Several months ago a fundraiser was conducted by Steadfast Lutherans to raise money for my colloquy transition. I was humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity of all the Steadfast readers to raise a substantial amount of money for my transition. Thank you, I wouldn’t have been able to make this transition without your support.
I am happy to report back to you that I was certified for ordained ministry in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on August 23, 2013. Furthermore, I was installed into a colloquy/vicarage status at Our Savior Lutheran Church of Bottineau, ND this summer in order to begin to learn the church’s historic liturgy. I have been blessed to be able to learn the liturgy from Rev. Reimche, as well as taking chanting lessons from both the organists.
Currently, I am awaiting a call in the LCMS while I continue to learn from the wonderful people at Our Savior Lutheran Church of Bottineau. Please keep my family in your prayers as we await a call and please pray for the future church that I will be able to serve sometime in the future.
Beyond the update, I have posted my first LCMS sermon below. It was delivered this past Sunday. May you be richly blessed by God’s truthful and effective Word for you.
The Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost
Genesis 1:1-23; Ephesians 6:10-17; John 4:46-54
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We are used to broken promises and empty words, words that are vacuous; words that are simply lip service. Are we not?
Politicians make campaign promises and speak words of hope, only for us to later realize that their campaign words were empty, non-binding, and that their words were unable to deliver. “Read my lips, no new taxes. I will not cut funding for the farm bill. I will create new jobs. I will balance the deficit!” and so forth.
Let us not only pick on the politicians, for they are an easy target. Let us think about the breakdown and emptiness of spoken words in the workforce. Each and every one of you has experienced the joys of hearing words spoken by your employer or supervisors, only later to find that the words were empty. Words like, “You can expect a raise next year. Yes, there is a job promotion ahead for you if you work hard. This fertilizer should get you an extra 10 bushels per acre, if you invest now.” Yes, these words sound promising and give assurance, but you, like me, have experienced the frustration of words not coming to fruition. You have experienced the comfort of words, only to have that very comfort and joy stripped when the words didn’t deliver, thus implanting and creating lingering doubt within your mind, doubt that says, “I will believe it when I see it.”
Words have also been spoken to you by marketers. Words that we should know better not to trust, but words that we deep down hope are true, “With 4 easy payments you will obtain this fantastic exercise video which will then bring you on an exercise journey to lose 30 pounds in 5 weeks. Invest now and you can expect a 20% return just like these fantastic individuals. Purchase this product and your wildest dreams will come true.”
Hitting a little more close to home we see the breakdown and failure of words in the family. Each year the following words are spoken with sincerity and conviction, “I promise to be faithful to you in good times and bad, to love and cherish you in sickness and health, and be with you until death do us part.” Yes, these words are spoken at hundreds of marriages across our country only to result in 50% of marriages ending in divorce, divorce that tragically results in the death of family, pain, unsettledness, and distrust of marriage and its vows.
Indeed, you have experienced empty words, words that fail to deliver and you have also experienced false words. However, I suspect that you are much like me in that you have also failed with words yourself. You have made promises to your employers, colleagues, friends, and family only to default on those promises, only to see that the words were not effective in having the results that you promised. Painfully, you have spoken words to your spouse, saying, “Trust me, this time; it won’t happen again; everything is going to be o.k.” only to find out that they are not. You have spoken words to your children, words that testify that you will be at the precious baseball game or music recital, only to default and fail to follow through on your words.
It is no wonder why we are suspicious of words. We have all been sinned against with words, words that were false and words that failed to deliver on what they promised. Furthermore, we are all guilty and know the guilt of sin when we speak false truths and speak empty words, words that have failed to bring forth the integrity that we hope to possess. Tragically this is our human condition. We are broken and dead in sin which results in broken, false, and vacuous words.
The consequence of this is that we are suspicious of words; in fact we are so untrusting of words that we demand outward signs, things to validate and hold words in check. You know what I am talking about! When we borrow money we typically need to sign a contract that holds our words in check. When we submit a job application we need to have references for the employer to call in order to verify if our words of self-assessment are true and right. Our words are not typically taken at face value, thus the need to place down payments, sign contracts, shake hands, and so forth. Even, law enforcement has what is called a ‘lie detector test.’ God calls us to let our yes be yes and our no to be no; that we are to be truth speakers. Yet, we fail and sin with our use of Words and need to have outward signs, or tangible things in order to validate and hold our words and other people’s words in check.
Do you know that it was no different during the time of Jesus’ day? The Jewish population demanded signs. In order for something to be true and right they wanted to see the proof in the pudding, as they say. And guess what? Jesus did give the people signs. During the 3 ½ years of Jesus’ ministry He traveled the country side doing miracle after miracle; healing the sick, giving life to the dead. Yes, the lame walked and the blind could see. The buzz in the air was that this Christ did miraculous things!
