Saturday, January 26, 2008

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Januay 27,2008, Matthew 4:12-17

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:12-17, ESV)

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

The light is Jesus. He saves you from the darkness of your sin, by bringing the great light of forgiveness of sin through His life, death and resurrection. End of sermon. Amen.

Long pause

Well, we’ve still got some time left. Maybe we should fill it with something. How about a story?

There was this guy named Gideon. He lived in ancient Israel. He was a man who was just a bit timid. He wasn’t alone, you see, all the people there were a bit timid. Things looked pretty dark for the Israelites. They were being bullied big time. These guys called Midionites were crossing the borders and harassing them every time the crops were ready to be harvested. They’d burn the crops, destroy the fields and kill the harvesters. They are the …

Mighty Menacing Midianites.
Crop destroyin, plague deployin, quite annoyin.
Fond of fightin, strike like lightnin, man they’re frightnin.
Kill, steal and destroy every man, woman, girl and boy.
Because they are the…
Mighty Menacing Midianites. (Dr. Reed Lessing, Concordia Seminary)

Well, one day, Gideon is hiding in the shadows of a pit beating the wheat to separate the grain from the chaff. He was hiding in the dark from the Midianites. God spoke to him there and told him he would be the one who would get rid of the Mighty Menacing Midianites and set God’s people free from the terror they were under.

Now Gideon wasn’t too keen on the idea. “Hey God, you’ve got to be kidding right. My family is the smallest one in Israel and I’m the smallest one in my family. Give me a sign! Show me the light. So I know for sure.” So he took a sacrifice and laid it out on a rock. All by itself it caught fire and burned up. So Gideon decided he was the guy.

Well, it wasn’t long before Gideon had an army. For a little guy he did pretty good. There on the bank of the river he had gathered 32,000 men ready to put the fight to the bad guys. But God wasn’t ready to work the way Gideon wanted to, so He told him to send home all those who were afraid. Well, I think it’s pretty amazing that only 10,000 left considering the crop destroyin, plague deployin… Mighty Menacing Midinites… you know what I mean. Gideon was still pretty happy with his 22,000. But not God. “Send them to the river and have them drink.” He said. “Keep the one who drink like dogs. You know, lapping up the water with their tongues.” That left 300. (Isn’t that a movie?) Finally God had the army he wanted, but not Gideon.

Just imagine Gideon’s head bouncing back and forth between his 300 doggy soldiers and the Might Menacing Midianites whose numbers were too great to count. Once again darkness crept into Gideon’s thoughts. “God!” He protested. “I need another sign.” He put a fleece (that’s just a ball of wool) out on ground and asked God to make it wet overnight but keep the ground dry. The next morning he found the fleece soaked and the ground bone dry. In fact he could wring the water out of it. But being a timid kind of guy he put it out again and asked for the sign to be reversed. The next morning the ground was soaked and the wool was dry. Gideon had to be sure now, right. Well, no not quite. God had him sneak into the Midianite camp and eves drop on the guards. He heard one say to another that he had a dream of bread rolling into the camp and destroying them. “That’s Gideon and his army, we’re doomed!”

Well, now Gideon was pretty sure now that God was on his side. So he had his little army surround the Midianite camp in the darkness of the middle of the night. And here’s the interesting thing. He gave them all lights hidden under jars. At the sound of the trumpet they broke the jars and shouted. Well the Mighty Menacing Midianites weren’t so big now. They were literally scared to death. They actually used their weapons on each other. The great light around the camp defeated them. That great light was something more than just the light of 300 torches. God made it really, really, bright. They were no match for the light of God. Hey, did I tell you that the place where this all happened was the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. In Jesus time it was called Galilee. Way back then in the time of Gideon Zebulun and Naphtali saw a great light and it saved them from their enemies.

Hey! Wait a second! That sounds familiar. A great light in Zebulun and Naphtali? Hey haven’t we heard that at least two other times this morning? In Isaiah and Matthew? But I thought the “light” was Jesus?

