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God at Work

Sermon: “God at Work”

Lectionary Series C; 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, November 17, 2019 – Proper 28

Epistle Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-13

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat (2nd Thessalonians 3:6-10).

How many of us were raised in a household that had a built in expectation that everyone will work? How many of us had daily chores to do around the house? How many of us heard the line from a parent: “Many hands make light work?”

To work is a gift of God. I am not speaking only of working in a job. I am speaking of working and serving in the vocations that God has placed us in. Be that as a worker, a husband, wife, father, mother, child, neighbor; no matter what, to work is a gift of God.

Before I continue, let me be clear about one thing: Though work is a gift, it should be noted that there are those who are unable to work, be it because of a disability or an injury. Some may be unemployed or underemployed who desire to work, but the work is simply not available to them at this time. This is not what this text for today is getting at.

What our text gets at today are those that could work, but instead choose not to. St. Paul is calling out people who are (as one commentary that I read called them), loafers. And anyone who is a loafer is lazy. And laziness is a sin.

In the portion of the catechism on Confession, when it asks which sins we should confess, it says: “Consider you place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?

Let me back up. Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? For whatever reason, there were a group of people in Thessalonica who had resolved to walk around in idleness. Though they had been told that Christ would be coming, they were neglecting their daily duties as they waited for His arrival. Perhaps they thought that since Christ had done all the work, now they could just sit around and do nothing until He returned.

This begs the questions, are we in any way, neglecting our daily duties? Are we neglecting our daily duties as workers, as neighbors, as members of a congregation, as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children? Are we being lazy?

Kids, are you doing the chores and the homework you are given, or are you spending more time playing video games and watching television? Parents, are you giving undivided attention to your kids when they are in need, or are you scrolling through your phone instead? Members of Zion, are you helping out with the work of the congregation as we seek to grow the kingdom of God, or are you sitting back hoping someone else will step up? Workers, are you putting one hundred percent of your effort into the project your boss gave you, or are you just giving it a portion of your effort and sometimes even slacking off on company time? Neighbors, are you getting to know the people who live around you, or are you so concerned with your own affairs that you won’t even take time to consider care about the people that live next to you?

Laziness cuts us all to the heart when we really examine ourselves in light of our vocations. And I know, there are those of us that would contend that we aren’t lazy. We work really hard. But that’s where the flip-side of this topic of work comes in. How many of us work so hard that we have our vocations upside down?

How many of us put in so many hours at the workplace, that we neglect the calling we have at home. Or we work so much that we only give our family the leftovers of our time and energy. Or how many of us work so much that we claim we have no time to visit or even call extended family members? Or how many of us work so much that we have no time to give to our congregation and the furthering of God’s kingdom? I think the best line I heard about this was from my home pastor in one of his sermons. He said, “Nobody ever sat on their deathbed and said, I wish I would have worked one more hour. (Pause) Work is most certainly a gift, but if we aren’t careful, we can make work into a god, and our priorities can easily get out of whack.

What also can get out of whack is when our being so-called busy can lead to us being busybodies. St. Paul says: For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living (2nd Thessalonians 3:11-12).

Apparently, in Thessalonica, people had enough time on their hands to meddle in the affairs of others with gossiping. Now gossiping and bad-mouthing of others never happens in our community, now does it? Of course it does. Even if we are busy with work, we can’t help but think we have the right to talk poorly of others to make us feel better about ourselves. Doing so only brings a community down, and it severs relationships. So this begs the question, how are you meddling in the affairs of others? How are you gossiping about others? How are you speaking poorly of others? How have you damaged someone else’s reputation by what you have said or done? And to whom do you need to go to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and seek reconciliation?

When it comes to the topic of work, be it laziness, or working like a work-a-holic, or behaving as a busybody who meddles in the affairs of others, we are all called to repent. We are all called to admit that we are wrong, and to take sin seriously. Sin separates, it severs, it kills. And to continue in it, is to choose death over life. So as Christians, let us repent, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, let us change our sinful ways. (Pause)

Now with all this talk of work, let us not neglect what is most essential. Rest. Scripture says: As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good (2nd Thessalonians 3:13). We need rest from all of the weariness. Our bodies need it. Our souls need it. We need rest. Even God, after creating the world in six days, rested on the seventh day. He rested on that day and He made it holy.

When we fill our schedules so full that we neglect rest, we do no one any good. If anything, we only set ourselves up to somehow think that we are saved by our works. We start to see ourselves only in light of the work we do, instead of resting in the work that was done for us by Christ on the cross. (Pause)

This is precisely why Jesus, in no way neglected the duties given to Him by His Father. He was not lazy at all. He was the hardest of workers as He willingly came to this earth, into a world of sin and death. But along the way to the cross, He took time to rest. He regularly stopped to rest as He prayed to His Father in heaven. Then, when it came time for the job to be done, He did it until it was finished. Until our sins were forgiven; our sins of laziness, and overworking and neglecting our other vocations, and being busybodies that meddle in the lives of others.

‘Resting’ securely in Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, we are now blessed with God at work in our lives as we await the return of Christ. First we rest in His presence here in His house as we are strengthened by His Word and Sacrament, and then He sends us out into our vocations to serve Him and others. And in that work, He presents before us countless opportunities to share His love with others. With a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, a family member, a congregational member, or a visitor to our church.

