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Sunday, November 30, 2014

11302014 Advent 1 Ad Te Levavi

Sermon Audio

November 30, 2014
What is your hope built upon?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

All of us have seen the Christmas decorations that have invaded Wal-Mart.  We now are continuously hearing the Christmas music on the radio and television and in less than four weeks will unmistakably want the season of Christmas to be over.  Yet, the reality is that we aren’t in the Christmas season.  The music being played by secular stations and the marketing machines may be real Christmas songs, but we are not in the Christmas season.  The reality is that we have lost the sacredness of the season we begin actually begin today.

Today is the First Sunday in Advent.  Advent is a season with one intent.  To point to and look for the coming of the Christ Child.  In our churches heritage we count the four weeks leading up to Christmas through an evergreen wreath that holds four candles and signifies the season of preparation of Advent.  For the next four weeks here in worship we will light the candles at the beginning of each service and explore each of these candles and their meanings in our daily lives with the end in mind, the real Christmas Season, which comes the twelve days after December 24th.  The first candle that we begin with today on the First Sunday in Advent is known as the Candle of Hope.

If you have seen any of the events of the last week from the major news and media outlets or rants or opinions on Facebook, it would probably be about Ferguson, Missouri.  The tragic events that transpired made me think of a simple question as I look to the Candle of Hope this the First Sunday in Advent.  What is your hope built upon?

Just last week we finished another church year looking to the end times or the coming of Jesus Christ in Glory to judge all of mankind.  With the events in our country and our world, some wonder if Jesus Christ return is not any closer.  But the reality is that our hope is and should be built on nothing less than Jesus Christ.

From our readings this morning, we have heard from Isaiah the prophet to the Psalmist, David and in our Gospel we hear from Saint John, there is one theme.  Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh is “the light that shines in the darkness.”  Jesus Christ is the answer to any and all problems that we individually and collectively face in our world today.  Jesus Christ is the only answer to our collective question of “What is your hope built upon?

For us this morning, the Candle of Hope is a poignant and purposeful reminder of just that, a hope built upon the promise of a Messiah coming to walk this earth, heal the sick, down trodden and the poor and ultimately for Him to die in order that we might have life.  The Candle of Hope is to be a light for each and every one of us on our individual journeys and our world of the Messiah Jesus Christ and His entrance in a lowly manger in Bethlehem.  From the time of Adam and Eve through Moses and Elijah and Isaiah, up until the manger in Bethlehem, everyone was looking for the Hope that was coming from a Branch of Jesse.  Jesus Christ was the hope to be born in Bethlehem that was promised and is our hope we have today in our world. 

Edward Mote stated the firm belief and conviction of the Candle of Hope in his song entitled, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”.  In this hymn Mote clearly states that our anchor is Jesus Christ.  It is upon Jesus Christ and the promises He makes to each of us in our baptism that we can fully rely upon in our every day lives.  This is why the Advent season is filled not only with hope of remembering the coming Savior, but what He will do for each of us on the Cross of Calvary thirty years later.

The Candle of Hope is the first candle on the Advent wreath not only to help us keep track of the sacredness of the Advent season, but to encourage us at the beginning of the Church Year.  For the Candle of Hope not only points to Jesus Christ, but is to be a reminder that our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the reason for the season and our great hope that is a great “light that shines in the darkness”.  For this is why Jesus comes in a lowly manger and why we light this first candle of Hope for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this First Sunday of Advent.  AMEN.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014 Advent Devotional

If you like to have 'new' devotionals for the Advent Season, here is the link ( for a devotional series from the North American Lutheran Church.

This is a great opportunity as we prepare for the coming Christ child!!

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11232014 Christ the King Sunday

