Monday, November 29, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Series A, Advent 2

Lessons for The Second Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 11:1–10 ~ A branch from Jesse’s line will usher in the age of God’s righteousness.
Psalm 72:1–7 (ant. v. 18)
Romans 15:4–13 ~ Even the nations will hope in Jesus, the root of Jesse and the hope of Israel.
Matthew 3:1–12 ~ John’s call to repentance brought hope that God’s kingdom was coming.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: God's Commitment to Hope
With God's people in captivity in Babylon, Isaiah held before them the hope of restoration to Jerusalem with peace and security. Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, the Root of Jesse, who rules over the nations and draws Jew and Gentile into his Church. Because the Kingdom of Heaven was appearing in Jesus, John urged people to prepare for the Messiah’s coming by committing their lives to Him and showing their commitment through righteous living.

A PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord, stir up my heart with your grace so that I may live confidently in the hope you have given me through the promise of Christ's kingdom. Keep me ready to welcome him at all times so that I may live faithfully in the fellowship of your holy people. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: John’s call summons us to use our resources to further the reign of Jesus’ righteousness in this world. When we can hear him over the din of our own expectations, we will be instruments of God’s hope.

OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, make us instruments of hope to thwart despair.
Turn us away from goals that hurt Your kingdom.
Use us and all these gifts to show the world You care
As all your faithful people wait Your time to come.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Our plans and expectations in this world often cover up the hope of God’s kingdom. While God judges the poor and the oppressed with the word of his righteousness, we evaluate our situation with what appears good to us or what sounds like it makes good sense. John calls us to repentance and summons us to enlist in the one people of God, where He works righteousness through Jesus the Christ, the hope of Israel and the redemption of the nations.

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! It's often thought odd that we read the Palm Sunday account from the Gospels on the First Sunday in Advent. But, it's important for our understanding of Christ's first advent that we hear that reading. This is the record of the King of God's people Israel coming to His Kingdom. Our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem to claim His crown at the cross.

In this Advent season, we look back to the first advent, but we look forward to our Lord's second advent, when the King comes to claim His kingdom in glory. In faith, this is the day we long to see!

Today we had the first Christmas program rehearsal. Though some will be joining us next Sunday, several young people joined us today, reading handily as we prepare to tell of the birth of our Lord Jesus yet once more. I thank God for the helpful adults who were in attendance - your participation is and remains really important, both to the kids and to me.

Copies of the 2011 budget were made available today. If you did not receive one, copies are on the Narthex table. Please make it a point to peruse the budget so that we'll be prepared to act on it December 12.

That bring up another item: December 12 is a Voters Meeting Sunday. The schedule is: 9:30 a.m. - Divine Service; 10:30 a.m. - Sunday School, Voters meeting; 11:30 a.m. - Meal; 12 p.m. - Confirmation Instruction; 1:30 p.m. - Christmas program rehearsal

Advent Midweek Services begin this week, 12:15 p.m. Midday Prayer, and 7:15 p.m. Vespers.

Finally, the annual Christmas Bicycle Ride will begin at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church this year at 6:30 p.m. on December 14. In speaking with the organizer the other day, he's hoping to have 150 riders. Hopefully, they'll have television coverage again this year. If possible, I'd like to get about 8 or 9 cases of bottle water to give to the cyclists for the ride.

Prayer Concerns:
Kim Kots' father who was hospitalized today
Emma Wright, recovering from surgery last week
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), John Sorensen, Dru Blanc, Ryan Radtke (Corpus Christi)
The Church throughout the world as she enters the holy season of Advent

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, November 29
6 p.m.

Tuesday, November 30
7:30 p.m.
Young Adult Bible Study at Barnes and Noble (Colossians)

Wednesday, December 1
8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

9:30 a.m.
Bible Study

12;15 p.m.
Advent Midday Prayer

6 p.m.

7:15 p.m.
Advent Vespers

God bless!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Behold, Your King Is Coming To You!

The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the Gospel lesson appointed for the day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

This lesson from Matthew’s Gospel is read two times in the church year. When it is preached on Palm Sunday the emphasis is on what Jesus rides into Jerusalem to do: to suffer and die and rise again for the sins of the world. When it is preached on the first Sunday in Advent the emphasis is on who it is that rides into Jerusalem that day. It answers the question that we hear from the citizens of Jerusalem: “Who is this”?

Matthew gives a four-fold answer to that question. He shows Jesus to be the Lord—the God of Israel en-fleshed. He shows him to be the promised King of Israel. He shows him to be the Savior of the world and he shows him to be the prophet who truly speaks the Word of God.

As we reflect upon God’s Word to us this morning we will see what each of these pictures of our Lord’s person and work means for us and what our response ought to be as Jesus comes to us in Word and Sacrament just as surely as he came that day to the people of Jerusalem. The Bible says that:

When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Beth-phage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once."

Because we live in a very different time and place, the importance of how Jesus refers to himself in these verses is lost on us. During his earthly ministry Jesus’ favorite title for himself was “Son of Man” but as he rode into Jerusalem to suffer and die, he called himself “the Lord.”

When we hear that title “the Lord” we tend to think of our word “master” and of course Jesus is our master—the One to whom we yield every part of our life in holy obedience. But for the people of that day, the title “the Lord” meant much more than just master—it was the name of God himself. Let me explain.

The Old Testament covenant name of God that was given to Moses to take to the Israelites is comprised of four consonants in the Hebrew—it is called the “tetragrammaton”. Sometimes in old hymns we see this covenant name of God rendered in English as Jehovah or more recently Yahweh. The point is this: the word that was used by the Jews for the covenant name of God was: Lord.

People who say that Jesus never claimed to be God are either ignorant or intentionally deceitful. When Jesus called himself the “I am” who existed before Moses, the Jews knew exactly who he was claiming to be and picked up rocks to stone him for blasphemy. Here he called himself- what his fellow Jews called- God. Jesus claimed to be, and was indeed, the one true God of Israel clothed in human flesh.

Jesus’ divine identity completely changes how we see what happens as he rides into Jerusalem and dies on the cross and rises again. It is not just a great king or wise teacher or good man who does these things—it is God who takes on flesh and saves us. His “humility and suffering and death” take on a whole new dimension when we see who he truly is-- and that knowledge invites our worship and love and trust.

That is why God came to us in the humility and frailty of human flesh of Jesus—so that we could love him and trust him and have a relationship with him.

Throughout the Old Testament, to come into the presence of God was to know only fear and death because his holiness and our sin. But God revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth so that the fear that separated God and man from the time of Adam and Eve would be done away with and we could come to him in faith and love.

To know Jesus is to know God--and to believe in him-- is the only way to have a life with God. There has always been just one way of salvation—even back on the days of the prophets and patriarchs—and that is faith in God’s Messiah. Matthew makes that connection between Jesus and the Messiah promised in Hebrew Scriptures. He writes:

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.' "The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry and especially during Holy Week—everything that happened—down to the smallest detail-- had been foretold by Hebrew prophets. Hundreds of prophecies were fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus—including the way he rode into Jerusalem that day.

Jesus was the fulfillment of the promised king who would set the prisoners free by the blood of his covenant--shedding his life’s blood upon the cross to set the world free from sin and death. He was the promised king who would speak peace to the nations—peace between God and all men through him. He was the promised king whose rule would extend from one end of the earth to another in human hearts everywhere.

The humble king who rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey was not just any king—but THE king from David’s line who had been promised to the people of Israel. The bible says that:

The crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!

