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Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Word for the Day...


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you 
and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, 
for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
(Matthew 5:10-12, ESV)

Friday, November 15, 2013

LCMS Disaster Response

Typhoon Haiyan Bulletin Inserts
Media
You can keep up with the LCMS disaster relief efforts in the Philippines through a new photo album and videos. Photos and news from the team will be posted regularly.


Latest Disaster Response News

LCMS Team Heads to Philippines


In this Skype report from the Detroit airport, Deaconess Pamela Nielsen of LCMS Communications talks with two of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) disaster response team members who left Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, for the Philippines -- the Rev. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response, and the Rev. Michael Meyer, manager of LCMS Disaster Response.
Read more...



How to help
NOTE: Because the LCMS typically receives nearly half of its annual charitable support in the months of November and December, we encourage donors to prayerfully consider a gift to LCMS Disaster Response that is in addition to any planned year-end gift intended to help sustain the ongoing witness and mercy work of the Synod.

Gifts for Hurricane/Typhoon Relief


Give Now

Gifts for General Disaster Response

Your gifts for disaster response provide a constant resource of funds that can instantly be made available to help those affected by disaster.

Give Now
You may also give by mail:
Make checks payable to "The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod" with a memo line or note designating 'Hurricane/Typhoon Relief' OR ‘Disaster Response’

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
P.O. Box 66861
St. Louis MO 63166-6861

Or by phone:
888-930-4438

About Disaster Relief
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod's disaster response ministry responds to immediate and long-term needs following natural and man-made disasters, working through LCMS districts and congregations, international Lutheran churches and other partners. We build partners’ capacity to respond with Christian care to needs within the church and their communities with the following services:
  • On-site assessment
  • Emergency, relief and development grants
  • Pastoral care for LCMS church workers and members
  • Congregational Preparedness and Lutheran Early Response Team (LERT) training
  • Resources (volunteer coordination, donation and equipment management)
The last decade was an unprecedented time for LCMS disaster response efforts with multi-million dollar responses to 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Asia, earthquake in Haiti and hundreds of other national and international disasters.
God calls us to be His hands reaching out to bring what peace, relief and assistance we can to those who suffer the devastating effects of disasters. Your gifts for “Disaster Relief” provide a constant resource of funds that can instantly be made available to help those in need.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Theology for Mercy: Why We Do Human Care Ministry

http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=735


Theology for Mercy
by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
Executive Director, LCMS World Relief and Human Care

