Happy Birthday!

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Wednesday of VBS

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Tuesday of VBS

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Monday at VBS

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Filled with new wine

Pentecost – Act 2:1-21

With a mighty rushing wind, and the appearance of divided tongues of fire, the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirt and are now capable of speaking in other languages.  This is the promised helper that Jesus had said that He would send shortly after He had ascended into heaven.

Now filled with the Holy Spirit, and with a desire to share the good news of Jesus with one and all, the apostles leave the room in which they were staying and go out into the streets of Jerusalem and begin telling others about Jesus.

This is the undoing of the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel; no longer is the world to be divided, no longer is the world to be confused by various messages.  Rather, today, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the world is reunited by the common language of Christ’s death and resurrection for all people.

At Babel, one can imagine that initially, when the languages were confused, more than one person asked if the other was drunk because of the sudden inability to understand the words being spoken.  Today, as the common language of Jesus Christ is spoken by the apostles, the same question appears, as many in the crowd think that the apostles are drunk.

That is the only explanation for what they are saying and doing.  The only way someone could come outside on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost and begin proclaiming the name of Jesus, and declaring the mighty works of God, is that they must be drunk; there must be something wrong with them.  No sane, rational, levelheaded person would say such things, so the fact that these men are, means that something is definitely wrong with them.

Are you drunk?

That is what Bill Nye wants to know; he thinks there is something wrong with you for teaching your children that God created the world in 6 days.

That is what most politicians want to know when you write to them and tell them that abortion is wrong, and that bathrooms are for one sex, not both.

That is what the strangers sitting next to you in the restaurant want to know when you bow your heads and pray the common table prayer before eating.

That is what the family living next door wants to know when they see you get up early and come to Sunday school and church each week.

Are you drunk?

That is what the world now asks of all those who confess the name of Jesus; whether you do it as an itinerant preacher delivering the message far and wide to any who will listen, or if you do it simply as a faithful citizen fulfilling your vocation as a husband or wife, a father or mother, a son or daughter, an employer or employee, a ruler or a citizen, an orphan or a widow.

Are you drunk?

Peter responds no, of course not.  That is your answer as well.  You are not drunk, you are not crazy, you are not insane; rather you are the same fair minded person you have always been.

But….you do not want to be seen as weird by those around you, do you?  You don’t want to be questioned for what you are doing; and you certainly don’t want to stand out in a crowd.

And so what do you do?

Perhaps you are able to shrug it off, but the question as to what you believe lingers.

Society intends to freeze you in your tracks.  If Bill Nye; if the elected officials; if your friends and neighbors think you are strange, than maybe you are.  Maybe you do need to alter your actions, your beliefs, your views; after all, who wants to stand out in a crowd?

There are people who do believe strange things; people whose views you look at and ask if they are the one who are drunk based on the religious and political opinions and social viewpoints they hold that are really odd, and you wonder how anyone could believe them at all.  You know who they are, the tin foil hat club, the kool aid drinkers, the gullible who will believe any half baked conspiracy theory that they read on the internet.

But now, when someone asks you the same question, you are taken aback.  Who wants to be questioned if they drunk?  Who wants to be asked if they are crazy?  Who wants to be viewed as though they were not a normal member of society, but rather, are associated with those odd balls who populate late night television?

And so part of you says no, you are not drunk, but then you immediately alter your views and beliefs so as not to attract so much attention.  That is what the apostles of old would do, in the Garden of Gethsemane, they all ran away, rather than stand with Jesus the outsider.  Even after the resurrection, they hid in locked rooms for fear of the accusations that might come their way of being associated with someone who was odd.

But those were the old apostles, not the Pentecost apostles; just as it is the old Adam in you that runs and hides when others question what you believe, as opposed to the new Adam in you, who has been baptized in the Spirit into Christ’s life, death and resurrection, that now stands tall in the face of opposition.

And so the answer to the question posed on the streets of Jerusalem, the answer to the question posed on the streets of this community, is in fact: yes.

You are not filled with the alcohol or drugs or other mind altering factors, but instead, you, as Peter quotes from the prophet Joel, have had the Spirit poured out upon you.  You are filled with Jesus.

For to receive the Holy Spirit, is to live not as the world lives, but to live as Jesus has called you to live.  To be filled with Jesus, is in fact to be seen as strange and unexplainable by the world, but at the same time it is to be seen as faithful and holy by your Father in heaven.

The apostles are not drunk, and neither are you.  But you have drunk deeply from the blood of Jesus that is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.  You have immersed yourself in the waters of Holy Baptism that wash you clean.  You have feasted on the meal that is offered here, for your benefit and for your salvation.

