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Monday, November 28, 2016

11272016 - First Sunday in Advent - "12 Drummers Drumming"

November 27, 2016
12 Drummers Drumming
Have you ever watched a Classic Christmas movie or read a book that talks about what occurs during the season of Christmas?  Whether “A Christmas Carol”, “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  One of the most common occurrences in literature and the movies is that a choir of ‘merry makers’ are seen and heard, either on the street corner, walking through the town or village and sometimes even hired as entertainment for a shop or shopping center in the larger cities.  In olden days, these individuals would go from door to door to ‘bring Christmas cheer’ to the community.  Matter of fact, our church of Emmanuel has done this and will again on December 10th.
One of the traditional songs that was usually sung by the group between stops that would serenade the townspeople or shoppers is the “12 Days of Christmas”.  The 12 Days of Christmas is a song of anticipation that has great meaning and value for Christians.  During this Advent season, we will connect this beautiful hymn for each of us that gather to not only learn more about this song, but connect each stanza with our Christian beliefs and lives in order to help us make our true Christmas season more memorable.
If you listen to our culture some say the 12 Days of Christmas begin December 13th and end on Christmas Day.  Realistically, this is not true.  Yes, Wal-Mart sadly even for the employees starts well before Halloween.  By December 25th everyone is sick of hearing or seeing anything about Christmas.    Some of us even have our Christmas trees up the day after Thanksgiving and are eager to have it down and put away the day after Christmas.  However, the 12 Days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas Day.  Thus why the “12 Days of Christmas Song” and the true meaning of Christmas all begins on Christmas Day with the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
For our series though, in order for us to truly understand what we celebrate after Christmas, we aren’t starting with the real reason for the season, Jesus Christ, we will begin with the “12 Drummers Drumming”.  And our series will end on Christmas Day, since this year, Christmas is on a Sunday.  So today, we enthusiastically begin with the “12 Drummers Drumming” and the 12 Drummers are connected something we just finished.
As most of you know since September we have followed and delved deeply into the meaning and application of the Apostle’s Creed.  So clear are the doctrines and their connection to scripture and what we confess could be broken into twelve different sections.  Hence why the “12 Drummers Drumming” is connected clearly to the Apostle’s Creed and tells what we believe, teach and confess as Christians. 
The 12 Days of Christmas Song typically ends with this connection to the Apostle’s Creed with the “12 Drummers Drumming”, but is a perfect place for us to start.  For the Apostle’s Creed confesses the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the creation of our world, the conception of Jesus Christ, His suffering, crucifixion, death and burial, His descent into Hell, His resurrection and ascension as well as where He sits at His Father’s right Hand and how He will come to judge mankind.  We confess our belief in the Holy Spirit, the catholic church, the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins our resurrection and life everlasting.  So each of the 12 points, like drummers drumming pounds a complete picture of our collective confession of our Christian faith.  For it is the confession of our faith that points like an arrow at and to the heart of the Gospel message.  And the heart of the Gospel message we prepare our hearts for is found in the gift we will celebrate on Christmas morning.
For with our confession of the 12 Points of the Creed and singing the 12 Days of Christmas each point and stanza not only connects us to the teachings passed down in the Creed, but emphasize each point with the“12 Drummers Drumming”.  Our confession of our faith spans not only centuries, but enables us to point to what Jesus Christ completed, and tell the story of salvation and connect us to Jesus Christ through this simple holiday song.  For The 12 Days of Christmas Song isn’t just a simple song, but a powerful and life changing confession of what Jesus Christ was willing to do for all of mankind, including each of us who confess our Christian faith. 

May we this Advent season understand our Christian faith in what Jesus Christ offers us so freely because of His great love for each and every one of us and learn more about the eternal treasure found ultimately in the stable, but today that we begin today with our learning about the 12 Days of Christmas with the “12 Drummers Drumming”.  AMEN.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

11132016 - 25th Sunday After Trinity - Apostle's Creed - "the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,"

