Sunday, July 25, 2021

Genesis 9:8-17; The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; July 25, 2021;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”” (Genesis 9:8–17, ESV)

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

Today, I'm going to tell you a story. By a story I don't mean something that is fiction. This story is absolutely true and happened exactly as the Bible tells it. This is the story of the great flood that destroyed all the Earth except for the seven members of Noah's family that were safely tucked inside the ark. One of the things I want you to understand from this story is that it is not a cute children's tale. Instead, it is a story of God's anger and wrath over sin. For us it's tainted by children's pictures of cute animals going into the ark two by two. When we see it that way, we miss the depth of God's anger and his righteous judgment over sin.

It needs to be understood, the world was completely corrupt. The Bible says The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5, ESV)

It says that God was "grieved" that he had made man. At this point, I think you and I should shudder. For the people that covered the earth at that time were really no different than what we are. They were people living their lives according to their own thoughts and desires. This is indeed what we so often do. Here I want you to think about Psalm 51:

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:3–5, ESV) And although we find it hard to believe, God was completely justified, "blameless in his judgment." As we have talked about so many times all sin comes from our inability to live in a perfect relationship with God. The inability to love God with our whole heart our whole soul and our whole mind.

And yet, God is always gracious. In the midst of the promised destruction God saves Noah and his family. The Bible says Noah was a "righteous man and walked with God". That doesn't mean the Noah did not sin. It simply means that his outward character was completely different from those surrounding him. Noah was publicly known to worship Yahweh. God commanded Noah to build an ark. In the ark God would save two of every creature of the Earth. Every animal that had the breath of life in it. Noah faithfully obeyed God. He built the ark. According to God's command the ark was to be 450 feet long 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. If you go the whole length of our property along Sumner Avenue, and go from the street to the first window here in the church, and twice as high as the church from the basement floor to the peek of the roof, that's the size of the ark. Rather than looking like a boat, the ark was probably more like a big box with the slanted roof and an open slot for air and light all around the top. In it God would save Noah and his family and every "kind" of animal that lived on the earth. And when all were inside God sealed the door and sent the flood to the earth. It was a disaster. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. The water came from everywhere. It covered the whole earth to 15 feet over the highest mountain. The terror of our spring tornado is nothing compared to the terror of those people on whose God judgment fell. And make no mistake it was God's judgment.

[God] blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.” (Genesis 7:23, ESV)

When the judgment was over, and the land was able to sustain life again, Noah and his family and all the animals came out of the ark. Then standing there on Mount Ararat in the aftermath of God's judgment over sin, God made a promise. Never again would all creatures be cut off by a flood over the whole Earth. And as a reminder God set against the darkness of the clouds the bright colors of the rainbow. It was a sign, not to the people, but a reminder to God himself that he would never again destroy the earth in such a way. When you see a rainbow, instead of thinking about Judy Garland, leprechauns and gay pride parades, you should fear and love God for he is gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. It is the visible sign of his grace and mercy. Listen to Martin Luther:

Our merciful God always placed some outward and visible sign of His grace alongside the Word, so that men, reminded by the outward sign and work or Sacrament, would believe with greater assurance that God is kind and merciful. Thus after the Flood the rainbow appeared in order to serve as a convincing proof that in the future God would not give vent to His wrath against the world by a similar punishment…To us in the New Testament, Baptism and the Eucharist have been given as visible signs of grace, so that we might firmly believe that our sins have been forgiven through Christ’s suffering and that we have been redeemed by His death. (Luther’s Works (American Edition) 1:248. This connection between the rainbow-sign and the sacramental signs of baptism and Eucharist is common in Luther: LW 2:144; 20:67–8; 35:86; 36:174; 37:135; and 54:56.)

The rainbow is God's visible sign that he will not destroy the earth with water again. It stretches from horizon to horizon. It reaches up into the menacing clouds as a reminder to God and us of God's far-reaching mercy.

So also, God gives us the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion as visible signs of the forgiveness of sins that Jesus Christ won on the cross for us. But unlike the rainbow these are not just signs. Through these gifts, these visible gifts, God brings to us what Jesus Christ did for us. When we see our sin and are well aware of the just punishment for our sin, that is eternal death, we are comforted by the visible signs of the Sacraments. Just like Noah and his family were comforted by the visible sign of the rainbow. The sacraments we have are also God's promises to us. Baptism is the flood that drowns our old sinful nature and cleanses us from sin. The whole earth was cleansed by water from sin. In Baptism God makes promises to us individually. All that Jesus did his life, death, and resurrection are ours. So also, we have the visible elements of bread and wine in Holy Communion that feeds us during our life journey, just as Noah fed the animals on the ark, during their journey. Sacraments are our pointers back to Jesus Christ and all that he is done for us. The rainbow was Noah and his family's pointer forward to God's grace in Jesus Christ. God promised not to punish the world in this way for its sin. Instead, God himself would come in human flesh and bear the whole world's sin on the cross.

The Bible does speak of a second worldwide catastrophe at the end of history. Jesus himself says that this is "coming soon". All will be surprised at the coming "just as it was in the days of Noah" (Luke 17:26). And in fact, in the medieval days of the church, there was a common image of Christ the stern judge enthroned upon a rainbow. It was a reminder that he would come again to judge the whole world, the living and the dead. But because of God's gracious promises in Jesus Christ, shown to us in the sacraments, and the image of the rainbow, we have God as our gracious Lord. Because Jesus has indeed taken our sin to the cross and suffered the punishment for all of that. Te need not fear the judgment at the end of time. For Jesus is our judge, but he is also and more importantly our Savior. Again, listen to Luther:

“Therefore we who come to Christ want to have him as a gracious Lord. The rainbow on which he sits enthroned does not terrify me; it appears for my salvation. We do not look upon him as a judge. He will call for us. He will not reject us.” (Luther’s Works (American Edition) 23:61)

Amen.

