Sunday, August 27, 2023

Romans 11:33-36; The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 27, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord, Jesus Christ.

You have seen the wonder of a child. When they see or experience something wonderful for the first time. The joy of opening a surprise Christmas present or seeing something in nature that is full of wonder. There is something pure about that wonder.

That’s what Paul is trying to convey here. He starts with the interjection “Oh!”. In Greek it’s the same. It’s a one letter word, Greek letter Omega (pronounced “Oh!”). It’s an emotional outburst something that can’t be contained, in other words in this case, “The wonder of God”. The English translation tries to show this with exclamation points. There are none in Greek. It has to be expressed with the words, and he does. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

It’s a song, or psalm in Greek. Maybe even an early hymn. The editors of the Greek text recognize this and put in poetic form. Then as now the mysteries of God are often well expressed by the church in song.

And, of course, it is more than an emotional response. We tend to turn the text to ourselves. But Paul is talking about God’s riches, God’s wisdom, and God’s knowledge. It’s not our knowledge of him. That little word “of” is important, it means “belonging to”. The Apostle is speaking of things that belong to God. I have often said, when we speak of God’s attributes, he is the most if any of them. God’s riches are more than we can imagine. God’s wisdom is more that we can image. God’s knowledge is more than we can imagine. It’s the most riches, the most wisdom, and the most knowledge. Today we are going to talk about God’s riches. God’s riches are, of course, not money. God’s wealth is found mainly in his giving nature (but it is more than that!). In fact, even though money is one of the most mentioned things in scripture, God himself doesn’t need it, he already has more than everything. I dare say, God doesn’t care about money. It is a human invention. It causes all kinds of trouble. Many people love money above everything else. Pastor Paul addresses this in his first letter to Timothy.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV)
It is just like sinful human people to love their own creation above the Creator. And look at what it causes; wondering from the faith and many pangs. (It is noteworthy to show that these sufferings due to money are self-inflicted! A literal translation says, “impaled themselves with much suffering”). What God cares about regarding money is how you use what you’ve been given.

God values his creation but what he values above all in his creation, is people. He shows it clearly. He is, above all, a giving God, giving his riches freely. He provides all that we need to support this body and life. Martin Luther said in the catechism. Physical life would be impossible without God giving. The world would not function without him giving his daily attention. God cares deeply about creation, and he gives it to people for their use. His creation is one of his most wonderful gifts. The gift of creation gives us life itself. It gives us recreation. It gives us beauty. There is no way to fully comprehend wealth of God’s gift.

But, most relevant to us,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:4–6, ESV)
God is rich in mercy. He has saved us in the most incomprehensible way. By giving his only son into death on the cross. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We don’t deserve his mercy.
we were dead in our trespasses
Trespasses is a word that means crossing over the line. Specifically, God’s. We often cross over the line when we break his commandments in thought, word, and deed. Because of that we deserve God’s punishment. But God, in his rich mercy, sent Jesus to take our punishment.

Contemplate for one moment God’s richness in mercy. He sent his most valuable son, of more value than all money, or even creation itself. Jesus was made man. That in and of itself is a remarkable thing. And yet, not as remarkable as Jesus, the creator, becoming a man to serve us. It is backwards. God is so rich in mercy, that he serves people. He becomes a human person to save sinful, trespassing, people. He humbles himself to suffer the effects of sin. He suffers every day as a person would; we often see him groaning (i.e. Mark 7:34) over diseases, death and pain. But more so on the cross.
Hymn 437, Alas! And did my Savior Bleed. Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity, grace unknown, And love beyond degree! (LSB 746f )
Amazing pity, is another way to say mercy.

On the cross Jesus groaned for us for us. He suffered the human pain of death, and he suffered the eternal punishment of hell. And, in great mercy, he did it for you and me to save us from it. And, in fact, he took our punishment for sin on himself. There is no greater show of mercy, and there never will be. We do not get the punishment we deserve because Our Savior took it instead. That is God, rich in mercy.

