Monday, August 30, 2010

1 Sam 3:1-10; August 29, 2010; Rally Day;

Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the young man. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” ” (1 Samuel 3:1–10, ESV)

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

This is a great text for talking about the beginning of Sunday school and Confirmation Classes. It’s about someone who’s learning to be a servant of God. Samuel is a boy of probably about 12 years old. His life has been dedicated to working in the church every day and serving the aging priest, Eli. Eli is getting old and can’t see very well. That explains why Samuel would go running to him if he thought he needed help in the night. Samuel is a faithful servant, and does what is necessary for Eli. But really this story really begins before Samuel was born. It begins years earlier with his mother, Hannah. Hannah was one of the two wives of a faithful man of God. His name was Elkannah. Every year the family would travel to Shiloh to worship present their sacrifices to God. And every year Hannah would present double as instructed by her husband, he loved her so much. And yet, Hannah was troubled. She had not yet had children, while her husband’s other wife Peninnah did. The two wives didn’t get along because of it.

Hannah was very troubled, and during her visit to God’s house she prayed that God would give her a son. If he did, she said, she would dedicate him to service in God’s house. The high priest at that time was Eli. He saw her praying, and because she was moving her lips, but praying in her heart, he accused her of being drunk. “I’ve not been drinking, but I’m very distressed.” She said. “Go in peace. May the Lord do for you what you have asked.” Eli responded. Hannah left confident that God would do what she had asked. God did. And as promised, as soon as Samuel was old enough he was brought to live and work in God’s house. Samuel grew up to be a faithful servant to God.

Eli, the High Priest, also had children. His sons also worked in the temple. They were priests like their father, but unlike Samuel they weren’t good servants. In fact they were corrupt and deceitful. They took advantage of their positions to fill their pockets and satisfy their desires. Eli knew all about what they were doing, but didn’t do anything to stop them. That’s one of the reasons why, at the beginning of this text, it says that the word of the Lord was rare. It was God’s judgment on His people for being disobedient.

And that leads us up to what’s going on here, Samuel receiving the rare word of the Lord. It was God’s plan to make is not so rare again, through His servant Samuel.

It all takes place just before dawn. The lamp of God had not yet gone out. That’s talking about a lamp stand that was lit and burned all through the night until morning. Samuel is sleeping in his usual place, and just before dawn, Samuel hears a voice calling to him. “Samuel, Samuel.” He thinks it’s his master Eli calling for help with something. Remember Eli was nearly blind and couldn’t see very well anymore. It was probably common for him to call for help. But when Samuel went to him and asked what he wanted Eli says, “Go back to sleep your dreaming!” But when it happens a second and third time, Eli finally realizes that something else is going on. “Next time say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed and God called him again and he answered just as he was instructed. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” That is how Samuel became a prophet of God. He was willing to listen to God’s word for him.

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” That’s the word for us today. It’s a good place to start our education year. Speak, Lord, we are listening. But, I wonder, maybe we are really fooling ourselves. Are we really listening? Of course we are here today sitting patiently while God speaks to us through His Word. But, sometimes it’s hard to pay attention. We get to thinking about lunch in the oven at home; taking care of the lawn; the mountain of work we have on our desk; or the football game that starts in a little bit. Oh, sure we are listening, but it’s hard to really listen, isn’t it? After all it sounds so much like what we hear every other Sunday.

Are we really listening as a congregation? Maybe we are fooling ourselves there, too? After all our attendance is good but it isn’t really that good, is it? In fact most of the people who belong to the congregation aren’t here. That doesn’t really sound like we’re really listening.

And what about our children, are they listening? Maybe it’s not their fault. Here at Trinity we do a great job of getting them to confirmation classes, and that’s great, but they don’t seem to get the chance to listen to God’s Word here on Sunday, either in Sunday school or our worship services. We seem to think that Wednesday night is for the kids and Sunday morning is for the old folks. Well, that’s not the way it should be. God has His gifts of forgiveness here for all of us; that includes our children. But, of course, our adults don’t attend bible classes very well either do we. I’ve been asking to do home studies for almost two years now and I’ve only done one. It’s a little bit as if we say, “Speak, Lord, and I’ll listen as long as it’s convenient, and doesn’t interfere with my real life. As long as I don’t have to commit to too much time.”

