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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sermon 11252012 Christ the King Sunday

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 our King, today we celebrate the fulfillment and the ending of the church year.  Though we do not know the day nor the hour of your coming, enable us to understand these final times are an opportunity for preparation.  For our preparation is not of our bodies, but of our soul and its preparation for our entrance into Your kingdom that You have prepared for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Recently I heard of a family that was preparing for December 21, 2012.  If you are unaware, not only is it the Winter Solstice, where the days will begin to get longer, but it is also the day predicted by the Mayan Culture and calendar that the world would end.  The family I heard about is preparing a ‘hide-a-hole’ for when the world devolves into chaos and looting and all kinds of ‘crazy’ things happen.  This preparation seems reminiscent of the cold war years where everybody started building a ‘bomb shelter’, because the Russians had nuclear capability.  However, with this most ‘recent’ scare, we humans who live in this world seem to be more interested in preparing for Armageddon then for our Savior.

The stark reality is that we fear more what other humans can do for or against us than preparing for Jesus return.  This is what this Sunday of the ‘fulfillment’ is all about.  Where Jesus Christ, the bridegroom of the church fulfills the promise made at the Ascension of His second coming.  It is what we specifically pray for in the Nicene Creed a little later this morning when we confess with the whole Christian Church, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”  Christ will return in glory here to earth which He helped form and shape with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus job is not complete until His return.  And we can prepare, remember in the Gospel this morning of the five wise and the five foolish virgins.  The story is simplistic in nature, but applicable for us this morning.  The foolish virgins didn’t bring oil for their lamps and when the time came were not prepared for entrance with the bridegroom.  But the five virgins who brought oil were prepared and entered with the bridegroom.  Are we no different, do we prepare for things like Birthdays, Anniversaries, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals with all of our relatives or for the midnight Black Friday sales for Christmas presents?  Yet, we lack the preparation of the most important God given gift, our souls for the return of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  We will not have the presents for eternity, but we will have our souls for all eternity.

In Facing the Giants, Coach Taylor from the time he introduced the ‘New Philosophy’ inspired his team to give it their very best and prepare for the battle that would take place on the field every Friday night.  It wasn’t anticipating something that would last for eternity, but it was something that would inspire the team to prepare for the future, a long term goal.  Whether it was their studies, their preparation on the field for Friday or in their personal lives, the players learned to look not with the eyes of society, but with Godly eyes, hearts and spirits ready to be filled by God and His promises.  This same fact is true for us today.

We like Coach Taylor need to look to the future, the end times as what we should be preparing for.  The early Church thought that Jesus would return in their lifetime.  Hence, they always had Jesus on their minds.  This is why we say the Early Church was the fastest growing church for all time.  Not only were they persecuted by the Jews, Greeks, Hellenists and other religious organizations, they did everything in secret from worship at the catacombs or where people were buried, to house churches to having symbols and secret sayings to tell if a person was a Christian.

Today in our society, we have buildings, budgets and bulletins that tell us how much we are to spend, where we are to do certain things and when we are to sit down, stand up and what the readings are for the worship service.  The preparation that Jesus is attempting to make a point with concerning the ten virgins is that we do not know the day nor the hour of His coming, but we should be prepared.

The Boy Scouts clearly understand this concept, because their motto is ‘Be Prepared’.  When we are prepared it is not just that all the dishes are put away, the bed made, the toys picked up or the yard looks immaculate, it is deeper and more profound.  Have you placed your personal trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?  And do you trust in the forgiveness of sins offered by His death on Calvary for all of mankind?  These may seem like simplistic questions, but they are profound when we take personal application to our daily lives.

Just as the wise virgins prepared for the bridegroom, we to should prepare our hearts, souls and spirits for the coming of the Messiah and His return for ‘judging’ the living and the dead.  For when we prepare, we not only show our belief by living it out, but we clearly like the football team look not for a failure, but a fulfillment of God’s promises to and for us in our lives.  For God’s promises are crystal clear for us, that God sent His Son into this world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  The fulfillment of the plan of salvation is clear and coming.  Let us as the saints of Emmanuel prepare and be like the wise virgins and live ‘in this world’, but not be ‘of this world’.  Live as prepared disciples of our souls for eternity, not unprepared foolish virgins like our society living in the here and now.  For God prepares us today with His precious Body and Blood we are about to receive for all of us saints gathered here this morning in preparation of our entrance into eternal life with our Lord and Savior.  Thanks be to God for this gift for all the saints, including all of us gathered here this morning at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

11202012 Funeral Sermon for Leo Clifford Hatcher

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 Leo our brother in Christ, we who remain on our earthly pilgrimage are reminded that Leo has found the peace of Jesus Christ.  No longer do the struggles of this life bind him, because in, through and by his baptism into Your life, death and resurrection, Leo now rests in Your loving and comforting arms.  May You through Your Gospel enable our hearts 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 Leo, 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 that called Leo by name in his baptism 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 his family gathered here at Emmanuel to say goodbye.  AMEN.

