Are We Different? No, Not at All!

January 30, 2017

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

When you are at a worship service, do you look around at the other people there? Sometimes our eyes and minds pick up on what is different from us. We see the differences in the way they look, the clothes they wear, the color of their skin, or their age. What crazy clothes! What outrageous hair! They’re 47 years older or younger than me – what could we have in common?

Our sinful nature likes to notice all the differences. We use those differences to further separate ourselves from others. This probably doesn’t come as a shock to you – you’ve done it and others have done it to you. And, we’ve done it to God. God commands us to do good and holy things. When we choose to do something different, we show our true, sinful colors. We are different from God. We show that difference when we choose to do what he hates.

But God has done something remarkable. God unites those who are VERY different. We are sinners. God is absolutely perfect, holy and sinless. God hates sin. In love, God chose to unite us to him. God loves us even though we are very different from him. He chose to unite sinners like you and me to him!

When did God do this? In Baptism, God washes sin away. The Holy Spirit works through the water and God’s Word. God forgives our sins. God unites us to himself. God makes us a part of his body – closely and firmly connected to him. Although we were different, God made us holy and connected us to him.

God also promises that when the Holy Spirit connected us to God in Baptism, he also connected us with all other believers who have been baptized. Although God has blessed us with different personalities, different gifts, different skin colors, different hairstyles and fashion sense, the Holy Spirit has made us part of ONE BODY. Next time you sit in church and look around at everyone else, take a moment to marvel. People so different have been made ONE. The Holy Spirit unites us to God and to each other.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, sometimes I feel alone and isolated. Thank you for loving me in spite of all my sins, and for washing all my sins away. Comfort me with the good news that I am never alone because you have connected me to God and to all believers. Amen.


Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

January 29, 2017

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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Telling Others

January 23, 2017

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:40-42

There was so much excitement and so little stress when Andrew told his brother about Jesus. Have you ever wished it was that easy?

It is easy to worry about trying to find just the right words to say, or trying to find just the right time to say them. But notice that Andrew wasn’t concerned about any of that.

Andrew didn’t worry about getting the timing right because he did it as “the first thing.” There was no waiting for just the right moment because Andrew got right to it.

He didn’t worry about finding the right words to say because all he said was what he knew: “We have found the Messiah.” There was no crafting of the perfect thing to say. Andrew just said what he knew.

All of this is because Andrew realized what the real job of sharing our faith is – it is bringing people to Jesus. It is easy to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to share Jesus and to do it in just the right way. However, sharing our faith is really a natural thing for Christians. We want to bring other people to be where Jesus is.

Jesus is the one who does the real work. He is the one who does the convincing. He is the one who puts opportunities into our lives. Our job is just to bring people to be with Jesus.

Prayer: Father, help me to be like Andrew as he brought people to Jesus. Amen.

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

January 22, 2017

Guest Preacher: Rev. Frederic W. Baue

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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No Fear, Just Confidence!

January 16, 2017

In Christ Jesus and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

After being caught pushing his sister, does the naughty boy approach his parents with confidence? No, normally he hides under the covers. After the parents come home early and discover the unsanctioned party, does the teenage daughter feel at ease talking to her dad? No, normally she avoids him as much as possible.

If sinful children avoid approaching their sinful parents when they are confronted with guilt, how can it ever be possible for sinful humans to approach a perfect God? There is only one way: it is only possible in Christ. When we trust Christ as our perfect substitute, we trust that his life counts for ours. We hold that our sins have been paid for on his blood-stained cross. We believe that God no longer holds them against us.

We are able to approach God in freedom and confidence. We don’t have to hide from him; we don’t need to avoid him; we are not afraid that he will punish us for our sins … for he has already punished Christ for them instead.

What a blessing to approach God in freedom and confidence!

Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for washing away everything that convicts me of wrong. Fill me with the peace of your forgiveness through Jesus. Give me joy that I might make the most of the privilege to approach you in freedom and confidence. Amen.

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 15, 2017

Divine Service, Page 6, Hymnal Supplement 98

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God Even Cares in the Small Stuff

January 9, 2017

So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He [Jesus] will be called a Nazarene.” – Matthew 2:23

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” While most people try to practice this philosophy, God doesn’t. He pays very close attention to the small details. This becomes clearly apparent when I consider God’s plan to rescue me and all people.

It would be easy to focus on only the big picture that Jesus died and rose again. Certainly this is true and very important. Still, it would lack what some of the smaller details provide. Consider the simple words: “He will be called a Nazarene.” It would be easy to dismiss this. However, the city in which Jesus lived his early life becomes important when I consider it in the context of what precedes it: “So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets.”

Jesus’ early life in Nazareth was recognized throughout his ministry. He received the title Jesus the prophet from Nazareth. He was known throughout Galilee and Judea as Jesus the miracle worker from Nazareth. He was finally crucified under the sentence, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.

God’s attention even to this small detail leads me to trust him. God is faithful in everything. Nothing escapes his divine attention or merciful care. So when I am struggling, burdened, or on the verge of despair, God knows and God provides the help I need. Even more important, I have the assurance that my rescue is complete. God did not overlook or leave even the smallest detail to chance. So when Jesus said, “It is finished,” everything that was promised and required was completed perfectly. The forgiveness of my sin, the freedom from death and the devil, the promise of life in heaven is certain – nothing was overlooked or left undone. Even the ability to trust that God has rescued me through Jesus has been given to me as a free gift of God’s love.

All this leads me to rely on the peace, joy and undeserved love of God’s merciful care. My confidence is the result of one simple truth: God pays attention to the small details.

Prayer: O gracious Lord, because you know and have all things in your control, give me the faith to trust in your care, and in the rescue you have provided through your Son, my Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.