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Archive for September, 2014

Yes on 1

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

If you missed the presentations in church and in Bible class, yesterday, here is the information about Yes on 1.

http://www.yeson1tn.org/

yes on 1

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Notes from the weekend

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

There was quite a bit happening this weekend at Heavenly Host.

We started Friday with grandparents day in the school and a full house in chapel that morning.  Such a delight to hear children singing “Beautiful Savior.”

By late morning we had switched gears for Eagle Run, our school’s largest annual fundraiser.  We met our goal of $10,000 and then some thanks to the generosity of many dedicated students, families, and sponsors.

By the end of the day, final preparations for Oktoberfest were in full swing.  A big thanks to all who came out to help  There were so many of you who helped organize, set up, bring baked goods, cook, serve, run the silent auction booth and games, and help clean up.  Wow!  What a great afternoon and what great fun.

The weekend wasn’t over as we gathered in the Lord’s house Sunday morning to celebrate all that the Lord is doing among us and through us in our school.  Several of our students were present at both services to play chimes and sing, the teachers were present at the late service to receive God’s rich blessing on their work and God was praised!

We praise You, O God, we acknowledge You to be the LORD!  Amen.

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Sermon for Christian Education Sunday, Sept 28

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Heavenly Host, Sept 28, 2014

Note: this sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below

or by downloading from the link provided.

68 Sermon for Christian Ed Sunday.mp3

jesus_kidsOn a thematic Sunday like today when we celebrate what God is doing among us and through us in our school, it’s easy to have a look at all three of our readings. There’s a common theme running through all three, the easiest to see being children and, more specifically, the nurture of children in the faith. Jesus and Moses and Peter are all proclaiming the same truth, the kingdom of God includes children, even young infants. God acts to include us in his covenantal kingdom and He gives His grace not because we can understand it but because we need it.

The Gospel reading today clearly tells us that our Lord has a place in the kingdom for children, even infants. The blessings of the kingdom of His grace are for them too. I’m not in classrooms every day, my other duties keep me from that but my wife is and the other teachers too will sometimes share with me some of the things kids say in response to having heard the Word of God in religion class or chapel or in some other subject as it comes up, even science or social studies or literature. Some of the middle school children just finished reading C. S. Lewis’, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a story written by a leading Christian thinker of the last century. Lewis is clever to present significant Christian themes like the holiness of God. In a seen at Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s house, Lucy gets quite nervous about all this talk of a great Lion prowling around the kingdom and she asks, “Is Aslan safe?” And Mr. Beaver responds,

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And let me just say, kids understand God in a different way than we do because their whole lives are dependent upon others providing for them for everything they need—food shelter, clothing—everything. Younger children even more so; they’re not even aware of just how much is provided for them. It’s when we get older that we realize all that we have doesn’t just appear. It’s a mistake to think that all we have comes purely through our own efforts. All we have is because God has given it to us. This is the same theme that connects us back to our Old Testament reading for today.

Israel needs to make sure that they pass down from one generation to the next the account of all that the Lord has done for them. Especially once they enter the Promised Land, the successive generations will only know that it was the Lord who provided so richly. So the Lord instructs them to teach diligently, to recount regularly the testimonies of the Lord.

“Teach these words that I command to your children, diligently.” Hebrew verbs can be fun and this one is. What we have in English as two words, diligently teach, the Hebrew wraps up all in one word. The idea is one of drill, recounting, or repetition. The classical idea that repetition is the mother of learning is not far off. But the Hebrew adds an idea of sharpening like you have to do to a blade over a whetstone. The blade doesn’t get sharp the first time over the stone. Moms and dads, Teachers, that’s why you have to repeat yourselves so much. I’m thinking of drilling multiplication tables, Shurley grammar jingles, and yes, you really to have to put your name on your paper, every time, by now you should know the drill. But what has been a constant in educational theory for millennia first came from the Lord as a command to Israel to drill their children in the Lord’s promises and the Lord’s commands. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Dt 6:4–5) “These words” you should drill into your children. And to this day, observant Jews repeat twice daily at evening and morning prayers, the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” From our heritage, Luther’s instruction in the catechism to recite the Ten Commandments every morning, is in keeping with this idea along with the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer at one’s morning prayers. I’ve been at the bedside of more than one elderly saint who had dementia so bad, they’d forgotten the names of family members but they had not forgotten the Lord’s Prayer and the song, “Jesus Loves Me.” It is true that what we learn first, we forget last.