And speaking of our congregation, how could we all lend a hand, as many hands do make light work? How could we all work together to Share Hope and Teach Christ here in this congregation and in our community? (Pause)

May we see here at Zion, and in all of our vocations, all that God has put in place before us to do to serve Him and others. And may we rejoice in the fact that God is at work in us and through us…so that others may know and believe what we have been given to believe…that Jesus Christ is Lord…and it won’t be long and He will return to take us to be with Him for all eternity.

Let us pray. Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love; Take my feet and let them be, swift and beautiful for Thee. Take my voice and let me sing, always, only for my King; take my lips and let them be, filled with messages from Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Encouragement to Stand Firm

Sermon: “Encouragement to Stand Firm”

Lectionary Series C; 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, November 10, 2019 – Proper 27

Epistle Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-8, 13-17

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

We are nearing the end of the church year. The lessons for this week and the next two will prepare us for the coming of Christ.

 

Before we dive into our text, this is a good time to review the seasons of the church year. The church year begins with the season of Advent, which takes place right before Christmas. The color is blue as it reminds us of the hope that comes in the Coming Christ. Advent means ‘coming’.

We then proceed to the season of Christmas, as we mark the incarnation, or the coming of God in the flesh into this world in the person of Jesus, the Son of God. The color for the season of Christmas is white as it reminds us of holy one who has come into the world.

The next season of the church year is Epiphany where the color is green to focus our attention on the growth of Jesus’ ministry.

We then move into Lent which is a season of repentance which lasts forty days building up to Holy Week. The color for this season is purple, as we are directed to the royalty of the Son of God who bore our sins.

From there we go into Holy Week which builds us up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, where the color shifts to white as we mark that Jesus has been raised from the dead in the season of Easter.

Then, when the promised Holy Spirit comes, we use the color red to be reminded of the tongues of fire that came upon those disciples as they proclaimed the Gospel in many languages.

And we conclude the year in the season of Pentecost, the longest season of the church year, where we focus on the growth of the Church through Word and Sacrament. As you can see today, the color for the season of Pentecost is green.

Festival services are also marked with colors like red and white, but all of it is to help align us and direct us to the life of Christ and how He has graciously welcomed us into His story here in His house.

 

As I said before, we are now entering the last weeks of the church year. It will soon be Advent. But before we reach that season, St. Paul offers the Thessalonians and us some words of encouragement as we look forward to the coming of Christ on the Last Day: Stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter (2nd Thessalonians 2:15).

          The encouragement is to stand firm. To stand firm is to assume that there is a solid foundation under one’s feet. No doubt we have all heard about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is leaning because it lacks solid soil under its foundation.

          Perhaps some of you have played the game of Jenga. Our Junior Youth Group will be playing the game this coming Wednesday. In that game, there are 54 boards. 18 layers of three boards each are stacked upon one another. Each layer is perpendicular to the layer beneath it. Youth then take out one board at a time and then have to stack that board on the top of the ever-so-teetering structure. The loser of the game is the one who pulls out the board and the structure collapses. It is a lot of fun to play, and it clearly depicts just how essential a firm foundation is.

          Being called to stand firm by St. Paul calls each of us to check our footing, to see if we are standing securely, or are we about to topple.

St. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to stand firm as they awaited the coming of Christ on the Last Day. The church in Thessalonica was suffering under persecution. They were converted pagans who had been told in Paul’s first letter to them that the Day of the Lord would be coming, and it would come like a thief in the night. They were holding on to the promise that the persecution would end and they would soon see Jesus.

But unfortunately, they had received a letter spreading a rumor that the day of the Lord had already come. You can imagine for a church that was waiting for relief to come in the face of persecution, to find out that the Last Day had already passed would have been very distressing. They thought they had been left behind. Needless to say their anxiety levels soared thinking they had missed the return of Christ.

Paul assured them that had not yet happened. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God (2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4). (Pause)

As the Last Day approaches, such words of St. Paul ought to heighten our awareness to just how crafty the evil one is. He is not afraid to seat himself in the temple of God and proclaim himself to be God. Herein lies the line: Where Christ builds a church, the devil builds a chapel right next door. In fact, the devil will not hesitate to enter into the church itself. His whole goal is to take down the Church.

Remember, the devil is like a sneaky serpent and he will not hesitate to poke his head in where it doesn’t belong, and it isn’t long and his whole body follows as well. He works through doubt and deception. Remember how he tempted Eve in the garden. Did God really say you shouldn’t eat of the fruit of the tree? Notice the devil goes to attack on us to get us to doubt the truth of God’s Word.

Scripture tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

So, as the onslaught of the Great Deceiver continues, Paul encourages us to stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught. (Pause)

My wife, Emily, was sharing with me an excerpt from the book she was reading that was quite striking, where the author, (Andrew, by name), got the chance to sit down with a Muslim leader named Fadlallah. Here is that excerpt. We met five or six times. There was one meeting where we sat and drank Arab coffee and Fadlallah said to me, “Andrew, you Christians have a big problem.” Well, I knew Christians had problems, but I was curious to find out what this Muslim leader thought was our big problem. His answer: “You don’t follow the example of Jesus anymore!”

It was hard to disagree with him, so I asked him what we should do.

“You need to go back to the book!” He meant, of course, the Bible.

Now it’s hard to believe this man said such a thing, but his words are true nonetheless. In order to stand firm, we need to constantly return to the Bible. This is what is central to our life of faith as we face the onslaught of attacks from the evil one. When Paul encouraged his hearers to stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, he was encouraging them to stand firm on the rock which is the Word of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord.

