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Looks Are Deceiving!

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Pentecost 19                                   Trinity Lutheran Church

25 September 2016                      Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

St. Luke 16:19-31

 

Well, another outrageous story by Preacher Jesus today! Turns everything on its head. What you’d never expect. What no one would expect. Except those who believe in Him!

 

According to worldly standards … the wisdom of the world … who is the one blessed by God?  The sharp dressed, gourmet-fed, Wall Street Warren Buffet-like multi-millionaire? Or the pathetic, rag-tag, poverty stricken and body full of open oozing wounds street beggar named Lazarus?

 

The worldly wise would choose the Warren Buffet-like tycoon. Simply by outward appearances. After all, he has luxury beyond belief! His opulence is on steroids. Everyone is mesmerized by the hot blonde babes on each arm. Dazzled by his $90,000 Stuart Hughs Diamond Edition suits, his Salvatore Ferragamo dress shoes, and his Prada leather and silver cuff links. His skin shines like Angelina Jolie or Kim Kardashian because his masseuse rubs his body with Chanel Regenerating Cream to the tune of $220/ounce! All are stunned by his sumptuous dinner parties in which he serves the choicest Kobe beef and the finest rack of lamb. Mesmerized by his jet set business partners and his big-wig D.C. insider chronies that jealously spare to sit on his one of a kind ivory encrusted couches and chairs. They do not sip wine from flute glasses but guzzle from ruby and emerald encrusted silver bowls! Astounded by the headliners that fly in to entertain the crowds: Maroon 5, Beyoncé, Adele, Jason Aldean, Shoji Tabuchi and Kanye West. Each takes their turn to perform live at the mansion. It’s a who’s who of gold teeth celebrities, high end politicians, and power brokers from all over the world. God must be impressed. God must be blessing him. God will welcome him into heaven PDQ. Right? And you’re jealous, right? You want to be just like him!

 

Everyone would blow off Lazarus. He’s a loser. A failure. A deadbeat. A drain on society. The kind you see sitting outside the Walmart – only scarier! A critter full of stenchy BO and secreting sores on steroids! His only companions are the street dogs that lick his sores. Best just to ignore him. The Lord would. Right? After all, no doubt he’s one of those irredeemable deplorables! You don’t want to be like him.

 

Well, as the old saying goes: “Looks can be deceiving.” That’s precisely the case here with the millionaire man and loser Lazarus in the story Jesus tells. Remember what Jesus said last week? He said: “You cannot serve both God and money.” In connection with that true statement, let’s not forget why Jesus tells the story. It helps us understand what’s going on. In verses 14-15 we are told that the hearers were: “Pharisees.” So what? Well, “they were lovers of money … and they ridiculed” Jesus! Jesus is dealing with people that worship money and not Him! So Jesus categorically tells these idolaters: “You are those who justify yourselves BEFORE MEN, but GOD KNOWS YOUR HEARTS. For what is exalted before among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

 

Did you catch that? They loved money. Worshiped it. And they justified themselves with it. Self-justifiers! Their affluence and wealth was “proof” that God was blessing them. That God loved them.

 

Thus the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It appears that the rich man is blessed by God and that Lazarus is cursed by God. Just look at them. The contrast couldn’t be any starker! The spiritual contrast, that is. At least it looks that way!

 

When it comes to salvation you can’t justify yourself! In any way. It’s only by faith in Jesus! Faith in Jesus as the Savior is what saves. Only Jesus saves. Only Good Friday Jesus justifies. And He justifies the ungodly, that is, to say, the sinner.

 

So when God looks at the rich man and Lazarus He sees things as they are. What man exalts, what man pushes – the love of money or the justification of the self by means of money and possessions – God considers an abomination. What man despises, God sees as blessed.

 

It all comes to a head when both men die. God’s judgment on both the rich man and Lazarus reverses everything in man’s eyes. “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” Death makes clear what was hidden from human eyes in life. Death makes crystal clear HOW EACH OF THESE TWO GENTLEMEN STOOD BEFORE GOD!

