Tag: outreach

Living in God’s Family

  • When:    Starts September 7, 7:00-8:30 p.m. (Scheduled to last four weeks)
  • Where:   LCOR
  • Who:      YOU!
  • What:     A Special Learning Event
  • Why:      
    • To help grow your faith in action;   
    • To equip you for service/ministry in your church;
    • To learn how to change your church conversations;
    • To experience spiritual growth in the family relationship of the church.
  • How:       Through PowerPoint presentations, conversation, case studies, activities, and sharing.

Sermon for November 14, 2010

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (25th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 14, 2010

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

Our text for today is the Epistle lesson from 2 Thessalonians 3:

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Fact: Not all people have saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Fact: Without saving faith in Jesus Christ, people are lost to death in hell.

Fact: You and I must pray for missions and for evangelism

Fact: You and I must share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

So we start off with the problem—not all people have saving faith in Jesus Christ.  How do we know?  The Bible tells me so, right here in our text.  “Not all have faith.”  If everyone had faith in Jesus Christ, congregations like ours would be filled to overflowing with believers.  That isn’t the case because not all people have faith.

Saving faith is trust in the heart that believes that only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  This faith trusts that Jesus died on the cross to receive people’s punishment for sin, winning our complete forgiveness and right standing before God.  Faith believes that Jesus rose again from the dead on Easter Sunday morning, forever defeating death, guaranteeing our bodily resurrection from the dead.  It is faith alone that receives God’s blessings that Jesus won for us on the cross with His death and with His resurrection—the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation.  But, not everyone has this faith.

There are people living in our community, right now, today, who do not have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Some of these people are our neighbors and our friends.  They are coworkers and classmates.  They are adults and they are children.  They are the lost.  Without faith they are lost in that they do not have the hope of eternal life, but rather only the punishment of eternal death.  Without faith they are lost because they do not receive forgiveness for their sins.  They are lost because they do not believe in Jesus Christ.  The Bible makes this very clear in Acts 4:12, “Jesus Christ of Nazareth. . . . There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

One of the sad tragedies is that the Lost don’t realize their “lostness.”  They are unaware of their sick spiritual condition of separation from God.  They do not recognize their sin, their complete helplessness to change themselves, and their need for a Savior from death and hell.  Sin has so blinded people that they don’t know how dangerous it is.  People have a notion that they are basically good, that everything is fine.  If people are basically good, then why is there so much evil in the world?  If people are basically good, why are there so many murders, attacks, robberies, and the like?  People are NOT basically good.  All people, including you and me, were conceived and born sinful, evil, wicked, and godless.

Stinging words, aren’t they?  These are words that speak of a tragic, horrible reality.  It’s God’s Word in the Bible that shows us our lost condition.  It’s God’s Word in the Bible that shows us our separation from God, our sin, our helplessness to change.  Listen to what the one, true God says.

Psalm 51: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Ecclesiastes 7:20: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 8:7: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

Ephesians 2:1: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins”

We all started life in this world in the darkness and blindness of sin.  We all started out lost from

God and the eternal life He has prepared for us.  And it took an act of God to change that.  St. Paul writes in our text, “For not all have faith.  But the Lord is faithful.”

God had sinners to deal with and used His love to win them.  Immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate the forbidden fruit, bringing sin into the world, God promised to make everything right again.  He promised a Savior from sin and death and hell.  This Savior, a child of a woman, would defeat Satan, that ancient serpent.   God’s Son, Jesus Christ, walked among sinners and treated them as His friends, with His wondrous patience.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends.” (John 15:13-14a)

The Lord was faithful to His promise.  Jesus, the Son of God, was born of the virgin Mary to be our only Savior.  Jesus was faithful in keeping God’s Commandments perfectly on our behalf.  Jesus was faithful in suffering the agony of death and hell on a cross for you and me and for all of the lost.  It is the eternally valuable blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all our sins.  Jesus’ death on the cross means our forgiveness and our eternal life.  Jesus rescued us and all people from our “lostness.”  It was Christ who “came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)  It was Jesus, the Good Shepherd to us who are like sheep who have gone astray and cannot find our way home, who went to search for us.  When He found us in our sins, suffering covered in our guilt, He picked us up, washed us in His cleansing blood, put clean, new clothes on us, and carried us home rejoicing!

