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Matthew 22:34-46 - "Law and Gospel"

Matthew 22:34-46

Law and Gospel

Trinity 18

October 15, 2017

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

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In our Gospel reading for today, Christ answers the Pharisees’ question, “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the Law?” and in turn puts a question to them, “What do you think about the Christ?”  Today, we are reminded that these two points should always be preached: First, the teaching about the Law or the Ten Commandments, and second the teaching about the grace of Christ.  This is Law and Gospel.  If either one of these two teachings are missing, the other suffers.  On the other hand, if one remains and is used correctly, the other will necessarily follow.

And so let us take up the first question, and the answer which Jesus gives us.  The teaching of the Law, which Jesus here cites from Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The Law teaches this is the way you were, and this is the way you are, and this is the way you still should be, and you will become. In Paradise you had this treasure and you were created to love God with all your heart. You have now lost this. But you must become this again. Otherwise you will not come into the kingdom of heaven.

The problem comes in the idea that we can somehow do this if we just try hard enough.  All too often in Christian churches around the world, the message of the Law is proclaimed as something that you must, and you can, do in order to be saved.  This is the way that the Pharisees understood God’s Law 2000 years ago.  This is the way the Roman Catholic Church understood God’s Law 500 years ago.  This is the way too many churches today still understand God’s Law.  Do this, and you will live.  Which is true enough.  It is a good teaching which teaches us what we should be.  The problem is that we can’t do it. Not perfectly. Not all the time. Not with our whole heart.  The Law is always present, holds us guilty, drives and demands that we are to be godly and righteous.  What are we to do when our own conscience finds us guilty of not doing this wholeheartedly?  The Law gives no answer to this, it only wants and requires you to be obedient.

Which brings us to the second question. The answer to the first question means nothing if there is not a right understanding and faith in Christ.  What does it mean to know Christ? The Pharisees and scribes certainly don’t know. They think no more of Him than that He is David’s son. But they didn’t know that they needed him to rescue them from sin and death.  This is why the Holy Spirit explains to them that He is only David’s son, but also God’s Son.  Our Gospel reading teaches us that Jesus is both David’s true, natural Son from his flesh and blood, but also David’s Lord, whom he must worship and regard as God. It was impossible for them to make sense of this.

This is where the Gospel flips the world on its head. Jesus steps in and says “I will fulfill this, not only for Myself, but for all.” Christ has fulfilled the Law for our advantage, so that we can have the benefit of Christ’s work and through this come to grace. This grace is not the power to do the Law perfectly, but it is the delivery of the One who does it perfectly. Then this One promises and delivers the Holy Spirit so that our hearts begin to love God and love others.

The Law comes first here, namely, what are to owe God – perfect love toward Him and toward others. If a person does not know this, then will not know or care at all about Jesus. If we are to know Christ as our Savior, then we must first know what we need saving from – our sin, and greed, and hatred. Christ reminds us in order to teach that is not enough to have the Law, which only shows how far we have fallen.  Rather, if anyone is to return to it and be renewed, Christ must do this through the faith that He was certainly born God and man.  It is this good news of our salvation in Christ that motivates us and frees us now to do the works of the Law, not out of compulsion or thinking that it somehow will make God love us more, but out of simple thankfulness to God for Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

In other words, if you don’t know who God is or what He has done for you, if you have not heard nor believed in Christ and His love, then you can’t love God. And if you don’t love God and you don’t know the love that God has shown you in Christ, how can you share His love with others?   Faith in Christ has made easy the love of God.  Fear casts out love, but Christ casts out fear.  The Law that accuses us of our sinfulness and drives us back to the Gospel to find forgiveness, life and salvation in Christ, also serves us as a Word from the Lord that guides us into holy living through faith in Jesus Christ, the fulfiller of the Law. 

We cannot overlook this fact: The Law may guide us in holy living, but it is only and always the Gospel motivates us to do good works. We must guard ourselves against the spiritual lazy thinking that “even if you do not keep these commandments of loving God and others, that does not hurt you; if only you believe, then you will be saved.”  Too often this our excuse and self-justification for our sin.  We tell ourselves that we know our sin is wrong, but we keep on sinning thinking that what “really” matters is that we believe in Jesus. As good Lutherans we know that we saved by God’s grace apart from works, but at the same time we must guard ourselves against the temptation to use God’s grace as an excuse to continue in sin. For Jesus did not come abolish the Law. He did not come to say these things don’t matter and now you can do whatever you want as long as you label it out of “Love.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus remarks to those who would think like this, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have no come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished.”

