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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Free in Christ!!!

This video is absolutely fabulous!!!  I wish we would be comfortable to share our pain and past without fear and show how God has changed us!!! NW Oklahoma City Campus: A powerful and vivid video illustration showing that we worship a God that truly changes lives.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sermon 10282012 Reformation Sunday 21st 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!  God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You created the heavens and the earth and all of the beasts of the land the birds and insects of the air and the fish and creatures of the deep in six days.  Yet, the greatest creation was making man in Your image.  May we who have been created in Your image and by Your hand gathered  here today understand You have called us to a greater purpose and understand the New Philosophy You gave to us through the salvation of our souls by Your Son Jesus Christ.  For we are offered this freely and without cost because of Your great love for all of mankind including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

When God had created the heavens and the earth , animals of each kind and man, God rested from His labors on the seventh day and made it holy.  Hence, as we gather here this morning, we are honoring not only the Sabbath that was made by God for man, but also the Creator of all things and the day His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  What God also has inspired and instilled in each of us is the ability and opportunity to celebrate God’s wondrous creation and understand the offering of a New Philosophy for our lives.

This new philosophy isn’t the latest fad in secular society, like Kai-Lan on television for kids, a comic super heroes reboot like Green Lantern or Star Trek or the movie the Hobbit remade by Peter Jackson or the latest trailer for Iron Man 3.  The new philosophy is about the salvation of mankind.  It is about how God calls us to account for our actions as we live “in this world”, but are not ‘of this world’.

We who come to church have the opportunity to resolve to do four simple things.  First, every single person sitting in the pew this morning should resolve to work in God’s kingdom.  Now all of us are not hands, feet or heart, but all of us are part of the body of Jesus Christ that makes up the church.  We need to use our individual gifts and talents for God’s Glory and Honor.  Last week we had the Fall Clean-up here at the church and lots of activity occurred from cleaning windows, mopping floors to cleaning gutters to washing down the pews to vacuuming each pew to having fun as a church while taking care of God’s house.  But it does not end there.  Our work in God’s kingdom includes our work outside of the four walls of the church and the church property.  How many of us have taken the inserts about this sermon series and invited someone to attend?  How many of us have taken one of the posters for the next “Films of Faith” and put them around town, in school, in a business or at the local restaurant?  How many of you have resolved to ‘leave it on the field’, ‘prepare for rain’ or ‘trust God for the results’?  God wants to bless us, and in order for us to be blessed we have to step out in faith and action.

In stepping out in faith and action, we therefore are seeking God’s Will, which is the second opportunity we have.  God’s will is that all of mankind would be saved, though this is accomplished on the Cross of Calvary by Jesus Christ, life, death and resurrection, we as Christians through our baptism are called to seek His will in our lives by spreading the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ.  We are called by Jesus Himself since we are made in God’s image to not only be taught God’s ordinances as the Psalmist reminds us, but perform God’s “statutes forever, even to the end”.  And we will as Paul says, are to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

We can then in and with Gods strength give glory to God in everything which is the third opportunity we have.  Remember Coach Taylor telling the players about the New Philosophy, ‘when you give everything to God, praise Him when you win and especially praise God even when you lose.’   For in giving God the glory in everything it models for others around You Who your God really is and what your God is capable of doing.  Even if you do not get what you want, God has a greater plan in store for all of mankind and His Glory will be revealed when in true humility and obedience we trust Him.

When we give God the glory in everything we therefore are exercising our muscle of faith given to us in our baptism and we can finally and fully trust God for the results.  For God blessed the coach who ‘prepared for rain’, the team by their being in the State Championship because of their faithfulness in ‘trusting God for the results’ and David who trusted God with everything and enabled him to kick an impossible field goal all because each of them trusted God and gave God the glory.   And Coach Taylor saw this as a reality in his own personal life when his wife announced that he had ‘made the team…the Daddy team’.  For Brooke had finally trusted God and professed her undying love for God no matter the outcome and God honored that trust by enabling in a true miracle to occur of having children of their own.  That was truly God’s divine plan and will made manifest because of the Coaches New Philosophy of working in and for God’s kingdom, seeking God’s will, giving God the Glory and trusting God for the results.

Truly there is no better example of these four opportunities than the life of a man we honor today.  You see on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a parish priest and learned scholar wanted to nothing more than have a conversation with the church about some abuses that were occurring in the church.  But when Martin Luther pounded the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door, he knew he was working in God’s Kingdom, seeking God’s Will, Giving God the Glory and trusting God for the results.  As has been appropriately said, Luther did not want to split the church, but what occurred was a result of God’s will and work.  God used Martin Luther to reform the church and set in motion the great protestant reformation that has impacted the entire world.