It’s like the wise man who built his house upon the rock. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded upon the rock. But if our foundation is not the Word of God, we are like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:24-27). (Pause)

How central to our lives is the Word of God? How is our footing? What is our foundation? Are we standing firm on the rock as we face the coming of Christ or are we more like the Tower of Pisa on some insecure sand?

In the book I am reading now called Built on the Rock, it shares the research that in order for a congregation to be healthy, at least 20% of its ‘active’ membership needs to be in Adult Bible Class. 20% may sound low, but believe it or not, we aren’t there. Which means that when we face conflict as a congregation, we will be more apt to handle it on the basis of emotion and our own human reason rather than standing firm on the rock.

Ask yourself: How often am I in the Word throughout the week? Could I possibly craft time out for more? Am I able to navigate the Bible without using the table of contents to find a book of the Bible? If not, could I challenge myself to learn all sixty-six books of the Bible? Am I familiar with the key characters in Scripture and the stories that go with them…Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, Esther, the disciples, Paul, Jesus…and countless others? What is keeping me from reorienting my priorities so that I ensure that I am standing securely on the rock? (Pause)

Jesus Christ is the solid rock upon which we are called to stand firm, because He is the One who stood firm in the face of the greatest opposition this world could muster, the greatest opposition Satan himself could muster. Jesus stood firm on the cross of Calvary. Though He could have called down legions of angels to rescue Him, He stood firm until it was finished. Until the last breath. Until the last heartbeat. Until we were saved from sin, death, and the devil once and for all.

As we look at the cross before us, we see the price that had to be paid for all the times we despised God’s Word by not reading it, learning it, marking it, and inwardly digesting it. And we rejoice that He chose to forgive and save us so that we would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2nd Thessalonians 2:13-14).

St. Paul told the Thessalonians about what that day would be like in his first letter to them. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17). (Pause)

We who are chosen by God can be encouraged that God plants us firmly upon the rock of His Word as we look forward to the glory that awaits us. We will not be left behind as the Thessalonians feared, but rather we will always be with the Lord.

Until that day, stand firm upon Jesus and His Word. He is our rock that will keep us from toppling. He is our sure and certain foundation who will enable us to endure until He comes again. He is our Savior and Lord, and He stands firm, all for us.

It is as one of my favorite hymns says:

“How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He has said, who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?”

“Fear not! I am with you, O be not dismayed, for I am your God and will still give you aid; I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand, upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Victory Celebration

Sermon: “Victory Celebration”

Lectionary Series C; All Saints’ Sunday

Sunday, November 3, 2019 – Proper 27

First Reading: Revelation 7:9-17

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Washington Nationals just won the World Series of Major League Baseball. As the ninth inning of game seven came to a close, players and coaches from the Nationals jumped up and down like little boys in a school yard. The celebration continued in a plastic lined locker room as those same players and coaches put on goggles and sprayed champagne everywhere. Then yesterday, hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of Washington D.C. as the victory parade and speeches ensued. What a party! What a victory celebration!

Everyone loves a good victory celebration. Everyone loves to be able to just let loose and rejoice in winning. We all love winning, am I right? Whether it’s a World Series win, a Super Bowl win, or just a good ole win at a game of Sheephead. We all love winning, and we love to celebrate the victory afterwards.

The image we have in our text for today is a victory celebration. The saints have come out of the great tribulation, and now it is time to party. No more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat, no more tears. Now all that remains is victory. Victory in Jesus!

Just imagine all those who are going to be there. Adam and Eve. Noah. Father Abraham…who had many sons. Isaac. Jacob. Moses. Ruth. Esther. Elijah. Joseph and Mary. Peter, James, and John. The apostle Paul. And countless others from all tribes and nations from every generation. Literally, countless, the text says.

Everyone will be wearing white robes given to them by none other than Jesus Himself who washed them in His own precious blood. Everyone will be waving palm branches in their hands celebrating the victory. Everyone will be shouting: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!

This is the image of victory that we get to look forward to as we celebrate All Saints Sunday today. As we give thanks for the victory given in Jesus afforded to our loved ones who have died in the faith, we set our sights on our own future glory. We fix our eyes with the saints on the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Where are your eyes fixed? Are the set on Christ? Are they fixed on future glory? When John wrote these letters to the seven churches which we know as the book of Revelation, he was writing them to a persecuted church. He was writing them to a people that were daily being tested and tried for their faith. People were being imprisoned, wounded, and even killed. It was hardly a time for a victory celebration.

John invites those who read his letters to rejoice even now that this image of victory is a guarantee. Perhaps some of you remember back in Super Bowl III, three days before the game was to begin, Joe Namath, the quarterback for the New York Jets guaranteed a victory over the favored Baltimore Colts. When the game took place, Namath and his underdog Jets delivered on his guarantee securing the victory by a margin of 16 to 7.

Though Namath came through, most of us would agree that guarantees are hard to come by that live up to what they claim. We have guarantees that come with purchasing a vehicle. We have guarantees given to us by family members. We have guarantees that come with a new job. How many times have we had the guarantees in life wind up letting us down, because quite frankly, people let us down?

We hear of an image of victory like we do in our text for today, and it is difficult for us to believe that it will come to fruition. We want evidence. We want proof. Our lack of trust in the Almighty God coming through for us is why we live the way we do as we approach the Last Day.

All too often we live in fear, not as those who have a guaranteed victory celebration awaiting us. We look at life through the lens of our current suffering rather than the glory that awaits us. We look at the hunger, the thirst, the scorching heat, and the tears, and we fail to recognize that John tells us that all this will be no more.

