Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Memorial Service Sermon for Mary Lou Sare, 28 October 2009

Rev. Paul J Cain

Luke 10:38-42

The Good Portion

Memorial Service Sermon for Mary Lou (Chieslar) Sare

Wednesday of Pentecost XXI, 28 October 2009

(Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming)

At Kane Funeral Home

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

One thing is necessary, Jesus says, “the good portion, which will not be taken away.” Ultimately, that good portion is Jesus Himself. It is His forgiveness. He presents Himself and His forgiveness for you in His Word. Being in the Word of God at the feet of Jesus Himself is the One Thing, the good portion.

Luke 10:42 was Mary Lou Chieslar’s Confirmation verse back on April 18, 1943. She confirmed with her own heart, mind, and lips that she believed the Christian faith into which she had been baptized shortly after her birth. She was born again by water and the Word, born from above and into Christ Jesus. We celebrate today that she was forgiven by Jesus. We rejoice in the promises of Christ, especially those we hold dear when we have lost someone we dearly love.

You have heard the precious promise of Jesus in Luke chapter 10 twice already. Once it was sung. The second time it was read. It is particularly appropriate to frame the life of Mary Lou as we hear again about Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha of Bethany. Martha was anxious and troubled amid her busy life. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to hear His Word.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus’ reference to the “good portion” may remind you of the meals you had at Mary Lou’s home. How blessed was she to be able to live in her own home until the Lord took her home to His promised heavenly mansions! TLSB: “Food comes and goes, and eventually everyone becomes hungry again. The Word of God, however, abides forever. It alone can truly satisfy. [St. Augustine wrote:] ‘In these two women the two lives are figured, the life present, and the life to come, the life of labour, and the life of quiet, the life of sorrow, and the life of blessedness, the life temporal, and the life eternal’” (1736.)

We can see the contrast Augustine mentions in Mary Lou’s own life. She did not always choose the good portion. She told me herself. Sometimes she was as distracted as Martha herself by the pots and pans of life’s vain fretting and striving. In the Lord’s divine wisdom, and in ways that often seem mysterious, He found a way to reconnect with her.

Let me tell you that story. George introduced me to his brother, Don. Don introduced me to his friend, Gene. Don and Gene introduced me to Gene’s sister, Mary Lou. “She’s been wanting to come back to Church, pastor. Would you pay her a visit?” And so I did, the first of several. She confessed her Christian faith. She confessed her sins and received absolution. She heard the Word read, sung, and preached. She fed on the Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Now, Mary Lou has introduced me to Kim and Curt…all of you, her family and friends and loved ones.

Some of you knew about her desire to come back to Church and that she did. Others of you may be surprised. Either way, consider her confession of Christ as her final witness to you:

2 How were Mary’s thoughts devoted

Her eternal joy to find

As intent each word she noted,

At her Savior’s feet reclined!

How kindled her heart, how devout was its feeling,

While hearing the lessons that Christ was revealing!

All earthly concerns she forgot for her Lord

And found her contentment in hearing His Word.

She had other joys in this life, like her frequent trips to Disney World, that collection of Mickey Mouse memorabilia, and doting on her loving family. Many of you were by her side in her final days. She noticed. She gave you that smirk of hers. For all of the blessings she was given, one she deemed highest:

4 Nothing have I, Christ, to offer,

You alone, my highest good.

Nothing have I, Lord, to proffer

But Your crimson-colored blood.

Your death on the cross has death wholly defeated

And thereby my righteousness fully completed;

Salvation’s white raiments I there did obtain,

And in them in glory with You I shall reign.

We remember that Mary Lou had a child-like quality about her—in a very good way. She was playful yet serious, inquisitive, yet certain about many things. She was clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. Her child-like faith declared and prayed:

5 (abbreviated)

Through all my life’s pilgrimage, guard and uphold me,

In loving forgiveness, O Jesus, enfold me.

This one thing is needful; all others are vain—

I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain!

