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Real Life Is More

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REAL LIFE IS MORE

In our area the wildfires have take everything from some people. In view of that, how can Jesus say, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear”? Not worry!!?? And He goes on, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

To understand this, we need to realize that He is talking about REAL LIFE. To those who do not know Christ, the horizon of life is their own death, and all joy and happiness depends upon what happens up to that moment. To those who know Christ, however, there is no horizon to the Real Life that He brings, and like Paul, we say that we consider everything rubbish compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s a matter of perspective.

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 20, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Matthew 6:24–34 (CSB)

24 “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

25 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Dear fellow redeemed: This is an interesting text to cover today. As we sit here, there are thousands of evacuees from Phoenix and Talent and Ashland who have lost everything. Some have nothing left but the bathrobe they ran away with. So how can we tell them “don’t worry! Trust in Jesus?”

Right here, we have to change our perspective. If the perspective is, “This is all there is, and I have lost everything. How can God allow this!” Then you will never understand.

The true perspective, the reality, is this: What happened in Phoenix and Talent and two years ago in Paradise, CA, and with Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast a few days ago is the kind of thing that will happen until the end of time. It is the given. So our true hope is to seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, for that is salvation FROM all of this. And the One who has given you the greater salvation, will also help you get from here to there; all these things [that we need for this life] will be provided for you as well. But this short life, hinging on having enough calories, avoiding sickness, and all the “stuff” of this world is still not most important. Rather …

REAL LIFE IS MORE

  1. Real Life Is More than Anything
  2. Real Life Is Everlasting Life
  3. Real Life is Enough
  1. Real Life Is More than Anything

Jesus asks a really interesting question, Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Is it? Can you have life without food or clothing? Jesus is talking about REAL life, the life of the soul, immortal life. There aren’t many people who are self-aware who believe that human life is just a body, and that the mind is the 5 pounds of grey matter in between our ears. We recognize the eternal intangible realities that every civilization has recognized: truth, beauty, right and wrong, love, devotion, honor and the like. These are realities, whether they can be measured, weighed, or photographed. And the part of us that senses these things is the part that transcends time, place, and circumstance– our immortal soul..

This life, however, now lives in a physical shell that is marred by sin, saddled with troubles, and doomed to die, all because of a lack of righteousness, as Isaiah says, “But your iniquities are separating you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not listen.” (Isaiah 59:2, CSB) And who is without sin? Anger, self-righteousness, pride, selfishness, gossip, greed, lust, contentiousness, sins of the mind and sins of the flesh.

It is to save this immortal life from sin, and in the resurrection to bring immortality to our whole selves, that Christ came. John puts it this way,  “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:4, CSB)

So when Jesus tells you that life is more than food, clothing, shelter, more than anything, it is this life that He is talking about, the life that you have now by faith, and in His kingdom, possessing His righteousness, you will enjoy forever. So, more than food and clothing, you need His righteousness.

2. Real Life Is Everlasting Life

This puts everything in perspective. What comes first, and what comes second? Jesus tells us, But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

His righteousness. Your righteousness or mine is nothing really, but the righteousness of Christ is something that IS. It is a reality that Jesus lived out in His life, as true and holy God who took up our humanity. And His righteousness can be given to us, counted as ours, because He also atoned for our un-righteousness. When He lived, suffered, died, and rose again, He accomplished this for all people at all times.

This righteousness is there for you. He gives it to you through His word and sacrament, even as I say His words to you: I forgive you all your sins. You receive this righteousness by faith, and nothing, nothing, nothing, is more valuable, more precious, more desirable, or more important, as Paul put it, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:8–9, NIV84)

But considering what has happened to our neighbors and those whom we love, considering what they lost and what they need just to get by, can we truly love God more than money or stuff, as Jesus says we must? Jesus leads us to the right answer by pointing out the realities under which we live. Yes, there are tragedies and there is death because of sin, yet daily life mostly reflects the mercy and love of God. Jesus reminds us that he spends millions of dollars’ worth of grain to feed the birds. He dresses oven fuel better than Solomon. He then puts it to you, Aren’t you worth more than they?

As much as this world is polluted and broken by the sins of humanity, and as undeserving as we are, year after year He “gives us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and fills our hearts with joy,” (Acts 14:17) 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

Yes there will be troubles in this world but the One who has proved His love by not withholding His own son from us, knows what we need. As John says, “See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.” (1 John 3:1, CSB)

But we do know Him, so we know that when the fire is over, the rebuilding is finished, and life returns to normal, the most important thing, even more important than whether we survived the fire, or got our house rebuilt, or found a place to live, is that we know Christ, have His righteousness, and are destined for His eternal kingdom.

3. Real Life is Enough

If you have this eternal life, then you don’t have to worry, because real life is enough. Why would we worry? Ultimately it is because, with our sinful natures, we cannot quite divorce ourselves from the mast that Jesus spoke of at the beginning. We tend to love this short, troubled, mortal life, and the money that SEEMS to make it work that the real life that we have in Christ takes a back seat.

Thank God that His forgiveness and His righteousness covers even this idolatry!

So as Christians, we fight against it, so that His kingdom and His righteousness comes first. Take the example of poor Job. He lost more than we can even imagine, yet he confessed, “Though the Lord slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” For even in mortal death, we have the real and everlasting life. This Real life is enough.

Real life, the life of the resurrection, the eternal life of body and soul, the eternal life of joy and blessedness, the eternal fellowship with the Triune God, His angels, and the saints of every age, the new life with a resurrected body attuned to it is enough.

Think about His kingdom, which we are qualified for because of His righteousness. When you are struggling with the bills, or mourning the loss of possessions, or grieving over the hardship in this poor, troubled life, then think about the life that never ends, the life we have because of Christ. For in Him is Real life, and that life is a gift to us, Real life that is truly enough.

AMEN.

By |2020-09-20T14:58:13-07:00September 20th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

FAITH THAT MAKES US WHOLE

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A FAITH THAT MAKES US WHOLE

“I believe in God,” people say, based on the way He provides for us. But while God’s providence tells us something about His power and goodness, it doesn’t tell us WHO the true and living God is. The faith of the Samaritan in todays text is displayed in His worship of Jesus – as he gives glory to God. His faith is not in some vague spiritual thing, but in Jesus, the Christ, God incarnate.

True Christian faith takes hold of Christ and His righteousness, and while I can’t tell you that this guarantees the cure of some disease right now, I CAN tell you that the cure of all ills is found in Christ, Who is our eternal Savior.

Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 13, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Luke 17:11–19 (CSB)

11 While traveling to Jerusalem, he passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with leprosy, met him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 When he saw them, he told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were cleansed.
15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him. And he was a Samaritan.
17 Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have been given uncountable blessings by our gracious and merciful God, to Him be praise forever and ever:  Where shall we look for you in this picture?  Shall we find you among the ten who cried out in hope and faith in the midst of their suffering?  Shall we find you in the nine who went on their way without a word of gratitude to the One who had saved them from a dreadful life and a horrible death?  Or shall we find you in the one, the Samaritan, who had “a past” as it is put delicately, a past full of unbelief, but now has found a spiritual home on his knees before Jesus, his (and our) God and Savior?

Really, it isn’t that we are one or the other, for we may be all three at different times in our lives. The main thing is that we can learn the true nature of faith from Jesus and this Samaritan. The key thing about true faith is that it takes hold of Christ in truth. I can jump out of an airplane and trust that I will drift gently to the ground, but if I don’t use a parachute, all the trust in the world is meaningless.

The Psalmist makes this point in Psalm 121, I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2, CSB)  “The Lord” means the true God and none other.

Those who say they are Christians, have faith, pray often, etc., but do not pay heed to Christ and His word have a vain and empty faith. So, because His faith and His gratitude is in Christ, this Samaritan, this outcast, this foreigner, this undeserving outsider, this half-breed, is not only healed, but returns with thanks and praise.

This faith is crucial as Jesus says, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.” Now, I can assure you that God is gracious to you, for He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? (Romans 8:32, CSB)

How can we be in such wretched circumstances, fall so far short of what we want to be, and still receive the gifts that God wants us to receive?  Because of faith, for it is faith by which we receive God’s gifts.

IT IS FAITH IN CHRIST THAT MAKES US WHOLE

  1. When We Suffer
  2. When We Are Ungrateful
  3. When We Turn from Our Sinfulness
  1. When We Suffer

This is the faith that brings us to Christ when we suffer, and to nobody else. This is a reminder to us in this year with the Wuhan virus, Covid, lost livelihoods, isolation, riots in the streets, a nation divided, deadly fires, choking smoke, lost homes, not to mention all the usual afflictions of this life, we need to listen to our true Lord, attend to His word, come to Him alone in prayer, and put our faith in Christ alone.

He may deliver us immediately, as He did these ten lepers, but whether now or in the time to come, He is our only hope. For what we need is more than Gods providence. What we need is salvation. God’s providence comes to believers and unbelievers, but salvation only to those who call upon Christ, our true Lord.

So these ten weren’t just “spiritual,” believing in A god.

What God does for us is clear to all, but not Who he is. Some will give credit to Allah when things go well. Others to “Mother Nature,” or some generic ‘god.” Ture faith is not in the fact that there is a god, but in the True God and His promises.

So, it was with faith that these 10 came to Jesus, and called upon him boldly, asking Him for mercy and deliverance.  At times we are like these 10, bold in our prayers, above all knowing that this same Jesus hears our prayers, eager to show mercy and deliverance. They came to Him, suffering from leprosy. We come to Him with our cancers, our heart disease, and our COPD, – our poverty, loneliness, and disappointment. We come to him with our guilt.

We are like these 10, our faith is  in Christ

2. When We Are Ungrateful

But we are also like the nine, are we not? We have in some measure lost sight of the ONE who is the giver of all good gifts, and that’s a common error. James reminded his flock, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:16–18, CSB)

But if we do forget it, we may focus on ourselves and our thoughts about him, instead of His word of truth.  Perhaps with some skepticism we speak of “luck” or “spontaneous recovery.”  To some degree or other our faith may grow weak, even dangerously so.  Then we are ungrateful, and forgetful of our Savior.  Ingratitude is losing sight of Christ as our God and Savior.

It’s like this: Let’s say that on your anniversary, your friends gave you a check for $50.  How would we respond?  Dear Elmer and Rosie, thank you so much…..  On the other hand, if you found a $50 bill and couldn’t find the owner, you would probably just call it luck.

Ingratitude is when we treat Elmer and Rosie’s gift as though it were just luck, and don’t thank them.

Ingratitude is when we treat God’s gifts as just luck, and don’t thank Him.

How many of the dollars in your paycheck do you see as God’s blessing to you?  How often do you sense the sun or feel the gentle rain, and see that it is God’s gift to you?  How often does your child give you a hug, and you see that hug as God’s gift?  How often do you boys and girls enjoy good times and good food and the love of your mom and dad and see that God has given these gifts to you? The God who speaks to you today through His word!

This is something to remember, next time you savor a chocolate chip cookie, or hear beautiful music, or hold hands with your spouse or drive down the road on a crisp sunny day with the car windows down… Remember that the one who has given these gifts to you is thinking of YOU.  He is giving them to YOU, not to the whole world and you accidentally, but to YOU, individually.  For only God can look out after a planet (a universe!) and still get personal about it.

How can we forget that?  Aren’t we often disappointed with ourselves that it has taken us this long to return and give thanks to God?

3. When we Turn from Our Sinfulness

With that thought, we become like the Samaritan.  We are the convicted sinner, crushed by the weight of our sins.  We are people with a past, a past of transgressions.  The Samaritan was by that name identified with those whose worship of “god” had been in defiance of the word.  He is one whose religion was the religion of the cult.  Accepting only the first five books of Moses, the Samaritans rejected the hope of David and of Isaiah, and of all the prophets.  Jesus describes him aptly, a foreigner.

But this is the past.  For us all our sins, our doubts, our lack of faith are in the past, and though remembered by us, they are forgotten by the one who judges, as it is written:  Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. (Romans 8:33–34, CSB)

Of all the gifts Jesus has given to you and to me, this is the most important gift of all, a gift intangible and unseen except by the eyes of faith.  He gave us forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Truly…

When He died on the cross for ALL, He died for YOU.

When He showed kindness and love to the people in His life, He had YOU in mind, and was living that life for you.

When your conscience stirs, and accuses you, it was with YOU in mind that He said,  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, CSB)

Now, you and I have received so many blessings.  Have we just picked them up on the road?  Did they just come to us by chance?  No!  Every blessing that you have, most especially forgiveness and salvation, are God’s personal gift to you.  May we return to His house, then, over and over again, praise God with our hearts and voices, and throw ourselves at Jesus feet — and thank Him!

