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The Merciful Savior

Sermon: “The Merciful Savior”             

LSB Series A; Proper 15

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; August 16, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 15:21-28

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Do you like crumbs? Do you like the crumbs of a cookie, or perhaps some cake, or maybe from the pie? Do you like crumbs? You see, most people are not content with the crumbs. They want the whole cookie, the whole piece of cake, or the whole piece of pie. But crumbs…you have got to be kidding me.

Our kids have had this tendency to like crumbs. Now what I am about to share with you might make you a little bit uncomfortable and question what goes on in our household, but I take that risk nonetheless. You see, there have been times in our household where the kids when they were in their highchair at a young age have not finished their meal. Yet in the course of that meal, they have managed to make a mess, and there are crumbs everywhere. After giving up trying to get them to eat their food, we clean them up and put them back down on the floor to play. And in those times where we haven’t swept up fast enough, sure enough, the very food that they wouldn’t eat before, they are eating like nobody’s business off of the floor. Though it is mere crumbs, they delight in it as if it is a feast.

This woman in our text was offered mere crumbs from Jesus. After having begged for mercy for her demon possessed daughter, she now knelt at Jesus feet and said, “Lord, help me.” And Jesus’ response was, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 

Crumbs. She was content with crumbs. Not a whole piece. Crumbs. One might even say she was overjoyed to receive crumbs. 

Here she was a Canaanite woman, a reject, an outcast. A Canaanite was a descendent of Ham, the awful son of Noah who had defiled his own father by exposing his nakedness and subjected his family to sin and shame. To a Jew, Canaanites were not worth anyone’s time. They were mere dogs, and they were easily cast aside.

To this woman though, what may have seemed like an insult, was an invitation. It was an invitation to receive something she never thought possible as a Canaanite. She was being invited to receive crumbs of mercy from the promised Messiah.

To the disciples, however, this woman wasn’t even worth receiving the crumbs. The disciples literally begged for Jesus to send her away. They had done the same with the crowd of five thousand that were like sheep without a shepherd, hungry in the wilderness, after having come to listen to Jesus. 

If the disciples had their choice, this woman would starve to death. They were just fine with that. She was a reject.

Is there someone in your life that you have rejected and treated as an outcast? Is there someone whom you have deemed not worth your time? Is there someone you are content to see die outside of the grace and mercy of God?

The disciples were. They were alright with their being included. But this woman was a Gentile. This woman deserved to be damned.

Is that how we sometimes feel toward others? We like to think that we don’t take it that far, but every time we draw that proverbial line in the sand, we allow our hatred and malice toward others to be exposed.

Is that how we treat someone of a different race? Perhaps it is someone of a different political party? How quick are we to vilify others and think that they are not even worth a crumb of mercy from us.

Imagine if Jesus had treated this woman this way. Imagine if he had just kicked her to the curb and rejected her. The disciples probably would have thought nothing of it. They probably would have even applauded such action. After all, they were Jews, and they deserved to be on their rightful thrones of the hierarchy…especially when it came to being around a Canaanite.

See how easy it is for people to become filled with arrogance and pride, but all the while do it at the expense of someone else, at the expense of their receiving compassion and mercy.

The ironic thing is that the very thing we often won’t offer others, is exactly what we desire for ourselves. In fact, we may even think we are entitled to the mercy we seek. We look at how we live, or the stuff we have, and we think we are pretty good people. And as good people, we not only deserve the crumbs, but we deserve the whole piece.

Truth is, we are all beggars before God. We all have something to learn from this woman. There she was, ‘kneeling’ before the Savior of the world. She didn’t care that the disciples had treated her poorly. Her focus wasn’t on them. Her focus was on her Savior.

Is that where our focus is? Do we have our eyes fixed on Jesus as He graciously offers us crumbs of mercy as fellow Gentiles, or are we more interested in comparing ourselves to others, puffing ourselves up, and making ourselves look good at others’ expense?

