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Sunday, June 23, 2013

06232013 4th 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!  Merciful Father, in Your Word You call us to look at one another not with derision and thus not judge so we will not be judged.  Enable us to understand this is not only about capital punishment, but more so about our human condition that we live with and in daily.  For in the Garden of Eden, God created us in His image, enable us to understand we should look with the eyes of faith and forgiveness that You do with each and every one of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

This week three of our confirmation students have just returned from a week at Sky Ranch.  Needless to say this was a life changing event from Thomas Mass Worship, the High Ropes experience in the meadow, Sondance Worship by the creek, hiking to the B-17 crash site, to the Meadows or the Reservoir to seeing the amazing wild-life like deer, bear, moose, marmots or hummingbirds that were not afraid to come and get a drink.  All of these experiences each of the kids will be able to enjoy as a memory for the rest of their lives.  One of the neatest experiences that every camper enjoyed was the low ropes course.  This experience had as its sole purpose to build the small cabin group into a team and community that could trust one another.

Each task, whether passing one another while balancing on 10 inch cement pavers without falling, to how to get from one side of posts to the other, or through the spider web by stepping in blocks in sequence was a part of trusting each other, not only their physical well-being, but also their being blindfolded and trusting like we are to trust God daily.  As a team, this exercise was meant for them to finally experience what community and trust in community was like with their own peers.  Ironically this is something that we as their home faith community have the opportunity to model for them on a daily and weekly basis here at Emmanuel.

Yet, this modeling of the faith community is not easy.  Jesus in this passage told this parable for a definite meaning and reason.  If you had to boil the parable down to a question, I believe it would be this, “Is it a speck or a log?”  This question is important for us today, because in order to answer it we need to know ourselves.  Clearly we are unafraid to answer the question for everyone that we see.  We can look across the aisle, across the pew even across the bed and see our brothers and sisters in Christ and be able to pick at them and tell where they have ‘fallen short of the glory of God’.  On the low ropes course this was easy to do when someone caused the whole group to ‘begin the exercise again’.  It even happens today whether it is with farming practices that we don’t agree with, how someone is raising their child, or even how we treat one another in of all places here in the church.

Yet the reality is we need to know ourselves better and know our own faults, challenges and preconceptions and expectations before we look to the other person.  Jesus is speaking directly to this.  Hear again His admonition, “41 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”  This occurs whether we look at the community, the church or even at me as your Pastor.

We are all guilty of this reality, but we are also guilty of not wanting to change, because we have become comfortable with the ‘speck or log’ and ‘change’ for Lutherans is hard.  But the reality is that Jesus Christ calls us to this change.  Jesus says, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”  Jesus wants us to understand that we need to see ourselves and our sins, our short comings and our own problems that have become patterns and remove them.  However, there are some ‘specks and logs’ that cannot be removed.  They are permanent, whether they are experiences we have had of the loss of a child, spouse or loved one, the pain of substance abuse, whether it is alcohol, illegal drugs or even prescription medications or even power that we lay claim to over our peers or contemporaries, or even work-a-holics when we claim our job or the farm means more than our family.  This is a part of our reality today, this is the ‘speck and log’ that binds us up and causes us to seek our own self-well being rather than the glory of God.

And this is exactly what Jesus is speaking to today for us to reorient ourselves to the Glory of God.  Jesus Christ is the only way by which we can be set free.  Without Jesus Christ we cannot be set free from the sins of the world.  We weekly confess our sins, but weekly we return to them both by choice and by our own humanity.  But Jesus Christ wants us to change and to let our sins be removed from us and offers us clearly, freely and without fail the forgiveness of sins that binds us.

While at camp one of the first worships we had called Sondance, which was down creek side offered an opportunity for the forgiveness of sins.  This opportunity was unlike any other but ties directly with our lesson this morning.  When we came to the part in the service of Confession and Forgiveness we were offered the opportunity to ‘remove the speck or log’ that was in our own eyes.  On the ground in front of everyone were wood chips that were to cushion our walking the paths at Sky Ranch as well to minimize the impact upon the environment.  Our worship leader invited us to pick up a stick, log or chip that was representative of our sins that we have carried for our entire lives.  And to proceed to the creek and toss it into the water.  This clear letting go of our sins and them being taken away by the current of the stream was to remind us of our baptism with the Water and Word.  We were set free from our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.  No longer were we bound by the sins, but the ‘log and speck’ of sin was removed.

