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Monday, February 27, 2017

02262017 Quinquagesima Sunday - Christ is love and He abides in us to love one another!

February 26, 2017
Christ is love and He abides in us to love one another!
Today we stand collectively at the edge of a cliff.  Unlike in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we aren’t in Hollywood.  Unlike standing on the edge of the cliff with fog surrounding us, we as the church can see the path that is unfolding before us and we can see clearly the bottom and what will be required.  For today is as we gather the last Sunday before Lent begins, for we here like the hymn board states, we today celebrate, Quinquagesima Sunday.  But it isn’t about a long Latin name that most forget its meaning from one year to the next.  It isn’t about a hymn sing like last week.  Today we Emmanuel Lutheran stand looking with 20/20 eyesight of what is required of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

You see, only three days from now, we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.  We as a congregation will confess our sins, receive the forgiveness of God and lay claim to a truth that not only unites us as the Body of Christ, but points us in the direction of transformation of each and every one of us, with the sign of the Ash Cross on our foreheads.  Yesterday I found a few pictures on my phone from previous Ash Wednesday services and they spoke of a truth, we as the Body of Christ are united.

The truth we unite behind is simply this.  Jesus Christ is love and He abides in us to love one another!

The love Jesus Christ has for us is so overpowering and overwhelming that everyone who met Him, not only were radically changed by Him, but His affect upon their lives would like ripples in a pond change and impact countless others and generations to come.  The love Jesus Christ offers us today with His willingness to go the Cross radically changes we who gather here today.

That is what should happen, we should be changed.  But in our world today, we like Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and countless other generations we make a choice to not let nor allow the truth to set us free to be the people of God.  We not only get wandering eyes of the other side of the fence where the grass is greener, but also that we can control the actions of others.  Whether we are teachers, preachers, businessmen or even farmers that make one’s living from the sweat of the brow.

What Jesus Christ is calling we His brothers and sisters in Christ to do is love as He first loved us and be willing to love one another, warts and all unconditionally.  When we love unconditionally in this way, without strings, with the truth as God sees it and not with our own perspective, nor for our own or our little groups gain, but for the gain of all of God’s children, there is nothing that can stop us and nothing will be able to prevent God’s Word from accomplishing His will and His way right here at Emmanuel and in our world.

Why you might ask, would I make such a bold assertion, that nothing can thwart God’s Plan?  It is simply this, God, Who is love and His Son, Jesus Christ have our collective best interest in mind.  From the beginning of creation, God had one destination in mind, His own Son, Jesus Christ restoring creation with His death on Calvary.  No matter the events, no matter the wars, no matter the things that happened, each time.  Every event in human history could have happened quicker if God forced it.  But God didn’t force man.  God allowed man and man’s free will to slowly move the pendulum, especially to the point that the season we are about to enter is the final act in salvation history.

We who gather here today, may not feel like players, but as I told our Lutheranism 101 this last Tuesday night, we like Paul said have but one thing we need to do and do well.  We are at the cliff and only have to Love one another.  For this is what God is calling us to daily do.  Daily love one another.  For a truer statement could not be spoken, that Christ is love and He abides in us to love one another!  AMEN.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

02162017 Funeral Sermon for Loren L. Bahe

February 16, 2017
Funeral for Loren L. Bahe

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, as we gather today seeing that the veil of death has been drawn, we mourn Loren’s passing, but know and have heard the promise You made to him of eternal life.  Not only did you model for him care and concern, but you instilled in him and he and Tam passed down to Mike and Kim lessons of love that have not only formed and shaped who they are not only as his children, but Yours through the most intimate connection.  That connection comes through Loren’s and our baptism into Your Son Jesus Christ, life, death, but especially His resurrection.  And though, because of death it seems the connection is broken, because of our faith in You, we believe it is not and we can be comforted by that knowledge today and every day.  May we who gather to say goodbye be comforted through the Gospel of Your Son, Jesus Christ and through its healing salve, which is the most powerful medicine, may we be enabled to understand Your love for us, but especially for Loren as now he and his betrothed Tam are back together again being held in Your loving arms for all eternity.  AMEN.

