From the Pastor: December 2009

Time for a new look! It’s a new Church Year. That’s right, on November 29th we begin a brand new Church Year with the First Sunday in Advent.

Advent is a time of preparation for the joyful celebration of Christmas, the Nativity of our Lord Jesus. It is one of the penitential seasons (seasons of repentant reflection). Although Advent is not as penitential as Lent, you might notice some of the changes in the worship service that reflect the nature of Advent. The Hymn of Praise “Glory to God in the Highest” is omitted. The “Alleluia and Verse” is omitted. In Advent, our liturgy is a little more reserved as we build up to the Christmas Festival.

But it is not just Christ’s first coming among us in humility that we ponder in Advent. We also consider His Second Coming in glory on the Last Day. As Christians, we are living in the constant tension between what is and what is to come. Christ came once, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, buried and risen again on the third day to win forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. When He comes again He comes as Judge of the living and the dead in order to take us who believe in Him through faith into the heavenly home He has prepared for us. As much as we look forward to Christmas, we should also be that excitedly and preparedly looking for Jesus’ coming again.

One of Advent’s themes is watchfulness. We will hear Jesus’ words in Luke 21, “And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:29-35)

Use this holy season of Advent to better prepare yourselves for your Lord’s return. Re-commit to regularly and faithfully hearing His Word and receiving His Sacrament with your Church Family. Re-commit to reading and studying the Bible at home devotionally and in one of our Bible classes. Let the Lord fill you up with His grace, love, forgiveness, and life until that day He comes again to take you to be with Him in the glories of eternity.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Fall Quarter Sunday School Lessons

9/5/10: God Creates the World (Genesis 1:1-2:3)

9/12/10: God Creates Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26-2:25)

9/19/10: Sin Enters the World (Genesis 3)

9/26/10: Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16)

10/3/10: Noah and the Flood (Genesis 6:1-9:17)

10/10/10: God Calls Abraham (Genesis 12:1-9)

10/17/10: Abraham Rescues Lot (Genesis 14)

10/24/10: God’s Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:1-6; 17:1-27)

10/31/10: Abraham’s Visitors from Heaven (Genesis 18:1-15)

11/7/10: Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 21:1-7; 22:1-19)

11/14/10: Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24)

11/21/10: Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25: 19-34; 27:1-40)

11/28/10: Jacob’s Dream (Genesis 27:41-28:22)

Sermon for November 22, 2009

Jude 20-25 (Last Sunday in the Church Year—Series B)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 22, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Epistle lesson from Jude:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Sometimes life is characterized by the phrase, “Hurry up and wait.”  You rush to get to your doctor appointment on time only to sit there and wait.  You scurry to get out of the house only to sit in traffic and wait.  You get to the restaurant for dinner and have to wait.  It seems like life is made up of one wait after another.  So what do you do while you wait?  Doctor’s offices put out magazines for your reading pleasure.  Perhaps you bring your own book, or the daily crossword puzzle, or, if you are like my wife, you bring the cross-stitch that you are working on.  As you sit in traffic, you can listen to the radio.  You can talk on your phone if you are hands-free, but please don’t text or talk holding it.  When we have to wait at a restaurant, my son likes the anticipation of when the vibrating, light-flashing notification device will go off.  But you can only wait so long to “Daddy, is it going to flash now?” asked over and over.  So somehow we manage in our hurry up and wait world.

As Christians, we are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to come again like He said He would.  Jesus promised, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3)  At our Lord’s Ascension, the angels reminded the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)  So what do Christians do while they wait for Jesus’ return on the Last Day?  Our Epistle lesson answers that question for us this morning as to what you and I do while we are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The first thing that believers in Jesus do while they wait for His return is that they keep themselves in the love of God.  This is done in two ways: (1) building yourselves up in your most holy faith, and (2) praying in the Holy Spirit.

Believers are not just to sit around twiddling their thumbs while they wait for the mercy of Jesus to be revealed at His Coming.  There’s simply too much temptation, sin, and trouble to do that.  Christians, as you and I well know, are constantly being attacked by the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.  We are constantly being bombarded with temptations to sin, continually pelted with false gods to worship in the forms of money, power, and popularity.  The devil prowls around us like a lion seeking to devour us and chew up our Christian faith.  There has to be some way of keeping ourselves in God’s love in the midst of all this.  And there is!  God Himself keeps our faith from stumbling and growing weak during our time of waiting so that He will present us blameless in Christ before His glory on the Last Day.