If that is the case, we have some repenting to do. As we face a world right now where we are so quick to vilify others as the enemy, we all need to take a moment and have a gut check. No matter our political party, our race, or anything of the sort makes us better than someone else. We are all, and I mean ‘all’ deserving of death and damnation. We are all sinners, and we all need to confess those sins. To say otherwise is to reject the very One who offers crumbs of mercy.

Being a Christian is a life of humble begging before the Almighty God. It is coming to terms with the fact that we are nothing without Jesus. Everything we have comes from Him. Everything. 

Look at what He is offering us here today. He is welcoming us into His presence to hear His holy Word. He is not treating us as outcasts or rejects. He is calling us His beloved children. He is welcoming us to His table in His house. Though it may appear to be a mere crumb as it is only a small wafer, in that wafer is the bread of Life, Jesus Himself. It may appear to be a sip of wine, but in that wine is the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes all of our sins away.

All of our sins. This is not just a crumb here. It’s not even a piece. It’s the whole thing. All of our sins are taken into the very body and blood of Jesus. All of our sins are done away with by the Savior of the world who delights in giving us mercy. And not because we are entitled to it or deserve it. We don’t deserve mercy. 

You see, mercy is not getting what we do deserve. Mercy is God taking upon Himself and into Himself everything that we do deserve. Mercy is Jesus becoming the outcast by dying on the outskirts of town. Mercy is Jesus being condemned as a criminal even though He was innocent. Mercy is Jesus being treated as if He wasn’t worth anyone’s time as He was spat upon, mocked, and ridiculed. Mercy is Jesus calling out to His Father and getting no reply. Mercy is Jesus exchanging our punishment of sin, death, and hell, and giving us His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

See here in this text that it is all about the mercy of a Savior who desires ‘all’ to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We who were outcasts, who often lack compassion and mercy, He mercifully has welcomed us here today. He has welcomed us into His presence to beg for forgiveness and He graciously gives it to us, and makes us His own. Though, just like that Canaanite woman, we have no business being a part of His family, baptized into His name, we are God’s children nonetheless.

In a matter of moments, we will forego the crumbs, and go directly to the feast, the foretaste of the feast to come. And it won’t be long and we will all be dining together, brothers and sisters in Christ, of all nations, in the halls of heaven, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Until that day comes, we rejoice in the crumbs of mercy as Jesus offers them knowing that whatever Jesus gives is more than enough as we cry out in the Kyrie week after week: Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. And that is exactly what He gives, for Jesus is our Merciful Savior. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Jesus Saves

Sermon: “Jesus Saves”             

LSB Series A; Proper 14

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 9, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 14:22-33

Let us pray. Divine Savior, when the storms of life threaten to shipwreck our faith, assure us of Your loving presence and protecting care. Amen.

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Have you ever faced a time in your life of uncertainty where fear and doubt settled in? 

The disciples in our text for today sure did. Jesus had just told them to get into a boat and go on ahead of Him while He dismissed the crowd of five thousand that He had just fed with five loaves of bread and two fish, leaving twelve baskets full of leftovers. So, off they went, while Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. And while they were about three to four miles from shore, somewhere between three and six in the morning, they were getting beaten by the waves, and the wind was against them. 

Now this is not what filled the disciples with fear and doubt. They would have been accustomed to such conditions on the sea. They knew that the Sea of Galilee was a low-lying sea positioned in a valley, and it was known for having both sudden, and violent storms. 

What’s more, they had been on a boat on this sea before. Remember that time when the storm came up and Jesus was sleeping on the pillow. Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the waves with a simple, “Peace! Be still!” And everything was calm.

Well, this time, Jesus wasn’t with them, and everything was not calm. It wasn’t calm on the water, nor did they feel calm themselves. As the water was churning to and fro, so were their stomachs. For there before them, off in the distance was what they thought was a ghost.

Just imagine their fear and trepidation. Think of them wiping their eyes from the water splashing them, trying to get a better glimpse. Then, in the midst of the storm, they heard: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” 

It is a common line in Scripture. Again and again, we hear, don’t fear, Jesus is here. And yet, just like the disciples, we get scared. 

