Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s Second Advent Message 2017

Advent 2 Peace

Is. 66: 1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where is the house you will build for Me? Where will My resting place be? 2 Has not My hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at My Word. 3 But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense is like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations; 4 so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring on them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in My sight and chose what displeases me.” 5 Hear the Word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word: “Your own people who hate you, and exclude you because of My Name, have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame. 6 Hear that uproar from the city; hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the LORD repaying His enemies all they deserve. 7 “Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. 8 Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. 9 Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. 10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. 11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.” 12 For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” 14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, but His fury will be shown to his foes.

Our text this evening is a clear-cut case of Law and Gospel. The Law in this text can be summed up with these two verses: “This generation honors Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me. And “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” will enter into the Kingdom of heaven.’” According to the rules laid down in the Old Testament the priests were doing everything correctly with their outward sacrifices but they had not performed their duties as believers.

This is what God required: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at My Word.” They were neither humble nor contrite and cared little for the Word of God. This hymn spells it out: Not all the blood of beasts, On Jewish altars slain, Could give the guilty conscience peace, Or wash away its stain.

“They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations.” This is how Isaiah described them back then. This is how you and I can describe our times. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” But what do we do we know of our Country? They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations…” One of our political parties has in its platform abortion and same sex marriage. That represents nearly half of our citizens. Now surely not everyone belonging to that Party believes in these two things but they go along with it nonetheless! That includes some LCMS pastors, I am sad to say! Politics is one thing, churches are another and yes, very sadly, some churches go along with that also.

And then there is the exclusivity of Christianity. Again: Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Now every religion believes that theirs is the only correct way as well they should. And every denomination ought to have the same concept. If yours isn’t the right one, then find the one that is! Why in the world would you attend and share you time, talents and treasures with an organization that didn’t reflect your understanding of the Bible??? When the Bible clearly states “ABC” it doesn’t mean DEF and surely not XYZ!

In this Second Advent week we look at the word PEACE. The world offers “peace” as an end to hostilities. In other words the war is over and the bullets and the bombs have ceased. Last week I was watching the aftermath of WW2. That was a time of great unrest. Starvation for millions, civil wars and uprisings as the Communist started to take over all of Europe. God’s Peace is a concept of a complete calmness. It means no worries, no anxieties, no fears. Recall the angels greeting Mary and later the shepherds as they said, “Fear not!” Things were extremely uncertain. A virgin about to have a child in a community that would stone her! A host of angels suddenly appearing out in the fields at night! How would you feel if it happened to you? A time of anxiety and fear! But the Lord’s message, “Fear not!” Be at peace!

We are living in uncertain times. What is going to happen to our government with this new unpolitical president? Will the establishment counter his every move just to prove that it is their way or the highway? Of the 518 bills passed by the House since January 2015, only 122 have passed the Senate. Is it really that much harder to pull together 100 senators as opposed to 435 congressmen?

What about Rocket Man? Will he start WW3? If he starts something will China and Russia fall in with him or with us or stay neutral? What about the radical Muslims? What is their next target and could it even be us? We already know that in France a Priest was killed in a worship service.

And what about you and me? What guarantees do we have that we will make it through this night? That at our next doctor’s visit we will hear some extremely bad news? We not only live in a time of uncertainty but our very own lives are uncertain!

What does God say about all of this? “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.” For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, but His fury will be shown to his foes.

“Jerusalem” here means to us all that is good and right and holy. This is where the Gospel comes in. We too have offered up our sacrifices with insincere hearts at times. We too have come into this House of Prayer and our hearts were elsewhere. We too have mumbled our prayers and our hymns while our lips said one thing, our minds said something else. “O most merciful God, I have sinned by thought word and deed!” Thoughts- which were impure. Thoughts of problems, of others people while at the same time our lips mumbled Your holy Name. Words spoken unkindly, words spoken in unjust anger and deeds not only that we did , but deeds we should have done but didn’t. God be gracious and merciful to me, a sinner!

And He is! In His unmerited love and forgiveness He sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to live a perfect life in your place and to take your sins to the cross and pay for them in full. He sent His Holy Spirit into your heart and caused you to believe. Signed, sealed and delivered – as Luther said, “Without any merit or worthiness of our own.”