To be kept in the love of God while we wait for Christ means to be where God can love us as His children, to be where God can shower His gifts of love on us.  It is God’s love and God’s gifts given to us that build us up in our Christian faith so that we can stand strong and firm against the temptations of the world, the devil, and our sinful flesh.  In order for God to do this, we must be connected to the source of His love and gifts.  We must be “plugged in” to His Gospel Word and Sacraments.

God’s Word of Promise, the Good News of our forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ, is the means He has chosen for building up our faith in Christ while we are waiting for the mercy of our Lord in His Second Coming.  It was through the Word of Promise that saving faith was first created in our hearts when the Lord joined that Gospel Word with water in Holy Baptism.  As Luther rightly says in the Small Catechism, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word. . . . It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. . . . Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water.  For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism.   But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit. . . . [Baptism] indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”  Our Baptism keeps us in the love of God and builds us up in our most holy faith so that we can wait for our Lord’s return and overcome the temptations that surround us.

So does the Lord’s Supper.  Our Lord’s Word of Promise “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” shows us that as we eat and drink the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine that forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words.  “These words, [‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’], along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament.  Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: ‘forgiveness of sins.’”  (Small Catechism)  The Lord’s Supper keeps us in the love of God and builds us up in our most holy faith so that we can wait for our Lord’s return and overcome the temptations that surround us.

Of course, it is the Word of Promise itself that is active in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  It is the Word of God combined with water, bread and wine, that does the great things that it promises in giving us faith in Jesus as our only Savior, in giving us the forgiveness of sins Jesus alone won on the cross for us, and in giving us the eternal life Jesus secured for us by His death and resurrection.  It is that Gospel Word that we receive in the Bible itself, which is God’s Word.  We are kept in the love of God and are built up in our most holy faith as we read this Word daily and hear it proclaimed from this pulpit.  “For the word of God is living and active.” (Heb. 4:12)

As we are built up in our faith through God’s Word and Sacraments, our prayer life is also built up.  By the working of the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments, we remain connected to our heavenly Father as men, women, and children of prayer.  As we wait for the mercy of our Lord we are not anxious even though we have the devil, the world, and our flesh at us constantly.  Rather, in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we let our requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)   “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26)

So there is much that God does for us while we wait for the Coming Again of His Son, our Savior Jesus.  Through His Word and Sacraments we are kept in the love of God.  Through the Spirit’s leading of our prayer life we are kept in the love of God.  Our most holy faith is built up and made stronger as we meet God where He chooses to come to us with His love and His gifts of forgiveness and eternal life.

But there is more left for us to do while we wait.  Our faith cannot help but to respond to God’s gifts.  As we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life in true faith we act on behalf of others.  We who are kept in God’s love in Christ through Word and Sacrament have mercy on those who doubt God’s Word and Promises in Jesus.  We save others by snatching them out of the fire, showing mercy on them by not accepting their sin as the norm.  How do we do this?  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we share our most holy faith with people.  We show them their sins and their need for a Savior.  We then give to them God’s Word of Promise that Jesus is the world’s Savior from sin and death.  Through God’s Word, people are led to repentance and faith in Christ.  As the Lord grants us opportunity, Christians share the message of salvation with boldness, for it truly comes from the Lord and He truly works through that testimony, leading those who repent and believe to eternal life.

In the Lord’s Kingdom, we have a lot to do while we wait for Jesus to come again.  Keep yourselves in the love of God as your remain connected to Him in Word and Sacrament.  Let His Gospel received in Baptism, Word, and Supper build you up in your most holy faith.  Pray in the Holy Spirit.  Let your faith in Christ respond to His great love by having mercy on those who doubt by introducing them to God’s Word.  Let God’s Word show people their sin and their Savior, Jesus.  Let your faith respond and save others by snatching them out of the fire as you tell them God’s Word so that the Holy Spirit might lead them to repentance and faith in Jesus.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)