Searching for....

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

09252016 - 18th Sunday After Trinity - Apostle's Creed - "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried"

September 25, 2016
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead [died] and [was] buried.

Last week Emmanuel sponsored another Film of Faith for our community entitled, the “Blind Side” at the Sherman Theater.  Though the theme of the movie was not clearly, specifically nor obviously biblical, it touched upon clear issues that are contained in the Bible of caring for our fellow man, taking responsibility when we have the means, and also and most importantly having the courage to stand up in the face of circumstances.
Christians have done this for centuries using as the basis of our choice the model of Jesus Christ.  Some would look at Jesus Christ and say, the ‘price’ Jesus paid is too high.  There are still others when the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” comes on, change the channel or refuse to watch it, because of not only the graphic nature of how the crucifixion was portrayed, but also the reminder or vivid imagery that turns our stomachs.  That is perfectly understandable.  As a parent, I would not be making a wise choice for even my own daughter Sarah to watch the movie, even though it shows the biblical events of Jesus Christ ministry, His life, His death and ultimately His resurrection.
Enter today, this small section of the Apostle’s Creed that we will confess in a few minutes.  We clearly and boldly confess that Jesus Christ, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried”.  With these 9 words we come to the pinnacle of our confession of faith.  By pinnacle, I mean the central point of our Christian faith that has the event that all of Christian history revolves around, but also points to.  Let me unpack this concept of the Cross as the pinnacle of our faith.
In Lutheranism 101 and our study of the Gospel of Mark, I have specifically said many times that the Cross of Jesus Christ is the one event in all of human history that is looked for from the Garden of Eden and which we look back to today.  It isn’t just a cross roads, but it is central to our faith, life and beliefs.  Let me explain.  You see when Jesus Christ hung on the Cross of Calvary, this is the most pivotal point in salvation history.  If you look from the Garden of Eden and the eating of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve, with their eating that fruit they set into motion what was ultimately fulfilled only on the Cross of Calvary by Jesus Christ. 
Throughout all of Old Testament history, every successive generation in the Seder or Passover meal, looked for the coming Messiah.  Yet it was not only the coming Messiah, but what He would accomplish.  And Jesus Christ ‘suffering, crucifixion and death’ fulfilled all righteousness for all of mankind.  It completed God’s plan of salvation to bring us to heaven.  It was through Jesus Christ willingness to “suffer under Pontius Pilate” endure the torture and torment of the guards and the crowds, be “crucified” and nailed to the Cross.  Endure the taunts of the crowds and even the pain of even breathing.  And ultimately when Jesus Christ “died” and the curtain that had once separated the Holy of Holies was now for all time and place torn from top to bottom that the fulfillment of the plan of salvation was complete.  For with Jesus Christ final words, “It is finished” signaled salvation history had been fulfilled.  For Jesus Christ in His willingness to suffer and die, Jesus Christ offers us the greatest gift of grace of eternal life.
This is why Jesus Christ death, burial, resurrection, ascension and the Apostle’s being given the Holy Spirit, they then continued telling what Jesus did and offered all of mankind.  For we who gather here today when we hear read the Holy Scriptures from the lectern, sing the songs like “We are Marching in the Light of God”, “We Were Baptized In Christ Jesus” and “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me”, we remind ourselves that our connection to Jesus Christ isn’t just a place we come to on Sunday.  Our connection to Jesus Christ and His offer of grace is personal, powerful, and pivotal for us today.
Our connection is clear, in the font in Holy Baptism, we are baptized into Jesus Christ life, death, but especially His resurrection.  For this is the promise of eternal life made to us, not out of our own deserving, but out of Jesus Christ grace, love and mercy for each and every one of us.  Jesus Christ love was clearly made manifest with His willingness to be nailed to the Cross of Calvary for each and every one of us.  This gift of love and grace is offered to us in order to set us free from our sin, to set us free from our impending death and to set us free from the devil that daily tempts us to doubt and deny God.
Yet, why should we boldly confess this truth?  Simply, because it reorients us back to the truth found in God and His Word.  If you have ever noticed in our sanctuary there are some actions that are very clearly done in order to reorient ourselves back to God.  This is why the candles are lit at the beginning of the service, to remind us of God’s presence among us.  This is why the congregation faces forward for every part of the service, because we need to keep ourselves focused on God, not on our neighbors, not the distractions that constantly happen around us, but only upon God.  This is why our focus should not be on what game we will watch when we get home, or what our schedule for the coming week will be, but our focus should be on our God Who meets us here in His house for worship.  This is why our weekly returning to God’s house can be a power that can transform us.  It is not a transformation into ‘better than someone else Christians’.  We come to God’s house, God’s hospital for the hurt, where we find a Savior Who offers us the salve of the Gospel, freely and without cost, because He paid the ultimate cost.

