Monday, June 6, 2022

June 4-6, 2022 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Acts 2:1-21 “THANK YOU, HOLY SPIRIT!”

 

PENTECOST

June 4-6, 2022

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Acts 2:1-21

 

“THANK YOU, HOLY SPIRIT!”

1.     For giving us signs of your presence.

2.     For giving us understanding of the word.

3.     For giving us meaning and purpose.

 

          Today we celebrate Pentecost. It comes from the Greek word for fiftieth. It’s the church year festival that focuses on the blessing of the Holy Spirit. It commemorates the special way the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead. You heard about that in our first reading. On that day about 3000 people were added to the brand new Christian Church. For that reason Pentecost is also called the birthday of the Christian church. Funny thing about birthdays. You get gifts for your birthday. The Holy Spirit is a master gift picker and that’s great news for us because the gifts that matter for the Christian church are the ones the Holy Spirit gives. So for this Pentecost we thank the Holy Spirit for gifts past and present.

          Like signs of His presence. How do you know when the Holy Spirit is at work? He’s unseen. He’s spirit. Some people believe that the Holy Spirit’s presence is felt inside of you in some special way. But that’s not what the Bible says. And that feeling might just be indigestion—or something worse. Here’s what the Bible tells us. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the rushing of a violent wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw divided tongues that were like fire resting on each one of them. 4They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, since the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak fluently.” When the Holy Spirit is at work there are signs. Not inside of people. On the outside. So important for Jesus’ disciples. He had told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. How would they know? No worries. The Holy Spirit made it obvious. The sound of a violent wind. Tongues of fire. The ability to fluently speak languages they had never learned.

          Now while that is really cool and were the signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence that the Apostles needed. It’s not the ones we need. We have been given our own. Once again it is not a feeling on the inside. Our recently confirmed students know. B, B, LS. Bible. Baptism. Lord’s Supper. The Spirit is there. It’s something you see externally. There’s more. Since the first Pentecost hundreds of millions if not billions of people have pledged and lived loyalty to Jesus Christ whom they have never seen. Millions have died rather than deny Him. Your very presence in worship is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence here and in you. What are you doing here? You’re an American. You have packed your lives with way too many things and made yourself way too busy. You don’t have time to worship. But you are. The Holy Spirit has made you His temple and He wants Jesus worshipped so you do. Why the time and money given to help your church carry out the mission Jesus has given to us. Don’t you know you only get so much? Why give it away? These brothers and sisters are signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And we thank Him for them.

          As we thank Him for understanding of God’s Word. The Apostles got theirs. Prior to Pentecost we have the soon to be Apostles arguing about who is the greatest. Urging Jesus not to go to Jerusalem and die. Wondering when Jesus was going to make the nation of Israel great again. Pentecost happens. The Holy Spirit brings birthday gifts and you get this. “They were completely baffled and said to each other, “Look, are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them speaking in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, and of Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya around Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; 11Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring in our own languages the wonderful works of God.” 12They were all amazed and perplexed. They kept saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocked them and said, “They are full of new wine.” 14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and spoke loudly and clearly to them: “Men of Judea, and all you residents of Jerusalem, understand this, and listen closely to my words. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day. 16On the contrary, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

 

17This is what God says will happen in the last days:

I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.

Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.

Your young men will see visions.

Your old men will dream dreams.

18Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.

19I will show wonders in the sky above,

and signs on the earth below,

blood and fire and a rising cloud of smoke.

20The sun will be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood

before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

21And this will happen: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will              be saved.”

 

All of a sudden Peter is taking a complex prophecy from Joel and explaining exactly what it means. How? The Holy Spirit provided him understanding of God’s word.

          We got that too. The Bible is a big book. We don’t understand everything that’s in there. But what we need, we do. While God’s truths of saving by grace through faith are foolishness to many people in this world, they are not to you. You receive them as the wisdom of God. You get comfort and peace. What is it that makes you and I different from the people who consider that foolishness? The Holy Spirit. So thank you Holy Spirit for the gift of understanding.

          And thank you for meaning and purpose in life. The Apostles got that gift. The prophecy from Joel ended, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will                 be saved.” From that day on wherever the Apostles went they carried the name of the Lord with them. They were witnesses for Christ. Some who heard believed and are with the Apostles in heaven even as we speak. They are the Apostle’s treasures.

          You and I have that same purpose and meaning. God has all of us doing things that make a difference in people’s lives. Maybe you make people’s lives more comfortable by making sure their AC works properly, or secure by fixing their cars. Maybe you give comfort and care as a nurse or CNA. Maybe you protect people’s futures by working in the legal or financial fields. Maybe you use your time to be a good neighbor. All these ways and many more are useful things God wants done well to make people’s earthly lives more tolerable. But you are so much more than that. You, like the Apostles, are witnesses for Jesus. And while you fix cars, provide care or other needed services, while you practice being a good neighbor, look for those opportunities to name drop. Jesus’ name drop. Because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved and you might be the one God will use to let them know who to call on and they will become your treasures in heaven. Literally every human interaction that you have, all the things you do that lead up to those interactions, become filled with the greater meaning and purpose of God’s salvation plan. Thank you Holy Spirit!

