Saturday, February 16, 2019

February 17th Luke 6:17-26 Pastor Waldschmidt


Luke 6:17-26 (EHV)  He went down with them and stood on a level place with a large crowd of his disciples, and a large number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, as well as from the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon. These people came to listen to him and to be healed of their diseases. 18Those who were troubled by unclean spirits were also cured. 19The whole crowd kept trying to touch him, because power was going out from him and healing them all. 20He lifted up his eyes to his disciples and said: Blessed are you who are poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, because you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. 22Blessed are you whenever people hate you, and whenever they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. 23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because of this: Your reward is great in heaven! The fact is, their fathers constantly did the same things to the prophets. 24But woe to you who are rich, because you are receiving your comfort now. 25Woe to you who are well fed now, because you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, because you will be mourning and weeping. 26Woe to you when all people speak well of you, because that is how their fathers constantly treated the false prophets.
JESUS GIVES US A LEVEL PLACE
I. With Blessings
II. With Warnings
In the name of Jesus who gives us a level place to stand in this topsy turvy world,
      These last few weeks here in Wisconsin we have had a crash course so to speak about how to get around on ice.   Day after day it seems stores have sold out of the ice melt for putting on the sidewalk and driveway.  I can get around pretty well on the level spots with more of a slip slide sort of a motion.  But there is a spot on our walk way where things head down hill and the other morning as I was shoveling I could just feel that if I walked on that I was going to go down. 
      It isn’t just icy sidewalks that give us that feeling in the pit of our stomachs.  Life in this world can give us that feeling that our feet are about to going flying out from underneath us and we are going down.  In this topsey turvey world Jesus gives us a level place to stand.  With blessings!  With warnings!
     My wife, my children, my congregation, might get sick of hearing me say, “You know my grandpa always said” or “My mom always used to say,” or my pastor always used to say.”   Those things that stick in our minds that those close to us have said are things that were probably said more than once-probably said on more than one occasion.  Some of the things said on the level place here sound a great deal like Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7.  These are important teachings that I’m sure Jesus repeated over and over for his disciples so that they would stick in their minds.
     Right before these words in Luke, there is sort of a starting lineup introduction for Jesus’ disciples. After the 12 disciples are named for us.  It’s almost like they are standing out there at center court and Jesus turns their eyes toward the crowd around them.   “He went down with them and stood on a level place with a large crowd of his disciples, and a large number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, as well as from the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon. These people came to listen to him and to be healed of their diseases. 18Those who were troubled by unclean spirits were also cured. 19The whole crowd kept trying to touch him, because power was going out from him and healing them all.”  As they began their ministry Jesus showed his disciples all the people they would serve.  They could look into the eyes of all the all the people coming to him from Jerusalem and Judea, many troubled by evil spirits.  Other sick people just wanting to touch Jesus and be healed.  Crowds of people coming from Tyre and Sidon which were successful cities of commerce in Jesus’ day but they were looking for something missing in their lives. 
     Maybe good for us as Jesus’ followers here this morning to stop and look around at all the people in our lives Jesus has put into our lives for us to serve.  People who need Jesus.  People who need help.  People troubled by all kinds of things.  Let’s see the people around us whose lives have been wrecked by sin.  Look around the world and see the people in Tyre and Sidon and Asia and Africa and South America and Europe who are looking for something that is missing in their lives.  They need Jesus.  Turning our eyes toward others and their needs helps to keep standing on level ground looking toward others and listening to Jesus. 
       In some ways that thought (not being so self absorbed, looking toward others and listening to Jesus) sort of runs through the blessings and the warnings Jesus talks about here on this level spot.  “He lifted up his eyes to his disciples and said: Blessed are you who are poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, because you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. 22Blessed are you whenever people hate you, and whenever they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. 23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because of this: Your reward is great in heaven! The fact is, their fathers constantly did the same things to the prophets.”    At first glance, what Jesus is describing as blessed doesn’t sound so blessed.  When I say that I have been blessed, I’m usually not thinking of being poor, hungry, people hating me, excluding me, insulting me and rejecting the Waldschmidt name as evil.  But think things through.  Blessed are you when  you are not thinking that this world is all there is and so the all important thing is gathering and storing up stuff and enjoying this life.  Because this life is just temporary and the real life is coming after this life is over.  This world has been wrecked by sin and God has in mind a life of pure joy and happiness in mind for us in heaven.  Blessed are you when you are not caring so much about eating a great meal with and finer things of life and forgetting about feeding our souls with God’s Word.   Blessed are you when you caring so much about what people are saying about you and caring more about what they are saying about our Savior. 
     I’m old enough to remember playing on playgrounds the really high slides and the teeter totters where a person stand on the board in the middle and try to balance standing up.  Jesus has a level place for us in his word for us today with a balancing of blessings and warnings.  “But woe to you who are rich, because you are receiving your comfort now. 25Woe to you who are well fed now, because you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, because you will be mourning and weeping. 26Woe to you when all people speak well of you, because that is how their fathers constantly treated the false prophets.”  When we first hear Jesus words about being rich we might think we better get rid of all of our stuff right now.  And if our lives are only about being comfortable and all wrapped up in getting stuff, then it really would be good for us to get rid of our stuff.  But the problem is not how much money or stuff we have.  It is our attitude toward that stuff.  In the Bible we hear of plenty of believers who had great wealth. Think of Abraham.  He had his own army of 318 servants.  Think of Job who was one of the wealthiest men in the world of his day, who lost it all then got it all back again.  Remember his attitude, the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  May the name of the Lord be praised!”  In our country where we have been so blessed it is so easy to let those possessions grab hold of us.  How sad if we let our possessions or the lack thereof become the most important thing in our lives.  Because the comfort of this life doesn’t last.  Cars rust, bank accounts run away, big screen tv’s break. 
        Right now we have another “Biggest Loser Weight Lose Competition” going on in our family.  Its subtitle is “This Time We Are Serious.”  It is the successor to “for real this time” and “this time there are consequences.”  Who of us doesn’t like to be well fed.  But let’s not make being well fed the goal of our lives.  Remember what Jesus said to Martha when she was scurrying around getting dinner ready while Mary listened to Jesus.  “You are worried and concerned about many things but only one thing is needed.” 
       Jesus closes with a warning not to be so concerned about what people say about you because you follow him.  Don’t let the names people say about you drive you away from Jesus.  Don’t let the insults of the unbelieving world keep you from talking about Jesus.
       I hear Jesus words of blessing and they drive home for me how far I am from standing on that level ground- how lopsided and self centered my life is.  How blind I am to what is really important.  What a poor example of a follower of Jesus I am.  There is a part of me that clings to this world.  There is a part of me that doesn’t really leap for joy when the world calls me names for following Jesus.  There is a part of me that wants to just sort of fly under the radar and not say anything Jesus said that will make me a target.  Maybe you feel that same way when you hear Jesus say these words.  But then fast forward to more words Jesus said.  From the cross Jesus triumphantly called out through the ages to you and me, “It is finished!”  All our sins were paid for.  All our shortcomings were taken care of in the Savior’s perfect life for us.  “Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God.”  Through faith in Jesus God gives us forgiveness of sins and life eternal in heaven.  That changes us and our way of thinking!  It brings us to level ground.  Jesus’s life for us brings us more and more to concentrate on the things Jesus says are important- the life after this life is over.  Jesus putting your needs and my needs ahead of himself leads us to more and more see the people around us everyday.  Jesus brings us to see that what we have and what we eat and what people say about us is not the all important things.  Jesus leads us more and more to see the hurt and sadness in the eyes and hearts of those who don’t know him and to reach out however we can so that others come too and stand on this level ground.
     My neighbor gave me a stair stepper exercise machine.  A person is always going uphill on those things!  When a person sees this life as the only thing that matters.  It is very much an uphill climb- never any rest.  But in Jesus we have a level place to see the world for what is- a world we are just passing through.  Our real home, our real treasure is in heaven. Amen.