Well… It is. That’s how these Old Testament prophecies work. God does something miraculous to save His people to show how He was going to do the same thing in Jesus. Gideon and his army are a great light in Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus is the really great light in Zebulun and Naphtali.

By the way, did I tell you how the Israelites got into the dark mess they were in? Hey if you go back to the book of Judges and read about the story of Gideon you find these words.

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. (Judges 6:1, ESV)

These people had suffered a lot, but it was because of their own sin.

Now you won’t be surprised if I talk about that darkness in our hearts as our problem too. It’s an unholy trinity; the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. Each one darker than the other. Satan is out there turning out the light of truth. He lies about God and you. He tells you that you’re too much of a sinner to be loved by God. He tells you it’s better to hide in a dark pit than come into God’s light. The world around us is all darkness, too. Not only is sin public, but darkness is called light and light is called darkness. This week was the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision. That made it legal to kill a baby at any time during it’s pre-born life just because it might be unwanted. A pastor in Albany, New York, said the abortion business was

“sacred ground where women are treated with dignity, supported in their role as moral decision-makers ... sacred ground where the violent voices of hatred and oppression are quelled." (Rev. Larry Phillips of Schenectady's Emmanuel-Friedens Church,

Now calling evil “sacred ground” might seem as evil as it gets, but there is darkness that is even worse. You don’t have to look far to find it either.

Jesus said it like this:

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:19, ESV)

He was only echoing what was said in Genesis:

… the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. (Genesis 8:21, ESV)

And your experience with it tells you the same. It’s

Friendship destroyin, plague deployin, quite annoyin…
Kill, steal and destroy every man, woman, girl and boy.

Now that is being in the dark. But as I said at the very beginning, in that very short sermon, Jesus is the light. The people dwelling in darkness, (that’s us!) have seen a great light.

You know after hearing the story of Gideon, I can’t help but think of that song, you know;

This little gospel light of mine I'm gonna let it shine… Hide it under a bushel, NO! I'm gonna let it shine… Let it shine all the time Let it shine

The Gospel light is what Jesus does for us. Matthew tells us that when Jesus died there was darkness over the whole land for three hours (Matt 27:45). The darkness of Satan, the World and our Sinful flesh were there on the cross with Jesus. He took it all into the darkness of death, so that when the first bright beams of the Easter morning sun hit the empty tomb the darkness was gone forever. In that same way, Jesus shines His light of forgiveness into our sinful hearts. The darkness guilt and shame Satan wants us to feel so we hide from God flies away. The lies of the world that fill us with darkness scatter and even our dark sinful nature is no match for the life of Jesus given for us on the cross. It’s like St. John says at the very beginning of his Gospel.

In [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5, ESV)

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

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Matthew 27:46, Funeral Sermon for Louisa Magdalena Fenton;

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, eli, Lema sabachthani? Which means, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

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

Well, I’ll have to admit right out of the gate I feel a bit neglectful. After all I’ve visited Louisa for two years now and I didn’t even know she was 99 years old! I could probably count the words she said to me on these ten fingers. I’d get a smile from her once in a while, but not much more than that. What I know about Louisa I read right here in this obit. No children listed, I see. Step-children, and step-grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Kenneth dead thirty years now. Well, I do know she was Helen and Buck’s aunt. You probably heard, too, that when Helen called me to say she had died, I thought she was talking about someone else. Well, I was expecting the other funeral. Imagine my shock when I learned, after we had selected hymns and everything that we were talking about Louisa! I had heard Louisa was not feeling well, but… Here it is a cold, windy forsaken day. What a day for a funeral. Really not much of a showing either. Shall we count? How long was she in the nursing home? How long was she “sleepy?” Quite different from the lady I heard about who was twittering around from here to there all the time. Well, she seems to be a bit forsaken, don’t you think? No relatives to speak of really spent much time over there at Good Sam. There are no children listed in the Obituary. All she did most days was sit and sleep. You just gotta ask the question; Did she really deserve of this? Well, yes!

