Peace News

Midweek Message, September 5

If you're concerned about peace for the world or for yourself, please drop by our home page before you go. The Web without a doubt is plentiful with content concerning all kinds of field. Below is an item we thought might be helpful for peace lovers and those who like to read peace stories.


Then He told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Last week we talked about the path- that which is gone over and over again. We made some comparisons about some false teachings but then we brought the parable home to ourselves. We made the reference to that one path we call a grudge. We hash and rehash a problem over and over again until we cannot get over it.

Tonight we look at this verse again: “As He was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.”

The birds! What do we know about birds? Well, there are big birds and small birds. Birds that fly and birds that can only walk. Birds that live on water and birds that cannot swim or float. Birds that eat seed and insects and birds that eat flesh.

All well and good but what about the way people think about birds? Some people have feeders and some could care less. Some love birds and some actually hate birds. Our good friends in Illinois had a large hog farm and they shot at birds because birds can carry diseases which could harm the pigs.

When we lived in Louisiana we had A Purple martin house. It was said that the Purple Martins ate about 100 pounds of mosquitos every summer. The internet disputes this but the Louisiana people believe it. Nevertheless when we cleaned it out the floor was literally alive and crawling with lice!

Now lice and disease which the hog farmers fear is not something you can see by watching the birds. So in this parable is the hidden idea that birds might also represent those hidden things which appear as harmless but can attack our faith.

Think about what St Paul said, “I would not have known coveting is a sin if God had not said it.” David didn’t mind looking at Bathsheba taking her evening bath on a roof top near his palace. However, that led to adultery and then to murder. I have counseled people who saw no harm in something, which led to something else, which led to terrible sin.

Sometimes some small things become very large things which threatens a relationship, a marriage, and even a church. How many times have we asked someone why this particular gripe was such a problem and the answer would be, “It isn’t XYZ – it is the principle of it.” The main principle in a marriage or a relationship or a congregation is love and forgiveness. And XYZ is that seemingly innocent or petty thing which overrides love and forgiveness. Can we say that seemingly innocent bird which eats away our faith? Could it be our lake house, our boat, our job,

our casual relationship with someone of the opposite sex?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, … it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. …. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” “Forgive one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Love is a big thing, not like some lice or disease hidden in a bird. Love is what Jesus had and He demonstrated it publicly to the 5000, to all who were sick, lame, deaf and blind. But most of all He demonstrated it on Mount Calvary. He put it this way, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends.”

And that is why Jesus said to His own, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends,…You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—This is My command: Love each other.”

So we have been appointed to love one another as He loves us. Love starts with God. “We love Him because He first loved us.” And then it spreads to others, our families and friends and also our fellow members. And then, like they said of the 1st church, “See how they love one another,” It will also be said of us and that is a sure way to make this congregation be all God wants it to be. Amen.


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Sermon, September 2

If you're looking for peace for the world or for yourself, we hope you will drop by our home page before leaving our site. The Web certainly is loaded with information regarding any kind of topic. Here is an article we hope will be interesting for peace seekers and those who like to read peace stories.


Mark 7: Again, Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen to Me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After He had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” He asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Some parables are long and some are short. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is very long while today’s parable is short namely “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Here Jesus made a general statement and His disciples asked Him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” He asked.

“Are you so dull?” Now that seems uncharacteristic for Jesus to talk like that but what is really characteristic for Him? Years ago when I was publicly upset about how unchristian some of my members were a very nice lady told me she wished I would be more like Jesus. I said, “You are absolutely right! I am going to get a whip and drive those hypocrites out of this church!” She said, “Not that Jesus!” Well, there is only one Jesus. He could be kind and gentle and He could also be rather harsh and blunt. Calling people a bunch of hypocrites and white-washed tombs isn’t very gentle. Neither was the whip and turning tables over.

So now He says, “Are you so dull? In our lingo some of us might say, “You dummy!” Or “You nitwit”. Or “You moron. If you had half a brain you’d be dangerous!”

Kind and gentle, “Blesse are you, Simon Bar Jonah.” “Never in Israel have I seen such faith!” Harsh and Blunt: “You bunch of hypocrites, you whitewashed tombs!”

The Gospels tell us that Jesus was hungry, that He cried, that He marveled, that He was tired and a whole lot of other things which proved that He was truly human, as the creed says, born of the Virgin Mary.