AMEN.

By |2020-09-13T17:20:15-07:00September 13th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

WE NEED A TRULY GOOD NEIGHBOR

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We Need a Truly Good Neighbor

With the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus takes up the question, “Who is my neighbor.” The question was asked by a lawyer wanting to justify himself for not loving as he should. At first it seems the answer is clear: Even the John Doe who was mugged and thrown naked in the ditch is a neighbor to whom we should show mercy. But wait! That isn’t the question Jesus raises. He asks, “[Who] do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The answer to this question is “The one who showed mercy to him,” the Samaritan.

This raises the question, “who is like that?” This is a parable, after all, so whom does the Samaritan represent, and who is the poor wretch in the ditch?

The Samaritan is Christ, you and I are the wretch, and His perfect mercy saves us.

Sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 6, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Luke 10:23–37 (CSB)
23 Then turning to his disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see the things you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things you see but didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear but didn’t hear them.”

25 Then an expert in the law stood up to test him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”,
28 “You’ve answered correctly,” he told him. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus took up the question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’
36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

Dear fellow redeemed: The parable of the Good Samaritan comes up perhaps more often than usual in our Bible History books, books on the Life of Christ, and in the lessons chosen for our Sunday sermons. It gets quoted a lot also in popular religion, for its “do-gooder” character. Any difficulty in understanding this parable comes, not from some complexity or lack of clarity, but from the way that it reverses the human way of thinking. It starts out with the necessity that we be a good neighbor, and ends up making the point of how absolutely and completely …

WE NEED A GOOD NEIGHBOR

  1. It’s What We’re Supposed to Be
  2. It’s What Christ Is for You and Me
  1. It’s What We’re Supposed to Be

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Luke recounts the powerful invasion of this world by the Lord of Life. Jesus has sent out the 72 to preach the gospel and they had power to heal, to cast out demonic spirits, and to proclaim the gospel, the good news that humanity is reconciled to God. It is all about Christ as the unique Savior of mankind. What a thing for these disciples to experience! 23 Then turning to his disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see the things you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things you see but didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear but didn’t hear them.”

But in contrast, next comes a man, an expert in the law, which meant the Torah, the books of Moses. He did not see Jesus as the pivotal figure in history, but saw himself as the one that must DO the thing that would save him. 25 Then an expert in the law stood up to test him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”,
28 “You’ve answered correctly,” he told him. “Do this and you will live.”

This is what we all do when confronted with the law, unless our heart is changed to faith. The law says, “Love God perfectly in every way, and also your neighbor.” Love perfectly, or you will be damned. Lest we despair, we look for some righteousness in our selves. This man looked for hope in a carful parsing of the law. 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Ah, so long as my neighbor is lovable, that might work. Pick the right neighbor and we just might love  such a person. Let’s see if Jesus will give us some wiggle-room to show that we are really righteous. 30 Jesus took up the question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers.

There is a lot packed into the story, the significance of the priest and the Levite, but Jesus tells us more about the Samaritan. 33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’

The Samaritan.  Arguably at risk to himself he tends the man’s wounds and disinfects them.  At great personal inconvenience, expense and exertion he gives him a ride, gets him set up in an inn, pays the bill out into the future, and obligates himself to further care and concern.

THAT is the kind of neighbor we are to be, even to our enemies. If the lawyer thought he could justify himself by quibbling about the definition of “neighbor,” he was clearly wrong.  Our neighbor is anyone with whom we have any connection who needs our love and compassion.  Who of us hasn’t failed to love our neighbor? Remember, over all of this hangs the man’s question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He  answered his own question, “Love God and my neighbor.”  So who was his neighbor?

36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

And we should. Really, we who have been the objects of God’s grace should be models of compassion where God has placed us in life. But we haven’t

2. It’s What Christ Is for You and Me

What can we “do” to gain eternal life when perfection eludes us? Has Christ left the man without hope, with only the condemnation of the law, “Be perfectly loving or you won’t inherit eternal life.”?

You’ve probably noticed by now, that at the end Jesus didn’t ask, “Was the man who fell among robbers our neighbor, whom we should love?”  Instead He changed things around and asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

With that question, put that way, Jesus doesn’t take away the overall impact of what holiness demands, but at the same time He points to the one who showed mercy and compassion.  Who is like that?  Who could really “go and do likewise?”  You know that only Jesus has done that.  Look at Him and learn that He is your righteousness.

This man so learned in the Torah (“law” doesn’t convey the meaning) needed to compare one of the central event in the Torah with what Jesus describes in the Samaritan.

The Torah itself, in which this man was so learned was not a list of rules by which a person could achieve eternal life; it was a record of the grace of God who reached down into this world and revealed Himself as The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6–7, CSB)

In this account of the Good Samaritan Jesus portrays Himself as the one who, merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love, reaches out to us and sooths the wounds  in our lives because of sin – our sin and the sins of others.

Who is our neighbor?  You can answer fearlessly, even though it will show up your sins of lovelessness, because it is not on that basis that you are acceptable to God.  And you can love your neighbor without fear that it isn’t “good enough for God,” confident that you have been created and placed where you are in the world to do those good things which honor him and are a blessing to others.  All you do out of love for God and the good of your neighbor will indeed be cherished by God himself, and has His approval, because the righteousness of Christ fills up all that is lacking.

So may we love one another, that people may see our love and learn of our Savior Who is truly the Good Samaritan.  He is good to us pitiable wretches who need His salvation so much.

AMEN

By |2020-09-06T17:41:48-07:00September 6th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

FILLING EMPTY HEARTS WITH HOPE

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Filling Empty Hearts with Hope

Filling Empty Hearts with Hope

The evangelist, St. Mark, brings a message to the jaded and cynical Roman world. He opens a window, as it were, to the true Hope of the World. He shows them the uniquely divine worker of miracles, who (as Isaiah promised) would come and bring hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind. Is there anything in the Roman age or in our own that can do the same? In an age of empty, despairing hearts such as our own, the true Savior fills such empty hearts with hope.

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, August 30, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Mark 7:31–37 (CSB)

31 Again, leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. 36 He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it.

37 They were extremely astonished and said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Dear fellow redeemed: The events detailed here are fairly simple. People brought a deaf man to Jesus and begged Jesus to heal him, and He did. He doesn’t set an example for us, because what he does is uniquely divine. The significance of this text is found in what Jesus does in the circumstances.

