Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sermon for 31 January 2010, Epiphany 4C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13


The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

31 January 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

““Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” That is how the final paragraph of last week’s text begins. And it concludes, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” Now which ones would those be? Our Epistle and sermon text this morning.

And I will show you a still more excellent way. (Now you’re talking, St. Paul!)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

We can care in here (point to heart) until the cows come home, but if we don’t show it or say it, who will know or benefit? It is said that people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. Deeds without love are nothing. Even the words, “I love you,” spoken without feeling, are empty. The questions many of us never have thought of in connection to this text are, “What kind of love? Whose love? How can I show such a love?”

St. John reminds us in his first epistle that we love because God in Christ first loved us. The love of God in Christ is what is spoken of here. Yes, faith without works is dead—it’s a dead faith. We are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone. True, living faith is distinguished from dead or false faith by being active. Works are not our “please” to God—Please, Lord, forgive me in exchange for all I do—NO! Works are our “thank you” to the Lord for all that He has done for us in Christ.

Consider again this passage: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not the gift of God’s love in Christ living in me, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not the gift of God’s love in Christ living in me, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not the gift of God’s love in Christ living in me, I gain nothing.

See how different that text sounds? The Word of God is living and active and gives its good gifts by the Holy Spirit no matter how many times you’ve heard this at weddings!

Chapter 13 is the famous love chapter. As you listen to this portion, think of yourself every time you hear the word “love.” How do you measure up?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

The text sounds a lot less romantic today, doesn’t it? How did you measure up? Pretty brutal, huh? That’s the Holy Spirit using the Law to convict you of your sin when you haven’t been loving to your spouse, your parents, your children, your neighbors, coworkers, classmates, or teachers. And we can’t forget how “loving,” or not, you’ve been to members of your own congregation!

The Holy Spirit uses the law to convict of sin. What I’ve done here is to use some of the hardest law out there. You and I realize that we don’t measure up. What hope is there? The same hope I pointed to you before: God’s love in Christ Jesus! God is love. Jesus Christ is God incarnate, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Let’s try listening to those verses with Jesus’ Name inserted instead! How does He measure up?

Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; He is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on His own way, but His Father’s Way; He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, even death on a cross. Jesus never ends.

That last sentence sums it all up, doesn’t it? The winning streak of our favorite team will come to an end. Our favorite politician may not get reelected, or his or her campaign may not even get off the ground. Jesus never ends.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Some spiritual gifts are seen in Scripture, but not in every time and place. The perfect has come in Christ, in His complete, inspired, inerrant Word. The Word of the Lord endures forever! Tongues will be stilled, Paul writes, foreseeing our time. The Gift of the love of God in Christ is a greater gift than tongues! And we still await the time when we will no longer be seeing through a glass darkly, through a mirror dimly. On the Last Day when Christ appears again, we shall see Him face to face. It is frustrating now to only know in part. Take courage! You will know fully in the great Day of the Lord to come. You will understand the point of your suffering, pain, and loss. You will see those who died in Christ that you miss.

Deffner: Picture yourself standing on a dock watching a great sailing ship waiting silently and quietly for a wind to fill its sails and set it in majestic motion. Finally, a strong wind comes up and all spring into action. The captain shouts orders, the sailors hoist the great sails, the wind catches them with a great puff, and off the ship slowly moves like a (great sea serpent) [giant] on the waters. But by and by the ship grows smaller and smaller as it eventually becomes but a speck where sky and sea meet on the horizon. Someone on the dock shouts the traditional cry, “There she goes!” and everyone waves good-bye and goes home.

But the question is, “Goes where?” That ship which is just a little dot on our horizon is just as big and mighty, just as laden with cargo and people as it was on the dock. The difference is in us. The difference is that it has merely receded from our sight and disappeared, that’s all. But somewhere, as it moves to a foreign shore, that dot, that tiny ship, invisible to us, becomes larger and larger. And there are people on that foreign shore who are about to set up a new cry. They shout, “There she comes!”

In faith, we hope for that great and glorious Day!

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The greatest is love. The greatest is the gift of God’s love in Christ living in you! That love, by the work of the Holy Spirit, shines around and in you. You are then able to love others with the love given you. Christ fills your “love bucket” and you generously pour out words of encouragement, thoughtful gifts, acts of service, a soothing touch, and quality time—and never run low—for you bucket runneth over. You are able to reflect Christ’s love in your patience, kindness, protection, trust, hope, perseverance, and rejoicing in the truth.