 

Lazarus’ death was a blessed death. He dies and goes to heaven. They angels carry him to paradise that Jesus describes as Abraham’s bosom. Lazarus no longer lies outside the mansion gates of the rich man but has entered the gates of heavenly eternal life and enjoys the presence, fellowship and wedding banquet of Jesus Himself! His stomach growls no more. The tormenting sores are healed. His skin shines now. He enjoys the opulence and forevermore blessing of heaven! He relishes the company of all the saints. He sings four-part harmony with the heavenly choir.

 

Lazarus is revealed to be the man forever blessed. In fact, in death the very truth of the name “Lazarus” – “the one who God helps” – is revealed. In his earthly life human eyes could not see this divine help. In fact, it appeared that God did just the opposite. But God’s help was hidden. Now in death it is revealed. One of the hymns that we sing every All Saints’ Day is “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White.” Stanza 2 describes Lazarus perfectly:

 

Despised and scorned, they sojourned here

But now, how glorious they appear!

Those martyrs stand, A priestly band

God’s throne forever near.

On earth they wept through bitter years

Now God has wiped away their tears

Transformed their strife to heav’nly life

And freed them from their fears.

They now enjoy the Sabbath rest

The heav’nly banquet of the blest

The Lamb, their Lord at festive board

Himself is host and guest. (LSB #676:2)

 

Death is also a revelation of how it is with the rich man. The end of his life of self-justification – his life of unbelief in Jesus is hell. He is not damned because he’s rich – because he’s wealthy. He is damned because he insisted on justifying himself. Because he did not trust in Jesus. He worshiped his wealth and possession, not Jesus. So, his idol, money, that he feared, loved and trusted above all things was not able to save him from death and damnation. He’s in hell’s torment. Lazarus, who trusted in Jesus, enjoys the riches of heaven.

 

Now, I’ve got to wrap this up. Getting too long again. OK. Let’s be clear. God’s judgment is final. The boundaries between heaven and hell are completely closed. Once the day of grace and the time of repentance ends there are no second chances. Remarkably, the rich man still thinks he can call the shots – EVEN IN HELL! In vain, he barks out the order for Lazarus to come visit him and bring a little bit of cool water from the tip of his finger. TOO LATE FOR THAT!

 

Well, the parable then a turn that gets to utmost point. The story is not about riches and poverty. It’s about faith in the Good Friday and Easter Sunday Jesus or unbelief. It’s about having good use of Jesus (faith) and having no use of Jesus (unbelief). Sinners are not saved by their poverty. Sinners are not condemned because of their wealth.

 

The rich man is concerned about his five brothers who are still alive. He doesn’t want them to end up in hell too. So he barks out another order. “Send Lazarus back to earth. Have him tell my brothers that hell is for real!”

 

What’s Abraham’s answer? It’s quite mind blowing. Shocking. What hardly anyone takes seriously. It’s the Third Commandment answer. It’s the word of God answer. Holding God’s Word sacred answer. It’s the gladly hear and learn God’s Word answer. “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” God doesn’t use ghosts to bring people to repentance and faith. God uses His Word to do that and preachers to preach that Word. If people will not listen to God’s Word faithfully preached and taught by the preachers He sends, they will not be converted “if someone should rise from the dead.”

 

Well, with that little remark “neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead,” Jesus is prophetically preaching His own death and resurrection. No sign, not even the sign of Jesus’ own resurrection from the grave, will convince those who do not believe the preaching of God’s Word!

 

In a previous sermon that Jesus preached in Luke 11:28 He declares, “Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” That’s is absolutely true. So, your blessedness before God does not depend on your wealth, your learning, your career, your prestige or your anything. You blessedness before God depends on faith that clings, trusts, or depends on Jesus who suffered and died FOR YOU as the atoning sacrifice that answers for all your sin. He was raised again to give life – eternal life – to all who believe in Him.

