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Glorious Savior, Glorious Life

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Glorious Savior, Glorious Life” based on 2 Corinthians 3 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, March 3, 2019

My senior year at the Seminary, my wife and I lived on a couple acres along the Lake Michigan seashore. Don’t be overly impressed. We were renting a well to do family’s guest cottage. The total square footage? I’d estimate it at about 700 square feet. We didn’t have a lot of stuff back in the day, but trying to fit what we had into that place was like trying to fit a bulldog into a ballerina’s tutu. There wasn’t a whole lot of breathing room. We were pushing maximum capacity. That’s how this portion of God’s Word feels. It’s densely packed with grade A prime theology from beginning to end.  It’s a challenging section. But walk with me as we unpack it slowly and as we do, Lord willing, we’ll be led to see that a glorious Savior for us means a glorious life for us. Hear the Word of the Lord as it’s recorded in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3.

It’s easy to see Jesus’ glory in our Gospel lesson as He shines brightly on the mountain. It’s also easy to see how we will shine brightly one day in eternity because of that same Jesus. It’s a lot more difficult to see how a glorious Savior for us means a glorious life for us now. In fact, we rightly condemn what we might call a theology of glory, the popular teaching that Christians should expect only good things and prosperity and smiley faces in this life. Jesus didn’t say that. He said “take up your cross and follow me.” He promised that the life of a Christian would be full of the most unglorious things.

But I don’t have to tell you that. We come here hoping find a little respite from the unglories of life. When you look back on your life so far, you see a lot of blessings, but you also see times when you were having to reach in the darkest depths of the kitchen sink trying to clean out a clogged drain. You see times when the news was good and celebration was called for, but you also see times when the unexpected brought sudden tears, and reduced you to a crumpled mess that could barely get out of bed. When you look back on your life, you see times when you boxed the devil on his pointy little ears, but you also see times when you put your arm around him like he was your best friend in the world.

We are sinful people living in a sinful world. And that means that unglory and ugliness will never be far away from us on this side of heaven. But again, you know that. What the apostle Paul shows us today is that because of Jesus, glory is never far away from us either.

As always, Jesus is the key. Glorious doesn’t mean always happy. Glorious doesn’t mean always spiritually successful. A glorious life is not, is not defined by our outward circumstances. A glorious life has Jesus and the hope he gives us as its beginning, middle and end.

Paul writes, Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. Lack of hope crushes a person’s spirit. But an abundance of hope makes them bold.

I was just talking with veteran Christian this week whose eyes have seen a lot of years. And a lot of dark days. She’s lost children and grandchildren in sudden, devastating fashion. And she told me the same thing many of you have also told me, “I don’t how someone without faith can manage.”  People without faith also get cancer, people without faith also mess up their lives and families, people without faith also have to stand at gravesides. I don’t know how they cope. But I know how you cope. You cling to hope. Hope that comes from a God who loves you unconditionally. Hope that comes from a God who has proven himself to you in the past. Hope that comes from a God who promises a better future, if not today, one day, in eternity.

There’s something glorious about being bold in a world where by all appearances we should be freaking out a little! We don’t know what’s going to happen five minutes from now, much less five years from now. We don’t know what the next election will bring, what the next wave of secular societal peer pressure will bring, we don’t know how that might affect our jobs, our churches, our schools, our families. We don’t know what personal challenges, diagnoses, or tragedies are looming just over the horizon. We don’t know. And yet we do not cower or shrink back from tomorrow. Because we have Jesus. Covered by his perfection and bought with his blood, He makes us bold to stand in the face of Judgment Day. And if we can stand unafraid before an Almighty Judge, we can certainly stand unafraid and face tomorrow, no matter how uncertain it may be. That boldness is glorious and it can only come through faith.

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.  Moses’ phosphorescent kisser was pretty awesome, even though it eventually faded away. How much more awesome is a ministry where the glory never wears off or fades away! That’s what Paul had because he was blood-linked to the Lamb sent from heaven. Unfading glory. Because Jesus has unfading glory.

That’s what set Paul apart from the rivals who so tenaciously tried to tear him down. His rivals held on to the law of Moses like it was the foundation of the people’s relationship with God. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.  They could offer no hope. They could only hand out report cards. You did this wrong, this wrong and this wrong. You fail! For them, the veil remained. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

You might say, “Wait a minute. We don’t see Jesus like Peter, James and John saw him on the mountain!  Many things about him remain veiled to us. And when he does come to us, he doesn’t come in full glory mode, he comes in veiled fashion in Word, Water, Wheat and Wine.” All of that is true.

But there’s something pretty glorious about how the Holy Spirit, moved only by love and acting only because of grace, used those seemingly unimpressive things to draw back the veil of unbelief that covered your heart.  And to give you a living, breathing faith. And to give you victory over death. And to give you the ability to live forever.

Though he may not yet show us his full glory, that doesn’t mean that he can’t occasionally show a little bit of his glory to us and in us. Paul states it in much stronger language. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Transformed into his likeness. That means the glorious change we saw Jesus undergo on the mountain isn’t the only glorious transformation we’re seeing this evening/morning. I’ve been trying to eat a little more healthy and exercise a little more often. And if you’ve ever done that before you it can be hard to be patient. When you look down at the scale and it’s the same as it was yesterday, or heaven forbid higher than it was yesterday. It deflates you. We want big changes and we want them immediately. That’s not how it works. Transformation happens slowly and eventually when you consume the right food.

Our spiritual transformation happens similarly. We want big change and we want it immediately. We also have the same expectation in the people around us, but that’s another sermon for another time. We want big change and we want it immediately, but that’s not how it works. Transformation happens slowly, over a lifetime, fed and nourished by regular, consistent, dare I say every week, dare I say every day, consumption of the Word and Sacraments. That’s how we are transformed into his likeness.

Wouldn’t that be a neat way to be thought of and remembered? As one who looked like Jesus? I don’t mean long hair and beard or however you picture him. I mean, having a heart that looks like Jesus’ heart. Wouldn’t it be neat if the people around you thought of you as someone whose heart looks like Jesus’ heart—one that is full of compassion and patience and mercy? One that pushes away ambition and selfishness and hate. Oh, Lord Jesus, make us like you—there and there alone do we find ever increasing glory.

