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Monday, March 24, 2014

03232014 Third Sunday in Lent (Lent 3)

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.

In Seminary at LTSS – Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, there was a group of guys that became very close.  They had been in college together and eventually all came to seminary about the same time.  Having already formed the closeness in college and the fraternity and small college atmosphere, seminary was just four more years of partying together, but also forging even stronger the ties that continues to bind them together for their years in ministry.  Most of these same guys had grown up in parsonages across the church and knew exactly what they would encounter after graduation.  So in this brotherhood they would not only study together, party together, but would also come up with some cool sayings for their faith that they shared in Jesus Christ.  One of these connects readily with us today.  They would say, “Lutheran by birth, Southern by the grace of God”.  Matter of fact they even had t-shirts made with this saying similar to the Old Lutheran T-shirts I have before us.  But the motto the guys came up with was reminiscent of another saying about baptism.

Let’s pull out our bulletin insert and delve into the Sacrament of Holy Baptism by reading the response to the questions “What benefits does Baptism give?”  and “Which are these words and promises of God?”  The Sacrament of Holy Baptism (II), What benefits does Baptism give?  It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.  Which are these words and promises of God?  Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  Let’s thank God for His promises in prayer.

Good and gracious heavenly Father, we receive the greatest benefits in our baptism into Your life, death and resurrection through the forgiveness of our sins.  If it were not for You we would be lost, but Your promises are sure and certain of our forgiveness, life and salvation.  Thank you for these gifts, for they are not only for all mankind, but especially for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Yes, my friends would say, “Lutheran by birth, Southern by the grace of God”, but the truth is, they also knew more fully and believed more so, “One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism”.  In this saying written by Paul, in Ephesians 4:5 clearly articulates our Lutheran belief in Jesus Christ, the one Holy and catholic and apostolic faith and the one baptism we are all baptized into in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And this is exactly what we receive when Water and Word is poured over us.

In, through and by our baptism we receive the greatest benefit from God in His Word and His promises in the forgiveness of sins.  Some would naturally question why bring up ‘sins’ and why constantly mention or remind us of our sins.  We live in a world full of people that remind us of how we all fall.  But Martin Luther was very clear and he only repeated what Jesus Christ constantly said, “I did not come to save the righteous, but the sinners”.  Jesus could look into our hearts and see our collective sin and it was for this reason that Jesus Christ came and offered Himself for us.  Jesus Christ came in order to set us free from our sins.  Not to beat us over the head with them, but to tell us to ‘let go of them’, because we constantly and daily reflect upon them and sometimes feel we are unworthy of anything, even from God.  Remember the confirmation saying, “SINS” really means “Sinner In Need [of a] Savior”.  And it is through our baptism that God claims us, redeems us and offers us eternal life.

These are the promises of God that we need reminded of, not just in funeral sermons, but that we need to tell others about.  This is the greatest message that we the people of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb have the opportunity to share with not only our family and friends, but with all of humanity.  For the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not offered to only a certain few, but it is offered for everyone, all of mankind, without age restriction, class restriction, monetary ability or any ability of our own.  This is the free gift of grace from God that is offered for all.

But the reality is our society, culture and especially Satan is trying to keep this message from getting out.  Satan is throwing events, circumstances and any ‘wrench’ he can into the spread of this message.  And we the people of God, baptized by God are letting this occur.  We allow this to occur because it is easier for us to just sit by instead of stepping up and being accountable and being the children of God baptized into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  But this message of the grace of God is freely offered to us and for us for all of mankind.  We need only share it.  During this Lenten season we are penitential, recently I saw one member come to the altar rail and have their own private time with God having their own conversation with their God.  We also during Lent confess our sin, but we have friends that are in need of a Savior.  It is not exclusive of our own family, but inclusive for all of us, we only need to do something that is extremely hard for us as Lutherans.

The most difficult thing for us as Lutherans is to invite someone to worship.  It could be we want this to be our own private time with God.  We don’t want to have to deal with our friends while here at church, because we need ‘one place’ to escape.  We are afraid of being turned down, or we just do not know how to invite someone to meet Jesus Christ.  That is why Lent is the perfect time for all of us to step out of our comfort zone and invite someone to meet Jesus Christ.  Let me give you an acronym to help:  STEP.  This simple acronym can help you to STEP out in Faith and invite a friend this Easter to come and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ for you and for them.

S stands for – Stop doubting you can invite.  Satan is the cheerleader for you not to invite anyone to church.  Every time you pass on the opportunity to tell about Jesus or invite someone you know to church, the scoreboard for the Gospel being spread continues to read zero.  God wants you to STEP out and invite people to experience the love He has for you and them and share it with them here in worship.  Our music may not be like at Calvary or First Baptist or Harvest, but the hymns we sing were written to not only express the faith, but moved people for countless generations to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So our first opportunity is to stop doubting yourself and prepare to invite someone.

T is a reminder for you to Talk to God.  This is a no brainer, ask God to help you in not only inviting people to church, but telling them the good news of Jesus Christ even if they don’t come to church.  Talking to God will not only lower your blood pressure, your stress level at work and home, but sharing with God what is on your heart will bring you into deeper relationship with Him.  And it is in this deeper relationship that you will find not only a closer relationship with God, but a clearer understanding of what God means to you.  When we talk to God, yes we tell Him what He already knows, but in sharing, we make a connection with God that builds the bridge of relationship with Him even stronger by just talking to God.

E is simply Expect God to send His Holy Spirit.  Expecting to God to do something presupposes that you have already talked to God about sending the Holy Spirit, so ask God to send the Holy Spirit and then expect God will follow through.  For God will send His Holy Spirit to us in order for His Glory to be revealed, and inviting someone to worship is precisely the place where God’s Glory will be revealed, not only for them, but also for you.  Expect that every time you come and worship, God will send His Holy Spirit to impact your life in ways that will not only amaze you, but lift you up when you are down.

Finally P is where we Prepare for God to work in the lives of the person we are inviting and even in our own lives, empowering us to invite others to hear the Gospel message.  God clearly wants us to STEP out in faith and prepare for His glory to be revealed.  For God will radically change your life and the lives of the people you invite, and this will bring about heavenly results beyond our wildest imagination.  Prepare for this every time you come and worship, for just as a farmer prepares the field for planting, when we prepare our hearts, we prepare for God to work on, in and through us.

God wants us to understand and share with one another the truth found in “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” and STEP out in faith to share this message and invite others to hear it.  Let’s be God’s action agents and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ for all mankind, including all that we encounter and for all of us gathered here at Emmanuel to STEP out in faith and invite the world to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

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