And what were those circumstances? Briefly, Jesus touches people whose lives are empty of meaning, and so …

JESUS FILLS EMPTY HEARTS WITH HOPE

  1. Born and Living with Empty Hearts
  2. Uniquely Divine Fulfillment
  3.  Jesus Still Fills Empty Hearts with Hope
  1. Born and Living with Empty Hearts

The gospel of Mark was written especially with a Roman audience in mind, an audience similar to our own day. He emphasizes the divine power of Christ, something significant to the Romans. But the Romans were also cynical and jaded. They had filled their pantheon in Rome with multitudes of conquered divinities. They were skeptical of any supposed divine power, and of any religion, except maybe the religion of power. Not surprisingly, they worshiped the emperor as divine, after all, who else Had life and death so much in his hands?

As their civilization waned, life seemed to have less meaning. Virtues and aspirations became like dust and ashes. Wisdom, noble deeds, service,  civitas, the glory of Rome’s law, citizenship, and the worship of the gods (if there were any) didn’t seem worth sacrificing for. Pornography (it’s not a new thing), drunkenness, spectacle, gluttony, and glorification of self was the order of the day. What meaning did life have?

Where in such a world could hope be found?

In light of recent events, we might ask, “What kind of a world is it where hope can be found in burning cars and businesses, demanding people give the communist salute, and seeking to kill policemen? Or is there any hope or meaning there?

What kind of a world is it in which no truth is acknowledged, only a narrative fueled by envy, resentment, entitlement, hate, revenge, and a lust for power?

Human beings are born with empty hearts, which is to say, hearts without faith and without the knowledge of God, and ultimately without lasting hope – only a false hope. We have a sense of higher things, but we cannot find them, except fleetingly. We know there is truth, beauty, love, faithfulness, goodness, fidelity, companionship, comfort, peace, compassion, and joy. There is a natural law, written on the heart, that tells us this; there is righteousness, but we cannot achieve it.

This is the world invaded by God in the person of Jesus Christ, a world broken, sinful, and hoping vainly in itself. You can see the futility of it in the empty demands for a world that cannot be, and in justifying nihilism, destruction, rebellion, and fear. I like the way C.S. Lewis put it, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” –Mere Christianity

2. Uniquely Divine Fulfillment

This is the world “invaded” by the Divine Son. Hidden in His humanity, He brought divine light and truth into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:10–14, CSB)

Now here in our text Mark shows Jesus doing what only God can do. He turns back the effects of death and sin. This is not some kind of “magic,” it is returning things to the way God intended. It is true healing and restoration. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly.

This is a miracle. We speak of miracles a lot, like the miracle of birth, or the miracle of things working out in a wonderful way. Properly speaking, those are not miracles, they are God’s providence, the blessings of life that work out well for us and reflect His goodness. “although he did not leave himself without a witness, since he did what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”” (Acts 14:17, CSB)

Miracles are different. There is no natural way to do what miracles do: Feeding thousands with a handful of food, healing blindness, deafness, withered limbs, or palsy. Raising the dead. They are not “magic,” they are not illusion. They are both supernatural and real. They turn back the curse of sin and death itself

What Jesus does here is unique, he fulfills the hope of the (otherwise) hopeless man and his friends.

3.  Jesus Still Fills Empty Hearts with Hope

By including this account, Mark is telling the cynical and jaded Roman world that their false hope in emperor, in empire, in philosophy, in administrative power, in pagan deities, in nature, –in humanity– is vain and empty, but there is hope in the ONE who has entered this world from the heavenly realms to wage victorious war against sin and death.

He conquers sin. We humans have always regretted sin, but we could only make weak promises to do better. He greets our repentance with full forgiveness because He atoned for sin, and perfect righteousness because of His perfection.

He conquers death. We humans have always, finally, surrendered to death, but Christ has risen, and in the resurrection extends life to all believers.

He raises up the human condition. Mark and the other evangelists record how Jesus gives a preview of our glory. Paul put it this way: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18, CSB) What Christ did for this man and for others, He does for us.

He does it in the resurrection. As you have heard me say before, when He comes in His glory to remake this world, He will come in judgment. He therefore comes now in mercy through His word. It means that the world still stands. It means that this world is still dying. It means that the afflictions of this world will continue. But it means that those lost in unbelief may yet come to know and believe in him, and find salvation.

Again, what Christ did for this man and for others, He does for us. He does it now through His church. Contrary to the anti-Christian narrative rampant in the world today, the Christian church has been the source of much good. Hospitals, orphanages, care homes, respect for women and children, adoption, the rights of the individual, the scientific revolution, and so many things that have led to the life that we now enjoy are the result of Christ’s people carrying out their vocations in His fear and love.

And even now, He secures us in hope. He speaks to us through His word. He invites us to speak to him about what is in our hearts, and he promises to hear and bless according to His will and our good. (See the quote from U.V. Koren.)

He comes to us now and gives us what we most need, we who are dying: He gives us forgiveness, faith, and righteousness, so that we can live in the hope of the resurrection.

He come to us relentlessly in His word. You can always know where to find Him, and can always, hear His guidance, His wisdom, and especially His saving promises.

Not much has really changed since Mark’s day. Human nature is the same. The needs of a dying humanity are the same. But most importantly, the hope is the same, the hope of the conqueror of life over death, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

By |2020-08-30T17:30:16-07:00August 30th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Faith Will Look Like This

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Will the Lord Find Faith on the Earth? – Faith Will Look Like This

Jesus asked the question, “When the S

on of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? And He answered that question, in part, with the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The faith that remains among the remnant of the believers will be a faith that is a humble faith that finds righteousness only in the atoning work of Christ.

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, August 23, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

By |2020-08-23T17:00:33-07:00August 23rd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Graphic Pictures for Slow Learners

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Graphic Pictures for Slow Learners

Jesus painted a graphic picture of a besieged Jerusalem, including the grisly death of the inhabitants and the total destruction of the city, all because they would not learn the lesson of the gospel, that God had visited them in the person of Jesus Christ. He expressed grief over the city, but painted a picture of judgment, so that, just maybe, some would learn. Such judgment will also come upon our age.

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, August 16, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Luke 19:41–44 (CSB)

41 As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you when

  • your enemies will build a barricade around you, surround you, and hem you in on every side.
  • 44 They will crush you and your children among you to the ground,
  • and they will not leave one stone on another in your midst,

because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.”

