Sermons

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February 10, 2019 - God's Call

Author: Pastor Schultz
Text: Isaiah 6:1-8


    

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ grant us grace and peace.  May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.  

 

I Introduction: What a wonderful vision! Through the eyes of Isaiah we see the Lord upon His throne, His garments filling his royal space. We see the seraphim above the Lord with their many wings and we hear them calling back and forth. As they do so the foundations shake. The space is filled with smoke just like the tabernacle and temple were in Old Testament times. It’s a vision that evokes awe and wonder. It’s a vision and experience that even today informs parts of the Christian life. Join me as we not only envision the glorious scene with our eyes and imagination but also listen to the words spoken in this vision. 

  

* As we imagine the scene we hear the voice of Isaiah - “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!” (Isaiah 6:5, ESV) 

o This is a cry of despair! Isaiah knows that he is ruined, undone or lost as the ESV translates.

o Isaiah confesses that he is a sinner and knows that a sinful man cannot see the holy Lord and live.

o Peter’s words are similar in our Gospel Lesson, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8, ESV)

o Sin and holiness simply cannot exist in the same space. This is the very reason why we begin our worship with confession and absolution. Sinful man cannot enter the presence of the holy Lord. Man’s sin must be atoned for, it must be forgiven if he is to be in the presence of the Lord.

o You may have noticed that I begin the service outside of the chancel – the area that contains the altar, lectern, pulpit, and baptismal font. This is done as a reminder that one must be cleansed of his sin before he can approach the holy Lord. Once my sin is forgiven then I enter the chancel, the space where man meets the Lord at His altar.

* As we imagine the scene we hear of praise spoken by the seraphim, words that shake the very foundations - “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3, ESV)

o  The praise begins with a triple repetition of the word holy. This is sort of a remnant from the Hebrew language. You see, that language didn’t contain superlatives, so instead it used repetition of words. The triple holy could be translated as the simple English superlative “holiest”.

o The Lord is the Lord of hosts, in Hebrew the word is sabaoth. The term has a military connotation; it can mean army or a division of a total army.

o A striking example of this army is recorded in 2nd Kings chapter six: When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17, ESV) 

o That mountain full of horses and chariots of fire was the army of the Lord, the normally unseen angels who serve those who fear the Lord.

o These words of the seraphim should sound familiar to you as they are part of our Service of the Sacrament. They make up the first part of the Sanctus, which is Latin for holy.

o In the Santus we join in this wonderful vision, joining the seraphim is praising the Lord.

* As we imagine the scene we see one of the seraphim flying towards Isaiah with a burning coal in his hand, a coal taken from the altar. The hand with the coal in it reaches out and it touches the mouth of Isaiah. And we hear the words of the angel - “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:7, ESV) 

o In a real and tangible and visible way the angel brings forgiveness and restores Isaiah so that he can stand in the presence of the Lord.

o This is the only instance where a man’s sin is atoned for in this manner.

o And yet a similar thing happens here most Sundays.

§ A messenger of the Lord takes very tangible items from this altar. These items touch your mouth. In the eating and drinking your guilt is taken away. In the Sacrament you remember the all atoning sacrifice of your Lord, His body given for you, His blood shed for you.

* As we once again imagine the scene we hear words from the King, the Lord of Hosts - “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8, ESV)

o The holy Lord now is able to approach Isaiah whose sin is forgiven.

o The Lord approaches with a question, a question that continues to be heard even today, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

* Again we imagine the scene and we hear Isaiah’s response to the question - “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8, ESV)

o Like Abraham, Moses, and Samuel had before him, Isaiah responds in a servant tone, “Here am I”. 

o Isaiah answers the call and is commissioned to speak to God’s people.

* The Lord calls out, “Whom shall I send, who will go for us?”

o Throughout the ages men have answered the call.

§ Peter, James, and John answered the call and they became fishers of men.

§ Tertullian, Jerome, Augustine and all of the early Church Fathers answered the call.

§ Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Martin Chemnitz, and other protestant leaders answered the call.

§ In May of 2009 over 70 men from Concordia Seminary answered the call.

o And yet this call isn’t only for Apostles, church leaders, and pastors. The Lord calls out to you as well, “Whom shall I send, who will go for us?”

