Monday, April 30, 2012

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Series B, The Fifth Sunday of Easter May 6, 2012

Lessons for The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 8:26-40 Philip baptized the Ethiopian, and God created new life along a desert road.

Psalm 150 (Antiphon: Psalm 150:6)

1 John 4:1–21 – Because God first loved us in Christ, we love God and show it by our care for others.

John 15:1-8 – Connected to Jesus, we are constantly renewed in a spiritual life that bears good fruit for God.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Easter Joy is a Lively Faith.

When the Ethiopian learned that Isaiah had described the suffering of Jesus who had died and risen again, he believed and asked Philip to baptize him. There in the desert the Holy Spirit started a new life in the most unlikely way. In his letter, John wrote that the deeds of love in our lives spring from the source of our faith, Jesus our Savior. Jesus told us the same thing: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Most gracious God, all the little things that I fret over today, You alone can guide and control. Thank You for taking charge of my life in the big things - like sin, forgiveness, and new life. Keep me connected to Jesus, my Savior, so that I may live for You today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God’s greatest gift to us is spiritual life through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. Knowing God’s love in Christ, we live with love toward each other in the way we use the material gifts God has also given us.

OFFERING PRAYER: Receive these gifts, O Lord, we pray, to glorify Your name;

We give them back to You this day, the One from Whom they came.

Bless them for building up Your church and caring for our neighbor;

May they bring goodly fruit for You and lead folks to the Savior. Amen.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: God is the source of our life and our love, whether the Spirit is creating new life from the water of Baptism along a desert road or nourishing it through the love that children of God show to each other. When we sever our connection to God in Jesus, our spiritual life withers and dies. Only by God’s constant renewal in his Word are we able to live to give God the glory as we share his love with others.

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

From where I'm sitting, across the music room and the living room, I can see the television. I'm watching the NHL semifinals. Phoenix is playing Nashville. After moving to Corpus, I had kind of lost touch with big league hockey. Up and down the ice, pass followed by pass, shot on goal followed by a frenzy around "the crease." Phoenix is ahead by two goals in the final period, a sizable lead, but not completely insurmountable. Who will win, we simply don't know. The only thing we know for sure is that Boston won't repeat as champions, having lost in the quarter finals.

Praise God our relationship with the Father is not like that. Brought into fellowship with the Father through the Son, the Father gives us life through the same Son. Our Lord Jesus is the one who laid down His life in order that He might take it up again. Thus, there is no doubt about fellowship with the Father through the Son. It's a gift. In today's Epistle, (1 John 3:16-24), the apostle tells us that our Lord Christ has laid down His life on our behalf, we also ought to lay down our lives for one another. Yet, we're not able to die on crosses for the sake of others. No, it is through the sharing of the goods of this world that we lay down our lives for the sake of our neighbor.

Our fellowship with the Father through the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who laid down His life for the sheep, is a certainty. Christ has died and risen, never to die again. With that in mind, a life in fellowship with the Father moves us to lay down our lives for our neighbor - even the person with whom we don't get along, even our enemy - by sharing the goods of this world.

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Next Sunday is the LWML Spring Rally at Trinity Lutheran Church here in Corpus. Registration begins at 2 p.m. and the program begins at 2:30. You can reserve your place by contacting Lois White at Trinity (

Our brothers and sisters in the faith at Lord of Life have been vacant for well over a year. They have been faithfully served by Pastor Kirk as vacancy pastor. Earlier this year, Lord of Life submitted the paperwork to call a candidate from one of our seminaries. This week, Tuesday and Wednesday, call services will be held at both seminaries, St. Louis and Fort Wayne. We pray that one of those candidates will hear the words, "Texas District, Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Corpus Christi, Texas".

Also this week, Wednesday Morning Bible Class will break into Revelation 20!

Looking ahead, Mt. Olive will host this year's Ascension Service on May 17 at 7:15 p.m. Sharing in the service will be St. Paul (Bishop) and Trinity (Corpus Christi). The festival of Ascension ranks with Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost in the major festivals of the Church Year.

Finally, I'll be hosting this month's circuit conference for pastors on Tuesday, May 1.

Prayer Concerns:
Pastor Alston Kirk, recovering from surgery
Ann Cleveland, Burt and Doris Nelson, Ruby Rieder, Bud Bird, Walter and Pearly Theiss (Houston)
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney, John Sorenson
Our brothers and sisters in the faith at Lord of Life as they await news of a new pastor
The candidates for calls and vicarage assignments who will be receiving their calls and assignments this week.
The Council of Presidents and placement directors from the seminaries who are working both today and Monday to match men to those assignments.

God bless!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Living as Servants of God

1Peter 2:11-20

We spend an hour a week in church on Sunday hearing the Word of God and receiving Holy Communion. If we stay for Bible class that’s an extra hour with God’s Word and during Lent and Advent there is another hour.

Basically, we spend an hour or two a week here in church, obeying the Third Commandment, listening to and studying God’s Word, enjoying the fellowship of our fellow Christians—and then it’s out into the world for the other 167 hours of the week. This is where the real spiritual battle to live as servants of God takes place. The Bible says:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

The challenge of being Christian people in the world begins in our own heart and how we see ourselves. The Bible says that we are “sojourners and exiles”. In other words, this world is not our true home—we are citizens of another place—we are simply passing through to our true home with God in heaven.

As sojourners and exiles we are to embody the values of our true home (which is God’s kingdom) and our rightful King (who is Jesus).

But the truth of the matter is, we are attracted to values of this unbelieving world and we are constantly tempted to follow in its ways and so our life in the world is a battle we have to wage every moment between the person that we are in Christ-- and our flesh.

The Bible says that we are to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Abstaining from what we want does not come naturally to us and most of us don’t have a lot of practice doing it. There is some new toy that we want and so we get it. We eat until we groan in pain. We sleep in rather than exercise. And because we never tell ourselves “no” in the small things--we have little ability to say “no” when it really matters—when our flesh is tempting us to sin.

