Midweek Service April 30, 2018

John 15: 26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about Me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with Me from the beginning.

John 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you.”

How many of you can remember the parade which was held here a few years ago when Dolly Parton’s wig flew off and she was completely bald? Or what about that time when our Mayor stood up on the dais to speak and his pants fell partly down exposing a bright red pair of shorts? Who here can recall that day when WW2 ended and the whole town came out and hugged each other and all the pastors got together and sang the National Anthem? Now hold these questions for just a few minutes.

There is a whole lot in our text and as you know me, I do not exposit every word and thought but try to find one thought, one idea and share that with you. So, the central part of our text I will omit just looking basically at the beginning and the end.

As I looked at last Sunday’s lesson it struck me as how the way the Holy Spirit inspired St Luke to describe how Phillip spoke. It said there, “Phillip open his mouth and he began to speak.” We also see this in the Gospels. Our expression is, “Think before you speak.” However what Phillip did was to open his mouth and allow the Spirit to do his thinking for him.

That is very much in line with what Jesus said, “Make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”

Now the Bible does not contradict itself when it seemingly says also the opposite. From St Paul, we learn, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who need not be ashamed.” And from St Peter, we learn, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Now realize that these two verses do not contradict what Jesus said, but rather must be taken in context. Jesus also said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit and He will bring into your remembrances, all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The key word is “remembrances.” How can you remember anything that you haven’t already been exposed to?

Let’s say that I am going to visit a prospective member whom I believe has a hang-up about baptism. So, I study that issue until where I can effectively share it. Case No.1. He really isn’t wanting to talk about baptism but some other issue of which I am not prepared. Now what? Case No. 2. He does want to talk about baptism but the conversation takes a turn and raises a question I am not prepared for. Now what?

The answer to both questions is that we do our part and the Holy Spirit takes over. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about Me.” There’re many things in the Bible which we could talk about and some of these things in depth. Some of these things might be very interesting and some may not be. And as we discuss religion with others, some subjects may come up which we wonder about- why do we believe the way we do and why do they believe the way they do?

But notice carefully what Jesus says, “He will testify about Me.” What about the Rapture? What about Pre-,post- and mid- Millennialism? How many angels were really at the tomb? What was the hidden message in the empty tomb behind the linen cloth folded instead of just lying there? These are side issues which do not directly matter in terms of the Gospel- which has as it center, Jesus!

There are those who like to argue about peripheral things, but the real issue is Jesus. A couple of years ago when I was at Staples I used my tax empty card to buy office material and the clerk asked me if I happened to be a pastor. I answered in the affirmative and he said he was one too. Then he asked me if I was aware that Adam actually had two wives. He went off on some tangent that didn’t even begin to make any sense. That is what was really important to him.

At other times I have been asked, as first importance upon just meeting another pastor or some key laymen, what I thought about this, that or the other. The Saturday Sabbath, Jesus coming in a short time, speaking in tongues, wearing a beard or a mustache, drinking alcohol and a host of other things. Not really testifying about Jesus as Lord.

On the other hand, I have been very blessed to meet other Christians, including pastors, who rejoice in the idea that we are all Christians who, despite our differences on minor doctrines, have the same faith and Lord. While I have been in some Circuits of our Church (roughly 10 congregations) and have enjoyed my fellow LCMS pastors, I have also been in places and situations where it was the pastors of other denominations who were my closest brothers and friends. The same Spirit in them was in me, testifying of the same Lord Jesus.

Now getting back to my strange introduction: My point was we cannot remember what we haven’t witnessed. And we cannot remember what never even happened. (I made up the story of Dolly and our mayor and WW2 celebration here!) My point is, you cannot remember Scripture verses you have never learned. You cannot give an account of the faith that is within you if you are not prepared.

Now the Holy Spirit could put verses into your mouth to repeat, verses you have never read or heard, but He hasn’t promised to. The promise is what? He will bring into your remembrance all things whatsoever I have commanded you.

Our text goes on with Jesus saying, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” He said that to them before the Day of Pentecost. He would say that to us if we had just been converted. But- we have been converted a long time ago. We have been confirmed and we are seasoned Christians. Now the word given to us is again, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who need not be ashamed.” And, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

And then there is this, “Then we will no longer be infants,
tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body
of Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

Therefore in studying to show ourselves approved unto God workmen who need not be ashamed, and being able to give an account of the faith that is within us and in growing up in Christ, we will be enabled to “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” And to that, we say, “Amen!”

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.

