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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sermon 04282013 4th Sunday After Easter

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 of Heaven and earth, You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to set we captives free from our sin.  But we need You to now send Your Holy Spirit to make known our sins and remind us of Jesus righteousness won for us on the Cross of Calvary.  Enable us to embrace Your Holy Spirit and understand this is part of the needed plan of salvation and the Holy Spirit now makes You known to us daily and continuously reminds us of Your love for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

In one sense we are in no mans land this morning.  Just as we are between the seasons with Winter and the snow fall of this past week and Spring with the warm temperatures this weekend.  We are also in between two great festivals in the middle of the church year.  Easter has come and gone and Pentecost is on the horizon.  Just as if we are travelling to Colby, Hays or Manhattan on I-70 early in the morning and the sun is rising in the East, we are at a point in the church year that looks forward to the completion of the festival portion of the church year and the beginning of the season after Pentecost which is also known as the Season After Trinity.

But this morning our Gospel lesson speaks to us of what is needed in order to make known the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.  Just as when we travel we need to know where we are headed in order to get there as well as what roads and highways we will take, Jesus is telling the disciples what will occur and what the path is going to be for them and for us today.  In a nutshell this is Jesus message to His disciples and for us today.  “Jesus needs to go so the Holy Spirit could come and make known our sin and Jesus righteousness and to guide us in how to Glorify God.”  Let me repeat it a little bit slower so we can clearly understand the path that we will follow this morning.  “Jesus needs to go so the Holy Spirit could come and make known our sin and Jesus righteousness and to guide us in how to Glorify God.”

Jesus will have accomplished His mission and tasks of living among the people here on earth, healing them of their earthly maladies and going to the cross and dying for our sins.  Jesus has completed the plan of salvation.  Jesus has completed what He was supposed to do here on earth.  Just as those who have served in the military on a tour of duty or even those of us remember being at school and being called to the old chalk board and now the ‘dry erase board’ to complete a math problem or fill in a blank on a sentence, once the task was completed we return to our seat.  Jesus in the same way is to return to the Father in heaven after having completed the salvation of all of mankind.  Jesus actually needs to return to the Father in heaven.
Because if Jesus does not return, then the Third person of the Holy Trinity cannot come and complete His part in the plan of salvation.  If Jesus does not return to the Father, the Holy Spirit will not come.  The Holy Spirit has to come here among us.  If we think about the Apostle’s Creed that we will confess in a few minutes, the Father has the role as Creator, the Son has the role as Redeemer and the Holy Spirit has a role, the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier or the one that keeps us in the one true faith.

Simply the role of the Holy Spirit is three fold, the Holy Spirit is to make known our sin, point out Jesus Christ righteousness for all mankind and to guide us how to Glorify God.  Without the Holy Spirit we would be like a tractor without a farmer driving it down the road, like a basketball that sits at center court waiting to be bounced and even an organ that has a place of honor in a church without someone to play the music for the prelude, liturgy or hymns.  Without the Holy Spirit, the plan of salvation is incomplete for all of mankind after Jesus ascends into heaven.

We need the Holy Spirit to make our sins known.  This doesn’t sound good to our holier than thou ears, but we need to have the Holy Spirit reveal the parts of our lives that are the dirtiest, darkest and most detestable parts of us.  Those secrets that nobody knows about that we need not just reminded of them, but exposed.  Whether it is how we treated our spouse when nobody was looking or could see us, whether it is how we treat our kids when they have done something wrong, or how we sit back in the pew and expect the young people to do all the work of the church and just give the excuse that I have served my time.  The Holy Spirit comes after Jesus has ascended to convict us of our sins, root them out and remind us that we are not worthy, we are sinful creatures in thought, word and deed.

Once we embrace our sinfulness the Holy Spirit can then enable us to embrace the truth that Jesus Christ came into this world for each of us.  Jesus came to die for our sins, the ones we clearly remember and the ones we do not remember.  Jesus came in order to offer us forgiveness and the Holy Spirit’s job is to remind us of Jesus righteousness.  We cannot save ourselves.  If we believe that we can save ourselves, we mock God and therefore believe we do not need Jesus Christ and His innocent death on Calvary.  This is farthest from the truth.  We need Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection because we cannot purchase or buy our way out of any of our sins.  Our lives are full of sins and the Holy Spirit is called to not only point out our sins, but point us directly to our Savior and His righteousness for all of mankind.

