Faith and Works

Pentecost 16 – St. James 2:1-10, 14-18

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What kind of judge?

Brace yourselves; in a world of divided government, where most politicians can’t even agree on the color of the sky, we have embarked on confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court justice, played this time by Brett Kavanough, who will not just be any justice, but the one who could affect the balance of power on the Court for a generation.

Needless to say, one side is all for him, while the other side is passionately against him.

One of the main issues that will come up in the questioning, not to mention in an onslaught of advertisements, is what does the nominee think about abortion?

Now for you and I, we desire and pray for justices that are pro-life, who will protect the life of the child in the womb, and who will protect the elderly from doctors and relatives who just wish to euthanize them.

But there are several things that need to be made clear in our witness to those who question us about judges in general, and this one in particular.

  • Judges do not make laws. Judges rule on whether laws are constitutional and whether laws are properly being administered, but they do not make laws.  The only way Kavanough, or any judge will rule on any abortion case is if a case comes before him.  The seating of a new justice does not immediately change anything.
  • It’s all about the states. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide, with no regard to state laws.  If a case comes before the Court and Roe v. Wade is overturned, the question of abortion returns to the states.  Some states have very strict laws regarding abortion; other states have very lax laws regarding abortion.
  • The real question is judicial philosophy. This is complicated but important; how does the judge view the Constitution and other governing documents?  Ironically, this is a similar question for how does one view the Bible?  Is it trapped in the context in which it was written, which means we need to change it to keep up with the times, or is what was written timeless, applicable to the whole of human history?  The right to an abortion, and homosexual marriage, are not in the Constitution, but were read in by those who felt the times required it.  We pray for pro-life judges, but we must not just bring in the judges who will change things for our side as opposed to the other.
  • It’s all about Jesus anyway. Yes, the prospects of a new Supreme Court justice are enticing, and Brett Kavanough is particularly alluring.  And yes, it will be a great and glorious day, when working through the established means abortion and homosexual marriage are returned to the dustbin of immorality from whence they came, but the real victory has already been won.  Christ Jesus stands triumphant over sin, death and hell and over all the forces of evil once and for all.  We work through the means given us on earth, but we do so knowing the victory is already secured by our risen Lord and Savior.

Let us pray,

Almighty God, you are the author of life, declaring it to be good from the very beginning.  We pray that you would raise up faithful leaders and judges who value life in every stage from conception to natural death.  And that this nation would repent of its sin of treating life and marriage so callously for so long.  We pray that future generations would learn from our mistakes, and not be so easily tempted by sin, but would acknowledge you alone as Lord of all; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN

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For those who have wandered from the faith

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

September, 2018

During the Rooks County Free Fair, the Natoma Lutherans For Life booth collected prayer requests, and we prayed for them as a congregation on Sunday, August 19.

To be honest, when the idea was first mentioned and then when we put the box out, I was a little apprehensive about what kind of requests we would get, and I dreaded trying to graft them into petitions that would be suitable for worship.

My apprehension was however, almost totally unnecessary.  The requests we received were almost entirely predictable.  There were a couple of names of people who were sick or suffering, one person who had died, a family dealing with the abandonment of a daughter’s boyfriend, and some requests for those who were expecting child.

But the prayer request we got the most, was for the return of children and grandchildren who had wandered from the fold of God.

These parents and grandparents, were praying desperately for their children and grandchildren, who for all intents and purposes had fallen away from the faith they had been baptized into and catechized in.  They were on their hands and knees begging the Lord to send His Holy Spirit into the cold, dead hearts of their own flesh and blood, and to kindle the fire of the Gospel in them once more.

And they asked us, the Church, their brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray with them, to pray that the darkness that clouded their eyes would be lifted.

This is the one that truly grieves us, isn’t it?  When asked what mission we would like to see the Church take on, the first response is always to reach out to the in-actives.  How many dream of the day when they will see their children and grandchildren in church once more, going forward to receive the body and blood of Christ.

We ALL know someone, in fact many someones, who stood up front in Christmas programs, came to every VBS, who was confirmed, who maybe even got married in the church, who since has wandered from the faith; who if we were brutally honest with ourselves, is going to burn in hell for all eternity because of their rejection of Christ.