This happened through the waters of Holy Baptism.  Washed with the water and the Word of God, we were cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away our sin.  We were clothed with the righteousness, the holiness, of Jesus.  In Baptism our faithful Lord rescued us from our sin and its guilt by freely giving us forgiveness.  He saved us from death and from the devil’s power.  He gave us the gift of saving faith, establishing us as believers in Christ, guarding us from the evil one.  As a gift to us who were once lost but are now found in Christ, the Lord Himself now directs our hearts to the love of God and to the steadfast patience of Jesus Christ.

“Not all have faith.  But the Lord is faithful.”  He was faithful to you and me who were once lost in sin and death without saving faith.  God called us to be His children in Baptism.  He gave us faith in Jesus as our only Savior, forgiving us, saving us, and giving us life forever with Him.  And the Lord’s faithfulness continues through you and me to those who remain lost today without saving faith.

Remember the lost?  They are your neighbors and friends, coworkers and classmates.  They are adults and they are children.  They do not know Jesus Christ by faith.  They do not trust in Him as their only Savior from sin and death.  What can we do?  We can do nothing on our own.  To change sinful hearts is an act of God alone.  But God has picked you and me to carry the message of faith, forgiveness, and life to the lost.

Paul begins today, “Pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.”  The Word of the Lord runs ahead and speeds along when it is proclaimed, announced, and shared with the lost.  The Word cannot run too fast and too far and receive too much glory in the hearts of people.  But how does the Word of the Lord, the Good News about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, run?  It runs with our legs; it speaks with our mouths.  If you, the believers in Jesus Christ who live by faith in the Son of God, do not speed ahead God’s Word of love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, it will not go.  God’s Word says this in Romans 10, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? . . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

(Romans 10:14-17)

Everything we do as a Christian congregation centers on Christ and His mission to seek and to save the lost.  Our Pre-School, Sunday School, Vacation Bible school all seek the bring children into a loving relationship with their friend Jesus.  Bible classes, tag sales, craft fairs, the Food Shelf Ministry especially target adults that we might share Jesus with them.  But that is not enough.  Each one of you, boys and girls, men and women, you must take the message about Jesus to your neighbors and friends, coworkers and classmates.  You simply must.  They must hear the message about Jesus.  The Word of the Lord has to run its course and it has to run through you.  There is simply no option because those who live without Christ are lost and you have the only message of salvation to give them.

With faith in Jesus, we pray that each one of us individually will carry the Lord’s Word from this place out into the community, our homes, schools, and workplaces.  We are confident to share the message of Jesus Christ because the Lord directs our hearts and our words as we speak His Word on His behalf.  He will establish and guard us against the evil one.  He will open doors of opportunity for His Word to grow so that many who are now lost will be found by His Word, Jesus Christ.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)  Amen.

Sermon for September 12, 2010

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (Holy Cross Day – Observed)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 12, 2010

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

Our text is the Epistle lesson recorded in 1 Corinthians 1:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The year was A.D. 326.  The Roman Emperor was Constantine I, the first Emperor of Rome to convert to Christianity.  His mother, Helena of Constantinople, was said to have discovered the true cross of Jesus during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine.  The church was dedicated nine years later, on September 14, A.D. 335, with a portion of the thought-to-be cross placed inside it. On that day the cross itself was brought outside the church on so that the clergy and faithful could pray before the True Cross, and all could come forward to venerate and to worship it.  Since that time, Holy Cross Day has been observed by the Christian Church as a time for recognizing the Cross in a festival atmosphere as a symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ’s victory over death, and a reminder of His promise we heard in the Gospel lesson, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)

Since we will not be together on September 14, we are observing Holy Cross Day in our Divine Service this morning.  But we want to observe this festival day rightly.  Holy Cross Day, unlike those who celebrated in A.D. 335, is not a day to worship the cross.  We do not bow down before the cross.  We do not pay homage to it.  Our prayers are no more significant if we pray before a cross or if we pray on our needs at our bedside with no cross in sight.  The cross is simply a sign pointing to Jesus Christ and Him Crucified for the sins of the whole world.  We gather with a festival-like atmosphere around the cross in our church not because of the cross itself, but because Jesus, the only Son of God, died on the cross and rose again on the third day saving us from Satan, sin, and death.