It was not a New Philosophy, but a return to what God had intended.  In the same way, we have the opportunity to return to God’s original divine plan to spread the message of salvation for all of mankind.  For in our spreading this message we have our mission field of Goodland, KS.  God has called us by the Gospel and equipped us for this ministry so we can work in His kingdom, seek to do God’s will by spreading the message of salvation by giving God the glory, and trust God for the results.  In doing this we are empowered, equipped and can enrich the lives of our country, our community and our church with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for all of mankind, especially all of us saints here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sermon 10212012 20th 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, it is clear, You chose us.  We have not done anything that would warrant our redemption, but out of Your great love for us You came to save us from our sins.  Enable us to have faith in You and Your plan of salvation and accomplish the God dreams that You place on our hearts.  For this only occurs because of the promises made to us in our baptism into Your life, death and resurrection for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

When Coach Taylor in “Facing the Giants” had two seconds left on the clock in the State Championship game he decided to attempt a field goal.  Everyone around him thought he had lost his mind.  But the response he gave to the assistant coach was clear, he was “preparing for rain”.  Reminiscent of Mr. Bridges coming to him and telling him the story of the two farmers, Coach Taylor placed all his trust in God by sending in David to attempt a field goal and was in true faith and obedience ‘preparing for rain’.

Coach Duke of the Giants wanted to ice the kicker and cause him to doubt his ability.  Thus in response and in clear faith and obedience Coach Taylor told David, the second string kicker a clear truth we need to hear today as well.  If you doubt from the beginning then you are defeated, but if you give it your best and trust God for the results God can do some amazing things.

How are we any different today?  Today we stand at a crossroads, do we continue in the old habits of a congregation that celebrates 90 Years of Ministry to the people of Goodland, or do we embark upon a new adventure that God has in store for us?  Clearly this is a question which has divided many congregations throughout the country and world and allowed Satan to dance in victory, just as he did on Good Friday.  Or is this the opportunity we have here at Emmanuel to embrace a new reality?

For Coach Taylor it was clear that after losing the first three games of the season, it appeared as if nothing was possible.  But with trust, determination and Mr. Bridges speaking a word of truth in his life, Coach Taylor was now on the verge of a State Championship and was going to prepare for rain.

I want to prepare for rain as well.  I want Emmanuel Lutheran Church to be a healthy congregation that isn’t known for dysfunction, distrust and division in the church or in our community.  I want an Emmanuel Lutheran Church that is a pace setting church ready to encounter Satan head on, not worried about ‘how many people attend’ church on Sunday, but how many people are ‘changed by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ’?  Not worried about ‘what it costs for a project’, but dreaming God dreams for our community and church to have had a lasting impact upon the people of Goodland, KS and the entire world.  Not worried if the doors will be open or the money will be in the offering plate, but seeking to serve by ministering to those who have not heard what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.

This encompasses not only trusting in God, leaving it on the field, but especially preparing for rain.  When we take ownership in the message of Jesus Christ and His death on Calvary for all of mankind and live, eat, and breathe this message, we lay claim to God’s purposeful action in our lives.  Just as Jesus said in the Gospel this morning, “For many are called, but few are chosen”, we have been chosen for this task of spreading the Gospel message here in Goodland, KS.  Through our baptism into Jesus Christ, life, death and resurrection, we have been chosen to spread the message of salvation for all of mankind.

When the waters of Baptism were poured over our head and heart, we were changed.  In a moment that time stood still, God reached down in our collective lives and touched each and every one of us.  We no longer were mired in sin, mauled by the assaults of the devil or mangled by the oppression of sin in our lives.  We have been set free by God.  We though still simultaneously saint and sinner are set free by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to prepare for rain.

Consider if you will earlier this fall, the farmers who have experienced a drought reminiscent of the Dust Bowl years prepared for rain.  Though moisture was not in the forecast the farmers still went and drilled winter wheat.  And God in His wisdom and time has given us moisture for the wheat crop we anticipate next spring.  They were ‘preparing for rain’.

So to in our church, God has empowered each of us by calling us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our baptism to prepare for rain.  And God will provide us what we need, not just to survive, but ultimately to flourish so His Glory may be revealed and we are empowered to spread the Gospel of Salvation.
In “Facing the Giants” David after being iced by the opposing coach, is ready to step up to do his best and leave the results to God.  Previously he had doubted, but in faith he takes the field, measures his starting position sees that he is kicking into the wind and prepares for rain.  And God mysteriously puts the wind at David’s back and ‘makes it rain’.

