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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

11032013 All Saints Sunday (Observed) 23rd Sunday After Trinity

Gospel Reading
Sermon Audio

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.

This last week we as a congregation celebrated Reformation Sunday.  In our liturgy we sang Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”, we remember the reason for Luther’s nailing the 95 Theses, we recalled our heritage as Lutherans and what makes us unique.  Later in the afternoon about 12 of us gathered downstairs to celebrate what has become a tradition since I arrived here at Emmanuel of the Reformation Party.  Though attendance to learn and more fully grow in our Lutheran faith was depressing and begged the question of whether to have another next year, those who attended, learned and grew in their faith had a great time.  As a Pastor I was very impressed by the artwork of the kids and adults.  Since the theme was of the Reformation we had to have Luther’s Rose, which is our symbol of the Lutheran Faith.

Every part of the Luther Rose has meaning, from the Gold Ring on the outside to the Sky Blue Colored ground, the white rose, the cross in the center, but especially the symbol of the heart.  When brought together the complete seal expresses clearly the faith we confess not only as Lutherans, but as Christians bought by the blood of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the entire world.

But the question remains, what is at the center and what does it have to do with the Tenth Commandment?  Let’s pull out our bulletin insert and join together and read together in unison the “What does this mean?” section as a congregation.  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.”  While this last Commandment sinks in, let us ask God in prayer to bless His message to us today.

Let us pray, Gracious Heavenly Father, just as you called Abram and Samuel to lead Your people, may You lead us to understand fully the meaning of the 10th Commandment.  Though we stray and sin like David in thought, word and deed, enable us to rely solely upon You and Your promises made and fulfilled through Your Sons death on the Cross of Calvary for all mankind, including all of us redeemed saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

When we go to the doctor one of the things most good physicians do is listen to our heart and lungs.  Since the heart is the organ that not only pumps the blood, but also insures the spread of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, it is a very important organ.  So to in our Christian lives the heart of our faith is extremely important.  Hence, the question, ‘what is at the heart’?  For the Luther Rose, the heart symbol is the backdrop that is clearly at the center of our beliefs, for without God entering and changing our heart, we would and could rationalize our faith away.

But what does the heart have to do with the 10th Commandment.  This Commandment which is the last Commandment of the Law has similarities to the 9th Commandment, but has a greater importance, it deals specifically like the Luther Rose with the heart of man.  With this Commandment we are not only called to watch our actions, but also our hearts when it deals with our neighbors.  David, the great King who had killed Goliath with one stone slung from the sling fell clearly when he saw Bathsheba.  David did not guard his heart, David coveted with his eyes and committed adultery, though breaking another Commandment, David also did not follow the intent of the Tenth Commandment.

Yet, why should we be concerned?  For what purpose does this have for us today?  Easily, since our society has become more material and possession oriented we do covet what our neighbor, family and friends have.  Whether it is, a better corn crop, tickets to a football game, the vehicles they drive, the houses they live in, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the lifestyle they have or whatever the reason, idea or ideal, we covet what others have and try to get it.  Maybe not by stealing it, but by our thoughts words, deeds and actions.

As a Pastor, I am no less guilty of this.  This past week, I coveted something that another Pastor had.  It wasn’t a house, it wasn’t a possession, it wasn’t a car, truck or a new computer or phone gadget.  What I coveted was a relationship.  It wasn’t a desire for a woman, like David, or for a different profession, because I love being a Pastor.  It simply was my sinful nature coming out and God dealing with and reminding me who I am and whose I am.  I was reminded that no matter what happens to me I am still God’s child, redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb of God and He has me in the palm of His hand and that should be enough.  But the reality is, we humans want more and this is exactly what the 10th Commandment is trying to remind us of that Jesus Christ is enough.

This is why Martin Luther’s Rose has the heart and the Cross at the center.  It is to remind us and help us see the Cross of Jesus Christ clearly and unmistakably in our Christian faith.  The reminder that we need is that Jesus Christ came and lived on this earth and died in order to set us free from the bondage of sin, death and the devil.  God sent His Son Who walked this earth and lived and died in order to insure we are daily forgiven of our sins and set free from the shackles of the devil.  This is why today we celebrate All Saints Day.

The names of the people we remember today are a reminder for us not only of the Saints that have entered the church triumphant in the last year, but are meant to be a clear reminder for us that they now understand fully that the Cross of Christ is at the heart of their faith as well as ours today.  With their entrance into the church triumphant, they now not only bask in their Savior’s arms, but bask in the promises offered and fulfilled in the Cross of Jesus Christ and His entrance into their own heart.  So the image of the heart and the Cross at the center of the Luther Rose is not only a reminder for us today of Jesus sacrifice, but how we can be reminded to live out the 10th Commandment and know it is not of our own doing, but what Jesus Christ did for all of mankind.  This is the gift of grace offered for us and for all the saints that we remember today on this All Saints Sunday and for all of us saints that remain remembering their memory, but also what our Lord and Savior did for them and for us on the Cross of Calvary.  AMEN.
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