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!


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.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(An Introduction)

Momma always said, “Practice what you preach.” That phrase reminds us that it is what be believe that guides how we live. In “church” language we would say that Momma understood that Doctrine, what we believe, should guide practice, that is how we live, what we say and do.

Our guiding principle in church then is that doctrine and practice are not and cannot be separated, rather our practice, what and how we do what we do, is guided by what we believe. The corollary of that is true as well. What what and how we do what we do informs what we believe. In other words, because we believe the Ten Commandments are still valid for us today, we do not steal, murder, covet, lust, gossip and the like. Because we do not steal, murder, covet, lust, gossip and the like, we bear witness of the fact that we believe the Ten Commandments are still valid for us today.

Using our guiding principle of doctrine and practice, what does that mean for us as Christians and even more specifically as Lutheran Christians concerning how we reach out, how we do evangelism? This series of bulletin inserts titled “Lutheran Vocational Evangelism” will explore ways in which we as Lutheran Christians do evangelism from a specifically Lutheran understanding of God’s Word. In other words, how do we as Lutheran Christians understand how God tells us we are to be God’s “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8b)?

Certainly there are many preconceived notions, stereotypes, misunderstandings and fears concerning the whole idea of being an evangelist or even a witness. Therefore, one goal of this series is to give you a better education and understanding of what the Bible says about being witnesses so that you may have joy and confidence in the witnessing of your faith to others. Along the way we will offer definitions of words, clarification of belief, and simple ideas that may be incorporated into your everyday life.

1 of 52 - © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

God Will Raise a Prophet - January 28, 2018 - Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Why do you come to church every week? Now, do not get me wrong, I am not here to discourage you from coming every week, but my question is, why do you come to church every week? Or do you know why you even come at all? I hope you answer that question with the realization that if we do not come to church weekly, if we do not get feed regularly on the Word of the Lord and on His Sacraments then we begin to starve spiritually. Regular church and Bible study attendance are very much like everything else you do in life. If you are musician you understand the importance of daily practice. If you are an athlete you understand the importance of daily practice. If you do anything in this world and expect to continue to do it right you need to daily practice. Likewise, if you are a Christian and you are daily being bombarded by the temptations of the devil, the world and your own sinful flesh, then you understand the need to daily be in the Word of God and weekly come to fill up on His Word and Sacraments in order to be able to defend yourself against the devil, the world and your sinful self.
The book of Deuteronomy is kind of a review for the people, the children of Israel, of what God has done for them; how He has been their God and how He has made and kept them as His people. This book shows the love the Lord has for His people. This book also has a call to total commitment to the Lord in worship and obedience.
Our text begins with the Lord’s promise. We read beginning at verse fifteen, “15The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—16just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him’” (v.15-18).
Our text is a part of Moses’ farewell speech to the children of Israel. As the Children of Israel are getting ready to move into the promised land, Moses reminds the people that even though he will not be with them any longer that the Lord has promised that He will always have a prophet for the people. Our text reminds us that this promise goes back to the people wanting Moses to intercede for them because they were frightened by God’s presence among them.
This prophet about whom Moses is speaking is one who will speak the Word of the Lord. That is what a prophet does, he does not come bringing his own word, but he comes bringing the word of the Lord. This is a subtle way of telling the people that even if they do not agree with the prophet, they should listen because his words are not his own, but words the Lord is giving him.
The prophet is to be listened to because God speaks through him. The prophet is not to be listened to because when he speaks he says he speaks for God, but the prophet is to be listened to because God says He speaks through him.
And the prophet is to be listened to because of what will happen it he is not listened to. We pick up at verse nineteen, “19And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die” (v. 19-20).
The Lord will hold that person accountable who does not listen to what the prophet speaks in His name. How does that saying go, “you can run but you can’t hide.” So to with God, He knows the words He gives to the prophet and He knows who does and who does not listen to His prophet. And He will hold that person accountable who does not listen to what the prophet speaks in His name.