But why did He do these miraculous things? Although Jesus performed these miracles and signs to make Himself known and to lead people to faith in Him, the underlying purpose was to focus their attention on the Words that He spoke rather than the signs. The visible signs and miracles testified to the truth of Jesus’ message. In other words, these signs and miracles of Jesus were done not as a means to their own end, but they were done so that the people might believe that He was the Messiah (John 20:31). The signs and miracles were to be like a catapult that grabbed ahold of the people and launched them to the person of Jesus Himself and His faithful/true words.
You see, Christ is much different than you and me. Whereas our words are many times false and powerless, Jesus’ words are true. Jesus’ words are powerful. Where we demand signs to validate words, Jesus gives signs and miracles to point us back to His Words. Let me say that one more time. Whereas our words are many times false and powerless, Jesus’ words are true. Jesus’ words are powerful. Where we demand signs to validate words, Jesus gives signs and miracles to point us back to His Words.
In the case of our Gospel text that we read earlier, the Jewish Official is insisting that Jesus come to the place where his son was at the point of death. In response Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” What Jesus is addressing is the problem that the people of the day many times had. They became distracted with the miracles and signs of Jesus and simply regarded Him as a miracle worker. They saw the miracles and signs and failed to see the One doing miracles. They had faith in the miracles and the signs. Therefore, as we heard in the Gospel lesson today, Jesus does not go to the official’s residence to heal his son, but rather He speaks the words, “Go: your son will live!” Jesus is taking this man from a ‘miracle and sign’ faith to a true saving faith in Jesus’ ‘Word.’ What makes Jesus the Messiah is not that He can do miraculous miracles, but that He actually is the Messiah, that Jesus’ words are true and powerful.
Do you see the significance of this my friends? Jesus speaks a word and the official’s son is healed instantaneously! Jesus does not go to the man’s dying son on purpose. He does not go and the reason is so that the official would trust the truthfulness and power of Jesus’ Word and His Word alone.
Unlike you and me, and the people of the 1st Century, Jesus’ Word is true and Jesus’s Word is powerful. The Word of God does stuff! In the Old Testament reading from today we hear about God creating this world by the power of His word. God said, “Let there be light.” And so it was. As God speaks the world into existence in Genesis 2, we also see Jesus, the Son of God, declaring that the official’s son was healed, and so it was! And get this, as God speaks the world into existence, as Jesus speaks healing for the official son’s into existence, God also speaks faith into existence in you and me.
Each and every Sunday you come to this church, this Divine Service, to hear the Word of God. Every time that you open the scriptures, God speaks to you. His Word is not mere information that you are to act upon, but it is a living and active Word. The Word is like a double edge sword; it is like a hammer. The truthful Word of God invades you and me, interrogates us, and exposes our sin; thus it kills us and then delivers to us promises. The Word does this because it is true and because of the Holy Spirit working in and through the Word. The Word breaks through and wounds. The Word comes against our old Adam, our sinful nature, and ascribes redemption solely to the blood of Christ.
Therefore, listen and open your ears you who fail with words. Listen and open your ears you who speak promises only to bankrupt those promises by your failure to fulfill. Listen and open your ears you who speak false truths, fibs, lies. Listen and open your ears you who offend God by your thoughts, deeds, and especially words. Listen to a new Word. “Christ is risen. Your Sins are forgiven. Thus saith the Lord.”
My friends, hear this today, “You are forgiven!” You are clean by the Word of God spoken to you. But just in case the old Adam, your sinful nature, and the world and the Devil tempt you to believe otherwise, let me announce to you that God has given you and me words of truth and signs. Not false words and not signs that are a means to an end. But concrete, solid, and true words; words with visible signs that deliver in tangible, real, encouraging, physical ways.
Thus, when the old Adam rises to speak counterfeit words, false truths, lies, and so forth… tell the sinful flesh this: I have been baptized into Christ Jesus. You no longer live, for the Water-Word has drowned you; I have been buried with Christ, and resurrected anew in Him.
When the world rises to speak counterfeit words, false truths, lies, and so forth… tell the world this: I am dead to you and you are dead to me, for I have a seat at a great feast, a great feast where I hear truth and promises of forgiveness. A feast where I receive the body and blood of my Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, when the devil rises to speak counterfeit words, false truths, lies and so forth… tell the devil this: The tomb is empty, for surely you know that it is true for you yourself heard the words of victory from my Lord Jesus Christ, who cannot lie, that He indeed finished everything for me. Yes, I am indeed a poor miserable sinner; yet I have heard the absolution from my pastor, who in the stead and by the command of Jesus proclaims to me that I am a sinner who has been clothed in the blood of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus’ word is true and He has promised me salvation, redemption, and forgiveness. Evil one, you should surely know this for Christ even descended to Hades to announce His very victory, a victory that He accomplished for me.
God’s Word is true, it is effective, and it is for you my friends.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
(Sermon preached at: Immanuel Lutheran Church, Willow Creek, ND & Our Savior Lutheran Church, Bottineau, ND)