The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to individuals so that the whole body of Christ is built up. The love of God in Christ is the greatest spiritual gift we have, one we are to share with the world—at least our part of it. You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And you are more than a part of it! You are a dearly loved child of God, given gifts to share with the rest of the body in love, to the glory of God and the salvation of mankind! Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sermon for 24 January 2010, Epiphany 3C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

One Body

The Third Sunday after Epiphany (Life Sunday)

24 January 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

God gives spiritual gifts to His Christians for the common good of the Church. That is the basic teaching 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 gave us last week: 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. No man is an island. No Christian is, either. We are given to care for one another in the body of Christ. All the spiritual gifts mentioned earlier in chapter 12 and elsewhere in the Bible are not intended to let anyone “blow their own horn.” The Holy Spirit always points to Christ and gives His gifts so that the He can build up the whole Body of Christ.

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

All true Christians have the gift of the Holy Spirit. All are equal when it comes to salvation, equally sinners in need of forgiveness. The many are one body. Holy Baptism means inclusion in the body of Christ. Not all are given to serve the same way. That important truth is emphasized later. Here, we are taught about the Holy Spirit’s work. It is as we learn from the Catechism: I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers…

Let no one ever get away with telling you that the Holy Spirit is absent from the Lutheran Church! Remember God’s promises! The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies [makes holy] the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

14For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

You are part of the body through Holy Baptism. So are people of all ages, peoples, tribes, nations, languages, and colors, both male and female. Each one of us has strengths and weaknesses. Together, we complement one another. We need hearts to care, ears to hear, and minds to learn the Holy Scriptures. The Lord needs caring hearts andmoving feet to go to those who are lonely, hands serving those in need, knees praying for the pastor, the people, and lips to tell the Good News About Jesus to people in our communities, workplaces, schools, and homes. Where would this congregation be without those who provide funeral meals and coffee & cookies? Where would Immanuel be if hearts and hands and minds had not worked upon this building and Immanuel’s first home on Park Street? Where would you be if someone had not brought or invited you to church for the first time? Where are we going / together / in Christ as one Body, extending our hands to receive the Lord’s gifts, raising our hearts and heads and voices to God in thanksgiving and praise, and carrying the message of unity in Christ, forgiveness of sins in His name, and eternal life?

I know. It’s easier not to say anything about Jesus to others. It’s easier to stay home on Sunday. Or, it’s easier to shake pastor’s hand and head right out the door. It’s easier to sit on our hands in a nice warm sanctuary while millions are dying around the world—and even here—without faith in Christ.

We have God’s very Word. That means something. It changed your life! That means hope for today and tomorrow. It means new life now and in heaven. It means restored relationships with God and man. It means peace and joy inside. And it means a community is created by the Lord around His gifts of Word and Sacrament.

It would be easier—especially for me and the elders—just to write off members we haven’t seen in a while. But we won’t. We won’t! We will take the Word of the Lord to them, and then, after patient pastoral care, see what happens. Yes, there are consequences for rejecting the Lord’s Word and His servant. God’s Word teaches that. Others may give up on us, the Word, and the Lord, but we are given to care about them.

Listen to St. Paul: 21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

This Life Sunday, we care for all human life, from the unborn to the aged. We must speak out against abortion, suicide, euthanasia, and genocide. We are to speak about the precious life given by our creator, and also the new life given by Christ, our Savior.

The Body of Christ hurts when a part of it hurts. We suffer as a congregation when you are not here. As individual human beings we are each baptized into the community Christ creates. We have been blessed individually so that we may be a blessing to others.

The future of the Church and this congregation lies in the Lord’s Gifts given and received. God creates a community by His Word and Spirit that gathers around Word and Sacrament. People are born, brought, and raised in the faith. Others come as a guest in response to a personal invitation. Still others come because of family connections. The Church continues because the Lord is faithful to His promises. He gathers to Himself a people. The Lord isn’t measuring any kind of numbers. We are not called to be successful. We are to be faithful, faithfully receiving His gifts ourselves, and faithfully bringing others to Jesus.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. Body. Members. Community. Individuality. Opposites? Not necessarily. Lutherans, whether Swedish, Norwegian, German, or otherwise, have had reputations for great community and interdependence. Americans, and especially Wyoming and Nebraska residents, are known for independence and self-reliance. There can be problems when an individual sees him or herself as a Christian, but is always apart from the community gathered by the Lord at that time and place. A Christian should hunger and thirst for the love of God in His Word and Sacraments.

“But Pastor, I don’t see the point of gathering with those hypocrites! Can’t I read my Bible at home?” Pastors lose track of how many times they hear such things. It’s frustrating to have a wonderful visit with a member family you haven’t seen for a while on Sunday and then, still, nothing happens—they still don’t show up.

Even if a hypocrite is coming between someone and church, who is closer to God? One who cuts him or herself off from the Lord and His gifts, or the one who is there in church where the Word used by the Spirit can bring about repentance, create and renew faith, and bring about positive change, even in a hypocrite?