In 2009 I attended a Methodist/Presbyterian church in Ireland. There, in the heart of Catholic Ireland, this church was struggling. As I left the service I asked the pastor if he had ever heard of what Americans are doing with Church Growth. He answered me rather sharply, “Any fool can fill a church but are they making disciples?”

This is what our text is about. Over and over again we stress that a person is saved by faith and not by works. We sing, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” We are indeed saved by faith alone. But the same verse from St Paul which so clearly and completely affirms this is followed by this verse: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. This is how Jesus put it: “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”

Let’s say that you go to the grocery store- which maybe you will do tomorrow or sometime soon. Anyway, you see that beef roasts are on sale so you buy one and take it home. Then what? Leave it in the car? Bring it in and leave it on the counter? Place it in the Fridge and leave it there until it spoils? No! You buy it because you want to cook it and eat it. So that is what you do.

Maybe you are not hungry but you are in need of a new car. So you shop around and find one that meets your needs and you buy it. Now, do you leave it there at the dealer? Do you bring it home and lock it up in the garage and never drive it? Or do you use it because after all, it is a car which you need?

We are saved by faith alone- but simply put, saving faith is never alone. Saving faith motivates us to be about the Lord’s work out of genuine gratitude.

Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit…” He does not cut people off because they have not been bearing fruit, but because they didn’t have saving faith which would have motivated them to bear good fruit.

“…every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” The vine which has been pruned will produce more fruit than if left alone. As we pass by vineyards in the Fall we see mthe trunks staked to their supports with just a small amount of branches. Then in the summer, we see that these branches have grown out and have produced even more branches and it is these that produce the grapes.

Have you ever noticed how some new members are more excited about their church than some of the older members? Have you ever noticed how some recent converts are more into our doctrines that some of the lifelong members? Have you ever noticed how some people, after a tragedy or a severe problem become active? A death in the family, a divorce, loss of a job, or some other thing which makes then stop and start out on a new life? “…. every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” You didn’t get clean- that has your sins forgiven- because you bear fruit. Rather it was the Word, namely the Gospel that set you free from your sins. Again, “We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law.”

Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. In another place Jesus said, “ My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” Here we have a promise, as long as we desire to be Christians, as long as we never deny Jesus, He will be with us and will keep us. Notice the order of what Jesus said. “You remain in Me and I will remain in you.” Not the other way around. Unfortunately, we have all known of those who have withdrawn from the Christian faith.

And sadly this has become a doctrine which gives false hope to those who believe in “Eternal Security.” They trust in what they did at some point in their life, like at an altar call, and believe they are eternally secure because of what they did. They think they no longer need to be involved in any form of living a Christian life, including public worship. While no external force can remove us from our relationship with Jesus, we can choose to cut those ties ourselves! “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you.”

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” As a born again Christian we want to live a life that will please God. We want to walk on that straight and narrow road which leads to eternal life. We want to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” We don’t have to earn God’s favor. We already have that. We do these good things because we want to, because we love Him.

He is the vine and we have been engrafted to Him by His precious Blood. We have been given the Holy Spirit and He leads us and guides us and directs us. And with His direction, we say along with St Paul, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” And upon hearing Him, we say along with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me!” Amen.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

Luke 24: 36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence. 44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

“While they were still talking about this…” When I read this text the first thing I wanted to know is what was the context. It is when the Emmaus disciples reported back to the apostle what had happened to them, namely Jesus appeared to them and opened their eyes to the rumors that were going about concerning His resurrection. It was true. He is risen, He is risen indeed!

While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” This is Luke account of the post-resurrection experience and he only addresses the first appearance and moves quickly to the ascension.

Think about it. The last time He saw these cowards, (except for John) was when they were running away from Him and Peter denying Him. But what is the first thing He says to them? “Peace be with you!”

Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes. You have been with these men for 3 years. You have shown them countless miracles. Water was turned into excellent wine, thousands were fed with a small amount of food and the leftovers exceeded what they had started with. The blind were made to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk. Lepers were cleansed and the dead brought back to life! Add to all this You had clearly stated at least 5 times that you would be handed over to the Gentiles and shamefully treated and crucified but that you would be raised again in three days. Yet they still ran away when the chips were down. So- what would you say to these men??? What would I say to them? Most likely nothing- because I wouldn’t even want to be near them!