The humble king that the people of Jerusalem welcomed that day was the direct descendant of David—the One whom God had promised would rule over his people forever. The disciples understood at least that much and they did what you do for your king—they obeyed him. Matthew tells us that "The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. The guy who owned the donkey understood it too. When the disciples came to him asking for his donkey—he gave it because the Lord needed it.

As the King of the world, Jesus has the right to expect our obedience in all things. He has the right to use our possessions for his mission. The point is this: the identity of Jesus that the Holy Spirit reveals to us today is not some theological speculation far removed from our day-to-day lives but has the deepest implications for how we live our lives.

In every moment of our lives- and in every decision that we make -and in every dollar that we spend-- it is to be our King’s voice that we are to be obey. But when we are honest with ourselves we see that his word is not always the final word in our lives—that oftentimes we live our lives or some part of our lives in open rebellion against our rightful king-- and for that we deserve what every traitor deserves: death.

But the Good News for us today is that Jesus is not only the God in human flesh—he is not only our king—but he is also our Savior. That’s what the people of Jerusalem were confessing that day when they said:

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?"

The Hebrew word “hosanna” means “save us now” and it reveals that there were at least some people there that day who understood who Jesus was and what he had come to do—that he had come to save the world from sin and death. And in crying out “hosanna in the highest” they called upon the voices of heaven to join their own just as they had at Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

The Holy Evangelists portray this scene in their Gospels because the Holy Spirit wants us to join our voices in confessing Jesus as Lord and King and Savior who fulfilled all the promises of God to save the world.

But the Holy Evangelists also paint this scene for us so that the citizens’ questions of “who is this?” would continue to resonate in our ears because that question is still being asked by the world today and we Christians are the only ones who have the correct answer—the answer that saves.

Of course there are all kinds of people who have all kinds of answers to the questions about Jesus. They say Jesus was a great man and a great teacher and a great moral example but those answers won’t save anyone if that is all they know. Only we in the church have the answer that bestows salvation: that Jesus of Nazareth, David’s descendant, is God-- and that faith in his death for our sins and his resurrection that gives life is the only way that God has provided for salvation.

When we hear those voices in the Jerusalem crowd asking “who is this” the Holy Spirit would, by these words, open our ears to the same questions being asked today by those around us in this community. He would open our eyes to the great harvest field that lies before us. And he would open our hearts so that we might be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. An answer from God’s Word. Matthew writes: And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

After being identified as Lord and King and Savior maybe it seems to be a bit of a letdown to hear Jesus identified as “the prophet”. But whether the people that day realized it or not, this title conveys one of the deepest truths as to the identity of Jesus that John brings out in the very first chapter of his Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

As the en-fleshed Word of God, Jesus was truly THE PROPHET. He was the voice of the prophets and the content of the prophets and the hope of the prophets. Everything that is written in the Old Testament is written about him. The writer to the Hebrews says it this way:

In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old, but now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

The person and work of Jesus is God’s last Word to mankind and to know God and to have a life with God all that is needed, is to know that the answer to the question: “Who is this?” is Jesus—our God and our King and our Savior. May God grant us this saving faith that we might welcome him aright during this Advent Season. Amen.

And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow!

The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word on this Thanksgiving Eve is Psalm 65 that we read responsively earlier in the service. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In Luther’s explanation to the First Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism he says: I believe that God has made me and all creatures…that he richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life…that he defends me against all danger…that he does all this out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy…and for all this (for his creating me and providing for me and protecting me) it is MY duty to thank and praise him, serve and obey him.

Luther wrote these words in 1529 but all they really are is a summary of the words that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write 2500 years before that in the psalm we read tonight in our service.

I’m not sure it happened this exactly way, but I can picture David looking out over the fields and orchards and meadows around Jerusalem in awe and wonder at the beauty of God’s creation- and his ongoing provision and protection- that caused the rain to fall and the sun to shine and the earth to be bountiful. And being filled with gratitude and thanksgiving he said:

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.

All of us recognize, I think, that there are duties that are burdensome—things that we simply have to do because our job or station in life require them—but we also know that there are duties that are delights—things that are required of us—but that we would do even if they weren’t required.

I like to garden and work in the yard. If I didn’t keep my lawn mown, eventually the city would get around to giving me a ticket. But I don’t work in the yard out fear of punishment—I work in the yard because it is a pleasant thing to be outside and see the flowers I have planted and smell water on Tomato plants. How marvelous are the smallest parts of God’s creation! It is a duty to keep up my lawn—but a delightful one.

So it is with the gratitude and praise and thanksgiving that is due to God for all his blessings and tender mercies. It is a duty—a requirement. We are God’s creatures and he is our Creator and it is simply our duty to thank and praise him—serve and obey him.

But for the child of God—thankfulness is much, much more than a burdensome duty. It is a delight—a blessing to give our praise and gratitude, service and obedience to the Lord because he is not just our Creator—he is our Father (through faith in Jesus) who has atoned for our transgressions and taken away our iniquities. David writes:

When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

Our American, national day of thanksgiving is set aside by our government so that all our fellow citizens—no matter what their religion—can thank the Creator. The Bible is clear that all people—even those who say they don’t—recognize that there is a Creator who is responsible for all they have—even their own lives—and so it is right that all our fellow citizens take time to thank the God of creation for his gifts.

But we Christians know much, much more about God than that he is simply the Creator—we know him as our heavenly Father through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. This is what is different for us Christians on Thanksgiving Day compared to all our fellow citizens—we know that there is not some impersonal force out there in the cosmos who has created this world—but we know that the Creator is a personal God who has a will and a plan and a purpose for his creatures: that we would know him and love him and serve him as his children.

Knowing God this way—as a personal Being who is not only powerful-- but holy and righteous and just—and desires that his creatures would be the same-- places a moral imperative on each and every person to live in the way that God says is good and right. The knowledge that the Creator has a will for us also convicts every one of us--for we have failed to do what God requires—and left to ourselves we never could do what pleases God.

But God in his mercy has not only created us and given us physical life—he has given us a new spiritual life—by atoning for our transgressions by the blood of his Son Jesus. As much as we thank God for his physical gifts, it is this gift of salvation (that we have in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) that comes first in our hearts on this Thanksgiving Day as that which deserves our thanks and praise.
From eternity God has chosen us in Christ to be his children—he atoned for our sins by the death of his Son Jesus—and he incorporated us into his holy people the church through baptism.

Earthly blessings ebb and flow—there are times of plenty and scarcity—at our death we will leave behind all our earthly possessions—but the gift of salvation that God has given us in Jesus extends even beyond the grave and will call for our praise and gratitude in eternity.

It is our duty and delight—first of all as Christians—to thank God for the gift of salvation even as we join with our fellow citizens to thank him for earthly, material blessings as well. The psalmist writes:

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

The Bible writers simply take it for granted that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. This identity and work is not just the teaching of the first three chapters of Genesis—it runs through the Bible from beginning to end. That God established the mountains by his might--is what the Bible teaches-- and it is what we believe and confess.

On Thanksgiving Day it is our privilege and responsibility as Christians to affirm this biblical teaching with our worship and praise of God for his creation and preservation of the world. This is no “Turkey Day” for us—but the day to confess that God is the Creator and Giver of all good gifts. But there is even more.

God is not only the Creator—he is the ongoing source of all that exists at this moment. We exist- and the world around us exists—because God speaks an ongoing “yes” about his creation—and if he did not, we would not be here. Yes, there are “laws of nature” that govern the universe-- but they are simply the efficient cause of the world-- whose beginning and ending is God.

It is his providential care of the world that continues to order and govern everything in the universe---and that is good news for us.

Far from being at the mercy of impersonal forces we cannot control and barely understand—we know that our heavenly Father is the One who stills the stormy waves—who says to the sea “this far and no further”—who causes the sun to rise and set—who orders the affairs of men.

