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Sharing the joyous news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ is our chief purpose. To that end, we seek to nurture everyone we meet.

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Starting June 1, 2019, we will begin our summer schedule with Sunday service beginning at 10:00 a.m. 

October 7, 2018: 20th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, human marriage is a Divine picture of our spiritual marriage to You. It is to be a life-long union. In it the two become so close and intertwined that they literally are one. And nothing should be allowed to separate the two parties. Thank You, dear Lord, that You actually practice all those principles when it comes to Your allegiance to us! May all of us seek to do likewise in our own lives and may we also seek to build up adherence to those principles in the married lives of all we meet. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR HEAVENLY BRIDEGROOM!
TEXT: Mark 10: 2-11
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
What are the primary drivers, the over-riding urges, that propel people through life? They are: survival, food, and sexual expression. Survival includes our “fight or flight” mentality when confronted by trouble. Food is necessary for survival, so it undergirds fight or flight, but also becomes pleasurable—when the food is tasty! Then there’s sex. Procreation and furtherance of our genetic make-up comes from the urge to be remembered beyond our three score and ten. Considering the burdens and heartache of raising children, it’s a good thing that God made the act of sex pleasurable! Otherwise, as a race we would have died out long ago!…
But, of course, sin messed this all up. Sex isn’t just about physical urgings and physical pleasure. It has a deeply emotional component part. But humans, being sinners, have often turned it into a weapon to impose their will on another, to get even, to manipulate, and to build their ego. This isn’t new to our generation. It has existed since the Fall into sin. And both sexes have misused the gift of sexual union perhaps more than any other Godly gift to this very day.
I
The Israelites of Moses’ time were products of their environment. They had come out of Egypt, where when it came to sex anything and any one was fair game. Then, during the Exodus, they were surrounded by heathen tribes of people who might have been even worse. Incest, pedophilia, and any other perversion imaginable was rampant among these people.—One reason why God ordered their Canaanite neighbors wiped out when God’s people entered the promised land. So it should come as no surprise that some rather loose standards of marriage began to creep into the Jewish camp. Remember, when it comes to sex, people are always weak.
So, various Jewish leaders approached Moses and wanted him to loosen up divorce restrictions so that they could get rid of their old wife for a new one with a clean conscience. Moses was the chief religious leader and also the chief of civil affairs. Which hat should he wear in this discussion? Well, Moses put on his civic hat and “permitted” them to write out a certificate of divorce but only under various restrictions. If they were an innocent party and had done nothing wrong, this should not have been a problem. But they had to enumerate their reasons and give specifics—including about themselves and their behavior! Needless to say, this cut down on a lot of divorce proceedings. Few were totally innocent and no one likes to air their dirty linen in public. This wasn’t a command of God. Yet in the civic arena, sometimes the best a judge can do is minimize hurt so that others don’t get trampled and hurt, too. The Pharisees, enemies of Christ, knew all this. So, they pose their question to Christ in order to trip Him up. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” If Jesus says: Yes, then they can accuse Him of loose morals. If He answers: No, then they can accuse Him of going against Moses.
II
As God’s Son, Jesus knew their thoughts. So, He answers back: “What did Moses command?” Permit is different than command. So, again these enemies try to answer very narrowly and not get ensnared in their own trap: “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” But now Jesus springs the trap back on them in a devastating manner: “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law. But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Any divorce stems from sin. Period. No divorce is God’s will. Period. Right here Jesus reminds everyone that marriage is to be lifelong union of one man and one woman. Nothing, including family ties should come between them.—Not the relatives, not the parents, not the kids, nothing. For in marriage the two become one flesh. There is a unity which should never be violated by anyone in any way.
To be sure, one party is usually more to blame than the other. Sometimes one party can be totally innocent in that they didn’t go out and look for sexual partner and then act on it. But it always takes two to tango. And out of all the divorced people I’ve ever dealt with, in the end, both sides have admitted that they could and should have done certain things differently. That’s an admission that sin influenced them both.
So, the point here is that no one wins when you allow sin to disrupt the marriage in any way. The flash point may be money, work-related, the stress of child-rearing, extended family interference, emotional aloofness or absence of sharing your all with your spouse. The reasons for divorce are as numerous as the people involved. God isn’t in favor of any of them! But our wise God also knows that sometimes “all the kings horses and all the kings men cannot put humpty-dumpty back together again.” That’s just a recognition of reality.
III
The disciples were troubled by all this. Was Jesus playing loose with the traditional religious definition of marriage and divorce? Was He failing especially to protect seemingly innocent women from being taken advantage of by predatory husbands going through a mid-life crisis? Again, Jesus knew their thoughts, so He then adds to them: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
This is how seriously people should take marriage. And if one party breaks their marriage vows for ungodly reasons, unless and until they repent of their sins they are living in that sin and God won’t bless them.
But, what happens if and when they do repent? What should you do if and when they admit their faults to God? They are already remarried. Maybe both have remarried. Well, according to the Bible any and all sins that are repented of are also forgiven. Christ died to pay for all human sin. The only exception being: a Sin against the Holy Ghost, which is willful unbelief and a denial of God’s grace. By definition any repented sin doesn’t deny God’s grace, it affirms it, doesn’t it? So when it comes to remarried divorcees, rejoice that God is forgiving, that they have learned much about bad choices, and then support them in trying never to make those same bad choices again! And never, ever, feel superior! Satan is always crouching at all our doors, and feeling superior to another is a quick way to invite him in to pounce on us. For “he who thinks he stands, must be careful lest he fall.”
One final thought to folks younger than I am. Don’t let sexuality define who you are or what you’re about as a person. Marriage is about growing together in all aspects as people. It’s about sharing everything with your soul-mate. Men are incomplete without women. And vice-versa. That’s what God states in Genesis when He speaks of Eve as the “helper suitable” for Adam. It means each sex has unique qualities the other lacks, but together they are literally whole, complete and one. This is a picture of each Christian’s relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re incomplete as humans without Him and He’s not emotionally fulfilled without us.—That’s why He created us to begin with and that’s why He went to the cross willingly to save us. So, don’t sadden His heart by walking away from Him or from your marriage here on this earth. Employ your faith to support your marriage and He will employ His loving power to bless all your efforts. And this is why Christian marriages are the best of the blest! Amen