So yes, you are to love God and love your neighbor as yourself, because God loves him as He loves you.  Love your neighbor for God’s sake, if not for his own. As God loves you for Jesus’ sake, so love others for Jesus’ sake. God is not gracious and merciful to sinners so that they would remain where they are, but He does so to lead them to conform to Christ until the Last Day when it will no longer be called grace or forgiveness, but pure truth and completely perfect obedience.  In the meantime, He continues to grant us grace for the sake of Christ so that He always gives, forgives, bearing and carrying us to the grave and then to the resurrection. He gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we might follow Him and begin here to suppress our sinful desires and cations, until He comes to us at the Day of Resurrection when there will be no sin and we will all live in complete righteousness.

Luke 11:9 - Funeral Sermon for Lorraine Boehlke

Luke 11:9

Funeral Sermon for Lorraine Boehlke

October 20, 2017

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

People loved by God. On a day like today, what is worth asking for? For family and friends to gather in honor and memory of Lorraine? For sharing memories and stories, tears and comfort in the midst of death? Handshakes and hugs? Another day with a loved one?

All these things are good, right, and salutary. And I pray that we are able to share in all those things today, and in the future. But I would like you to think about this a little more.  And I like you to think about in terms both of today, as well as April 14, 1935.  Lorraine was 15 years old, her sisters were 10 and 4 years old at the time. It was Palm Sunday at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Eustus, Nebraska.  Women were sitting on one side of the congregation, men on the other.  Her dad, who usually sat up in the balcony, through Lorraine never knew why, probably was sitting down closer to the front. It was Confirmation day. Lorraine would have had to memorize Luther’s Small Catechism, several Bible passages, and probably some hymns.  Some of this was in English and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it was in German too.  At the end of the Confirmation rite, shortly before she would have received Communion for the very first time, her pastor read this Bible verse over her from Luke 11:9, Jesus said, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” And then it goes on in the next verse, “For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

So I ask you again, in light of today, with the dead body of that woman whose those words were spoken over, a daughter and sister, a wife and a mother and a grandmother and greatgrandmother and friend, what is worth asking for? What is worth seeking? What is worth knocking on?

We have an answer to those questions, and the answer is found in Jesus.  These questions cannot simply be focused on the here and now, on life in this world.  God certainly answers those in Jesus, but the answer is much bigger than that.  It’s questions and answers that transcend this life, one that the devil, that your sins, that even death cannot silence.

I will argue that Lorraine is actually a good example of what this looks like in the life of a Christian. She lived a full life, a long life, with the love of many family and friends. She wasn’t perfect, and we know that. She had her shortcomings, her struggles, and her sin.  Just like all of us do.  Reading through an autobiography of sorts, primarily of her childhood life, marriage, and birth of two of her children illustrates just a small part of this.  Someone who lives as long as she did experienced a lot of history personally. She lived through the Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II.  She went from travelling to a one room school by horse and buggy, to experiencing technological marvels unthought-of of in her younger years.  Outhouses and no electricity to the modern marvels of television and the internet. She raised children, saw them grow and have families of their own. What those eyes had seen, the lives that those hands had touched. In her later years, her memory was not that good. Maybe it’s a clique, but I am convinced that she had forgotten more than many people had ever learned. She rarely recognized me, but when I told her who I was she always knew her church. Even right before her death, as she heard the Lord’s Prayer, she never forgot her Lord.  She knew Jesus, and more importantly Jesus knew her.  And she died a blessed death.

What does Lorraine receive? Jesus says in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of eternal life.” What does she find? From our Gospel reading today in Matthew 11, Jesus’ word of promise and invitation, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” What is opened up to her? The door to heaven with all the saints in glory.  Almost two weeks ago now, Jesus called her to eternal home.  When she was unable to move, He sought her out and found her. When she was unable to speak, His Word provided the answer to the questions she could not ask aloud. When her hands were too frail to do much, He opened the gates of heaven and carried her to Himself.

What’s worth asking for today?  There are lots of questions that you might have, lots of desires for which to ask. Shortly, we will commend the body of Lorraine into the Lord’s care until the day of the resurrection. This is THE question, and THE answer, from 1 Corinthians 15, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Lorraine enjoys that victory now, and through faith in Christ, so do you.

