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.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A Tribute to My Father, Daniel Wilbur Bogs

This tribute is written for the twentieth anniversary of the passing of my father from the valley of the shadow of death to his birth into his joyous home in heaven, July 27, 2000.

Most of you that know me know that I am neither sentimental nor nostalgic nor am I much of an emotional sort of person, yet at the twentieth anniversary of my father’s passing I wanted to take the time to reminisce and perhaps wax poetic, as I thought of the memories of my sainted father.
DISCLAIMER: Please understand that as is the case of many a loved one that has passed away they are often esteemed to be perfect after their passing as they are pointed to with overly holy expectations of the survivors, i.e., “Well, dad would have wanted it this way or that way,” usually spoken as a way of manipulating others, yet not always nor necessarily what the deceased may have wanted, just our placing our overly holy expectations on them as if it were what they truly desired. I have no qualms understanding that my sainted father was a sinful human being who had his flaws like everyone else. And as I believe he is in heaven which is a place of eternal joy, so I believe that he has no knowledge of nor can he see what is going on in this world. If he could see what was happening in this world, if he had any knowledge of the pain and suffering going on in this world he would not be in heaven. Indeed, I believe that at this point he has no care nor concern for this world.
Those of you that know my father (and I will often use the present tense as my father is alive and well in his heavenly home) know that he is a man who never knew a stranger. My dad would pick up a conversation with anyone, anytime, anywhere. At times this trait has been embarrassing as I would come upon my father having a conversation with someone and hear him “bragging” about his children, as if this perfect stranger wanted to hear about his family. Indeed, he always has said good things about his children and grandchildren. As a child my oldest son had his pawpaw’s trait as he would talk to anyone, perfect strangers, even inviting them to our house. My daughter has had this trait, but unfortunately because of her deep care for others this trait has often brought her emotional hurt and pain. I have tried to emulate my father’s example in picking up and carrying on conversations with others as well, unfortunately my ability and perhaps my personality, as well as my guarded personality as a clergyman, does not always translate into my father’s ability. Wherever my travels and calls as a church worker carried me my parents would often visit and inevitably my father would bend the ear of those who would listen. It simply came naturally to him.
Because of his work as an insurance salesman and having a selling territory from Houston to Waller; because of his growing up in the Hufsmith, Tomball area; because of his father’s sawmill business; because of his involvement in his church; my father knows many people and many people know my father. He can easily rattle off a person’s name and kinfolks. If you have taken the time to read this you probably know my dad and can share any number of stories about him, perhaps remembering those who would call him Daniel Boone.
As a child, before the world of today with all the video games and technological distractions, the only thing a young boy could do for entertainment was to get under dads feet. Thus, I grew up watching dad fix the cars, change the oil, replace some brake pads, master cylinder, fix the lawn mower, plant and tend a garden, raise pigs, cows and at times chickens, build a house, lay concrete, put up studs, put up rafters, put up drywall as well as tape and float the drywall, put up decking and shingles, do plumbing and electrical work and the like. Growing up in the country usually meant learning to do things yourself and that is what we did, that is how I learned much from my father and am able to do many things myself.
My father entered glory on my older brother’s birthday in 2000. At that time my wife and I only had the one child who was five at the time. As I think back on these past twenty years the one thing that I struggle with the most (and please understand this is not something that I regret, or something about which I am jealous, nor lament, nor am I disappointed as those words do not express what I want to say) is that three of my children never met their pawpaw. Even my oldest, having only been five, does not remember that much about him. Dad would call him his “little man” as he was the first and at that time the only grandson. Since then we have given my dad two more grandsons and a granddaughter along with the four other granddaughters he already has. The only way my children know their pawpaw is from the stories that I (as well as my brother, sister and cousins) relate to them as well as the “dad jokes” that he speaks through me. And as I struggle with this missing part, please understand I would never desire that my father would have to come back to this earth, this valley of the shadow of death. Indeed, the second most selfish thing one can do is to wish their loved one out of heaven for their own sake. My father is in heaven enjoying perfect peace and happiness and I would never desire that to be taken from him, especially not for some selfish reason of my own. (If you are wondering, the most selfish thing a person can do, in my opinion, is to take their own life which is not theirs to take and is taking themselves from their loved ones.)