I have seen tears from her family in my recent time with them. They are nothing to be ashamed about. We mourn because we love. I’ve seen people mourn family who was still living, but on the other side of the country. You weep and mourn Mary Lou because you still love her. That’s a good thing! She is at peace, at rest, and truly comforted because she now dwells with her Lord, Christ Jesus. She had faith in Him. She was washed in the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Christ died on Good Friday to take away your sins, too. He rose on Easter Sunday to give you life now and eternally. Perhaps you are a lot like Mary Lou. Maybe you forgot the Lord’s good portion for a time. Thanks to the Lord, she enjoyed it again in this life and now enjoys it forevermore. She is your reminder of a Mary who was at times a Martha and then a Mary again. God’s Word brings forgiveness, life, and salvation. Hearing it regularly by faith is the One Thing Needful, the most important thing you can spend your time on in this life. Jesus is your good portion. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sermon for 25 October 2009, Reformation Sunday

Rev. Paul J Cain

Psalm 46:1-11 (ESV)

Refuge and Strength

Reformation Sunday, 25 October 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The opening hymn this morning, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” in German, “Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott,” has been sung by Lutheran Christians since at least 1531. The most well-known of all of Luther’s hymn texts and tunes, it has been translated into more languages than any other hymn in Christendom. It has been rendered into English from the German at least 100 times.

Two versions of the melody are found in Lutheran Service Book. #656 is Luther’s own original rhythmic form of the melody. We know it from TLH. Once you learn it, it’s easy to sing, and many prefer it to the version found at hymn #657.

More familiar outside of Lutheranism is that later version of the tune, a smoothed-out version common during the time of Johann Sebastian Bach. Modern Roman Catholics have this version in their hymnals and worship books, quite a change from a 16th Century criticism of Luther’s writings and hymns leading people astray.

“A Mighty Fortress” is based on the Psalm, God is our refuge and strength, known as Psalm 46.

GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH, A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

Not only is He the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but our God, our Refuge, our Help present with us in our time of trouble as Christians living in a post-September-11-world. We will not fear though anything come our way. He has already defeated Satan, the old evil foe. We pray that he would hinder all of Satan’s work, the world’s temptation, and the desires of our own sinful flesh.

Satan does not want you to be healthy, to rest, to have good relationships. He wants you to get sick, curse God, and die. He wants every relationship in your life to fail. He wants you to doubt God’s good and gracious will. Our strength is nothing compared to the old evil foe.

A mighty fortress is our God, A trusty shield and weapon; He helps us free from ev’ry need That hath us now o’ertaken. The old evil foe Now means deadly woe; Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight; On earth is not his equal.

Sometimes people only sing the first stanza of “A Mighty Fortress.” That reminds us we need to understand the words and the flow of the text. At the end of stanza one, Satan is in charge: “On earth is not his equal.” Jesus shows up in stanza two. Jesus will help us against Satan, for on earth there is no one to equal that old evil foe. With our human might alone, nothing can be done. But there is one in Heaven who far exceeds the power of Satan’s guile and great might. He is Christ, the valiant One, valiant for us! Hope is on the way!

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Of Sabaoth Lord, And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.

8Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. 10"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" 11The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

The nations, deceived by devils and hellish teachings at times threaten believers. Today we fear those who misuse a false world religion for their own political goals. With terror attacks happening or thwarted by arrests around the world, it does seem that devils fill the world to devour us. Luther understood “harm” differently than we do today. For him “harm” meant permanent harm. For us, “harm” usually refers to anything unpleasant in this world, no matter how temporary. That ignores the spiritual component of spiritual warfare. From an eternal perspective death isn’t that big of a deal compared to an eternity in hell. In Christ, you have nothing, really, to fear. The Lord of Hosts, of angel armies, is with you. Even if they take your life, you will be safe with the Lord for all eternity.

The Lord cannot tolerate sin going unpunished. The desolations he brings on the earth are judgment for sin in general. Christ has already borne our sin, so we have nothing to fear. The valiant One fights for us and will ultimately destroy those who wage war on Christians, even if only at the Last Day.

Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpow’r us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.

The Word is our only weapon today, the Sword of the Spirit. The devil can’t stand pure teaching, the Word quoted in context, nor can he stand seeing Christians gathered by the Spirit around Word and Sacrament in Worship.

In this world, the church is always at war. We Christians war with our own sinful flesh, the influence of the fallen world, and with Satan himself. With all those enemies, no wonder Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” “A Mighty Fortress” comes from a section of hymns entitled “The Church Militant.” That’s the Church at war. We don’t become “The Church Triumphant” until heaven.

Don’t fall for the Devil’s deceit. The War’s outcome has been decided, but the battle rages on. The Devil is a defeated foe, but he will resist until his final judgment. Such spiritual warfare is real, and every generation and congregation of Christians must fight the devil, and all his works, and all his ways. Resist him, standing firm in the faith and the rock-solid foundation of God’s Holy Word. The devil doesn’t want pastors and congregations to get along, because that would mean Christians would be in Church hearing the Word, making good use of the Sacraments, being forgiven by Christ, and inviting friends, neighbors, and family to come to Divine Service to be served by Christ.

Thank God for the gift of His Word. Rejoice in the promises and comfort you find therein. Live in the Gospel promises of Jesus for you—forgiveness of sins now, and divine protection now and eternally, and the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. There we will rejoice with all the angels and the saints of every age, including: Abel, Abraham, David, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Augustine, Athanasius, Luther, Walther, and especially those recently departed from us in the faith. Hold fast to the Word of God as they did, so that we may join them.

The Word they still shall let remain Nor any thanks have for it; He’s by our side upon the plain With His good Gifts and Spirit. And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The kingdom ours remaineth.

W. G. Polack wrote, “The good this hymn has done, the faith it has inspired, the hearts it has comforted, the influence it has exerted, cannot be measured and will first be revealed to us in eternity, where the saints of God will praise their Lord and redeemer for many blessings, not the least of which will be the privilege of having known and sung this hymn here on earth.”

Let us rejoice that this hymn, and the others in our new hymnals, present the clear teaching that Jesus Christ came to rescue you from sin, from death and from the devil. Let us rejoice with all Christendom that God’s Word brings us such refuge and strength, Christ Himself! Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Memorial Service Sermon for Dee Black, 20 October 2009

Rev. Paul J Cain

Hebrews 10:23

He Is Faithful

Memorial Service Sermon for Delores “Dee” Luella (Heinzen) Black

Tuesday of Pentecost XX, 20 October 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

Dee Black died in Christ. At my last pastoral visit to her, she was the most peaceful I had ever seen her. She confessed her sins and received Jesus’ forgiveness, comfort, and peace. She was ready to go home to be with her Lord and rest.

She told me, “I’m glad I met everyone at Immanuel. God bless every one of you.” And then she said, “Did I say that right? You can put that in your own words, pastor.” I responded, “If I did that it wouldn’t sound like you.” And she smiled.

Dee helped plan today’s service. She selected the hymn of the day, “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” her favorite, and agreed to Cathy and David’s suggestion of “How Great Thou Art.” Dee chose both psalms. The three readings were chosen to complement those selections and reflect my time with Dee as her pastor. Even the bulletin reflects her favorite color.

Those of us who knew her well knew that she was sometimes anxious. Over the last month she wanted to make sure to get her Christmas cards done. She wanted to provide a good home for her family and church photos. She wanted to make sure everybody was taken care of. That sounds like the anxiety common to concerned and loving mothers.

When I paid her a pastoral visit, I shared Scripture, a sermon, a hymn, prayer, and Holy Communion once a month. I would summarize her attitude in recent months in words I first learned from a godly aunt: “I may fear dying, but I need not fear death.”