Why is that? Why were the disciples afraid? Why is it that we so easily get filled with fear? Why do we fret over the cares and concerns of this world so easily? Why do we turn on the news and so easily forget God’s love for us and His promises?

I don’t know about you, but reading the news these days is quite disheartening. It breaks my heart to hear about people dying from a virus, and it also breaks my heart to see all the restrictions put in place that have people in care facilities cut off from their families. It breaks my heart to hear about the racial divide in our country, and it also breaks my heart to see protests turning violent and people getting away with crimes and defiance of the authorities that we have entrusted to protect us. 

And I don’t know about you, but when there are so many heart-breaking realities all around us, it can be easy to get down. It can be easy to become afraid.

Young children experience fear quite often, especially when there is a storm at night. Now I have to be careful here, because my wife will tell you that it has been rare that I ever get out of bed when my kids cry out. I am often sound asleep. But, in those rare instances, especially when the boys were young, I would get up and I would cradle them in my arms or lean over into my bed and I would sing to them. And this is what I would sing:

“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, Consider all the works Thy hand hath made, I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed; Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art!”

There on that Sea of Galilee was the great and almighty God, the Savior of the world, and He was walking to them on the water. And if ever there was a doubt in their mind about who it was, Jesus ended it with the words, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” “It is I” “Ego eimi!” 

These were the words God had spoken to Moses from the burning bush to identify Himself as God. These were the words that Jesus spoke to the disciples to identify Himself as God walking upon those water’s waves. And at that very moment, there was no need to fear, because Jesus was here.

In God-given faith, Peter tested these waters and called out to Jesus to command him to come walk upon the water. And walk on it he did. Imagine what those first few steps must have been like. For that matter, imagine what the first step must have been like. And then he got to walking, walking on the water. That is, until he took his eyes off of Jesus, and the text says that he was afraid. As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus and he was filled with fear, and he began to sink like a lead weight.

That is, until he called out to Jesus, “Lord, save me.” It is that cry of “Hosanna”. “Save now!” And that’s what Jesus did. He reached down and grabbed ahold of His disciple and brought him into the boat. And as soon as He did, Jesus said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

See here in this text that Jesus is the Savior. Again and again, He saves. He saved His disciples from the temptation to pride and popularity when He sent them to row across the sea instead of being hailed as celebrities by the crowds fed with the bread and fish. He saved them from the wind and waves that were tossing their boat to and fro by making the wind cease. He saved Peter by reaching down and grabbing ahold of his arm and hauling him into the boat to safety. But His being their Savior went beyond all of that, for them and for us.

He saved us all by doing the unthinkable. He dove into this world of doubts and fears head on and laid down His life for us. He allowed Himself to be drowned in the depths of the suffocating reality of a crucifixion, and there He took upon Himself all of our sins of doubts and fears, all of the times that we took our eyes off of Him, all of that arrogant pride where we have thought we could save ourselves, and He finished it off once and for all so that we would not die eternally. After all, we wouldn’t need a Savior if we could save ourselves. And we can’t. So He took our sin and death and swallowed it all up in victory.

And where is this victory granted to you? In your baptism. There your old sinful self was drowned. Sin, death, and the devil were done for. There He reached down, just like He did with Peter, and He raised you back to life. He gave you a new life. In fact Peter would later write in the first Epistle that bears his name, “Baptism now saves you.”

Recently a ten year old boy was in the hospital with injuries to his head and chest after a shark grabbed him from a boat and attacked him off the coast of Tasmania, Australia. The boy’s father jumped into the water, and the shark swam away so that the child only suffered lacerations across his body. He is now in stable condition.

His father jumped into the water to save him. That son, just like us, was helpless. He needed someone who loved him and had the power to save him.