Maybe now we can see where so many Christians cannot accept pure grace because we haven’t got it in us. We have the idea that we have to earn everything we get. As the one song from the Sound of Music goes, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could…”

Now, of course, that is not true in modern liberal politics. The idea is that the government can give everyone everything and not grow bankrupt. However, it does come from somewhere and that is to soak the rich and make them pay for it. Studies have been made to show that if we took everything away from every millionaire and billionaire in this Country we would have enough to run this government for 6 months. Then what???

But that is politics and not religion. The question is asked in the Bible, “What must I do to be saved?” And the answer was given, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

“It is not that simple,” so many say. “First you have got to get right with God.” “But the Bible says…” “Never mind what the Bible says, I am telling you, you have got to ….. and then they add their additions.

But the Bibles does say, “We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law.” And “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

Indirectly, if not directly, our text demonstrates that so clearly. “While they (those who had deserted Him!) were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your minds? (No super saints who believed what was in front of their eyes!)

They hadn’t cleaned up their act. They did not find Jesus! They did not accept Jesus! Jesus found them, Jesus accepted them, Jesus forgave them before they even asked for it.

“Look at My hands and My feet. It is I myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet.” Jesus walked the extra mile, Jesus blessed those who denied Him. Jesus didn’t meet them halfway- rather 100% of the way even walking through a lock door to do so.

“And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement..” What do we have here? It seems just too good to be true. They wanted to believe, but it was more than their human minds could accept at that time. So, what did Jesus do? First, He ate something to prove He was human and secondly “He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Without the Holy Spirit we cannot understand the Bible! God created the world out of nothing. Can’t happened. All the 1st born children of the Egyptians died. Well what really happened, the History Channel tells us, is that the first born slept in their father’s room and in a lower bed. And there was a marsh gas that filled the lower level of the room but not up to the father’s bed. Moses struck the water and the Red sea parted. What really happened, is that every once in a while, there is enough silt that clogs a river and blocks it for a short time. That is what the people walked on. You know, they have more faith in their garbage than I do in the Bible!

Now, onto us. I find myself very much like these Apostles. I haven’t been the most faithful follower. These are not just empty words for me from our confession, namely, “I have sinned against Thee by thought, word and deed.” Like St Paul, “O the good I want to do, I do not and the evil I do not want to do, this I do, o wretched man that I am.” And because these are not empty words, and as our Liturgy also says, “With a true heart, let us confess our sins.” and so I do, and undeservedly I hear, “I forgive you of all your sins, in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

And that begs the question, why would anyone miss any opportunity to assemble in God’s holy House of Prayer and be able to confess our sins and receive, not only Holy Absolution, but also the sign and seal of that forgiveness in the Sacrament of the Altar?

And this is where the last part of our text comes in: “You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” You and I have already had our “Pentecostal experience.” That is somehow or the other, through the preaching of the Word or from our receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit in our Baptism, our spiritual eyes and ears have been opened. We know and believe the Gospel. We have been born again to a new and living way. We are equipped to be His witnesses.

And that is what we need to be doing. We have close to 200 members and we can start right here in our own “Jerusalem.” We have never had all 200 here at one time. In fact, I will go so far as to say, not even within a month’s time. Needless to say, we have never had half that many for a Wednesday service. If you have received a blessing in these midweek services, in having the opportunity to confess your sins and receive the absolution, and in hearing the Word and receiving the Lord’s Supper, then witness the same to your fellow members!

Be an Easter Christian, that is someone who has witnessed the reality of a living Savior in your own life because He has risen! He has risen indeed! Amen!

Sermon Sunday April 8, 2018

Acts 4: 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness therein.” As we look at our text, we see this is what the early Christians understood rather well. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Jesus made this rather plain when He gave us the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. There you will recall in hell the rich man had nothing but intense thirst while Lazarus was being comforted by the holy angels. Jesus talked about storing up treasures for ourselves either in heaven or temporarily on earth.

But! This is the first Sunday after Easter and as you can see our stoles and the paraments are white. This is not really a stewardship text nor theme but it has another purpose. How in the world could people feel this way and act out their feelings if it wasn’t something they firmly believed in? The reason something so completely and forcefully transformed their lives was an event witnessed by over 500 believers and enthusiastically shared with countless others until these people- now since Pentecost- numbered in the thousands!

Think about it. At Jesus arrest, the disciples ran away. Now they are quite public and quite outspoken. This is what we read from the episode before our text. “Then they (The Jewish leaders) called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied,…. “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

What transformed them to go from being cowards and denying Jesus to so boldly confessing Him??? It wasn’t this lie- “Some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”

This text so much reminds me of my uncle who often said, “Some people will tell a lie when the truth would serve them better!” Now was the time for them to confess the Christ instead of continuing with their hatred. But they didn’t!