Boldness that comes from hope. Unveiled eyes that see your Savior. Transformation that comes from a lifelong, consistent diet of Word and Sacrament. No, life will not always be glamourous. But with Jesus, life will always be glorious. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love…..Even Enemies

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Love….Even Enemies” based on Luke 6:27-38 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, February 24, 2019

There it is, in plain black and white in your bulletin, copied and pasted straight from the Scriptures, themselves.  Of all the old axioms and proverbs that people think come from the bible; like God helps those who help themselves or when God closes a door, he opens a window, this Golden Rule is, perhaps surprisingly, actually in the bible. And, on top of that, as if it might make it anymore impressive or important for you, Jesus, himself, is the one who said it.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Your mom was right to quote it to you when you were growing up and that means, more importantly and as if there was ever any doubt, I was right when I said it to my own daughter.  When a 6 year old excluded one of her friends from her group, it was good and fine and right to ask her how she would feel if that same friend would have acted that way to her.  Now if only the world would actually listen to this Golden Rule, everyone’s lives would be so much better and easier!

So, why don’t they?  It seems like such a simple rule to follow.  It is a rule that even 6 year-olds can understand, appreciate, and put into practice.  Yes, the Devil is strong in his temptations to be selfish, but no one really wants to be declared as, or known to be, selfish do they?  And, besides that, Jesus makes it clear that even sinners know how to do this and, many times, even do abide by it.  So, if sinners can and, at times, do, why don’t Christians?  Or, to put it a little more personally: why don’t you always follow the Golden Rule?

In truth, the answer does ultimately lie under the category of selfishness, but it can be interesting to explore that selfishness at times; to diagnose the problem a bit further before finding a solution and prescription to solve it.  The reason why you might be hesitant to follow this Golden Rule probably falls into one or more of three different aspects of selfishness, the first of which might sound a little something like this: I don’t treat them the way I want to be treated because they don’t deserve it.

Whether it is something as simple as kindness or something as complicated as love, it is possible that you may not be entirely wrong in your discernment of their worthiness to receive something from you.  You might be right.  However, do you see how selfishness has crept its way into your heart?  When you refuse to follow this command from Jesus toward another person you are, in essence, saying that they don’t deserve what you deserve.  They don’t deserve what you have earned or what you have worked so hard to attain.  You have declared yourself better than them, worthy of what they have made themselves unworthy to receive.

The second option is closely related.  With some sort of self-righteous piety, you have determined that it is actually better for them if they don’t receive a free gift from you because you are simply enabling them to continue on in their lives without earning or working hard for anything on their own.  You have determined that it is your right and your responsibility to teach them some responsibility and you, above Jesus, himself, know how best to carry that out: by refusing to do to them as you would have them do to you.

The third hidden agenda behind your selfishness, if you can believe it, is likely the most self-centered of them all.  You refuse to help, be kind, or show love to someone else because you aren’t getting anything good out of the deal.  They are just taking advantage of your goodness and never return the favor.  How many times do I have to keep calling or texting my friend without him ever asking me how I am doing?  How many act of service, words of affirmation, or physical touches do I have to give my spouse before she returns the favor?  Is it asking too much for someone to love me for a change?

Love even your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you.

Jesus does, indeed, continue on about how, if you follow this rule, you will receive a reward and you won’t be judged and you will be forgiven.  However, not once here, or in any other portion of Scripture, does Jesus say that the reason why you ought to follow this command is so that you will receive your desired outcome.

There is a marked difference in the teachings of Christ between the reason behind and the results of a Christian’s thoughts, words, and actions.

The irony is that, in reality, many of you do treat your enemies as you would have them treat you, even when you know they don’t deserve it, when you believe it won’t help them, and even when you know they are just going to take advantage of you.  But, something is different with those you love, isn’t it?  Your expectations are higher for those you love—especially because it is much easier to see the results of the way you treat those that you love.  Yeah, the idea of world peace and the ending of world hunger is awesome and amazing to think about and aspire toward but, honestly, would that really change your day to day life all that much?

Compare that, though,

– with having a husband who washes the dishes and gives you flowers on a regular basis,

– with having children who don’t have to be told a third time to get their pajamas on, brush their teeth, and get into bed,

– with having a boss who respects you and your work with bonuses and raises and words of praise,

– with having a friend who will finally listen to you and your problems for once.

– that selfishness that causes you to disobey Jesus’ Golden Rule is based almost entirely on the result that your life won’t get any better if you follow it.

Stop worrying about the results.  Concern yourself, instead, with the cause.  Do not give to your children because they are cute and cuddly.  Do not lend to your neighbor because some day you may need someone to lend to you.  Yes treat others in the way that you would like to be treated…but not so that they will treat you the same way.

Instead, treat them the way you would like to be treated because you have already been treated well by your God who gave you all things; who filled your cup to overflowing.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  You didn’t deserve it, but God showed you love and forgiveness anyway.

Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.  He prayed for those he loved as he was actively winning their salvation.  Did they learn any responsibility for their sin from his action?  No, they spit at him, beat him, hurled insults at him, and drove nails through his hands and feet.  But Jesus showed love and forgiveness anyway.

Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.  Jesus fed thousands, healed the sick, and raised the dead.  Did people shower him with money?  Did they offer to him their daughters to marry?  Did they give to him a palace with a richly ornamented throne to rule over this earth?  He received nothing in return, but showed love and forgiveness anyway.

Do to others as you would have them do to you—because of what your God has done for you.  Show love because, not so that.  Do not love everyone, even your enemies so that your life will get better or so that this world will become a better place.  Love everyone, even your enemies, because when you were, by nature, blind and dead enemies of your God, your Jesus showed love to you.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Is Anointed to Make Missionaries

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Anointed to Make Missionaries” based on Luke 5:1-11 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, February 10, 2019

Did you notice the strong connection between the readings in Isaiah and Luke today?  In both, God calls workers to share his Word; first Isaiah, then Peter, James, and John.  In both, before the call is made, there is an impressive showing of God’s glory; for Isaiah, it was in a vision where the Temple shook and something as simple as the train of God’s robe filled the Temple and, of course, for Peter, James, and John there was this miraculous catch of fish that happened after catching nothing all night long.  And, in both these readings from God’s Word, that show of God’s power elicited the same reaction from his prospective missionaries.  Both Isaiah and Peter recognized that they were in the presence of God Almighty and were absolutely terrified—and then they were comforted, and then they were called.