In August 2010 I first set foot in Western Kansas and this pulpit to preach my ‘interview sermon’.  Not only did I preach a sermon, but also a children’s message.  What is ironic is that the Gospel lessons for that Sunday used the simplest, but the most abundant item in Western Kansas in summer and connects us today with biblical times.  You see the lesson revolved around something that Leo was very familiar with and which all of Western Kansas depends upon to make a living.  It isn’t water, which farmers like Leo so desperately need today.  The Gospel revolved around wheat.  Hence, when I arrived Kent and Shelly Willems provided me with a mason jar full of good Western Kansas wheat and I used it as the object of my sermon illustration for the children’s sermon.

Fast-forward two years and this morning we say good bye to a Mid-Western born baby transplanted to the fields and plains of Western Kansas who became a renowned farmer who made his livelihood growing wheat.  Yet our connection today is not just to the farmer, but the story of wheat itself.  In John 12, Jesus Who had just raised Lazarus from the dead enters into the Holy City of Jerusalem encountering the Greeks who desired to see Jesus.  Our text for our consideration continues in John 12:23-26:

John 12:23-26 - 23 And Jesus *answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.


Jesus Christ, knowing the truth of what was to come after the Passover feast clearly says that “the Son of Man will be glorified”.  Jesus knows He is going to the Cross and reveals what for some is a great mystery, but for a farmer like Leo is a well known truth.

Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone”.  We in this life feel alone today of all days when we have come to say goodbye to Leo.  Death has come very close to us and has taken a man we knew and loved as husband, father, grand-father, brother and friend away from us.  But Jesus with the divine knowledge of the Father knew of a different reality that only by faith can we lay claim to.  Jesus continued, “but if it [that is a grain of wheat] dies, it bears much fruit”.  When that grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, just as has occurred earlier this fall when the farmers planted in faith their fields of winter wheat, so to in faith we lay Leo to rest today with full military honors.

But we don’t lay Leo to rest today in doubt or despair, but with a faith that God has given to each and every one of us in our baptism the gift of eternal life.  The day Leo was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Leo, like the wheat was dying to self in order to ‘bear much fruit’. That is the opportunity that God gives each and every one of us today to bear much fruit.  Jesus goes on to say, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me” and Leo served, not only with the Co-Op and the Elks, but in many capacities like the United States Air Force.  As a Crew Chief of a B-47, Leo understood his life as service and bore much fruit in serving our country, state, region and community representing not only Western Kansas, but also modeling for others what ‘bearing fruit’ as a humble ‘wheat farmer’ really meant.  This fruit was a direct result of God active in his life.  For some they only saw the outward always active farmer, but God Who sees the heart of all of us, knew Leo more intimately than even Connie and was working out Leo’s salvation.  God through His Son Jesus Christ would glorify Leo and today we celebrate that glorification in Leo’s entrance into eternal glory with His Lord and Savior.

You see the fruit of God that is Leo’s is sitting here this morning.  The fruit of Leo’s ‘wheat’ is all of us coming to pay our final respects for the child of God that Leo became, because of Jesus Christ in his life.  The fruit also is manifest in his loving family who sat by his side and walked with Leo on this final journey, not to death, but to life eternal.  Clearly the journey has not been easy these last years, but God in calling Leo in, through and by his baptism, has today brought Leo into His eternal presence as a fulfillment of the promise made in his baptism.  That is the same promise made to each of us because of Jesus Christ death on Calvary for all of mankind.  It was Jesus Christ willingness to Glorify the Father that He suffered and died for Leo and for all of us.  We therefore, are not only fruit of Leo, but ultimately fruit of Jesus Christ and His death on Calvary, and all of us are partakers of the gift of eternal life that we share through Jesus Christ. 