Monday, February 4, 2019

February 2-4, 2019 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Romans 10:18-11:6 “THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD”


EPIPHANY 4

February 2-4, 2019

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Romans 10:18-11:6



“THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD”

1.     Extended.

2.     Rejected.

3.     Appreciated!



Romans 10:18-11:6  (NIV 1984)  But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”  19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;     I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”  20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”  11 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”  So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”



          In the word of God before us today there exists a stunning word picture to help us try to grasp how great the love of God in Christ Jesus is. We are in the section of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome that deals with a question that has caused believers in Jesus to struggle and will continue to. Why? Why do some of those who have had the spiritual deck stacked in their favor leave, forsake, reject Christ? Here Paul is talking about his own Jewish people. They had Moses and the Prophets and the Old Testament and the miracles. They had Jesus born from them, living with them and the miracles. We might think of someone who had the blessing of strong Christian family and solid Christian education. Why do they not value the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord? And remember what the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord is. It is His everlasting commitment to forgive sins, to forgive them even though to do so He has to horribly punish Jesus instead of us. It is His desire to have people with Him forever not because He needs them but because He wants them. It is a type of patient love that always hopes, always perseveres, always wants even the worst sinner forgiven.

Back to our stunning word picture of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It can actually be a living picture. You have all seen the challenges that go on through the internet, some with good purposes like the ice bucket challenge. Some dangerous and foolish like cinnamon or tide pods. Today I offer you a church challenge. Don’t participate if you have injured or recovering shoulders in any way. Do participate, only if you want to. Here we go, kids first. Hold your arms out in front of you like you are waiting to hug someone. Now adults. Hold ‘em straight out. “All day long,” God said. “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” That’s the word picture. My challenge is simpler. See if you can hold them out all sermon long. And as you do so I want you to I want you to picture and feel the extent of God’s love. All day long.

All day long the love of God is extended. To everyone! Remember His testimony. For God so loved the world. This is good and pleases God who wants all to be saved. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world! What sins or yours are bothering you today? Where did you screw up again? What’s making you feel like you aren’t good enough for God, or making you feel like God is punishing you? He’s not. Don’t run away, run to. He forgives you and just wants you close to Him. Pour out your heart, he’s waiting for you all day long.

          If you don’t have any sins that bother you, watch out. You are heading down the wrong road, the road that too many of  Paul’s people, the Israelites did.  But I ask: Did they not hear? 19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? 11 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.” All day long, every day for 1500 plus years God extended His love in Christ Jesus. I’m not sure when you read your Old Testament last. It’s big. There is a lot of books. But if you kind of think of an overview of the history of the people of Israel, it never gets good. There is this constant repeated cycle of the people forsaking God and God continuing to hold on to them. Always taking them back. All day long, every day the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord was extended to them.

          The result? Rejected! Every parent here can relate to that picture. When your kids are mad or hurt and you want to help them but what can happen? The lip goes out, the back gets turned. Sadly many of God’s Old Testament people did that to Him. You heard the testimony from Moses and Isaiah. You remember what things were like at the time of the prophet Elijah where he felt like he was the only one left, when he was helped not by one of his own people but a widow woman from Sidon, a foreigner. You heard the testimony from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. God’s love for them in Christ Jesus was rejected all day long because they were an obstinate and disobedient people who exchanged God’s laws and way of salvation for their own.

          There is a warning for us, brothers and sisters. Don’t take God’s grace for granted. Understand that the sinful nature in us is capable of rejecting the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord even though he extends it all day long. There is a reason God set up a pattern of weekly worship for all his people and that that weekly worship should continually remind people of their need for Jesus and anchor hearts to what Jesus has done. To exchange the weekly pattern of worship God set up for one or our own choosing is not just an insult to God but a dangerous rejection of a God who loves so much He extends that love all day long.

