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Sunday, June 1, 2014

06012014 Sunday After Ascension

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.

Christ has ascended!  He has ascended indeed!  Alleluia!

If you look closely this morning, I have offering plates as our focus this morning.  I can just imagine the conversations that would occur, if I were to preach on money.  But this morning I am not preaching on money, but what these vessels used in God’s house and service really mean and how they apply for us in new and various way.

Let’s pull out our bulletin insert and pray together Luther’s Evening Prayer.  Luther’s Evening Prayer – I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night.  For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.  Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.  AMEN.  Let’s ask God for this to be true for each of us today and every night as we lay our heads on our pillows to sleep.

Gracious Lord, these vessels and our bodies have been dedicated to Your service both here in Your house and in the world created by Your hands.  Enable us to fill these plates with the gifts You have given us, not of money but from our hearts with Your Word of promise of forgiveness for all the saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

For Lent we use a modified service of Evening Prayer that begins, “Let my prayer rise before You as incense, the lifting up of our hands as the evening sacrifice.”  In this opening versicle it clearly captures Luther’s Evening Prayer and even what these offering plates signify.  For some, these plates denote the gain of money by the church.  Some see these plates as the only way they can get into heaven by giving to the church in a tangible way, by money.  Others fret over money so much they make it an idol, when there is plenty they squirrel it away like the squirrels do the nuts in preparation for winter.  When money is tight, every single thought turns into how to control and regulate.  We as a congregation were here a few years ago before I arrived.  Where we had to decide which bill to pay and which to put off till the money had come in.  And ironically it was all collected in these plates.
But these plates are not about money, they are not about nor do they represent plenty or not enough money.  These plates should have a far deeper and profound meaning for us today.  These plates should represent our trust of God and the 90 plus year history we have here in Goodland, KS.

When our congregation was formed, people came together in the sod church for a sole purpose, the spread of the Gospel message.  A message with a sole purpose of the spread of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and what He did on Calvary.  From the time the cornerstone of this building was laid, through the building of a bell tower to ring when we gather for worship, remembering Jesus lashes and even the toll of the bell in remembrance of those who have died.  To the sanctuary where we have the eternal light to remember the Holy Spirit and its descent at Pentecost, that we will celebrate next week.  To the educational wing built so we could teach the stories of God to the children of God baptized in the font.  It all began with an idea, an inspiration and an intention of the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So how do offering plates intersect this?  These offering plates are simply used here in the chancel to take out to you the people of God and to return to God in honor and glory to God of what He has first given us.  Not money, not time, not the riches we cash from the co-op from a bountiful harvest of wheat or corn.  What God is asking from us to offer symbolically in these plates is ourselves.  Simply offer ourselves into His service in His Kingdom here in His house built by our brother’s and sisters in Christ.  


This past Christmas Eve, instead of using these plates to take the offering, we used the manger.  The symbolism was clear then and continues to be clear and appropriate for us here today.  We need to continue as we have in the past of offering ourselves for God’s service and worship each and every day.  By offering and entrusting ourselves as we have, just as we do in Luther’s Evening Prayer, we place ourselves in God’s hands not only when we lay our heads down to sleep.  But also by offering ourselves as God’s instruments for service to the fallen world that we live in.  May we tonight and each and every night be willing to offer ourselves into God’s Holy Hands, for there we find not only Holy rest, but also our Savior Who cares for all of the world, but especially including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel who pray Luther’s Evening prayer as our offering and sacrifice when we lay our heads down to sleep.  AMEN.

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