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Sunday, March 29, 2015

03292015 - Palm Sunday - Sixth Sunday in Lent - "It is finished!!" - "Calvary Answers for me!"

Palm Sunday Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

March 29, 2015
Jesus work is done!
Gracious Lord!  With the words, “It is finished!” it was not about a painting, planting or harvesting, but that Your time on earth was complete.  In those words Your Son Jesus Christ finished the work of salvation.  Not just simple salvation, but the offer of grace for all of mankind that radically changed life as we know it for all of us.  For in those words, Jesus signaled the end of His earthly humiliated life, but in three days the beginning of His life of triumph that we receive with our entrance into His Kingdom.  May we look at Palm Sunday as one more point on and step in the journey to the Cross that emphasizes the offer of eternal life for all of mankind, but especially all of us gathered here this morning who have heard and believed, “Calvary Answers for Me!”  AMEN.

When the choir came together and began practicing many weeks ago, we all had a deep sense of purpose and desire to allow our collective voices proclaim the Easter message.  Then the song, “Calvary Answers for Me!” was introduced by Marla and Scott and all of us were deeply moved and touched, not only by the lyrics, but the message.  Once it was decided we would sing the song, it became a question of when?  It is very appropriate for after Easter, but for we who gather today on Palm Sunday it is even more appropriate to not only hear, but proclaim as we look to this Holy Week, “Calvary Answers for Me!”.

On our journey during the season of Lent we have been listening to the Word’s of Jesus from the Cross of Calvary.  And today after celebrating Jesus entrance into Jerusalem as the “King of King and Lord of Lords” we now with the chorus from the choir ringing in our ears of “Calvary Answers for Me!” hear Jesus words, “It is finished!”  We look from this side of Good Friday and see the pain and clear anguish that Jesus feels on the Cross of Calvary.  With a blood soaked back from the lashes and beatings, a brow that is pierced by the thorns from the crown of thorns pushed on His head by the soldiers.  To the now pierced hands and feet that are nailed to the Cross.  Jesus Christ having endured in the last 18 hours more torture and pain than most could utters these three words “It is finished!” that have divine implications.

It is finished!” could mean, that Jesus is about ready to tear Himself down from the Cross.  But if Jesus came down from the Cross on His own, then why would He have allowed Himself to be crucified in the first place?  This does not make sense.

It is finished!” could mean that Jesus is giving up.  He has lost all hope.  When nothing that anybody could do could have an impact upon Him or His circumstances.  But this would have the eternal implication that Satan has won the eternal battle and Jesus Christ is not God!  This is definitely not true!

Or “It is finished!” could mean, death is eminent for Jesus Christ Who is nailed to the Cross.  This meaning in fact is what is spot-on.  Jesus is about to breath His last, but “It is finished!” has a much deeper meaning for us here today.  When Jesus Christ uttered those three words, the implication was that Jesus had fully completed His Work that He came to accomplish.  Jesus Christ had not only fully and completely done the job He was sent by His Father in Heaven to accomplish.  The job Jesus Christ came to accomplish had divine implication.  Jesus Christ came to suffer in order to set each and every one of us free from sin, death and the devil.  Jesus work is done!

But even though Jesus work is done, Jesus words, “It is finished!” is to remind us that Jesus work has divine implication for we who gather here today.  The divine implication is that Jesus with “It is finished!” has made it so our baptism and celebration of Holy Communion impart the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to each and every one of us.  When Jesus uttered those words from the Cross, the message was not only about His eminent death on the Cross, but the gift of grace, mercy and salvation He was offering all who believe and receive these sacramental gifts from Him.

For it is through our receipt of the gift of grace in Holy Baptism and Jesus Christ Precious Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper that we are surrounded by the love of God and intimately connected to the gift of divine grace offered for each and every one of us.  And these three words, “It is finished!” are the icing on the cake, the cherry on top of the sundae, the exclamation point of Jesus life.  When Jesus uttered these words, “It is finished!” Jesus was on the mountain top proclaiming “Salvation has come for all of mankind!”

In the movie, “To End All Wars” there is a scene that depicts something similar to these final moments of Jesus life on the Cross.  From a prisoner of war camp, Japanese soldiers have declared Major Campbell one of their captives’ guilty and deserving death for having a Bible, a picture of Jesus and teaching others about his faith.  When the sentence was read for his execution, one of the men from the group who had been learning about Jesus stepped forward to volunteer to take the leaders place.  Dusty, a mere infant in the faith after having heard what Jesus Christ did on Calvary was attempting to emulate his Hero, Jesus Christ Who spoke the simple words with divine implication, “It is finished!

Today, our Lenten journey is coming to a close with our celebration of Palm Sunday, looking forward to Maundy Thursday and the institution of the Lord’s Supper and culmination on Good Friday with Jesus final words we have heard today, “It is finished!”  Jesus journey is nearly complete but His offer for all of mankind of salvation will never end.  For the offer of salvation, Jesus taking our place is what Jesus came to complete and fulfill for all of mankind.  And this includes each and every one of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel who hear and believe “Calvary Answers for Me!” with Jesus final words “It is finished!”  AMEN.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

03252015 - Wednesday of Lent 5 - Green Bead - Growth

Sermon Audio

March 25, 2015
Growing in Christ!

Heavenly Father!  We are unable to make things grow, but by Your divine favor You not only cause plants to grow, but You raise us up as Your children.  Inspire us to grow, in grace and the ability to share it with others of what Jesus Christ did on Calvary.  For Jesus died in order to set us free and this was out of His love for each and every one of us.  AMEN.
Robby Gallaty, an author and church expert in discipleship wrote a book entitled, “Growing Up: How to be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples”.  In this book his main thesis is that we Christians are to be disciples of Jesus Christ and we are called to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ and share this relationship with others.

