Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 24-26, 2014 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 1 Peter 3:15-22 “EASTER MEANS YOU ARE ALWAYS READY!”

May 24-26, 2014
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: 1 Peter 3:15-22

1.     Ready to talk about Jesus.
2.     Ready to be with Jesus.

1 Peter 3:15-21 (NIV 1984) “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

          Has it ever happened to you that you were getting ready for something big, maybe a graduation  party or a wedding, and in your dreams or in reality you suddenly realize, “I’m not ready. I forgot the license or to order the cake or…” If you have had that experience you know it is a sickening feeling. God has the Apostle Peter give us some great news for two very important events we face, good news that tells us we are ready, ready to talk about Jesus and ready to be with Jesus and it’s all tied to that great event we celebrated weeks ago, Easter, Jesus’ resurrection.
          Listen to what God has Peter tell us. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Being a witness for Jesus, ready to tell others about Him is so important. The only treasures we can store up and will last to heaven are people. And the only way people go to heaven is through trusting in Jesus as Savior. The only way that happens is when the Holy Spirit works in their hearts through the word and the only way that happens is when people talk to them about Jesus. We are those people. Do you feel ready to tell others about Him?
          I’m guessing most probably say no. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t know the Bible well enough. We don’t feel able to handle objections to what the Bible says. God says you are ready and it’s tied to Easter, Jesus and His resurrection. Jesus lives, people of God. He lives in you. That’s the hope that you have. You know Jesus lived for you, died for your sins but then rose again. He lives! So you have hope always. You might not feel like you are ready but you already are. You are giving silent witness by regularly worshiping. You can give verbal witness by handling life curveballs, cancer, heart attack, death, job loss, family problems by telling others, “This is no fun. I don’t like it. But Jesus will take care of me.”
          You are ready. But you can become more ready. Just like a pianist can who is ready for a recital can become more ready by practicing more or a ball play can do the same or a trained mechanic can get better with more training we can get more ready to tell others about Jesus as well. Daily Bible reading or attending Bible Class can help you get more ready. Peter put it this way. In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. There are lots of things vying for first place in hearts. It might be popularity so we choose to stay quiet when God wants us to speak. It might be a hobby so you memorize all the batting averages and eras for all the major players and which farm club they played  but take little or no time for God’s Word. It might be money so we spend hours poring over the Dow Jones but give little money to spread the Gospel. In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Live for Him!
          When that happens expect people to ask you for the hope that you have. It will probably start with, “What does your church believe about…?” Now how do I answer? If I say same sex is sinful or sex outside of the one man/one woman marriage is sinful they’ll call me bigoted.” Find a way to talk about sin with gentleness and respect. Find a way to tell those people you are a sinner too and only Jesus saves. Then if they get mad at you it will be the way God wants so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Jesus lives. That’s the Easter message. He lives in you so whether you feel like it or not you are ready to tell others about Him.
          You are also ready to be with Jesus. Following along with someone else’s way of thinking isn’t always easy. How Peter got from witnessing to Jesus’ descent into Hell to Baptism isn’t something I would have done but I’m glad the Holy Spirit had him do so because of the Easter connection to Baptism. Follow along with me. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
          OK, so thinking about unjust suffering took Peter to witnessing for Jesus which led to the goal of Christ’s work, to bring us to God. That led to Jesus’ descent to Hell to proclaim His victory to those who had rejected the Savior God at the time of Noah. That got Peter thinking about how God saves through water. Now wait a minute! Didn’t God destroy people with water at the flood? Yes, most of the people drowned. But not all. 8 were saved. But I thought it was with the ark. Yes. God had Noah build an ark. The water of the flood floated the ark. Noah and his wife, his three sons, each with his own wife, 8 in all were saved. But it wasn’t really the ark or the water. It was God. Now there is an important lesson here. God chooses to use tools. God could have raised a single island for Noah and his family to live on. God could have whisked them away to another planet, God could have done anything. He chose to use an ark and have water float the ark and in that ay save Noah and his family.
