Friday, October 24, 2014

Reformation Sunday (Observed); Sunday, October 26, 2014;


(From a Sermon by Pastor Charles Lehmann, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Belgrade, MT)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the year 1517, the Christian family gathered for worship, they communed only once a year. And even then only the Lord’s body was received. His blood fully regular people. Only the lips of the priest touched the chalice.

Even in the worship service following Luther’s nailing of the 95 thesis on the Castle Church door, those that gathered in Wittenberg simply watched the priest say the words of institution. They listen for the bell that announced that the bread had become the Lord’s body and the wine had become the Lords blood. They knew that their lord was physically with them, so they bowed in silence. But, they didn’t dare go forward to receive the sacrament. The Lord’s Supper was too holy for miserable sinners. The Supper was for those who achieved holiness on their own, those who worked to please God. So, God’s presence brought fear, not joy. There was no comfort for sinners in the meal, no forgiveness.

Christians had been taught that God was a vengeful tyrant whose wrath could only be turned aside by prayers, fasting, and offering the endless stream of mass after mass. It didn’t matter that almost no one communed. The mass (that is the Holy Communion Service) was important because it was human work to appease an angry God. The fact that barely anyone communed, the fact that the Word of God was almost entirely neglected, didn’t matter. The important thing was the priests mumbling the words before the altar, the friars peddling indulgences to build the church.

By 1530 everything was different. Faithful Christians longed for services on Sunday. Martin Luther’s sermons taught a loving and merciful God who sent his Son to die on the cross for their forgiveness. They knew that God’s righteousness given to them through faith in Christ was reason for joy. They were certain that though the blood of Jesus shed on the cross they had been received into God’s favor, they had forgiveness.

Luther’s pastor, Bugenhagen celebrated the Lord’s Supper only when there were penitent sinners who desired to receive the comfort that it gave. And that didn’t mean twice a month, or quarterly. It didn’t mean the First (Second) and Third (Fourth) Sunday’s of the month either. Once the people were taught that in the Lord’s Supper they received gifts nowhere else so readily available, life, salvation and forgiveness of all their sins, they demanded to receive it every week, every service.

And that’s exactly what their pastor did. Penitent sinners streamed to the altar. They didn’t come because they were holy, better than others. They came because they were sinners in need of what God offered. They were wicked. They were selfish. They were stubborn. They were liars and thieves, adulterers and cheaters. They knew their sin pushed them away from God. They knew hell was the place they deserved. They knew that God would have been perfectly just in striking them dead on the spot. And, they knew that he wouldn’t. They knew that God wanted above all else to give them his gifts at the altar. They knew that he wanted them to have forgiveness, life and salvation found in Jesus Christ alone, offered at the rail. All they need do is open their mouths and receive it from God.

And God gives it. He bound himself to bread and wine, word and water. He used the hands of a sinful pastor to give it. He put the very body and blood of Jesus into their mouths. He used the mouths of sinful men to announce that the true body and true blood of Jesus would feed them what they needed more than anything else in the world. There is no greater gift of God.

It was only 13 years. The church turned from its satanic ways, its greed and wrath, to joy and peace. They were no longer taught they had to work to make themselves right with God through impossible works. The church became the place where God’s grace was proclaimed and given. Forgiveness, life and salvation were given to God’s people according to God’s command.

The Reformation was no small thing.

For Centuries the good news of Jesus’ salvation was hidden inside the demands of the law that could never be met. Church services weren’t even in their own language. All they had that proclaimed the gospel was art. The gifts of God, his Word, the Lord’s Supper and Confession and Absolution were empty deeds that were used to earn, unearnable salvation.

Is it any wonder that the gifts were despised? They were no longer gifts but burdens. They were a club used by the church to beat into submission. People ran from them. The supper was something they did, and as little as possible. They didn’t confess their sins because they could never do it well our complete enough. And when they did confess, the burden of penance was heavy. Why go, only to carry and even heavier load than before? Why go, and have something new to feel guilty about? The church of God had been taken captive by Satan’s lies. It was corrupt and evil. But it was the bed that made the Reformation.

God used Luther and those who gathered around him to speak his truth. Satan had come at God’s people with all the power of hell, but one little word made him fall. The name of Jesus, proclaimed as savior of the world.