Dear fellow redeemed: Luke records a relationship between God and humanity that is repeated again and again throughout the ages, but it is focused and concentrated here when God Himself comes to humanity. It begins with His love, which is received by some and rejected by others, leading to His grief over the rejection of salvation, and finally the judgment that falls upon the unbelieving.

Jesus Love, Grief, and Judgment toward Jerusalem is universal in His relationship with humanity, which means that His Love, Grief, and Judgment apply also to our age. But in spite of the fear of death, in spite of the warning of eternal judgment, in spite of the clamor or our consciences, every society that has been given the gospel eventually turns away and is destroyed. Look out America! And in case you haven’t gotten the message, here are some …

GRAPHIC PICTURES FOR SLOW LEARNERS

  1. Love from the Beginning
  2. Grief and Judgment
  3. Saving the Remnant
  1. Love from the Beginning

First we need to know about what we call God’s “antecedent will.” For starters, what does God want for all people, and therefore for you? Simply put, as Paul taught Timothy, He “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4, CSB) We see this when Adam and Eve fell into sin, rather than destroy them and consign them to hell with the rebellious angels, He promised to send a Savior. (Gen 3:15)

He wrote of His power and wisdom in nature, and His judgment in the hearts of people; so Paul writes, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18–20, CSB) So, while every person every born, deserves God’s wrath, He carries out His promises and devised a way to satisfy His judgment without carrying it out on us.

Scripture is full of the good news of what He has done, as Peter summarized it, “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18, CSB) And as Jesus put it Himself, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”” (Luke 19:10, CSB) He said it repeatedly, as in John 3, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17, CSB)

What’s more, He calls upon us to reflect His undeserved love toward humanity in our lives, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44–45, CSB)

Because of this there is always hope for all.

When the drunk repents and regrets the past, there if forgiveness. When those who take the life of an unborn child awaken to what they have done, there is forgiveness. When you reflect on what you have done to hurt others, or what you have not done to honor God, there is forgiveness. The message of Christ is “Repent and believe the good news.” Because of Christ’s atonement there is good news, otherwise there would be only repentance, regret, and despair.

2. Grief and Judgment

But because of this love of God, He has expressed grief over and over again, beginning with the sin that poisoned humanity at the dawn of time, and continuing through the prophets, like Ezekiel, “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11, ESV)

Jesus expressed the same grief, as Luke writes in our lesson for today, or as Matthew recorded Him, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37–38, ESV)

Even to this day His faithful pastors share that grief, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17, NKJV)

Grief comes from a recognition of the consequent will of God. Though God from the beginning desires our salvation, He is Holy and cannot tolerated what is unholy. Even His own son, bearing our sins, was cast off there on the cross. As a consequence of their unbelief, the judgment of God will fall upon all who do not repent and believe the gospel. As David said, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot dwell with you. The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all evildoers.” (Psalm 5:4–5, CSB)

So Jesus expresses His grief. 41 As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you when

  • your enemies will build a barricade around you, surround you, and hem you in on every side.
  • 44 They will crush you and your children among you to the ground,
  • and they will not leave one stone on another in your midst,

because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.”

Jerusalem was surrounded and besieged. Josephus tells us they were starved until they ate every rat in the city and would fight over the bodies of the children and the aged to eat them. When the Romans broke the defenses, they would swing the children by the feet and crush their heads on the stones and run the others through with the sword or lance. They cut down trees far and wide to crucify still others.

The suffering was indescribable. But it won’t end there. Do you think our society will be spared? Look around you! Our state allows the killing of unborn children up to the day of birth. Marriage (and sex) are divorced from life in children. One of the presidential candidates has threatened penalties against churches if they condemn the perverse practices of the LGBT agitators so beloved of the media and entertainment industries.

Speaking of which, the denial of the Lord as Creator is the only worldview tolerated in media and education. Every sin is excused, and every virtue condemned.

So  why do we think we will escape judgment. What if this Coronavirus were a REAL plague? What if the transportation system broke down and there were no groceries? How many would starve? What if war did the same thing? I can’t tell you when or where it will fall, but judgment awaits this society, and is only held off because of God’s mercy: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22–23, CSB)

In Luke 12 we read of Jesus commenting on a terrible accident, the crushing of 18 men when a tower fell on them, and a terrible injustice when Pilate slaughtered some Galileans and used their blood in sacrifices. He lays down a principle for all such calamities – “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”” (Luke 13:5, NKJV)

And worse than all of this is hell, where there is an eternity sorrow, regret, pain and despair, because people reject, dismiss, or just ignore the Peace of the Gospel. This is the reason Jesus grieves.

3. Saving the Remnant

But some will believe. Elijah thought he was the last believer left, but the Lord assured him that there was a remnant of 7000 who had remained faithful. So, Paul says, “In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace.” (Romans 11:5, CSB)

Because Christ has atoned for the sins of the world, whenever and wherever there is repentance, when someone says, “My God, I have done wrong. Is there hope for me?” the answer is always “YES!”  We don’t have to hope we win God’s love, because His love is from the beginning. We don’t have to hope we can make amends, for Christ has paid our redemption price. We don’t have to hope that He will be merciful, for His mercy is everlasting.

So, until the end of time, sadly, and with so much sorrow and grief, you can expect the judgment of God to fall upon this world. It is to take away the sense of self-righteousness, to tear down the arrogance, and to destroy the self-sufficiency of a rebellious humanity, so that finally they might recognize that God has visited His creation to save, before a person’s death-day, or the last day when He visits in judgment.

God grant that none here give reason for the Lord to grieve, but in good times and bad, everyone her will find their hope in the Lord.

AMEN.

By |2020-08-16T14:42:00-07:00August 14th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Talk about Shrewd!

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Whatcha Do with Somebody Else’s Money?

Make Heavenly Friends

Luke 16:1–9 (CSB)

16 Now he said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’

“Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’

“So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.

“ ‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’

“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’

“ ‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’

“The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.

Dear fellow redeemed: This section is in a part of Luke in which Jesus is talking about God’s mercy, with the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. From that last parable, Jesus goes into this story about the shrewd manager. From there concludes with some interesting instruction:

USE YOUR MONEY TO MAKE FRIENDS IN HEAVEN

  1. The Basic Ideas
  2. The Story
  3. Now Go and Make Friends
  1. The Basic Ideas

Now the manager is like you, he was in charge of his master’s possessions and could do with them whatever he wanted, although if honest, he would manage them faithfully. Whatever we seem to possess is not really ours, we are just in charge of it for the Lord. We use the Lord’s property, including our minds, our talents, our time, our possessions, our money and our very selves for many different purposes. “Our stuff” definitely needs to be in quotes. It is our Lord’s.