From the outside looking in, it is clear, Robby is right, that is what we are called to do, but as happens with a lot of us, then demands of our job, family, school, expectations and other things not only overwhelm us, but we become numb.  Our numbness is not only to the voices we hear that bombard us on television, radio, the internet, but even from our children, family, friends and even here in the church.  We become numb to the need of growth in our lives as Christians and then become numb to the meaning and implications of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But this is why we celebrate Lent, to remember Jesus willingness to go to the Cross for us and especially why tonight we have a green bead on the salvation bracelet.  The green bead we have tonight is to remind us that we are to be “Growing in Christ”!  Just as when the wheat is planted in the fall or corn in the spring, just as will happen shortly, the seed outside of dirt will not sprout and grow.  But once planted into the ground with the right moisture, depth, warmth and sunlight, sprouts from the cover that protects.  And once it sprouts it sends a root deeper into the earth and a sprout that emerges from the ground and the seed grows as God intended.

This is a perfect metaphor or explanation of what we as Christians are called to be as we are “Growing in Christ”.  When we wear the Salvation Bracelet and explain our beliefs to non-believers and believers, the green bead is to remind us we can “Grow in Christ”.  We grow when we come to hear the Word of God that tells of the offer of the free gift of salvation from Jesus Christ.  God feeds us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ that tells what He did on Calvary.  And our growth is aided by God’s gifts given to us of His Sacraments from the Altar, His Word from both the pulpit and lectern as well as being surrounded by others who are here to “Grow in Christ!

Just as wheat and corn grow best in a ‘stand’ when planted with other seed.  We as Christians grow best when we are surrounded by others who want to grow as well.  Hence why we are here tonight to learn about the salvation bracelet’s green bead symbolizing ‘growth’.  Our individual growth is not dependent upon others, but only made a reality by God and His gifts of grace to and for us.  For God like Paul says, gives the growth that we have and this is a gift from God for all of us.  And the growth offered is limitless unlike corn or wheat.  If I were to engage one of the farmers they would say, a wheat plant can have approximately 20 to 50 kernels of wheat in one head that can be harvested.  So to, one Christian who grows in their faith and shares it can have a larger kingdom impact.  This is why God calls us to “Grow in Christ!”

For the salvation bracelet with the many colored beads is a tool to help us to “Grow in Christ” and in our faith and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not only a gift, but a real opportunity for us to wear our faith on our wrist, and also engage and grow in our faith on a daily basis and share it with one another.

Recently, I heard a Christian author tell how he engaged his faith with his family.  It wasn’t only by sharing the stories of faith around the table at dinner or before bedtime with the kids or dragging them to church, because the pastor was the ‘expert’.  They as a family understood that living their faith wasn’t just a one-time experience.  They were out to dinner locally and saw an individual who was different than they were and they invited them to have dinner with them. 

After engaging in small talk about the latest scores from the NCAA and the weather, the individual asked about why they invited them to join them for dinner.  This opened up an amazing opportunity for the family from the children to the parents to share their faith and the impact it had of inviting this stranger to join them in a meal.  This is the opportunity that the salvation bracelet can have of helping us to be bold with our faith and sharing it with others even over a meal at McDonald’s or Arby’s.  It is the opportunity that God can use to plant the seed of the Gospel of Salvation, water it, but especially made it grow and have a kingdom impact as we grow in our faith and life as disciples of Jesus Christ.

This is the opportunity we have when we fully understand how the Green Bead symbolizes our “Growing in Christ”.  When we combine all the beads of the salvation bracelet the salvation story not only is planted firmly in our lives, but we can grow in grace, understanding and belief that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all mankind and share it.  And God has purposely planted us here at Emmanuel in order that we can grow in our faith and be enabled to share it with others.  For God wants us to ‘Grow in Christ’ and have a kingdom impact in sharing what Jesus Christ has done for each of us on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.  Including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel who are “Growing in Christ” when we share what the Green Bead of the Salvation Bracelet really means.  AMEN.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

03222015 Judica - Fifth Sunday in Lent - "I Thirst"!

Sermon Audio

March 22, 2015
God satisfies our thirst!

Gracious Father!  In the desert when Your people had left Egypt and wandered on their forty year journey to the Promise Land, they were thirsty for water, You not only commanded the water to flow, but You provide for us today the Water of Eternal Life.  This comes through Your Son Jesus Christ who said, “I thirst!”  May our thirst today be fulfilled by Jesus Christ and may we understand that You have satisfied our thirst, not only of our mouths, but of our hearts, souls and spirits through the gift of grace from Jesus Christ.  For this gift of grace is freely given because of Your love for each of us as shown by Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

Clearly here in Northwest Kansas, we don’t need any explanation of what it means to be without water.  Our being in a severe drought clearly qualifies us for understanding what Jesus Words from the Cross when He says, “I thirst”.  But Jesus thirst has a greater meaning, connection and implication for us today.

The first and best connection is that Jesus specifically alluded to a passage from the Book of Psalms.  The Psalms that we have today in the Old Testament and that we use in worship, even this morning, were what were considered to be the prayer guide for any Jew.  From a young age, the Psalms were taught to Jewish children since they were a gift given by David, their King to his people.  David, not only was King and ruler of Israel, but Jesus own ancestor and a prolific author, specifically the Psalms.  David wrote Psalms of praise, adoration, humility and prophecy.  And our Word from the Cross was specifically a Psalm of Prophecy that was being fulfilled with Jesus words from the Cross of “I thirst”.

In Psalm 69 that Jesus make reference to in His Words from the Cross of “I thirst”, David had previously penned a Psalm of Distress, which clearly epitomizes Jesus current predicament on the Cross of Calvary.  David’s first words in this Psalm, “Save me, O God” clearly show the need David feels to be saved from what he is experiencing.  On the other hand, Jesus Christ went to the Cross willingly praying that His Father’s Will be fulfilled.  And this is the difference, David was trying to not only tell of what was happening in his own life, but it was a prophecy and connection for David of what would happen to his ancestor, Jesus Christ.  So when David wrote, “Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick.  And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, And for comforters, but I found none.”  This was not only what David was living, but what Jesus would experience and would be fulfilled by Jesus Christ on the Cross.  But the key for us here today is Jesus simple words from the Cross of “I thirst” and how David foretold of Jesus personal experience when David wrote, “They also gave me gall for food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”  This was one clear way that David was linked to Jesus, not just by the ancestry, but clearly by David’s foretelling Jesus thirst and what Jesus would be given, vinegar.  But the implication for Jesus was more profound, because a drink of vinegar in Jesus day was a hostile drink.