The struggle to live as servants of God begins in our own hearts and too many Christians have waved the white flag in defeat when it comes to saying “no” to their flesh.

This is no small thing. The Bible calls it a war and that is exactly what it is. There will be a victor and there will be a loser. Either your sinful flesh will win out and drag you body and soul into the fires of hell-- or your soul who believes in Jesus will win out and you will go to heaven.

Those are the only two possible outcomes of the spiritual battle each of us face within our hearts and out in the world and against the devil--and so we are called upon by God to abstain from the temptations of the flesh for the sake of our eternal salvation—but also for the sake of those around us. The Bible says:

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

The battle that we must wage against our own sinful flesh has eternal consequences not only for us—but also for unbelievers around us.

In other words, when we walk out of this place on Sunday we have a solemn responsibility to live as Christian people so that those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior can come to know him by how we live our lives in their presence. The Bible says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable”.

You and I both know that, from Sunday to Sunday, we don’t really have all that many opportunities to speak about Christ. Now, we have many, many more than we actually make use of—but most of our interactions with others don’t provide us with many opportunities to talk about our faith. And yet we have limitless opportunities to live out our faith in how we go about our day-to-day business.

When we are kind to the people who serve us in the various stores around town—when we are patient with our co-workers—when we are helpful to our teachers—when we are generous to those in our communities who stand in need of the necessities of life—it is a powerful witness to Jesus Christ who lives within us.

There are plenty of people in our world today who are ready to think the worst and believe the worst about Christians—plenty of people who reject our values, who doubt our core beliefs.

We can talk to them—we can try to answer their arguments—we can be advocates for our rights as Christians in the public square (and there is value in all of these) but there is one thing that is absolutely unassailable—and that is the power of a genuine Christian life.

Six billion people stop and pay attention when one little nun cares for the poorest of the poor in India. An entire nation is captivated when a group of Amish forgive the man who murdered their children.

And the same thing is true on a smaller scale when you as an individual Christian simply endeavor to be a servant of God in how you live your life. Led by the Spirit, your life draws people to Christ --and that matters eternally.

The Bible says that you are to live in such a way that people see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. This means that on the day of our Lord’s return in glory—when he comes to judge the nations—there will be people going to heaven who give glory to God because they saw how we lived our lives—learned about what we believe and why-- and came to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

That is the high calling of the Christian life—that in our daily lives we reflect Jesus so that others can see him in us. That is certainly to be true in our lives as citizens in this nation. The Bible says:

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

There are any number of governmental entities and individuals that have a claim upon our lives as citizens. Most of us have just finished paying our taxes. Some of us have received jury summons in the last year. All of us watch how fast we are driving.

Teachers are subject to the laws of the state when it comes to education. Military men and women have commanders above them whom they have to obey. Farmers and ranchers have rules about what chemicals they can use and the times they can plant and harvest. The list goes on and on.

As Christian citizens we are free to advocate for less government and fewer regulations-- but when it comes to the laws that are on the books and the government officials who enforce them--the Bible says that we are to be subject to them.

Christians are obedient, law-abiding citizens, subject to those in authority over us because this is the will of God and a good work in his sight. God expects us to do good rather than evil for our nation and its government and our fellow citizens because it has a positive effect on those around us—silencing their complaints and concerns about having Christians as fellow citizens.

In July of 64 A.D. there was a great fire that consumed Rome. Nero needed a scapegoat and found it in the Christians. This letter from Peter was written at exactly the same time. You can understand his pastoral concern for his flock. He wanted Christians to be such exemplary citizens that any thought of wrongdoing on their part would be immediately rejected by their fellow citizens whether they were Christians or not.

So it should still be today. We ought to be known as exemplary citizens who are good neighbors and hard workers and community supporters---people who can be counted on to make our towns and churches and workplaces better for our presence. The Bible says: Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

There is an honor due to everyone given their place in life. To the young woman who checks us out at HEB it is common courtesy. To the tradesmen who do work for us there is prompt payment of their bill. To doctors who care for us and educators who instruct our children there is appreciation. Honoring everyone means that treat others as we would like to be treated.

Our attitude towards our fellow Christians goes beyond that. The Bible says that we are to love the brotherhood—that is our fellow Christians and especially the members of our own congregation. It is a shameful, sinful thing when Christians despise and mistreat their fellow Christians for we are brothers and sisters in God’s family.

And when it comes to our relationship with God, the Bible says that we are to fear him. It’s an interesting word that the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to use when it comes to what we are to render to God.

In other places, the Bible talks about loving God and trusting God and obeying God-- but here the Holy Spirit says that we are to fear God. And so we should!

That is because these are words are written to us with the expectation that we will obey them. They are not left to our own discretion. They are not optional for the Christian.

We are expected to recognize those places in our life where we have fallen, repent of them immediately and receive the forgiveness of Jesus and then begin to amend our lives by following God’s will for his servants that we find in his word today. The Bible says:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

It is easy when reading through these words to simply see them as a list of rules that we are to follow that govern our conduct in the workplace and in the nation and in the church. And they are indeed commands of God and God expects our obedience.

But there’s more to it than that. These words about love and respect and obedience are words about Jesus—how he lived his life—doing good even to those who mistreated him—enduring sorrows while suffering unjustly.

Jesus’ life of love and obedience and respect did not earn him worldly success and great fame and wealth—his life of love and obedience led him to the cross—and it will lead to hardship for us too. But it also the only road that leads to eternal life.

That is why the Bible says that it is a gracious thing in the sight of God when we suffer for doing good and endure because that kind of life identifies us with Christ and his life.

And so we live our lives here on earth as Jesus lived his life—as servants of God—speaking our Father’s words and doing our Father’s will and walking in the steps of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Series B, The Fourth Sunday of Easter                                                                                                                  April 29, 2012

Lessons for The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:1–12 – When Peter and John were arrested for healing a cripple, they boldly confessed Jesus’ name.
Psalm 23 (Antiphon: Psalm 23:6)
1 John 3:16–24  – We reflect Jesus’ love for us when we give our lives in service to those in need.
John 10:11-18 – Jesus is the good Shepherd who laid down His life to protect us from sin and death.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Frightened Sheep - Faithful Shepherd
What we need is a Shepherd who doesn't run at the first sign of danger, one who won't sacrifice the sheep for his own safety.  If we had a Shepherd like that we could stand up to the world.  We could trust him and boldly speak up for each other.  We could risk our necks for the little lambs who are threatened.  We could reach out and bring others into the flock.  "-- and Jesus said, 'I am the GOOD Shepherd!'" 