But at the same time, He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk and He even raised the dead! Proving from that same creed, born of the Father from all eternity.

So before we take it as our right to imitate Jesus in every way, let us understand that He was perfect and we are not. He knew when to be kind and gentle but we don’t. Still we can take a 2nd look at His example and see that there are times when we too need to deal firmly with those who think and act contrary to what God’s Word clearly state.

Our text offers a clear example. (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) Either that is God’s word or it is not. Either all foods are clean or they are not. Yet the 7th day Adventist still teach the Old Testament food regulations and they forbid the eating of shell fish, cat fish and of course pork. We can correctly ask them, “Are you so dull?

Jesus turn water into wine- and even as that text says, after they had drunk freely thereof. The total abstainers say, “It wasn’t really wine. Back then wine wasn’t much more than grape juice.” Well Ephesians says, “Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” The Old Testament says, “He gives wine to make glad the heart of man.” We can say to them “Are you so dull?”

Jesus says, “Call no man father except your Father who is in heaven.” Our Catholic friends call their priests father. Furthermore, even though their liturgy and ours says, For Thou alone art Holy…” they call the Pope the “holy Father.” Isn’t that making him God? So we say, “Are you so dull?

Both Testaments clearly condemn homosexuality. Yet the ELCA not only says it is acceptable but allow their ministers to practice it. And we say, “Are you so dull?”

And we could go on most of the morning describing the dullness of others by casting stones on their sinful understanding of what the Bible clearly says. But Jesus gives us a word about stone-throwing. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

The LCMS has made many changes in my 57 years of being in it as a layman and as a pastor. Some of these changes were minor and some were more serious. With the serious ones we have the choice between saying we were wrong then or we are now wrong. I am of the 2nd opinion. In either case, the idea of us looking down our noses at other Lutherans has no place. And even today there is a lot of division and differences in our Synod and to say that communion is a testimony of our unity is either ignorant or misleading.

Personally I have to say to myself “Are you so dull?” I do not always do the things I know I should be doing and I also do things I know I should not be doing. I don’t always say the thing I should and at times I say things I shouldn’t. My witness is not always consistent. My faith is not always as strong as it should be and neither is yours!

Sometimes I am the pharisee who can brag about how good I am and what great things I have accomplished – and piously add “for the Lord!” Rather I should be the publican who simply and honestly says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And I believe I am speaking about you as well. Jesus said of us, “Out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” And so indeed we say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

The Good News is, He is merciful! He is loving and forgiving. That is the Gospel. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!” And He does it without any merit or worthiness of our own- simply out of His Love- a love from all eternity from which He said of me and of you, “Even before the foundations of the earth were laid, I knew you and I called you by name.” Thanks be to God! Amen.


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Sermon, August 12

If you're looking for peace for the world or for yourself, we hope you will look at our home page before leaving our site. The Internet surely is loaded with articles regarding every imaginable subject. Below is an item we hope will be interesting for peace lovers and those who are interested in peace news.


Ephesians 4:17-24 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

There are all kinds of ways to walk, or run or skip or for that matter, march. I am sure I do not walk as I did when I was a young man. Drunks have a hard time walking in a straight line. People on crutches or walkers don’t walk the same way as a normal person would. And to an extent, there are many different walk patterns among healthy people. I recall before I had glasses I could tell who people were, by the way, they walked- provided of course, if I already knew them. One person in particular whom I saw often but didn’t know her name I called “The Sliding Lady.” Her shoes never left the ground. She slid from one point to the other.

However, I have wasted your time unless using this for an introduction gets your attention because in the Bible the word “walk”- and in this case- has nothing to do with our feet and legs and how they get us from place to place. Walk means the entire lifestyle.

St Paul explains how and why the non- Christians walk the way they do. “You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

1. Their understanding has been darkened. 2. They are ignorant of the ways of God. 3. Their hearts are blind and 4. They have lost their sense of right and wrong.

In another place, St Paul writes, “The gentiles show that the work of the Law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” In other words, all peoples have a sense of right and wrong. However, this inner sense can be destroyed. How else can the Nazis and serial killers and Soviet Communists be explained? To me it is obvious, they lost all sense of right and wrong.

