Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany                                                                              February 3, 2013

Lessons for Epiphany 4
Jeremiah 1:410 (1719) ~ God expressed His love for His people by choosing Jeremiah to turn them back.
Psalm 71:1-6 (7-11) (Antiphon: v. 12)
1 Corinthians 12:31b13:13 ~ When the gifts of the Spirit are used in love, they build up the body of Christ.
        Luke 4:3144 ~ Jesus healed many with His loving power and gathered people with the news of the Kingdom.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Let God's Love Have Its Way.
God's love is all-encompassing.  God's love is beyond comprehension.  It grasped Jeremiah before his birth and claimed him for the difficult job of confronting God's people with their waywardness.  Jesus confronted demons and healed the sick because Gods love compelled Him to share the good news of the Kingdom in words and actions.  Although God's love is patient and kind, at times we will have to give up things we hold dear because God looks beyond the moment and forms us for His eternal purpose.  Even when our lives are threatened, God's love wins out.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: God of mercy and of grace, do not let me stumble over words of correction or rebuke, but let me hear You speak in love through Your law as You lead me to depend more and more on Christ my Savior.  Guide me by Your Holy Spirit as I live lovingly toward others.  Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God has entrusted us with many material blessings and has called us to use them in ways that are guided by His love for even the least among us.  If we use them without love, they become demonic tools that tear apart the fellowship of Christs body.

OFFERING PRAYER:      O gracious God, it is Your way
                                                to bless us from above.
                                                Grant us to care for those each day
                                                who need to know Your love.  Amen.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: By His Spirit God gives us many gifts, which can be used in many ways.  Often we use them to call attention or bring influence  to ourselves.  Jesus has come to us in love as a servant, healing us not only of diseases and destructive spirits, but also of the selfish spirit that places us over and above others.  Along with the gifts come responsibility to exercise them in loving ways that build up the body of Christ, as well as trust that sees God dealing in love with us through others in the faith even when they point out our unloving actions to call us back to Gods mercy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jesus is Anointed to Preach Good News

Luke 4:16-30 The scene that we have before us in our Gospel lesson is a mirror image of what we are doing right here and now:  the Lord’s people gathered in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day in the presence of the Lord to hear the Lord’s Word.  And so…
What we’re going to do this morning is a little “people-watching” at the folks in Nazareth and their worship service and see if there is anything that we can learn about ourselves at worship.  As we do that I want you to think about these questions:  Where should I be on the Lord’s Day?  What should I hear on the Lord’s Day?  And how should I respond to what I hear on the Lord’s Day?  The Bible says that:
Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day
            Throughout the Bible we see Jesus taking an active part in the worship life of the people of God as was his Father’s will: Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.  This is the commandment of Almighty God and it extends to every person.  Jesus—born under the Law just as we were—kept that commandment faithfully. 
We get upset about the sexual immorality of our culture and the murder of unborn children and the greed inherent in our economic system—and we ought to—for these sins are abominations in the sight of Almighty God.  But we get a lot quieter when it comes to the Third Commandment that deals with our life of worship. 
We would never think about saying that a little bit of adultery or a little bit of murder or a little bit of stealing is no big deal.  But we bend over backwards to find a way to excuse those who break the Third Commandment—especially when they are our friends and family and fellow church members.
Luther’s Small Catechism says that to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy means that we will fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.  The judgment of God is this:  those who do not worship, do not fear God or love God-- but instead, despise preaching and His Word.  That is a hard judgment!
That is why this first verse of our text is such Good News for us:  that Jesus always gave his heavenly Father the worship that is his due-- and that through faith in Jesus—his faithfulness and righteousness is counted as our own in place of all those times we have not worshiped God as we ought—whether in church or absent. 
That gift calls for our praise and thanksgiving and brings us to the Lord’s house to worship.  And so what should we hear when we come to worship?  The Bible says:
Jesus stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” 
            First of all, when you come to the Lord’s house you ought to hear the Lord’s Word.  Then and now—that is the heart of  worship and the purpose for being in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day—to hear the Lord’s Word preached and taught. 
Now this may seem like something that doesn’t need to be said—but it does-- because the day that God warned us about (when people will accumulate teachers who will tell them what their ears want to hear) is upon us. 
In so many sermons today you will hear amusing anecdotes and inspiring stories --there is talk about self-esteem and the positive thinking—but there is very little Bible.
The purpose of worship is to hear the Word of God.  And so if you hear some sermon where the pastor begins with the text and then you never hear it again and wonder to yourself “what does this have to do with the reading”—that pastor has failed to follow the example of Jesus in preaching the Word!
But there is even more that we ought to expect when it comes to what we hear in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day.  We should expect to hear about the person and work of Jesus Christ—that he alone is our salvation!  The Bible says that:
Jesus rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus took the Bible in his hand, read it to the people, and proclaimed himself the fulfillment of it—that he was the one who would set the prisoner free and give sight to the blind and bestow God’s favor.  He was the fulfillment of God’s saving promises!
That is what every preacher must do:  preach Christ crucified for the sins of the world because if you have not heard that, you have not heard a Christian sermon.