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

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Matthew 6:24-34; Eighth Sunday after the Pentecost, July 18, 2021;

Matthew 6:24-34; Eighth Sunday after the Pentecost, July 18, 2021;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:24-34 ESV)

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

“Don’t Worry Be Happy” that’s a song isn’t it… a song from the 70’s? It sounds a lot like what Jesus is saying here doesn’t it?

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy......
(Don't Worry, Be Happy, From the Movie "Cocktails", Performed by Bobby McFerrin)

I think it is good advice, don’t you? Don’t worry… be happy… but it’s easier said than done. There’s so much to worry about; too much moisture, or not enough; too much wind, or not enough; too many visitors, not enough workers, high grocery prices, should I drive to Duluth or buy them here; health care costs through the ceiling; will my daughter be alright as she begins a life on her own?; what am I going to do with the kids the rest of the summer; family feuds; global warming; global pandemic (or not?); natural and unnatural disasters; presidential elections; illegal immigration; uncooperative neighbors; new neighbors; unwanted new residents; old friends leaving / dying; loss of independence; too much change in the church; not enough change in the church; on and on it goes… it’s enough to give you an ulcer. What does Jesus think he’s saying anyway? Life is difficult. It’s a struggle to get the stuff we need… and getting harder. How can he say, “Don’t worry?”

Well, it’s a good question to ask. What is Jesus trying to say here exactly? And more specifically what is he saying to you and me? Well… to really understand what he’s saying we have to take off our shoes, put on our sandals, and sit down on the dusty ground of first century Palestine. We have to put ourselves in the crowd that was listening to Jesus. This might be harder than you think. Especially for people who are as wealthy as we are. Yep, I said wealthy. Oh, I know, we don’t think of ourselves as wealthy. We seem to struggle every day for the stuff we need (or think we need). But the majority of the folks gathered around Jesus didn’t have nearly what we have. They lived day to day, hand to mouth. To put it in perspective I heard it this way.

If you have more than one pair of shoes, if you decide what you are going to eat each day, you are wealthy, by the world’s standards. (Unknown)

In fact, most of us have never been there, most of us have never been poor by that definition. But these are the people Jesus is speaking to. So, when Jesus says “don’t worry about what you will eat or drink or wear” he’s talking to people who really don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. He’s talking to people who scratch every day just to put food on the table. Obesity isn’t a problem for them, like it is for us, starvation is a daily possibility. And Jesus tells them not to worry…

You know, one problem I have is that I get too serious about things. It’s a shortcoming I have. I tell a joke, and nobody laughs because they don’t expect it. We look at Jesus that way, too. But one of his greatest teaching tools is humor. I think we miss this about Jesus. And here’s a good example.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns… Picture in your mind what Jesus is saying. Little wild birds, driving their little bitty tractors through the fields planting seed… little bird sized combines with little birdie satellite dishes for XM radio… and perched high in the treetops, little bird grain silos full of grain stored up for the winter. No, it doesn’t happen, does it. The birds don’t do any of that. They are provided all that they need from God. They pluck around on the ground and pick up the seed that are dropped from the combine. They search through the tall grass for the early worm.

and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Or how about those flowers.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

Imagine the picture of flowers, sitting row upon row in the fashion sweat shop, Easter lilies, pansies, and chrysanthemums, bent over row upon row of sewing machines. Roses pushing their high fashion clothing racks through the streets of New York. No, that doesn’t happen. God provides what they need… and more beautiful than the richest cloths of Hollywood.

Jesus wants you to know that you are of far more worth than flowers or birds. That’s what he’s telling the folks around him. That’s what he’s telling you. He takes care of all of their needs. He takes care of your needs too. In our sinful nature, the problem is, we don’t recognize real need. We think we need cable television, computers and cell phones. We think we need 16 pairs of shoes and 99 kinds of breakfast cereal. In fact, if we really looked at our lives and our possessions carefully, we’d see very clearly that we have much more than we need. It is only selfishness that keeps it in our possession. We make excuses for not sharing it, like telling ourselves things like “I’d help them, but they’ll just drink it away” or “I helped them once but they didn’t use it properly” or “God helps those who help themselves.” “I need to save for a rainy day.” We count success, both personal and in the church by the size of the savings account. Money is simply a resource he gives his people and the church to be used in service to our neighbors and to serve the message of Jesus' love and forgiveness for all. Jesus gives fair warning.

You cannot serve God and money.

Notice he doesn’t say “don’t” serve God and money. He says you can’t do it. When our eyes are on our bank account they are not on Jesus. When our eyes are on Jesus, we won’t worry about the bank account.

Jesus also gives the solution.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

But be careful! Jesus isn’t telling you what to do. He’s telling you to look for what he is doing. The problem is language here. It’s that phrase “Kingdom of God” that throws us a curve. When we hear kingdom, we think of territory or government. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about at all. St. Matthew in his Gospel tells us what the Kingdom of God is.

And [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (Matthew 4:23 ESV) And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. (Matthew 9:35 ESV) When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. (Matthew 11:1 ESV)

Jesus is God, the King, come to fix the world, to bring the Kingdom of God. Jesus is God the king come to remove the effects of sin in his world. Jesus, the King, comes through the preaching and teaching of his Word.

Jesus doesn’t help those who help themselves; Jesus helps those who are helpless. Given the choice to serve God or money (because we can’t do both) our sinful nature would pick money every time. We hoard, covet, cheat and steal for it. Our selfishness runs too deep for us to change. In fact, whenever we worry, we assume the power of the King and try to take it into our own hands.

But look for the Kingdom of God. Jesus, the King, comes. Jesus, the King, removes sin’s effects by taking the punishment for our selfishness to the cross. The King does what Kings are supposed to do. He takes care of the needs of his people. He starts with our greatest need, the need for forgiveness. He takes our worries into his hands and takes them to the cross. Jesus’ blood dripping from the cross washes away the sinful stench of selfishness through the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) in the water and the word in Holy Baptism. Jesus’ broken body bears the burden of our serving the wrong master, money. He puts forgiveness right into us with his Holy Supper. Jesus sweetly speaks forgiveness into our ears and our hearts with his Word. He reminds us that we are free from the money master. We are free not to worry about our needs because God, the King, Jesus Christ, our Savior, has them all under his control. We are free to serve the needs of others. We are free to look at the wealth that God has given us and use it in service to other people, even (and especially) people who don’t deserve it. We are free to think about what God has given us as gifts for the help of other people (by the way, that includes our own families). We are free from worrying about ourselves because Jesus has us in hand. Listen to those wonderful words from the Prophet Isaiah we heard a moment ago.