Sermon Audio

November 23, 2014
Are you ready?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.
Today is a milestone event in the life of the Christian church.  Today we are not only one day closer to the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but we celebrate the completion of another Church Year.  Throughout Christendom, today is known as Christ the King Sunday.  It is a day filled with triumph and jubilation, but also exuberance for today we look forward, not specifically to next week and the beginning of another Church Year with Advent, but to the triumphal return of Jesus Christ.
Holy Scripture is very clear in many places of where the disciples and others asked Jesus about His return.  And Jesus tells them clearly what will occur and what the signs are for His return.  On the opposite side of the insert are 18 different signs concerning Jesus return.  Some signs we can see from current events in the media and even technological innovations.  These signs also include clear and impending marks of doom, including, but not limited to war, hatred, disease and outbreaks of violence.  Clearly with the Ebola outbreak and even having some victims as near as Nebraska and the violence of Ferguson, Missouri, these signs may be an indication of Jesus return very soon.
There are even some cults that have chosen extreme measures because of the fear of the end of the world, but not Jesus return on the last day.  Recently there was the latest release of the Left Behind movie that refueled the anxiety of the rapture and the end times.  But today here at Emmanuel we celebrate in spite of what happens in our culture, the movies released and even fulfillment of biblical signs.  We celebrate for a simple fact, we look to and celebrate the return Jesus Christ.  Jesus is coming, triumphant as Christ the King of Glory and we who gather here today are ready for His return, especially when we pray, “Come Lord Jesus”!
Yet, there still is that nagging human side in all of us, including Pastors where we need to ask ourselves a simple yet profound question.  “Are you ready?”
As we get closer to Christmas, for Michele and I this question takes on a different meaning.  You see my parents will be coming to celebrate the Christmas holidays with us.  So we are trying to be prepared with all the things that children and daughter-in-laws worry about.  Is the house picked up?  Have all the floors been mopped or vacuumed?  Is Sarah’s room ready?  Is the guest room ready?  Will the house look neat and tidy for their arrival and stay during the Christmas season?  All of this though trivial for some, creates a clear sense of worry and anxiety that wears on both Michele and I.  So when the question arises, “Are you ready?”, right now we have to declare “no”, but we will be.
So to in the Christian life, as we get closer to Jesus return, our collective feelings and sense of worry rises, because this is Jesus Christ Who is returning.  He is Lord of heaven and earth.  Not only did He create the world we live and exist in, but He knows EVERYTHING we have done.  This is why the question, “Are you ready?” may worry us even more as His children, and we probably if we answer honestly, have to say, “no” we are not ready.
Paul in the Epistle lesson plucks this nerve of ‘worry’ more so for each of us, when he says, the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  We don’t know when it is coming, but Paul clearly wants us to understand, we will not know when the time of Jesus return will be.  It is a time that we could be clearly unprepared for, but which God does not want us unprepared for, hence my question for each of us to ponder, “are you ready?”
Though our collective feelings create a clear bundle of nerves in each of us, Paul does remind us of an undeniable truth.  You are all sons of light and sons of day.   Let me say that again, You are all sons of light and sons of day.  Through our baptism with Water and the Word of God, we were made sons and daughters of the King Who comes.  When God made us in our mother’s wombs and then with Water and Word made us His in Holy Baptism and poured the gift of eternal life into our lives and made us heirs of the Kingdom of God, we were promised eternal life and salvation.  Though we still daily fall short of the glory of God and do sin in thought Word and deed as we confess before we take Holy Communion, God still wants us to be reminded, we are His.
So Paul not only reminds us that we are God’s, but also reminds us of another truth, an imperative.  “Let us be on alert and sober.”  In essence, We need to be ready.  Just like combat soldiers that are on the front lines always need to be ready for an attack from the enemy, we as Christians need to be ready for when Jesus Christ returns.  We need to be prepared like good soldiers of the cross ready for our Supreme Commanders return.
This Sunday we move another day closer to where we will move the Pascal Candle.  In the church there are many symbols that have clear meaning, from the altar which has the ihs, better known as the simplification of Jesus name, to the triangle signifying the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and even the Alpha and the Omega.  This symbol of the Alpha and Omega is extremely important not only because it is on our altar, but it signifies what we are celebrating today, the end of the Church Year.  Hence we return to the question, “Are you ready?”

As Christians baptized by the Blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, we should clearly answer “Yes, I am ready”.  Yes, Jesus Christ could come any day and we would be ready for His return.  We can welcome Him and look forward to His return.  For some who not only gather with us this morning, but also we encounter daily whether at Rasure’s, Wal-Mart, the Mexican restaurant or wherever, their words may clearly indicate they are ready for Jesus return.  Others of us may not be, because we feel we either need to accomplish something more or we need to have one last chance to do something in order to be worthy of what Jesus Christ will bring us.  But God has provided us what we need to be ready.