This is what God does every day.  All that we as a church need to do is ‘prepare for rain’ and allow God in His infinite wisdom and mercy to reach down like at our baptism and touch our lives with His unending love.  For the promises of God are sure and certain, He sent His Son Jesus Christ in to this world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  And this promise is revealed to each of us today, not only through the Word of God proclaimed, but in the meal we are about to receive.  As we come and receive His precious Body and Blood, Jesus Christ will strengthen each of us not only to receive His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins, but also in faith to ‘prepare for rain’ in each of our lives.  God’s glory will be revealed and we as a congregation and as individuals will receive the greatest blessings.  Blessings not only meant for a select few, but like ‘preparing for rain’ prepared for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  So let’s ‘prepare for rain’.  AMEN.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

10202012 Funeral Sermon for Marie Lucy Kowalke

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!  Good and gracious Heavenly Father, as we gather here to celebrate the life of Marie our sister in Christ, You remind us of Your promises to each of us, through Your Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.  Though the struggles of this life bind her no longer, because of her being set free through her baptism into Your life, death and resurrection, Marie now rests in Your loving and comforting arms.  May we be enabled to hear Your Word spoken to us today through the Gospel so that even though the veil of death separates us, the promise made to Marie in her baptism of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may comfort us until all of us are gathered into Your arms.  For this is offered for all of mankind freely because of God’s love for us manifest in Jesus Christ innocent death on Calvary for all Your saints, especially the saints of Marie’s family and all of us gathered here at Emmanuel to say goodbye.  AMEN.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”.  In this Psalm, David clearly expresses the range of emotions we feel today.  Death has come close to each of us and as a result of sin first manifest in the garden of Eden with our first parents Adam and Eve infected mankind with the reality that death would be a sure companion.  But David knew a different reality.  That reality clearly says, “I will fear no evil”.  How could David say that?

Well, David feared no evil, because he knew his God and the promises revealed throughout the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.  You see, John in his Gospel says it so clearly and eloquently, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believed in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Those words of promise, of Gospel and of pure grace are the reason we are here today.

Marie through the waters of baptism at Pleasant Valley Church was washed clean by the blood of the lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.  Though a child of Adam and Eve, conceived in sin, Marie was set free from sin because of her baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  With the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as the water was poured over her head, she no longer was bound by sin, but set free by God and given the promise that one day she would enter into eternal glory and rest in her Lord and Savior’s arms.  As she journeyed through life living in Colorado, Arkansas, Idaho and here in Goodland Marie came to her Lord’s table to receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  In, through and by God’s gift of forgiveness as she partook of the Holy Sacrament she was strengthened for life here on earth.

And Marie held fast to the faith and knew of God’s promises and shared it in her life.  Most of you probably know that her favorite bible verse was John 3:16.  Not only did Marie, believe this, she emulated this in her life.  Whether working with the VFW auxiliary on turkey dinners for the community, travelling with the 1918 Birthday Club, spreading the Gospel through the Lutheran Woman’s Missionary League or even in the church Marie always was willing to work for God’s glory and help out wherever needed.  What is really special is that Marie cared deeply about her children, grand-children and great-grand-children.  Consistently Marie bragged about what they had done and their accomplishments, but always tempered with the knowledge that God was doing wonderful things through them and she was proud of the people they had become by God’s grace.

This same pride Marie had is the pride that God offers to each of us through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.  For God’s promise to each of us is clear.  Remember the words we sang earlier about the “Old Rugged Cross”.  This cross is an emblem of ‘suffering and shame’ that Jesus Christ ‘suffered and died’ and endured because of His great love for all of us.  And John understood this clearly when he says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  That is the Gospel promise we need to hear clearly today spoken to and for each of us from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

May we be comforted today by the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ as we mourn.  May His rod and staff comfort us not only by His presence, but with the promise of salvation for all of mankind that He won on the “Old Rugged Cross”.  For you see, this song, “Old Rugged Cross” that we processed in with was written by George Bennard  in the early 1900’s.  After great struggle trying to pen a worthwhile song, God inspired Bennard to pen this song that tells the Gospel message of Jesus Christ so clearly.  This song was written in such a way that for Bennard, the words from John 3:16 came off the written page in this song.  He introduced it in a revival that he was preaching at and it became an instant hit and mainstay for the rest of the 20th Century.  For us today it clearly tells how Marie has been called home and now shares with Jesus Christ the crown of righteousness won on the “Old Rugged Cross” for her and for all of us.

For the faith given by God to Marie in her baptism enables her and us to not only call Jesus our friend, but enable us to “carry everything to God in prayer”.  For Marie is now at “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and this same peace God offers to all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel, because of the free grace offered to us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ for all of mankind, including all of her family gathered here today to say goodbye.  Hold onto that peace and may it surround you and shield you and may you find solace there, because of “How Great God is” for all of mankind including all of us saints gathered here to say goodbye.  AMEN.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard our hearts and minds and comfort us today, because of what Jesus Christ did for Marie and each one of us!  AMEN!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Films of Faith!