          He’s the master gift giver. Always picking just what people need. There’s this thing about birthday gifts. Once they are given, they are yours. You get to use them. Today the Christian church is one year older thanks to the Holy Spirit. And thanks to the Holy Spirit we have what we need. Signs of His presence. Understanding. Meaning and purpose. Time to enjoy and use. Amen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

May 28-30, 2022 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Revelation 22:12-17, 20 “A PERFECT UNION!

 

EASTER 7

May 28-30, 2022

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Revelation 22:12-17, 20

 

“A PERFECT UNION!

1.     Sin and unbelief has been, and is, the real divider.

2.     Only Jesus can provide true unity.

 

Revelation 22:12-17, 20 (EHV) “Look, I am coming soon and my reward is with me, to repay each one according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and so that they may enter through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, that is, the sorcerers, the adulterers, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16 I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star.

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears this say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who wants the water of life take it as a gift….20 The one who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

 

          Unity. It is desirable. People want it. Some of you may recognize these words. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…” That comes from the Preamble to the United States Constitution. And how about these words? E Pluribus Unum. If you have a U.S. coin in your pocket, that phrase is inscribed on it. It’s Latin and it means, “Out of many, one.” It was meant to signify how the 13 original colonies and now 50 individual states became one nation under God. That’s the other phrase on your coins.

          Now we all know that neither of those phrases are actually true. God has been kicked out of our nation in many ways. And we really aren’t all that united nor have we been. It was not long after the defeat of Great Britain and America’s independence that the colonies began looking out for their own interests ahead of the nation’s. We are all aware of the horrible Civil War that was fought and needed to be fought so people would stop owning people. And while we like to think that America has been a melting pot where ethnic groups immigrated and gladly gave up their own former loyalties to be a part of a great nation we know that did not happen easily and does not happen easily today. Ethic groups have always tended to stick together and hold on to their language and customs for several generations before melting into the nation. I am quite certain that the many military people who gave their lives, whose sacrifices we remember on Memorial Day, would look at the state of our nation with its polarization, nastiness, willing and forced segregation and ongoing disunity and say, “That’s not what I gave my life for.” Sadness. And yet unity with one another. It’s so desirable.

          Thankfully our living Lord Jesus comes in as a fresh breath of air. Don’t give up on your longed for unity. He gives us something to look forward to. Perfect unity. It’s why he sent His Apostles out into all the world and to all the different ethnicities with the Good News that He is their Savior. It’s what Jesus prayed for in the Upper Room the night He was betrayed. True unity among people like He and the Father are one. And He tells us it's coming…soon! “Look, I am coming soon and my reward is with me, to repay each one according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” With these words Jesus identifies Himself as the ultimate authority. Christ is risen! He is not dead. In every language, no matter how you say it, He is the beginning and end of all things. What He says goes. He points us to a time when their will be perfect unity.

          But first He has to deal with what really divides.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and so that they may enter through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, that is, the sorcerers, the adulterers, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” We are in the last book of the Bible, the last chapter. The end of what is is at hand. What will be is just beginning. Before the glorious and perfect union of all believers in heaven Jesus must deal with what divides. Unbelief. He calls them the dogs. I don’t know about you but I like dogs. They are such loyal friends. But the word for dogs Jesus uses is really the curs, the mongrels, the mangy mutts that are wicked and evil You heard some identifying signs. Sorcery, adultery, murder, idolatry, falsehood. And while all of us can be found guilty of some form of those sins at some time what these lifestyle sin groupings have in common is they flow from what really gets God’s wrath. Unbelief. Rejection of Jesus, His Son, who gave His life so all could be free. That gets God’s anger.

          Recently I was talking with another pastor. He has in his congregation someone we both know. He’s someone whose filter on what is appropriate to say or not say and when is a little faulty. He told me about a Bible Class he was teaching on Judgment Day. Our mutual acquaintance raised his hand. “Pastor, you know when Jesus comes back He’s going to kick some behind.” Only he didn’t say “behind.” He said something else. In Bible Class! Now while we may quibble with him over his choice of words we cannot with the content. When the last day comes it's called Judgment Day for a reason. You and I might get angry with senseless shooting, carjackings, window smashings, murders, drug dealers, logicless arguments advanced to give mothers the option to murder their babies, please understand, your anger and my anger is nothing compared to an angry God. Leave room for His wrath. And beware the call of the wild. The way of the wicked might seem easier or more fun at times but you want nothing to do with it. For unbelief divides and so those who reject Jesus will never get the perfect union we all desire.

          But those who believe will. For only Jesus can unite us. Let’s go back to what He said. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and so that they may enter through the gates into the city.” Who’s blessed? Those who wash their robes. This comes from earlier in Revelation where the people in heaven were described as those “who have washed their robes and made the white in the blood of the Lamb.” That’s a picture of a believer in Jesus. Robes all dirty because of sin. The blood of the Lamb, Jesus’ death and sacrifice makes them clean. Jesus is the uniter. While sin separates and divides people from God Jesus, only Jesus brings them together. His perfect life. His innocent death. Those who believe receive the benefit of what Jesus has done. Only Jesus unites believers with God.