To a lesser degree, I think we have all known people who seem to lack any sense of right and wrong. I am not talking about making mistakes- especially if we learn from them. I am talking about a pattern of life- or to use the term this text uses- a “walk” which demonstrates a complete absence of a conscience. A complete absence of shame.

Years ago in Germany, while having Bible study we heard someone walking about above us. We assumed someone was trying to find us and thought no more about it. Later we discovered someone had stolen the Crucifix and Candelabra! What kind of a person would do that?

Well, I had a nephew who stole my crucifix while I was being ordained! He later went on to steal $6500 from his grandmother and didn’t think he did anything wrong. As far as I know, after several incarcerations, he hasn’t ever changed his ways.

Well, how does God deal with that kind of sin? We would like to say God will get them for those wicked sins! But St James has a different take on that. Listen to what he says: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as your self,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “You shall not commit adultery”, also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

St James was writing to Jews who created over 600 points of what to do or don’t do in order to keep the Law perfectly. St James was telling them- and us!- If we break any one point of any of the 10 Commandments- we are guilty of them all.

That means a gossip has broken the Law. That means a murderer is no less nor no more a lawbreaker. Society has graded sin and while some are not so bad, others are terrible and the punishment or lack of punishment must be different. We don’t hang gossips and we don’t turn a blind eye on murderers.

God is different because He is holy. Jesus said, “You must be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That means skipping worship is breaking the Law. That means passing by on the other side of someone who is hurting is breaking the Law. That means not loving our neighbor as our self is breaking the Law. That means that a whole lot of things we may consider as insignificant is serious in God’s eyes. Let us remember- He is our Judge, He makes the rules and He decides what is right and wrong.

The Law is purposefully hard and demanding to show us that we cannot in any way save ourselves. The Law is made to humble us and turn us to our only hope- and that is Jesus. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Blood and righteousness I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus Name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!”

Standing on that Rock, on that hope, we turn again to our text and read. “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

“Be renewed in the spirit of your mind”, The old trinity of “me, myself and I” drops away and we think in terms of Jesus. What does He want me to do? How does He want me to live? How shall I respond to this situation or that situation? What am I to believe?

The teachings of Jesus! “Turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, blesse those who curse you. Do not return evil with evil, but evil with good.” We cannot be perfect as our heavenly Father is, but Jesus does say this, “Wide is the road that leads to destruction and many there be that travel upon it. But straight and narrow is the road that leads to eternal life and just be a few who find it. Strive to enter by that gate!”

To strive is to struggles against our old man- who wants to do things his way, to satisfy himself, to be his own judge and his own god. As our text says, “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man.”

The Old man wants to worship himself on a Sunday morning- the new man wants to worship God. The Old man wants to think he is good enough just the way he is. The new man confesses “O most merciful God, I have sinned against You in thought word and deed and I am sorry and I do repent.” The old man struggles within himself because his conscience accuses him. The new man has that peace that passes all understanding.

The Old man think s that he has done more good than bad and that this is what will get him into heaven. The new man trusts in Jesus, that His perfect life, substitutionary death, and His resurrection are what will justify him before our heavenly Father.

On the Last Day, Jesus will say to the old man, “Depart from Me, I never knew you!” On the Last Day, Jesus will say to the new man, “Come blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundations of the earth were laid!”

Question: what do you want Jesus to say to you on that Last Day?


I am receptive to discuss thoughts with you on the topic of peace. Email seems to be the most efficient method for both parties to communicate. Visit the Contact Us page to start the conversation or comment below.

Hope for Saint Luke

If you're looking for peace for the world or for yourself, please visit our home page before you go. The Web without a doubt is plentiful with articles regarding every imaginable subject. The following is an article we thought might be helpful for peace lovers and those who like to read peace articles.


Holy Gospel Mark 6:45–56 Immediately [Jesus] made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land. And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized Him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard He was. And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Many years ago, my devotion for the morning was this same text. I recall it very vividly; it was entitled: “Ich bin’s.” Yes, it was our LCMS Taegliche Andachten. That is German for daily devotions and the title was “I am.” It was taken from this verse, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” That is, “It is I.” That is the same words what Moses asked for from the Burning Bush episode namely, “Whom shall I say sent me?” And God answered, “I am.” It the same words Jesus used when He was arrested. The soldiers said they were seeking Jesus of Nazareth and He answered, “I am” and the text goes on to say they fell to the ground.