It began with Luther’s hammer and peaked with the princes so dedicated to God’s Word that they bared their necks to the emperor rather than have it taken away from them. Twenty years earlier they wouldn’t have cared about the Lord’s Supper, now they stood in the halls of power vowing to die rather than lose it. Twenty years earlier they didn’t confess theirs sins. Now they would be willing to run a hundred miles to receive the comfort of the Gospel spoken to them in the Absolution in response to their confession. Some of them died a martyr’s death, some of the lived through the reformation and died of old age. But the Gospel clearly proclaimed changed them.

Jesus told Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against God’s church. Before the Reformation it looked as if Satan had the upper hand. But God is active in his church, in his word and sacrament, doing what he always does: he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies his children. The dimly burning wick is not snuffed out. Christ Jesus preserves his church throughout all time, until the end of time, just as he promised.

He is here for you today, in bread and wine, water and word. Your pastors are required by God to proclaim God’s forgiveness and feed the body and blood to any penitent sinner who asks.

You are forgiven. You are free. You are heirs of the Reformation. Rejoice! Be glad! The creator of the universe has given every good thing to you, and He’s about to do it again. Be at peace. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Isaiah 45:1-7; The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; October 19, 2014;

Isaiah 45:1-7; The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; October 19, 2014;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:1–7, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It was about the year 539BC. The Jews were scattered all over the kingdom of Babylon (modern day Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan). They had been exiled from their own homeland. Taken away from their beloved promised land because they had forgotten that it was God who had given that land to them in the first place. They had turned to other gods, and depended on their kings to rescue them, but they had all failed and now they were in exile. Their exile hadn’t been easy either. The kings of Babylon were harsh, and oppressive. They were reminded of the time they spent under the Egyptian whip. But even worse the temple in Jerusalem was completely destroyed; only rubble lay on the temple mount. And the city of Jerusalem itself was emptied of inhabitants. It, too, lay in rubble. And it had been that way for some 40 years now. But, things were on the brink of change, and there was reason to hope. Power had all but vanished from Babylon. A new empire was growing, Cyrus, the Persian king, was standing at the gate of the Babylonian capital. It would soon be his. As history tells us he took the city without firing a single arrow. The people were simply tired of the rule of Babylon Kings. They just opened the gates and let the Persians in.

But what was the hope of the people of God. What difference did it make to them, that another pagan would soon be in control of the land that they were exiles in? The answer is found in our text for today. It was written nearly 200 years earlier. Penned by Isaiah to give the exiles hope, to remind them that this exile would be a temporary situation. God had a plan to redeem them from their captivity. God was in control of the history that was about to be made. Just as He rescued them from oppression in Egypt, He would rescue them now. As amazing as it seems Isaiah scratched out a promise from God, that a new ruler would command that Jerusalem and the temple be rebuilt. And he even wrote the rulers name. “Cyrus, my shepherd,” God called him, “and he will do what I please.”

“I am the LORD,” wrote Isaiah as the Holy Spirit instructed him, “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’

God wanted the Israelites to remember that God was in complete control of human history. God had called Cyrus by name, two centuries before Cyrus had even drawn a breath! He would be God’s shepherd, God’s anointed one, the one who would do God’s bidding. God called Cyrus to change history, to change the future of God’s people. And that is just what he did. He conquered the Babylonian empire; he “stripped kings of their armor; subdued nations.” It was all, just as Isaiah’s words had said generations before. And Cyrus even said that he knew what it was all about:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” (Ezra 1:2, ESV)

I’m sure that the people of Israel were shocked to see that this pagan king was indeed God’s Shepherd to them. That He was called by name to change their history and to give them a future. But, the idea of being called by name wasn’t a foreign concept to them.

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1, ESV)

God had been calling them by name since their name was just Abraham. “Abraham, Abraham… God said on the mountain where he told to Abraham to sacrifice his only son, “do not harm the boy… because you have done this and not withheld your son your only son… all the nations of the world will be blessed.” God had called Abraham by name to change the history of the world, to bless all the nations. And God called Jacob too, and he even changed his name to Israel, all to fulfill the promise made to Abraham and to the world. And when the people of God needed to be rescued from slavery in Egypt, when their future and history looked dark, God called Moses by name at the burning bush and rescued them and changed their history again.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1, ESV)

The God who created the world was busy changing the course of human history for his purposes, for his people, to fulfill his promises. Through Moses God freed his people from slavery, through Cyrus God returned his people from exile. God had molded their history to change the history of the whole world.

