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Trinity 20 2018

Trinity 20 2018

Matthew 22:1-14

October 14, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Who is getting married?  This looks like a wedding bulletin today.  And it is.  Jesus speaks of the parable of the wedding feast.  Our Lord took human nature into the unity of His Person. He married humanity. It is to this wedding that God the Father has called us. It is for us that this wedding has been arranged.

Now, the Kingdom of God is like a King who throws a feast for His Son. The Kingdom of God is not like a party. It is like a King who is generous. He invites many, but they do not respond to the invitation. And so the King sends more servants to tell them that everything is ready for them. But they don’t want to come, being too busy with the things of this world Inexplicably, they refuse to come to the banquet prepared for them. In a sense, this shows the power of unbelief.  The King doesn’t force them to come. God doesn’t force people into the Kingdom of heaven. The invitation is sent, God sends His preachers to announce it has arrived in Christ, but people can, and do, reject it.

While the King is generous, His patience knows limits.  He grows angry at those who disrespect Him. He enacts vengeance and destroys cities. Some of those invited to the feast ignore the second invitation. Others greet these messengers with violence. And so they are no longer welcome.

The point is that not everyone goes to heaven. Jesus is no universalist. The sinfulness of humanity deserves death and hell. The righteousness of Christ and entrance into the Kingdom of God are offered to all.  Some, such as the majority of the Jews of Jesus’ time, simply reject the invitation out of hand. They can’t be bothered. They are too busy with the things of this world. They have to go off to their fields or their business, or they are angry and malicious and kill the servants, the Old Testament prophets, for even asking them to come. And so the King enacts justice. He raises an army and destroys cities. The God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah over their sinfulness, also destroyed Jerusalem over their rejection of His Son using the Romans in the year 70 to enact His wrath against those who rejected Him.

Even so, the wedding feast is ready and the King desires people to come. And so He invites others, all others, even those who do not deserve it. God does all the work, provides all the grace. You haven’t been good enough. You don’t deserve to be in His presence, to eat His Body and Blood, but He wants you to have it.  And so He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies by His Gospel. Your worthiness isn’t based on yourself, but it is based on faith, on trust in the goodness of the King.

And people come, but we have the example in the parable of the one who does not wear the wedding garment and is tossed out.  Why was this one guest rejected? His character was no objection, for bad and good were both invited.  His status was no objection, for the king had sent out servants to gather up everyone they could find.  Why was the wedding garment such a big deal? In Jesus’ time, Israelites expected invited guests to wear festive wedding garments which the host could provide. It’s not that the man was underdressed, it’s that he refused to wear what was given to him. This man’s failure to dress in appropriate clothing, which was freely given to him, offends the King, the host. The same disobedience which made others refuse made him unfit, even though he was present.

So also He throws out those who would come to the feast but not actually participate, those who will not wear the appropriate garment. They are cast into the dark place of eternal torture.  Many of those called into God’s kingdom miss out because they refuse to respond to the invitation properly—in faith. “This does not mean that God is unwilling to save everybody. But the reason some are not saved is as follows: They do not listen to God’s Word at all.” AC

This is the warning, and the point of the parable. The Kingdom of heaven is like the King and His actions. The marriage is the work of salvation. Christ is the groom, the Church is the bride, we are the guests. The coming of the king into the hall is the second coming of Christ. The wedding garment is the robe of Christ’s righteousness, the grace of God, in which a person is clothed through the waters of baptism. It is not enough to be invited and come, only to refuse the righteousness of Christ, to outwardly be a part of a church but inwardly reject the Gospel.

Some have come into the feast by the garment, by invitation, by Baptism, and then, tragically, has taken off the garment. He didn’t get in without it. He had it. But now he refuses it, he grows tired of it. He mocks it. He forgets the vows he made at confirmation. He does not to fear, love and trust in God above all things. He takes the King’s hospitality for granted. The wedding garment offered in Christ was rejected. If any are cast out into outer darkness, it will be because they refuse to put on the new man, which the Lord Himself earns and provides.  The only way you come into the Kingdom is if you shirk your own righteousness and are clothed with His righteousness. 