Two weeks ago we were introduced to the armor of God.  In our lesson this morning, which in fact is a different book of the Bible, Paul returns to this concept and imagery not only to remind us, but embolden us to put on the full armor of God.  Paul says, “since we are of the day”, since we are children of the light, not to have any darkness in us and we being redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, we are marked differently.  Not only with the sign of the Cross over our forehead and heart, but also with the redemption promised to us by Jesus Christ.  Paul further says, “let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love”.  This is the armor that not only will protect our vital organs, but inspire us to love mankind and one another in the Christian faith.  We are called to be the children of God that not only protect ourselves and our core, but live and love one another with an unmistakable love.  A love not only for community, but also for each other as Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
When we show this love towards one another our outlook not only changes, but we ourselves change.  If you were to read any self-help book, each and every one worth its weight clearly says if you want to make a change in your life, you need to make ‘new habits’.  By new habits it isn’t to be done once and then forgotten and then we claim we are changed.  New habits require us to daily change ourselves and daily establish the new norm in our lives.
So to in the Christian journey of life, if you want to be ready for Jesus Christ return, it isn’t supposed to be like the study habits of college kids, ‘cram for the test’ on the last night before the exam.  Or for farmers who plant one day and expect a growing season all overnight.  Instead, daily with your eyes looking to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ, daily we need to prepare ourselves.  We have the opportunity to create our new reality.  Last week I used a phrase that has clear traction for the opportunity we have as Christians, it is having an ‘attitude of gratitude’.  With our asking the question, “Are we ready?” do we have the right attitude?  Will we be prepared for Jesus return?  We need the new habits of the Christian life in order to be prepared for Jesus return.
Thus not only putting on the breastplate of faith and love, we also need to as Paul says, to put on the “helmet, the hope of salvation”.   It is clear from the media and what we hear from our society that We live in desperate and tenuous times.  Christians are being persecuted.  Lives of those who are willing to step up and spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ are fewer on the mission field.  And sadly those who do decide to be missionaries, their lives are being snuffed out not only by a clear opposition to the message of the Gospel, but clearly this is evil in the world.  This is the opposition, or end times that Jesus warned us about when He spoke with His disciples.  Jesus was warning us then and today we are even closer to His coming.  But Paul wants us not to focus on what is around us, but put on the armor of God, the helmet that will not only protect us, but for all of us to focus on our mission and ministry given to us by Jesus Christ.
If you were to go to the race track where horses race, one of the items of the horse tack that is put on a horse is what is called ‘blinders’.  These blinders prevent the horse from being distracted.  It keeps the horse’s focus on what is in front.  So instead of looking back or to the side, the horse’s eyes are kept forward focused, where they are going, ultimately the finish line.
In the Christian life, we need blinders as well.  When we put on the helmet of the hope of salvation, God in one sense wants the helmet not only to protect us and our heads, but keep us focused on what matters, but more importantly our eternal destination, the finish line.  God wants us to focus on preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ.  When we focus on the coming of Jesus Christ we no longer remain focused on what we have done in the past, what is occurring around us in the present no matter how distracting or detracting, but God wants us to remain steadfast and immovable and focus on the future, the coming of Jesus Christ and our entrance into eternity in heaven with Him.
God wants us to keep Jesus Christ, His mission, ministry and message front and center in our daily lives.  God doesn’t want us to gossip with others about rumors whether about our friends or those we see on a daily basis, or about things that may have happened or may happen in our community and especially here in the church.  God doesn’t want us to break each other down every chance we have.  God wants us to do the polar opposite.  God expects us to build each other up.
Paul ends our epistle reading with another clear imperative.  “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another”.  Paul was being inspired by God to inspire us to be cheerleaders, but also empower us to empower each other for what we would encounter on our pilgrimage.  God wants us to help each other through our daily struggles, our daily attacks that we feel from Satan and clearly speak the Word of God and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ into each other’s lives.
Some in our society look at churches and Christians in particular and say, hey that is your job.  Christians and the church should be the place where we come to be inspired.  Yes, that is one aspect of what the church should be doing, but it is not the only imperative of the church.  The church and the people of God who come to church and sit in the pews should encourage one another.  This is each and every one of our collective jobs as well.  If it were only the churches or the pastor’s job, then everybody should be at church daily without fail.  But in clear contrast, we are not here everyday, sometimes not every week or just sporadically or some as they are known as C&E’s, Christmas and Easter.
This is why daily we as Christians need to lift each other up on a daily basis.  Be the light of Christ in our daily lives so Christ can shine through us and we can inspire one another and share our burdens, offer comfort and pray for one another without ceasing.
One of the most iconic images of a place where people talked and shared their burdens was the kitchen table.  I remember as a child visiting both my Grandparents and seeing their kitchen tables.  My Dad’s parents didn’t have the ‘formal dining room’, but the simple kitchen table that all meals were prepared on and shared around.  As a family we would gather around and share our meal and the table was exactly at the center of the home where everyone would bear one another’s burdens.  Families would have meetings of the minds and hearts around the table, because it meant everybody was equal.  Just as in King Arthur’s day, the round table was meant to be the great equalizer, we too should be reminded of our not only being equal with one another, but being empowered and encouraged to share and bear our burdens with one another.  Whether around the kitchen table, the round tables in the fellowship hall or even in silence when we gather around the table of our Lord and Savior when we come for Holy Communion.  We can share one another’s burdens.
When we encourage one another, we change the landscape and reality of our interactions with each other and the ability we have to not only be an encouragement for one another, but support each other even during the darkest of days.  One way that our 21st Century culture has shared the ability to encourage each other is by Facebook.  Yes, I know some believe Facebook is a creation of evil.  A place where each of us reads into a post, what we believe, instead of what the person posting may be thinking, feeling or even desiring to be understood.  Others see Facebook as a means to either brag, complain or vent and are unafraid to not ‘put the best construction’ on what is put on Facebook, or unwilling to with care and compassion ask their friends directly what was meant by a post.  But even in these times, there is a group that uses Facebook in a God pleasing manner.

One Spark Foundation clearly uses the technology and instant communication of Facebook for a Godly purpose.  They call the stories that are shared sparks.  It is the hope and desire that one little spark done by one person and shared across Facebook will not only affect the person for or to whom the action is done, but will be an inspiration for others.  Just like the song, “It only takes a Spark”, by sharing a spark, it is clear people can make a difference, even if it is only one life at a time.
There are so many sparks I could share, but instead, I want to share what David Hill said.  David is the founder of the One Spark Foundation.  He says:
“Each one of us has been given a gift to make the world a better place.  It may be a song, leadership, organization, love, laughter, a builder, a mason or many other things.  We need to search our hearts until we find the gift that we have been blessed with and then use it to make the world a better place for everyone to live.  We must remember that if we fail to use the gift that we have been blessed with we stand a chance of losing it.”  David’s words are very true.
And today we gather here with so many gifts given each of us by God to remember that there is a gift that will not pass away and this is what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary.  As we answer the question, “Are you ready?” and share with one another the news of the greatest gift of what Jesus Christ has done for us on the Cross of Calvary, God is calling us to be a spark in our daily lives.  May we as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, not only share in the turkey and all the trimmings, but be inspired to use our God given gifts to not only point to Jesus Christ, but also be a spark for all of mankind our community of Goodland and especially including each of the saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Drop Box Movie

This movie trailer not only tells the most compelling story of the potential of every baby, but how we can make a difference in the lives of one little child.