Yes, there are hypocrites in the visible Church. God, however, is not mocked. He is not fooled. Hypocrites do not belong to the one, holy, Christian Church that remains hidden to our eyes, but is known to the Lord. Your primary reason in coming is not to see people—not even the pastor. The Gospel calls you to receive the Lord’s gifts. The chief service of the Christian Church on Sunday has been called the “Divine Service” since ancient times. The Lord, the Divine One, serves you with His gifts. Then, and only then, do we offer our meager sacrifice of thanks and praise.

Yes, you could stay away and read your Bible at home. Even among those who use that great and common excuse it usually doesn’t happen. Every Sunday and every special service here, the Word of the Lord is read and preached. The Word is taught in Sunday School and Bible Classes. In pastoral care, the Word is applied to your life and very specific situation. These things you would miss out upon, sitting home on a Sunday, or by forgetting to call the pastor in an emergency.

And yes, the Gifts of the Lord are even given out on the day they play the Super Bowl! It is embarrassing that some of the Christian players in the NFL weekly attend Church services but millions of their fans do not.

The Visible Word is also something that a “couch potato Christian” misses. Even such great radio shows as “The Lutheran Hour” and “Issues, Etc.” are unable to provide Holy Communion to their listeners. Every Lord’s Day, the Lord Himself gathers to Himself a people so that He may deliver His gifts. Yes, there are often special circumstances due to illness, military service, or geographical distance, but the Lord does deliver His gifts through pastors and chaplains making visits to shut-ins, the hospitalized, and our beloved military personnel.

Christians who separate themselves from the rest of the congregation miss out on the Christian love, support, advice, and encouragement of their fellow Christians. You know how much that means to you, especially in crisis situations, or when you’ve been away from it for a time. Search the Scriptures! Find me just one example of a solitary Christian. Even Elijah, whining in the wilderness, did not remain by Himself for long. The Lord sent Him back to the faithful remnant of 7,000 that had been- preserved. Christians who cut themselves off from the people and the gifts of the Lord wither as pruned olive branches.

Individual. The body. They go together. Listen to a portion of 1 Corinthians 12:

27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

No, not all people have these amazing spiritual gifts. No, not all serve in these offices of service. Who would listen if all were preachers? We need faithful, Biblically knowledgeable laypeople, too! In Christ, you have every spiritual gift needed to sustain and build up the body of Christ in this place.

Individually, you are all baptized into Christ. You were given your Christian name at your baptism along with that of the Triune God: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Each one of you were taken into Christ. Individually, you are members of the body of Christ.

It’s time for a dumb question. How many bodies of Christ are there? One. The body of Christ. “The” demands to hear “One.” There is not a body of Christ for the Germans, another for the Scandinavians, another for African-Americans, and another for Spanish-speakers. No. There is one body.

There is not a body of Christ for the elderly, another for the baby boomers, another for those who came of age around September 11th, and another for our youngest people. No. There is one body. Lutherans don’t do “children’s church.” Even little Christians can pray the “Our Father” and sing some hymns and parts of the liturgy with the rest of us. Lutherans serious about 1 Corinthians 12 do not give into the pressure of the culture and leave behind what previous generations in the body have handed down to us. Liturgy and hymnody are something to grow into—not grow out of.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and al. l were made to drink of one Spirit.

One body. Many members. Many gifts and vocations. I am personally thankful for you. It is amazing to see the dedication of long-time members of Immanuel and sister LCMS congregations. It is humbling to consider the time spent in service by you and by the congregation’s leaders and volunteers. We rejoice in our newest members by baptism, adult and youth instruction, profession of faith and transfer. We wholeheartedly welcome our visitors.

One body. Many members. Many gifts and vocations. Today’s epistle reading is a wonderful time to talk about membership at Immanuel Lutheran Church. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith, talk to me, or call, email, or drop by this week. (Anytime, really.) We’ll read the entire Gospel of Matthew together and talk about the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Forgiveness, and Communion. And don’t worry. You don’t have to read aloud if you don’t want to! 

If you are a member of a sister congregation in our church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, please give us an opportunity to become better acquainted with you and your family. We would appreciate having contact information—phone, address, email, etc.—so we can better serve you here. We would love to have you transfer in when you’re ready and want to provide you the best pastoral care we can for you here even if you are here temporarily.

To our visitors from other Lutheran church bodies who are considering joining Immanuel congregation, please introduce yourself. Let’s make the time to get together and discuss what the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions say about our teaching, practice, and life together. Let us work toward unity in the Word of Christ.

Finally, let me say it all again this way in brief to any visitors, guests, or those who hear this invitation later on through our members. As Christians, the Lord gathers us around His Gifts of Word, Baptism, Forgiveness, and Communion. We would love to find unity with you in God’s Word. I have scheduled some extra time here after Church this morning to set up appointments to meet with individuals and families and schedule new adult and youth instruction classes. We are blessed with so many new opportunities in this new year!