Jesus has the power, and He has saved you because he loves you. In your baptism, He has saved you from drowning in the depths of your sin. And though your faith is often weak as you are tossed to and fro by the winds and waves of this world, He never stops coming to you so that you might fix your eyes upon Him as the founder and perfecter of your faith and boldly confess with those disciples, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

This is your confession as a baptized child of God whenever doubts or fears fill your heart and mind. Do not fear, Jesus is here…and He will never forsake you. He will keep coming to you…in His Word…in His Sacrament…here in His house…at His table…this is where He is FOR YOU. For Jesus is your Savior. In His name. Amen.

In the midst of all the doubts, fears, and uncertainties of life in this world, it would be great to repeat this prayer from our baptismal service. Let us pray. “Almighty and eternal God, we pray that You would behold us according to Your boundless mercy and bless us with true faith by the Holy Spirit, that through this saving flood all sin in us which has been inherited from Adam and we ourselves have committed since, would be drowned and die. Grant that we be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Nothing Separates Us from the Love of God

Sermon: “Nothing Separates Us From The Love Of God”             

LSB Series A; Proper 12

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; July 26, 2020

Epistle Reading: Romans 8:28-39

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).

Nothing. Absolutely nothing…separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing.

But it just seems like there is so much evidence to the contrary. Now the following is going to be a bit heavy, but that’s because we live in a world with heavy stuff. We live in a world where there are so many bad things going on and so much stuff that weighs upon our hearts that tries to convince us that we are separated from God’s love.

When I wrote this sermon, the city of Portland, Oregon had now endured six straight weeks of unrest due to protests. Though they may have started as peaceful protests, it was estimated that there had been $23 million dollars in losses due to looting and rioting. Think of those business owners and their livelihoods being lost. The effects of the murder of George Floyd still rage on.

          It was also reported that 39 states are reporting an increase in Covid cases. States, especially in the south, are doing whatever it takes to care for those in need. At the hospital where my sister-in-law works as an occupational therapist, due to the ICU beds all being taken, they are taking beds from occupational therapy unit so that additional people can receive care.

          Then there was the schizophrenic guy in Florida who drove his vehicle into a Catholic church, and upon breaking in, set the vehicle on fire which set fire to part of the church. What’s more is that in his state of mind, there seemed to be no remorse for his actions.

          It’s all enough to just make us scream and ask where in the world is God? Does He really love us? And it’s not just because of what is on the news, it’s also because of what is going on in our lives.

          You see, when we watch the news and see the tribulation going on, we sometimes have this way of thinking that we are insulated here in Carver County. We can sometimes even adopt the mentality that such problems will never rear their ugly head in our neck of the woods.

          But the sense that we are separated from God’s love goes deeper than what is simply on the news. It’s everywhere, and certainly has a way of hitting us closer to home.

          Just ask the husband or wife who just had to say goodbye to their spouse as death darkened their days. Just ask the child who can’t figure out how a parent who said they would love them, but treats them as if they are garbage. Just ask the family that can’t gather anymore because no one can get along and there are so many grudges that no one can figure out who to talk to anymore.

          Then it gets even deeper than that. Because, after all, when we talk about separation, nothing separates more than sin. I heard in a sermon the other day that said, just imagine if someone kept a record of all of the sites that you visited on-line and all of the posts that you posted. What would it reveal about your heart? Or if you aren’t on-line, what would happen if someone recorded all of your comments that you made to people when you didn’t get your way or the comments you made about people when they weren’t around and you felt free to talk behind their back? What would it reveal about you?

          Yes, we live in a heavy world of sin, and there is ample evidence to try and make us think that we are hopelessly separated from God’s love. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

Listen again: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

          Through all that Paul had endured: beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, being stoned, he still expressed this sure and certain confidence that absolutely nothing would separate him from God’s love.

          You see, we have this tendency to think that when bad things happen in our lives that God has either abandoned us or that He is punishing us. But that is simply not true. At the beginning of the chapter, St. Paul writes: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Later, just before our text he writes: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

          God is not condemning us as we live in this world. But it is a world of sin, and sin has its consequences and effects. In no way, however, has God abandoned us and left us to be separated from His love. Just listen to this: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32).