The Bible has one subject and that is Jesus Christ and he must be proclaimed in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day.  The Bible has one story and that is the Good News of salvation and it must be told in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day. 
Jesus Christ was chosen by his heavenly Father, sent into this dying world, and anointed with the Holy Spirit so that by his death and resurrection we would be free from our sins—so that death would not be the end of us—so that our eyes of faith could be opened to the Good News that there is a God who loves us with an everlasting love. 
That message can only be found in the Lord’s house and it ought to be heard each Lord’s Day.  And so what should our response be to that message?  The Bible says that:
All spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.
            Each Sunday we hear God speak to us in Holy Absolution and forgive us our sins.  He speaks to us in the lessons that are read and the sermon that is preached so that we would know his will for our life and his forgiveness when we fail.  His Son gives us his body and blood in Holy Communion and says “given for you” and “shed for you” to assure us that the sacrifice of Calvary was for us personally and individually.  These gracious words are to be received in faith!
The people that day in Nazareth marveled to hear the words of life and salvation that Jesus preached-- and so should we.  In the words of that old spiritual we ought to be glad each Lord’s Day to hear that “old, old story of Jesus and his love”. 
But of course we know that not everyone is—that there are those who reject the gifts of salvation given in the Lord’s house just like those in Nazareth that day who said:
“Is not this Joseph's son?” And Jesus said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.
            There were those that day who rejected the message because they rejected the messenger:  “Who does this Jesus think he is?”  “We knew him when he was just a boy!”   
There are still those who reject God’s Word because they reject his messengers.  The man who stands in the pulpit of the Christian church has been called by the Holy Spirit for one purpose:  to speak forth God’s Word, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  That we don’t like his style or personality or the way he cuts his hair has absolutely nothing to do with anything --and so long as he speaks forth God’s Word (calling us to repentance and faith in Jesus) we are to listen to him and believe what he says.
But not only did those there that day reject Jesus because of who he was, they rejected him for his message.  The two examples that Jesus gave from the days of Elijah and Elisha were intended as a sharp rebuke and a hard preaching of the Law—to warn them that unbelief had consequences—that God would reject those who rejected him.
This message was not well received and they reacted with fury and so it still is today when the law is preached. 
We are perfectly happy to hear a sermon where the sins of others are pointed out but then we hear a sermon that cuts to the heart of something in our life that is not right.  It could be anything thing—but God’s Word has come close to home and rather than acknowledging our sin and repenting of it—we make excuses and justify ourselves and reject God’s messenger and his message.
If that is where you find yourself this morning you need to take this scene to heart and not let this day pass without confessing your sins, receiving Christ’s forgiveness, and making amends for your mistakes by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
We don’t know if those folks ever got another opportunity-- but that was a day of salvation for them just as this day is for us-- and we must not let it pass us by without responding to what we have heard in repentant faith. 
By our heavenly Father’s wise leading we have been brought to the Lord’s house this Lord’s Day.  We have heard the voice of Jesus promising us that he has come to open our eyes of faith and set us free from our sins and grant us God’s favor now and forever.
And so let us respond to those gracious words with praise and thanksgiving and the worship of heart and minds and voices that stand in awe of his great mercies.  Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Glory of God Revealed in Jesus' First Miracle

John 2:1-11 When Jesus was baptized, he publicly identified himself as the Savior who would take away our sins.  The next day John pointed to him and proclaimed:  Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!  And the next day Jesus began to gather disciples and teach them and on the third day…there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. 
On the third day there was a great miracle at a wedding feast in the presence of Mary and the disciples, where shame was turned to joy and lack was turned to plenty that blessed those who were guests at the wedding…on the third day.  That little phrase had the same meaning for the early Christians as it does for us:  on the third day Jesus rose again. 
Here, in just a few short verses at the beginning of his Gospel, the Apostle John tells the story of our salvation:  that the One who was in the beginning, the One who was God took on flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, identified with our sins, became our sin bearer and on the third day gave joy and plenty at a wedding where before there was only shame and lack.
Throughout the New Testament a wedding feast is the picture of the fulfillment of Jesus’ work- and rich, abundant wine is the sign of rich, abundant life.  It is not an accident that that Jesus’ first miracle points to the culmination of his saving work in providing us with a new life in his kingdom.  The Bible says that:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
            Before we talk about what happened with this young couple at Cana in Galilee I want to talk about what happened in Eden with another young couple named Adam and Eve. 
When God created man and established marriage, Adam and Eve found delight in one another.  They were not ashamed in one another’s presence.  There was no conflict between them.  This is what God intended every marriage to be.
But we know the rest of the story don’t we—how sin wrecked God’s perfect creation beginning with the life that Adam and Eve shared with one another as husband and wife?  With sin came blame and recrimination where before there was love and respect. 
But God stepped in to help.  He promised that he would continue to bless marriage and send a Savior who would re-make and restore everything that sin and evil had destroyed.