Our heavenly Father is in control. We are not simply hurdling through space, along for the ride, on a giant globe which knows no ultimate purpose and has no ultimate meaning. All creation-- and time and space-- are in the wise hands of the One who called it into being and will bring it to its final end. And the creation around us -and the rise and fall of nations- and the plans of men- are all ultimately ordered and directed by our heavenly Father for our eternal salvation.

On this Thanksgiving Day we thank God for all the gifts of creation—but we also thank him for his ongoing involvement in creation—that he still rules and guides and directs this world to provide for the needs of our bodily life needs. David writes of the heavenly Provider:

You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry he taught his disciples about the foolishness of worrying and being anxious for the necessities of life and he directed their attention to the natural world around them. “Look at the birds who never plow and yet God feeds them—look at the flowers of the field who neither toil nor spin and yet God clothes them more beautifully than the richest man who ever lived”. Nature herself reveals a God who abundantly provides for his creation.

David invites us to do the same. The hills and valleys—the pastures and meadows-- overflow with the bounty that God provides.

Caroline and I have been at both H-E-B and Walmart numerous times over the last several days—it seems like we always have forgotten something. And I have a feeling that we’re like most folks, in that we walk into the store, knowing that we will find what we are looking for-- but blind to the abundance around us.

But the next time you’re there at the store, just reflect for a moment on the overflowing abundance that God provides. All of the grocery items on those shelves—row after row—in store after store across this great land-- has come from the hills and valleys and farmland furrows that God has softened with the rain and warmed with the sun and fed with the soil—abundantly providing for our needs and the needs of our fellow citizens.

The words that David wrote in this psalm are a song of praise to the Creator for his great gifts and David pictures creation itself joining in that hymn of praise for God’s abundant, overflowing blessings.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity for us to do the same—to join our voices with those of God’s people and God’s creation as they praise him for his overflowing abundance that has fed us and clothed us and sheltered us over this last year.

In just a moment we are going to rise and sing, “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” and as we do so I hope you will remember those things that we have talked about this evening: how God has blessed us with the gift of life and salvation—how his protecting, guiding hand has gently rested upon our lives this last year--and how he has abundantly provided for all of our needs.

Praise is due to God from his people and it is our duty to thank and praise him, serve and obey him-- but it is also our privilege and delight to come together and praise God from whom all blessing flow! Amen.

And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good afternoon, fellow redeemed!

"And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead."
How often we have heard and recited those words from the Nicene Creed. Unfortunately, the meaning of these words is often lost in today's world. Jesus is often seen as a buddy, a helper to get us through the really tough times now. We can be thankful on Thanksgiving because Jesus provides everything we need. The sad fact is that these thoughts miss the greatest comfort of what Holy Scripture tells us, and what the Church fathers desired to keep in the forefront of Christian minds.

St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." Yet, this is the only redemption many heard this morning in worship: hope in Christ only for accomplishing things today. To be sure, we have the comfort of the forgiveness of sins in Christ now. Yet, the great realization of life in Christ comes at the end of time when our Lord Jesus appears in glory "to judge both the living and the dead." The great news for those who are joined to Christ by faith is that His kingdom "shall have no end."

Eternal Father, through the advent of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, You have redeemed us and made us Your children. By Your Holy Spirit, keep us in the true faith, looking always for the day of the resurrection of all flesh, when we will be with Christ forever, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

This morning, I attended a Lutheran church and realized how spoiled I am at Mt. Olive. Being able to sing the robust hymns of the faith is something I often take for granted. Being able to hear the proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus among dear friends of the faith is something that I expect so much, it usually is commonplace. Yet, take me away from one week, and I miss it already! I praise God for you and for the service among you to which our Lord Jesus has called me!

This week is a bit slower at Mt. Olive. The school will be opened only Monday and Tuesday. Many are out of town, visiting family or on a mini vacation. Kathy, the kids, and I are in Austin until Wednesday. To tell the truth, I'm not sure if there is Zumba this week, and Young Adult Bible Class and Wednesday Morning Bible Class will not meet.

Here are a few thoughts for this week:
Don't forget about Thanksgiving Day service at 9:30 a.m.
If you are at home, I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving celebration.
If you are traveling, don't drink and drive, buckle your safety belt, and get home safely. You are very dear to me and I want to see you back at church.

The first Christmas program practice will be held Sunday, November 28, at 1:30 p.m., just after Confirmation Class. We'll be done by 3 p.m., I promise. As always, we need shepherds, angels, Mary and Joseph, and readers.

And item of some importance: During the Sundays of Advent, a skit will be used to introduce each Sunday sermon. Currently, I have the following needs: one youth participant for all services on all Sundays (28 NOV, 5, 12, 19 DEC - rehearsals will be on the Saturday before), some other participants as we go along, two sailor white "dixie" cup hats, one white garrison cover hat (whether it's officer or not doesn't matter). If you are able to help me out, please drop me a line or call the church office.

Finally, the December voters meeting is slated for 12 DEC. The schedule for that day is: Divine Service (9:30 a.m.); Sunday School (10:30 a.m.); Voters Assembly (10:30 a.m.); Meal

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Dru Blanc, John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke, Michael Baker (Corpus Christi)
The home bound among us: Emmet Wright, Ruth Prytz, Donnae Blake, Ruby Rieder, Ann Cleveland
Those who travel
Our nation as it celebrates a week of thanksgiving
The residents and staff of Bokenkamp Children's Shelter as they celebrate together, many being away from home

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Thursday, November 25
9:30 a.m.
Thanksgiving Day Worship Service

Sunday, November 28
8 and 10:30 a.m.
Divine Service

9:15 a.m.
Sunday School and Bible Class

12 p.m.
Confirmation Instruction (memory work: the first three commandments and instructions)

1:30 a.m.
Christmas Program rehearsal

God bless!

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Series A, Advent 1

Lessons for The First Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 2:1-5 ~In the last days God will settle disputes and His people will live in peace.
Psalm 122 (ant. v. 6)
Romans 13:(8–10) 11–14 ~ We should always be ready to live in the daytime of God’s Kingdom.
Matthew 24:36–44 ~ When we focus on business as usual, we miss the business of the Kingdom.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: God's Promise of Peace
The universal dream of peace proclaimed by Isaiah will be realized when all people will walk in the light of the Lord. Then the Messiah will teach all nations his ways and settle all disputes. When that day dawns the deeds of darkness will be put aside and all people will be clothed in the Lord Jesus Christ and his righteousness. The only way to get ready for that day is to be ready at all times for the Lord's return. We are ready when we live in the peace of sins forgiven through Christ our Savior.

A PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord, stir me up with your power so that I may truly be ready to welcome Christ my Savior with the peace he has placed in my heart through his forgiveness of my sins. Keep me ready at all times; help me live by the light of the dawn of Christ's righteousness. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Possessions that we often use to exercise power and authority over others are better used in the service of Christ’s coming kingdom by showing love and restoring peace so that God’s righteous rule may be seen in our lives as we await Christ’s return.

OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, take these gifts we bring today
And let them build Your peace.
Use our lives in loving ways
To make our warfare cease.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: God has promised to restore this world to the peace He created when He pronounced it all “Good,” but we think peace comes when we force others to live by our expectations, so we wield swords and shields to settle disputes. When God settles our disputes according to His righteous judgment we will have no need of weapons of war. Peace will reign in God’s kingdom. He has already begun this peace by settling the differences of our sin through the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christ the King

If you were part of a committee to choose readings for each Sunday of the church year, what readings would you choose for a Sunday called “Christ the King”? You might pick a reading like our epistle lesson today where Christ is called the image of the invisible God and the one in whom the fullness of God dwelt bodily. That sounds like a king.