It is actually quite interesting to note the timeline of Peter’s call into the gospel ministry.  He had already been in Jesus’ company for some time.  He must have witnessed some of the other miraculous signs that Jesus had been performing.  He would have been a part of the crowds that had been gathering from all over to hear Jesus preach and teach.  In fact, he was so enamored with Jesus that Luke records, in the chapter just before the Gospel appointed for today, that Peter had invited Jesus into his own home and, subsequently, watched as Jesus healed his mother-in-law.

Peter had been praying with Jesus.  He had been meditating on the words that Jesus had been saying.  He was gaining quite a bit of respect for this great teacher.  So, naturally, when Jesus asked to use his boat as a pulpit to preach to the people on the seashore, he obliged.  And, even when Jesus tried to tell him how to do his own job, after fishing and catching nothing all night, he submitted his pride and acumen to what the Rabbi wanted.

Prayer with Jesus and meditation on what Jesus said.  That’s actually two-thirds of what Martin Luther said makes for a great theologian and missionary for God.

And, so, as the time was coming for Jesus to call Peter into his ministry, it was time to initiate that important third aspect.  Prayer, meditation, and, in German, Luther called it Anfechtung.  In Latin it’s called tentatio.  In English?  Well, there’s not really a word for word translation, but it is often described as an agonizing internal struggle—you know, like the kind when you find yourself face to face with the Almighty God who created you and, if he so wished, could destroy you.

You don’t have to read a biography about Luther to understand why he emphasized that last part, do you?  Haven’t you experienced the same to be true?  Don’t you find out the most about your God and your faith when you are going through or have gone through an agonizing internal struggle?

Or, maybe it’s easier to look at it in comparison.  You just got a promotion at work.  Your marriage couldn’t be stronger.  Your kid just won another award and you just finished your basement renovation.  Sure, you may recognize the guiding hand of your God behind it all and be thankful for his blessings, but which one causes you to spend all day talking to your God?  Which one forces you to your knees, recognizing your helplessness, completely dependent on him?

That’s not to say that God’s physical blessings in your life are bad or that they somehow would disqualify you from being one of his workers here on earth.  But, as it was for Isaiah and for Peter, it is important for you to recognize and remember exactly who God is, who you are, and what he has done for you before you seek to share that truth with others.

Your own personal Anfechtung and tentatio may differ from those around you.  For some it is sickness, disease, or the separation of death.  For others it is persecutions that come for being a Christian.  Still others experience it when the Devil continually reminds them of that one scientific fact that doesn’t seem to jive with what the Bible says, when a Christian doesn’t act very Christian-like toward them, when, for what seems like no reason at all, a wife turns her attention to another man, or when all that life is throwing at them just becomes too much to handle.

It is in those moments when Christians, who have spent time in prayer with Jesus, who have meditated on the words that he has said, seek to find strength outside themselves because they recognize they cannot do it on their own.  They realize, like Isaiah, that they are ruined in the presence of God and, like Peter, that their sin causes them to be unworthy of his care and concern.

There in the depth of despair, helpless and hopeless, in an existential and anxious awareness of your own failings and faultiness, is when you can finally search for, and find, true hope and assurance outside of yourself.

Don’t be afraid.  That’s what Jesus said to Peter and that’s what he says to comfort you as well.  Yes, the consequences of sin surround you in this world and they are difficult and painful and cause agonizing internal struggles.  But none of them, no matter how powerful, can overpower Jesus and his work done for you or take you away from the love that he has for you.  In fact, in his love for you, he often uses those terrible times in your life as opportunities to draw you closer to himself.

When you are sick, he sends you to pray and meditate more on his Word, where he tells you I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When you are afraid, he sends you to pray and meditate more on his Word, where he tells you fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, and uphold you with my righteous right hand.

When you are overwhelmed, he tells you to Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

When you sit your 7-year old on her pretty pink ballerina bedspread, hold her tiny hands inside your own, and tell her that her mother is dead, he speaks and says I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

He overcomes your anfechtung and tentatio with the only thing that will work; the only thing more powerful than them all: himself.  He gives you all that he is and all that he has done for you—from his perfect life lived in your place and sacrificial death to pay the price for your sins to his ability and promise to work all things for you and for your good; to fulfill for you each and every one of your needs.

He has cleansed you.  He has made you worthy in the eyes of your God.  He has given you the strength to endure anything that this world might throw at you and now—after prayer, meditation, and an agonizing internal struggle, he calls you to share that cleansing, that worthiness, and that strength with everyone that you may meet.

Yes, God has made missionaries to share that good news with people in far off lands who do not yet know it, but even here in Hartford, among your co-workers and in your own circle of family and friends, God has called you to be his theologians and missionaries.  The fields are ripe—go harvesting.  Even if you have been working to catch your fish all night, drop down your nets again.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Believe and Therefore Speak

Guest Pastor John Boggs delivers a sermon entitled “We Believe and Therefore Speak” based on 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, February 3, 2019

Transcript not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is Anointed to Fulfill the Scriptures

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus is Anointed to Fulfill the Scriptures” based on Luke 4:14-21 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, January 27, 2019

It was Jesus’ custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day.  That didn’t start simply after his baptism in the River Jordan, his temptation in the wilderness that followed, or when he got back from the wedding at Cana.  It was his custom from the 8th day of his life.  At his circumcision, in some ways not unlike after a child is baptized today, Jesus was welcomed into the family of God and, after that ceremony, he was brought to weekly worship.

However, even though it was his custom, there was something that made this Saturday’s worship attendance a little different.  His presence at that particular place of worship was somewhat of a homecoming experience.  He had been away—being baptized at the River Jordan, facing the devil’s temptations, attending a wedding and, after that first miracle, performing other miracles as well.

In addition, news had been spreading about him lately.  The Nazareth Daily Bugle, if it would have existed, would have had op eds written about the local boy who had turned into a countryside and countrywide phenomenon.  People wanted to hear him preach and teach.  They wanted to watch him perform signs and wonders.  They just wanted to be around this captivating man.