By our own reason or strength we fail to comprehend just how grand things will be when Christ does return. How often do we think that if we can’t understand something then it must not be true?

This is why John describes the victory celebration as He does. He doesn’t tell us as much of what will be there as much as what won’t be there. There won’t be hunger or thirst or scorching heat or tears. In the 21st chapter he tells his readers: He (God) will wipe away ever tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

By the process of negation, John gives us a beautiful image of the future glory that awaits us in the resurrection. He tells us that God will eliminate all the realities of living in a sin-filled world. He paints a picture of pure joy and bliss as all the pain and suffering of this world will be no more.

Each time we gather for a funeral and the committal, this is what we have to proclaim thanks to Jesus for: Death does not get the final say. Jesus, who said that it was finished, gets the final say. He destroyed death by His death on the cross, and His victory over the grave is what gives us hope. Thanks to Jesus, we have hope even while living in this world of suffering and pain, even while living in this valley of the shadow of death.

Hope is a word that gets used so loosely today. Hope is a word that so often fails to offer any guarantees. Hope is so often misplaced. But Scripture tells us: Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:24-25).

And that’s where our problem arises. We fail to trust in God to come through for us because we lack patience. We want the suffering to end now. We want the pain to end now. We want the sin and death to be done for.

Thanks be to God, He guaranteed just that. All the way back in the Garden of Gethsemane, God promised that the offspring of Eve would crush the head of the serpent. We look back and see that this promise is now our sure and certain hope. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world to be our hope. He came into this world to shed His own precious blood with His innocent suffering and death, to forgive us for our lack of fearing, loving, and trusting in Him above all things, and crush the serpent Satan once and for all.

Whenever we fail to trust that victory celebration is ours, all we need to do is look back to the cross and the empty tomb and see that what He promised is an accomplished fact. It is finished. It is done.

The saints who have gone before us are already getting the party started for us. And we are invited to join them even now. Each and every Sunday, when we are invited to the table of the Lord, we feast on the foretaste to come. We feast upon Christ, the same feast the saints enjoy in heaven.

I have often told people that if I could redesign our church, I would have the altar pulled out from the wall and the communion rail be in the form of a half circle. There in the middle would be the body and blood of Christ. We would join in dining together, but recognizing that the other half circle is completed in heaven by all the saints who have gone before us.

Our liturgy clearly states this beautiful truth in the preface to communion before the Sanctus is sung: “It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God.  In the communion of all Your saints gathered into the one body of Your Son, You have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses that we, encouraged by their faith and strengthened by their fellowship, may run with perseverance the race that is set before us and, together with them, receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.  Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: (8am) Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of pow’r and might; (10:30am) Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty.”

What a victory celebration we have been given to participate in even here now, even here today. And it will only get better when Christ does fulfill His promise to return, when the separation will be ended, sin and death done for, forever. We will all be joined together. We will all be clothed in white robes, and wave palm branches in our hands. We will all give out a shout: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” Let the victory celebration begin! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Truth

Sermon: “The Truth”

Lectionary Series C; Reformation Sunday; Confirmation Sunday

Sunday, October 27, 2019 – Proper 26

Gospel Reading: John 8:31-36

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

Truth. What is truth? It was a question that Pontius Pilate asked of Jesus right before Jesus was convicted and crucified.

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).

What is truth? We live in world that claims that truth is relative. We live in a world where people think they get to decide what is the truth that they will believe in. We live in a world where what is true for you, may not be true for me, and vice versa. Just don’t go thinking your truth is more right than mine. Because what’s true for me is true for me, and you must respect that.

Our text calls us out of this world of relative truth to The Truth. The One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The One who is the Truth that sets us free from sin, death, and the devil. The One who looked Pontius Pilate in the eye and said that those who are of the ‘truth’ listen to the voice of Jesus.

What is truth? The truth is, that Jesus loves you. How many years have you been singing that song? “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” Has it sunk in yet…that Jesus loves you?

Jesus came into this world of sin by humbling Himself to be born of a virgin in a stable and placed in a manger. He became sin who knew no sin. He lived the perfect life that we could not live. He laid down that perfect life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He died our death and was raised back to life for us.

What is truth? The truth is that Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. That was His promise as He ascended into heaven when He said “I will be with you always even to the end of the age.” Jesus keeps coming to us here in His house so that we can see Him, hear Him, and touch Him in the means that He reveals Himself to us. He is here right now in His Word and in His Sacrament.

What is truth? The truth is you are baptized into the very name of the Triune God. Through water and the Word, we were named and claimed to be beloved children of the heavenly Father. At the font is where our old sinful self was drowned, and the resurrected Christ reached down and grabbed ahold us and pulled us up in order to save us. And save us, He most certainly did.

What is truth? The truth is that you are a sinner. Each and every one of us has been conceived and born into sin. It’s called original sin. The sin passed down through our parents all the way from Adam and Eve. From that original sin, we do what we do best. Sinners sin. It’s called actual sin. Sin separates. It separates us from God. It separates us from our neighbors. And who are our neighbors? All people. And in this sinful separation, there is a deeper truth that we have to face. Because of our disobedience of God’s commandments, because of our sins, each and every one of us is doomed to die.

Have you ever been to a funeral before? If you have, then you have seen that the wage of sin is real. The last breath is real. The last heart beat is real. Death is real. It is a guarantee for us as sinners. What did Benjamin Franklin say? The only two guarantees in life are what? Death and taxes. Exactly! We are sinners, and we will die.