          Yes, we live in a world of heavy stuff going on and we have heavy stuff going on in our own personal lives. But God gave up His Son, and He did the heavy lifting that was need so that in the end we would stand victorious, as those who are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

          And how does He make that possible? By joining the sheep that are led to the slaughter. He is the sacrificial lamb.

          In my personal devotions the other day, I read the end of the book of Luke. It got me thinking about what it must have been like for Jesus on that day we call Good. Because when you look at it closely, it sure doesn’t seem like anything good happened.

          In that text it says that the chief priests and the scribes were vehemently accusing him and the soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Now we have all heard the line: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” And everyone knows what a lie that is. Words can really hurt, especially depending upon who those words come from.

          If you have ever had someone verbally abuse you or put you down…maybe it was spouse, or a parent, or a friend, or someone in authority over you, see here today that Jesus knows exactly what that is like. He knows that pain of separation deeply and He bears it with you and for you because nothing separates you from His love.

          If you have ever had hatred and grudges separate you from someone you love, maybe it was a family member or friend, see here today that Jesus enters into the thick of just such a separation as many of the people that treated him so poorly were supposed to be his brothers in the faith. 

          It was a few verses later in that chapter of Luke that a riot broke out, a riot calling out, “Crucify, crucify Him.” The taunting and the ridicule in no way subsided as they drove nails into His hands and feet…as they hung Him there on the place called the Skull in between two criminals, left there to die.

          As I said before, in no way did it appear that anything ‘good’ happened on that Good Friday. But with His very own body and blood, Jesus entered into the separation that existed between you and the Father in heaven. He endured the horrific pain of calling out to His Father and getting no reply. And even as He suffered in ways we can’t begin to imagine, He said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

          “I forgive you”. If ever there are three words that express that nothing separates you from God’s love, those are the ones. “I forgive you.” Those are the words of Jesus that you heard at the beginning of this service today. “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.”

          All those sites you visited that you shouldn’t have. All those posts you made that you should have never posted. All those comments that you made to people or behind their backs, Jesus says: “I forgive you.” 

          Your sins will not be held against you, because nothing, absolutely nothing will separate you from God’s love. So go, and sin no more. And as you go out into a world filled with the darkness of sin, do so in the confidence of a Savior who loves you beyond all measure and promises to be with you always…In His Word…In His body and blood…given and shed for you.

          Yes, it is easy to doubt God’s love when we look at the circumstances around us. But the assurance comes when we look at Jesus Christ. When we look at Jesus, we know that God is for us…we know that we are justified…we know that we are more than conquerors…and we know that nothing will separate us from His love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Groanings too deep for words

Sermon: “Groanings Too Deep For Words”             

LSB Series A; Proper 11

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; July 19, 2020

Epistle Reading: Romans 8:18-27

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to wait in line at the grocery store. It’s hard to wait for our name to be called at the clinic. It’s hard to wait to open Christmas presents. It’s hard to wait for dessert to be served. It’s hard to wait for someone to stop talking so that we can finally talk. It’s hard to wait.

It is especially hard to wait when we suffer. It’s hard to wait when we are told the results will be coming in a few days. It’s hard to wait when we are receiving a treatment. It’s hard to wait when we feel sick to our stomach. It’s hard to wait when we endure chronic pain. It’s hard to wait when the depression sets in again. It’s hard to wait for a pandemic to end. It’s just hard to wait.

It’s also hard to wait for the Last Day to come. Our text says: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Here we are living in a world of sin and brokenness, holding on to a promise that Jesus will return, and it’s just not easy. It’s especially hard because it seems like we’ve waited long enough and suffered long enough. It has been two thousand years. And I know that God says in His Word that a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. Well, in God’s time, isn’t two days long enough? It’s just so hard to wait.

I have yet to find anyone who really appreciates waiting. I have yet to find someone who says, yeah, I am a really patient person. I often joked that when God was passing out patience, He skipped me. I am guessing many of us feel the same way. 