When we understand Jesus righteousness for all of mankind and embrace His calling of and for us and how the Holy Spirit as Luther says, “calls, gathers and enlightens us”, we then can enter into a new relationship.  This relationship is meant for the Holy Spirit to guide us in how to glorify God.  When we glorify God it is not only attending Sunday services regularly, not using bad language, treating someone kindly face to face and even when they are not present, giving money to the projects and programs of the church or community.  It is living out the Gospel message in our daily lives in community with one another.  When we come to glorify God on Sunday the church is like a gas station.  We come to get filled up with the Word of God and sent to do the Work of God in community with one another.  The Holy Spirit calls us to use our gifts, talents, treasures and all that we have to give God the glory.  Whether it is helping someone cross the street, holding the door for someone when they have their hands full, reaching out with a hug of support when someone we know has received bad news or is in need of a hug.  We can glorify God everyday whether in church, school, on the tractor, in the place of business, on the phone, in Wal-Mart, driving along the interstate or even cutting their lawn or trimming their hedges or giving them a ride to school, work or even to church or visiting them when we get off of work.

So you see, “Jesus needed to go so the Holy Spirit could come and make known our sin and Jesus righteousness and to guide us in how to Glorify God.”  There was a purpose for Jesus and the Holy Spirit and now even for each of us gathered here this morning.  We are “called, gathered, enlightened, sanctified” and sent by the Holy Spirit into our community this morning to glorify God.  When we embrace this mission and ministry, God will bless not only the lives of the people we serve, but also our own lives and use each of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel for His ministry of the spread of the Gospel of Salvation for all of mankind, especially including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning to Glorify God.  AMEN.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Exponential 2013 Worldwide Conversation Information

#Exponential2013: A 140-Character Worldwide Conversation
For three days at various times, the #Exponential2013 hashtag trended at No. 1 and No. 2 on Twitter, generating interest from both faith-based and secular media. Hundreds of thousands of tweets were posted, capturing the insights of speakers, the experience of attendees, the connection of friendship, the practical takeaways. Below, we've gathered a small sampling of tweets. Over the coming weeks, we'll bring you a comprehensive collection of social media from #Exponential13:
Dave Ferguson
"As churches let's measure how many we're sending, not accumulating."
Craig Groeschel
"Being consumed by what people think of you is the fastest way to forget what God thinks of you."
Randy Frazee
"The family needs to be restored as the ultimate small group."  
Chris Hodges
"A man on his face can't fail from that position."
John Burke
"We have to intentionally equip people to follow Jesus and to multiply."
Jo Saxton
"Christ's discipleship was the result of an accessible life."
Jim Putman
"We have to get people out of worship services only and into relationships where they're discipled."
Greg Surratt
"It's hugely important that you regularly sit with a group of people who love you and aren't impressed with you."
Alan Hirsch
"We need to embody our truths in ways that make sense to people."

Discipleship Is... 

 "Disciples make disciples. Anything less is a cheap Gospel." 
--Jen Hatmaker, from the closing session of the Exponential 2013 Live Webcast

Venerable Voices on Discipleship
"Christian disciples are sent men and women--sent out in the same work of world evangelism to the which the Lord was sent." 
--Dr. Robert Coleman, during the Exponential 2013 Webcast 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Highlights for Exponential Day 1


The Exponential '13 Webcast kicked off yesterday with thousands of attendees throughout the world challenged by Francis Chan, Jim Putman, Ed Stetzer, Robert Coleman and more to define what a true disciple is and honestly ask themselves: "Am I a disciple? Am I making disciples?" If you weren't with us, below are some quote highlights from yesterday's Main Sessions 1, 2 and 3:  

Francis Chan:
"Discipleship is 'Follow my example as I follow Christ.'"

"I want to see people do more than simply raise their hand when they come to Christ. Where are the totally changed lives?"  