          And only Jesus brings unity between people. The Gospel message is meant for every language, tribe, nation and people. In heaven we will have not a more perfect union but a completely perfect union. Languages will not divide because we will all share the same one and despite what my college professor proclaimed I doubt it will be German. Skin tones won’t matter. Nor will economic status because we will all be rich in what really matters and not care about the gold used to pave heaven’s roads. Their will be no political divide for we will all rejoice being ruled by the King of kings and Lord of lords. And then let’s do those personal sin dividers. You have it your family. I have it in mine. It may be because of divorce. It may be caused by harsh words. It may be because of a great misunderstanding or a long held feud. It may be that a dearly loved child is rejecting you. These things happen and hurt among believer’s families. And the hurt may endure her. But not in heaven. In heaven Jesus unites. There will no more death or mourning or crying or pain or separation or hurt or grudge or resent. “Behold I am making everything new!” says Jesus as He gives us the perfect union.

          That’s something to look forward to. As the Lord ends the writing of the Bible it’s like a good series you want to binge where each episode you finish makes you want to see one more. Or a movie series that has you actually longing for the sequel. Listen to our living Lord as He sets our eyes on the prize! “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star.17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears this say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who wants the water of life take it as a gift….20 The one who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” How do you respond to that? Say it with me! “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

 

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

May 14-16, 2022 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 OUR CONFIRMATION WAY OF LIFE

 

CONFIRMATION

May 14-16, 2022

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

 

OUR CONFIRMATION WAY OF LIFE

1.     Built on God’s Confirmation.

2.     Shown in your Confirmation.

 

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NIV 1984) I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-- 6because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

 

          Every once in a while people will ask me what it’s like to be a pastor. Besides telling them it’s a fun way to serve Jesus and people actually pay you to do it, I normally add, “Being a pastor isn’t a job. It’s a way of life.” You don’t punch a clock and all of the sudden stop being a pastor. You carry that with you wherever you are. It’s an honor and a privilege that comes with responsibility.

          The same thing can be said about being confirmed. It’s not a ceremony. It’s a way of life. It’s a way of life willingly chosen by believers in Jesus Christ who have been instructed in the truths of God’s word. Many of you have already been confirmed and some look forward to it. So today let’s look into God’s Word to see how being confirmed is a way of life.

          It’s a way of life that is built on God’s Confirmation. Some might wonder what confirmation is anyway. You already know. If you book a hotel room or a flight or a rental car you will want to receive a confirmation of that booking. A confirmation is a notice that tells you that you really have it. Yes, there is a seat reserved for you on this plane. Yes, we have a room set aside for you. A confirmation then is really a strengthening or a reinforcing that something really is true.

          God does that for us. He confirms what is really important for us to know. I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-- 6because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you, 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” The Apostle Paul wrote these words in his first letter to the Christian church in the city of Corinth. It was a congregation that had many spiritual troubles. Its people had to live in a very wicked city, where very few people actually believed in the Lord Jesus. Sound familiar? It was important for them to know they had what they needed from God. Paul confirmed it. He thanked God because they had received the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Normally we think of grace as God’s undeserved love. It’s also a word that means gift. When the Corinthian Christians received faith in Jesus they received the gifts they needed. They were enriched in speaking and knowledge. Those folks lived in a city that valued eloquent speaking and human philosophy. Now they had better. They could speak words that would lead people to have eternal life. They had the true knowledge of the true God. They had the spiritual gifts necessary to stay faithful to Jesus. This was confirmed by the fact that they believed in Jesus.

          God has confirmed the same things for you, my friends. It’s easy to worry and fear when we look to what the future may hold for Christians in our country, especially our youth. But you know what? I have read some sermon and papers from Lutheran pastors from our sister churches that existed over a hundred years ago. Do you know what they said? They warned about what would happen to the youth because the country was getting so wicked and there was so much immorality and there was so much alcohol abuse. Now the young people of that time would then have been in their fifties and sixties during the time what many people call the good old days. But at the time they did not seem so good. My point is that in every generation confirmed Christians will face challenges to their faith. That is nothing new. And in each generation God is there confirming his people. Confirming you, that is strengthening and reinforcing you.

          He strengthens you by giving you your Baptism, something you can point back to and rely on that says you really are a child of God, despite your many sins and no matter what you are dealing with. He has given you His word, the Bible, so you know you have all the knowledge you need. Not everything you want, but everything you need. Over and over again He confirms the fact that you are forgiven all those sins as He has his ministers pronounce that in weekly worship. He goes further and confirms His love and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Holy Communion where Jesus’ true body and blood are present with bread and wine and say again, “You are forgiven. Here is the proof. I confirm it.”

And while it may happen that you get to the airport or to the hotel or to the car rental place only to find that your confirmation is not valid because they overbooked, that cannot happen with God’s confirmation. “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” God is faithful. You can count on Him. He will keep His word and promises. God is faithful.

