Weekly Sermon

 

   

The 11th Sunday after Pentecost

August 5, 2018

Pastor Ed Foster

 

         So, we are in now week two of the six weeks of ďBread of LifeĒ texts and last week we began with the feeding of the 5,000 with the very tangible kind of bread, real stuff that people could taste and touch and feel. Real bread. Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish and everyone ate until they were satisfied.

 

         We begin remembering that all of this talk about ďBread of LifeĒ begins with Jesus having given real substantial bread, food, to the people. Part of the reason we have to start there again is because it is really easy, I think, and to be honest, really easy especially in the gospel of John to try and separate the two, that somehow our religion is just about the spiritual things, just about the stuff that you canít touch and feel things way off in the future, but it starts there in the real bread. Something tangible that people could touch and taste, something that filled their bellies and gave them at least for a while real life.

 

         Of course, the 5,000 or 10,000, or however many it was like that, so they wanted more of it, they wanted more of that gift and of being in the presence of that power, so they went looking for Jesus. And when they found him, Jesus reminds them that it isnít just the tangible, but it is also something more that he has come to give them, that he has come to give them the ďBread of Life.Ē

 

         He has come not to just fill their tummies with barley loaves and fish, but that he has come to give them the forgiveness of sins, to give them eternal life, itself. That he has come to give their lives meaning and purpose. That he has come to fill their lives with real life, purposeful, joyful, full and wonderful life. That Jesus has come to feed them with the very essence of life itself. Jesus came to feed us with himself, to feed us with the ďBread of Life.Ē

 

         It is, I suspect, almost impossible to hear this lesson, especially on a Communion Sunday and not make the connection between what Jesus is saying and communion. Because in just a moment we will have a piece of bread, something very tangible, that promises us things beyond just a full tummy. We will feast on the ďBread of LifeĒ filled with the promise that our sins are going to be forgiven and forgiven of our sins we will have eternal life. We will feast on the ďBread of LifeĒ and because of that everything else will be different, knowing that we are forgiven and that we will live with God forever, each day and each moment is filled now with a meaning and a purpose that we couldnít otherwise imagine.

 

         When I was in my very first congregation we had a joint worship service with all of the congregations in the county and the Bishop came to preach, and since the Bishop was there he got to preside at communion. During communion a woman came up with her little boy. I donít remember his name, so weíll call him Timmy. And Timmy and his mom came forward and mom was carrying Timmyís little sister and she was in that wiggly stage.

 

And so, they knelt down at the altar rail and the Bishop came by and gave Mom her bread. And then he tried to bless Timmyís little sister and she was being a moving target, so Mom was trying to get her to sit still and the Bishop was trying to aim that blessing, but here they were messing with all of this and Timmy grabs a handful of wafers.

 

Timmy would have got away with it had he just went for one, but he grabbed more than his little hand could hold and as he brought them back wafers went everywhere. They went up in the air, they went behind him and all over the floor. Timmyís mom gasped and the Bishop was totally stunned, he was stammering and the whole congregation burst out in laughter and I am convinced that Timmy is the hero of every child who has ever wishes that they could reach out and take one of those wafers.

 

         Timmy got it. That bread was something special. There was something in that that he needed and wanted, for Timmy even though he had no clue what it meant, for him that was the ďBread of Life.Ē

 

         And so, Jesus is for us. Jesus gives to us those things that the world cannot give, bread and water, and all kinds of other things, it cannot give us that life, that rich and meaningful life today which is by the way quite tangible. But also, that eternal life that may seem to be far off and only spiritual, but will one day be tangible as well.

 

         Jesus is the ďBread of Life.Ē He gives us stuff that real life is made of, acceptance, love, meaning and purpose, forgiveness, eternity. Jesus is the ďBread of Life.Ē And in a few moments, we will taste that bread once again. Amen.

 

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

July 29, 2018

Pastor Ed Foster

 

         I suspect that the feeding of the 5,000 is one of your favorite stories in the Bible. I know that it is one of mine and Johnís version of the feeding of the 5,000 Ė it does, it has lots of really interesting people. In Johnís version of this story Jesus sees the crowd coming and decides that he is going to give them lunch. So, he asks Philip where are we going to buy enough bread to feed all of these people? And Philip responds, half a yearís wages wouldnít be enough to buy even enough for them to have a little bit.

         And Andrew speaks up, well, thereís this little boy here, heís got five loaves and two fish, but whatís that for so many people? Iíve always wondered about that. What was Andrew thinking? His brother, Philip, just told you that six monthsí wages wouldnít be enough, why even mention the little boy? But, how did he know what the little boy had? Was he planning on eating the little boyís lunch? Did the little boy volunteer it? Did Andrew expect Jesus to do a miracle or was he being sarcastic, what was going on in Andrewís mind?