In Christ, death is the entrance to eternal life, life with her Lord Christ, and a reunion with all who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Dee held fast the profession of her faith. She remembered God’s promises to her. And in so doing, she fulfilled today’s sermon text, chosen for her at her Confirmation by Pastor Brammeier back in 1942. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;)”

Faith trusts in that which it does not see. If it was just hoping in what it could see, we’d call it sight. Faith is reverent awe, hope, and trust that holds on to Jesus Christ for dear life—and into eternal life. Scripture reminds us that faith is not something we do, but a gift from God. The Holy Spirit gives the gift of faith through the hearing of the Word and the water of Holy Baptism.

Faith doesn’t often talk about itself. Faith talks about its Lord and who He is and what He has done for us. In today’s readings, hymns, and psalms, you have heard many promises from our Lord. They are most certainly true, not merely because they’re true for me and this congregation and our departed sister Dee, but because they come from the Lord of Truth Himself. His promises are solid enough to build your life upon. And salvation is a life and death matter. Jesus died and rose so that you may live with Him. You can rely on God’s promises and gifts for eternal life with Him.

During their last hours with her, Dee’s children reminisced with their mom about their lives together, the joys and tears, the words said and left unsaid. (She was sorry for unkind words that often slip out of our mouths as well as for not always making the opportunity to explain words that could be misunderstood.) Dee knew how much you loved her, even when there were disagreements, hurt feelings, or differences of opinion. She loved you all.

And in the midst of all that special time with her family, Dee noted that a baby was born on TV. Life goes on. One soul leaves this world and another soul enters. We gather today to celebrate her life. We thank God for His gift of Dee to us and how we were able to serve Him by serving her. We thank God for the gifts He gave to her in her life, especially the gift of faith, by which she gladly received the gifts of Holy Baptism, God’s Holy Word, Holy Communion, and the spoken comfort of the forgiveness of sins.

These gifts of God are yours as well, just as is promised in Hebrews 10:23 (ESV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sermon for 18 October 2009, Proper 24B

The Rev. Paul J Cain

Ecclesiastes 5:10–20

We Give Thee But Thine Own

Proper [24] B, Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, 18 October 2006

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We give Thee but Thine own,

Whate’er the gift may be;

All that we have is Thine alone,

A trust, O Lord, from Thee

May we Thy bounties thus

As stewards true receive

And gladly, as Thou blessest us,

To Thee our firstfruits give!

Oh, hearts are bruised and dead,

And homes are bare and cold,

And lambs for whom the Shepherd bled

Are straying from the fold.

To comfort and to bless,

To find a balm for woe,

To tend the lone and fatherless

Is angels’ work below.

The captive to release,

To God the lost to bring,

To teach the way of life and peace,

It is a Christ-like thing.

And we believe Thy Word,

Though dim our faith may be:

Whate’er for Thine we do, O Lord,

We do it unto Thee.

Here at the end of October, we will take two weeks to study two favorite hymns of our congregation, and more importantly, Bible texts that are the source of the theology sung in the hymns. Next week, Reformation Sunday, the sermon text will be Psalm 46, which inspired Dr. Martin Luther to write “A Mighty Fortress.”

Today the hymn is one we have sung while thinking of offerings, “We Give Thee but Thine Own.” We will sing all six stanzas as our closing hymn.

The Old Testament Reading appointed for today by our lectionary gives an alternative view of worldly wealth and honor. King Solomon shares his wisdom with us this morning: 10He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

10He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. Smoke. Chasing after wind. Meaningless. Vanity. Just because the American Declaration of Independence speaks about the “pursuit of happiness” doesn’t mean that we will catch happiness. (More on this famous American quote later.)

Riches bring anxiety. Life Application Bible: “We always want more than we have. Solomon observed that those who love money and seek it obsessively never find the happiness it promises. Wealth also attracts freeloaders and thieves, causes [worry] and fear, and ultimately ends in loss, because it will be left behind. No matter how much you earn, if you try to create happiness by accumulating wealth, you will never have enough. Money in itself is not wrong, but loving money leads to all sorts of sin. Whatever financial situation you are in, don’t depend on money to make you happy. Instead, use what you have for the Lord.” And so we sing, “We give Thee but Thine own.”