As we prepared for today, to remember and celebrate Loren’s life, there were for everyone, from Mike, Kim, Deneyce, Jason and others so many not only good memories, but great memories.  From Loren’s always having the best looking shoes, because he not only was an expert in footwear, because he owned three shoe stores in two states.  Loren had a passion for kids, not only caring for his own kids, but countless others here in town when he ran the ‘Teen Club’.  To the clear connection that Loren had with his wife Tam.  Never a harsh word was spoken or disagreement except behind closed doors.  They were always together sharing the highs and lows of not only rural farm life, but also raising Mike and Kim and in the most intimate way sharing, caring and showing his love and understanding but especially instilling a work ethic that was clear and today is rare in our society.

One catch phrase that epitomized Loren’s ethic was simply stated, but revealed the bedrock of his character instilled both by his parents William and Nannie, but also his time in the United States Army.  It was said, you “gotta work before we play”.  At times the work whether at the lake or on the farm overcame the play, but the memories created, the character formed in Mike and Kim and what they have passed down can be clearly and directly linked to Loren and Tam and their insuring that their family came first and their children would never want for anything.

As we sat around the table yesterday, we were looking at some of the pictures that you can see this morning on the screens on the sun deck and the narthex on the west.  One clear connection that leapt out at me is that Loren was confirmed, married and now will be buried from here in this very sanctuary.  The thread that runs throughout Loren’s life is the importance of church, but especially God in his life.  And this clear connection comes from the Gospel we heard only moments ago.

Jesus said very clearly that “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life…”  Loren believed in God and with his betrothed, Tam, clearly instilled in Mike and Kim and others, a moral compass that has served them well.  But it didn’t stop with a moral compass.  The bedrock of who and Whose they were found its root in the clear belief in God.  Was this clearly visible to all people?  Probably not, because Loren was a very private and quiet man, who only let down his guard with the people he knew, trusted and loved.  This closeness and connection wasn’t just for his two children, but has grown with each addition to the family and the clear bonds shared with one another in celebrating birthdays, 4th of July, around a fire ring at Trenton or sharing a bowl of churned homemade ice cream or with a piece of chocolate cake with icing an inch thick, the way God intended it.

This intimate connection that was known, loved and cherished by those close to Loren, even including his grandson Jason and his family and great grandchildren, now finds its fulfillment with God’s gift of “eternal life” found in the final promise from John 6, where Jesus says, “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day”.  For today fulfills the gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ to Loren that he was baptized into when the Pastor made the sign of the Cross over his forehead and heart.  Today the exclamation point is placed at the end of the sentence that Loren laid claim to in his Confirmation at this this very rail.  Today God fulfills the gift of eternal life as we lay him to rest next to Tam.  Today we celebrate the completion of not only the circle of life, but Loren’s entrance into eternity and the fulfillment of eternal life.

For though it may seem that death has won today, God, through His Son, Jesus Christ reveals to  we who gather a fuller picture of God’s grace and love for us.  We who gather are empowered and called to believe the offer of grace, not only that was offered and laid claim to by Loren, but that we share with one another of the free gift of grace and eternal life through Jesus Christ.  For this is as Loren would hear Paul Harvey say while driving his brown pickup, is the ‘rest of the story’.  It is a clear demonstration of God’s patience with us and His clearly embracing us, not only in our baptism, but today with the fulfillment of His promise of eternal life, today for Loren and one day for each of us.

May we as we gather to say our final goodbyes, look not with doubt, but with eyes of faith not only believing “that my redeemer lives”.  But that today, God has given us the faith to believe and know the truth found in His Son and Loren’s Savior, of eternal life with Jesus Christ, where now Loren rests in Jesus loving embrace hand in hand with his betrothed, Tam and one day with each and every one of us.  AMEN.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and comfort each of us this morning as we commend Loren back to His Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

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02122017 Septuagesima Sunday - We are to run so we may win for Christ!

February 12, 2017
We are to run so we may win for Christ.
This morning we begin a journey that has been celebrated since and before the time of Martin Luther.  We begin the Sunday’s that lead up to the beginning of Lent.  Simply these Sunday’s are known as the Gesima Sundays.  Next week, our service will revolve around these Sunday’s and tell the story of their connection with the church, the songs that relay the sole reason for our worship, Jesus Christ and how they impact us today.