         Nevertheless, Jesus knows what he is going to do. So, he has the people sit down, and he blesses the bread and the fish, and then he passes it out. Not only does everyone get a little bit, they get not just enough, they get more than enough, everyone eats until they are satisfied of both bread and fish and when he is done Jesus sends the disciples out with baskets to pick up the leftovers, and they fill 12 baskets full.

         Now to be honest, they really ought to stop the lesson right there, because thereís enough right there for us to talk about for two or three weeks. Jesus sees this crowd and he cares about them, he cares about the very ordinary, everyday need for food.

 

         Sometimes I think we act as if Jesus only cares about the big, eternal things, but Jesus cares about their very real, everyday mundane need for things like food. They werenít going to starve to death if they missed that meal, although in those days it might have been a serious issue. But Jesus did indeed care enough about them that he even cares that they had supper.

 

         Thatís quite a thing to say, isnít it? God cares about our whole life. God cares not just about our eternal life and all of those big, philosophical and cosmic kinds of things. But God cares about the everyday things, too Ö about our aches and our pains, our fears and our hopes, about our joys and sadness, God cares about our dinner and last nightís sleep, that we have a place to sleep in.

 

         Of course, there is a big implication to that. If God cares about us, then we surely ought to care about that for one another. We are called not to just save souls, but we are also called to feed and clothe and house, to care about the everyday needs of our brothers and sisters around us. You read the little explanation at the beginning that we are starting the six weeks of bread sermons and some of those will take us off into those cosmic and eternal philosophical ways of understanding what God cares about, but this lesson is concrete, God and Jesus care about food and clothes to wear and beds to sleep in.

         We could have another sermon on this. Jesus, how could we possibly feed all of these people? Six monthís wages wouldnít be enough, but weíve got these five little loaves and two fish. Five loaves and two fish do not feed 5,000 people. And in truth, it wasnít 5,000 people, because they only counted the guys, so it was 10,000 or maybe 12 or 13,000 if you add in the kids.

         But in Godís hands, what we have isnít just enough, itís more than enough. It is an abundance. And once again, we know how that feels. God says go, and feed the world, but all Iíve got is a couple of bucks. God says love your neighbor, but Iíve only got this much love left. God says care for those who are hurting and those who are needy. God says share this good news with all the world and what we feel like we have feels so small.

 

         But in Godís hands, what God has given us isnít just enough, it is more than enough. We canít let ourselves be deterred by the idea that we have such meager gifts that we canít give anything. We can trust and believe that with God and Godís blessing, what we have is more than enough.

 

         The folks see what Jesus has done and they are mightily impressed. And so, they decide that Jesus must be the prophet come back, so they are going to take him and make him their king. Of course, Jesus isnít going to buy into that, so, Jesus slips away up on to the side of the mountain. But when evening comes the disciples take off. And in our Pastorís Bible study on Tuesday, someone pointed out and I had never noticed, they just left. Jesus didnít tell them to go. Thereís no indication that they had discussed. Jesus is gone, they just leave.

 

         And Iíve wondered about that. Maybe they thought you know everything is going so well, look at the amazing things that Jesus is doing, we donít need Jesus, letís just go. Or maybe it was the other way. Where did Jesus go? He has abandoned us and left us with this hungry crowd, weíre getting out of here!

 

         Whichever the case, they get in the boat and they take off in the night and they row three or four miles out into the sea of Galilee and the wind is blowing and they are afraid and then they see someone walking on the water. Now in Johnís gospel again we donít get into their mind what they thought he must have been. But the other gospel writers suggest that maybe he was a ghost or something even more sinister than that.

 

 But as he gets closer Jesus calls them and says, do not be afraid, it is me. And before they could even bring him into the boat they get to the shore Ė to the other side.

 

         I can understand that one, too. Because I have done both of those things. Things are going so well I donít need to think about Jesus, I can do it on my own. Or things are terrible and I donít see Jesus anywhere. I guess I have to do it on my own.

 

         And, of course, the promise here is that they really werenít ever alone. Jesus was with them even when he wasnít physically with him. But Jesus loves and Jesus cares for them, and even greater than the distance between them with their belief that they could do it without him. So, they were safe out in that boat because Jesus and God had decided they were safe.

 

         Weíre going to talk lots about what it is that Jesus means to us and John is going to use that image of bread and of food. And those themes that we are going to see here will be repeated over and over again, that God provides for our needs, that God takes even what is small and seems like not enough and makes it more than enough, that when God is with us that we are safe in Godís care, that we are fed, that we are nourished, and we are protected.