And that’s why we want to be too. Which takes us to our Confirmation. For any of you who are unfamiliar with Lutheran practice in our churches the preteen children go through several years of formal instruction with their pastors. We want to make sure they have the basic knowledge of the Bible’s teaching. There is a lot of repetition. Then we have this ceremony that announces they have learned those teachings and agree with them. They get a chance to publicly promise to be faithful to Jesus all the way to their death, which is so important because Jesus said, “Everyone who confesses me before others, I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32)

Confirmation was never ever intended to be the end of anything. It does not mark the end of learning and relearning Bible truths. It does not mean you never again sit in class with your pastors learning God’s word. It is meant to mark a new beginning in your faith life. At your Baptism God made His promise to you that you were His redeemed child washed clean of your sins. At your Confirmation you promise, “Lord I will do my best to live like what you made me. I will strive to let the faith you have place in me on the inside show on the outside.” In other words, Confirmation is not just a ceremony. It’s a way of life.

As a confirmed Christian you don’t punch a clock. You aren’t working on faithfulness to Jesus 9-5 and then you are done. You don’t have a church life, a work life, an at home life. You are a confirmed Christian wherever you are. You don’t have a church mouth, a work mouth, a home mouth. You have one mouth that was created to declare the praises of God and to tell others the great things He has done for you at church, at home, at work. Being a confirmed Christian is a way of living very deliberately so that whether you eat, drink or whatever you do you will do it all for the glory of God. It’s a way of living where you deliberately strive to demonstrate faithfulness to the one who was faithful to you first, Jesus.

Here again is why it is so important that we do not view Confirmation as graduating from something. You can be done with going to elementary school. You can be done with going to high school. You never want to be done believing in Jesus. Faithfulness to Him is marked by regular weekly worship and daily devotion to His word. There you will find the strength you need to live your confirmation way of life. There you will find confirmation that you are still loved and forgiven by God when you stray and you will stray. And you will come back. That’s what Confirmed Christian do.

Being confirmed is not a ceremony. It is a way of life. It’s an honor and a privilege that comes with responsibility. You are making a commitment to strive to live faithful to Jesus every day for the rest of your life. And did I mention you get paid? Not money that is here and gone and loses value due to inflation. But the glories of heaven forever. Welcome to a way of life. Amen.

 

Friday, April 15, 2022

MAUNDY THURSDAY April 14, 2022 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 “THREE UNIONS IN COMMUNION!”

 

MAUNDY THURSDAY

April 14, 2022

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29

 

“THREE UNIONS IN COMMUNION!”

1.     God unites bread and wine with Christ’s body and blood.

2.     God unites sinners to Himself.

3.     God unites sinners with each other.

 

1 Corinthians 11:23-29 (EHV) For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after the meal, he also took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the Lord’s body and blood. 28 Instead, let a person examine himself and after doing so, let him eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if anyone eats and drinks in an unworthy way because he does not recognize the Lord’s body, he eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

 

          Tonight we remember the time when Jesus provided us with the blessings of Holy Communion. We do not just remember it though; we get to receive those blessings as we celebrate Holy Communion. There are different names for this sacrament, all of which tell us something about it. You’ve heard it called the Lord’s Supper. Makes sense. It’s the meal the Lord Jesus gave us. It’s also called the Sacrament of the Altar because that’s where the elements are kept. Not as often it’s called the Eucharist coming from the Greek word for thanksgiving which certainly is our attitude in receiving it. Probably most frequently among us it’s called Holy Communion or just Communion. That’s a word that means a “super union” or intense union and that’s an apt description because of what takes place in this sacrament: unions. Three of them.

          Now it’s no secret to anyone here that food brings people together. Got family coming over? There’s going to be a meal. How do we celebrate birthdays? With a party and good food, a cake, a birthday treat at school. Want to get to know the neighbors? It’s a block party with a barbeque or cookout. Get people to stay for a meeting? Offer them food. Have you been to Bible Class? Food! Food, meals, brings togetherness. God knows people better than we do. No surprise that He uses a meal to bring things together.

          Like bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after the meal, he also took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Jesus takes bread. Since it is Passover we know it is unleavened bread but when he gives it he says, “This is my body.” He takes the cup. Since it is Passover we know the fruit of the vine in that cup is grape wine. When he gives it he says “This is my blood of the new testament.” Wait! Is Jesus saying His body and blood are really present with the bread and wine? Yes. He is. Our human reason might rebel. That doesn’t make sense. Isn’t it just a picture or symbol? No. First, it is foolish to question what Jesus can or can’t do. If He says it is, IT IS! Secondly, it is so important for us to know Jesus’ body and blood are really present. There is a covenant happening. In the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ providing this meal the word used is either covenant or like it says here, testament. Those are synonyms. In Bible times that is the most solemn form of agreement there can be. In Bible times covenants had to be sealed with blood. Not fake blood that you can get at a novelty store. Real blood. Sometimes it was animal. Sometimes it was human. Here it is the blood of God’s one and only Son and the covenant God makes is to forgive us our sins and remember them no more. How awesome that the Lord unites bread and wine and body and blood for the forgiveness of sins!