And what did we see at the fair?  We saw those mothers and fathers; we saw those grandparents who were so hurt by their sons and daughters rejection of the faith, that they would walk up to a Lutherans For Life booth, and write on an index card, requesting prayers for those who have wandered from the faith, because this was not some nameless person far away, this was their own flesh and blood.

And just as they grieve, just as you grieve, so too does your Father in heaven grieve.  Like the Father of the prodigal son, there is much grief over those who stray, and there is the constant vigil, in the hopes that the lost will return.

And so we pray, for all those who have wandered from the faith, that the Holy Spirit would use us, to call them home to the Father.

That’s right.  Pray; and do not sacrifice any opportunities to call out to the lost.

There was one request that renewed my apprehensions about the prayer box; it was from someone, probably trying to make a joke, who mocked the faith and our efforts at the fair.  We prayed for that individual too on Sunday, that they too would one day confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

God Bless!  Pastor Schmidt

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Watch out for flaming darts

Pentecost 15 – Ephesians 6:10-20

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Christ and the Church

Pentecost 14 – Ephesians 5:22-33

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Walking Trees

Vespers – St. Mark 8:22-26

You have probably never heard a sermon on this text from St. Mark 8.  You have also likely never really been through a Bible study on this text either.  In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anyone discuss this text at all in any context or situation.  Dare I say it, but it is even possible you have never read this text at all.

Why?

Because it is strange.  And Jesus doesn’t come off looking to good in this text.

Jesus goes to heal a blind man, and it seems to take two tries.  The first time, Jesus gets the man to see, but what he sees is blurry and unclear.  Walking trees is how he describes everything around him.  Jesus repeats the process, and now the man can see clearly.

How bizarre.

You can see why this text was left out of our rotation of Sunday morning readings, not to mention most devotional literature.  You can see why most people, even in the Church, shy away from this text, unless of course, they want to criticize Jesus.

This is the Jesus you are afraid of getting, isn’t it?  A Jesus who can’t really help you.  A Jesus who can’t really make you well.  A Jesus who is so overwhelmed by your problems that it takes multiple tries to make you well.

Surely that is what the man in our text thought: everyone else gets healed on the first try, by the spoken word or by a touch, some even just by touching a loose thread of Jesus robe; but just my luck, Jesus can’t help me.  Jesus can heal all these other people with all these terrible diseases, but when it comes to me, I’m just to sick, just too far gone; there is no helping me.

This is where Satan comes and tells you that your sins are too great, that your baptism can’t wash away that imperfection; that your whole life is a mess, and Jesus can’t do a thing to help you.

What is one to do?

Some might say that the point of this text is that Jesus does not give up on you, even if it takes 2 or 3 or 4 or more tries to get you back in the game.  Cute.  But not quite.  Jesus words, His death and resurrection, always work, every time, the first time.  When Jesus announces to you the forgiveness of sins, when He claims you as His own in the waters of Holy Baptism, when He feeds you His very body and blood, He doesn’t have to shout to make sure you hear Him.  He doesn’t have to soak you more to make sure you become clean.  He doesn’t have to give you a bigger piece because you are extra sinful.  Jesus works the first time, every time, and He always has and always will.

So what to make of our strange text?

This text is not actually about Jesus so much as it is about you.

Like the man in our text, you are born deaf and blind to the word of God; and whatever comes out of your mouth concerning the Lord, is incoherent nonsense.  But as you learn the word, as you study it, it becomes clear; but not all at once.  For a while, you may see walking trees; you see a glimpse of who Christ is, but not the whole picture.

And then finally, you have the ‘aha’ moment.  Your eyes are opened fully to see the works and wonders of Christ Jesus for you.

This is the pattern in St. Mark’s Gospel.  Prior to Christ, everyone was deaf and blind and speaking incoherently.  When Christ came, eyes began to be opened, but they were still only showing a blurry picture; people see bits and pieces of Jesus, but often leave more confused than confident, for what they see does not always make sense, think of Peter who one minute confesses Jesus to be the Christ, but the next tries to prevent Him from going to the cross..

And then at the resurrection, and especially on Pentecost, the eyes of all are opened, and they can see clearly who Jesus is, and for what purpose He came.

So what is your response when your eyes are opened and all things are made clear?