          That’s what brings us to the important part for us today. Baptism. It’s God’s tool to save. Listen again to God’s Words. ”This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Too many people try to think too hard about Baptism instead of simply listening to what God says. Baptism is using water with God’s Word as Jesus instructed. It’s a tool God has provided to save us. It’s not an outward symbolic washing of dirt from the body. It is the pledge or promises of a good conscience toward God. That good conscience comes as God assures us He has washed our sins away. This you all know but what we often forget is how Baptism is connected to Easter. “It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” God’s way of setting things up is to have our Baptism connect us to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His life was lived perfectly in our place. His death paid for sin. His resurrection means new life. New life of living for Jesus now and a new life to come in heaven. There we see God face to face. There we rejoin all our loved ones who died in the Lord. There we have only joy and happiness. There we will be with Jesus. Are you ready for that? Yes. Easter makes you ready. If you are baptized you are saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
          Brothers and sisters it may still happen that you wake up in cold sweats realizing you had forgotten something really important for your job or an upcoming event. But you don’t have to for what’s really important. Easter is a done deal. Jesus lives. With Him you are always ready, ready to be His witness and ready to see Him face to face. Amen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Easter 4, May 10/11/12, 2014  Sermon by Pastor Paul G. Eckert
Sermon text - Luke 2:41-52

    In today’s sermon theme I refer to God’s house.  By “God’s house” I
am referring to the place where we gather to hear from God in His Word
and to bring our worship and praise to Him - in other words, our church
building.  I’ll start out with our former God’s house which we began
leaving in the 1960s and 1970s to come to our present God’s house, our
present church building.
    When we left our former location, we brought along with us some
things that I would like to refer to as treasures, treasures from our old
God’s house.  I’ll start out by going from your left to the right.  The first
items to your left are two of the bells in our bell tower outside.  Then
we’ll come inside our present God’s house and see the baptismal font.
Next let’s move to the altar and see other items we brought from the old
God’s house, like the candles , the book stand, the gold cross (which
usually is in the narthex).  Next we go to the narthex.  There on the back
wall you see the old hymn boards, and there you see the stained glass
that was above the entrance door giving our name in German.  Go up the
stairs into the balcony.  There we had put the old organ which served us
here from 1979 to 2012 when it was replaced, but we still have in our
replaced organ some treasured pipes from our old organ.  
    I am sure my list of treasures from our old God’s house is not
complete.  As a matter of fact I haven’t even mentioned the most
important one, and that is the Word of God which is proclaimed in our
church and school now as it was then, the Word of God which in our
text permits us to speak about a mother’s concern, a Son’s examination,
and a world’s redemption as great treasures.
I   A  MOTHER'S  CONCERN  (41-46a,48)
    1. A notable day was observed.  (41-42)
Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.
When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to
the custom. 
        a) Mother's Day this Sunday is a notable day.
        b) The notable day in our text was the Passover observance.  We
            took note of that not too long ago with our Maundy Thursday
            church services which included the Lord's Supper.  The Passover
            celebrated an angel sparing people from death if the blood of a
            lamb was found on their door posts in Egypt. The Lord's Supper
            tells us we are forgiven and spared from eternal death because
            Jesus came to be the true Lamb of God.
    2. Then a notable situation developed.  (43-46a)
After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy
Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking
he was in their company, they traveled on for a day.  Then they began
looking for him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not
find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days
they found him in the temple courts, ---.
        a) There had to be a lot of people around for this observance.
        b) Still, it’s hard to imagine that it took so long  before Jesus’
            absence was noted. 
    3. How did this happen?  (48)
When his parents saw him, they were astonished.  His  mother said to
him, “Son, why have you treated us like this?  Your father and I have
been anxiously searching for you.”
        a) Jesus had been left behind.  Those things happen.  When you
            have been on a trip with your children have you ever left anyone
            behind?  Especially if you have a larger family, have you asked
            the children to count off before you started the car?  Or have you
            driven off without checking and then were told by other children
            that someone is missing?  It can happen.
        b) We might fault Mary for not having checked, even as Mary here
            seemed to blame Jesus for her failure.  But instead of blaming,
            let’s see here a mother’s concern for her child.  What a treasure
            that is to have mothers who are truly concerned about their
            children, about their earthly and eternal welfare.