 The movie is coming in March!!!!

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

11162014 22nd Sunday After Trinity

Gospel Reading Audio
Sermon Audio

November 16, 2014
What fills your cup?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

At this time of year when celebrations with family and friends ramps up into high gear for the holidays we all experience a common use of one of our five senses.  When you enter a home, whether your own or another abode as a family member or guest, the first thing that everyone notices is the smell.  Today we have either an opportunity or a burden and challenge, depending upon your vantage point of smelling the feast that has been prepared for us downstairs by the ladies of the congregation.  So I will try and keep the sermon short so we can celebrate by eating some turkey and all the fixings together as the family of God and brothers and sisters in Christ downstairs.

It is clear when anyone sets a table for a feast, there is always a plate, silverware a napkin and finally a cup.  As a child I remember we would get the small cups, which were either plastic, covered or indestructible, because someone would always drop their drink and that was the last thing that any parent wants to do on Thanksgiving or Christmas, clean another spill by their child or have an expensive trip to the emergency room to get stitches or even the dry cleaner to clean the fine linen that is only used during the holidays.

For adults sitting at the table during the holidays at our house there would always be the opportunity to have a glass of wine, so the fine stem china wine glasses would be set at the adults seats.  As I grew older I even would have one of the more expensive wine glasses, and mine would have either water, milk or grape juice, but not wine.

But this begs a question for we who gather here this morning that we need to ask and answer during our Thanksgiving celebration, “What fills your cup?”  Not the physical cup we drink from, but our spiritual cup.

In our Epistle lesson this morning Paul states simply that we need to be “always offering prayer”.  When we begin with an attitude of prayer in the morning, we carry throughout the day an attitude of gratitude, generosity and concern that clearly demonstrates our thanks for what we have been entrusted with from God.  As the word thanksgiving shows we have the greatest opportunity at this time of the year to offer our heartfelt thanks for the gifts that God has given us.

As farmers, there are times when you survey the fields that have been struck by an unrelenting hail storm, a wind storm that has knocked all of your ready to harvest corn to the ground or even a drought that seems to last for years.  Immediately what comes to mind is how will I pay the note, how will I make ends meet until the next crop is harvested, is the field on the other end of the county going to be hit by this storm?  All of this is the worry of daily life of a farmer here on the plains of Northwestern Kansas.

When we encounter this reality, the last thing we sometimes can do is pray or be thankful.  But God wants us to do just that.  Offer prayer to God and call on Him at our darkest hour as well as our time of clear celebration and thankfulness.  For God’s promise is true, “He Who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”.  The good work is our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  The good work of our baptism is all about our eternal salvation, not the things that will pass away, but the eternal.  Hence we return to the question, “What fills your cup?”

Paul goes on to say, “this I pray, that your love may abound” and that we may be “blameless until the day of Christ”.  Paul wants us to share with one another the love of Jesus Christ not only around the table and feast we will share downstairs in the fellowship hall, but more importantly the feast we share in a few moments from the altar of Jesus Christ true Body and Blood.  When we share the love of Jesus Christ with each other and allow this to fill our cups  to overflowing, we no longer focus on what ‘drives us nuts’ or ‘worries us’, but look past the faults, the things we have no control over and we are empowered to love as Jesus Christ first loved us.

This is the good work in our baptism that Jesus Christ wants us to share with one another.  Jesus Christ is calling us to share this with each other every day of our lives especially when we gather here to celebrate our Thanksgiving feast, but more so His Hoy Supper that gives us the forgiveness of sins and life and salvation.  For when we share the grace of God with one another in this meal, we fulfill Paul’s final statement from our text.  Paul says, “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” we no longer will see the faults of others, but share in the fruit which God gives us in the Holy Sacrament we share from around the altar, the meal of salvation of His Body and Blood offering us eternal life.

