Sunday, February 10, 2019

Isaiah 6:1-8; The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany; February 10, 2019;


Isaiah 6:1-8; The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany; February 10, 2019;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”” (Isaiah 6:1–8, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
With Uzziah dead, a change was coming to God’s people in Israel. Uzziah was a good and powerful king. He held the Assyrians a bay. He helped the people prosper. The new king Ahaz was not good or powerful. He was controlled by his wife Jezebel. God gives Isaiah the prophet a vision and updates his call. He has been preaching and teaching already. Now things will be different. The security of the people is threatened. But they aren’t going to listen. The prophet’s words will go unheeded. And not just evil king Ahaz but the people, too. Isaiah’s updated calling will be difficult.
So we have God’s vision to Isaiah. He is high and exalted on a throne. Seraphim and Cherubim call out praises to God. “Holy, Holy, Holy! YHWH Sabbath.” Everything shakes. There is smoke that fills the house of God. The angels are addressing God in Trinity and Unity. Three persons, thrice holy. God of Armies.
There is nothing for Isaiah to do but die. No one can see God and live. Even Moses had to be hidden in the cleft of a rock, just to survive God passing by. Isaiah sees God in his holiness, the angels that swarm around him. Isaiah knows his place. He has been given job of speaking for God and yet he recognizes his own sin and failure. He sees his sin clearly. He sees the sin of the people he preaches to also. A sinner in the hands of an angry God is doomed. Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!
God is mercy. He forgives. He gives his own righteousness. God sends forgiveness in with a burning coal. The messenger touches Isaiah’s unclean lips and restores them. “Your guilt is taken was; your sin is atoned for.”
Isaiah responds to God’s call and forgiveness. Forgiveness has refreshed and revitalized him. He is restored as God’s mouthpiece. He is strengthened to face Ahaz with the message of God’s coming discipline. “Here I am. Send me!”
God calls, not just prophets, but all his people. He calls them to live and work and play in particular places among particular people. Isaiah didn’t deserve to be called by God. He was a man of unclean lips, who had failed in his calling many times. We do not deserve God’s calling either. We have not chosen God, but he has instead, chosen us. He chooses because he chooses, “without any merit or worthiness in me.” He chooses and places us in places to serve; bankers, teachers, farmers, parents, students, missionaries, and even pastors. Chosen and placed, called and given tasks to do in our calling. And like Isaiah called to speak, called to give the Good News of forgiveness found in Jesus Christ alone.
We are unworthy. We are sinners. We deserve God’s anger and punishment. Woe is us! We are people of unclean lips. We see God’s holiness and our sin.
I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.
We come before God’s throne pleading repentance, remembering that we have been made God’s very children in Holy Baptism. God puts his very name YHWH on us. And where God’s name is there is forgiveness. And we receive forgiveness by the touching of Christ’s body and blood to our lips (a far sight better than a burning coal!). We are given the righteousness of God. Clothed in the white robe of Christ. All that he did for us. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Your punishment done. Hell is not to be your destination. God declares to you and me “Your guilt is taken away; your sin atoned for.”
“Here I am, send me!” is our response. We are called in our baptism. Forgiveness refreshes and revitalizes us. We are restored as God’s mouthpiece. We are strengthened to face a world that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. And we are called as who we are. We all have unique talents and abilities to serve. Some serve as missionaries. Some serve as teachers. Some serve as friends and family. All called and placed to serve, placed to show God’s love and mercy. You are called to be God’s children in the world exactly right now where he has placed you. Each one of you uniquely placed in a family, a job, next to a friend, to serve. To be the best husband, wife, father, teacher, student, government worker, mechanic, builder that you can be.
For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)
God calls you to this work. He may not call with burning coals or bushes, visions of glory in the temple or even voices in the night. But he does speak to you in his Holy Word. He does come to you in Word and Water and Bread and Wine in a real presence that you can see and feel and taste and touch. We see our sin clearly proclaimed to us. We confess it and receive God’s pronounce forgiveness. And we are touched directly by God with forgiveness, individually. The Holy Spirit works in us faith in Jesus as the one who has brought that forgiveness through his death on the cross and resurrection. He enables us to live as God’s people among a world of people with unclean lips among a people who will be slow to believe. And the Spirit draws us close to Jesus, the Word of Life himself.  He provides direction and purpose, and changes in our callings.
Job changes place us among new people. Marriage and children give opportunities to teach a new generation directly. Grandparents can show God’s love in ways that parents are unable. Some are called to change their lives and move to a foreign mission field. Some are given the means to support them. Some are called to serve simply in work of service. Wherever we are, whenever things change, we follow God’s leading with the humble response, “Here am I, send me!”
In all of it we are called in our baptism to be God’s children. He has placed us in the world, specifically where and when we are. Each one of us is called to be in this world as God’s children, loving, helping and serving those he puts before us. And in that service we also bring the Word of comfort and hope. Jesus Christ has died on the cross for all your sins. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