Sermon 10142012 19th 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!  Gracious Lord, it is with divine authority that You healed the paralytic.  That authority is given by Your Father in heaven.  It caused the people to be awestruck.  Enable we Your children today to not only be awestruck by Your authority, but enable us to lay claim to Your promise of life and salvation offered to us by Your death on Calvary for all of mankind.  And enable us to work for You in Your kingdom here on earth to reach the lost who have not heard the message of salvation for all of mankind, including all of the saints here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Growing up in rural Southside Virginia, fall was a time of great optimism.  Unlike most Southern Baptist church families who were devoted to the church all day on Sunday like in the Deep South our Sunday pastime as a family revolved around sports. Not just any sport, it was about football.  It was always a past-time to hurry home from church and eat our Sunday lunch, usually of soft-poached eggs, toast and grits while watching the 1PM match-up of the week on ABC, NBC or CBS, depending who was playing and which station came in best.  Without fail my older brother Dean, who was and still is a knowledgeable sports enthusiast would watch every down, every pass and every turnover analyzing each move or misstep of the mighty.  From his favorite team of the Cowboys to my younger brother Dale and parents favorite of the Redskins, each game wet their appetite further and without fail entertained and caused all of us, even my mother to be in awe of the talent of each team and player.

Years later when Dean worked for the Philadelphia Eagles during the Buddy Ryan years I had the opportunity to meet some of the famous players like Randall Cunningham.  Personally I was most awestruck by one player.  His name was Reggie White.  Reggie was not a small man.  He was huge and had a heart to match.  His evangelistic nature and love of God was clear and manifest since he was a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In one real and clear sense, Reggie with his football as well as his faith, took our theme this morning to heart, Reggie would “Leave it on the field”, not only the grid iron, but the field of life.  Reggie lived a life of faith as a model for his teammates as well as the church he pastored.

In this mornings Gospel we hear the story of Jesus Christ Who also lived His faith and would “Leave it on the field.”  Jesus encountered a paralytic man.  Matthew writes, “And they brought to Him [that is Jesus] a paralytic lying on a bed.”  For Jesus it wasn’t by chance, but by divine design in order that His Glory may be revealed that the people brought this man to be healed.  But the scribes, looked at Jesus and what He said with derision and distaste.  Matthew writes, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” In a clear sense of compassion and care on the field of battle with Satan, Jesus heals this paralytic man.  But all the scribes could see is the foul against the Law of Moses by Jesus when they “said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.”

Yet with the clarity of the Second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ “Leaves it on the field” and says to the scribes.  “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’?”  Jesus like a defensive tackle who sacks the quarterback with the ball for a loss behind the line of scrimmage clearly puts the scribes in the proper place and perspective saying, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”.  Jesus stakes His divine right and claim that He has the divine right and authority to forgive the sins of man and mankind here on earth.  Thus turning to the paralytic Jesus says, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.

Can you imagine the reaction from the crowd when Jesus had said those words.  Matthew says, “But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”  Their collective jaws probably had to be raised from the ground, because Jesus modeled His “leaving it all on the field” when He rightfully claimed His divine authority to heal the sick.

How can we lay claim to this today?  In the movie, “Facing the Giants”, Coach Grant Taylor not unlike Jesus Christ when he encountered the opposition and potential attempt of his being fired was at a lost, mentally, physically and emotionally.  But in wrestling with God for an answer Coach Taylor resolved to “leave it on the field.”  In wrestling with his faith in God His faith in God was renewed and he told the players of the breakthrough he had revealed by God.  It was simple.  Coach Taylor resolved and challenged his players and fellow coaches to leave everything on the field, give it their all and leave the results to God.

Last week, I suggested this same approach with the insert in the bulletin, both the catechism as well as the small insert with the ad for “Facing the Giants” and the sermon series.  When we “leave it on the field” and let God have control over the outcome, we give God the Glory He earned on the Cross of Calvary.  This same Glory God gives to us in, through and by our baptism into His life death and resurrection and enables us to call upon His name and trust Him with everything.

This afternoon, at the Sherman Theater David Branda will show, “Facing the Giants”, I want you to see how God worked in the lives of the coach, the team and the town.  God worked so clearly that they were awestruck by God’s action.  But more importantly it was Coach Taylor trusting God fully and clearly in everything that had the most profound affect.  Coach Taylor let his actions speak for themselves in three ways.  I challenge you to doing this as well.

First, in your life, give your all in everything, whether it is relationship with your spouse, with your children or family, your job or your church.  Don’t settle for second best.  In everything let God inspire your work habits, your demonstration of faith and be manifest in your “leaving it all on the field”.

Second, trust God for the results.  All of us know the results will not always be success, but praise God even for failure.  Failure is an opportunity to continue to praise God, because we may need to learn something from it in order for God’s glory to be revealed to us whether in our lives or our relationship with God.  For Coach Taylor it was the loss of a key player from the team, the loss of the first three games of the season and the reality that he could not have children that drove him to trust God fully and without compromise for the results in the future, whether in his walk with the town, the team or on the field.