"When I rely on my flesh, I empty the cross of its power."  

"We have got to make disciples. Fun nights and pizza nights are not going to sustain us."

Jim Putman: 
"Being a disciple requires a process--moving from what I am to who He wants me to be--someone like Him."

"Jesus' mission is not to make converts, and it never has been. His mission is to make disciples."  

Dave Ferguson: "Attendance and dollars are not advancing the mission. We're starting all over with a new scorecard!"
Robert Coleman: "All the principles of discipleship can be learned in raising kids."  

Hugh Halter: "You can never make a disciple until you know their story." 
Ed Stetzer: "We have to assess: Are we making disciples along the way as we draw people to our churches?"

Lance Ford: "Being a disciple maker starts with inviting someone to walk with me as I follow Jesus."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sermon 04212013 3rd Sunday After Easter

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!  O God, our maker and redeemer, You have made us new creatures and enabled us to see and experience the resurrection of Your Son for all of mankind. Yet, some still question and doubt Your Words and the Witness of the scriptures.  Enable us to see not with fairy tale eyes, but with eyes of faith and be able to discern that this is not mystery or magic, but the clear manifestation of the salvation of all of mankind including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

With the bombings in Boston and the manhunt to find the perpetrators this last week uncertainty in our world is clearly and definitely manifest daily, whether in a major city like Boston during the running of the best known Marathon in the world or even in a small farming community like Goodland, KS.  We daily encounter uncertainty especially as we are exiting winter the slowest, coldest and dreariest part of the year.  When we look to the fields as we drive by we wonder if the winter wheat that in the Fall didn’t germinate will this Spring.  We ask God and ourselves, did we get enough moisture during the winter and will the corn that we plant whether dry land, irrigated circles or sunflowers will get hailed out, have a pest that our sprays can’t combat or a wind storm that lays everything down.  All of this is uncertainty manifest in our lives right now.  We wonder and worry about things that we do not have any control over.

Uncertainty is a daily occurrence for us today and even for the disciples of Jesus day.  It is a daily battle everybody faces.  Consider if you will our passage this morning is from before Jesus was betrayed, crucified, died, buried and resurrected from the dead.  For Jesus to know the future and speak directly to the uncertainty of what would occur should be a comfort for us today.  Jesus knew what He would encounter, knew what He would endure and knew that we would hear about it today with the uncertainty of our spring and summer crops.  But why should we not be uncomfortable, but comfortable with uncertainty?
Mark Batterson in his book, “In A Pit With A Lion On a Snowy Day” speaks clearly about uncertainty and how we could relate to it today.  He says:

p. 89 – “[We should] Embrace relational uncertainty.  It is called romance.  [We should] Embrace spiritual uncertainty.  It is called mystery.  [We should] Embrace occupational uncertainty.  It is called destiny.  [We should] Embrace emotional uncertainty. It is called joy.  [We should] Embrace intellectual uncertainty.  It is called revelation.”

Uncertainty is not our enemy, but our opportunity.  With Jesus disciples from our text the uncertainty of what would occur led them through three distinct stages and reactions that our text delineates.  The disciples questioned, they grieved and they rejoiced.  Each of these three stages are natural and we do them as well.
When the disciples heard Jesus words, “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”  The disciples were just like the kids with a magic trick, always trying to figure out what and how the trick occurred.  The disciple like all of us begin with a list of questions trying to figure out what it means or how it was done.  We cannot let the ‘magic trick’ have any mystery or uncertainty.  Hence the disciples asked questions of Jesus both to clarify what He meant and for it to make more sense for them in their present circumstances.

But Jesus knowing their questions will not be fully answered until they experience and in this case ‘lose’ Him tells them what their next stage will be.  He said, “you [that is the disciples] will weep and lament…you will grieve” because you have lost that which you knew, that is me, Jesus Christ in the flesh.  Just as a family grieves for a family member that loses the battle with cancer or any disease that takes them from them, or a family loses all their possessions in a house fire, or a farmer loses all the wheat that was ready to be harvested because of a freak thunderstorm, tornado or wind storm.  Or a husband or wife experiences the sudden loss of a job, a friend or family member moving because there is no more work in the community or their parents employer is transferring them, when we lose something that has become a part of our genetic makeup we lose a part of ourselves.  We grieve in the deepest way because what we have lost we felt was almost an extension of ourselves.  It was so tangible because of our experiences that nothing will be able to fill the gap that was left.