You might choose one of the majestic readings from the book of Revelation that pictures Jesus with his face shining as the sun and his voice like rushing waters and sword coming from his mouth and his hand holding the seven stars. That sounds like a king.

When we think of the title “Christ the King”-- we naturally think of our Lord as he is now—seated at the right hand of his Father—clothed in majesty and glory—ruling all things in heaven and on earth for the sake of his people the church.

I don’t know if any of us would think to choose the Gospel account of his death on the cross as the main reading-- because the way he is portrayed there—beaten, broken, bloody-- looks nothing like a king. Kings reign in pomp and splendor. Kings rule with power and authority. Kings ride to victory and conquest.

The scene that we have before us today in Luke’s Gospel is anything but that. It is a picture of broken-ness and death and ugliness. And yet the truth of the matter is that the Church got it right in choosing this account of our Lord’s death on the cross for Christ the King Sunday because it captures the central mystery of our Faith: that the fullness of God dwelt bodily in the womb of the Blessed Virgin—that the One who is before all things and after all things entered into human history at a particular point of time under the demands of the law—that the One who is the author of life and creator of all-- died for his creature’s sins. That paradox of a crucified king is the heart of our faith.

Today as we reflect upon God’s Word to us from Luke’s Gospel, we will see that there is a flurry of activity and a whole host of characters and a din of voices that surrounds our Lord’s death—women weeping, soldiers gambling for his garments, rulers mocking him, and criminals dying with him.

But what I want to focus on are the three things that Jesus says in the midst of it all—three things that reveal Jesus’ absolute authority, not only as the King of the Jews—but as the King of kings.

Jesus says: “Weep for yourselves”. “Father, forgive them”. And “Today you will be with me in paradise”. That call to repentance—that petition for forgiveness—that promise of paradise—only our King can make. The Bible says:

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

From our gospel lesson last Sunday we know why Jesus tells these women that as bad as it is for him at that moment, heading to crucifixion at Calvary, it will be even worse for them in the years to come. Many of these women whom Jesus addresses along the way to Calvary were still be alive in 70 A.D. and certainly their children were alive when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and murdered and enslaved its inhabitants.

It’s important that we see that event—not just as a fact of history—but from the Bible’s perspective—as an unmistakable sign of the final judgment still to come. As Jesus carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem, he knew what was ahead for him—a terrible, painful death and separation from his heavenly Father. But he also knew that suffering and death was not the end for him: that he would be raised from the dead, ascend to heaven, and re-take his rightful place at his Father’s right hand.

In effect Jesus asks the daughters of Jerusalem: “Do you have the same certainty of eternal life?” “Do you know beyond a shadow of doubt that you have the same eternal future in God’s presence?” If they were going to wail and mourn and weep for anyone, they ought to do so for themselves and those they love before it was too late—before the time of repentance came to an end with God’s judgment upon Jerusalem.

The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple—as terrible as it was-- was a picture pointing to something much, much worse-- and that is what will befall all of those on the Last Day who have not repented of their sins and come to faith in Jesus. And so Jesus told the daughters of Jerusalem to weep for themselves.

He tells us the same. Repent in sorrow and heartfelt tears before it is too late—before the day of grace ends. That is what Jesus means when he said: For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

With each passing moment-- the hour of judgment—draws ever closer and the hour of grace ebbs away. And if that were true for the daughters of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, how much more is it true for us here today? We do not know when this world end-- but we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that it will end. That is why today is the day for us to weep and wail—mourn and lament-- our broken human condition and repent of our sinfulness.

There is only One who has the right to call us to repentance --and that is the King of Glory who walked the way of suffering with a cross upon his shoulders, bearing the weight of our sins. It is only in repentance and faith in him that we find the shelter we need to endure the day of his coming.

Forty years after Jesus spoke these words, many of the daughters of Jerusalem and their children tried to take shelter in the mountains and hills around Jerusalem but it became the place of their death.

So it still is for all those who try to take shelter in anyone or in anyplace or in anything other than the one shelter that God has provided in the blood of his Son shed upon Calvary. Our good works and our sincere intentions will not hide our sins from God’s view—only in the blood of Jesus can we find refuge from God’s judgment. The Bible says:

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."

Father, forgive them. Forgive those who have done wrong. Forgive those who have crucified me by their sins. Forgive those who are ignorant of their sins. Forgive those who are interested only in material things. Forgive those who scoff and mock and ridicule. Father, forgive them—forgive them all.

There was only one person there that day on the rocky hill of Calvary who did not need forgiveness—only one who never needed to be forgiven-- and that was the Lamb of God who sacrificed his life there—the perfect, fully sufficient, atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews—David’s Son and David’s Lord—just like God had promised—the heir who would sit on David’s throne forever as the one true king.

That day on the cross, Jesus did what he came to do --and what he still lives to do: intercede for us poor sinners before his heavenly Father—lifting up the sacrifice of his own life between our sins and God’s wrath. Only a truly great King can petition the living God of the universe and expect to be heard. Jesus is that king. The Bible tells us of that priestly role of the One who sits on David’s throne:

We have one who speaks in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but for the sins of the world.

It is entirely appropriate that this Gospel lesson of our Lord’s crucifixion was chosen for Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday of the church year when our attention is focused upon our Lord’s return in glory to judge the living and the dead) because there is only one thing that will matter on that day: and that is Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. His saving work changes us from objects of God’s wrath bound for hell--to sons and daughters who will live with him forever in paradise. The Bible says:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

There was at least one person there day who heard what Jesus had to say about weeping for yourself in repentance—one who heard Jesus ask his Father to forgive—and hearing these words the repentant thief was changed by them for eternity-- for he recognized by faith that the broken, bloody man who hangs on the cross was truly a king with a kingdom to give—and in that late hour—a dying sinner was born again into eternal life.

The Holy Spirit was working though those words that Jesus spoke that day (just as he always works through the preaching of the Gospel) and the repentant, believing thief was changed from an object of God’s wrath to a son of God with a place prepared for him in paradise.

The story of the repentant, believing thief is every Christian’s story. He was unworthy of a place in God’s kingdom. He was guilty as sin under God’s law. He deserved punishment in time and eternity. And yet he heard the promise of forgiveness from the lips of Christ--believed him-- and was saved eternally by the crucified king.

Christ speaks those same forgiving words to us today Holy Absolution and Holy Communion. Can we ever hear them too much! No! Can we receive the gifts of salvation too often? No! Each of us must find ourselves in the same place as the repentant thief—confessing our sins and believing in Jesus and receiving his forgiveness if we are to be saved when the King comes again.

The scene of the cross will be mirrored on the Last Day as a scene of judgment. Sinners will be assembled both on Christ’s left and Christ’s right. Those on both sides will deserve death. But some will be saved and some will not. And the only difference between the two is the one who stands between the two groups—the crucified King. Those who confess him as Lord and Savior will be saved-- and those who deny him will be condemned. I pray that God would grant us his grace so that we may confess Christ as our Savior King today and eternally. Amen.

Christ the King Sunday General Prayer

Lord God heavenly Farther, we stand in awe of You as we lift up our hearts to you in prayer, asking that you would bless us from Zion:

We especially ask Your blessing upon Ray as he celebrates a birthday. Bless him in body and soul all his days. We also ask Your blessing on those who are ill, that You would give them healing according to Your will. We especially ask for Your healing touch upon Bernice who is hospitalized.