So, as we celebrate my father’s twentieth birthday in heaven I give thanks for the years that he was present in my life and the things he taught me, sometimes with a ruler on the bottom. No, he was not a perfect man, husband or father, but he was a man of God who lived his faith and sought to instill that faith into his children. Yes, there are times that I wonder, “What would dad do?” When working on my car or one of the vehicles of my children, I remember the days of watching dad work on the car, holding the flashlight, getting a wrench, pumping the brake and so on. When we added a room to our house, when we dug a new drain line, I would wonder, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have dad here to help and give advice.” When I make trips to the Texas Confessional Lutheran’s conference in Brenham and there see one of his old friends, Don Kaiser, I think, “Dad would love to go along.” When I work to dig a plot and plant some seeds and wonder, “Why doesn’t my garden grow like dads,” I miss the advice he could give.
Twenty years ago my father passed from this world. Twenty years may seem like a long time, but in the long run, in the perspective of the whole picture, of eternity, it is just a blip on the screen. My wife will confirm that when I face struggles in this world I have a tendency to put this world into the eternal perspective that is that this world is nothing compared to eternity. Perhaps what drives me, and my children once asked, what is my greatest fear? I said, “That you, and anyone I love, might not be in heaven.” I am reminded that heaven is a place of perfect peace and happiness and since that is the case, we may not remember much of what is or has been happening in this world, after all, this is a sin-filled world of the valley of the shadow of death. As was my father’s concern for my spiritual well being so should all of us be concerned for the spiritual well being of those we love. After all, why bother having a relationship in this world with someone who may not be in heaven. Certainly God will wipe away every tear, yet to go through this world thinking there may be someone we care about who will live forever in hell is pain enough. Our greatest need is forgiveness of sins and we have that freely given to us. Our greatest desire then, is to make sure our loved one’s understand the temporariness of this world and have their lives and faith where it should be so that we may all rejoice when our last hour arrives and we enter God’s kingdom where we will see our loved one’s again and forever. I have always said, the reason older people desire to pass on from this world is the fact that most of their friends are no longer in this world but are in heaven. As we age, time seems to go by much faster reminding us of the shortness of our time in this world and our need to always be ready.
Personally, I do look forward to seeing my father again. At this time the closest I can get is when I am at the Lord’s Table partaking of His body and blood because there at that table are all the saints including those whom I love who have passed on before me. No, I cannot see them and they cannot see me, but they are their as Jesus is there. Thus, I desire to be in the Lord’s house and at His Table as often as I can.
So, although this tribute may have simply been an exercise in some rambling thoughts, it is a joy to know that my father is alive and well, that he is at peace and knows only complete joy and happiness and that someday soon, sooner than I know and sooner than I might imagine, I will see him again. I do so look forward to that day and I say as John says in his Revelation, “Come Lord Jesus.”

Monday, July 27, 2020

August 2020 Newsletter.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This too shall pass. That is what I say when talking about COVID-19. As all plagues and pandemics of the past have come and gone, so this too will eventually pass. One of the things that astounds and frustrates me the most with this pandemic is that amount of contradictory information and misinformation that is being broadcast to the general public. It is getting harder and harder to know who or what to believe in our world. This fact should not come as a surprise, however, as we know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that apart from Jesus is there is and can be no truth. So, as our world becomes less and less a Christian world, we find truth becomes less and less seen.

One politician suggested that he was more interested in truth than fact. What does that mean? When truth become relative, that is when what may be true for me may not be true for you and what is true for you may not be true for me, then facts do not matter. Rather one’s interpretation of the facts is what matters. And as one interprets the facts, that is what is true to them. As we do live in a world where truth has become relative for many, as Christians we still seek the truth and believe the truth which is found only in Jesus.