But, not only are the people to be held accountable for what God speaks through the prophet, so too the prophet is to be held accountable. If the prophet speaks other than God’s Word he will be held accountable. The prophet is not to speak of his own. He is not to say, “God says this or that,” unless God really said this or that. And what he says that God says will be shown in its fulfillment. If any prophet should say any one thing that is not true, that is it does not happen, then that prophet is a false prophet. Everything the prophet says that is from God must be true or that prophet is a false prophet.
We are also told that the prophet who speaks in the name of other god’s will be put to death. God does not toy around when it comes to His Word and the importance of His Word. He holds His prophets accountable. He holds the false prophets accountable. He holds His people who hear His prophet accountable and He holds those who refuse to hear accountable.
How is this done in our church today? God always has, always does and always will raise up prophets for His people. Today the Lord raises up prophets through the churches in the form of pastors. God calls pastors through the congregation to serve Him. Pastors do not call themselves, but God calls them through the congregation. Specifically the pastor is to serve God by proclaiming His Word, administering the Sacraments and forgiving and retaining the sins of God’s people in that place. Thus we see that pastors are accountable to God for preaching His word in its truth and purity, for rightly administering the sacraments and for rightly forgiving and retaining the sins of the people. And the people, the members of the congregation, are accountable to God for hearing God’s Word, believing God’s Word and doing God’s Word, that is living lives of faith according to God’s Word.
The ultimate prophet, the Lord has raised up for His people is Christ, the Messiah. Jesus is true God and true man. Jesus is our prophet, priest and king. As our prophet He proclaimed God’s word to the people. As our prophet He still today proclaims His Word through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. As our king He rules over us and will rule over us in heaven for eternity. As our priest He intercedes for us. The usual job of the priest was also to make sacrifices for the people, but as our priest Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice of Himself on the cross for us. The shedding of the blood of the thousands of lambs sacrificed before Christ were merely a reminder of the blood that must be shed for our forgiveness. It was Jesus’ blood shed on the cross that earned our forgiveness for us. Moses’ words that the Lord would provide prophets for His people means all the prophets that the Lord has given His people but it also means the ultimate prophet, the Messiah, Jesus Himself.
Today, God has provided us with pastors who are prophets in the sense that they are called by God through the local congregation to proclaim the Word of the Lord. They are to preach God’s Word, rightly dividing Law and Gospel. They are to proclaim God’s Word because He would have us not run after other gods. Let us admit it, we are a people who are in need. We are in need of spiritual guidance. Without something spiritual in our lives we have a void and that void must be filled. And we see how too many people in our world today run after other gods and idols to fill the spiritual void they have in their lives. Our natural inclination is to reject God and to go running after other gods and idols, gods and idols we believe we can appease by our own good character, at least in our own minds. Jesus does not call us sheep because we are warm and wooly. He calls us sheep because we are spiritually near-sighted and will follow almost anything or anyone that will lead us. That is why it is important that we are in the Word, that we read and hear the Word, that we study the Word.
God would not have us run after soothsayers, seers, or psychics of any kind. God does not work through these means which means that those who are soothsayers, seers and psychics must be getting their information from some place other than God. If not God then the only other option would be the devil.
God places a heavy responsibility on our pastors. God would have our pastors speak His Word to His people and not speak another word of any kind to them. God will hold me responsible for what I preach and teach to you, that is why you will always find me cautious when it comes to proclaiming an opinion of any kind that is suspect of not being according to the Word of God.
As God gives us pastors and the Word to the pastors to proclaim to us, God would have us hold our pastors in honor and listen to them. Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. We hear God’s Word and we do God’s Word when we hear it, heed it, and live according to it. Otherwise we are profaning His Holy Precious Word.