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:15-16a ESV)

That’s not just an idle reference. Isaiah is talking about how slaves were tattooed with their master’s names on the palms of their hands. This was done so the slaves would remember who they were working for. Jesus engraves your name on the palms of his hands. He serves you with his life, death and resurrection. Everything he did he did for you. He will never forget you. Even death will not separate you from him. If you are looking for the Kingdom of God, look no further than Jesus doing what he does for you. Amen.

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

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Amos 7:7–15; The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; July 11, 2021;

Amos 7:7–15; The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; July 11, 2021;

This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, “ ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ ” And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” (Amos 7:7–15, ESV)

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

I love to go to the zoo. I like pachyderms. Their big and intelligent. But there are always those big cats, especially the lion, the King of beasts. When you stand outside his cage and look and see that big, powerful guy, he is usually laying lazily. He's got big paws and sharp teeth. When he looks at you, he looks at you like dinner. I, for one, am glad that he's in the cage and I'm out of the cage. If there's one thing I know for sure, after visiting the zoo and seeing the lion. I want to keep the lion in the cage.

This is what the King Jeroboam, and his priest Amaziah want to do. They want to keep The Lion in the cage. The book of Amos is about, the Roaring Lion. God has called an unlikely prophet, Amos (previously a shepherd and a vinedresser) to be his voice and roar out with charges against the people of Israel, and especially the King Jeroboam. Listen how the book of Amos begins:

The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said: “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”” (Amos 1:1–2, ESV)

God gives Amos the vision of the plumb line. He is standing beside the wall which is Israel, and the wall is all out of kilter. The people of Israel have strayed from who God wants them to be and how he wants them to be his people. Corrupt judges rule among the people. They are easily bribed. The poor go without what they need. Immorality of all kinds is rampant. So, God roars against Israel. The people are worshiping false gods. High places have been set up for the gods of the Canaanites. And the King Jeroboam, he forgot who is really in charge. Israel was not like the other nations. The King was not supreme, it was to be God. So, God says. You will not escape my justice. I have warned you before. This time destruction is coming. The sword will be raised against the King. God is no small voice here. He's no tame kitty cat. The Lion is coming out of the cage.

But Amos is inviting God's people to be God's people and to live in a different way, God's way. If you're tired of the way things, are you are invited you to a new way of life. Where everything is backwards and upside down the last are first and first are last. Where the poor are blessed, and mighty ones are cast down. This is the same kingdom that Jesus proclaims when he comes. He says, "the kingdom of God is at hand." Think of Mary's Magnificat that we sing through our evening service of Vespers.

His arm now baring,
His strength declaring—
Sing the greatness of the Lord!
The proud He scatters,
Their rule He shatters—
Sing the greatness of the Lord!
Oppression halted;
The meek exalted.
Full are the hungry;
Empty, the wealthy— LSB 922

Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection brings about this radical kingdom. Amos is talking about Jesus here and the new life that he brings through the forgiveness of sins.

The King and his priest Amaziah want to keep the cat in the cage. They don't like what Amos is preaching. They see the prophet as a troublemaker. They're not going to change their ways. They can't believe that Amos' words were God's words. So, Amaziah warns Amos, "Get out. Take your words against the King and go away."

And here we too stand. God's word accuses us of these very things. We care more for ourselves than the poor. We set up our false gods of our money and our family and our security and our country. We sit quietly in our churches all neighbors all around us go without hearing God's word forgiveness for them in Jesus Christ. And while they suffer under the load of the problems of the world. Amos invites us too, to a way of life that is radically different. A life where the first are last and the last are first. A life where we live for others instead of for ourselves. And sometimes we even tell God to get out. "I don't want to hear your word against me."

Amos refuses to give in. God's word must be heard. He stands in a long line of prophets, Moses, Daniel, Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah and of course he stands before the great prophet Jesus. Jesus is the end-all of all the prophets who stand before the high priest and make the good confession. He does that. He calls everyone into a new life in him, a new life in God the father. A radical life where forgiveness reigns. A radical life that is lived for the sake of others. A new life that he, God himself in human flesh, brings. They couldn't believe that Jesus was God in the flash come to speak his word directly to them. Jesus told them so and they killed him for it.

But in Jesus death on the cross forgiveness of sins is made. He suffers and dies for all the selfishness of the world. Because of his sacrifice we can live a life that is radically different. Through faith in Jesus’ life death and resurrection we have forgiveness of sins. We have a right relationship with God. Our sins are forgiven, we need not be concerned about our relationship to him. We can live that radical life where we put ourselves last and others first. Where we show God's mercy and love in time of need. And even more so, proclaim the forgiveness of sins in the cross of Jesus Christ for all people. This is the victory won for us by the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev). This is the new radical way of life we are called to through Holy Baptism, our connection to Jesus Christ and his life his death and his resurrection for us.

Amos, like the prophets before and after him, stands to make the good confession. He speaks God's word to the needy and dying world. He says what must be said. Sinful people deserve God's anger, wrath, and punishment. But God is gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Repent and believe in God's forgiveness.

We stand here in Grand Marais, Minnesota, and make the same confession. Here we are called by God's Word to bring God's love and mercy to this community where God has placed us. There is an old evangelism method it uses the question "If you were to die tonight and God were to ask you, "Why should I let you into heaven," how would you answer?" Imagine if we went around knocking on our neighbor's doors. We might say something like this. "Hello, my name is Jonathan, I'm from Trinity Lutheran Church, if we died tonight would you care?" The answer to that question may indeed tell us how we're doing and living God's radical new life for us.