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE:  Lord Jesus, how great is Your love for me!  If I wander astray, You search for me; if I am in danger, You stand before me.  Help me always trust Your love and protection so that I may be bold to tell others of Your love.  Amen. 

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Because Jesus laid down His life to keep us in His flock, we can take some risks with our investment of time, energy, and possessions to care for those who need our help, and in so doing, boldly confess the name and love of Jesus, by whom alone we are rescued from the destruction of sin and death. 

OFFERING PRAYER:      Lord, we bring the abundance of our lives:
                                                The time, the goods, and the strength You give us.
Use us to grow Your flock and care for Your sheep
                                                In the green pastures and quiet waters where You lead us.  Amen.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: How often we find ourselves in the place of Caiphas, opposing the Shepherd, as at Jesus’ trial, or the flock, as in the case of Peter and John (Acts 4:5-12).  Too often we scatter rather than gather God’s people because we seek to gather goods at the expense of brothers and sisters in need (1 John 3:16-24).  Love has been defined in Jesus’ self-sacrifice for our sins.  We have been gathered and are still protected by His act of love.  When we recognize His judgment on our carelessness for those in need (whenever our hearts condemn us - 1 John 3:20), the Good Shepherd is there with His comforting voice, assuring us that we are part of His beloved flock.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jesus Is the Good Shepherd

John 10:11-16 Of all the images of our Savior in Holy Scripture perhaps none is so dearly loved as that of the Good Shepherd. Churches have that image in their stained glass window. We have it in our homes as artwork. There are few pastors’ studies that are without at least one picture of the Good Shepherd.

That’s as it should be for the image of the Good Shepherd tells us much that is true about what kind of Lord and Savior we have in Jesus Christ—one who is strong and gentle and loving. This image tells us much that is true about what kind of people we are—weak and defenseless and prone to wander like sheep who go astray.

As we reflect on God’s Word to us today we hear these truths taught by Jesus who tells us that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life and takes it up again for us—the Good Shepherd who knows us and provides for us—the Good Shepherd who came into the world for no other purpose but to gather a flock for himself. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

In a choice of three things, advertisers list them in terms of good, better, best—good being the worst. But when God uses the word “good” it is something altogether different than what the world means. When God created the heavens and the earth he looked at all he created and called it “good”. It was good beyond anything we can comprehend—it was perfect—beyond comparison. That is the sense in which Jesus is our Good Shepherd and his goodness is found in the fact that he gives his life for the sheep. The goodness of the Good Shepherd is grounded in the cross.

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, as he was surrounded by a crowd, the Bible says that he looked at the people and had compassion on them “because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd”. That’s true of all of us. We are born into this world as weak and helpless as newborn lambs and throughout our lives we are harassed by enemies deadlier to us than wolves are to sheep—the enemies of sin, death, and the devil. And just as sheep have no natural weapons with which they can protect themselves, so we are helpless in the face of these enemies.

But our Good Shepherd wasn’t—he had compassion on us and saved us from our enemies. His holy life took the place of our sin—his death on the cross was Satan’s defeat—and his resurrection changed death from the end of the road for us--into the doorway of eternal life. The Bible says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”.

That verse of Scripture is often used at the funerals of policemen and soldiers who have given their lives in the line of duty. But of course it is really about Jesus who loves us so much that he laid down his life for us on the cross.

Now if we are honest with ourselves, there are times in life when it sure doesn’t seem as if we have a Good Shepherd that is looking out for us—times of hardship and suffering and loss. As we struggle to believe that we have a Good Shepherd who is always providing for us and protecting us –God does not direct us to take our comfort and assurance of Jesus’ loving care from our outward circumstances --but instead, God directs us to the cross where we see what true love and goodness really is.

The Bible says, “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” What a blessing it is for us to know that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Not only did Jesus show himself to be the Good Shepherd by laying down his life for us, he showed it by taking it up again. Just a few verses after our text, Jesus the Good Shepherd says, “My Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”

In ancient Israel it was not unknown for shepherds to be killed protecting their sheep and the stories of their bravery were told and retold. But the death of the shepherd was not good news for the sheep because it let them fall victim to the same enemy that had just destroyed the shepherd. A brave (but dead) shepherd was no help to his sheep.

Jesus showed that he is the Good Shepherd not only because he lays his life down on the cross to defeat our enemies—but because he takes it up again in his resurrection. We have in Jesus Christ a living Shepherd who rules this world for us—for his flock—for the sake of his sheep—a living Shepherd who intercedes for us and helps us—and orders all things in heaven and on earth for our eternal good, to see us safely to our heavenly home. Jesus the risen Shepherd promises, “I am with you always even unto the end of the age.”

How different is this kind of crucified and risen Shepherd than all the pretenders that came before or since. Jesus says that, “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

These words of Jesus would have resonated with the people of that day. In many ways, Israel’s long, sad history was the story of the failures of the shepherds who should have cared for them. Their kings, and judges, and generals, and even their religious leaders showed themselves to be merely hirelings who were in it for themselves. Especially in Jesus’ day the scribes and Pharisees and teachers of the law had little concern for the flock that the God of Israel had entrusted to them. Instead they were interested in politics, and power, and prestige. They were in it for themselves.

Not much has changed. All around us we see those who are claiming to have our best interests at heart—politicians and pundits and even preachers—and yet they are in it for themselves-for what they can get out of us. And when it comes time for them to show their true colors through sacrifice and selflessness—they turn and run.