Parents then and now are to teach God’s Word faithfully and repeatedly to their offspring so that God will continually dwell with His people. Daily living presents numerous opportunities to talk to our children about what God has done—even the most mundane events. As Christians, we should take every opportunity to discuss what God has done through Christ, no matter where we are or what we are doing.[1] The goal of all this repetition was for Israel to remember that it was the Lord who had provided such wonderful gifts when the entered the Promised Land. For us, the goal is similar, it is the Lord who provides us what we need to sustain this body and life. It is the Lord who has rescued us and brought us into His kingdom. A daily recounting makes sure that faith is caught as much as taught.

There are significant passages in Scripture that should be familiar to us and act like touchstones for us so that we don’t lose our way among lists of kings or genealogies. Peter’s Pentecost sermon should be one of those. In our second reading today, that begins, “Now when they hear this…” the “this” they heard was Peter’s Pentecost sermon in which He had proclaimed the truth about Jesus as God’s Messiah and Jesus’ identity as the Lord Himself. It was this Jesus, Peter said, that the crowd had crucified some 50 days earlier. This was the word that had cut them to the heart and worked remorse in them over their sin. And Peter proclaimed the Good News of God’s salvation, that baptism in the name of Jesus brought with it the gift of the Holy Spirit and that this gift was for them and for their children. For their children, that’s our common thread today. The Lord pours out the Holy Spirit on us and on our children when we hear His Word. The Lord is acting to call to Himself through the Holy Spirit. And we’ve arrived at the crux of the Gospel itself. Not only has God acted to rescue sinners from their sins by sending Jesus to the cross to die in their place and to give them His perfect righteousness, God doesn’t stop with just providing the means of salvation. A big part of the outpouring of grace of God is that He doesn’t stop and wait for us to get wise on our own. He actively calls and gathers to Himself those needing salvation and growth in holy living. He enlightens our minds and warms our heart by the preaching of His Word to encourage us not to get lost in the Scriptures among the kings’ lists but to hear again and again, repeatedly, every week, through diligent teaching and preaching, God loves us in Christ Jesus.

We did not dig the deep wells of salvation. We did not plant the great vineyard of Christ’s blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins. We did not build the city of God, the great house He has invited into to dwell with Him forever. He did. And that’s the reason we drill it every week. It is the difference between a religion centered on our own abilities and a faith given by God. It is the difference between right teaching and false teaching. It is the difference between following the Lord God and following after other gods we make for ourselves. It is the difference between faith and unbelief.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. This Jesus who was crucified for us is Lord. Amen.

[1] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 288.

Wednesday in Pentecost 15

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

A Homily on 1 Timothy 6:3-21

Note: this sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below

or by downloading from the link here

67 Sermon for Weds in Pent 15.mp3

In the opening verses of our second reading this evening, Paul paints a highly unflattering portrait of the false teachers he faced in his day.  There doctrine is heterodox, that is, it is different from the teaching of Jesus.  Their attitudes are arrogant.  That’s what Paul means here by being puffed up.  And they thrive on the controversy they create to disastrous effect.

There have been several high profile Christian leaders over the years who’ve followed this pattern.  The real problem is that when they implode, and they almost always do, they take out not only themselves and their churches as organizations, but too often they turn people not only off church but off God altogether.

Contrast the false teachers of Paul’s day to Paul himself.  Paul never sought personal profit from what he taught.  And now we have a fuller context for the oft misquoted saying in verse 10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”  It is the love of money that has led the false teachers to false teaching.  It is a lack of contentment that is a sign of a lack of godliness in doctrine.  Not only is verse 10 misquoted, but it’s almost always misapplied.  It’s not a general quote on the relative evils of money, but proof that if a false teacher is trying to teach you something other than what you know to be true, somebody is trying to sell you something.