This is how one hymn put it: When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

I never will forget a man called Ed. He suddenly found out that he had but days to live and I went to see him at the hospital. He greeted me with these words. “Pastor, 410.” I said, “410? What do you want me to do, bring you my 410 shotgun?” He said, “No! Hymn #410. That is what I want played at my funeral.” (Jesus lead Thou on). Ed had that peace which passes all understanding. Instead of fear, instead of despair, to quote another song, he was getting ready to meet the saints! He was getting ready for the New Jerusalem!

As for you and me, this is what St Peter says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God…” So then “May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Amen!

Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s First Advent Message 2017

Advent 1 HOPE

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, Who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.

Have you ever been to a church that everyone is talking about, where it seems like everyone knows that it is a great church, really doing the Lord’s work? Certainly there are outstanding churches and we thank God for them. One such church was in San Antonio. It started with a new student coming out of the St Louis Seminary. He was sent to an area which wasn’t much of anything and in time it grew to about 5000 members. I attended a couple of his lectures and it seems like the key factor was hard work. I also knew a couple of his vicars and another factor was leadership. He had the vision and he was the leader.

Another church in a much smaller way was my home congregation. It was decided that East Orlando needed its own church and so 5 congregations got together and sponsored it. The pastor started with 250 and in time it grew to 1400. The growth was made possible by excellent preaching and a warm-hearted pastor plus several key members who worked hard in various ways to make the church an inviting place to worship.

What is our reputation like? In this tourist area we have many visitors from all over the US. What do they say about us? We too have a faithful pastor and key laymen who work hard to make our church an inviting place. Are you among them?

Our text says, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people…” Throughout Christianity, the saints at Colossae were known to the Believers.

In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. When it was all said and done, it was the Gospel which was converting people and drawing them to Christ and to His Church. Likewise in the two churches I mentioned. It was the Gospel- preached in many cases to fellow Christians who believed in Jesus but hadn’t heard the real Gospel. They had been led to believe that we are saved by faith and by good works. Good works which individual churches and pastors spelled out which had little to do with the Bible.

“We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people, the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven…”

We are in Advent and Advent is that part of the Church Year in which we recall the Jews awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Our hymns and our readings anticipate not only their longing for the coming of the Messiah but also ours in awaiting the Second Coming. The theme for this week is HOPE.

Let’s look at a few words which help us to understand HOPE. Let’s start with FAITH. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith implies a guarantee. The words “assurance” and “conviction” stand out.
Now the word WISH: Wish can imply wanting something that isn’t possible. On the other hand, HOPE can be possible.

I wish that my mother could have seen my two grandsons. I hope my two grandsons will become men of which I can be proud. The one is possible the other isn’t. And then we come back to Faith. All these words are similar but not exactly the same.

“The hope stored up for you in heaven…” What is that hope? What can we expect in heaven? Let’s look at St John’s depiction of heaven: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” What in the world is he talking about! Every concept is foreign to us! We know death, we know crying and we know pain. These are a part of our lives. But what did I say? What in this “world”… John wasn’t talking about this world, but why we pray, “Thy Kingdom come!”

Again, “In Thy presence there is FULLNESS of Joy.” I don’t have any concept of a joy that is so complete. I know joy. You and I have experienced it time and again. But fullness? Rather we experience a joy where something nags us, which is outstanding, like tomorrow where trouble and aches and pains and crying and death are around the corner, some job we have to do that we really don’t want to, a bill that must be paid… the list goes on….So for what is to come and how heaven shall be, we can only hope.

My faith tells me I will be in heaven, for “We hold that a man is justified by faith and not by the works of the Law.” And “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” We know we are not saved by being good or by how much good works we have done. Or as some foolishly believe, if a person does more good than bad, God will forgive the bad.

But what is heaven going to be like??? We can hope it to be as we (with our human minds and limited knowledge) want it to be. I know I will see Jesus as He really is. I hope to meet my grandparents and to get to know them. I hope to stand in that great crowd of witnesses next to my wife and my mother and my siblings. I hope heaven will be as I want it to be. And so do you!

Then there is this: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now 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.

