Sermons

August 6th 2017 - A Disciple's Perspective

Author: Pastor Schultz
Text: Matthew 14:13-21
 

  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.  

 In our Gospel lesson for today we have one of the most well-known miracles of Jesus, the feeding of the five thousand. One of the reasons that it is so widely known is the fact that it is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. One of the problems with preaching on a text like this is attempting to come up with something new to say about the text and so I struggled for the last ten days or so to develop this message.  Certainly this miracle, like all of Jesus’ miracles, shows us that He truly is the Lord of heaven and earth, that He is truly the Son of God. This text shows us Jesus’ great compassion that even in the midst of trouble as He heard of Herod’s delusions and possibly his desire to kill Jesus, He takes the time to heal the sick among the crowd. He then not only cures many but also feeds them as well. Many commentators link this feeding of the five thousand to the feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness with the manna from heaven. Others link it to the Lord’s Supper and even to the marriage feast in Christ’s kingdom at the end of the age.  All of this is great stuff but I wondered if there was more to know. I wondered why this miracle was so important to the disciples that it was included in all four Gospels. Why was this feeding of five thousand men in a desolate place so different than any other miracle that the disciples had seen? Why did the Gospel writers all feel that it was important to share this narrative with those to whom they wrote? The answer hit me suddenly on Thursday morning. I was looking back almost 2000 years at this miracle and realized that I was looking at it all wrong. From my perspective I couldn’t understand the importance but if we look at the text from the perspective of one of the disciples then maybe we can understand why they saw this miracle as so important.  So let’s imagine that we are one of the twelve who was there that day. We hear about Herod’s crazy thoughts about Jesus. He thinks that He is John the Baptist raised from the dead. This news frightens us and we wonder if Herod will try to kill “John” again. The news also troubled Jesus. He just wanted to get away by Himself so He got in a boat and set off from shore. We really didn’t know where He was heading but when the news spread that it was Jesus in the boat the people began to follow him by walking along the shore line. As the crowd got larger and larger we decided that maybe we also ought to follow Jesus. When we reached the place where Jesus had come ashore, a great crowd had gathered to see Him. In this desolate place Jesus had compassion on the people and was taking the time to heal all the sick. We noticed that it was late in the day and that the nearby villages well weren’t so nearby. So we made our way to Jesus and suggested that He send the people away so that they might travel into the villages to buy food for themselves. We were quite shocked at Jesus’ reply, “They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.” We knew that we only had five small barley loaves and two fish. This wasn’t enough to feed the twelve of us, how could it feed all who had gathered? But Jesus asked us to bring Him the small portion of food, He had the people recline on the grass as if this were an important meal, and then He took that food, looked up to heaven and said a blessing. He broke the loaves into somewhat equal pieces and gave them to us to give to the crowd. We started out by giving only the smallest of pieces to the people knowing that this bread couldn’t possibly feed all of them. It wasn’t long before we noticed that even though we gave out pieces of bread the piece in our hands didn’t seem to diminish. So we started giving out bigger and bigger pieces and yet the piece in our hands didn’t diminish. We gave out the bread until all were satisfied and then we collected the pieces that were left over and it seemed that we had more left over than what we had when we started.  