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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.
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