Sermons

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Sermons

 

From the Pastor's Desk...


Love Your Enemy

What horrific events: beheadings, slaughtering the defenseless, global fighting, in the U.S. the Ferguson tragedy. These events breed anger, hate and a desire for vengeance. But what is a Christian response?

First, it is the government’s responsibility to provide protection and seek justice. It is the Christian’s duty to be subject to the government. See Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. Sometimes it is the duty as a citizen to go and fight the enemy, but this is not done out of anger, hate, or vengeance. It is done out of duty to serve God and country.

Second, and dear friends this is the hard part, as a Christian we are called to love our enemies. Jesus said, “you have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43 ESV). Saint Paul says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God…. To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’” (Romans 12:19-21).

This should not surprise you, for while we were enemies of God, he saved us through Jesus. Out of love, God saw that you were not beyond hope. Maybe our enemy is not beyond hope either, after all love hopes all things. Loved by God we love even our enemy.  


Independence and Dependent

I hope you enjoyed our Nation’s Independence Day! A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into its formation. We had help. It was God’s providential hand leading, guiding, and guarding that strengthened those early founders of our independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (The Declaration of Independence). I pray that you devoted time to giving thanks to the Creator who made our Nation’s birthday celebration possible.

            This Sunday’s Gospel is Matthew 11:25-30. I encourage you to read through this text. What contrast I see from Friday to Sunday. On Friday we celebrated independence and freedom. I’m reminded to be dedicated to my country and to work hard. July 4th inspires me to actively pursue those unalienable rights. On Sunday we will celebrate dependence on Jesus. We will celebrate the hard work done FOR US by our gracious God. We celebrate the freedom we have being BOUND to Christ. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

            Friday was Independence Day! Sunday is Dependent on Jesus Day! May God bless you on both days!

 

REMEMBER

St Paul said, “Pay to all what is owed to them; …respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (ESV Romans 13:7). We owe respect and honor to the men and women who, to quote Abraham Lincoln, “…laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom” (Letter to Mrs. Bixby of Massachusetts who lost five sons in the Civil War). Memorial Day is such a time to pay that respect and honor owed.

Whether your remembrance of Memorial Day is tempered by the pain of personal lose or stirred by the patriotism of our brave young in uniform, it falls to every American to remember with gratitude, respect, and honor those killed in the line of duty.

In days of old, Decoration Day, as Memorial Day was originally called, was a time to decorate the graves of the fallen with flags and flowers. It was a day to honor our heroes.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (ESV John 15:13). That is what our military dead have done. They gave their all in service to God and country so that you could have the freedoms which you enjoy. They gave their lives so that you could live yours.

This Memorial Day weekend, take time for prayerful reflection. Pay what is owed. Today, God’s Family at Grace Lutheran will remember our heroes through song, and prayer. Join us! God bless you in your remembrance!  

    

Don’t Be Afraid

In Matthew 28:1-10 we have the beautiful account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Tomorrow all Christendom will hear this good news. Jesus tells the women who have come from the tomb “Do not be afraid…” (Matthew 28:10). That’s what the resurrection of Jesus means. We don’t have to be afraid!

Now you may say, “I’m not afraid!” Good for you. What if you saw an angel from heaven? I bet you would be afraid. Not the sweet, fluffy angels in greeting cards; or the baby-faced angels of Sunday school Christmas pageants. I’m talking about REAL angels. That would be freighting.

What else makes people afraid? The disciples were afraid because they thought they were next to be crucified. The disciples who said, “We will die with you Jesus!” surely sang a different tune when the threat of death was very real. They ran and hid. Death brings fear into the heart.      

After hearing the message of the angel the women “departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his (Jesus’) disciples” (Matthew 28:8). Jesus met them on the way and calmed their fears. He does the same for you. Jesus meets you on your way and says to you “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid of angels from heaven. I’ve made peace with God for you. Don’t be afraid of death, I’ve conquered it for you! The hope of the resurrection is yours!” Jesus is risen and we don’t have to be afraid!

 

Lenten Journey

Lent begins a 40 day journey with Jesus to his Passion: his trial, scourging, cross and tomb. It starts with Ash Wednesday. It ends with the Saturday Easter Vigil where Jesus takes his Sabbath rest in the tomb. The Sundays in Lent do not count, because they are little resurrections along the journey, days of refreshment in this penitential season.

During Lent we deny ourselves pleasures. In our liturgical service we omit the alleluias and the Gloria, a somber remembrance of Jesus’ suffering.   We do this not to earn any favor before God. We deny ourselves some pleasures during lent to deepen our devotion in the remembrance of what Jesus went through for all people. Not eating chocolate or drinking soda pop or even fasting on a certain day cannot compare with the suffering of Jesus but it can be good for your Lenten devotion. In my Lutheran tradition, denying yourself during Lent is completely up to your Christian liberty. Deny yourself or enjoy, it is up to you. No law about Lenten denial here.

No one likes to suffer or to remember suffering. In this world where people seek constant gratification the thought of 40 days of Lent, makes many cringe. Yet we live in a harsh and sinful world, where suffering and death are always before us. Lent gives hope to our suffering and life in death. Lent makes the joy of Easter resurrection all the more refreshing because Jesus suffered all not for himself but for you!


Having an Epiphany

I’m having an Epiphany! It started January 6th and lasts till March 2nd. No, not the kind of epiphany where you realize you should have had a vegetable drink made from tomatoes. This kind of Epiphany is life changing, in a now and eternal way.

In my Lutheran tradition we celebrate the season called, yup, you guessed it, Epiphany. It is a season that brings the 12 days of Christmas to a close. It takes the church on a journey of light and life with Jesus up to Ash Wednesday and Lent. During Epiphany we rejoice with the Magi - wise men from the east who brought their gifts and followed the star to find the infant King (Matthew 2). We are with Jesus as he plunges into the water of the Jordan to be baptized. We see the heavens opened, the Spirit dove descending. We hear the Father’s voice from heaven booming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17). The season ends on the mountain top with Jesus, Peter, James and John. Jesus is transfigured before them. He chats with old friends, Moses and Elijah. And we hear again the Father’s familiar words (Matthew 17:1-9).

Epiphany is about celebrating who Jesus is for you! He is your substitute. He took your place under God’s judgment. He carried your sin to the cross. He died your death. He gives you his sinlessness, his righteousness, his life! I pray you are having an Epiphany too!






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