          Because that’s what makes the second union in communion possible, where God unites sinners with Himself. If you are throwing a dinner party at your home whom you invite will be important to you. You are likely to invite family—but not all family! You are likely to invite old acquaintances and current friends. You may invite a neighbor you have become friendly with. There are some people you will never have over. Someone who has repeatedly hurt you or betrayed you. You won’t invite the neighbor whose dog keeps pooping on your lawn or who keeps you up at night with late night parties and loud music.

          But that’s what God does in Communion. Think about it. There is no way that God should invite people like us to His meal. We don’t deserve it. We say and sing “Oh how I love Jesus,” but the way we spend time and money says we love our sports and entertainment more. Betrayal. Our bodies are God’s temples and we let our dog poop on his lawn by the things we allow into our minds with what we watch, read or look at on our phones. Now don’t misunderstand. It’s not like God is the grumpy old man in the neighborhood who yells at kids for stepping one foot on his lawn. He’s like the kind and loving neighbor who’s had to put up with the loud parties, whose nice requests to turn the music down has been met with defiant turning it up, who instead of calling the police patiently endures and then invites you and me, the offenders, over for a meal. How can He do that?

          The answer is found in the meal itself. It is a forgiveness meal. It is the forgiveness that Jesus won for us that unites us with God. In Matthew’s Gospel it says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  How can you possibly have someone who has hurt you over and over again eat at your table? Only when you have forgiven them. We struggle with that, don’t we? But God does not. The sacrifice that Jesus made to pay for your sins and my sins is so perfect that God completely forgives us. He lets us know that by inviting us to His meal. In communion God unites sinners with Himself.

          And then sinners with each other. I’m guessing you’ve all experienced something like this before. You get invited to a wedding, guess what? There’s going to be a meal. You RSVP, Yes, I’ll be there. You go to the wedding service and then to the venue and what is it you wonder? Who’s going to be at my table? Will I know them? Is it someone I like? Will it be uncomfortable for some reason? If I don’t know them, will I connect with them? That depends. What do you have in common?

          When Jesus first gave Holy Communion the disciples with him were actually quite a diverse group. Fishermen and tax collectors, very zealous and ambitious, laid back and wondering. Yet they had one thing in common that overcame their differences. Jesus.

          That’s what unites us too. Some of us work at jobs that get your hands dirty daily and some at jobs where you are expected to keep them clean. Some of us think Covid is really scary and some of us think it’s no big deal at all. Some of us have money in the bank, some of us are living paycheck to paycheck. Some of us cheer for the Brewers, some actually cheer for the Cubs! All these differences. But all exactly the same, sinners in need of a Savior. It’s Jesus that unites us. Jesus and His teachings. We can disagree on everything else but Jesus is the uniter. As Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, “One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.” God unites us in Communion.

          All these special unions in Communion help us to understand the last part of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. When you are invited to a special meal, you don’t just show up. You get yourself ready. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the Lord’s body and blood. 28 Instead, let a person examine himself and after doing so, let him eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if anyone eats and drinks in an unworthy way because he does not recognize the Lord’s body, he eats and drinks judgment on himself.” How do I get ready? Look in the mirror of God’s Word. Do I recognize the unions God put in Communion? That Jesus’ body and blood are really present with the bread and the wine? That I am a sinner who only gets united with God through the forgiveness won by Jesus? That I am united with these people I commune with? Three unions. One meal. Three in one. Think I’ve heard that before. God’s at work. Amen.

 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

April 6, 2022 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 23:13-16 A PART FOR THE WHOLE?

 

MIDWEEK LENT 6

April 6, 2022

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 23:13-16

 

A PART FOR THE WHOLE?

1.     Totally unacceptable.

2.     Unless it’s Jesus!

 

Luke 23:13-16 (EHV) “Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who is misleading the people. Look, I have examined him in your presence. I have found in this man no basis for the charges you are bringing against him. 15 Herod did not either, for he sent him back to us.  See, he has done nothing worthy of death. 16 So I will have him flogged and release him.”

 

          One Bible commentator stated that here Pilate offered the Jewish religious rulers a part for the whole. That’s not a new concept. It happens often in bankruptcy cases. Someone racks up a debt. They aren’t paying. Company is getting nothing. The person who owes the debt or their representative may try to negotiate. “I don’t have the money. Will you accept 10 cents on the dollar? A part of the debt to pay off the whole debt?

          I think we all understand that is not acceptable. Oh, to be sure, sometimes when a company believes they will not get what they are owed they may cut their losses and take what is offered. Some money is better than no money. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. That company will make you pay. Your credit will be ruined. You will have bankruptcy on your public record for the next 7-10 years and that will affect where you can rent, what you can buy, maybe even whether you get a job. A part for the whole isn’t acceptable.

