Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sermon for 24 July 2016, Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Rev. Paul J Cain
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
God Is Faithful
Ninth Sunday after Trinity, 24 July 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

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

St. Paul writes:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
If you find a passage on water in the Scriptures, ask yourself if it has a connection to Holy Baptism. The miracle God performed through Moses in getting Israel as a nation across dry ground while the waters were held at bay doesn’t seem to be about baptism—until Paul says it is. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night was the Lord’s abiding presence with His people. The spiritual food and drink that they fed on was of Christ. The spiritual rock that followed them was Christ. God was faithful. And, as Paul clearly says, “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” The people spent forty years in the wilderness as a consequence of their unfaith, disobedience, and sin. The Lord raised up a new generation who would take possession of the Promised land under Caleb and the prophet Joshua.
St. Paul tells us that these are not merely idle tales. They are not dry and dead history. He says: Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Hearing verses 1-5 explains what Paul means by “these things.”
St. Paul is pithy. He continues: Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Scripture was recorded for you. We are all given to imitate the examples of the faithful according to our common vocations. We are to all learn from the counter examples of every unfaithful thought, word, and deed. God is faithful. We must not put Christ to the test in our unfaithfulness against the Commandments, especially the First to have no other gods.
This section of 1 Corinthians 10 concludes with a regularly-misunderstood passage.
Does God promise to never give you more than you can handle? Be careful in paraphrasing the promises the Lord gives us.
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Does God promise to never give you more than you can handle? Not exactly.
He will not let you be tempted / beyond your ability to resist the temptation / with a way of escape / that He alone provides. That sounds a lot different than the common paraphrases that float around the internet and come as intended comfort from the mouths of friends.
Not one of us is so strong, so wise, so popular, so pious that he or she is incapable of falling into sin. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to mankind. Yet, there is a big difference between being presented with a temptation and giving in to temptation. We pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” James tells us that “God tempts no one.” We do know that the Lord tests our faith. Translators have offered alternatives to “Lead us not into temptation.” A common one in progressive Christian circles is “Save us from the time of trial.” Like it or not, it is a valid alternative translation. Still, it doesn’t sound right. “Save us from the time of trial” sounds too different. Consider: “Do not allow us to be led into temptation.” It is not as brief, but it makes the same point and sounds similar enough to “Lead us not into temptation.”
God is faithful where we are not. Jesus resisted Satan’s own temptation after forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. He remained faithful when Israel was unfaithful, and, as a result, spent forty years in the wilderness.
When you are in the midst of a temptation, flee. Don’t be alone. Find another Christian. Until you can, and especially after you have found the company of another believer, pray. Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Pray from your heart and off the top of your head. Pray faithful printed prayers. Pray the Psalms. Fill your mind and heart and time with God’s Word. Read it aloud. Pray it. Pray in response to it. Resist the devil and He will flee from you. And in all of these actions of fleeing, finding Christian company, hearing Scripture, and praying, we are relying on the Lord’s strength, the Lord’s Word, the Lord’s Spirit, even the God the Holy Spirit Himself.
Does God promise to never give you more than you can handle? Not exactly. He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability to resist the temptation with a way of escape that He alone provides. That way is Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. Cherish His Word. Remember your Baptism into Christ. Repent. Be reconciled to God. Prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper at your next opportunity. God is faithful where we are not. When and where you have been unfaithful, God is faithful to forgive you and increase your faith. God Is Faithful. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