Part of what you are in charge of is called “mammon” in the Bible. Basically, it is what you own beyond what you need for survival. It is your “expendable money” beyond what you need to stay alive. Here’s a newsflash: It isn’t ours. We don’t actually get to spend it any way we want; and we don’t get to spend all the money entrusted to us on ourselves.

This is obvious, really. All of us here have more money than we actually need to stay alive today. With the extra, parents feed and clothe their children. The earners provide for the non-earners in the household. We pay our taxes. We help out family, friends, or strangers. We give to charities to help others. We provide for the gospel. And we spend it on ourselves, from things we want, like telephones, or tv’s to downright luxuries, like fast food, good coffee, a nice car, or the like. Remember this is “mammon,” the wealth beyond absolute necessity, it is somebody else’s money, and we are in charge of it, and supposed to manage it well.

We have all heard of the parents who don’t feed their children, but have all kinds of cool toys, or the people who spend all their money on themselves in the form of drugs or booze or other vices, and so they can’t pay rent. We know of people who don’t use their time on themselves, so they lose a job when the don’t show up for work. Unfaithful managers.

Most people would say they misused their time, talent, and money wrongly. Because sinners so often use mammon sinfully, Jesus calls it “unrighteous mammon,” or “worldly wealth.”

These are the basic ideas. Now let’s get to the story.

2. The Story

The story begins with the “outing” of the manager. He has squandered his master’s wealth. Who knows what he spent it on? Whatever it was, the master didn’t get the benefit of his own money, and he fired the manager.

This manager was clever, and so for the little time he had left in which people would think he was in charge, he used his master’s wealth yet again. “Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’

He used his master’s money to be merciful to the master’s debtors. “So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.

“ ‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’

“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’

“ ‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’

Smart guy. Crooked as all get out, but a smart guy. He knew his master had a reputation for being merciful and wouldn’t countermand the merciful treatment of the debtors. Even the master praised him for his shrewdness.

“You be like that,” Jesus said (paraphrasing) Use the mammon, the extra wealth that you have (that isn’t actually yours) in a merciful way, so that others will benefit from it. Don’t be so “heavenly minded” that you are no earthly good. “The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.

Here’s the thing: Dishonest people in our society know how to take care of themselves: The congressman who loses the election finds a cozy spot with the lobbying firm whose clients benefited from the congressman’s votes. More on our level, a smart thief makes sure that he spreads the goodies around with his pals who cover for him. I can tell you that on the streets of Chicago the gangbangers are often deeply loved father-figures to children; they are the only source of the comforts of life. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. As strange is as it may seem, like the unjust manager, they are merciful with other people’s money. They know how to make friends

3. Now You Go and Make Friends

What does that say about the children of light, about Christians? Here we are: Everything we have is our Lord’s. Jesus is saying that if we are as shrewd as this crooked steward, we would be using His wealth, so often used unrighteously, to make friends for ourselves in the way that really counts, in the gospel.

Remember, this is not a way to heaven for you, for Jesus is talking to those who are “the children of light” already. His righteousness, including His perfect stewardship, is yours by grace through faith. As children of light, we want to do what is right, but we aren’t so good at it. Here Jesus is helping us get better.

To help understand all this, remember that we serve God by serving our neighbor. We don’t serve God by locking ourselves in a monastery and praying 20 hours a day, but by serving our neighbor, as Christ says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:37–40, CSB)

So, if the unfaithful manager knows how to make friends for himself in his exile, why don’t we? With OUR Lord’s money we could show mercy to people as well. We do this when we take good care of our families, when we are faithful in our vocations as we give glory to God, and as we bring the gospel to others.

Jesus says, And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Have you given conscious thought of how you use the wealth of this world to build His kingdom? Think about it. Figure it out. It’s management of money with real purpose.

Use your money to live where there is a church, and your children can be taught.  Support Christian schools. How many would greet us in eternity because they were not seduced by the humanism of secular, progressive education establishment? We can mercifully befriend the lonely. In our day and age, the work of the gospel is in dire need. If you don’t know of enough opportunities on your own, then look through the flyers in your church mailbox. There is a great example there – remember the people in our foreign missions with Covid, who can’t work? Fortunately, the teachers in Peru were taken care of. They may join in to the “well done” of our Lord and welcome us into heaven.

Have you thought how it is that you have come to know the mercy of God because of someone’s thoughtful management of wealth in view of God’s mercy? It’s what enables me to stand here today to proclaim to you that you are forgiven and the righteousness of the Perfect Steward, our Lord Jesus, is yours

AMEN

By |2020-08-09T17:10:04-07:00August 7th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Running the Gauntlet of Deceit

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The Gauntlet of Deceit

Finding the Narrow Way

Matthew 7:13–23 (CSB)

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

15 “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!,,

Dear fellow redeemed: These words come at the end of the Sermon on the mount, and, appropriately, Jesus ends his sermon with a warning. There are three rather sobering scenarios here – taking a road that results in destruction, being deceived by a deadly enemy, and the false prophet expecting our Lord’s welcome on judgment only to be run off as a stranger. All warn about the same thing – eternal alienation from God.

All three have the same thing in common – damning deceit. The first is to take the wrong road, the second to cultivate the wrong tree, and the third to pass off false teachings as the word of the Lord. Again, the first two are metaphors of warning AGAINST false prophets, and the third is a warning TO the false prophets.

Many today meet Jesus words with excuses (I’ll continue the pattern): Who hasn’t taken a wrong turn and ended up on the freeway? How can you expect everyone to me a master gardener? And for the third, how am I supposed to discern true theology from false, true knowledge about God from false? The answer? Because …

THE TRUTH COMES FROM THE RISEN ONE

  1. He Gives Fair Warning
  2. He Establishes TRUTH
  3. He Rescues Us for Heavenly Glory
  1. He Gives Fair Warning

Jesus began the sermon with the gospel. He calls you to follow Him, to “repent and believe the good news.” He pictures the way as narrow and difficult, in comparison with the way that leads to destruction. Every person reaches the end of their road someday, whatever path they are on. Every religion (including atheism) teaches what road to take and what lies at the end. Every single person takes one road or another. Can you think of anyone who doesn’t make choices that guide their way through life?