So, what changed them? What transformed them? What made them turn 180 degrees? “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.”

“The angel of the Lord …rolled back the stone and sat on it.” I can see the face of that angel. A sense of victory and yet tenderness as he spoke to the women. Jesus’ enemies did everything they could to stop Him. Humiliate Him, kill Him, bury Him and even post a guard but what good did it do? Nothing stood in God’s way.

He is the God who created this world out of nothing. He is the God who delivered His people out of Egypt through the Red Sea and with all those miracles. Jesus started out by turning water into wine, feeding thousands from almost nothing, making the blind to see, the deaf to hear the lame to walk and even raising the dead. So, move back and get out of His way for, “The angel of the Lord …rolled back the stone and sat on it.” And he did not do it to let Jesus out but to let us in to see the empty linen cloths and the two angels. So that now we to can say to those who would silence us, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And it now comes down to us, we who have just celebrated Easter! We are not only to say, “He is risen!” but to live and act as though we are serving a living, all powerful God.

Our text might suggest a communistic way of life for Christians and certainly some cults have practiced that, including Jim Jones. But if this were what our Lord wanted then this would have also taken place in the other areas where the Church was planted, such as Rome, or Corinth or Philippi, but we see no evidence of such a structure.

What our text tells us is that these were completely changed people. The Resurrection had completely transformed them. This is how they saw the need for the Church to both grow and go into the utter most parts of the world.

You and I, living here in this day and age are not required to give up everything we own and turn it over to our church and depend on the Church to supply our every need. But like the Christians of old, we are to be- as quoted by St Paul- to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. In that transformation we will be enabled to walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek and bless those who curse us. In that renewed mind will love the habitation of God’s house and we will see and feel and experience His glory as we gather together and partake of the Lord’s Supper and enjoy the fellowship of His people.

Broad is the road that leads to destruction and many there be that travel upon it. Its end is ruin and death but because their minds are not renewed, they can’t see it. Their thinking is that it can’t be wrong because everyone else is doing it, believing it, following it. I am reminded of the newsreels of the 30’s when Hitler paraded down the streets of Germany and how ecstatic and enthusiastic the people all were. It was said that at Stalin’s funeral, 1500 people were crushed to death trying to get closer to his casket because the people loved him so.

If we were to take a poll and ask every American if they thought Jesus is the only way to heaven, we would realize what President Obama said was true- namely, this is not a Christian Nation. If we asked the same question to everyone who calls himself a Christian we would be amazed and sadly disappointed in how many believe there are other roads to heaven.

It is easy to gloss over the 10 Commandments, to highlight some and ignore others. I don’t steal, I don’t murder, I do not swear, I don’t covet. But when we look more intensely at these Commandments, we see that by not helping our neighbor to keep what is his we are in a sense stealing from him. We learn from the Parable of the Good Samaritan that murder is the same as not helping our neighbor in his every physical need.

Well, I am a good Christian I go to church and do this that or the other. (Small Catechism) We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but gladly hear and learn from it. I can’t but help think that if every Christian truly believed that, then our churches would be filled every time the doors were opened for public worship. I can’t but help think Bible studies would be much more attended.

We talk about C&Eers (people who only attend on Christmas and Easter.) but what the Lord wants is E’ers! That is Easter Christians, people who have been transformed by the renewal of their minds and want to live as though they pray and mean, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” And sadly, that isn’t always the case, not for me and not for you. That doesn’t give us a pass, but rather after experiencing Easter, after hearing Jesus say, “Because I live, you will live also.” we will be more E’ers and keep our eyes on eternity.

St Paul put it this way: We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Easter happens in Spring. Trees are greening and flowers are blooming and plant life and animal life takes on a new meaning. So, then we also are excited about our Lord in this renewed season. With the Holy Spirit leading us, and yes, and yes at times falling, he nevertheless picks us up and dusts us off and puts us back on that straight and narrow. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen!

Easter Message

Jesus Has Risen!

Mark 16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” 8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Tonight, we are looking at our Easter Gospel lesson which highlights an empty tomb. At least we talk about an empty tomb but it was not at all empty. First of all, there were two angels there and secondly, just as important, there were the linen cloths lying there, proof that no one had stolen Jesus’ body. Had they taken His Body away, they certainly wouldn’t have unwrapped it!

Easter! Our victorious celebration of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It is our guarantee as He said, “Because I live, you will live also.” It is a proof positive that anyone who made such a promise, namely, “Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it again”, and keeps that promise, then there is no promise He ever made that we cannot wholeheartedly trust.