When we have to wait, and especially when we are suffering in the process, what is our response more often than not? We groan.

Any of you familiar with groaning? Ever heard someone else groan before? It’s that deeply embedded feeling in the body that comes out in the form of a sound. It kind of goes like this (give example).

Parents are probably pretty familiar with groaning sounds that come from their children when they don’t get their way. “Awww, do I have to?” “Why do they always get to do what they want, and I never do?” “Why do I always have to do the harder jobs?” Sound familiar?

Before all the kids here think I am only picking on them, adults groan too, a lot. And the lines that the kids use are the same ones adults use: “Awww, do I have to?” “Why do they always get to do what they want, and I never do?” “Why do I always have to do the harder jobs?” Sound familiar?

Groaning just has this negative connotation that it is something we do when things are just not going our way. But is that the only form of groaning that goes on?

In our text, we hear that creation groans. We groan. The Spirit groans. There is a lot of groaning that is going on. But, there is a different ‘tone’ to the ‘groan’ that is going on here that St. Paul highlights for us.

First, we hear that creation groans. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:19-22).

Long before we were born, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve fell into sin. We are all familiar with the story. The serpent came and deceived them and they ate of the forbidden fruit. Then, the serpent was cursed, then came the promise of a Savior from the offspring of Eve who would crush the head of the serpent, then came the pain in childbirth, and lastly came the curse of the ground. Ever since that day, creation has been groaning.

But it is not a groaning like we often groan. It is a longing. It is a hoping with excited anticipation. It is likened to the pains of childbirth, where the mother endures great pain and looks forward to the joy of holding her child once the intense labor has drawn to a close. It is looking forward to finally being set free from bondage and corruption. That kind of a groan.

As we look around and we see the world in decay; hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, these are but the groanings of a creation that just can’t wait for the Last Day to come. They are reminders to us as we wait, as much as we hate waiting, that the time of Christ’s return is drawing closer with each moment that passes.

Our text also says that ‘we’ groan. It says, And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:23-25).

I am reminded of my Dad who talked once of the time that he was adopted. He was four years old and his younger brother was three. His biological father was working in a gravel pit. There were three men that had fallen into the pit, and his dad tried to save them. Unfortunately, he was also pulled in, and all four of them suffocated to death. So, there my grandmother was widowed at a very young age with two young boys to raise on her own. She then remarried, and as my dad tells it, that man adopted us, and in doing so “chose” us as his own sons. He didn’t have to, but he chose to anyway, and he raised us as his own. Oh, what comfort there must have been for my dad and his brother as their eager wait to be adopted as sons was fulfilled by the man they grew up calling their dad.

That is the groaning we are invited into this world filled with its suffering and hardships. We long to be chosen, to be adopted into the family of God, and not left as orphans to fend for ourselves. We long to be fed at the table of a Father who loves us beyond measure. We long to have someone who will hear and answer the groans that we let out as we wait in this world that hurts so much to endure from day to day.

And we can all attest that it does hurt. Some of us are grieving right now as loved ones have gone to be with the Lord. Some are filled with loneliness, especially in this pandemic time filled with isolation and separation. Some are suffering physically. Some, spiritually. Some, mentally. We just can’t wait for the day when the redemption of our bodies will be here. We just can’t wait to look up into the clouds and see Jesus descending, to hear the voice of that archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God, and to always be with our Lord.

This is our hope in this world of sin and suffering. But it is not a vain hope. This hope was secured for us in the water and Word of our Baptism. The book of Hebrews describes the hope that we groan for with great anticipation, to be a sure and certain hope. It is an accomplished hope. 

It was accomplished by Jesus who groaned on our behalf on the cross. Think of how he must have groaned with longing and eager anticipation as He bled and died on that tree. Think of how He must have groaned as He willingly subjected Himself to the wrath of God against sin. Your sin and mine. Think of how He must have groaned as He let out His last breath, and in doing so, swallowed up death, once and for all. 