Then when we gather downstairs or around our family tables at Thanksgiving we can with one another remember God’s gifts given to us and give thanks and praise as we gather together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We gather today offering our prayers of thanksgiving and can clearly see and share the blessings of the grace of God offered on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.  Especially all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel ready to share in the feast Jesus Christ offers us from the altar of His Body and Blood and with one another downstairs as we celebrate the fruits that God has entrusted to us and we share with one another of the grace of Jesus Christ with all of mankind.  AMEN.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

11092014 21st Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Audio

November 9, 2014
What are you wearing?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

             Last Sunday I concluded the sermon telling the story of a plane load of passengers honoring a fallen hero.  The private had given his life to insure our opportunity to worship in a free country like we are today.  In two short days, we will have the opportunity to honor those who have served our nation, our community and our church when the Goodland VFW remembers those who sacrificed in our military, both here and overseas on Veteran’s Day.  One of the neatest and best viewed experiences we have in Goodland is how our community has flags flying throughout the community to honor the important holidays of our country.  This is so impactful that our community still honors the soldiers and their sacrifice.
For soldiers who served it is clear that each branch wears different uniforms to signify their individual branches.  I can remember as a child finding my father’s Air Force uniform that was distinctly different from today’s.  For some who were in the military the uniform was not only a badge of honor, but an emblem that was and still is worn with honor on certain days of the year.
There is a movie coming out soon titled, “Unbroken”.  It is the true story of Louis Zamperini and his early life, military experience and enduring not only 47 days drifting on a life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but enduring two years in a Japanese Prisoner of war camp.  But Louis’s story isn’t about his being a troublesome kid, training and becoming a famous Olympic athlete, but a story of a man whose faith impacted his life and his destiny.  Louis’s story is about how his faith in God and putting on the full armor of God empowered him to survive his childhood, the near death experience of crashing into the Pacific Ocean and the unrelenting torture of his captors, fellow prisoners and the worst punishment imaginable as a prisoner of war.  All because Louis had put on the full armor of God.
Today, we are going to explore and learn what the full armor of God really is for we Christians gathered here this morning.  In your bulletin is a one page insert with a picture on one side and an easily filled out cheat sheet for you to follow along as we learn more about the full armor of God given to each of us in our baptism.  I invite you to take out this insert, follow along and learn more about what God offers us in the font with our Holy Baptism.
If you were to ask my wife, if I am fashionable?  You would hear laughing and a clear answer of “no” or “are you kidding”.  At times she asks me when I dress in the morning, ‘are you color blind?’, and I respond ‘no’, but evidently my choices of clothes has a lot to be desired and begs the question she asks.  That is one nice part of having my uniform of ‘black’!
But as God’s children redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, we have the opportunity to put on the armor of God!  The first item mentioned in the armor of God is the ‘belt of truth’.  Belts clearly have a purpose, just ask anybody who has had a pair of pants fall down.  The belt is a necessary wardrobe choice.  It prevents everyone who wears it properly from having a wardrobe malfunction that can be quite embarrassing.
Yet, as the first piece of the armor of God, it has a more crucial role and purpose.  The ‘belt of truth’ is meant to keep clothing tucked and close to the body so the clothing does not flap or impede quick movement of the wearer.  Unlike today’s styles that are custom and tailor made, the uniform of a soldier in Paul’s day was one size fits all so the belt was extremely important.  This is especially true with soldiers who are meant to go into battle against an enemy.  A soldier needs to be prepared to move quickly and without anything to impede their way.  We who gather here today are soldiers in God’s army and need this same dexterity.
We daily encounter in our society the wiles and woes of the devil.  This is a battle that we daily face and encounter in every segment of our life.  From the media which puts a spin on everything, to people who gossip about anything, from children on the playground, to adolescents who feel the peer pressure to adults who have a workplace that reeks of bullying.  Whether at Wal-Mart, where we see someone we know and say, “did you hear what……did?”  Or “have you heard about….?”  Or even “I can’t believe what…..told us at church.”  We all daily encounter a ‘spin’ or some part of truth.
We also encounter this in our own mind.  Satan hits us daily with the arrows of deceit in our own mind that cause us to doubt ourselves, our abilities and even the people that love us.  This isn’t a mental illness, it is the result of the fall of man and how Satan tries to get us, like in the Garden of Eden to doubt God and doubt what God can do for each and every one of us.
The ‘belt of truth’ given to us in baptism at the font is meant for us to put on God’s truth and God’s full armor.  God’s armor is God’s Word and not only the Word, but the commandments He gave Moses.  Martin Luther said it well, no matter what we hear, follow the eighth Commandment and “put the best construction on everything.”
The belt of truth is meant to help us guard our tongues and only speak the absolute truth we would be willing to speak in front of God Himself.  We are enabled to use this belt to reign in our sinful-self using God’s Word as our guide and refuge.  Like a belt we can gird up the things that are loose and can and do cause us to stumble and fall.  Whether it is our thoughts, our insecurities, our doubts or even what we are really thinking that may not be so kind.  God wants us to call on Him to help tighten our spiritual belt of truth and get us ready for battle.