For Jesus Christ, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried” in order that we might have eternal life.  Jesus Christ offered Himself in order that we may be set free to daily experience His love and grace.  For the centrality of our confession of this part of the Apostle’s Creed not only binds us but solidifies God’s grasp on us.  For our personal connection through our Holy Baptism is to the central and core event of salvation history, the Cross of Jesus Christ.  For our connection is made intimately with our baptism where we are offered eternal life and eternally connected with Jesus Christ when we confess in the words of the Apostle’s Creed with all of Christendom that Jesus Christ, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried”.  AMEN.

Check out Pastor on the Prairie (ProtP)
Subscribe to ProtP

Monday, September 19, 2016

09182016 - 17th Sunday After Trinity - Apostle's Creed - "Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary"

September 18, 2016
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary
Last week, I made the statement that we are at a precipice, we have to choose Whom we will serve, either God or Man.  From the expressions on a number of faces, it was a message that was like some of the military campaigns of the 21st Century, “Shock and Awe”.  Yet, my goal was to stir us to choose God over what man offers us daily and even what we encounter in our daily walk.
Today we live in a clear time of doubt.  Look at the windows boarded up on the West side of the church.  How will we replace them?  How will we pay for the damage done to the roof over our heads?  Will corn prices rise or fall?  Will we have a job after the election?  Will the election be peaceful?  This doubt is exactly where some of us live.  Satan not only enjoys our ‘doubt’, but encourages it and has been doing so since the Garden of Eden.  Remember his query of Adam and Eve in the Garden, ‘Did God really say you would die, if you ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?’
The fear and doubt created by Satan in our daily lives not only attempt to pull us away from God, but to reorient our lives away from trust in God to doubting both God’s existence and God’s willingness to die for us.  This is why we need to lay claim to our confession of the Apostle’s Creed and come, hear and receive God’s promises weekly and partake of His Sacraments that He offers us from His altar.
In the Apostle’s Creed, we not only confess our belief, but we name all three persons of the Holy Trinity.  And in the second Article we began last week we confess, “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord”.  Today we like an onion created by God add another layer not of complexity, but of truth when we boldly confess about Jesus Christ, “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary”.
Today our culture dislikes and even turns judgmental and political when we talk about babies in the womb.  Legislation and legalities when someone who is pregnant is killed, making a decision whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, not only litter our landscape, but even impact relationships between family and friends.  But the reality is, what we confess in our Apostle’s Creed is not only language about life, but clearly that the life of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ is not only “conceived” from God, “by the Holy Spirit”, but Jesus Christ was “born of the Virgin Mary”.
Our Confession of faith is not only meant to be a ‘doctrinal’ or ‘belief’ statement, but it is meant as a life statement for we who gather here.  For when we confess that Jesus Christ, “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary” our confession is a statement that gives us life and can give it to us abundantly.
Recent events with ISIS, Columbine or Aurora clearly stick in our minds.  Individuals’ because of their confession were slain because of their bold confession, but this is our earthly life.  In that moment they entered eternal life, a life that never ends all because they confessed Jesus Christ not only as their Lord and Savior, but the meaning found in our confession in the Apostle’s Creed that Jesus Christ was “conceived”, was “born” and is their Lord and Savior.
Is this a test for us today?  No, its not meant to feel or be a test for us today.  But when we confess the Apostle’s Creed, we clearly and unmistakably bind ourselves to the bold confession not only from history, but for us and the church today.  We confess clearly and emphatically our belief in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and how God is working in and through each of us today.
This last week, the latest Captain America movie entitled, “Civil War” came out digitally and on video.  Michele and I were unable to watch it in the theater.  Having a very active 7 year old daughter we chose to spend time with her rather than attend a movie.  In watching some of the featurettes the other night, I was struck by the clear choice that had to be made by each Avenger.  They had to weigh which ‘side’ they were going to not only serve, but fight for.  Yet what is interesting is that their choice was more about ideology and their personal beliefs about a system that was being imposed upon them by the world leaders rather than their personal choice and the ability to choose when or when not to use their talents.
Translate that for us who gather here today.  Today we gather as the body of Christ, the church. Thursday we were battered by the storms of life.  Yet, we came together as a church and community and rallied together.  We should rally to work with our neighbors next door or across the street, our friends across town who may have been impacted more and even people we do not know since we are the Body of Christ.  In this way we not only can do things together, not holding the past over anyone, nor being reminded of it, but living humbly as the hands and feet of Christ here in Goodland. 
Today we join together to celebrate “Back to Church” Sunday in order to be the Church of Jesus Christ..  We began our worship by praying for people in our church who are in need for our prayer.  We sang that “We have a friend in Jesus”.  And we have heard how we make a choice in our confession about Jesus Christ.  Let’s not only welcome everyone, but clearly confess our belief in Jesus Christ.  For Jesus Christ is our God and we are His people that confess Jesus Christ “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary”.  AMEN.