          And there is of course a better way. The way I believe you are exhibiting. Appreciate it.  So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” By now you may have figured out the shorter way to talk about the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It’s grace. Often defined as God’s undeserved love. Maybe better defined as God’s underserved love made possible by the perfect life and sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Not all of Paul’s people, not all of Elijah’s people, not all of Moses’ people rejected. By grace some believed and appreciated and it showed. Some carefully worshipped every Sabbath because they wanted to. Some refused to bow the knee to Baal. The earliest Christian church was all Jewish people who showed their appreciation by sticking to Jesus, enduring persecution, spreading the message, caring for each other.

          I see you doing those things. I see you appreciating grace. Whether you realize it or not you are today’s remnant chosen by grace. While most of our American people are those who have rejected, by God’s grace you are not. You appreciate the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord and it shows. It shows  as you come to worship because you want to, not because you have to. It shows as you eagerly desire to participate in Jesus’ forgiveness meal. It shows as you make sacrifices of time and money for your family and your church family so we can do our best for Jesus. It shows in the way that you take care of each other and want to do even more. It shows where it can’t be seen, in your hearts where you desperately want Jesus to be proud of you all day long.

          I’ve got more good news. Jesus is proud of you. He can’t be any more proud of you than He already is because His feelings for you aren’t based on what you do but what He has done. Those arms of God that are extended all day long at a certain point in history went from being extend this way to be extended this way as Jesus demonstrated His love for you on the cross. And at another point in your history they will come back around you like this in the all day long of heaven! Until then make it your daily business to run to the God who extends His arms to  you all day long. Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

January 27th, 2019 Weekend Luke 4:14-21


Pastor Waldschmidt
Luke 4:14-21   Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. 15He was teaching in their synagogues and being honored by everyone. 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 20He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 
The Service At the Synagogue
I.  The Savior was there.  II.  The Gospel was there.
III. Poor Sinners were there.  IV.  Faith and Joy were there.
In the name of Jesus our Savior, dear children of God,
     A man called the church office a few weeks ago to let us know that he was part of a historical society putting together an article on the houses of worship in Greenfield for their newsletter.  He said that he was somewhat familiar with St. Jacobi’s history because he had grown up on the south side of Milwaukee even though he had been born and baptized at St. Lucas in Kewaskum.  He said that a person would be surprised to see how many churches are all around us.  One of the things I’ve noticed when I drive on the high rise bridge and look out over the city of Milwaukee is how many steeples there are throughout the city.  Even though you and I might say that in general it seems like people are attending church less often now days, that sight of all the steeples gives the impression that going to church is a part of normal everyday life. 
     Throughout this church year season of Epiphany, God’s Word has shown us Jesus, the Savior doing normal ordinary things people do but in extraordinary ways for us.  On Epiphany we saw Jesus as a baby in a house with his mother, but being visited and worshipped by the wisemen, some unique visitors.  Then we saw Jesus on the banks of the Jordan with other people as John the Baptist was baptizing.  The Bible tells us, “As the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.”  Last week we heard about Jesus going to a wedding, a normal thing people do. But at this wedding Jesus turned water into wine.  Now today we see Jesus going to church, a normal thing people do.  Let’s take a look at the Service At The Synagogue.  Let’s see I.  The Savior was there.  II.  The Gospel was there. III. Poor Sinners were there.
IV.  Faith and Joy were there.
     When I was a little boy, I remember playing the game “Memory.”  That’s the game with all of the cards turned upside down and spread out over the tabletop  or floor.  Then as each player turns over two of the cards you try to get a match.  If no match you turn them over again.  The trick is to try to remember where the cards were so that you can get the match.  Today in God’s Word we see Jesus playing memory in church.  Jesus turns over a “card” from the Old Testament and we get to see that it matches Jesus, the Messiah.  At that synagogue service, Jesus is there. 
      The Gospels record for us that after Jesus had been baptized and shown to all to be the promised Savior, he dove right into the work of being our Savior.  The went into the desert where he was tempted by the devil and he soundly defeated the devil there.  Then we hear more of Jesus work on our behalf, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. 15He was teaching in their synagogues and being honored by everyone. 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.”  
     There are several nerve wracking experiences that a seminary student goes through. One is preaching for the Seminary chapel services in front of all the other students and professors. Another one is preaching in your home congregation.  Today we see the Savior there in his home congregation.  The Bible tells us, “As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.”  Did you catch that?  “As was his custom.”  It was a normal thing for Jesus to be gathered with others hearing God’s word every week.  Even when the most respected rabbis were teaching God’s Word, with Jesus sitting there it must have been like Albert Einstein sitting in on a 1st grade math lesson.  Jesus knew it all already.  The Word of God was His Word.  He whispered the words of Genesis into Moses’ ears.  The Good Shepherd told David the 23rd Psalm.  He knew it all backwards and forwards but he went anyway.  God says that he wants us to gather together to hear his word and encourage each other and here is Jesus that perfectly for us.  The Savior was there.
       Have we ever let the thought slip into our minds that we know it all already?   Church is just the same old same old.  Or thought to ourselves, “Church is full of hypocrites.”  If anyone knew it all already or could say the church is full of hypocrites, would it have been Jesus.  But yet we see going to gather with others to hear God’s Word was his regular custom.   I’ve caught myself thinking that if I watch church on TV or listen to it on the radio, that counts right?  That was before I became a pastor and had to be here every Sunday- had to be every Sunday.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  Internet and TV and radio broadcasts of church are great things when we can’t get to church.  And I love being a pastor being able to share God’s Word with you.  But all too often my sinful heart is revealed in the things I think and say and do.  I too easily think that I’m doing God a favor by coming to church.  It is way too easy for me to look for a loophole to somehow think that I can do something for God and he will be satisfied.  I’m not doing God a favor by being here and neither are you.  We can’t do anything that will “satisfy” God.  But the Savior did.  That’s why we come.  The Gospel-that good news is here.
     “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”  There was the match.  God had set Jesus aside as the one who would bring the news.   The good news was there.  The good news Jesus announced at Nazareth, Jesus did at Calvary and on all the roads that led up to Calvary.  He did all of that for you and me.  As we gather here in God’s house, God fills us the good news.  He fills us up to go out again into a world where there isn’t much good news. Maybe in God’s word we hear something that we have heard many times before and that gives us strength to go out again.  Maybe through God’s living and active word we see or hear something we haven’t really heard before.  So often we find that the one anointed to preach the good news gives us something that we just needed to hear that day or how often don’t we find that the words selected from the scrolls of God’s Word, (just like the scroll was handed to Jesus) talk about something that we are going through-maybe struggling with.  Jesus has good news, the Gospel-God has sent a Savior.
      We can possess a lot of money and be poor in others ways too.    Our wallets can be full and still be poor in all kinds of ways.  Most of the people in the world would look at the homes that we live in and the cars we drive and say that we are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.  But we can be poor in so many ways.  We can be poor selfish friends, always thinking about what we are going to get out of a relationship.  We can be poor spouses, not treating our spouses as the treasure they are from God.  We can sure be poor parents being poor examples of Christians living to our children.  Much of what was written on the scroll of Isaiah the prophet matches us- poor sinners.  “We all like sheep have gone astray- each of us has gone his own way.”  But there is good news for poor sinners.  Jesus is here.  He says,  ”God has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed 19and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
     As we look at that service in the synagogue we see that faith and joy are there too as the people hear God’s word spoken through Jesus, the Word made flesh, God’s promises fulfilled.  “He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  I’m sure there were all kinds of people in the service that morning.  Young and old, rich and poor, healthy and those who were feeling the ache in the bones.  After these verses we hear about some of those who were there who did not believe Jesus.  They pushed him away, even tried to push him over a cliff.  But there were also those who were there whose eyes of were fastened on Jesus in faith.  There were those who heard what Jesus said and rejoiced.  God had kept his promise and sent a Savior.  That’s where we find ourselves today-eyes of faith fastened on Jesus.  Eyes of faith that try to stay focused on Jesus even if there is a snow storm and bitter cold coming this week and we are not so sure how the car is going to start.  Eyes of faith that stay focused on Jesus even when we are going through sickness and problems.  With eyes fastened on Jesus we rejoice. 
     There is an old joke about a pastor who said to a man who wasn’t in church very often, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!” The man replied, “I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.” Pastor questioned, “How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?” He whispered back, “I'm in the secret service.”  That joke maybe isn’t all that funny when we have people in our families or our friends who are neglecting God’s Word.  While we are happy that friends and loved ones hear God’s Word on Christmas and Easter we also recognized that is a dangerous spot to stay at.  Let’s us whose eyes are fastened on Jesus encourage those who might be in the “secret service.”  Services here are a lot like the service at the Synagogue.  By God’s grace, where two or three are gathered in his name, there he is in the midst of us.  His Gospel is here.  Poor sinners are here.  And faith and joy are here.
Amen.   