God holds pastors accountable, but He also hold us as Christians, as members of this congregation and as members of the Holy Christian Church accountable. Our role as members of this congregation and as Christians in the Holy Christian Church is that we are priests in the priesthood of all believers. The pastor is not a priest. Remember the role of the priest was to offer sacrifices. The pastor does not offer sacrifices, but preaches the Word, administers the sacraments and forgives and retains sins. As priests, Christians offer themselves as living sacrifices to the Lord and they do this as they live lives of faith, demonstrating to the world what it means to be a Christian. And as Christians, we are strengthened and encouraged in our own faith life by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, by remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy, by being in divine service and Bible class, by having personal and family devotion, by reading and hearing God’s Word, by remembering our baptism, by confessing our sins and hearing the words of absolution, by coming to the Lord’s Table. Through these very means the Lord gives us the strength to live lives of faith, to live lives as priest and to keep us ready to always give an answer for the hope we have in our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our text for today is one which reminds us that God has promised that He will always be with us and that He will never leave us nor will He forsake us. He is always with us. He comes to us through His means of grace, through the Word and the Sacraments. He comes to us through these very means to give us the gifts He has to give; forgiveness of sins, faith, strengthening of faith, life, eternal life and salvation. God is a God of good order who gives us the things He gives us in the way, the good order that He gives them. He gives us pastor’s through the calling of the congregations to bring us the Word and the Sacraments. And He holds us accountable, the pastor to proclaim His Word in its truth and purity and the congregation to hear His Word and to do His Word. And He moves in us to rejoice and sing, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

God’s Word Saves - January 21, 2018 - Third Sunday after the Epiphany/Life Sunday - Text: Jonah 3:1-5, 10

God never promised that being a Christian would be an easy thing. As a matter of fact, maybe you have been faced with certain struggles and even trials in your own life as a result of your being a Christian. It is sometimes difficult to stand up for what you believe, especially in the pluralistic society in which we live, a society which says that you can believe whatever you want to believe and that all beliefs are equally valid. Of course, Scripture reminds us that this is not true, that all beliefs are equally valid and that there are many ways to heaven, rather Scripture reminds us that there is only one way to heaven, for there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved, and that name is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This exclusive claim, that is that there is only one way to heaven is why Christians are so hated in our world today. Jonah understood our struggles. Jonah understood what an unpopular thing it would be to proclaim God’s law and so he did not do it. Instead, he ran away, at least until the Lord brought him back.
Maybe you remember the account of Jonah and the whale. Our text is the conclusion of that historic event, so before we get to our text let us take a moment to review the first part of the narrative. The account of Jonah begins with God coming to Jonah and telling him to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was a great city and a city great with sin. Jonah was to go to Nineveh and proclaim that the Lord knew their sin and that He was about to bring destruction on them because of their sin.
Jonah’s response to this call of the Lord was that he went the other way. He did not want any part in the deed that was to be done. As you read the book of Jonah, and if you have some time this afternoon or this week you might want to do just that, it is a short book and can be read in a relatively short period of time. But as you read the book you will notice that at the beginning, after God first calls Jonah and he decides to run away, everything goes down hill, at least until Jonah repents and decides it is best to do what the Lord was calling him to do. Jonah went down to Tarshish, he went down to Joppa, he went down into the ship, he went down below the deck of the ship, he was thrown down into the sea and he was swallowed down into the belly of the fish. This is exactly what we should expect to see happen to us when we run away from the Lord or when we attempt to run away from the Lord and what His will is for us in our own lives.
What happened to Jonah was somewhat of a miniature of what was to happen to the Ninevites, they were to be thrown down into destruction because of the sin in which they were living. Jonah was on a downward spiral because of his running away from God, yet, through this downward spiral God brought Jonah to confession and to repentance. With repentance and God’s absolution, everything began to go back up for him. He was thrown up out of the fish, up onto the land so that he could go up to Nineveh.
Now, getting to our text. Our text begins at the point where God comes to Jonah a second time. We begin at verse one, “1Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.’ 3So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’” (v. 1-4).
God gives Jonah a second chance. He tells Jonah to go to the city and proclaim the message He gives him. The message that God gave Jonah was a message of Law, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” In just forty days the Lord was going to destroy Nineveh because of the great sins of the whole people of the city. The people had forty days to repent and to leave the city. Here we might be reminded of the forty years the children of Israel spent wandering around in the wilderness and even the forty days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by the devil. These forty days were the amount of time it would take for the Ninevites to hear God’s Word, for that word to take root in their lives and for them to repent.
Our text tells us that the city was a great city. The city was great, that is it was both great or large in size and people. The city was large in people needing forgiveness.