And if that’s not enough St. James tells us that if we listen and don’t act on what we’ve heard we really aren’t listening. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." (James 1:22-24, NIV) You and I both know that when it comes to doing, we’re pretty lame.

So, we don’t listen very well. We may say “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” But when it comes right down to it we are pretty poor listeners. If only we could be more like Samuel. Maybe we could to him as a better example. He was willing to listen to God. We should willingly listen to God speaking. But really, pointing to someone as an example isn’t going to help us much. So what if Samuel was a good listener. That doesn’t do us much good, really. Really our problem isn’t really the fact that we don’t listen; our problem is that we don’t really want to listen. The problem really runs much deeper than just what we do while we sitting here. It’s not a matter of actions. It’s not a matter of doing or not doing. We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. And we could add “By how we have listened, not applying the truth to ourselves as we should, and by how we have not listened, and done what God commands.” We could try to do better. We could try to follow Samuel’s example. But, when we are honest with ourselves, we know that before long we’d be right back where we started; with the necessity to confess our sin again. Following Samuel’s example just shows us our sin again and again.

So, what are we to do? Aren’t we listening to this text to find out what we need to do better? Aren’t we having Rally Day to tell us that we need to better with attendance at Church and Bible study? Isn’t today’s service all about getting us all charged up and excited that we carry through with our promises and do the things we should do?

Well frankly, no. I’d love to see better attendance. I’d love to see so many people at church that we run out of room and have to go back to two services. And even so many children that we would sometimes have trouble hearing. But, no amount of pointing to Samuel as an example is ever going to solve our problem. Our problem is the sin that’s right here in our hearts, the sin that we can remove by any amount of our trying.

We don’t need an example… We need a Savior. It’s a little like telling a person whose drowning and shouting “I can’t swim,” to follow the example of someone who is swimming next to them. At that moment that person doesn’t need swimming lessons; they need someone to reach out and save them. He doesn’t need an example he needs a savior.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what God does for us. He sends us a Savior. He doesn’t give us the bible full of examples and say; “I’ll save you if you do what they do. If you listen like Samuel, I’ll take care of your sin.” Instead He gives us His Word, where we find not and example, but a Savior. Really the person we should think about when we hear how faithful Samuel is isn’t us (that is how we should be faithful) but it’s Jesus. Just as Samuel was willing to listen, so Jesus was willing to listen. I didn’t tell you what God told Samuel when he listened. It was bad news for Eli. God was going to judge Eli and his sons for all the evil things his sons had done. It wasn’t a pleasant task he was given. Jesus listened to the Father, too. Neither was His task pleasant. When He listened to God the Father He heard a call to death. He answered that call on the cross, where He bled and died for the sins of the whole world. But also, when He listened to God the Father, He heard a call to life, and was raised again from death on the third day. And He answered that call, too! It is Jesus who perfectly listened to God. We hear about Samuel in the text, but he was an imperfect human. But, even if he was perfect he could only save himself. He died and stayed dead. Jesus died and rose again. He is the only one who can save us. And that’s what we learn when we listen to God, here in this place.

It’s a message worth listening to. Jesus Christ comes here to us in this place telling us again and again what He has done for us. He tells us how He has saved us as we were drowning in our sin. He tells us that He took the punishment for our sin, and was pinned with it to the cross. He took our death and buried it in the grave. He takes our live and gives it back to us by His resurrection from the dead. That’s the Word that we hear, right here in Sunday morning worship. That the Word we hear, in bible classes, Sunday school… actually, it is the purpose of all the education programs here at Trinity. That’s the word that we need to hear, the Word that’s worth listening to.