What is truth? You and I don’t like to admit that we are sinners doomed to die. We don’t like to admit that we are wrong. We don’t like to call sin a sin. We don’t like to confess that we are sinners in need of a Savior.

What is truth? If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1st John 1:8).

What is truth? You and I like to lie to ourselves to justify our thoughts, words, and deeds. We like to think that we are good people who are deserving of heaven. We like to compare ourselves to others so we can think that others are far more deserving of death and hell than us. We like to do what we want to do rather than abide in God’s Word and keep reading it, marking it, learning it, and inwardly digesting it as if our life depended upon it. We like the slavery to sin rather than the freedom that comes in Christ, because let’s be honest, we like our sins more than we love our Savior. And we like to think that our sins are not that big of a deal.

What is truth? For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus’ death upon the cross is proof that our sins are a very big deal. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). It took the death of the Son of God in order to save us. He had to endure the wrath of God so that we would be saved from the fires of hell. How can we not say that was a big deal? (Pause)

What is truth? Today is Reformation Sunday. Today we remember when a monk by the name of Martin Luther made a big deal about the Truth of Jesus being proclaimed. By posting 95 theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, he called the Roman Catholic Church to account for their sale of indulgences, for their abandoning of the Word of God. And so today we rejoice that the Word of God was restored to the Church. We rejoice in being Lutherans who believe and confess that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and by Scripture alone.

What is truth? Today is Confirmation Sunday. Today thirteen youth will stand before this congregation and publicly declare that the salvation won for them in their baptism by Jesus is a very big deal. It is such a big deal that they will publicly declare that they “intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death.” It is such a big deal that they will publicly declare that they “intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.”

What is truth? The truth is that as we look back on over 500 years of our church body confessing the faith, a child being baptized today, and thirteen youth confessing their faith, is that the Truth is a big deal, and the Truth still matters. The Truth is not relative at all. The Truth is timeless. The Truth does not change. The Truth is a person. The Truth is none other than the crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, and ascended Jesus Christ.

Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Little did He know but the Truth he needed for salvation was standing right in front of him. The same is true for us.

Here today, Jesus comes to us in the hearing of His Word. He invites us to abide in His Word. He invites us to abide in Him as we eat His body, and drink His blood. Here today, we see firsthand that there is nothing more that Jesus wants than to have us close to Him…now and for all eternity.

What is truth? In a world of relative truth, how blessed are we to have the Truth…in our ears, upon our lips, and in our lives?! So, may we never stop confessing the Truth, and may we never forget what is most certainly true, that Jesus Christ loves you.

We join in singing the first verse of Jesus Loves Me.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong.

They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

The Bible tells me so.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Always Pray and Do Not Lose Heart

Sermon: “Always Pray and Do Not Lose Heart”

Lectionary Series C; The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, October 20, 2019 – Proper 25

Gospel Reading: Luke 18:1-8

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer. The Catechism tells us that prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts. Some prayers take the form of a confession, some are intercessions as we pray on behalf of others, some are thanksgivings, some are complaints, and some are praise and adoration. Prayer takes a myriad of forms in our lives.

Scripture tells us that we are commanded to pray and that God promises to hear and answer us. Prayer is an expression of trust in our Lord. From early on, we learn that prayer is a humble act before God as we are taught to fold our hands, bow our heads, and close our eyes. Prayer is a gift from God.

For some of us, prayer is a daily routine that we have set in the schedule of our lives. For others, it is more of a random, occasional practice when we think the need arises. For others, it may not be a practice much at all unless someone else is leading it.

For some of us, prayer is easy. They just start praying. For others, it is not so easy. They might be intimidated thinking they don’t have the right words. They might wonder what the point is and so they just don’t try to put it into practice. They might just think they are too busy to add another thing to their day.

Prayer. Where are you at in your life of prayer? (Pause)

And he [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).

Three years they had been following Jesus. Now, they were making their way to Jerusalem, closing in on the enemy’s foothold. The attacks by the religious authorities had been growing. The pressure was building. Little did they know what was actually going to happen. Though Jesus had told them plainly, they still did not understand. But how could they not see that things were getting pretty tense as Jesus continued His journey?

The disciples were about to watch Jesus enter into the streets of Jerusalem to shouts of praise, but then in a matter of days they would witness those shouts turn ugly. Shouts of “Hosanna!” would be traded for shouts of “Crucify!” They would witness Jesus be hauled away by an unruly mob, unjustly tried and convicted, and then crucified.

Jesus knew all of this was going to happen. He knew the going was going to get tough. Far tougher than had been experienced to this point. What’s more, it was going to get even tougher for His disciples after He was crucified, raised, and ascended into heaven. He knew most of His disciples would die for following Him. So, in a moment of pause, He lovingly and graciously took advantage of a teachable moment and told them a parable.

And he [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming’” (Luke 18:1-5).

At first glance this may look like Jesus was directing his disciples to beg and plead before God until they got what they wanted. “Just be like the widow who got her way, so it will be with God. He will give you all the desires of your hearts.”

If this were the case, then every child who has ever begged and pleaded before their parents is now validated in their behavior. You know what I am talking about. You are going through the grocery store checkout. There before the child is the ever so conveniently placed selection of candy. Then it happens, “Dad, Mom, may I please have a piece of candy.” “No,” says the parents. “But please, pretty please.” “No,” says the parents even louder. Then come the waterworks. The child starts saying through tear-filled eyes, “Please, can I have a piece of candy.” The parents look at each other, give in, and buy the kid a piece of candy. The child’s fake tears are instantly turned into an ear to ear smile as the child gets their way.