It was through the people of Israel that God promised to make his greatest change. God called another Shepherd, and just like Moses, just like Cyrus he also would rescue God’s people from slavery and exile. “You shall call his name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the Great Shepherd called by name to rescue people not from slavery in Egypt but from the slavery of sin. And not from exile in Babylon but from the exile caused by sin. God called Jesus by name, to once and for all change human history, to give life and salvation where there was death and hell; to give hope and comfort where there was only despair. He came to rescue you and me, to change our history, to change our future.

The sin that we were born with, the sin that is in our very nature, put us at odds with our creator. We were exiles from God. Not by his choice but by ours. Just like the children of Israel chose other gods, we choose ourselves as god, doing what is best for us without concern for anyone else. We trust in our wealth instead of trusting in God. Isn’t it funny that our money says, “in god we trust?” So many people what to change it but really in many ways it’s telling the truth. We want to decide our own future, our own history and decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. Sin makes our future bleak. It destroys everything that is good in our lives, our relationships and our families. As a matter of fact sin gives us no future at all except the punishment we deserve for pushing ourselves away from God, and not depending on him.

Jesus rescues us from that exile. Jesus was called by name to change our history and give us a future again. Jesus was obedient to God,

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8, ESV)

And that death ended our exile and our slavery by reconciling us with God.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.” (Philippians 2:9–11, ESV)

Jesus called by name, humbled himself and was obedient to death on the cross, to rescue you and me from slavery and exile.

And Jesus calls you by name. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus the Good Shepherd, God’s Shepherd for his people calls them by name and they follow him. He leads them out of the slavery to sin and death. He guides them on the paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake. He changed your history; he has called you to change history, too. The God who created the universe, who forms light and darkness, who creates peace and disaster, the one who controls human history for his purposes, has called you by name. He was “obedient to death on the cross” for you. As he hung there bleeding and dying it’s as if he was calling out your name, this is for Bob, this is for Scott, this is for Mary, and this is for John. That was God’s rescue for you. God gave you his name in baptism, and called you by that name to be his own. Go and make disciples of all nations. “Change history in my name,” Jesus says.

Don’t think that the writers of our church’s constitution said, “The name of this congregation shall be Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa.” by accident. They knew that they were called by name. They knew that they were gathered together by the Good Shepherd, called by name, to change the history of Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa; to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to this place. They were not called just to be of Creston & Mount Ayr but they were called to this place, and so are we.

Dear Christian friends called by name, in the name of Jesus Christ. We are called by name to this place at this time. And there is so much to do. We live in a community that is largely unchurched. Just look at our own congregational roles for example. Our average worship attendance is 100 and yet our membership is almost 350. The majority of people who claim membership in our church rarely sit in a pew. What are we doing to remind them that Jesus Christ changed their history? So many of the things we do are only for us right here sitting in these pews, but if we really want to be doing what God has called us to do, if we really want to “thrive” and not just “survive”, we’ve got to reach out with both hands to this community. We are called by name, in the name of Jesus, to bring the Good News of Jesus, the news that really changes human history, to Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa.

God has called you, by name. He called you in your baptism. He changed your history and gave you a future. Cyrus conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return home. God called the people of Israel by name, through them the Savior would come. God changes history by calling people by name. Jesus Christ changed human history forever through his life, death and resurrection. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Isaiah 25:6-9; The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; October 12, 2014;


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”” (Isaiah 25:6–9, ESV)

(Outline from Concordia Journal, Homiletical Helps, April 8, 2012;

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Once LCMS Lutheran, Apple executive Steve Job said in his biography, “life/death—like a light switch—snap on, snap off. The end, nothing, forever.” Is that how it is? We would think not, pray not, hope not… but it graveside is when we feel it the most. Heavy hearts, heavy steps. We know it well, grief, death, burial. We have all been there. And even more fearful is the thought at every funeral, that we will all eventually be the guest of honor.

But we have Easter Morning. The empty tomb. The risen Lord. He is not dead. He has risen. And as Jesus himself said,

Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19, ESV)

Break out the Champaign! Let the party begin. Our text provides the picture. YHWH is on Mt. Zion. God is present with his people, the church. YHWH brings the food. Meat with full fat. The best wine. The thanksgiving meal is served. Jesus has broken death. His death on the cross and his resurrection are our victory over death, and not just any death… your death and mine! You and I will live forever at table of the Lord, the marriage feast of the Lamb of God.