So repent. And stay dressed! Cling to the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all your sin.  You have been invited and granted entrance to the kingdom of heaven by virtue of your baptism, rejoice with the saints of God. In the presence of the King. In the wedding feast, the eternal marriage as Christ has wed Himself to the bride, the Church of God, presenting the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27).

Trinity 19 2018

Matthew 9:1-8

The Power of God’s Word

19th Sunday after Trinity

October 22, 2017

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

In our Gospel reading for today, we hear the account of Jesus healing a paralyzed man, a healing that took place both of his soul and his body.  In doing this, Jesus illustrates a very important part of His ministry: the forgiveness of sins. This miracle is recorded right after two well known other miracles.  The first is when Jesus calms the storm after falling asleep in a boat with His disciples.  After they get off the boat, He casts demons out of two men and into some pigs, which then ran into the sea and drowned in the waters.  Now, he comes back across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. As he arrived, some men bring a paralytic to Him on a bed.  He sees the faith of the men who brought the crippled man, and speaks to him, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

Now, some in this man’s position might think, “That’s nice, but what I really want is to be walk again. I want my body to be healed.” How many times have we heard, or thought, those same things when we’ve fallen ill, or heard a cancer diagnosis, or the after effects of a car accident, or whatever it may be.  We pray and want this physical problem fixed, which isn’t wrong by any means, but this misses the entire point. Jesus healed this man, He healed him of his true sickness and handicap, which wasn’t because he was paralyzed.   The man had a sick heart, a sinful heart, that needed to be healed.  And that healing comes through the forgiveness of sins, not just in this body and in this life, but through eternity. For where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. 

Some of the scribes who were there didn’t like this one little bit. The Pharisees knew that the forgiveness of sins is God’s work and belongs to Him alone.  For this reason, they through Jesus a blasphemer, they thought Him slandering God, and making Himself to be on the same level as God.  Here, the accusation is that Jesus claims divine authority, since forgiveness must come from God alone.  Which is exactly Jesus’ point.

And so, knowing their thoughts, He says to them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk.’?  Obviously, it is easier to declare someone forgiven that to tell a paralytic to rise and walk.  So Jesus does both just to prove His could, to prove His point, to prove who He was. “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – He then said to the paralytic – ‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’”

Jesus speaks directly and immediately with God’s own authority. This was the beginning of long standing conflict between the followers of Jesus and the heirs of the Pharisees in rabbinic Judaism.  It’s the scandal of the incarnation.  Jesus has the authority to forgive sins because Jesus is the Son of God.  It is scandalous to think that God would become man, and as fully man act with the authority of God.

This Jesus, who is the Christ, the Son of God, came from heaven and became man, suffered, and died to save us from our sins. This is the cause, the means, and the treasure through which the forgiveness of sins and God’s grace are given to us.  It must not be sought anywhere else other than through and in Jesus. Whoever comes to God with any works outside of those that belong to Jesus, brings to God a pile of sinful garbage. If you want to be free from sin, stop trying to do it yourself, stop seeking to bring your works before God, rather crawl to Christ as the One who takes away the sin of the world and puts it on Himself and nails it to the cross. 

“Take heart, My son, your sins are forgiven.” These are powerful words, these are God’s words.  This is what is called, “Absolution.” The word “Absolve” comes from Latin words ab, which means “from”, and solvere, which means “to loose.” It refers to the sacred act of loosing a person from sin, to free one from guilt of all their sin.  When we confess our sins, whether publically or privately, and hear God’s word of forgiveness spoken to us, then, like the paralytic, we are absolved (TLSB, notes Matthew 9:1-8), our sins are loosed, we are freed from the guilt and the shame and the punishment because Jesus has taken all that upon Himself.

Only Christians believe this.  This divides you from every other belief and worship on earth.  The difference between Christians and non-Christians has nothing to do with how good of person you are, how loving you are, how you have it all together.  The thing that marks Christians as different is simply this: the possessions of the forgiveness of sins.

How do you get this forgiveness? That’s the big question now isn’t it? How do you get, today, what Jesus earned upon the cross 2000 years ago?  It’s pretty straightforward actually.  Forgiveness is delivered through the Word of God and the Sacraments, and it is received by faith.  First, sin is driven out of the heart and grace is poured in. Second, the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed; one person to another.