It is a sad fact that most of the world rejects God’s mercy in Jesus. And you and would do the same if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit at work in the Word. He shows us our sin, our need, and then shows us our Savior, the solution. He implants faith to believe in all that Jesus did into our hearts. The fact that you and I are not destined for hell is all the work of God in mercy.

We cannot repay what God has so richly done for us in Jesus. Payment would negate mercy. What we can do is show gratitude. It may seem like a small difference. But it isn’t. Gratitude is a selfless measure that glorifies the giver. Repayment puts the glory on the payer.

So, how does gratitude look in our lives? How do we show God glory for what he, and he alone, has done for us? By living a life of service. We serve others because God served us. We show mercy to others because God showed mercy to us. We give people what they don’t deserve. Unconditional forgiveness, unconditional mercy. That is without requiring anything in return, even acknowledgement of what we give; even without seeing any response of their doing things differently. It isn’t our responsibility to change hearts, that belongs to God alone. It is ours, to simply speak forgiveness offered in Christ, and point to the cross. Pointing to our God who is rich in mercy.

Oh! The depth of the riches God. It inspires wonder, he is above all things wonder-full beyond our comprehension. He gives endlessly from his riches things that we don’t deserve and can’t fully comprehend. Amen.

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

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Isaiah 55:6-9; Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; August 20, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
6“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:6-9 (ESV)
(Thanks to Rev. Richard Jordan)

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

When we are young it seems that we spend a lot of time thinking about growing up. Later on it changes and we spend a great deal of time trying to stay young. Part of growing up is a little ritual that happens, and it seems to happen to almost everyone. When we were very young, our parents carried us. These days there’s appears to be a comeback in the infant carrying slings that people wear. But it isn’t long until we can walk on our own. Now usually walking on our own comes with an agreement between us and our parents. “You can walk, but you must hold my hand.” It’s a good agreement. We were too old to be carried like babies, our parents allowed us to grow up and walk on our own, but they would provide direction and guidance. They gave us their hand to show us the way so that we wouldn’t get lost. But soon we begin to think that we don’t need to hold their hand anymore, so we push it away and take off on our own. We think we are too old to hold our parents’ hand, we want to find our own way and we are sure we won’t get lost.

Now we could say that all this is just a part of growing up. Really it is SIN showing up in our young lives. We are rebelling against authority. We don’t want to obey our parents, and for the first-time act like God, making our own way, trying to do our own thing. That’s really what the first sin is all about, too. Adam and Eve pushed God’s hand away. They wanted to find their own way and make their own decisions. Most of the time, we think about sin as the things we do wrong or about how we don’t measure up to God’s standards. But another way of looking at it is to see sin in terms of rebellion.

Rebellion is the rejection of authority. We’ve all been there. At some point in time, we violated the agreement between us and our parents. We slipped our hand out of theirs. You wanted to go it on your own. You may have even had somewhere you wanted to go but you knew that the hand holding yours wouldn’t allow. So, with some effort you disconnect yourself and off you went on your own. After a time of freedom, after a brief dash out of sight, you found yourself alone. At first it was ok, but soon you begin to realize the position you are in, alone and you look again for the hand to hold. Panic set in and soon tears may have even flowed because you were lost.

When we are lost our parents go out to look for us, even though we have pushed ourselves from them. It is their love that compels them to find us. They will go to great lengths to come to where we are and take hold of our hand and guide us again. Every day of our lives we go through the very same thing with God. Just like we didn’t want to hold on to our parent’s hand, every day we struggle with God not wanting him to direct us. We are positive we are “grown up” enough to walk on our own. We know that we are “mature enough” to handle life however it comes to us. We don’t want God to carry us, and we certainly don’t want God to hold our hand, keeping us from things we want to do.