The same may be said about the cry for justice. Everyone wants justice, but is justice really what everyone wants? The answer is no. What everyone wants is what they believe to be their own justice. As Christians, we know that justice is that we are guilty and deserve eternal death. Thanks be to God that He does not give us the justice we deserve, rather He gives us the forgiveness that Jesus earned for us on the cross. This declaration is true, is a fact and is what we will continue to believe, teach and confess. This is where our focus is (should be).

In the mean time, we continue to sort through the information we are given. We continue to pray to God for healing, both from the pandemic as well as cultural struggles. We continue to be His Church in this place offering and delivering His gifts through Word and Sacrament. Pastor Mendez and I are ready, willing and able to work with you in just about any way you may desire in order to deliver God’s gifts to you as you feel comfortable and safe, but you need to let us know. And just as a note, at my last blood donation I tested negative for COVID-19.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Weeding the Garden - July 19, 2020 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11) - Text: Matthew 13:24-30 (36-43)

Last week we heard Jesus tell the parable of the Farmer who sowed his seed on the path, on the rocks, among the thorns and weeds and on good soil. We were also told by Jesus that the meaning of that parable was that He was the one who sows the seed and He still sows the seed today through the proclamation of His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of Grace. Those people who reject the Word of God, either outright or because of the cares and concerns of this world, those people who reject the message of salvation, that Jesus alone is the way to be saved are like the seed sown on the path, on the rocks and among the weeds and thorns. Those people who hear the Word of God, those people who hear the message and are given faith in Jesus alone for salvation are those seeds sown on good soil that produces a crop, a hundred, sixty and thirty times what is sown. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” This week we continue listening to the parables of Jesus as He continues to use the imagery of the sowing of seeds.
Our text begins with Jesus telling the parable, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matt. 13:24-30).
Our text for this morning then takes the liberty to skip past the parable of the mustard seed  in which Jesus reminds us that, although the mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, the plant that grows from it is so big that the birds of the air can build a nest in it, reminding us that although our faith may begin small, it can grow as we grow and mature in our faith. Also, the parable of the leaven is skipped. This parable reminds us that a little leaven leavens the whole loaf, that is that a little sin causes a great amount of trouble and a little forgiveness also goes a long way. Finally, what our text skips is the fact that Jesus spoke in parables for a purpose, in order that the message of salvation is not wasted on those who refuse and reject it.
Finally, after we have skipped these parts, Jesus tells the meaning of the parable. We pick up at verse thirty-six: “Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear” (36-43).
So, just like the parable from last week, Jesus is the one who sows the good seed. Jesus is not the author of evil, nor does He condone it. Jesus gives good gifts and blessings. Jesus comes to give faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Jesus came to save us through the giving of His life for ours. He sows the seeds of His Word and as we were reminded in the Old Testament lesson from last week, that Word which He sows is a Word with power. His Word is a Word which does what it says. As His Word is sown, it will not return void or empty, because it is His Word.
On the other hand, the one who sows bad seed is the devil. This one is the one who often times takes his own words and twists them to make them sound like God’s Word, but instead they are words of deception and lies, coming from the devil, the father of lies. The devil would have us believe that there are many ways to the same eternal enlightenment, that is that all religions are valid. The word of the devil is a word with power as well, not the power to save, but the power to condemn.
The end result is that on judgement day the fruit of the good seed will be separated from the fruit of the bad seed. The fruit of the good seed will gain eternal life in heaven. The fruit of the bad seed will reap destruction, eternal death in hell with weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The people to whom Jesus spoke this parable understood what Jesus was saying. And yet, this parable was not spoken only to the people of His day, Jesus speaks this parable to us today. Today God continues to sow good seed through the means of Grace. This parable reminds us of the importance of making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. This parable reminds us of the importance of coming to divine service and Bible class. This parable reminds us of the importance of reading God’s Word on our own and having personal and family devotions. This parable reminds us of the importance of remembering our Baptism, the importance of confessing our sins and hearing those most beautiful words we can ever hear, the words of absolution, that our sins are forgiven, and it reminds us of the importance of coming to the Lord’s Supper to be given His body and blood and the good gifts and blessings He has to give to us.