A wooden cross was an instrument of torture and death.  It was a form of capital punishment reserved for the worst in society and those whom the Romans wished to make a public spectacle of, like generals or kings conquered in battle.  It is no wonder then that Paul wrote in our text that the “word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”  To speak about the Son of God, the Savior, dying on a cross was to speak a message of utter nonsense.  What God would have His Son killed to save people?  What God would have His Son killed on a cross?  That’s complete humiliation, disgrace, and dishonor.  No one in Paul’s day would have thought of someone dying on the cross as something to celebrate.  The cross was not a symbol of victory and life, but a sign of terror and death.  So long has the cross been a centerpiece in churches that Christians forget the shame and offensiveness it represented in the ancient world.

Christ crucified—a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  The world for “stumbling block” here is our English word, “scandal.”  The cross was a cause for offense; Jesus’ death on the cross as a criminal was scandalous.  How could that event have ever saved anyone from eternal destruction?  Who can put their faith and trust for salvation in One who was lifted up and tree and crucified.  For the Bible says, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13b)  To the Greeks, the message of a crucified savior was literally “moronic.”  It is so foolish that a deity would act so for human beings who cause so much trouble—to send the Christ to die on a cross!  You expect us to believe such silly things.  Give us plain signs; give us things that we can figure out with our wisdom through debate.

But human wisdom cannot lead to God, the only true God who reveals Himself in the message of the cross.  Human salvation was accomplished by the power of God effective in the word of the cross.  Jesus, the only Son of God, true God and true Man, suffered and died on the tree of the cross, bearing the sins of the whole world.  Unthinkable?  Yes.  Unimaginable?  Certainly.  Beyond human understanding?  Of course.  The cross was God’s instrument of wisdom, His means, of bringing about our forgiveness and eternal life.  “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” Jesus said.  Jesus was the grain of wheat that died so that He might bear much fruit—forgiveness and life for the whole world, you, me, and everyone else.  Jesus was the Savior, lifted up and crucified on a cross, so that by God’s grace through faith all people might be drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit and receive the fruits of His cross, forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God forever.  Christ, through His saving and atoning work of the cross, is truly the power of God and the wisdom of God.  The word of the cross, as ridiculous and silly as it is to some, as moronic and stupid as it is to others, the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the dynamite-power of God that gives us faith in Jesus as our Savior, forgives our sins, and gives us life forever.

But no matter how well we dress up the word of the cross, the world will always find it distasteful.  The world marches to the beat of a different drummer.  The message of Christ crucified and raised for us is only foolish to those who don’t know the message and those who refuse to believe it.  The world will always think that we Christians are wasting our time.  But that doesn’t stop us.  We know better.  We know by faith in Christ that the word of the cross is the dynamite-power of God for everyone!  It’s the power of God that saves us.  And like St. Paul, we want to boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and share the word of the cross with as many other people as we can.

Probably you’ve at least seen these small silver crosses that some of our members hand out at places like the Food Shelf.  These little crosses have no magic powers.  They are not for worship, nor to make prayers “work better.”  They are a sign pointing to Jesus, tool that we can use to speak to others the word of the cross, the message of Christ-crucified and risen.  And for that, we hear the conclusion of the message today, in which you play a vitally important role.

[Members of the Board of Elders and others then distribute crosses to the congregation while the Head Elder encourages the congregation to share the cross given and especially the spoken message of Jesus Christ with someone else.]

Sermon for August 8, 2010

Luke 12:22-34 (11th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

August 8, 2010

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

Our text is the Gospel Lesson recorded in Luke 12:

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.  Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

In his book God’s Psychiatry, Charles L. Allen tells this story: “As World War II was drawing to a close, the Allied armies gathered up many hungry orphans.  They were placed in camps where they were well-fed.  Despite excellent care, they slept poorly.  They seemed nervous and afraid.  Finally, a psychologist came up with the solution.  Each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he was put to bed.  This particular piece of bread was just to be held, not eaten.  The piece of bread produced wonderful results.  The children went to bed knowing instinctively they would have food to eat the next day.  That guarantee gave the children a restful and contented sleep.”

Jesus begins our reading this morning by telling His disciples not to be anxious or worried about their food and clothes.  There are, believe it or not, more important things than unnecessary concern over what you will eat and what you will put on.  But try telling that to one of those orphans.  Try telling that to the homeless person.  Try convincing one of the clients who need to use the Food Shelf.  Try to make someone who has just lost their job say that they don’t need to be concerned and they will probably laugh at you.  Those of us who “have” much more readily accept the words of Jesus, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  But those who “have not” are going to balk.  “Jesus says that God feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies and grasses of the field.  Why doesn’t He take care of me?  If I’m of “much more value” than birds, why am I struggling just to put food on the table and clothes on my back?”