All this would be no surprise to William W. How, called “The Poor Man’s Bishop,” who wrote this hymn in 1858. It was originally published under the heading of Proverbs 19:17: “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord.”

Concerning this hymn text, George Matheson wrote: “[It] sounds the real humanitarian note to the fatherless and widows. Hymnology is feeble and ineffective when it ignores the humanitarian side of religion.” The purpose of our wealth in this world—whatever amount—is to use it to serve. We use what we have to feed, clothe, and visit those in need, and to share the good news about Jesus: the Gospel.

Our practice should fit the Biblical theology. Several times a month, people come to the church for help. It may be for a night’s lodging, a hot meal, gas to get down the road, groceries, or help to pay rent. We help them as a congregation through our social assistance fund. This fund of love helps with food, gas, lodging, an occasional bus ticket, and often leads to a good opportunity to share the Gospel. Please consider a donation, for winter is upon us.

The fourth and fifth stanzas sing our theology: “To comfort and to bless, To find a balm for woe, To tend the lone and fatherless Is angels’ work below. The captive to release, To God the lost to bring, To teach the way of life and peace, It is a Christ-like thing.

What happens when God’s good gifts are used for other purposes? Solomon continues: 13There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

Two bumper sticker sayings are appropriate to mention here. One says, “He who dies with the most toys—wins.” What does he win? The Bible text says “you can’t take it with you.” Hence, the second bumper sticker: “He who dies with the most toys still dies.”

Concordia Self-Study Bible: “The ability to enjoy God’s blessings is a bonus—a gift of God, not a right or guarantee.” That is what our founding fathers really meant by the “pursuit of happiness,” the hobby or habit of happiness under God. 18Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

LAB: “God wants us to view what we have (whether it is much or little) with the right perspective—our possessions are a gift from God. Although they are not the source of joy, they are a reason to rejoice, because every good thing comes from God. We should focus more on the Giver than on the gift. We can be content with what we have when we realize that with God we have everything we need” and the ability to provide for those who lack what they need. Injustice in a fallen world is nothing new. King Solomon knew there was nothing truly new under the sun.

LAB: “Solomon shows that having the right attitude about God can help us deal with present injustices. Prosperity is not always good, nor adversity always bad. But God is always good….Many people work hard to improve their physical [or financial] condition. Yet people don’t spend nearly as much time or effort on their spiritual health. How shortsighted it is to work hard to extend this life and [not regularly receive the good gifts of Jesus—forgiveness, life, and salvation?]”

In closing, let’s listen to Solomon in the next nine verses. Ecclesiastes 6:1-9 (ESV) There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. 3If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life's good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. 5Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. 6Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place? [Death.]

7All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. 8For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? 9Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Therefore, let us always pray: “We give Thee, O Lord, but Thine Own.” Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sermon for 11 October 2009, Proper 23B

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Mark 10:17–22

We Are Saved Only By Jesus

Proper [23] B

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

11 October 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

17As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The man went away sorrowful. He thought he had done everything needed to earn heaven. So, Jesus taught him that gaining heaven by our actions is impossible by giving something impossible for him to do. So, you think you can get there by being a good person, huh? Go, sell everything you own and give away the money. Then, come and follow Me. He couldn’t do it. His money was an idol to him—an idol that broke the first commandment about having no other gods. What is most sad is that the man missed the point of the Ten Commandments. They don’t show us how holy we are. They show us how sinful we are.

Lutherans remember the days of memorizing them and their meanings in Confirmation class. The Gospel Reading appointed for this Day is not intended for us to indulge in nostalgia, however. “The Holy Ten Commands” have a practical application for every Christian, every day: Self-Examination and Reflection. The Ten Commandments preach Repentance; that is, by them God shows us our sin and how much we need a Savior. The Catechism’s section on Confession urges a Christian to prepare for Confession & Absolution using the commandments.

“What sins do I have to confess?” you may be asking yourself. Just wait. Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments.

