Sermon Teaser ~ Know Him

The following is the opening paragraph of the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday, October 18 on Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents). To God be the glory!


Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, is faithful and true. Jesus Christ, King if kings, reigns on high; one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, the Son of God died for your sins and washed you clean in his blood. Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, is coming to retrieve his bride, the Church. He is faithful and he will do it. To know Jesus is to be in awe of his majesty. To know Jesus is to live in expectation of his glorious return. To know Jesus is to live in freedom and without fear. To know Jesus is to know Life eternal. So do not just know about Jesus, but know him; and live in union with him and justified in God’s eyes. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace who reigns forever and ever, let us pray…


[To see the complete sermon, go to YouTube and search for, “Living Word Lutheran Church – Graham, WA”. It will go live at 9:45 AM (Pacific) and will be saved on the channel]

Sermon teaser ~ The Feast

The following is the opening paragraph of the sermon I am preaching tomorrow; Sunday, October 11, 2020, on Matthew 22:1-14 – the Parable of the Wedding Feast. To God be the glory!


We live in the here and now, but through faith in Jesus, we also live with one foot in the Kingdom of God and with our noses enjoying the savory fragrances of the Wedding Feast. We are not yet seated at the table, but the invite has been proclaimed. All is ready. Come to the Wedding Feast. And so that savory fragrance is a reminder of our King’s grace and faithfulness as we live in the hope that everything has been prepared for us. And upon entry into the Feast, a garment will be given. No, not something from Macy’s or dare I say, Kohl’s, or anything else of our creation or effort, but rather something far more glorious. Something that only can come from the King of kings. It is a garment like none other, washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. But in the meantime, our Shepherd sets a table for us in the midst of our enemies; anointing us with oil and refreshing our souls, until that day we dwell in the house of the Lord forever, feasting sumptuously on fine wine and fine food. Come all is ready. Come to the Wedding Feast.

Sinking

A little while ago a series of events unfolded, leading me to reflect on the sum of those events taking place all in one day: Wildfire smoke from eastern WA; wildfires around us in western WA; a power outage (that ended up lasting 40 hours); poor air quality means we should not open windows; and the First day of school was postponed. And all of this in the midst of a pandemic. I posted my list on Facebook and concluded my list with a funny movie reference and then asked, “It cannot possibly get any worse, right?” My intention was to be funny, but many people did not see it that way. Some people concluded I was struggling, maybe even depressed. They offered words and prayers of support. A congregation member asked me later if I was doing better. Even though I was trying to be funny, I think my heart was trying to show me something I was forgetting. Soon after I posted my list on Facebook, a seminary classmate commented: “Pandemic, civil unrest, and the heat wave coming tomorrow. Yet Christ’s promises to you remain unchanged.” YES! Christ’s promises to me remain unchanged. A couple days later my morning devotion was about Peter walking on the water with Jesus. When Peter looked at the raging storm around him, he began to sink. I had taken my eyes off Jesus and I was sinking along with Peter.

O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” [Matthew 14:31]

I do not know, but what I do know is that my faithful Lord and Savior reached out to me as my heart cried out. He sent people into my life to proclaim the Truth. He clung to me with those nail-pierced hands and carried me safely to shore. When Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, he declared those whom he saved – saved. He declared that Satan no more has a hold on you. Jesus defeated hopelessness and fear. Jesus reigns on high now, and forever more.

And so, instead of a list of woes and other negatives going on, I am focusing on the blessings in my life: two beautiful children excited for school, a healthy family, less arthritic back pain, the wildfires did not touch my home or church. So much for which to thank and praise God, and when I do, my heart is led to worship. Look to your blessings and not the challenges of this year. Below is a poem I wrote in June 2015 that speaks of my heart today. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

I love You in the morning,
I love You in the eve;
for You are always with me,
and ever will You be.

I thank You with my whole heart,
I thank You all my life;
for You are holy awesome,
and ever be my Light.

Jesus is my Lord and Life,
for his life did he give.
You are always faithful, God,
and ever will I Live.

