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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sermon 01272013 Septuagesima

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, we confess that we are sinful creatures in need of Your redeeming us from our sins.  We doubt not only You as our Lord, but even Your presence among us.  May we though tempted by Satan to turn from You return and answer clearly the question, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” with a resounding Yes.  For we can make this answer only because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind, including all of us saints here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

Having children is clearly God’s gift for all of mankind.  When our children are sick the parental instinct takes over and our nurturing, caring and compassionate side comes to the forefront.  With the slightest cough, congestion or difficulty of breathing we as parents immediately jump into action and try and ‘fix’ or correct the situation, because we cannot stand to see our children in any peril.  We want to make our children feel better no matter the cost.

Enter the children of Israel who are journeying in the wilderness of Sin.  Now ‘Sin’ is not a description of what they have done, but the name of an actual place.  It is a barren region somewhere west of the Sinai plateau on the Sinai Peninsula.  Remember that the people have left the bondage and slavery of Egypt and now are travelling in the wilderness.  Remember there are approximately 600,000 men alone, not including children.  If one were to do the math, every man has one wife and a minimum of 2 children, you are talking of nearly 2 million people travelling in the Wilderness of Sin, not including all the animals and livestock each family has taken with them.

What is the first thing they need besides food, which God had already given them in Exodus 16 of Manna and Quail, they needed water.  They didn’t have any so the “people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink””.  Moses who is their leader feels he is in the middle between a mob of unhappy people and God Who called him in a burning bush to lead the people from Egypt.  God had divinely provided for their escape from Pharaoh and now in the middle of the desert without water, Moses was near to becoming the ‘sacrificial scape goat’ by the people.

Moses said, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test the Lord?”  The people had easily forgotten how God less than two months earlier had parted the waters to allow them to walk across on dry land to escape Pharaoh.  The people had forgotten how they when starving had been given Manna and Quail from heaven.  The people doubted that God could actually provide simple water in saying, “But the people thirsted there for water, and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?””  The people in a clear sense were delirious and did not remember God’s clear and divine providence for them that had just occurred.  They did not and were not looking with eyes of faith.  They were looking to blame Moses since he was right there in their midst.

So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying “What shall I do to this people?  A little more and they will stone me.””  Moses was fearful for his life.  Moses felt he couldn’t trust the people that they would have his back or protect him, but sacrifice him because of their lack of water, but more importantly their lack of faith in the divine providence of God.

But God clearly is using this experience to test the Israelite people if they trust Him, through His servant Moses.  Our text continues, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strick the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.””  God is not only promising Moses His divine presence, but again God is clearly revealing Himself as the true provider for the people of Israel that are in the Wilderness of Sin.

This test and quarrel with God is not unlike what we do today.  We daily put God to the test and doubt not only God’s presence, but His divine favor with His people gathered here at Emmanuel.  As a Pastor, I feel for Moses, because Moses is standing in the gap between God and the people, just as I do here at Emmanuel.  There are times where I sin and fall short of the glory of God, just like Moses.  Just this last week I did not give clear credit for Tayler Thorson’s awesome and beautiful service project of the hymn board for our congregation.  To say the least I sinned and fell short of the glory of God and like Moses have felt the displeasure of you the people I love and serve as Pastor.  So just as all of us did earlier, I confess my sin and ask for forgiveness of all of you the congregation, which is what God calls us to do.

Yet, this still does not answer the question Moses posed, “Is the Lord among us, or not?”  If God is here among us, we clearly have an opportunity.  Our opportunity is three fold.  We can trust God to provide.  Last week we stepped out on faith and elected new council members and ratified the budget for this year in faith that God would work through us and increase His presence in Goodland through each of us.

Second, we can follow God.  Like the people of Israel following God through the Wilderness of Sin, we too today can follow God in the direction He is leading us.  This began with the establishment of a church here in Goodland, building of a church and educational wing and now with our joining LCMC and calling a pastor and lastly celebrating 90 years of ministry and following God.  We are following God and have the opportunity to continue to be faithful in His plan for all of us saints here in Goodland.

Finally, we have the opportunity to forgive like God forgives.  Every Sunday we have the opportunity to confess our sins and receive the forgiveness of sins that God offers us.  When we confess like I have tried to do this morning, God wipes away all of our sins and does not keep track of them.  We as brothers and sisters in Christ are called to forgive just as God does, for if we hold onto grudges, keep track of wrongs or remember everything that someone has done to us or against us, we are not following God’s perfect example.  We mock God and dishonor God’s gift and example of His Son Jesus Christ on the Cross for all of mankind.