You may wish to turn to pages 264 or 321 in Lutheran Service Book.

You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

My God is that which I love, trust and fear most in my life. I [should] expect my comfort, good and delight from my God. Do I look to God my heavenly Father, for all love, good and joy? Is everything measured for me by what pleases me? In all things am I self-centered and selfish? Do I see my worry and fretting as sin against trusting God? Do I complain about the troubles, people, work and suffering God lays on me? Do I love the things God gives me more than I love Him? And do I cling to what God takes away, even though He gives me Himself?

You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

Do I curse? Do I use God’s name cheaply for oaths that are frivolous or false? Do I stand up and swear by God’s Name when it is for the truth of the Gospel or for the benefit of my neighbor in need? Am I bored and indifferent in prayer? Am I bored with God’s Word, neglect the study of the Catechism, doctrine and God’s Word? Is my heart and life in the praise of God in worship? Is my life, marked with the Name of God in Baptism, characterized by thanksgiving and praise?

You shall sanctify the holy day / Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.

Do I strive to make the day of rest holy? Do I care about holy living? Do I use the Word of God and prayer to make my time, work, and study life holy day by day? Do I honor the Word of God highly by studying it gladly, learning it by heart, and living it? Do I despise the Word of God by neglect, paying no attention to it when it is read or preached? Do I love my fellow Christians by being present with them in worship to sustain them? Am I quick to make excuses for neglecting worship because of what someone else has said or done, or to do other things I like more? Do I spend time complaining about the worship, the pastor or other people? Do I learn the Word gladly so that I may teach others?

You shall honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you and you may live long upon the earth. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not despise nor anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve, obey, and hold them in love and esteem.

Has the fear and love of God shaped my honor and obedience to parents and others in authority? Have I trusted God to bless me and make my life good when I submit to the authority of parents and those over me, or have I been angry with them? Have I been insolent, sullen and disrespectful to my parents, teachers, employers or other authorities over me? Have I been on good behavior when they are present and mocking them when they are absent? Have I given honor and respect to the pastoral office? Have I helped those who carry responsibilities in governing? Do I pray for parents, leaders of the nations, schools and church? Do I grumble about work given me to do? Have I helped make it easier for those who carry responsibilities for governing?

You shall not [murder]. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.

Have I treated my neighbor’s body and life as gifts of God to him? Have I injured my neighbor with violent actions, or murdered him with thoughts of anger, contempt, and hatred? Have I injured my neighbor by ridicule, by neglecting to feed or clothe him, withholding compassion and comfort from him? Have I avoided giving help to my neighbor, avoiding involvement with him in his difficulty? Do I abuse my own body with neglect of health, care, excess use of food, drink, tobacco, or drugs?

You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.

Have I indulged my eyes with longing for my sexual satisfaction from a man or woman who is not my spouse? Have I had intercourse with a man or woman who is not my spouse? Have I dishonored my spouse by neglecting to care for the body, mind, feelings, and needs of the other, withdrawing faithfulness from the spouse? Have I failed to trust God to bless us in our marriage, even in times of trouble? Have I neglected to pray for my spouse, to worship together, and to live in the fear and love of God in times of sexual temptations? Have I given support of homosexual activity, living together outside of holy matrimony, or sexual activity outside of marriage?

You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor’s money or property, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business.

Have I been lazy at work, doing poor work in school or at the job, or working hard only when the teacher or boss is around? Have I been stingy in paying my workers? Have I worked for myself rather than for Christ and for the benefit of my neighbor? Have I cared for the property in the neighborhood, school, or church, so that it was improved? Have I stolen from the office, school, or the church, or stood silently by while others took what was not theirs? Have I stolen information from another’s work? Have I wasted time? Have I been stingy when it comes to giving the Lord a generous portion as thank-offering for what he has given me? Have I stolen from my neighbor by not helping him in time of need?