Grant that we would always be numbered among those who fear You and esteem Your holy name. Help us by the Holy Spirit to serve You, not looking for reward, but only to do Your will as faithful sons and daughters.

You know that we live in a day when evildoers prosper and the arrogant are called blessed. Keep us from despair and discouragement in the face of injustice. Prosper Your servants who work in government, that the evil would be punished and the good rewarded.

We thank You that You have delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of Your beloved Son by His death and resurrection. Help us to always keep him preeminent in every part of our individual and congregational lives.

Just as we know the destruction of Jerusalem as an accomplished fact of history, help us to know with certainty that there will be a last day and the end of all things and the judgment of mankind. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives through Word and Sacrament, help us to repent of our sins—put our faith in Your Son Jesus—and look forward in hope to being with him in Paradise.

All of these things and whatever else You see that we need—whatever is good for our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—we pray that You would grant to us dear Father in heaven. We ask it in the name of our crucified, resurrected, and ascended King. Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Christ the King, Series C November 21, 2010

Lessons for Christ the King Sunday (LSB Proper 29)

Malachi 3:13-18 ~ In the judgement day the distinction between the wicked and the righteous will be seen.
OR Jeremiah 23:1-6 ~ Because the shepherds scattered His flock, God promised to send a righteous King.
Psalm 46 (antiphon: v. 7)
Colossians 1:13-20 ~ By the victory of His conquest on the cross, Jesus has won us for His kingdom of grace.
Luke 23:27-43 ~ Upon His unlikely throne, Jesus was mocked by some, but acclaimed as King by one.

The cry of the church is “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” The thief on the cross heard the words of promise: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Identified by the title above his head, Jesus was proclaimed the King of the Jews. By giving his life for the sins of the world, he has become King of kings and Lord of lords. He has claimed us as his treasured possession and rescued us from the kingdom of this world to make us citizens in his Kingdom of light. We join the eager cry of the saints in glory, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: When time passes slowly, Lord, give me confidence. Because you have promised the fulfillment of your Kingdom, build up my trust that I may live each day as a citizen of heaven. Then I will eagerly look for your return and urgently share the news of your Kingship! Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: As citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, all that we have is dedicated to the task of gathering those scattered into the domain of darkness and declaring the good news of His redemptive victory over sin and death. We rejoice in His promise that we have a place with Him in Paradise!

OFFERING PRAYER: Christ our King, to You we sing
Our hymn of exaltation!
Here we bring our offering
To use in proclamation!

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Even though we acknowledge Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, we have lost our eager expectation of His return. We have become comfortable with the kingdoms of this world and even question whether those who serve God are any better off than those who do not. And still God says of us, “I will gather them from the places where they have been scattered and will raise up a righteous king to watch over them.” By the blood of His cross, Christ the King says to us, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

These words from St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3 undoubtedly cause problems when we view them as twenty-first century North Americans. I know the usual self-righteous reaction, even from Lutherans: See, these people who don't work don't deserve my help! Unfortunately, the way we normally receive these words belies more about our predisposition to be the judge of the poor than it does what Paul was addressing in this verse.

The Thessalonian church had a problem. It wasn't that people were poor and needed help. It was that people were withdrawing from life and doing nothing but looking for the return of the Lord. In their withdrawal, these folks were looking for others to support them in their misguided approach. Paul was setting the Thessalonians straight on the problem of these who could possibly be considered the forerunners of medieval monasteries. Paul's encouragement for the church and for these who had withdrawn from life was to reengage living as they awaited the return of Christ.

Paul ends today's Epistle text with these words: As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
Doing good in the eyes of Holy Scripture means taking care of the poor, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, etc. Why do such things? We do them because they are important to our Lord and always have been. As those who have been joined to our Lord by faith, doing good, as Paul terms it, is to be second nature among us - not just to those we like and love, but especially to those who are undeserving.

Tonight's Youth Bowling outing was a blast, and a good time was had by all. Thank you to Sue Catherman and Emily Jirovec for helping tonight, too. Attending to bowl were Raymond Wright, Cassi Hamer, Ashley Hanelt, Wayde Adler, Matthew Catherman, Anika Tessman, Jonathan Jennings, Michael Jennings, Emily, and myself. Emily triumphed in the first game over all bowlers with at 106. The second game saw efforts at bowling with the opposite hand, granny shots, and reverse granny shots, but Pastor prevailed with a 113.

This week at Mt. Olive, preparations for the Children's Christmas Pageant will begin as the program is written and given to Sunday School teachers. I hope to have this in your hands no later than Friday morning. S. S. teachers, if you haven't heard from me by then, please feel free to send me a blast.

The other day, I received a note that Cub Scout Pack 278, which is owned by Mt. Olive, was revitalized through a special effort by our area scouting exec, Jeremy Barnes. The first meeting will be this Thursday evening!

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Dru Blanc, John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke (Corpus Christi)
Our homebound: Ann Cleveland, Ruth Prytz, Donnae Blake, Ruby Rieder, Norene Estes
The Church, as she proclaims Christ crucified faithfully as His appearing in glory nears each day
Those who travel in the upcoming holiday season, especially students who will be returning home for a much needed break

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, November 15:
6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

6:30 p.m.
Board of Elders

Tuesday, November 16
Pastor out of the office in the a.m. for Bokenkamp meetings

7:30 p.m.
Young Adult Bible Study at Barnes and Noble (Angels)

Wednesday, November 17
Happy birthday, Kathy!
8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

9:30 a.m.
Bible Study (Deuteronomy)

6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

7 p.m.
Choir Rehearsal

Thursday, November 18
6:30 p.m.
Cub Scout Pack 278

7 p.m.

God bless!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Our Redmption Draws Near!

The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the Gospel lesson appointed for the day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In 70 A.D. Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem to put down a Jewish revolt. All supplies were cut off. So horrific was the siege that one woman killed, roasted, and ate her infant child. In the ensuing massacre, 1.1 million Jews lost their lives. Another 70,000 were taken captive and paraded through the streets of Rome as the spoils of war. The temple of Jerusalem was so completely destroyed that today not one stone is left standing upon another.

There was a group of people living in Jerusalem who were spared these terrors—the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem. You see, Jesus had prophesied that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed 40 years before it happened. The Jewish Christians believed his words, recognized the signs of what was to come—fled to a town called Pella on the Sea of Galilee—and were spared.

And so what is the connection between these ancient events of history --and Jesus’ Words to us today-- and our own lives of faith? Just this: the destruction of Jerusalem is a sign pointing to the final judgment and the destruction of all things. Like the flood in Noah’s day and the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Abraham’s day--the destruction of Jerusalem is a sign that there will be a Last Day—and the judgment of all men and the destruction of all things.

God does not want anyone to perish eternally on that day—but that people would turn from their wickedness and live. In Noah’s day and Abraham’s day and the apostles’ day he gave warnings that his judgment was coming—he provided signs that could clearly be seen so that all people would be left without excuse. The Jewish Christians believed Jesus’ words—understood the signs for what they were—and so were saved.

Jesus speaks to us today for that same purpose and to that same end—that recognizing the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as an accomplished fact of history—knowing that Jesus promised that very thing 40 years before it happened—we too would: believe his words about the Last Day—be watchful for the signs of his return-- and be saved.

As we reflect upon God’s Word today we will learn what the signs are that point to the final judgment—we will consider what our response ought to be—and we will hear the promises that Jesus makes to us which will strengthen our faith so that we can face that day with hope and know it to be the day of our redemption. The Bible says:

While some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

Please note that Jesus never answers that first question: when will these things be? In the same way, Jesus never tells us when the Last Day will be and any religious leader that says he knows the answer is a false prophet and deceiver of God’s people.