One body. Many members. Many gifts and vocations. No, not all are apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, healers, speakers or interpreters in other languages. Sometimes we really do need to listen to and answer those rhetorical questions. In the rest of verse 31, Paul says, “But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” Now which ones would those be? A professor at the seminary once taught me something very important to do when confronted with such a question. Take a hand, grab your chin, and pull your head down so that you look for the answer in the Bible verses coming up next Sunday. Paul is talking about love. That, too, is a spiritual gift.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the greatest because Jesus loved us first. We have faith and hope in Christ and love because He first loved us, both individually, and together as part of His Body.

Now / you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sermon for 17 January 2010, Epiphany 2 C

Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. John 2:1-11

The First of His Miraculous Signs

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, 17 January 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

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

Just as the word, “Epiphany” (which means “manifestation”) implies, the Epiphany season manifests the power of the deity of Jesus Christ for the good of all kinds of people. These manifestations in Scripture continue to be signs to us, just as they were to the first disciples, of Jesus’ power. These signs display that power not simply to show it off but to demonstrate what His power accomplishes for people whom He loves.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

Following His Baptism in the Jordan river by John, Jesus soon begins His ministry. The time has come to do the work of His Father in Heaven. Jesus has just called several of his disciples, namely Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel in the previous chapter of St. John’s Gospel account. We continue with chapter two.

3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

This was a major social faux pas on the part of the host of the wedding banquet. One was not supposed to run out of wine—especially not at a party that was to last most of a week! This was the celebration of a wedding! Mary wanted to help the host, and the newlyweds, avoid embarrassment. What was Jesus to do?

3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

The time had fully come for Jesus to be born. The time had come for Him to be Baptized. The time had come for Him to begin His ministry. The time had even come for Him to call His disciples. But he time had not yet come for Jesus to die. If He were to manifest His glory now, would it lead to opposition? Opposition would come soon enough. Later in chapter two Jesus cleared the Temple in Jerusalem of merchants and money-changers. He didn’t make many friends.

Jesus appears to have relented, in obedience to Mary, recognizing that the time had come for His first miraculous sign. He lends His compassionate aid to this request.

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

Jesus produces an enormous quantity of wine, 96 to 144 gallons, scholars estimate. This should be plenty to last the rest of the time of celebration. It is often asked why Jesus made wine at all and particularly such a large quantity.

Wine and its quantity are important symbols in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, wine and oil or milk are signs of the age of salvation, the time of the coming of God’s Messiah. The following verses are but two prophesies describing the time of the Messiah.

Jeremiah writes (31:12) They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD— the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds.

And Joel (3:18) says: ‘In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias.

The image of abundance, bounty, plenty, cups running over, is associated with the blessing to accompany the arrival of the Messiah. When you see these things, know that the time is at hand. The Messiah has finally come! The image of the banquet feast goes hand in hand with this imagery.

The Messiah has come. He is present at the Wedding in Cana and blesses all with His presence. This sign gives the guests an Epiphany. They learn who He truly is what what He can do for them.

The Messiah has come—to us! He is present with us in this Divine Service. He is our Heavenly Bridegroom, giving us, His Bride, the Holy Christian Church, a preview of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Holy Supper. He blesses us with His presence, with us according to His promise to be with even two or three gathered in His name, present in His Holy Word, and present in His Body and Blood in, with and under the bread and wine of the Sacrament. He gives us, His guests, an Epiphany. We learn who He truly is, the Son of God. We learn what He did for us, die on the cross and rise again. And we learn what He does for us, namely give us the forgiveness of sins. That is a miraculous Gift!

11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Signs. St. John always refers to Jesus’ miracles as “signs.” He does this for a specific reason. “Sign” is a word emphasizing the significance of the action, the importance of what is going on, rather than the marvel itself. A miracle may be misunderstood as a “magic show.” St. John helps us keep focused on the true purpose of signs. They revealed Jesus’ glory. That is our Epiphany for this week, Christ Jesus revealed as one who has authority over creation itself, changing water into wine.

This sign reveals Jesus as none other than the creator of Heaven and earth. In the beginning a word created everything out of nothing. Let there be…God said. The Word made flesh Himself used words to bring about this change. Fill, He says. Now draw some out, He says. The servants did as they were told. All is accomplished by His Word.

This was not a trick that food coloring could pull off. No one has yet invented instant wine. This was fully aged, mature, fruit of the vine. It was good wine, the master of the banquet tells us. “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” Not just good wine—it was the best he had yet tasted.

If Jesus our Lord, the Lord of Creation, could instantly create aged wine, why must we doubt that God is the creator of Heaven and Earth? Things may have been created looking older than they actually are. Would that be too difficult for one who created light by a word, changed water into mature wine, and even rose from the dead? We trust in all of these things by faith, not by sight.