Jesus knew His disciples would experience this in the most horrific way when they saw Jesus crucified on the Cross.  When Jesus endured the pain and torture of the whips, the spitting of the guards and the despising by the crowds, Jesus knew the disciples would turn and run and then grieve after the fact that they didn’t do anything to prevent it, make His pain less bearable or intercede on His behalf.  Yet the reality is that there was nothing that anybody could do.  Jesus Christ had to suffer the pain, torture and turning of His disciples and even His own Father in order to pay for our sins.

For in Jesus experiencing this, His suffering and death yielded the greatest gift given to mankind, our salvation through His resurrection on the third day.  Because of His fulfilling the plan of salvation our questions turned into grief would be transformed into our rejoicing after His resurrection.  It was through Jesus Christ resurrection that the disciples “grief will be turned into joy.”  The question to understand transformed into grief then into rejoicing, because the plan of salvation from the beginning of time was for Jesus to pay the ultimate price.  Thus, just as Jesus reminds His disciple, even women who have experienced labor do not remember the pain, we just as well do not remember the questions or grief, but only the rejoicing of the salvation of mankind.

We are set free and no longer bound in uncertainty, but set free by the Cross of Christ and His innocent blood on Calvary for all of mankind.  We rejoice because of the grief that Jesus experienced and do not remember that which occurred, but only why it occurred, because of Jesus Christ great love for all of mankind.  This gift of salvation offered to and for each of us is the greatest gift that we could have.  This is God’s gift through His Son Jesus Christ offered for all of mankind.  We are recipients of God’s gift of salvation, nothing else on this earth should matter.  For this gift and transformation that allows us to embrace uncertainty and transforms us from questioning to grieving to rejoicing is God’s gift for all of mankind, including all of us saints that are gathered here at Emmanuel this morning through salvation that  Jesus Christ offers to and for each and every one of us.  AMEN.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Catalyst Leader - The Book

This is one of the questions asked of Brad Lomenick who wrote the "The Catalyst Leader" book:

Interview Questions for, “The Catalyst Leader.”
1.      What is the Catalyst Leader about? The Catalyst Leader lays out the eight essentials for becoming a change maker. The traits that I believe one must develop in order to become a change maker, and ultimately a Catalyst Leader. I hope this book will provide practical leadership answers for a new generation of aspiring leaders who are looking for answers and solutions, and not just leadership theory. It’s a practical guide for leading now, and leading well, serving as a leadership handbook for the next generation of leaders in our country. The book presents the key essentials that I believe will define our generation’s ability to influence over the next 20-25 years, laying out what it means to be a Catalyst in this generation. The Catalyst Leader is packed with a combination of candid interviews with thought leaders, research with the core leadership community, and overall leadership best practices. A rising generation of leaders need to be equipped for the task of leadership.

Check the book out here:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sermon 04142013 2nd Sunday After Easter

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!  O God, it was through Your Son’s humiliation on the Cross of Calvary that our world was lifted from sin to salvation and You rescued us from sin, death and the devil.  Grant to us clear understanding of the joy found in Your Son Jesus Christ Who is our Good Shepherd Who guards, protects and cares for us sheep in His fold known as the church.  Enable us to know You, hear Your voice and embrace Your will for our lives, for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

When we hear the 23rd Psalm from this morning, we are comforted by the words, the images it creates in our minds and especially the promises that God makes to each of us.  Clearly the poetic nature of King David writing this Psalm was derived from his experience in his life.  In the recent History Channel television series entitled, “The Bible” they used this Psalm when David was facing Goliath and the Philistines.  Yet, what is more important for us today is not the text itself, but the concept of relationship.