For God’s example is clear for us today that we should not test God like the people of Israel did in the Wilderness of Sin.  We are called as God’s children to trust Him, follow Him and forgive just as God offers us the forgiveness of sins.  God’s forgiveness frees us from the slavery and bondage of sin and allows us through our baptism to be the new creation that does not have to test God like the people of Israel.  For God’s gift of His Son Who forgives each of us without reservation gave Himself on Calvary for all of mankind, including all of us forgiven saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sermon 01202013 Transfiguration

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 God from Mount Sinai You sent Your servant Moses with the commandments written on the two tablets.  With each commandment there is a promise from God that we sometimes fail to understand.  May we like Moses be transformed and recognize how God impacts our daily lives and enable us to see, understand and believe these commandments are a blessing for us from God and fulfilled through Jesus Christ.  For Jesus was transfigured in order for His Glory to be revealed for all of mankind, especially all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

While at seminary one of the videos that was produced which told of the ministry of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary described the process of the formation of Pastors like a potter and clay.  When the clay was ‘flung’ on the wheel and began to be ‘turned’ each revolution transfigured the clay from a block of shapeless dirt into a unique item.  So to in Pastoral Ministry the preparation that took place at seminary was a transfiguration of individuals from being not only children of God to our being transfigured into God’s called instrument to a specific congregation.  This calling to a Pastor though unique to every congregation or ministry setting clearly is another way in which not only Pastor’s but congregations are uniquely transfigured by God with clear ministries and purposes in mind.

Our Old Testament text this morning is the transfiguration of Moses when he brought down the stone tablets of the 10 Commandments from Mt. Sinai.  Moses transfiguration unlike Jesus which we also celebrate today wasn’t of clothing or height nor of his gender, but simply the skin on Moses face shone brightly.  In our culture today we see advertisements and ads on television, the computer and in the newspaper claiming the ability to have ‘glowing skin’ or even crops like wheat, corn or sunflowers that will shine with the noon day sun and give a higher yield.  Well Moses, whose skin was clearly transfigured clearly shined when he descended from Mt. Sinai.  It wasn’t from any healthcare product, it was from something more profound and longer lasting.

Moses while he was on Mount Sinai encountered the presence of God.  It wasn’t in passing, Moses was in God’s presence to fulfill God’s purpose for his climbing the mountain.  There was a three-fold purpose.  First it was to have a personal encounter with God.  Moses, who as his name means, had been ‘drawn out of the water’ also whom God had called in the burning bush had something that not since Adam and Eve had anyone really had.  Moses had a special personal relationship with God. This relationship unlike the one from the Garden of Eden between Adam and God was one that had a purpose in mind, to model for us today what relationship with God can really be like.  Moses had to trust God and became a leader for the people of Israel.  Moses leadership was not easy, but leading the people through the wilderness because of their sin, Moses because of his special relationship modeled how God can still use us even today here in Goodland, KS.

Second, Moses went up to Mount Sinai to bring back down the 10 Commandments from God.  The 10 Commandments were God’s expectations of the people of God.  This was where God in clear and distinct form and function outlined for the people what they should do.  These same commandments we still have to this day and teach about them to our children, confirmation students and use them as a basis for our laws that we have in society.  Yet, Moses personally witnessed their creation, implementation and their application for the people of Israel.  The 10 Commandments for us today not only promise God’s interest, but especially His presence.  When we honor God by following the commandments, the relationship that God had with Moses can be ours as well.  We though sinful creatures conceived and born in sin, through one Man have the opportunity to have a personal relationship with God because of Jesus Christ fulfilling the 10 Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.

Finally, Moses ascending and descending Mount Sinai was to reveal to God’s people when we encounter God, we are transfigured as well.  Our transfiguration occurs because of and through our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  Just as we celebrated last week Jesus Baptism by John in the Jordan River and our Baptism by Water and Word, the simple act of water poured over our head intimately connected with God’s Word transforms and transfigures us into Children of God.

With our transfiguration we are no longer only sinners, we are transfigured into Children of our Heavenly Father and now have the ability to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s Only Son.  We are new creatures that enter into a deeper relationship with God and with the knowledge of our sin as measured by the 10 Commandments our sin is revealed to us in light of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Yet, this relationship transfigures and changes us and reveals to us an opportunity to be further transfigured by and through Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.  And we know we cannot keep the 10 Commandments perfectly, but Jesus Christ did and this is His gift offered to and for each and every one of us.