For three days Jonah proclaimed the sins of the people in the city. These three days might remind us that earlier in this account of Jonah we are told that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three day. In the New Testament we are told that Jonah is a type of Christ in that Christ was in the grave for three days, from His crucifixion to His resurrection. During His three days in the grave Jesus descended into hell to proclaim victory over the devil. Here, Jonah is, for three days, proclaiming the Lord’s condemnation of the sin of the city. It was for their sins and for ours that Jesus died on the cross and then descended to hell to proclaim victory over our sins.
As we continue in our text we are reminded that God’s Word is a Word with power. God’s Word does what it says. We read how the people heard the message and repented. We pick up at verse five, “5And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (v. 5).
God, working through His Word, the Word which He gave Jonah to proclaim, the Law, which showed them their sin, and the Gospel, which proclaimed to them their Savior, through this proclamation the Word changed the people, so that they believed Jonah and his message from God. God’s Word is a Word that does what it says. God’s Word works repentance.
Because of the proclamation of God’s Word, the people believed God and proclaimed a fast. They fasted to show their repentance. They fasted to show that they acknowledged their sin, that they were sorry for their sin, that they repented of their sin, and that they turned from their sin.
And God’s Word worked so thoroughly that the whole city repented. Everyone in the city, from the greatest, from the king of the city himself, to the least, the lowliest, poorest person on the street, everyone repented. What a great outcry of repentance that must have been.
Our text skips to verse ten where we read that God had compassion on the Ninevites. But so we get the complete account from Jonah we will read the skipped verses as well. So, we pick up at verse six, “6The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.’ 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” (v. 10).
In the verses that were skipped we see the power of the Word of God in that the Word of God gave faith, at least to some extent as the king believes that God is gracious and perhaps He will turn from His anger so that they will not perish.
In verse ten we are told that “God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways,” to say that another way, God saw the fruit of the Word of the Law and the Gospel. God saw that His Word did what it said it would do.
Next we are told that God “had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.” Here we are reminded of the difference between God’s usual work and His alien work. God’s alien work is the law. God’s alien work is death and destruction. Scripture reminds us that God’s Law is to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him, whereas His Gospel is for thousands of generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.
God had mercy on the Ninevites which is His usual work. God saw what a great opportunity was before Him. His Word worked faith and repentance which was shown in the actions of the people and now He had the opportunity to show what a great and loving God He really is. Because they had repented, because He worked repentance in them through His Word, He could now show them what great love He had for them.
God works with us the same way. God gives us His Law which shows our sins. The Law is that part of God’s Word which tells us, we are to do this and that and which shows us that we are unable to do this and to do that. The Law shows us how we have failed to live up to what God’s Word tells us we are to do and not do. The Law reminds us of our original, inborn sin and our actual sin which are sins we commit because of something we do wrong and because of the things that we do not do to help others.
God works through the Word to bring us to repentance. That does not necessarily mean that God would have us sit in sackcloth and ashes, but He would have us repent of our sins. He would have us be sorry for our sins, not sorry that we are caught in our sins, but sorry that we have committed sins against Him and His people.
And God gives us the Gospel. God gives us the Gospel which tells us that Jesus gave His life for us on the cross to earn forgiveness for us. His Gospel gives us forgiveness, faith, strengthening of faith, life and salvation, that is eternal life in heaven. His Gospel gives us peace of heart, soul, mind and body.
Today is actually officially the Sunday we celebrate as Life Sunday that is the Sunday we are reminded of the atrocities and sins of our country and the legalization of killing pre-born children. Indeed, God sends us yet today, as He sent Jonah, to proclaim the great sin of murder that happens each and every day in this country. Unfortunately, too many people today are rather apathetic to this great atrocity even many who would rather simply not discuss the issue. Yet, there are many who continue to work to undo what was done so long ago. Certainly speaking out against abortion may be difficult and we may even act like Jonah and run away. Yet, many do gather, as many did yesterday in Washington D.C. and Austin to march against this murderous sin. At the same time, as Jonah knew God to be a forgiving God, so we too know that God does forgive the sin of abortion as He forgives all sins. So as we stand up and proclaim this sin, we also are ready, willing and able to proclaim God’s forgiveness to those who have sinned because we know that there is no sin too big for God to forgive.