So, it is no surprise that when Jesus went back into the synagogue that he grew up inside, the people would want to hear what he had to say.  Somewhat similarly to what is done in worship services today, prayers, songs, and readings from God’s Word were regular portions of the synagogue’s liturgy and order of service.  And, after a few readings, there was time for a speaker to preach a message based on one of those readings.  (If only we had kept the custom of sitting down to preach that message!)  Either way, when the time came for that Sabbath’s sermon, Jesus stood up to read and sat down to preach.

What would the local boy say?  What applications could the carpenter’s son proclaim from Isaiah’s prophecy?  In the verses that follow the Gospel reading appointed for today, it seems as though the people didn’t much care for his sermon.  But it wasn’t because he still needed some seasoning in his presentation, like a seminary student who preaches the whole counsel of God with gestures and inflection that could use a little more experience.  Nor was it because he had one of those sermons where he probably could have said amen 6 or 7 times already, but just said the same thing again and again.  They certainly couldn’t have been upset about it being too long—it was only 8 words!

No, the reason they didn’t much care for his prepared remarks was because, in those 8 words, he was claiming to be something special and something for which they had been waiting so long to see.  In fact, their waiting was so long that their impression of how those scriptures would be fulfilled had gathered some extra expectations that Jesus certainly wasn’t living up to.

They wanted a king.  They wanted political freedom.  They wanted someone to sit, not on a synagogue chair, but on a golden throne in an ornate castle and spread the borders of his kingdom with actions, not simply with words.

Is that what you want in your Jesus?  Someone who isn’t only going to speak, but is going to act?  Someone who will fill your bank account. Someone who will turn this corrupt democracy into a productive theocracy.  Someone who will support you when you do what feels right to you.  Someone who will take action against the terrorists and those zealots who kill and destroy in the name of false gods.

Like the people of Nazareth, there are times when the expectations of who Jesus, the Christ, should be overshadow exactly who God told you he would be.  Instead, rather than looking for signs and wonders, listen to him.  Listen again to Jesus’ short sermonette: Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

The one who fulfills the Scriptures did so, and does so, for you through what you hear.

The work Jesus was anointed to accomplish, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, doesn’t have anything to do with your bank account, corrupt politicians, or terrorists.  It didn’t deal with the Messiah, the Christ, that people wanted, but the one that they, and all people, including you and me, needed.

Friends, you were poor; not because your savings couldn’t support your daily physical needs, but because you were lacking the wealth of the riches stored up for you in heaven.

You, too, were captives; not because you can’t get your governmental representatives to pass laws against abortion or in support of your personal political platform, but because you had a master who enslaved you and forced you to act in contrast to what your conscience told you was right.

However, though your conscience protested, it is not as though your slave-master, the devil, had to whip you into submission to serve him in sin.  Many times, all he had to do was suggest something enticing to your own sinful nature—a nature that was blinded from seeing the difference between selfishness and selflessness.

You were oppressed by the devil, this world around you, and your own sinful nature, which kept you in the state of being a poor prisoner, without any hope of seeing the light of God’s truth.

And, while you were looking, either for ways to continue down the road of death and destruction, or to take the high road of enlightenment, one day, either quite recently or many years ago, the scriptures that testified about Jesus were fulfilled in your hearing.

Someone, somewhere, at some time, came to you in the power of the Spirit.  Whether their preaching was a 35 minute sermon delivered rather awkwardly or a quick whisper which wrought welcome relief in your time of woe, it was dynamic; not because of what you saw or felt, but because of what you heard.

It may have been attached to the waters of your baptism, taught to you in a Sunday School classroom, sung into your heart by your mother while you cuddled in her warm embrace, or heard in Steinbrenner’s sermon last Sunday, but either way, anyway it was preached, it was powerful because, through it, the Spirit that was on Jesus (v. 14) then went to work in you.

That good news brought the wealth of salvation to your poor soul, freed you from your enslavement to sin, by opening your eyes to see Jesus as the only way to heaven.

The power of the Spirit, sent through the Word that you heard, convinced your heart to trust that Jesus’ perfect life was lived in your place and that his atoning sacrifice was made to bring you at one with your creator.

The power of the Spirit, sent through the Word that you heard, produced faith in your heart that unlocked Jesus as the fulfillment of all of the Scriptures.  Sinful assumptions and expectations are removed and your ears have heard how Jesus is your Messiah and Christ, the same One who was promised to Eve and Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that, because of what he has done for you, the Lord’s favor rests upon you year after year.

Whether you’ve been spending your time away in foreign lands, facing the temptations of the Devil, or attending weddings, make it your custom to come back to your home church week after week to hear his proclamation to you.  Jesus was anointed to fulfill the Scriptures and he did, for you and for all.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Our Family Needs Most – Jesus!

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “What Our Family Needs Most – Jesus!” based on John 2:1-11 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, January 20, 2019

I recently read that in 1960 there were 308 cases of child abuse reported in the U.S.  Today, there’s a report of child abuse every ten seconds.  In 1960 the divorce rate was under 20%.  Today, the divorce rate is nearly triple that.  Would you be surprised to learn that in 1960 teenage homelessness and teenage suicide were not nearly as prevalent as they are today?

I’m not suggesting that the year 1960 was a little slice of heaven on earth.  What I am suggesting is that the home…the family unit…the very core that God designed is under a tremendous amount of stress today.  I am suggesting that the devil, that roaring lion, has been trying to sink his teeth into the family unit for generations upon generations.  I am suggesting that societal trends are doing less to build up and support God-fearing families and they’re doing more to tear them apart.

What are Christians to do?  Run scared?  Surrender?  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?  I am suggesting that we redouble our efforts….that we regroup…that we surround ourselves with godly influences and peer groups and friends who will support us in our Christian faith, not try to sabotage us.  And mostly, I am suggesting that we rally around the One Our Families Need Most – Jesus.