1 Corinthians 13:8-13; The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany; February 3, 2019;


1 Corinthians 13:8-13; The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany; February 3, 2019;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:8–13, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today we are doing things the way we always to them. We are singing hymns about what God has done for us. And today the text urges us to talk a lot about God’s great love. We are, just like usual, hearing God’s word read to us today. In a few moments we’ll be praying, just like usual, giving our gifts to our Lord in response to his great love for us, and  we’ll be celebrating Holy Communion. It is all the things we expect to do on any typical given Sunday, in this place. We do them because that’s what Children of God do when we gather together. We sing to, and about God. We pray about our problems. We listen to God’s voice in his word. And we respond with our gifts. Today will also respond with our gifts through the collection plate. So this is an ordinary Sunday at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr.
But, there is one thing that we do, that I haven’t mentioned yet. And according to Paul, (according to God), it’s the greatest thing we can do. Of course I’m talking about Love.
“Look,” Paul said to the Corinthian Church, “Love it the key thing. What you do that’s built on love will last, because love never ends.” Paul is drawing a strong comparison here to what God said to Isaiah,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV)
It does what is promised. Just as God’s Word never falls to the ground ineffective, Christian love will remain in its important place for all time. “I know you’ve been given some important gifts,” Paul continues, “prophecy, tongues, and knowledge. And right now these are important. But, remember that these are only for ‘right now.’ When Jesus comes again, when we see him face to face, these things will be unnecessary. God’s love for us and our love for him will take over everything.”
I remember when I was little. I had a lot of ideas. Ideas about the world and how things worked. In the same way that I chuckled when my kids were little and they said something ‘cute’. I’m sure both of my parents had quite a few chuckles over me. But, to me they were pretty important ideas. Ideas like, cats were female dogs, and horses were female cows. I don’t remember when I realized that that wasn’t true, but it was a life changing event. When I was young I knew that my parents loved me, but it wasn’t until I became a parent that I learned what kind of love it really is. St. Paul is talking about that kind of a change here in the First Letter to the Corinthians. He says,
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)
Paul isn’t saying that prophecy, and knowledge weren’t important. On the contrary he is saying that they were very important to the building up of the church. But, he says, when the last day dawns, these things, will be no longer necessary. “Because the sun rises all lights are extinguished.” (K. Barth) Similarly, I’m not saying that what we do here isn’t important. It’s vital to our Christian growth. But, to use Paul’s words, they are only part. Like the things of a child’s understanding. As great a Christ’s Holy Supper is, it is only a foretaste of the feast to come. The difference between what we have now and what we shall have is unimaginable.
Of all of the things we do, God says, through Paul, that love is the greatest. We can sing about God all day long, but if we do it without love, it is a terrible noise indeed. We can pray for people all over the world, but without love, its just noise in our ears. You see love is the most important gift that God gives us, and no matter what we do, at work, at home, at school, and even at church… if we do it without love, it is nothing.
Paul wants the Corinthian church, and us, to stay focused on what is important, on the things that endure, eagerly anticipating what is coming for all Christians. “When that which is complete comes,” he says, “that which is partial will be superseded.” When Jesus returns again even the most important things in life will lack any value because the all lack permanence. Even the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge.
But, love endures. We see it especially the love given to us in Jesus. It is the perfect explanation of enduring love. From eternity, God made a plan to save us from our sins. His love for us was so great that Jesus was given to be our Savior, even though it meant his death. Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. And Jesus demonstrated the greatest love of all, when he laid down his life on the cross for us. It is love that endures the test of time, love that reaches right down to us here in this place. Because of what Jesus did for us, we have in our hearts the greatest thing in the world—love.  We love, because he first loved us.
And now, dear Christian friends, it is time to show our love for Jesus Christ. I’m not talking only about singing, praying and talking about what Jesus did for us. I’m talking about showing it, acting it, and living it. I’m not just talking about giving cash to help meet the church budget, although that is important. I’m talking about inviting our neighbors and friends to hear about the love of God in Christ. Do you realize that 50% of the people who live in Iowa are un-churched? It is even true of our little corner of the Minnesota Arrowhead here. Weather you realize it our not; you mingle with people every day who are going to hell. You talk with them, you laugh with them, and you even eat with them. Maybe you’ve told yourself that everyone around here belongs to a church, but the truth is, that it just isn’t so. There are people living in this very town who don’t know about the love of God. There are people very near to us who don’t know about Jesus Christ. I’m not saying that we need to walk down main street here with a sandwich board that says, “Repent! The end is near!” What is important is that we show them the love of God. It’s also important to find ways of telling them about the love of God for them.
We have a wonderful thing going here at Life in Christ Lutheran Church. Every week we come here and experience the love of God. A love that was so great for Jesus, that it meant his death on the cross. Always remember that it’s because of his love, that love is the greatest thing for us. Jesus lives in us, and he shows his love through us. That’s what makes everything different, especially on a special day, like today. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.