So, we are continually reminded that God works in us the same way He has worked with all of His people since the beginning of time. He comes to us proclaiming His Law so that we might see our sin and repent and proclaiming His Gospel so that we might see His forgiveness, earned for us on the cross. He comes to us proclaiming His Law and Gospel through His usual means, the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. He comes to us through His Word, a Word with power to do what it says. He comes to us through Holy Baptism which is water connected to His Word, which gives faith and forgiveness. He comes to us through confession and absolution which is our confessing our sins and His speaking His words of forgiveness on us. He comes to us through the Lord’s Supper which is bread and wine connected to His Word and His body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. He comes to us and gives us the gifts He has to give because that is His nature. And finally, He comes to us to move in us to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

When the Lord Calls (Through His Word) - January 14, 2018 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)

Today is the second Sunday after the Epiphany. And again, as you may remember, Epiphany is our celebration of the Magi or the wise men who came to bring the child Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, gifts for a prophet, priest and king. Epiphany is recognized as the Gentile Christmas because this was the first appearing of Jesus to non-jews, to Gentiles. In our Epistle lesson Paul reminds us that we are not our own but we were bought with a price, the price of Jesus’ blood. In our Gospel reading we hear Jesus calling His disciples and in particular Philip and Nathanael. In our text for this morning we see how even from an early age we may be of service to the Lord in His kingdom, as we see in the life of the child Samuel. So, let us get to our text.
We live in a world of mass communications. We can be reached through the telephone, through e-mail, through a wed-site, through our pager, by our cellular phone, by voice mail, by regular mail, by our watch phone, by our computer phone, by fax, by skype, twitter, snapchat, and maybe even in rare instances face to face. And yet, in this world of mass communications and often mass chaos, there are many people who are looking for some peace and quiet; there are many who are looking for meaning to life; there are many who are looking for a vague concept of God. As we get to our text from first Samuel we will see that even though our means of communications have changed, when it comes to God’s Word things are not much different today than they were in Samuel’s day.
Our text begins by telling us that the Word of the Lord was rare. We read verse one, “1Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision” (v.1). It is not that God’s Word was not with the people, for God’s promise is always to give His Word to His people. The statement that God’s Word was rare means that, other than His written Word, the Lord did not regularly show Himself visibly or audibly to His people as He had done in the past.
The context of our text reminds us that the giving of God’s Word presumes the receiving and the non refusal of God’s Word. In other words, why should God give His Word to a people who do not want His Word? Why should God cast the pearls of His Word before the heathen swine who want nothing to do with His precious Word? Food for thought in the world in which we live.
Our text continues with the account of the call of Samuel. We read of God’s first call in picking up at verse two, “2At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 3The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down” (v.2-5).
Our text begins in the evening. Eli and Samuel had gone to bed. They were lying in their usual places, in the temple, and maybe they were just lying there thinking. You know how it is when you just get into bed and you lay awake for a few minutes thinking about the day or tomorrow, or whatever else is on your mind. As they were lying there, the Lord came to Samuel and called him. Samuel ran to Eli, thinking he had called him.
About Eli we are told that his eyes had become so weak that he could barely see. I think we are told this in order to remind us of how long Eli had been serving in the temple and yet, even with his number of years of experience he did not realize the Lord’s calling. He tells Samuel to go back and lie down because he did not call him.
The Lord calls a second time. We pick up at verse six, “6And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (v.6-7). The same thing happens again, the Lord comes and calls Samuel. Samuel runs to Eli. Eli does not realize that it is the Lord. He tells Samuel to go back and lie down.
We have grown up with the understanding that the third time is the charm. We read of the Lord’s third call in verse eight, “8And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the young man” (v.8). Even though Samuel has not realized it is the Lord who is calling, Eli finally does.
Finally we have the fourth calling, Samuel’s calling, picking up at verse nine, “9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  10And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears’” (v.9-10).
This time, this fourth time the Lord calls, we are told that He comes and stands there and calls Samuel. The Lord appears, reveals Himself to Samuel and calls him. And when He calls him He calls him with the double call, “Samuel, Samuel.” As we read the book of Samuel we come to learn that the Lord calls Samuel for service. The Lord has work for Samuel to do. He is to be a prophet for the Lord.