LCMS World Relief and Human Care
1333 South Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63122-7295
800-248-1930, ext. 1380 • www.lcms.org/worldrelief
ISBN-13: 978-1-934265-20-8
© 2004 The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
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Theology for Mercy
Theology for Mercy
Love, care and concern for those in need (diakonic mercy/
love) are actions motivated by the gospel, when faith (fides qua creditur/
the faith by which we believe) apprehends the righteousness of Christ
and his merits (Augsburg Confession IV&VI), unto eternal life. The
gospel thus laid hold of, produces love. Love seeks and serves the
neighbor.
Love for the neighbor, while an action mandated by the law of
God, is a reflection of the very being of the Triune God, Father, Son
and Holy Spirit (1 John 4:7). This love finds its source and motivation
in the deep gospel matrix and totality of the true faith (fides quae
creditur/ the faith which is believed). Thus:
• Diakonic love has its source in the Holy Trinity. The Son is
begotten of the Father from eternity. The Holy Spirit proceeds
from the Father and the Son. Such begetting and procession
are Trinitarian acts of love expressing the communality of
God. In these acts the Triune God, from eternity, and in time,
has found humankind as the object of divine love and mercy
(John 3:16; Luke 6:36; 1 John 3:16-17; Js. 3:17). Diakonic
love reflects the very being of God.
• Diakonic love is born of the incarnation and humiliation of
Christ. In Christ the Eternal God became man. Such identity
occurred that Christ might have mercy upon his “brothers”
(Heb. 2:17). Christian service of the neighbor finds its source,
motivation and example in Christ’s incarnate, redeeming,
atoning, active love (Phil. 2:1-11).
• “God would have all come to the knowledge of the truth
and be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). A biblically and confessionally
faithful theology of mercy clearly confesses that “the Father has
decreed from eternity that whomever he would save he would
save through Christ, as Christ himself says, ‘No one comes to
the Father but by me’ (John 14:6), and again, ‘I am the door;
if anyone enters by me, he will be saved’ (John 10:9)” (Solid
Declaration XI,66). This fundamental truth of the Bible, that
there is no salvation outside of faith in Christ and his merits,
animates the church’s work for those in need. If this is not so,
such work becomes merely secular, and may be performed by
any entity in society.
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LCMS World Relief and Human Care
• The Gospel gifts bring forgiveness, and beget merciful living.
Lives that have received mercy (grace!) cannot but be merciful
toward the neighbor (love!). Thus the merciful washing of
baptism (Rom. 6:1ff) produces merciful living (Rom. 7:4-6).
In absolution, the merciful word of the gospel begets merciful
speaking and living (Matt. 18:21ff.). In the Supper, Christ
gives himself for us, that we might give ourselves to our neighbor
(1 Cor. 10:15-17; 1 Cor. 12:12ff & 26). “Repentance ought
to produce good fruits … the greatest possible generosity to
the poor” (Apol. 12.174).
• Christ’s mandate and example of love for the whole person
remains our supreme example for life in this world, and for
care of the needy, body and soul. Christ’s Palestinian ministry
combined proclamation of forgiveness and acts of mercy, care
and healing (Luke 5:17-26). Christ likewise sent forth the
apostles to proclaim the good news, and to heal (Luke 9:2ff.).
Christ mandated that his gospel of forgiveness be preached to
all (Matthew 28; Mark 16) and that “all nations” be baptized
for the forgiveness of sins. Christ also left his church a feast
of his body and blood unto forgiveness, life and salvation. In
describing the events of the last day, Christ noted the importance
of mercy in the life of the church (Whatsoever you have
done to the least of these… Matthew 25).
• The church has a corporate life of mercy. There is absolute
support in the New Testament for acts of mercy, love and
kindness done by individuals within the realm of individual
vocation. Moreover, the Old and New Testaments clearly
bear witness to a “corporate life of mercy” of the people of
God. Indeed, “corporate” comes from “corpus” (body; i.e.
hoc est corpus meum). Through the body of Christ (incarnate
and sacramental; Rom. 6; 1 Cor. 11-12; ) the body of Christ
(mystical) is created. Thus “when one member of the body
suffers, all suffer” (1 Cor. 12:26). Acts 6 and the creation of
the proto-diakonic office, and St. Paul’s collection for the poor
(Acts 11:29; 2 Cor. 8-9) in Jerusalem, clearly bear witness to the
church’s corporate life of mercy based upon these theological
foundations.
• The Lutheran Confessions explicitly and repeatedly state that
the work of diakonic love (alms; charity; works of love) is
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Theology for Mercy
an assumed reality in the church’s corporate life. See Treatise
80-82; Apology IV.192f.; Apology XXVII.5ff. Moreover, the
Smalcald Articles explicitly state that “works of love” (operum
caritatis) are, along with “doctrine, faith, sacraments, [and]
prayer,” an area in which the church and its bishops (pastors)
are “joined in unity” (Smalcald Articles, II.IV.9).
• The vocation to mercy is addressed to the church at all
levels. The vocation to diakonic love and mercy is as broad
as the need of the neighbor (Luther). While the call to love
the needy applies to Christian individuals as such (love your
neighbor as yourself), the call to diakonic mercy is particularly
addressed to Christians as a corporate community (church!),
whether local or synodical, even national or international
(1 Cor. 16:1-4; Acts 11:28; Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:1-15; Acts
24:17).
• Within the church, there is a multiplicity of diakonic vocations.
Within these communities individuals serve in diakonic
vocations (pastoral concern for the needy; chaplain/spiritual
care; deacon; deaconess; parish nurse; medical disciplines; the
host of administrative and managerial vocations, etc.). These
diakonic vocations are flexible in form and determined by need
(Acts 6). Within an ecclesial setting their common goal is the
integration of proclamation of the gospel, faith, worship and
care for those in need. The range of the legitimate disciplines
of human care (First Article gifts!) may be used in the church’s
diakonic life, to the extent that such disciplines/tools do not
contradict the gospel, and the doctrine of Holy Scripture.
“Christ’s kingdom is spiritual… At the same time it permits
us to make outward use of legitimate political ordinances of
whatever nation in which we live, just as it permits us to make
use of medicine or architecture or food, drink and air” (Apol.
XVI.2).
• The Church’s work of mercy extends beyond its own borders.
In the New and Old Testaments we see a priority of concern