          Not to creditors. Not to us. Would you accept a part for the whole? What if someone agreed to buy your home for $300,000 and at closing they said, “Will you take $100,000, a part for the whole?” You’d tell them they’re nuts. Imagine standing at the altar with your betrothed who repeats the words after the pastor. “I promise to be faithful to you, 360 days a year.” Would you take a part of the year for the whole? Mostly faithful? Absolutely not. If you reserve a minivan rental for your family of 6 and the rental agency says, “Sorry we only have a compact.” Will you be happy? Is that acceptable? No way.

          So why do we expect God to? What, we don’t do that, do we? Oh yes, we do. We expect God to be satisfied with a part rather than the whole. We expect Him to accept partway obedience as though we have wholly obeyed. Take worship. Who of you can go the whole worship service without letting your mind wander? I can’t and I’m leading it. And yet we just because showed up we feel we did our duty to God.  He should accept my part devotion for the whole. We do that when we play the sin game. I just thought it. I didn’t actually say or do it so it’s not that bad. God should accept my partial obedience like it’s the whole perfection He deserves. We do that when we try to justify the unbelieving family member or family friend. He tried. He was such a good person. He should be in heaven. God, accept a part for the whole. The standard we set for ourselves, expecting other to pay in full in faithfulness or money, we throw out the window and expect the holy God to be satisfied. That’s pure arrogance and it’s what makes today’s crucial hour so important for us.

          Listen again to what happened. “Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who is misleading the people. Look, I have examined him in your presence. I have found in this man no basis for the charges you are bringing against him. 15 Herod did not either, for he sent him back to us.  See, he has done nothing worthy of death. 16 So I will have him flogged and release him.” Did you catch the part for the whole offer? Pilate knows Jesus is innocent. Other Gospel writers tell us Pilate knew that envy was behind the chief priests’ accusations, so he was looking for a way to let Jesus go. Pilate’s wife had warned Pilate that Jesus was innocent. “Have nothing to do with him,” she said, “I have suffered many things in a dream because of him.” When Pilate heard that Jesus was the Son of God his superstitious mind was reeling. He did not want to be responsible for harming Jesus. What if he really was a son of the gods? What would they do to Pilate? What to do, what to do? Ah, the diplomat, the negotiator. I’ll offer a part for the whole. Instead of ending Jesus’ life I will flog him. Will you accept a part of Jesus’ life instead of all of it? Once again salvation hangs in the balance. If Pilate’s best efforts work, there is no cross for the Christ.

          Thankfully a part for the whole was unacceptable to them. Here was their response. “But they all shouted together with one voice: “Take him away! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 Barabbas had been thrown in prison for a rebellion in the city and for murder.” Now if we were watching this play out on the movie screen we would want to boo and hiss. Our blood would boil at the unfairness of it all. But knowing what we know, instead, we breathe a sigh of relief.

          Because the only time when a part for the whole is really acceptable is when it is Jesus is on the cross. It’s why the Son of God became man to begin with. So He could be our substitute and not just ours but for all of humanity. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world,” John testified. God accepted Jesus’ payment for sin on behalf of the whole human race. And make no mistake about it, God did not settle. He did not take less than what was owed. He got more. Only Jesus is the very Son of God. Only Jesus is holy and innocent. Jesus is the only God man there is and he was not punished in part but in whole. And because Jesus’ sacrifice was more than acceptable you and I will never get what we deserve. We won’t have to stand before God on Judgment Day hoping He will take our part for the whole offer knowing full well that He will not.

          That’s what changes us. We really don’t want to offer God shoddy half hearted worship. We want Him to have our all. We don’t want God to be our focus just part of the week but all week long no matter what we are doing. We don’t sing, “Take part of my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.” We really do want all not part. Friends, this side of heaven, we won’t perfectly do that. Our sinfulness doesn’t just affect part of us but all. And yet the day is coming when we will serve God in the perfect righteousness, innocence and blessedness, as we desire and as God deserves. All because Jesus came to each crucial hour on His Lenten journey and thought of us instead of Himself. Praise Jesus! Amen.

 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

March 23, 2022 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 22:66 “THE SEMBLANCE OF LEGALITY”

 

MIDWEEK LENT 4

March 23, 2022

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 22:66

 

“THE SEMBLANCE OF LEGALITY”

 

          We are continuing to look at crucial hours in the Passion history of our Lord. Those crucial hours are times when it appears God’s plan of salvation hangs in the balance. Things could go one way or another. Today we look at a time when there was a semblance of legality. Synonyms for semblance are an appearance, an impression or a veneer. I think you get the idea. When you say something has semblance it looks like it, but it really isn’t. Here is what happened.

 

Luke 22:66 As soon as it was day, the council of the elders of the people met together, both the chief priests and experts in the law. They brought him into their Sanhedrin.” 

 

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything special here. The sun has risen on the day we call Good Friday. The chief priests and experts of the law brought Jesus before the Sanhedrin, the full Jewish religious ruling council, to put Him on trial. To get a better understanding we need to know what happened under the cover of darkness before this. Jesus’ real trial. That was the one where they looked for evidence that Jesus had done something deserving the death penalty. But they couldn’t find any. That was the one where they brought witnesses to testify against Jesus, but no two of them could agree. That was the one where the frustrated High Priest finally asked Jesus if He was the Messiah to which Jesus honestly answered, “I AM.” That’s when they condemned Jesus to death, spit on Him, blindfolded Him, slapped Him and hit Him.