Here’s what you and I can take from this miracle when we have a disciple’s perspective. First Jesus calls us to serve. Jesus, when He performed this miracle, told the disciples, “You give them something to eat.”  And yes it was the disciples who fed the crowd that day. On that day Jesus was beginning to teach His disciples about service. Later in this Gospel, in chapter twenty, Jesus tells his disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, ESV)   We, as Christians, are called to serve. This service not only takes place among the fellowship of this congregation but also beyond the boundaries of this church property. God’s Word calls us to care for the widowed and the orphaned, the hungry, the thirsty, those without clothing, those who are sick and so on. We, as a congregation, have made great strides in the last two years in serving our community. We now provide space for a food pantry in our building. Just this past week some have served at Antonia Elementary and also at Grace Day III in Hillsboro. There are more opportunities yet to come this year including the Fall Festival at Antonia Elementary in September, the annual Trunk or Treat which serves our scouts in October, a Mission Event on October 14th which will serve neighboring congregations and numerous other opportunities as well. My hope is that all active members will serve in some way at one or more of these events.   The second thing that you and I can take from this miracle when we have a disciple’s perspective is simply trust. The disciples that day took that small quantity of bread and began to give it to the people not knowing how it would feed all of those people and yet it did through Jesus power. Often we get so caught up in the practicality of our concerns that we fail to look to the Lord who has power over all of creation. We fail to trust that the Lord will provide, especially in those situations that look rather grim or hopeless. When illness, injury or disease impacts our life, when our income is decreased or lost, when relationships are broken, and in all times of despair we often forget about our Lord who is compassionate and cares for our needs of both body and soul. We forget to turn to Him in prayer and we fail to trust that all things will work for our good.  One of my favorite hymns is “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus.” This hymn reminds me and you that not only can we trust in the Lord for supplying our hourly and daily needs but also for guidance and for cleansing that makes us holy and for pardon of our sins through grace and mercy and for complete salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Seeing this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with a disciple’s perspective led us to learn to trust in the Lord. Our Lord is king of heaven and earth. He cares about both our spiritual and physical wellbeing. His great compassion leads us to trust in Him in all circumstances. Our Lord invites us to call upon him in the day of trouble and He will deliver us. (Psalm 50:15) In response to all that the Lord has done and continues to do for us we go forth and serve our neighbor. In doing so we become the hands and feet of our Lord in service to the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick and so on. Oh Lord, grant that we always trust in you to provide for all of our needs of body and soul and bless us with opportunities to lovingly serve our neighbor as well. Amen.     