This too may seem just as scandalous as Jesus forgiving sins.  One of the most common questions asked about a Lutheran Divine Service centers around the Confession and Absolution. Luther’s Small Catechism states the Biblical position that confession has two parts: first that we confess our sins, second that we receive absolution, that is forgiveness of sins, from the pastor as from God Himself. And so often that rings as blasphemy in people’s ears.  “You have no right, no authority, no power, to forgive the sins of anyone, especially when the sin isn’t even directed against you.  And the answer to that is “You are exactly right. I don’t have the right, nor the authority, nor the power. But Jesus does, and by Jesus’ authority, and in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has commanded that His church proclaim this message, this Gospel, to the entire world.” God has given to His people the authority to forgive sins. Jesus clearly speaks in John 20:20-23, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” As Christians we not just talk about forgiveness, we actually deliver forgiveness; we not just announce God’s forgiveness in Christ, we actually forgive in Christ’s name.

It’s not just the pastor, but all baptized Christians have this authority, which rests in God and which He delivers and commissions to us by virtue of our Baptism. Christ puts His word in our mouths that that we can say as often as necessary, “you are forgiven in the name of Christ!” This should be the voice of the church until Christ Himself returns on the Last Day.  These words, “I forgive you” should be some of the most common words spoken in your homes, between husbands and wives, parents and children.  This is the very Gospel, the heart of the Christian faith. Do not neglect it.  Do not ignore it. Do not silence it. This is your baptismal right, it is your baptismal life – a life marked with repentance and faith in the forgiveness of sins won upon the cross by Jesus Christ.

Funeral for Gerry Rau

Funeral for Gerry Rau

John 14

October 5, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

100 years, that’s a long time. It is hard to summarize the life of someone who has lived 100 years. It can’t be done. Summarize what is most important, and what still matters.

And did she ever witness and participate in a lot! Think of all the change that she saw in her life. Born at the end of WWI, she lived through the roaring 20s, the Great Depression, WWII, the 50s, the birth of television, space flight, disco, computers, the internet. From horse and buggy to cars. And up to the end, she still bragged about how she had never had a ticket while driving and that she wasn’t happy her license was taken away when she was 95.

But there was a constant in her life that shaped her more than anything else.  She is not unlike Ruth in the Old Testament reading. She met her husband, a story that she retold often, “Your people shall be my people and your God my God.” For over 80 years, she was a member here at Zion. She walked in faith alongside her husband, her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren. The same faith, the same Lord, the same hope of eternal life. She is a child of God. She is beloved in the Lord. She has victory over her sin, over the devil, over death.  She has the hope of the resurrection of the dead and she waits with the saints of God for that day of the Lord’s return. This is not just a summary of her life, but also of your life in faith.

You are a testimony of the grace of God shown to Gerry and through her to you. Over that 100 years, Gerry mattered. She made a difference. You here are witnesses of that difference. The family, the friends. The love, the joy, the happiness, the hope. She mattered. She mattered to you. She mattered to me. She matters to Christ, so much that He would die for her that she might live. You matter to Christ. He died for you, so that you might live. So that 100 years might seem as the blink of an eye in light of all eternity. Whether you live 50 years or 100 years here in this mortal life, in terms of eternity, what’s the life, the length of a lifetime?

Jesus says in the Gospel reading, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Gerry knew that a place had been prepared for her, for her family and friends, even from before the foundation of the world.  And this is no temporary house, no hotel room, no care facility room.  This is a permanent residence, an eternal home, with Christ and with all the saints of God.

And Gerry knew the way. She knew the way that extended beyond 100 years and past this mortal life. It was a way that passes through death to the resurrection and life everlasting. It is the way that Jesus forged, where Jesus beckons people to follow, where Jesus is present. For Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

Blessed are the dead in the sight of the Lord. Here on earth, death does not rob you of your life in Christ. For He has done it all for you, just like He did it all for Gerry. Don’t neglect that gift, don’t ignore it, don’t deny it. Gerry wanted to know you not just here and not, but for eternity.

She is blessed with life even now.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Let not your hearts be troubled. Hope in Jesus.  For in Him we rejoice. Gerry is home. She is with Jesus, with all her loved ones. And through our tears, through our loss, we have a glimpse of the heavenly home, of mansions so great it is beyond imagination. And we wait with Gerry for the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting, an eternal homecoming with Jesus. Amen.