This is what we take to the grave with us as we bid farewell to our loved ones who have died in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” And because of Easter we do not mourn as those who have no hope rather, we bid a farewell, knowing that in God’s good time, we will be reunited with our loved one in the presence of Jesus Christ Himself!

Now that being said, I would like to look at a couple of things which this text brings out. I am reminded of someone who has opened my eyes to look more deeply into Scripture, namely Kenneth Baily, who examined almost every word in the parable of the Prodigal Son, to show the depths of Jesus’ teaching and the way the people at His time understood Him. In doing so I am going to borrow once more from our Lenten Theme by asking, “Were you there when the women brought the spices to the tomb?”

Think about that for a moment. Here were followers of Jesus. Some of them very close followers who had been with Him for some time. What they hadn’t personally heard Him say, they most likely heard repeated from the apostles and others who had listened to Him. And what had Jesus said?

As I already stated, “Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it again.” Now granted, that was somewhat cryptic. However, recall that the leaders understood Jesus for they said to Pilate that he should post a guard because Jesus said he would rise again in 3 days and they feared the outcome would be worst for them then it was before.

However, this was not cryptic: In Matthew Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!” By the way, this was repeated in Mark and Luke two times each!

In other words, these believers should have believed this. But they didn’t! Now we know they loved the Lord Jesus, they were doing the best they knew how. They were sacrificing from their own purses whatever the cost of these spices was. (We established on Good Friday that these were very expensive items!) But in everything they were doing was in effect – was saying that they didn’t believe Jesus when He said in 3 days He would arise!

I see the same thing in some other denominations. They give lip service to the Gospel. They say they believe Jesus when He said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” They can even quote it. But then they add, this that or the other saying, “You still have to….” I actually had one pastor tell me “You faith alone people are going to wind up in hell.”

Eph 2:8-9 simply cannot be taken literally by them. “For by grace are you saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Now, do we sit back and live like pigs and despise all Jesus teachings? No! The same text goes on to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared before hand for us to do.” The word which they do not seem to understand is Gratitude. We do the things we do because we are grateful that He saved us from our sins.

I love ice cream! I eat ice cream, not because I have to but because I love it, I want to! I fell in love with this girl I worked with. I dated her. I proposed to her, I married her. I have stayed with her for 57 years! Not because I had to but because I wanted to. Because I loved her.

David said it better than I ever could: “Lord I love the habitation of Thy house, the place where Thy glory dwells.” When I was a layman I never missed church. I didn’t do it because I wanted to get saved but because I was saved. I did it because I loved being in God’s house with God’s people under the care of God’s servant- my home pastor! And I am here in this church for the same reason, including our pastor!

Now back to the text. These women loved their Lord but they were all wrong in how they were going about to show Him that love. You do not embalm a body that isn’t dead! If they wanted to serve Him correctly they might have thought of putting on another Palm Sunday where Jesus, alive and well, could proclaim His victory to everyone!

So the question again, “Were you there when the women brought the spices to the Tomb?” This I take means not understanding what Jesus said, or understanding what He said but not really believing it.

Well what about us? We believe that Jesus arose and is very much alive but what are some of His teachings that we quibble over? How about worry? Did Jesus say something about that? Is worry any different than these women trying to embalm Jesus on Easter day!!!

How about our treasures? Are we storing up for ourselves on earth or in heaven? The Old Testament says we are robbing God if we do not bring the full tithe into the storehouse. The promise of the Old Testament is that will bless those who tithe returning to them more than they can handle. In Matthew, Jesus said the tithe is still good, but we could go beyond that. St Paul talks about tithes and offerings!

How about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, blessing those who curse us? How about going to our brother or sister who has offended us and trying to make things right, instead of avoiding them or harboring bad feelings? How about a lot of things that we know in our hearts in our quiet time that bothers us?

Again, we don’t do these things because we have to, but because the Holy Spirit, who is in us, is leading us to. That is why we sang last season: What language shall I borrow, to thank Thee dearest Friend For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end. O make me thine forever and should I fainting be, Lord let me never, never, outlive my love for thee.

Question: Are we following Jesus or the women’s example? Spices or palm branches? Confidence or worry? A sense of obligation or a sense of gratitude? Doing things to get right with God or doing things because we are right with God? We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law. Amen

John 19

This is to explain why different versions of John 19 use different numbers (75 or 100) . I take this to mean both are correct in their own way. The fact is that no major translation is purely one or the other. Every translation involves a combination of both. Rather than either/or, it is often a matter of a spectrum where some translations are more likely to apply one or the other in any given situation. In this case, for example, both ESV and NASB are formally equivalent translations, yet they make different decisions regarding this particular verse.

