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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sermon 09252011

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Jesus Christ, the Pharisee’s tried to get You to answer their question, but in Your wisdom Your question to them caught them in a quandary.  We like the Pharisee’s want our questions answered, but the truth is our focus should not be to ‘prove ourselves’, but rely upon Your grace offered to us.  For You clearly tell us, if we would believe like the ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’, we will go into the kingdom of God, for this promise is made to and for all of us saints here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

As the room filled with perfume, it was fairly obvious that the woman pouring it was doing something uncommon, out of the ordinary and to some a waste.  Then one of the men thought, “If this man was a prophet, He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

This story from Luke encapsulates for us today a message that the Pharisee’s from our Gospel reading could not understand.  A lady of the night, one who was of the lowest strata of society, who would be seen walking the streets in what we today would call the ‘red light district’, would enter into the kingdom of heaven before the Pharisee.  The Pharisees, best known as the most influential religious and political party of the New Testament, who kept the fast properly, washed their hands, served the church and the best known of the Pharisee’s is the prolific New Testament writer we know as Paul.  Yet, this unholy woman who sold her body for sinful pleasure would enter the kingdom first.  How is this so?

Ironically, Jesus explains it clearly for the Pharisee’s and us today.  Jesus says, “For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him”.  You see, the Pharisee’s had contempt for John the Baptist, as the herald of the coming Messiah.  John told them, there is one coming that I am unworthy to untie His sandal.  Coming without malice and in the way of righteousness, calling for repentance, John told the Pharisee’s and anyone who would listen, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.” Jesus is coming and is now here. 

So when Jesus arrived to fulfill scripture and ‘fulfill all righteousness’, John consented to the Master’s Plan and Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan.  In that moment when Jesus came out of the water, the Trinity was revealed, the Voice of the Father from Heaven, the Spirit descending as a dove upon the Bodily form of Jesus Christ incarnate and John seeing this and knew his role would now diminish, because he had fulfilled God’s plan for him.

The message Jesus brings to the forefront with the Pharisee’s when they try to challenge His authority is that they reject God, God’s plan and what has been foretold for all time, the coming Messiah.  In rejecting God and this concrete reality of the Messiah, these prostitutes and tax collectors, whom the Pharisee’s eyed with deep derision would enter the kingdom before them, because of their simple faith and believing all the prophets and especially John the Baptist.

We are no different today.  We like the Pharisee’s want all the glory and all the rewards of the kingdom of God, but by our own actions or inactions we reject the reality of God’s presence and fulfillment of the plan of salvation.  Our society and culture see’s church as a social club of sorts, where if we come for the one hour a week, pay our weekly offering or our token from the harvest, make sure our name and that of our family is on the role of the church so we are assured of entrance into heaven, that is enough.  Please hear clearly, just as the Pharisee’s were told, the harlots and tax collectors will enter before each and every one of us.  This is still true for us today as well if we only see our Christianity and our faith as a status symbol or something to ‘show off’ like the Pharisee’s.

How then may we enter into heaven?  It requires not only trust and faith in Jesus Christ, but the personal relationship with Him, not just weekly at worship at 9AM on Sunday morning, but daily in His Word and living out His love for us and for all people.  Letting His Word transform our daily lives by reading His Word, praying for each other as we were reminded last week with Kasey Stramel and his rock on the altar and asking for the Holy Spirit to transform us today and every day.  In this way we can model for others how God has called, gathered and sanctified us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives.  It means service to and for the church, the community and the world, looking outward how we can serve, not waiting to be asked or shamed into it, but stepping out in faith and love for what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has done and continues to do for us.

For in stepping out in faith, by giving to the church not just an hour a week, a token of appreciation in the offering plate, or the silence of our presence in the pew during worship, Jesus stern words will not apply to us.  We unlike the Pharisee’s, will walk with the tax collectors and the prostitutes into the kingdom of God that is prepared for us.  We will be welcomed with the phrase, ‘welcome, good and faithful servant’.  We will be met by our Lord and Savior who came and suffered the cruelest death for each of us on the Cross of Calvary and rose on the third day proclaiming our freedom from the sins that bind us and the freedom of living as Children of the light.  We will enter into God’s loving, eternal presence and walk the streets of heaven.  We will be part of the communion of saints of Emmanuel of all time and all place in the kingdom of God meant for all of us saints here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

This is interesting for Lutheran's

This article is interesting for Lutheran's!!!!