July 23rd 2017 - Freedom for the Slave!

Author: Pastor Schultz
Text: Romans 8:18-27

  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.  

St. Paul wrote in our text from Romans 8; 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  This morning I would like for us to use a picture to help guide our reflection on these words from St. Paul. A large portion of our reflection comes from a resource from Concordia Seminary called “A Visual Feast.” Today’s “Feast” comes with information written by the Rev. Dr. David Schmitt. I invite you to open your bulletin where you will find a picture placed between the sermon hymn and sermon. This is the same picture which was in the narthex this morning, maybe you stopped to look at it on your way in this morning.  Dr. Schmitt gives us this Historical Description:  Michelangelo (1475-1564), an Italian Renaissance artist, famous for sculptures such as the Pietà and David, and for frescoes, such as The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, left many works unfinished.   In Florence, visitors to the Galleria dell’Accademia can see four of Michelangelo’s unfinished slaves. Originally part of sixteen figures intended for Pope Julius II’s tomb, these slaves are forever trapped in marble, struggling to break free.   Each of the figures faces the viewer, offering a full torso and then fragments of legs, arms, and head, as if the artist worked from the front to the back of the block of marble while the figures in his mind rose to meet him from the stone.   Dr. Schmitt leads us in this Devotional Reflection:   If you were to go to the city of Florence and stand in the hallway of the Galleria dell’Accademia, you’d find yourself in an awkward place. There, before you, are four unfinished pieces of stone. An artist was working on pieces of marble but stopped in the middle of his work. The edges are rough. The stone is misshapen. And yet, you can see just the beginning of figures. People emerging from the rock. Some have no faces. Others are missing arms. What you see are merely the beginning of four figures. They are slaves. Prisoners. Begun by Michelangelo but never finished. His work has been frozen in time. What they once were, rough blocks of marble, is gone. What they will be, beautiful sculptures, is not yet here. Instead, they invite us to stand here in an awkward moment. The past is gone and yet not gone. The future is here and yet not here. We are invited to live, to hope, to trust in what has yet to be.   In our text this morning, Paul invites us into a hallway like this. He asks us to see how we are caught right now in the middle of God’s greater work. Paul begins by saying, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). Suffering and glory held together in this moment. Like rough hewn stone, our present world is filled with suffering. God had originally formed a beautiful creation. Wherever one looked, one could see God’s fingerprints and it was beautiful and it was good. Adam and Eve, however, brought suffering into God’s creation. They disobeyed God and brought God’s curse into the world. “The day you eat of it, you shall die,” God said and God, true to his word, subjected the beauty of creation to the bondage of decay. Such punishment was set in stone. Only God could set his creature free. Only God could bring about a new creation. This is what Paul has seen in Jesus Christ. Just a glimpse of the glory of the new creation. First fruit foretells a future harvest and Jesus Christ is the first fruit of life after death. Raised from the dead, he is the promise of a new creation. Our future resurrection into never-ending glory. God has begun this good work and, like this glimpse of figures in stone, it is only a matter of time before the full glory of God is revealed.   So Paul writes to the Romans to help them stand in this painful moment. And his words come to us to help us stand here today. In Christ, we have been made into the children of God. This is sure. This is certain. His death has destroyed the power of sin for you and his resurrection has brought you the promise of a new creation. Yet what we are is not fully seen and experienced in this world. Take a deep close look at God’s people, Paul says, and you will see a people, imprisoned and suffering, groaning because they desire to be free.   So we stand, awkwardly positioned between the sufferings of this present world and the glory yet to be revealed. And in this place, the apostle Paul asks us to meditate on our situation and to trust in the work of the Holy Spirit.    So there we have it, on one hand we have the sufferings of this present world. This suffering takes many forms. For some it is physical as they struggle with disease, illness, or injury. For some the suffering is mental as they struggle with diseases that are sometimes diagnosable but often times not treated well. Some worry about financial situations or about the health of a parent or about the misguided path that a child has taken. We, like the Christians in Rome, may even have to deal with suffering because of our faith.  On the other hand we have the promised glory that is to be revealed when Christ returns. We are right now the adopted sons and daughters of God and yet we wait with eager anticipation to receive the full benefits of this adoption. We have the first fruits of the Spirit which is not only evidence of present salvation but also future inheritance.  Like the slave in the picture before you we are at the same time stuck in the sufferings of this present world and have begun to partially reveal what we will be in paradise. In the picture before you the head of the slave is partially revealed just above the arm. The only features that can be seen are two eyes and a nose. Those eyes struck me as they seem to be the eyes of someone yearning for release. It’s as if he has a great desire for the artist to finish his work. And so it is with us. We eagerly long, we groan inwardly, we wait with eager anticipation for our creator to finish His work in us. We wait with great anticipation for the coming of the LORD, for the day when our Savior returns to take us to live with Him in the new creation. We long for the day when our bodies will be restored, when they will be set free from the bondage of decay known as sin, disease and death. We groan inwardly and cry out, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” Amen.     

August 20th 2017 - The Undeserving Receive Gace

Author: Pastor Schutlz
Text: Matthew 15:21-28
 

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.      