Check out Pastor on the Prairie (ProtP)
Subscribe to ProtP

Monday, September 12, 2016

09112016 16th Sunday After Trinity - Apostles Creed "And In Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord"

September 11, 2016
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Greg Laurie, famous from “Harvest America” and even can be heard on KGCR our local Christian Radio Station speaks candidly about the first Sunday after the September 11th World Trade Center tragedy.  He says, ‘many media outlets contacted him to ask his opinion about faith and life and what impact these events would have upon the church.’  Ironically, September 16, 2001 was the largest crowd of worshipers at his church, because people were ‘searching’ for meaning in light of the 24 hour coverage and the continued hope of rescuing people still alive in the rubble of the destruction of the two towers.
Across the country, prayer services were held.  Petitions and prayers were spoken and prayed internally and externally for a change of our culture, society and our very being.  Across the ocean countries mourned with us not only at the loss of life, but the heart felt need to have a change that would have a lasting impact.  The solidarity shown revealed the clear and unmistakable belief that we were all connected across the globe.  The feeling for some of the personal loss, whether in fact, but even in our own safety and psyche whether in Japan, South Africa, Ireland, Mexico or even right here in Goodland was not only clear and tangible, but called for a change that was felt by everyone who heard the news.
Fast forward 15 years to today.  We gather today here at Emmanuel with not only numerous attacks upon countries, people groups, but specifically upon even those who insure our safety, the ‘blue line’.  We live in a time where fear continues to trump our faith, because no place seems safe.  The men and women in blue hired to protect us are now targets even in our own country as they patrol our streets.  Our elementary schools are being used as a bully pulpit to put fear into our children, sometimes by teachers but more so today by fellow students, all because one candidate is not the person our parents, family or friends would vote for in the upcoming election.  We use fear to push people to make decisions.  Our society pushes us to choose.  Yet our society looks with earthly eyes.  We who are Christians should not look with earthly eyes, simply because something more sinister is our current reality.  For we who gather here today at Emmanuel sometimes do not clearly understand or believe that eternity is in the balance.
But eternity is in the balance, whether we will spend eternity in hell and its torment, or will we spend an eternity with our Lord.  We have a decision today, will we choose earthly things, or will we chose eternal things?  I ask this question, not to cause us to act out of fear, but to inspire us to act in faith.
Today, I stand not only here in the pulpit, but at the tip of the spear against our society and world.  Today, I stand here because, we have a God, the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit that we invoke not only at the beginning of our service, but that we confess with the words found in the Apostle’s Creed.  Today I lay claim to the love of Jesus Christ and the clear offer of grace that is offered to us freely and without our own merit.  This gift of grace is offered to all of mankind from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  For God not only bathes us with His grace through the Blood of the Lamb of God that takes the sin of the world, but offers this gift of grace and forgiveness out of His great love for each and every one of us.  Our world does not deserve it.  Our world cannot merit what God offers us from the Cross of Calvary.  But out of God’s grace, mercy and love, God, through His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ freely offers us Himself in order that we might have eternal life.