Emmanuel Queen's

Really proud of past and present Winona Homecoming Queen 2010 and 2011!a

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sermon 09182011

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Jesus Christ, You  came to seek and save the lost.  In our daily walk we like the vineyard workers expect to be paid more that those who sweated under the burden of working in your church from the beginning.  Our perception is we are owed, but this story is not about who is owed more, but Your Father’s Good and gracious way to give to all, whether first or last the same blessing of being in Your Kingdom.  Whether we joined Your church last Sunday or the day this building was dedicated in 1948, You offer us eternal no matter how long we have been saints of Emmanuel.  Enable us to lay claim to Your gift to us and celebrate being in Your presence with all the saints of Emmanuel.  AMEN.

A few weeks ago, I received a first hand lesson of the difference between, power and authority.  On our way to a funeral in Leoti, I was travelling along a two lane road.  When all of a sudden a police man appeared from the other direction and immediately turned his lights on and turned around.  In that   moment, I understood clearly, I had probably unintentionally ‘broken the law’, and I could exert my power over my car and do one of two things, quickly pull over or continue on.  What I also realized is that the officer may not have the ‘power’ to ‘pull me over’, but He did have the ‘authority’.

So to in our Gospel this morning we have the story of the vineyard workers who had the power to ‘demand’ more pay for ‘shouldering’ the burden of the day.  The workers who had worked for the entire day, felt they had shouldered the heaviest burden of the work and the ones hired only an hour before being paid had not done an even amount of work.  Thus when the vineyard owner came to pay the workers, in his wisdom, he began with the last ones hired and paid the agreed upon daily wage of a denarius.  We know when the longest working laborers came to be paid, they felt they would be paid more than a denarius.  And when they were only paid a denarius, they exerted their power by saying, they felt it was not fair.
The vineyard owner, who had the ‘authority’ to make a ‘contract’ honored the contract.  He had hired all of the men to work in his vineyard and would pay them as agreed.  Thus, with the authority of the one who owned the vineyard the owner paid everyone equally as promised in the contract.

Are we any different today?  Is our viewpoint any different here at church?  You see, this story that uses the vineyard as a ‘backdrop’ is actually a metaphor of the church.  Yes, the vineyard owner is God.  And we are the laborers that God has called at ‘different’ times in our lives to work in the vineyard known as the church.  The jobs we are called to do until we go to be with God in His kingdom include, but are not limited to serving on council, serving coffee after service, greeting visitors or members at the door as they enter, assisting with communion, whether on altar guild or the distribution of the sacrament, or even ushering and ringing the bell at the beginning of service, during the Lord’s Prayer and at the end of the service.  Service in God’s vineyard also includes teaching Sunday School, leading the youth group, fall and Spring clean-up, mowing the grass of the church and even visiting the sick and homebound.  As well, there is a spiritual aspect, praying for the people of the congregation who are sick, homebound or in need of special prayer, praying for a spirit filled worship service, for the organist who plays our hymns, the person reading the lessons and especially for the leaders of the church.

Each of us chooses the way we will serve and the amount we will serve.  But like the workers who labored long and hard compared to the last hour workers, our sinful humanity will feel we ‘deserve’ more than a denarius.  Our ego will chime in and say, I deserve much more than I am receiving.

But God is clear here.  It is out of divine grace and compassion of God that we receive what we do.  It is God’s divine favor upon us that we are given what we receive.  This is why in the passage, the owner of the vineyard in response to the workers, first says, “Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?” And immediately follows up with, “Take what belongs to you and go”.  This dismissal when translated into the understanding of this being the church clearly means, those who are disgruntled and use their ‘power’ to demand more are quickly and clearly dismissed from the presence of God.  One of the commentaries I read in preparation said, ‘this dismissal is an eternal dismissal from God’s presence, into the place where there is weeping and gnashing teeth—depart from my face, my salvation you shall not taste.’  Jesus points to us today and says, if you labor in my vineyard with selfish zeal and the demands of misguided justice, you will forfeit the eternal inheritance because of your ‘more subtle sin of self-righteousness’.