Each of the texts we have heard read this morning talk about a shepherd.  Whether it is their job description or how the shepherd feels about the sheep from Ezekiel, the promises that God makes in the Psalm of leading, protecting, providing and showing mercy or from the epistle how we are like sheep that have gone astray from 1st Peter, or our Gospel that spells out to what degree the shepherd will go to protect and provide and how the hired hand will flee.  These texts deal with relationship between shepherd and sheep and apply to and for each of us today, not only with our personal family but also with our relationship with the church, but specifically our relationship with Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd.

If our relationship with Jesus Christ is dead, decaying, deceiving or destitute than our lives will likely be the same.  Just as when farming if the soil is not tilled between crops, nourished with fertilizer before planting, cared for during the growing season by spraying for weeds or kept from to much traffic by the tractors or combines during harvest, the yield for the crop in the future will be diminished.  Our relationship with Jesus Christ is the determiner not only of our destination of heaven or hell, but also our lives that we live on a daily basis.  When we have a good relationship with Jesus Christ as is manifest with daily prayer, scripture reading and conversations with God, our attitude and outcome of what we do will show it.  When our relationship is nearly dead, we do not have conversations, but dictations with God of ‘I want more rain’ or ‘the moisture was not enough’, our lives and especially our attitudes will be clearly disconnected from the church and God.  And our relationship with not only God Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be unhealthy, but not be what God wants it to be.  Therefore the fruit of spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ for those who are still in the valley of the shadow of death will be elusive, just as a good crop is with little or no preparation and our lack of faith in God.

God is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him.  This relationship is not about us and our selfish desires or our perceived need for rain, healthy crops or kids that mind us, it is about God and His blessing.  Last week we heard how God blesses us through our relationship with Him through Word and Sacrament of both Holy Baptism and Holy Communion and how on Easter we could answer the question, ‘So What’ about the resurrection.  But today we need to understand God is calling us to a deeper relationship, not only with each other, but especially with Him as our shepherd.

As a Pastor, I get calls or visits to help people.  Most people who walk through my door or give me a call think the problem is with either the other person, or they don’t have the needed information in order to succeed, whether it is marriage, work, family or their own feelings.  There are even some people who sit in the pew today and are too afraid to ask for help, because, either they are a man and they can’t show or admit weakness or lack of knowledge whether dealing with family, spouse, work or even their relationship with God.  Or to ask for help is the long held belief that there is supposedly a stigma for admitting that they are human and that they are broken and they need help.  But what I find after talking with most people is that the largest number of people who come need help with relationship.  Whether the relationship is between husband and wife, parents and children, between members of the body of Christ or even between relatives, siblings or classmates, they feel a personal disconnect or a discontent within themselves and with the person or the situation and know there is something that is askew. 

What is vastly true and unmistakable is that we live in a broken world where relationships have been broken from the entrance of sin in the Garden of Eden through the Exodus from Egypt into the promised land, to the coming Messiah and even with His disciples after His death and resurrection as well to us today.  Our world is broken and cannot be fixed by ‘self-help books’, seminars or the latest greatest self-actualization or new age exercise from the internet, television or talk show hosts, like Dr. Phil or The View.  These shows and hosts are entertaining and sometimes do have a nugget of worth, but they still miss the intrinsic aspect of relationship that is in our DNA.  It is the relationship between Creator and created, our relationship between God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we His creation that live in this world.

If we really want to change, we have to go to the source that can change our relationship, and that is Jesus Christ.  Two weeks ago we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and how our relationship with God through Jesus Christ was no longer only of the Son of God here on earth walking among the people of God, teaching, healing or helping.  With Jesus Christ death on Calvary, the relationship radically changed to one of pure dependence upon that one act of humility, grace and love that Jesus displayed by allowing Himself to go to the Cross.  When Jesus bowed His head the veil of the temple was torn, the connection between God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ to us was cemented and no longer nor was it ever that we could win our salvation, bridge the gap nor connect ourselves, Jesus Christ became the connection for us.  Jesus bridged the gap between God and Man for all time and all place.

With our being baptized into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection, God the Son, changed our relationship with His Father and Him and thus with all of humanity for all time and all place.  Our daily lives filled with sin, bound to death and only self-centered could now be confessed, forgiven because of the blood of the Lamb of God and radically changed our trajectory.  No longer are we bound by our sin to death, but through the Blood of Jesus Christ offered on the Cross we are set free to have a loving forgiving relationship with the Great Shepherd and with all of God’s Children.