Finally, if you give everything you can and trust God for the results allow God to work and look for His results.  We as a society think the change of the world depends upon us, the change of the church depends upon us, the change of a persons heart depends upon us.  That is to much control and God through the Holy Spirit is the only one Who can change the heart of man.  Ezekiel the prophet says it well, “I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,20 that they may walk in My  statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”  This promise occurs only through and by what God did on Calvary through Jesus Christ for each and every one of us.

May we as a church and as individuals inspired by “Facing the Giants” in faith, trust and hope give everything to God, trust in God for the results and allow God to change our hearts of stone, for this only occurs when we “leave it on the field” and allow God to be God.  For the promises of God are clear that He freely offers us life and salvation through Jesus Christ death on Calvary for all of mankind because of His great and unconditional love for all of us.  God will make us awestruck by His action, whether it be healing a paralytic, breaking our heart of stone or using Emmanuel Lutheran Church to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all of Goodland, Sherman County and Western Kansas.  So let’s resolve to trust God and “leave it all on the field”.  AMEN.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

10132012 Wedding Sermon Joseph Snethen and Paige Leach

In the beginning, when God had created the heavens and the earth and formed man from the dirt of the ground, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  This afternoon we gather to make complete and fulfill God’s plan for mankind specifically in the lives of Joey and Paige in our celebration their marriage.  We are not that far removed from Adam, for as we gather here in God’s creation very similar to the Garden of Eden, surrounded by the beauty of God’s handiwork we celebrate for Joey the fulfillment of the promise to Adam and to him.  For Adam it was the creation of Eve, for Joey it is his joining with Paige in holy matrimony.

Adam said it clearly and profoundly when he saw Eve, not like Bill Cosby, “WOOOOMMMAAAANNN”.  Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”.  Joey, Paige who stands before you was created by God in order to fulfill His purpose for both of your lives as ‘bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh’.  And Paige, Joey who stands before you was created by God to be your helpmate, husband and equal in the bond of holy matrimony.  Neither of you should lord it over the other, but mutually share in this relationship giving and receiving equally that both of you are now embarking upon together.  This is the greatest journey in life you are about to begin.

I will not lie to you this journey is not without danger.  Satan is waiting behind every twist and turn to drive a wedge between both of you.  It is his desire to separate you, but I stand here in the gap today as witness in the eyes of the state, the church, but especially God to speak of something that overcomes all the attacks of evil that you will encounter.

Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians said it so well.  “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Love is the only action and means by which both of you will be able to share with one another as you mature and celebrate this union of becoming one flesh.

Both of you remember the video’s we watched in preparation for this moment.  Remember what was said about what binds you together, it is Jesus Christ the living Word of God that is the cord or cement of this union.  Unlike the cement we use to build highways, seal PVC pipes or even sewer pipes, the glue of Jesus Christ weathers all storms and forms an unbreakable bond with both of you that you share and are a part of with one another in this union.  That rope or bond of Jesus Christ is not only a model for the rest of your life, but a promise that you fulfill today in your vows before God and all of us gathered here this afternoon.  That bond is one not only of love, but also of fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation found in the union of your lives.  May God the Father, Who formed both of you in your mothers wombs, God the Son Who binds you together and Who loved you so much that He redeemed both of you on the Cross of Calvary and God the Holy Spirit Who will keep you in the one true faith enable each of you to love, not as the world loves, but as the perfect example of Jesus Christ of His great love for His bride the church.  May this love surround and bind both of you together for the rest of your lives.  AMEN.

Joseph and Paige Snethen

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sermon 10072012 18th 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!  Heavenly Father, the Ten Commandments that You gave Moses were a guide for the people of Israel.  And when Jesus had silenced the Sadducees the summary You offered in response to the lawyer clearly provide us the opportunity to reflect upon our love and trust of You.  Our response is less than perfect, but Your response is perfect.  Enable us to understand our dependence upon You and be changed so we can love, serve and trust You with not only our lives, but our very being.  For it is only through the fulfillment of Jesus death on Calvary that we have modeled true love and trust for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

As a congregation we here at Emmanuel have embarked upon an ambitious project this year.  Unlike most projects that have an anticipated outcome like in farming with an outstanding wheat crop or corn harvest, our project has a simpler goal.  The simple goal is the spreading of the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ.  Our project of spreading the Gospel is manifest with our sponsoring with the other churches in Goodland and David Branda the “Films of Faith Series” at the Sherman Theater.  We began with “Lion of Judah” after Easter, “Prince of Egypt” in the summer and next week with “Facing the Giants”.  Each of these movies in their own way is and was an opportunity to spread the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ here in our local community.  In order to prepare for and learn from the latest Films of Faith movie, the sermons for the next eight weeks will be based in part on one of the many scenes and themes found within “Facing the Giants”.  For this morning we will be exploring the question, “Do you love and trust God?”