Then he did something that had never been done before—he shed the blood of a living creature and clothed Adam and Eve with its skins to hide the shame they felt in one another’s presence—and in this sacrifice he gave a picture of what the Savior would do with the sin that destroyed creation and his good gift of marriage.
Many thousands of year later, Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan, identified with our sin, was proclaimed as the sin-bearing Lamb of God—AND ON THE THIRD DAY—attended a wedding in Cana of Galilee where a son of Adam and a daughter of Eve faced a problem that would begin their marriage in shame.
They ran out of wine.  They ran out of win.  Now maybe we say to ourselves—big whoop—serve the princess punch and life will go on.  But that’s not how it worked in that culture.  Wine was not just suggested at a wedding—it was expected—and to run out of wine was to begin your marriage with a scandal that would define your relationship from that time on.
You can imagine what would have come next can’t you?  The blame:  “I told you to get more wine”!  “I thought you were handling that”!  “Your mother never plans for enough”.  “Don’t bring my family into this this—it’s all your extra relatives that made us run out”!  And in the blame and recrimination they would be just like every other married couple.
Except that God had promised a Savior who would restore and re-make what sin had destroyed—a Savior who began his saving work at the exact place that sin had begun its destructive path—with a marriage. The Bible says that:
Jesus said to her [that is, his mother], “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
            For almost as many translators as there are, there are that many translations of this passage from the Greek.  What is there in the Greek is this:  Woman, what to me and thee.  Sadly our text follows many other English translations by having Jesus ask:  What does this have to do with me?  But that is just the opposite of what Jesus is saying!
Beck gets it right.  Jesus says:  Will you leave that to me!  In other words, Jesus says to his mother:   this situation is not going to be fixed by me and thee—but by me!
That is why Jesus addresses his mother as:  woman.  He is not being disrespectful- but he is reminding her not only who he is-- but he is reminding her WHO SHE IS as the WOMAN of Genesis 3.  God promised Adam and Eve the one who would undo Satan’s evil work and restore and re-make creation was the Offspring of THE WOMAN. 
Here’s the point:  to know who John the Baptist was as the forerunner of the Messiah is to know who Jesus is as the Savior.  To know who Mary is as the woman of Genesis 3 is to know who her Son is as the destroyer of Satan’s work and the re-newer of God’s good gifts. 
Jesus was the One who would accomplish his mission and no one else—not even his mother—and he would not be carried along at the mercy of forces beyond his control but his mission would go forward at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way to accomplish the salvation of the world.  Mary needed to understand that-- and she did.  St. John the Apostle writes:   His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 
There are no suggestions from her as to what Jesus ought to do—no helpful hints as how to make this embarrassing situation right—she is content to take him the problem and leave it at his feet and trust him with the results.  And not only does she offer Jesus the obedience of faith—she calls upon all of his servants to do the same.
Do whatever he tells you.  Mary’s words are still spoken to the servants seated here today in these pews.  Do whatever he tells you.  No “yes, buts”.  No trying to have our own way.  No trying to find a reason why in this instance the words of Jesus can be ignored. 
Is this easy?  No!  But Jesus asks his servants to trust him just like Mary and his other servants did that day.  The Bible says that:
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  And Jesus said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.
            When Jesus commanded the servants to fill those water jars they must have thought to themselves—this guy has lost his mind!  This is just going to make things worse!  Was he really going to serve water to all these guests and bring shame upon this couple? 
But the words of the Blessed Mother of our Lord must have been ringing in their ears:  do whatever he says.  They ring in our ears too!  Does Jesus really expect me to forgive and keep on forgiving?  Is he really asking me to stop worrying and start trusting him when I’ve got all these things on my mind?  Should I really give no thought to my material needs and trust him to provide?  At the heart of all of these questions is this:  can Jesus be trusted?  The answer from Cana is yes!  The Bible says that:
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
            There are really two different parts of this miracle:  what the servants knew in terms of hundreds of gallons of water being turned into wine—and what the master of the feast knew in the unexpected goodness of the wine—together, a miracle of both quantity and quality.
The Word who called the world into being at the beginning—the Word through whom all things were made—once again touched his sin-ruined creation with gifts and blessings that were abundant and rich and overflowing and good-- so that as creation was in the beginning, it was restored and renewed that day at Cana by its Creator.
 In the presence of the One who gave Adam and Eve to one another as husband and wife this young couple would never know the shame of their poverty.  Their names would never become a watchword in the community for failure.  Their lives with one another would begin as God intended:  with delight in one another.
On the third day at Cana in Galilee Jesus showed what he would do on the third day at an empty hillside grave:  giving us the gift of life—life that is good—life in his presence—just like it was in the beginning.  A life he wants us to share with others.
The wine that Jesus created by his almighty word was much more than the wedding guests would consume—it was a gift of plenty that could be shared with others in their community so that they too could hear of their Savior and receive his gifts.  That Bible says that:
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
            It wasn’t an accident that this was his first miracle- or that it was done at a wedding in Cana of Galilee- or that it was accomplished on the third day.  Jesus did it this way so that his disciples could see his glory and believe in him.  May God grant the same to us this day!  Amen.