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Monday, January 26, 2015

01252015 Transfiguration and 3rd Sunday After Epiphany

Sermon Audio

January 25, 2015
Restoration by God’s Plan!
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.

            So many times in our world, we hear, see and experience conflict arising, because we are asked to do something.  In our Old Testament lesson this morning, Naaman, a leper is told that he needs to go and wash in the Jordan River and dip himself seven times in order to be clean.  Great General that he is, Naaman who could tell multitudes of men to go into battle for the King where they would ultimately lose their lives and the men would follow his order without question.  And in his humanity, Naaman when presented with this opportunity balked at this simple command by the prophet Elisha.
            Naaman’s reaction to Elisha was to not only question him, but even give other potential solutions that he thought were ‘better’.  Our passage states Naaman’s words, “Behold, I thought, ‘He [that is the prophet] will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?”
            In one sense, Naaman was trying to compromise on what he was told he needed to do.  Naaman felt he knew better than Elisha how this should have gone down and was unafraid not only to ignore the simple instructions, but even offer his own ‘educated’ opinion.
            Naaman even goes so far as to not only ignore the advice he was in fact soliciting, but “turned and went away in a rage.”  Naaman was angry and was unafraid of letting anyone and everyone around know he was not only dissatisfied, but felt like his journey to come see this man was not only a complete waste of time, but the person he was getting advice from was asking him to do something he felt was beneath him.
            Simply Naaman did not feel he needed to submit himself.  Namaan’s pride was getting in the way of even his desire to be healed.  Rather than submitting himself to what the prophet prescribed, he would rather live with the leprosy and the stigma that he would continue to have for the rest of his life.  It would be like a farmer seeking out the most skilled extension field rep from K-State, KU or even the local Ag office to solve a problem you ran into with all of your fields that kept your crop from even paying the land payment and taxes.  And when he or she prescribes the best treatment to return your field to health in their professional opinion, you slam the door in their face, because you know better than somebody with letters behind their name or a title.
            Sadly, Naaman is a prime and perfect example for us and of our society today.  A few weeks ago I asked in the sermon, “will you be submissive to God”?  Clearly Naaman is refusing to be submissive to God and His plan.  What we learned about submission a few weeks ago is that God has a plan, a perfect plan.
            When Naaman in essence threw his fit, he clearly didn’t want to follow God’s plan.  But notice what happened, his servants, who worked for him came and spoke to him.  His servants saw what was happening and not only understood the potential for healing for Naaman, but had an insight into Naaman and how to get him to think about it in a different way.  The slaves said to Naaman, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?
            Clearly the servants saw beyond the human reaction of Naaman and could discern Naaman’s heart.  In essence they made Naaman look at this from a different perspective.  Naaman, was looking from the fleshly human perspective, hence his anger and rage, but his slaves saw the simple wisdom of submission.  And what would occur was the greatest gift, “Restoration by God’s Plan!”  God used the prophet Elisha to speak into Naaman’s life, the slaves to stop Naaman and for Naaman to look at this gift and fulfill the plan of healing that could occur.
            We who gather here today have an opportunity like Naaman to follow God’s perfect plan and feel and be the restoration by God’s Plan!  But like Naaman it will require, not only submission, but our following God’s given servant and the wisdom given them from God.
            There are three things that Naaman had to do, before he was healed.  He had to swallow his pride.  In our 21st Century culture we have a problem swallowing our pride.  As a Pastor, I have this challenge and still struggle with it daily.  I would guess a lot of us have this problem.  When we do swallow our pride, God can use us to move mountains.  Swallowing our pride does not mean we lose our independence or voice, but it does mean we need to seek the right advice.  Just as Naaman had to go to Elisha to receive the simple task of washing in the Jordan, we need to seek out the right people to help us with our problems, challenges and difficulties, especially in the church when we have hit the proverbial brick wall.
            The second thing Naaman had to do was “Go where he was told”.  Notice after his slaves helped him see the wisdom, Naaman went down to the Jordan River.  The river that he had only a short while ago berated as not as good as the rivers of Damascus, now became his salvation from a disease that had hurt him for years.  As a Pastor, we sometimes receive a call to minister to a family on the wrong side of the tracks or in the wrong circumstance.  But God has a plan and this may be my opportunity as Pastor our opportunity for Emmanuel to proclaim the Gospel where others would not have dared trod.
            And finally, Naaman had to follow the directions of Elisha, dip himself, not six times or eight times, but seven times in the river Jordan.  Seven times in and out of the water of the Jordan River and Naaman’s skin was healed from the disease that had left him outside of society, acceptance and even being able to be seen in public as the great General he was.
            In a clear, definable and definitive way Naaman was healed according to the “word of the man of God”.  Elisha clear prophet of the people of God gave Naaman, not a victory over a battle, but over a battle in and with his body that he had suffered for a long time.
            What does this mean for us today?  If we will only learn from Naaman and put away our pride, go where we are told and follow the directions of God’s true servants, we will be healed.

