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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sermon 07292012 8th Sunday After Trinity

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, Lord Jesus Christ, You instruct we Your children with so many images in order that we can know the difference between good and evil.  But in the world that surrounds us wolves come in sheeps clothing and even here in church they sit among us.  Enable us to discern the wolves by their lack of fruit and lead them to the truth found in and through our baptism into Your life, death and resurrection.  For You came into this world to set all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel free from sin, death, the devil, hell and damnation, through Jesus Christ innocent death on Calvary for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

In the Trilogy of the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the Grey upon seeing the Ring that Bilbo leaves to Frodo goes to inquire from his old friend and fellow wizard, Saruman the White about this ‘ring’.  Upon his arrival they are old friends and quickly rekindle their relationship.  However, as time elapses and Gandalf reveals his purpose to aid Frodo in taking the one Ring that rules them all to Mount Doom to destroy it, Saruman, reveals his true character, nature and allegiance to the dark lord and the dark arts.

From our Gospel this morning, Jesus as Son of God knows the difference between Good and Evil.  Using the image of the two starkly different animals of sheep and wolf, Jesus in teaching the people about ‘false prophets’ wants the image to be unmistakably seen and understood.  Just as we could clearly call Saruman a wolf in sheeps clothes for Gandalf, Jesus as consummate teacher continues by using the image of a tree bearing fruit in order to drive home the importance of discernment.

Today, we desperately need this skill of discernment.  With the tragedy of the midnight showing of Batman in Colorado sometimes the wolves in sheeps clothing come among us.  Just as with previous tragedies there are stories of sacrifice that have come out of this tragedy.  But what about discerning the wolves that surround us today?

Just as Gandalf in going to see his old friend and fellow wizard Saruman thought he was seeing a friend, we to in coming to church expect safety and freedom.  But the fact is, even here among the four walls of the church, where we come and confess our sins and receive the forgiveness of sins offered by Jesus Christ in and through His precious Body and Blood, there are still hypocrites here among us.  Can we easily label who the ‘real believers’ and the ‘hypocrites’ are that sit in our pews?  No.  As the Pastor, should I be able to distinguish between the sheep and the wolves?  Yes I should be able to, but as fallen creature I am, I with Paul would say, I am greatest among sinners.

Yet, Jesus Christ from our Gospel this morning provides us a means to discern the difference between the sheep and the wolves.  “You will know them by their fruits.”  We as the body of Christ gathered here at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Goodland, KS are known by our fruits.  This is not a threat, but a fact of reality that Jesus wants us to understand.  We as the Body of Christ here in Goodland have both believers and unbelievers in our midst.  The believers are the sheep who follow their master, Jesus Christ and in faith and faithful obedience produce good works, not because they have to, but because of the Gospel message that Jesus Christ offers freely for all of mankind.  The unbelievers are the wolves who nit pick, talk behind people’s backs or in small groups, and do not produce good works that glorify God.  These two distinct groups, believers and unbelievers we cannot discern, that is why when we explain the third article of the Apostle’s Creed as the visible and invisible church, discerning which group we are a part of is left to God who knows and can see our heart.  Not the heart we think we have or want people in the church or community to know, but our true intent and desires laid bare before our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Clearly, we could ‘draw a line in the sand’ and say, unless we ‘do’ certain things we are not sheep and must therefore be wolves, but this is legalism and throws Jesus sacrifice on the Cross for all mankind into disarray and question.  Jesus Christ calls us to a greater purpose, cause and life; a life as a believer, a life as a sheep, a life where we produce good fruits that give glory to God, and point to His life, death and resurrection for all mankind and enable us to do good works and give God the glory.

But what does that look like for us today here at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Goodland, KS.  It means we need to have patience, purpose and passion.  Rome was not built in a day and we need to have patience with ourselves to change and become the children of God He has made us to be.  Not only patience with people we have disagreements with, but patience to learn what God has in store with and for us.  Since I arrived here in Goodland, we have made great strides in how God can work through us.  We have established the “Films of Faith” series, brought back Sky Ranch VBS day camp, built a handicapped bathroom, installed sound boards and now repainted the fellowship hall, all ways in which we as a church are trying to reach out to the community to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are still are in need of patience while we discern our purpose for Emmanuel.  If our purpose is to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, what and how does that look like for us individually and as a congregation?  Is it only through Vacation Bible School, or does it also mean all of our involvement in Sunday School?  What about Bible Study?  When was the last time the Word of God was read in the home in private devotions or a small group bible study?  What about our continued involvement in the ladies organizations in the Winter or Spring Teas?  What about our involvement to minister to a grieving family at a funeral dinner?  How about visiting Wheat Ridge or Good Samaritan with a bulletin from Sunday or just to say we were thinking about you?  What about teaching Sunday School to shape the minds of the children we promised to nurture in the faith when they were baptized?  Some would easily say, “I’ve done my time” whether Sunday School, funeral dinners or visiting the shut ins, but, truthfully our time, opportunity and calling to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not complete until we rest in our Lord’s arms, for when we reach out and minister to people in these ways the fruits for the kingdom of God are clearly manifest and obvious.

We finally can have passion with all that we are involved in glorifying God.  One of the best examples of having passion for something was in the movie, “Rudy”.  The main character, Rudy, as you know played for Notre Dame football and daily exhibited the passion for his love for the game, but also Notre Dame.  We to as the children of God forgiven by the blood of the lamb, empowered by the forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ can have a deep and abiding passion for the spreading of the Gospel message.  Our passion for this is fed by the Word made flesh among us Jesus Christ and enabled to spread the message of hope that Jesus Christ was sent into this world, not to condemn the world, but that the World might be saved through Him.  For the message of salvation is clear, we cannot merit or earn our salvation by fruits, it is a free gift of God offered to all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
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