Let me be clear: This is not what Jesus was getting at in the parable. He was not telling His disciples to always pray and not lose heart because God is like a vending machine that will fulfill all of our wants in life. Imagine how much more chaotic and catastrophic this world would be if that were the case…if every sinner on earth got their way. Now that’s a horrific thought.

Instead, Jesus wants His disciples and us to be like this persistent widow. Even in the face of adversity and hardship, He wants us to keep crying out to Him for help. The end is in sight. Jesus will soon return, and He will see us through to the finish line. No matter how hard it gets, keep calling upon His name. Keep fearing, loving, and trusting in Him above all things. And we most certainly can trust Him to be faithful to His promises.

You see, this parable invites us to contrast the unjust judge and God Himself. We know that the unjust judge doesn’t fear God or respect man. Even though as a judge he is positioned by God to faithfully carry out justice in service to God and to humanity. But not for this judge. He is only concerned about himself. Which is why he gives in to the widow’s pleas. He just doesn’t want to put up with her any more. He doesn’t want her to (literal meaning) give him a black eye. So, to end the constant cry of the widow, he gives in and gives her justice against her adversary. He gives her what she wants. But listen to what Jesus says to set up the contrast:

And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to the elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he not delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:6-8).

Jesus knew there would come a day when His disciples would be crying out to God for mercy. The persecution would intensify. The threat on their lives would grow, and the temptation would be to stop praying and to lose heart. But Jesus directs His followers to cry out nonetheless…to always pray and not to lose heart…trusting in their God who saves…that even though the current outlook would be bleak, the end result would be victory…victory in Jesus for all eternity.

But that’s hard for us to believe two thousand years later when we look around and it doesn’t look like we are victorious. What are we to do in a world where so many bad things still happen? What are we to do in a world where Christians are killed in other countries, and the outlook here in America for the Christian faith looks worse with each day that passes? What are we to do in a world where we are being told we can’t speak about our faith in Christ, or else we may offend someone and be at risk of losing our job or taken to court? What are we to do in a world where we turn on the news and it looks like the whole world is falling to pieces?

When faced with such intense realities all around us, the temptation is to quit praying and to lose heart. The devil tempts us to turn inward rather than upward. He tempts us to think the situation is hopeless. So, we get discouraged. We lose sight of any hope. We think we have lost war, and that there is no chance for victory.

No doubt the disciples could have said the same when Jesus stood before an unjust judge and was falsely accused and sentenced to a punishment that should not have been His to endure. No doubt the disciples could have said the same when He was whipped and spat upon. No doubt the disciples could have said the same when He was forced to carry the cross that He was nailed to. A man nailed to a cross is hardly an image of victory by our estimation.

But Jesus’ body nailed to a cross is picture of victory nonetheless. There on that cross we see the justice of The Judge. There on that cross do we see our punishment paid for in full. There on that cross do we see the very character and love of our God on full display.

Our God is not an unjust judge who only cares for Himself and does not care for us at all. Our God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

Our God delights in doing the unthinkable by sending His Son to die for us…to rise victorious for us, to end the separation that existed because of our sins, to be the mediator between us and the Heavenly Father.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His victory over the grave is what gives us access to the Father. When the Father looks at us, He no longer sees our sin. He sees His children, covered in the shed blood of His Son. And he delights in hearing His children cry out to Him in prayer in all times of need.

So, where are you at in your life of prayer? God invites us today to put prayer into practice…to see that there is nothing more that He wants of us than to be in constant communication with Him. He knows that the going is tough, and it will only get tougher. But with His help along the way, we will be blessed to endure to life everlasting with Him. So, let us always pray and do not lose heart.

Let us pray. Almighty, everlasting God, Your Son has assured forgiveness of sins and deliverance from eternal death. Strengthen us as the journey continues to be long and difficult by Your Holy Spirit that our faith in Christ my increase daily and that we may hold fast to the hope that on the Last Day we shall be raised in glory to eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Mercy at the border

Sermon: “Mercy on the Border”

Lectionary Series C; The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, October 13, 2019 – Proper 24

Gospel Reading: Luke 17:11-19

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Borders. If you cross the border into from Canada to America, you better make sure you don’t have any extra walleye in your cooler. If you cross the border into California, you better not have any fresh produce in your car. If you cross the border from Kenya to another country, you better not have left the vicinity of the city of Nairobi, or prepare to be searched. I know from experience.

Borders. Over the past few years, we have heard a great deal on the news about the borders of our nation. President Trump campaigned for his presidency with the agenda of closing our southwest border with a wall that Mexico would partially pay for. Other politicians would like to see open borders with sanctuary cities. Among these dialogues back and forth on borders, we have heard more and more about the work of ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We have had reports of rising racial tensions throughout the country, and especially near the borders. And now, if you live in New York, and utter the words, “illegal alien” you can get a $250,000 fine. All of this stems from all the talk about our borders in recent years.

But before you go thinking this will be a sermon with a political statement, it is really anything but. This talk of borders is a set up for our text for today where Jesus finds himself on the border.

On the way to Jerusalem he [Jesus] was passing along between Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11).