Monday, January 21, 2019

January 19-21, 2019 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 “THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS REVEALED!


EPIPHANY 2


January 19-21, 2019

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11



“THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS REVEALED!

1.     In us.

2.     Through us.



1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (NIV) Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”



The word Epiphany means to make manifest or to reveal. And so you have heard how in Gospel lessons how Jesus was revealed to be the Savior of all at the little Christmas visit of the Wise Men from the East. And last week you heard how Jesus was revealed to be the real God sent and appointed Messiah at His Baptism. Today’s Gospel showed how Jesus revealed He is truly God in His first miracle. The account of Jesus’ first miracle concludes with the words,  “He revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.” Do you remember the first time you heard about Jesus’ first miracle? Maybe as a little child sitting on your mother’s lap or on the hallway carpet just before you went to bed? It sounded so cool, so big. And then you got older and you no longer heard God’s word with the ears, heart and faith of a child and maybe you wondered, “Why this for the first miracle? Water into wine? The need is not great. The wow factor is missing. Most of the people there didn’t even know what was going on.” Where is the glory in that?

          That can be a Christian struggle, can’ it, the Lord reveals His glory as He wishes but we long for something more, bigger, the way we want it. I’m hoping I’m not the only one who sometimes just wants Jesus to come down here and teach people a lesson. All this questioning of what God says, all this defiant mockery of Jesus, all this misplaced values where people of our country throw big bucks at sports stars and entertainers and Gospel work goes begging. If only the Lord would do some of that fire from heaven, or turning into pillars of salt or even just striking someone with leprosy once in a while, that would teach them. Then they’d fear Him. Show your glory!  And yet the word clearly points out that the greatest glory of God is not revealed in God’s punishment of sin, but in His forgiveness. I invite you to come with me, brothers and sisters, back to your mother’s laps, or the chair around the kitchen table or the upstairs carpet, wherever you had your Bible stories as a kid and renew your sense of awe at the way the Lord reveals his glory because 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 reminds us that the glory of the Lord is being revealed in a surprising way: in us and through us!

          Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” As you know the church at Corinth was a sick church in a sick city. Corinth was that time’s sin city. If you think America is bad we have a long way to go to sink to the depths of sexual depravity of Corinth. And they were proud of their sexual filth. The church at Corinth was sick in a different way. It was marred by a lack of unity. There were factions and cliques in the congregation. They were immature spiritually. They needed a God’s eye view of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are just what they sound like. Gifts that come from the Holy Spirit.

