Sunday, September 30, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Lord God heavenly Father, for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, be gracious to us and hear our prayers:
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
A Funeral Sermon For Lornadell--Romans 8:28-39
It is a remarkable promise that God makes to us today, we who mourn Lornadell’s passing: that he is working all things together for our good. All things! Even our sorrow and loss—all things for our good.
This promise from God’s Word is easy enough for us to believe when everything in our life is going the way we want it to—when we have our health and when we have our family close to us. Of course God is working all things for our good—we can see it!
But the truth of this promise of God working all things for our good is also true for this day—this day when we mourn the loss of a wife and mother and aunt and friend and sister in Christ. Eyes that are focused on illness and loss and sorrow cannot see how any of this is for our good—and yet the promise of God stands:
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
So that we might believe this and be comforted in our grief, God calls us to lift our eyes to him—to focus our attention on his gracious work in Lornadell’s life—his care and concern for her that began long before her birth and will continue forever in heaven and know that even today he is working all things for the good of those who love him—for Lornadell and for us. The Bible says that:
Those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
A simple summary of these words from the Bible might go like this: God has always loved Lornadell and will always love Lornadell and the circumstances of her life- and the difficulties of her last days- and her passing from this life- doesn’t change that love one bit. From everlasting to everlasting God has always cared for Lornadell.
He chose her in Christ to be his own child before the foundation of the world. He sent his Son Jesus to live and die for her to forgive her and give her life that death cannot end. He planned her life so that she was born and raised in a Christian home. He called her to himself in the waters of Holy Baptism at St. John Lutheran Church in Poth, Texas. He declared her right in his sight through faith in Jesus. And now he has brought her to himself in glory where she will live with him forever in heaven.
All of this our gracious God has done for Lornadell in time and eternity so that on this day when we mourn her passing there can be absolutely no doubt in our minds that even in the painful and difficult and sorrowful things-- God was working for her good and he is working for ours too. And so…
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Even though it is difficult to see it right now, even though there seems to be some overwhelming evidence to the contrary, God promises us that in life and in death he can be counted on to do what is best for us—as the Bible says, that he is for us.
That promise was made especially to Lornadell when she was confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Floresville, Texas. On Pentecost Sunday in 1944, Pr. Winters laid his hands on Lornadell’s head and gave her this very verse that he had chosen for her, to bless her with: If God is for us, who can be against us?
Pr. Winters knew that God was FOR Lornadell—he knew everything that God had done to bless her and bring her to himself—but he also knew that life in this broken world would hold some hardships for her as well—that there would be times and circumstances and events when she would wonder to herself: is God really for me?
And those times came. She lost a son-- and can there be anything harder for a parent than that? She had various health issues that became more prominent and disabling over the years. She had her own share of the world’s sorrows.
But throughout her life she could be confident that God was for her—not because things were always going her way-- but because of what God had already done for her in sending his Son Jesus to lay down his life for her on the cross. There was no doubt that God was for her because of the gift he had given her in Jesus.
Along with this most important gift of Jesus, God also blessed her with other gifts just as he promises to those who love him. He gave her the gift of a husband in Charlie with whom she was blessed to enjoy sixty one years of marriage; the gift of a son in John who was as kind and caring and attentive to his mother as any son could be; a successful work life in banking; and many friends in this community.
God did indeed, along with Jesus, graciously give her all things just as he promised. But now he has called her to himself and the questions and doubts come. Why were her last years filled with such difficulty? Why couldn’t God have let her stay with us for just a while longer? God’s word has an answer to these doubts and questions that every believer struggles with at times like these. The Bible says:
Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
When we are confronted with doubts and questions about the loving purpose of God in the hard times of life-- he reminds us what his real purpose is: to restore us to our status as his children and bring us safely to heaven where we will live with him forever. That’s what he wants for us more than anything else—that we would live with him forever.
We are sad to say goodbye to Lornadell. But how much sadder it would be to know that she had to live on forever in broken health and increasing disability? God wanted much more than that for his child! And so he sent his Son to die for her sins and he raised him from the dead to give her a new and eternal life.
Through faith in Jesus, God declared that Lornadell was right in his sight and promised that she would live with him forever. The fullness of that life is still to come on the Last Day—but it is no less certain than all of the other blessings God has already given her.
That is what Jesus came to do for her- and that is what he has been doing for her every day of her life as he prayed for her before his heavenly Father’s throne, ordering her life so that she would live in faith and depart this life in faith.
Jesus was with Lornadell every day of her life until he brought her safely home and he promises the same to us. The Bible says:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
When we lose a loved one it is normal that we grieve—even for Christians. St. Paul said that we grieve—but not as those who have no hope. And so we shed tears and we mourn our loss but that sorrow does not overwhelm us because we know that Christ’s love for Lornadell continued right up to that moment when he called her to himself and that same love will be with us in the days ahead.