Nick Fury in the Avengers movie, when they had lost the tessaract to Loki said it well, “We are at war.”  We Christians are at war and it is a war with Satan and we need to be ready for battle on a daily basis in every segment of our lives, from school, work, the home and even here in the church.
Hence, in our war with Satan, we need something to hide behind.  The next piece of the Armor of God is the “Breastplate of Righteousness”.  A breastplate is a specially designed, crafted and fitted piece of the Armor of God that protects, not a small part of the body, but the core of our bodies, the organs that keep us alive and feed and nourish us, but especially our heart.
The human heart is a wonderful organ.  It pumps nearly 100,000 times a day and pushes through the human body nearly 2000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels.  Not only is it one of the organs that we cannot live without, it is even an organ that Jesus spoke of often in scripture.
Just as the heart is at the center as God designed and made us to be, our core self image needs protection.  Being human we know how to protect ourselves from doing what we don’t want to do, seeing who we want to see or even doing what we know is right and need to do.  We avoid.  Whether it is people who make fun of us at school, people who talk bad about us or demean us or put us under their thumb in the community or even in the church.  We even avoid those places and situations that make us uncomfortable, all to keep us safe.
But, we daily are under an attack by Satan.  This week the constant drum of the ‘attack ads’ for the politicians came to an abrupt end, thankfully with the election.  As Christians, how can we protect ourselves from the attack of Satan?
God gives us in our baptism a breastplate of righteousness embossed with the Cross of Jesus Christ to guard our hearts.  In the Roman Army this piece of armor was a unique and distinguishing feature of every soldier.  For Kings and Knights armor when crafted by uniquely skilled craftsman fit the person perfectly.  So to in our baptism we have been fit with the perfect breastplate of righteousness by Jesus Christ to protect us.
We in and through our baptism are clothed with the breastplate of righteousness of Jesus Christ.  It is not only a protection, but the badge of honor that we can wear in the army of God.  This is what Jesus Christ gives to us.  The breastplate of righteousness is the badge of honor that has been given to us.  We haven’t earned it, but God gives it to us freely in our baptism because of what Jesus Christ has done on the Cross of Calvary.  We are the redeemed.  It reminds me of a song that Sky Ranch sings every year, both up at Camp and when they come for Day Camp here at Emmanuel.  “I’ve been redeemed, by the blood of Jesus, I’ve been set free by the blood of the lamb.”  This song not only encapsulates the beauty of God’s gift of the Breastplate of Righteousness, but shows how this has occurred.
The Breastplate of Righteousness is part of our uniform, our armor of God given to us as children of God.  So we have to be not only ‘squared away’ or ‘tucked in’ with the belt of truth, we wear our breastplate of righteousness to protect our heart and other vital organs.  But now we need to get to where the battle is occurring.  So we need some shoes.
            If you ask most parents what their greatest challenge is when kids are growing up it is their constant change in shoe size.  When kids are born they wear the smallest booties, sometimes made by a grandparent, friend or extended family that knits for fun.  But when kids start growing, their shoe size constantly changes.  For Christians, we have been given the Shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace in our baptism.
Shoes as part of the armor of God may seem strange, but in New Testament time people didn’t have shoe stores in every market, nor were there four lane highways, cars or SUV’s or for soldiers beasts of burden to carry them wherever they needed to go.  The main means of travel in Jesus and Paul’s day was by foot.  So for soldiers having the right shoes was imperative.  Roman Soldiers shoes were not like Nike or New Balance, or even what could be found at the local bazaar or market.  Their shoes were nail studded so when they planted their feet they would be able to stand firm and be immovable no matter who or what enemy was being faced.
For children of God the same is true.  We with our Shoes of Preparation, need to stand firm in our convictions and our beliefs, but especially in the face of evil.  Since we as Christians live in society, but are not of society nor the fallen values espoused by our society that clearly go against God and God’s Word, the shoes given to us in our baptism are meant to help us stand up for what is right.
Pastor Glenn Isernhagen before I arrived showed video’s that clearly resonated for some with what had occurred here at Emmanuel.  What some took away, not only was the ability to see what had occurred in the past, but the opportunity to stand up for what was right as it is proclaimed in the Word of God and lived by Jesus Christ while He walked the earth.
The armor of God given by Jesus Christ is meant not only for holding together the other pieces of the armor, to wear with pride and the ability to get we God’s soldiers to the battle, but also to give us something to hold that will protect us or shield us.  The next piece of our armor is the shield of faith.
When we would visit family in Pennsylvania, there was a sight we always looked for in the short stretch of road as we passed through the panhandle of West Virginia.  It was a suit of armor that stood guard on a hill overlooking the valley below.  Not only was it a full suit of armor, but it included a shield.
For soldiers the shield was a moveable object that depending upon the size could be used to hide behind and if leveraged correctly could be brought together with other shields to protect all who were covered.  If prepared  and used properly the shield could prevent the penetration of arrows and even spears if metal.
When arrows were dipped in pitch and set afire, the leather shield of biblical times was susceptible to the fire.  However, good soldiers before battle would soak their shields in water overnight which would lessen the potential of the shield burning from the flaming arrow.