But this is exactly why we gather isn't it? We gather to hear of God's grace and mercy to us. To receive in word and water and bread and wine God's forgiveness. Especially forgiveness for being self-centered and not caring about the people around us. And for not being the church that he has called us to be. Not bearing one another's burdens, let alone the burdens of the people who live around us. But we are the body of Christ. We are here to bear one another's burdens. Jesus makes it so in his presence through the work of the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther said about the Lord's supper, "When you go to the sacrament you lay your burden on Christ and the community gathered. When you leave you pick up the burdens of one another and so fulfill the love of Christ." (Martin Luther via Rev. Matthew Harrison). It is the wonder of that gift that enables us to bear the burdens of the community around us. To show God's mercy in their deepest need. And specially to bring them the Good News about the forgiveness of sins one through Jesus Christ on the cross. Amen.

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

Sunday, July 04, 2021

James 2:1-10,14 – 18; the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; July 4, 2021;

James 2:1-10,14 – 18; the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; July 4, 2021;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2:1–10, ESV)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:14–18, ESV)

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

St. James does two things here. First it is a clear example of God's expectations for those who are called into Christ's "honorable name". Quite literally there he says, "the good name which has been called upon you." One of the things it so easy for us to do is show partiality. You can see it happening here. How much easier it is to pay attention to the new Dr. who is coming to town income among us, then the shaggy person off the street, or the person who struggles with English. You would not mean to do it, it's just that is so much easier to speak to a well-dressed well-kept person than it is to speak to someone who struggles with our language or doesn't have the same standard for acceptable human behavior. It is a part of our sinful human nature to pay more attention to the person who has wealth because we desire to have wealth like him.

This is clearly not God's way. God shows no partiality. He calls all people to faith in Christ. He gives the same gifts to rich and poor. Notice how Holy Baptism treats all people the same. God's name is "called out" upon them and water is poured over their head. God adopts using his name. He washes away sin for the sake of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. It's all the same for rich or poor, socially acceptable or not. The name of God cuts across language and cultural barriers and does exactly what God calls it out to do. Listen again to Luther's Small Catechism: (Lutheran Service Book, p. 325)

What benefits does Baptism give?

It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are these words and promises of God?

Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

So, in our dealings with all people God would have us treat all people as ones for whom our Lord died.

But while God shows no partiality, we often do. Furthermore, we know when it is wrong. We ourselves would not want to be treated the way we often find ourselves treating others, the poor, suffering, and those outside of our own cultural understanding. We simply do not "fulfill the royal law according to the Scriptures." It's Jesus himself who tells us about The Second Table of the Law, that Commandments four through 10, are summed up in "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) And in case you think it's no big deal, James says:

"But if you show partiality you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it."

And here's where we fall into the real problem, isn't it? We look at our own sins and try to lightly set them aside. It's easy to look at others and convict them of breaking the law. But when we look at ourselves, we excuse our sins, those that we call “minor sins.” James is clear. To show partiality is to break the law completely and to be liable for judgment. The section that's been cut out of our reading for this morning reads like this:

For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So, speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:11–13, ESV)

Here it tells us that people who break the law by not showing mercy can expect no mercy. When we speak in terms of breaking God's commandments "to expect no mercy" from God means to be condemned to eternal punishment. God created hell specifically for those who show no mercy and refuse to keep his commandments.

So, what are we, condemned by own partiality, to do? James tells us that also.

So, speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. We are to be judged under the law of liberty. What does this mean? Listen to St. Paul, St. Peter, and our Lord himself:

• For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, ESV)

• Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16, ESV)

• So, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:31–32, ESV) The "truth" that Jesus speaks about here is himself. The truth of his life death and resurrection for your sin. The truth of his suffering your hell on the cross. The truth of him taking your judgment, which is your guilt, to death and the grave. So, you are not judged by your good works which would lead you only to hell, instead you are judged through Christ. In Holy Baptism your sins are washed away because God's name was called out upon you. And all that Jesus did in his life death and resurrection are yours, especially the judgment that was called down upon him instead of you. So, you are free. This is the "law of liberty". You are free from God's eternal punishment. You are free from the sin that plagues you, even your sin of partiality. And since you are free from it you can do is St. Peter says, live as a servant of Christ instead of a servant of yourself.

This leads us to the second point that St. James is making. None of this makes sense without faith in Christ. Faith in Christ means faith in his work for the forgiveness of our sins. Trust that he has done all it is necessary for us. This faith is active in good works because this faith works for the benefit of those being served. In the absence of this faith good works are done for us. We do them in the vain hope that God will count these works in our salvation. These works are our "filthy rags" in God's sight. (Isa 64:6) To do our good works and hold them up in place of Christ is to say I don't need Jesus. There is no greater rejection of God than to say I don't need Jesus.

Active faith in Jesus cannot be separated from the works that faith displays. It is just as much of an error to say faith exists without works as it is to say works save us. It is faith alone, sola fide, which saves us, faith in the good work of Jesus Christ for us. You cannot see faith. It presides in the heart and the head. His confessed on the lips. It is shown in action. This is exactly what St. James says.

Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Here I would like to make a minor adjustment in the translation. St. James is not talking about the faith he has but the Christian faith in general. A better way to read this would be "show me your faith apart from the works, and I will show you the faith by my works." He's not talking about faith that you can't see inside him he's talking about the Christian faith. Faith in a living Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose again from the dead. A tangible real faith. "The Faith". A denial of one's own sin. A real clinging to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. And not just a faith that knows of Jesus but one that lives Jesus. When the confesses sin and forgiveness. The demons know about Jesus and all that he did but they live opposed to all that he is. They are destined for hell. My brothers and sisters in Christ our faith is real and living an active. It is not a head faith only but a heart faith as well. Those who cling to Jesus in faith for their forgiveness live as if that forgiveness makes a difference. This is what the Christian faith is. This is the faith that you and I confess.

Amen.