Because of God’s action on the Cross of Calvary our relationship can now be one of love, forgiveness and freedom not bound in sin, but freed by the Blood of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.  This freedom is why our shepherd Jesus Christ entered into the world and why He now sets us free to have a full and complete relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but also with our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  Our relationship is not bound by sin, but freed by Blood.  We now can hear and heed God’s call for a new relationship with Him, but also with and for all of mankind, but especially for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sermon 04072013 1st Sunday After Easter

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!  Almighty God, we have joined in celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Graciously enter into our hearts and embolden us to show the power of the resurrection for all of those who have not seen and enable them to believe on Your Word spoken through we Your servants.  For Jesus life, death and resurrection was for all mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

With the onset of spring in the air when you drive by Central, West or Grant schools one of the clear activities is the kids being outside playing either basketball, kick ball, soccer or some sport that requires some physical prowess and ability.  All of us probably remember picking teams for these match ups and experiencing for some the joy of being picked first because either you were good at the sport or your best friend was the captain and they wanted you to be on their team.  As the ranks of the chosen whittled down, those who were left were clearly the minority and possibly at the lower end of the talent pool.  I know I was almost always chosen last even after the girls, because all though I had enthusiasm, I wasn’t very good at sports.  But I had bred into me the competitive spirit to win, Simon saw this last summer when we were at Confirmation Camp in 4 Square, I hated to loose.  Although I was chosen last early in life, it did free me up with the other players so when I was lucky enough to make a surprising catch or play, it would bolster my confidence and strangely enough makes me understand a little clearer this morning what Thomas the disciple felt after Jesus resurrection.

From our Gospel this morning we have heard the story that all of us know so well of doubting Thomas.  This story is told about a disciple who in one sense was ‘last’ to see and experience the resurrected Jesus Christ.  Thomas known clearly for this story of his doubting is heralded as one who does inform us about what it is like to be in the minority, but also how Thomas plays an important role in discipleship for us who gather today.

You see, Thomas was one of the twelve disciples, chosen by Jesus Christ to not only escort Him on His ministry for the three years that led up to the crucifixion and resurrection, but also be mentored along the journey by Jesus.  Thomas wasn’t one of the ‘inner circle’ of disciples, the ‘close friends’ like the kids that would be chosen first in the sporting events.  Thomas was different, he was clearly known for his pessimism.  He is also best known for his doubting of Jesus resurrection, but strangely enough Thomas doubting in one sense not only puts him as a minority for the disciples at the end of the day of resurrection, but for us today could be seen as a role model for our society and our world. 

Thomas is the poster child for our world that needs the tangible results of ‘proof’ for whatever is going on, whether it is the papers for the farm loan or note, the proof of our support of the latest school bond issue or the proof of our attendance at worship here at church.  We seek proof for everything.

Yet, Thomas was not only known for his ‘doubting’, he is also known for his faith.  This is the part of the story that we tend to forget.  Yes, Thomas said, “Unless I see in His [that is Jesus] hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  We are no different than Thomas as well.  Until someone proves their worth, their commitment, their length of service or their longevity we will not see them as equals.  Even here in the church we take it one step further.  We doubt and deny fellowship or welcome to people who were not raised in this congregation, look different or dress different than we do or even do not have the lineage in this congregation, community or even the Lutheran faith.  We like Thomas deny those sitting in the pew beside, in front or behind us the belief that they are included in the body of Christ here at Emmanuel.

This is what Thomas experienced from his fellow disciples the evening after the resurrection.  They that is the disciples had seen Jesus resurrected from the dead, but Thomas, doubter that he was known by was probably ‘outcast’ from his friends pushed to the side or the outskirts of the group and made to feel less special, like we sometimes do here at Emmanuel and in society by being separate whether by family group or by our own little ‘clicks’.  Thomas was in a minority of one, who had not seen and had not yet believed.