Oh, but there’s always more with God. The resurrection means that what separates us from God has been dealt its deathblow. That is also the point to the feast, the celebration. We will die but we will live. The pain of death is only temporary, the separation, too. The veil of death lifted. But the veil of sin is also!

Sin? It is everywhere present. Today is seems to define our culture. But, make no mistake, it has always been so. Whatever God says is right and true is thrown under the bus. What God says is wrong is celebrated. God says marriage is the place for sexuality between a man and a woman. We say “No!” we normalize homosexuality, promiscuity, lust, pornography. God says we are to deal fairly and honestly with others. We say “No!” Greed is good! The poor are left to their own devices. God says worship him and him alone. We say “No!” All ways of worship are equal. All paths lead to the same place. Any god is as good as another, or no god at all, is even better. And “we” are as guilty as “they”. We are the “all” in the “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, ESV) Even in our own hearts lurks the evil, the capacity to do the most heinous sin.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, ESV)

God can, and he does! We deserve his wrath and punishment. We deserve eternal death. We deserve hell. God could punish, but instead he does Easter. The once crucified, dead and buried Jesus

…was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, ESV)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24, ESV)

Jesus lifts the veil of sin. We have forgiveness. He is risen. We will rise. Sin’s power is mute.

And death, “swallowed up forever.”

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, ESV)

The promise is now, and to be more later. “On that day”, says God, death will be done away with forever. There will be no more death. There is a day to come, a great feast day, when our Lord will return. And “on that day” it will be a done deal, promise completed in full.

At our funerals we have a Funeral Pall. It is a great white covering that goes over the casket. It tells us in death there is life. It is a reminder of the wedding garment required for entrance to the feast. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ, provided by God himself in Holy Baptism.

No more tears. No more sorrow. What God promises happens right here at the font. Baptism is death and resurrection, a promise of another fuller, complete, no sorrow only joy, bodily, physical resurrection.

And so now… we wait. Eagerly. Hopefully. Longingly. Grounded in our Lord’s resurrection.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:3–4, ESV)

We stand in quiet confidence, in the face of whatever Satan, the world and our sinful flesh dish out against us. All of it is nothing in light of the salvation that God has accomplished for us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus’ grave is empty, as will be yours and mine, as will be those who have gone before us in the faith. That is his promise in his victory over death, his life. Nor more sorrow, no more sin, no more punishment, no more tears, except tears of joy. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Isaiah 5:1-7; the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost; October 5, 2014;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;

Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” (Isaiah 5:1–7, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, one is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” Dorothy Francis Guerney

Well it doesn’t exactly work that way does it? There’s chiggers, poison ivy, and snakes. Gardening isn’t always easy either. Weeds take over, knees get sore, thorns prick your fingers, and your back gives out from leaning over. The garden actually shows you two things. God’s wonderful creation and the corruptive nature of sin.

The text from Isaiah 5 is about a vineyard, it’s not a garden, but the qualities are similar. This particular garden that God describes is well designed, well cared for, and loved. But something is wrong. What should be a wonderful place to visit is actually corrupt. Instead of wonderful plump grapes for making good wine, the vineyard only has sour, wild grapes. The garden is full of weeds. The gardener didn’t get what was rightfully expected. Maybe you’ve planted something that didn’t turn out, something so awful you pulled it up by the roots. That’s what God is going to do to his vineyard.

And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

This garden is raised to the ground, desolate, abandoned. Makes you think twice about being closer to God in a garden, doesn’t it?

Jesus tells a similar story in the Gospel for today (Matthew 21:33-46). A man planted a vineyard and rented it out. But when he sent his servants to collect the rent the tenants mistreated them and sent them packing. When the son was sent they killed him. What an awful turn of events. What horrible, unrighteous tenants. The owner must be fuming mad. Justice must be done! Everyone recognizes what must be done.

“He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons” (Matthew 21:41, ESV)

The vineyard owner was looking for good things from the vineyard. He got nothing but weeds. He even lost his son in the bargain.