This morning in our Gospel lesson, Jesus Christ is confronted by a lawyer who is trying to test him.  The lawyer asks a simple question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Unlike most questions posed to Jesus, this one is very personal for Jesus.  You see, since He is part of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He was there when Moses was given the Ten Commandments.  And Jesus knows all the commandments more perfectly than anyone whether in recitation or living them out.  Thus when Jesus answers the lawyer, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOU MIND” the lawyer is caught off guard with Jesus response. And when Jesus continues, “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”  The lawyer probably is baffled, because he was expecting to catch Jesus in not referring to the Jewish law given to Moses by God.  And the final straw that breaks this lawyer’s query is Jesus tying it into a neat little package when He says, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

What is ironic is that Jesus mention of the “Law and the Prophets” is a clear connection for us today not only to “Facing the Giants”, but also to what you have in your bulletin this morning.  In the movie, “Facing the Giants” the main character of coach Grant Taylor and his wife Brooke from the beginning of the movie encounter problems and challenges that are not uncommon to most people, whether they be job related, family related or even relationship related.  When faced with these challenges the coach is sent a message from God through a man.  This is no ordinary man.  Somewhat like the prophets from the Old Testament, this ‘present day prophet’ who prays over every locker and for every student in the school by name comes with a message from God for Coach Taylor.  The man of God says, “Coach Taylor, God has planted you here for a purpose and reason and is not finished with you”.

At that time, the purpose is not clear for Coach Taylor, but what is clear and we can discern from both the coaches situation and from Jesus response to the lawyer is a simple question.  The real question for Coach Taylor the lawyer questioning Jesus and for us today is, “Do you love God and trust God?”  The lawyer questioning Jesus didn’t have a reply, because Jesus silenced him with His response.  Coach Taylor on the other hand wrestled with this question in a clearly obvious way and we should wrestle as well.  Do you love God?  Do you trust God?  Easily we could say, why sure, I love and trust God.  But what we do not understand is that there are some important responsibilities and life changing opportunities with our answer being that we do love and trust God.

If we truly love God the responsibilities we have require us to be active.  Our activity is not just paying lip service by being here in worship, because we were guilted into being here by our spouse, parents, in-laws, council or community, sitting or standing through worship at the appropriate time while being silent while everyone else sings or consistently watching others serve or being goaded into doing something.  Action is in true humility and obedience as we discussed last week taking an active role in our relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our lives on a daily basis as a model, because we are all models for our children, our church and our society and what is truly in our hearts.

You might be wondering what actions are required, let me outline for you three ways you can show your love, trust and faith in God and in response to the questions, “Do you love God?” and “Do you trust God?”

First, all of us can show our love for God by reading His Word.  In Experiencing God and from the Catechism insert in your bulletin one of the clearest ways we can respond to the question, “Do you love God?” is by reading His Word.  Since mid-September each week in the bulletin a short devotion and reading from scripture has been provided for us in order for us to show our love for God and share and model this for and with our family.  I can hear it now from some sitting in the pews, I don’t need to read this devotion to show my love for God.  But what you do not understand is that this is God’s invitation for you to get to know Him better and interact with Him in ways that will radically change your lives if you choose to allow it. 

Personally as someone who doubted this was possible many years ago, not until I tried reading more of scripture and devotions in God’s Word have I personally learned how God loves me more deeply and enables me to be a better pastor, but not only pastor, but better father to Sarah and husband to Michele and model for you the sheep God has entrusted to my care as your pastor.  Why is this important for me, you might ask?  Well, consider this, the people that you worship or work with see the model you give, but the children you are parents to and the ones with which you have personal responsibility will follow your leading.  And that is one of the responsibilities each and every one of us have.  And I am learning to take that more seriously with every passing day as first as husband, second father and lastly as pastor.  When we lead by example our actions and the outcomes talk louder than words.  Consider if for many years you have higher than normal wheat and corn harvests, people will ask you what you are doing with seeds or land management.  In the same way, God will richly bless your life, spiritually, economically and relationally, when you show your love by reading His Word and being formed and shaped by it.

Secondly, in response to the question, “Do you trust God?” it is not a hollow question.  In everything you are doing, do you place your full trust in God for the outcome?  If you have been reading the inserts every week you will notice for each commandment, Luther wrote, “What does this mean? We should fear and love God…”  This proper understanding of fear and love of God leads us to trust God.  You see when we enter into relationship with God through His Word we then can begin to trust God.  But it is not just a simple trust, it is trust that requires us to give everything to God. 