Today we live in a pluralistic society. We live in what is called a tolerant society, even though we know it is intolerant of Christians. We live in a world where there are many religions, cults and sects, where there are many weeds. There are many religions, cults and sects vying for our time and attention. There are many “opportunities” for doing many things, many things except doing the one thing needful as Jesus so pointed to busy Martha. There are many weeds in our world which try to choke our faith in Jesus alone.
And, as Jesus told His disciples, so He reminds us, we will live this way until the end. Life will not get any easier. As a matter of fact, if you have been watching the way things have been going in our world, you may have noticed that it is getting harder and harder to be a Christian. It is getting harder because a Christian is one who believes what Jesus says in His Word and that is, that there is no other name, given among men, whereby we must be saved, in other words, there is only one way to eternal life and that is by God’s Grace, through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross alone. Yes, we Christians are intolerant. Think about it like this, if there were any other way to eternal life, why in the world would Jesus go through the pain of suffering and dying for our sins? As has been noted in Bible class many times, all the religions of the world, all the cults and sects, can be divided into two categories, those who believe in self for salvation, that is, those who believe that one must do something, live a certain way, that their character is what saves them and we, those who believe that we are saved by God’s Grace alone because of something outside of us, namely, because of Jesus suffering and death for our sins.
Thus, we realize that our work until the end of the world is to share the good news of Jesus with others. No this is not explicitly stated in our text, but it is there nonetheless. It is only at the end, it is only at Judgement day that we will see the results of faith and unbelief. And rest assured, we will see the results.
So, what? Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Yes, there were those in Jesus’ day and there are still those in our world today who hear the Word of God and yet refuse and reject His good gifts and blessings. There are many in our world today who would just as soon go along with the philosophies and ideologies of this world, there are those who would just as soon go along with the ideas of cultural tolerance and pluralism rather than make waves, rather than stand up for what Jesus says, because it is a lot easier. It is very difficult and it is getting even harder for us in our world today to take a stand and to proclaim the difficult truth of what Jesus tells us in His Word, that is that there is only one way and that way is only through faith in Him. And yet, that is what we are to do.
So, we are continually reminded of our need to hear the Word of God. We are continually reminded of our need to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, to read our Bible everyday, to daily remember our Baptism, to come to divine service every Sunday, as well as to come to Bible class and to come to the Lord’s Supper as often as we can so that we might be strengthened in our faith so that we might be able to face the struggles and accusations of this world.
“He who has ears, let him hear.” “We hear,” when the Word of God is proclaimed in its truth and purity and when we believe that Word of God. But faith is not simply something in our mind, it is what we do. We hear when we act, that is when we live lives of faith. We hear when we believe and trust in Jesus alone for our forgiveness and our salvation and when we live our lives in such a way that we are not apathetic, but are boldly proclaiming our faith in Jesus alone, no matter what the cost, for to do otherwise would be to break the commandments.
You know, it is fascinating that even though we are hearing Jesus’ Words some 2000 years after He first spoke them, the world has not changed very much. Jesus’ Word is still being sown as the Word of God, it is rightly proclaimed and taught in its truth and purity and the devil, the enemy is still sowing weeds as the Word of God is mis-proclaimed, twisted and outright thrown out, and as other weeds of other religions, cults and sects are sown. And we will go on living this way until the end, until the day of Judgement, when God will sort out the wheat from the chaff, when the chaff, when those who believe in something or someone other than Jesus alone for salvation will be cast into the fires of eternal death and that will happen.