November 13, 2016
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,
In our Gospel this morning Jesus tells the parable of the Final Judgement that will occur.  Easily we could say this parable is told by Jesus in order to ‘call down judgement’ upon each other no matter the circumstance, no matter the reason.  Others would say it is to vindicate the Son of Man.  Yet, Jesus tells this parable not to vindicate, but to reveal Himself as the Shepherd, not to judge, not to justify, not to point out the log in other’s eyes, but simply to forgive and separate the sheep from the goats.
You see in Jesus day flocks were kept by the shepherds that included both sheep and goats.  The sheep were the prized possession of the herdsman.  On the other hand, the goat was not held in as much honor, because goats were bullies of the sheep and caused the destruction of the land causing erosion.  Hence why when gathered together the sheep and goats were separated by the shepherd, because the goats were trouble makers.
Jesus as the great shepherd knew this and tells this parable in order to further explain the difference between the believers, the sheep and the unbelievers, the goats.  Not much has changed in 2000 years.  Sadly in our world around us even here in Western Kansas, we have people who are bullies and the herd mentality and we also have the sheep who believe, but don’t stand up to the bullies.
Yet today in our confession of the Apostle’s Creed, we confess a need all of us should daily seek and a belief what will occur on the last day.  When we confess, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, it is with the clear understanding we believe we need forgiveness from God and we will on the last day receive a resurrected body.
One of the hardest things some Christians face is understanding our need for forgiveness.  Our culture always wants to be seen as ‘right’, never wrong, never to show weakness.  So to seek out forgiveness is in one sense ‘against our culture’.  In Lutheranism 101 a constant question I ask, as Christians who are supposed to be ‘disciples of Jesus Christ’, as Christians are we ‘in’ or ‘of’ the world?  The simple answer is we Christians ‘live in the world’, but we Christians are not ‘of the world’.  For as followers of Jesus Christ who confess our belief in what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary our values, our thoughts and our actions should mirror and be the same as Jesus Christ.
And what did Jesus Christ call for?  You guessed it, ‘repentance’ and the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus called for us to forgive one another and daily declare to one another what He offered so freely on the Cross of Calvary.  To either deny or not seek out and ask for forgiveness means we deny Jesus Christ, His death on Calvary and we deny the grace that He so freely wants to offers us.  Our culture sees forgiveness as a weakness, but with God when we confess and ask for and lay claim to the forgiveness of sins” our reality changes.  We then more fully rely upon God, not only for this life that we live day to day, but a life that looks with eternal eyes that leads us deeper and more fully into what we confess in the Apostle’s Creed and a fuller relationship with Jesus Christ and the blessings only He can give to each of us.
Not only do we confess, the forgiveness of sins,” which is for the ‘earthly’, but we lay claim to the eternal, with our belief in “the resurrection of the body,.  Consider if you will we spare no expense to take care of our loved ones who have died, from the caskets, the flowers for the funeral, the plots that we will be buried in at the cemetery.  Yet as Christians, in our Creed we believe that the flesh we have will when Christ comes again will no longer matter, because we confess “the resurrection of the body,.
Paul says it plainly in 1st Corinthians 15 and 1st Thessalonians, “the dead in Christ will rise first” and our bodies that we now worry about whether we are physically fit or able to wear the latest fashions, will remain in the dust of the earth and we will be given new bodies.  Spiritual bodies that don’t need to worry about aches and pains, pulled muscles, diseases like cancer, diabetes, broken bones or any ailments.  Our belief in “the resurrection of the body, looks not with the earthly eyes we look for and see, but the eternal eyes.  For in our being raised with all the saints our bodies will be imperishable.
But of what value and importance is our confession of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,.  Simply we confess in this phrase of the Apostle’s Creed our trust in Jesus Christ.  For we receive forgiveness because of His great love for us and in our trusting Jesus it is not just for forgiveness, but that we will be with Him in heaven for eternity.  No matter the political parties that are in control, the hurts we inflict intentionally or unintentionally that we receive here on earth, none of this matters, because our faith is not built on the sand that shifts with the wind.  Our faith is firmly built on what Jesus Christ offered on Calvary and is the bedrock of our faith.  For our faith is built upon our trust in Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation for all of mankind. 
Today we celebrate our Thank Offering.  We smell the fruits of the ladies labor and the gifts of love that will fill our stomachs.  We have the distinct opportunity to gather this year to give thanks to God for what He has done and continues to do in and with us.  In the early summer, a bountiful wheat harvest not seen in a generation.  A corn harvest that fills the bunkers at Frontier and Co-Op.  The devil wants us to look at the prices for wheat, corn and cattle and worry about what will come tomorrow and how our finances will meet expenses.  But God wants us to focus on something totally different.  God wants us to simply be thankful for our lives, our harvest and especially the blessing of “the forgiveness of sins” and “the resurrection of the body” He gives through His Son Jesus Christ.