This is why we who labor in God’s vineyard need to daily, hourly and every second rely solely upon God’s grace offered to us through His Son and Savior, Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.  For our realization and reality needs to be God is generous and will give us no matter the laborer, nor the amount of or length of time we have labored, the gift of eternal life.  This gift of eternal life is God being generous, not only for you and me today in all of our labors, seen and unseen, but for all the saints of Emmanuel of all time and all place who have labored in God’s vineyard we call Emmanuel Lutheran Church.  AMEN.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

09112011 Sermon

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Jesus Christ, You forgive us our sins every time we come and confess them.  May we be inspired and forgive as much as You have first forgiven us.  For, You did not have to forgive us, but You chose to go to the cross of Calvary to set us free from the bondage of sin.  Enable us to forgive our brothers and sisters seventy times seven so they may feel the same freedom we feel from You for each and every one of us saints here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

One of the greatest biblical images that has been used countless times is the “Prodigal Son”.  We all know the story, how the son has squandered the father’s wealth and finally returns only wishing to be a simple field worker for his father.  But the Father sees his son far away and forgives him in his heart for all of the shame, the wrongful living and especially for his sinfulness against him.  This story simply illustrates for us today Jesus response to Peter’s question.

Peter came and asked Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?”  Being a good Jew, Peter knows the answer the Rabbi’s would have given him if asked the same question, “Three times for the same sin”.  So Peter is clearly expecting Jesus to follow along with good Jewish teaching.  That’s why Peter says, “As many as seven times?”

Jesus on the other hand sees this as an opportunity to not limit or bind his followers and us today with a certain number, but release us to a new thought.  Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”  Something for us to note, the translation of the number here is different dependent upon the translation, our Celebrate insert which uses the NRSV says, ‘seventy-seven times’, the King James Version, ESV and my favorite the NASB all say, ‘seventy times seven’.  No matter the translation this is a large number.

We today could and probably would ask, isn’t that a little extreme, ‘seventy-seven times’ or ‘seventy times seven’.  But for Jesus the number is not important, it is the concept.  It is almost like Jesus purposely used a truck load of dynamite to uproot a single corn plant.  Jesus wanted the disciples and us today to understand forgiveness should not be limited in number of times, but freed to understand forgiveness for and especially from God is never ending and so to should be for us as well.  Our greatest opportunity is to when wronged by our brother to continually ‘turn the other cheek’, forgive them for their clear and manifest sins and with every opportunity forgive as much as Jesus Christ forgives, even “seventy-seven times” or “seventy times seven”.

Our human nature balks as this notion of forgiving.  Our ‘of this world’ nature says, the person who wronged me should be made to ‘pay’ for their sins.  Having inflicted upon me sometimes the harshest feelings of betrayal, greed and unrest, they, the person who wronged me “I cannot forgive.”  This week, at the Max Jones fieldhouse, the Todd Becker Foundation told the story that clearly models this worldly notion of “I cannot forgive.”  You see Todd Becker was killed in a tragic car accident in which the driver who was legally intoxicated and his passenger in the front seat walked away from the accident, but Todd, though legally drunk, buckled into the back seat of the car was killed.  Todd’s brother Keith, was this person, ‘blaming the driver of the car’, not wanting to forgive him.  It was not until a Pastor said to him, Keith, you have to forgive the driver of that car.  Until you do that you will continue to build up the wall of sin that separates you from your Savior.  What that Pastor also said to him, was he had to forgive himself.  You see, it was Keith his own brother that had led Todd down this ‘wide path’ to destruction.  Keith had given him his first girly magazine, given him his first drink, introduced him to hard alcohol and given him his first drag of marijuana.  Now Keith’s brother Todd was laying in a coffin and the person who had driven the car was spending his Senior year of high school in a jail cell.