September 30, 2018: 19th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, Your Church runs on Godly forgiveness. Likewise, our lives are to do the same. So, when something interferes with that construct between fellow believers, it is vital that it be rectified as soon as possible. Otherwise, true healing cannot occur. Today teach us anew the importance of that truth and cause all of us to put it into weekly practice. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, GOD’S FORGIVENESS INCARNATE!
TEXT: Matthew 5: 23-25a: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary….”
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
A couple of weeks ago I was attending our synod’s bishop’s conference. Our discussion was about spiritual preparation before communion. I asked: “How many of you have preached directly on the lesson before us today?” I didn’t see any raised hands. So, I concluded that some Sunday I would preach on this issue. Today is that day.
Our text comes from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. In it He gives a host of practical advice to believers as to how to order their lives so that they can literally be: “sweet smelling incense to God.” Hopefully, your Pastor instructed you in confirmation class about the importance of preparing your heart before communion in order to receive Christ’s body and blood for maximum benefit. Our lesson is a prime example of what to do to make this happen.
I
Good Lutherans, like the sainted Pastor Schulz who confirmed me, have used Christ’s words as a blueprint for helping us commune rightly. The old catechism I was raised on had this passage included under such a heading. The image is of a parishioner who is making a public confession of Christ and also offering God a public gift. But then, a sin in some form comes to mind, so the parishioner leaves the gift at the altar. He goes and deals with what’s weighing on his mind, removing it, to show that nothing stands in the way of that gift—nothing blocks or sullies its heartfelt value. In short, all sins need to be repented of and cleansed before offering a gift to God otherwise that gift is tainted. Now, the ultimate gift we offer to God each week at worship is our hearts. That means we need to actively seek to cleanse our hearts from all sin via confession and absolution. We also need to bring forth fruits of repentance as part of our offering to God. Recall Paul’s words that “our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost.”
So, if you have wronged another, or negatively impacted their faith by something you did or said and it weighs a bit on your mind, before communing you should seek to rectify the situation. Christ here goes so far as to say: “Leave your gift before the altar” and go and fix the situation first. In other words, skip the Holy Supper until you talk to your fellow believer and repentance and forgiveness has healed both your consciences. I’ll admit that it’s hard to swallow your pride and do so. It’s easy to rationalize such life disruptions and say: “Well, I asked God to forgive me, so He has and that’s the end of it.” It may appear so to you from your viewpoint, but what about the other soul involved? How has it hurt them? What is it doing to undermine their faith? You are your brother, or sister’s, keeper. And if you don’t go the extra mile to help them when it may well be your fault, well, is that true repentance or a sham?
II
The recently sainted former president of our synod, the Rev. George Orvick, was a good theologian and a practical Pastor. Once, at a General Pastor’s Conference, a young Pastor submitted a question about how to handle secret sins in the church among his people. Pres. Orvick uttered a great piece of advice! “The Pastor should not play detective with his people. Enough problems will naturally come to your door without you going out and trying to find them!” How true. So, I don’t try to play detective with any of you.
That being said, I know that unchristian behavior goes on. I know that all of you are weak at various times. I know that Christians have sex outside of marriage, that Christians get drunk, that they say abusive things, that gambling addiction afflicts them, too; that family squabbles can cause deep-seated division, and that marital discord can and does block faith. I know everyone is guilty of sins of commission and also those overlooked sins of omission. So, when one party catches another in an outright lie and both are believers, hypocrisy rears its ugly head. Then, when they blissfully go ahead and commune without addressing it, the hurting soul or souls begin to question both their faith and God’s goodness. All this is background to Christ’s words in our lesson.
III
I’ve never had a member come to me about this issue directly, but I believe I’ve witnessed it a few times. Many years ago I had a faithful member who skipped communing one Sunday. It was totally out of character for her. She didn’t appear to have a cold or to be sick in any way. She wasn’t under any church discipline. Her track record on communing was literally every Sunday. Why did she skip that week? I didn’t play detective. But I knew that there was extended family discord that she was privy to. I knew she disagreed with hard words that were being said among siblings. So, to this day, I believe she wanted to try to rectify that before she communed. I knew the Pastor who confirmed her. I knew he would have taught her the truth of our text. Apparently, she took it to heart before communion time came around again.
Such confession is good for the soul. It’s liberating to a troubled conscience. It’s why Jesus includes this little bit of Godly advice in the Bible. For even if you have done nothing wrong that your conscience convicts you of, what about the other person involved? Putting a roadblock in the Christian highway of another person isn’t pleasing to God. So, do you want to give God a dirt-stained offering of faith, or a cleansed one?
Jesus died on the cross for all our sins—even those of hurting another and overlooking that fact. John writes: “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” But when we ask our Savior to truly bless us, isn’t it just plain honesty to try our best to reconcile with those we have also hurt? Isn’t ignoring that truth tantamount to cheapening God’s grace?
So, today I’ve preached directly on this issue for the first time in 34 years! I trust it will deepen your faith, understanding and appreciation of both Godly forgiveness and Godly worship. Finally, in view of God’s mercy extended to each of you, heed Jesus’ words! “Settle such matters quickly” so that God’s grace can actively preserve your soul without hindrance. Amen