In Advent we Christians hope that Jesus will come in our life time so that we shall see Him as He is. Also so that this political world which is not doing very well will not get any worse for our children and grandchildren to put up with, and so that this earth with its groaning with its storms and earthquakes and fires will harm us no more! So that we will not have to stand any more over the caskets of those whom we love, so that that new World with all it beauty will begin. And so along with St John and with the Church of all ages, we hear Jesus say, “Surely I am coming soon.” And we repeat their words and make them ours, “Even so Lord Jesus, come!” Amen.

Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s Midweek Message 11/8/2017

 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Our text this evening is about a delayed wedding. I believe we have all seen movies about delayed weddings. The church is packed with guests. They are all talking under their breath as to why either the groom or the bride isn’t there or why the wedding hasn’t started. Usually, it is a priest standing there with the groomsmen. Then a taxi comes and outruns the groom. Other scenarios might show the bride locked up in a room in the church refusing to come out. Any number of possibilities as to why the wedding doesn’t start on time.

You and I have seen many weddings and most of us here have been in at least one of them, namely our own. Maybe we saw some peculiar things happened, either by accident or something was actually planned.

One wedding at which I officiated the little flower girl thought the bride’s train looked like a hammock and so she used it and fell asleep. Another time the maid of honor fainted. Her dad came up and was trying to revive her at the same time insisting that the wedding go on.

In our text, we read, “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’”

Now midnight is a strange time to start a wedding. However, we learn from other parables that “times” for festivals and weddings were rather vague. First, a general invitation would go out basically like: “My son is getting married sometime in November and you are invited.” Then later another invitation was sent out, “Get ready to come to the wedding.” And then even a third invitation. “My fatted calves and oxen have been slaughtered and are prepared. Now come with all due haste.” And it took time for each recipient to travel. So like in our day while a wedding invitation might read, “Joe Smith and Mary White will be united in holy matrimony at St Aloysius Church at 2 PM om on Saturday, November 12,” that was not the way it was back then.

In our text, Jesus says, “Five of them were foolish and five were wise.” Now Jesus wasn’t giving us percentages! He didn’t mean that half of Christianity is foolish, any more than in the healing of the 10 lepers 90% of people are thankless. It simply means some were wise and some were foolish, just like in any congregation there are wise members and some who are not so wise.

Now this evening, let’s try to identify those of you who are foolish and those of you who are wise. Let’s see… as I call out your name, please stand up… Not really! I think we have all made some wise decisions and we have likewise made some foolish decisions.

In our text, we read, “The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.” Some were prepared and some were not. Since this is talking about Jesus’ Second Coming; some will be ready, but not all!

There was a time when most denominations took the Bible seriously and believed what it said. The early Church gave us creeds like the Apostles and the Nicene. In those Creeds it says, “And He shall come again…” Today some denominations believe that and some do not. There are those who live like He is coming again “to judge the living and the dead” (to quote the Creeds further) and there are those who couldn’t care less.

God, however, is not interested in denominations, but rather in the individual! And that gets down to you and me. Do we have enough oil for our lamps? That is, is our faith strong enough to endure the testing of our faith?

When would you use a lamp? Not in broad daylight. Likewise, you don’t need a strong faith when everything is going your way! But let’s consider Las Vegas or Spring, Texas, where crazy people killed innocent bystanders. (Of all things, in a church, while the people were at worship!) The question becomes, “How could a loving God allow such a thing to happen?” Those with a strong faith hold onto that faith and allow God to be God. I don’t have an answer. Neither do you. But God does!

Then there is war. Millions killed! WW2 was a bloodbath including millions of good Christians. How could a just God allow such carnage? I don’t know. But this I know, those Christians are not complaining! They are rejoicing along with all the saints who have gone before them.

You and I do not have the answers to the world’s problems; it is enough that we seek answers for our own problems. A friend of mine from my army days had been married about 50 years when he lost his wife. She was in her 70’s and had cancer. He said to me, “Ludwig, I have lost my faith.” Why? Didn’t he realize that sooner or later every one of us is going to die? It is going to happen to me and it is going to happen to you and it is going to happen to your loved one!

When that happens we can either blame God or we can ask Him to help us accept His will. For this moment we need a firm personal faith! We need that OIL!