           And God’s servant for us today is Jesus Christ Who came in the manger, died on the Cross of Calvary, was raised from the dead and Who now calls upon we who gather here today to proclaim the mercy He offers all of mankind.  If we refuse to share the forgiveness and mercy of God, listen only to what scratches our collective itch, then like the leprosy of Naaman, we as a church will never be healed.

            But if we lay claim to God’s promise of forgiveness, put away our pride and arrogance, God will work through us in the most profound way and touch and change the heart of Goodland, Kansas.  Let’s as a church follow God’s bidding and be the church Jesus Christ died for, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel for our Annual Meeting.  AMEN.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

01182015 Second Sunday After Epiphany

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

January 18, 2015
God covers us up!
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.

            For Christmas Sarah was given by Michele’s parents a 21st Century set of children’s tinker toys.  These are not like the ones I grew up with that were wooden.  Michele and I kid each other, because they remind us of the model sets we would build chemical structures with in Chemistry that had many angles and the potential for many different variations.  The modern set not only are made of plastic, but they are much larger and can build structures taller structures than even me.  Well, like all kids, Sarah loves playing with them.  She has the potential to build almost any structure that she wants or her imagination can dream up. 
On the box there are four or five different structures that they show, so while my parents were here, Sarah wanted Bop-Pop, my Dad, to help her build.  Needless to say, we built, took apart and rebuilt quite a few times in the next couple of days.  But one of the most intriguing parts was that with every structure we built, it needed a covering.  Just like the Indian sweat lodges that would have the hides from animals to cover it to keep the cold out in winter, Sarah needed a covering for the structures we had made.
            So with every structure we found blankets and covered the structure to make a place for Sarah to hide and play and she loved it.  This was a place where Sarah could pretend, move around in and hide where she not only felt safe and protected, but was a special place made especially for her by her Bop-Pop, but also me her Father.
            Today in our Old Testament lesson, we encounter the story of Moses asking to see God and being covered by God the Father.  Unlike the blankets we used on Sarah’s tinker toys, God in a conversation with Moses didn’t put something as simple as a blanket over Moses, God used His own hand.  God in a divine and very profound way revealed Himself to Moses, but was protecting Moses, not from something evil, but from what would kill him, seeing God face to face.  The potential of seeing God’s face was the main reason God wanted to clearly protect Moses, but also honor Moses request to see God’s Glory.  For if anyone were to see God’s face, whether by accident or on purpose, they would die.  And God didn’t want Moses to die.  God had so much more for Moses to accomplish.
            But not only was it the protection God gave Moses, God’s covering shielded Moses from God’s identity.  How often do we do that as well with family, friends, coworkers or even here in the church?  We don’t open up or show our true nature because we are afraid of being hurt or revealing to much of our inner selves.  Whether it is by the clothes we wear the brash way we treat people or even as subtly of our not coming to church, because we might encounter a person that hurt us or treats us as a lower class citizen.  We try and protect ourselves. 
Yet, God’s protection of Moses is different.  God was not only trying to keep Moses alive, but allow Moses to be the one person who would have seen God.  Granted it was only His back, but for Moses to see even God’s back was more than had been seen since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
But a bigger question for us today is for what reason had this happened?  Simply it was because Moses had found favor in God’s sight.  Moses clearly had found great favor from the God of the universe.  Not only did God know Moses name, God was making a covenant promise with Moses and the people of God that He would be with them.  God would go with the people of God and even distinguish them, claim them and reveal Himself to them.  And the first step was with Moses.
So profound is this revelation that truly it was not fully fulfilled until Jesus Christ entered in the manger in Bethlehem.  For when Jesus Christ was born in the manger, God’s Glory in His Son was fully revealed for all of mankind.  Not only in the manger, but also in the Jordan River that we celebrated last week with Jesus baptism.  When the people heard God’s voice and saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove, God’s glory was fully revealed for everyone who witnessed it.  And the moment when Jesus Christ hung on the Cross of Calvary and uttered the words, “It is finished”, the plan of salvation was fully complete.  After having seen the face of the Son of God, we now through our baptism are covered by the grace God first offered Moses, by God’s hand, but now each of us in, through and by our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection are covered by God, not only by His Hand, but by His Son Jesus Christ when we celebrate and remember those events even 2000 years later. 