In his excitement we hear Samuel answer, “Speak, for your servant hears.” Samuel forgot the part about “the Lord,” “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” It could be that because the Word of the Lord was rare that Samuel was yet unsure if this were the Lord speaking to him, because why would the Lord speak to him and not the High Priest. And yet, Samuel’s words are words which we would do well to make as our example, “your servant hears.” Samuel was eager, glad, ready, and willing, to hear the Lord and to serve Him.
But what about us and our calling today? It would seem that there is a difference between our day and Samuel’s day. In our world today there is a plethora of God’s Word. The Bible, good translations of the Bible, are in an abundance. The Bible can be bought on cassette, on computer disk, in many forms, styles, colors, and with many added features. And yet, with this abundance of God’s Word, people are still starving for it, because people, although seeming to be looking for it, are instead running from it, looking for it in the wrong places, or trying to change it to fit their understanding of who or what God is and does, as opposed to letting God be God.
God is with us. He does stand and call us. He is with us as He comes to us through His Word and Sacraments. He comes to us through these means to show Himself to us and to give to us the gifts He has to give to us. Unfortunately, just as He comes to us through these means there are many of us who run away from these means and instead go looking for the Lord in other places, places where He cannot be found. We run away from the Lord when we stay away from His means of grace or when we choose to be someplace other than in Divine Service on Sunday morning, breaking not only the third, but also the first and second commandments as well. We run away when we twist God’s Word to mean what we want it to mean. We run away when we stay away from reading our Bibles, from having personal and family devotions, from taking part in Bible Studies. We run away when we fail to remember our Baptism and when we fail to confess all our sins, even those which we do not know we have committed, and when we fail to hear the Lord’s Word of absolution. We run away when we stay away from the Lord’s Supper. It is just like, if you do not go to the grocery store regularly to buy food to eat, you will starve, so too, if you do not partake of the Lord’s means of grace, Word and Sacrament, regularly, you will starve spiritually.
God comes to us through His means of grace to make us His children, to put faith in our hearts. God also comes to us to call us to our vocation, that is to our work. I do not mean that God calls us to work for a certain company, rather He calls us to work in whatever vocation, whatever job we do, to work for Him, to do our job as if He were the owner of the company, as if we were working for Him personally. This is what we call being a part of the priesthood of all believers. Remember, the role of the priest was to make sacrifices. As Christians, as members of the priesthood of all believers we are to live our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord. We are not all ministers or called to any particular ministry, as if we need such a calling or title to make our lives seem more sanctified. Rather, we are all priests and so our lives have meaning as we live lives of faith.
And through our congregation, God calls some men to serve Him as pastors, in the office of Holy Ministry. We, the people, the members of this congregation are the ones who make up this church in this place. This church operates because we do the work that the Lord would have us to do. We could say that everything is the pastor’s job, but that would limit what the Lord, working through all of us, could do. No, the pastor’s job is to proclaim God’s Word, to administer that Sacraments, to forgive and retain sins and to admonish us when we err. For all of us our job is to hear the Word of the Lord and to respond as Samuel, “speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”
I hope that if you have been paying attention that you are at the point of asking, “all of what you said is good, pastor, but you have not taken us to the cross, where is the cross, where is the gospel in all this?” And I am glad you asked. The gospel is where it was in Samuel’s day. The Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ life, death on the cross for our sins, in where it always is, in the Word and the Sacraments. That is why our liturgy is filled with the Word; from the Invocation where we invite the Lord to be a part of our service, to the Confession and Absolution where we are given the forgiveness that Jesus won for us on the cross, to the readings where we hear of what our Lord does and gives to us and the Lord’s Supper where our Lord gives Himself to us in His body and blood, to the Benediction where we are given the Lord’s blessing for the day and the week. It is through the Word and the Sacraments that God comes to us, that He presents Himself to us, and that He gives us His gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. And He moves in us to respond by living our lives with the words, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

And God Said - January 7, 2018 - The Baptism of Our Lord/1st Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Genesis 1:1-5

Today is the first Sunday after the Epiphany which was celebrated yesterday with little or no fanfare. Epiphany is one of those holy days that gets little attention. In my cynicism I would suggest it gets little or no fanfare because it is not a sellable holiday, in other words what can you sell to celebrate epiphany? Although, having said that, there is the sale of the “Kings” cake which is a cake that has a baby baked inside, obviously not a real baby. The one who finds the baby gets to host the Presentation of Jesus party on Feb. 2.