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’”

Here Jesus is teaching us we cannot borrow from someone else’s faith. I can’t believe for you and you can’t believe for me. In the creeds we say, “I believe…” not “We believe…” Now I can help you in your weak moments and likewise, you can help me. That is what the Church is for- among other things. But it is up to you and to me to hold fast to what is true, the things that will build up our faith.

How? How about this? “ Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Public worship, Bible study (Both corporate and private!)

“The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.” Now Jesus isn’t teaching here that these virgins earned the right to enter with Him. Rather it was their faith that allowed them to enter. We go to the parable of the Prodigal Son and see that this terrible son had in no way earned the right to enter into that party that was being hosted, of all things, in his honor! Rather it was all the Father’s love and forgiveness. How does St Paul put it? “For by grace are you save through faith and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone would boast.”

The main point of this parable is that Jesus is coming again- and at a time we do not know, so we need to be ready for Him at all times and in all places. A second meaning we need to derive for ourselves is that we do not know when we will be leaving this life. We need to be ready for our own individual departure. We cannot take a respite from our Faith and pick it up again at a more convenient time. We may not get another chance with a deathbed confession. An American expression: “Here today and gone tomorrow!” Let that tomorrow be prefaced with Jesus saying to you, “Come, blessed of My Father.” Not- “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.” Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Amen!

Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s Midweek Message 10/11/17

Dress Code

Matthew 22:1-14: Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4″Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11″But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14″For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

When I was in the Army there definitely was a dress code. There were seasons and that meant summer and winter uniforms and everyone had to change at the same time. Then there were work clothes and dress clothes, called Class A’s. Office workers wore class A’s and everyone else wore what we called fatigues. Boots with fatigues and shoes with class A’s, except when on guard duty. That called for Class A’s with boots.

Then in the Church when I was first ordained there was a dress code. The men wore suits and the women wore dresses. Once I was talking with a stranger and he asked if he had to wear a suit and I said, “We really don’t have any rules like that. However, our men do wear suits.” He said he didn’t own a suit but he would wear what he had. He showed up with just a shirt and pants and he stood out like a sore thumb. There were at least 150 other men there.

In that same church, some women asked me if they could wear pantsuits in the evening service. That had never been done before.

In our church, we have a dress code for pastors. Pastors normally wear robes. The undergarment is black, reminding us of sin. The outer garment is white, reminding us of Christ’ purity. Last year we attended a Lenten service in another LCMS church but the pastor chose not to wear a robe. Both Patty and I felt something was missing.

Now a question: What is the dress code for heaven- or is there one??? Rev 7. “ After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.1 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, “Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, “Sir, thou knowest.” And he said to me, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Answer: Yes there is a Dress Code!

Now to our text: A king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field, another to his business…. So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

It was assumed that the king sent out special invitations to the landed and wealthy of his kingdom; people who should have honored him and respected him. To get an invitation, a personal invitation from a king is to drop everything and put this as first priority! But they paid no attention! The king was enraged…. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.”

I think of our Country: We were a Christian Country and somehow or the other, the message went out from all our churches: Come to worship. Come and fellowship. Come and hear the Gospel. Hymns were sung like Rock of Ages, and Amazing Grace. Hymns which portrayed the Gospel even if that denomination didn’t clearly spell it out, the hymns did! But what has happened to our Country! It was not that God deemed our fellow citizens unworthy, it is that that have deemed themselves unworthy!

I think of our Church membership. How many have dropped by the wayside? Nationally, 100’s of 1000’s. Locally, – 50? 60? More? Why? “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.” In our terms, the church’s doors are open. The service is printed out and easy to follow. The hymns are sing-able. The sermon is prepared. The Lord’s Supper is waiting on the altar.

Now apart from how Jesus put it in this parable: Who deserves to be here? And the answer is no one! Not you and not me! Even St Paul said he was the chief of sinners. In another parable, the servants said, “We are unworthy!” Why? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So what did the King do? That is to say, what did God do? He said to His servants, “So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” In other words, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”….So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The good and the bad. Comparatively speaking there are good and bad people in this world. That is, socially. Spiritually, there are only bad. “There is none that doeth good and sinneth not!” You and I are witnesses of this fact. We have sinned by thought, word, and deed. There are things we should have done and didn’t do them. There are things we should not have done but did them anyway.