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

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Mark. 5. 21-44; Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; June 27, 2021;

Mark. 5. 21-44; Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; June 27, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN; And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments? ” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me? ’ ” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further? ” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-44, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Well, it’s quite a pick of texts today to talk about. Our three-year cycle of readings just doesn’t get around to Lamentations very often. How could you not say something great about: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-33, ESV) And then there’s the Epistle from St. Paul. Give generously because giving is a gift of God!(2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-14, ESV) I know, lots of you are thinking there are folks in our congregation who could sure use a stewardship sermon. But, unless we are willing to look at ourselves first, well… that’s another sermon. Then there’s that Gospel. Mark gives us the account and you can almost smell the sea air of the lake they just crossed. It’s not an easy choice. But the topic of the Gospel lesson is just too rich. And besides it’s really the topic of all time isn’t. And yet this topic might be easier if we’d actually had a funeral here at Life in Christ. But I guess we will patiently wait for that, can’t we. Maybe it is just the topic we love to hate. If you Google, the word you’ll get more than you want to see. I did find an interesting site though. At http://deathclock. com you put in some vital information at get your date of death based on your normal life expectancy. It adjusts the date if you smoke, are overweight and such. My “Personal day of death” is Tuesday, October 9, 2035 then it gives you the number of seconds that is. I’ve got some 540 million seconds left. You can sit there and watch the time ticking away, second by second. It’s morbid, but fascinating. As I watched the seconds of my life tick away, I got the urgent feeling that I should be doing something else… much more constructive. Death does that to us when we think about it. Bishop Hall said, "Death borders upon our birth, and our cradle stands in the grave.” One pastor I know said we live our whole lives graveside. You’ve all lost someone you loved. A father, a child, or a spouse, a brother or sister… the pain is just as much about our own coming death as it is a hole in our heart because we miss the one who died. So, when the bible talks about death we perk up our ears. When we hear about Jesus healing a woman who was considered dead and raising a little girl who was dead, we perk up our ears. It’s the topic we want to hear about, but we don’t want to hear about. Today we are going to talk about death by looking at an example of what Jesus does about it. Here’s how it goes… Jesus was crowded in, as usual, when Jairus, the synagogue leader, pushed his way in to see him. He had to yell over the crowd.” Jesus! Jesus! My little girl is dying!” he dropped his to his knees in front of the teacher. “Please come and touch her so she can live.” Jesus just smiled, raised him to his feet, took him by the elbow and began to go with him. But they didn’t go far when Jesus suddenly stopped.” Who touched me?” he looked around at the pressing crowd. The noise died down for a moment.” Someone touched my clothes. Who was it? ” A timid woman moved toward Jesus. She dropped to Jesus’ feet. “It was me, Lord. I only wanted to be healed. I’ve been bleeding for twelve years.” The crowd backed away in horror. She was unclean. She didn’t belong among them. No one could touch her. They shouldn’t even be near her. “I had no life at all,” she said. “The doctors were stumped. They tried everything but over the years the condition just got worse and worse.” The crowds backed off even further. She was a dead woman walking around. “But all that has changed. I knew that if I could just touch you, I’d be better. You’ve given so many people their lives back. I just brushed the hem of your robe, the bleeding stopped.” Jesus gently laid his hand on her shoulder. “Ah, daughter, you were right, it is your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed.” The crowd reacted. But while Jesus was speaking to the woman a man took hold of Jairus and spoke into his ear. “It’s no use to bother the teacher any more. Your daughter is dead.” Jesus heard what he said. And everyone could see the fear and grief rising up in Jairus’ eyes. But Jesus looked straight at him. “Stop. You don’t have to be afraid. Just believe in me.” Jesus spoke to his disciples; they held the crowd while Jairus, Peter, James, John and Jesus went on the Jairus’ house. It was nearby and soon they could hear the shouting and weeping of the wailers. They were trying to match the tragedy of the death of one so young with volume. “Why are you doing this!” Jesus shouted over the voices. “That little girl isn’t dead, she’s just sleeping.” The wails turned in an instant laughter. “What! Who are you to say such a thing?” But Jesus sent them away with a single word. When everything was quiet, he placed his arm around the girl’s mother, and they all walked into the room where her daughter lay. In the dead silence of the room, Jesus knelt by the bed and took a hold of her cold hand. Placing his lips near her ear he spoke. “Ταλιθα κουμ, Little girl, get up.” And that’s exactly what she did. She breathed a breath, opened her eyes, smiled at Jesus, put her feet on the floor and headed straight for her favorite toy. Picked it up and began walking around the room with it, because that’s what twelve-year-old girls do. No one in the room could believe what they saw. She was alive and walking around. Her parents were too shocked to do anything but stare. Jesus