 

         Letís see if we can get five more weeks out of all that. Amen.

 

8th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Mr. Tyler Henoch, guest preacher

Sunday, July 15, 2018

 

 

This morning Iím going to give everyone here a taste of what we teach our youth when they get the high school age and even the junior high age when I have them in class or at Bible studies. But first, Iím going to ask everyone here this morning to reach out in front of you and grab the Bible that sits before you and hold it in your grasp at this time and hold onto it during the duration of this message.  Today we read about Amos and how God took a lowly farmer and made him a prophet of Israel.  God showed Amos His will for his life.  As He did for John the Baptist as well. 

 

My friends, today I am here to tell you that God can do the same for you.  It doesnít matter how old you are or what situation you lie within at this moment.  God is ready to speak to YOU and you hold the key to that conversation which also unlocks the secret to life.   Thatís right!  This morning you will find out the secret to life. 

 

You see God is waiting for you.  You may be baptized and have confessed your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal savior and your name has been written in the Book of Life and your spot in Heaven is reserved, but what now? What now is that you still have a job to do and that is to serve God Himself with your life.  This job isnít limited to us that are employed by the church but to everyone who walks this earth.  It doesnít matter if youíre a preacher, a banker, a teacher, a janitor, a doctor, or whatever occupation you can think of God is ready to use you and to live His will through you.

 

But in what direction should you travel in finding out what Godís will for your life is.  You can say, ďTyler, I am married and have healthy kids, a great career, surely I am living in the will of God.Ē  My friends, this may very well be true.  However, you may be only looking at the bigger picture and at earthly measures.  I also must warn you that you may be struggling through something right now, and that doesnít mean that you are not living within Godís will for your life.  You see It is Godís desire to have us walk in His will and to also present His will to us. 

 

I can stand before you today at the age of 30 years old, but still declare that our Heavenly Father will go to great efforts in order to show you His will for your life.  He is even willing to move Heaven and Earth to do so!  This involves the many decisions that we make throughout our daily lives.  ďTyler, how am I supposed to take the time and make God a part of my every decision?  Iím busy already with kids and schedules and so onÖĒ  This question I will answer later in this sermon. 

 

You see, God has a plan for these decisions and He is interested in which decisions we make.  Think about it.  God, the one true living God is concerned with you as an individual!  In fact, on the day that God said ďLet there be lightĒ, He knew that one day He would create you as well.  In fact, our omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Father knew that on the morning of Sunday, July 15th 2018, you would be sitting in church and in that exact pew! 

 

However, if you have been attending St. Johnís for even a short amount of time, odds are everyone knows where you would be sitting this morning as well.  Hell hath no fury as a Lutheran that has had their pew stolen.

Now, when I talk about involving God in our daily decisions, obviously what kind of shoes you wear that day are not significant concerns of His, but there are many other moments that are.  And who is there that is better qualified to confront with our decision making than our Creator?  Jeremiah 29: 11-13 states ďFor surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.Ē 

 

Mathew 7:7 states, ď"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.Ē  I am reminded of this verse every Sunday when I look above our sanctuary and into one of our stained-glass windows that the LORD has blessed us with.

 

Sometimes we can find ourselves in fear and overcome with anxiety.  Knowing this verse and knowing this promise from God can help assure you that He is in charge.   How wonderful is it to know that God the Father has a plan for your life and He wants to show it to you?  In order for this to happen, first, we must first accept Jesus as our personal savior.  Second, we must repent and then dive into our relationship with Him.  We do this by prayer and reading His word. 

 

You see, there is no secret here.  There are no short cuts or app for your smart phone either that can help this process go faster.  The word of God lights your path to living within His will. 

 

You can start anywhere in the Bible.  All you have to do is pray that God will guide you to the verses that He wants to use to reach you and show you His will.  Please note the importance of knowing Godís will for your life as important of a lesson that we should know. 

 

Throughout the Bible we witness Godís consistency of informing us how necessary it is to know His will.  You can read His orders and assurance of this in Psalm 16:11, Psalm 32, Proverbs 3:5-6, and Colossians 1:9.  If this wasnít important, wouldnít you think that God wouldíve hardly mentioned it? 

 

When asking some of our youth to describe to me what a successful life is, they responded with mentions of a nice house, good car, and a strong family.  In earthly terms this is correct.  However, in Godís eyes this is not.  A truly successful life in Godís eyes is knowing His will for your life and walking in His will for your life.   We pray for this every Sunday during our confession.  But have we really stopped and thought about what we are saying?  You see, confessing that we have failed to walk in His way doesnít bring our lives back within His will.  It is only the beginning. 

