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Sunday, July 6, 2014

07062104 Third Sunday After Trinity

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.

Driving between Goodland and Sharon Springs or St. Francis or Colby or Burlington, there are plenty of places where you can see out in the fields that surround the highway.  Currently a lot of farmers and wanna-be farmers are looking at wheat crops, how the corn is looking or what they have to do next to prepare for the rest of summer.  When not looking at crops, there are places for animals to hide, not just in draws, but even some places where in by gone days, the animals could pounce upon unsuspecting prey that would happen by.  When this would happen, the animal being hunted was not only surprised, but easy prey.  Here on the Great Plains when the buffalo ranged as far as the eye could see, the Native American people would start a stampede in order to get buffalo to go certain directions.  Because, the Buffalo were the main source of meat and it was easier to push them into a deep ravine that bottlenecked in order to get a lot of meat at one time with very little effort and it was an easy way to get their meat supply for the winter.

Unlike the buffalo stampedes of the Indians our epistle this morning speaks clearly of the need of we Christians to “be on the alert.”  We like the days of the Cold War always needed to be on alert and as Christians we need to watch.  For our “adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  And that someone is us.  The devil is very near to us waiting for us to question God and doubt and deny what God has done, is doing and will continue to do.  The devil wants us to like the buffalo run into the deep ravine and be easily captured and killed and become the treat of the victor.

For the devil, our capture isn’t like in ‘capture the flag’, because the reality is in life we are dealing with an eternal consequence.  The devil is trying to get us to fall victim to him and be devoured by him for eternity.  For the consequence of an eternity without God is what the devil is trying to gain.  The reality is that God from the beginning of time through His great love for each of us has been trying to prevent the devil from overcoming us.  This is why Peter clearly says, “be on alert…resist him, [be] firm in your faith”.

When we are firm in our faith, given to us by God in our baptism, we change the landscape of the battle that is daily being waged in our hearts, souls and minds.  No longer are we enslaved to sin for eternity, but through our claiming God’s mark on us in our baptism, we are freed to be the children of God He has made us to be.  We like the children in the Pre-School program learned can be a ‘FROG’ or “Fully Rely On God”.  We can trust God to not only care for us but empower us to be the children of God He has endowed and made us to be.

But what about the suffering we encounter in the here and now.  From our wheat crop being wiped out.  Tragedy that strikes our schools, businesses or even our families.  And even church members lashing out at each other in the name of the church.  God makes it very clear through Peter, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”  God will shower His grace upon us and His love will be manifest in and for each and every one of us and His glory will be revealed as He perfects us and establishes us as no other.  This is when we will enter His kingdom and receive the gifts of God for the people of God.

This week I had someone in my office asking me why God was allowing the dysfunction in life, the hurt feelings, the pain of broken relationships and the loss on a mental and emotional level that was happening in their life.  It was not just the issues in her family, but also in her church that she was brought to and raised in as a child.  Why were people not standing up for what was right?  And why was God not sending a sign to tell or show the people what they were doing was wrong or how they were treating others was wrong.  The story that came to mind was the Rich Man and Lazarus.  We recently heard this story in our lessons.  Only after the rich man was in hell and thirsty and could not change did he understand the need to change.  He pleaded, send Lazarus to warn my brothers.  Evidently his brothers were just as derelict in not acting or doing what they needed.  But the response Jesus told is very telling in this story.  They, the rich man’s brothers have the prophets, meaning the writings of the Old Testament, but even if someone were to rise from the dead they would not listen to him.

Ironically this is exactly what happened with Lazarus the brother of Mary and Martha.  Even though he was raised from the dead, and Jesus Christ would be raised from the dead, the leaders of the synagogue and some of the people would not listen to Lazarus nor Jesus Christ.  Today our society is no different, people would rather gossip, make false accusations, not put the best construction on all things and hide behind platitudes and places of ‘authority’ and seek to pounce from hiding rather than be held accountable or even have a conversation one on one in true humility.  Where is God in this?  God is right here in Emmanuel with us as we experience this, in you the people of God and you can stand up and by the power of God through the Holy Spirit be the people of God that do what is right, necessary and called for in your vow you made to be the Body of Christ.

Recently, I saw how God can and is active very clearly here at Emmanuel.  I am proud of our Emmanuel Family.  Our Vacation Bible School was a great success because people came together to not only love the kids and serve the Lord, but be the church.  During our Preschool VBS the kids inspired me by not being afraid to pray, but relishing it and being prayer warriors.  We had multiple kids not afraid to offer a short prayer to God.  This is how we as a community of faith, not only shared our faith, but also and more importantly empowered the children to lay claim to their faith.  They are not only the future of our church, but they are the church now.


It is in their hands that not only do we entrust the teaching of what God has done and continues to do in our lives, but by our showering our love for each other and upon the kids and showing it to and for each other as we the congregation of Emmanuel learn not only about God’s unending love, but our love for them as well.  I am extremely proud of our church for our efforts, not only in years gone by, but this year for the commitment to a God sized vision and clear expression of the love of God that has overcome the devil who awaits to pounce on us.  Thank you for being the church and ministering to the saints in the kids that have been here for our vacation bible school this summer!  Thank you for being the church and thank you for supporting Emmanuel as the saints God came to save, including all of us gathered here this morning and those unable to be here.  AMEN.

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