This sign is just a foretaste of the signs to come: healing the sick, even those crippled from birth, walking on water, feeding five thousand plus, and raising Lazarus from the dead. But all these would pale in comparison to the fulfillment of Jesus’ words also from St. John chapter two: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”…But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

We would do well to do the same, to believe the Scriptures and the words Jesus has spoken.

“You have saved the best till now,” said the master of the banquet. I say to you, He gives His best to you now, even the forgiveness of all of your sins. On the cross of Calvary, forgiveness of sins was won. At the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, forgiveness of sins is given you, now. We are given the very best—the Bread of His Body and the Wine of His Precious Blood to eat and to drink. In this miraculous meal, He reveals Himself to us. And we, His disciples, put our faith in Him. Amen.

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

Sermon for 10 January 2010, Epiphany 1 C

Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

God in Flesh Made Manifest

The Baptism of Our Lord, First Sunday after the Epiphany, 10 January 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

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

God in flesh made manifest. These words from one of today’s hymns point us to the theme of this new season called Epiphany and even the meaning of the word. Epiphany means manifestation, a revealing—a revealing of who Christ truly is: God in flesh.

But the Baptism of Our Lord is not the first manifestation we see in the Epiphany season. This season begins with the day of Epiphany, last Wednesday, January 6th, when we observe the arrival of the Magi, the Wise Men. The Star in the East [and the Hebrew Scriptures] revealed to them that a two-year-old child was the King of the Jews. And they presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And they fell on their knees and worshiped Him, Jesus, God in flesh made manifest.

Much time has passed between the visit of the Magi and the events we observe today. Jesus is now about thirty years old, St. Luke tells us. Let us consider Jesus, God in flesh made manifest, made manifest at His Baptism.

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

St. Luke parallels John and Christ in the beginning of his Gospel account. John’s miraculous birth to the barren Elizabeth is announced by an angel. Jesus’ Virgin birth is heralded by an angel. John is born. Jesus is born. Miraculous signs abound.

Now, at the Baptism of Our Lord, John defers to Jesus who is greater. This is just like when Mary greeted Elizabeth at the beginning of her three-month visit. The unborn John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus, who still in Mary’s womb. John again gives way to Jesus who is greater, for John was to prepare the way. Luke even suggests that John has given way to Jesus in the way he wrote the next verse—in passive voice. John isn’t mentioned by name.

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.

Jesus was baptized too! John preached repentance. Jesus was sinless. He had nothing to repent of. Yet, Jesus identifies with Sinners!

In The Deputy, a play by Rolf Hochhuth, a young priest in WW2 Germany discovers the truth about the Jewish extermination camps. He makes it his mission to stop the awful orders that began and are keeping in motion the slow extermination of a whole people. He appeals to everyone in authority, finally even to the pope, but all turn a deaf ear to him or plead excuses that remove them from any responsibility. When all avenues of protest have been exhausted, the hero of the play sews the identifying six-pointed star on his sleeve and presents himself at an extermination camp, where he moves to the ovens with the people whose cause he had taken on himself.

So Jesus, being baptized by John, identifies Himself with sinners. Even more amazing than that, He will accept their punishment, their death. Unlike Hochhuth’s hero, who was powerless against the foe, Jesus will go into death so that all sinners could have life and have it more abundantly. At the Fall, Satan set in motion the slow extermination of a whole people—humanity—extermination brought about through sin, which leads to death.

Jesus identifies with us, sinners. He accepted our punishment, our death. His Baptism by John makes our Baptism into His Name possible.

(Second) What benefits does [this] Baptism give [us]? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are these words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” [Mark 16:16]

John said, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

It is unbelief that condemns, unbelief that would make one chaff to be consumed with unquenchable fire, unbelief that rejects Holy Baptism and its promises and benefits.

But the Christian lives in the waters of Baptism. We remember what Jesus has done for us in baptism. The Old Adam, our sinful nature, should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Our sinfulness is to be daily drowned in the waters of our baptism. We live in the forgiveness Jesus won for us.

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

In these words of the Father in Heaven we hear again the words of Isaiah (42:1-7). Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen on in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations.

And also, I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles. Jesus was a covenant for us, bringing light, bringing the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins even to us Gentiles.

Getting the Gospel message to the world takes time, energy, and dollars. Our congregation’s mission in this community is to be a beacon of light to those who do not know Christ—even if His name is on their buildings. It is for this reason our budget is set and money is expended, a wonderful commitment to bring the Good News About Jesus to the world and to our neighbor. Those who serve the congregation and witness are beacons of light. As God’s people, we have been handed this great responsibility: to proclaim the truth. How we manage to do that joyfully and responsibly can rightly be called stewardship of the Gospel.