For us, Christians, the good news, the greatest news is that when we, those of us who believe in Jesus alone are gathered before the Lord’s throne, we will be robed with Jesus’ robes of righteousness. It all begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is the one who created us to love us. Jesus is the one who loved us so much that He gave up the glory of heaven in order to take on flesh and blood. Jesus is the one who lived for us, perfectly. Jesus is the one who fulfilled all the law and prophecies of the Old Testament, for us. Jesus is the one who paid the price for our sins, suffering eternal death and hell on the cross for us. Jesus died for us. Jesus rose for us. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to give us faith. At our Baptism Jesus gives us faith. Through our hearing God’s Word, through our confession and absolution, through our participation in the Lord’s Supper we are given faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Jesus works in us to do the good works He has for us to do. Jesus does it all and in the end, He will gather us with all the saints and we will give praise and glory to Jesus alone. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Listening and Hearing - July 12, 2020 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Matthew 13:1-9 (18-23)

That same day, the day in which Jesus told the crowds that His mother and brothers were “whoever does the will of [His] Father in heaven,” that same day, Jesus went out of the house where He had been preaching and teaching and he went out and sat by the lake. As he sat by the lake the crowds gathered again. And so it was with Jesus. All during His life, wherever He went crowds gathered in order to see Him, to hear Him, to be touched by Him. And Jesus tells them a parable. Jesus spoke many times in parables. A parable we are taught is an “earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Using parables, Jesus is able to connect to us using ordinary, every day things of which we might easily relate. But, not only does Jesus tell the parable, but, because of our ineptness and the ineptness of His disciples, He also explains the parable to make sure we understand.
Jesus, sitting in the boat spoke to the people. He said that “a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them” (v. 3b-4). These seeds are the Word of God. This soil is the people who hear the Word of God and ignore it. Day in and day out we come into contact with God and His good gifts and blessings. The world itself, our conscience, and the Word of God all tell us that there is a God. However, too many people simply want to ignore this fact, because the God of Holy Scripture is not the god they want to worship.
Others, on whom the seed of the Word of God is scattered, are those who join cults, sects and other religions. These people are those who hear the Word of God and then change it to be whatever they want it to be. These people are those who hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it because the evil one snatches it away from them. I have said it before, “if you do not like what God’s Word says, rewrite it,” but of course, then it is not His Word. Those people who fall into this category of having the seed scattered and having the birds come and eat it up are the people who refuse and reject the Word of God as it is.
And yet, the farmer continues on in scattering the seed. “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (v. 5,6). This soil is the people who hear the Word of God, perhaps they “make a decision for Jesus” and the rally ends. These people are the ones who have an emotional experience with the Word of God, but when they go back out into what we call the “real world,” they go back out into the world, and the same old sin and temptations are there, and when the frustrations of the world are still there, they wonder where is this “cure-all” God they thought they had found and so they just as easily give Him up.
There are those people who believe they can worship God in nature or worship God through some “moving” experience. They think they can worship God apart from others, watching the evangelist on TV and so forth. Their “faith” is a shallow faith, or faith with no roots. Perhaps these people are the ones who believe that there is something they can do to save themselves or that there is something they must do in order to be saved, they look to their obedience or lack thereof and because they are unable to fulfill whatever it is that they think they need to do they get discouraged and fall away. These people are the ones who hear the Word of God and make a shallow or an emotional decision and yet just as easily are moved to refuse and reject the Word.
And still, the farmer continues to scatter the seed. “Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them” (v. 7). This soil is the poeple who not only make a decision for Jesus, but also make a commitment for Jesus, they dedicate their lives to Him. On their own they commit their lives to Jesus, they make a promise to keep Him first, and then they go back out into the world, the cold, cruel world and the pain and struggles of this world are too much. It has been suggested by some that if you are not suffering from temptation in your life, then you need to be concerned. You see, the devil does not waste his time or energy on those he already has, but on those he does not yet have. So, when a person has come to faith, has been brought to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit through the means of Grace, the devil will work even harder in their lives to turn them back away from Christ and His Church. And the devil knows when and where to attack. He attacks at our weakest points. He attacks with thorns, weeds and vines that try to choke our faith in Jesus. He attacks with the trials and tribulations of this world. Here again, these people are the ones who believe that they must live a certain way, they must be obedient to certain rules and regulations in order to be worthy of this commitment they have made to God, so that when they are unable, when they fall, they “feel” even more unworthy and fall, perhaps even further  away.