The world looks at you as odd, peculiar, a misfit who is trying to force yourself on the society.  But that is not you at all; you are a people, set apart by your Father in heaven, who have been forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

And thanks to efforts by Lutheran Hour Ministries, Lutheran Bible Translators, and a whole host of missionaries sent out by our very one Church body, the Gospel is proclaimed in all the world in very language and dialect, so that any who have ears to hear, may hear the good news of Christ Jesus.

The curse of the Tower of Babel remains.  The confusion persists.  Not that the world cannot hear the words of the Gospel spoken, but rather, that the words and actions are strange and out of place in our modern society.

And so the model of Pentecost continues: the people of God, pouring out into the streets of this city, and declaring all that God has done for you.  Some will hear and believe; others will ask the age old question: are you drunk?  To which you can respond with Peter: Not with alcohol, but with the Holy Spirit, filling our hearts and minds with the good news of Christ Jesus.  Embrace the world with this gospel message, tell the world that today, and every day, is a time to hear the mighty works of God in this and every place.

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A Mighty Fortress

First Lutheran Church   Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church   Natoma, Kansas

June, 2017

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:57

That is the theme verse for our Vacation Bible School this year: A Mighty Fortress: In Jesus, the Victory is Won!

Have you ever won, when you knew you should have lost?  A miracle basket at the end of the game, or your opponent made a huge oversight in playing their hand at cards or a board game?

The victory is all yours, but in reality, you had nothing to do with it.  You won, but all accounts record that you should have lost.

Gideon and his 300 men should have been wiped out by the Midianites, and yet God provides the victory.  Goliath should have swallowed David whole, but God gave David the victory.  The Maccabees should have been slaughtered, but God delivered them to victory.

There are always upsets in life; times where the strong and mighty lose to the weak and lowly.  But how do you explain an unexplainable victory that happens not just once, but every time?

For every time Satan rises up to do battle; he loses.  Every time Satan thinks he can seize the day, he finds that he once again loses.  Each time Satan thinks he is about to grab hold of everything he has ever desired, it slips right through his fingers.

By all accounts, he should win.  After all, his opponent is you.  You are the one who can not keep God’s law perfectly.  You are the one who fails to faithfully believe, teach and confess the faith into which you were baptized; you are the one who has constructed idols all around you, so much so that you cannot even see the one true God of heaven and earth.

And yet, each time Satan thinks you are his, each time he thinks you are in his column, he loses yet again.

What happens?

You have a secret weapon.  You have someone who fights on your side, and gives you the victory each and every time; no matter what tricks Satan tries to hurl at you.

That weapon is Christ Jesus.

Left to your own devices, you lose every time.  But you are not left to your own devices, for by your baptism into Christ, you have the Lord of hosts fighting on your team each and every day, driving back the forces of evil, and shining the bright light of Christ Jesus into whatever darkness and turmoil you might find yourself in.

The victory over sin, death and hell is yours, thanks to Christ Jesus.

Satan cannot hurt or harm you; Satan cannot claim you as his own; Satan cannot drive you from the arms of your heavenly Father, for your protector and defender this day and every day, is Christ Jesus, who by His own death and resurrection has secured the victory for you of life forever in Paradise for you.

Please pray for our VBS on June 5-9, that those who teach and those who learn, might know of the victory that Christ has won for them.

God Bless!

Pastor Schmidt

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A city of idols

Easter 6  Acts 17:16-31

Paul, standing in the middle of Athens, notices that the city is full of idols; which is about as profound an observation as saying that you went into a bar and noticed a lot of people were drinking.

Of course Paul is going to see a lot of idols in Athens; there is a temple to Athena right in the middle of the city.  Not to mention temples and statues and other worship venues for who knows how many other idols that there may be in the city.

The city of Athens was named, designed and constructed in such a way, that anyone could have made the observation that the city was full of idols.

But could the same be said of other cities?  Could the same be said of this city?

If St. Paul were with us this morning, what would he observe?  Would the Holy Spirit move him to speak about the idols that populate your lives?

Now to be fair, this is not Athens.  There are not temples built on every street corner to one false god or another; nor do we find ourselves surrounded by statues and altars to which we may sacrifice and pray for whatever particular need we may have at the moment.

And that is a good thing.  This city, this country is found on Judeo-Christian values, and for the most part has not been decimated by the idol worship that so dominated ancient Greece.

But that is not to say that St. Paul would commend you for your good works and your vibrant faith and be on his way.  For this indeed is a city, a nation, of idols.