Ah ha! There’s an answer you didn’t expect. But the truth is the she did deserve all this, and even more. But, pastor you didn’t even know her. You said that yourself. She was nice person. She was a member of the church. She was in Ladies Aid. Well, I don’t want you to think I’m saying anything against Louisa’s character. I don’t want you to think I’m saying anything about Louisa I wouldn’t say about you, and I know most of you better than I did her. I’ve actually had conversations with you. I can say with confidence that Louisa deserved everything she got, forsaken, dead and buried. The fact is she was a sinful person. No, I don’t have any particular sin in mind, I’ve never heard a disparaging word about her. It’s just that she’s human. And humans are sinful. She had in her human nature that rebellion against God. She had a desire to save herself. He sinned in thought, word, and deed, by what she had done and left undone.

The real problem we need to come to grips with today isn’t that Louisa has died. It is that we deserve exactly the same thing. You too, will be forsaken just like this for all practical purposes that is you in that coffin, today. You are looking right in to the jaws of death, the wages of sin. It looks like Louisa got just what she deserved. And so will you. Well, at least that is what it looks like.

This seems a lot like what happened to Jesus. He was a nice person. He lived and walked and helped people. He talked down the hypocritical religious leaders and exposed their two faced lives. And for all that, instead of a reward He was given a death sentence. For all that He was handed over to the cruelest device ever made for execution. He was teased, beaten, mocked and pierced. All His friends fled. He was alone and abandoned. What He said there on the cross, gasping for breath says it all. “Eli, eli, lema sabachthni? My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!” Why indeed? Did He deserve all this? Well, yes! He did.

Caught you again didn’t I? That’s the beauty of why we are here today. That’s where we find comfort in the fact that Louisa has died. That’s where we find comfort in the fact that you and I will die, too. Jesus becomes the worst sinner ever on the cross. Louisa may have been a nice person, but she had sin. God heaped her sin up on Jesus on the cross. You may be a nice person, I have my doubts about some of you, but then I’m just your pastor, I know you are a sinner. God heaped your sin on Jesus. And don’t think I’m leaving myself out, in my sinful pride I think I’m a good person, you may thing differently. I am a sinner, too. All my sin was heaped up on Jesus. All the sin from every person who ever lived, and ever will live, is there on the cross on Jesus. St. Paul uses these words,

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

So, let’s revisit my first question. Did Louisa deserve all this? Actually, no. Well, she deserved it, but Jesus took the bite out of it. Louisa passed through death to eternal life with her Savior Jesus. As we’ll say at the cemetery, “Where O death is your sting? Where O Grave, is your victory?” Gone! Dead and buried with Jesus. Erased with His resurrection from the dead. You know what, I didn’t know Louisa and yet I can be confident in her salvation. Why? It’s what we said at the beginning of the service. Turn back there and say it with me again:

P In Holy Baptism Louisa was clothed the with the robe of Christ's righteousness that covered all her sin. St. Paul says: “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
C We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.

It is God’s promises made to Louisa in her baptism and to us. She was united with Christ in His death. That’s just exactly what we’ve been talking about. Jesus deserving Louisa’s punishment and death. Jesus taking on her sin. Jesus suffering and dying in her place and being forsaken by the God the Father. That means Jesus suffered the eternal forsakenness that she deserved. Jesus suffered the eternal punishment of hell, as Louisa’s sin, and yours, and mine. She was also united with Him in His resurrection. That’s what we’ve got to look forward to. Standing in front of the Savior, whole in body soul and mind, singing His praises and holding on to one another. I guess that’s when I’ll get to know who Louisa really is. Amen.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Holy Land Tour (corrected)

You are invited to join pastor Nour on the Holy Land "Nour Tour" The tour will leave from MN on Thursday May the 15th for an 11 day tour. The price is $3200.00 p/p. If you are interested please contact Pastor Nour via e-mail.
or phone:
(605)724-2489 (O)
(605)724-2722 (H)

In Christ's love and in His service,

Rev. Nabil S. Nour Pastor and foot washer Phil. 1:6
Redeemer Lutheran Church
P. O. Box 158
Armour, SD. 57313-0158
(605)724-2489 (O)
(605)724-2722 (H)
"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" Philippians 1:6