When vinegar was used in Jesus time, it was not refreshing.  In Jesus day vinegar was very different than what we use today for salad’s, cleansing and even as a ‘healthy drink’.  Vinegar was bitter, musty, cloudy and really it was the spoiled wine of the day that was no longer good to drink by even the common man.  It was an insult to whoever would use or be given vinegar as a drink.  So Jesus Who was being crucified did not deserve fresh clean water, but only what was ready to be thrown out, the vinegar.  Hence why it was sitting in a bucket at the foot of the cross for those whose death was certain and didn’t deserve anything better.

The connection we can make between the bitterness of vinegar and Jesus experience on the cross as bitter is very clear.  But Jesus experience that He was enduring had a purpose.  For those who watched from the foot of the Cross, the purpose of this bitter experience of Jesus was uncertain, but Jesus had been telling them, in essence like David’s prophecy of what He would experience in Jerusalem.  And Jesus prophecy was not only His bitter death, being given vinegar because of His words, “I thirst”, but three days later the fulfillment of the resurrection from the grave as proof of the victory Jesus Christ won for all of mankind.

In our Creeds that we not only believe in, but confess weekly we claim this victory over death by Jesus and the prophecy of Jesus resurrection from the dead.  When we say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.  He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  On the third day he rose again.”  Our confession is certain of Jesus resurrection from the dead.  For if we do not believe in Jesus life, His death and especially His resurrection, our faith is in vain.

But there is something more certain and clear, when Jesus said the words, “I thirst” He showed His true humanity.  Jesus Christ showed He not only was conceived, but He could feel the same things we can.  This window cracked open with the phrase, “I thirst” clearly connects each of us with Him today.  For Jesus not only was thirsty for His parched throat.  Jesus was thirsty for a relationship with each and every one of us gathered here.

Jesus with the words, “I thirst” wants each and every one of us to enter into a personal relationship with Him.  Jesus wants us to be connected with Him and for it to have as a connection point the Cross of Calvary.  For on the Cross of Calvary, Jesus Christ offers all of mankind, but especially each of us gathered here this morning the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Him.  And we can have this personal relationship with our resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ.  The reality is, Jesus knew there would be times where our personal relationship with Him would have some brokenness and bitterness, but what Jesus offers us today overcomes the bitterness we feel in our daily lives with the sweetness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and binds our brokenness with His healing of us.

For the Gospel of Jesus Christ can and does overcome that which separates us from Jesus Christ.  For in the words, “I thirst” we can be reminded that Jesus thirsts for this relationship with us.  And not only a relationship, but our accepting the gift of grace that He offers us by His being on the Cross of Calvary.  For when Jesus hung from the Cross of Calvary and uttered the words, “I thirst” His desire was not only to fulfill the prophecy of David, but His desire to have a personal relationship with each of us.  And that relationship is built upon the love He has for us. 

Jesus Christ love was so powerful and overwhelming that it is the greatest gift offered all of mankind.  And it is offered freely, without cost in order to take away the bitterness and brokenness that separates us from God and to bind us to Jesus Christ.  We then can be caught up in His love for us, His life, death, but especially His resurrection that we look forward to celebrating in a few weeks.  For this offer from Jesus Christ is for all of mankind, but especially all of us saints gathered here who hear Jesus words from the Cross of “I thirst” and understand it is an offer of divine grace of relationship with Him for all of mankind.  Especially including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel who are thirsty for the personal relationship with Jesus Christ who uttered in true love for us, “I thirst”.  AMEN.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Is the church a "Family" or an "Orphanage"?

In this video, Dhati Lewis poses a really great question, "Is the church a "Family" or an "Orphanage"?

Honestly, I would like to say we are a family, but I have to confess, we the 'church' exhibit more the 'orphanage' than 'family'.  May we endeavor to become more family than orphanage!

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

03182015 - Wednesday of Lent 4 - Blue Bead

Sermon Audio

March 18, 2015
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism!

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in and through the Water connected with Word in Holy Baptism, You lifted each of us up and cleansed us from our sin.  Remind us not of that which bound us, but of You Who set us free to be the people of God.  For Your promise in Holy Baptism with the pouring of Water and connected to the Word offer us life and salvation and entrance into Your Kingdom.  And this offer is made because of Your great love for each and every one of us.  AMEN.

In seminary, my fellow classmates had t-shirts made that contained a simple saying, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism!”  Encapsulated in this saying, not only was a confession, but a belief in God.  Tonight we like my classmates encounter a bead that is a reminder of God’s epic promise to each and every one of us.  With the blue bead on the Salvation Bracelet, we can understand it stands for the promises from God to and for each of us in our Baptism.

When we were brought forward and the Water and Word of Holy Baptism were spoken and poured over our head, God made a promise to each of us of what He would do.  It was not a promise to take us to Disneyland, to go for an Ice Cream Cone at the Vault or Dairy Queen, or even to prevent us from ‘skinning our knee’ as we grew up.  God made the promise to offer us life and salvation through the simple yet profound connection of simple water, with the Word of God.

With our baptism in the font, like this one, or another or even in a river, pond or even cattle watering trough.  God made each of us the promise of eternal life and salvation that is connected with God’s Gift of Grace and Forgiveness found in Jesus Christ.  When we became wet, God sealed for each of us a reality that Jesus Christ fulfilled on the Cross of Calvary.  Jesus Christ Who came and lived among us, walked the landscape of Israel and Egypt, healed the sick, fed the poor and proclaimed release of the captives, is connected to each and every one of us here tonight.  Our connection is not just with a font, it is with our having the Cross made upon our brow on Ash Wednesday, sealed in the Blood of the Lamb of God that we receive in Holy Communion and even when we wear a simple Salvation Bracelet.