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

Have I told the truth in court or in school before authorities or before my parents when I knew the truth? Have I been afraid to bear witness when I knew the truth? Have I gossiped, delighted to tell others about the faults or mistakes of another, excusing myself especially by saying that I spoke only the truth? Have I gone to others to make peace if I wronged them or they me, or to correct them if I knew of their wrong? Have I flattered others, or put on a front to make them think of me differently from what is true? Have I found ways gladly and willingly to explain, in the best possible way, those words or actions of others that hurt me? Have I defended my neighbor when things said about my neighbor have made others think badly about him or her? Have I learned to hear with the weaknesses and faults of others, covering their shame? Have I been faithful in keeping the secrets of another’s heart entrusted to me in confidence?

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

Have I longed for the honor, wealth, happy life, or what seemed the ease of the lives of others? Has my life been full of craving for these things? Have I been stingy and self-indulgent with my money, trying to keep up with what others had? Have I tried, by claims of various rights, to make the property of others my own, saying they do not really deserve it and I do? Do I have to keep wishing for and dreaming about things I do not have before I can work with a diligent and glad heart? Have I lived in grudging discontent with whatever God has given me, restless about what I do not have and neglectful of thankful generosity with what I do have?

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not estrange, force, or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty.

Have I wanted my neighbor’s spouse, his workers, or his property to be mine? Have I tried to win the affections and loyalties of my neighbor’s spouse or children or friends away from the neighbor to me? Have I urged friends and spouses and workers to go back to their calling, holding their marriages, friendships, families, and work together? Have I fostered discontent with the congregation, its pastor or leaders, and failed to urge members to stay and do their duty in worship, praying, giving and serving?

What does God say of all these Commandments? I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.

What does this mean? God threatens to punish all that transgress these commandments. Therefore we should dread His wrath and not act contrary to these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to all that keep these commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him, and gladly do according to His commandments.

God demands our hearts and minds, not merely our outward actions. Therefore, examine the heart as well as the life, connecting the fear and love of God with each commandment. Let the broken heart fear him. God loves, and does not despise, the sacrifices of the broken heart. Rather, he joins the broken heart to his mercy for forgiveness and healing, for peace and purity.

What purposes does the law serve? There are three. First, the Law helps to control violent outbursts of sins and keeps order in the world. The Law acts as a curb.

Second, the Law accuses us and shows us our sin. The Law is a mirror. Self-examination and reflection, as we have done here today, makes use of the Law as mirror. A mirror can show you that your hair is messed up, that your face is dirty, or that you have a zit. The mirror cannot, however, comb you hair, clean your face, or medicate your pimple. “What sins do I have to confess?” you may have been asking yourself. Now you know, especially after considering your place in life according to the Ten Commandments.

Now, the Gospel comes in and forgives your sins. Your slate is wiped clean. Your sins are washed away. Your relationship with God is restored by Christ. Confession is always for the sake of absolution.

And then, you ask yourself, “What is pleasing to God?” You ask by faith, not in the way of, “Lord, PLEASE forgive me because of what I’ll do for you,” but instead, “THANK YOU, Lord for forgiving me my sin.” The Third use of the Law teaches us Christians what we should and should not do to lead a God-pleasing life. The Law here is a guide. The power to live according to the Law comes only from the Gospel.

People today think you get to heaven by being good. Just ask them. We’re not saved by being good. We’re saved only by Jesus. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered by bringing up the Ten Commandments. The man wrongly thought he had kept them all. Don’t make his mistake. Use the Commandments to prepare for confession, receive Jesus’ absolution, and put your faith in Christ, who kept the Commandments perfectly in your place. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sermon for 04 October 2009, Proper 22B

The Rev. Paul J Cain

Hebrews 2:1-13 (14-18)

Never Forget

Proper [22] B, Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 04 October 2009

LWML Sunday

Confirmation Sunday

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

We forget. Plain and simple, we just forget. Those who suffer severe pain often forget how bad it was…until the next time. We forget how bad it is to see your favorite time lose…until the next time. We forget how awful we feel when we’re guilty of sin…until the next time. We forget how embarrassed we were when we forgot to do that project at work or school or home…until the next time. We even forget God’s Word, both His Law and His Promises…until the next.