But Jesus did answer their second question: what will be the signs? He told them just exactly what would happen before Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed so that they could be prepared no matter when it happened.

Forty years later, the signs occurred and the destruction took place just exactly as Jesus had prophesied.

Josephus, a Jewish historian who was an eye witness to these events, reported: the odd things that happened in nature, how the Romans surrounded Jerusalem, and the terrible things that even mothers did to their own children. We know from Luke’s history of the early church how the Christians were persecuted and yet how this persecution—rather than destroying Christianity-- actually served to extend its witness.

All of these signs took place just exactly as Jesus had prophesied. It was with that same truthfulness that Jesus prophesied- the end of all things- and his return in glory- and the judgment of all people -and the redemption of those who were his own.

And so, we who wait for that coming day can look back in history and know with certainty what our Lord has revealed of the future. But there are other signs too—sings beyond the events of history--signs happening at this very moment.
There are signs in nature. There are signs in the family of nations. And there are signs in the church. Of signs in the church, Jesus said:

“See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them."

Over the last two thousand years of the church’s history there have been countless deceivers within the outward, visible boundaries of the Church: false teachers who teach doctrines not found in the Bible--“date-setters” who claim to know when Jesus is coming and have been proved wrong again and again--and the David Koresh types who actually claim to be the Messiah.

To these signs of the end that are found in the church, Jesus says: Watch out! Be on your guard! Do not follow them! Instead we are to listen to his words- believe what he says- and remain steadfast in the faith that is taught in the Bible for it is God’s Word and has been proved trustworthy and reliable and a firm foundation for our lives.

Regarding signs among the family of nations Jesus says that before his return there will be wars and tumults—nations will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And of course know how true this is from the pages of history and today’s newspaper and the evening news. Many folks in this congregation have lived through WWII and the Korean War and the war in Vietnam and the two Gulf wars and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Regarding signs in nature Jesus says that there will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences—the roaring of the sea and the waves. And hearing these words from our Lord we cannot help but think of the famine in Africa and the earthquake in Haiti and the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean—and these are only the most recent natural disasters over the last two thousand years of human history filled with such disasters.

Right there is the faith challenge that we have to face. It seems that all we know of the world is: war and bloodshed between nations- death and destruction from nature-- and the church torn asunder by false prophets. We are tempted to believe that this is just how the world is- this is how it has always been- and this is how it will always be.

But Jesus says that we are not to view a violent world and a broken creation and divided church as the normal course of events-- but to view these events as signs of the end—signs of a world that is heading for destruction- signs that humanity is headed for judgment.

Jesus wants us to be prepared for his second coming in glory—he wants us to be found faithful on that day---and so he directs our attention to the broken-ness of this world as an enduring sign that what we are really seeing is the effects of sin which will be changed forever on the Last Day. The Bible says that:

The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God—AND--the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption…

Rather than driving us to despair, the signs that we see all around us are intended by Jesus to point us to a hope that lies beyond the crumbling edifice of this dying world. When Jesus told the disciples that not a stone would be left standing upon another of the temple—it must have been hard to believe—but they did believe him and were saved.

Jesus wants us to believe the same—that the very foundations of this world will shaken and destroyed—but we who believe in him will endure and be saved. He promises us that not even a hair on our head will perish—that we can be hopeful even in dark times for we know that they are leading us toward our final redemption.

These promises have been secured and guaranteed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Sin and evil does not have the last word about us—his forgiving death on the cross does. Death does not have the last word about us—his resurrection does. Victory over evil- and victory over death- are assured to all of those who trust in Jesus.

Our bodies that are laid in the grave will be raised on the Last Day and not even the smallest bit of our bodily life will be lost. The evil in the world that seems to have the upper hand will be punished when Jesus returns. And a broken creation that brings cancer and drought will be restored to the perfection that it had in the beginning.

Jesus wants us to see the signs of the end for what they are—so that we would have a vision of the future: a vision of the future that extends far beyond this world—a vision of the future that is based upon his promises—a vision of the future that shapes our lives in this broken world until the day of our redemption.

And so what does that life look like—that life that is shaped by the promise of our final redemption at the Lord’s return?

1. We are watchful and alert to the signs of the times. When we hear of some war—when a natural disaster occurs—when we encounter some falsehood being taught in the church—right then, in that moment-- we are to be reminded that our Lord is coming again and that these moral and physical evils will not endure that day.

2. We are calm and confident. Jesus says: “When you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” Let the unbelieving world around us “faint with fear and foreboding” as Jesus says, we know how the story ends—we know the Author of history—we know that we will endure and gain our lives and that not even a hair on our head will perish because Jesus has promised that very thing.

3. We see hardships and difficulties as opportunities to witness to Jesus. Jesus warned his disciples that “they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends. This will be your opportunity to bear witness."

We know about the persecution of the church from the pages of history—and yet how hardship and persecution—far from being an impediment to the mission of the church—was actually the mechanism through which the Gospel spread throughout the world. The same thing is true for us.

More and more we live in a culture where Christians are held up to contempt and our values and lifestyles are the objects of ridicule and even our own families reject those things that we hold sacred. Jesus promised that this is how it will be. But rather than moan and groan, we see this is as our opportunity to bear witness to Jesus-- and the Lord will keep his promises to give us a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.

4. Finally, we are people of hope because Jesus has already told us where all of this is leading: to our final redemption. Jesus says that:

"The powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The road to resurrection went through the cross for Jesus and it will for us too. Rather than being broken and bowed down by what is happening in the world around us—Jesus says that we are to straighten up and raise up our heads because we know that with the passing of each day the Lord’s return and our final redemption is one step closer.

The world around us is moving to judgment and destruction and we need to see the signs of that for what they are---but we who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb are moving towards a day of redemption when sin and death will no longer have any claim upon us.

Two thousand years ago the Christians of Jerusalem listened to these words of Jesus—believed what he said—were spiritually awake and aware of the signs around them-- and were saved. God grant the same to the Christians in this place. Amen.

And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

General Pray--Proper 28c

Lord God heavenly Father, we lift up our hearts to You in prayer, trusting in Your help:

You have promised to be our keeper—to guard our going out and coming in from this time forth and forever more and so we ask that You would be with and uphold those who are ill. Grant them healing according to Your fatherly will.

As we look forward to the day of Christ’s return in glory, help us by Your Holy Spirit to remember Your holy law, statutes, and just decrees and walk in them according to Your will and in this way show reverence for Your holy name which You have bestowed upon us in Baptism.

According to Your promise, turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents and so bless our marriages, homes, and families. Help us to fulfill our earthly vocations in ways that serve one another and You in love. We especially ask Your blessing upon Zachary as he celebrates a birthday. Bless him in body and soul all his days.

We ask Your blessing upon our national economy and upon our own jobs and financial well-being. Direct the unemployed to useful labor that will provide for their needs. Lead us to be generous to those who are suffering economic hardships. Sustain in us all a strong work ethic so that so that we might provide for our families, help those in need, and give generously for the work of the church. Help us to not grow weary in doing good.

Give us an ongoing awareness that this world and the things of this world will not endure forever, but there will come a Last Day. In the midst of natural disasters and socio-economic distress and political uncertainty help us to see these events as signs of the end so that day would not catch us unaware but that instead we would recognize that our redemption is drawing near.

Bless Your church on earth. Protect us from false teachers who would deceive by Your name and lead us astray. Help us to always hold fast to the firm foundation of Your Word. In the midst of uncertain times, grant us the mouth and the wisdom to bear witness to Your Son Jesus Christ and the redemption we have in Him.