How different is our Good Shepherd from these hirelings! Jesus knew just exactly what his life would entail—the suffering, pain, and death—and yet Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem and the cross-- because he knew it was the only way for us to have the rich, abundant, eternal life that God wants us to have. He did it because he knew what was best for his flock—and he still does.

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know My own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father…” Despite the fact that there are over a billion sheep in his flock Jesus has the individual number of our hairs counted, so intimately does he know us. He knows when we rise up in the morning and when we rest at night—he knows our thoughts and dreams and hopes and struggles and fears. And because he knows us perfectly and personally—he knows exactly what is best for us and will always provide it to us.

When Jesus spoke these words he was headed to Jerusalem with other Jewish pilgrims to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in which the Israelites would remember God’s care for them during their desert wanderings: how he provided them with water and light and food. And as Jesus traveled along he proclaimed: I AM the bread of life—I AM the living water—I AM the light of the world—and I AM the Good Shepherd. He wanted the people then to know, and he wants us to know today, that he graciously and generously provides for his flock—just exactly what we need, when we need it—because he knows us individually and personally.

And not only does he know us—he wants us to know him and have fellowship with him. Jesus says, “I am known by my own.” Jesus wants us to know him just like sheep know their shepherd—to listen to him and follow him and come running in faith when he calls. Our Good Shepherd wants us to know his voice and to respond to his call and to recognize his presence and so he speaks to us in his word and gives himself in Holy Communion so that we can have life in his name. And the life that he has come to give to us and the fellowship that he offers to us he wants to share with the entire world.

Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Jesus is not content that the number of sheep in his flock remain static and certainly not for it to decline. The Bible says that he “is not willing for any to perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Throughout his earthly ministry we see the Good Shepherd adding to his flock--reaching out to those caught in sin like the woman at the well and Zaccheus the tax collector—reaching out to Romans and Samaritans—reaching out to those who denied him in his hour of need. In the parable of the lost sheep Jesus explains how the Good Shepherd is not content with 99 out of 100 but seeks the one lost sheep to bring it into the flock as well.

We need to have exactly the same attitude when it comes to those who are not yet a part of the flock of the Good Shepherd. Jesus has shed his life’s blood for them and the greatest tragedy that exists in the world today is when someone for whom Christ died goes to hell not knowing the one who loves them like a shepherd loves his little lambs.

His mission of salvation has been entrusted to us and any hesitancy to invite others to become a part of his flock because of their sinful life- or because of their ethnicity- or because they have wandered from the flock- should be set aside because our Good Shepherd wants them to be a part of his flock with us so that there would be one flock and one shepherd.

What a comfort it is for us to hear once again that in Jesus Christ we have a Good Shepherd—one who shows his unfailing love for us in his death and resurrection—one who knows us intimately and invites us to know him in the same way—a Good Shepherd who enriches our lives on earth by inviting his to share in his mission of seeking and saving the lost. Amen.

This Week at Mt Olive

Good afternoon, fellow redeemed! Christ is risen! I just returned from the driving range. With the beautiful sunshine overhead, Katie, Michael, and I could resist and went to the nearest range to hit a few balls. True to form, one cannot play golf without believing in the reality of sin, inherited and actual. I once played a course in Illinois called Spencer T. Olin. It had been the site of the U. S. Amateur Open tournament for a few years. Like all open courses, Spencer T., as we called it, was challenging, with the proper U. S. Open style rough. Hitting into the rough, the golfer had only goal - getting out of the rough. Any attempt to advance the ball simply sent it deeper and deeper still into incredible perils. St. John tells us in the Epistle for today that to continue in sin is to continue in lawlessness. The Christian life, then, lived in this world one of constant tension. It is a life of repentance, of purification as we go back to the cross, to Christ, the pure Lamb of God. The Christian life is one of doing the righteousness, doing what pleases our Father in heaven. It's a life of striving against sin. Any thought that sin isn't that bad sends us deeper and deeper still into its clutches. Failures will be many. For them, the Father purifies us through His Son - time after time after time after time. Praise God that, in Christ by the Holy Spirit, we have been given the certainty of our heavenly home. And, praise God that, in this earthly life, a life which God has given us, we enjoy the heavenly blessings now in the forgiveness of sins. Praise God that, on the Last Day, "He will raise me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and to all believers in Christ." To that, in Christ, we say, "This is most certainly true." Prayer Concerns: Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney, John Sorensen Those who are in authority over us: the President of the United States, the governor of Texas, the city leaders of Corpus Christi and all our elected representatives, that they would be guided to serve and protect the weakest among us The District Presidents and seminary representatives who will be meeting this coming weekend in preparation for Call Day at the two seminaries, that they be given wisdom and skill as they assign pastors and vicars in the Church. Here are a few announcements: The Mother-Daughter Banquet is being held Saturday, May 11, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for children under 12. See Kathy Jennings or Dawn Johnson for more information. The menu is still being wrangled, but will hopefully be finalized by next weekend. Jr. and Sr. Youth will gather for a game/have fun night next Sunday, April 29. I'll have the time available later in the week. Confirmation Banner Making will be held Saturday, April 28, at 9 a.m. I'll be sending out the Confirmation verses on Tuesday so thought can be given for designs and what might be included in the banner. This Week at Mt. Olive: Monday, April 23 6:15 p.m. Zumba aerobics 6:30 p.m. Board of Elders Wednesday, April 25 8:30 a.m. School Chapel 9:30 a.m. Bible Study (Revelation 19 and 20) Saturday, April 28 9 a.m. Confirmation Banner Making Sunday, April 29 Jr. and Sr. Youth game night God bless! PKJ

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Series B, The Third Sunday of Easter April 22, 2012

Lessons for The Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 3:11–21 – The people’s amazement at a healing gave Peter an opportunity to tell them about Jesus.
Psalm 4 (Antiphon: Psalm 4:7)
1 John 3:1–7 – By making us His children, God has shown us great love and called us to lead holy lives.
Luke 24:36-49 – When Jesus joined the disciples Easter evening, he opened their minds to the Scriptures.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Putting it All Together Again
Like a cracked Easter egg, Humpty Dumpty couldn't be put together again even with the best efforts of “all the king's horses and all the king's men.” Jesus' community of disciples was shattered by his death. Even when they were in the same place at the same time, they were still not a real fellowship until Jesus brought them his peace. We have fellowship with God and with one another when we know our sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. In Christ, God puts us together again so that as a restored community we may reach out to others who need to know God’s great healing power.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Jesus, in Your name I have received forgiveness and salvation. As I share Your name with others help me call them my sisters and my brothers -- in Your name. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Our minds have been opened by the power of the Holy Spirit so that we recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah. Our hearts have been opened by the Father’s love so that we share ourselves and our resources to proclaim the peace of sins forgiven in Jesus’ blood.