We have the greatest opportunity today to give thanks because of His sacrifice and honor the gifts that God offers unto us of eternal life.  In celebrating and giving thanks today we clearly lay claim to what we weekly confess in the Apostle’s Creed.  For this is our corporate and personal confession that not only gives thanks to God for the grace God offers us freely and without cost to us, but promises us what we need the most the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,.  AMEN.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

11062016 - All Saints Sunday - 24th Sunday After Trinity - Apostle's Creed - "the communion of saints"

November 6, 2016
the communion of saints

This morning we gather as the ‘small c’ Holy catholic Church.  We gather as the visible Church of Jesus Christ here on earth, not only to receive the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, but boldly confess our faith.  We gather to receive the forgiveness of our sins.  We gather, because God not only created the heavens and the earth, but calls us to daily and weekly come to church and worship Him with our confession and faith in what Jesus Christ has done on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.
Yet, this morning we gather also boldly confessing another part of the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed that connects us, not only to the visible people gathered here, but especially to those who have gone before us.  This morning we celebrate All Saints Sunday, where we remember our loved ones and those who have passed from life here on this earth across the veil that separates the living and the dead into eternity.  We do this when we confess in both the Nicene, but especially the Apostle’s Creed, “the communion of saints”.
Some ask, what does “the communion of saints” really mean and how are we connected to those who have gone before us?  Whether this last week, last month or last year.  For some of us, including myself, driving out to the cemetery and walking among the gravestones is one way that I connect with some of the saints.  As I wrote in the last newsletter, I have gone, seen, visited and walked among many of the saints I have laid to rest.  Even as a young man I visited my grandparents cemetery plots both in Pennsylvania and Iowa as a way of honoring their memory and connecting with them, even though it was only their earthly bodies and not their eternal spirit given them by God.  Yet, believe it or not, I now understand and believe I don’t need to visit the cemetery any more.
The reason I say this is because, today and every day we celebrate Holy Communion we not only remember, but we can personally connect with “the communion of saints”.  You see the connection we can have comes through, by and is celebrated with our receipt of the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  When we come forward and receive Holy Communion we make a connection not only with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but with our loved ones who have gone before us.  This is why it is called a ‘mystical communion’ a mystical connection that transcends time, space and even our own reason as limited as it is.
For when we not only come for continuous communion, but also with communion at the altar, we make the most intimate connection available for us this side of eternity.  When I visit both Wheat Ridge and Good Samaritan, I explain it this way.  The way most older churches were built, they purposefully placed the altar at the ‘front of the church’ against the wall and would depending upon the church have a communion rail placed around the altar, so members could come and take communion.  Historically the rail was a ‘half circle’ ending against the back wall that the altar was placed against.
When the ‘visible church’ would come and receive communion from the altar around the rail, the church would gather and receive Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood as a church family who had forgiven one another and did not hold any grudges or even any ill feelings.  A further confession by the church was the understanding that the rail, did not end with the wall.  The rail continued behind the wall and formed a full circle with the beautiful and theological understanding that we who are still on our earthly pilgrimage are still connected through the Lord’s Supper with “the communion of saints”, those who have gone before us.
So when we gather like today on All Saints day, we gather not as individuals, but with “the communion of saints” who await our entrance into eternity, but intimately and personally connected with them through our receipt of Holy Communion.  For with this understanding of the ‘mystical communion’, we begin to understand that God Who created the heavens and the earth, also created time and has dominion over it.  God is not limited by our ‘earthly construct’ and God with the faith given to us at Holy Baptism not only allows us, but encourages us to trust Him and believe in our personal connection with “the communion of saints” no matter if we met them or even with the saints like Martin Luther or Moses.
These last 8 days have in one sense allowed our celebration of All Saints Sunday to have an exclamation point put on it with my having performed three funerals and attending an additional funeral at the Max.  But I am reminded of one particular funeral in February 2013.
In October and November 2010 after our arrival here at Emmanuel I had the extreme pleasure of meeting, visiting and eventually bringing communion to Etta Butts both in her home when she could no longer drive and at Good Samaritan.  When Etta finally entered eternal glory in February 2013, we prepared for her funeral as was the normal custom.  Yet on the faithful day we were to lay her to rest, God gave Goodland a beautiful covering of snow.
As the family gathered here at the church we only had in total about 10-15 people to attend.  Unlike the funeral at the Max Jones this week, having only 10-15 people here in the church was honestly very sad.  But what I take comfort and solace in is that even though the pews appeared mostly empty, “the communion of saints” filled every last pew.  For “the communion of saints” celebrated the entrance of Etta into eternity and welcomed her home into the loving arms of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is why when we celebrate All Saints Sunday we do so not only to remember those who have passed in the last year, but also to remember all the saints of all time and all place.  For in the Apostle’s Creed we make the clear connection and confession that “the communion of saints” not only connects us but enables us to be comforted by Jesus Christ Precious Body and Blood, but also have a foretaste of the feast to come.  For the mystical communion we celebrate is because of the free offer of grace and salvation offered by Jesus Christ for all of mankind that will join all of us together in one confession as “the communion of saints”.  AMEN.

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