 

We must make the effort to discover His will for our lives and truly search for it.  Even if you are hearing this very message while walking in Godís will for your life, it is a never-ending journey.  Our world and our lives are ever changing, but the word of God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. 

 

On our wall in our living room, my wife has hung a wooden sign that says ďI donít know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.Ē  This serves us as a reminder that God is already there and it would be unwise of us to not consult Him before making not only the major decisions, but the basic ones as well. 

 

        As you go through this process of finding Godís will for your life, you will find yourself coming across situations that in the past couldíve been tough ones to make.  However, now, you will be able to recall verses from the Bible and past events that it contains and educates us on.  Then you can apply those lessons and examples to your life and ďbam!Ē there you have your answer. 

 

I know that some people donít like to read.  But I canít describe to you the importance it has that you must read Godís word. Try it for a month and make time for it every day or night.  Make time to talk to God and get to know Him.  In the process you will get to know yourself as well.  I promise you that you will not be disappointed. 

 

Life may become more challenging, but that is God at work.  He may want to get rid of some kind of sin or characteristic that doesnít fit the person He wills for you to be.  In 2 Chronicles 20:12, Jehoshaphat was in dire trouble along with the people of Judah and Jerusalem and he cried out ďO our God, will you not judge them?  For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.Ē

 

When we wander from the course that God has set for us, as mentioned earlier, He will do whatever it takes to get our attention and protect us from harm and get us back on track. The strategies that our Heavenly and Trustworthy Father might use are:

        1.) A restless spirit.

        2.) A spoken word.  God used this method by giving a message to Samuel and to the old priest Eli.  If several people begin telling you something in short span of time and it echoes Godís character that is described within the Holy Book that you hold within your hand then God just might be trying to tell you something.  And it would be wise to get on your knees and ask Him if He is trying to speak through them.

        3.) An unusual blessing. 

        4.) The fourth one is a unique method and that is unanswered prayerÖAwesome, right?

      Sometimes God will answer prayer with a ďnoĒ.  You see despite King Davidís prayers, God did not save his infant son that was born of adultery.  The LORD may refuse to answer your prayers as a way to force you to examine yourself.

        5.) Disappointment.  This can be seen when Israel refused Godís instruction to take possession of the promised land.  God may allow setbacks to keep us from charting our own course.

        6.) Extraordinary circumstances.  Sometimes God will send us signsÖ  For Moses, it was a burning bush.  We must learn to look for Godís presence in all circumstances of life.

        7.) Defeat.  God got Joshuaís attention after a triumphant victory over Jericho by letting him fail worse than the Chiefs in the playoffs.  He knew Joshua was leaning away from relying on Godís strength and power and relying on his own.

        8.) Financial Troubles.  Only when God took away every material belonging of the Midianites in the time of Judges did the people cry out for God.  You see, our God knows what it will take to get our attention.

        9.) And last but not least, tragedy, sickness, and affliction.  A great example of this is when He struck Saul of Tarsus blind.  Does this mean that every sickness or tragedy is a sign from God?  No.

But please remember that we live in a fallen world that even today we pay for the sins of those who came before us.  Our sinful ways and blessed ways all have consequences and they have a ripple effect.  And our sins effect others and not just ourselves.  The same goes for our blessings.  But once again please remember that we live in a free willed world.

 

God always knows where you are in your journey of faith and what it will take to get your attention.  My advice to you is to not only listen but obey. And if you have done evil or if bad things have happened to you, I promise you that God can and will make good of it for His purpose when you full heartedly seek Him.

 

Making a decision to change or to dig deeper into living within Godís will is not easy. But you will find peace with this change if you are truly living within His will.  Can you imagine the positive influence and direction that our families, congregation, and community could embark on if we dedicated ourselves in finding and living within Godís will on a constant basis? 

 

We must put our pride down and pick up the word of God and lift up our own lives as clay for Him, our Creator, to mold us and use us.  Just as Amos and John the Baptist did, among many others that you can read about in the Book of Truth.  Surrender and have faith my friends.  You will be changed and continue to be molded perfectly in His will if you can just surrender. 

 

In war, surrender means that you have lost and are defeated.  But in Godís will, surrendering means the exact opposite.  And if you accept, begin, and or continue the journey of living in Godís will for your life then you are truly living a successful life.   ďTrust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.   In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Ē Proverbs 3:5-6. 