 

The words in question are the Greek words λίτρας έκατον (litras hekaton). As I said earlier, both of these words are straightforward. The word λίτρας (litras) is the word from which we get our modern word “liter” we associate with liquid measures in the metric system. It is the Greek word for pound. It is the same word, for example, used in John 12:3 to describe the amount of perfume Mary used to anoint the feet of Jesus. The other word, ἑκατόν (hekaton) is the Greek word for 100. It is where we get our modern prefix hecta/hecto, as in hectare etc., which we still use in the metric system to denote a factor of 100. Therefore, the Greek text includes the word for 100 and the word for pounds to describe the quantity Nicodemus brought.

 

Why then do so many translations say 75 pounds? The reason is that at the time John wrote his Gospel the λίτρα (litra) or pound referred not to our English pounds but to Roman pounds. English pounds are 16 ounces, but the Roman pound is just a little over 11.5 ounces. This means that the actual amount of weight that Nicodemus brought was around 73 pounds. Since the text makes it clear that it is not giving an exact amount, the ESV and many others translate this “about 75 pounds”.

 

Those who apply a more formal approach, such as the NASB, recognize that the text includes a Greek word for 100 and a Greek word for pounds that have English equivalents and so they translate it formally. ESV, however, apparently thought that most modern readers would probably not realize that the text is referring to Roman pounds. As a result, they thought formal translation of the verse was not the most accurate way of conveying the meaning of the original in English, and used a dynamic approach for this verse.

Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s Sunday Message 02/25/2018

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. …. 15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

What is in a name? What does your name mean and what does it mean to you? Recently I googled my name on the internet and found out it means “North German man.” That seems to be accurate for in the northern city of Hannover, there are 400 listings in the telephone book for Dettmer. But more than that is what my father said to his eldest son that the name was to be held in honor and never disgraced.

In our text there is some name changing going on. Abram was not an Enoch who was a pretty great example of faithfulness. The Bible simply says, “Enoch walked with God and was no more.” Without getting into it, Abraham made his share of mistakes but possibly this is a bad comparison because we know a lot of Abraham but almost nothing of Enoch. Nevertheless, his name is changed from “exalted father” to “father of many”. From what little I could gather about Saria to Sarah, there is no difference, both mean princess. In fact, in Luther’s commentary, he doesn’t even mention her name only Abraham‘s.

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. … I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” “I will bless (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Here we have an impossibility which is also called a miracle. The Bible assures us, “With God nothing is impossible.”And how do we handle miracles of the Bible? The answer is simple. “We walk by faith and not by sight.”

Life is lived only by faith. We go to sleep at night in the faith that we will wake up in the morning. We eat our breakfast by faith alone, believing the food is not contaminated and will not kill us or put us in the hospital. We get in our cars and drive somewhere only by faith. We believe the car will get us there and back and without an accident.

When atheists or agnostics say that Christians are foolish and have nothing but faith, they are stupid! They have as much faith as we do- but for them, in the wrong things! By faith we believe that God created the heavens and the earth and all the creatures including us. By faith, the atheists believe that pond scum created them. I believe we worship a higher form of Divine Intelligence than they do!

Now we know the rest of the Story. Abraham and Sarah produced a son, who produced two sons who produced many sons, who produced millions of sons and daughters. Some of those sons were kings and one of those sons was Jesus. And because of Him, as Simeon said, He was a light to lighten the gentiles and millions of gentiles became sons of Abraham including many kings and even nations. With God all things are possible. And with God this prophecy came true.

So now it comes down to you and to me. Are you ready for a name change? In 2 Chronicles we read: “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” My name isn’t important and neither is yours. What is important is the name that God gives to us!

Our family name is taken from Jesus and that is Christian. Now for our first name, we need to turn to that wonderful parable which Jesus gave us. I call the Parable of the Name. It is found in Luke 15. There we read the last half of it:

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when your son who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ”‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because your brother was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

In the Parable the repentant son said he was no longer worthy of the name, “my Son.” The Father corrects him and calls him “my son.” thereby owing him. The elder brother will not call him “my brother” but rather, “your son.” thereby disowning him. The Father reminds him, this is “your brother.”