 

Apart from faith in Him – all appearances to the contrary, there is only eternal death in hell. However, in Him – faith in Him – there is eternal life. Lazarus came to know that life. Jesus grants that same blessing to you even now as you eat and drink His Body and Blood at this altar today – the medicine of immortality – the foretaste of the heavenly feast to come.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

Reading 1 Corinthians for Understanding Part 14

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Reading 1 Corinthians for Understanding Part 13

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Delton Bolles Funeral

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Tuesday of Pentecost 18                      Trinity Lutheran Church

20 September 2016                              Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

John 11:25

Funeral of Delton Wayne Bolles

 

Humanly speaking – if you judge things only by what you see, well, then death and the grave win.  They rule. Reign. Dominate. Reign. And that’s precisely what they, as well as their BFF Satan, want you to believe. They want you to despair. To give up. To trust a lie. And the lie is this: Jesus cannot be trusted, your sin still belongs to you, life is meaningless and that death and the grave are all there is. That they have the last word. That they have the say-so.

 

And they have their followers. Their hangers on. Those that have no use of Jesus and mock Him by saying: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept Lazarus [or Delton for that matter] from dying?” Are you like those that ridicule, belittle and blow Jesus off like that? I sure hope not. If you are you’re in deep spiritual trouble. And it may just end hellaciously for you. So don’t be spiritual fellow travelers with Satan’s comrades death and the grave.

 

Now, I’m here to tell you something different. It’s called the truth. The Lord Jesus has sent me to preach a better Word than the lies of death and the grave. It’s called the good news of the gospel. And the good news is this: name the sin; name the sinner; Jesus offered Himself on the cross as the only atoning sacrifice that answers for all sin and every sinner – including you, Delton, the world. Your sin doesn’t belong to you anymore. It all belongs to Jesus. And He answered for it. Bore all its damnation in His body that stained the earth red with His divine blood. Your salvation, Delton’s salvation, the world’s salvation depends on Jesus taking all sin and burying it in the black hole of His tomb – leaving it all there on the Third Day of His resurrection. Yes, this is the gospel – “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” (Rom 1:16).

 

So let’s get real, shall we? I’ll be blunt. I’m not going to pull no punches. This is no time to pussyfoot around. You need a sure Word from the Lord. Something that is salvationly serious. Salvationly sure.   This is what you get when you ask Kuhlman to preach for a funeral. So here goes. Death and the grave are pretenders! Phonies! Fakes! Liars! Jesus, however, He is the real deal. He is the “Redeemer” as Job confessed.   “I know that my Redeemer lives,” Job declared. “And that in the end he will stand upon the earth [and raise me from the dead].

 

And sure enough Redeemer Jesus shows up! We heard about it in John 11. Redeemer Jesus stands on the earth – outside of Bethany Cemetery — doing end time / last day stuff. He preaches what no preacher ever preached. He makes promises that only God Himself would make. And it goes like this: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” With such promises He shows that He is in charge. He is the Lord. Even over death and the grave. To prove this He does the unthinkable. What no one would ever expect. EXCEPT THOSE THAT BELIEVE IN HIM!

 

Check it out. His good friend Lazarus was deathly ill. Jesus purposely stays away. Lazarus dies. His body is wrapped up and put into a tomb. Four days later, when the dead body begins to really decompose and begin to stink to high heaven, Jesus finally shows up. The sisters Martha and Mary both scold Jesus. They’re not too pleased: “We put out the 911 pastoral emergency call. Where were you Jesus? If you had been here my brother would not have died.”

 

Can you trust Jesus even in the face of death and the grave? Martha and Mary were struggling with that. So were many others. In fact, there were those there that did not believe. I think that’s precisely why Jesus weeps in this text. He’s shocked to tears that some people won’t trust Him. Won’t have good use of Him for salvation.

 

Jesus wants everyone and you to believe in Him. So, again, I remind you. He categorically proclaims: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” And then comes the biggie: “Do you believe this?”

 

Well, do you? Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that even though you die you will live? That death and the grave are not your lord but that Jesus is? If you do, you have what He promises even when you die. If you don’t, well, then you don’t have what He promises.   “Do you believe this?” This is the most important question Jesus ever asks in the New Testament. And Martha’s answer is faith’s answer. It is exactly how faith talks. “Yes, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

 

You too? Do you believe this just like Martha? Excellent! Good! So He’s off to the gravesite. Busts the dead, rotting and stenchy Lazarus out of the tomb. How? By His Word.
“Lazarus, come out.”   His Word does what it says. Jesus truly is the resurrection and the life. You have His Word on it. You have His promise.