Adventing with Peace

The following is the opening paragraph from the sermon I am preaching on Sunday, December 8 — the 2nd Sunday of Advent. The theme is peace that only God can give through the birth of Jesus Christ – our Lord and Savior who is coming again.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Matthew 3:2]

Those are the words of Jesus as he prepares his disciples for this eventual departure – a death they do not and can not understand right now. But it is a death that will usher in the peace that Jesus is leaving with them ~ for he is the Prince of Peace as prophesized through Isaiah. It is a peace that goes beyond comprehension. It is a peace that can not be manufactured, copied or imitated. It is a peace that, really, can not even be imagined – only hoped for with complete confidence. And I say confidence because – well – Jesus left it and because God promised it long before the man, Jesus, came on the scene. We talk about peace, but rarely do we pursue it rightly. The world imagines a peace where wars cease, racism is eliminated, discrimination is gone. Governments try to legislate peace. Churches pass meaningless resolutions that claim to eradicate racism. Basically, they try to ban sin which cannot be done by humans. Shalom – the peace that Jesus brings is so much more and is only ushered in through Jesus and the arrival of God’s kingdom. Let our Adventing continue.

More So

Creator God,
The lilies of the field neither toil nor spin.
The birds of the air neither sow nor reap.
They simply go about their existence with no fret, fear or worry.
Oh God, as You provide for the lilies and the birds, more so do you provide for me.
And so…
May I rest this night in the sure and certain promise that as You never fail the birds and lilies, more so will You never fail me.
May I rest this night in the sure and certain promise that as You know every single bird and lily, more so do You know me.
May I rest this night knowing that as You never lose sight of a single bird or lily, more so will You never lose sight of me.
As I rest this night, may I know as Your eye is upon the sparrow, it is more so upon me.
As a father watches over his children at night, more so do You hover over me.
Oh God, my Father, I lay down in peace, more so than the birds and lilies.
Amen.

Thy Kingdom Come

God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word and live a godly life on earth now and in heaven forever.
[Martin Luther’s Small Catechism]

Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near
[Matthew 3:2 and 4:17]

Reflecting on God’s kingdom is one that gives me great peace. When Pilate questioned Jesus, our Lord said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Which means nothing of this world can touch those who are within. And to be within is a gift of God through His Holy Spirit.

God’s kingdom is not a place,
With walls and buildings to embrace.
His kingdom is not a base,
That exists out there just someplace.

His kingdom is Jesus our Lord.
His kingdom is not of this world.
His kingdom exists without end.
His kingdom is our great reward.

God’s kingdom is here.
God’s kingdom is coming.
God’s kingdom is present.
God’s kingdom won’t disappear.

So,

Repent! The kingdom is near.
Hear this and turn from your sin.
Jesus the Lord died for you.
That in death you may never fear.

Liturgy of Repentance ~ Fishing

The following is the Liturgy of Repentance for our final Lenten midweek worship tonight. The scripture focus is Matthew 4:18-22; Jesus calling Andrew, Peter, James and John. We are called to radical discipleship; to leave all and become a fisher of people. This is scary and impossible on our own, but Jesus has promised to show us the best fishing holes 🙂

Redeeming God,
through Jesus Christ You have called me to follow.
You have called me to submit.
You have called me to trust.
You have called me to obey.
Oh God, I am blown away.
I have no credentials that would make me worthy to speak for You.
I have often messed up.
I have fallen short of Your glory.
I have sinned.
And You have called me?
Me?
A sinner?
You have called me to radically follow you.?
And to be a fisher of people?
But I don’t know how to fish for people.
I don’t know the right spots or the right methods.
But there is someone who does know.
As Jesus showed his disciples where and when to cast their nets,
show me.
You know where the fishing is good.
You know the best methods.
You know the best timing.
Forgive me, oh God, for when I take these matters into my own hands.
Forgive me, for when I fail to trust You.
Forgive me for trying to be my own fishing guide.
Forgive me for doubting my call.
Forgive me.
Oh Lord, my God, hear my cry: I repent…

Fasting…Kind of

I am fasting…

…from social media…

…kind of.

I’m going on 24 hours now but let me assure you that I am still staying inline with Matthew 6:17 as my head is anointed and my face is washed. I’m not whining about it or walking around like I’m suffering from withdrawal. I do feel, though, like I am cheating a little since this is being automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter, but I am justifying it by not actually opening the apps or logging in online.

But pastor, WordPress is a social media platform, isn’t it?

Well, yes, but…it’s not Facebook or Twitter and I’m not checking WordPress and perusing it from time to time. That’s why I said “kind of“.

So, if you are “staying inline” with Matthew 6:17, why then are you writing about it?

You’re asking a lot of questions (or I’m talking to myself too much), either way, here’s why I am posting this:

My life seems quieter now.

I read a devotion recently that talked about listening to the voice of God. The author said that many people have inside voices and outside voices. He then went on to say that God doesn’t speak to us with those voices but rather with a still, small, quiet whisper. Why would God do that if He wants to talk to us so we will listen. Well, when someone whispers to you what do you naturally do?