So what is Jesus teaching us here? You and I have a name and it is #1. My son or my daughter. And #2. My brother or my sister. Those are is the only names that matter, the name God calls you as His own dear child! And the name we call each other, Brother or Sister! And what else did Jesus teach us concerning names?

He said, “When you pray say, Our Father, who art in heaven…” How did Luther understand this introduction? What does this mean? With these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”

“Abram, you are now Abraham because you have been given a new relationship to Me. Saria, you are now Sarah, because I have called you out of barrenness to fertility and you have very important role in My plan.”

And so it is with you and with me. St Peter puts it this way: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

You and I have been called out of the darkness of our sins into the new life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We have been called to go out into the Highways and byways and proclaim the Good News of Jesus. In simple words, Jesus said, “You shall be my witnesses!” And so that is what we are. Good, bad, fair, indifferent- is up to us how brightly or dimly we let our light shine. But knowing Jesus our Savior who suffered and died for our sins, how can we not but say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord!” Amen!

Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s Fourth Advent Message 2017

Micah 6:6-8  4th Advent With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Hope, Peace, Joy and now Love – our 4 themes for this Advent season. As we learned from the first three- the fullness of these ideas and feelings can only be in God and with God’s blessing. So we shall see the same is true for love.

What is love? In English, it depends completely upon the context. I love apple pie, I love good weather, I love watching good movies. I love my wife, I love my children, I love our church and I love a lot of things but in different ways.

In English we indiscriminately swap the words “like” and “love” around – and yet there is a difference. I can like something without loving it and I can love something without liking it. I love our Country but I don’t always like the direction in which it is going. Likewise our Church. I haven’t always liked the changes of the last 50 years, but I still -and here’s another word- “prefer” our Church over any other.

Let’s see if our text can shed some light. With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Another way of saying this is how I can show my love for God- for after all, I am to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, mind and being.

Micah shows us what the most popular way was back then considering the different religions the Jews faced and even within their own thinking.  Bottom line, “What can I physically do to show God that I love Him?”

Abraham was called upon to demonstrate his love for God by offering his only son to the Lord. Of course, God stopped him at the last moment- which adds to the idea it was not what Abraham did but what he believed.

Today the popular idea is what a person physically does which earns God’s favor. How many times have I heard someone say words to the effect, “I know I am not perfect, but I have done a lot more good than bad and when God weighs the scales He will see how good I am.” Or simply, “I am not a bad person.”

Then there is this. “For your penance say 10 Hail Mary’s and do a good act of contrition.” Or this, “Tear up your cards and your cigarettes and pour out your wine and your beer and come forward and give your hand to the preacher and your heart to God.”  Or how about this, “Thou shalt not paint thy house nor thy barn in any color other than thy neighbor’s and thou shalt travel by horse and buggy and surely not by car.”

What is the common theme? I will give you a hint- it is a two letter word- DO! What must I do to be saved?

But we are not exempt! When I do something terribly wrong I wonder if I have lost my salvation. I am also ready to question- if not deny the salvation of anyone who does not meet my expectation of how a Christian ought to live.

And then the other side of the coin. I can readily sing, “How Great I art!” after I have done something which I believe will prove I am a great Christian and undoubtedly the angels in heaven are singing my praises. And I believe I am speaking not only of myself, but also of you- as Satan prods to take full credit for our own goodness. (or shall I say- self-righteousness?)

But before we either judge ourselves too harshly, or on the other hand, break our arms from excessive patting ourselves on the back, let us see what God really tells us about ourselves.

In Micah, we read, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Just means to be fair and we probably all pride ourselves in being fair but what is fair? I often ask business owners, if they are fair. They always say yes or at least they try to be. Then I ask them further, “Why is it that I keep coming to your place of business but you never come to mine?” And they always answer that they have their own church. What really matters is that they attend some church. And then I will say, “Then it doesn’t matter where I buy such and such or have my hair cut or see some doctor and not you.” And of course, a hardware man, or a barber or a doctor or whatever cannot be expected to show that kind of partiality.

Likewise, we also cannot always be fair. Some situations demand that we take sides. In some situations, family relationships cloud our sense of fairness.

Then there’s love mercy. Well, I tend to be merciful toward those I like and love, but not with those I dislike. If mercy is also making a decision as to who is right or wrong and who deserves our mercy, then consider the Catechism. “Always put the best construction on everything.” Here again, I don’t believe this is something we always do.

Finally, “to walk humbly with your God.” I am not sure that I always walk humbly with my dealings with my Lord and I think you will have to say the same about yourself. Does self- righteousness ever play a part?