§ Who will go and comfort the grieving with God’s Word of hope?

§ Who will go and sit with the lonely and homebound and pray with them?

§ Who will go and bring food to the hungry?

§ Who will go and purchase a coat for the needy?

§ Who will go and share the joy and hope in their heart with a friend who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior?

§ Who will go and bring comfort and relief to those suffering from disaster?

§ Who will go and share the love of Jesus with the children in our community?

§ Who will go and purchase Bibles to distribute to our visitors?

§ Who will go and serve the needy in our communities this August?

§ Who will go and serve the needs of veterans who live among us?

Conclusion: The Lord calls out, to you and to me “Whom shall I send, who will go for us?” I have answered, “Here am I. Send me.” It is my sincere hope and desire that you too will hear the Lord’s call and answer in the very same way. Amen.

February 3, 2019 - Authority

Author: Pastor Schultz
Text: Luke 4:31-44

     

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ grant us grace and peace.  May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.

     

Introduction: The question of authority is constantly in the news today. Some want to reduce the amount of authority held by police officers. Politicians recently shut down the government because of a struggle over authority. It’s sometimes humorous listening to them speak because they try to do so with authority. Once again the issue of authority over an unborn child is at the forefront of the news as lawmakers in New York have written into law the authority of a mother to take the life of her unborn child up to the time of delivery.

This question of authority sometimes comes to us personally. Maybe there is a struggle for authority in your workplace as some try to climb the proverbial “corporate ladder”. Often there is a struggle for authority in congregations especially when a new pastor arrives. Sometimes there is a struggle in our schools between parents and school boards over authority in deciding what should be taught.    

A. We can imagine the scene was similar to what we heard last week from Luke’s Gospel as Jesus was reading and teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. This week Jesus is in Capernaum, the town that Matthew labels as Jesus’ home during his Galilean ministry. As usual Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day. We don’t know what scroll He read from that day but we can imagine how the people must have hung on His every word. Then giving the scroll back to the attendant, He sat down and taught the people. The people listened intently as they had never heard anyone teach the way Jesus did.

a. Our text states; and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. (Luke 4:32, ESV) 

b. It was common for rabbis to only share information that they had heard from their teachers. It was unusual for them to share anything that was an original thought or idea. A good rabbi was one who could quote the well-known and respected rabbis that were his predecessors. (Luke: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)

c. Jesus was different! He didn’t quote previous rabbis. Jesus spoke with authority!

B. Again we imagine the people gathered around Jesus in the synagogue. The people are quiet and intently listening to the one voice in the room, the voice that speaks with authority. Suddenly a man bursts into the room, breaking the near silence with a loud cry, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” (Luke 4:34, ESV)  Jesus rebuked the demon that was inside the man saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” (Luke 4:35, ESV) The demon hurled the man to the floor as the people watched with wonder. Then the demon came out of him without causing any harm to the man.

a. Our text shares the response of the people: And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” (Luke 4:36, ESV) 

b. In the world at this time many believed that many troubles were caused by evil or unclean spirits. It’s interesting that the Bible says very little about demon possession until the Ministry of Jesus. It is highlighted during this ministry to emphasize the conflict between Jesus and Satan. The language of the text implies that Jesus performed the casting out of unclean spirits often. (Luke: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)

C. Our scene suddenly changes. We are taken from the synagogue and into Simon’s house. Since Simon was a fisherman we can assume that the house was quite modest, maybe two or three rooms built from stone and mortar or clay. In one of the rooms lay Simon’s mother-in-law. She was distressed with a high fever, which for the time, was a serious health concern. Simon and the rest of the concerned family members who gathered there urged Jesus to help her in any way.

a. Our text tells us what Jesus did: And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. (Luke 4:39, ESV) 

b. It’s intriguing that Jesus rebukes the fever just as He rebuked the unclean spirit. Does this imply that fevers and illness are related to evil?

c. Notice that she didn’t just start to feel better but rather was completely healed as she suddenly arose and began to serve those in the house.