Today we have had the same opportunity. God through what His Son Jesus Christ has done has set us free from the sins, actions and reactions that have bound us.  Today we can choose to recreate our relationship, not only with our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether our spouse, our children, our fellow heirs of eternal life here in the church, but also with the entire world.  Today we are reminded that Jesus Christ sets us free to trust one another, not seeing the ‘speck or log’, but seeing with the eyes of faith given to us in our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  May we lay claim to this free gift given to us by Jesus Christ and let the reminder of our baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enable us to embrace each other as fellow heirs of eternal life.  For this happens, not because of us, but in spite of our actions through the free love offered by Jesus Christ for all of mankind, including all of us saints who still have ‘specks or logs’ in our own eyes.  AMEN.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

06162013 3rd Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray!  Heavenly redeemer of the World, You clearly had a purpose for the story You told of the one lost sheep and the widow with the coin being lost and found.  Enable us to hear, heed and understand the purpose for the Pharisee’s and Scribes was to rebuke them, and us to reorient our perspective to one of the “Kingdom of God”, not of “its my church”.  For this house of worship was built for Your Glory not ours, for Your praise, not ours, in order that Your message of salvation may be proclaimed to the entire world, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

While Michele and Sarah are away technology has been wonderful.  Back in the day a lot of us remember that phone calls were a rare and most of the time a very special thing.  Whether it was the party line that was strung from house to house, then the transition to having your own three and sometimes four digit number, to today where nearly everyone has a cell phone and we don’t know what we would do without it and panic when we loose it or run it through the washing machine.  From not being able to make a phone call across the country or world to using the internet to see the faces of our family and friends and hear their voices and reconnect in a pretty amazing and awesome way, we have experienced a radical change in our way of thinking and living.

So during Michele’s visit with her sister and brother in Rocky Mount, she was at one of their houses and we were using the technology of Skype to see and talk.  As you might guess I really miss them.  While talking I heard Michele say that she had her ears attuned to if one of the dogs was growling, because Sarah is still at the age and not having the experience to understand that sometimes Dogs ‘growl’ when they don’t like what is being done.

This experience reminds me of this morning’s Gospel with Jesus and His hearing the Pharisee’s and Scribes and how they ‘grumbled’ or ‘growled’ at what Jesus was doing.  Luke writes, “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Jesus knew what was in their collective hearts not only because He was the Son of God, but Jesus knew each of those men who looked at Him with disdain, because He helped create them in the womb.  But for us today Luke records Jesus story which really was meant to hit the Pharisee’s and Scribes right between the eyes as well as for us to understand He knows us and our hearts as well.  You see the Pharisee’s and Scribes were not the only target, Jesus is speaking to us today about our response, whether it is the politics of the country, the change in the electrical rates here in town, but more importantly how we react to what happens here at church and how we individually react.

So I ask you this question today.  Do you grumble or rejoice?  All of us here today probably clearly want to say, “I rejoice”!  But the reality is that we don’t always rejoice.  When we don’t get our way we grumble just like the Pharisee’s and Scribes.  When we don’t get our way we talk to our friends who sympathize with us, convince ourselves that we or our little group has been wronged.  This even includes when events or situations occur in the church.  We make a mountain out of a mole hill.

But today in this passage Jesus is trying to get us to look not with the selfish self-centered eyes of this world, but with the eyes of a child.  A child that has been baptized into His life, death and resurrection, in essence, a child of God.  For when we look with the eyes of this world we look for and from selfish motivation.  We look at every action as a motivation, rather than as an opportunity.  Our society looks and lives with the old motto of ‘what’s in it for me?’  If I or we give or do something for someone, they ‘owe me’.  When I or we do something we expect something in return.  But this is born out of selfish motivation and destroys the intent of Jesus message of the Gospel of salvation that He is using this parable to better explain and help others better understand the difference between ‘grumbling’ and ‘rejoicing’.