First, let’s understand what Jesus is NOT saying.  He is not saying that we don’t need to care.  He is not saying that there will never be any concern over paying the bills, buying the groceries, or clothing the family.  We live in a world that is totally messed up by sin and bad things do happen.  People, including Christians, suffer loss and want and need and hunger.  Worry is going to happen.  But when situations arise that cause us anxiety and concern over the physical things we need, how do respond?  Excessive worry and concern over the needs of the body manifests a lack of trust in God, a serious failing.  Rather than seeking what we are to eat and drink and wear, being worried about such things as if they are priority number one, Christ offers a better option—to seek God’s kingdom first and let God worry about taking care of these other needs.

The better option is to trust in God’s grace.  Sadly, when we are fat and happy, we tend not to think much about the fact that all we need to support this body and life is a gift from God.  When we are in need, we tend to worry so much about it and try to fix things ourselves that we don’t think much about the fact that all we need is a gift from God.

The apostle Paul wrote from his prison cell, “I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)  This is the lesson the Lord also wants us to learn.  God understands our needs better than we do.  Perhaps it is best for me to be humbled by God so that I learn what it means to be brought low and face hunger and need.  Perhaps I have been too worried and focused on physical things and have not been rich toward God.  In His loving care for my whole person, body and soul, it may be best for me not to have so much for a time.  Like Paul, that work of God in my life would stop me from being dependent on myself and would call me to more firmly trust in God, depending completely on Him to give me the things I need to support this body and life.  Listen to what St. Peter writes in his first letter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)  In other words, “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

We have a Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who today calls us away from our unnecessary concerns over the things of this world to a lively faith and trust in our heavenly Father who simply gives us His kingdom.  God’s kingdom comes among us by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.  During His earthly ministry, Jesus repeatedly proclaimed the Good News message, “The kingdom of God has drawn near and is here now.”  God’s kingdom comes in the person of His Son, Jesus.  Jesus went to the cross to pay for all of our sins of excessive worry and concern about physical needs, the things that God knows we need and gives to us by His grace.  Jesus died and rose again so that, through the Holy Spirit, He might bring us personally into God’s kingdom through baptismal waters.  As baptized children of God, with faith and trust in our Father who promises to meet our physical needs, we pray as our Lord taught us, “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”  “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

We are called to believe His holy Word that promises, first, that God’s kingdom is ours and, second, that God has given us a heavenly treasure in addition to the things we need in the here and now.  In the here and now God gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, with faith in Jesus our Savior, that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving—seek first His kingdom and He gives us all the rest.  What is all the rest?  What is this daily bread He gives?  Everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

So look what happens when I find myself in need.  By God’s grace, while I may be lacking in money or clothes, food or goods, God blesses me with good friends and faithful neighbors who provide for me from their daily bread.  Is not God still seeing to it that I have what I need?  Certainly!  It may be not in the quantities I would prefer, but God, through His means, provides our daily bread.  He gives us the ability and faith through His Holy Spirit to trust that He will do just as He has promised.  Consider what happens when I find myself well-off.  I have the joy of first thanking and praising God for all His gifts, serving and obeying Him.  I am able to be the one who shares with those in need, providing the basic things others need out of my supply of daily bread.

In Christ, God the Father has made us members of His kingdom, whether we find ourselves with plenty or in need.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, no matter what our situation in life, He enables us to make life in the Kingdom our priority—faithfully using His Word and Sacraments, growing in faith toward God and love toward our neighbors.  All these other things that God knows we need, He will provide.  We will have enough.

As Christians, we learn what it is to have plenty and to face hunger with the Lord by our side.  We know what it is to have abundance and to have need as the Lord with us.  In all this we do not need to be afraid, whether we are rich or poor by the world’s standards.  We have Christ our Savior, our Shepherd, who will always guard His little flock.  We have our heavenly Father whose good pleasure it is to simply give us the kingdom of everlasting life, and along with that, everything we need in this earthly life.  We also have the Holy Spirit, who calls us by the Gospel to seek the Kingdom, trusting by faith that God’s Word is faithful and true.  We will have, by God’s standards, abundant life both here and in eternity.  Amen.