          Most important among those gifts is the ability to believe in Jesus as Savior. The Corinthian Christians had been idol worshipers. But now they were believers in Jesus. How did that happen? The Holy Spirit went to work in their hearts. That’s the glory of the Lord. More impressive than changing water into wine, greater than raising a dead person is changing an unbelieving heart into a believing one, a spiritually dead person to spiritually living one. That happened in you and me. When is the last time you just pondered the fact that the Holy Spirit’s work in you pulled you out of Hell or do you like me have to sadly confess that you probably felt more relief that the cop you passed going 10 mph over didn’t pull out after you? Sometimes we are going to look at ourselves or each other and wonder where the glory of the Lord is as we continue to struggle with the same sins, or struggle or work or financially when the unbelievers seem to prosper. But then remember that God’s glory is revealed chiefly in the forgiveness of sin. Not its punishment. The glory of the Lord is revealed in us as the Holy Spirit works faith. Don’t overlook it or take it for granted!

And then marvel that the glory of the Lord is revealed through us. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”

Unfortunately I have a daughter studying to be a nurse. I say unfortunately because she just loves to share all the details of the way the human body works with her parents. I really don’t need to know all that. Some body stuff is just gross. But when you listen and reflect you find yourself thinking, “Who could come up with this? It is just magnificent how some 2000 body parts work for the common good and how just one hurting body part can affect so many others. That amazing way God has put the body together is a picture of how God has put us together to reveal His glory. In addition to the spiritual gift of faith the Holy Spirit has given to each of us spiritual gifts to reveal God’s glory to others. Some of you are good at speaking, some at inviting, some at singing, some at making music, some at working and fixing, some at helping others, some at teaching, some at giving, but all for the common good so we can carry out the mission of Jesus to reveal the glory of the Lord that He forgives sins through Jesus.

And these aren’t just at church gifts. You carry the glory of the Lord with you wherever you are. It is revealed as fathers use Jesus name at home, but not in vain, to teach their children to know and love Him. It is revealed when you tell your co worker how you deal with difficult issues, calmly trusting in God who has given you Jesus. It is revealed by your light of the world living where faithful working and good neighboring draws others to Jesus. The glory of the Lord is revealed through us, in different ways in different people with different gifts but always the same goal, the common good, forgiveness of sins in Jesus.

Is that going to cause a wow factor? Are we going to be able to charge $500 for front row seats here? Will paparazzi hound you and fans swarm you for your autograph as a Christian? Probably not.  But the day is coming when the glory of the Lord revealed so quietly by Jesus at Cana and in us and through us now and is recognized only by believers will be revealed for all when every knee will bow before Jesus and the unbelievers will sadly say, “You were right. God help us.” Amen.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2018 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude The Sermon: WE WALK WITH JESUS


NEW YEAR’S EVE 2018

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude



The Sermon:                        WE WALK WITH JESUS



Hey, let’s go for a walk! Will you accept the invitation? That depends on who’s asking and how you are feeling. If a mob boss asks you to go for a walk you probably won’t want to take it. If you are sick or depressed you probably don’t want to go for a walk. If it’s a nice day the invitation sounds good. If it comes from someone you want to spend time with it sounds good. About the only time an invitation to take a walk is always met with enthusiasm is when you ask your dog. How are you feeling at the end of 2018? Depends if you had a rough year or an easier one. How are you feeling about 2019? Depends on what you think it will bring. No matter how you are feeling though, God’s word gives us good news as it assures us that the one we walk with each and every day is our Lord Jesus Christ. To guide our meditation we’ll use some hymns that talk about walking with Jesus. Let’s join then in singing the first three verses of Hymn 431. Please notice how each verse really tells a story of the days of our lives.



Hymn:  ‟I Walk in Danger All the Way” ………………………..…. CW #431 vv. 1-3



1. At first glance a Hymn with the title “I walk in danger all the way” doesn’t promise to be comforting and encouraging. It has all the promise of a downer. Kind of like the news Chris and I saw this morning. Their year in review had only bad stories. As you look ahead to the New Year the thought of walking in danger all the way isn’t very appealing. But there is some truth there that we need to hear. The soldiers getting ready to storm the beaches of Normandy needed to hear the warning to keep moving and keep their heads down and find cover. Christian soldiers need similar warnings. So often when we think of dangers we are thinking of potential accidents or disasters, the one in the news. I read a headline that described 2018 as the year all the world was on fire all the time. Verse one reminds us though of a greater danger, the Devil, who wants to lead us to the fires of Hell. Peter warned us of him in his first epistle:



1 Peter 5:8 (NIV 1984) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”



In 2018 our enemy the Devil looked to devour us. He set snares and traps which were temptations. Some of them we recognized and resisted. We used the word of God like Jesus did and Satan had to go away. Some of them you fell into. Some of them I fell into. We rushed back to the arms of Jesus. We heard Him say again in the Lord’s Supper. “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.” We’ll hear Him say it again tonight. What do you think 2019 will bring? More temptation of course. Satan does not give up just because we resist him or just because we are forgiven. Have you noticed yet how every season of life brings a particular temptation of body and spirit? In youth it’s lust and short sighted decision making. In middle ages it’s greed and materialism, in old age, pride and fear as the body fades. Watch and pray. Words for all of Jesus’ disciples. We walk into a spiritual battle zone every day. But we don’t walk alone. We walk with Jesus.



2. Our second verse reminded us of another uncomfortable truth. That our life has trials in it. Difficulties. I don’t know any of who like hard times. We don’t like dealing with car accidents or illnesses and diseases. We don’t like financial hardships or debt. But all of the difficulties have a master, Jesus. And Jesus does not let anything happen without a good purpose. That’s why he had the Apostles encourage the early Christian church with these words.



Acts 14:22 (NIV 1984) We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.