But today on the first Sunday, known as Septuagesima, our focus will be Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  Paul begins our reading not with biblical wisdom, but a simple question of all things a ‘sports event’.  Similar to the movies “Chariots of Fire”, “Broken” or others that portray ’physical prowess’, Paul invokes a ‘race analogy’, but Paul connects it clearly to a prize.

When we receive a prize, whether in a spelling bee, a trophy for athletic prowess or a ring like the Patriots will receive for winning the Super Bowl, it is a ‘token’ of the accomplishment.  However, for Paul he clearly understands the discipline it takes to attain the prize.  Paul writes, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection”.  Paul knows what it is like to prepare for races, but ironically, all Paul is doing is relating to the people of Corinth who receive this letter with experiences they are familiar with not only as Roman Citizens, but this analogy is easily understood by we who gather here today.

However, Paul’s intent isn’t about gaining money for the coffers in Jerusalem.  It isn’t about controlling the actions of the people in Corinth, Paul’s sole intent is to point to what will save, sustain and securely change their eternal destination.  Paul’s intent is to point to a man he encountered on the road to Emmaus.  Paul is pointing to none other than the Rock Jesus Christ.

Our society asks, of what consequence is this Rock, Jesus Christ  for us today?  It is claimed no one has seen the Rock for 2000 years.  The Roman and the Jewish world doubted His resurrection as the movie “Risen” portrayed.  People feared what they could not believe, explain nor understand.  Yet clearly, Paul agreed at one point about this ‘Rock’ by hunting down the people who claimed to be Christians.  But on the road to Emmaus, Paul was changed.  No further proof of Paul’s change needs to be looked for than this passage we have read this morning.

The Rock, Jesus Christ, that Paul is pointing to for the Romans and for us today is the same Man that he met on the road to Emmaus.  This Rock, Jesus Christ is the same man Whom we celebrated His birth in a lowly manger in Bethlehem not two months ago.  This Man, this Rock, Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and Who we have been baptized into, His life, His death, but especially His resurrection.

This Man, this Rock, Jesus Christ not only is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Our Rock Jesus Christ comes to offer us today eternal life.  Jesus Christ ran the race and now offers we His followers from our altar below the window with His likeness, His precious Body and Blood.  We are offered the greatest offer of grace from Him for us that gives us eternal life.  And all that He asks us to do is ‘discipline our bodies and bring them into subjection to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ’.  For when we bring our bodies into subjection, we then have the greatest opportunity.  We as disciples of Jesus Christ, “We are to run so we may win for Christ”.

God, through His Son, Jesus Christ is calling us to run the race of perseverance, in the face of adversity, against that which is evil and does not have the Gospel at its center and run the race so we can ‘win for Christ’.  Does this mean we earn eternal life?  By no means, eternal life is the gift of God offered to all of mankind out of God’s great love for us.  We are called by God to ‘run this race’ so that God may be Glorified and God may truly work through us so others not only can hear the Gospel of salvation of what Jesus Christ did on Calvary, but truly understand that God’s gift of grace is freely given for all, independent of our abilities, but fully dependent upon God and His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Recently, I saw a video on Facebook that epitomized running a race of a young boy with Cerebral Palsy.  The teacher of the class said the boy didn’t have to run, but he would have nothing of it.  Lining up with his class, he began the race.  Quickly this young boy was left in the dust.  All of the kids had finished the race, but this young boy, continued on.  As he neared the half way point the teacher went to offer him the opportunity to stop.  But again he would not.  So the teacher ran along side of him cheering him on.  With every step, classmates of his joined this procession and when he finally came to the finish line, the entire class was cheering him on giving him encouragement and praise.