 

Jesus is the Lord. He has put death to death in His Good Friday death and His Easter resurrection. He has the say-so. He gets the last word. Today. Tomorrow. Every day. And on the Last Day. “On that day,” St. Paul says, “we [all believers] will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will all be changed.”   Yes, when Redeemer-Resurrection-And-The-Life-Jesus stands at Delton’s grave and your graves on the Last Day, just like He did at Lazarus’ tomb, He will say: “Time to get up! Arise!” And you will. For believer it will be the resurrection for eternal life.

 

In the meantime Jesus remains the resurrection and the life for those who believe in Him. He lords His victory over His believers. Baptizes them into His Good Friday death. In Baptism He gives the Holy Spirit to raise spiritual dead sinners like you, me and Delton to new life – to live as a new creation spelled F-A-I-T-H. He nourishes His believers with the medicine of immortality: His divine Body and Blood with the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. And there He promises: “Your sins truly are forgiven.” And where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation!

 

Death and the grave could not hold Jesus. They took their best shot at Him. But He rose as the Conqueror and now reigns as Lord of lords and King of kings. Consequently, death and the grave cannot hold Delton, you or any of those who believe in Redeemer-Resurrection-And-The-Life-Jesus and who are baptized in His Name. Believe and get baptized and you are saved. Jesus promises. He says so. That’s Mark 16:16!

 

Jesus is Lord. He keeps His promises. Believe only in Him. He’ll see you through everything. And I mean everything. Jesus will have the final say. In fact, He already has with these words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

 

Those promissory words will bear final fruit on the Last Day when Jesus proclaims: “It’s Resurrection Day my little believers! Wake up! I’m here to raise you from your graves and give you an imperishable and immortal body.” Job knew that. Let’s finish with Job’s confession of Jesus and what He will do: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” He means Resurrection and the Life Jesus! Lord Jesus! Thanks be to God who gives us the victory over death and the grave through Him!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Pray! For Who? Really? Yes!

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Pentecost 18                                   Trinity Lutheran Church

18 September 2016                       Murdock, NE

+ Jesu Juva +

1 Timothy 2:1-4

 

Only the first few verses of the Epistle today. If I don’t limit myself, well, you know I’ll go way too long. You now how preachers are! So, I promise the next time this text comes up in the readings I will preach on the second part of the text. Agreed? All right. Here goes.

 

“First of all!” When St. Paul says something like that, he’s pushing something really, really important. Vital. Imperative. Central. Chief. Essential.

 

Well, what in the world could that be? What do you think? Establish some kind of whiz-bang program to reinvigorate or save a dying church? Brainstorm and put a foolproof plan into place so that a weak and feckless church will eventually become a major player or power broker in the world? Well? That’s the direction most ecclesiastical big wigs and pastors go when THEY talk about doing a “first of all.”

 

How about Paul? Is that what he’s talking about with HIS “FIRST OF ALL”? Not hardly! In fact, what Paul says is really quite shocking. Takes you by surprise. You probably don’t even consider or expect it when you come to church. It’s probably the last thing on your radar screen because you’ve been so influenced and intoxicated by the make-the-church-a-heavy-weight-in-the-world-beruacratic-know-it-alls.

 

Paul’s “first of all” is — are you ready for this? – PRAYER!  Yes that’s right, PRAYER! Faith prays. The faithful pray. Prayer is the Second Commandment in motion. That’s what the church does in the divine service as she is gathered around the one and only Mediator Jesus Christ “who gave Himself as a ransom for all people.” Ransomed and redeemed from all sin, death and hell’s eternal damnation BY GOOD FRIDAY JESUS, the church DEPENDS – HANGS ON TO– CLINGS TO GOOD FRIDAY MEDIATOR JESUS!