You see, Satan wants us to live in fear, not in faith.  Satan wants us to doubt God and not believe that Jesus Christ existed, hence why our society only sees Holy Scripture as ‘literature’.  Our society sees the stories captured, recorded and told in the Bible only as anecdotes not true fact.  Our society doesn’t want Holy Scripture in the schools, nor in our public places, because it could cause offense.  So our society has relegated Holy Scripture to the library instead of the dinner table for conversation.  Our society has relegated Jesus Christ as a name we cannot say or wear without repercussions.  Our society has relegated, our confession that we not only hold up, but boldly confess today in fear of a truth that we are accountable for where we will spend eternity.  Today we stand at a precipice with eternity in the balance.
When we confess the Apostle’s Creed specifically the second article “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord”, we not only bind ourselves to Jesus Christ, but are empowered to boldly confess Who and Whose we are.  Our confession of faith, not only solidifies when we begin by confessing our belief that God created the heavens and the earth, but we unmistakably and unashamedly bind ourselves to a belief in the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ as God’s only Son, and our Lord.  We not only lift up the banner of Jesus name, but we clearly hear Jesus calling each of us by name.  For Jesus is not only calling us by name, Jesus as our sermon hymn says, wants us to “Come home”.
This is why the battle that wages on a daily basis of eternity being in the balance is so clear.  No more compelling representation of this comes than from the second installment of the “God’s Not Dead” series of movies.  The teacher Grace Wesley played by Melissa Joan Hart doesn’t just encounter, but stands at the precipice of the choices between man or God.  As Grace faces the clear opposition of her school, a lawyer hell bent to destroy her and anyone’s belief in God, and even her ‘friends’ in the administration at school.  Grace’s response to her own defense lawyer not only is poignant, but powerful.  Grace says, “I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God.”
We who not only gather this morning, but even our family, friends, fellow Goodland residents and especially the entire world stand at this same choice and precipice today.  Eternity is in the balance for each of us on a daily basis.  We daily are faced with the question of, where do you want to spend eternity, Heaven or Hell?  If we have learned nothing else from the tragedy of September 11, 2001, we know not the day nor the hour when we will enter into eternity.  Will we live in fear or faith?  If we refuse to daily confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then our destination is clear.  However, if we boldly, unashamedly and clearly do what Jesus calls us to do in making disciples of all nations and are willing to with our last breath in the face of certain death confess the words, “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord”, God will not only welcome us into His Kingdom, but will clearly welcome us into His loving embrace. 

It is my prayer for each and every one of us today that we take up the Cross of Jesus Christ and boldly battle the forces of evil that battle us daily.  For Jesus Christ call on each of our lives is not for earthly gain, but for an eternal gain that cannot be taken away.  May we daily not only call on the name of Jesus, but boldly believe and confess the Apostle’s Creed when we declare “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.”  AMEN.

Check out Pastor on the Prairie (ProtP)
Subscribe to ProtP

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

09042016 15th Sunday After Trinity - Apostles Creed - “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth”