    4. Think now also about God’s concern for us.
        a) Children, I hope that all of you appreciate the concern
            your mothers have for you - and not only on Mother’s Day.   
        b) But then think also of God’s concern.  In Isaiah 66:13 He says,
             “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”
        c) Have you fallen away, slipped into some sin?  Remember, God
            looks for you to bring you back to Him, just as Mary showed her
            mother’s concern for Jesus who had been left behind.    
    1. Another notable day is being observed.
        a) In our text Jesus was 12 years old.  That’s just a little younger
            than the ages of our children in the current confirmation class.
        b) As Jesus appeared in the temple, in God’s house in Jerusalem,
            so the members of this class are appearing in our God’s house this
            Sunday between services for what we call an examination. 
            Actually it’s more an opportunity to show the congregation that
            these young people have been instructed in the truths of God’s
    2. Why did Jesus have His examination?  (46-47)
Afters three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the
teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who
heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
        a) From eternity He, God’s Son, knew everthing.  Yet for us He had
            humbled Himself, come to this earth and set aside His knowledge
            and power to live as our Substitute on the way to the cross.
        b) He continued to grow from 12 to 33, from a healthy youth to a
            dead body on a cross, having lived a sinless life so that He could
            pay the wages of sin for all of us sinners. He didn’t stop at age 12.
     3. Do we stop with our examination?
        a) The temptation after the examination could be to think we have
            passed, then to see the coming confirmation ceremony just as a
            custom, and not to really take seriously the words and promises
            with which we confirm our faith in Jesus as our only Savior.
        b) Class members, thank God for mothers and fathers who show
            their concern by keeping after you so that you do not fall away.
    4. And thank God for how He grades us.
        a) It is not by what we do.
        b) It is by what Jesus has done for us.
        c) Be faithful not just through 8th grade, but faithful unto death to
            receive the crown of life which Jesus won for us.
    1. Jesus had come to do His Father’s will.  (48b-49)
“Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”  “Why were
you searching for me?” he asked.  “Didn't you know I had to be in my
Father’s house?”       
        a) Jesus knew who His real Father was.  It was not Joseph, but God
            Himself, His heavenly Father who had sent Him.
        b) That’s what Jesus meant when He spoke of being in His Father’s
            house.  Actually the word “house” is not in the original Greek.  
            More accurately translated Jesus said He had to be involved in the
            things of His Father, His Father’s business, His Father’s work.
    2. Let us understand this.  (50-51a)
But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went
down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. 
        a) Mary and Joseph did not understand at this time.
        b) Please, present confirmands and all of us who have expressed
            our confirmation vows, understand why Jesus came, why He is
    3. Jesus had come to fulfill God’s salvation plan for us.  (52)
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and  in favor with God and men.
        a) God’s plan, because He loved this world He had created, was to
            give His Son to be the innocent sacrifice that could pay for the
            wages of our sin.
        b) That is why Jesus was here, to do His Father’s work, to
            accomplish His saving mission, so that whoever  believes in Him
            would not perish  but have the gift of everlasting life in
            resurrection glory in our heavenly home.
    4. Treasure what He gives us.  (51b)
But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
        a) Mary knew why Jesus had come to this earth, born in Bethlehem.
        b) When she saw Him dead on the cross, she knew why, that He
            was there also for her sins so that heaven could be her home.
        c) We also know.  But let that not be just knowledge.  Jesus arose
            victorious from the dead.  Believe it!  Look forward to the
             heavenly home He has prepared for us!