          So what’s up with this second trial? Ah, the semblance of legality. You see, it was illegal for the Sanhedrin to meet at night. Everything was supposed to be done decently and in order. Everything was supposed to be done out in the open. The first trial was illegal. To make it look like their decision was legal as soon as it was day they met together again. I think you can see what was going on here. A cover up. They were trying to cover their bases, cover their tracks, cover everything else you try to cover, when you know you are doing wrong. They would make it look like they had done it right. A semblance, an impression, a veneer of legality when it was not!

          Wasn’t that just awful what they did? Doing wrong and trying to cover it up? Yes it was. Just like it is awful when we do the same and we do the same, don’t we? We try to cover up our sin. Students, when you don’t have your work done and you say, “I left it home. I forgot. I did it. I don’t know where it is.” Surely nobody really says, “The dog ate it,” do they? Sometimes it is true that we forget something at home but it isn’t always. Every lie that comes out of our mouth is an attempt to cover up our sin. Why do you use social media apps that don’t keep a record of what you sent? Are you trying to hide something? Cover it up? Is there some reason you are clearing your browsing history all the time? Deleting text message conversations? It’s really quite simple. If you have to hide it, you already know it’s wrong. That’s why you’re trying to cover it up.

          But you can’t. All our efforts to cover up sin don’t work, anymore than the bums who presided over Jesus’ fake trial had it work. Their illegality is written down in the book that has the most reads ever! God knew. Just like He knows with your lies and truth shading, your snapchats, instagrams, tiktoks and deletes. The sin is there despite the semblance of legality. You can’t cover up your sin. And if you become like the chief priests and experts in the law and reject Jesus as your Savior all your cover ups will be exposed on the last day of Judgment.

          That would be a shame because while all our efforts to cover up our sins don’t work Jesus’ efforts did! That’s why Jesus let Himself be put on trial—twice! It started with the first cover up. Remember what Adam and Eve did when they first sinned? They sewed fig leaves together to try to cover themselves up when for the first time in their lives they felt shame. Then they tried to cover up their sin by hiding from God when He came to them in the garden. Then they tried to cover up their personal guilt by playing the blame game. But, more importantly, do you remember what God did? He swooped in and promised a Savior who would cover sin for good.

          Jesus is that Savior. But to be our Savior He would have to perfectly obey, have no sins of his own to cover up, and then let Himself be sacrificed on the cross where He would be covered with the sins of the whole world. So Jesus let the first illegal trial go on without protesting, filing a lawsuit or appealing to the Supreme Court. He did not ask Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea to call their leaders to account. He did not hire some fancy lawyer to argue his case, “If the trial’s at night, it ain’t right!” He calmly endured the first trial and the next. As a sheep before her shearers is silent, He did not open His mouth. He had work to do. A cover up. And so another crucial hour passed as Jesus walked to the cross. Another opportunity for Jesus to end His upcoming suffering but He didn’t. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He loves you that much. And when your own crucial hour comes and you stand before God to face judgment you will have no sin. Jesus has covered them up, not with a semblance of legality but by doing things the right way, by the Book.

          And that has changed things for us.  Now instead of trying to cover our sins by lying and hiding we learn to confess them and God forgives. Instead of trying to have a semblance or veneer of Christianity about us where we outwardly do the right things we can practice true Christianity where Jesus’ love for us motivates our love for each other, where Jesus’ forgiveness of us moves us to forgive each other and where our daily living is not done to please the letter of the law but to follow the law of love. After all we get to love, because He first loved us. Amen.

 

 

Monday, March 14, 2022

March 12-14, 2022 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 13:31-35 “YOU CAN’T STOP JESUS!”

 

LENT 2

March 12-14, 2022

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 13:31-35

 

“YOU CAN’T STOP JESUS!”

1.     From loving you to death.

2.     From wanting to keep you close.

 

Luke 13:31-35 EHV In that very hour, some Pharisees came to him and said, “Leave, and go away from here, because Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go tell that fox, ‘Look, I am going to drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, because it cannot be that a prophet would be killed outside Jerusalem!’ 34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you will say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

 

          There are some things you just can’t stop. They are too big and too powerful for you. Some of you may, for instance, take a vacation to a warmer area for Spring or Easter break. If that area includes the ocean, go into it and just try to stop the waves from rolling in. When one knocks you over and pummels you in the surf you will understand how powerless you are. You can’t stop the waves. Or take the wind. Go ahead, just try to stop it from blowing. You can stand against it and build buildings to withstand it, hopefully. But anybody who has had personal property destroyed by a tornado will tell you there is nothing you can do to stop that wind. It is too powerful. As powerful as wind and waves are there is one who is more powerful, the most powerful, one whom wind and wave obey, one whose great love you just can’t stop. Jesus!