Welcome to…the next time. God’s Word is here today to remind you about all that you have forgotten, especially with regard to faith, life, and salvation.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

That is quite a verse, isn’t it? Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

If we forget, if we don’t pay attention, if we take God’s Word for granted, we could drift away. Heaven forbid!

For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

God wanted His people to remember. The Lord declared it. His apostles shared it verbally and wrote it down. God gave gifts of the Holy Spirit as He willed. Once again, miracles accompanied the proclamation of salvation. Even when Jesus preached, He did no miracles apart from people having faith in Him!

Those of us who make use of technology love it…except when it breaks down. Computers can forget, too. Hardware and software can help you lose information. There are few things more frustrating in this modern high tech life. The Lord wanted to make sure that you got His message. He didn’t put it on CD for you. He didn’t email it. He trusted it to the flesh-and-bone messengers of the Word, His Written Word, and His Holy Spirit. He considers human beings the pinnacle of His creation, subjecting the word to the care and stewardship of mankind.

Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Who is this son of man? You know. You haven’t forgotten that much! 

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Mankind was given to be fruitful and multiply for the purpose of subduing the earth, ruling over all of creation as servant-stewards of all that God had made. Sin spoiled the world that God had created and originally declared “good.” The Lord promised One who would have His heel struck by Satan himself, even as this One would crush the head of that ancient serpent. Jesus was crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Jesus. Everything in heaven and earth has been subjected to Him. God gave Him all authority in heaven and on earth that disciples would be made by baptism and by being taught God’s Word.

On this day when we thank God for Christian women and the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, it is important to note that God’s Word was originally recorded and taught in a context that did not value women. In some cultures, they were seen as property. In most, they themselves were not allowed to own property. The New Testament elevates women as valuable, intelligent human beings. In Christ there is no male or female. We all are one when it comes to salvation.

At the same time, men and women are physically different. We have different brain and body chemistry. Strength and emotions vary between the two genders. And God has denied some roles in this life to men. Other vocations, like that of pastor, are denied to women. All submit to Christ, especially men. Women are taught by the Lord to yield, to submit to fathers and husbands as the Church submits to Christ.

Yet, when it comes to salvation, both male and female have sin and need Jesus. Paul even calls all Christians, women and men, the Bride of Christ. It is not uncommon for New Testament writers like Paul and the author of Hebrews to include women in the title of “son.” Sons inherit the kingdom. Sons of God are brought to glory!

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

You are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. He has called us brothers. He has gathered us together as His congregation. He sanctifies you, making you Holy in and through the Holy Spirit. We put our trust in Him. We sing His praises. And we stand together as the children of God.

We may forget, but God never does. He always remembers His promises to you and eagerly desires for you to seek Him in His Word, and in His Gifts, delivered for your forgiveness in a place and time like this.

(We welcome our youth confirmands to the Lord’s Table for the first time today. They remembered their memory work. They did their homework. They have confessed faith in Christ, and will again confirm with their own lips the faith confessed for them at their baptism into Christ. They are the offspring of Abraham with us, sharing in Christ’s Body and Blood for their forgiveness.)

Jesus will never forget what He did for you. He was true God and true man for a purpose. Listen to an extension of our sermon text, also from Hebrews 2: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus had to be like you, his brothers, in every respect? Why? To serve you before God as your great High Priest. He is a unique High Priest in that He is not only the one doing the sacrificing to atone for sin, He is also the sacrifice offered to the Lord on the altar of the cross. He died, not to help angels, but to help you by destroying “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” You are freed from slavery to sin, to death, and to the devil.

The devil wants you to forget about sin. He wants you to forget about God. He wants you to forget about Church. God’s Word is here today to remind you about all that you have forgotten, especially with regard to faith, life, and salvation. And the writer to the Hebrews says, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Remain in Christ’s Word and you will Never Forget. Amen.

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