And as [Jesus] (he) was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

God in flesh revealed by a Voice from Heaven—the Father. God in flesh revealed in Jesus, the Son. God in flesh revealed by the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus’ mission is the work and the will of the triune God. All three persons of the Holy Trinity are present at Jesus baptism and present with us. We called upon God the Holy Trinity to be present with us at the beginning of the Divine Service and also this sermon. We call to our remembrance that name that was placed on us at Baptism. Where God has placed His name, there He promises to be. He cannot go back on His promise.

Christ, God made flesh, was made manifest to the Wise Men. And now, God in flesh is revealed at His Baptism. We ask our Lord’s blessing as we reveal Him to our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates.

As St. Peter said in our Second Lesson from Acts (10): You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Let us share God in flesh made manifest in Jesus Christ. Let us be a beacon of light individually and as a congregation—to all who are in darkness and under the power of the devil. Let us be the beacon on 5th Street for all Sheridan to see.

God in flesh made manifest. That is Epiphany. That is what we look for continuing next week, when the paraments change their color to green. Green will symbolize growth and new life—new life we received in Holy Baptism when we were given the benefits of Jesus’ Baptism, the forgiveness of sins given by Christ, God in flesh made manifest. Amen.

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

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sermon for 06 January 2009, Epiphany

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. Matthew 2:1-12

The King of the Jews

The Epiphany of Our Lord, 6 January 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

O star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.

My name does not matter. What matters is my message. I am one of the Magi, men who try to explain the Unseen with words—like the Star. I have a story to tell you, a marvelous, true story about royalty, a great journey, and amazing events. It happened over three decades before a more important second story of the King of the Jews.

Forgive me for giving so much background information, but it is the only way the whole story makes sense. The term “wise men” refers to Eastern sages like myself with knowledge of religion and the sciences. We were astrologers. Astronomers. Scientists. But we weren’t kings ourselves. The closest we got to royalty was being an advisor in the court of our monarch. In the story I’m about to tell you, we could be called royal ambassadors. My colleagues and I were strangers from a far country on an extraordinary mission: Magi who searched for a king.

Your twenty-first century scholars have some interesting ideas about us. A tiny few think we were Jews who remained in Babylon after the exile and knew the Old Testament predictions of the Messiah’s coming. Others think it is more likely that we were merely gentile astrologers who studied ancient manuscripts from around the world who knew of the Old Testament prophecies because of the exile centuries before. What I can tell you, is that we knew the King of the Jews had been born and we were willing to go to any length to find him.

As Magi, we spent a lot of time staring up at the night sky. The Star that heralded the king’s birth was magnificent! Again, your modern “wise men” are divided on how this miracle star appeared. Sure, it could have been a rare astronomical conjunction of what you would call Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, but what would prevent the Lord of Heaven from using a totally different, supernatural phenomenon? Regardless, the Star was a symbol of faith leading gentiles, non-Jews, to the discovery of the king and savior.

Now that you know something about us, I can begin to tell you about Him. Our journey following the star took many, many, months of travel. We could have gotten there much faster by plane, train, or automobile, but those types of transportation didn’t exist yet. We had our feet and beasts of burden like camels, horses, donkeys, and the like. We had a long trip of hundres of miles from home. I will spare you other details about the trip because it would bore you, and I won’t tell you the name of my country, because you wouldn’t be able to pronounce it anyway.

The most fascinating part was the time we spent on the road in conversation. At first, we found ourselves discussing the gift of Myrrh and its propriety as a gift for a young child. ‘Burial perfume? How odd!’ “How costly!’ ‘What would his parents think?’ But that topic was just to distract us from what we knew of the danger ahead. We knew of the current king of the Jews and that his word couldn’t be trusted, and that his power was frightfully displayed. Imagine! Blood flowing from even the palace of the crown!

Finally, after traveling over field, past fountain, through moor, and around mountains, we arrived. We went, of course, to the seat of government, the throne of the Jewish nation, Jerusalem. Back then, Herod the Great was king in Judea. Since we had traveled so far from the east, our first question was straight to the point. We asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

We fully expected King Herod to take us to the royal nursery and show us his newborn son. It would only make sense that the heir to the throne would be born to the current ruler. But he just sat there. Silent. Shocked, I guess. With a….strange look on his face. I never expected that kind of reaction from the great Herod.

King Herod the Great was ruthless, an effective ruler whose great jealousy caused those around him to tremble in fear. He wasn’t fully Jewish himself, yet sponsored a great variety of large building projects, including renovation of the temple. He claimed to have become Jewish, though he was still involved with pagan religion, and was therefore never really accepted by Jewish people. These events took place during what would be his last troubled years on the throne.