The bracelet we wear is the beacon of the promises of God that are fulfilled for each of us.  The Blue Bead that symbolizes both the Water and the Word in Holy Baptism are meant for us to be a reminder of what God has done and continues to do for each of us each and every day.  It is a reminder for each of us of our Holy Baptism and God’s promise for us.  It is a reminder of God’s willingness of His Son, Jesus Christ to become something for us.  Not just our friend but a bearer of our burden, our sin.

Tim Challies, wrote an article entitled “How to Become a Burden-Bearer for Others”.  In the article Tim states, “To be a burden-bearer is a great ministry.”  But for we who gather here tonight, this is a ministry we are unable to fulfill if left to our own devices.  Yet, God through our baptism has grafted us into and we become the burden that Jesus Christ carries and bears on the Cross of Calvary as the perfect sacrifice for each of us.  And when we wear our Salvation Bracelet, we point, not to ourselves, but to what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary for each and every one of us.

We point to Jesus Christ offer of life and salvation for each and every one of us.  We point to and remember how the Water intimately connected with the Word offer us eternal life, because of God’s great love for each and every one of us in Holy Baptism.  Tonight we gather to remember a simple blue bead as a reminder of God’s gift for each and every one of us in the font of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ for all of mankind.  And the blue bead in the salvation bracelet reminds us that our Holy Baptism is an offer by Jesus Christ not for a select few, but is for and includes each and every one of us gathered here at Emmanuel who remember our baptism through this simple blue bead.  And the offer of salvation for each and every one of us, because of His love for all of mankind, including each and every one of us who remember our baptism with the blue bead of the salvation bracelet.  AMEN.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

03152015 Laetare - Fourth Sunday in Lent - "My God, My God, Why have You Forsaken Me!"

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

March 15, 2015
God forsook Jesus for us!
God, it is clear from Jesus being nailed to the Cross of Calvary, His being spit upon and mocked by the soldiers and bystanders.  And giving away His responsibility of His Mother Mary to His beloved disciple, in His Humanity Jesus Christ felt no hope.  But the words, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" have a further sting that cuts deeper than any knife of Jesus feeling of being alone and Your deserting Him.  Reveal to each of us this was not abandonment without a divine purpose.  The purpose was our forgiveness and the fulfillment of the promise of salvation for each of us.  For this message is a clear demonstration of Your love for each of us gathered here to hear about the Gospel of Salvation and believe in Your Love of us in these Words from the Cross.  AMEN.

Simple words cannot begin to explain or describe the emotion of these 9 words of Jesus from the Cross.  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  Posed in the form of a question, full of emotion and Jesus feeling the weight of the World upon His shoulders.  This statement is not only a question, but even a plea from Jesus to His Father in heaven seeking an answer.

Jesus was clearly worn down both physically and emotionally by the events of the last 24 hours.  Having watched His disciples whom He had called, lived and journeyed with for the last three years running away in fear of being captured and suffering the same fate.  Now Jesus hanging upon the Cross that He had carried from inside the walls of Jerusalem outside of the city, because it was more palatable to nail someone to the cross outside of the walls.  Jesus in anguish was feeling the fullness of what His humiliation would entail when He came down from heaven.  Jesus felt alone and forsaken hanging on the Cross on Golgotha.

Even though Jesus felt alone and forsaken, there was a purpose.  The divine purpose was to show God’s love.  Love you say, how could being forsaken, show love?  Simply, Jesus being forsaken by God the Father, having God the Father turn His back on His Son, allowing the full weight of the sins of the world to rest upon His Son’s shoulders was because of God’s love for you and for me.
God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit loved us so much that in order to save mankind, God not only sent His Son, Jesus Christ, but allowed Him, Jesus Christ to feel forsaken.  Jesus words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” capture clearly the feeling Jesus in His Humanity had of not being connected with His Father in heaven.  Jesus Christ, Who had daily gone out to pray to continue the connection with His Father, now felt the clear and radical break in that most intimate divine connection.

We as Christians at times also feel a break in connection.  Whether with spouse, family, loved ones, child or even and especially our Father in heaven.  When our world seems to be spiraling out of control, like a car on ice without traction, a tractor that has lost its steering capability or even a plane that no longer has lift under its wings.  When we are out of control, we feel lost, alone and we cannot connect.  This is what Jesus was feeling on the Cross of Calvary and how we who gather here today can feel comforted that even Jesus, God’s own Son, felt out of control and clearly felt a clear sense of disconnection from His Father in heaven.

But this is why Jesus came down from heaven.  To bridge the gap, fill and reconnect the lost connection between God and man.  Jesus Christ came to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice, connection and bridge for each of us, because of His love for us.  Jesus Christ came to live the ‘broken’ experience that we feel, speak the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” and bridge the gap for all of mankind because of His compassion and great love for each and every one of us, His children.

When Jesus spoke these words 9 from the Cross of Calvary, in the moment Jesus felt isolated and alone.  But Jesus being alone was only a stepping stone on the journey towards the free offer of grace to all of mankind of salvation.  For it was through Jesus being there on the Cross of Calvary that we are offered eternal life and salvation.  Jesus Christ desperate questioning cry from the Cross points to both aloneness and desperation as seen from the side of Good Friday and the clear sense of loss.  But we have a God Who came and offered Himself to each and every one of us to set us free and that message came Easter Sunday with His resurrection.  We are freed because of God’s love for each and every one of us.  Our freedom is found, because we have a Savior willing to experience our lowest point of desperation and set us free from our feeling forsaken through His resurrection and overcoming death in order to set us free.

God, through His Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven, was nailed to the Cross of Calvary out of His love for mankind and reconnects each and every one of us to His Father in Heaven through Jesus Christ offer of forgiveness.  We are set free from isolation and aloneness and reconnected with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ in uttering these words looked not at that which bound Him to the Cross, or the feeling of being forsaken, but beyond to the freedom He would offer us on Easter with His resurrection.  We have a God Who saw through Good Friday to Easter where His Son Jesus Christ proclaimed our freedom from all that would bind us.  God is offering us this same gift today to see through our feeling of being forsaken to be embraced by His gift of love and salvation for all of mankind.