Monday, January 14, 2008

January 13, 2008

Sorry no sermon this week.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Epiphany of Our Lord, January 6, 2008, Matthew 2:1

Listen to the Sermon here.
NIV Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came…”

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

Everything seemed normal in the little stable when the baby was born. His mother had all the normal birth pangs; his father paced and worried that everything would be all right. The animals around watched in eager expectation. The birth of a baby is always as special occasion. When he was born he was quickly examined to see that everything was perfect. At first glance, it all seemed to be, but when he staggered to his feet and began to walk that’s when everybody realized something was different. They weren’t surprised that he could walk, all reindeer walk moments after they are born, what was surprising was his nose. It was unexplainable; there on the end of his face, where the hair gives way to the soft skin of his nose, was a light. It was perfectly formed. I know that many of you are imagining this light as a bulb screwed into a socket right there where his nose should be, but it wasn’t like that at all. There between his nostrils, on the flat part of the reindeer’s nose, the skin was, well… transparent. It was a little like a car’s headlight. The flat surface of his nose was the lens, underneath, was some kind of unexplainable light source, and behind that a very smooth and very shiny surface. It cast a bright red beam that was brighter than any halogen light that is driving down the highway today. It was so bright that everywhere the little deer looked heads turned away to protect their eyes. The animals fled the stable, even though there was a freezing blizzard outside; at least they understood the wind and the snow. His mother screamed and fainted. His father broke down and wept.

You know how the story goes, “all the other reindeer use to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolf, join in any reindeer games.” He was excluded, different, not part of normal reindeer life. We can relate to Rudolf. Remember on the playground? Lining up to be picked to play a game of ball. “I’ll take Joe.” “I’ll take Peggy.” “I’ll take Dan.” On and on it goes until everyone is picked, except one. Neither captain wants to pick him, because well frankly he can’t play. He is uncoordinated and slow. Finally they try strike a deal. “You take him.” One captain says to the other. “Ok.” He agrees, “but you have to give me Dan and Peggy, too.”

It is a part of human existence to exclude certain groups of people from the ‘normal’. Our own country’s history is a dark example of racial hatred and exclusion. Our bloodiest conflict ever was fought, in the shadow of the African American slavery. Even with slavery abolished, the scares will likely never heal. Talk to Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, or Polish settlers in Nebraska, their stories are the same. They were excluded.

I’d like to tell you about Willy. He was 8 and afraid to go to school because of the protestors. Whenever he did go, they would stand outside yelling obscenities, and racial slurs. He didn’t understand why people hated him so much just because of his race. He had heard of several schools like his had been burned, and the teachers beaten, and that men dressed in white sheets were terrorizing his relatives in town. Sometimes he was angry with his parents. “Why did they have to be so different?” He wondered. “Why couldn’t they be like other people? Why did they have to be so . . . German?” That, of course, was a picture of history in this country during the First World War, when racial prejudice was expressed against Germans, and German Lutherans in particular. It was at the height of anti-German sentiment that nearly closed parochial schools around the country. No racial group is immune from exclusion.

God hates racism. There is no question about this. Hatred and exclusion based upon a person’s race is outside of God’s desire for this world. He created man most of all with a capacity for relationships. First and most important, he created him for a relationship with God, Himself. Second, he created him for relationships to other people. Our relationship to God is expressed in Luther’s explanation of the First Commandment… to fear, love and trust God above all things, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. When Adam watched Eve pick the fruit, he had decided that they knew better about what was good than God. He pushed himself away from God, ripping the loving, trusting relationship that was between them. In an instant destroyed the nature of relationships forever. Without a proper relationship to God, a proper relationship to others is impossible. That destruction is the nature of sin, and its power over us.

Over time humans have gotten pretty good at relationship breaking. Cain killed Able. Jacob deceived Esau. Hitler gassed Jews. Southern Whites beat Blacks. Every generation is the same, and worse.