We the children of God can hide behind the shield of faith.  The Shield of Faith given in baptism can protect us from Satan’s attacks.  Daily we experience being bombarded by the darts and fiery arrows of Satan attempting to pull us away from God, or even just doubt God and what He has done, is doing and will do.  But the reality is, when we put on the full armor of God, and lift the shield of faith, we will be protected.
Our protection comes not from what we do, but what God has done and continues to do through Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ works through us and protects us and gives us the best protection.  It is a protection from an eternal perspective, not the ‘here and now’ perspective of our society.  Our society and world seems to always look at any situation through the glasses of ‘what’s in it for me’?  Whether it is who is elected into the House or Senate, Board of Supervisors or County Commissioners.  Or how my certain group can benefit the most or control the most situations or organizations.  But God has a perspective that looks for the eternal benefit for all of mankind.  And the shield of faith lifted for our protection and used against Satan protects us and ushers us into God’s Kingdom when we end our earthly pilgrimage.  We celebrated that last week for our Saints of Emmanuel, when we remembered them on All Saints Day.
It is clear that the armor of God is special and unique, from protecting the core of the organs, insuring the clothes do not get in the way of progress, getting we the soldiers of God to the battle with the right footwear and the ability to hide behind the shield of righteousness.  But just like farmers who wear the colors of their favorite seed or implement dealers or their favorite school, whether K-State, KU or Nebraska, the soldier also wears a head covering.  The armor of God that covers the head is known as the helmet of salvation.
We know the brain is the center of all of our thoughts and controls our bodies motion, but the helmet of a soldier doesn’t just protect the head it is a symbol of authority.  Romans soldiers would wear bronze helmets with cheek plates that were unique and clearly distinguished them from any other soldier.  It was a means of identity and solidarity of the brotherhood.  It was also a source of pride to not just wear the helmet, because they were easily distinctive, but it was a mark of pride.
Christians who wear the “helmet of salvation” wear something that points in a certain direction.  Not at or for the self, but our ‘helmet of salvation’ points to Jesus Christ.  The best reminder we have of the helmet of salvation is when we make the sign of the cross over our forehead.
When children come forward at Holy Communion and they are unable or have not been instructed for first communion, I make the sign of the cross over their forehead as a reminder of their baptism or for those who have not been baptized that God still wants to bless them.  It is to remind everyone of God’s blessing upon them, but also remind children and adults of the helmet of salvation Jesus Christ offers all of mankind in their baptism.
On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return with the sign of the Cross.  The sign of the Cross made with ashes from the previous years palms is a reminder of the protection Jesus Christ offers us in our baptism and the armor God puts on us, with our “helmet of salvation”.
With all of the armor we have heard this morning we are prepared to be the children of God to be protected by Him, but also up to this point all of the armor is defensive.  What we have talked about up til now was all protective, but the one weapon of the armor of God that is offensive is the Sword of the Spirit.
The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.  The Word of God contained in the Bible is the one thing that can stop Satan in his tracks.  There is a hymn I grew up singing that said, “one little Word subdues him!”  That one little Word is “Jesus”!  That is the power we have with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ.  Martin Luther who wrote the hymn “A Mighty Fortress” that I sang as a child and adult and just quoted clearly articulated the understanding of the armor of God as the protection needed for the people of God that is found in the Word of God.
Our society and culture would like for us to ‘forget the Word of God’.  Hence why prayer has been taken out of school, the bible cannot be taught in classrooms and our world is falling into the throes of an economic, moral and cultural war and ensuing chaos.  But we as Christians can be a beacon in the night and step up to the battle that is unavoidable, but which God has prepared us to enter into.  When we put on the full armor of God, buckle on the breastplate of righteousness, put on the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel, the helmet of salvation and take up our sword which is the Word of God, Jesus Christ, we will not fail.
The question we have to ask ourselves today, are we fighting with the full armor of God?  Are we fleeing from battle, because we have not put on what God has provided in our baptism?  Are we choosing to ignore Jesus Christ call for we Christians to put on the full armor of God?
God’s greatest armor given to us in our baptism is Jesus Christ.  If we put on the full armor of God, but lack Jesus Christ our labor and our action is in vain.  We can wear the best armor, like David did before going to face Goliath.  But David realized and we should to, unless we trust God, have a personal relationship with Him and fully rely upon God, our work is in vain.
David took off the armor provided by Saul and trusted God.  God is calling us to put on His armor, the full armor of God with the truth of Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation offered from the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.  When we trust in this free gift of grace offered by Jesus Christ, we then will be armored with an impenetrable eternal armor provided by God of not only His Word, but the fulfillment of the plan of salvation for all of mankind.  This is what God offers us today.  
We are called to put on in the full armor of God and trust and believe it is for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  It is the same armor that though stripped, beaten and bloodied, Louis Zamperini modelled in a prison of war camp in Japan and David went into battle against Goliath with and which we are empowered to wear this morning.  This is the full armor of God provided by Jesus Christ for you and for me and for all of mankind.  AMEN.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