OFFERING PRAYER: O Holy Spirit, power divine; You opened up this heart of mine,
And by the power of Jesus’ blood, I bring these gifts to spread His Word.
Work peace, O Lord, through sins forgiven,
And by my life bring souls to heaven. Amen.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Our hearts are often filled with fear, our minds troubled, and our communities disrupted because we don’t understand what it means that Jesus had to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, This message informs our study of Scripture and brings us peace from God, putting power into the dynamic of sins repented and forgiven. Having experienced (witnessed) God’s grace in Christ, we have now been commissioned as witnesses to the nations, in the way we live, people who promote peace in our communities through our lives.

BONUS: "Readings from Acts" [tune LSB 707, evan] 8 6 8 6 Iambic

The people crowded ‘round to see;
They did not understand.
The crippled beggar they all knew
Stood there at Peter’s hand.

“This man was healed in Jesus’ name;
Why do you stand and stare?
He is the one you crucified –
Or don’t you even care?”

“He is the Christ, the Promised One,
From God the Father’s love.
Repent! And God will cleanse your sins
With mercies from above.”

Grant, Holy Spirit, to Your church
The eager words to say,
That hearts be turned to do Your will
And souls be saved today!

Text: Gilbert Franke; Copyright (c) 2006. Used by permission.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Every so often, especially during campaign seasons and when election time approaches, the subject of godly leaders and who should get our vote surfaces. Consistently, I hear of some pastor or church advocating which leaders or candidates should be chosen and how it would be a sin to vote for a specific person. I heard such news the other day, as a matter of fact. You can all rest easy; I'm not going down that road.

I do want to give some thought to our role as Christian citizens. I don't have to be really creative about this, because St. Paul has already addressed the matter in his letter to Timothy. I think it's interesting that Paul encourages Timothy and the Christians committed to his care to pray for all people, even for the kings and those in high places, including the emperor. It's ironic that the apostle should give this encouragement, since these very men for whom Paul encourages prayer would be responsible for his violent death in years to come. Yet, Paul was well aware of the tremendous gift God has given His people in prayer, and that earthly authority has been established by God. Christians are invited by God in His mercy to worship Him and intercede for all people before His throne of grace.

So, what is our lesson as Christian citizens? What does God through His servant, St. Paul, instruct us to do in relation to our government? Our task is to pray for our leaders. It matters not whether we like their politics, nor if we even like the way they part their hair; God has commanded us to pray for those in authority. St. Paul gives encouragement to us today to pray for our president, our governor, our local leaders, and the like. Pray that they be defended from the assaults of the devil. Pray that they be given wisdom and skill to pursue their duties. Pray that they be diligent so that we are defended from the fear of our enemies. Pray that, under their leadership, we may live in peace and quietness.

After all, that is our duty as Christian citizens.

Prayer Concerns:
The family and friends of Pastor Keith Gravesmill who was called to his Lord earlier today.
Those who serve in the armed forces and their families:Rob Vadney, John Sorensen
The President of the United States, our elected representatives in Washington and in Austin, the Governor of Texas, the county judge for Nueces County (or whichever county in which you reside), the mayor of our city.
The holy Christian and apostolic Church as she proclaims her risen Lord Jesus throughout the world

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, April 16
6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

7 p.m.
Church Council

Tuesday, April 17
6:30 p.m.
LWML at the church

Wednesday, April 18
8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

9:30 a.m.
Bible Study (Revelation 19)

Thursday, April 19
6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

God bless!

Everyone Born of God Overcomes the World

There are three great spiritual enemies—a great triumvirate of evil-- that we have to fight against to remain children of God: the world, our flesh, and the devil.

We know who the devil is—the evil angel who tempted Adam and Eve in the garden and brought sin and death into the world and continues to work against the saving purposes of God in our life.

Our flesh is that part of us that goes along with the devil because we have been broken by sin and death--that part of us that we are born with that is opposed to God-- and it clings to us throughout life and undermines the good we want to do.

And then there is the world—an especially important idea in John’s writings. This spiritual enemy is not the created world. It is no sin to enjoy food and family and the beauty of the creation around us. These are good gifts from God.

Rather, when the Bible talks about the world as our spiritual enemy it is talking about those all of those ideas and philosophies and perspectives and values that unbelievers have-- that come, not from God, but from the devil.

The world has a powerful (and spiritually deadly) effect on our lives. The world tells us that we are simply animals who cannot control their sexual urges. The world tells us that what really matters are the material things that we can hold in our hands. The world tells us that life is about doing all we can and getting all we can while we have time—because this life is all there is. It is that way of thinking that is opposed to God.

We are overwhelmed by these ideas and values and we have to fight against their influence on our lives because they can cause us to lose our faith. But the Lord makes a remarkable and comforting promise in his word this morning when it comes to the world:

Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

All of us can say with the Apostle Paul: the good I want to do—I don’t do and the evil I don’t want to do—this is what I end up doing. What a wretched man I am! That’s the experience of us all when it comes to our flesh!

We want to do the right thing and we know what the right thing is to do but what we see about our lives—to our shame—is that often times we do not measure up to the high calling of being children of God. One big reason for that is the influence of the world around us that hinders us from being salt and light to a dark and decaying world.

But rather than despairing of our salvation—rather than giving up and giving in and going along with the world—the Bible tells us that we can overcome the world—in other words, the world WON’T have the final victory over us-- and we CAN live this life as Christians rather than unbelievers.