September 4, 2016
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth”
If you have ever heard, Larry the Cable Guy, famous for the Prilosec commercials as well as his movie fame and comedy routines, he had a bit when he was a part of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour”.  He would start, “I believe” and then rattle off something that he really believed.  His friends, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Ron White would join in his antics.  Though some of the things they believed in were at times funny or even a little off color, the premise of ‘believing in something’ is important.  For we who gather here today at Emmanuel this is especially true.
For we who gather here today, in a few minutes after the sermon and hymn, we will be confessing one of the Ecumenical Creeds of the Church.  Just as a refresher, there are three creeds that Christendom agrees upon and confesses in most liturgical churches, whether Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal or Anglican.  They are the Apostle’s Creed, the “I” or personal creed used mainly and specifically at Holy Baptism. The Nicene Creed used on communion Sunday’s like today as a “We Believe” or common confession.  And last the Athanasian Creed, which is used only once a year, because it is so long, but also it specifically confesses about the Trinity, the catch phrase being “Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity”.
Martin Luther used in his Small and Large Catechism the Apostle’s Creed and wrote clear explanations.  You remember “What does this mean?”  The Apostle’s Creed is the baptismal creed and was the first creed that was taught to new believers and converts prior to their baptism.  It clearly confesses Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, between now and Advent we will be exploring the Apostle’s Creed in order not only to more fully understand our faith, but to hear and see the biblical connection that can clearly be made with our confessing “I believe”.  This morning we begin with the First Article.
The First Article deals with God the Father and we confess, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.”  So clear is the expression and connection of our faith that both the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed begin with the true confession, of “I believe” and “We believe” respectively.  With the Apostle’s Creed being taught historically in the early church the week before Holy Baptism, this confession not only solidifies the stories from the Holy Scriptures, but clearly connects the stories and the beliefs that have been passed down from generation to generation to our generation and to each of us today.
The First Article about God the Father encapsulates the importance of a personal faith in God.  When we confess it, we not only give a ‘nod’ to what the stories say, but they clearly refer to what God has clearly done, not only in creation, but also sustaining our world today.  Jesus even did this when He was asked by the Scribes and Pharisee’s what was most important.  Jesus refers back to the Old Testament and the teachings of the Law and what Moses, leader of the Israelite people wrote in Deuteronomy, “Hear, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”  This confession of the Shema by Jesus and our confession in the Creeds by we today connects us with God in the most clear and unmistakable way.
Yet, why is this in question today?  For what purpose or reason would belief in God be an issue for Christians today?  The next part of the First Article of the Apostle’s Creed makes the connection for us in our day.  When we confess this Creed we boldly believe and Confess that God made heaven and earth. 
Our current culture doubts and even at times denies that God not only exists but that God created the heavens and the earth.  If you go to some museums whether in Denver, Kansas City or even Hays you hear about evolution and how plants and animals evolved and how the earth is billions of years old.  Its in our school curriculum and even television shows use evolution as not a theory, but a belief.  In fact, this week there was an article on a recently discovered fossil that showed life nearly 3 billion years ago.  Some place the blame on scientists for evolution.  But truthfully, that is more a philosophical question for another time.  As Pastor, I’m here to say, scientists are not to blame.  The real blame should rest on one individual.  This individuals’ first appearance came in the Garden of Eden.  It wasn’t Adam or Eve, but it was Satan.  Hence why when we confess our faith we begin with “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.”  And with our Confession, Satan at every corner attempts to get us to doubt.
Satan wants us to doubt and deny God.  So when we boldly profess our faith with the Apostle’s Creed we not only thumb our collective noses at Satan, but we clearly confess and connect the biblical stories we have heard from our youth to our beliefs today.  For the real reason why we find in Holy Scriptures a clear connection and application in the Catechisms of Martin Luther is not only the truth found, but the boldest confession of faith.  This is why the stories of the Holy Bible were told to new believers first and not until they could retell the stories and then were preparing for Holy Baptism would the Apostle’s Creed not only be taught but explained in full.  Not only would this solidify the stories, but would clearly connect with the biblical doctrines and the faith that was being professed.
One of the most poignant examples of the connection of the stories of the Bible and how God the Father not only created the heavens and the earth comes from the most prolific writer of the New Testament.  Paul, convert to Christianity on the road to Damascus in Acts 14 says the following, “15 Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”

Paul is calling the people of Lystra to turn to the living God Who made heaven and earth.  The God we confess in the Apostle’s Creed.  Paul and Holy Scripture are trying to help empower each of us to confess our living God, and be empowered to boldly confess what Jesus Christ, Son of God did on Calvary.  For what we have heard today is not just the beginning of a belief in God, but a clear connection to the stories of Holy Scripture and a true confession of faith of all Christians in what We Believe when we boldly confess “I Believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.”  AMEN.

Check out Pastor on the Prairie (ProtP)
Subscribe to ProtP

//trial script