So that’s what we are celebrating today with Rally Sunday. That’s the encouragement we need to hear about today. So today, we emphasize the opportunities you have to hear that Word. Get out that insert in the bulletin and look at the opportunities to listen that you find there.

  • Sunday Morning Worship Sunday 9am
  • Trinity Preschool Weekdays Mon-Thurs Mornings and Afternoons
  • Sunday school Sunday 10:30am / Trinity Classrooms
  • Adult Bible Class Sunday 10:30am / Trinity Fellowship Hall
  • Junior Confirmation Class Wednesday 6pm-7:30pm / Trinity Fellowship Hall Classrooms
  • Lifelight Fall and Spring
  • Youth Group Monthly / Trinity Youth Room
  • Early Risers Tuesday 6:30am / HyVee Cafeteria
  • In Home Bible Study By Request
  • Adult Instruction Class As Needed / By Request Bu
  • God’s Word for Today Weekdays about 7:30am / KSIB Radio 1520AM

Not enough for you, not at convenient times? Got an idea about another way we can share the Good News of our Savior with one another? Talk to me about it. I’m willing to help get any kind of education program started here.

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” We are listening. Not because of the example of Samuel. But because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Heb.11.17-12.3; Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15); August 19, 2010

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 11:17-12:3, ESV)

(Thanks to Pr. Mark Anderson, CPR, Vol 17, Part 3)

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

This text continues on with the theme of faith spoken about last week, although it has a little bit different twist. This text focuses a bit on the pain that was suffered by God’s faithful people. Now there’s a subject we’d really like to avoid pain. There are lots of kids of pain. Pain from an injury. Pain from surgery. Pain from the death of a loved one. Pain from broken relationships. Pain from the loss of anything precious or important. You and I have suffered all these kinds of pain in our lifetime. There is one thing for sure, you have all had it, and you will all have it again. It is as sure as death and taxes.

We all handle pain very differently. There are those who use drugs and alcohol to cover up their pain. Pain can be ignored or buried for long periods of time, in hopes that it will go away. It never does. Something that is buried alive will eventually dig its way to the surface again. I see a lot of this one, lots of people try to pretend that hurts between people will go away if they are ignored. You won’t have to think long to come up with and example of this one either. Lots of people turn to God with their pain, or rather churches. Flip through the channels on Sunday morning and you’ll hear tons of preachers addressing pain. The problem with most of them is they make promises that they can’t deliver on, promises that God doesn’t make. People are attracted to them because it’s exactly what they want to hear. “Give your life to God and He’ll make you prosperous.” “Use this prayer rug and God will make your life easy.” “Live your life with purpose and God will make you fruitful” “Say the prayer of Jabez and God will give you whatever you desire.” It seems so right, but none of those promises are found in God’s Word.

Pain is here to stay until our Lord returns. Becoming a Christian doesn’t take it away. We still have trouble in our lives. We still have broken families. We still have broken relationships. Our friends and families still die.

Well, it doesn’t matter what pain you name… pain is all the result of sin. God’s creation was created without sin without pain. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:10b, ESV) Once the world was corrupted by sin, its effects are shown in human lives through pain. It’s not the way it should be. We can ignore pain. We can shift the blame to someone else. We can come up with a thousand ways to push it aside. But eventually the root of the problem has to be dealt with. Sin has to be dealt with. And only God can deal with sin.

So what about you? What’s your favorite avenue to avoid pain in your life? Maybe you are among the people who think that pain should be avoided all together. Maybe you even joined this church looking for relief from pain. If I’m a good Christian God will take it all away and I’ll be happy, healthy and full of good fortune. Well, that’s not God’s promise to you. In fact, when you became a Christian you signed up, not for less trouble and pain, but actually more of it.

That’s what the text for today shows us. Just look at Abraham. Think of what it was like to leave everything you had behind and wander off to an unknown place. Think of the pain involved in being told to kill you son like and animal on an altar for sacrifice.