“I am” that is in Hebrew “Yahweh” which was how the Jews called God. The Jews were actually afraid to use that Name. They took His Name so seriously in the 2nd Commandment that they would never use His Name at all, lest at some point they would speak that Holy Name in vain! To guard against even reading the Name aloud from the Scriptures, they would substitute another name. When a group of Jewish scholars updated the Hebrew text they combined that substituted name with the real name and therefore Yahweh became Jehovah which is not really a name at all.

Nevertheless, going back to our text, the apostles being in danger at sea and being frightened when they thought they saw a ghost only needed to hear one thing and that was “I am!”

From their Jewish teachings, they would know, I am — He who created this world. I am He who called order into the chaos of this earth which was void and without form. I am He who created life. I am He who parted the Red Sea and gave manna from heaven and caused the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down.

And now speaking from their own experience, Jesus could say to them, “I am He who turned the water into wine. I am He healed the sick, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk. I am He who fed the 5000 with a small amount of food.” “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And this text comes down to you and to me. This Hymn says it so well: The Lord hath helped me hitherto By His surpassing favor; His mercies every morn were new, His kindness did not waver. God hitherto hath been my Guide, Hath pleasures hitherto supplied And hitherto hath helped me. Or how about this one? Through many dangers, toils and snares… we have already come. T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far… and Grace will lead us home.

Who here cannot identify with these hymns? Who here hasn’t been through some dangerous, if not rough moments and has overcome them? Speaking for myself, I have lost track with the number of time that I have escaped bad situations and the only answer was divine intervention.

I have had 3 if not 4 serious operations that were a matter of life and death and I stand before you here very much alive. In the army, even in peace time, I was in two situations where I was almost killed. Back home also a few episodes. And then there were the countless times when an angel prevented things which I never realized were dangers. The angel took care of them before they even happened!

You could also tell of those situations and you also did not know the number of times when things were avoided because some angel intervened.

And yes, there were times when bad things have happened. We have all experienced death of loved ones, we have all had our share of cuts and bruises. We have all faced problems that at the time were overwhelming. St James says this: “Count it all as joy my friends, when you meet the various trials, for they will build you up in your faith.”

In those moments, in those difficulties, in that sufferings, in that grief, in that storm in the sea of our life, Jesus comes and He says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

There were also times in the life of the Church when it seemed as though Satan had the last word. In the 1st three centuries, Christians were severely persecuted. Before the Reformation, it seemed again that Satan had won when the very Gospel was not proclaimed but a works righteousness. In our own Synod’s history at the very beginning when our forefathers even considered leaving America and going back to Germany, the Church pulled together and started to grow by leaps and bounds. In my day in the Late 60’s and 70’s, it seemed as though our Synod was going to go the way of all modern Protestantism, but we pulled together and were stronger for it.

In reading the history of this congregation there were also turbulent times. In the 1960s there were some issues over the sale of some land having to do with the school. Some members were lost. And here last August there was also a problem.

Jesus said if we had faith even as small as a mustard seed, we could move mountains. It doesn’t take a doctorate in theology to apply it here to our situation. If we have faith, this church can be on the move again and be both an exciting place to worship and fellowship, but also an active force within the community.

If you feel this church is in a storm like a ship that is about to sink, then listen again to Jesus who says- “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” “Lo, I am with you always.” “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Amen!


We’re receptive to discuss ideas with you on the topic of peace. Email appears to be the most helpful approach for both parties to communicate. Visit the Contact Us page to start the conversation or comment below.

Sermon July 22, 2018

If you're concerned about peace for the world or for yourself, please visit our home page before leaving us. The Internet surely is loaded with content concerning every conceivable subject. The following is a post we thought might be of interest for peace seekers and those who are interested in peace stories.


The Holy Gospel according to St. Mark, the sixth chapter. The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But He answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then He commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish He looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And He divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

There are those people who do things for others and there are those who want things done for them. There are those who think about what is good for others and there are those who think about what is good for themselves. Where do you fit in, in these two categories?

In our text this morning, we read: The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

I notice a couple of things here. The apostles had been busy helping others and teaching them. In Luke we read: After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go….. I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. … The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your Name.”