 

Yes, the church is a power player, a world heavy weight, as she is a beggar. She pleads with Jesus to take our “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving” to God the Father in the full and complete assurance that He hears, that He will answer and that He will act and be God FOR US and for the world. Yes, the church calls upon His holy, divine and saving name for help. She remains always and only dependent on Mediator Jesus. That’s no surprise because “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given” to Jesus (Mt 28:19). In addition, Jesus declares: “Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” And then He promises that, “where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there I AM in the midst of them,” (Mt 18:19-20).

 

There’s more. If praying wasn’t shocking enough, get a load of who the church prays for. This will really blow your mind! Paul urges that the church should pray for “all people – for kings and for all those in authority.”

 

“All people.” This is your priestly work as the baptized people of God. You speak to God in pray on behalf of others. People need your prayers offered to the Father in the Name of Mediator Jesus. So the church prays for all people according to their needs. That begins with your family. Your church members, your community and the world. For your friends. For your enemies. For those that have hurt you. For those that have helped you. For Christians all over the world. For unbelievers here and throughout the world. Pray for all people. For their needs and for their salvation. After all, “God wants all people to be saved to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

 

But then comes the shocker of all shockers. This is where one might say that Paul has lost it. Must have forgotten to take his meds again! Perhaps Paul should retire, go to the Nursing Home For Apostles and concentrate on tent making. After all, he exhorts the church to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” of authority.

 

WHAT? PRAY FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY? Even Emperor Nero — that degenerate and the hater of Jesus, all Christians and all that Christianity stands for? Even if we don’t like them or oppose their policies? Even if they’re dishonest and cruel? Even if they hate you? Yes. Paul excludes no one from the prayer of the church, not even the politicians.

 

The reason for this is “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

 

And one of the ways this can happen is when the earthly authorities do their God-given work properly. When the earthly authorities do their civil work faithfully and honorably. The work God gives governing authorities is protecting the innocent, commending those that do right, and properly prosecuting and punishing criminals. That’s spelled out in Romans 13. God uses civil authorities as His instruments – His hands – to keep society from all out robbery, murder, anarchy, bedlam and madness. For this the church prays. Otherwise, there will be no peace. No stability. No way you can hold a job, raise a family, put food on the table, or come to church freely to worship Jesus by hearing His Word and eating and drinking His body and blood.

 

We, at Trinity, are known for many things. Let us also be known for our praying. “These are the people that actually pray for the president. For the governor. For Congress. For the supreme court. Etc.!” And that will be a draw for them. They will see that we ultimately rely on God. That we cling to Him and His crucified-Good–Friday-Son “who gave himself as a ransom for all.”

 

Quickly just one more thing. I know you’re getting antsy. You’re ready to pray. You’re chomping at the bit to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.” And I don’t blame you. The earthly authorities desperately need the church’s prayers. They’re not perfect people. They’re sinners too. They’re not infallible. They’re not omnipotent. They’re not saviors. And that gets revealed to us when almost every decision they make is disastrous and brazenly in opposition to God’s clear Word.

 

So we must pray. We must. For their sake. For the country’s sake. So that we can “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” And one of the most exquisite ways you do that as God’s baptized priests either individually every day or together as the holy and royal priesthood gathered before Jesus the Great High Priest in the divine service on Sundays is to pray the Lord’s Prayer! In particular praying the FOUTH PETITION: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

 

When you pray that petition you are asking God to provide you with everything you need to support your body and life. From what you eat to what you wear. From where you live to the family you have. So that you can have an education, get a job, raise a family and freely be a citizen and church member without harassment or hindrance. And for that we need “devout and faithful rulers” as well as “good government,” (Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, Fourth Petition).

 

That’s why Paul gave his “first of all.”

 

And we’re more than happy to do it. We pray in Jesus’ Name. He is the Mediator between God and men. He carries our prayers to the Father. And He will act. He will be God FOR US!

 

So let’s do it. Let’s pray.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

Reading 1 Corinthians for Understanding Part 12

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Reading 1 Corinthians for Understanding Part 11

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