How did Abraham deal with it? Our text says, He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:19, ESV) Even when everything seemed hopeless, Abraham focused on God and the promises that were made to him.

Moses is also an example given here. Just look at the change in Moses life. He was a big shot, who became a sheep herder in a little out of the way place. Well that almost sounds like us doesn’t it? Moses suffered because he believed and trusted God more than he loved his high position. He believed in God’s promises, rather than focusing on the pain of the current situation.

And then there are the unnamed prophets and patriarchs.

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:36-38, ESV)

That’s quite a list of pain and suffering. Anyone here want to step up to the plate and volunteer for any of these things? These faithful people of God didn’t choose these things but God allowed them to happen for His own purposes. The made it through them by believing in God’s promises in spite of how it looked.

For you and me, the question isn’t if we will suffer pain. The question is when. The question is how.

How do you make it through your pain and suffering? As Christians we keep in mind one simple thing. We hold one thing as more important than any other. When ever we see suffering, we see it in light of our Savior on the cross. Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. Jesus Christ crucified for you and me!

Those great examples that we talked about... They have some things in common with us. They were sinful people too. They knew about their sin. They knew they only deserved God eternal wrath and punishment. But just like I said, they place their faith in the promises of God. We have and advantage that they didn’t have though. They looked forward to a promised Savior to come. We have Jesus Christ on the cross. They knew the Messiah was coming. We have the account of His coming written in words we can understand.

God’s Word tells us that God himself came to earth to deal with pain and suffering. He became a human being to deal with sin. In Jesus Christ, the wholeness of God dwells, we are told. He suffered and died for the sins of the whole world. He bore the punishment for all sin on the cross. No matter how great your suffering is, it will never compare to what Jesus suffered for you. He didn’t just suffer physical pain, nails in his hands, bruises and cuts, and harassment. He suffered spiritual death and separation from God. Jesus suffered the pain of hell on the cross.

How do you endure pain? I’ve heard it a hundred times. “I don’t know how I’d survive if I didn’t have faith.” “How do people go through things like this without Jesus?” Those statements say just what the writer of the book of Hebrews says. How do we endure? We endure through the cross of Christ. We focus on him. We look to Him. We hold tight to His promises. We know that God has taken care of our greatest need, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. He will surely take care of all our other needs. And we have his promise that our pain isn’t in vain. He has a purpose, even if we can’t see it in this lifetime. God take the pain of his people and uses it for the benefit of his people. These promises are assured for us in Jesus Christ.

You don’t have to rely on your feelings. You don’t have to rely on anything you’ve done. You don’t have to point to yourself and say that I’ve accepted Jesus. All that kind of talk is not placing faith in Jesus but faith in you. You can’t do it without Jesus. God makes sure you know that His promises are for you. Here again is the font (I hope you never get tired of me pointing to it as a reminder of God’s promises to you). This is not just an idle promise. It is a promise made by God’s very name. He puts it on you with water. It doesn’t matter if it was this font, another, or a small bowl at the hospital. God’s promises go with His Name, His Word and water. You are baptized child of God. It’s not a onetime event but a lifetime of living in God’s promises. And now, here at Trinity, over and over again your faith in God’s promises can be strengthened. God gives you the body and blood of Jesus Christ for you to eat and drink. The very same Jesus who suffered and died for you is going to go right into you. As you eat the bread and wine, God is saying to you that His promises of forgiveness are true for you. With that promise of forgiveness he also promises that He has taken care of all the things that cause pain in your life.

Here’s the thing. Jesus died for you and he rose again from death, for you. Packed together with his promise of forgiveness is his promise of resurrection. That’s the goal. That’s the prize. New life forever with Jesus. New life forever with no pain and no suffering… no sin! God has done it all, taken care of it all, and promised it all to you. Suffer as you will, and you will suffer, it doesn’t compare to the promises God has made for you in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hebrews 11:1-16; August 8, 2010; Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost;

11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:1-16, ESV)