Indeed! they had been very busy carrying out the Lord’s command. They preached the Good News, they cast out demons and most of all, they prepared the way for the Lord. They were indeed thinking about the good of others, both their physical and their spiritual welfare.

Then there is this, “And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Here Jesus is thinking about them. He cares that they had worked so hard. He cared that they didn’t even take time off to rest and to eat something for themselves. “Come away and rest awhile. You deserve it. You need it. I care about you!”

Later on, however, we read: “And when it grew late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Now the question is: Were they concerned about the people? Were they concerned about themselves? Or were they concerned about Jesus?

At first glance it could be any one of the three but I think this section points to one answer: But He answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” That sounds to me that they were more concerned about themselves than they were about the crowd or about Jesus.

Now we cannot condemn them for feeling this way for they were also the same ones who went out 2×2 and worked so hard for the good of others. That pretty well reminds me of myself. I have my good moments and my bad. Times when I really am concerned about others and times I only worry about myself. There are times when I am selfless and there are times when I am selfish! And I will be so bold as to say I am speaking about you as well.

There are times when we can feel pretty good about ourselves. We have helped others. Perhaps we have done any number of things the way Jesus wanted us to. Like turn the other cheek, bless those who curse us, walked the extra mile.

I recall the last conversation I had with a man who basically hated all pastors, although he was in church every Sunday. His problem was that he came from a family of generations of pastors and his parents expected him to be one too. Instead, he went for the job that paid him a lot of money. Anyway, he had a 50-year history of causing trouble for pastors and he turned on me as well. In that last conversation, he would say something bad about me and I would say something good about him. This went on for an hour and I thought maybe- since he said he knew more about the Bible than I would ever know, that he might catch on. But he didn’t. As we closed the conversation I asked God’s blessings upon him and hung up.

Before I could feel too good about myself, St James reminded me, “If we keep the whole Law but offend in one point, we are guilty of the whole Law.” And Jesus reminded me, “You must be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” My arm didn’t have a chance to pat myself on the back.

Getting back to this miracle, Jesus asked “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then He commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish He looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And He divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

The people were hungry. There were only 5 loaves of bread and two fish so a miracle was needed. Jesus did not just hand out the food but first He offered it to His Father (looking up to heaven) and He blessed it and then handed it out. He was concerned about their physical welfare.

Our text says, “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.” Jesus was concerned about their spiritual welfare.

I am in no position to do much help physically. I am too old to cut the grass or clean windows or patch holes in the plaster of people who are not able to do that for themselves. And I am not rich enough to buy someone a new car or to pay off a mortgage or a lot of other expensive things. I am concerned, but I can’t do much about it.

But I am concerned and can do something about your spiritual welfare. I would like to try to teach you some of the things about God’s Word that possibly you have forgotten or maybe never knew. I brought with me a Bible study that will definitely enrich your understanding of the Bible and how our Church teaches it. And it is my prayer that the services I conduct, and the sermons I deliver will be a help to your spiritual walk with the Lord. But I can only do these things with your participation.

As I said, Jesus was and is concerned about both the physical and the spiritual welfare of His people. I have seen and so have you, the way Lord has blessed us with physical things. He has answered prayers, not always as the way we direct Him (as though we know best!) but in the way that is best for us in the long run. I could spend the whole time of this sermon showing how the Lord has actually answered prayers in ways that were undeniable.

Mostly however He is concerned about our spiritual welfare. That is why He took our sins to the cross and paid for them.That is why He established His Church and watches over it. That is why the Word has been preserved and shared with us. That is why the Sacraments are so effective. Effective especially as we assemble together to hear His Word, to receive His Sacraments and to feel His presence. And yes, He is present everywhere, even at the lake, but especially here. That is why the Bible says, “O Lord I love the habitation Your house, the place where Your glory dwells.” Amen


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The Parable of Roast Rump of Goat

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“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him.'”

One of the long-standing standing rules of parable interpretation is that we find the point of comparison and let that be what the parable is all about. Now historically it has been named, The Parable of the Prodigal Son- but is that what it is all about? Not hardly. A famous German theologian said it ought to be named, The Parable of the Awaiting Father.