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. Our arrival caused a popular uproar. If they had cable TV back then, FOXNEWS would have had 24-hour coverage of “the crisis in Jerusalem.” Herod called an emergency religious summit.

It wasn’t a whole Sanhedrin, but smaller council, in reality, a political move to shore up his tottering prestige. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means the least among the rulers of Judah; / for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” They quoted from their sacred scriptures two prophecies-one from the book of Samuel and one by Micah.

Convinced he had reliable information, Herod called us to a secret meeting. Behind closed doors, he found out from us the exact time the star had appeared. I thought it odd for Herod to talk with us privately, without a public press conference. We were sent on to Bethlehem. He said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

We thought they were odd words, considering his initial reaction. It appeared to us that the one who was born was a rival, a threat. His people were expecting a Jewish leader, a messiah, a savior. Perhaps Herod was guilty since he had no bloodline connecting him to their great King David.

Another journey. As if we weren’t saddle sore enough! The star moved from north to south until it stopped over the place where the child was. When we saw the star we were overjoyed. Joy bubbled up from inside us. Our long journey was finally successful. The arduous quest had ended. It was the most intense gladness I had ever experienced until I saw the child with my own eyes.

On coming to the house, we saw the child with his mother Mary, and bowed down and worshiped him. I saw with own eyes He who I had longed to behold, the Child, the Messiah, the King of the Jews. I fell on my knees in traditional surrender to worship Him.

We then opened our treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. They are the traditional treasures of the east, you know, customary gifts given as signs of homage.

Gold is a gift fit for a king. Myrrh, [costly aromatic gums distilled from trees,] was used a lot in religious ceremonies, especially by priests. It was also used as a perfume, as an ingredient of holy anointing oil, and most commonly for embalming the dead. Think about what a shock it would be for someone to give formaldehyde at a baby shower! Incense came from [another] resin with a pungent odor. When burned, incense reminded the Lord’s people of His filling presence at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple and also prayer because of Psalm 141: Let my prayer rise before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Three gifts for a king, a prophet, a priest. [One who was born to die.]

But were there three of us? Were we kings? You may have heard that our names were Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, that one of us was white, the second black, and the third Asian. That comes from legend, several centuries after my time, not Scripture. In fact, your tradition once thought there were as many as twelve of us. And no, we weren’t kings, but wise men. The number three probably comes from us bringing three gifts. That makes sense, but I can’t tell you our names or how many of us there were-it’s a matter of national security, you understand. The historical account by Matthew only says we were from the east, there were more than one of us, and we brought three gifts. We came to find Him who was the King of the Jews and we did. And then we had to return to our own country.

God spoke to us in a dream not to go back to Herod, so we returned home by another caravan route. We did not totally mistrust Herod, but he had a reputation beyond his borders. We did not want to take any chances. But sadly, based on our information all the boys two and under around Bethlehem were killed on Herod’s orders. But Herod got his- he died soon after.

All that happened nearly thirty years ago. [John 19:19-22] Just a few years ago we heard of another government official in Judea refer to this same Jesus as King of the Jews, He for whom we searched and found. You can read about it in a historical account by your St. John: [The Roman governor,] Pilate, had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews’ but that his man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

The King of the Jews was crucified. He did what no other king I have ever heard of / had ever done before. He reigned from the throne of the cross. He died for subjects that didn’t want him as their king. People like us. To forgive us for our sins. But he didn’t stay dead. Three days later he rose again from the dead in royal triumph.

And He shall reign forever and ever! Hallelujah! The King of the Jews is our King. He saves us from sin’s rule, from the kingdom of death, and from the reign of Satan.

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” He is Jesus, who forgives our sins, and we have come to worship him. Wise men and women still seek and worship Him today. Amen.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sermon for 03 January 2010, Second Sunday after Christmas C

Rev. Paul J Cain

Luke 2:40-52

In Your Father’s House

Second Sunday after Christmas C, 03 January 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Jesus had been circumcised on His eighth day of life. He had been presented to the Lord on His fortieth day. As we read Scripture together in this new Year and still-new Church Year, Jesus grows up fast. Now He is a young man of twelve. And He is in His Father’s house.

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Jesus. We hear nothing more about Him until He is about thirty years of age. Imagine! Jesus, as a pre-teen, as a teenager, as a twenty-something, obedient in all things to God and all in authority over Him on earth. See how He honors father and mother! See how He honors His true Father in Heaven, sitting among the teachers who were amazed at His answers and knowledge of God’s Word. They were amazed at the Word of Truth made flesh, at home in His Father’s House.

According to custom. Consider applying this text to yourself. Jesus’ family went up to Jerusalem and the only temple according to custom. There, they participated in holy things commanded by the Lord.