    I mentioned in the beginning some of the things from our old house
of God that I - and I am sure many others - see as treasures.  Let’s add to
that list the Treasures From God’s House we have seen in our text,
namely A Mother’s Concern, A Son’s Examination, and A World’s
Redemption.  May all of us treasure all these things in our hearts.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May 4, 2014 Matthew 16:21-26 "Follow Christ" Christian Marquardt

Every so often, I’ll see young children talking back to their parents. Sometimes these kids will be in a shopping cart in a grocery store. Other times, they’ll be at an amusement park, or at a baseball field. And do you know what the parents do in response? Well, usually nothing. I’m sorry if that story wasn’t more interesting. But it’s still always intriguing for me, because I know that if I was that young child talking back to my parents, things would not have ended well for me. In our Scripture lesson for today, we have a true story of a man talking back not to his parents, but even worse, saying no to Jesus’s plan to die for his own sins. This lesson from Scripture shows us our natural response to God’s will, but in contrast, the response caused by the faith that he planted in our hearts. Man puts himself in front of Christ. We follow Christ who saved us.
This lesson is sandwiched between the Transfiguration of Jesus and also Peter’s admission of Christ as the Messiah. We see that Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the “Son of the Living God.” But he says something quite different in today’s lesson from Matthew. Now as the reading begins, Jesus is teaching his disciples. He begins by explaining to them that as the very Messiah that Peter had just confessed, it was necessary that he go to Jerusalem and endure many trials at the hands of the elders of the people, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. As the One who would offer himself up for the people, Jesus would be killed, but on the third day he would rise again.
But Peter is taken aback by this. Peter was envisioning an earthly kingdom full of glory and acceptance for Jesus, and maybe even a fair amount of power and authority for himself. He physically pulls Jesus aside, much like you might do if you were correcting a naughty two year-old. “No Steve, we don’t hit other children. You need to share your toys. Yes, that’s right. Share. Now don’t hit, be nice.” Peter pulls Jesus aside. “No, Lord. This will never happen to you.”
Now here is Peter’s sin: Peter had heard what the Father’s plan for Jesus was, and said, “No thanks.” Jesus was sent on earth to suffer, be rejected, to die, and finally be raised again. But that wasn’t what Peter wanted. Peter was putting himself above God and putting his own wishes first. The key issue here isn’t just about what Peter thought Jesus should do on earth, the key issue is that Peter is blatantly telling God that he knows better. In response, Jesus looks at the man who just pulled him aside. The man who wanted fame and power and global acceptance for Jesus. The man who just a short while ago had confessed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus looks into Peter’s eyes, and he says, “Get behind me, Satan.” Peter was directly opposing the very heart of the gospel. Peter had just told God that his plan to provide a Savior for sins was not going to happen. Peter was being the mouthpiece for Satan right then. Peter was attempting to sacrifice the true glory of God for something watered down, something that people would respect and admire.
Look what else Jesus says, “You are a stumbling block to me. You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” Simon Peter, that great disciple, at that moment was nothing more than an advertising executive. It was like Jesus had come up with a plan to sell merchandise and Peter rejected it. “No, that won’t do. I can’t market that, and I won’t buy it. Who would buy this story, of God becoming a man, and then instead of receiving authority and kingdoms on earth, is denied by his own people and murdered?” But the all-knowing Christ knew exactly what to say. He points out to Peter that at this moment, Peter is directly opposing Jesus’ ministry on earth. Peter had pulled Jesus aside, but Jesus turns and puts his back to Peter, both verbally and physically
Then after turning his back on Peter, Jesus addresses the rest of the disciples. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Jesus says this to his disciples because all of them faced the same temptation that Peter gave in to, the idea that God really doesn’t know best. Jesus was showing the disciples that there were two possible paths to follow, and they were at a fork in the road:  “If you want to be my disciples, you must deny yourselves, carry your crosses, and follow me. If you try to preserve this sinful and temporary life on earth, you will end up losing eternal life with me in heaven. But if you give up your life, you will find a better and lasting life, and that will never pass away. Let’s say that you could gain anything you would ever want in the whole world, but you would have to give up your soul. What good would that be? What could you ever try to give to get your soul back?” The answer, obviously, is nothing. There is nothing that anyone could give or offer God to try to save their soul.