So do we love the Lord our God with all our heart soul mind and strength- or not?  Well, what is love?  How about this? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hope, and always perseveres.

That is a definition I do not live up to and in all honesty, neither do you. So what is the answer? Not with burnt offerings, with calves a year old, nor with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil and certainly not sacrificing our children!

The answer 1st John tells us, “God is love.” He also says “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

True love is of God, in God and through God if it amounts to anything worthwhile. God’s love never fails. God’s love is from eternity. The Bible says, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” Not by anything we have done. Not goats or lambs, not rivers of olive oil. Not by all our prayers. Not by all the nice and good things we do, but – well what did Luther say? “Without any merit or worthiness of our own.” In other words, “We hold that a man is justified by faith, apart from the works of the Law.” That being the case, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will strive “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our loving, merciful, gracious, forgiving God.”

Hope, peace, joy and now love can only find their deepest level and longest lasting from God to us and in a reflected way, from God through us to our neighbor.  And in Advent we see  the coming of Jesus to not only save us from our sins, but also –to put it in Luther’s terms- That I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He has risen from death and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.  To which we can only say….Amen!

Pastor Linsey Dettmer’s Third Advent Message 2017

Is. 55: 1-11 Midweek (Joy) “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to Me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, My faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. 5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for He has endowed you with splendor.” 6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”

Tonight we come to the 3rd Advent reading and as you can see, it is filled with verses many of us know by heart. How many times have we heard: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Or: Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Or:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Or: For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. Again: so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. These are verses we have grown up with and are often used in sermons. Each verse is worthy of special consideration.

This chapter starts out asking us why we waste our time, energy and even hopes on things which will not satisfy in the long run. In Ecclesiastes 2:15 we see a similar concept. So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. … 2 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?… A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

This week‘s emphasis is on JOY. We have examined HOPE and PEACE and now JOY. And we can see already that there is no lasting hope, peace or joy without the blessing of the Lord. The above verses tell us that on our own we can only find a futility when we really look at things under the microscope of time. On the other hand, with God, we can find Joy. This verse says it for us: Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. I believe we have all experienced things which seemed overwhelming at the time, but later on, either they were not so bad as we first believed or better yet turn out to be a blessing in disguise. St Paul put it this way, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Consider Joseph. He was placed in a pit as a young boy and sold into slavery buy his own brothers! He went from being a servant to being falsely jailed. Then he went from the jail to be the king’s, right-hand man. When he met up with his brothers and they recognized who he was, they were afraid he would take revenge on them- which they justly deserved! But instead, what did he say? “Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

I recall my first Call from the seminary. The professor in charge called me in and said that I had a call from a local congregation and they were obliged to give it to me if I wanted it. However, he recommended that I place myself in their hands and let them decide which call I ought to have. I accepted his recommendation and when call day came I was given a dual parish in both Oklahoma and Texas. I looked at the things stated in the documents, including some of the pictures. The other men brought theirs to class and showed them around. There were 8 of us graduating ahead of our class by 6 months. Each of them had far superior Calls than I had. “Brother, where’s your document and your pictures,” they asked. “I left them home,” I answered.

Then my counselor called me in. He looked worried. And he finally said. “Linsey, …. Your call is to a Russian/German congregation and I have to tell you, these are the hardest people to minister to. They come from Russia and are used to the elders running everything and they don’t like pastors.” The Story of Daniel and the Lion’s pit came to mind. My parsonage was plain and simple while the other guys had very nice homes. One picture showed a group of people in long coats with those tall Russian fur hats. Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord have mercy!

Well, it turned out that the problems of pastors and elders had been resolved 50 years before I arrived there. They were loving and gracious people and I still have an affection for them, one that I don’t have even for my last parish, nor my California one. I had a great stay there and it was exactly what I needed to get my feet on the ground and to help me for my next call.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

God’s Word is a great treasure. His promises are sure. For one thing, we were dead in our sins and trespasses in which we once walked as Ephesians tells us. We were spiritually dead and unable to believe in God or reach out to Him. But Faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ as Paul tells us. God’s Word did not return unto Him void but accomplished His purpose in bringing us to faith. This goes back to our Catechism: I believe that I cannot believe in my Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him but the Holy Spirit gas called me by the Gospel…”

The Gospel! The Good News! “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson,

they shall be like wool.” Knowing that, You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace..”

So- “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. And what is that Bread that we are most interested in? The Bread of Life- that is Jesus Christ Himself. Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” So Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to Me; hear Me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you…” Amen

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!