving God. As we talked about a couple weeks ago, although all of this is freely given to us, none of this came without a price. The price for all that our Lord gives is the life of His Son on the cross. Yes, our Lord gives us all things and He even stirs in us a response of faith, that is that we do not hide our faith, nor do we keep our faith quiet, but rather that we rejoice and give thanks for our faith, that we share our faith with others, sometimes with our words, often with our thoughts and most often in our actions, and that we give glory to our Lord for all His good gifts and blessings saying, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Lutheran Difference - Explaining Doctrinal Consistency

I am Lutheran because of the consistency of the teachings of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) throughout the church body as a whole. Having said that, I would confess that today this consistency is not quite as strong as it has been over years past for the simple fact that, as congregations have changed their practices, they have also adopted new doctrines which are not as consistent with all congregations. Although there are differences in doctrine and practice in LCMS congregations, there is the same underlining doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, as well as a proper distinction between Law and Gospel and a right administration and understanding of the sacraments.

I am fascinated with the inconsistency of the churches of my evangelical friends (those of Calvinest, Reformed, Anabaptist, “non-denominational” backgrounds) who have no trouble moving from church to church, following one pastor or another, changing their doctrines according to the whims of the pastor, or those who simply change pastors and then follow whatever doctrinal changes the pastor wants to make. How in the world do you believe anything if what you believe is constantly in flux and changing? One pastor says that dancing is a sin. He leaves, and the next pastor says dancing is okay. The pastor I like relocates, and so I relocate with him. What is the foundation of my belief? Should my company move me to another location, how do I go about finding a church home? I guess I go to one that makes me feel comfortable. What about being as the Bereans? And to what do we hold the pastor accountable if there is no standard of teaching?

For the most part, those of the Roman, Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, etc. denominations have a set of unmovable, unshaken doctrine. This unmovable, unshaken doctrine is the standard by which one can rightly “examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11b). If there is no standard, how can one be sure if what is said is so?

In the LCMS church if a pastor takes a call, then the congregation calling a pastor can rest assured that the pastor they call has subscribed, that is has made a confession of faith, to the Lutheran confessions so that they know he will teach the same doctrine as the man who was before him. They do not need to be concerned about whether or not something that was sin is now not sin or something that was not sin is now sin. And should one move from one LCMS church to another LCMS church, they can be sure that the same doctrine will continue to be taught in their new congregation.

As many have certainly heard, “you have to stand for something or you will fall for anything.” While many churches of many denominations do not publish what they stand for, their core confessions or statement of faith, the LCMS Church boldly presents our confessions for others to read and hear. Indeed, they are all posted on the lcms.org website for all to read.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

You Will Be for Me a Holy Nation - June 18, 2017 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 06) - Text: Exodus 19:2-8a

Two weeks ago we celebrated Pentecost Sunday and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday we celebrated Holy Trinity Sunday and the fact that we worship a God who has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday brought us to an end of our Easter Season, but not an end to our resurrection celebration. Indeed, the very reason we worship on Sunday is because each and every Sunday is for us Christians an Easter celebration. Today we move into what we call the non-festival portion of our church year and the season of Pentecost. The non-festival portion of our church year is that portion in which we do not have a lot of celebrations, as we did with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. This non-festival portion of our church year continues until Advent. So, beginning today and for the next twenty some odd Sundays we will hear the Sunday as the Sunday after Pentecost.
 
Today is also a secular holiday as most of you know. Just as it is fitting and as we did celebrate mothers and motherhood a few weeks ago, so today we fittingly celebrate fathers and fatherhood today. So let us acknowledge our dads and say, Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers here today and we are glad you are here.
 
Our text for this morning is our Old Testament reading and it reminds us that we can never truly be independent as we might think ourselves to be. While this inability to be independent is especially true in our spiritual life, it is also true in our daily life as well. We are constantly dependent on other people for many things in life. We depend on the grocery store to have a supply of food to purchase. We depend on the city to make sure we have water. We depend on the power company for gas and electricity. We depend on so many people in our world. As a nation we may be independent from the rule of any other nation and we elect our own leaders, but we must never forget that we are never independent from God. It is when we begin to forget that we are dependent on God that we begin to fall prey to other temptations, which we can see is happening in our nation today.
 
With our own independence and our nations independence in mind, let us look at our text and see how God related to the nation of Israel and how dependent they were on Him. Very briefly, the background of our text is that the children of Israel had just experienced the first Passover. They had witnessed the lose of the oldest child in each Egyptian family. They had been lead out of Egypt, safely through the Red Sea. They saw the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea. Now here they were at the base of the mountain, ready to receive the Lord’s commands.
 
Our text begins with God reminding Moses and the Israelites of all that He had done for them. We read, “3while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (19:3-4).  The imagery of the eagle is one which brought to mind that God is a strong, yet caring God. The eagle is the symbol of strength. It is a very strong bird, but the eagle is also a bird which cares for its young. When the mother eagle is teaching her young to fly she takes them high in the sky and lets them go, literally drops them. As they fall helplessly toward the earth the mother swoops quickly under the baby bird in order to safely catch it before it hits the ground. Here in our text God tells Moses to remind the people how much He cares for them, so much that He used His strength to carry them out of their bondage and slavery in Egypt.
 