Sermon for July 11, 2010

Luke 10:25-37 (7th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Kingsville, MD

July 11, 2010

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I bring you greetings from the New England District of our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and from the saints of God at Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Enfield, CT, where I have the joy of serving as pastor.  Thank you for your very kind invitation extended through Pastor Wollman to share God’s precious Word with you on your Seminary Mission Sunday.

It is a very awesome thing that each month you set aside time to focus on your mission support and highlight those ministries which you hold up in prayer—Augsburg Lutheran Home, Lutheran Mission Society, Baltimore Lutheran School, and our two wonderful Concordia Seminaries.  It’s been said that the Lord blesses a mission-minded congregation.  I’ve also discovered that the Lord takes a mission-minded congregation and transforms it into a mission-DOING congregation.  It’s never enough to think about mission support and talk about mission outreach to the lost without the actions.  As our Lord Himself concludes our Gospel lesson today, “You go, and do likewise.”

The going and doing of which Jesus speaks in our Gospel text is showing mercy and having compassion on the neighbor.  One of the foundation blocks of mission outreach and support is compassion—compassion for the lost, for those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, compassion for the hurting, the sick, the dying, the needy, the suffering, the down and out, even people who you don’t like or consider worthy.  That’s what we discover in today’s Gospel lesson with Jesus’ encounter with the expert in the Law and His story about the Good Samaritan.

This expert in the Law knew His Bible.  He knew perfectly well what is written in the Law concerning the inheritance of eternal life—to love God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love neighbor as self.  But realistically, let’s see if we can set a limit on who we have to love in this world.  Really, aren’t there some people in your circles that you just don’t want to have anything to do with?  Maybe they are a little crude.  Maybe they are not on your economic or social level.  Perhaps they lack a good education.  Perhaps they don’t have the best hygiene and smell a little funny.  Possibly you simply hate that person because of something they have said or done to you; you regard them more as an enemy.  Are any of these people to be recipients of your compassion or is your mercy and love reserved for those most like you and with whom you have good, healthy relationships?

“Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asked.  Jesus told a story to illustrate what being neighbor means.  The Good Samaritan is one of those texts that many of us have heard over and over through the years.  It’s familiar to us.  A man gets beaten up on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and is robbed.  A priest and a Levite, who should have rendered help and aid, passed by on the other side rather than take the chance of ceremonially defiling themselves by approaching someone who might be dead.  That defilement would have prevented their service in the temple and so they chose to pass by on the opposite side rather than take the chance.  The poor wounded, half-dead man, had he been a child of the ‘70s, would likely have used the Abba lyric, “Take a chance on me!”  “Take a chance that I am still alive and help me.”  But they would not.  Along, then, comes a Samaritan with whom the Jews did not at all get along with.  The Jews regarded them as a bunch of half-breeds, their enemies.  It’s this Samaritan who risked his own neck to help a Jew, and then spent a considerable amount of money to provide for his ongoing care and recovery.  He invested a lot in order to rescue a traditional enemy.  Moral of the story: “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?”  “The one who showed him mercy.”  And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

We read in the Gospels over and over that when Jesus saw the crowds He had compassion on them and healed their sick.  In Matthew 9:36 we read, “When he saw the crowds, [Jesus] had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  When Jesus saw us, He also had great compassion for you and me.  Jesus is like the “Good Samaritan.” Our Lord did not pass by us sinners because we are by nature unclean.  No, Christ stopped with compassion to minister to our needs of body and soul.  Jesus gave up His life into death on a cross to win our forgiveness and eternal life.  He had the ultimate compassion on us when He died on the cross to save us.  Romans 5, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom. 5:8,10)

Jesus was not afraid of becoming ceremonially unclean, as were the priest and Levite.  He took that chance—He became incarnate, fully human.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners; Jesus touched the dead and raised them to life; Christ touched the lepers and the sick and healed them.  He even faced the uncleanness of death and the grave to save the whole unclean world from our sin.  Jesus had compassion on us who fail to always have compassion and mercy on others.  The result is that, through the forgiveness of sins, we are cleansed from our failures to have mercy.  We are then empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit to go and do, making known the Lord’s compassion though our Spirit-filled actions!

Through faith in Jesus Christ, being filled with the Gospel through Word and Sacrament, the Spirit empowers His Church to be a compassionate Church in mission.  We don’t want to be an uncompassionate church.  Today we have a couple examples of the uncompassionate church that we can learn from.  The priest and the Levite in our text chose not to take a chance and so chose not to show mercy and have compassion on someone in need.  But I want to share with you another example of what an uncompassionate church might look like.