Yes, there are those people who hear the Word of God and try to go it on their own. They believe they are strong enough on their own, they believe they can live up to their own standards, standards, rules and regulations which they have set for themselves, not living and resting assured on the promises of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here the devil is stronger and can turn them from faith. The devil tempts them so that they are unable to live the way they expect themselves to live. These people are the ones who hear the Word of God, make a self commitment and allow the cares and concerns of this world to turn their faith into no faith.
Still not discouraged in his scattering seed, the faithful farmer continues. “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (v. 8). By the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, there are those people who hear the Word of God and receive it with great joy. There are those people who are given faith, who are strengthened in their faith, who are given forgiveness, life and salvation. There are those people who are gladly given to and rejoice and give thanks for the Lord’s good gifts and blessings.
The farmer understands the importance of sowing the seed, watering the seed and reaping the harvest. Paul talked about the fact that one may sow, another may water and a third may reap the harvest. In other words, one person may hear the Word of God several times before being brought to faith. That same person may need that faith watered many times over. And finally, there is the reaping of faith, there is the faith which blooms and blossoms and bears fruit as that person shares their faith with others.
There are those people who are given to and recognize God as the gift giver and give Him thanks. Not only that, these people are the ones who also respond with the help of the Holy Spirit, living their lives in such a way that they witness the faith that God has given to them. The ultimate faith of the Christian is that which Paul expresses in his letter to the Romans, that is that we “consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In other words, that we rejoice and give thanks to God that we are able to suffer for Him and for His name sake. Certainly this is against our nature. Our nature is to gripe and complain about any and everything in life. Our nature is to be the one who right off rejects God’s good gifts and blessings. Our nature is to “make a decision for Jesus” until things get too rough and our faith is put to the test. Our nature is to think we can do it on our own. The ultimate faith of the Christian is to rejoice and give thanks for the hardships, for the persecution, for the bad as well as the good understanding the temporariness of this life and this world and looking to the world to come, even eternal life in heaven.
The ultimate sowing of the seed is this fact that it produces a crop. Certainly we could break out the old cliche’, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The fact is, as the Lord gives us faith, His desire is that we respond by bearing fruits of that faith. His desire is that we respond by sharing that faith, His Word with others. In our Old Testament Lesson for today, we have the promise of the efficacy of God’s Word, that is that God’s promise is that it will not return empty or void, but will do what He intended it to do, that is, give faith, give forgiveness, give life and salvation.
Again, Paul reminds us that the whole world has been infected and affected by Adam and Eve’s sin. The whole world is waiting patiently for God’s recreation. By faith in Jesus, we wait as well, but while we wait, we do not simply sit idly by, we go out and do the work which He has for us to do, the work of continuing to scatter the seed of the Word of God through which others might come to know Jesus as well.
Our text for today is a gentle word of encouragement for us here at St. Matthew. We might ask, what type of soil are we? Where are we in our own spiritual life? And we understand that we are all at different places in our own spiritual life. God continues to work in each one of us as we make regular and diligent use of His means of Grace. God continues to sow the seeds of His Word in our hearts and lives. God continues to water those seeds in order that we might grow up and mature in our faith in order that we might bear fruit, that we might do the good works which He has for us to do, good works which are a response to the greatest gifts which He gives to us, especially the gift of the life of His Son, Jesus for us, for our forgiveness and eternal salvation. Yes, our Lord knows us, He knows that the devil is still out there tempting us. He knows that we will backslide and that is why He is always there waiting for us, ready to forgive us, ready to give us a second chance. Thus we are encouraged with the words we often hear, “may the Lord who began this good work in you bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” My pray continues to be that Jesus will continue to strengthen and keep you in faith until He comes again to take us from this world to be with Himself in heaven where we will stand before the Lord’s throne with all the saints who have gone on before us and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Rest for the Weary - July 5, 2020 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 09) - Text: Matthew 11:25-30

Rest, that thing we all desire, yet that thing that seems to allude us the most. As children we do not want to take a nap, as adults we wish we could take a nap. You know how it is, we work all week and we look forward to the weekend when we can sleep in. For too many people it seems that all there is to this world is “working for the weekend.” And then, on the weekend we do not rest (voice inflection). No, we play hard, we garden hard, we do everything except rest and we are glad to get back to work on Monday so we can rest.