However to name it with any name is to exclude other points that ought to be explored. If, as we say in the LCMS, every word of the Bible is inspired and is profitable for teaching, then all of a parable ought to be examined! So tonight I would like to examine a little more closely the lament of the elder brother.

When Jesus gave this parable he only mentioned that the younger son wasted his money on “wild living.” The Greek basically says he scattered his living wastefully. That could mean almost anything. It could mean simply he made some investments without really understanding what he was doing. It could mean that he tried to live like a millionaire as if this new style of life would go on forever.

But what was the elder son’s version: “this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes…” The text does not say anything about prostitutes. That is how the elder brother put his spin on it- perhaps indicating that if he had half a chance, that is what he would have done.

Think about it for a moment. We learn in our catechism that we are always supposed to “put the best construction on everything.” The elder brother put the worst construction on what his brother had done. Are we any better? If we do not like someone, do we always explain what he may have been doing or thinking or what his motive was – as the new version says, “in the kindest way”?

So what will satisfy this upset son? His answer, “Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” #1. Instead of the delicious fatted calf, he will settle for a goat, albeit a young goat. #2. He doesn’t want to celebrate with his father and with his brother but with his like-minded buddies, the elder sons of the town.

I think about a full-blown worship service where, as the Bible teaches, things are done, decently and in order. Where sermons are clearly based on the Bible and contain both Law and Gospel. Where the Law is preached so as to remind each and every one of us that we have sinned by thought, word, and deed and we feel sorry about that. And the Gospel is so shared that we are comforted and feel the love of God in our hearts.

Within that service, there is a place to confess those sins and feel that absolution, where praises can be sung to God and hymns are not based on making us feel good about ourselves but feel good about God! And yes, where the Lord’s Supper is offered so as to strengthen our souls for this life in which we so often experience aches and pains, sorrow, death, and disappointments.

But what do so many people want? Roast Rump of Goat! So much less! “O I can read my bible at home.” “ I get more out of quiet time on a boat at the lake than I do in church.” “I work hard all week long and I need my rest and the only chance I have is Sunday mornings.” (What happened to the traditional Sunday afternoon nap???) And a hundred other morsels of that roast rump of a stupid goat!

But what does God offer? We read “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. A full-blown party with all the trimmings! The servants of the Lord and the hired hands and most of all the brother — the long lost brother!

It was in November of 1945 and my brother has been away in the Pacific in the war. We had been having regular mail from him but now for whatever reason, no mail. For some reason, I was kneeling on the couch which faced the road and I was looking out and a taxi pulled up. A young very thin solder got out of the cab, carrying a duffle bag. I shouted out “Will is home!” Nobody believed me. “Don’t talk like that!” my mother said. But it was true and how happy, excited- overjoyed we were to see him, this our long-lost brother!

To a lesser degree that is how I feel back in Tennessee when I see my brothers and sisters come to church on a Sunday Morning, especially those who have been missing for a while. And that is the way I am beginning to feel here as I am getting to know you. And I am sure many of you feel the same way about your congregational members.

A long time ago a member of the church I served had been the boss of that church, having ruled about everything, always getting his own way and my predecessor accepted that. But I did not and this man tried everything to get rid of me, even stooping to hurt others and caused a rift in the church. He finally left when the District President told him he wasn’t going to get his way anymore and he stormed out very hatefully. Fast forward to about 35 years and he came back and I was there on a visit. He came up to me and greeted me warmly and said, “I don’t want to go to heaven carrying any grudges. So let’s be friends.” That was one of the most rewarding experiences in my ministry! And don’t you feel the same way about members who finally return??? Question: what are you doing to help that to happen? Amen!


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Sermon July 8, 2018

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Jesus went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. And on the Sabbath, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands? Is not this the Carpenter, the Son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. And He went about among the villages teaching Mark 6:1 ff

In the Epistle lesson for this morning, St Paul lets us know that he is not perfect and wants no one to judge him except for what he says. He also gives us the famous quote about a thorn in the flesh.

What exactly that was no one really knows. There are several possibilities, generally given by people who have a particular problem and identify their problem as his. In that sense, it is a good thing for we all have problems, weaknesses, propensities that distract from our walk with Christ. And it is good for us to know that whatever our problem, our pet sin, God is able to work with that to help us to stay on the straight and narrow.