                Now, none of us have ever looked Jesus in the face and told him that his plan for salvation wasn’t good enough. But we have all, in various ways, told God that he didn’t know best. Sometimes we have watered down the message that Jesus Christ is the only way we can be saved, because it’s easier to tell your relatives at Christmas that everybody is right in their own way instead of proclaiming the truth. Sometimes we have refused to give up our favorite pet sin. Because when we get stressed out, because our sinful nature points us to some gluttony, some alcoholism, some lust, some angry and hateful backbiting. “I can’t stand her. She’s an idiot. Did you see how he sinned? That’s terrible. I would never do that.” And when Jesus comes to us with his plan to forgive our sins, we far too often think, “What sin? Why don’t you die for that guy over there?
                But Jesus says, Deny yourself. Give up that self that says “no to God.” Carry your cross. All the struggles against yourself, having to endure sinful temptation, you must carry that burden. Follow me. Because what is the benefit of that sinful life? Jesus says, why bother trying to gain the world if you lose your soul in the process? What could you give in exchange for your soul? Your soul isn’t like gold or a diamond. Your soul isn’t a stock that you can buy and sell. There is nothing we can give to God to win back our souls from death. It’s a price we could never pay. And if not for God’s grace, we would surely still be dead in our sin. Even now, our sinful nature still trips us up, and we daily, or hourly, or even right at this very minute, at this second, are sinning.
        Man puts himself in front of Christ. But fortunately, God provided a way that we would not have to live out a sinful and hopeless life. Now we follow Christ who saved us.

                Christ saved us. He saved us by his death on the cross. And not just by his death, but by his perfect life. We heard at the beginning of the reading that Jesus was explaining that the plan of God’s redemption for all people was soon coming to completion. When Jesus was on earth, a lot of people wanted him to be an earthly king. But as the Bible tells us, Jesus clearly was not on earth to be an earthly king. But he came to serve us, and suffered in every way that we do. During his life he faced persecution of every kind. All the leaders of his own people were against him: the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law. And what’s more than that, his own disciples! Jesus can barely even finish telling the disciples his marvelous plan for their salvation that he was in the process of completing before he is hit with another wave of persecution, from one of his closest earthly friends. But Jesus was perfect even through all of this temptation.
And again, it was necessary that this happen, it was necessary that he die and on the third day be raised to life.  Jesus must die for me. The kind of guy worth dying for? You know what my sinful nature wants me to think? That sounds like I’m a pretty good guy. When the Bible says that it was necessary, that doesn’t mean that Jesus realized that you would be so good that he must die for you. No, God saw that we are by nature evil, dead in sinfulness. But he loved us—he loved you—before the creation of the world, and he said, “I love him. I love her. I must have them with me forever.” God’s love for you compelled him to suffer and die, and to be raised again that we will be raised and live with him forever in heaven.
But God’s plan for us isn’t just about heaven, it’s for this life as well. Jesus told his disciples, and speaks to us as well, when he says, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” Thanks to Jesus, we are no longer dead to sin. Now that he was saved us, we can say no to sin, and live to please him. He tells us to take up our crosses. Now Jesus is telling us to love him by his actions, but he says that it won’t always be easy. That’s why he calls it a cross. It will often be a hardship to put God first. But every suffering will be only temporary. He says, follow me. Now we walk after him, not wandering around as slaves to endless cycles of self-medicating depravity, but as free people we follow the one who freed us. He says that if we lose our lives for his sake, if we give up that life of sin that we were once slaves to, we will find an eternal life that is perfectly fulfilling.
So we, fully understanding that Christ loves us, though we never really understand how much he loves us, completely follow him. We deny that part of ourselves that wants to tell God no. We carry our crosses of having to put up with troubles and battles with sin in the world. And we follow him because he loved us. We do all this because he brought us to faith and now looks with favor on the acts of service that we do for him and for others. We love Christ with our lives because he told us, you’re good enough. He accepts us because he purified us from all sin. He has a greater power than any earthly ruler will ever have. He has more authority than any ruler could wish for. And as for popularity? He was chosen directly by the Father. He loved us first. That’s a great savior. Let’s follow him.