For the sins of mankind and each of us gathered here were fully atoned by Jesus Christ and we now have been covered by God’s grace freely given for all of mankind.  This is the gift we are offered and freely given and how we now are covered by God and forgiven.  For through Moses, Jesus and our baptism, we have found favor in God’s sight.  We have been covered by not only God’s Holy Hand, but by His Son Jesus Christ and we now find true favor and forgiveness with and from God.  This is not for a select few, but for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel who will partake of His precious Body and Blood, given and shed for all of us for the forgiveness of sins and be covered by the grace of God through and by Jesus Christ.  This is God’s gift for each and every one of us gathered here today covered by His gift of grace, His Son, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

01112015 Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ

Sermon Audio

January 11, 2015
Perfect Submission: How to…
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.

If you have ever filled out a form, whether at the Doctor’s Office, for a driver’s license or even the FSA office you have a good understanding of submission.  Unlike what kids are used to doing in our current computer age with iPads, where there is a button that says, “Submit”, in the old days it was a very unique process.  You actually had to use a pencil and hand the form to the person who was sitting right in front of you.  And while they looked over your form, you waited.  Depending upon the length of the form it could take a few minutes.  But the reality was you had to wait, not go anywhere and wait for instructions of the next step and how to proceed.  You had to fully submit to someone else having the power and authority over your current and future actions.  This morning in our celebration and from our lessons we hear about submission, not in forms, but of actions and their impact upon the plan of salvation.

Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ by John the Baptist.  In perfect submission, Jesus Christ had to submit Himself to Holy Baptism by John the Baptist.  John Jesus cousin, who had leapt in his mother’s womb when he heard Mary’s voice upon her entrance into her cousins home now stood at a cross roads in his life.  Either demand Jesus baptize him that is John, or John would fully submit himself to be used by God to baptize the promised Messiah.  For John it would have been interesting to hear what was going through his mind and heart at this particular moment and the either the struggles or the pure joy of completing God’s plan of salvation.

For those of us gathered here when we encounter decisions to be made in our daily lives, all of us think about the opportunities, outcomes and weigh the options.  But our decisions we make today about the farm, our family or our future here on earth might seem more important or have greater meaning for us today than John’s choice 2000 years ago.  However, John the Baptist was at a clear cross roads in his relationship with God.  If he chose to demand to be baptized by the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, John would have chosen the self-centered selfish route and not shown clear submission to God’s divine will and perfect plan.  If John refused to baptize Jesus, scripture prophecies from the Old Testament would not have been fulfilled.  Like dominoes that are lined up and prepared to topple, one choice by John would not only have an effect in the then and there, but would clearly have a domino effect upon we who gather here today at Emmanuel to celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Some people look at these celebrations of the church that we honor and remember both as being more “Catholic”, even as ancient history and unimportant or having no affect or effect upon our lives today.  Whether the celebration be Advent, Christmas, Epiphany and even Jesus Baptism, there are some, even who call themselves Christian, who say, I only need Jesus, not these festival days.  Yet there is a fact that is unmistakable and shows their self-centeredness when they question these celebrations.  The celebration of each of these milestones is not about us who gather, but about the God that we honor and worship.  These milestones are a clear and concise reminder of what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for all of mankind in the future.  When we celebrate these events we enter into the greatest opportunity to be submissive to God’s divine plan and it’s completion.

God’s plan is perfect and has a single simple goal in mind.  God’s goal is for us to be in the kingdom of God for all eternity.  There are some who want clear reassurance, in essence to hear people confess and say they have faith in Jesus Christ in order to be assured of the fulfillment of the promise of eternal life and that they will be in the kingdom, but the fact remains, words can be used to deceive, what matters is what is in our heart.  We have only one thing we as Christians can do, rely upon the grace of God and declare the grace of God that is for all of mankind that Jesus Christ offers.  When we declare this grace we are then submissive to God and His perfect plan.