For us Christians, Epiphany has always been a special holy day. For many years epiphany was known as the gentile Christmas because this was the first appearing of the Savior of the world to gentiles, to non-Jews people. Epiphany is an important holiday, no matter how little fanfare it receives, because it is the day we gentile Christians are reminded that the covenant God made back in Genesis was a covenant for all people. We may further be reminded that although the Lord narrowed the line of the fulfillment of His covenant, His covenant never changed and we may be reminded that His covenant with Israel was not a new or second or different covenant, but was a covenant of the line of fulfillment. This covenant issue is what drives the heterodox teachings of millennialism as well as the politics of the Middle East, but that is not really for a sermon, rather that may be for a discussion for Bible Class.
This morning we move forward some 30 years to celebrate the baptism of our Lord. Jesus’ baptism was important because through His baptism He was ordained into His earthly Ministry, He identified with us, and this was the beginning of His earthly work. Our text for this morning takes us back to the beginning reminding us that this Christ who was baptized is also God who created all things out of nothing.
In our text we see the trinity of God way back in the beginning in Genesis. “1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (v. 1-2). Notice how we are told that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”? This Spirit of God is indeed the Holy Spirit. What you do not notice in the English text is that the word “God” is in the plural. Now, do not misunderstand, we are not polytheistic that is we do not worship many gods, but we worship a God, one God who shows Himself to us as a plurality of God, that is that He is three persons in one Godhead as we humanly describe Him.
In Genesis Chapter two, in speaking of Himself, God says, “Let us.” this is another example of the plurality of God. In Deuteronomy the Lord tells us that although He is a plurality, He is one. We hear this in what is called the great shema which means “hear.” “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). In this statement the word “God” is also in the plural and so God, in the plural, states that He is One.
What we are seeing here in Genesis is what we are shown throughout the Word of God, that God is a triune, a three-in-one God. What we see is also the fact that the trinity of the Godhead is never separate. God is always God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus this morning, we also celebrate that fact that Jesus was also with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the creation of the world. To deny the trinity of God is to deny the very essence of God and brings eternal judgement.
Moving on in our text we see God’s power and the power of His Word. “3And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness” (v. 3-4). Contrary to the evolutionists belief and the religion of Darwinism, all things did not simply come into being by itself. As a matter of fact, no one has ever observed anything spontaneously appearing out of nothing. There is no evidence for this assertion. However, there is the fact that God tells us what happened at the creation of the world and since He was there we know we can trust His Word. God tells us what happened at the creation of the world, that is that God spoke and it happened, exactly as He said. God said “Let there be light,” and there was light.
God tells us that He created light and He separated it from darkness. These words remind us that before God created anything there was only darkness and a void or as some translations put it, chaos. The first thing God created or called into existence was light. Perhaps light was the first thing God created, because light is necessary for life. Interestingly enough, Jesus is often called the “Light of the world,” and no that does not mean He was created, rather it is a fitting title, because if light is necessary for life, Jesus, the Light of the world is necessary for eternal life.
Continuing on in our text, we have God giving us the framework of time. This framework of time often brings the question of what is meant by “a day.” “5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (v. 5). I find it quite interesting that although the Sun was not created until day four, God gives the framework of a day on day one. So, when God finally created the Sun on the fourth day, He placed the Sun and the revolution of the earth into the predetermined time framework He had already created on day one. As for the question of what is a day, in the Bible, a day is always in reference to a 24 hour period of time. We have talked about this in Bible class that all the times the word “day” is used in the Bible, and the reference is always a 24 hour period. A day is a day. Those who would propose otherwise are very much like Satan and his first temptation of Adam and Eve when Satan asked, “Did God really say . . .?”