Today in our Gospel we see him as he often shows himself in Scripture…steady…caring…ready to help.  It’s the first of his miraculous sings, we’re told.  Well, it must have been a doozy, huh?  Actually, it was all pretty lowkey.  It happened in a little town called Cana at a little wedding.  Wedding celebrations lasted days, even up to a week.  People took off of work and celebrated with the family.  Wine was not only a staple – something people would drink with meals, but it was also part of the celebration.  At some point the wine ran out.  Mary approaches Jesus.  Jesus reminds Mary that he will dole out blessings at his rate and in his time.  Mary steps back and waits on Jesus.

Isn’t that a beautiful, peaceful picture…Mary steps back and waits on Jesus, telling the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Our homes could use a little more of that…waiting on the Lord…trusting in his hand of blessings…trusting him to give at his rate and in his time.  If I had to make a list of things that would instantly make my life better, what would I include?

  • More money
  • Better health
  • A boss who appreciates me
  • More money
  • A spouse who understands me better
  • An extra week of vacation
  • Did I mention more money?

Instead, you already have what your family needs most – Jesus.  And he knows how to take care of you.  Bring your requests to him…big ones and small ones…just like Mary did.  Pour your heart out to him.  He’s listening.  But then step back and wait.  Step back and trust.

Turning water into wine may not seem so flashy, but it does show you and me that Jesus cares…he pays attention.  When things matter to us, they matter to Jesus too.  But know this, just because this miracle of turning water into wine might seem lowkey, but it is no simple matter.

In 1988, first game of the Word Series – A’s versus Dodgers.  Bottom of the 9th.  2 outs.  Dodgers are down 3-4.  After a nearly 7-minute at bat, Vic Scully, Dodgers announcers exuberantly shouts out, “The impossible has happened.”  That’s because Kirk Gibson, who could barely walk, stepped up to the plate and hit a 3-2 slider over the right field wall…home run…Dodgers win.  “The impossible has happened.”  Improbable yes.  Unlikely, yes.  Against the odds that a badly injured Gibson would hit a home run in that scenario, yes.  But not impossible.  Impossible means it cannot be done.  Impossible means there is no way something can happen in the natural course of things.  Impossible means it would take a miracle…the hand of God…intervention from God himself.  Kirk Gibson hit a baseball 375 feet.  There are literally thousands upon thousands of people who can and have hit a baseball that far.  That’s not impossible.  Turning water into wine.  That’s impossible.  That takes power.  That takes the hand of God.

With Jesus we get used to seeing the impossible happen.

  • The Son of God takes on human flesh and is born of the virgin Mary.
  • The Son of God lives perfectly and dies sacrificially – paying for ALL sin.
  • The Son of God says, “whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life”

This powerful Son of God intervenes.  He takes care of our biggest problem of sin and carts it away – removes it from the equation.  He confronts our biggest obstacle, death, and turns it into a sleep…a doorway to heaven.  That’s a miracle!  That’s something thousands of people cannot do….only ONE can and has.

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.  The Gospels are filled with miracles.  Again and again Jesus did things that only God could do.  This miracle in Cana, along with all the other miracles, got people to pay attention to his greatest work (that only God could do):  his death and resurrection.  AND these miracles  bolster and build up the faith of his disciples.

Don’t the miracles of Jesus do the same for us?

  • If those miracles ignited the faith of his disciples, don’t they also ignite our faith?
  • If those miracles caused the disciples to be excited to follow Jesus, to drop everything and follow Jesus…to become life-long students of Jesus and his Word…don’t we too?

The world is not a nice place.  Our families struggle at times.  Let’s not wish we could turn back time and revisit the 1960’s, let’s instead run to Jesus…rally around Jesus.  What Our Families Need Most…we already have.  Jesus.  Helper in every trouble, the Forgiver of every sin, the Listener to every prayer, the Provider of every need…and we pray, the welcome Guest in every marriage…every home…every family.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is Better than Just OK

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus is Better than Just OK” based on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, January 13, 2019

The nervous couple sits in a hospital room, anxiously waiting for the surgeon to arrive. They ask their nurse, “Have your ever worked with Dr. Francis?” “Oh yeah,” she says, “He’s okay.” As they scrunch up their noses at that less than enthusiastic endorsement, the surgeon himself comes bebopping into the room, loudly chirping, “Guess who just got reinstated?!?!” And under his breath he whispers, “Well, not officially.” The rest of the commercial from ATT continues in that general direction, all leading up to the tagline: Just ok is not ok. And the message hits home. When it comes to important stuff—like a surgeon, or to a lesser degree—your wireless service, just ok is not ok.

How about when it comes to your eternal salvation? Obviously, just ok is not ok. You don’t want to be on your death bed, having gone with a provider who only has 75% success rate. You would rightfully be quite nervous to stand before the eternal judge, having put your trust in one who can only guarantee that God will…probably let you into heaven. When it comes to the most important stuff like having a Savior, just ok is not ok. You need the best. You need a guarantee. You need someone who inspires your confidence. In our text for this 2nd Sunday of Epiphany, we see that Jesus is the right man for the job of saving you. Jesus is so much better than just ok.

When John the Baptist says “one who is more powerful than I will come…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (He will)…. gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” you know he’s not talking about agriculture. Gathering wheat and burning up chaff refers to sending people to their eternal destinies.  It lets you know that this is important stuff, the most important in fact. We’re dealing here with the something that matters for eternity.

Isn’t it easy to get messed up on that? How much more important the next life is than this one! So often when we’re going through especially dark days, eternity becomes almost an afterthought. A “taken for granted” that gets quickly acknowledged and then pushed aside as we seek relief for more pressing pain. “Yes, yes, I have a Savior who rose from the dead for me. Yes, yes eternal life in heaven gives me hope. I don’t doubt those things, Pastor. I love those things. But….I want something to save me from the pain that I’m feeling right now.”

This world around us offers us any number of saviors (small s) that say they can help with that. There are all kinds of unhealthy behaviors can numb our pain. Overspending, overeating, overdrinking. Porn says that it can save you from pain. Social media offers a temporary escape to happier times and places. Maybe it’s a boat or a cabin that offers refuge and respite. Maybe it’s living vicariously through our kids, maybe it’s an obsession with career advancement or house pride—there’s any number of little saviors in our lives that people turn to make us feel ok.  But depending on which one we’re talking about those saviors range from just ok at best to sinful Soul-destroyers at worst.