In verse five He goes on to explain to Moses His plan for making His covenant with the Israelites and what is their part of the plan. We read, “5Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine” (19:5). Israel’s part of God’s plan was simply to obey the commands of God. God said, if you obey me then all nations will be my treasure. God chose Israel to be a part of His plan to save the world, notice to save the world, not just Israel. Israel was to be the mediator of the knowledge of Yahweh, between He and the world. Israel was not to keep their knowledge of God from the rest of the world, they were to be God’s instruments to bring salvation to the rest of the world.
 
God even tells them how they are to do this, “6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel” (19:6). The Israelites were to be priests, set apart from the rest of the world, in order to serve the living God.  They were to be set apart, wholly consecrated to do the will of God. They were to be a holy nation, different from the surrounding heathen nations. They were to be God’s examples to the world.
 
To all of this the people responded and answered, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (19:8). What other response could they give. They had just been reminded of all their so recent experiences and how God so lovingly brought them out of their misery in Egypt. How could they respond with anything except that, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (19:8).
 
Are we any different from these people of Israel? I do not think so. Each and every Sunday we are reminded of what our Lord has just done for us, continues to do for us and will continue to do for us. Each and every day as we read our Bible and remember our baptism we are reminded of what all our Great God has done for us. We have seen what God has done for us, how He gave us our very life at our birth, even at our conception. How He gave us new life at our baptism. How He gives us forgiveness on a daily basis. How He gives us His Word and sacraments and how He comes to us through these means. How can we respond any differently from the children of Israel and say anything other than, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (19:8).
 
That may be what our response is immediately following our Divine service, but it changes at some point on the way home. Our response that we will do everything changes to something like, “I might do something if I am asked.” So much for our response. Our response becomes a burden. A burden especially for the person to whom you will be the twentieth person to turn down. A burden to you because you really have a great excuse as to why you cannot help with whatever it is you are being ask to consider to do.
 
Our response shows on whom we are depending for our physical necessities as well as for our salvation. We decide how we will respond to all the Lord has first given to us with our time, our talents, and our treasures, how much we will return to the Lord. We decide we need more of what God has given to use in service to Him while we are young, but we will decide to give God more when we get older and can afford to. So much for responding to God’s gifts. Rather than responding to God’s gifts we think we are the master’s of our fate. We think that what we have is ours. We think we are doing God a favor by offering our measly crumbs to Him.
 
When we are asked to volunteer, we sit back and wait to be asked personally. And when we are asked personally to do something, like teach Vacation Bible School, or Sunday School, like being on a Board or committee, we say, “no,” because we think we are supposed to do something, something we think we are not equipped to do. We forget that it is the Lord who works in and through us to teach or to work on any board of committee. We so easily forget what God has done and continues to do for us.
 
God’s covenant to us is the same covenant He made with the children of Israel. He has said that He will be our God and that we will be His people. We are very much in the same situation as the Israelites. We were enslaved, in bondage to sin. Sin was our master and sin still tries to keep us under its bondage. A quick run down of the ten commandments reminds us of our failures. A quick look at our response to God’s work, or rather our lack of response will also remind us of our shortcomings.
 
Because we are slaves to sin, God sent us a mediator. Jesus is our mediator. In much the same way that Moses spoke to God for the children of Israel, Jesus is the one who pleads our case before our Father in heaven. Jesus is also our high priest. He is the one who intercedes, prays, for us before our Father in heaven. Jesus is the ultimate mediator, the ultimate High Priest, because not only does He mediate our case, not only does He offer intercession for us, He gave the ultimate mediation, the ultimate intercession, the ultimate sacrifice of Himself for us on the cross.
 
God asked Israel and us to respond to His saving work by obeying His commands. In the same way that Israel could not perfectly obey God’s commands, neither can we. In the same way the Jesus came as Israel and perfectly fulfilled God’s commands, so Jesus came as you and me to perfectly obey God’s commands. Because of what Jesus did for us, we are His holy nation.
 
I keep telling people in private conversations, and in Bible class, we know we get it right when we point to Jesus, when we do it the way God has given it to us to do and that applies to everything in life, our response of faith of our time, talents and treasure. So to make sure we get it right I want to reread our text. (reread Ex. 19:2-8a) “2They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 7So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19).
 
Today, as always, we are reminded that God is the prime mover. God gives and we are given to. God gives us life at conception and new life through the waters of Holy Baptism. God calls us to and gives us faith and He calls us to a response of faith. Very much like Israel our initial response is “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” But then the realities of life settle in and the devil, the world and our sinful nature pull and tug us in other directions. We tend to seek our own independence thinking we are our own person. As the struggles of life close in, God continues to call out to us. He continues to loves us and care for us. As we sink in the muck and mire of this world our Lord reaches out His hand and pulls us out of our sins, washes us, clothes and robes us in His robes of righteousness. Ultimately, through the faith that He gives to us in His Son whom He gave to give His life for ours, He calls us to heaven and seats us at His banqueting table where He feeds us His eternal manna. Today, our response might best be, “All that the Lord has spoken we will fail to do, yet thanks be to God that Jesus has done it all for us and the Holy Spirit works in and through us to imperfectly do some of what His desire is for us to do.” And most certainly He stirs in us to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.