for those in need within the orthodox fellowship of faith in
Christ. But just as the gospel itself reaches beyond the church
and is intended for all, love for the neighbor cannot and must
not be limited only to those in the fellowship of the orthodox
Lutheran faith. In following the apostolic mandate to “do good
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LCMS World Relief and Human Care
to all, especially those of the household of faith” the church’s
diakonic work will persistently address the need of those within
its midst. The church’s diakonic life will also reach beyond
its borders according to the intensity of need confronted and
level of resources provided by God (1 Cor. 9:10-11; Gal. 6:10).
The church’s missionary work will be a persistent arena for
the expression of diakonic love and mercy. Diakonic love will
often function as “pre-evangelism,” and rightly so, so long as
word (gospel) and deed (love) continue to mark the missionary
church’s life at every stage. Strengthening and reaching out
in love to Lutheran partner churches will be a priority. Reaching
beyond these borders in love according to the intensity of
need and opportunity (particularly in times of disaster), and
in partnership with others, is entirely appropriate, so long as
motivations and expectations of the parties involved is clear.
These matters are governed by theological/ethical integrity
and evangelical freedom.
• The church will cooperate with others in meeting human
need. Cooperation in externals has long been an expression describing
the church’s legitimate ability to cooperate with other
entities (whether churches, societies, Lutheran, Christian or
not) in meeting some human need. To cooperate in externals
means to work toward common goals in endeavors, which do
not necessitate, require or necessarily imply church fellowship
(communio in sacris), or involve joint proclamation of the gospel
and administration of the sacraments (worship). Such cooperative
endeavors are entered upon often for practical reasons (e.g.
lack of critical resources). But such endeavors are also often an
expression of the belief (when entered into with other Christian
entities) of the catholicity of the church (See Formula of Concord,
Preface; Tappert p. 11), as well as an expression of love
for fellow Christians. Through such endeavors, the LCMS will
often have opportunity to insist on theological integrity, and
the truth of God’s word, and thereby make a positive contribution
to ecumenical activities. Such endeavors may range from
providing resources for a simple community food bank, to the
highly complex ecclesial and civil realities involved in operating
a jointly recognized SMO. Such endeavors must recognize
legitimate doctrinal differences, and provide for the requisite
integrity of its partners.
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Theology for Mercy
• The Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms grants broad
freedom for the church to engage and be active in its community.
The church has a role in its community (local, national,
international) by virtue of the fact that congregations
and national churches are actually “corporate citizens” of their
respective communities. As such, congregations, churches and
synod as a whole engage the community as corporate citizens of
God’s “left hand kingdom,” working toward worthy civic goals
(good citizenship, just laws and society, protection of the weak,
housing, etc.). “Legitimate civil ordinances are good creations of
God and divine ordinances in which a Christian may safely take
part” (Apol. XVI.1). As such a corporate citizen, the church
has civic and political capital. In addition to encouraging its
members to be responsible citizens, the church may from time to
time speak with a collective voice on issues of great significance
to society, particularly where the basic value of human life is
diminished (e.g. abortion, racial injustice). “Public redress,
which is made through the office of the judge, is not forbidden
but is commanded and is a work of God according to Paul in
Romans 13… public redress includes judicial decisions” (Apol.
XVI.7). There have been times in the life of the church when
it was the sole guardian and provider for the needy. In our day
the rise of the modern welfare state has shifted that (monetary)
responsibility in large measure to the civil realm. But there is
a large intersection of civil and churchly endeavor at just this
point. Thus the church’s response to these issues is always mutating
and nuanced. In these matters the church must spend its
capital wisely and sparingly. It must avoid both quietism and
political activism. The former shuns the ethical demand of love
for the neighbor (ignoring for instance, the ethical urgency of
the O.T. Minor Prophets), the latter may obscure the church’s
fundamental and perpetual task as bearer of the Word of salvation
to sinners in need of Christ. Where the church loses sight
of this proclamation of the gospel, it thereby loses the very
motivation for diakonic work (the gospel)! Thus the church
must not speak simply when it MAY do so! The church must
speak ONLY when it MUST do so (CTCR).
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LCMS World Relief and Human Care
Topics for Discussion
1. How would you define the term “diakonic love”? What other words
or phrases might be used to mean the same thing?
2. Discuss how diakonic love is related to the following:
a. The Holy Trinity
b. Christ, the Eternal God who became human to redeem
humanity
c. God’s desire for all to be saved
3. A Christian’s “vocation” is understood to be made up of the various
places, or situations, into which God puts an individual Christian
for the living out of his or her faith — e.g., family, community,
career, society and culture. Acts of love and mercy are shown
throughout the New Testament to be part of our Christian vocation
(see 1 John 3:15-18, for example) as individual Christians. How do
we know that the church also has a corporate life of mercy — that
is, a responsibility to show love and mercy to others as the whole
body of Christ on earch (see p. 2)?
4. Discuss how the “‘vocation of mercy’ is addressed to the church at
all levels” (see p. 3).
5. Discuss the assertion that “as the gospel itself reaches beyond the
church and is intended for all, love for the neighbor cannot and
must not be limited only to those in the fellowship of the orthodox
Lutheran faith” (see p. 3). Describe some ways in which the
Church’s work of mercy “extends beyond its own borders” (see p.
4).
6. What is “cooperation in externals”? Give examples of how The
Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod “cooperates in externals” with
others by serving people in need.
7. How is the church to act as a “corporate citizen” in its community?
What must the church avoid in its efforts to be a good corporate
citizen? Why?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sermon for 15 September 2013, Proper 19C