But His groaning was not in vain. His Father in heaven accepted His perfect sacrifice, and after three days in the grave, He was raised back to life. Raised to bring hope to our hurting hearts…to bring healing to our suffering selves…to declare that our death does not get the final say. Jesus does. And now we await the day of our resurrection with great and eager groaning, both for creation and for us.

And we do not wait alone. Our text says: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

How many of us have ever been at a loss for words when we go to pray? I think we have all been there a time or two. Well, the Spirit is here to help as we endure the trials and tribulations, hardships and heartaches of this life. We are not left to our own devices. 

The same Spirit that we have embedded within our hearts through the water and Word of Baptism is the One who is interceding for us before the Father Himself with groanings too deep for words. And where our prayers are so often prayed in the vein of “’my’ will be done,” the Spirit is always faithful to pray in those groanings too deep for words: “Thy will be done.”

That’s the beauty, among many, of praying the Lord’s Prayer. It has this way of reorienting all of our groans in this life back to our Father who is in heaven. He knows how hard this world is to go through. He has been here before in the person of His Son. But in the power of His Spirit, he constantly redirects our groans back to Him so that we might patiently await Jesus’ return.

On that glorious day, our waiting will come to an end. Creation will be restored and it will be everything we had hoped for. Our groanings will be replaced with great shouts of joy as we will behold a new heaven and earth, all tears will be wiped away, death will be no more, nor will there be mourning, or crying, or pain anymore. And there before us will be our God, and we will dwell with Him forever (Revelation 21). It will definitely be worth the wait. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Reckless Sower

Sermon: “The Reckless Sower”             

LSB Series A; Proper 10

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; July 12, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Reckless. It is defined as “utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action.”

Other words that may come to mind when hearing the word “reckless” may be ‘careless’ or ‘wasteful’.

These are words that would most definitely describe the sower in our text for today. Just look at what he did. He throws some seeds on a path. Picture the seeds bouncing this way and that. Then he throws some in the rocks, no doubt falling down into the cracks and crevices between those rocks. Some of the seed he throws into thorns. Then the last amount of seed he throws into good soil.

If we had been there to watch this sower at work, we might have wanted to say, “What are you doing?! Why are you being so reckless? Don’t you know that is a waste of good seed? What are you thinking?”

After all, what sower, what gardener in his right mind just throws seed on whatever surface he sees? Anyone in their right mind knows that you only throw seed on good soil.

I love gardening. I am not a great gardener. I would not say that I have that natural green thumb. But I have learned a thing or two in my years of gardening. I have learned that you don’t throw seed all over the place. You don’t throw it on pavement, or in rocks, or in thistles. I mean, can you imagine one of the farmers from our congregation going down highway 30 toward Waconia pulling a planter, and then just letting the seeds go everywhere. Just imagine the stories that would circulate in Carver County. “Did you see that farmer driving down the road trying to plant corn on the pavement? He’s crazy! How wasteful! How reckless!”

Yes, any good sower, gardener, or farmer knows that if you want a good harvest, you plant your seed only in the good soil. But not with the sower from our text. He is reckless. He is so desperate for a harvest that He is willing to just let his seed fly every which direction. He isn’t concerned about where it lands, He just wants to get it out there.

If you do the math, the sower only gets a twenty-five percent return on His sowing. Can you imagine a group of farmers in our community conversing, and one of them bragging, “Hey guys, check this out, my crop yielded a whole twenty-five percent of what I planted.” Do you think the other farmers would be like, “Wow, that is awesome?!” No! They would probably wonder what on earth that farmer is doing wrong. As I have been told, corn should yield about 95% of what is planted, and soy beans should yield 90%. So, we would in no way call this guy with a twenty-five percent yield a good farmer. 

