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Sunday, September 14, 2014

09142014 Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

Gospel Reading Audio
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 the early 1980’s my parents on one of our trips to Iowa to visit my Grandmother, took us on an extended road trip.  It wasn’t the typical kind of road trip we think of today of ‘staying at motels’ and eating in restaurants at every stop, it was a trip where we ‘camped’ along the way and cooked our own meals morning and night and ate cold lunches, because we were on the road.  On that trip we even made it to Kansas where I was able to see the boyhood home of one of my heroes, Dwight David Eisenhower.  While planning the trip we had hoped to venture to points further North and West, especially the picturesque scenes of Yellowstone, but since time, money and distance was a challenge we were not able to experience one of the common experiences of Big Sky Country of the Bears of Yellowstone.

There is a story of these famous bears, not “Yogi Bear” of cartoon legend, and how in the early 60’s and 70’s when cars began to frequent the park, tourists would roll down their windows and the bears would come right up to the car and eat whatever the person fed them out of the palm of their hands, whether it was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a fast food hamburger.  After many years of this, those bears became not only more curious, but at times aggressive if a car and its occupants would not ‘share their bounty’ or that implied covenant or promise they had from countless cars before them that the bears ‘allowed’ into their home.  The aggressiveness of the bears became such a common occurrence that the park officials finally had to trap the bears and forcefully remove them to the high country, back to their more native habitat.  But it didn’t help, the bears had become used to the ‘handouts’ and had an extremely difficult time adjusting back to having to forage for food.  Sadly some of the bears even died, because of their becoming used to the dependence upon the food from the tourists.

Unfortunately, this story and habit of dependence is also true today for some churches.  Where members become nothing more than consumers of what is provided at church.  Emmanuel thankfully has not fallen into the trap like the bears or other churches that only ‘consumes’ what is given out on Sunday.  Our church began with people who had to work for everything and build everything, from the parsonage, built by the hands of the members in a little over three months, to the church, with dedicated members like Marty Spomer and others of sainted memory, to the educational wing built under the direction of Russell Briney and others.  We have a rich history of the fulfillment of the promises of farmers, with their giving of loads of wheat at the elevator in fulfillment of their tithe and promise for improvements and now others who help put windows and doors in to make our church more energy efficient.

All of this is a result and from the example of the covenant promise God made with the Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden for the coming of a Messiah.  In our Epistle this morning, we heard very clear reference to Abraham and the relationship with the covenant of promise from God to “Abraham and to his seed”.  This is the promise from God in Genesis to His people the Israelite nation that God would lead them to the promise land.  We are looking right now to Advent in a few months where we will see the fulfillment of this promise in the Messiah Jesus Christ and this is why Paul states specifically of God speaking to Abraham, about one person.  Paul writes, ““And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Though we have heard the promises of God of Jesus Christ to Abraham and to us today, there is a reality that we experience a kind of disconnect because of our personal experience.  The promises of God of the Messiah, as good and graceful as they are and how it does give us eternal life, but still in our life and lives today does not prevent our experiencing pain.  And by pain, it includes but is not limited to the death of a loved one, a child, our spouse of many years or the friends that we make both here in the church as well as the community.  It does not mean we will not experience the pain of separation and even questioning whether God exists in our lives today.  This is the kind of experience that clearly everyone faces in their lives daily and for which the church is meant to minister and provide counsel. 

This week, I counseled an individual who struggles daily with a question, not if God exists, but more why God is not ‘showing up’ in their childs life?  Why when they plead with God to show Himself, He does not clearly in their eyes, nor tangibly ‘show up’, or make Himself known, seen or experienced?  This parent is fearful that their child will be lost to the Christian faith, if God does not show up in a powerful way.  They clearly stated that they can see more of Satan and his increasing influence around them and in the community and what is done, than any action or even hint of God.  This is where Paul and I would agree we need to point to the promises of God and their fulfillment by God in history and here in the church where His Word is preached, the Sacraments are shared and the people of God hear the promise of life and salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and take personal faith and trust in these promises.