It sounds like such a simple verse. Jesus was on a walk, and it just happened to be on a border. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that back in chapter nine, Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem. But this stroll between Samaria and Galilee was hardly the direct route. If anything, it was kind of a detour. And it was a detour that took him into some unfriendly territory as a Jew.

Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another. Jews looked down upon the Samaritans. They were half-breeds, those that came from intermarriage with other nations. They were not pure-bred Jews. They didn’t deserve to be treated with the same respect a Jew was.

This begs the question of us: How do we treat those of different ethnicities? How do we think about those that don’t walk, talk, or look like us? Do we think we are somehow better than another race? Do we think we are entitled to better treatment than others?

Jesus, however, went out of his way while journeying to His death to take some time out to have mercy on those who were in need.

And as he [Jesus] entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:12-13).

Mercy is a cry that begs that we don’t get what we do deserve. Mercy is the cry we utter every Sunday when we join in the Kyrie. “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” It is a cry for help.

These lepers were in need of help, that was a given. But oddly enough, they didn’t beg for Jesus to heal them. They begged for mercy. You see, the greater malady for a leper was not their physical condition. And that is quite striking when you think about the fact that their skin was flaking off, their nerve sensors weren’t firing correctly, and without any feeling of pain in their nerves, they were easily prone to severe injury. But no, that was not the primary concern of theirs.

A leper was a social and religious outcast. No longer could they be present in the town they once lived. No longer could they worship with their congregation. They had to evict themselves to the outer region. And should anyone get near them, they would have had to have yelled, “Unclean, unclean” in an effort to keep others away from them.

This is where Jesus finds these lepers. He finds them on the border between Galilee and Samaria, and they are begging for mercy.

What people are on the borders of our lives that could use a little mercy? Who have we treated like an outcast, be it with our thoughts, words, or deeds? Is it someone of a different race, or someone who thinks different than us or has different political views? Is it a family member that we have deemed no longer deserves our time? Is it a member of our congregation? Who is on the border in our lives that could use a little mercy?

Jesus had mercy with those who were on the border crying out for just that: mercy. When he [Jesus] saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed (Luke 17:14).

For all of the times we have failed to show mercy to others, we also are like these lepers who begged for mercy. We all know what it is like to be treated as an outcast. Maybe it was because of our race. Maybe it was because of the way we think or talk, or maybe it was because of our political views. Maybe we were left out of the game at recess, or left off the invitation list for the family gathering. Every one of us knows this hurt to some degree or another. Every one of us knows what it is like to have that cry for mercy well up within us.

See here that Jesus comes to the border and He doesn’t hesitate to go out of His way to have mercy upon you. Where this world may treat you as an outcast, Jesus welcomes you into His presence. He drenches you in your baptismal waters and claims you as His own. He says, “You are mine. You belong to me. You are not an outcast. You are my beloved child.”

This gift of faith and healing overwhelmed one of those lepers. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan (Luke 17:15-16).

The least likely one to return and give thanks did just that. The Samaritan leper. The one who had two strikes against him. He was not only an outcast because of his condition, but also because of who he was. And yet, he was the one to return and give thanks.

We return today to do the same. We come to give thanks because of who we are. We are sinners who are doomed to die if left to ourselves. There is no hope of our survival without a Savior. We are outcasts who are left for dead.

Which is exactly what Jesus came to this earth to become. He passed the border of heaven to enter into earth. And he became an outcast. He was directed outside the border walls of the city of Jerusalem, forced to carry His own cross. And there on the edge of town, He showed us what mercy really looks like and sounds like. It looks like the Son of God being treated as an outcast, getting what we deserved, yet He took our death upon Himself. It sounds like a cry that got no reply. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani”, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” “Why have you treated me as an outcast?” And the answer is that it was the only way to show you and me mercy.

You and I were doomed to die in our sin. For all of the times we have failed to show mercy to others on the borders of our lives. For all the times we have treated others as outcasts with our thoughts, words, and deeds. For all the times we treated people poorly, those of a different race or those who think different than us or those with different political views or whatever it may be. For all the times we thought someone didn’t deserve our time, or we left out a friend or a family member or a congregational member. For all those times and more, Jesus allowed Himself to be hauled beyond the border of those Jerusalem walls to die our death…the death that should have been ours.

It’s no wonder the Samaritan returned to give thanks as He did. That is the natural response when someone saves your life, and not just this temporal life, but grants you eternal life as well.

          Let us never forget to return thanks like that Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well (Luke 17:17-19).

          Like that Samaritan, in faith, we return here to the house of the Lord to give thanks that God has saved us from sin, death, and the devil. As baptized believers, we rejoice that we are chosen by God to be His own.

          So, who in our lives needs to also hear of the mercy of God? Who are those on the edges and fringes of our lives, that perhaps we could extend the same mercy that we have been afforded in Christ? Let us each take time to examine our lives, and see where we might have mercy on the border. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Holy Help

Sermon: “Holy Help”

Lectionary Series C; The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, October 6, 2019 – Proper 22

Gospel Reading: Luke 17:1-10

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have you ever been given more than you can handle? Now I know people use the line that God never gives us more than we can handle, but when we stop and search the Scriptures, we find that it is not true. So, have you ever been given more than you can handle? I think it’s safe to say that we call all answer, “Yes.”

Having more than we can handle on our plate is overwhelming. It is humbling. It exposes our frailty and weakness. It strikes us at the core of our “can-do” mentality that we so often rely upon when we need to pull up our bootstraps and get down to business. Quite frankly, having more than we can handle is something we resist to be true, and we just don’t like it.