D. We can imagine that her service was limited; after all it was still the Sabbath. Maybe she served a meal that had been previously prepared. Maybe she did what she could to make them feel comfortable in the house. Imagine Jesus with this family just sharing a quiet day with them. Jesus taking time to learn more about this family. Jesus listening to their stories. Jesus laughing.  Jesus encouraging. Jesus consoling. This quiet time was interrupted at sundown. 

a. Our text states: Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. (Luke 4:40, ESV) 

b. People couldn’t be helped along or carried because of Sabbath restrictions but the Sabbath ended at sundown. Now many people were arriving at this modest home to be healed.

c. Notice that Jesus doesn’t rebuke here but rather laid His hands on them and healed them.

d. This was rather unusual as it was believed that touching a sick or unclean person would also make that person unclean or sick.

e. But Jesus is different! He has authority over illness and disease. Health and wholeness can only flow from Him to others, disease and illness have no authority over Him.

E. Jesus healed many and we can only imagine the various kinds of disease and illness that Jesus saw that day. Certainly the leprous, the blind, the lame, the deaf, the mute were included in the multitude who showed up at the door that evening. Others in need of a different kind of healing were also in this multitude.

a. Our text states: And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. (Luke 4:41, ESV)

b. Again Jesus rebuked the demons, casting them out of those possessed. But also notice another authority He has over the demons! He has the authority over their speech.

  

Conclusion: We live in a world of men seeking authority. Politicians and lawyers and doctors and police officers and school boards and so forth – people want authority! Today our text revealed the One who has ultimate authority. He speaks with authority and His words guide our life. So many in our world today want to deny that authority especially when it speaks of sexual expression, the definition of marriage, and life issues. Christians are called to not only pattern our life by this authority but also gently and respectfully share its meaning and purpose for our world to those who would deny this authority.

Jesus uses His authority to rebuke the evil or unclean spirits. He casts demons from those possessed. We are encouraged by this authority as Jesus has been revealed as one who has control over evil. His ultimate victory over evil took place at Calvary where the devil was defeated. Satan no longer has dominion over us! He can attack us, sometimes wound us, but Satan cannot defeat us.

Jesus uses his authority over creation to heal. We are encouraged by this authority as we look forward to the day of Jesus’ return. A day when death, illness, disease, evil will see their final defeat. A day when our bodies will be glorified, united both soul and flesh, perfect in relation to creation, perfect in relation with each other, perfect in relation with our God, just as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden before the fall into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ depart today encouraged for our Lord and Savior Jesus has ultimate authority. His authoritative word guides our lives! His authority over Satan and illness and disease bring us comfort. Amen. 

January 27, 2019 - Worship

Author: Pastor Schultz
Text: Nehemiah 8:1-10


       

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ grant us grace and peace.  May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.


Introduction: Worship. How do we determine what the worship of our God should look like? How do we decide what elements are necessary for worship? How do we decide what actions of the people are appropriate for worship? Should worship include music and if so what instruments can or should be used? These are the types of questions that have been raised for thousands of years. These questions remain today and sometimes these questions create conflict in congregations.

God, in His word, doesn’t give us a detailed script for worship. He gave detailed information for the building of the tabernacle, the items to be included in the tabernacle and even information on the clothing for the high priest and yet no detailed information on the order of worship. Throughout the Bible we are given glimpses into the worship life of God’s people. Our text for this morning from Nehemiah is one such glimpse.

Before we get into the text I want to refresh your memory on the timeline in which the text was written. In 587 BC the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and many of those who escaped death were taken into exile in Babylon. In 539 BC the Persians took over the Babylonian empire. In 538 BC Cyrus, King of Persia, decrees that the exiles may return to Judah. In 537 BC the altar is rebuilt in Jerusalem and twenty-one years later the rebuilding of the temple was complete. In 445 BC the walls surrounding the city were completed. Our text takes place soon after the walls are completed.