We can use material things without them becoming our gods. We can have spiritual values and godly goals. We can see life through God’s eyes.

We can be confident, as God’s children, that we won’t be overcome by the world and lose our faith because Jesus Christ conquered our great spiritual enemies—and his victory is our victory through faith in him—his power and life are our own.

In fact, that we believe at all is a testimony to the power of Christ over the forces of evil because when he saved us, he took someone who was, by nature, blind to the things of God and dead in sin—and made us children of God who can overcome the world rather than be overcome by it. This is what Jesus came to do. The Bible says:

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.

At the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry he went out to the Jordan River where his cousin John was preaching repentance and announcing that the kingdom of God was at hand.

When John saw Jesus he said, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Then Jesus walked down into that water filled with sinners and was baptized by John. And as he was baptized, the Holy Spirit appeared above his head and God said about Jesus: This is my beloved Son!

Three years later Jesus showed what these words from John and the Spirit meant. Jesus died on the cross for our salvation—bearing our sins in his body and suffering the punishment we deserve. Three days later he rose again just as he said he would—not only providing for our eternal life-- but proving that his words were true and that the promises he made can be trusted—including his promise that we will overcome the world. The Bible says:

The Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

As I mentioned earlier, at Jesus’ baptism the Spirit testified that Jesus was God’s Son. At Pentecost, Jesus Christ poured out the Holy Spirit upon his disciples who testified that God made Jesus who was crucified both Lord and Christ.

The person and work of Jesus Christ—that he is the Son of God and Savior of the world—was made known by the Spirit at his baptism and crucifixion—a threefold testimony about Christ: water, blood, and Spirit.

And this three-fold testimony is also made about WHO WE ARE in Christ. In the waters of Holy Baptism, the Spirit buries us with Christ in his death and raises us with Christ in his resurrection and makes us God’s children and promises us that if we have been joined to Christ in a death like his we will certainly be united to Christ in a resurrection like his.

In Holy Communion the Holy Spirit tells us that the body that was broken for us on the cross is given to us in, with, and under the bread and the blood that was shed for us on Calvary is given to us in, with, and under the wine so that we can be certain that we are God’s children and that we will overcome the world.

Water, blood, and Spirit. This three-fold testimony about Jesus’ identity and work made by the Spirit at his baptism and crucifixion and also made to us in baptism and communion--can be trusted to tell us the truth about Jesus and the truth about ourselves: that Christ has had the victory over our spiritual enemies and so will we. The Bible says:

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.

In courtrooms ancient and modern people were called up to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And the testimony of witnesses becomes more compelling as the number of those who say the same thing grows. In biblical times the testimony of three witnesses was the legal standard for the truth being established.

That is what we have in the Spirit’s witness to the water of Jesus’ baptism and the blood of the cross as they are conveyed to us and spoken about us in baptism and Holy Communion.

Very simply, regarding the promise that we will overcome the world, God says: this is the truth and I want you to believe it and count on it and build your life upon it. The Bible says: Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.

I want you to recognize the progression of the things that we have talked about today in our sermon. Jesus’ identity as the Son of God was established at his baptism. His saving work was accomplished at the cross.

Who he is and what he has done for us has been given to us in Word and Sacrament for this purpose: so that we would have the Spirit’s testimony in ourselves—in other words, that in our hearts, each of us, personally and individually would know and believe in Jesus Christ, trust him for our salvation, and be confident that we will overcome the world.

And believing this about Jesus and believing this about ourselves—we would go forward in that faith in the way we live our lives—valuing spiritual things over material things—drawing our values from the bible rather than from the world—trusting that death is not the end us for we are God’s children.

This is what it means that we have the testimony of the Son of God in ourselves—that our lives are different for time and eternity because of Jesus.

But the person who does not believe this rejects his own value as one for whom Christ died—rejects the testimony of the Spirit who calls him to faith—rejects the work of Christ-- and ultimately rejects God. The Bible says:

Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

Everything that God has done and everything that God has said has but one purpose: that you would know him and believe in him and live as his child. That was his plan for you and Jesus accomplished that plan by dying for you and rising again.

The Holy Spirit has reached out to you through this Good News about Jesus—testifying to the truth about Jesus (that he is your Savior) and testifying the to the truth about who you are (someone who is loved by God with an everlasting love). To reject this testimony is to reject God and call him a liar.

This can happen when people fail to believe in Jesus Christ and reject his salvation. But it can also happen to Christians when we reject the promises that God makes to us in Christ about our victory in him.

When we carry around a load of guilt-- we are saying that Christ has not forgiven us. When we worry constantly about the future-- we are saying that God is not wise enough or strong enough to watch out for us. And when we live like the world around us rather than overcoming the world-- we are saying the sacrifice of Christ for us and the work of the Holy Spirit in us is not powerful enough to deliver us.

God wants all of us to take him at his Word when it comes to the salvation he has given us in Jesus AND what that gift means in our day to day life.

And so today we begin to live as those who will overcome the world by staying to faithful to Jesus despite Satan’s attacks- and living by God’s values rather than the world’s-- and enjoying the blessings of life without becoming mastered by them-- and enduring the hardships of life without becoming embittered.

God has promised you that you will overcome the world and he invites you to step out in faith upon that promise. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Series B, Second Sunday of Easter April 15, 2012

Acts 4:32–35 – The believers’ were so united in Christ that they shared everything with those in need.
Psalm 148 (Antiphon: Psalm 148:13)
1 John 1:1—2:2 – Jesus is the Word of life in whom alone we have fellowship with God through His blood.
John 20:19-31 – Jesus brought the disciples peace in forgiveness, even as He restored Thomas to the group.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Blessed in Believing
God gives His blessings through faith. Twice in our lessons today, the Apostle John connected the blessing of eternal life to faith in Jesus, the Son of God. He also tied that faith in Jesus to a new life of victory and obedience to God's commands. That life of faith is doubly blessed through fellowship with those who are united with us in Christ. The forgiveness that Christ extends is the power to restore us to each other even when sin or doubt separates us from the fellowship.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, Your Spirit has turned my heart from doubt to faith. Help me, as God’s child, love Him, obey His commands, and live in the victory of Your resurrection that has overcome the world and sin and death. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: The unity we have with one another through faith in Jesus, our risen Lord, moves us to use our worldly goods to meet the physical – and spiritual – needs of those with whom we are one in heart and mind.