A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves who robbed him all that he had and left him lying by the side of the road.  Before long a member of the church came by and saw the man lying there.  “Hello there!  I’m Charlie and I’m a member of First Lutheran Church.”  The injured man groaned.  “Speak up, man, God helps those who help themselves, you know.  You look very . . . dirty!  If you’d clean up a bit you could come to my church.  We have a parish-nurse program that could be of some real help.  How does that sound?”

“Well, I could use some help all right,” the injured man replied, “but I don’t think I could . . .”

Charlie said, “Of course you could.  Just set your mind to it.  That’s what I do.  Once I was injured worse than you, and I turned out okay.”

“Good for you.  It’s just that I can’t seem to get my legs moving,” the man replied.

“What were you doing on this road anyway?” asked Charlie.  “Everybody knows you’re a target for trouble along here.  Did they get all your money?  I only travel with the bare necessities, and I leave my credit cards at home.  Next time you should too.

“Uh, yeah.”

Charlie said, “When I’m having trouble, I pray about it.  You do know how to pray, don’t you?  Didn’t your mother ever teach you what’s important?  The Bible says, ‘Bring up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.’  It’s pretty obvious that somebody didn’t get brought up in the way he should go.  I guess you could just go the Bible bookstore when you get to Jericho and look in the prayer section.”

The injured man replied in frustration, limping away, “I don’t want to go to the Bible bookstore.  I don’t want to read a prayer.  And I don’t want any part of your church or your God!  I can take care of myself!”

Charlie called after him, “Hey wait a minute!  Here’s a tract!  Call the pastor if you need anything.”  Then he said to himself, “I guess you just can’t help some people.”

Christ empowers His Church to be a compassionate church by helping all people.  It is the mission of our church’s seminaries to train pastors, missionaries, and deaconesses who will demonstrate a compassionate ministry in the congregations and fields of service to which the Lord calls them.  Our seminaries prepare the pastors of our congregations to extend the compassion of Christ, not only to the members, but also to those outside the congregation, outside the Church.  Our seminaries also get pastors ready to be equippers of the congregation so that the people of God can go forth mission-minded and mission-doing with the compassion of Jesus Christ.

We don’t want to be uncompassionate pastors and people.  We want to be, with the help of the Holy Spirit, compassionate Christians and compassionate congregations—pastor and people together—going and doing in the name of the Lord the work of mercy that He has placed before us.  As you come to this house of God, you are filled with the power of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins.  As you regularly feed on God’s Word and the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, your faith is strengthened and you are equipped to show compassion every day by being neighbor to not just your friends, but to whoever happens to be nearby or close at hand who has a need.

Through the gift of faith, Christ has motivated you as a congregation to support financially and with your prayers your missions.  As you support our seminaries today, you are blessing congregations with future pastors who will demonstrate mercy and lead those congregations to a compassionate ministry in their communities.  Last October our congregation in Enfield saw a need in our community.  We have a town food bank called the Enfield Food Shelf.  They are currently serving over 600 families just in our town with non-perishable food items.  But there is a need for other everyday things—toothpaste and toothbrushes, razors and shaving cream, deodorant, bandages, shampoo.  Until we started this monthly ministry I never saw a person smile or cry tears over receiving these simple, everyday, personal care items.  But they have.  We are able to meet these physical needs by showing them the compassion of Christ.  What’s more, we are giving these people Jesus.  We speak with the clients and invite them to know Jesus.  Our members have given out over 220 English Bibles and 15 Spanish Bibles, each one marked with a reading guide to make it easier for the reader to follow the story of the Lord’s compassionate love in Jesus.  Three weeks ago, instead of us asking “Would you like a Bible?” we had Food Shelf clients asking us for Bibles for themselves and their friends!  Can you believe that?

I share this with you as encouragement for you in Christ Jesus to continue to be the compassionate congregation and people of God that you are.  Show the love and mercy of Jesus to those with physical and especially great spiritual need for Jesus the only Savior.  Support your congregation’s ministries with your participation, prayers, and gifts.  Support your congregation’s missions and continue to look for new ways to reach out with the compassionate love of Jesus to the lost, the hurting, and those in any need.  With a confident faith in your Lord, who provides love and compassion to you, take a chance on your neighbors and share with them the joy that is being a child of the compassionate Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.