What to do? The answer is indirectly within our text. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.” The custom back then was for the host to supply clothing for his special occasions. People traveling a great distance needed something else to wear. In our parable, the people off the streets simply didn’t have anything else to wear. So the King supplied what he wanted his guests to wear.

However, this one man believed his clothing was good enough. He didn’t care to have on, what the king wanted. Now, of course, Jesus wasn’t talking about real clothing but spiritual clothing, like one of our hymns, states it, “Clothed in His righteousness alone- faultless to stand before the throne.”

What the parable is about is self-righteousness vs. Christ- righteousness. The choice is; “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling” or “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” God prefers that other prayer, namely, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ In other words, to have Christ put on us His robe of righteousness, stained by our sins, yet washed in His blood. How about this hymn?

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.

Amen!

 

Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s Midweek Message 9/27/17

Matthew 21:33-45 33″Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35″The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38″But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40″Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41″He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The Stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43″Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables; they knew He was talking about them. 46They looked for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that He was a prophet.

“If at first you do not succeed, then try, try again.” This is a saying which may or may not be helpful. If I am doing something wrong and continue in the same way, then I can try as many times as I have strength and it will not help.

Now this is a lesson our Government has yet to learn. They come up with a solution to what may or may not even be a problem. They vote it into law and it fails. What to do? Add more money and try, try again. Can you say, “The war on poverty”?  As I have listened many times to Joel Osteen, that seems to be what he says. Your success may well be just one more failure away. So lift up your head and keep trying.

But of course, such a saying would not be popular if there wasn’t some truth in it. I am sure we have all failed on something and have tried again and again and finally, things worked out.

In our text we see the tenants- or shall we say, the share-croppers, didn’t want to live up to their part of the bargain. Well, let’s read the text: “When the harvest time approached,( the owner) sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way.”

This was rather drastic. I would imagine that after the first time he would have secured some sort of help but he didn’t. And as we see, he pressed even further trying to get these sharecroppers to do the right thing. We read, “Last of all, he sent his son to them. ’They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” That didn’t work either!

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables; they knew He was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that He was a prophet.

So what did they do? They tried and tried again. They tried to embarrass Him. They tried to trick Him. They bribed false witnesses and then they even fulfilled scripture by offering Judas 30 pieces of silver. In Zechariah, we read: “ I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.  What happened to the 30 pieces? Again we read, “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.  The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.”

It didn’t stop there. Even after Easter they bribed the Roman guards to say the Apostles stole the body of Jesus. They tried and tried again. But there was the woman who saw Jesus and then the empty tomb and then the two appearances of Jesus walking through the locked door. And then the Emmaus disciples and then the 500 brethren who saw Him. We might say that now it is Jesus who is trying, again and again, to get people to believe in Him.

Down through the ages, there have been people and groups of people both within and outside of the church who have tried to distort or destroy the Gospel. Already St Paul warned against them.  In Romans we read, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Down through the centuries there have been movements and groups of heretics that denied the fundamentals of Christianity.

And what are we celebrating this year? The 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 theses! One of the things Luther condemned was clearly spelled out in the Council of Trent. Again we read. “Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by Godresists the ordinance of God ,…  Furthermorewe declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

Though they haven’t officially declared the Council of Trent wrong, they have said and done things which go against some of these decrees and we are thankful for that.  But they are not the only ones who teach things which distort the Gospel. One pastor from the so-called Christian Church told me, “You faith alone people are going to wind up in hell.” And as both of us (pastors) have said, “Whenever you add anything to the Gospel, then it is no longer the Gospel.”

Now it comes down to you and to me. We try and try again to be the people God wants us to be. We strive to walk upon that straight and narrow way. We try to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile and bless those who curse us. We want to be the ones who will hear from Jesus, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” But often that is not the case.

I know I have failed to always be on the lookout for how I can help people and as I told my fellow pastors the other day, “I was sick and in the hospital, and ye visited me not.” On that occasion and other times, I have been hospitalized very few have taken the time to visit me. This is one place I will give our pastor an A+! But I cannot condemn them for “You who are without sin may cast the first stone!”