The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Faith’s Foundation: To Save Sinners
Proper 19, 12 September 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2a)  Amen.


 About the Cover: How vast is our world from our human perspective, yet how little it is among the myriad worlds of this universe! But it was here on planet Earth that the divine drama unfolded: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He, through whom this world was made, chose to enter it Himself in the fullness of time, that He might save sinners and reveal His astounding grace.
Jesus sinners doth receive.
I understand if you are thinking, “Well Pastor, of course! What you’re saying there is obvious!” If that’s what you’ve been thinking as you sang that seven stanza hymn, I’m glad. I thank the Lord for that.
How about we dig a little deeper? If a Christian hears, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”–if a Christian hears that, he or she will most likely agree. So far so good.
 But what happens if someone asks the typical American Christian, “What’s the most important thing about Christianity? What has been the most important thing about Christianity to you?” How will that typical American Christian answer? It’s very likely he or she will say something like, “It taught me and my kids good morals,” or “I get a weekly pick-me-up,” or “It helps me feel like a better person,” or even, “I just go because I have to.” Those things are a far cry from, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He came to save you. This congregation is here to proclaim that trustworthy teaching.
Do you see the point? Many Americans, even many American Christians think they know what’s at the heart of the Christian faith, but are unable to volunteer that Jesus is the Savior from sin, death, and hell, or witness to that fact on their own. They might be able to pick out the name, “Jesus,” if He showed up on a multiple-choice exam, but would have a hard time remembering “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” if it were an essay test.
We think we know what it means to be a Christian, but too often forget the basics. We slip back into the thoughts of our sinful human nature that say, “At least I do better than that guy. God will surely let me into heaven. I do the best I can.” And we’re back to living under the law, trying to earn our own salvation without Jesus. No wonder people in the culture complain that Christians are judgmental, goodie-two-shoes hypocrites.
We think we know what it means to be a Christian, but too often forget the basics. Some groan when we revisit the basics of the faith in the Small Catechism, but could the ones groaning pass the Confirmation oral exam before the elders without some prior notice and a night to cram?
In the Holy Christian Church, the message of the Gospel is faith’s foundation. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, including us. We need to be reminded of that because we are all sinners in need of grace, just like St. Paul.