These verses should be a strong corrective to the prosperity preachers, the Joel Osteens and Joyce Meyers and others of television fame.  Godliness is not a way to material gain.  Godliness is gain even if it is godliness in poverty.

But it is also a strong counter-cultural message for us who live in and are a significant part of a culture of material consumption.  How much are we captive to a culture of consumer spending, excessive debt, and status consciousness based on brands and material possessions?  And I say this the week of the new iPhone release!  I would venture that we are far more ensnared than we think.  I know I have been, perhaps more than I am now, and probably remain so to some extent.  Paul says that those who desire to be rich just for the sake of being rich, fall into temptation, into a snare that leads to destruction.  Whenever we start toying with the idea of all the good we could do with a windfall from the Powerball lottery we’re headed down the wrong path and we’re falling far short of the true contentment Paul outlines here for us, albeit in a different way than the prosperity preachers.  In the second half of verse 10, we see there this leads, apostasy, unbelief.

This teaching has some very practical applications.  How many of us feel we cannot give what we would really like to give to the work of the church and ministry of the Gospel not just here but globally but still commit much of our discretionary income to what a generation ago would have been outrageous luxury?  I know for too long I let what I considered to be necessary expenses keep me from giving as much I otherwise should have and could have.  I’m embarrassed to say it.  All of us need to hear the Word of God here and most of us probably need to repent.  There are those saints who have never wavered in giving 10 percent and more but I can’t count myself among them.  And after repenting, we need to delight in the forgiveness of our sin and be empowered to look at our lives, even our checkbooks and assign the needed priority to the work of the Gospel in this place in abroad and work back toward the kind of contentment empowered by the Gospel of God grace to us in Christ not the contentment in having the iPhone 6+ before our neighbor does.  Or the tinge of jealousy and resentment we feel when our neighbor gets on before we do.

As Paul makes clear here, this is not just a case of proper Christian stewardship, but really the difference between right teaching and false teaching, between godliness and temptation to destruction.  Because it is the difference between relying on Christ alone and the forgiveness of sins won for us on the cross and given freely to us, and relying on our own attempts to appease God on account of our sins.

And if there are any of you out there for whom this discussion of wanting more seems a little mundane because you already have more than enough, listen to Paul second word directed toward the rich.  Don’t think your riches are for you alone.  God gave it to you.  A president recently got himself in trouble for suggesting that public infrastructure helped rich people get as rich as they are.  Paul says something that I am sure would be considered even more outrageous probably even more so, you’re rich because God has blessed you with it.  Your riches are really for you to do good with them, they truly are to share with those who have not.  You really don’t want to be caught like the rich man who wanted to build bigger barns and called a fool.  You really don’t want to be a member of the church of Laodicea condemned by Jesus for being materially rich while being truly poor.  It really is a matter of faith and unbelief.

To poor and rich alike, God forgives you your sins.  Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Grace be with you.  Amen.

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Homily for the Festival of St. Matthew – September 21

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

This sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below

or by downloading from the link here

66 Homily for the Festival of St Matthew.mp3

Homily for the Festival of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

St-MatthewToday we give thanks that Jesus called Matthew, the tax-collector to be one of His disciples.  It makes it all the easier for us to be disciples of Jesus too.

That’s kind of hard to take isn’t it?  We confess “we are by nature sinful and unclean.”  “We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment.”

There’s two stories that illustrate this pretty clearly, one from the Scriptures and one not.  The first is the story of two men in the temple, the one is a self-righteous man, praying aloud in the middle of the temple, “‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’[1]  The other one, a tax collector, almost hiding in the shadows, striking his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”    And which of these two men went home right with God?

The other story is of three men in a church.  The pastor stands up on Good Friday, moved by the sacrifice of Jesus and publically confesses before the congregation gathered there that he’s a sinner and as bad as the thieves hanging with Jesus on the cross and just a nobody in the kingdom of God.  The chairman of the congregation is so impressed with the passionate confession of the pastor, he stands up in the middle of the service and led by the spirit says the same thing, that he’s a sinner and as bad as the thieves hanging with Jesus on the cross and just a nobody in the kingdom of God.  The third man is a man who had been walking down the street and saw that the church was having a service that day and decided to stop and hear the story of the Lord’s passion but was so moved by the public confession of these two great men that he stood up and said the same thing, that he’s a sinner and as bad as the thieves hanging with Jesus on the cross and just a nobody in the kingdom of God.  And everyone gathered there was thinking the same thing .  Who does this guy think he is to think he’s a nobody?