Today, Paul, through his letter to the Corinthians, is encouraging each of us to run the race of our lives in order to receive the prize of eternal life.  It is my prayer that we not only encourage one another, but run this race in order to inspire one another so that “We are to run so we may win for Christ” Who is our Rock and our Beautiful Savior.  AMEN.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

02052017 Transfiguration and 5th Sunday After Epiphany - We are moved by the Holy Spirit to speak of God!

February 5, 2017
We are moved by the Holy Spirit to speak of God (v. 21)
All of us have heard the tale of the young preacher who went to see a member of his congregation, but the conversation that occurred didn’t contain condemnation for the old man’s lack of attendance.  The fiery young preacher didn’t tell the member, he needed to give more money.  The young preacher didn’t try to get the man to get on a committee or come to church because he hadn’t attended during his entire tenure.
The young preacher sat quietly with the old man around an open fire pit, watching the fire burn brightly not only with glowing embers that consumed the wood added to the fire, but with a clear warmth.  After many minutes without a single word conversation.  The preacher reached over to the pair of tongs that were used to move the logs for maximum burn and warmth.
The preacher had noticed a lone rather large piece of cold coal from a long ago fire that was sitting very close to the old man’s feet that were outside of the warmth and clear burning of the rest of the fire.  Reaching purposefully, he picked up the cold coal and carefully placed it in the center of the fire with the bed of coals.  Very quickly the coal began to glow, the once cold coal now was glowing and heated up and burning with all the rest of the fire, heated by the warmth of its surroundings.
Minutes passed and with each moment the fire continued to radiate the warmth of the fire.  Slowly the preacher arose and bid his host a good day and left.  The very next Sunday, the old man, visited by the young preacher was seen returning to the warm embrace of the people that were journeying with him.
This story is a metaphor for us this morning of what we are celebrating.  Today we remember and celebrate when Jesus Transfigured before Peter, James and John.  Like the coal that had been separated from the fire for too long, once ‘reintroduced’ or ‘returned’ to the warm embrace of the fire that cold piece of coal became aglow from the fire.  Jesus in His transfiguration, showed His true Glory to the three disciples and enkindled in them not only an awe, but especially the realization that Jesus Christ, the man they had walked with and lived with, was not just a simple man, but truly the Son of God.
The change or transfiguration that occurred of Jesus not only changed the reality of the disciples understanding of Who Jesus was, but would radically change not only their understanding of the man in their midst, but especially Whose Son He was, the Son of God.  It would also transfigure their future after Jesus was raised from the dead and walked with them, ate meals and became transfigured by Jesus Christ.
We who gather here today are not only the spiritual descendants of the disciples, our understanding of Whose Son Jesus was is clearer than it was for the disciples.  We look back with 20/20 vision of Jesus Christ.  We see through the lens of the Gospel message not only portrayed, but fulfilled on the Cross of Calvary.  We see a Savior Whose death on Calvary transfigured us and our reality through our baptism into Jesus Christ, life, death, resurrection, but also His Transfiguration before Peter, James and John.
What does this mean for us today?  With our celebration of Jesus Transfiguration, we have but one joyful task to do.  We are moved by the Holy Spirit to speak of God.  For Peter since he witnessed these events, wrote his epistle and we who read it are empowered, no, we are moved by the Holy Spirit that has been given to us in Holy Baptism and inspired to speak of God and His Son Jesus Christ to all that we meet.
While I was under the weather this last week, I watched Risen, in preparation for our “Films of Faith” next month.  So compelling is this story that it isn’t just a story of mystery of the risen Christ, or of relationship, but of discovery and how one individual, a non-believer, discovered the truth and began to truly understood the Gospel message and was moved to become like the disciples, ‘fishers of men’.
We who gather here today gather having heard the first-hand account of the disciples who witnessed the transfiguration and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We have heard read Peter’s message which has one intent in mind.  Not only to give God the greatest glory, but in order that we who gather here today, may be moved.  Moved not to division nor indifference, but in order that the Gospel message of salvation of what Jesus Christ did on Calvary may be spread to the ends of the earth. 

Just as the Roman Prefect was changed by this message in “Risen”, we to can be transfigured.  It is my prayer that we through the Work of the Holy Spirit can be changed, in order that “We are moved by the Holy Spirit to speak of God”.  Not only here within the walls of the church, but in our community, in order that the saving message of Jesus Christ will impact our world.  So today let us resolve to move each of us closer into the fire and warmth of the church and set us ablaze to speak of God.  In order that God can transfigure each of our hearts, our minds and our spirits, just as He did with the three disciples.  And ultimately move us by the Holy Spirit to speak of God daily.  So that on the last day God will usher each of us into eternity with our transfigured Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

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