 

Congratulations! You now know the secret to life! And, the book that you hold within your hand right now is the key. Someday we will be called home and be in the presence of God Our Father and we will have to give an account of what we did with our lives. We will have been accepted into Heaven and everything already, but we will need to still give an account! And what a feeling it will be to not only hear from the mouth of our creator, ďWelcome homeĒ but also ďJOB Ö WELL Ö. DONE..!Ē

 

So now I want you to look down at that living manual within your grasp and ask yourself: ďAre you ready to knock and have the door answered?Ē  ďAre you ready to seek and find?Ē  Amen

 

 

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

July 8, 2018

Pastor Ed Foster

 

         Donít you all think that todayís gospel lesson is kind of strange? I mean Jesus goes home and he canít do anything. Last week what we talked about is the Jesus we all expect. But this isnít the Jesus we expect. Makes you kind of wonder about Mark. Mark was an evangelist. Mark was supposed to be telling the story of Jesus so that people would hear the story and believe, so that they would have faith. He must have failed. Indeed, today we would probably either want to leave this story out, or we would spin it so that Jesus comes out looking strong and powerful and mighty.

 

         And indeed, when this story begins Jesus has come from some rather amazing successes. He had been across the sea from the land of the Gerasenes and there he had cast out a thousand demons from this poor man. He sent the demons into a herd of pigs, and the pigs went and jumped off the cliff and drowned themselves. Of course, the folks in the land of the Gerasenes werenít too thrilled with that, so they asked Jesus, could you go home? So, he did.

 

         He went back to Israel and while he was there a man comes rushing to him, come, come lay your hands on my daughter, she is sick and almost dead. But before he could even make it to the manís house, a woman comes up from behind him, she has been sick for 12 years and reaches out and touches his cloak, just touches it. She is healed. Then Jesus makes his way to the manís house and the little girl has already died. Jesus reaches out and takes her by the hand and gives her life.

 

         Stories going great so far, right? Jesus is filled with power, filled with this amazing ability to bring healing and health and wholeness, to even bring life out of death. So, then he goes to Nazareth, he can do nothing, except laying his hands, of course that seems like a throw-away line Ė but I bet you for those folks who were healed, it didnít seem like a small thing, but still even Jesus is amazed. We know him. We saw him grow up. We know his Mom and Dad and his brothers and sisters. Who does he think he is? Because of their unbelief, Jesus can do nothing among them, except heal a few folks who were sick.

 

         Of course, the folks in the previous lessons, they were excited to see Jesus. They believed that he could do something for them, and so they came to him and in faith they were healed and made well. So, could Jesus not heal those folks who had no faith? Yes, weíre getting close to heresy here. And the answer of course is, yes, he could have. But God is determined that we are participants with the things that God is doing in the world.

 

God was not and Jesus was not going to force those folks in Nazareth to receive Godís grace and Godís love, to receive the gifts that Jesus was giving. Jesus insisted that they be a part of what is going on. Not that they make themselves have faith, not that they do some great work to earn it, but that indeed he was determined that they be part of what God is doing in the world.

 

         The next thing Jesus does on the heels of what seems to be such a great failure, the very next thing that Jesus does is he sends his disciples out into the world. He gives them his power to heal, and his power to cast out demons, and he sends them out to the world to proclaim the gospel, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, to proclaim the kingdom. And out they go, Jesusí partners in ministry, participants in what it is that God is doing in the world and it worked. They go out into the world and they healed and they cast out demons, they bring people to faith.

 

         God is determined that we be part of what God is doing in the world. We often ask, well, why doesnít God just zap everything and make it perfect? But God is determined that God at least for now is going to do Godís work in the world mostly through us. That God is sending us out into the world to share that good news, to bring Godís love and Godís grace and Godís power into the world. God is making us his partners in what he is doing in the world. God is making us his partners in ministry.

 

         But you know what? Itís working. The things that you are doing, they are making a difference in peopleís lives, every kindness, every time that you reach out and help, your generosity, your affection, your sharing of the faith with the world, it is, it is making a difference. Could we do better? Of course, we could. Could we do more? Yes, letís do.

 

         What you are doing already, it counts and it matters. Every time that you help someone in their grief, every time you bring comfort, every time you encourage or support someone, every time you stand up and speak about the things going on in the world around us, saying this is not how God intended it to be, all of those things matter. They are your part of being a part of what God is doing in the world. I am intensely aware that some days it seems like what we are doing is all too little, that the world around us is going crazy. God had made us his partners in his ministries.

 

         Could we do more? And should we do more? You bet. Letís do. But remember that what we are doing matters. God has decided that he is going to bring his salvation to the world at least for now through us. And you are Godís partners in his ministries, you are disciples, you are the hands and the voice of God in the world. Amen.