11022014 All Saints Sunday

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

November 2, 2014
Are we soldiers or subjects?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

            This morning we celebrate All Saints Sunday here at Emmanuel.  On this one Sunday of the Church Year we remember all of the members, family and friends that have passed away since the last All Saints Celebration November 3, 2013.  Today is to be not only a summary of those lost in the last year, but an opportunity as a family of God to remember, reminisce and remind ourselves, not only of the lives of the people, but especially of what God did for them.  Right here in the baptismal font, or one like it in other churches, God reached down into the lives of the people we mourn and redeemed them by the Blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  Through the Water and Word of Baptism, God washed our loved ones clean and gave them the garment of salvation that ushered them in death to eternal life.  Now our loved ones have entered into God’s Holy presence and see God face to face.  What joy there is over one who has entered into God’s Eternal Kingdom and His Holy Presence!!!

            We who remain here mourn, sometimes even for many years, but we need to be reminded of a truth.  We to one day will be ushered into heaven as well.  But while we do journey on our pilgrimage here on earth, we need to ask a question “Are we subjects or soldiers?”

            We are subject to the reality that we will one day die.  But are we subjects without a cause or since we are baptized into Jesus Christ innocent life, death and resurrection, are we not then baptized as soldiers in to His Army of believers?  Are we not soldiers indoctrinated into the cause of Christ?  Are we not soldiers fighting for other’s freedom from oppression?  Are we not soldiers that are called into the mission of Jesus Christ for all of mankind?  Are we not soldiers for Jesus Christ?

            We are soldiers, each and every one of us, every man, woman and child.  When we were baptized in the font we enlisted in God’s Army of Believers to spread the message of the Gospel of Salvation.  Our orders were clear, to seek and serve the lowly, the downtrodden, the widowed, the weak and reach into the lives of those that had no hope to give the hope found in Jesus Christ.  We are God’s hands here on earth to reach out and minister in any and all capacities.

            We who gather here today to hear what Jesus Christ did on the cross of Calvary for all of mankind are empowered to minister.  Whether it is calling people who may not have been in church, speaking loving words of witness of the love of Christ to a stranger, friend or family member, or even our mere presence to support those who are in need of our individual and corporate prayers.  We are the people of God enlisted in the Army of God and empowered to do the work of God as God’s soldiers who no longer are subject to Satan.

            Jesus Christ when He set in motion the plan of salvation in the Garden and allowed Himself to be taken into custody, beaten, mocked and scourged by the soldiers, spit upon by the onlookers as He carried the Cross to Calvary.  Then nailed to the Cross for all of mankind, clearly understood and took upon Himself the uniform of a soldier, but also a leader that was willing to die for His subjects, meaning you and me.  Jesus Christ was willing to die for you and for me in order to set us free.  And that is exactly what has happened to those we remember today on All Saints Day.  Our friends, family and loved ones have been set free for all eternity and we will to one day.

            Dr. Henry Cloud summed up clearly what our opportunity is today.  He said, “Don't treat any single scene as if it were the whole movie.  Keep writing the script.  Respond to your current scene in a way that gets you to the good ending.”  The good ending we look for is to be honored as soldiers of the Cross of Jesus Christ.  No better story could be told than one that I read last Sunday afternoon from the One Spark Foundation.

            After our Reformation Service last week I was reading my Facebook Feed on my phone.  There was a story that not only caught my attention, but touched me deeply.  The story detailed the experience of an airline pilot that had a sticky situation, but which has become more common in the last few years.  The pilot told of his experience of meeting a young Sergeant in the Army that was escorting the remains of a fallen comrade back to his family for burial.  The dignity shown by the pilot, flight crew and the Sergeant was not only professional, but full of compassion for the final mission of the young private who was ‘going home’.

            Following his meeting the Sergeant and thanking him for his service to his country and the family during such a difficult time, the pilot was later informed that not only was the Sergeant on board, but the Private’s wife, 2 year old daughter and his Father and Mother all were escorting the Private home.  Due to circumstances beyond the pilots control the family was unable to see the container before its being loaded onto the plane.  And the plane’s destination was a major hub for many airlines so the family would likely be unable to see the soldiers casket upon arrival.  In true compassion for a soldier that had given his life for his country, the pilot went above and beyond the call of duty and through special channels contacted his controller for special instructions and the ability to allow the family the opportunity to personally greet their loved one, who was currently below their feet in the cargo hold.

            Shortly before descent into the airport the Captain received the approval and instructions for this final faithful journey of the Private.  But there was another problem.  Like all flights the pilot knew that once the plane landed and the ‘seat belt sign’ had been turned off all the passengers would jump up and rush to get off the airplane with no concern for this soldiers family.  So once he landed, he radioed the tower and received permission to stop short of the gate.

            After stopping short of the gate, the Captain of the plane came on the intercom and informed the entire airplane of the soldier’s mission of the Sergeant and the Private’s family that was escorting their son, husband and Father home.  In unheard of fashion the family experienced the most grace filled event on their most difficult journey home.  Not one person moved from their seats as the family gathered their belongings and disembarked.  The family was even thanked for the Private’s service, words of comfort, appreciation and applause filled the aircraft as they moved through the plane.  So moved was the cabin crew and passengers many were seen with tears running down their cheeks because of the outpouring of love, compassion and support during the family’s most difficult journey.

            The love shown the soldier and military family is what we have to look forward to when we enter into eternity in heaven.  A rousing applause, hearing the words, “Well done good and faithful servant!”  It is not for what we have done in and of ourselves, but what Jesus Christ has done through each of us soldiers.  For God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ died on the Cross of Calvary in order that we His soldiers in His Army will be welcomed into the company of saints and be with Him for all eternity.  We who gather here today on All Saints Sunday celebrate our brother’s and sister’s who have entered eternal glory.  No longer do our loved one’s struggle and today we remember God’s victory for them and us on the Cross of Calvary and for all of mankind.  Thanks be to God for the victory for all of mankind and all of us soldiers gathered here to celebrate All Saints Sunday today.  AMEN.

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