He wrote, I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Paul does not hide from his past sins. He openly confesses them. He openly confessed that he was a poor, miserable sinner long ago and was forgiven. His slate was wiped clean. He was reconciled to Christ Jesus by Christ Jesus. Saul the Pharisee and persecutor of Jesus became known as Paul the Apostle and proclaimer of Jesus.
Before, he had acted ignorantly in unbelief. How much more precarious is our position when we behave sinfully after having known the truths of the faith! The forgiveness of sins does not give us license to sin! Going ahead with something we know is wrong and spiritually deadly: like willful divorce, habitual lying and gossip, adultery, theft, living together, or staying away from God’s good Gifts. We cannot plan to repent later—we should do so before we act and repent of planning to sin. 
The grace of our Lord overflows for you with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have no reason to doubt that you are forgiven. Therefore, as a forgiven saint in Christ, go and sin no more. When you do sin, practice daily contrition and repentance, remembering that you are a baptized child of God. St. Paul has come a long way since Jesus appeared in a vision on the road to Damascus saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” You are a recipient of God’s grace, too.
Paul repented. There are sins that bother you. Be free! Confess them. Receive Christ’s forgiveness. Abandon those long-term, culturally acceptable, habitual sins. Live no longer in ignorance, unbelief, or with an unrepentant heart. The grace of our Lord has been poured out on you abundantly. Don’t reject the gift!
Paul was a sinful human being. He wasn’t perfect. He was forgiven. And the Lord appointed Paul to His service, to tell the Good News About Jesus, even though he had formerly been a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. Listen for how he describes his sinful condition and his Savior.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…You’ve heard that before. Did you remember that Paul considered himself the very worst of sinners, or as the hymn goes, “Chief of Sinners though I Be?”
You regularly confess that you are a poor, miserable, sinner. Paul knew he was, too. He knew what he had done. He approved of the murder of Stephen. He persecuted Christians. At the time, he thought he was doing the right thing, but had since realized his sin. He was honest with himself, his conscience, and with the Lord and His Word.
Is such honest self-examination and confession painful? Yes. Is it pleasant to examine yourself thoroughly by comparing your thoughts, words, and deeds, actions, and inaction according to the Ten Commandments? No, it’s not pleasant. We’re often afraid of pain or difficulty just on principle, blind to the benefit of what comes next.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. What comes next? But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
There’s always something next, even after the “Amen.” Even though Paul was a sinner, he received mercy. We are all sinners, too. You have also received the same mercy, in that God does not give to you the punishment you deserve. That’s mercy. And He is gracious, too, giving you faith now, so that you may believe in Him for eternal life.
Your baptism into Christ took place, or, for some of you, will take place at a specific time. The benefits, the “what comes next,” are with you the rest of your life. You have been given the gift of faith to believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin, death, and Satan. What comes next? Eternal life. That’s God’s promise to you in Christ.
Will the wait for that eternal life be easy? No. You will lose loved ones to death. You may suffer other kinds of physical and emotional pain and loss. You may even be persecuted for your faith in Christ. And you will die, as we all will. Remember that God’s mercy has a purpose. Your pain and suffering have a purpose.
What did Paul confess? But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
When people see Christ’s strength as the only possible explanation for what keeps you going, that is a powerful witness to your Savior. In your pain, you can witness better than in your prosperity. When you bear the cross, others can see Jesus in you. They will be able to hear with their eyes when they see Christ’s patience in you. And I pray you would even have an opportunity to verbally say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, including me—and you.
Amen.
Receive the blessing St. Paul gave to Timothy:
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. (2 Timothy 4:22)  Amen.