Jesus Christ looks through “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” and bridges the gap for all eternity of freedom, life and salvation that is the greatest offer mankind could ever be given.  This is the gift that Jesus Christ is offering to each and every one of us today from the Cross and Jesus does this out of His love for all of mankind.  Including each and every one of us gathered here this morning who feel forsaken.  For God has not forsaken us, He sent His Son for all of mankind and offers each and every one of us gathered here this morning at Emmanuel life and salvation from a Cross where Jesus Christ fulfilled the plan of salvation for each and every one of us when He uttered, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?".  AMEN.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

03112015 Wednesday of Lent 3 - White Bead

Sermon Audio

March 11, 2015
We are forgiven!
Forgiving God, You clearly can see what we do and do in fact see past our actions and forgive us.  We don’t deserve it, but You forgive us out of Your great love for us.  Thank You for this gift of grace and especially of Your Son’s sacrifice for each of us on the Cross of Calvary.  For this offer was not just for a select few, but for all of mankind, including each of us gathered here with the white bead of the salvation bracelet as Your forgiven children on this Wednesday of Lent.  AMEN.

If one were to look at the entirety of the Old Testament there appears to be nothing but lists of who begat whom, destruction of peoples and places and stories of individuals wandering in the desert.  Yet, if you look a little further, there is clearly a concept that the people of Israel were imparted from God.  It wasn’t deliverance on their time table or overcoming those who were their masters, the concept that the people of Israel had as a thread from the Garden of Eden, wandering through the desert, their entrance into the Promised Land and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem had a simple phrase as their unspoken, but believed mantra.  Simply, it was, “We are forgiven”!  And tonight we make that connection with each of us that gather here to hear and learn more about the white bead of the Salvation Bracelet.  “We are forgiven!

Isaiah the prophet foreshadowed, reminded and prophesied for the people of Israel and for us tonight this concept of “We are forgiven!”  For Isaiah knew the history of the people of Israel and understood their human condition.  Hear Isaiah, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”  Isaiah in this brief excerpt of his book pin points what God does for the people of Israel.

The people of Israel continuously sinned and turned away from God.  They were strong willed and sought only what they desired and felt would get them the results they desired, which in most cases was against God’s divine plan.  And every time they followed their own plans, they continuously encountered problems.  But even though they encountered problems, God walked with them.  And God not only walked with them, but God as Isaiah said, turned what was scarlet into white as snow.  In essence God forgave them each and every time.

What can we who gather here tonight take away from this?  We like the Israelite people need to hear from God, “We are forgiven!”  God has reached down into our lives here in Goodland, KS and forgiven us.  Why does God do this?  Because God loves us and wants us to hear, believe and share the message “We are forgiven!”  In this white bead of the salvation bracelet, we are reminded of God’s great compassion for each and every one of us in our present circumstances.  God reaches down into each of our lives and wants us to feel the forgiveness He so freely wants to offer us.  We can share this clearly, without question and with uncompromising vigor.  This is why the salvation bracelet is such a powerful tool.

This simple bead of white, clearly shows and shares with us God’s love for us.  “We are forgiven!”  We no longer are defined by the scarlet sin as Isaiah said, but made clean by the Blood of Jesus Christ.  Like lint on a table or dust cloth that changes the appearance of many homes, God removes the lint of our lives that weighs us down and forgives us.  And we are empowered to share this message of forgiveness.

When we wear the salvation bracelet, we have the opportunity to start a dialogue with others who may never have heard about Jesus Christ.  The bracelet offers the opportunity and the Holy Spirit inspires us to share what God offers us through His Son Jesus Christ.  And this simple white bead, reminds us of God’s gift to and for all of mankind, but especially each and everyone of us gathered here this Wednesday of Lent who believe this simple message, “We are forgiven!”  AMEN.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

03082015 - Oculi - Third Sunday in Lent - "Woman, this is your son."

Sermon Audio

March 8, 2015
Jesus gives responsibility away…
Gracious Lord, it is clear we are responsible for many things in our lives, first our relationship with You and secondly our family.  It is clear You thought, not of Yourself while hanging on the Cross, but of Your Mother.  Enable each of us to understand our responsibility is not dictated by our desire, but what gives You the greatest glory.  For our responsibility is not to earthly things, but to heavenly things, especially You and the spread of Your Love and the Gospel of our Salvation.  AMEN.

Each of us gathered here today have been in situations that are stressful.  Whether it is worrying about the sprinkler that is down that will change our weight of corn during the peak growing season.  Sitting on the combine ready to go out in the field to pick the winter wheat and waiting and watching a Summer thunderstorm bearing down on you with large hail being shown on the radar.  Or even sitting in the FSA office discussing how through the drought you are going to continue to make the farm work.  These are the stress filled lives that we live on a yearly basis.  We feel the responsibility of the world on our shoulders and in some cases feel like we have to act and act now in order to prevent our going over the edge or doing something that may be catastrophic to our current way of life.

This morning in our Series of the Words from the Cross, Jesus Christ is in an extremely stressful situation.  Hanging on the Cross having endured the torture of the soldiers, the excruciating pain of being scourged, carrying His Cross to Golgotha outside the city walls of Jerusalem and being nailed to the beam, Jesus feels the weight of the world on His shoulders.  It is a weight that we can only imagine, but one that Jesus came into the world to carry.  Yet, Jesus is not trying to avoid or distance Himself from His present circumstances.  Jesus is looking out not for Himself, but for the future of a woman standing at the foot of the Cross He is nailed to.  The future Jesus is looking out for is that His mother  that she will have to endure.  A future without Him.  Hence, “Jesus said to His mother: “Woman, this is your son.”  Then He said to the disciple:  “This is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)

Mary, Jesus mother, who had been promised Jesus conception and birth by the Angel, experienced the shepherds coming and worshiping in a small stable in Bethlehem, because there was no room in the inn.  Received the gifts of the Magi on the day we celebrate Epiphany.  Cuddled Jesus in her arms as a newborn baby when He was small.  Searched for Jesus when He went missing on the big trip into Jerusalem.  Watched Him perform miracles of Water into Wine, healing countless people and teaching about His Father in heaven.  Now stood at the foot of the Cross of Calvary and had watched Him be nailed to the Cross, struggle to breath and heard these words.  They were not just words, but had a deep concern and compassion from Jesus for His mother Mary.