For instance if we were to radically change our perception and look at how the church gives in every facet of our ministry, we would change what holds us back and what can free us up to move mountains with the eyes of faith.  If we looked at everything as a gift to and for the people of God when we spend money whether on improvements to the church structure, investment in the organ that needs repaired, buying bibles or confirmation books for the kids, even the expenses that we have line items for in our budget, God with our change of mind set will enable us to make a difference in each other’s lives as well as the lives of the people here in Goodland that we are giving gifts to whether it is just time or even something very tangible.

When we look at how we spend money as gift givers rather than controllers and living in fear, we change and challenge the current play field we find ourselves in today.  With the current economic and farming situation we face today of a minimal to non-existent wheat crop, praying for rain because of the corn we planted in faith, having to sell our cattle that is part of our family business because there is not enough grass for them this summer, to having to have our houses or land taken from us because we can’t make the mortgage or pay the note to the bank.  We face a crisis.  Even here in the church we face the result of the crisis of spending more money than we take in our offering.  This is a matter of operation in a feast or famine mentality.  Jesus saw the Pharisee’s and Scribes who clearly operated in famine mode, because their existence they had been trained in, experienced and believed in was being set on its ear with Jesus teaching this parable.  And Jesus purposefully was changing the playing field and begs our question, ‘do you grumble or rejoice’?

Today we are no different.  We can, either grumble and operate as the Pharisee’s and Scribes and be misers and stewards that keep looking back to the past and what was in the past OR we can instead hand everything to God to trust Him with everything we have since it is His in the first place and rejoice that Jesus Christ came into this World and be empowered to give God everything we have as the gifts that they have been to us in the first place.

Today we not only stand at an opportunity to choose whether we ‘grumble’ or ‘rejoice’, we also remember God’s greatest gift that we find in His Sacrament, but also in our celebration and remembrance of Father’s on Father’s Day.  The reason this is so poignant is that this past week I was looking at pictures from when Sarah was born.  With another of the technological features of having camera’s that don’t require film I was able to re live her birth and the range of emotions that I had on that faithful day in 2009.

What strikes me today and connects clearly with this lesson is the first time that I was able to hold Sarah on the night of her birth.  The day had been full of emotions, from being left behind in the delivery room for 30 minutes after Michele was whisked to the operating room.  To not being told whether either Michele or Sarah were alive and having the only thing that I could do was to pray.  To hurriedly being taken to the operating room and hearing Sarah cry for the first time and finally seeing Sarah and Michele together.

As I held Sarah for the first time that night, I knew my life would forever change.  Unlike the Scribes and Pharisee’s I couldn’t and wouldn’t grumble.  I choose to rejoice and thank God for the gift of life that He had given Michele and I in Sarah Grace Hybl.  I was now a Father to the greatest gift God had given me.  
Today we have the same opportunity we can either be a Scribe or Pharisee and grumble or we can be God’s Child and trust our Father in Heaven with the gifts He first gave us and give them away to all the saints not only of this congregation, but of all Goodland and the entire world and rejoice over finding and bringing home the one lost sheep.  The choice is ours.  What are you going to do, ‘grumble’ or ‘rejoice’?  AMEN.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

For All Fathers Everywhere

A Message from the kids for Dad!!

This is where my Father succeeded!!!  Thanks Dad!
Love you!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Needed Today

1 Fret not yourself because of evil- | doers;*
be not envious of wrong- | doers!
2 For they will soon fade | like the grass*
and wither like the | green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, | and do good;*
dwell in the land
and befriend | faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself | in the Lord,*
and he will give you the
desires | of your heart.
5 Commit your way | to the Lord;*
trust in him, and | he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness | as the light,*
and your justice as the | noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait
patiently | for him;*
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man
who carries out evil de- | vices!

—Psalm 37:1-7

Sunday, June 9, 2013

06092013 2nd 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!  Merciful Father, You continuously invite us to weekly worship in Your house where You prepare not only a feast of Your Word, but also Your Sacraments that give us life and salvation.  Yet, we sometimes place our priorities not on You, but on ourselves.  Enable us to confess our shortcomings and rely solely upon Your grace offered through Jesus Christ death on Calvary for all of mankind, including all of us Saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

One of the most dreaded days back east when in school was when it would rain and we could not go out and play at recess.  We would spend the time in the gym and one of the favorite games of coaches was ‘dodgeball’.  The game was easy as was shown in the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, but as someone that was slow with reflexes I was always one of the first people out, I was an easy target.
In our Gospel this morning, we hear about a lot of people who are ‘dodging’ a feast.  Having been invited by the head of a household who had prepared the feast and made all the preparations, the people made excuses why they could and would not come.  They ranged from ‘a new land purchase’, ‘new yokes of oxen that needed tried out’, ‘a new wife’, to every imaginable excuse.  They were ‘dodging’ going to this feast and giving all the reasons and rationale in the world.