May we who gather here today as ‘fruit’ see and understand God’s gift through our baptism into Jesus life, death and resurrection, which is made manifest in Leo’s life and honor and lay claim to the promises of God for all of mankind, especially all of the saints of Leo’s family and all of us 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 Leo and each one of us!  AMEN!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sermon 11182012 Thanksgiving Sunday 24th 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!  Most gracious God, according to Your wisdom and at the proper time, the deep waters are opened and clouds drop gentle moisture.  We praise and thank You for our harvest this season, for the fertility of the soil, for the harvesting of crops, for the safety of the laborers, and for all other blessings which You generously pour on our nation.  Give us a full understanding of Your mercy, and enable us in our lives to be respectful, holy, obedient and thankful to You and Your will throughout all our days, for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

If one were able to watch movies from end to beginning knowing the results prior to learning the struggles, the perspective or lessons learned would be lost on most of us.  As humans in order to gain and maintain our connection and engagement, we have to be introduced to a compelling thought, idea or concept that ‘catches’, captures and maintains our interest.  Sermons are no different, week in and week out, I have to begin the sermon with a visual picture that everyone can understand and relate to.  For some Pastor’s and Preacher’s like Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church in California, his suggestion is to begin with people’s needs, then show where God’s Word speaks to the need and then make the personal application.  This approach though simple has enabled Pastor Rick Warren to reach more individuals for Jesus Christ because of the simplistic approach.

This morning I’d like to use a similar approach.  Today we celebrate Thanksgiving in the life of Emmanuel Lutheran Church.  It isn’t about turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.  We come to give God thanks for bringing us again through another year of harvesting wheat and corn, but also celebrating the third movie in our Films of Faith Series entitled Facing the Giants.  Just as Coach Taylor with his new Philosophy inspired the team to ‘give it all they had’, ‘prepare for rain’ and ‘praise God when they won and praise God when they lost’, the Thanksgiving the team had after winning the State Title wasn’t for the victory, it was for ultimately learning the lesson of ‘Trusting God’ in everything.

When the team finally trusted God for their destiny, they ultimately received God’s greatest blessing of not only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but a reason to be thankful for God’s fulfilling His promise in, to and through them off the field as well as on the field.  The students studies turned around, relationships that were tenuous at best between Father and Son and fellow students, with ‘forgiveness’ and healing became right and the community saw the impact that Coach Taylor was having upon the lives of the players, their families, the community and ultimately the school with winning the State Championship Title.

In stark contrast to our Gospel where life was returned to a woman who had been sick for many years and the raising of the dead young girl of the synagogue leader, their thanksgiving was life and more of it provided by Jesus Christ.  Yet, the reality was their thanksgiving unlike the football team with the State Championship or even we today with a bountiful harvest of wheat in the spring and corn this fall was directly impacted by Jesus Christ.

When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ our lives will be radically changed.  No longer will the ‘speed bumps’ of life cause us to loose control, because we learn and trust God fully to walk with us through these times and inspire us to not only trust Him more fully, but in having a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, we are freed from the doubt that pervades our society.  Remember at the beginning of the movie of Facing the Giants where Brock when hearing about the loss of one of the top players ‘doubted the potential and possibilities of the team’, then became a champion of belief after the ‘death crawl’.  Only after having true trust, faith and hope with what he could not see and the relationship with His Lord and Savior did he enjoy the complete impact upon his life to the fullest.