Jesus has called you to follow Him, on this path that leads to eternal life. It is a path of sin and grace, repentance and faith, confession and absolution. It is to repent, to acknowledge our sin, humble ourselves before our Lord, and believe his promise of forgiveness. As Christians, we hold the worldview of our Lord as the One who made us, redeemed us, and guides us in life. He is our Savior.

But there are many who would lead us into the more “obvious” path. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they seem peaceful enough, attractive, harmless. But they will kill you. These are the false prophets. A “prophet” in this context is anybody who seems to teach the underlying truth of all things. It could be Joel Osteen, the Pope, the “bishopess” of the ELCA [the larger “Lutheran” church body]. It could be Bill Nye, the Science guy, or your favorite psychology professor. It could be Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson on “Cosmos.” It could be the helpful Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon neighbors. It doesn’t have to be from a church or an organized faith to claim to teach foundational realities.

But if a wolf looks like a sheep, how do you tell him from a sheep? Jesus continues with the picture of a tree. A bad tree produces bad fruit. An unbeliever produces false teaching, teaching that is contrary to the teaching of Christ.

Ours is the information age. Information, including teaching about fundamental, foundational realities, comes at us like water from a fire hose. People, you must be into the word so that you can compare the incessant din we are subjected to with the truth of God’s word. We are drowning in messages from every side that teach a materialist view of reality, that matter is all that there is.

Up to this point in our text, Jesus has warned US about the right path, and discernment of the truth. Next he tells us about THEM, the false teachers.  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (To do the will of the father is to be a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 12:48-50,  specifically to repent and believe the gospel, Matthew 21:28-32).

You need to know that many of the deceivers are deceived. No doubt the “bishopess” of the ELCA considers herself a Christian. She prays in Jesus  name. But the fruit she bears reveals her has a false prophet. Her “Bishop-Messages” page consists almost entirely of “progressive” political statements.[i] Her church body denies the substitutionary atonement of Christ,[ii] the key teaching of the Christian faith, that Jesus Christ died to atone for the sins of the world.

Jesus warns, 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers! What could be worse than on judgment day to be greeted, not with recognition, but with condemnation?

2. He Establishes TRUTH

Jesus warns against departing from the narrow path of the truth, so how can we know the truth? This is a serious question because we are bombarded by so many opponents of what Christ teaches.

First, what He teaches is the truth. “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:30–32, CSB)

Right after our text, Jesus goes on, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.”(Matthew 7:24–27, CSB)

But doesn’t every teacher make that claim? Actually, few make the claim that they are the source of truth. As many commented at the time, Christ speaks, not as one repeating the truth, but with authority, as the source of truth. And he should, for the simple reason that He is the Risen One.  He is the one who said he would be captured, crucified, dead, and would rise again. And He did. A multitude of eyewitnesses confirmed it. Many died rather than take back their testimony. The living reality of the Christian church, brought into existence by His word, proclaimed by faithful preachers, confirms it.

Other evidence would be the contrast between His guidance and the guidance of the world. Look around you. Who is happier, the person raised in a family, loving and faithful to a spouse, self-controlled, chaste, respectful, honest, and industrious, or the person who is dishonest, conceited, unfaithful, tears apart his family, and has no lasting attachment?  Yet the latter is the ideal of the day.

Christ not only teaches the former, but atones for, buys us back from, the destruction of the latter.

3. He Rescues Us for Heavenly Glory

For those who live in repentance and faith, who humble themselves before our Savior and cherish the good news of His redemption, there is life that never ends. The billboards of deceit point to the broad way, the way “everybody else” is going. The yammerings of the false teachers of this world lead to materialism, or a trust in our own righteousness, or to the dictatorship of our own feelings, or the compulsion of the crowd, or the intimidation of the powerful, or the browbeating of the elite.

The word of Christ, the narrow path, leads to heaven. The Risen One gives life beyond what we can imagine. As Paul put it, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, CSB) Have you ever thought of how foolish it is to chase after the petty pleasures of this world when the eternal pleasures and joys of heaven await us?

Any beauty here is just a hint of heavenly beauty. Any joy only a hint of heavenly joy. Any peace a hint of heavenly peace. Any love a hint of heavenly love. Any pleasure a hint of heavenly pleasure.

Stay with the true gospel of Christ. Stay on the narrow way.

Amen.

[i] https://elca.org/Resources/Presiding-Bishop-Messages These are nearly all “progressive” political messages.

[ii] “A second problem has been raised recently by feminist theologians. The concept of atonement, especially the satisfaction model, connotes that God the Father is a child abuser. If the notion of divine appeasement holds, then our heavenly father needs appeasing just as an earthly alcoholic father needs appeasing. The suffering of Jesus becomes a vindictive act on the part of God. Feminists denounce child abuse and wife abuse on the part of earthly fathers; and they fear that this atonement model sends a destructive message to faithful Christian families.” “The language of sacrifice in the New Testament is metaphorical, not literal. Jesus may have literally been a teacher, but he is metaphorically a sacrificial lamb or a Good Shepherd just as he is metaphorically a victorious warrior.” Theological Brief for PLTS/ITE Models of Atonement, by

Ted Peters. Ted Peters teaches systematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

By |2020-08-02T16:05:22-07:00August 1st, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Compassion for the Faithful

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Compassion for the Faithful

Bearing a Cross, but Not Forgotten

Mark 8:1–9 (CSB)

8 In those days there was again a large crowd, and they had nothing to eat. He called the disciples and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread here in this desolate place to feed these people?”

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked them.

“Seven,” they said. He commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. So they served them to the crowd. They also had a few small fish, and after he had blessed them, he said these were to be served as well. They ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces. About four thousand were there. He dismissed them.

Dear fellow redeemed, I expect that you have heard of Jesus feeding the 5000, and now here we have the feeding of the 4000.  Both Mark and Matthew were led by the Holy Spirit to include both events in their books of the good news about Jesus our Savior, so, it must be that there is something different between them.

Several things were different – the location, the amount to time, the response of the disciples, and even the size of basket used.  The one thing that I am going to focus on, however, is in verse two of our text, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. While both miracles show the divinity of Christ and his power to provide for us, this feeding of the four thousand shows the devotion of these people to Christ and His word while Christ compassionately provided for their needs.  This is just what Jesus taught in But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33, CSB)

PUTTING CHRIST FIRST, EVERYTHING FOLLOWS

  1. The Example of the Crowds
  2. Our Situation
  3. The Compassion of Christ in All Things
  1. The Example of the Crowds

And that is what the crowds of people were doing, putting Christ first and everything else after.  For three days they had been following Jesus away from the towns and villages.  Presumably many had set out carrying supplies; probably they shared, but they were so dedicated that they stayed with Jesus for three days until they ran out of food and had nothing to eat.  They were in danger of collapsing on the long way home.