In “Facing the Giants” Coach Taylor’s mantra rightly became, ‘trust God in everything’.  Work like it depends upon you and trust God for the results.  How can we apply this today here at Emmanuel?  There are worries and concerns that Emmanuel isn’t growing like some expect now that we have a full-time pastor.  It is some people’s belief that I as Pastor have the responsibility to visit and convince people to come back to church, worship and fellowship.  If this is the expectation that I can do it all, I don’t trust God and then deny God’s divine ability and personal action in people’s lives and the congregations responsibility to reach out to our brothers and sisters not here with us at worship. 

Our question still remains, do you trust God?  If you do, then leave the results to God.  But this also means we should not be sitting on the sidelines complaining when we don’t get our way or somebody does something that hasn’t been done before, makes us mad or having a feeling of entitlement because our family helped build the church or has had membership here for the last 90 years.  God calls us to lifelong action not just seasonal action in helping to upkeep the church, serve as greeters and ushers, acolytes and readers and especially as missionaries about the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. 

If we say, I have served my time, we deny our trust in God in everything and believe our action or trust of yesterday can cover us for today.  It cannot.  How then can you trust God today?  There is a card in your bulletin that is an ad for the movie “Facing the Giants” take it and personally invite someone to come to worship and the movie.  Not only invite them, but offer to pick them up sit with them, help them with how we worship here at Emmanuel.  Now that might seem relatively easy, but here is the zinger, don’t invite someone that you know has a church home, whether at the Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Calvary Gospel or Harvest Church.  Invite an un-churched person you know or a stranger or neighbor who doesn’t have a church home and this is the key, ‘trust God’ for the outcome.  That is true and active trust in God and His action through you as His instrument in the lives of the people you impact on a daily basis.

Finally, after showing your love for God by reading His Word, trusting God with everything in your life including, money, children, family and jobs, submit yourselves to God’s plan and purpose for your life.  Your humble submission to God for His plan and purpose and trusting Him for the outcome will insure a simple fact and reality.  God will use your life, your experiences, your influence in a way that will radically change your life, the life of the person you invite to church and the life of we the people at Emmanuel. 

As a seminary student I was asked to come to a congregation as a homeless man.  At the outset, I didn’t think much of doing this simple act for a pastor that needed a little help.  So, I dressed the part, looked the part and portrayed each action of a homeless person from my entrance into the congregation on a Sunday morning to not being able to follow the worship service to not sitting and standing at the proper times.  The pastor had asked me to visit in order that the congregation might begin to sympathize with the population that had begun to enter the community.  During the sermon the pastor told the story of the Good Samaritan and introduced me as a seminary student.  It was like a light bulb immediately lit up.

Our portrayal of this has had such a profound affect upon the congregation that even to this day that sermon is spoken about by congregation members.  Matter of fact, earlier this fall nearly 18 years later, this story was related in a meeting I happened to be a part of and I had the opportunity to hear how it had affected even pastors who came to the seminary after I was a student.  All of this was done out of our faith and trust in God and being submissive to God and His perfect plan of salvation for all of mankind through Jesus Christ innocent death on Calvary acted out in the presence of a congregation encountering a homeless man in a changing community.

Ultimately God’s plan of salvation is perfect and we have the opportunity to love God with our whole heart, trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and trust Him with everything we have from our jobs to our homes, families, our crops, our church and our own lives.  And God will bless us.  This is the promise God makes to us when in faith we commit to relying solely upon Him doing what He has called us to do as His children and trusting Him for the outcome, even the outcome for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Monday, October 1, 2012

10012012 Funeral Sermon for Clarice Arlene Yaste Martell

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!  Gracious Heavenly Father, as we gather here to celebrate the life of Clarice our sister in Christ, we are reminded that in You she has found the peace of Jesus Christ.  The struggles of this life no longer bind her, because in, through and by her baptism into Your life, death and resurrection, she now rests in Your loving and comforting arms.  May our hearts be enabled to hear Your Word spoken in its truth and purity and comfort us as we mourn.  For though the veil of death separates us today from Clarice, we are sure of the certain promise You made to us in our baptism that in being baptized into Your death we are certainly raised with You in Your resurrection.  Comfort us with this thought and let the salve of Your Gospel message spoken to Clarice on the day of her baptism and lived in her life daily surround us so we may hear clearly the Gospel message of the salvation offered through Jesus Christ innocent death on Calvary for all Your saints, especially the saints of her family and those gathered here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

The saying “It will be the death of me” is usually said ‘tongue and cheek’ by faithless individuals who half-jokingly and half seriously make an outlandish claim or statement if something were to occur.  Ironically even Clarice who had an extremely strong faith said these words in the last month about of all things a bowl and pitcher.  But the plot thickens, this same bowl and pitcher, Clarice made while taking a pottery class and were prominently displayed in her house.  And as fate would have it, the bowl and pitcher caused her to fall recently prior to her departure for Hays and ultimately her entrance into the church triumphant.  But this pitcher and bowl are for all of us and especially the family a symbol of something far greater and much more meaningful.