Jesus is telling Peter and us today, we are just like Keith.  We need to forgive ‘seventy times seven’ times, not only the people who have hurt us, but also and especially ourselves.  This forgiveness we find in what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus Christ came to set Keith and us free from our sins which bind us daily and free all of us saints here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sunday School Curriculum 2011-2012

This is the Sunday School curriculum we will be using this year at Emmanuel.  We have a GREAT group of teachers, leaders and kids that will make this an exciting year at Emmanuel.

Come and be a part of this opportunity to 'Journey with Jesus'!!

Just finished...

Just finished this book given at a recent conference.  Some worthwhile information and insight!

The question I walk away asking for Emmanuel, "What is our vision?"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Todd Becker Night Event

This is a picture of the kids who were impacted by the message of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness offered for each and every one of us!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

09042011 Sermon

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Jesus Christ, You clearly instruct us in our Gospel this morning what we are to do if our brother sins against us.  May Your wisdom imparted to us help us understand it is out of love that we try and make things right.  For it is Your love for us that is the perfect model for what we are to do in our relationships with our spouse, our children, our brother’s and sisters in Christ and especially with You.  For Your model on the Cross at Calvary reconciled all of us here at Emmanuel with Your Father in heaven for all eternity.  AMEN.

Michele and I enjoy movies that are from historic time periods.  These include, King Arthur and Arthurian legends, Celtic, Norwegian and German histories and even Swedish legends.  We recently began a movie entitled, “Arn”, it is about a Swedish man who becomes a Knights Templar.  For those of you unfamiliar, a Knights Templar is an individual who is a “Warrior for God”.  The Knights Templar is best known for keeping pilgrims safe who journeyed from Saxony and Eastern Europe to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage to see the holy sites in Jerusalem and the surrounding places where Jesus lived and ministered.  Yes, this is prior to the Protestant Reformation and therefore Catholicism is the dominant religion.

In the movie “Arn”, the main character as a Templar Knight remembers his training and the events that brought him to the Holy Land.  Yes, it is a love story of sorts, because it was his love for a woman and her conceiving a child out of wedlock and his supposedly ‘knowing’ the sister of the woman as well that causes both, Arn and this woman to be excommunicated from the Church.  Their punishment was excommunication and serving a 20 year sentence for their sin against the Church.

In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus tells His followers the proper way to approach your brother if there is a sin they have committed.  One of the most misunderstood words in church parlance is excommunication.  The goal of excommunication is not throwing someone out of church and heaven for eternity, but to help and aid the erring person to ‘turn away’ or confess their sin, receive forgiveness and renew their relationship with their fellow Christians.

Excommunication is in a strange way, how the church continues to love someone, even if they have violated the church’s rules and or beliefs of living a Christian life.  It is somewhat strange to consider excommunication as a manifestation of one’s love, but the truth is the final outcome is for the one who has erred to understand their impenitence and repent.  With love as the primary motivation it begins to help us understand why our God is a God of love.

This passage is about love and relationship.  One of the best opportunities we have of relationship today is marriage.  And yes, today we celebrate Jake and Gladys anniversary.  The marriage relationship introduced in the Garden of Eden by God between one man and one woman is formed out of mutual love for one another and provides us a model of what the relationship can be.  In the church relationship is not as intimate as the marriage relationship, but the love one has for a brother or sister in Christ is an opportunity in relationship even if we disagree, whether on KU or K-State, no till or strip till, or even John Deere, Case or New Holland.

Excommunication’s final goal is not separation, but returning the relationship to its proper understanding and calling.  For our relationship with one another is to be one of mutual support and admonition, upholding one another in prayer, caring for the spiritual and physical needs we have in our daily walk with Christ.  When excommunication is used in the church, the proper prayerful desire is reconciliation and return of the rightful relationship.

For this proper relationship has been modeled for us by Jesus Christ.  In Jesus life, death and resurrection, He paid the ultimate price to return and make right our relationship with His Father in heaven, the cost was His death to pay for our sins.  His model, our baptism into His life, death and resurrection and the call of the Holy Spirit enable us to daily return our relationship with one another and Him to the place of grace on bended knee at the foot of Calvary.  For Jesus Christ came to repair our relationship with each other as well as with Him and His Father in Heaven for all of us saints here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.
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