20 July 2016

Tonight's sermon, read by an Elder, was the sermon the Rev. Matthew Harrison, President of the LCMS, preached at the opening service of the recently-concluded convention of the LCMS.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sermon for 17 July 2016, Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Rev. Paul J Cain
Acts 20:27–38
Fierce Wolves
Eighth Sunday after Trinity, 17 July 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
In Acts 20, Paul’s words of warning are against fierce wolves, but not the kind you find in the wilderness.
The most dangerous thing you will ever face in this life is not a terrorist. It isn’t even an IRS auditor. It’s not a policeman when you’ve done something wrong, a monster under your bed, or a villain from a horror movie. All of those people or things can only frighten or hurt us for this life. The most dangerous thing you will ever face in this life, according to the Rev. Todd Wilken, is a pastor who doesn’t tell you the truth.
A pastor who doesn’t tell you the truth is the most dangerous, because such a pastor is unfaithful to the Lord, his ordination vows, and the people the Lord has given him to serve. Unfaithful pastors will not call you to repentance. He’d rather be your buddy. Such a false shepherd lies about the reality of this world, allowing the sheep to continue in their sins without repentance and therefore without forgiveness. Sin continues outside of the forgiveness that Christ won. And here’s the really scary part: sin outside of the grace of God in Christ is not forgiven and condemns. A pastor who doesn’t tell you the truth is the most dangerous thing you will face in this life not only because of the damage such a one can do to you here and now, but because he can lead you away from Christ and straight into the arms of Satan. Now that’s scary!
A pastor who calls you to repentance is NOT persecuting you. He’s doing the most difficult part of his Call, preaching the law so that God the Holy Spirit may bring you to repentance and restore you to faith. It may not be pleasant for you, but it is not pleasant for him, either. It is done out of a loving motivation and because he fears being unfaithful to the Lord God more than he fears you being mad at him.
Paul says farewell to the Elders, the Pastors of Ephesus with his words recorded by the Holy Spirit in Acts 20. We know that he will soon be arrested in Jerusalem and will be on his way to Rome. He would be there under house arrest for two years, be released, according to history, conduct a missionary journey to what we know as Spain, return to Rome, and die outside the walls as a martyr.
Paul’s words are words of warning against fierce wolves.
27[Paul said:] For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
      36And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
Did you hear the words of warning? Pay careful attention. Care for the church of God. Fierce wolves will come in. They will arise from your own selves, the church. They will speak twisted things. I admonish everyone with tears. I commend you to God. It is more blessed to give than receive.
In a week we have heard much about false teachers and false teaching, Paul reminds us that much false teaching within the Church comes from within the Church. Some pastors arise and begin speaking their own thoughts and theologies. They draw away disciples after them and away from Christ. These are false teachers that Jesus also warns us against.
We face particular challenges in our time and place. Historic Christian teachings are mischaracterized by some as hateful, old-fashioned, limiting, or unloving. Both congregations and pastors are invited to condone the latest fad in our society, and, if they will not, are sometimes intimidated into silence.  Nevertheless, we stand for holy matrimony as God ordained it, for life from conception to natural death, and true religious liberty.