It sounds wrong to us. We have a strong tendency to think that God really wants us to grow up to be mature enough to live life on our own. But that’s not how it is with our relationship with God. We can never really be independent from him. Independence from God means to be separated from him and his will for our lives. Independence from God is to live life on completely human terms. When we want to do things on our own, we push God out of our lives. Independence from God is a place called hell. When we push God away from our lives, when we reject his guidance for our lives, we reject all that he has for us. When we live on our own terms we live in terms of our sinful nature. St. Paul says it like this:
5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Romans 8:5-7 (ESV)
The response of God to rejection is punishment and death. Well deserved punishment and death. Those who push themselves away from God should be lost forever. And this is where our text speaks to us. We know God and still we continually push him out of our lives. God’s response to our slipping our hand out of his is to say to us (as Isaiah says),
“let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. (Isa. 55:7)”
That’s God calling out to us to repent and return to him. And just like the child who is lost from his parents, we don’t find our way back to God, we can’t find our way back. He comes to us and finds us.

God comes to the place where we are lost and finds us. He asks us to repent and turn toward him, but first he makes it possible by finding us.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”
He comes near to us, right to the place we are lost. God came into a dark and sinful world, a world full of his human creatures who had pushed themselves away from him. Jesus Christ found human beings right in the middle of their lives. He found us by becoming one of us. He was flesh and blood. He could be touched and seen and heard; God, able to be found; God, near enough to call on. Just think, God himself, became a human person, with arms able to hold a child. We can find Jesus because he wraps his loving arms around us. God so much wants us to be found that he did what was necessary to make it possible. He has compassion on us, even when we push him away; he abundantly pardons our sin of rebellion. And it’s not arbitrary. God doesn’t look the other way and ignore our rebellion. He takes care of the punishment we deserve. He does by taking it upon himself, our deserved punishment and death is placed on Jesus, and he took it and right there in our midst, right there in the middle of our world he paid that punishment in full, with is “holy and precious blood, and innocent suffering and death.” He was beaten and crucified to restore us to God. Yet the punishment that Jesus received for us isn’t just physical. He received the eternal punishment for our rebellion. He suffered the punishment of hell for us. And that is where we find God. That is where he is to be found, hanging on our cross, suffering and dying for us.

Where is God to be found today? The very same God, Jesus Christ is found right here in our worship. He promises to be present with us to forgive our sins. He is found here in his Word and Sacraments. His hand reaches out to us with the water of baptism that says, “This is my child, I have found him.” He is found in his supper. The very same body and blood that hung on the cross is given to you in the bread and wine. You can find God right there in a very specific place. And where you find Jesus, you find forgiveness. You find his compassion. You find his pardon for your rebellion. God makes it possible for us. He puts himself right here to be found. He comes near to us. Reaches out his and takes our hand when we are lost. So, we can walk with him, and he can direct our lives again. Amen.

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

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Isaiah 55:1; John 4:7-45; The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 6, 2023;

Isaiah 55:1; John 4:7-45; The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 6, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

There is no getting around it, life is hard. Oh, I know, we don’t always think so, but it is true. It’s not just church things that make it hard, family things, money things, time things, work things, retirement things (that’s not working things), all things. We’d like life to be easy, without stress and without worry. There are good days when we relax and enjoy the people and world around us, but usually they are few and far between. Life is hard. We want it to be different.

Jesus dealt with that kind of trouble. He called it thirst.

Jesus was sitting at a famous well in the town of Sychar in Samaria. A Samarian woman came to draw water in the heat of the day. That was unusual, most people would draw water in the cool of the night. Jesus knew who she was and what she was about. He said, “Give me a drink.” She was set back, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

Jesus, knowing her true thirst replied. “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

She was confused, “You have nothing to draw water, the well is deep. Where will you get that?”
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“I want that water,” she said, “so I don’t have to daily draw water in the heat of the day, and not be thirsty.”

Our Lord seemingly changes the subject. “Go get your husband.”

“Don’t have one.” she said curtly.

“Yep, in fact you have had five, and the guy you’re with now isn’t your husband.”

He gets to the heart of the matter. Her guilt and sin have brought her to the well in the heat, to avoid contact with the other people in her town. Her sin and shame have brought about a thirst that can’t be quenched.