For while there may not be idols built to Athena and the multitude of other Greek and Roman gods, there are most certainly other idols that surround us.

For an idol is merely anything that distracts you from the one true God of heaven and earth.  An idol is whatever consumes your time, talent and treasure.  An idol could literally be anything, or anyone.

Some idols are easy to spot; and are thereby easy to avoid.  But other idols are just a bit more complicated.

Not everything that surrounds you is an idol; but that does not mean that everything around you is not an idol.  In fact, what is an idol for someone else, may not actually be an idol for you; but at the same time, your idol may not be the idol of another.

What are these idols?  Money can be an idol; after all, if that is what you want, and that is what you think will solve all problems and bring about peace and harmony in your life, it is probably an idol.

And the only way to get money is to work; and so that to becomes an idol.  If all you do is work, and there is no time set aside for anything else, work is probably an idol.

On the flip side of that coin though, family, particularly your spouse or your children can be an idol.  If their activities, if their wants and desires, if their happiness is all that concerns you, and it consumes all of your time and all of your dollars, it is likely that you have created for yourself an idol in the form of spouse and children.

Community can also be an idol.  In many cases, that is the new church for some.  Those who never attend church services and take part of the Lord’s Supper, but who never miss a community event, and feast on whatever the menu may be offering that day, have likely casted their idol out of the schedule of the town.

And there are the other idols that dominate your lives; government, sports, sex, alcohol, drugs, television, one collection or another, gossip, and even the ultimate idol, yourself.

As Paul examines your life, as he searches your home, which idol is he going to find?  Where does the majority of your energy, of your time, of your talent, of your treasure go?  Does it feed one of the many idols that you have constructed?  Or is it directed to the Lord of heaven and earth?

For notice that in the midst of Athens, Paul finds an altar to an unknown God.  As if the Athenians did not have enough gods, they had one more altar as a catchall for anything they may have missed.

Well, in the midst of your life is also an altar to a God, but this God you have an altar to is not an unknown God, but rather is very much known and familiar to you, or at least He should be.

For in the midst of your life that is so consumed with the altars you have built to various idols, you also have this altar.  The altar to the one true God, the altar from which the absolution is proclaimed and the altar at which the body and blood of Jesus are offered.  This altar has also found a place in your life, but where?

Is it visible from where you are?  Or is it blocked by the altars to idols you have set in front on it?  Can you hear the words of our Lord proclaimed from it?  Or are those words drowned out by the noise coming from the other idols in your life?  When you come to this altar, is it to get away from the other altars you have built to idols?  Or is this just the next altar on the list that you have come to bow down to?

Remember the Ten Commandments, and that the one true God of heaven and earth is a jealous God, who wants you only for Himself.  The true God of heaven and earth does not want to share you with any of the other idols you have found yourself bowing down to.

And so the words of St. Paul to the Athenians are now spoken to you: Repent of your idol worship, and seek out the one, true, living God.  You know who He is, otherwise why else would you be here?  But examine your lives, your homes, and the altars that you have constructed.  Where are your idols?  Cast them down, and seek out the true God of heaven and earth.

Your idols may not be your neighbor’s idols; and theirs may not be yours.  But you are both called to repent of the idols you have set up in your midst.  Tear down the altars to false gods, and return to the altar of the one true God.

For at the Lord’s altar, you will hear what no other god can tell you: for the Lord of heaven and earth, will call you by name and announce to you that your sins are forgiven, not because of your own works or merits, but because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And at the Lord’s altar, you will receive what no other altar can offer: the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, which is delivered to you, the forgiven and redeemed as an assurance of those words that have been spoken to you.

 

What happened after Paul spoke?  Some believed, and repented of their idol worship; while others were angry and wanted to cast him out.

That is how it goes; to hear that the thing you hold dearest to you has become an idol will either cause you to recoil and repent, or to hunker down and cling to your idol no matter what.  It happened in Athens, and it happens here today.  We love our idols, and it is difficult to separate ourselves from them.

But God loves you more than you love that idol.  And God desires you for Himself and for Himself alone; that is why He sent His one and only Son into the world to suffer and die for you.  How many idols are willing to do that for you?

That is the love that only the one true God has, and can shower upon His people.  That He sent His Son, so that you might live.  And unlike those other idols, that come and go based on the day or the season, the love of God lasts forever.

Look around at what surrounds you: does it confess Christ, or does it confess yourself?

This morning you have gathered at the altar of the one true God, who calls you by name and comes to you with His Word and Sacrament, where you will receive forgiveness, life and salvation.  May that be your confession, this day and always.

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