Are we any different today?  We make excuses and provide ‘plausible’ explanations why we cannot do something whether in the home, at work or even here in the church.  We provide the reasons and believe they are adequate explanations even here at church.  Whether it is our attendance at worship, involvement in the men’s or women’s groups, helping with Meals-On-Wheels, ushering for the worship services, acolyting, being a reader, greeting, serving as a coffee fellowship host, providing flowers on the altar, serving on the council, being a mentor for a confirmation student, serving in some capacity in vacation bible school or Sunday school.  We dodge the responsibility that we took at every baptism in this church, every confirmation and our joining the church and becoming part of the Body of Christ. 

The simple question for us today is “Are you dodging God?”  Am I guilty of this?  Yes I am.  I dodge God and the responsibilities placed on my shoulders and which I am eternally responsible for with my ordination vows and also my installation as Pastor here at Emmanuel.  I am guilty of dodging the responsibility of holding myself individually responsible to God as well as to you the people God has placed under my care as your shepherd.  All of us are just as guilty.  We skate around the issues, want to be a ‘good person’, don’t want to ‘make waves’, but have clearly avoided the problem and now have created a pattern that we live with.

Dr. Henry Cloud in his book “Boundaries for Leaders” uses this paradigm of problem and pattern.  We continue to have problems and these problems usually continue to manifest themselves and this becomes a pattern.  Whether it is an issue that if we consider it in a business context like the farm, the office or in our place of work it would have been dealt with immediately without a second thought.  But here in the church we have created a pattern of avoiding the issue, dodging the tough calls and calling it ‘mercy’.

But God is clear, that is not mercy, it is our dodging God’s call to each and every one of us to the responsibilities that God has given us as His children as the body of Christ.  There are consequences and we may not immediately encounter these consequences, but eventually they will be a tangible reality and catch up with us.  God today and every day of our lives is calling us to a banquet feast that we cannot fathom.  Our text talks about a prepared dinner, well, God has prepared for each and every one of us a feast beyond our wildest imagination.  And when we make the excuses that we do on a daily basis, God not only is not honored, we cannot be partakers of the greatest gift God has to give each and every one of us.

Are we dodging God?  We probably are, but we can do three things to change this.  Resolve to accept God’s offers in our lives.  Be God’s action agents whether in work, the community or even our church.  And finally receive God’s continued bidding to not only be involved in His plan, but become good and gracious stewards of what God has entrusted to each and every one of us.

Easily we talk about ownership, whether of property like houses or farm ground, vehicles, equipment or even our gadgets like phones and computers, but we are just stewards of these items.  We cannot take them with us and they can and do pass away.  If we are dodging God and the opportunities He is giving us then our ownership is nothing more than selfishness.  Let’s resolve to use use God’s gifts to each of us for His glory in order to point to God and what He did for all of mankind.  For God understands what true sacrifice is because He offered His Son Jesus Christ in order to give us life and salvation.  God was a good steward and sacrificed Jesus Christ in order that we may be in His kingdom.  May we daily resolve to not dodge God any more, but encounter God and offer ourselves, our time, our talents and even our treasure in order to reach the lost and those who have never heard nor experienced the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For the Gospel is for all mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning, so let’s not dodge the free grace offered by God any more.  AMEN.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

06022013 1st Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray!  Gracious Father, today we celebrate four youth taking the step from children to adults in the eyes of the church.  They take upon themselves the promises made for them by their parents, sponsors and the body of Jesus Christ the Church when they were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Enable Adison, Kasey, Kate and Simon to not only hear the Gospel this morning, but to be emboldened to choose life and salvation offered by Your Son Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind, including all of the saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

“Which side of the divide will you be on?”  This question seems innocuous enough, but this morning as we come to celebrate the Confirmation of Adison, Kasey, Kate and Simon it is more important for us to consider.  From our Gospel this morning we have heard the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man is not given a name, but the poor man, Lazarus is clearly named and described.  The rich man lacks for nothing, having all the riches and prestige of not only his station, but his wealth that surrounds him.  He has maids and maidens, servants to serve him cold beverages when needed, food that is perfectly prepared and only the finest linens to lay his head and body on.  Perfumes from far countries are an every day occurrence to make him smell better and hide the stench of the area as well as the people and person right outside of his doorway.