For through God’s gift of the Commandments through Moses bringing them down from Mount Sinai our relationship with God we have the opportunity to understand them and be transformed and transfigured into God’s children.  We are renewed with our partaking of Holy Communion and our relationship with Jesus Christ changes and transfigures us into a new creation.  This new creation is the result of Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection for all of mankind, but especially for all of us saints that are gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sermon 01132013 Epiphany 2 Baptism of Jesus

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!  Father, Son and Holy Spirit through the intimate connection of Water and Word, we have been baptized into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  Though our baptism pales in comparison to Jesus by John in the Jordan that we celebrate today, the promise made was foretold in the story of the Exodus of the people of Israel.  By God’s divine protection they walked through the waters on dry land protected by the Ark of the Covenant, in essence Your presence.  By our baptism we are now covered by our covenant relationship through Jesus Christ and made new creatures enabled to love, honor and serve as Christ serves and saves all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

As a child growing up we would watch cartoons as entertainment and enjoyment.  Some of the cartoons that we would watch included “Road Runner”, “Bugs Bunny”, “Daffy Duck” and “Yogi Bear”.  As you know some of these cartoons have had resurgence with feature length movies or on television re-runs, but some because of the perception of violence have been changed or adapted to be ‘less violent’ or more family or culturally friendly.  Do you remember some of the cartoons that would either have the character ‘walk on air’ or ‘walk on water’?  For kids this is a magical mystery that it seemed only could occur on the big screen, television or in stories that would peak the curiosity and imagination of anyone listening.  Yet as we grew older we’d try these feats of screen legend ourselves and the reality would set in that this was only either a ‘Hollywood’ thing or it was the stuff of legend and was not possible.  Sometimes this was after broken bones or our feeling of being invincible and ‘walking on water’ or ‘flying off the roof’ like Superman or Spiderman.
Enter our Old Testament lesson this morning.  Joshua in writing how the Lord would fulfill His promise to give Canaan as an inheritance to Israel is telling of the crossing of the Israelite people across the Jordan River.  In a similar vein as the comics the story that Joshua tells is of a people who ‘walk on water’ or better and more aptly said, walk without their feet getting wet.  You see Joshua clearly is not telling something of legend or absent of reality, but truly telling the story of the people Israel and the promise that will be fulfilled by their God.

This promise Joshua is telling about is a connection for us from last week where we heard the promise of the Messiah and the coming of the three wise men.  In this mornings lesson we hear the covenant promise of God being with His people in the Ark of the Covenant.  For Old Testament people God made His presence known with His being and dwelling with the Ark.  Entrusted to the Levitical priests the Ark contained the stones that Moses brought from God that had inscribed on them the Ten Commandments or Laws from God.  The Levitical priests were the ones who carried the Ark during the entire 40 year journey in the wilderness.  They were the same group of men who set up the dwelling place of God, offered the sacrifices and were ceremonially clean and the representative of the people to God.  This line of priests extended from Moses time to Zechariah, who was the Father of John the Baptist as well as to Jesus Christ, the great High Priest.

With the divine promise of God’s presence with the people of Israel, Joshua tells what will occur when the Levitical priests feet touch the Jordan River.  Joshua says, “It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap.”  In essence a miracle will occur of epic proportions.  Since usually at this time of year of harvest the banks were over flowing, God would stop the flow of water.  It would not be by word of a person, it would not be a sign from the sky, but simply by the soles of the feet of the priest touching the water, that this miracle would occur.

Clearly this is a miracle that isn’t of little consequence.  God during the Old Testament time was very active with His people.  With the miracle of walking across on dry land as fulfilled in the sight of the people and with the priests feet who carried the Ark of the Covenant God was sending a clear message for us today.  God not only fulfills His promise, He constantly looks out for us and keeps us safe on a daily basis.  This covenant promise we remember even today.

With our celebration today of Jesus Baptism this is a covenant God makes with each of us the day we were baptized.  When the Water intimately connected with the Word of God is poured over our heads this is a remembering of not only the water being stopped that we heard about from Joshua, but a connection with the flood waters of Noah, the promise of the rainbow and especially the covenant promise of the Messiah that we celebrated on Christmas and last week of the three wise men.  God clearly and consistently makes covenants with His people and with us today and we are not only recipients of the covenant, but partakers of the grace offered to and for us.  The grace is of what God gives to each and every one of us, not only His Son in the manger, but also His precious Body and Blood that we received last week, but also the covenant promise of life and salvation for all of mankind.