But, before we begin to think that we are immune here isolated South Dakota, because we live in a ‘protected,’ ‘secluded’ community, we might want to think again. We may not be guilty of gross prejudice, but we are guilty. No, I’m not saying we are responsible for our ancestor’s wrongs. We didn’t invoke slavery. We have enough guilt of our own. Scan your memory for your thoughts, or words. Been at Corner Pantry when the PBM bus is headed back to Sioux Falls? Do you look at those folks and say to yourself you’re glad they don’t live here? Have you heard or said things like ‘He’s a pretty good worker for a colored person.’ When have you told off color jokes about Jews or others, and passed them off as nothing. When was the last time you heard of a racial slur causing pain and separation? Most times though we here aren’t guilty of racial exclusion, but rather it comes in the form of economic exclusion. We want the “better” people to be members of the church. We’d pay much more attention to the doctor visiting the church than the unemployed person. After all, with all of our budget problems… Well, you understand. It happens, and it happens right here.
As much as God hates separation, he loves separated people. The Bible is a love story about how God reaches out with loving, protecting arms to restore his relationship to the world. His love reaches beyond political, ethnic and economic boarders. He reaches out to people of all nations and races and classes. It isn’t that God is colorblind. He loves people, in all their varying shapes and colors, all their walks of life, both rich and poor, black and white. He loves them so much that, once in time, he sent his son to be born in a quiet and dark stable. He became an ethnic human being. Jesus Christ our Savior, was a Jew.

Our text tells us of visitors to the infant Jesus. They were outsiders, Gentiles. Despised by the Jews. They were the butt of jokes told in the daily market place. Contact with them caused you to be unclean. “What are they doing here?” was asked of them. But, they came and gave expensive gifts to the Christ child. Matthew goes to great lengths in his Gospel, with this account and many others; to assure us that God’s love in Christ is for all people, even the despised and outcast. He tells us how Jesus love poured out on even the unwanted, hated separated people around him. He healed them, forgave them and comforted them. Finally he was raised up on a cross, spread out his loving arms to the entire world, every race, every color, every nation, and he died for them all. This great act of love evaporated the separation between man and God. Through faith in his un-separating work, human beings can once again be in a relationship with God. They can trust him and love him. The can look to him in times of pain and times of joy. He can heal their broken relationships with others.

God’s work of healing is a work of healing for you and me. We are gathered together here as a community of believers. We are one because of our Baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We confess faith, given to us in Holy Baptism, to end our separation from God. We believe in this work for all people. It is only through this faith that we can begin to tear down the walls of separation that exist. Through this faith, God will enable us to heal the brokenness caused by our own prejudice. That is what the church is all about. It is the place God has chosen to build relationships to people of all classes and ethnic groups. It is the place God has chosen to speak His word of forgiveness, and give it through Word, Water and Bread and Wine. We live in that Word every day. Everyday we can do God’s work in the community, tearing down the walls of hostility between races and social classes. We can do it, not because we are sin-free, but because we are sinners, forgiven and set free from our sin. If you want this church to be all that God wants it to be, look for opportunities to connect to those people that are usually told they don’t belong; look for ways to include the outcast people into our church, and our community; look for ways of sharing the forgiveness God has given you here in this building.

So many years ago, ‘outsiders’, Gentiles, went to visit the Christ child. They weren’t Jews. They traveled a great distance to be there. They traveled into a foreign land that didn’t welcome them. When they found him they stood in wonder, then they bowed down in worship. There before them was a Savior, not just a Savior for the Jews, but also a Savior for all people. He was a Savior for ‘outsiders’ and Gentiles like them. He is a Savior for ‘outsiders’ and Gentiles like us. God had led them there to show us that his love and forgiveness crosses ethnic boundaries, race, and nation. He wanted us to see ‘The World’ worshipping Jesus. ‘The World’, with all its ethnic variety, needs this Savior. It needs him to restore its divisions, its ethnic hatred… its sin. That’s why he came to this world. He came to gather the ‘outsiders’ to himself. You see, as wonderful as the Christmas story is, the real joy for us is that … “Magi came from the East.” Because, their visit shows us that we too are included in God’s grace. Their visit shows us that God’s saving act through Jesus Christ was for Gentiles like them, and like us.

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

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