When we rely upon God’s grace and submit ourselves to God’s perfect will and way and offer the gift of grace, we change the landscape and offer ourselves in perfect submission to God.  Just as John submitted himself to God’s plan by baptizing Jesus Christ and the heavens were opened and those who witnessed heard God’s voice from heaven and saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove.  When we submit ourselves to God’s perfect plan and willfully submit our lives to God, God will use us in kingdom work.  The kingdom work will bring glory, not to ourselves, but point to God’s full and complete action of salvation found on the cross of Calvary for all mankind.

So, the question for each of us today is clear, will you be submissive to God’s plan, work and action and the fulfillment of God’s perfect plan, or will you be self-centered, selfish and not submit yourself to God’s will and way?  Your decision will impact not only your life today, but will have a lifelong impact as to God’s continuous action in your life from this day forward.

The plan of salvation God offered to each of us does not change with our answer of being submissive or not, but by our decisions, we can and do change our potential impact upon our world, our community, our church and especially our family.  For God’s plan is very clear of Jesus Christ willingness to submit Himself to being baptized by John.  And John’s willingness to not be selfish, and baptize Jesus in order that mankind would be in God’s kingdom for all eternity.  For this is the gift of grace God offers all of mankind, but especially including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

01042015 Epiphany (Observed)

Gospel Audio 
Sermon Audio

New Years Resolutions
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.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as we gather here this First Sunday of the Calendar New Year, all of us have either heard, made or are challenged with "New Years Resolutions".  Whether from the radio, Facebook or even our families traditions, new years resolutions seem to be the norm.  Our society makes many different and varied new years resolutions that include losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more or regularly, making more money and spending time with our friends or on vacation in exotic locations.  But ironically the church has a different perspective on New Years resolutions.  It isn't about our physical appearance, our job or our location away from home or what we have in the gun safe, garage or the latest fad in technology or equipment.  New Years resolutions for the church should focus upon something that is far more important.

What about Emmanuel Lutheran Church?  What resolutions do and should we as a church have?  Some in our society would say, the church doesn’t need any resolutions for the new year. There are others who would say, finishing the window and wall foundation project that will help the church for years to come should be a priority.  Others would say, begin the kitchen remodel so we can serve Lenten Soup Suppers, Easter Breakfasts and especially meals for families that are mourning their loved one’s entrance into the Church Triumphant.   But if we look to today’s lesson for Epiphany there are two resolutions or takeaways we can apply in the here and now that are extremely clear and we need to be reminded why they are important for we who gather this morning.  

First, the church of Jesus Christ has the perspective that when we enter the new year, our resolution should be focused on the gift that the three wise men found in the manger, the gift found in the person Jesus Christ.  Last week in our Lessons and Carols service we sang of the Three Wise men who offered the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to the baby Jesus, today we celebrate that event with the entire church on earth of the coming of these wise men.  The clear resolve of the three wise men, not only to find the promised Messiah by following the star, but their resolution to offer Him the three gifts they carried for weeks and months that clearly shows the importance of Who they found, even for we the people of Emmanuel.

The second resolution from both the season of the church year and our lesson is and becomes more personal for each of us, because it is from the perspective of Jesus Christ, the babe in the manger.  It is Jesus Christ resolution from the manger to grow up and go to Golgotha and die for each and every one of us.  For Jesus Christ resolution to offer us the free grace has an eternal goal and impact, our entrance into eternity to be with Him in His Kingdom.  Jesus resolution points to the greatest gift of grace and mercy that our world will ever see.  It is the experience from the manger to the Cross of Golgotha.  And Epiphany is just one more step and stepping stone in the plan of salvation of all of mankind that began with Jesus entrance in the manger in Bethlehem.

But there is a fact we need to understand about resolutions that we make at the beginning of the year, for even we who gather here today as the church, we may easily break our new years resolutions.  But the fact remains, the resolution made by Jesus Christ will never be broken.  Jesus resolution was to come and die in order that we might live.  As we celebrate the coming of the Three Wise Men today, may we remember Jesus gift for each of us as our eternal life saver for all of mankind, but especially each of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel as we celebrate Epiphany and the resolution Jesus comes to fulfill for each and every one of us.  AMEN.

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