We clearly have received great promises from God and been recipients of the covenant promises that God made with His people.  May we not only remember the stories and promises of the Old Testament people, but understand through our Baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection, we have been given eternal life through the water of life that we remember in our baptismal covenant.  For God’s promises are clear, He came into this world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  This is the promise made for all of mankind and especially for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sermon 01062013 Epiphany

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 God, today we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men.  With their entrance on the twelfth day of Christmas their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to Mary and Joseph were the fulfillment of the prophecy of the gifts by the wise men to the Messiah through Isaiah.  May Jesus Christ Who comes in the flesh to and for each of us enable us to see not the gifts, but how Jesus Christ fulfilling the prophecy of the promises of God not only fulfills God’s Word, but especially the plan of salvation.  For God’s plan is clear to save us and Jesus birth begins the fulfillment of the plan of salvation for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Today is Epiphany, a Feast Day of the Church Year that celebrates the wise men visiting the Christ Child and the “First Family”.  Historically it is the culmination of the Christmas season and the celebration of the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world.  In some cultures this is a day where the children receive one last Christmas gift in their stockings.  Hence, the tradition of keeping up the Christmas tree and decorations, including stockings to receive that one last gift as if it were from the wise men coming from the East.  This is certainly unlike our current culture which removes every piece of tinsel the day after Christmas and fails to remember the real reason for the season and the complete fullness of the Holidays.

From our Old Testament lesson this morning, we hear clearly Isaiah prophesying of the coming of the long expected Messiah foretold of long ago.  Isaiah is clear, “Arise, shine; for your light has come”.  This world full of “darkness will cover the earth” and the sin that surrounds us daily from Adam and Eve through the journey into slavery in Egypt, being led by God’s chosen to freedom and now the prophecy of the Messiah is a new found freedom from bondage, and slavery of the heart soul and spirit even for us today.
It is clear from Isaiah that the prophecy of the Messiah is not the idle ramblings of a prophet that is out of touch with the world or out of touch with God.  For Isaiah says, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising”.  The world will see this ‘brightness’, they will ‘come’, they will in essence be changed by the ‘light’ that ‘has risen’.  This is the potential and abject reality of the coming Messiah.  This is the fulfillment of God’s promises through Isaiah the prophet to and for each of us today.

But why should promises of a prophet that lived 2700 years ago impact us today?  We just celebrated the New Year, we ended the Mayan Calendar, we avoided the Fiscal Cliff, why should the prophecy and promise of a Messiah born in the midst of darkness hold weight upon us?  Why should we here at Emmanuel in Goodland, KS have our lives altered or impacted by this prophet today on Epiphany 2013?

The reason is simple, but yet so profound.  This prophecy was not only written with only certain people in mind.  This prophecy from God was written for all people of all time and all place.  God in the wisdom beyond our knowledge and understanding through the prophet Isaiah is speaking to us today to remind us of the great mystery of the manifestation of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment we celebrated this past Christmas in the lowly manger and which today we remember with the coming of the three wise men.

Isaiah knows what our reaction should be, he says, “And your heart will thrill and rejoice”.  This is in reaction to the ‘light coming’, Jesus Christ being born in a manger and coming to begin the fulfillment of the plan of salvation.  Jesus Christ coming and laying in a manger because there was no room in the inn begins the road to Golgotha and His sacrifice on the Cross for you and for me.  For the promise being fulfilled in the birth of the Savior of the nations is clearly confirmed by the appearance of the three wise men and their gifts that Isaiah foretells.

For as Isaiah says, “They will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news of the praises of the Lord.”  Their gifts will enable Joseph and Mary to survive their pilgrimage to Egypt and return after the death of Herod, but more so the ‘good news’ that the wise men reveal fulfills yet again the prophecy of God through Isaiah for us today.  We not only receive the ‘good news of great joy’ we also celebrate the birth of the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s prophecy in the Old Testament and especially the promise of God revealed with Jesus birth in the manger and surrounded by the three wise men.  For God clearly fulfills this promise of Jesus Christ entrance into the world for all of mankind around the altar and table of our Lord this morning.  We receive Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood this morning for eternal life, the forgiveness of our sins, eternal life and salvation for all of mankind, but especially for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this Epiphany morning.  AMEN.

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