And there are other things you and I do again and again and again and again Jesus keeps coming to us through Word and Sacrament and offers us the forgiveness of sins.  That is why in the 3rd Article we read, I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean?–Answer. I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true. Amen

Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s Midweek Message 9/20/17

Matthew 21:23-32 New International Version (NIV) The Authority of Jesus Questioned 23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while He was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him. “By what authority are You doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave You this authority?” 24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer Me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then He said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

“Who are you to tell me what I am supposed to do?  What gives you that right?” Often that question is not a question at all but an admission that what I am doing is wrong and I don’t like being criticized.  But then sometimes it is indeed a question because those asking us to do something haven’t the right to make any demands of us.

In the military stripes and collar brass or silver or gold explains immediately what authority is. If I have one strip and the other guy has two, it is obvious. If I have a gold bar on my collar and the other guy has a silver bar, it is also obvious.  When I worked at Martin aerospace, it was pretty much a given that the bosses wore white shirts and ties.

But in our text Jesus has neither stripes on His sleeve nor brass on His collar. He is not dressed in the traditional garb of the Pharisees and leaders of the people. Yet His teachings  come across like someone of authority. In fact it is said, “No one ever ever spoken like this with such authority.” Moreover, what He is teaching often contradicts those in authority.

Now perhaps some of these elders might be sincere, it could well be that they honestly asked a question and expected an honest answer. How- ever, several other parts of the Bible demonstrate that most of these men were not honest but hypocrites. And the way Jesus answered them shows that Jesus knew they were not being honest. In fact listen to this, namely, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” They were being political.

I suppose there was a time when the word “Political” was a neutral word just meaning a way of governing, but, well, today, it really means crooked and dishonest.  For example, either party promises all sorts of things but rarely delivers. They say one thing and do the opposite. It used to be used cars salesmen were at the bottom of the list, now it is Politians.

Politians aren’t the only one being political.  If political also includes the idea of saying what people want to hear, then in the religious circles there are also Politians.  Doesn’t Joel Osteen know the Bible teaches that Christians will be persecuted and suffer?  Hasn’t he ever seen any good Christians fail in the business or in their lives?

Last Sunday in adult Sunday school we covered the Charismatic and Pentecostal Movement. It is extremely hard to see that if you just casually read 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 that you will see that they are completely wrong. Yet they insist that they are right. They are appealing to people who want to hear what they offer. Likewise with the total abstinence people or the total immersionist group.

Worst of all is those who deny the Gospel in some way, shape of form. “If you want to be saved, believe in Jesus AND …. belong to our church, be baptized in this way at this time, “Tear up your playing cards and cigarette, pour out your wine and your beer, come forward and give your hand to the preacher and you heart to the Lord.” Go to church on Saturday instead of Sunday. Wear this kind of clothing in this way. The list goes on and on and on.

“So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then He said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”  At this point Jesus didn’t tell them but in many places He did. Many times Jesus called God, “My Father.”  His miracles proved His authority. He said, “If you don’t believe in Me for what I say, then at least believe in Me for what I do.”  How many Pharisees made the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak and even raised the dead? NONE!!!

And then there we are! We know right from wrong and when caught doing the wrong, we have two choices: Confess and repent or attack the accuser. “Who gives you this authority to criticize me? By what right? Are you so perfect that you can stand in judgment of me?”  Have you ever taken that route?

Then there is this: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith , this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone shoulod boast.” And this: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…” “Truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” Knowing this, why would we ever doubt our salvation? Why would we doubt the salvation of other Christians who believe in and love the same Lord Jesus we do? We are not saved by being perfect. They are not saved by believing everything we believe.

And why do some Christians fear death? St Paul says in last Sunday’s epistle, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain and I have a longer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” What part of the Bible do we believe in and what part of the Bible is not the truth of God’s Word???

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while He was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him. “By what authority are You doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave You this authority?”

You and I can answer for Him. “He is the Christ, the Son of the loving God” and “all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him.” Moreover, “Heaven and earth shall come and pass away, but His words will never pass away.”

And what more can we say, except …. Amen.