Now is not the time to be silent. LCMS President Matthew Harrison (2016 Today’s Business for 11 July) urges us to be bold:
“The gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matthew 16:18). That’s Jesus’ promise.
• It was true when He spoke it to his apostles.
• It was true as they fled His crucifixion (Mark 14:50).
• It was true as those apostles faced persecution and martyrdom (Acts 5 and 7).
• It was true through the Roman persecutions of the church.
• It was true after Constantine became a Christian, and state and church got all balled up, interfering in each other’s business.
• It was true in the face of Islam as it swept over North Africa beginning in the seventh century, and it hasn’t stopped since.
• It was true as the medieval sacramental system of merit and indulgences choked the faithful and robbed the church of the Gospel.
• It was true at the time of the Reformation.
• It was true when Luther stood before the Emperor and confessed, “Here I stand, I can do no other,” and left Worms under a death sentence.
• It was true as the Lutherans fell apart after Luther’s death and were brought back together by the Book of Concord.
• It was true when Pietism destroyed the notion and importance of the strong doctrine of the Gospel.
• It was true when the rationalists denied the Bible and the faith altogether.
• It was true when a Prussian king decided it didn’t matter if one was Lutheran or Reformed and outlawed the Lutheran Confession in what was at the time the largest Lutheran church in world.
• It was true when a small band of extremists fell prey to a philandering leader and sat sick, stunned and confused in St. Louis and Perry County.
• It was true as twenty million Christians (many Lutherans and Lutheran pastors) were deported and murdered by the Soviet Union.
• It was true as the Nazis molded their German Christian movement, and the children and grandchildren of Lutherans confessed Fascism.
• It was true when activist courts began limiting the freedoms of the First Amendment regarding the “free exercise of religion” in this country.
• It is true as burgeoning African Lutheran churches grow despite all the opposition that Islam and animism can muster!
• It is true as a thousand former Muslims are now catechized and confess Christ in our sister church in Germany.
• It is true—the gates of hell shall not prevail—in the face of a U.S. Supreme Court and other courts and legislatures throughout the land detached from eternal truth.
• It is true in the face of the most rapid moral, social and religious decline in the history of this nation.
• It is true in the face of Obergefell.
• It is true in the face of Orlando.
• It is true in the case of abortion law in Texas.
• It is true in the face of radical Islam.
• It is true in the face of California legislators, who would deny the constitutional rights of religious universities and threaten one of own crown jewels, Concordia University Irvine.
• It is true in the face of a culture so screwed up that innocent and courageous law officers are murdered gratuitously.
• It is true in the face of the decline of Christianity in the west.
• It is true in the face of the fact that in the past ten years the number of Christians has not increased in a single county in the U.S.
• And it is even true in the face of the maddening fact that the Missouri Synod has been declining numerically for over forty years.
We in America live in a period of history akin to what Sasse described in Germany in 1936:
The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death. The lie kills nations. The most powerful nations of the world have been laid waste because of their lies. History knows of no more unsettling sight than the judgment rendered upon the people of an advanced culture who have rejected the truth and are swallowed up in a sea of lies. Where this happens, as in the case of declining pagan antiquity, religion and law, poetry and philosophy, life in marriage and family, in the state and society – in short, one sphere of life after another falls sacrifice to the power and curse of the lie. Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie. Where man denies that he and others are dying, the terrible dissolution [of his culture] is held up as a glorious ascent, and decline is viewed as an advance, the likes of which has never been experienced. (Hermann Sasse, Union and Confession).
Yet Jesus says, “Upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail.” “O Lord, I believe! Help Thou my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
• Jesus says, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age!” (Matthew 28:20). Do you believe it?
• Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Do you believe it?
• Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31). Do you believe it?
• Jesus prayed for his apostles, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:14f.). Jesus prayed and prays for you! Do you believe it?
• Jesus says to you, “I tell you, your sins are forgiven!” (Luke 7:48). Believe that!
• Jesus says to you, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved!” (Mark 16:16). Believe it!
• Jesus says to you, “Whosever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them!” (John 20:23). Believe it!
• Jesus says to you, “This is my body, given for you for the forgiveness of your sins!” (Luke 22:19). Believe!
• Jesus says to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled … In my Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare and place for you!” (John 14:2). Believe it!
• Jesus says also to you, “You will weep … but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16:20). Believe!
Luther says in the Large Catechism: “I believe that there is on earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ” (LC II 51). She may be little, but she’s powerful. “For the gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:17).
Jesus was bold. The apostles were bold. Let’s go on the offensive. Let’s be bold. End quote.

So, how is this done? The Lord gives us His Word. He abides with us always. He is the Vine and we are the branches.
He teaches us His Word, that we would know it in both mind and heart, so that words of repentance and faith may always be on our lips! Lord, grant that we may hear Your Word so that we may know Your Word so that we may do your Word.
False teaching can be easier to spot if you already know the true teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ from Holy Scripture
True teaching includes both Law and Gospel and ultimately leads you to Jesus and His comfort. False teaching ignores true Law and/or the true Gospel and leads you away from Christ to a false comfort, and to hypocrisy and despair.
We are to identify, expose, and judge false prophets and their false teaching. We do not want anyone to be led astray and led away from Christ. We should love the sheep and even the wolves enough to speak up against falsehood and speak up for Christ’s truth.
And so today, we have heard the Word of the Lord. We have sung His Word, and, like Paul, we will pray together based on the Lord’s own priorities as He has made them known in His word.
Beware of fierce wolves. Respect their influence over unwary sheep. Mark and avoid them. Hold fast to the true teaching without ceasing. The Lord Jesus is greater than the roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist the old evil foe, firm in our faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sermon for 10 July 2016, Seventh Sunday after Trinity (Celebration of Mortgate Payoff and Restoration of Chancel Cross)