Life is hard, but we make it harder. That’s what sin does. It destroys relationships. Her relationship with the people of Sychar is strained. She wants to be able to come to the well at any time of the day, her thirst for things to be different will never end, without what Jesus has to offer.

Everybody knows this thirst. Our plans fall apart. Our loved ones die. We must interact with people who seem to be wandering around without a clue. Hostility reigns in the world. From customers hassling servers, and neighbors not being good neighbors. Not to mention the growing hostility to Christians who confess biblical truth.

We are especially thirsty when it comes to our families. We grieve over our children having to learn life lessons on their own, because they don’t listen to our advice. Our spouse, who God has called us to love unconditionally, at times, makes us very thirsty.

We are thirsty when we deny Holy Communion to those who don’t confess the truth of scripture. We want the divisions in the Church to end.

But don’t forget, our thirst is mainly because we break all the commandments on a regular basis. If you think you haven’t, all you have to look at Jesus interpretation of them. You may be able to control yourself on out outside, but in your heart, you know that you don’t do what Jesus says perfectly as the law demands. “In thought, word and deed.” We say in our confession.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

The woman at the well has all these. She is human. She has sin, hidden and in the open. Just like you and me. She is very thirsty. She must have been shocked at Jesus’ insight. “I see you are a prophet.” She says and pushes back on another source of thirst, the relationship between Jews and Samaritans. “You people tell us we aren’t worshiping properly because we worship on this mountain.”

“… the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Is Jesus answer.

In other words, “it’s not the place, it is the object, and the truth that God brings in his Son.”

“When the Messiah comes, he will tell us the truth.” She confesses her faith in God sending a Savior. Jesus says it plainly.

“I who speak to you am he.”

“I’m speaking the truth of God to you. You have sin that makes you thirsty. Trust in me and your thirst will have an answer.”

She drops everything, she has forgotten her shame and guilt. She goes to the people that shame her. She wants them to know what she heard.

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

Because of her actions, and Jesus’ confrontation with the truth, many people of Sychar came and received living water to end their thirst.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,

I don’t have to ask if you are thirsty. It is a fact of human existence. We thirst for things to be different. Jesus has an answer for it. He answers on the cross. Sin is the root cause of this thirst. Our Lord deals it to death there. At his feet we receive the living water of forgiveness. It’s easy to blame everyone else for our problems, but it is our sin always involved. Like the soldier at the foot of the cross (John 19:34, ESV), living water from Jesus side flows over us and washes us clean. His blood flows into the chalice of the Supper. We drink it deeply and receive his gift of life. Our thirst is quenched. We are at peace with God, our sin is dealt with. We have a relationship with the Father through Jesus. A relationship that pours out living water continually. A relationship that is founded in the cross and confirmed through the life-giving water of Holy Baptism. When we remember God’s promises and gifts given to us in this sacrament, we can drink deeply and revive, and quench our thirst.

Does it make a difference? Yes, of course! Baptism connects us to the Holy Spirit. He promises his presence every day of our lives. When the thirst threatens, pray this simple prayer. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. The Spirit causes living water to flow again, and we are refreshed.

In one sense, Christianity isn’t complicated. It’s simple. Come to worship to hear God’s word and the preaching of forgiveness of your sin. It refreshes. Live in your Baptism. Claim the promises there. They refresh. Receive the body and blood of Jesus at this altar. It quenches thirst.

And there is more, with God there always is. Jesus not only gave his life on the cross, but remarkably he rose from the grave to life. There are promises in that action that make this recurring thirst bearable. With his resurrection, Jesus, promises you and me a resurrection from our grave. The Revelation of St. John describes that new life this way:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:2–4, ESV)

It is the promise of God to his people. All tears, mourning, crying a pain will be past. That means and end to “thirst”. In God’s presence, there will be complete joy, and no more thirst. So, as we now constantly need to be refreshed, through Word and Sacrament, then we will no longer need these things. Come, Lord Jesus, soon! Amen.

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