turned to them and quickly said. “Don’t tell anyone about this. No one! She’ll be hungry. She needs something to eat.” Now you and I have been there, right with the dead. We’ve watched cancer take the lives of people we love. We’ve stood by the death bed of those who’ve gone too soon. We have the same reaction every time, sorrow, pain, fear, and horror. And we ask the question that is always asked. Why? Why did they have to die? Why do I have to die? It is a good question and there is a clear answer. The answer is because we deserve to die. That little twelve-year-old girl deserved death. The woman who bled for twelve years deserved death. You and I deserve it too. That death clock ticking is only bringing about our just reward. I know, I know, we have a real problem with this. We really don’t believe it’s true. All our lives in fact we work under the assumption that there’s got to be something that makes our lives worthwhile, worth saving. When the young die, we say, “He didn’t deserve this. He was such a good person.” That’s why we need to be reminded of truth. God told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit, they’d die a double death (Genesis 3:17, ESV). What He meant was that sin would forever separate them from His presence. And that separation would also mean that their bodies would face death, too. Saint Paul said it clearly. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23, ESV) When we sin we are dead people just walking around waiting for our bodies to catch up. And what makes you and me and the twelve-year-old fit in that category? Well, it’s sin. You can’t deny it. I can’t deny it. We brush it aside as if it isn’t really anything. But it is. It’s real. It invades our thoughts. It changes our good motives to selfishness. We think we can stop it. We think we have the power to make it go away. But we can’t be successful enough to rid ourselves of it. It keeps crawling back into our lives. We mistakenly believe that we have “free will” to choose good over sin. But Adam and Eve changed all that. Now we only have “self will. ” Lying dead on our beds is all that we can look forward to. The clock is ticking the seconds away. That’s when Jesus says, “Stop! You don’t have to be afraid. Just believe in me.” Well, just look what he did. A suffering dying woman touched his cloths and stopped bleeding. St. Mark says that when she did that power flowed out from Him. In Mark’s language the word he used was δύναμις. It is where we get the word dynamite. It was an explosion of life-giving power. She was restored to complete health. Life returned to a lifeless little girl when Jesus told her to get up. He only spoke two little words into her ear. “Ταλιθα κουμ-little girl, get up.” he whispered, and life came back to her, and she began walking around, because, Mark says, “that’s what living little girls do.” This man that crisscrossed the Sea of Galilee, and walked the roads around Capernaum, was more than a man. He holds the power to raise the dead. He holds the power to raise you and me from the dead. How do you know that? After all, Jesus was there doing what He was doing over two thousand years ago. How do we know that when time comes to an end and we’ve been lying in the grave for years and years, Jesus can and will speak words of resurrection in our ears? It is because he didn’t just break other people out of the hold of death, He came walking around out of His own grave. It is one thing to raise the dead, but it’s something entirely different to raise yourself from the dead. Jesus did. He offered up his own life. He faced a sorrowful, painful, fearful, and horrible death on a cross. He was beat to a bloody pulp by Roman soldiers. His hands and feet were fastened to wood with six-inch spikes. A guard used a spear to split his heart in two just to make sure. He was dead; as cold as the little girl lying on her bed; as lifeless as anyone lying in the cemetery. But in an instant, He breathed a breath, opened His eyes, smiled a smile, stood on his feet and walked out of the tomb. Jesus is alive. We don’t have to be afraid of death because Jesus promises that He will do for us what He did for those two women way back then. Jesus promises you, that He will speak to you “Ταλιθα κουμ, little girl, little boy, get up.” And you will. Well, pastor, that’s all fine and good. I believe it. But those folks back then had it easy. Jesus touched them. He took them by the hand and led them from death to life. He walked around there in the dust of the ancient world. He breathed on them. He laughed with them. He ate with them. If only he’d take my hand like that. If only Jesus would touch me. I’m sick. I’m tired. I’m worried. I’m lonely. My sin is always in front of me. I’m afraid of death. I’m a dead person walking around. If only Jesus would touch me and raise me from the dead. Dear Christians, that’s exactly what he promises to do, and in fact that’s exactly what he does. Jesus Christ in his very body comes all that time and comes right here to you. He places his very body into your hand. It’s the very same body that had its hand nailed to the cross. It’s the very same body that took hold of that little girl’s hand and brought her life. And every time you receive it, he says the same words, “Take, eat, this is my body. Ταλιθα κουμ!” And He comes to you through bread and wine to bring you to life. Because the sin that makes death come to you is washed away by the blood that came from His cut side. The sin that you can’t stop doing, the sin that means you should be separated from God forever, is taken away by Jesus by the blood that He pours into you in, with and under the wine. When you come to this altar and Jesus touches you, He takes you by the hand and says “Take and eat, you are forgiven. Take and drink you are forgiven. Ταλιθα κουμ, Get up and walk around in new life.” Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Mark.4.35-41; The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; June 20, 2021;