One of the difficult issues Jesus faced while on this earth, and still today, was and is His identity crisis. Who is this Jesus? In His day, and still today, suggestions as to His identity range from His being a good man, a good person, a good teacher, a good prophet, and the like to Peter’s confession and our confession, that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Savior of the world. He is true God and true man. He is the Messiah. Still today there are those who would deny Jesus identity, usually because it is not logical or reasonable. I would suggest that I like the fact that God is beyond my comprehension. Think about it this way, how puny God would be if He were so small and so simple and so logical that I, with my little brain, of which scientists tell us that we only use about 10% of anyway, how puny He would be if I could completely understand Him. I worship a God who is so much bigger than I am and a God who is beyond my own comprehension, however, I also worship a God who has revealed to me everything I need to know for my salvation. I worship a God who has done everything for me and given everything to me. I worship a God who is so much greater and beyond me, but who has made Himself very personal to me. But let us get to our text.
Earlier Jesus had sent His disciples out in order to get some “on the job training.” He “gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” Now, they had returned and Jesus turns to His Father in prayer for their experiences. Jesus praises the Father for concealing hidden things from the wise and the learned, that is, the self wise and the self learned. Jesus’ prayer speaks through the ages as we see the same self wise and self learned today who think they are so much bigger and smarter than God and announce certain things, certain characteristics about God, such as His inability to do miracles and the like. The god about which they speak is a god of their own creation, an idol. That is why they do not know Jesus, the one true God and that is why He is hidden from them. Of course, we know that, in our text, Jesus is referring to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and they know it too. In His prayer we come to understand even more about Jesus, our Savior.
In His prayer, and in many other places in Scripture, Jesus establishes Himself as God. He is not explicit in His words and in His prayer and that may be why so many miss it, why it is hidden. Jesus’ prayer reminds us that He is God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In other places in Scripture He is more explicit reminding us that He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, God who died and was raised to life.
Very often, in the Gospels, we hear Jesus speak the “I Am” words, that is, Jesus says, “I am . . ., “I am the way, the truth and the life.” These words go all the way back to the Old Testament and the call of Moses in the wilderness. When God called Moses, from the burning bush, to bring the children of Israel out of bondage of slavery in Egypt Moses asked, “who shall I say sent me?” and God said, “tell them ‘I Am’ has sent you.” “I Am,” that is God’s name, Yahweh. When Jesus says, “I Am” He is claiming to be Yahweh, God, and that really grates on the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
In our text, in His prayer Jesus says, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Jesus, the Son, and the Father are known by each other and through each other because they are one. Here again, we see Jesus establishing Himself as God, with the Father.
Jesus, true God, comes to bring rest, true rest. Here, again, Jesus is aiming His words at the Pharisees and teachers of the Law and at the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in our world today. These Pharisees and teachers of the Law were bringing a burden, a yoke on the children of Israel. And for those of you who do not know what a yoke is, a yoke is that thing which goes around the neck of an ox or a mule or a horse in order to attach a plow or trailer or other object and the reins to drive the animal. The yoke with which the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were burdening the people was the yoke of ceremonial laws. Today it is the yoke of obedience. So many laws they put on the people, in order to keep the ten commandments, it was unbearable, it was unrealistic for the people to be able to carry such a load.