          We see that unstoppable love of Jesus on display in our Gospel lesson today. It’s the last year of Jesus’ public ministry. It’s known as the Year of Opposition because the Pharisees, chief priests and teachers of the law have had enough. They were losing their popularity and prominence with the people as Jesus showed them trusting God, not keeping outward laws, was the way to heaven. They want Jesus out of the way. But Jesus has a job to do. And you know what? You can’t stop Jesus!

          You can’t stop Jesus from loving you to death.In that very hour, some Pharisees came to him and said, “Leave, and go away from here, because Herod wants to kill you.” Did you see that? You can’t stop Jesus. Oh yes, the Pharisees tried. Jesus was in an area called Perea, doing what Jesus did. Teaching the truth. The truth that all must repent and believe in Him as Savior. Herod was the ruler of that area. Now exactly why the Pharisees wanted Jesus out of there we don’t know. Could have been their own personal jealousy. Could have been they wanted to push him to where they thought they had more power. And it is in fact possible that Herod wanted to kill Jesus. He had John the Baptist beheaded. But let’s focus instead on the love of Jesus. You can’t stop it. You can’t stop Him from loving you to death.

          “He said to them, “Go tell that fox, ‘Look, I am going to drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, because it cannot be that a prophet would be killed outside Jerusalem!” Jesus words make it clear who is in control and who is not. Herod was not. The Pharisees were not. Jesus is. He determined his course of action and that course of action was to go to Jerusalem. Why? So he could die.

          Many people rightly declare their love to others. Children tell their parents I love you and parents tell their children the same. Husbands proclaim love to wives and wives to husbands and who here hasn’t seen a romcom parody of starstruck lovers declaring, “I love you. I love you more. I love the most!” Gag. You want to prove you love me? Die for me when I need you to. The Bible declares, “Very rarely will someone die for a righteous person though for a good person someone might dare to die.” We know that. If a mother had to die to save her own child she will do it. Most will do it. But they won’t die for someone else’s child. Those who serve us in the military and law enforcement are prepared to die in carrying out their duty. That is noble. But it’s not something any wants to do or plans to do. Except Jesus. You can’t stop Him from loving you to death. That scripture I quoted before goes on to say, “But God demonstrated his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

          We needed him to. Sin made that necessary. If Jesus does not die we all die eternally. We all get separated from God and His love forever. So Jesus loved us to death. You can’t stop Him. Pharisees couldn’t. Herod couldn’t. You can’t. To which of you did Jesus even give to the choice? Who here was asked by Jesus if you wanted his love, his sacrifice? No one. This was all Jesus. You can’t stop Him. While supposedly neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can stop the US mail, plenty of things do. But nothing stops Jesus. Neither sin nor Satan nor scheme of man. He loves you to death. You can’t stop that.

          And you can’t stop Jesus from wanting to keep you close to Him. Jesus went on to say, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her!”  Here we get a peek a Jesus’ Savior heart and it’s a big one. His heart breaks for the people of Jerusalem. He describes them as the ones that kill the prophets and other messengers God sent to them. And what did He want for such people? Justice? Punishment? Payback? No. To keep them close to Him. How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Jesus knows He is their only hope for salvation so He wants those people close to Him. History records all the things God did to try to get His straying people to come back. He allowed enemies to harass. Plagues to decimate. Drought to cause famine, all so that the people would return to him. All because He wanted them close.

          Just like Jesus wants to keep you close and you can’t stop that. I know, I know, deep down we all really would like to have the easy life. We want everyone to like us. We want to get every job we apply for, every raise we think we deserve. We want to excel and win at everything we do and every prayer for everything we want answered with a Yes. We want only good health and only good things for ourselves and our kids. It’s not going to happen. Jesus loves you too much to do that to you. He wants to keep you close. And we all know it. It’s the hard things of life that keep us closest to our Lord. It’s guilt and shame over sin that get us running to Jesus. It’s disappointment that makes us exercise our faith. It’s the out of control that has us running to Him for help. Jesus allows those things that keep us close to him because you can’t stop Jesus from wanting you close. If we could do it perfectly we would learn to curse the good times and rejoice in the hard times because Jesus wants us close to him. You can’t stop him.

          Nor would you want to, but you can. You can’t stop Jesus, but you can stop yourself. You can stop yourself from loving Jesus in return. You can stop yourself from valuing His sacrifice. You can stop yourself from going close when Jesus pulls you closer. What did Jesus say to Jerusalem? These five chilling words, “But you were not willing.” The only worse words I can think of to hear from Jesus are the final words he will say to the unbelievers on Judgment Day, “Depart from you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” But you were not willing. Jerusalem. Jerusalem. That’s who Jesus said those word to. Not to you. Not to me. Yet.

          Brothers and sisters, let’s make that never. Jesus loves us to death. He works daily in our lives to keep us close. Let’s just stay close. Run to Him with your hurts and your problems. Run to him when you’ve fallen into sin. Look forward to dining with Him in the Lord’s Supper when appropriate. Devote yourselves to His words daily. Then look forward to that day when Jesus will say, “O Jacobi, Jacobi, I couldn’t stop loving you. How happy I was to have you clinging tightly to me. Come and join your Master’s happiness.” Amen.