Exactly!

You draw closer to them so you can hear. See my point?

Facebook, Twitter and platforms like those are loud; all using their “outside voices” to get your attention. So excuse me, I’m going to go and listen.

The Pastor -|—

Be Revealed To Us

Holy God,
Mighty in power,
Great in mercy,
Awesome in love;
as You heard the cry of Your people in captivity in Egypt
and sent Moses to lead them to freedom,
You heard the groaning of Your creation
and sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to give us freedom.
He was born King and quickly upset the powers that be.
Jesus rose to prominence only to be crucified
and then raised to complete Your plan of redemption.
Therefore,
as the magi traveled far to worship this King,
may we too humble ourselves before our King.
May our pride be dismantled,
and our kingdoms be destroyed,
that we may live forever in the Kingdom You have established.
Send Your Spirit that we may see Jesus revealed again and again
as Savior and Lord of our lives;
that we too may return;
walking by the Way of the magi;
praising You,
through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Sofia – Homelessness Sucks

Sofia died on Sunday.

She wasn’t a family member.
She wasn’t a congregation member.
She wasn’t really a friend.
Sofia was just a woman I got to know over the last 2 1/2+ years.

You see, Sofia was homeless. Actually, she kind of had a home but most people would call it a Suburban. For 5+ plus years she lived in that vehicle with her cat. She received a extremely meager social security death benefit of $700/mo but that had to pay for a storage locker for some belongings, gas, food (for her and her cat), a basic cell phone, and for other incidentals that you and I would take for granted. She barely got by on that $700. When something “catastrophic” would happen in her life; something that most people would not deem “catastrophic”, she often came to my office for help. Sometimes she just needed a break and thus I would give her a night or two in a hotel. Thankfully my congregation has a fund for such emergencies. But as for housing, we searched high and low for resources to help her, but homelessness here in the Pacific Northwest is an epidemic; one of large proportions. Daunting, really, and sad. We were overwhelmed.

Earlier this year Sofia was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. At last count she had 12 tumors scattered throughout her body. One, that she showed me, was the size of a grapefruit sticking out of her armpit (sorry for that image, but she had to live with that). It seems strange to say, but it was a blessing when she ended up in the local hospital for the final weeks of her life. She got to die in a warm bed, having been well fed and surrounded by nurses and doctors caring for her. It may not sound like much to you, but for Sofia she died like a queen. Sure beats dying in anonymity on some park bench somewhere in the Pacific Northwest rain.

Many of us haven’t thought much about it but maybe we should. There are many people out there like Sofia. People who, for one reason or another, end up on the streets. Not all homeless people are drug users or alcoholics who made bad choices. Sofia was neither. Her husband died (her sole support) and then 6 months later she was left with no home. Nothing. This wasn’t her fault and it wasn’t due to her lack of effort. Often times, people who find themselves homeless are blamed and accused of being lazy and irresponsible. That is just a short-sighted stereotype and wrong. Many find themselves homeless due to conditions outside their control. Sofia was one such person.

Sofia and I had many conversations about faith. She questioned me often about why this was happening to her; why God wasn’t doing something. Then, in the next breath, she would express her faith and trust in God. She was rough around the edges and rubbed some people the wrong way but she tried everything she could and nothing happened for her. Sometimes I wondered if God indeed did forget about Sofia, but I know that wasn’t the case. In the end, though, I believe she kept the faith.

Now, I am left to reflect and wonder. The question I ask myself is, did I do everything I could? Could I have done more?  I just don’t know. There’s so much guilt. Did I do enough for the “…least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46)?

What is my point for writing this? I think part of the reason is for reflection purposes but mainly because I don’t want Sofia to slip into anonymity without anyone knowing her story. At least now, this will forever be out there on the Internet. Hopefully someone will stumble across this post and read it. Sofia’s story is not going to die with her. Will it change the world? Will it cause someone to come up with a solution for homelessness? Probably not. Will it change you? I hope so.

So the next time you see a homeless person, don’t just turn a blind eye, but do something. I’m not suggesting that you clean up a spare room in your house, but don’t just ignore them. Don’t pretend they’re not there. Don’t turn them into the background noise of a messed up world that is someone else’s problem. Look at them. Notice them. Pray for them. Maybe even talk to them. Listen to their story. Learn. And then, pray for change in the world, but let that change begin with you and I. That’s what I’m praying for because something needs to be done and it needs to be done now. Homelessness sucks. Plain and simple.

May Sofia rest in peace. At least now, she is no longer homeless. Praise be to God. Amen.

The Pastor -|—