Jesus had come into this area that was mixed Jews and gentiles with Jews in the minority. He had been teaching the people and had been healing the sick; Mark mentions the healing of a deaf-mute. These people followed Jesus because He had something they needed and wanted to hear.

What did Jesus have to offer that would cause such an effort? Nothing less than everlasting life. What do we have in our day to compare and to give us perspective? Nothing less than everlasting life.

This is what Jesus is revealing.

When Jesus came to announce the defeat of death and sin He showed that victory not only by His perfect life, but by His destruction of the effects of death and sin.  He healed the sick, made the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, as Isaiah said, Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; (Isaiah 35:5–6, CSB)

These things were right there, immediate, in the healing hands of the Savior.  And they are there for you too, if not this instant.  Remember the words of Peter when the disciples were asked if they would leave Jesus, Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68, CSB)

Are you willing to follow Jesus into privation, hunger, and poverty, in faith trusting Him to rescue you at last?

2. Our Situation

Our situation is like these people in that we have life through Christ’s word. It remains to be seen how much we must depend upon him.

So, to start, a simple quiz:

How can we hope for heaven?  Jesus lived a righteous life for us, and bore our sins for us to reconcile us to God.

How does Jesus give us forgiveness, life, and salvation?  Through the gospel in His word and sacraments.

How do we receive these gifts? By faith.  Mark 16:16, Whosoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.

How are we kept in the faith so that we do not fall away?  If you abide in my word, then you are my disciples indeed (John 8:31)

Over and over again Jesus connects our perseverance in the faith with faithfulness in hearing and studying His word.  Over and over again Jesus connects falling away from the faith with neglect of His word.  This leads to the simple question, “Is saving faith, is God’s word, important enough that you will go out of your way to live in it?”  Would you go hungry for it?  Would you give up time for it?

Many people make teeny individual decisions that gradually divorce them from the word.  If you go hiking next week instead of hearing the word that doesn’t mean you neglect the word.  If you read the Bible three times a week instead of seven, that doesn’t extinguish faith.  But little by little by little a thousand choices can lead to neglect until finally, as Jesus says, Luke 8:14 , [there are those who hear the word for a while,] but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. (Luke 8:14, CSB)

They are lost.

So look at those people who followed Jesus into the wilderness to hear him.  They put Him first.  I think you can figure out what that means in our lives.  We make the choice all the time to get the things done that need to be done, and so we put aside the less important things.

And we don’t have to give up much! A couple of ours for the word and sacrament each week. You can get devotions in your daily email.  There are reading plans to read through the Bible in a year, putting in fifteen minutes to a half hour a day.  You can get CD’s or tapes so someone can read it to you.

I can’t tell you how much time to spend with God’s word.  If it is important to you, it will be part of your life.  If it isn’t important to you it won’t be.  If it is important to you, you will not neglect it.  If it isn’t important to you, then you will neglect it.  The fact that you hare hear means it is important to you.  The important thing is that as your life situations change, you don’t let the worries, riches and pleasures affect you so that they come first instead.  Then we won’t see you anymore.

The crowds gave up days at a time and went hungry.  Heroes of the faith have sacrificed more: In China, Christians are being forced to renounce the faith and replace Christian symbols with images of Xi Jinping or lose all their income, over which the state has control. They are forced to replace the prince of life with one of the greatest mass murderers in human history.

In Portland, one of our church members was called into HR because he didn’t have a badge affirming transgenderism. Will our livelihoods soon depend upon mouthing the right party line?

3. The Compassion of Christ in All Things

The important thing from this text is to realize that our Lord will not desert us in such circumstances.

See His compassion: … [Jesus] called the disciples and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.”

Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. So they served them to the crowd. They also had a few small fish, and after he had blessed them, he said these were to be served as well. They ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces. About four thousand were there. He dismissed them. (Mark 8:1–9, CSB)

Just looking at this example, I couldn’t promise you that you will do OK when you give up things for the sake of the word.  After all, this is just one occasion.  The fact is, though, that Jesus tells us this is just one occasion in which He shows His limitless compassion.  Just a couple of chapters earlier He says, (again) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33, CSB)

We don’t have it bad compared to so many others, yet many Christians, dealing with their worries and charmed by the riches and pleasures of life have neglected the word.  They have fallen away from the faith.  They no longer teach their children nor witness the saving truth to others.  They have fallen away into unbelief.

Will you go with them?  Or will you answer with Peter, Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68, CSB)

Seek Christs words, and His kingdom, and Jesus will take care of you.  Forever.

AMEN.

By |2020-07-26T17:43:43-07:00July 24th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

More Certainty in Uncertain Times

More Certainty in Uncertain Times

In the eighth chapter of The Gospel of Mark, Jesus talks about the challenge of living as a Christian in a society that is hostile to the faith. He makes three main points.

Firstly, anybody who thinks that their faith as a Christian will go unchallenged or untested, or that that will be no cost to living as a Christian is terribly naïve. …Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.(Mark 8:34, NKJV)  We should expect that we will face opposition socially, financially, and from those in positions of power. In China, for example, Christians are being forced to renounce their faith or face possible starvation.1 In our own country, Christians face the loss of their job if they don’t publicly advocate for ideas contrary to the word of Christ. For most of us, it is simply a matter of making time for Christ and His word.

Secondly it is worth it even to lose everything if we hold on to Christ by faith. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?(Mark 8:35–36, NKJV)  Or, as Paul put it, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ(Philippians 3:8, CSB) It should be obvious that eternal life is more important than anything we could value in this life.

But thirdly, Jesus, in the feeding of the 4000, shows his compassion toward those who follow Him. He said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat.” (Mark 8:2, CSB)  The many who followed Him weren’t persecuted, but they had undergone privation and hunger to hear His word. We also should realize that our Lord knows what we go through as His followers, and He continues to watch over and provide for us, even when we bear a cross.

These are uncertain times, but we have certainty in Christ. The culture is as hostile to the Christian faith as we could imagine, and much is uncertain about the way Christians are treated in our day, but we can be certain that we are under the watchful care of our Savior.    – – – Pastor Bryant

1China Reference

By |2020-07-24T13:29:29-07:00July 24th, 2020|Good News|0 Comments