A. Verses 1 & 2 of our text: And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.

a. The people gathered near the Water Gate. This was an important gate in the wall as it led to the main source of Jerusalem’s water, the Gihon spring. (Concordia self-study Bible)

b. The crowd asked Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses out to be read. This would have been the first five books of our Bible, sometimes referred to as the Pentateuch. The people called these books the Torah.

c. Notice that both men and women were gathered.  There is some question as to whether there are two groups, men and women, or three groups, men, women, and those old enough to understand. Women were sometimes included in solemn assemblies but were not able to fully participate in worship. (Concordia self-study Bible)

i. Today both men and women fully participate in worship. This allows for families to worship together in the same pew and for a more unified gathering of believers.

d. That this occurred on the first day of the seventh month was important as this would be their New Year’s Day according to the civil calendar. This was the day the Children of Israel celebrated the Feast of Trumpets with a holy convocation. (Concordia self-study Bible)

B. Verses 3 & 5 of our text: And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.

a. Notice that Ezra read the Torah for five or six hours and the people stood and were attentive the whole time!

i. Today some complain that our worship services are too long. I find it interesting that so many believe that a service should only last an hour as I’ve often seen the time for worship to begin shared but I’ve never seen an end time for worship shared.

ii. Unfortunately the only thing that could hold our attention today for five hours or more is a screen, and we certainly wouldn’t stand for that amount of time.

C. Verses 6 & 8 of our text: And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

a. Ezra blessed the Lord. The Hebrew word used here can mean blessed or it can mean praised as an act of worship. I admit that I’m not a language scholar but it seems to me that praised makes more sense in this context.

i. It’s interesting that near the end of three of the five Divine Services in Lutheran Service Book the worship leader says “Let us bless the Lord”. I don’t know for sure but I think that this is connected to the word blessed used in our text. I have heard that this phrase has often puzzled people as they wonder how we can bless the Lord as He is certainly Lord of all things. Maybe someday that phrase at the end of those services will be changed to “Let us praise the Lord”.

b. The people responded to Ezra’s praise by lifting up their hands and saying, “Amen, Amen.”

i. The lifting up of hands was a common practice in both the Old and New Testaments. This was common in both acts of praise and prayer. Today it’s more common to fold our hands during prayer and bow our heads. Some will lift up their heads during times of praise.

c. The people also worshipped with bowed heads and with their face or noses to the ground.

i. This also was a common practice that has faded away in our times.

d. In verse seven which we didn’t read is a list of names of people who helped the people to understand the Torah. They read from it clearly and gave the sense so that people could understand the reading. It is likely that the people at the time learned Aramaic as their common language so they would struggle to understand the Hebrew writings.

i. A similar thing happened in our Gospel lesson. Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, after reading He taught the people.

ii. This is the same thing that pastors continue to do today in preaching. They take a text from Scripture and explain it so that the people can understand the meaning of the text.

D. Verses 9 & 10 of our text: And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

a. The people wept as they listened. We aren’t told why but the text implies that these were not tears of joy. Perhaps their weeping was due to their repentance. The Torah cut to their hearts as they heard how they failed to keep it. The cried because they were sinners.

i. Maybe we could learn from them and take our confession of sins and repentance so seriously.

b. The people were reminded that the day was holy to the Lord.

i. These words bring to mind the 3rd commandment which certainly the people that day heard, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

ii. I often wonder if we have lost the idea of a Sabbath day and have replaced it with a Sabbath hour.

c. Ezra’s last words to the people, for the joy of the Lord is your strength, didn’t really make sense to me. So I dug a little deeper into the Hebrew and this is the literal translation that I came up with; for the Lord’s joy He is your refuge.

i. The Lord was the refuge of those returning exiles and through His power the temple and the city walls were rebuilt.

ii. The Lord is our refuge today as He strengthens us through His Word and in baptism as we daily remember that the Lord called us to be His own child, and in Holy Communion where we are united with the Lord, taking His body and blood into our bodies for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith.

Conclusion: Our text for today didn’t give us all the answers to our worship questions. Some of what took place in Nehemiah’s day continues to this very day. Our worship is grounded in God’s Word and preaching in an important part as well. Men and women fully participate in worship. Our actions in worship have changed but yet our actions today such as folding our hands for prayer and standing at certain times continue to convey reverence for our Lord. Our text didn’t give us all the answers but it gave us something to take with us this day and keep with us all week, “The Lord is our refuge”. In Him we are kept safe, maybe not always in this life but certainly for the life to come. Amen.