OFFERING PRAYER: God of Grace, you have brought us into fellowship with You
and with one another through the purifying blood of Jesus Christ Your Son.
May these gifts, products of our daily lives,
promote peace and unity among us
as we continue to testify to the resurrection of our Lord. Amen.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Jesus has given us the gift of peace with the Father through His blood which purifies us from all sin. He has also given us the gift of forgiveness to extend to one another as we draw them into the fellowship of God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son. Too often we use the doors of tradition or practice to exclude those, like Thomas, who need to be encouraged in their faith. Thanks be to God, we have One who has stepped through the door of our limitations and has shown us the marks of God's love in the body of Christ.

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

In the early church, heresies abounded concerning the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically, these heresies attempted to make sense of His divinity and His humanity, always getting one or the other wrong. Usually, it was the humanity. Some taught that Jesus only appeared human, but was truly an apparition of sorts. Others taught that He only appeared to die. As the Church began to become more organized in its teachings, the heresies began to be more complicated. One such heresy taught that Jesus was really only a creature and not fully divine from eternity. What ultimately protected the Church was the formulation of the creeds. The Nicene Creed, from the council in 325 A. D. formulated one such creed, which we rejoice to confess with the Church of the ages. Jesus is "God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things are made." Yet at the same time, this Son of God "for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man."

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Bible Study resumes this week on Wednesday morning, but I'll have to check and see which chapter of Revelation we will be studying (it's either 19 or 20).

Zumba resumes its regular schedule, too.

The Church Council will meet next Monday on April 16.

One of our young people, Matthew Catherman, will be presenting his Eagle Scout project plan, which will be done here at Mt. Olive, to his troop committee tomorrow evening, Please pray that Matthew that he be strengthened in his baptismal faith.

Two notes of thanks are in order:
First, I want to express my sincere thanks for all your prayers and concerns over the past few weeks following Kathy's hand surgery. This has increasingly been a roller coaster ride that doesn't seem to have an end. If I seem a bit short in my explanations, I'm usually frustrated that I don't have more to tell you. Again, please accept the thanks of our family.

Second, I thank you for all your prayers to our Father on my behalf and your support while tending to the death of Dennis Remmert. I think all of grieved in one way or another, and I really appreciate the support you gave me while supporting his family and friends.

Finally, I will be out of the office tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday (circuit conference).

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney, John Sorensen
Marilyn Hamer, Sue King, Frank Jennings, Kathy Jennings
Ruby Rieder, Burt and Doris Nelson, Ann Cleveland, Walter and Pearly Theiss
The family and friends of Dennis Remmert
The Altar Guild, the Sunday School, and the Youth of Mt. Olive, thanking God for their tireless work this weekend
The holy Church throughout the world as she proclaims the resurrection of her Lord Christ

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, April 7
6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

Wednesday, April 9
8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

9:30 a.m.
Bible Study - Revelation

Thursday, April 10
6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

God bless!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Series B, Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of our Lord April 7, 2012

Lessons for Easter Sunday, The Festival of the Resurrection
Isaiah 25:6–9 – God will destroy the power of death and provide a victory feast and security for his people.
Psalm 16 (Antiphon: Psalm 16:10)
1 Corinthians 15:1–1 – The most important teaching St. Paul passed on is the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.
Mark 16:1–8 – Mark’s account of the resurrection does not hide the consternation of the women.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: "The Lord's Right Hand has done Mighty Things"
Today the "Alleluias" burst forth in our worship as Christ breaks forth from the tomb! The prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in the victory Jesus won over death when he died for our sins and rose again. That last enemy has been defeated and will be destroyed when Christ returns to put all things under his feet. This victory was announced in the simple words of the angel: "He is risen! He is not here."

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Alleluia! Blessed are You, O Lord our God, king of the universe. You have raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead! You have given me victory over sin and death. Help me live by that victory in the face of all suffering and sorrow. Alleluia! Alleluia! You made Him who had no sin to be sin for me, so that in Him I might become Your righteousness! Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Because Jesus has destroyed the power of death over us, nothing has an ultimate hold on us but God’s love. Now even the material things by which we often define our lives are themselves defined by how they may be used for God’s kingdom.

OFFERING PRAYER: Alleluia! Jesus lives! He is risen from the dead!
Lord, You gave Your life for us; and You conquered as You said!
Now receive our heart-felt thanks with these offerings that we give.
He is risen from the dead! Alleluia! Jesus lives!

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We know the power of death; we see it all around us. We have heard God's promise that He will destroy the power of death and wipe away the tears from all faces. We have heard the words of the angels: “He has risen! He is not here!” Yet while we pay lip service to what Paul declared was of first importance, that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day was raise, we don't always live our lives by that victory in the face of all suffering. Thanks be to God, He has raised up our trembling hearts with the assurance of His promise.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Humble King-A Humble People

Philippians 2:5-11
“Oh Lord it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way. I can't wait to look in the mirror cause I get better looking each day. To know me is to love me I must be a heck of a man. Oh Lord it's hard to be humble but I'm doing the best that I can.”

Do you remember that Mac Davis song from 1980? Now most of us are a little bit more humble than the words of that song, but all of us struggle with pride. Pride is a part of our sinful flesh that goes to the very center of our being and it alienates us from God and from one another.

That is why the Bible has to tell us to not to be conceited but look out for the interests of others-- and count others more significant than ourselves-- which of course are the very things we struggle to do.

We like to be first. We want to make sure that we get what is ours. We love to be recognized for our achievements. We think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Oh Lord, it IS hard to be humble!