Dear heavenly Father, whatever else You see that we need—whatever is for the good of our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—we pray that You would grant to us, Your children. We ask it Jesus’ name who taught us to pray:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Pentecost 25, Series C November 14, 2010

Lessons for Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (LSB Proper 28)

Malachi 4:1–6 ~ On the Day of the Lord, God’s righteousness will consume the wicked and heal His people.
Psalm 96 (Antiphon: Psalm 96:13)
2 Thessalonians 3:(1–5) 6–13 ~ Believers are encouraged to work at doing good to show the love of Christ.
Luke 21:5–28 (29–36) ~ All kinds of disasters warn that this world will give way to God’s eternal kingdom.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Waiting Patiently
We become impatient when we see that evildoers prosper and no distinctions are made between the wicked and the righteous; we long for the triumph of good over evil, just as God's messenger, Malachi declared. While we wait for Jesus, our Lord, to return, we are to do our duty to God and our neighbors, and not grow weary of doing good. God’s righteousness will be revealed and those who suffer for Jesus’ name will be vindicated through trials and tribulations when God’s kingdom is established with Christ as King.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: When there is little time, Lord, give me patience. Where there is injustice, grant me understanding. Then as I try to live my life according to your Word, I will await your judgment on sin and your fulfillment of the Kingdom in glory. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Even though it seems God is so slow to establish His righteous rule, there are plenty signs to remind us we should use the goods He has placed in our control to show His love to those who do not yet know His mercy in Christ Jesus.

OFFERING PRAYER: Disasters in this world, O Lord, are sure to terrify,
And bring a lot of suff’ring – loss of life and property.
They also show us that our goods are worthless when we die
And give us loving deeds to do and opportunity.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We are impatient for justice when we see evil prevail. We don’t trust God’s plan because we don’t know what it is. We can’t wait for God’s time table because we don’t know how long it will take. But God has given us enough to do while we wait; we are to work hard to alleviate suffering and show the oppressed God’s love in our actions. We can rejoice that God has overcome evil and impatience, even in our own lives, by the cross of His Son. He is the One who will come, at God’s right time, to establish God’s righteous rule.

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

All Saints Day celebrates the lives of saints, both those who have died and those who are yet living. The day celebrates the company of those who are declared holy through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. The day points the saints of God, both living and departed, to the day of the resurrection.

The word "saint" means "holy one." Yet, where does holiness begin? If holy people are in the Church, both the Church Militant on earth and the Church Triumphant in heaven, where does holiness begin?

In Acts 2:42, Luke records, "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." This was the life of the Church, both in its infancy and now 2000 years later. And, this tells us where holiness begins. It begins with the Divine Service.

Saints, those who are called holy by God for the sake of Christ, are found at the Divine Service, hearing the testimony of the apostles and prophets, gathered in a common confession of faith, receiving Christ's body and blood, and offering the collective prayers of the faithful.

May God keep us faithful, longing for Him to greet us through Word and Sacrament, and longing for the day of resurrection glory.

Prayer Concerns for this Week:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Ryan Radtke, John Sorensen, Dru Blanc (Corpus Christi)
Those who are newly elected in the most recent voting, that they would be guided to pursue peace and justice
The Church throughout the world as she proclaims the return of Christ to judge the living and the dead

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, November 8
6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

6:30 p.m.
Church Council

Tuesday, November 9
6:30 p.m.
No Young Adult Bible Study tonight!

Wednesday, November 10
8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

9:30 a.m.
Bible Study (Deuteronomy)

6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

7 p.m.
Choir Rehearsal

Sunday, November 14
4 p.m.
Youth Outing

I will be out of the office Monday and Tuesday for an Advent Preaching Workshop. If you have an emergency, please call your elder or the Church Office.

God bless!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

All Saints’ Day November 7, 2010

Lessons for ALL SAINTS (Lutheran Service Book)

Revelation 7:(2-8) 9-17 ~ John saw the multitude of saints in glory serving the Lamb at His throne.
Psalm 31:1-5 (antiphon Rev. 7:14)
1 John 3:1-3 ~ God loves us so much that He called us to be His children, and made us His for eternity!
Matthew 5:1-12 ~ Jesus revealed the true nature of blessings in the Kingdom of God.

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!" (Isaiah 43:1) With these words, God reminds us that we and those believers who have gone before us are saints (that is "holy ones") because of His action. No other truth brings as much comfort. If sainthood were up to us by good works, our hope would be uncertain at best and futile at worst. We would be lost for sure and there would be no celebration today. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:57)

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Gracious and eternal God, be with me in suffering and in death to strengthen and comfort me by your Holy Spirit. Keep me in the true faith and give me peace and joy in the assurance of the resurrection of the dead and the glory of life everlasting through Jesus Christ, your Son, my risen Lord. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Because we know that our citizenship is in heaven where we have an everlasting inheritance, we are free to be generous with the earthly goods God places in our care. Our use of these blessings should bring eternal blessing to the lives of the poor, the meek, the mournful, and those who seek justice.

OFFERING PRAYER: Blessings abound in the power of Your Word;
Blessed are we in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Grant that these offerings we bring may secure
Blessings eternal for meek and for poor.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We do not recognize the saints of God because we see things from earth’s perspective and our point of view, where joy and wealth and power and fame are the blessings we seek. Surely the Lord knows who His saints are because He has clothed them with the robe of Christ’s righteousness. When we are known by Him, we are called children of God – and called to be His children. Then opportunities to serve become blessings, and even persecution becomes a sign of our identity as a saint of God’s grace.

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

I must confess that Reformation (October 31) and All Saints Day (November 1) are two of my favorite celebrations in the Church Year. With the Reformation, we are directed again to the pure teaching of being declared righteous by God, justified, for the sake of Christ, appropriated by faith. The hymnody includes what is normally called The Battle Hymn of the Reformation, which ought to be called the Comfort Hymn of the Reformation, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

All Saints Day gives us an opportunity to praise God for the testimony given by the saints who have gone before us in the faith. One of my favorite hymns for this day is The Son of God Goes Forth to War, which asks the singers if they follow in the train of the apostles and martyrs.

Saturday evening the Fellowship Committee will be hosting a Russian Dinner at the home of Stephanie Waterman. If you would like to attend, please give us a call by Monday evening so that Stephanie, her team, and the cooks can prepare adequately. Cost per person is $10, and the menu looks really tasty!

Prayer Concerns:
Danna Lyons, Daughter-in-law of Audrey and Preston Lyons
Ruth Prytz, hospitalized
Donnae Blake, recuperating at home
Ann Cleveland
Jackie Steele, recovering from shoulder surgery
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Dru Blanc, John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke (Corpus Christi)
The Church, as she enters the last Sundays of the Church Year, proclaiming watchfulness as we await our Lord's appearing in glory

This Week at Mt. Olive
Monday, November 1
6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

7:30 p.m.
Young Adult Bible Study at Barnes and Noble (Prayer)
Pastor out, Circuit Conference

8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

9:30 a.m.
Bible Study (Deuteronomy)

6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

No Choir!

Saturday, November 6
3-6 p.m.
Youth Flower Bed Time (food provided)

7 p.m.
Fellowship: Russian Dinner

Sunday, November 7
8 and 10:30 a.m.
Divine Service

9:15 a.m.
Sunday School and Bible Class

12 p.m. Noon
Jr. Confirmation Class

God bless!

Free Indeed!

The text for our meditation God’s Holy Word is the Gospel lesson appointed for Reformation Sunday. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

On Reformation Sunday there is always the temptation to spend too much time talking about what was wrong with the church of Luther’s day—and there was much that was wrong to be sure. But there was also much that was right in the church of that day. In fact, in some areas they were a lot closer to the truth than much of what passes for Christianity in our day. In particular, their understanding of the holiness of God was closer to the biblical picture of God than much of what you see in so many parts of the church today.