We are no different here today at Emmanuel.  Three years ago, we as a congregation sat wondering what our future would be.  There was not a full-time Pastor here in the pulpit or parsonage.  The relationship between Emmanuel and the ELCA was tenuous at best.  Attendance was down, morale was down and doubt of keeping the doors open and the church going was hovering in, over and throughout the congregation.
But today, three short years later, Emmanuel in trust, faith and hope has joined Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, called and funded successfully a full-time pastor, made capital improvements by adding a handicapped accessible bathroom, painting the fellowship hall, offering the community a free Films of Faith and we have some great plans for the future of the church.  All of this in one sense is like the end of a movie, where we have in trust and relationship with Jesus Christ reaped the harvest intended for Emmanuel.  This is why we can come today and in true Thanksgiving thank God for His abiding with us during this journey.  God has been and continues to be active with and among each of us today and we with Thankful hearts, hands and voices can share with one another the bountiful feast He offers us, not only of turkey and all the fixings down stairs, but of the Holy Supper we are about to receive around the Altar of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our receipt of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood not only fulfills the promise God made to us in our baptism, but Jesus Body and Blood are meant to strengthen us for the journey of life we are on and enable us to give God true Thanks and Praise.  In Facing the Giants at the end of the movie after the State Title win, Coach Taylor came home and was told he had made the team.  No longer was it a matter of only being a coach, a mentor or about to become a father, Coach Taylor understood giving God thanks and praise for the gifts of his life was not commanded, but his greatest opportunity.  Remember the mantra of the team, praise and thank God when they win and praise and thank God when they lost.  We to here at Emmanuel have this opportunity as well.  Let’s join together and praise and thank God, not only for what has been loss in our lives and our church, but truly come together on bended knee and praise and thank God for the blessings He has given each of us today.  For this is the promise He fulfills for all of mankind, but especially for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel offering our praise and thanks this morning especially for the gift of His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ for all of us saints.  AMEN.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sermon 11112012 Veteran's Day 23rd 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!  Good and gracious God, we come before You this morning, knowing that we live in a world of sin.  Our sin is sometimes clear and easily seen and other times we try and hide it from our families, friends, fellow worshipers and You, but You know and see what we do in secret.  Forgive us Lord and enable us to ‘Give You our Best’.  For when we give You our best, and praise You when we overcome and praise You when we fail, we then know You are always there for us, like when Jesus went to the Cross to set us free from our sins.  Enable us to lay claim to this, leave it on the field, pray for rain and ‘Give You our Best’ like Jesus gave His best for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Brock wasn’t your typical high school athlete.  He didn’t have the chiseled abs, the magnetic personality, nor the best looking girls hanging on his arms.  But what Brock did have was the God given ability to lead.  You see, Brock is one of the main characters from the most recent Films of Faith Series, “Facing the Giants”.  If you remember it was Brock who first asked Coach Taylor if a player had left the school at the beginning of football practice.  It was Brock who voiced the opinion that they were doomed without the player that left.  And it was also Brock who showed his lack of focus in the classroom with a failing grade and wanting to have fun, rather than concentrate.

Yet, once Coach Taylor had introduced the ‘New Philosophy’, it was Brock that Coach Taylor pegged as a leader and challenged him to “Give God his best”.  The most pivotal point for the team in the movie was where Coach Taylor showed his belief in Brock in practice and challenges him to the ‘death crawl’.  Usually players would only do this for 20 yards.  But Coach Taylor raises the bar and the stakes by blindfolding Brock.  After starting Brock stops to rest for a second, but Coach Taylor says ‘give it everything you’ve got’, ‘keep moving’, ‘keep driving’, ‘give it your very best’, ‘don’t quit on me’, ‘don’t quit til you have nothing left’, ‘I want everything you’ve got’, ‘negotiate with your body’, ‘keep going…it’s not to hard’.  Finally Coach Taylor gives him a countdown of steps and after the final step Coach Taylor takes the bandana off his head and says, ‘look up Brock, you are in the end zone.’

This story illustrates for us this morning a truth of giving our best to God.  There are three things we can take away from this illustration.  First, if we are going to give our best to God, we need to ‘give it everything we’ve got.’  At every step, Coach Taylor was there encouraging Brock, but also challenging him to give it everything he had.  The death crawl is tough work, but it builds muscle, endurance and the ability to channel every bit of energy to the task of carrying someone. Brock only thought it would be 20 yards or the fifty, but in the end in giving everything he had Brock made it 100 yards.  He gave it all he had.

We are no different when we are confronted with diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia or open sores on our bodies that won’t heal, we need to give it all we have.  These are opportunities for all of us to rely solely upon God to provide the strength we need and focus on His plan and His providence for our lives.  When we rely solely upon God and give it everything we have, God will bless us.  So to in the church here, we have the opportunity to rely upon God to do some wonderful things through and by our congregation and our involvement in the community, like being involved in the ministry just starting at the Methodist church of feeding those less fortunate, providing or delivering meals for the shut-ins like with meals on wheels or the upcoming Thanksgiving dinners or even with our films of faith series.  These are all opportunities for us like Brock to ‘give it all we have’.

Second, sometimes we need to have our eyes closed in order to focus, not on our surroundings, but the mission God has given us to do.  For Brock, it was very clear, he didn’t know where he was on the field, because he had a bandanna covering his eyes, so he did not have his eyes on the prize and give up to a certain point.  So easily we in the church sometimes have our eyes on more people in worship, more money in the offering plate and more people to share the load of the ministry of the church.  But maybe we need to have a bandanna put over our eyes so we can ‘give God our Best’ and not have our eyes on the prize or finish line, the end of the project or the things or people that surround us and drain our energy.  If we close our eyes and rely upon God for not only our strength and effort, He will inspire the passion we need, provide the money and the people that we need to ‘Give God our Best’ and do His will here at Emmanuel.