Do you hear the difference as it applies to Your Father’s House? “According to the Word” is a different concept than “According to custom.” Thus says the Lord is different from human tradition.

Our own Augsburg Confession (CTLC, AC XXVIII, 53) allows for customs in the Church, but they are never to be on the same level as God’s Word. “What, then, are we to think of the Sunday rites, and similar things, in God’s house? We answer that it is lawful for bishops, or pastors, to make ordinances so that things will be done orderly in the Church, but not to teach that we merit grace or make satisfaction for sins. Consciences are not bound to regard them as necessary services and to think that it is a sin to break them without offense to others.” End quote.

How else is true Christian worship in Your Father’s House unique and Gospel-centered?” Pastor James Waddell is correct when he describes the differences between Old Testament and New Testament worship:

“The worship of the New Testament is quite different from worship in the Old Testament. There is a loud and conspicuous absence of detailed legislation for worship. The proclamation of the Gospel (2 Timothy 4.1-2) and the administration of the sacraments of Holy Baptism (Matthew 28.16-20) and the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11.17-34) are the only prescribed forms in the New Testament. Everything else is left free. Everything.

“No doubt this makes many of us uncomfortable, including me. Over the centuries the church has developed various worship traditions in various places. It would be an oversimplification to make the claim that from the earliest Christian worship there is a direct line of liturgical development that has resulted in the worship we experience today. As Lutherans, many of us have become comfortable with those traditions. These traditions are good for God’s people in many places. But notice, now we are no longer talking about worship in the New Testament. . . .” End quote.

There is more to be said. In Your Father’s House, Christ is the center of Christian worship according to the following passages from the New Testament.

According to John 6, “Faith Receives the Lord’s Gifts and is the highest worship.” John 6:28-29

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, [Jesus says,] that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

In John 4, Jesus teaches us to “Worship in spirit and in truth.” Nothing untrue may be permitted. John 4:23-26

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Acts 2:42 speaks of the basic elements of Christian worship. Acts 2:42-47

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

In Galatians 1:8, Paul teaches us to “Please God not man.” Galatians 1:6-10

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

“Do not let freedom be an excuse for indulging sinful human nature, but show love for your neighbor.” Galatians 5:13-15 (ESV)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV, for comparison)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

“Freedom should not be equal to license. Build up your neighbor in Christian love.” 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Do things “Decently and in order” according to 1 Corinthians 14:40. 1 Corinthians 14:33-40

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.

“Do not neglect the Lord’s Gifts at worship.” See Hebrews 10:24-25. Hebrews 10:19-26

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…

“Reverence and awe” is called for at worship in Hebrews 12:28-29. Hebrews 12:25-13:1

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Let brotherly love continue.

God speaks in His Word and we are to listen. His Word guides all teaching and action among Christians. God gives His gifts, including the gift of faith and we receive all His gifts by faith. God loved us in Christ first. Therefore, we love others with Christ’s love and invite them to Our Father’s House.

Among Christians, posture can teach us about worship in Our Father’s House, whether we kneel to show humility, sit to learn, bow to demonstrate reverence, or stand out of respect for the Holy Trinity. Please, please remember that a humble heart is more important than external piety. Those who are unable to stand may remain seated without guilt. Similarly, those who have difficulty kneeling at the communion rail may remain standing with a clear conscience. Let us not legislate what God has made free in Christ!

Later in Luke (18:9-14), Jesus told a parable “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

How can you encourage all who serve in the Father’s house? When one gives correction, it should be done in fatherly (or motherly) love and encouragement. It is a great honor and great responsibility to serve the Lord by serving the congregation. There are servants who demonstrate this love by caring for the candles, paraments, and banners; setting up, distributing, or cleaning up after Holy Communion; reading Scripture; sharing a song, playing the organ, guitar, piano, or another instrument; lighting candles; or preparing the bulletin. I therefore offer this counsel: Encouragement, or constructive critique, when necessary, is better than thoughtless criticism or legalistic condemnation.

Worship in Our Father’s House is a big topic in the Christian Church. Next Sunday, I will greet you and shake your hands as you arrive, for I have a flight to catch right after Divine Service. Representatives from around The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are gathering in St. Louis for a Model Theological Conference on Worship. Pastors, musicians, and laypeople from all 35 LCMS Districts will study and discuss what the Lord’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions have to say about Sunday morning and beyond. Please pray for safe travel, a worthwhile meeting, hearts and minds open to the Word of God, and a willingness to remain faithful to Christ as we continue to tell the Good News about Jesus.

After all, we gather in Our Father’s House to hear about Jesus, the Son. He was obedient to God and man, submissive to the authorities given to care for Him (according to the 4th Commandment), and was further obedient unto death, even death on a cross. There He won the forgiveness that He delivers to you every time you are gathered to Your Father’s House. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.