Luke 14:1-11 "The Humility of the Christian"

Luke 14:1-11

The Humility of the Christian

Trinity 17

October 8, 2017

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

2 Timothy 4:1-4 "Be Ready to Confess Jesus"

Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-4

“Be Ready to Confess Jesus”

2017 LWML Sunday Sermon

Modified from a sermon by Rev Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr.- President of CTSFW

October 1, 2017

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

2017 is really a rather amazing year. First off, of course, it is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses. The whole word is paying attention to Luther this year. In fact, it seems like 2017 is all Luther all the time, which is a great thing if they get out the whole point of the Reformation – we are justified, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

But there is even more to 2017.  We celebrated 100 years of Zion Lutheran Church. It is also the 100th anniversary of the Lutheran Layman’s League, which operates The Lutheran Hour.  And this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, our LWML, which has done so much to encourage and support the sharing of Christ’s gospel within our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and among partners and friends throughout the world. This is a big deal!

In the half millennium since the Reformation began and the 75 years since the LWML formally organized itself, confessing the faith has not gotten any easier. In fact, it may be even more difficult for us to speak and to live as Christians today. And who knows what the future might hold for us, our children, and our grandchildren? Yet God is faithful and has promised that His church will survive all the challenges that the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh can throw at us.

Building on God’s promises, we know that this is our time to be distinctly Lutheran. As confessing Lutherans in a rapidly changing world and in an increasingly hostile culture, we need to Be Ready to Confess the Gospel of Christ to a world that desperately needs to hear it.

To be proclaimers of the message of salvation is central to our identity as Christ’s people.  Our Epistle reading today, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”  (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

When Saint Paul wrote these words to Timothy, he did so as one writing to a fellow pastor, a man specifically called to carrying out the office of the public ministry. And he did so also knowing full well the challenges that faced preachers of the Gospel in the setting of the early church. But he did so also knowing that Timothy had come to the faith through the Holy Spirit working through faithful teaching of a committed mother and grandmother. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (2 Timothy 1:5).

The good news of the Gospel is given to each of us to share with those whom God places in our sphere of influence regardless of our station in life. Proclaiming the salvation won by Jesus is not just “the pastor’s job.”  It’s not just the job of the professional missionaries. Every single one of us is all called to be ready to confess Christ as God opens the doors for us to do so. You are called to be ready to confess!

The need for sharing Christ is as important today as it has ever been. While it is true that somewhere around 90 percent of Americans claim that they believe in “God,” their understanding of the one, true God is often less than biblical. Add to that the fact that upwards of 60 percent of Evangelical Christians (a category that would include LCMS members) think there may be other ways to salvation outside of faith in Jesus, and the need to be ready to confess the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone is as pressing today as ever.

Add to that Paul’s realistic assessment of where people were at his time. ”For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).It sounds like a commentary on 2017!

But not just 2017 – also 1517. The setting in which God called Martin Luther to confess Christ was easily as confused as our own day. Worship of saints had intruded on worship of Christ; works were preached as necessary to salvation in addition to faith in Christ; purgatory, images, relics, and other aberrations had obscured the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone.

This context, of course, led to the unique character of the Lutheran Reformation. For Luther, as he read the New Testament and particularly read Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, was confronted by the question of righteousness: What does it mean to be right in God’s eyes? And the Scriptures were clear to him: keep God’s law perfectly. However, he knew that he did not keep God’s law perfectly; he knew that he did not keep God’s law sufficiently.

Oh, he tried to make things right. He went to his priest repeatedly and confessed his sins. He dredged up every thought, word, deed from a lifetime of sin, confessed it, was conditionally absolved, and then went and did good works as a satisfaction. But as he worked, he remembered other sins. His mind recalled other things that he had done, and he realized that his confession of sin was insufficient. And that meant his works were not enough. Finally, his priest confronted him: “Luther, it is not that God hates you; it is that you hate God.”

The dam finally broke when Luther understood, through the Scriptures, that the righteousness of God is not about us being good enough. The righteousness of God is about Christ who is perfect. Christ, the God-man, who has completed salvation for Luther, for you, and for me, perfectly, once and for all.

There is a great exchange that occurs. The filthy rags of our sinfulness and rebellion towards God, Jesus took upon Himself, carried it to the cross, and crucified it once and for all. The perfect righteousness that is His, He now clothes us in and through the waters of Holy Baptism. Where before there was sinner, God now sees his perfectly redeemed child through Christ; where before the person was far from God, there is now a child of God. God’s work is for us and is applied to us freely and completely because of Christ.