Instead, we prefer to think that we are capable of all things. As Americans especially, we like to think we can conquer the world, or at least our own world. But, in our moments of honesty with ourselves, we are forced to face the facts that we just can’t handle it all. We need, and dare I say it, we need help. We don’t like to think that, and we most certainly don’t like to admit it. To admit that we need help can be embarrassing, and it is obviously humbling. But all of us need to come to terms with the fact that it is the truth. We can’t handle it all. We need help.

The disciples came to that immediate realization after the following words of Jesus: And Jesus said to His disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him (Luke 17:1-4).

It is a tall order that Jesus lays out for His disciples and for us to follow. The text invites us to examine ourselves and our sins in very difficult ways. We are invited to consider how we are being tempted and to take very seriously how when we fall to those temptations might be leading others astray. We are also instructed to rebuke our neighbor who is caught in sin because contrary to popular belief, we are our brother’s or sister’s keeper. And then there is forgiveness. We are told we ‘must’ forgive, and forgive, and forgive again. Up to seven times in the day. That’s once every 3.43 hours. That’s once every 205.8 minutes. That’s once every 12,348 seconds.  

The disciples instantly realized that they needed some help with all of this. Some holy help. They couldn’t do all of this. They couldn’t even do one of the things that Jesus was asking them to do. Which is why they said in response: Increase our faith. No doubt we would echo those sentiments when we consider what Jesus asks of his followers. It’s a tall order. A difficult task. An impossible task from our perspective.

How are we supposed to steer clear of temptations when the devil is constantly deceiving us and we are far too weak to overcome him? How are we supposed to keep others from falling into sin when that is exactly what we constantly do? We constantly sin? How are we supposed to be able to muster up enough courage to rebuke someone else in their sin, especially when we consider that we are sinners too? And how are we supposed to keep forgiving those that keep sinning against us? It is all just too much too handle.

And it is. Not by our own reason or strength are we able to accomplish one of these things. We are far too weak to stand up to the devil and his temptations. We like sin far too much to avoid keeping others from sinning. We worry way too much about our earthly relationships to have the guts to speak the truth in love to someone who is caught in sin and putting their salvation in jeopardy. And when it comes to forgiveness, our tank is always on empty because for us it is just so much easier to bear a grudge than freely forgive.

So, there you have it. We are helpless. We don’t stand a chance. We are like the Detroit Lions trying to win a Super Bowl. It just ain’t gonna happen. Especially because we never get there in the first place. How’s this for a cheery, uplifting sermon?

But that is exactly the way the disciples felt. They felt helpless. They felt inadequate. Have you ever felt that way? I think we all have. We have all faced the challenges that were placed before the disciples, and we have all thought to ourselves. We just don’t have what it takes. We need help.

This is where Jesus enters in with His holy help. And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you (Luke 17:6).

Now that is quite an image to behold. I looked up just how big a mulberry tree and it grows 30-50 feet in height. What’s more is that even though its roots may not grow that deep, they are very extensive, no doubt interlocking with the roots of other trees. So, to simply say to a mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea is obviously no small task.

But that’s just it. Jesus’ point is that because we are forgiven sinners who have faith, we already have all of the help that we need. We have all of the faith that we need. Whether it is a little faith or a lot of faith, it is more than enough. Even if it is as small as a mustard seed, it’s enough to do what God has given us to do. Now a mustard seed just so happens to average between one and two millimeters in diameter. That’s pretty small. But Jesus says that it’s enough.

The reason He says that to His disciples and to us is that He is the object of our faith. You see, faith must cling to something. In the water and Word of our baptism, we cling to none other than Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. And for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despised its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. And from His throne, He exercises His authority in our lives. There is no task that is too big for Him. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

So when it comes to temptations, we have the One who overcame the temptations of the devil head on in the wilderness working in us. When it comes to steering clear from leading others into sin, we have the One who lived a perfect life pumping through our veins with His own blood shed for us. When it comes to the courage needed to rebuke those caught in sin, the One who stood toe to toe with the Pharisees, breathes His Spirit of courage right into us. And when it comes to forgiveness, there is none other than the crucified Christ filling our tank to overflowing so that we can forgive trespasses as we have been forgiven.

See here that Jesus is our holy help in all times of need. He does not leave or abandon us when the going gets tough. He is right here beside us. He is within us. And He is holding us up with His righteous right hand. It’s all because of Jesus.

And that is essential for us to always keep in mind. It’s not by our strength that we accomplish the things Jesus asks of us. It is only with His help and by His strength. My favorite verse is from Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

It can be far too easy to think that when we do the work God has given us to do to think that we deserve the credit. And as those who succumb far too easily to pride, Jesus makes clear that as Christians, to serve Him is simply doing our duty.

Jesus said: Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty (Luke 17:7-10).

You see, when it comes to overcoming temptations, or avoiding leading others into sin, or rebuking someone caught in sin, or forgiving again and again and again, all of that is Jesus at work in us. We don’t get the glory. He does. And it is by His grace that He calls us to serve Him by doing our duty as Christians.

So let us delight in the fact that Jesus has called you and me to serve in His stead in the lives of others. We get to love others with His love. And in turn, they will see Jesus. They will see Jesus when we turn from temptation, when we look out for our brother or sister and don’t fall into sin, when we rebuke those caught in sin, and when we forgive every 12,348 seconds. They will see Jesus, our Holy Help in all times of need. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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