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Romans 6:1-23
Law/Gospel Witnessing
Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 10 July 2016
Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Perhaps you’ve heard this uncomplicated approach to telling the Good News about Jesus, Romans 3:22b-24. 22bFor there is no distinction:  23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… This is short. Two and a half verses are easy to memorize and remember. In this short section of Romans 3, we can present law, showing how every person falls short of perfection, and Gospel, the Good News of redemption, justification, and salvation by God’s grace as a Gift!
Today, I have an even shorter passage to help you be prepared when someone asks you about the hope that you have in Christ Jesus, Romans 6:23. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This verse doesn’t take much explanation to make it clear to an unbeliever. Everybody knows what wages are. We are all too familiar with death. For our daily labor, we expect our wages to come in the form of a check, without too many taxes taken out. We earn money for our work. How about works of evil, of sin? What should people expect to get on Judgment Day when they cash their check for their works of sin—of thought, word, and deed, action, and inaction? That’s right. Eternal Death.
This is not mere physical death—mortality is our inheritance from our first parents, Adam & Eve, a consequence of the fall into sin. That sin has spread over all the earth to cause pain, heartache, and the unanswered question, “Why?” September 11th. Tragic car accidents. Senseless violence. War. Disease.
Of even more importance are the eternal consequences of our temporal sin. Sin is the work. Eternal death is the payment. Failing to keep God’s will perfectly is the offense. Hell is the consequence. It’s enough to give you goosebumps. That’s the law showing you your sin, doing its work.

There is hope—for all of us are sinners, deserving eternal death. The Gospel is on its way. The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Gospel is a gift. One hardly needs to say it’s also free. But perhaps we do. It’s hard to accept a free gift. We want to pay the person back, give them a gift in return, have them over for dinner in exchange. We want things to be even—fair.
It’s like the man who was on a business trip across Wyoming. With towns so far apart, the choices of gas stations are sometimes limited. On the way to a conference, the man filled up his car at a gas station and paid at the pump. The technology was new. He took the receipt, and not looking at it, put it in his wallet to record later. On the way back from the conference, he happened to stop at the same gas station, filled up his car, and paid at the pump. He took the receipt, and not looking at it, put it in his wallet to record later.
When he got home, he pulled out all his receipts to save them for when the credit card bill came. “How much was that gas?” he wondered. The fill-up on the way back was $13.50, the receipt said. Then he looked at the first receipt. “Card error,” the receipt said. The technology was new. No amount was given. Seven point three gallons delivered. Nothing was charged to the card because of the machine error.
Even though it was long distance, (remember when we worried about the cost of long distance?) the man called the gas station. Thankfully, the phone number was on the receipt. He wanted to make things right, to pay for the gas he got for nothing because of the “pay at the pump” error.
The manager said they kept track of “drive offs,” when someone pumped gas and then intentionally or unintentionally didn’t pay. After looking in the book, she said there was no record of a “drive off” that day. A few moments later she said, “You know, Grace was on duty that morning. She has this habit of paying off the unpaid “drive off” charges just to keep the books balanced.”
The man was stunned. “I don’t know what to say…. Tell Grace, thank you.”
 It is hard to receive a free gift. Yet, that is what God gives each of us in Christ. It is delivered by the Holy Spirit through the Word, through Holy Baptism, through the means God has promised to use. And through Holy Baptism, Christians have the “death” thing over with. 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
The wages of sin is death, we read. Christ took that check we earned for our sin and He cashed it. He died on the cross. He rose again. He took the punishment so that we wouldn’t have to. And He gives us eternal life. The promise is yours as well.
5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  7For one who has died has been set free from sin.  8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  9We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
20When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.  22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
This is the message you can share the next time you have opportunity. No one can earn salvation by a perfect life. Even one sin spoils any attempt at perfection. The consequence of that is death—eternal death in the lake of fire of Hell. But that need not be the destination of all. We have hope to share in Christ—hope that is eternal life because of a free gift to us. That’s the truth of the Gospel, even if it is hard to accept. It is true. And it is true comfort in the face of death.
 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In 1958, when this building was new, our chancel cross was backlit blue with neon. Not only is blue beautiful, but it has meaning. Blue is soothing and comforting. In heraldry, it stands for truth. It is the color of spiritual love, fidelity, anticipation, and hope, a liturgical color for Advent. The LCMS cross is now blue. Blue is also the natural color for water and sky. Because of that, blue can also remind us of Holy Baptism and our hope of heaven itself. We can also celebrate the gift of heaven in Christ and the restoration of our lit cross with LEDs on this day in 2016 when we celebrate paying off our parish hall expansion mortgage.
And so we renew our congregation’s public confession: The Bible is the only error-free authority for all teaching and practice. The Lutheran Confessions are an accurate presentation of what the Bible teaches. Jesus is the center of the Bible, Holy Scripture and the only Savior because of His cross. God the Holy Spirit uses the Gospel alone in Word and Sacraments to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify people in that faith and life.
23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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