Sermon for 08 September 2013, Proper 18C



Rev. Paul J Cain
Deuteronomy 30: 15-20
Life
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 08 September 2013, Proper 18C
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
 About the Cover: God’s will for His baptized people remains the same always: “I have set before you today life. . . . Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19). Just as a mother welcomes and rejoices in her baby, so the Lord urges us to welcome and rejoice in the life of faith in Christ that the Holy Spirit has caused to be born in us through the hearing of the Word and the waters of Holy Baptism, that we might grow up in Him, loving Him above all earthly ties.
God’s will for His people in Deuteronomy is His will for us, His baptized people here and now. Our land has been given to us as a great blessing of abundance, protection, and freedom to worship Him according to Holy Scripture and not merely human conscience. In hearing the Word of the Lord again from Deuteronomy 30, do not confuse the Promised Land of God’s ancient people with our nation. Yet, the warning of the law against turning away and the consequence of perishing remains the same.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Our temptation as American Christians and as Lutheran Christians is to put our focus on the word “choose.” Theologically, the term “choose” is used here in a sanctification sense rather than a justification sense. In other words, the choosing intended here would be part of living the Christian life rather than conversion or becoming a Christian.
The truly most important word in the text is the word “life.” The most important action done in the text isn’t by the people, nor would it be by us. The Lord Himself is the one who loves us, He who gives us His Word for our correction, comfort, and redirection, the only true God, the only being worthy of worship, the Savior and giver of life and all that we need to support this body and life. 

Life is what the Lord gave in creation. Life is the gift He gave to Adam and then to Eve. Even her name, “Eve,” means “life giver” and mother of all living. Every human on this planet is descended from Eve and Adam. Life was the Lord’s gift to them. Death is their gift to us because of their sin.
Life is the gift God gave to all people, yet they rejected His intention and His gifts and ate, drank, and made merry. Life was God’s gift to Noah and his family, only eight souls in all saved from the Flood in God’s holy ark. Life was the Lord’s gift to Noah’s descendants. Even many of them fell away, rejecting life in the Lord, choosing a false life of worship of false gods they themselves invented, many so-called “ways” that are but a a single way that leads to death.
The Lord chose Abram and Sarai, renaming them Abraham and Sarah and promising them life in Himself. Isaac was promised and delivered, new life from two as good as dead, Scripture says. Isaac was the father of Jacob, also known as Israel. The Lord blessed the nation of Israel, the twelve tribes descended from Jacob so that they would be a blessing to the nations around them. The Lord always preserved a faithful remnant in Israel, but the majority seemed to fall away again and again, choosing death in the ways of sin, self, and society rather than life in the Lord and the promised Son of Man, Son of God, and Lord of Life, Christ.
We have much to learn from the counter-example of God’s ancient people, the sinner-saints of every time and place, and from one another today. We could learn from the mistakes of others. Instead, we, too often choose death in the ways of sin, self, and society rather than the path of life that is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Idols remain today. It could be the false god of Islam, a golden Buddha, eastern mysticism, modern secular humanism, agnosticism or mere apathy. All exalt someone or something in the rightful place of the Lord your God.
Our Lord Jesus even warns us against idolizing other human beings. Athletes, actors, and pop stars and their devotees are easy to identify, criticize, rebuke, and call back home to worship of the one true God. It is definitely more dangerous for a modern preacher or even our Lord to criticize worship of a more seemingly innocuous and acceptable kind, at least in our society as well as the ancient world: worship of family. Some worship ancestors. Others worship the living.
I remember a conference in this very district of the LCMS where a guest speaker and preacher supposedly went too far. His “sin” in the eyes of some? He called parents to repentance for idolizing their own children! He called upon parents to bring up their own children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord as St. Paul urges us yet today in Ephesians 6.
And this preacher had the unmitigated gall (please take note of the sarcasm) to call out parents who allowed their children to run the household by determining acceptable meal options, nearly all choices of entertainment, his or her own bedtimes, and saddest of all, whether the family went to Bible Class, Church, and Sunday School based on whether the child felt like it or not!
Children in every time and place have plenty of people available to be their friend or “buddy.” Parents are given to be parents, especially when it is not popular with the child. You shall have no other gods—not even your own family! This is the meaning of Jesus’ words in Luke 14: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…” You shall have no other gods—not even your own family!
Deuteronomy 30 has the same warning as the First Commandment: 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish… Yes. That is the Word of the Lord. And it is heavy Law. And Law is not the final Word for the baptized people of God.
19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days… God is your life and length of days. Christ is your life and your length of days. Yes! This is the Word of the Lord! And it is Gospel. It is possible only because of the fulfilled promise of a Savior and Lord of Life, Jesus, the crucified and Resurrected One!
We are not promised a mere patch of dirt on this third rock from the sun, nor are we promised collective or political salvation as the American people, but something far more important, comforting, and enduring. Our Promised Land in Jesus Christ is Eternal Life—Heaven with Him! You are given daily bread, all you need to support this body and life. You are given Life in Jesus in reconciliation with God and one another in the forgiveness of your sins. And you have life eternal as a gift in Jesus where and when you will dwell with Christ and also Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the heavenly host of saints.
TLSB: The Lord’s declaration to His people to choose life is inseparable from His covenant of grace that He established with them. Israel’s history clearly demonstrates that they spurned the life God had reserved for them through His grace, pursuing death instead. Consequently, by rejecting God’s grace, they rejected the length of days God promised to those who love the Lord, walk in His ways, and keep His commands. [1]
Life is yours only in Christ. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.