Yet, on the other hand, Jesus was perfect and still, people found fault in Him, and perhaps the most discouraging of all, his own hometown people.

He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands? Is not this the Carpenter, the Son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

This is where Jesus grew up. Many could recall seeing Him as a child running around playing with the other boys of the village. They saw Him grow up as a young man, working with His father and learning the carpenter trade. These people had sons of their own who played with Jesus as a child, who learned their father’s trade, who went to the synagogue and were taught the Old Testament. Yet their sons were not that skilled, didn’t know the teachings of Moses that well, didn’t do any miracles. In other words, “Who does He think He is!”

How do we respond to successful people? I find that some feel honored to have been a part of their lives and some feel left out, jealous or some sort of unwarranted negative feeling.

I have a cousin who felt she was special because she was in the class when her high school graduated the first Jew and the first Black. That’s her claim to fame. In Sevierville where I live, Dolly Parton is highly honored and anyone who has seen her up close considers themselves special. My driver in Germany was so excited because we passed Elvis Presley’s jeep. (Didn’t see him, but only saw his jeep!) He bragged about that for a long time.

On the other hand, some people feel left out when someone they know is honored. “O, I knew him when…” and they fill in the details proving that he wasn’t worthy of any special recognition. I recall when “Sound of Music” first came out and Julie Andrews was acclaimed and so wonderful, my friend’s wife simply couldn’t accept that “because no one is that good.” Why she felt threatened by her I could never figure out.

The Jewish leaders found every fault they could with Jesus and well, He was a threat to them. He wasn’t a threat to Judaism in its purest form, but He was a threat to their corruption and especially their arrogance. For their own corrupt sake, they needed to criticize Him! But the hometown boys- that is a different story!

This is how St Luke recorded the event: He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s Son?” they asked. Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to Me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell Me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that You did in Capernaum.’” “Truly I tell you,” He continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. ….All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.

This begs the questions: #1. Why didn’t He show them a miracle? #2. What did they think of this miracle, His passing through them?

#1. Remember at the cross Jesus was asked to show them a miracle so they could believe. But their request was not an honest one but a sarcastic one. Jesus knew a miracle would not please them. #2. Recall the healing of the blind man. They absolutely knew it was a miracle for they condemned Him for healing on the Sabbath. Yet they acted as though it was not a miracle.

In other words, as you well know, there are some people you cannot please no matter what! (If I were political I would mention how $2 an hour raises, $1000’s of dollars in extra bonuses, record jobs for Blacks and Hispanics are crumbs and insignificant- but I won’t)

It comes down to us. Sometimes we are never satisfied. Sometimes we find fault in everything. Sometimes, as opposed to the what Jesus taught, we refuse to walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek and bless those who curse us. Luther said to put the best construction on everything but we choose to put the worst. Sometimes we claim St Paul’s words as our own, namely. “O the good I want to do, I do not and the evil I don’t want to do, I do. O wretched man that I am — who shall deliver me?”

The answer to his question is also ours, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. He not only forgives our sins but gives us the will and the strength to follow His example. Oh, we do not do it perfectly, for we cannot. But we try — the word is we strive and in the Greek; it implies a struggle and it is.

And in that struggle, we do what Jesus did, when they tried to kill Him before His time, He walked away in the midst of them. We choose not to argue, but to simply walk away. Indeed, we turn the other cheek, we bless those who curse us, we put the best construction on what was said or done. “O he didn’t really mean that.” Or “He is having a bad day” or some other way to excuse bad behavior.

We are not yet perfect, but we are strivers. When we fail, we are sorry, because we want to be better and to do better. At the same time, we do not despair but rather claim the words of St John, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” To which we say, Amen!


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Sermon June 10, 2018

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And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him. And a crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to him, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside, seeking You.” And He answered them, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Closer than Family

Several years ago, another pastor and I often had lunch together. Both his wife and mine worked in offices and so we were alone and liked each other’s company so this was a natural thing for us to share this hour as I said, 2-3 times a week. He was not a Lutheran but AOG and very much a gospel-centered pastor. We found out that we agreed much more than we disagreed and on some issues, I won him over, especially on our doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. A real change for him!