Hey, wait a minute! You mean hardships are not bad? That they are God’s way to bring us into His kingdom? Yes! That’s why the Apostle Paul urged us in Romans 5 to rejoice in our sufferings because suffering produces perseverance and perseverance character and character hope, that expectant waiting for God to make it all right. Did you have hardships in 2018? Financial loss? Difficult diagnosis for self or loved one? Accidents? Do you think some will come in 2019? Of course and it’s OK. In fact it’s more than OK because Jesus controls them as He walks right there with us. He will use them for the good of keeping us close, of refining our faith, to keep us and bring us into the kingdom of God.



3. A select few of you dealt with the death of a close loved one in 2018. A select few will deal with the death of a close loved one in 2019 and some of you will face your own. All of us at some point dealt with memories of loved ones lost so we understand why the hymn writer wrote about “grim death” pursuing us. Death hurts and here’s why.



Romans 5:12 (NIV 1984) Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.



Death is a reminder of the horrible nature of sin. Every time you see a death it is a visual and painful reminder of the destructive nature of sin. Sin separates. People from people. Bodies and souls. People from God. Death is grim and unless the end of the world comes first each of us is going to die. But remember, we walk Jesus. And Jesus changes everything including death. By His death Jesus conquered death and turns it into the gateway of heaven. When you walk with Jesus death still hurts but it loses its sting. It actually serves a good purpose to help us remember how much we need Jesus as Savior. When you walk with Jesus to the funeral of your loved one who died believing in Him your sorrow for your loss conflicts with your joy for them and the looking forward to seeing them again. If you are one of the select few who will go to heaven in 2019 you will walk with Jesus all the way from the imperfect and mortal to the perfect and immortal.



Let’s continue singing vv 4-6.



Hymn:  ‟I Walk in Danger All the Way” ………………………..…. CW #431 vv. 4-6



4. If you noticed there is kind of a marked difference in the first three verses of #431 and the last three. After reminding us of the reality of life in a sin filled world that it will never be all peaches and cream, that the devil will be active and there will be trials and there will be death, the writer directs our eyes where they need to be. On Jesus. Remember all those dangers that we walked in during 2018 and will in 2019? We weren’t alone. Jesus walked with us and others too.



Psalm 91:10-11 (NIV 1984) Then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”



You and I don’t know even half the dangers we walked through in 2018 because the angels were guarding us in all our ways. They do a perfect job of thwarting all the attempts of the Devil and demons to harm us. There is no reason for us to live 2019 with fear and dread. We walk with angels all the way and they are powerful beings keep harm and danger away from us and our loved ones so that the only ones that get through are the ones Jesus allows.



5. And those we did not face alone for Jesus kept this promise He made recorded by the Gospel writer Matthew.



Matthew 28:20b (NIV 1984) And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”



When I was serving as a pastor in Texas, one of my members, who had been Southern Baptist told me a joke I didn’t get. See if you do. “A man died and was standing before St Peter and the gates of heaven. St. Peter says, Glad you are here. Before you can enter you must just answer one question. What is God’s first name? That’s easy, the man said. “It’s Andy.” Andy! Exclaimed Peter, “Where did you get that from? Everybody knows. It’s in the song. “Andy walks with me Andy talks with me!” Get it? I didn’t. You would have had to be in a place in the country or a church upbringing that included the southern favorite song, “He walks with me” which has the refrain, “And He walks with me and He talks with me.” And he, Andy. Now the joke is based on made up circumstances. Peter does not control the gates of heaven and there is no question asked. That song never became a favorite of mine but the truth it is based on stands. Jesus walks with us. He was with you every day of 2018. Sometimes you were aware and in awe as you were bowled over by his love or forgiveness or the peace he provided in some difficult time. Most of the time you probably lived unaware or maybe forgot.  But He was with you and will be for 2019.



6. And that’s why we will want to keep in mind the truth verse 6 proclaimed that our walk is heavenward all the way. Paul reminded us of that in his letter to the Philippians.



Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV 1984) Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.



I don’t know if I’ll get to see heaven in 2019 or if you will. That is up to God. But it is true as the hymn writer said that when that day comes “farewell you can gladly say to all your sin and sorrow.” Why? Because Jesus walks with us. By His perfect life lived for us, His sacrificial death died for us and His new life now lived for us each day we take a step to heaven and we never have to walk it alone. We walk with Jesus. Let’s declare that now as we stand to sing the first and fourth verse of a hymn many times used at Confirmation and let’s think about that as a Confirmation renewal heading into the New Year.



Hymn:  ‟Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus” ………………………..….CW #452 vv. 1, 4

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

December 25, 2018 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: The Christmas Story “CHRISTMAS QUESTIONS ANSWERED!”


CHRISTMAS DAY

December 25, 2018

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: The Christmas Story



“CHRISTMAS QUESTIONS ANSWERED!”

1.     What Child is this?

2.     Why lies He in such mean estate?

3.     What do I do now?



If I asked you what your favorite Christmas Carol is I’m guessing you will have a hard time coming up with just one. There are so many good ones. Some have great memories attached to them like Silent Night. Some are just so joyful. Some of the melodies just seem to perk you up and get you in the Christmas spirit. Many of them tell stories and at least one answers questions. It’s the one we just sang. “What Child is this?” We’ll let that carol guide our Christmas Day meditation because it provides answers to important questions of Christmas and it’s no magic eight ball. It draws its answers from Scripture.