Just as a brief aside, let me encourage you in your faith and trust in God’s Word. Although so called human, earthly scientists would like to theorize and even suggest that it is a fact that the world is millions, even billions of years old and that all this came about by itself by millions, even billions of accidental mutations, which always made things better and even though they would present “evidence” for these datings, understand this, they were not there, they have never observed what they are suggesting happened, and their methods of dating are very unreliable. As we have heard in Bible Class there are more reliable methods for dating and the most reliable methods for dating give the earth a young date, but since this does not fit the paradigm of the evolutionist, this is not what we are publicly given. God was there. He saw how He created all things out of nothing and He tells us how He accomplished creation. The Bible traces the age of the earth through the genealogies so we know and we can believe and trust God and His word.
Contrary to the wisdom of the world, which we often see is foolishness, God’s wisdom is seen in His creation. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Just look at the complexity of this world in which we live, a world which literally takes care of itself, within the always present all preserving hand of its Maker.
What does this mean, say, suggest, or tell us today? First and foremost, we know that God’s Word is true and it can be trusted. We need this reminder and encouragement quite often because of our constant doubt and unbelief. Not that this is necessary for our faith, but of all the findings of archeology none have ever disproved the Bible, as a matter of fact all have confirmed what is in the Word of God. Likewise, when creationist, that is the name given to scientists who actually believe the Bible and the fact that God created the world and so use the Bible as a starting point in helping to unlock and explain the world, when creationists look at the same evidence, which does not speak bu must be interpreted, that the evolutionist have, the explanation of the creationist is more consistent and more logical than that of the evolutionists who very often must change and continue to change their explanations as new discoveries are found. And we should admit, to deny God’s Word here in Genesis as trustworthy and true is to deny all of His Word as trustworthy and true. If God lied in Genesis, what is to say He did not lie in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John? This is indeed a foundational issue and we can either believe God and His Word or the word of fallen, sinful human reasoning. Indeed this was what Luther was fighting, for the authority of the Word of God.
God’s Word is true. Thus, God does not lie. When God speaks to us we know we can believe Him because He is God and He speaks truth. As Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus is God, Jesus is truth, God is truth.
Not only is God’s Word truth, God’s Word does what it says. There is a distinct difference between the Bible and all the other books in the world. God’s Word does what it says. When God speaks it happens, just as He speaks it. We see this in our text for today, in the beginning God spoke all things into being. We saw God’s Word doing what it says this morning when we confessed our sins and heard those most beautiful words, “your sins are forgiven,” and we know that is exactly what happened, our sins were forgiven. We see this happen at the Lord’s table wherein we are given His body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. We see this happen every time we bear witness of a baptism how God creates faith. We see this happen in our lives as we read and hear His Word and as His Word has its way with us.
God’s Word has power. Unlike all the other books in the world, God’s Word has power. An ordinary book can only present you with information. Certainly you may be moved emotionally, but no book, except God’s Word has the power to do anything. God’s Word is a Word with power, power to do what it says. Again we saw this power this morning in our Old Testament lesson, in our text, so that when God said let there be, there was.
Best and most important is the fact that God’s Word gives gifts. We see this especially in the Epistle, and in the Gospel lessons for this morning. Through the very means of Grace, that is through God’s Word, through Holy Baptism which is water connected with God’s Word, through the Lord’s Supper which is bread and wine connected with God’s Word, through confession and absolution, which is God’s Word, God does great things and gives great gifts, faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. And in all these things it is God who is active and we who are passive. When it comes to our salvation, when it comes to good theology, we remember that God is the one who is always doing the doing and we are the ones who are always being done to.
Perhaps you have heard the old adage, “God said it, I believe, that settles it.” I believe the adage adds too much baggage and gives me too much credit. Why should I impose myself onto what God can do? We do so because of our nature, that is because we have a hard time believing in God’s perfect grace. The fact of the matter is that “God said it and that settles it.” It does not matter what we do or do not do. As a matter of fact, it does not even matter how we might get in the way in attempting to impose ourselves on what God can do and does. God does because He is God. God gives because He is God. And we are done to and given to because we need to be done to and given to. Thanks be to God. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.