September 23, 2018: 18th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, it is very easy for us to get so caught up in this world that we lose sight of the one to come.  It is so easy for us to compartmentalize and wall off earthly life, divorcing what happens here from our spiritual life.  Lord, prevent us from doing that!  Otherwise, sin is going to overwhelm us and destroy any relevancy when it comes to Your truth, Your mercy, and Your love.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF ALL LIFE!

TEXT:  James 4: 1-10

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

90% of the average person’s hospital costs are incurred in the final 6 months of their life!  I’ve seen that statistic, and I’ll bet you have too.  It’s a whopping big number!  No wonder health care costs are a noose around everyone’s neck!  And exactly why is this so?  Boil it down and people are afraid to die and will do anything to cling to this world which is what they know.  So they and their families rack up 100,000’s of dollars in health costs just to stay alive for a few weeks or months longer.  I’ve never felt this way.  I’m really not afraid of dying because I know exactly where I’m going—to heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ.  In fact, many devote Christians that I’ve ministered to feel the same.  Some welcome death and hope it comes sooner rather than later.  I can’t tell you how many have told me: “Pastor, heaven sounds really good right now!”  So, if I develop some disease or malady from which there is  no recovery, let me die in peace.  It’s a much better alternative than stuck in a hospital bed with tubes and machines eking out a few more days here on earth!  I believe in letting God be God and not tempting Him by engaging in human measures contrary to His timetable.