The church of Luther’s day believed that God was holy and righteous and just. They believed that God hated sin--could not abide with it-- and would not endure it in his people. And that’s exactly what the Bible teaches.

In contrast, many modern churches teach that God has changed his mind about what counts as sin when it comes to things like human sexuality. In other places in the church, God is not much more than a heavenly mentor encouraging us to do our best. But the Christians of Luther’s day knew that God was holy-- and they knew that they were not. And that was the problem: how could a holy God let sinners come into his presence?

That is still the most important question that can be asked. The medieval church had an answer and this is where they went terribly wrong. They said that Jesus had made salvation a possibility–he had given everyone a start–but now it was up to you to do your part. Your salvation, they said, depends—at least in part-- on your good works. “Well, how much depends on me?” the medieval Christian might ask? “We’re not sure” the church would say.

“What happens to me when I die”? “Well, you can’t go to heaven that’s for sure–after all God is holy and you’re not. Instead, you’ll go to purgatory where you can suffer the temporal punishment that your sins deserve that you didn’t get punished for while you were on earth.” Purgatory wasn’t hell-- but it was a place of suffering-- so you would want to avoid spending any more time there than necessary.

There were a couple of options to try to cut your time there short. After you were dead, your family could purchase indulgences on your behalf to buy you out of purgatory and into heaven. Or, if you were pious enough, you could enter a monastery, and through a life of sacrifice and suffering, hope to enter heaven without too much of a detour. If you were particularly devout and holy (as the church defined it) the pope would declare that you had made it to heaven—that you were a saint.

Of course the problem with monasticism was that, even if there weren’t a whole lot of opportunities there for scandalous sins (wine, women, and song being in short supply)–reflective Christians still knew what was in their hearts–they knew that even in the monastery they suffered from lust and greed and pride–things that Jesus said were sins that earned hell.

People in the medieval church had no illusions about their own sinfulness–they knew the truth of what Jesus speak to us today: the one who sins is a slave to sin. Even the most devout of men—men like Luther-- had no illusions about their terrible spiritual condition.

Contrast this attitude with the picture of the Jews from our Gospel lesson for the day. “We are the offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.” That’s laughable on a number of levels. First of all, what about the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans? The Jews’ political history was nothing but slavery! Surely these learned men didn’t have such short, selective memories, did they? No. They knew that Jesus was talking about spiritual freedom. But even then they were wrong about having never been slaves.

They thought that being descendants of Abraham somehow gave them automatic, spiritual freedom–that simply by having Abraham’s DNA so to speak--they were good to go with God. But Jesus said: Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

What about us today? Do we suffer under any illusions regarding our own spiritual freedom? After all, we are not deaf to a modern culture which says that freedom is the ability to do what I want- when I want -with whomever I want. And so freedom becomes just another word for immorality.

Others deny their spiritual enslavement by pointing to the sinners around them and saying “surely I’m not as bad as all that–surely you can’t include me with those kinds of folks–I’m not an addict or alcoholic--surely I’m not enslaved”.

Still others, like the Jews of Jesus’ day, point to their heritage as the source of their spiritual freedom. “I come from a long line of Lutherans—I’m the product of Lutheran schools-I can give the definition of Justification and name at least ten Lutheran acronyms”. But they fail to take seriously the words of Jesus that from the stones of the ground he can raise up children of Luther–or something like that. Despite modern excuses, the judgment of Jesus stands: everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

Luther had illusions regarding his enslavement to sin. He sat in church more hours in a week than some folks do in a year. He tried his best to live under the demands of the law. He did everything the church suggested to earn his way into heaven. He knew the depth of his slavery to sin-- but he didn’t know how to get free.

Somehow the church of that day had forgotten that freedom for those enslaved to sin is why Jesus had come into the world in the first place. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. He said: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.

And so when Luther re-discovered the God News that God graciously declares sinners “not guilty” in his sight through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross–when he realized that the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ--when he recognized that he was saved and set free by God’s grace alone- through faith alone- in Christ alone--he was a man re-born, he was a slave set free.

Luther said of that moment, “When I understood it, and the light of the Gospel came into my soul, the gates of paradise opened, and I walked through.” That is what Jesus wants for all people.

The Son of God came into this world to set us free from the burden and guilt of our sins, to set us free from our fear of death, and to set us free from the power and dominion of the devil. Jesus has not just given us a start towards salvation, but he has earned salvation for us completely-- and freely gives it to us as a gift of his gracious love.

The Good News for us on this Reformation Sunday is that, believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we do not have to worry about our salvation or our eternal future. The sins that have separated us from God, every one of them, great and small, have been washed clean by the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. His holy life: every good deed done, every evil sin rejected-- is our righteousness before God.

The Father has given his “once for all” approval of Christ’s work for our salvation by raising Jesus from the dead so that now all who believe in him, share in his new, eternal life—a new life as his children--in place of our old lives as slaves. We are free indeed!

This brings us to an important point, a point we sometimes forget. We have not only been saved from something–but we have been saved for something. We have been set free from slavery to sin for a new life as Jesus’ disciples and God’s children. The idea that we have been set free to live however we see fit is a satanic distortion of the Gospel and nothing but a return to slavery. Instead, we have been saved so that we can have a permanent place in God’s family as his sons and daughters--living lives that are guided by to his Word. Jesus said: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.

In a moment, we will sing: “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word.” I hope this will be the prayer of your heart! There is enormous pressure in our world today to give up God’s Word as the sole authority for the faith and life of the church and her members-- and we see and feel this pressure to abandon the truth of God’s Word more and more every day.

Already during the last fifty years we have seen the outward edifice of visible Christendom begun to crumble as that which is unknown in the Bible and 2,000 years of the church’s tradition now takes place with: the ordination of women to the pastoral office, the denial of biblical miracles, the acceptance of evolution, and the election of a homosexuals as leaders in the church.

Even churches with the name “Lutheran” are not immune to these failures to hold fast to God’s Word as Lutheran churches have entered into church fellowship with churches that deny Christ’s real presence in the Sacrament and insist on an episcopal form of church government as necessary to the faith. These same Lutheran churches have signed agreements with the papacy abandoning the central teaching of the Bible: justification by grace through faith.

Though we in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod have not fallen victim to this kind of faithlessness, we must not gloat or take pride in our faithfulness–it is a gift of God’s grace and mercy alone. And we are not without sympathy for these churches and the Christians found in those pews. We know that it is difficult to stand fast on the simple authority of God’s holy Word and we grow weary at times from that struggle to remain faithful to God’s Word.

But we also need to be reminded that the battle for the faithfulness of congregations and churches and denominations is won or lost in the lives of individual Christians who abide in Christ’s Word or abandon it.

Five hundred years ago one solitary man—Martin Luther-- was utterly convinced from the pages of Holy Scriptures that his salvation depended on the finished work of Jesus Christ alone and even though he was opposed in this by the entire world and the church of his day he laid his hand upon the Bible and said “Here I stand, I can do no other”.

That is the “heart and soul” of what our Lord is talking about when he says that we are to abide in his Word. Faithfulness to God’s Word is not just saying the right things concerning the Bible’s inspiration and inerrancy. It’s about holding fast to it—letting our lives be guided by it—insisting that our congregation and church body confess it and practice it.

On this Reformation Day we give thanks to Almighty God that he has sent his Son to set us free by his death and resurrection and we ask for the help of the Holy Spirit that we might always abide in his saving Word. Amen.

And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.