But then it happened.  Jesus Christ appeared to His disciples and Thomas was with them.  It doesn’t say he was sitting in the corner, but clearly Thomas probably was seen by the other disciples in a different light.  But Jesus immediately after offering “Peace be with you” says clearly and directly to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side…”  Jesus calls for Thomas to be on His believing team by calling for him to see, touch and encounter the risen Savior.  Jesus wants Thomas to be included in the great activities that are to come.  Jesus tells Thomas not in command but in personal calling, “Thomas….do not be unbelieving, but believing.

This message to Thomas is the same message spoken to us today.  It is a message of love and forgiveness that we are called to share with all of mankind.  We are called to reach out to each other here at Emmanuel and in Goodland and the world and embrace one another even if we are from different sides of the tracks, different economic strata and even different faith backgrounds or families.  God is calling us to put aside our petty differences, forgive one another if we have been hurt, or our family has been hurt and not only share the forgiveness of sins, but believe and put into action the forgiveness of sins for each and every one of us.  If we cannot forgive, if we cannot love as Christ call us to, if we cannot let love rule our hearts and not our lust for power, prestige or perfection as we see it, then we spit upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our model is Jesus Christ Who called Thomas out of his ‘doubt’ and called Thomas to believe in His resurrection for all of mankind and be welcoming.  We are the body of Christ and we should be unified with the faith and belief in Jesus Christ Who rose from the dead for you and for me.  This is our mantra, not exclusive of people who just joined Emmanuel or were just baptized or didn’t grow up here, but inclusive, because Jesus Christ models this with Thomas and for each and every one of us today.

And what does Thomas say after seeing, feeling and encountering Jesus Christ, Thomas makes the boldest declaration of faith recorded after Jesus resurrection.  He says, “My Lord and my God!”  Thomas hadn’t drunk the kool-aid, he hadn’t been brain washed, but clearly encountered Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.  But Jesus says what we need to hear, understand, remember and cherish today, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?”  Now what we need to hear, grab ahold to and share with those who have not encountered Jesus Christ like Thomas is the following, “Blessed are they [that is us] who did not see, and yet believed.

This morning we are the ones who are blessed.  We are the ones who have the opportunity to not only receive the blessing of Jesus Christ in receipt of His precious Body and Blood, we are also witnesses of God reaching into our lives in a very special and personal way.  This morning we have had this opportunity with the baptism of Keri Snethen, but also in a few minutes four young ladies will for the first time receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the first time. 

These four young women will be blessed as Jesus says because they ‘did not see, and yet believed.’  They with eyes of faith given to them in their baptism will receive the greatest mystery of faith that gives us eternal life.  In, with and under the bread and wine, they will see the resurrected Jesus Christ with the eyes of faith given at baptism and they will be blessed.  These are the promises God makes to all of us when we hear and head the words, “Given and Shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  This is the great mystery that we partake of with our receipt of Jesus Body and Blood.  This is where we are no longer in the minority of people, but chosen for the believing team of Jesus Christ to spread the Gospel message of salvation for all of mankind.  This includes all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel celebrating the baptism of Keri, but also Olivia, Destiny, Bekah and Keri receiving Jesus Christ true Body and Blood for the first time, with all of the saints of all time and all place, including all of us here at Emmanuel this morning in the Lord’s Supper.  AMEN.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

04032013 Funeral Sermon for Ila Dale Smith Zeigler

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, we come together today mourning the loss of Ila on Good Friday,  but reassured of the empty tomb we celebrated Easter morning because of the promises You made to her and each of us in our baptism.  We are assured of the promise of life and salvation given to Ila and now fulfilled with her entrance into the Church Triumphant.  For today Ila has the resurrected perfect body that no longer has cancer, neither pains nor ills and now rests with You in Your loving arms.  Though the veil of death separates us today from Ila, may we be comforted by Your Gospel and hear clearly the promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of salvation offered through Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection for all of mankind, but especially the saints of Ila’s family and all the saints gathered here at Emmanuel to say goodbye.  AMEN.