It should go without saying but maybe it needs to be said that it should never be a false piety that leads us to confess our sins, even in a general confession in a church service.  We need to grapple with the seriousness of that within us that necessitated Jesus coming into our world to rescue us and that which remains in us that could draw us away from Him and often does.

Jesus calls sinners to repentance.  We should probably also make it clear that Jesus does not condone Matthew being a tax collector for the Roman occupying government.  And Jesus doesn’t condone the sins of all the others He ate with either.  We should remember that after his call to be a disciple, Matthew becomes a former tax collector.  The others presumably at his table were either already former sinners, or soon to be former sinners.  And Jesus and the rest of his disciples ate with them, again presumably with the hope of rescuing more like Matthew.

The spiritual condition we live in, often for years, can go undiagnosed and untreated.  Jesus is the physician of not just the body but the soul.  Being a chaplain, I often hung out with the doctors off duty when we were deployed.  I heard them tell story after story of some patient coming into the clinic arguing with them about something that was clearly unhealthy.  Like one time, a young man who argued with his doctor that the cigarettes actually cleared up the congestion in his lungs.  That sort of thing.  The Word of God acts and diagnoses our condition.  But thanks be to God, it also treats it and brings healing.

When we read the Bible today and read that Jesus ate with tax collectors and we have heard it so often, we’re just not as taken aback as we should be.  The religious people of Jesus’ day are like… well, they were very much like the religious people of our day who try to quarantine themselves away from sinful and immoral people, the people who hide behind their piety and self-righteousness.

Hey, come on pastor.  When I come to church, I like to be spoken to in such a way that I feel good about myself.  And talking about sin, especially my sin, other people’s sin that’s fine, talking about my sin, that’s a real drag.  I’m a pretty good person.  And Jesus says, sure you are.  Off you go then.

And for the rest of us sinners there is good news.  We are invited to the table where Jesus doesn’t look past our sins but extends to us His mercy to forgive them.  That’s the good news.  Jesus came for sinners.  We who realize we measure our religiousity against what others show of their piety.  We who’ve realized just how often we delighting ourselves by our sacrifices and think that God must be pleased by them.  Jesus came for us confessed hypocrites.  Thanks be to God.  And that makes us not any better than anyone but that declares us right with God.  Jesus has mercy on us.  His journey to the cross was to show us the true depth of sacrifice and the pure fullness of His mercy toward us who recognize just how badly we needed saving.

Sometimes when you’re in the middle of a life and death situation you’re fighting so hard to survive you don’t know just how close to death you are.  I’m thinking of sever illnesses or even stories of people in combat.  They say, it’s only after the fact, when things have calmed down that everything becomes clearer for them.  The cross of Jesus should be that moment of clarity for us.  There the mercy of God was shown us.  Here at the table of Jesus today that mercy is given out for us.  We sinners are invited to the table and it’s only sinners who are invited.  How about that?  That might even change how we see others.  It’s meant to.

God’s mercy for Matthew.  God’s mercy for sinners.  God’s mercy for you.  Amen.

[1] Lk 18:11–12.

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The Homily from the Dedication Service

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

This sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below

or by downloading the file here

65 Homily on the Dedication of our Organ.mp3

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Organ Dedication and Recital – September 17

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

The following is one of the recordings from the organ dedication service and recital played by our own music director, Ms. Katie Alms, J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fuge in C Major, BWV 547 along with some performance notes by Ms. Alms.  While the recording is not of exceptional quality, what does come across is the clarity of our new organ and the skill and ability Katie brings to the bench to play it.  We give God thanks not only for the congregation’s willingness to purchase a new organ but for leading Katie here to play it and lead us in the Church’s song.  Soli Deo Gloria!

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