Trinity 18 2018 - Matthew 22:34-46

Trinity 18 2018

Matthew 22:34-46

September 30, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

“If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”  That’s an old saying, and maybe one that even the Sadducees and the Pharisees knew about, for it sure seems like this is how they lived.  Trying to trick Jesus, the Pharisees had just asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. He didn’t fall into their trap, and His answer to render unto Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God’s stumped them. Then the Sadducees have a go at it next and asked whose wife would a widow seven times over be in the resurrection, which they didn’t even believe in.   He astonished them with his teaching and with His rebuke that they don’t know the Scripture nor the power of God.

And so now the Pharisees try again, this time asking Jesus which is the greatest commandment in the Law. God had given many laws to His people: moral laws, ceremonial laws, civil laws. And the Pharisees had added to these as well. And so a lawyer, one versed in these laws as a profession, which of all of these was the most important. These are no innocent questions.  All of this takes place sometime between Palm Sunday and Wednesday of Holy Week.  They were close, very close, to being able to accuse Jesus and have evidence that He is a blasphemer, that He is one who is allowing people to think of Him as, to worship Him as, God. To a Jew, there was no greater offense than this. Their Creed, their basic statement of faith boiled down to what is called the “Great Shema”, from Deuteronomy 6, “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.”

Knowing this of course, it is not an accident that Jesus’ answers this trick question by completing that very same verse and the following one from Deuteronomy, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  All the commandments, in particular the 10 Commandments are summarized by these two: love God, and love your neighbor.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. And Jesus doesn’t ask them a trick question.  “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is He?” The better question aren’t the ones that we ask Jesus, but the ones that Jesus asks us. Who is the Christ? Now that’s the real question.  They answer correctly, “The Son of David.”  And so Jesus is.  Fully man, in the lineage of King David Himself.  But they don’t answer fully, nor do they believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is because Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David and the Son of God, that He can perform all the miracles that He did. It is because Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David and the Son of God, that David calls Him Lord.  It is because Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David and the Son of God, that He is the Lord whom they should love with all their heart and soul and mind. 

They don’t want to believe that Jesus is God.  But they can’t prove otherwise either.  No one can accuse Jesus of sin. His miracles were undeniable. His teaching was consistent with the Law, with Moses, with the Prophets, with the entire Old Testament.  Just a day or two earlier He was acclaimed by the palm waving crowds that He is the One who comes in the name of the Lord, the One who comes to save His people.  He speaks with the authority that only God has.

But soon they came up with a new plan, a plan to see if this Jesus would bleed like a man.  And He does.  And as He bled out of the nail holes in His hands and feet, from the scourging on His back and the crown of thorns upon His head, they mock Him, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, comes down from the cross…. He saved others; He cannot save Himself… He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:40, 42a, 43).

Talk about blasphemy.  On the cross, as the Son of David and the Son of God hung dying, they pit Jesus’ divinity against His love and His mercy. It is there on the cross that Jesus lives out what love actually is, and fulfills the greatest commandment in the Law: His love of God the Father in submitting to death upon the cross, and His love for His neighbor, for all people, by dying for them.  For as Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

It is necessary for Jesus, true God and true man, to suffer in this way. It is the act of purest love: the love of God toward humanity.  This is how the Lord sets His heart in love on the world, in that He sends His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. This is how God loves even the Pharisees who mock and murder, the Sadducees who ridicule and rebuke, you and I who all too often lack to show the love that has been shown to us.

Repent. For you do not love the Lord with all your heart nor all your soul nor all your strength. You do not love your neighbor as you ought. You try, for sure, but your sin still clings to your mortal flesh in this life. As baptized children of God, your sinful will has been regenerated, a new man in Christ has been born, the Holy Spirit dwells in you to lead and guide you in all truth according to the Word of Christ. You have received the grace of God that was given you in Jesus Christ, you have been enriched in Him in all speech and knowledge. Do not harden your heart like those of long ago, and like many still do today.  But let us be like that centurion who stood at the foot of the cross, and when seeing all that took place, proclaim, “Truly this was the Son of God!” And let us believe and confess with all the saints of God that Jesus the Christ has been raised from the dead, and out of His perfect love, has overcome the sharpness of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers (Te Deum).