Here in Goodland there is a tradition that Michele, Sarah and I enjoyed since our arrival.  It is the Cancer Society walk that occurs on the high school track.  When we went, Sarah was so desperate to be involved that when the Cancer survivors, including Ila, walked or rode the first lap as an encouragement and remembrance of those who have battled with this disease and for those who had lost the battle with this dreaded disease, we had to hold on to her and keep her separated from the group in honor and respect for those walking.  Ila was one of those being honored who had battled cancer many years and her dedication and determination were an inspiration for all who witnessed and knew her history and story.  But Sarah didn’t understand the history nor story so keeping her separate and away from those being honored was a challenge, because of her determination and drive.  In a similar way our Epistle lesson for this morning asks a question about being our being ‘separate’ that God has an answer for us today.

Paul’s question that he is speaking to the Romans states, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”  For the faint of heart or someone who does not have any faith, this question could easily make us question God and His love and commitment to us His children.  As we gather here this morning to say goodbye to Ila, we might question God as well.  But the truth of the matter is that we cannot be separated from God, but we do have someone who is against us and it is Satan.  Satan at every turn reminds us of our sins and that we were conceived in sin and attempts to strip us away from God and the faith.  Whenever the cares of life like “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword”, hunger and sickness smash into our lives, Satan is right there trying to get us to question God and fall victim to our sins, both the ones we remember and the ones that we cannot remember.  I know in Ila’s life with her nearly forty year battle with cancer, she daily fought the battle against Satan and the unmerited and undeserved manifestation of all human sin with cancer in her body, but God had given her a gift that made her life and her battle against sin and cancer not a struggle, but a constant reminder of the promises of God.

You see it was through Ila’s baptism in February 1962 that she was given not only the greatest gift of salvation, but Ila was given the answer that buckles Satans knees and set Ila free from sin, death and the devil this past Good Friday.  On the day of her baptism, Ila clearly understood Paul’s response inspired by God that buckles Satan’s knees.  Paul answered our initial question of separation with, “God is the one who justifies” or keeps us from being separated from Him and has now set Ila to be free with her heavenly Father in heaven.  For Paul further says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  This firm conviction we can be comforted with today.

For it is in the promise of life and salvation that God offers us the assurance of Ila’s presence for eternity with Him in His kingdom and through her baptism which knocks the wind out of Satan and his attacks and clearly with the our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection sets us free.  Yes, we lost Ila to this earthly life on Good Friday, the same day we mourned Jesus Christ earthly death on Calvary, but on Easter Sunday we came to the tomb and found it empty of Jesus.  We did not find His body, because Jesus Christ rose from the grave.  In His rising Jesus Christ offers Ila and all of us who gather here life as well.  For in our baptism God promises our being with Him in His kingdom.  Just as Ila is now with Him in His kingdom for all eternity waiting for all of us to be called home and set free.

When I would visit with Ila in her home since my arrival here at Emmanuel, I felt my calling was to visit and provide comfort and assurance during her daily struggles through sharing both the Word of God and the Sacraments.  But what is ironic is that I would leave, not having ministered to her, but being blown away by the model of her faith and life and how in this gift of faith given to her by God she ministered to me.  Though she daily experienced the pains of the disease, Ila’s faith in God was rock solid and modeled for everyone who knew her the strength of God that clearly connected her faith, with her life and clearly pointed to the answer that Paul gave the Romans.  “God is the One Who justifies.”  And that justification was and is found in Jesus Christ Who lived on this earth, walked among the Jewish people, healed the sick, bound up the broken hearted and suffered on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind and ultimately died, but was raised on the third day.  Jesus Christ the cornerstone of our faith, the faith which Ila was baptized into and which we celebrate today in her life as a child of God.  This is the faith that clearly was modeled and articulated in Ila’s life and was the ultimate gift given to her and now fulfilled with her entrance into eternal glory.

May we who gather here this morning also share this gift of faith with one another, and clearly hear God’s calling us through His Word and promises where He makes us His own through our baptism into His Son Jesus Christ, life, death and especially His resurrection.  For the answer and the promise Ila found through Jesus Christ is offered for all of us who gather here to say goodbye.  The answer is clear, Jesus Christ died for Ila, for all of us and nothing can separate us from the love of God found in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  For the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is offered to all of mankind, but especially for all of the saints of Ila’s family and friends 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 Ila and each one of us!  AMEN! 
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