And so how are we to be the humble, obedient people that God expects us to be? Where will learn what God desires of us in our relationships with others and with him? The Bible says:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…

Humility is one of those virtues like love that is hard to describe—especially in our world where these things get twisted out of shape into something that is unrecognizable as humility or love.

We know about false humility that denies the real gifts that God has given us. We know about a humility that is really just a mask to hide the bragging on ourselves that we want to do. We know about a love that is really not for the good of others but a feeling that meets my emotional needs.

It takes God to tell us the truth about love and humility. The bible says in First John that: This is love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave us his Son. And the Bible says here in Philippians that this is what humility is: Jesus Christ, who was truly God did not count equality with God something to be held onto.

When it comes to how we are to live—whether in love or humility--we are not left to our own devices to discover what God is looking for from us—we are not left to the false definitions of the unbelieving world—instead, we are directed to Jesus Christ.

When God calls us to lives of humility he points us to his Son Jesus and says this is what I’m talking about: my Son Jesus, who shares my divine nature, did not hold onto glory and honor for himself--but for your sake, he laid it aside. The Bible says that:

Jesus was in the form of God and yet did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he did not come as the King of kings and Lord of lords—he did not come as a great conqueror—he did not come with the majesty of almighty God (though he was all of these and more!).

He came in riding on a little grey donkey, his feet hanging almost to the ground--in meekness and humility. So it had been throughout his life.

Jesus took on the flesh of a poor Virgin who would be ridiculed for the story that her baby was born of God—not of sin. He lived in obscurity- and he labored with his hands- and he spent his life helping those around him. He said of himself: I came not to be served—but to serve and give my life for others.

And yet the great wonder of this humble man from Galilee is that he is the King of kings -and he is the Lord of lords- and he is true God in human flesh!

And so why did he humble himself—why was he born in the likeness of men as the bible says?

It is because we have failed to be the men and women that God wants us to be. We haven’t loved others sacrificially—we haven’t counted others better than ourselves—we haven’t looked to the interests of others.

And yet that is God’s expectation of us and he promises to punish, in time and eternity, those who do not do his will.

That is why God’s own Son, out of love for us, laid aside the divine glory and honor and majesty (that are truly his own) to do for us what we have not—and cannot—do: live a holy life and suffer God’s punishment on the cross. The Bible says that:

Being found in human form, Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Throughout his life Jesus would say of himself: I have come to do my Father’s will—I have come to speak my Father’s words. And he did. His life on earth was lived in perfect obedience to his heavenly Father in thought, word, and deed.

He said of himself: I and my Father are one—not just because they shared the same divine nature—but because his life as a man was perfectly united to God.

That perfect life led him into death—even death on the cross.

At the beginning of this chapter, the Bible tells us to humbly count others more important than ourselves and to look not to our own interests, but to the interests of others.

In Jesus’ life and death we see just exactly what the bible means. Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one, true and living God---humbly counted you better than himself—he looked to your interests ahead of his own and he died in your place—even death on a cross.

Two thousand years after God the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write these very words, we can still hear the stunned amazement in his voice—even death on a cross—the most painful, humiliating, degrading death that can be imagined.

In fact, the Bible says: cursed is everyone hung on a tree---and not only because it was a humiliating, degrading way to die—but because it was a visible sign of being cursed by God—a public display that a crime worthy of death had been committed and the punishment of that crime was put on view for all to see.

That is the death that Christ suffered—not just painful, not just humiliating—but cursed by God. It was there in that humble man lifted up upon the cross that we see the truth of God’s attitude towards sin—for this perfect, humble, loving man was not being punished for his sins ( he had none) but for ours.

The Bible says that God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us—that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This was Jesus’ mission: to live the life we should have lived and to die the death we should have died.

And that is what he accomplished: our salvation from sin and death. The Bible says that this is the reason that: God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

We know that 700 years before the birth of the Messiah, Isaiah promised that he would be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, and prince of peace. We know that Joseph and Mary were commanded by God to give their baby the name: Jesus—the LORD saves—because he would save his people from their sin.

And so what does Paul mean when he says that after his death, resurrection and ascension Jesus was given the name that is above every name? It’s because:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Jesus is the name that is above every name because God has declared that there is one way of salvation-- and only one way—and that is to call upon the name of Jesus Christ in faith, trusting in his life, death, and resurrection.

The name of Jesus identifies who he is and what is had done: that he is the LORD who saves—that he alone has accomplished the Father’s saving purpose in undoing the effects of sin and death and reconciling us back to our Creator. That is why the Bible says that:

at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Our Lord Jesus Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death—even death on the cross—for us. He made himself nothing—for us. He did not consider equality with God something to be held onto—but he willingly became a servant to us. He is our Savior. But he is also our Lord and King.

And it is to the glory of God the Father that we bend our knee before Jesus and confess his lordship over every part of our lives and yield ourselves in obedience to his holy will.

The Christian’s life is marked by humility and obedience because the King we serve lived a life of humility and obedience.

And so we submit ourselves to God because Jesus did- and we count others better than ourselves because Jesus did- and we take up our cross because Jesus did- and we desire nothing other than to serve our King because Jesus desired to do nothing other than to do his Father’s will.

This is the entire purpose of Christ’s saving work—to re-establish a right relationship between us and God--and we have an opportunity---a day of grace-- right now-- to confess the truth about who Jesus and what he has done and acknowledge his rightful rule over our lives.

But we also need to know that this gracious opportunity—this day of day of grace---will not last forever. When Christ comes again, all of those who have trusted in him and followed him and obeyed him and acknowledged his rightful rule over their lives will kneel before him in joy and thankfulness for all that he has done and acclaim as their Savior and Lord.

And yet, even those who have not trusted him or followed him will bow before him and confess him to be their rightful master.

Unlike us, they will do this in abject terror and fear for in that moment they will know him for who he truly is: the King of kings and Lord of lords and the perfectly righteous judge who will cast them into the eternal fires of hell.

That day holds no fear for us because of this day of grace when we humble ourselves before Jesus in faith and obedience and commit ourselves to lives of humility and service like his. Amen.