The undeserving receive mercy! One could say that this phrase is the theme of the entire Bible. In the first narrative of the Bible we see God showing mercy on the undeserving. Adam and Eve both ate from the forbidden tree and yet God promised that a Savior would come for them and all mankind. Abraham was a sinful man, living in a most sinful land and yet God chose him to be the Father of His chosen people. Moses was a murderer and yet God chose him to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. King David was a murderer and an adulterer and yet God promised that the Savior would come from his descendants. Isaiah was a man of unclean lips and lived among unclean people and yet God chose him to be a mighty prophet. Paul was a persecutor of the early church and yet our Lord Jesus called him to be the apostle to the gentiles. Even Matthew, the author of our text for today, was a despised tax collector and yet our Lord Jesus called him to be a disciple.  In our text today we heard of another undeserving person who received mercy. The woman in our text was undeserving in multiple ways. First, she was a woman. In the culture of Jesus’ day it was uncommon for a man and woman to speak in public. It’s easy to forget that in many ways woman were, in Jesus’ time, treated like second class citizens because Jesus often encounters women in His ministry. Second, she was Canaanite. She belonged to a group of people who had opposed the Children of Israel in Old Testament times. She was a foreigner, a Gentile and did not belong to the House of Israel. Jesus’ ministry at this time was restricted to only God’s chosen people. This idea was emphasized in chapter ten when Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with the instruction to only go to the lost sheep of Israel and not to the Gentiles or Samaritans.  The woman in our text was persistent and in the end she was granted her plea. Take note of her crying words, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.” (Matthew 15:22, ESV) These are words of faith. We aren’t told how, but at some point she came to believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Her faith was strong enough to believe that Jesus could heal her daughter who was oppressed by a demon. We can only imagine her feelings after Jesus had ignored her plea and yet it doesn’t stop her from continuing on with her cries for mercy. Her cries were so frequent that they began to annoy Jesus’ disciples. Her continual cries for mercy led the disciples to beg Jesus to send her away. This isn’t just a request to speak to her and send her on her way but rather to grant her request and then send her off. She then with boldness approached Jesus and knelt before him. This could be understood as an act of reverence or even an act of worship. She once again cried out “Lord, help me.”   In the short conversation that ensues she understands that Jesus hadn’t come for her type but yet she trusts that even the very crumbs that fall from the table would be enough to heal her daughter. Jesus commends her great faith and grants her plea and at the very moment her daughter was healed. This text is truly remarkable in that it shows that God’s mercy is for all people who have faith. It clearly and boldly shows that even an undeserving outsider, and a woman no less, can receive mercy from the Lord.  You and I live in a world where many have a deserving attitude which has become all too clear in this country. We hear people say, “I can do what I want, I can say what I want, I can believe what I want” and so on. “It’s my right as a citizen of this country, I deserve these freedoms” they say. And so this week we’ve seen racism and hatred lead to murder, we’ve seen people topple monuments which reflected our Civil War history and we’ve even heard a state senator wish that President Trump be assassinated.  Sometimes that deserving attitude creeps into the lives of Christians as well. Some, based on their family lineage in the church, or on their lifelong membership, or on their substantial weekly donation in the offering plate, or on their status as a leader in the church, or even on their vocation as church worker begin to believe that they deserve God’s grace. Some believe, based on status or their works, that they somehow have merited or earned God’s grace. I’m here today to proclaim that we are all like the woman in our text. Very few, if any of us, can claim a lineage connecting us to God’s chosen people. We are all Gentiles. St. Paul wrote in Romans chapter five that when we were still weak, still sinners, while we were the very enemies of God we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.  Martin Luther described our situation in this way: We come to the Divine Service as beggars with an empty bag. During the various parts of the service our Lord fills our bag with His grace. The service begins with a reminder of our baptism and grace enters our bag. We hear that our sins are forgiven, grace enters our bag. We hear of God’s mercy and love in His word, more grace enters our bag. We receive the sacrament, more grace enters our bag. We hear the Lord’s blessing, more grace enters our bag.  His point is this; we come to the Lord in worship as undeserving, sinful men and women. We come just like the undeserving woman in our text and like her we cry out “Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.” From her we also learn that we ought to be persistent in our prayers. The words of stanza three from the sermon hymn remind us to call on the Lord when He is near and seek the Lord where He is found. The Lord is always present when we worship, this is a place where we persistently approach the Lord in faith, bringing forth our prayers and petitions and praying earnestly for the Lord to have mercy on us. When we, like the woman in our text, approach the Lord in faith He answers our prayers. The Lord was merciful to her and is merciful to us as well. The Lord answers according to His perfect will and in ways that are beneficial to us both physically and spiritually. His mercy, love and grace are for all people. We heard this very truth in the Old Testament lesson from Isaiah where the Lord proclaims, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.”  (Isaiah 56:7, ESV) The undeserving receive mercy. The Canaanite woman, you and I, and all people of every color, ethnic background and language receive mercy because we persistently cry out in faith pleading for the Lord’s mercy. And His mercy is given to all who cry out in faith for our Lord is faithful and just and abounding in steadfast love. And for His mercy in our lives, for the forgiveness of all our sins, and for the sure hope of eternal life we give thanks and praise! Amen.