Lazarus on the other hand laying right outside the rich mans mansion has sores that cover his body, dogs that lick his wounds and feed on the sparse food that he so desperately needs.  His clothes are tattered and barely cover his body and do not protect him not only from the elements of the wind, sand and weather, but the sun that beats down on his brow daily without respite.  The odor that rises from him is no better than a sewer since he can’t get to a bathroom, which we take for granted.

Then both the rich man and Lazarus die.  Both the rich man and Lazarus cease their earthly existence and as Luke says, 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.”  This seems like a simple explanation, but Luke goes further in his explanation of the two fates of the rich man and Lazarus which begs the question I began with. “Which side of the divide will you be on?”

You see the divide between the rich man and Lazarus is not a valley, not a simple hill, not a surmountable object that can be conquered.  The difference in the two places is more profound.  It is the difference between Heaven and Hell.  Today this is the decision which the confirmands take the responsibility upon themselves for as they become adults in the eyes of the church.

When they were baptized in the font of Holy Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God washed them clean of the stain of sin and set them free from the bonds of sin, death and the devil.  But it was their parents, their sponsors and we the Body of Christ that took the responsibility of their education in the Christian Faith in our hands.  When we ‘welcomed them into the Family of God’ we said their upbringing and modeling of faith was in our hands and we were responsible for their faith development.  As a congregation we took the responsibility of offering Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Confirmation instruction.  Our responsibility did not end with the teaching, but continued with our modeling for them the responsibilities of being a Christian.  Putting our faith first, not our vacations or relaxations, not our jobs, not sports, not school, not our education, but our Savior Jesus Christ and His innocent death on Calvary.  This is, was is and should be the message we remember daily and point to as now Adison, Kasey, Kate and Simon are taking the responsibility upon their own shoulders.

Today, Adison, Kasey, Kate and Simon stand before God and the congregation and Confess the Christian Nicene Creed not just as children, but now as full adult members of the body of Christ.  Today they confess the divinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit Who not only created us in our mother’s womb, but redeemed us on the Cross of Calvary and sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith.  For it is the Holy Spirit given on the day of Pentecost that we celebrate today and how the Holy Spirit now guides and directs them for the rest of their lives.

Now I return to the question, Adison, Kasey, Kate and Simon “Which side of the divide will you be on?”  Will you be the rich man or Lazarus?  Will you now that you are eternally responsible for your eternal destination, choose life and salvation through Jesus Christ?  Or will you choose the path of this world that places more importance on money, possessions, personal gain, acclamation, glory and medals that will pass away?  Today is the day you become personally responsible for the rest of your life.

This decision of choices is one that cannot be easily dismissed.  The best role model we have for us today is not only the citizen soldiers and active duty military who serve and protect our freedom, but also the men and women who put their life on the line daily whether as police officers, emergency medical first responders, but also firemen and women who insure our safety.  There is something that is taught in each of these organizations that we need to understand today.  In the military they do not leave anyone behind.  In a recent movie, “Act of Valor” about the Navy Seals, while on deployment one of the seals was killed in the line of duty.  He left behind in his death his wife and family all in order to offer us the freedoms we take for granted.  All of the other seals mantra was to leave no one behind.  And they brought him home to honor not only his sacrifice, but also his decision to preserve and protect our freedoms.

Adison, Kasey, Kate and Simon, hear clearly this today.  We who are here today stand behind you and do not want to leave you behind.  We are here to support you and continue to guide and direct you.  Today you begin to answer for yourselves, “Which side of the divide will you be on?”  Our prayer is that God Who began the work of salvation in each of you on your baptism enable each of you to choose life and salvation with Jesus Christ Who died for all of mankind, including each of you and all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel to celebrate your confirmation.  AMEN.
//trial script