[1] Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible (326). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Regarding 01 September 2013


Pastor Bob Mitchell of Red Deer, Montana preached at Immanuel on this date.


Sermon for 25 August 2013, Proper 16C



Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Luke 13:22-30
Come to the Feast
Proper 16C, Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 25 August 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
For a Lay Reader

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, the thirteenth chapter:
22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them,  24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 
25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.  29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.  30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
            This is the Gospel of the Lord.
            It is not the desire of the Lord that any should perish, but that all would have eternal life, turning from the wide way to life. The Devil, the World, and human sinful flesh have been extraordinarily creative in confusing us about who will and who will not be saved.
            Most world religions say they have an exclusive claim on the truth. Which one is correct? Scripture tells us to test the spirits to see which are of God. Only the one that confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh qualifies. Which name are we to call upon? The Lord tells us to have no other gods. He also directs us to the only name given to men by which they must be saved, Jesus Christ.
Even within Christianity, one can be confused. Denominations today twist the scriptures to make them say what is politically correct. Some simply reject part of what Jesus has to say to us. In their error, they make Jesus into a new Law-giver like Moses. Some reject baptizing infants. Some demand allegiance to bishops and prayers to the dead. Others approve of all kind of sexual deviations from the divine ideal of marriage. We see promiscuity ignored. Living together outside of marriage is all but approved. Homosexuality is promoted as an alternative, “loving” lifestyle. The most dangerous error—in the eyes of the world—is the one that says you can follow Jesus, or Buddha, or Mohammed, or Joseph Smith—it doesn’t really matter. That is NOT the teaching of the Jesus of Scripture.
Jesus desires that you would be saved and have a knowledge of the Truth, the one Truth, His Truth. He calls you to come to the Feast. Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 
Jesus has been on His way to Jerusalem since He descended from the Mount of Transfiguration. Then He set His face toward Jerusalem. Jesus knew why He had come, why He had been sent. He was on His way to Jerusalem to die so that you could come to the feast, His Feast at the Last Day. Verse 22 ties Jesus’ teaching to His crucifixion at Jerusalem.

23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
Which of us hasn’t asked this or a related question about salvation? Is my neighbor going to be saved? Is my spouse going to be saved? Are our children going to be saved? Am I going to be saved? Jesus directs His response along the lines of, “Are you, questioner, are you, dear reader, dear listener, going to be saved?”