One week the newspaper stated that his denomination was holding a convention in our town and his brother was also a pastor of that same denomination and would be coming. So I said to him, “Well Bob, I won’t be seeing anything of you this week because of the convention. Besides that, your brother will be here.” He said, “Brother Lin, I love my brother very much, but you are closer to me than he is.”

And I find this is something that is in our Text. Jesus undoubtedly loved His family very much. In our Lesson, the town’s people were after Him. They had been stirred up by the leadership of Jerusalem. We read from our lesson: “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons He casts out the demons.”

Our text takes place just after Jesus shot down their charges using their own logic. It is where He said (which inspired Abraham Lincoln to say) “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him.

I have to say, I cannot imagine my mother or my siblings doing that- interrupting one of my sermons. Yet I know that has happened, not by family members but by some members of the congregation. In Texas I had two women storm out of the congregation because they knew that their self-righteousness had been exposed! In California, there was a woman who told me ahead of time that is what she did to show her disproval of the sermon. And she did that a number of times. But worse of all was what the Russian-Germans did in Oklahoma. I was told that the last time before the church split, an elder jumped in and preached for 45 minutes about how wrong the pastor’s sermon was. That was 50 years before I became their pastor — thankfully these people had died off!

And a crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside, seeking You.” And He answered them, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus, instead of dropping everything, shows us two things. #1. The bond we have as Christians, but more specifically, as a congregation is — or at least it is supposed to be — very tight, very warm, very personal. #2. Borrowing from the Martha/Mary episode, the teaching of the Word, gathering around Jesus is more important than what most people — even Christians realize!

St Paul alluded to this when he said, “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Think about this: You cannot feel this way about people you do not know, like in a mega-church. Also, you can’t feel this way about people you care little about. And what did Jesus say about that? “Love one another, even as I have loved you.” Jesus did not say that to the crowd of 5000, but to the 11 gathered there, alone with Him.

We are supposed to love everyone, for love is of God and we are of God. But honestly, speaking for myself, I am not able to love every Christian as deeply as Christ loves me. And even within my human and spiritual ability, I cannot love other Christians whom I do not know, the way I love those I associate within a personal setting. And I dare say, neither can you.

And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and so did these people in our text. You and I also sit at His feet, listening to His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit we believe it. But I must tell you something, rather let St James tell you, ‘Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Being doers does not save us, but if we are saved, we will also be doers. Someone offers me a glass of a liquid. He tells me, “Now do not drink this, it is poison, it will kill you.” I listen, I believe him and then I drink it. No! That is not the way it goes. If I believe him, I definitely will not drink that poison!

Believing is doing! 57 years ago I met a girl and fell in love with her and so I simply walked away from her. Not hardly. I married her. That’s love- real love compelled me to do something about it!

St Paul puts it this way:” For the love of Christ constrains us because we are convinced that One died for all; therefore all have died. And He died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for their sake died and was raised.”

As Lutherans, we very adamantly teach that we are saved by faith alone. We quote ST Paul, “For by grace are you saved through faith and this is not your own doing, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone would boast.” five different clauses there to state in two words. Faith alone! Yet those same two verses are followed by, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The word “walk” means a way of life, a life of good works done in gratitude to God for Jesus. In other words, we are saved by faith alone, but saving faith is not alone!

Now there are all kinds of things we can do to show our love for God and to others. But the one thing I want to emphasize — which this text spells out so clearly — is the hearing of the Word and in the fellowship of believers. Yes, you can and should read your Bibles at home. Yes, you can listen to the radio and to tapes and CDs. But the Bible has so many passages which talk about public worship!

I pay good money to go to a movie. I sit through the previews and then I leave! Not hardly. I go to a restaurant and order a steak. While waiting I drink a glass of water and eat the bread. But that fills me up and so I leave. Not hardly! Why then do Christians think that anything less than a worship service with Word and Sacrament, praise and fellowship, is soul-filling and more importantly, acceptable to God???

St Paul says, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day is drawing near.” Now am I preaching to the choir — no, I am equipping you so that you will go out into the highways and byways of your sphere of influence and do what Jesus said, “Compel them to come in.” Be a compelling witness!

For yourself, say with St Paul, I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” Help others to say and to feel the same way. Amen


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Midweek Service April 30, 2018

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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!”


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The Vine and the Branches

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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.


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