Nothing can separate us from that love. Even when we do not feel it—even when the sorrows of life seem to crowd it out—Jesus cares for us and he will not let anything change that love he has for us.
That promise is what gives us the strength we need to carry on—to do the things that need to be done: meals to prepare-a garden to plant-volunteer hours to be worked—Javelina games to attend—service projects to accomplish with the Lions Club.
There will be tears in the days ahead—the weight of sorrow will seem at times to be unbearable—but God promises that we are more than conquerors because of Jesus’ love for us. In other words, he will see us through. In fat, he will see us through not only the days ahead-- but he will see us safely through our entire life until that day he calls us home to join those we love in heaven. The Bible says:
I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God wants you to have that same confidence that St. Paul had when he was inspired to write these words—to believe that nothing, absolutely nothing, not even the death of those we love, not even our own deaths-- can separate us from Christ.
Lornadell believed that. She was a Christian lady who knew and believed that Jesus was her Savior and that she was loved by God from everlasting to everlasting. And while she is separated from us for a time---she is at home with Christ. I pray that God would grant the same to each of us assembled here this day. Amen.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost September 23, 2012
Lessons for Proper 20
Jeremiah 11:18–20 ~ When God showed Jeremiah the plots against him, he trusted completely in the Lord.
Psalm 54 (antiphon: v. 4)
James 3:13—4:10 ~ The wisdom of God has no place for selfishness, but fills us with grace and peace.
Mark 9:30–37 ~ Jesus showed the disciples that the greatness of life is measured by the depth of its service.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: Where is the Honor in Being Chosen?
Usually being chosen first is a sign of honor and respect. Jeremiah was chosen to be God’s prophet in a tough time. Even his family plotted against him. James explained that once God has chosen us, we must choose lives of peace, mercy, and service. Jesus showed us what it means to be chosen: He is the first to give his life in service. We have also been chosen for service in God’s family. What a risk -- and what an honor!
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord God, by choosing me through the water of Baptism and the Word of Your Grace, You have laid some difficult choices before me. Give me vision to see those choices clearly and strength to carry them out willingly so that with humility and joy, I may serve others as I serve You. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God has called us to lives of service and has provided us with goods and skills to help others. When we follow Jesus’ example we give ourselves in service.
OFFERING PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You have truly said that life is measured best
When every opportunity that puts us to the test
Is met with grace to welcome little ones by word and deed,
And willing hearts to use Your gifts to ease another’s need. Amen
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: It is because of our selfish ambition that we quarrel about who is the greatest and justify our desires with unspiritual, demonic wisdom. It was because of that attitude on the part of leaders in Jesus’ day and those attitudes in our own hearts today, that Jesus made Himself servant of all, and let Himself be delivered into the hands of men. It is through His sacrificial service that Jesus has rescued us from our own greed and handed us over to God’s grace and mercy, that we may live it out in our service to the poor and burdened of this world.
Good evening, fellow redeemed!
Today we remember and thank God for the life and ministry of St. Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200â€“258). He was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248. During the persecution of the roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258.
Almighty God, You gave your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Ann Cleveland, Ruby Rieder, Burt and Doris Nelson, Ellie Reiners, Walter and Pearly Theiss
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney
Our nation and those who serve in her, that they be kept safe from our enemies
Our Sunday School superintendent, Lori, and the Sunday School teachers
This Week at Mt. Olive:
This afternoon was a great time among youth. Matthew, Rose, Trevor, August, Jonathan, Michael, Katie and I took to the bowling alley. To tell the truth, a lot of gutter balls found their way to the end of the lanes and some strange bowling strokes were displayed. A good time was had by all, and Pastor Jennings took the lanes with a 128.
Monday, September 17
Board of Elders
Tuesday, September 18
Jr. Confirmation Instruction
Wednesday, September 19
Why Does It Matter - Barnes and Noble
Monday, September 10, 2012
Good evening, fellow redeemed!
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. - James 2:14
These words from St. James have been used and abused for centuries. Usually it's the source of the problem in the passage. You see, reading this problem, if there are no good works, the problem isn't the good works, but the faith that produces them.
Good works are not absolutely necessary for salvation, but good works are necessary. God does expect His people to do good things. This, again, is another source of problems. Sinful people have a habit of dreaming up good works that aren't pleasing to God. Society has a list of good works, and there are all kinds of civic organizations that have guidelines for good works.
Yet, none of these are good works. Good works are those done in faith. The person who believes in Christ will, by the Holy Spirit, desire to do what pleases God. What pleases God? The list is in the Ten Commandments.