Third, we will want to give up, because it is to hard or our bodies are worn out or we’ve done our time, but if we are to give God our best, we need to negotiate with our bodies to give to our last ounce of energy for God’s Glory and His ministry here at Emmanuel.  Throughout this sermon series, we have heard about giving God our best by ‘trusting God’, ‘leaving it on the field’, ‘preparing for rain’, ‘forgiveness’, and ‘a new philosophy’.  Now I wasn’t sure what affect I was having as pastor, but this past week, God spoke to my heart through two women who have stepped up and are still serving our congregation.  For some it may seem like an insignificant role, but their willingness to ‘give God their best’ by greeting people at the door is a role model for me as pastor to ‘give it my best’ even down to the last ounce of energy I have.

Giving to the last ounce of energy is extremely well illustrated by the people we honor this morning.  Yes, last week we honored the Saints that entered eternal glory in the last year with All Saints Day, but today we honor the Veterans on Veterans Day who have served our country in the line of battle in the military.  All of these men and women epitomize “Give God Your Best”.  This past week we had a meeting of some of the men of this congregation that served in the military.  Sitting around the table were men who modeled for all of us what Brock showed us in the Film of Faith of “Facing the Giants”.  These men entered the service in order to serve their country, protect our freedoms we sometimes take for granted, and ensure us the opportunity to gather here this morning to worship, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  Some men like the ones we honor with silver stars on the World War II plaque that hangs on the wall outside the fellowship hall gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.  Through their ultimate sacrifice of their life they did give God their Best and did what Jesus Christ did for all of us today.  Jesus Christ through His sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary gave His life in order that all of us might be free.  By Jesus innocent death on Calvary we have been freed from sin, death and the devil.  This gift offered to each of us is made manifest because of His great love for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  May we be inspired to give God our Best for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sermon 11042012 All Saints Sunday 22nd 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, one of the only things You never modeled for us while You were here on earth was asking for forgiveness for Yourself or Your actions.  This was because You were perfect, sinless and did Your Father’s bidding perfectly and modeled what we are to do.  Enable us as the imperfect creatures we are to confess our sinfulness so we may rely upon You and the perfection You create in each of us through our baptism into Your life, death and resurrection, for all of mankind including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

From the movie “Facing the Giants” that we have been exploring for the last few weeks we have explored issues of trust, leaving everything on the field, preparing for rain and a new philosophy.  But today, the day we celebrate All Saints Day and remember the saints that have entered their eternal home, we need to talk about ‘Forgiveness’.  There is a scene in the movie where one of the players of the team, Matt, clearly and blatantly disrespects his father in front of the team and the coach.  Later, Coach Taylor, ‘shoots straight’ with Matt and confronts him on the issue of his relationship with his father and how he is so disrespectful.  I’d love to show this clip as well as the follow-up to the clip, because it epitomizes a sacred truth that we need to hear clearly here at Emmanuel.

The follow-up clips are where Matt fully convicted by the Holy Spirit confesses his wrong to his friends and God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enter into his world in a life changing way.  After his acceptance of God’s grace in his life, and reconciling with his heavenly Father, Matt realizes he needs to make things right with his earthly father.  And Coach Taylor after embracing the new man he is takes him to his Father’s office where he confesses his wrong and makes a commitment to making things right from that moment on with his father.  This scene so profoundly impacts the relationship between father and son that no longer are they antagonists, but are active participants in and for a positive way in the life of Coach Taylor.  If you can’t remember what I am referencing, re-watch the movie.

This part of the movie epitomizes what we have the opportunity to do here at Emmanuel.  From the moment I arrived here at Emmanuel you could cut the tension that existed between people and from past events with a knife.  There is so much bitterness under the surface and in hushed conversations or over the phone concerning events of the past from previous Pastor’s, prior and current members and prior disagreements that this congregation is bitter about how we have been treated, how we have treated others and how we ‘think’ that we have been wronged by the greater church and each other.  It has even contributed to our leaving the ELCA.  Nowhere in this conversation here at Emmanuel has this concept of forgiveness within the congregation been clearly expressed, articulated or acted upon.  This congregation has lost a lot of people coming to worship God here at Emmanuel long before I arrived in October of 2010. 

For a lot of us sitting in the pews, we either expect someone else to apologize, we ignore people because they were on the other side of an issue and haven’t come to us or we hold onto the past and live in the days where this church had two services, full pews, full offering plates, or the exact opposite of barely two pennies to rub together and bills were put off until the funds were available.

But the truth is, today as we celebrate All Saints Day, we need to act upon the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers us on the Cross of Calvary and just like Matt with his earthly father, to make things right.  This is going to require us to step up in three different ways.

First, it is going to require us to go to our brother.  We as a society have taken the mantle of the ‘victim’ mentality.  Unlike Hurricane Sandy that slammed into the coast of New Jersey where the state was a victim of the storm, West Virginia that has had over 2 feet of snow, Pennsylvania that has endured tropical monsoon rains and New York that has flooded from the high tides and storm surge, our human tendency is to always believe we are the party that has been hurt or the victim.  But the truth is when we are in relationship and that is exactly what this is, we are not victims, but participants in relationship.  And relationships are messy because we are sinful creatures that no matter how we might try to act, all of us fall short of the glory of God. 

Thus we need to go to our brothers and sisters and confess.  Let me say that again, we need to go to the people that we have had disagreements with, even if we were in the right and confess that we have wronged each other in the relationship by letting the relationship suffer and become damaged.

There is no perfect biblical example of someone doing this.  This is because the Bible is about the relationship between God and Man and how Jesus Christ repaired the fractured relationship between God and Man.  What we get to do is apply this perfect model found in the life of Jesus Christ to our own individual lives.   It will require something of and from us in order to go to our brother.

The second thing it is going to require is for us to be humble and obedient.  Our obedience and humbleness towards our brother requires us to confess not the specific sins, because we cannot recount every sin as Martin Luther reminds us.  But it does require us to in true humility go to our brother and confess that we are not perfect, like Jesus Christ.  And that we need the forgiveness only each of us can offer.  This is our collective opportunity to reach across the aisle, the pew, the street and ask for forgiveness.  For in humbling ourselves, we are following the obedient model of Jesus Christ Who in true humility and obedience suffered the torture of the Cross, was obedient to death and offered Himself in order to set all of mankind, including all of us free from sin, death, the devil, hell and damnation.  For that is truly what we deserve if we are not humble and obedient, we deserve the punishment Jesus endured, but that He suffered in order to set each of us free.  It is the freedom we enjoy as we partake of the Holy Supper around the altar of the Lord.  It is the opportunity to receive the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation through Jesus offering of His life for us on Calvary.

For the final opportunity is that we can have and should show mercy to one another.  Just as our Gospel from this morning clearly showed the ruler showing mercy to the wicked servant, we have the opportunity to show mercy as well.  We can rationalize away that we should be shown the mercy, but when we do that we turn the focus away from what God can do and does do for each of us through the forgiveness of sins and turn it towards our own sinful selves.  In the Holy Supper we are about to receive God reaches down and offers us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that we do not deserve, but God shows us mercy and grace that we clearly do not deserve.  This is our opportunity as well.

The clearest and best opportunity each of us individually has is offered to each of us every time we come to partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Before the actual communion liturgy takes place and even before the offering is received the words after the prayers spoken say, “The Peace of the Lord be with you always”.  As God’s ‘go between’, I as Pastor by my office speak God’s peace to each of you here in the congregation.  This opportunity is for each of us to share the peace.  It has become for some a mere formality or a break or opportunity to ‘stretch our legs’ or greet only our ‘friends’, but in actuality, this is the opportunity for each of us to search out our brothers and sisters in Christ that we have not made peace with and in true humility and seeking forgiveness offer a heartfelt ‘Peace of God’.  That heartfelt peace is the same peace Jesus Christ offered to His disciples who had scattered when He was betrayed.  It is a forgiving peace, a reconciling peace, an opportunity for all of us to make true peace with each other, because of the peace that God has made with us through His Son Jesus Christ.

This is the culmination of forgiveness and preparation for all of us to commune with the saints who have gone before us to be in God’s Kingdom.  We seize the opportunity to not only connect through this meal where we receive of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood.  We also can feel the forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can offer for all of mankind.  For it is this peace and forgiveness that Jesus calls us to truly share with one another and with all of the saints who have gone before us that we share with one another as we gather here at Emmanuel to receive life and salvation through the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, that is given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.  May we share in the forgiveness of sins and be enabled to understand this is for all of mankind, especially all the saints who have gone before us and who still remain here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.
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