Jesus knew what the future would be of His death very shortly.  And Jesus knew He would not be able to care for His Mother.  So, Jesus took the responsibility He had of the care of His mother and gave it away.  Jesus gave that responsibility to John.  The responsibility John undertook at this moment isn’t just in name, but John according to Jewish custom was not only adopting Mary, but being adopted by her.  Their lives would be connected and intertwined from that moment on.  The responsibility that Jesus had for Mary was given away because Jesus wanted to insure Mary was cared for in the way she needed and deserved and as was the custom of a good Jewish son.

Today we have responsibilities as well, not only to God, but our families and even our calling, whether farmer, teacher, husband, wife or child.  Jesus here clearly demonstrates and models for us the need to take responsibility seriously, give it away when necessary and give it to the right person for the job.  When “Jesus said to His mother: “Woman, this is your son.”  Then He said to the disciple:  “This is your mother.”  Scripture captures for us the importance of taking responsibility and our daily need to do this as Christians.

But why, for what reason or what is the ‘end game’ of Jesus statement for us today that we hear from the Cross of Calvary?  Of what consequence is responsibility for us today as Christians?  Simply responsibility has eternal consequences.  And Jesus is not just the God of the here and now, Jesus is the Son of God for all eternity.  We have the opportunity to have an eternal impact when we rightfully take our responsibility seriously, give it away when necessary and find the right person for the job.  Jesus knew John, the disciple He loved would take care of His mother and knew she would be safe in his care.  So Jesus gave the responsibility to John.  So to the church understands responsibility clearly because we get to share the love of God for each and every one of us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ here at Emmanuel.  We can share that love in word, deed and action with everyone we meet.

That message of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary we can give away to all that we meet.  When we give that message of salvation away, we share not only the love of God, but our love for one another.  I have the opportunity from the pulpit to preach, proclaim and purposefully declare my love for you the people of God, but also and more so the love of Jesus Christ for each and every one of us.  I am not perfect, but God is and His love is perfect and He has given us the responsibility to give this gift of love away.  And this is exactly what Jesus modeled on the Cross of Calvary when “Jesus said to His mother: “Woman, this is your son.”  Then He said to the disciple:  “This is your mother.”

May we give away the Gospel message of salvation to all mankind, knowing God will insure it does not return without accomplishing its mission.  And may we understand that Gospel message of God’s love is not for a select few, but it is our opportunity and responsibility to give it away and believe it is for all of mankind, including all of us saints here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

03072015 Funeral Sermon Terry Joe Martin

Sermon Audio

March 7, 2015
Victory Lane Celebration

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!!

Let us pray!  Heavenly Father, today we gather to mourn the death of Your child in Holy Baptism Terry.  The Words spoken at His Baptism were clear and unmistakable, of Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the promise of life and salvation offered to him.  We humbly ask You heavenly Father to comfort us as we mourn, surround us with Your love and compassion and enable us to hear Your Word and Your Name as the salve of the Gospel for each and every one of us.  For with Terry’s entrance into the church triumphant You have fulfilled Your promise to Him on the day of His baptism and we ask You to comfort and surround us with Your Love that You offer to all of mankind, but today especially to and for Terry’s family and friends gathered here to say goodbye.  AMEN.

Beep (Long), Beep (Long), Beep (Long).  When you hear a beep, for radio men or military pilots, the first thing they think of is Morse Code, specifically the letter “O”.  For most of us we think, “now what am I supposed to say” on the answering machine.  But for Terry’s family who gather here this morning to mourn, “Beep” is the sanitized version of what Terry would sometimes say that we can say in the church.  To say the very least Terry was ‘colorful’ in his language.  A man of few words, having a big heart and willing to help when needed, but Terry could scatter the salt with the best of them.  And that was exactly who Terry was and that is how he will lovingly be remembered by Deb, Tyler, Tarren and Talen and all of his family and friends.

As a good mechanic, Terry was particular, a pain and anal about lots of things.  His shop had to be set up just right with tools in one room and a garage ready to work in the other.  He believed in two drivers, the late Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon and the Rainbow colored DuPont 24.  Terry was a man who could solve problems of flowers in the yard when he thought nobody was looking.  To knowing what was missing from his tool box and bench and what needed returned and not being afraid to let you know.  He even had an extra box of electrical tape stashed away, but still reminded everyone who borrowed his that they better return it, even though he had lots of extra.  It didn’t matter if it was a wrench or socket that wasn’t returned, a phone call or message to colorfully encourage action in the morning or a dirty diaper that Terry couldn’t stand the smell of, Terry was one of a kind.  Terry was an original that when God made the mold it was put away in a special place, a place of honor.  Terry’s relationship was one that was unique with each of his kids and his wife, but all family relationships are special and unique and that is what his kids and grandkids will cherish as they grow up.

Ironically the relationship Terry had with God was just as unique.  Washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism in Parks, Kansas, Terry Joe Martin received the gift of eternal life and salvation promised to him when he was presented to God.  It would be interesting to have been a fly on the wall when Terry stood at the Pearly gates.  Would he have brandished the same language and swagger?  Probably he would have, but he also may have toned back only a little, because it is heaven.  Although Terry’s vision of heaven would have been in the pits at Charlotte or Kansas Speedway.  But the reality for us today is that Terry with his entrance into heaven would have been reunited with His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for all eternity.  For on the day of Terry’s Baptism, God came down and claimed Terry in the Waters of Holy Baptism and made Terry a promise for when the checkered flags were waved on his last lap here on earth.