This week, take out your Catechism. Review the explanation for each of the Ten Commandments. If you have the chance, look at the Large Catechism section on the Ten Commandments. In these two works, Luther systematizes the teachings of Holy Scripture.
How will your works show your faith this week?
Lucinda Rodela, Harley Barrow and his family
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Ft. Campbell), Pastor Dale Brynestad (Austin, Texas)
Ann Cleveland, Ruby Rieder, Burt and Doris Nelson, Walter and Pearly Theiss
The Church as she proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world
The Church Council at Mt. Olive as they meet this week
This Week at Mt. Olive:
I will be out of town Monday through Wednesday for the Circuit Counselors Conference. There will be no Junior Confirmation instruction, Wednesday Bible Class, Adult Information, or Why Does It Matter group. If you have an emergency, please call your elder.
Monday, September 10
Board of Education - Overflow
Tuesday, September 11
Wednesday, September 12
Save the Date!
Voters Meeting September 30 between the services.
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost September 16, 2012
Lessons for Proper 19
Isaiah 50:4–10 ~ The Lord’s servant had an encouraging word to speak, but was met with reviling ridicule.
Psalm 116:1–9 (antiphon: v. 5)
James 3:1–12 ~ The words we speak, whether good or bad, have great power to help or harm others.
Mark 9:14–29 ~ With a sharp word, Jesus rebuked an evil spirit, and it released a boy who had been deaf.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: What’s on the Tip of Your Tongue?
Isaiah spoke for the Lord’s servant who brought a new word of encouragement every morning, but was met each day by opposition and ridicule from those who would not listen. Jesus demonstrated to the disciples that even a deaf spirit hears and obeys the word spoken by the Son of Man. St. James pointed out that our tongues, although they are only a small part of the body, can drive us to destruction or lead us in giving praise to God.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, let me hear Your powerful word to heal and strengthen me. Give me an encouraging word to bless my friends and neighbors. Let me speak words of praise to glorify Your name that all may know Your gift of love and mercy. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Words at our command can help or harm our neighbors, just as we can use the material blessings God has put at our disposal either to bless or to oppress.
OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, Your Word made flesh brought teachings we should heed!
In these gifts flesh out our words with loving deeds. Amen.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We often subscribe to the idea that “words can never hurt me.” Although we have all known hurt enough from things others have said, we still think the careless, and at times malicious, use of words is no big deal! When recognize that we have failed to speak healing words to the hurt and disconsolate, God’s Word in Christ is a mighty power to redeem us from the bondage of our own sentence of destruction.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
In obedience to our Lord’s command to make disciples of all nations this congregation gives between 20 and 30 percent of its offerings to outside missions. We support missions here in Texas and in the United States and throughout the world.
In addition, each year we have two mission festivals—one in the spring and one in the fall—to keep our focus and awareness centered on the mission of God to save the world in his Son Jesus. Over the years we have heard from missionaries who work along the border among Hispanics and missionaries who work among Muslims and missionaries who work in Africa.
But in giving to outside missions and in listening to foreign missionaries we tend to forget that the mission of the church extends to every person and so that mission to bring people to Jesus is as close as our own family members.
Our first priority as Christian people when it comes to the saving mission of Jesus Christ is to make sure that our own family members—and especially those we have authority over (like our children) are believers who will live with us forever in heaven.
That has always been the first mission priority in every parent’s heart. St. Luke tells us that the crowds who followed Jesus were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. In contrast to the disciples, these followers of Jesus knew that the growth of the church began with their own children and in this they revealed the heart of God.
In the beginning, God created man to enjoy fellowship with him like a Father with his children. He made man in his own image—male and female-- and told them to be fruitful and multiply so that man could enjoy fellowship with his children. A close, loving relationship where God and man and his family members were all joined together by love is what God intended for mankind.
When that fellowship was broken by human sin, God sent his Son into this world to make things right again by dying on the cross and conquering death in his resurrection. The people who were bringing their children to Jesus that day wanted them to participate in that new life with God—to be joined together with their children in a right relationship with God.
I say this by way of introduction because in our day there is a way of thinking and living when it comes to children that undermines the creative and redemptive purpose of God-- because it does not view children as a blessing.
In Jesus’ day, it was simply assumed that there would be children around to be brought to Jesus. But in our culture, where are the children to bring to Jesus today? The birthrate in this country and even among Christians has declined dramatically over the last fifty years. When Matthew Harrison became the president of our church body this declining birthrate and its effect upon the church was one of the first things he addressed.
We live in a culture that sees children not as a blessing but as a burden. Not as a gift to be received but as obligations to be managed. We live in a culture that allows parents to murder their own children because they are inconvenient, unwanted, and less than perfect. But this is the way of the unbelieving world—not of Christ and the church.