They may give relief, but it doesn’t last. They may numb heartache, but heartache comes back tomorrow. That makes all those things sub-par saviors. Only Jesus gives you relief that is long term, forever lasting. That makes him so much more than just OK.

His baptism is his promise that he’s all in with you for the long haul. When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.  A couple weeks ago, we pointed out that Jesus’ investment with us as shown by his willingness to share our humanity and all the negatives that come with it. Today, we see Jesus’ investment with us in another way, in his willingness to stand in line, side by side with everyone else and be baptized. Jesus wasn’t baptized because he needed forgiveness of sins. He had no sins. He was baptized to send a message: I’m walking in your shoes. I’m standing with you. The things that humans do, I will do as well. You and I are in this together. Jesus is better than just ok because he is totally invested in you.

Lastly, in the account of Jesus’ baptism, we see that the Father and the Holy Spirit think Jesus is more than just OK too. As he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” There’s something about a powerful, personal testimony that makes moves us even when nothing else will. I would never have bought an instant pot, but when my sister talked about how easy it was to use….  We attend a certain church, send our kids to a certain school, dine at a certain restaurant, wear a certain brand of shoes all because someone we trust said, “I’ve had a really good experience with this. I totally stand behind it.”

Isn’t that what’s also happening in our text? If God in heaven says Jesus is more than ok—that he is the Son who brings a smile to the Father face, we nod our heads in agreement and joyfully concur. That’s all that we need to hear. Jesus is so much more than just OK because God himself gives him a personal, powerful endorsement.

You know that Jesus is more than OK. You knew that before you came today. So what’s the impact of this message for you? First of all, your baptism connects you with Jesus. What he is becomes what you are. And so if the Father looks at Jesus and says, “In him I am well pleased” that means that he also looks at you and says, “In you, I am well pleased.” All because you have a Savior who’s more than just okay.

And being attached to Jesus with the insoluble bonds of water and promise means something else too. It’s summed up nicely in a phrase that you may have passed over without a second thought when we read our text. At that moment, “heaven was opened.”  That’s what Jesus came to do. His perfect life fit the lock, his innocent death turned the key, his glorious resurrection pushed open the door that Adam and Eve had slammed shut. Jesus is more than just an okay Savior and that means heaven is opened for us.

Even if you knew that before you came maybe, by God’s grace, you leave a different person than when you came. You and I have an awesome Savior, one who’s so much better than just ok. And that stokes the fire in our souls. We want to be better than OK for him. Maybe we leave here a little less content with obedience that’s just ok, with a just okay reining in of our eyes, our thoughts, our mouths.  Maybe we’re no longer so okay with just okay marriages, just okay parenting, just okay worship, just okay Bible Study, a just okay prayer life. Maybe instead, by God’s grace we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Maybe we, by the Spirit’s power become even better models for our kids of what living faith looks like. Maybe we, by the Spirit’s power start to take our faith all the more seriously–actively seeking to grow and improve and to truly be invested in the One who is so truly invested in us. That would be more than OK. That would be awesome. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus-the Authoritative Instructor

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus-the Authoritative Instructor” based on Mark 1:21-28 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, January 28, 2017

It could have been all the talk of tradition.  When questions came to light, the reaction had always been to say or to do this—and it worked; so whenever it came up again, they reacted in the same way.  There weren’t specific bible passages that addressed that particular topic. They weren’t saying it had to be done that way, but rather than re-inventing the wheel, you worked with the pattern and blueprint that was time-tested and approved.

Or, it might have been something a little worse.  Maybe the issue was their teachings that were but rules taught by men.  They came up with regulations for how many steps you were allowed to take on a Sabbath Day, how long your robe had to be, or what psalms you had to sing after a new moon celebration.  No specific bible passages on these topics either, but there was no Judaic freedom allowed.  You couldn’t re-invent the wheel, even if you wanted to.  You were called a sinner if you didn’t do exactly as they directed.

But, it may not have been so bad.  In those days, not everyone; in fact, almost no one, had a Scripture scroll at home that they could reference whenever they had a question about the teachings of God.  So, they would, with good conscience and good reason, go to the people who did.  They went to those whose job it was not only to make copies of those sacred writings, but to study them day and night.  And, when they did, those teachers of the law would, at times, simply respond with what the bible said and finish by saying, “Thus says the LORD.”

When Jesus went into the synagogue on that Saturday Sabbath in Capernaum, he taught the people.  They had questions and he had answers.  But his responses were different that the ones that the teachers of the law gave.

He didn’t relay the traditions of the Church because he is the one who established the Church.  He didn’t explain any reasonings behind additional statutes that went above and beyond what the Scriptures said because he came up with the original ordinances himself and declared them to be sufficient.  He didn’t have to search the Scriptures to quote them word for word because he was their initial author.

In that way, most certainly, Jesus taught with authority.  He was autonomous.  Yes, his teachings were precisely in line with what the bible said.  Those teachers of the law could have copied down every word he said and compared it with their sacred scrolls without finding any inconsistencies.  But that wasn’t the point.  They didn’t need to.  The message he shared, and the way in which he shared it, gave credence to who he was.  It revealed him to be the very Son of God who was promised to come into the world and save it.

You see, Jesus’ teaching in the synagogues was not simply meant to impress people.  There have been and still are plenty of speakers in the world who have either done thorough study in a particular topic or are able to share the lessons that they have learned through their own personal experience.  Many of them not only have a wealth of information, just waiting to be shared, but also have the ability to present that information in a way that is easy to hear, to follow, and to understand.  You believe them because they know what they are talking about.

However, no matter how engaging their discourse may be, no matter how intriguing their subject matter, it pales in comparison to the importance of what Jesus so authoritatively instructed throughout his ministry here on earth.

Jesus’ authority with his words meant that he was able to things, simply by opening his mouth, that no one else could do.

example of just that followed his bible class while they were still in the synagogue.  Listen again:

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

Even the demons listened to, and submitted themselves to, the authoritative teaching of Jesus.  They did so because they knew that he was the Holy One of God.  They knew that he was the one who had created them and the one who could, with his authority over them and all things, do whatever he wanted to them.

Yes, Jesus’ authority means that he can say whatever he wants and it will happen.  No matter what stands in his way, if he so chooses, he has the ability to overcome it simply by speaking.

He could, if he desired, take away all of the problems that you face in your life.  Cancer is nothing to him.  He could tell it to leave.  He could bump up your bank account without making even one deposit.  He could introduce you to the love of your life, make your sister apologize for what she did to you, clean your house, fold those stupid socks, or add that additional bedroom you’re going to need in nine months without even lifting a finger.  He could even raise your deceased spouse back to life and make it so that you never even felt the pain of their departure.  If it was his prerogative, he could make it so without a second thought.

So why hasn’t he?  Why won’t he?

That, friends, is the more important part of Jesus’ authoritative teaching.  Those things would be amazing.  But Jesus’ authority also means that he knows what is best for you.  He knows what you need and when you need it.  He also knows what you don’t need and why you don’t need it.

He knows, just like the best teachers you have had in the past, that, at times, you need to be tested.  He knows that, sometimes, the best way for you to learn is not simply to give you all the answers to the questions that you have asked.  He knows that, for you to understand and pay attention to the lessons that you need to learn, there are times when you need the distractions that surround you to be removed.

He knows that, while the blessings of health, wealth, and the love of family and friends may indeed be beneficial to your life here on earth, there is only one thing that you need to learn and trust to be true so that you have life forever in heaven.

Listen to his instruction on how to be declared perfect and righteous in the sight of your God as he said, The Son of Man did not come into the world to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  And further, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Listen to his instruction on how his ransom for your sins and the sins of the world was paid and accepted as payment when, from the cross, he said, It is finished.

Listen to his instruction on what he is doing, even now, for you, after that payment was made and accepted when he said, In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.

Listen to his instruction on how to deal with the day to day struggles and disappointments you face when he said, Do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, What shall we wear?  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  And further, Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

Listen to Jesus, the authoritative instructor, and be amazed at the way in which he speaks.  Give him praise and glory—and your attention—because of it.  But don’t stop there.  Listen to him as he reveals himself to be your Savior.  Listen and believe it to be true for you because Jesus has the authority to do whatever he wants; and he uses that authority over all things for your good, both now and forever.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dream Team

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “The Dream Team” based on Mark 1:14-20 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, January 21, 2017

In the Name of the One who calls us, shows his glory to us, and then shows his glory through us,

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Family of God,

Jeff Grayer. Willie Anderson. JR Reid. Ever heard any of those names before? Probably only if you are both a die hard basketball fan. Those obscure names from the hardwood were members of the 1988 US Men’s Olympic Basketball team. They lost to the Soviets in the Semifinals and ended up with a disappointing bronze. In the four years that followed, the rules were changed, and NBA players were allowed to participate for the first time.

Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. Ever heard any of those names before? Probably. They played on the 1992 Men’s Olympic basketball team. When NBA players were given the green light to play in the Olympics, the powers that be selected professional basketball’s best scorer. And then they handpicked the NBA’s best passer, best defender, best shooter, best rebounder, best shot blocker. And they brought them all together for a historic run of decisive victories. Defeating their opponents by an average of 44 points, they easily won the gold medal. History remembers them as the “Dream Team.”

I thought of the Dream Team when I read our text for tonight from Mark, chapter 1. 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” This was a one of a kind moment in history. “The time has come!” The often promised, long awaited Son of God had come to save the world. And his gospel would need to go out from there to be preached to hundreds of nations, over thousands of years, to billions of people. You would think that, with so much hanging in the balance that Jesus would have assumed a dream team of helpers, servants, disciples.

“Okay, let me find the book smartest guy with the eidetic memory, so he can dispute the Torah with the Pharisees and scribes. Let me hand pick the street smartest guy, so he can figure how we’re going to put food on table and a roof over our heads. Let me find a few Type A personalities to plan our travel schedule and a couple of finance guys to take care of the treasury. (Anyone but Judas!) Give me a funny guy because he’ll be able to keep things light when times get stressful and tense. And give me the strongest guy who can fight off any enemies who decide they want to come after me with swords and clubs and what not.”

That would’ve made perfect sense—for Jesus to select a “Dream Team” of disciples to surround him during his life and then to send out after his ascension. Is that what he did?

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

               19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

It almost seems like it’s the opposite of the “Dream Team”–like Jesus was walking on the seashore and said, “Ok, give me those two. And those two.” It wasn’t random, of course. Jesus’ time was too short and his mission too important to do anything randomly. He knew exactly what he was doing when he called Peter and Andrew, James and John. But we might be wondering…they themselves might’ve been wondering…..why Jesus chose them.  They were trained in, a quite likely very successful at, an entirely different career field. And as the gospels play out this team of disciples reveal themselves to be something less than dreamy. We hear a lot about them misunderstanding Jesus, fighting amongst themselves for seniority in the organization, trying to run with hare-brained and half baked ideas. In short, they seem like pretty regular guys. Perhaps that’s exactly why Jesus chose them!

               He didn’t put together the dream team, but instead he called people who didn’t always get it, and didn’t always have all the answers. Look beyond the disciples and you see that Jesus called people with emotional baggage, people with checkered pasts, people with confidence issues, people with family drama. People who weren’t good enough for anybody else were exactly the people that Jesus drew near to himself.

They were the ones who realized that they needed him the most. The Dream Team of Disciples, maybe they would’ve started to think this was all about them. And that maybe any success that they achieved was due to their proficiency, their brains, their eloquence. The anti-Dream Team starts with nothing and because they do, they eventually come to realize that Jesus is everything.

Jesus didn’t need a Dream Team to lead him. He called the anti Dream Team to follow him.”  They would follow him—to other lakeshores, to mountainsides and open fields filled with thousands of people. They would follow him and learn about how he had come to pay for their sins. They would follow him to a cross and see for themselves how much he loved them—enough to be stripped of everything he had and crushed under the fist of a punishing God.  They would follow him to a tomb on Easter Sunday morning, little knowing that he wasn’t going to be there.

Did they know they would see all those things and so much more when they heard his simple invitation on the sea of Galilee? Of course not. Following Jesus, took them in directions they never could have anticipated, but they never went there alone. Eventually, by faith, the followed Jesus to their heavenly home.