Of course you know that the parables aren’t about gardens and vineyards at all. They are about people. The people of Israel were God’s “pleasant planting”. He loved them, cared for them and protected them. He planted them to do good things in the world, especially to bring justice and righteousness. But they only produced wild, sour grapes; bloodshed, violence, and selfishness.

Today we are God’s “pleasant planting”. Baptism waters us into God’s vineyard. He plants us in the church so that there can be good fruit, plump juicy grapes, for delicious wine. God does all the work. After all it is his garden, his church. He plants us through Holy Baptism. He feeds us through his Word, read and preached, and his Holy Supper. Everything necessary for the vineyard to produces good fruit. The “pleasant planting” of the church is centered in Jesus Christ Crucified, Cross centered, Christ focused. Jesus, the beloved Son of God, who lived, died, and rose again for the forgiveness of all people. Jesus is, after all, the one who said,

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1, 5, ESV)

When are we “nearest to God’s heart?” When we are where God has placed us, producing good fruit among our neighbors, doing what God has planted us to do. And when we are receiving from him the gifts that he lovingly gives for the vineyard to grow and prosper.

But even we here, in God’s vineyard, have a problems don’t we. We see it all around us, and, when we dare to look in ourselves, in us. Sour grapes! Instead of kind words, we speak harshly. Instead of loving those in need, we ignore them. Instead of happily serving, we begrudge the time we spend here. Sunday mornings are too early, or run too close to dinner. The Gardener should be angry. We deserve to be plowed under and made a desolate plot of land. But God doesn’t give up. In fact, he sends his very Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. And he keeps sending us the nourishment we need. Jesus’ body and blood to nourish us, the Word poured into our ears, to convict us of our sin and turn us to him for forgiveness, leading us to repentance for the sour grapes. He gives us Pastors who preach and teach according to God’s Word.

The “pleasant planting” is all about God’s love for the world. Jesus says that if we love him we will keep his commandments. Remember how Luther taught them, how you learned them in Confirmation class. Every explanation that he wrote had two parts, dos and don’ts. To keep the commandments we do the dos and don’t the don’ts. Love you neighbor as yourself. Producing good grapes, bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). And in light of our failure to do just that, it’s about the proclamation that God has taken care of our sin. “God so loved the world…” And remember it’s not the bearing fruit that causes us to grow, but God’s gracious gifts. We are forgiven, so we bear fruit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Ephesians 5:2 - LWML Zone Really Devotion–Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa–October 4, 2014


And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2, ESV)

Whew! Something stinks. Oh! I guess it’s me. Well I wouldn’t laugh if I were you. You smell too! Here listen to this and see if you smell it.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25–32, ESV)

Do you smell it? You should. How many of you have done exactly, perfectly what God tells you to do there, through Paul. Yea, that’s what I thought. We all stink don’t we? We stink like death… as in the wages of sin. Might not be exactly the “fragrance” the planners over at LWML were thinking about when they chose this passage.

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2, ESV)

In fact, the flowers on the bulletin cover look nice but they might miss the mark a bit, don’t you think. Right before this Paul urges us to

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1, ESV)

Well, I don’t know about you (well, I actually do know about you), but the fragrance of sin and death hangs in the air. We are sinners, due death and poor imitators of God.

And yet, Paul says, “Be imitators as beloved children.” He says “Walk in love, as Christ loved us.” How is that? Well, Jesus lived, and worked, and walked and talked, to sinful people everywhere. He gave them what they needed, food, healing, comfort, and most of all forgiveness. That’s the “gave himself up for us” part. His death on the cross, his suffering there, his burial in the ground, his body wrapped in linen cloths and spices to keep away the smell of death, all done for stinking sinners, you and me. He was an “offering and sacrifice to God”. The words are referring to the daily offerings and sacrifices given to God in the temple. That was Jesus. Offered and sacrificed on the cross. And it didn’t smell good. Death never smells good. But it was a pleasing smell to God. Not because it was flowery, but because it was God saving his children. God doing what is necessary to save sinners. God, in Jesus Christ, taking the punishment of sin and failure in himself, through the cross, through death and through the resurrection to new life.

Walk in love. Yep, even stinking sinners can do it. Not because they can, but because He did. All that stuff that Paul says to do we do because not so that. We love because he first loved us and gave himself as the atoning sacrifice for us. We love because our neighbors are living in the smell of death and the solution isn’t us, but Jesus. Amen.