The first verse asks an important Christmas question. What child is this? Careful when you look at him. Looks can be deceiving. Looks were meant to be deceiving at Christmas when I was growing up. With eight kids in the family we did not have the practice of every brother and sister getting a present for everyone else. No, we drew names. Then you had to figure out what the name you drew needed. Then came the really fun part. Trying to disguise your present. You see another tradition we had was trying to guess what the present was before you opened it. One year I thought I had it nailed. My brothers and I had gotten into playing hockey on the ice rink that was cleared above the first dam on the Rock River going into Watertown. Boots marked the boundaries. Boots marked the goal. Just a note to any would be hockey players, playing goalie without any pads is not a good idea. Those pucks hurt! We had good early ice one year so had been playing a lot and the blade on my stick broke. Money was tight. Duct tape was the only solution. And then came Christmas. And there it was. A present. To Tim From Joel. Wrapped up was a long tube with a card box taped on the end covering what could only be a hockey stick. I should’ve remembered who I was dealing with. As I proudly made my correct guess before I opened the smirk alerted me to a potentially fatal mistake. The tube empty. The box contained a cartoon book. Looks were deceiving.

Look again in the manger. What do you see? What child is this? He looks like any average Jewish baby boy. But remember, looks can be deceiving so look again. Our carol answered the question. What child is this? This, this is Christ the King. In Matthew’s account of the Christmas story he reminded us who the child is when he wrote, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us.” That baby is God himself in human flesh. What Child is This? This is Christ the King. It is really impossible to comprehend the one who is helpless as a human is the omnipotent God. The one who seems to have only now appeared on the scene has always been before the Creation of the world. The one who needs Mary and Joseph to care for him at the same time needs nothing and is absolutely independent as the great I AM. Can you imagine how difficult this was for Mary and Joseph? Joseph watched Jesus be born. Mary birthed Him. He looked just like any other human being and did all the things that babies normally do. But God had provided them what they needed in the visits from the angels to know what child this was. God has done the same thing for us. Through word and sacrament he has provided us with faith to see that the Christmas miracle is not a Grinch getting a new heart or people being kind for part of a day. It’s God becoming flesh and that we believe this. What child is this? This, this is Christ the King!

Why? Why does this happen? Or as our carol asks, “Why lies he in such mean estate?” Mean can mean a lot of things. As a verb it can mean to signify or stand for. As a noun it’s the middle of something. As an adjective we normally use mean to describe someone who is nasty and is doing or saying hurtful things. But its first meaning as an adjective is humble or lowly. Why is Christ the King, true God and true man, lying in such humble circumstances? Again Matthew tells us in his Gospel. The angel told Joseph, “She will give birth to a Son and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” He lies in such a mean estate because He is our Savior. I like to remind the Confirmation students that there is a word that begins with S that applies to Jesus that helps us keep straight the why of Christmas and Good Friday and Easter. Do you know what it is? A word that begins with S to help us answer Why? Yes, Savior is a good one but there is a better one. Substitute. Jesus comes to be our substitute. He takes our place. He takes our place in perfect obedience. That’s why he becomes truly one of us and lives for 33 years. He must face temptation, fight temptation and defeat temptation in our place. That’s why He goes to the cross. He takes our place in being punished for sin. That’s why at the first Christmas He lies in such mean estate. As the carol goes “For sinners here the Silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce him through. The cross he bears for me, for you.” Jesus lies in humble circumstance so that He can be a legitimate substitute not for the few and the privileged but for me, for you and for all.

So now what? What do we do with this Christmas gift of Jesus? If what looked like a hockey stick had been a hockey stick I would’ve know what to do with it. Pass and score goals, play defense. Since it was instead a cartoon book  I knew what to do with it, read it and laugh. What do we do with the gift of Jesus? Our carol answers that Christmas question too. I could summarize it with three words: honor, own, enthrone. Let’s start with honor. “So bring him incense, gold and myrrh.” The Christmas purists know that the wise men from the east did not arrive the same time as the shepherds. A bummer for all the nativity sets, but true. Those wise men did come later and when they came they honored Jesus with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Costly gifts back then and today. But the real gift wasn’t their earthly value but what the gift signified. Honor. Honor for Jesus by those who through faith looked past what Jesus looked like, a baby, and saw Him for what He is. The King of kings. As God, Jesus had no need for gold, frankincense or myrrh. He could create as much as he wanted at any time. True enough we know that it helped Mary and Joseph, probably especially when they had to flee to Egypt. But what was most important was the honor that was shown. That’s also true for us. Our offerings to Jesus are very important. Yes, they are important for our congregation so that we continue to exist, pay our bills and expand our ministry. But what is most important is they give us a chance to show honor to Jesus who does not need anything from us but wants our hearts. That’s why we are not cheap with our offerings, giving him our leftovers or something we don’t even miss, There is no honor in being a member of the Scrooges for Jesus Club. But there is when our gifts come from the heart.

Because we own him. That’s the second way our carol answers the question so what do I do now. “Come peasant king to own him.” When you own up to your mistakes you admit they are yours. You did it. They belong to you. Owning Jesus means confessing Him as Savior. Your Savior. Getting a little harder to do that these days in the real world isn’t it? Less and less tolerance for Christians who want to hold to and teaching everything Jesus has commanded us. No worries. Peasant. King. Grandma. Newborn. Jesus has chosen us for Himself and promised that whoever confesses Him before others, He too confesses and owns before the Father in heaven.

So we honor, own and enthrone. “Let loving hearts enthrone Him.” Now the post Christmas ads will begin, the end of year ones. Watch how many try to tug at your heart to get that perfect gift she will love or he has dreamed about as a boy. Normally something big and expense. The new car or huge diamond. They are on to something. Love seeks to give what makes another happy. What makes Jesus happy? Hearts that enthrone Him. That means treat Him as king and ruler. Jesus put it this way. If you love me, obey my commandments and so we learn that willing obedience is the most meaningful gift for Jesus. We desire Him to rule in our hearts. And he does through love, grace and mercy.