I hope you’re seeing it already. I hope it’s obvious. How much the folks he called to follow him back then have in common with the folks that he calls to follow him today. Everybody sitting around you comes here carrying some pretty heavy stuff. Just like you come here carrying some pretty heavy stuff. We come here looking a forgiveness for our guilt ridden hearts. We come here looking for a little calm in a chaotic world. We come here looking for hope when sadness overtakes us, purpose when life seems meaningless and heaven when it comes to die. We come looking for all those things and Jesus come, follow me, and you will find them.

A dream team of disciples we are not. That’s not implying that all God’s people are plain scoop of vanilla, in a cup, no sprinkles. That’s not denying that God’s people have a variety of gifts and talents. What it is saying is that we don’t have to be supermen or superwomen to be valuable to our God and useful in God’s kingdom.

He took Peter and Andrew, James and John, regular guys and he used them as the pillars in his visible church on earth. They were no dream team. Neither are we. Our names won’t find their way into any history books, most likely. They probably won’t mean much to people who live 100 years from now. But we can make a big difference in the lives of the people around us right now as Jesus works through us in their lives. So we follow him as the disciples of old—learning from him, caring like him, serving for him. Superstars, not at all. We’re just happy to be on the team. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Lord Make Me a Better ________

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Lord Make Me a Better__________” based on 1 Samuel 3:1-10 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, January 14, 2017

Just for fun I googled Ten Best Role Models, and two seconds later google had a list for me. The list included a couple pro athletes, some actresses, a few pop/country singers, even a member of the British royalty. I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time relating to celebrities. Regular people who work regular jobs and have regular incomes – I can relate to them.

So our role models don’t need to be celebrities. We can find role models from within our own ranks…in fact, I hope we do. And I hope we keep that in mind. For instance, our children may pay some attention to pro athletes and celebrities, but the role models that will influence them the most will be you – moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas. Athletes can show our kids what to do after making a three-pointer or after scoring a touchdown…
– they will learn how to be loving husbands and wives from you
– they will learn how to treat people with respect, even when you disagree with them from you
– they will learn how to and how often to worship from you
– they will learn how and why to bring offerings to church from you
– they will learn about what’s most important in life from you.

And isn’t it also true that our children can often be really good role models for us. It’s so encouraging and refreshing when we see in our children a child-like trusting faith in Jesus…when we see the excitement they have when they have learned a Bible story…or how unafraid they are to speak openly about their faith in Jesus. Today in 1 Samuel 3 we see a great role model for all of us. He’s not a celebrity…he’s not royalty…he’s a young boy and his name is Samuel.

Samuel teaches us how to listen

Just to understand the setting a little bit better. We’re told “in those days the word of the LORD was rare.” The first five books of the Bible had been written and compiled and were kept in the tabernacle. But the people ignored those books of the Bible…even the priests. And instead of being good spiritual leaders, the priests were taking advantage of the people…living godless lives and being very poor examples for the people. They had no good role models. And nobody seemed to be listening to God’s voice.

Enter Samuel. (now the 4th time the Lord called to him) The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Listening is important. In catechism class, we talked about how it is estimated that there are roughly 4,200 different branches and types of religions or belief systems in the world. Think about that a moment. All those different opinions and ideas about
– who is in control?
– what is right and what is wrong?
– why am I here and how did I get here…and where will I go when my “here” is over and done with?

Only our true God has the true answers. But it seems listening to him, even though we know he has the answers, can be harder than we think. Can I bore you with some stats for a minute?
– Over 200 billion emails are sent each day (that’s 2.4 million per second)
– Over 500 million tweets each day
– Between 2-3 billion snapchats per day (average user opens the app 18 times per day)
– Average American devotes 10 hours per day to some kind of screen time (computer/TV/phone/tablet)

I would say the average American is certainly connected and tapped into technology and the internet. In your opinion, have all those activities and connections translated into a greater and more consistent connection to God’s Word? And what happens when people stop listening to God’s Word?
• Things didn’t go well for Adam and Eve – they listened to the serpent.
• Eli and his sons closed their ears to God’s voice and they became bad role models and were judged for it.
• David, a man after God’s own heart, took a break from listening to God – that led to adultery and murder and cover-up and what he would later recount, the worst, most guilt-stricken time of his life.
• Judas, he stopped listening to God too…and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. He hanged himself in despair.
• It’s not good for us either. When we don’t listen to God’s voice, then we’ll end up only hearing all the garbage the world pumps into our eardrums and all the lies the devil whispers and all the rationalizing and justifying and bargaining our sinful nature hurls at us.

So with Samuel, we cry out, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. Speak, Lord, when I err…when I stray…when my immaturity gets the best of me…when my stubbornness doubles down…when my sinful nature digs in its heels…Speak, Lord, and cut me to pieces and help me see the danger and depravity of my sin. Knock me down into the dust and help cry out, Lord have mercy. Then speak, O Lord, and give me your mercy. Speak to me in your Word, and show me how deep and how unmatched your love. Speak…and give me the same promises you gave to Adam and Eve and David. Speak to me about Jesus. Speak to me in my baptism…speak to me in the supper…speak to me your words of forgiveness. Speak and never cease to speak. Help me to believe and never cease to believe.

In the bulletin the sermon theme was left blank. Lord, Make Me a Better _____________. I could think of several ways to fill in that blank. Lord, make me a better spouse…a better parent…a better pastor…a better evangelist…a better disciple…a better coworker…a better role model…and the lost goes on. You may fill in your blank however you wish. But might I suggest, Lord, Make Me a Better Listener?

If I am a better listener…If I am truly hearing the voice of my God over and through the many distractions…If I am listening to how patient he is with me – won’t that move me to be more patient with others? If I hear again and again how he graciously tracked down and found and claimed my lost soul – won’t that invigorate my efforts to reach out to the lost souls in my own neighborhood? If I am listening to how consistently he protects me and provides for me and attends to my prayers…how compassionate he is and how kind and generous to me even when and especially when I do not deserve one lick of it – wouldn’t that make me a kinder, more compassionate spouse and parents.

Lord, Make Me a Better Listener…and by the power of your gospel, increase my faith…and make me a better servant to those around me. Amen.