I

In the church we often talk about “the world” and not in a good sense.  The world runs on totally different principles than God wants His people to.  Remember when Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world.”?  God’s kingdom runs on eternal truth, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and peace of soul.  All these are wrought by Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Who won them for us on the cross and gives them to us via faith.  And yet, they often get pushed aside from our daily lives by “the world.”  The Apostle James addresses this issue in our lesson.  One translation has a summation at the beginning of our lesson: “Do Not Love the World.”  But it’s easier said than done, isn’t it?

James begins: “Where do conflicts and quarrels among you come from?  Don’t they come from your cravings for pleasure, which are at war in the parts of your body?  You want something but do not get it, so you murder.  You desire something but cannot obtain it, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask, and yet do not receive, because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on what gives you pleasure.”

Quarrels come from wanting things: “My way.”  They stem from pride and arrogance.  “My way” brings you a sense of superiority and thus prideful pleasure.  If we don’t get things to go “my way” we may not physically murder someone, but we do end up holding a grudge and/or hating another human being.  The Bible says that’s akin to murder.  (Of course, in the process we end up murdering our soul, don’t we?)  Considering what’s going on in Washington with the Supreme Court today, I wonder how many souls are angrily committing spiritual suicide?

We often don’t get our way because we pray wrongly for it.  James says that we often ask for things that massage our ego and thereby give us pleasure.  That’s a worldly viewpoint not a Christian one.  God knows our real motives better than we do.  That’s why He sometimes doesn’t give in to us.  That’s also why: “Thy will be done” should be part of any and every prayer.  Christians understand this.  The world does not.

II

Adultery isn’t always sexual.  It can be spiritual and psychological, too.  It’s really having an intimate relationship outside of what God intended.  Hence, our next section: “’Adulterers,’ don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God?  So whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or, do you think that Scripture has no reason for saying that the Spirit, who lives in us, yearns jealously?  But he gives greater grace!  That is why it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”

Each of you is God’s dearly beloved child through faith in Christ.  Each of you has had your soul redeemed by His blood.  Each of you has been born into a new life by the washing of water and the Word via the Spirit’s power.  So right now, each of you is a  living temple of the Spirit of God!  He’s your eternal Friend and He expects you to cling to Him in such friendship.  That’s also why the Spirit yearns to protect us from being corrupted by this world and jealously works at preventing it from doing so.  Yes, humble repentance, putting Godly principles first in your decision making must come first.  To help make that happen, He gives grace to the humble.  For unless you empty your hearts through humility there will be no room for His grace to reside…..

III

Now comes the final Word of Truth: “So, submit yourselves to God.  Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God, and he will come near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded people.  Lament, mourn, and weep.   Let your laughter be changed into mourning and your joy into gloom.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

The world says: “Eat, drink, be merry, and don’t worry about death.  There is no afterlife.  There is no God.  There is nothing but you.  Look out for #1.  Take advantage of any and all situations.  Grab for power.  Grab for money.  After all, he who dies with the most toys wins!  And if anyone else is hurt in the process, tough.  Your life comes first.”  If this life is all there is, we can well understand the logic of those statements.  But you know better!  Say NO to Satan.  Right here God promises that the devil will flee from you because you’re armed with God’s Power.  Think beyond yourself and what’s good for me, and don’t try to straddle the line of playing with certain sins while acting pious and blissfully believing that God doesn’t care.  Don’t abuse God’s grace!  Take it seriously and cleanse your body and soul with repentance.  It’s O.K. to mourn the frailty of your flesh, too.  What good is earthly joy over ill-got gains compared to the price of your soul?

And finally, finally, as we fight the good fight with all our might, our merciful God will “lift you up” out of this spiritual morass.  We know that to be true because Jesus Christ was lifted up from it at Easter and later Ascended into glory to prepare a heavenly mansion just for you.  So, to go back to the beginning of this homily, why fall in love with “the world” and cling to it when heaven awaits?  Contrary to popular opinion, this life is but darkness masquerading as light. So, let’s get ourselves ready for the real thing!….Amen