It wasn’t a promise to return the tool borrowed, or to inspire one to ‘get out of bed’.  Terry on the day of his baptism received the promise of eternal life.  That one day because of God’s love for Terry, and the forgiveness of sins offered by Jesus Christ, Terry would receive life eternal and today we come to witness the waving of the checkered flags, the celebration in the infield with the corks a flying and tops a popping of the fulfillment of the promise made by God and the celebration of God’s gift to Terry and one day for each of us.

Today we celebrate the gift of eternal life that Terry receives and is epitomized by a saying shared around the table on Wednesday at the very same home he shared with his wife Deb.  The saying “Do it right or don’t do it!”  That saying, “Do it right or don’t do it!” perfectly summarizes Terry’s life but also perfectly summarizes what Jesus Christ did for Terry on the Cross of Calvary.  When Jesus Christ came down from heaven and took on Human form, Jesus lived the mantra, “Do it right or don’t do it!”  For Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection not only was the right thing to do, it was the perfect thing to do.  Jesus Christ by His simple sacrifice offered Himself in order to set all of us free from the sin that binds us.  Our sin, is like the ‘salty’ character we sometimes experienced from Terry.  But just like salt on the skin of a cured ham, there is much more below the surface.  So to it was with Terry and especially Jesus Christ.

What was below the surface was what Terry’s family knew, loved and expected from him.  Whether it was the one time run in with the internet, that was caught on camera.  To the fun times at the Smokey catching fish, which Terry always bested everyone else no matter the prize.  Or not knowing what to do when a young man came and asked for his little girls hand in holy matrimony.  Terry a quiet man, a man of few words was speechless, but this was not always the case.  Terry always had to have the last word in every argument.  Even on his last day on his final lap, Terry had to have the last ‘word’ with his family before he would finally let go see the checkered flags waved and go be with God.

But today, we stand here because God has had the last word and brought Terry to Victory Lane.  And it is the words from scripture, both our Psalm and from Romans of the victory found in Jesus Christ.  God on Tuesday sent His Holy angels and lifted Terry up, and rescued him and brought him to heaven and fulfilled the promise of salvation God offered to him in his baptism.  God’s angels not only have guarded Terry, but bore him up in their hands and set him securely on high ready for the great celebration in the eternal victory lane.  God has rescued Terry from our earthly grasp and ushered him into eternal life for the greatest victory party in the greatest victory lane that human hands are unable to duplicate.

And now in response to Paul’s question, of “who will separate us from the love of Christ?”  Nothing will because of Jesus Christ love for Terry and God’s conquering of sin, death and the devil for Terry and for each and every one of us.  For nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And God has had the last word of victory over Satan and death by ushering Terry into eternal life.

So we here today are witnesses, not only of God’s fulfillment of the promise of eternal life and salvation offered for Terry and each of us.  But specifically the return of what was first God’s, Terry.  

Today we celebrate not just the life, but the return not of a socket, a right angle drill, a wheel rim grinder or Terry’s favorite wrench.  What we find today as we come and celebrate Terry’s life is not a box of electrical tape, hidden tools so we wouldn’t borrow them, but a greater truth that has been hidden in plain sight.  A truth that on the outside we experienced through beep-beep-beep, but it covered the heart and the truth.  That Terry was God’s child who now we return to God in God’s Victory Lane.  For God first loved Terry and us and today we celebrate Terry’s entrance into the church triumphant, where he will continue to root for Jeff Gordon and in a strange and mysterious way remind us daily of his impact upon our lives, even when we hear the ‘beep-beep-beep’ of the answering machine.

For today God’s promises have been fulfilled and nothing, “not even death will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”, for Terry and one day for each of us.  May we be comforted by this truth and believe God’s promises offered for each and every one of us are the salve of the Gospel God offers through Jesus Christ for all of mankind, but especially Terry’s family and friends gathered here to say goodbye.  AMEN.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard our hearts and minds and comfort us today, because of what Jesus Christ did for Terry and each one of us!  AMEN! 

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

03042015 Wednesday of Lent 2 - Red Bead

Sermon Audio

March 4, 2015
The Blood sets us free

Gracious Heavenly Father, we know we have no strength in and of ourselves.  But You have sent your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ to not only defend us, but die in order to set us free.  Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself and His innocent blood in order that we might be set free.  May we not only see this gift, but hear the message represented by His blood and receive the freedom offered for each of us.  For our Lenten Journey is not complete without a simple red bead on the salvation bracelet offered by Jesus Christ for all of mankind, but especially each of us gathered here this Wednesday of Lent.  AMEN.

In the gardens of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, there is a plant grown named “Love Lies Bleeding” that was originally misunderstood.  As most of the early settlers understood, they needed to be self-sufficient, so they used plants that had medicinal purposes.  One plant, “Love Lies Bleeding”, with red foliage and red berries would be used to treat many of the common diseases of the day, including, kidney ailments, sores on the body and even could be made into a drink for ease of consumption and use.  The drink when complete was red and it was believed by the native Americans that this was in fact people’s blood.  Hence when communion services of the church were celebrated, the same understanding of blood of humans was mistakenly understood.

Tonight, our focus is upon a red bead.  Unlike the Native Americans understanding of the drink made from the red berries of a plant.  What we partake of in Holy Communion is Jesus Christ Blood, shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.  Paul in Romans 5:8 says it plainly, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  We have through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ His willingness to die for each and every one of us.  Jesus Christ willingness was not only to die, but shed His blood as a ransom for us and all of mankind.

The salvation story as told by the salvation bracelet with the red bead is for each of us to be reminded of our familiar connection with Jesus Christ.  Our connection is not tangential, but deep and intimate.  Jesus Christ Blood represented by this red bead is to remind us what Jesus Christ shed for us.  The movie “Passion of the Christ” is very graphic, some people don’t want to watch the movie because of the amount of blood and violence.  But it was by and through Jesus Christ very blood, shed in the soldiers quarters, the Praetorium, along the way to Golgotha and especially on the Cross that we not only see God’s demonstration of His love for us, but to the degree Jesus Christ was willing to sacrifice Himself.