The sum of the commandments is love, a love rooted in Christ’s action resulting in your deliverance from sin, a love that fulfills all God’s commandments.  As you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, love Jesus, the Lord your God, with all our heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor, who is beloved by Jesus, one for whom Jesus died, as Jesus has loved you. God is faithful

Trinity 17 2018 - Luke 14:1-11

Trinity 17 2018

Luke 14:1-11; Ephesians 4:1-6

September 23, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Trinity 16 2018 - Luke 7:11-17

Luke 7:11-17

Trinity 16

September 16, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

The woman’s situation was desperate. She was a widow, and now her son had died. Her future was uncertain. And so, understandably, she wept. We don’t know why or how he died.  We do know that this grieving woman and her only son were surrounded by a crowd as he was being carried out of town to be buried when they came across another crowd. This crowd was gathered around the only Son of God, who too would die and be carried outside of town to be buried. 

As these two crowds converge, the Lord Jesus sees this grieving mother and has compassion on her. There is no mention of anyone’s faith here. The grieving and widowed mother does not run to Jesus for help. Neither the disciples nor the crowds petition Jesus to do something. The dead boy does not ask for healing. This is important. Jesus acts not because He is asked, but because of His compassion for this woman. And so first He tells her to stop weeping.  It’s not that He was rebuking her for shedding her tears for her dead son, but that there was no more need for crying. For death could not hold her only son.

And so Jesus touches the funeral bier. Normally, this would have made a person ceremonially unclean. Yet instead of being defiled, Jesus cleans and heals. The power of cleanliness and life is in Him. Jesus speaks, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the son of the widow rises.

And isn’t that just the way that Jesus works. Jesus speaks, and the dead rise. In Luke’s Gospel this is all very important. Raising of the dead is the only prophetic miracle that Jesus had not yet performed. The raising of the dead is the miracle which demonstrates Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophetic hope and that with Him the kingdom of God has come. Jesus is greater than Elijah who restored the life of a widow’s son in our Old Testament reading.

And the result is faith. Those who witnessed this miracle glorified God. The crowds recognize and confess the visitation of God. God has visited His people because they see the signs of God’s activity in Jesus.  “A great prophet has arisen among us.” The crowd says.  “Arisen,” which comes from the same word that Jesus used to call the dead man to life. This resurrection foreshadows two others in the Gospel of Luke: first, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and more importantly, Jesus’ own resurrection.

By these resurrections, Jesus is teaching them, and us, who He is.  If Jesus is only a teacher and miracle worker, then He has come to lessen human suffering. This is the Jesus that the world wants: the social justice warrior, the anti-establishment revolutionary, the radical rabbi.

But we who have heard and have believed the Word of God, understand that Jesus must also suffer rejection, and even death. We know what kind of prophet this Jesus truly is: a teacher, a miracle worker, and the One who will suffer on behalf of the world and die upon the cross. We know of Easter, that death cannot keep the only Son of God. St. Paul writes in Romans 6:9, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again: death no longer has dominion over Him.”  We know that God will do for us Christians what He has done for Christ. He pulled Christ out from the closed and sealed grave in an instant. As Christ spoke to this dead man and commanded Him to rise, so too will we be commanded to rise from our graves, rise to life eternal with Him.

This miracle gives special comfort to all who mourn. The dead are not beyond the voice of Christ. It doesn’t matter how long death has held a person, nor the age or time of death, for all will hear His voice. He calls not just into His presence, but in the presence of one another. He will restore the dead to the living, and the living to the dead. He will wipe away all tears in the final consummation of compassion and pity.  Christ’s compassion and love, as taught in the Epistle is far more abundant that all we ask or think, and the power at work within us will give life to our mortal bodies through His Holy Spirit, who dwells in us.

Trinity 15 2018 - Matthew 6:24-34

Matthew 6:24-34

Trinity 15

Seeking the Kingdom

September 9, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

“Work, work, work. I have so much work to do today that I must spend the first three hours in prayer.”  I was reminded of that quote from Martin Luther a couple of weeks ago when talking to one of the teachers at our school.  School has begun. Teachers and students getting into the groove. Sports are back in full swing. Hunting season is here for the next few months. And then there’s the all the normal family stuff. Cooking and cleaning, housework and yardwork. As a husband, I learned a lesson very early on in marriage: the honey do list is never ending. There’s always more to do.  Work, work, work.

And how easy it is to let this work, whatever may it may, wear us down, wear us out, worried, and warried.  You know what this feels like, I don’t have the explain it in great detail.  But it is at these times, which come all too often into the lives of God’s people, that we need to be reminded of our Lord’s words in our Gospel reading for today. What we heard was just a small part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount.  In the immediate section, Jesus warned about laying up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal...” He concludes by saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The heart will dwell on what a person treasures the most.  And now today, we listen to Jesus’ words to the same effect, that we ought not be anxious, ought not worry, about those very earthly things but that we treasure the kingdom of God and the righteousness of Christ above all things. 

And this is nothing new for the people of God.  My favorite Psalm, and one of my favorite passages in the Scripture is Psalm 27. The first verse was my Confirmation verse, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” And then I often sign letters or emails with verse 4, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek in His temple.”

“One thing” There is a singleness of mind, of heart, of will.  It is the best answer to distracting fears: to gaze upon and to seek the Lord.  It is a preoccupation with God’s person, with His presence. It is the essence or worship, of discipleship. For if we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that is, set all this before all other things, and seek other things for the sake of these, we ought not to be anxious when we lack.  This is why St. Paul can later say in his first letter to the church in Corinth, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

External choices reveal internal spiritual condition. It is of no good to try to convince the heart is not set a right when attention is focused on earthly things that will rot and fail.  Prioritizing anything else above the hearing and studying of God’s Word is sin. The biblical model is that Christ comes first, then family, then everything else.  I often hear that people don’t have the time to do devotions, to read the Bible, to come to Church. To be blunt, that is false and you need to repent whenever that becomes your attitude.  The Lord has given you the time, 24 hours of each day, to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.  The issue isn’t one of having enough time. The real issue is what do you spend your time on?  Work, work, work. I have so much work to do today, that I must spend my first three hours in prayer.

Rather than seeking the things of this world, the accumulation of our stuff, devoting our life to health, wealth, and happiness, we should intentionally and deliberately seek the things that are above (Col 3:1), that is, seek the kingdom of God, the saving deeds and righteousness of God which has come down to earth in Jesus. Make use of the Word and Sacraments, the gifts that He has given His people, both where He may be found and where He finds us. It is in the Word and Sacraments that Christ seeks you, that Christ brings His kingdom to you, that Christ delivers His righteous to you. All received by faith in Him.  And then entrust your daily life to His care. You are of far more value, far more worth, than the birds of the air or the flowers in the field.  The 5th and 6th grade class at our school ought to know this, and know it well, because they see it every day.  “God doesn’t love us because of our worth, we are of worth because God loves us.” – Luther

If you ever doubt that, or wonder, or worry if it is true, look here to the cross. Upon the cross, God shows us what love truly is, what it truly looks like, by the death of His Son. It is at the cross that your sins are forgiven. It is at the cross that your life is won. It is at the cross that God shows you your worth. It is at the cross where we see that kingdom of God does not guarantee worldly success.  It does not mean that you will never feel anxious, or depressed, or unworthy, or scared, or in want. Each new day brings with it trouble of its own. But it is at the cross where your unrighteousness is atoned for and where the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus is displayed.

The primary response to Jesus’ teaching is to turn and believe again that the heart of the Christian is founded upon Christ, upon the life and the identity that He gives. This is where a believer’s heart is fixed. The goodness of God, the beauty of the cross, the truth of His Word. When the heart is fixed on Christ and His promises and His word, then priorities change and our freedom to choose what really matters, what eternally matters, is evidence of our faith in Jesus.

We love God because God is the highest good, and the love of Him is the greatest good that we can do. We were created for the sake of the God, therefore it is fitting to give Him the best that we have, which is our love. Your love will find all you desire from the Lord God. Do you love riches? God is the richest of all. Do you love power? God is all powerful. Do you love beauty? God is the most beautiful? Do you love pleasure? God is the greatest pleasure. In this One who is Good, everything is good. Our souls will not have rest until we cling to God in love, for Christ is the center our desires, our love, our life.

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