This—the biblical Gospel—is what we must be ready to confess! Luther didn’t see all of this clearly in 1517. It took a few years for him to work out all of the scriptural implications. But once he did he was ready to confess—and he did so to the end of his life in 1546.

Which poses a question for us. How do we, like Luther, prepare ourselves to be ready to confess? Today in particular, as we’ve already noted, we want to recall the work of the LWML, which is celebrating its diamond anniversary this year.

The LWML has had a marvelous impact on the mission efforts of the congregations, districts, seminaries, and other entities of our Synod. And it has done so always by carrying out faithfully its mission “to assist each woman of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in affirming her relationship with the Triune God so that she is enabled to use her gifts in ministry to the people of the world.”

Could we have chosen a time more challenging to start the LWML than 1942? The world had been at war for three years and the United States had joined the effort in 1941. Rations were short, many young—and older!—men were preparing to fight overseas. Women were entering the workforce to fill the vacancies left by the new soldiers. The circumstances were challenging, to say the least!

Yet, on July 7-8, 1942, over 100 women—among them twenty-eight formal delegates—met in Chicago and established the LWML. Its purpose was to encourage a greater consciousness among women for “missionary education, missionary inspiration, and missionary service.” It also decided to gather funds for mission projects above and beyond the Synod’s budget. From this humble beginning— and through the use of the now familiar “Mite Boxes”—the League has blessed the mission efforts of congregations, districts, and synod in amazingly powerful ways!

But there is more, as LWML historian Marlys Taege Moburg has captured it so well:

…the blessing of the LWML, now also known as Lutheran Women in Mission, goes far beyond the millions raised for missions. Its benefits can be seen in faith deepened through Bible studies, in confidence built through leadership training, in the befriending of career missionaries, in blankets and clothing gathered for the impoverished, in food shared with the hungry and, above all, in the friendships nurtured and the lives changed by sharing the love of Jesus Christ.[1]

 

The Lutheran confession has always struggled against the intrusion of false teaching. But the Lord has been faithful and has raised up faithful pastors like Timothy who have preached the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. And the Lord has gathered faithful men, women, and children who have carried out the work of the Lord with zeal and devotion, meeting the challenges and opportunities to reach out to those who need to hear the Gospel. Simply put, our faithful God keeps His promises and we pray that He will always enable us to be ready to confess.

 

[1] Marlys Taege Moberg, “History of the LWML,” https://unite-production.s3. amazonaws.com/tenants/lwml/attachments/21814/lutheran-women-mission-history- rev.pdf, accessed April 3, 2017.

Matthew 6:24-34 "Anxiety in Faith"

Matthew 6:24-26

Anxiety of Faith

Trinity 15

September 24, 2017

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

100 Year Anniversary Sermon

This a two part video;

Video Player Video Player    Part 1      Video Player  Part 2

Pastor and guest preacher, Will Weedon from the LCMS church joined us in Celebration on Sunday September 17th.  Pastor Weedon Delivered this beautiful  Sermon based on Scripture reading;   OT:1 Kings Chapter 8  Epsitle: Chapter 1 1st Peter, and the Holy Gospel: St Luke the 19th Chapter. 

Luke 10:23-37 "What Must I Do?"

Luke 10:23-37

What Must I Do?

Trinity 13

September 10, 2017

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’”  This question is at the heart of story of the Good Samaritan. This is so much a part of our culture that we have hospitals named after it, books, movies, morality.  We even have a jingle, “Like a good neighbor.”

The lawyer was looking into some life insurance. What did he need to invest in for life?  Even people today who don’t believe in heaven or hell ask this question, though in a different way.  How can I make a mark in life through work, family.  What legacy can I leave for the next generation?  Will I be remembered?  Fountain of youth?  Download your memories into a computer?

Today, I’m not going to tell you to be a Good Samaritan. Instead, let’s look at what Jesus says in response to this question.  Jesus does what He often does when asked a question, He responds with another question. “What is written in the Law?” Jesus says.  The assumes that the Law is the way of life.  This assumes that the Word of God is more than just information, more than just a story, but that the Word effects what is says.  That the Word is creative, powerful, active.

One must read the Law as the book of God’s gracious election of His people despite their sins, and not as a “how to” book about earning merit before God.  If one loses sight of the primacy of God’s , then the whole focus shifts from what God gives to the deeds people do. 