Pretty soon now the Christmas carols will go away. The stations that changed their format way before Thanksgiving will go back. We will choose new playlists on Pandora or Spotify. But the meaning of Christmas will continue its effects on our lives. For the child lying in mean estate is Christ the King, for sinners slain who in response lovingly honor, own and enthrone Him. Amen.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Pastor Timothy J Spaude Text: Luke 3:7-18 “THE GIFT OF JOY”


ADVENT 3

December 15-17, 2018

Pastor Timothy J Spaude

Text: Luke 3:7-18



“THE GIFT OF JOY”

1.     There is no joy in fake repentance.

2.     The joy of Jesus is in true repentance.



Luke 3:7-18 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." 10 "What should we do then?" the crowd asked. 11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" 13 "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.  14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."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." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.”



          So what emotion do you normally connect with repentance? I’m going to guess that most, if not all of us will choose sorrow. In fact many times people think that’s all repentance is, being sorry for your sins. But repentance is a whole lot more than being sorry for sins. In fact John the Baptist is going to help us understand that ultimately repentance brings with it the gift of joy. As we continue to look at the gifts Jesus brings this Advent season today we focus on the gift of joy that comes with repentance.

          With true repentance, that is. As we find out in Luke’s Gospel there has always been this idea of fake repentance spooking around. Today’s text is a continuation of last week’s. If you recall in that part of Luke 3 we heard that John the Baptist was doing the work he was chosen for, preparing people’s hearts for Jesus. He did that be preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Today we listen in on one of his sermons. He begins, “You brood of vipers!” Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that this is never going to make a top ten list of sermon greetings. In fact I know that at our seminary the professors remind you it is a privilege to speak to the children of God so you address them that way. You’ve heard, “Dear fellow redeemed, brothers and sisters through faith in Christ Jesus, Sons and daughters of the King, dear Christian friends.” Have we ever started out “You brood of vipers” or “dear back stabbing and two faced liars and cheats, dear stingy greedy selfish spoiled brats?”

          Something was going on here. Let’s find out what. John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." Jesus also called the Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers. They were the ones who were teaching that outward keeping of God’s laws was good enough and that a blood connection to Abraham made things right with God. Or to put it another way they taught repentance as saying sorry, not being sorry, and it seems the crowds had listened to them and were thinking the same thing. They had no intention of trying to change their sinful ways. They were offspring of Abraham. They said what they were required to say. That should be good enough. That’s fake repentance. It does not give joy. It gets you called what you are: vipers, mini devils.

          This idea of fake repentance hasn’t gone away. In times of weakness and temptation Satan whispers in our ears, “It’s OK. Give in. You’ll be forgiven anyway.” And so we repent with the intent to keep on sinning. Or in talks with someone who has devalued word and sacrament and worship. “I’m good with God. I pray all the time.” Or “I’m good. I was confirmed.” Or “I’m still WELS.” Hear a warning about fake repentance. The ax is at the root of the tree. God can raise WELSers and people who pray once in a while from the stones if he wants. This fake repentance is like drinking saltwater. Sure it’s wet but it will leave you still thirsty and ultimately leads to eternal death. This fake repentance is like the sassy mouthed child, the lazy worker, the cheating spouse saying, “Yes, I’m very sorry. I’ll stop in a year or so.” John’s word point out a spiritual truth we can’t ignore. You can’t have it both ways. Just like you can’t eat only junk food and stay healthy and you can’t not practice and still be good at piano, you can’t pursue the temporary joy of sin and have the lasting joy of salvation.

          That only comes with true repentance. These people coming out to John had received the gift of Baptism. They had been pointed to Jesus. “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." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.” John pointed them to Jesus, the Savior. Yes he would destroy the chaff but the wheat he was going to gather. These people now realized they were the wheat. They were forgiven by Jesus. They now knew that real repentance isn’t just sorrow over sin, it’s joy in Jesus. Relief, happiness and gratitude in sins forgiven. And that inner change, that repentance joy on the inside, it just wants to show on the outside.

Notice the change. No longer did they want fake repentance as a part of their lives and so they ask, "What should we do then?" the crowd asked. 11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" 13 "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.  14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay." Kind of reminds me of Zacchaeus. Do your remember how when he realized Jesus loved him, had forgiven him and accepted him, he on his own, offered to pay back 4 times what he had stolen and to give half of his possessions to the poor. Here the regular people wanted to know how to show they joy of repentance. Soldiers and tax collectors too. None were given monumental tasks or a prayer to repeat over and over again. Do your job. Be faithful in your responsibilities. Help those in need. Realize that God desires fair tax collectors and soldiers who protect. Every aspect of their life would change as they lived each task with the joy of living for Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, you have that too. Jesus brings you the gift of joy. In that joy of Jesus you can get rid of sins instead of keeping them around. Just like you would not take a knife that was used to kill a loved one and use it to carve your Christmas ham but would instead get rid of it, never want to see it again, so also hat same attitude toward the sins in our lives that caused the death of Jesus, our loved on. We strive with all the strength Christ provides to fight our selfishness with money, our temptation toward lust or drug or alcohol abuse. Maybe we have some things in our house or bank accounts we need to get rid of. We look instead to see the face of Jesus on every one we meet each day so that for Jesus we are nice, kind and compassionate. We see our daily jobs in a different light. Each role a way we can serve Jesus with joy. He desires simply to see faithfulness in our daily callings, each one lived for Him. By calling us to repentance teaching us repentance and by His sacrifice motivating our repentance Jesus has given us the gift of joy to be enjoyed and displayed every day..

So you weren’t wrong if at the beginning of my message you associated sorrow with repentance. You just weren’t totally right. While sorrow over sin starts it off in true repentance joy over Jesus’ forgiveness, love and acceptance finishes it. Marvel again, brothers and sisters that God gave His Son Jesus because how much He values you. Instead of letting us live and die as the vipers we would be, instead of cutting down unfruitful trees like you and me and throwing us in the fire, God cut down Jesus, and let Him go the cross where He endured the fires of Hell so you will never have to. Relief, thankfulness, joy. A gift to you from Jesus. Amen.