When we wear the salvation bracelet and look at the red bead it is not only to be a reminder of Jesus on Good Friday, but to point us to the altar.  For it is around and from the altar here in the church or wherever Holy Communion is celebrated that we are not only reminded, but called on to remember Jesus Christ sacrifice.  Jesus Christ willingness to have a thorny crown placed on His forehead that pricked His brow, the nails hammered through His Hands and Feet, and especially the spear that pierced His side and the subsequent gush of blood and water all point to one thing.  Jesus Christ offer to all of mankind of the forgiveness of sins.  It is in and through Jesus Christ offer of His Blood that we receive life and salvation.

For Jesus Christ offer of His innocent blood gives us the forgiveness we so desperately need.  This is why Paul said, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus Christ was willing to shed His Blood in order that we may be set free.

In the Gospel of John, John writes, (15:13) “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  And this is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us, lay down His life, shed His innocent blood and make the ultimate sacrifice for all of mankind, including each and every one of us.  When we hold the red bead as we tell the story of salvation, we are reminded not only of His sacrifice, but Jesus Christ willingness to die in order that we might be free.  Our freedom comes at a cost, the cost of Jesus Christ innocent Blood represented by this red bead on the salvation bracelet that tells the greatest story of forgiveness for each and every one of us found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ for all of mankind.  And this includes each of us gathered here tonight who believe, Jesus Christ died for each and every one of us.  AMEN.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

03012015 - Reminiscere - Second Sunday in Lent (Lent 2) - "Today you will be with me in Paradise"

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

March 1, 2015
Today in paradise…
Heavenly Father, Your Son’s Words from the Cross clearly paint a picture that is after our hearts desire of paradise.  Yet, paradise is not a beach somewhere, warm weather, nor with a drink in one hand and our toes in the sand, but paradise is to be in Your Holy presence.  Enable us to hear Your offer to each of us as one full of grace that helps us to call on You in our most desperate need and builds us up for Your Glory and purpose among all the people here in Goodland.  In Your Holy name we pray.  AMEN.

With the last week of cold temperatures and snow to blanket the winter wheat, there are many who need to imagine the warmth found in paradise.  For some, paradise is a warm beach somewhere, with a cold drink surrounded by surf, sand and sea air.  Others paradise would be a tall stand of wheat ready for the combine and still others paradise would be a warm fire place snuggled up in a warm blanket with their sweetheart cuddled next to them.  No matter what our idea of paradise may be, the truth we find from today’s segment of the Word from the Cross is that Jesus is offering us this option and opportunity today.

Hear Jesus words for us today, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  When Jesus spoke these words while on the Cross, He was hanging next to two of the most despicable criminals in Jerusalem at that time.  Scripture does not clearly identify their crimes, but for what these two men had done, they had been tried and deserved death on the cross.  But Jesus unlike these two criminals had not done anything to deserve death, yet shared their fate of hanging from the Cross.
One of Jesus companions clearly looked upon Jesus as a fellow criminal and deserving the same fate as he was enduring.  But the other knew that Jesus had not done anything to deserve death.  And he pleaded with Jesus to remember him when he came into His kingdom.  Evidently, this criminal had heard some of what Jesus had taught and believed what Jesus had spoken about.  Jesus even under the duress and pain inflicted by the soldiers, now hanging on the cross spoke these simple 13 words that were full of promise, forgiveness and the paradise of the future offered to him and to each of us gathered here this morning.

Jesus promise to this man with the words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” was of something that was beyond the criminals grasp.  This man who was nailed to a cross beside Jesus, was suffering justly for his life, but was given the greatest promise by Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ was offering him entrance into paradise.  A promise that would be fulfilled with Jesus very death there on the Cross beside him.  It was a promise that only the Son of God could offer to him.  The promise would only be fulfilled and occur because of and by Jesus innocent death on Calvary.  For this is the same promise we have made to each of us as well in our baptism.
Not only were Jesus words of promise, these 13 words, were a declaration of the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus Christ when He said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” was declaring this criminal ‘not guilty’, not in the eyes of man, but in the eyes of God.  Every Jew properly understood that only God could offer forgiveness and this was in fact what Jesus was offering this criminal.  Jesus was offering him, life and salvation for all eternity.  The free gift of grace Jesus offered while hanging from the Cross takes on new meaning. 

The grace given by Jesus would impart the forgiveness this man needed not only for his earthly mistakes, but especially for the broken relationship of the vertical, between him and God.  Jesus Christ with this promise of forgiveness conveyed the very gift of grace that was not deserved, but clearly received by this criminal.  But it was not just the fulfillment of the promise nor a simple declaration of grace, it took on new meaning with Jesus words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

For the promise and the forgiveness offered was not only a gift of grace, but also the promise of being in paradise.  Unlike our mistaken understanding of paradise that we think of here on earth, what Jesus is offering the man on the cross beside him is entrance into the perfect redeemed world to be with God for eternity.  This offer is beyond the understanding of even those who are watching this unfold from the foot of the cross.  What Jesus is offering is plain and simply paradise, beyond their fallen human understanding.  A paradise that would not have pain or torture, but being with God in His Holy Kingdom for all eternity.

What we sometimes fail to understand is that Jesus Christ with these 13 words is offering this criminal a future where he thought he had no future when he was nailed to the cross.  Jesus Christ is clearly giving and offering the greatest gift of grace.  And this same gift of grace God through His Son, Jesus Christ is offering to each and every one of us here today.  When we hear these simple 13 words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  God is offering us not only forgiveness, but life and salvation for each and every one of us no matter what we have done.  Just as the criminal didn’t deserve it, we do not earn it or deserve it either.  But God, out of His divine favor and love offers us eternal life and to be with Him in paradise.  We are offered entrance into paradise and eternity because God loves us.

That is exactly what the salvation story is all about.  It is God showing His love for all of mankind through His Son Jesus Christ.  And when we come and hear this story, partake of His meal and believe this story and understand these 13 words are meant for each of us, God changes our hearts.  For these 13 words are full of promise and forgiveness of the paradise God has prepared for all of mankind, especially including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel who hear and believe Jesus words from the Cross for us this Second Sunday in Lent, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  AMEN.
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