For the Gospel of Salvation offered in the covenant promise of God is fulfilled in Jesus Christ death on Calvary.  The resurrection was the fulfillment of this promise of Jesus Christ to His disciples as well to each of us who gather here today.  We like the young person of our faith community are allowed and even encouraged to ask the hard questions about God.  We are even allowed by God to be angry at God for what has or has not happened in our lives.  Let me say that again, it is okay to be angry with God, but in order to be angry we need to be in a personal relationship with Him.  We need to understand that ‘We need to build our relationship with God and Jesus Christ on the promises of God that have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.’  This is about relationship and the personal relationship with our Lord and Savior. 

We clearly understand our relationship with food and the need and hunger to eat at least three meals a day and even have snacks because our stomachs are growling, but our relationship with Jesus Christ is no different.  It is like a muscle we have been given in our baptism, we need to exercise it, feed it with not only the spiritual food of Jesus Christ Body and Blood when we come for Holy Communion, but be fed daily by reading the Bible that tells of the Gospel promises of Jesus Christ.  For Satan will knock at our door, he will try like with Adam and Eve to deceive us and pull us away from God, but we need to stand on the promises of God and quote the Bible back to him, because God has won the victory in this battle.  God took the hill of Calvary and won for us on it our salvation through Jesus Christ for eternal life.

We have the opportunity to mend our relationship with God and with each other.  How is this accomplished?  The movie “Courageous” showed one way a man through tragedy of the loss of his daughter, built, regained and relied upon the promises of God and forged a new focus and relationship, not only with God through his reading the Bible, but also with his son who had been drifting.  He mended the relationship he had with His Father in heaven and drew strength from the promise of God and the covenant relationship.

But this did not just stop with this man, he learned more intimately that God’s covenant was and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but he needed and heeded the importance of being held accountable for his relationship.  So he went and found other men who may not have felt the need to ‘change’ their relationship, but needed and desired to be a change agent for others.  Just as the scriptures clearly say in Philippians 4:19, ‘God will supply our need’, God will not leave nor forsake us, but we need to resolve to find our identity in God, have intimacy with Him and find our fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  Let me state that again, because this is key for our relationship with God.  We need to seek God to find our identity in Him, we need to daily have intimacy with His Son Jesus Christ and ultimately find fulfillment in Jesus Christ Who was perfect.

Martin Luther once said, the “Promises of God are what make the church, not the church that makes the promises.”  These same promises are what we find from God to each of us.  It is God that promises us forgiveness at the beginning of the service, I as the Pastor only act as the mouthpiece of God, you the congregation called me to be this for you.  This is why I declare, what God says of the forgiveness of sins.  For it is God Who forgives us and offers His Son, Jesus Christ for us.  At the end of our reading from Galatians, Paul says, “the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”  We are the called, we are to believe and we can daily clearly ask God to help our unbelief.

For yes, we live in a time where we can and do question God, but His promises made to Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus Christ and made manifest for each of us will not return to God without fulfilling His will.  Just as the community that we live in has a distinct busy seasons like drilling of wheat right now, harvest in a few weeks of corn that has been growing this summer and anticipation of the harvest in the spring of Winter wheat, we look for the promises of God to be fulfilled for each of us gathered here today. 


As a child I not only watched, but heard the beloved children’s story, “Charlotte’s Web”.  Wilbur was the pig that was to become the Christmas meal and Charlotte, just a little spider made a promise to Wilbur that she will find a way to save him.  And this little spider does just that, Charlotte, saves Wilbur.  She fulfilled her promise to her friend, she kept her word and Wilbur was saved.  God is no different for us today, He fulfills His promise to us of sending His Son Jesus Christ and this is the message we are called to spread and bring others to come and hear about.  Next week is Back to Church Sunday, I challenge all of us who have heard the Gospel of our salvation today to ‘put our faith in God’s promises’ and seek someone to bring next week and hear clearly the message of salvation for them and us.  For this message is clear, it is for all of mankind, including all of the saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

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