Mark.4.35-41; The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; June 20, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. We know storms. Today’s readings are all full of storms. In Job, God speaks to Job out of a storm (some translations call it a whirlwind). Up until this point in the book, Job has wanted to confront God for the trouble he’s having. You remember about Job, how he lost everything, his wealth, his family, and his health. His friends sit around him and tell him that all of things that are happening to him are some kind of punishment for sin, if not outright sin, than some hidden sin Job isn’t aware of. But Job insists that there’s nothing that he’s done, he doesn’t deserve the storm of trouble that’s happening to him. He complains that if he could just plead his case before God, he’d get answers. Our reading is the beginning of God’s response to Job “out of the whirlwind.” Finally, in the middle of Job’s stormy life, God speaks. Only it’s not the response Job is expecting. It’s not an answer we’d be happy with either. “Who are you to question me?” God says, “Where you around when I created everything? I’m the one who made everything. Were you there when I created everything?” God puts Job in his place. It’s just not the kind of answer we think we want from God. There’s not compassion or comfort there. It’s just as if he drives another nail in Job’s coffin. He doesn’t answer Job’s questions about why he is suffering. God doesn’t justify his actions or pacify. And Job bows in humility and fear, his storms are not calmed by God (yet!). In the Gospel lesson, which is actually the text for our meditation, the storm is a little different. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41, ESV) This storm is no less real than the storm faced by Job, and no less real than the storms that we have on the plains and face every spring, real storms, with real consequences. IO rather miss the big storms there. We just don’t get them here. For the disciples they are afraid of drowning in the lake. You guys know you don’t take a small craft out on the lake during a storm. As the waves grow and begin to splash over the sides of the boat you imagine the boat disappearing under the dark green foamy water. What will you do? Swim, how will you know which way to go, how will you keep afloat with the rain and wind. The fear is real. The disciples were afraid… for their lives. What a contrast to Jesus sleeping in the boat! Here he is sleeping soundly in a boat that’s filling with water and about to sink. And finally, the disciples can’t bear the fear any more. And Jesus lying on the cushion sound asleep exasperated the whole experience. They were facing death and Jesus doesn’t seem to care! So, they wake him up. “How could you sleep at a time like this? Don’t you care if we drown? There’s real danger here and you’re just sleeping your life away, and ours!” Jesus doesn’t answer their question but speaks directly to the water. “Quiet! Be still!” I imagine him looking also at the disciples as if to say, “you too!” The wind and the waves react instantly. As soon as Jesus speaks the wind is silent and the waves calm. It’s a great contrast from complete storm to complete stillness, in an instant. Opposite of the great contrast that is seen in Jesus; great calm while sleeping to calming the storm. I wonder, do you see the connection to the reading from Job? “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? (Job 38:8-11, ESV) Jesus’ mastery of nature is striking in the way He commands the waves and they obey. Just look at the disciples surprising response. They don’t lose their fear its focus only changes. And they ask the important question. “Who is this? Who is this that sleeps one moment and controls the storm in the next?” It is a question of faith and fear. “Why are you so afraid, do you still have no faith?” Jesus asks them. After all the disciples had witnessed. It appeared that they still didn’t know who he was. And yet right there in that boat they had all they needed to see. Jesus was sleeping, clearly a human being who needed sleep. He ate and slept, and drank and walked, and talked with them every day. He is as human as they were. And also, he controlled the waves as easily as they threw their fishing net into the water. He was the one who set the boundary for the waves. Jesus is God; God speaking from the midst of the storm just like he did for Job. You see, this text isn’t about how Jesus calms the storms of our life. As much as we want it to be true, God never promises that faith in him means that we won’t suffer from bad things in our lives. Look at Job. He suffered a great deal, but never found out why he suffered. He never knew God’s purpose. Job was a man of great faith. We often think about his patience but really, it’s all about his faith… that is letting God be God and never knowing why he suffered through the storm. This text is about God being God; it’s about Jesus Christ being truly God, and Jesus Christ being truly man. And how God reconciled the real cause of storms in the world by sending Jesus his son, in human flesh. The storms of this world, tornados and social problems, earthquakes and broken families are our own fault. Sin is at the root. Sin causes pain and separation. Sin causes death. To be in sin, which all of us are, is to have a stormy relationship with God, instead of a perfect one. And that stormy relationship means that we don’t deserve anything from God, especially his protection, and presence in the storms we create. But he came anyway, in Jesus Christ. Jesus calms the storm between God and man, by taking the punishment instead of us. He brings God to us by suffering and dying and rising again. That is what our faith is all about. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, ESV) That’s the content of our faith. That’s the important thing about what we believe. Christianity is specifically about who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us. The fact that he came to earth, God and Man, to live a perfect life for you and me, suffer and die on the cross for human sin. To reconcile us to God by paying the punishment of sin, suffering hell on the cross for us. But when the storms of life gather around us, we forget who Jesus is. Well maybe we don’t actually forget but we act as if it doesn’t matter who he is. And that’s what also places us there in the boat with the disciples, being afraid of the storm. Our storm may not be the spinning cloud that passes through town, but what about the turmoil in our family that seems to be tearing it apart? No matter how hard you try you can’t seem to put it back together. You’re afraid you’ll never again have a whole family. What about the disease that won’t let go of you, and threatens to take away everything you have? Or the heart problem, or stroke, or illness that strikes without warning. Or the storm of being so busy that you can’t stop even to breath for fear of missing something important. You see all those storms leave us afraid and we shout out, “God don’t you care what’s happening to me, I’m afraid, and you don’t seem to be doing anything!” Just like the disciples we’ve forgotten who God really is. We forget that he’s in the midst of the storm. We forget about Jesus and what he promises us. But Jesus knows about our storms because he isn’t a God who stands back and hurls lightning bolts at us from heaven. He is a God who became a man and lived among us. Right here in the midst of our storms, in the midst of our suffering, in the midst of our pain. Jesus Christ knows what it means to suffer through them. He suffered, just like we do and more. He knows the storm of separation caused by death. He wept at the grave of Lazarus. He knows the storm caused by illness. He walked among the crowds that pressed in on him for healing. He had compassion on them, but he didn’t heal them all. No matter what’s troubling you Jesus Christ knows your storm. He can and does take care of us. He is God. He is the very same God who created everything. He is the God who set the boundaries for the sea and formed the mountains with his very words. He is in control of everything, from the smallest flapping of the butterfly’s wing to the formation of clouds and the waves that lap against the seashore. That’s Jesus standing in the boat with the disciples calming the storm around them, speaking in the midst of the whirlwind. But he doesn’t always calm the storm. Job had to suffer for an exceedingly long time. You and I have storms that never seem to end. What is Jesus doing about that? Well, he hasn’t left us alone to deal with the storms of life, even if he doesn’t just make them go away. Jesus Christ the God-Man who died and rose again for us has provided us with special gifts to help us weather the storm. These are things that he gives us freely and abundantly. And he gives them to you right here. Right here in this place he speaks his word to you. Storm or calm, week after week, month after month, year after year. His very words of comfort and strength are given to you. What does he say to you? He gives you promises. Promises that he will always be with you, you are not alone in the storm. You don’t have to leave your bed and crawl in with mom and dad when the thunder rolls; Jesus is with you wherever you are. The disciples were in the boat with Jesus; the storm was nothing to worry about. Over and over again Jesus makes that promise to you. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV) God doesn’t promise no storms or burdens, but he promises that he’ll help you bear it. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV) These are the kind of promises of God makes to you, given in his word. And don’t forget that those promises are true for you because he has claimed you to be his own. Look at the font here. Here God reaches out and grabs you in your storm. Here he makes you, his child. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV) That promise to be with us is no surer and more certain for us than it is here at this altar. Here he comes to us in his very body and blood. In the midst of our storm, we can take hold of Jesus Christ himself, as we hold out our hand and make for him “the very throne of God!” We handle him, touch him and see him… and he gives us strength in this food to stand in the storm, but not strength to stand on our own, strength to stand because he gives is promise and keeps his promises. Will the storms all go away? Will Jesus always stand up and “rebuke” the demons that threaten us? Nope. Life is still full of stormy days. Look what that storm did for the disciples. They got a lesson about turning to Jesus. They needed to be reminded who he is. That’s what the storms do for us too. They remind us that we can’t go it alone. They remind us that God is in control of everything. They remind us that we need to depend on him more and more every day. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Romans 6:6-11; Third Sunday after Pentecost; Jun 13, 2021