Like the man in our text, you cannot hold that joy in.  Once you see who Christ truly is and what He came into the world to accomplish, you cannot help but tell others, so that the fog may be lifted from their own eyes, and they too might see their Lord and Savior standing before them, announcing to you and to them, forgiveness, life and salvation.

There is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to this text; for this text like all others, points us to Christ, the Savior of the world, who has come so that you may have life, and have it in abundance.

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Rise and eat

Winkel Sermon – 1 Kings 19:1-8

A couple of years ago, at the annual Pastors Conference in Lawrence, the main presenter was from Grace Place Ministries, and he presented some statistics on burnout among clergy and some other things that drive pastors to leave the ministry.  He then directed us to have table talk, and discuss the question as to whether or not we had ever actually considered leaving the ministry, and what caused us to stay.

I pointed out in our table talk, and later to the presenter, that perhaps a better way to phrase such a question in our LCMS circles was to ask the question have you ever wished that you could receive a call, and just leave everything behind.

For perhaps quitting seems a bridge to far to cross, but walking away, and finding a new flock to shepherd, perhaps that has some appeal.

After all, who hasn’t had a confirmation class that would test even the patience of Job?  Who hasn’t had to have more than one uncomfortable conversation with someone stuck in their sins?  Who hasn’t watched one youth after another walk away from the church, after swearing to you in youth group that they were LCMS for life?  Who hasn’t gotten a phone call, informing you that your favorite shut in, is dead?

It kind of wears on you after a while; and this brief list doesn’t even begin to take into account the pressures of the world around you, making just being a church worker more and more difficult.  It makes you wish sometimes that maybe the Holy Spirit would call you elsewhere.

The presenter didn’t use our reading from 1 Kings as far as I can recall, but maybe he should have.

Elijah sits under the broom tree and hands God his resignation letter, and just to make sure that God gets the point, Elijah demands to be put to death.

I find that last part ironic, after all, what has brought Elijah to this broom tree but the desire to spare his life from the hand of Jezebel.  And what has spurned the anger of Jezebel then Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal in the infamous sacrifice dual in 1 Kings 18.

One would think the victory over the prophets of Baal would be enough to get Elijah going again and power him through the next quarter; but alas, it is a lonely victory, and the victory is not met with a confession of faith from Jezebel, but a death threat.

Elijah wants to quit, and more to the point, he wants to die.  But at least Elijah is talking to the right person; how many of us can say that?

My daily perusal through the land of Facebook finds many griping about their issues over one thing or another.  At that pastor’s conference, not to mention anywhere else 2 or more pastors or church workers are gathered together, there is a pining for the old days, when members would cower in fear of the pastor, and just do whatever he said.

Elijah should in fact be the poster child of every seminary, of every winkel, of every district: for what better emblem is there, then the pastor who wants out, either of his current call, or just out of life.

Elijah even has the perfect follow up, he complains to God, and then he takes a nap.

It’s easy to want out; it’s not so easy to go on.  It’s easy to complain about everything, and how life is just not fair; it is not so easy to be the theologian of the cross that you have been called to be.  It’s easy to demand death, it’s not so easy to live surrounded by death.

Twice Elijah is roused from his slumber and told to eat, for the journey is too great for him to go it alone.

How true it is.

At least for today, Elijah’s resignation letter is rejected; there is more work for him to do.  Needless to say, yours has not been accepted either, there is more work for you as well.

But for Elijah and for you, the future is too much to go it alone.

You must rise and eat.

Notice Elijah is not given a shopping list and told to make his own food though, rather the food is ready and waiting for him; Elijah is fed by the very presence and gifts of God.

And so are you.

In a vocation of constant service, you too are told to rise and eat a meal that has been prepared for you.  Rise and eat the very body and blood of Christ Jesus given and shed for you.

The journey before you is too great to go it alone, you need energy, you need strength, you need the real body and blood of Jesus, which is the only thing that can sustain you along the way.

The future is indeed rough; Elijah will run from Ahab and Jezebel for some time, and he will eventually try to quit again, only to be ignored by God and given more work to do.

The future road is rough indeed today; the culture shows no signs of letting up its aggressive press to drive the Church into oblivion; and demographics and economics will only crunch us further and further.

The journey ahead, whether that journey be 10 years or 20 years or 40 years, is too much for you to go it alone; rise and eat what the Lord has set before you, so that you may have strength for the journey that leads to eternal life.

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