Children are a blessing from God and Jesus wants a kingdom full of them. If we want to see the church grow we need to encourage our Christian young people to value marriage and family and children and aspire to be fruitful and multiply and bring their children to Jesus so that they can take their place in his kingdom. Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter it.
Not only are Christians expected to have fruitful marriages where children are welcomed, but they are to bring these children to Jesus, so that they can take their place in his kingdom as his disciples.
The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching. That commission applies to all people without distinction: to men and women—to all ethnic groups—and to all ages.
God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth-- and Jesus Christ has laid down his life on the cross for all people because all people—without distinction—need to be reconciled to God—including our children.
The Bible teaches that from our very beginning we need saving because Adam’s sin passed to all people which is why all people die. Our children are not magically excluded from this curse and so they too need to be brought to Jesus so that his redeeming work can be applied to their little lives too.
That is why we baptize children. They too need to be buried with Christ in his death. They too need to be raised with him in his life. They too are part of that great harvest field of souls that is all around us.
In the early days of the church, Peter was preaching the Gospel to multitudes of people and they wanted to know what they were to do. And Peter told them:
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
We tend to think of mission work happening somewhere else and other people being missionaries --but when Christian parents bring their children to be baptized they are bringing them to Jesus and when these children are baptized the kingdom of God has grown no less than if a tribesman in Africa had been brought to faith.
That’s important for us to remember. It is a wonderful thing that we give what we do to missions. It is incredibly valuable to be reminded twice a year on our mission festivals of the necessity of mission work in other places where we can’t go.
But we must not lose sight of the fact that the local Christian congregation has always been the place where the primary mission of the church goes forth as the Gospel is preached and the sacraments administered. When you put your weekly offering in the plate you are supporting the mission of Christ in this place --which is no less important than the mission of Christ in other places.
It is our first duty as Christian parents- and as a Christian congregation- to make sure that those who are closest to us among our own families and children are brought to Jesus and take their place in his kingdom through baptism and then- are- formed- as- his disciples- through- the –teaching- of- the- church.
In the Great Commission Jesus said that we are to makes disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything commanded by Jesus.
And so it is not enough to simply be fruitful and multiply- and it is not enough to simply bring children to the waters of Holy Baptism and think we have fulfilled out part in his mission. God wants his baptized children to be taught his ways.
That little child who has been baptized is to be taught who their Savior is and what he has done for them. They are to be taught the way that God would have them live. They are to grow up in homes that are pious and faithful. That is what Moses taught the believers of his day and it still stands to this day. He said:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
In that article by Pastor Harrison that I referenced earlier he went on to talk about another troubling trend in our church. Besides the declining birthrate among Christians, only half of those children who are baptized in our church are ever confirmed.
I began the sermon this morning by talking about the creative and redemptive purposes of God: that we were created and redeemed to have fellowship with him—that we were made in his image and commanded to be fruitful so that we would have children with which to enjoy fellowship here on earth and forever in heaven.
That doesn’t happen by accident. Children need to be brought to God—but they also need to be taught the things of God. They need to know the story of salvation—that God has set them free from sin and death by Jesus. They need to be taught how they are to live as children of God and how they are to view the world around them.
Teaching our children the things commanded by Jesus is what the Great Commission is all about and it happens when parents read their children bible stories at night and when they teach them their prayers and when they teach them the values and worldview of the church. The Christian faith and Christian living is to fill the Christian home and family.
Teaching the ways of Jesus is fully one half of the great commission and it is the Christian parent’s first responsibility-- and their responsibility, first. Each section of the catechism begins with these words: As the head of the household should teach it in a simple way to his children.
But the church is also called to help. Sunday school and confirmation classes and VBS and church camp and youth gatherings are all ways that the congregation helps parents with their responsibility to raise Christian children.
This is where the Christian Day School can also be a great asset in the mission of the Christian home and family. It is a wonderful thing if a parent is able to home school their children using a Christian curriculum- but many cannot- and so the Christian Day School can provide that comprehensive Christian training that we want for our children.
In the early days of our church a school was always started along with a new mission plant so that parents could fulfill their responsibility to raise their children in the faith. We had a Christian Day School here for decades and Bernice taught in it.
Even though we don’t have a school here now we are blessed to be able to help St. Paul-Bishop down the road through our gifts and prayers and students and teachers. This congregation—and our mission to make disciples of all nations—has been strengthened greatly by the mission and ministry of that school.
On this fall mission festival Sunday we hear our Lord Jesus Christ tell us: Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them and we are reminded that the mission of the church is not just far-away places and specially trained and gifted people—but the mission of Christ begins at home, with us and our children for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen.