Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

July 23, 2017

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The Upmost Victory

July 17, 2017
“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” – Jeremiah 32:17

Do you believe the world will ultimately end in tragedy or triumph? Based on the certainty of Jesus’ return in power and glory, and God’s promise of a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:13), the answer is triumph.

But more specifically, do you think your life will ultimately end in tragedy or triumph? That might be a harder question to answer … especially if you are in a season of suffering. That’s why we need to know the history of a prophet named Jeremiah. He was an ordinary man like you and me. He didn’t call down fire from heaven or heal the sick, like Elijah. Or part waters like Moses. He spent most of his days in suffering. In fact, he was called the “weeping prophet”.

About 2600 years ago, Jeremiah was watching the Babylonian army build ramparts around the city of Jerusalem, preparing to pounce on God’s people. The likely outcome would be tragedy. And yet, in that moment, the Lord tells Jeremiah to go purchase a plot of land near Jerusalem, land that would one day be Jeremiah’s farm.

At that time, it must have sounded like the worst investment in history. But to Jeremiah, it was a deposit of hope. Hope that for him and for the people of Israel the ultimate outcome would be triumph. That is why he prayed, “Nothing is too hard for you!”

Yes, Jerusalem would be destroyed. Yes, most of the people would be taken into exile. But God would protect Jeremiah and he would stay in the land. And the exiles would one day return and rebuild the temple.

Even and especially in the midst of your pain and suffering, God has made a deposit of hope. He did it when Jesus’ cold body was placed in a damp tomb, only to rise again, fully alive. Jesus’ death and resurrection paid for your rescue, but also for your place in God’s new heaven and new earth. When Jesus returns, all of life’s suffering will be transformed into eternal joy.

Knowing that your life will end in triumph doesn’t immediately take away your pain, but it will give you hope that the best is yet to come.

Prayer: Lord God, you often bless me with joy and happiness. Thank you! But you also allow times of tears. In those moments, lift up my eyes to see that my life will ultimately end in triumph because of your victory through your cross and resurrection. Amen.


Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

July 16, 2017

Divine Service, Page 6, Hymnal Supplement 98

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Help is at Hand

July 10, 2017
I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. – Psalm 30:1-3

If you’ve ever seen a helicopter rescue, you’ll agree, it’s remarkable! The victims are stranded on an ice flow or trapped on a sinking vessel. They are stuck and often moments from perishing, but then from the skies comes the sights and sounds of rescue – the helicopter rotors buzzing in the sky, the rope dangling from the chopper to the place of danger, the para-rescuer ready to slide down the rope and save the day. It’s an emotional event and an amazing sight when a rescue takes place.

And that’s just for strangers. It’s emotional to watch when you don’t know any of the people involved. But imagine if it was you being rescued! Imagine what the scene looks like with you standing in the place of danger! You are the one in peril. You are the one moments from destruction. You are the one being saved. It’s a whole lot more moving when you are the one who is being rescued.

But you don’t have to imagine being rescued, you were rescued. Maybe not by a helicopter, but you have been rescued. We all have. We were drowning in a sea of sin and unbelief. We were moments away from destruction when a rescuer came from above. He came down to us, not on a rope, but in a baby’s flesh. He saved us, not by strapping us to a stretcher, but by strapping himself to a cross. He rescued us by defeating sin, and he conquered death with his resurrection.

God spared us from something worse than flood or fire or storm, he saved us from sin. He saved us by coming down to our earth, and he promises to take us to be with him in heaven. The one who came down will return so we can go up to everlasting security and joy and peace with him in glory.

All praise and glory to the one who rescued us, our Savior God!

Prayer: Thank you, Lord God, for seeing our peril and for answering our pleas. Thank you for saving us from sin and death and for promising us your guidance, your protection, your glory in heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

July 9, 2017

Guest Preacher: Rev. Walter Otten

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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Wanted – Not Dead, but Alive!

July 3, 2017
“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” “What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:1-6

The Israelites thought they had God all figured out. “How we live and what we believe doesn’t really matter,” they thought. “We can live in sin; we can freely follow the desires of our sinful nature; we can worship false gods; we can put our trust in heathen kings. As long as we return to the Lord at the end of the day and offer him sacrifices upon our altars just as he has commanded us to do, he will heal us. He will bind up our wounds. He will restore us and allow us to live in his presence.”

But the Israelites didn’t have God all figured out. He saw their faith and their life for what it truly was. It was like “the morning mist” – here for a minute, and then gone. Their worship was empty. Their faith was insincere. Their lives were a reflection of love, not for him, but of love for themselves and for sin.

So what did the Lord really want from them? “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” he says, “and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.”

God didn’t want their mere outward deeds of piety and their hollow acts of worship. He wanted their hearts. He wanted hearts of faith that trusted in him for forgiveness of sins and for deliverance from death. And he wanted their lives. He wanted lives of obedience that flowed from their faith.

That’s exactly what our God wants from us too. It’s why he rebukes us in his Word for our sinfulness, that we might acknowledge our disobedience and then turn to him in confession. It’s why he reveals Jesus in his Word, that we might trust him as our only source of forgiveness and salvation. It’s why he calls us in his Word to live for him in obedience that flows from a heart filled with faith in him.

God grant us all such hearts of faith and such lives of obedience today and always!

Prayer: Lord God, help me see myself for who I am – a sinner in need of your forgiveness – that I might then see you for who you are: my Savior-God who forgives. Grant me a heart of faith in your forgiveness and a life of thanksgiving to follow. Amen.


Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 2, 2017

Guest Preacher: Rev. Walter Otten

Divine Service I, Page 136, Lutheran Worship

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