Romans 6:6-11; Third Sunday after Pentecost; Jun 13, 2021 Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6–11, ESV)Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; I love living here in the United States. Where else in the world am I able to be my own man, independent, and self-reliant? There’s no one around that dare tell me how to live my life, or how to take care of my family. I’ve become successful through my own sweat; my own hard work… there’s nowhere in the world that that pays off like here. I’ve sacrificed for the things I wanted, and no one’s is going to take that away from me. I could live and be alone, a strong individual, like the Marlboro Man I really don’t need anyone. Above all else, whatever you do, don’t look on me as helpless or powerless. That is one thing I am not… powerless. I prove it everyday. I approach my work with the attitude that gets it done. I may not be the strongest guy around, but there’s more to power than brute strength. There’s knowing how to get the job done, knowing how to work the system… lots of times, knowledge is power. When things get tough, the tough look to me for direction. And that’s power. I don’t let emotions cloud my judgment. They make you weak and as I told you before above all, I’m not weak. When decisions have to be made strong people make them without the influence of all that emotion. I can defend myself, too. If I have to, I can take the licks and survive, but if you come against me, you’d better be careful. I’ll come back and when I do, I’ll strike hard. My family is safe with me around. I’m not weak and powerless as far as defense is concerned. Just in case you didn’t catch what I’ve been saying I’ll say it again. I’m my own man, independent, strong and powerful. But… lately I’ve been beginning to wonder about all that. Lot’s is happening in the world that I really don’t have any control over. And somehow it all seems to be closing in on us here. The Global Pandemic has had a large affect on the feeling. Believe in it or not, it has been impossible to change what has happened. Businesses struggle to get workers, out of fear, or because they can make more on unemployment. There are no foreign workers to work here, it only adds to the problem. And now, just as things are lightening up, new strains are popping up. Makes me feel out of control. The flood of immigrants that are coming across the boarder is staggering. Are terrorists gathering? Have we forgotten World Trade Center towers? What is the next target? Mall of America? USA Today said that a dirty nuke, that’s a bomb with radioactive medical waste blows up at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, the fallout will pretty much make that city unusable for centuries. How can I stop one crazy person who’s willing to strap 20 pounds of dynamite and nuclear waste around themselves? And there’s more that this powerful guy can’t seem to get a handle on. I’ve seen it all around, people get sick… the list of people we pray for each week with cancer continues to grow. That nasty disease brings strong men to their knees… but the worst part is that you just don’t know who’s next. I’m a strong guy, as I said, but who can stand up against and invisible enemy that attacks you from inside. The more I think about it, I’m not really all that powerful after all. My independence is really a sham; I need people around me all the time. Not just to watch my back, but also to be there for me, because when I really think about it, I am helpless and weak… powerless… But… You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Did that say what I think it said? When we were powerless? When I was powerless, Christ died for me? I see, that’s what the Good News of Jesus Christ is all about isn’t it? I was I am powerless, but God is powerful. Not only that but even more than that, St. Paul writes that we were God’s enemies, enemies deserving His wrath and punishment. That independence that I show highly prize is really an affront to God. When I try to live my life on my own, I disregard the creator and ultimate provider, “I don’t need you, God! I don’t need other people that you have provided for me!” we say. God’s enemies… that puts powerless in another interesting light. We are all truly powerless standing before God in our rejection of him. And what does Paul say, for a righteous man someone would rarely die, but that’s exactly what Jesus did. And we were hardly righteous or even good. We were God’s enemies! And yet, Jesus Christ died for me, powerless, helpless, and pathetic me! Powerless, helpless and pathetic you! Just exactly did the death of Jesus Christ accomplish? Michael Powers tell the following story in Allison Bottke’s book “God Allows U-Turns.” Brian “was a special education student at the small high school I attended. He was constantly searching for love and attention. It usually cam for the wrong reasons, from students who wanted to have some ‘fun.’ He was the joke of the school…” Mike defended Brian, even had him over to the house. “Hey, Mike,” Brian asked. “How come you’re not like some of the other kids at school?” Mike told him about the love of God the Father. “Brian really opened up to me. He explained that his dad had left him and his mom when he was five years old. He told Brian that he couldn’t deal with having a son like him anymore, then he walked out of Brian’s life and was never seen again. Brian told me that he had been looking for his dad ever since. “Now I knew why the tears kept flowing that day in my bedroom. His search was over. He found what he had been looking for since he was five years old. A Father’s love. “He would never again be alone.” When we were alone and powerless, God the Father showed His great love for me by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to death on the cross, to make me His own children. He showed me a Father’s love; a love that would sacrifice everything, especially when I was helpless and alone. He sacrificed the life of Jesus to satisfy the judgment that was mine as God’s enemy. He made Jesus his enemy instead of me; and He made me His child. It was a simple exchange. But that isn’t all; because God approved of Jesus perfect sacrifice, He raised Him from death to life again. That too is a promise to me. So, what about all those things that I can’t control; Pandemic, terrorists, illnesses that are lurking around out there looking for me? I’m helpless in the face of them, but God is my Father. He has done everything for me. He has made me his own child. I’ve been “reconciled” Paul said. What reconciliation! I’ve gone from God’s enemy to God’s child. I guess there’s nothing I can do about the terrorists, the bomb may go of in Asia, and cancer might be in my future. I am helpless, powerless… but really, it’s a good thing that I am because being powerless is being dependent, and I’m as dependent as I can be on my Heavenly Father. I’m as dependent as I can be on him and his promises. I will be saved because of Jesus Christ. Have you been feeling alone, helpless and powerless lately? Maybe you don’t show it, but there’s a lot going on these days that can make you feel that way. Well, all that I’ve been talking about for me is true for you too. God, the Father, has also reconciled you through the death of Jesus Christ! When you were powerless, when you needed it the most, Jesus Christ sacrificed everything to restore you, and make you a child of God again. And all those things you may be worrying about, well they might seem powerful but not compared to the love of God, the love that God the Father has showered down on you! Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.