[Jesus] (He) said to them,  24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 
Make every effort to enter though the narrow door. Effort. Struggle. It is a lifelong struggle, a tug-of-war between the new man you are in Christ and the Old Adam of your sinful flesh. This is the struggle of all the baptized. All alone, the struggle would be lost for you or me. But we are not alone. Our Lord, the Victor over sin, death, and hell is fighting on your side. He calls you to Come to the Feast, and also to be ready and nourished for battle.
We our nourished by remembering our baptism through daily contrition and repentance. We are nourished by time with other believers who can encourage us when the battle is heated. We are strengthened as we come to the Feast of Christ’s Body and Blood which is a preview of that which is to come. We are strengthened by our time in His Word when He speaks to us.
This week we have provided many opportunities for you to be strengthened by God’s Word in addition to your own daily family and individual devotions and Our Lord serving you in this Divine Service. Sunday School continues year-round along with Adult Bible Class. Midweek Bible Study resumes in September along with youth Confirmation classes. New member classes are ongoing. We speak to the Lord in prayer. We don’t hear from Him apart from His Word. His Word keeps us on His narrow way of life.
Are only a few people going to be saved? Yes. Only a few are going to be saved. The door is as narrow as the name of Jesus. The door is as narrow as the cross of Calvary.
Many will try to enter and will not be able to. They want to enter based upon their own merit. “I live a good life. Won’t God accept that?” Or, “Look, Lord, see how full my day planner is of good works for you!” A library full of day planners, even from habitually effective people, is not enough. A good life is not sufficient. The focus of this verse is not upon the effort, the struggle, but upon the narrow door. The door is as narrow as the name of Jesus. The door is as narrow as the cross of Calvary. When they see that the door won’t open for their good deeds, they will stand outside knocking and pleading. He came unexpectedly. They were surprised when the door was closed.

25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
In the ancient world, when getting to know a person, it was common to ask where the person had come from, since a person’s hometown, tribe, nationality, or prior activity often revealed something about the person’s character. The master here has no familiarity with those outside since he has no familiarity with their place of origin. He has nothing in common with them, no ties to them whatsoever.
It is not so with you. You are the baptized. The Lord has baptized you. He has placed His name on you and has promised to bless you. He will not abandon His Name.
The baptized, however, can abandon Him. Church may become nothing more than a social club, a place to have one’s name on the rolls, a place to come to be entertained each Christmas and Easter. That cannot save you. Do not despise the gift of your Baptism. Do not delay being baptized. Do not put off having your children baptized. Do not despise your own baptism. That would leave one outside the door.

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
Those apart from Christ are evildoers. They are without faith. Anything done apart from faith is sin. Unforgiven sin is damnable. Even just one. He taught in their streets. They say nothing about having heard, having understood, or having put into practice His teaching.

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.  29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.  30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
            Christ Jesus, the Son of God, ruler of Heaven, was First and became last—for you. He took upon human flesh in the womb of Mary. He became a servant, your servant. He became your servant in His going throughout the towns and villages, teaching as He made His way to Jerusalem. There He became the very last, despised, accursed, for cursed is everyone who hangs upon a tree. There was great weeping there, but that weeping was turned to joy three days later when Jesus revealed Himself Risen from the dead!
            His Resurrection makes us, who were last in the kingdom of God because of our unrighteousness, righteous and first. Once the owner of the house, Jesus, returns on the Last Day and closes the door, you who believe will no longer weep, or gnash your teeth for He will come and wipe every tear from your eye.
            You will see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God. You will be among those people coming from the east and west and north and south to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
            Come to the Feast! Our Gracious God and heavenly father has given us a foretaste of this feast to come next week in the Holy Supper of Christ’s Body and Blood. He alone can keep us firm in the true faith throughout the days of our struggle during our earthly pilgrimage that, on the Day of His coming, we may, along with all His saints, celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. Come to the Feast! Amen.
           
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.