In our Gospel this afternoon, Jesus Christ models for all of us the true role of a servant.  In humble obedience to His Father’s will, He strips Himself of all authority given to Him by His Father in heaven and kneels in front of each of the disciples and washes their feet.  When I was in seminary, the president of the seminary and his wife actually did this for the graduates on the day of our graduation.  This was a very humbling experience.  So to Jesus, using a pitcher and bowl not unlike the one made by Clarice, Jesus Christ in humility pours water over the tired and worn feet of His disciples.  With the brokenness clearly evident in the disciple’s faces and lives, Jesus in humility drying their feet becomes a servant for them and modeled for Clarice and us today how grace is freely offered.

Paul in his letter to the Romans says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand”     This same grace Paul speaks of is clearly manifest in Jesus simple action of washing the disciples feet.  Jesus is offering the disciples not only free grace and humble service, but in bathing their feet is preparing the disciples for what is coming.  Paul continues as he writes, “knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope” is a preparation for the trials and tribulations they would endure after Jesus death and ascension into heaven.  Thus, Jesus Christ was preparing the disciples for the promised Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, for Paul says, “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us”.  This love is clearly manifest for us today draped over Clarice’s casket.

You see the off-white pall with the cross that is draped over the casket of Clarice this afternoon is a reminder of God’s love “poured out…and given” to and for each and every one of us, but especially today of, for and surrounding Clarice.  The pall is a tangible reminder of God reaching down into Clarice’s life and in, through and by the waters of Holy Baptism redeeming her by the Blood of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the World.  The Pall is a clear tangible reminder for all of us today of Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection that all of us have been baptized into.  For it is through, by and on account of God’s gift of Grace offered to us that we have been “justified by faith…and…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  This is a gift of God given for all of us through our baptism and a reminder for all of us with the Pall over the casket.

Paul says it clearly, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Or one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  We who have been baptized into Jesus Christ’ life, death and resurrection have had “the love of God…poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us”.  God through baptism redeemed Clarice and all of us and promises us eternal life and salvation.

It is very clear that not only are we offered life and salvation, but also the forgiveness of sins.  You see today though we lay Clarice to rest next to Jeffrey and Earl, in a few minutes when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we join together with all the saints in glory in the feast of God’s precious Body and Blood.  Through our participating in the receipt of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’ we join at the table of the Lord with all the saints of all time and all place, including Clarice, her husband Earl and sons Jeffrey and Ed.  We in the most mysterious and intimate communion of all celebrate God’s love for all of us in the mystery of Holy Communion.  And in Holy Communion we can and do find “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  This peace is offered us in this sacramental meal that unites us with Clarice and all the saints who have entered the church triumphant.

For this gift of grace offered to and for us is freely offered because of God’s demonstration of His great love for all of us.  And this gift of grace is exactly what Clarice and Earl modeled for their children and we actually see surrounding us today.  You see not only do we share in the Great Thanksgiving, we are also surrounded by a multitude of gifts that Clarice was personally involved in.  Clarice believed in God’s grace and she showed it with her hands and heart giving God the glory.  The quilts that surround us today on the pews have been touched by Clarice and we have them on the pews as a reminder and in honor of God’s gift to each of us of Clarice in our lives.  These quilts are a direct result of God’s grace manifest in Clarice’s life and offered for others by Clarice because she clearly and rightly believed and understood the saying concerning God’s gifts, ‘freely received and freely given’.

I had many opportunities to talk with Clarice about her faith and the strength of it, but for me as pastor, while visiting with her the Thursday before her entrance into the church triumphant, was most special.  She reaffirmed her faith and desire to go home to be with her Lord.  And now Clarice is finally at peace with God.  It is a peace that surpasses all human understanding and has guarded her heart, soul and spirit.  Clarice trusted Jesus Christ free offer of grace and knew she could not earn her salvation, for it was the greatest gift from God for her and for all of mankind.  Thus Clarice is now at “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and now rests from her labors because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary.  That is the grace offered all of us saints that are gathered here at Emmanuel, surrounded by the love of Jesus Christ and which we receive in the Lord’s Supper with the words “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  May God’s grace be poured from a pitcher upon you, wash you clean by the Blood of the Lamb and cover you like a pall and blanket as a reminder of your baptism into Jesus Christ humble and obedient life, death and resurrection as you receive His precious Body and Blood with all the saints including, Jeffrey, Ed, Earl and now Clarice.  AMEN.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard our hearts and minds and comfort us today, because of what Jesus Christ did for Clarice and each one of us!  AMEN!

//trial script