And so the Lawyer answers, and he answers correctly quoting from Deuteronomy 6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  There is no question about that, this is the Word of the Lord.  He answers Jesus’ question correctly and Jesus affirms this.  “Do this.” This is an eternal lecture and sermon preached and delivered to all people.  This is the exact right answer.  Love God, love your neighbor.  Do this perfectly and without exception and you will earn eternal life.  The problem is that no one who has ever lived has been able to do and continue to do this.  It is an impossible standard, to be saved by the Law. 

He tries to deflect attention away from himself by implying that the Law is the problem, that the Law is unclear.  He thinks he knows better than what Christ can teach him.  Looking for the way out, seeking to justify himself,  he asks another question: Who is my neighbor? He seeks to limit God’s commands, to make the Law doable.  Asking the question, “Who is my neighbor” implies there is someone who is not.  The lawyer’s defensiveness comes from his knowledge that he has been put between a rock and a hard place.  He knows that if he claims he does love God, he should then love his neighbor as well.  To do otherwise is pure hypocrisy. 

The dispute between the lawyer and Jesus is this: Jesus sees the Law as part of the God’s given means to eternal life, life which comes purely by grace through faith, which is active in love.  The lawyer attempts, and fails, to justify himself by twisting the it into a legal system that would excuse him from showing love to others. The lawyer wants to justify his deeds of love and mercy; he wants to assert his own righteousness and his claim to deserve eternal life.

We never do this, do we?  Never try to show how good of a Christian we are by following the Law, the rules.  We never modify those rules when we come across something that seems too hard, too harsh, or too uncomfortable?  We never try to twist God’s Word to make it a little more doable, a little nicer, a little more accommodating to the culture?  Try to make eternal life something that we can get, something we can earn, something that we must “do.”

Jesus’ answer to such issues, and ultimately to the question of “what must I do to inherit eternal life” is the story of the Good Samaritan.  He knows that the lawyer, as a good Pharisee, would view the priest and the Levite as the most lovable, and the Samaritan as the least. In the context of the story, it is the priest and the Levite who should be the most loving, the ones who out of anyone know and can do what they need to for eternal life.  The Good Samaritan’s compassion is made clear in compassionate actions.

It’s all too easy to take what Jesus says and turn this into another moral story of how to be good enough for eternal life.  I told you at the beginning I was not going to tell you to be like the Good Samaritan.  If Jesus is simply telling this as an example, the effect of the parable is “try even harder.”  How do I go to heaven? Well, what does the Law say?  The lawyer answers correctly, love God and love your neighbor. He tries to be good, but he knows he’s not perfect.  If the parable is just a moral of the story fairy tale, then the moral is just “try harder, love more.” But this does not give comfort, it does not forgive sins, it does not create faith, it is not the Gospel.

If you’re looking for who to love, that answer is everyone. But you’re not going to be saved that way.  The Law is simply going to beat you up and leave you in a ditch to die. The only way you can be saved is not to go out and find neighbors to love, but to be found by the One who has mercy. That one is Jesus.

The point of this interaction is that you cannot earn your way into heaven.  The Law’s demands do not bend and cannot be softened.  They can only be met, but not by you, no matter how hard you try. They can only be met by God Himself, so God Himself comes down to earth to meet them and do this perfectly. Jesus loves God perfectly. He loves His neighbor perfectly.  He justifies you, He drags you out of the ditch of your sin, cleans you up with the waters of Baptism, feeds and nourishes you with His body and blood, pays for your stay in life, and promises to return again.

You are the man left on the side of the road, and Jesus is the Good Samaritan.   Jesus is the one who does mercy as neighbor.  The lawyer says, “I will act to love my neighbor as myself, tell me who my neighbor is.” And Jesus responds, “You cannot act, for you dead.  You need someone to love you, show mercy to you, heal you, pay for you, give you lodging, receive you.  I am the one you despise because I associate with sinners, but in reality, I am the only One who fulfills the Law, who embodies the Torah, and who brings God’s mercy.  I am your neighbor and will give you gifts of mercy, healing, and life.  As I live in you, you will have life and will do mercy—not motivated by the Law, but enabled by My love.”

Like a good neighbor, Jesus is there.  Jesus exposes us to what the kingdom of God is. It is a kingdom of mercy, of compassion, of forgiveness, of help for those who find themselves helpless when it comes to the law, unable to do it themselves and must rely upon this despised outsider. This is God’s primary characteristic.  It is not that we keep the Law, though He certainly wants us to do this. The point of everything he is doing is not so that they would behave, but that they would be reconciled to Him.  That they would receive Him in faith, and thus inherit eternal life.

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