The third commandments says the we are to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Simply stated, in good Lutheran terms we ask, “What does this mean?” and answer, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Simple enough we might suggest. This commandment reminds us of the importance of not despising the Word of God and the preaching of such Word, because of our love for God and it reminds us of the importance of gladly reading our Bibles, having family and personal devotion, and attending Divine Service and Bible class, again, because of God’s love for us and because of our love for God. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law, however, made up many tedious rules and regulations in order to “help” the children of Israel to keep this commandment. Rules such as, a person can walk only so many feet on the Sabbath day. A person could lift only so much weight on the Sabbath day, a person was not able to cook a meal on the Sabbath day and so on. It was these rules, to which Jesus was referring, which were a yoke and a burden to the children of Israel.
Instead of giving the people a difficult yoke to bear, Jesus simply gives gifts. He tells us that His yoke is a yoke of peace and rest. And when I say peace and rest, I am not speaking about the type of peace and rest we think of in our world today, an hour or so, maybe a day of peace and calm. No, His is true peace, a peace which surpasses all understanding. His yoke brings true rest, not just a nap or a time to sleep in, His is a true rest, a rest of mind and spirit, a rest of forgiveness of sins which brings a rest of body.
And even more than just giving us an easy yoke, Jesus takes our yoke, our burden of sin and guilt. He who was without sin became sin for us. Our Old Testament lesson for this morning is the promise of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem where He came to give His life on the cross for us, in our place. Paul reminds us in our epistle lesson, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Christ comes to rescue us. He comes to take our heavy yoke of sin and to give us His easy yoke of forgiveness.
The trials and tribulations of this world are indeed heavy. The struggles of this world weigh heavy on us. Day in and day out we struggle against sin and temptation and we lose. Our fight is not against powers and principalities but is against the spiritual forces which fight against us. Every day there is the temptation to sin, not against just one of the commandments, but against all of the commandments. And have you ever noticed, when we do sin against one of the commandments, we have probably sinned against two or three others as well. I would suggest that our temptation and sin today is not that we have so many rules and regulations to help us to keep the Ten Commandments, but that we have so much freedom to not keep the commandments. The question is not how much we should not do in order to keep the Sabbath day, but the fact that we have the freedom to do whatever we want, even, not the freedom of religion, but the freedom from religion.
Thanks be to God that He is a God who gives and we are His people to whom He gives. He has given us Jesus who is God. Jesus is God who comes with power, might and authority. And if we question if Jesus is God all we need to do is to go to His Word and in His Word Jesus shows Himself to be God. He shows Himself to be God through His signs, wonders and miracles which He performed while on this earth.
It is important that Jesus is both God and man. It is important that Jesus was a man so that He might identify with us, so that He might be our substitute, that is so that He might give His life for ours. It is important that Jesus is God so that He might be holy, and so that He might be able to live for us, the perfect life demanded of us, for us, in our place. So that He might take our sins, suffer, die and rise from the dead, for us, in our place. Thus, the ultimate showing of Jesus to be our God and Savior is the fact that He gives His life for ours on the cross. He takes our burdens, He took our yoke, He took our sins  upon Himself. He suffered and died the eternal death penalty for us in our place.
Jesus gives all things, faith, forgiveness and life and we are given to. He takes our yoke and gives us His which is a light yoke, a light burden. And what is more, He also gives to us so that we respond according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, a nap would be a good thing. Physical rest is important. Unfortunately, the reason many people are unable to get enough physical rest is because they are needing spiritual and emotional rest. Sin, temptation and guilt are overpowering. The world imposes a heavy burden, very much like the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Jesus comes to take that burden and to give us His yoke, a yoke of forgiveness, a yoke of love, a yoke of gifts, a yoke of eternal life. And with His yoke comes rest, a rest the world cannot give, a rest of spirit and soul. Yes, Jesus prayer is for us, for you and for me, His offer is to us, to you and to me, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.