I must confess that one of my crops this year is making me feel like I am the sower in the parable to some extent. You see, in one of my two gardens, I have sweet corn planted. I counted out my seeds, and wouldn’t you know it, only a third of them came up. So, I went and bought another bag of seeds and planted those. Only a few of those came up. I have now planted over 130 seeds, and I think I only have like 30-some plants of corn coming up in my garden. Now it was not that I was trying to be like sower in the parable here, but here I am with only about 25 percent of my crop coming up. And why is that? Well, little did I know, but there are these birds nesting near my garden, and sure enough, they are having a ‘field day’ eating my corn before it ever comes to fruition. Sad thing is, I actually have netting to put over my garden, but I guess I was just too lazy to put it on to keep them out. The gardener reaps what he sows, as it goes.

And that is true. Though I had to use more seed, more corn did come up out of the ground. My harvest will be greater because I planted more seed. It may seem quite wasteful in some respects, but the truth of the matter remains, the more seed you sow, the more harvest you get.

This is the approach of the sower in the parable. You see, the sower in the parable is Jesus, and the seed is the Word of God. And more than anything, Jesus just wants a harvest. He just wants to get the seed out there. He isn’t concerned with the soil that it lands upon. He just wants His Word to be spread. He wants people to have faith. We wants people to know the joy and peace of forgiveness. He wants people in His kingdom. Jesus “desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1st Timothy 2:4). So He spreads His Word…recklessly.

Just look at the people that Jesus spends His time with as He spreads His Word. He eats with tax collectors and sinners. He converses with prostitutes and the demon possessed. He interacts with the sick and the lepers. Where anyone else would just avoid ‘those’ people, Jesus jumps right in with reckless abandon and starts throwing His seed everywhere. His Word is scattered this way and that.

Is that the way we are with the Word of God? Do we desire all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth? Or are we like a sower who only sows where we know there is going to be a crop? Or worse yet, do we hoard the seed to ourselves? 

How many of us are just plain content with the fact that we have salvation, but have little concern for the lost and the fact that people will die and go to hell? It’s a tough question to grapple with, but as we look out into our world, we see that there are a whole lot of people that need to hear the good news that we hear week after week. Some close to us, others perhaps not.

Have we taken for granted God’s Word that is given to us again and again? Have we forgotten our calling to be witnesses of Jesus’ light in a dark world? Have we just grown cold and complacent in our love for others.

The parable of the sower wakes us up from our complacency to see that His recklessness with His Word is what were invited into. We don’t need to concern ourselves with the results or the harvest. He takes care of that. 

Just like He took care of our being converted as well. We, who were conceived and born into sin (Psalm 51:5) were doomed to death and damnation. Yet, the seed of the Word that became flesh entered the soil of our sinful hearts in and through the water and Word of baptism. There, He worked faith in us so that through us He might yield thirty-fold, or sixty-fold, or even one-hundred fold.

Yes, God’s got plans for you as you receive the Word of God into your ears here today. In fact, the prayer I pray from the front of the hymnal before every sermon as you see me stand before the altar says this: 

“Lord God, bless Your Word ‘wherever’ it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.”

That is the goal of the Word being spread, is it not? To confirm those who have faith and to convert those who don’t. And that’s why Jesus is so liberal in His spreading of the Word. He will do anything and everything just to be able to have one more person be saved.

Anything and everything is exactly what He did to save us. Like those thorns that the seeds were thrown into, so thorns were fashioned into a crown for His head as He carried His cross to Calvary. Like those seeds that were withered and those that were choked out, so it was that Jesus’ breath withered to nothing as He was choked by the suffocating reality of His lungs filling with fluid before He died. But it was all worth it to save you.

Where anyone else might think that such a death was careless or wasteful…I mean who dies for a group of sinners, especially when we stop to consider all that we have done. But such is the reckless love of our God. 

God’s Word says: “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

That’s a reckless love. And it’s the love Jesus has for you. In no way is He wasteful with His Word, rather He just so wants as many people to be there as possible when the day of the harvest comes. And what a day that will be…when He gathers us in, draws us close, and keeps us in His presence for all eternity.

So, who in your life needs to hear God’s Word right now? Who needs to hear of our God who loves us with a recklessness that knows no bounds, not even when it comes to dying on a cross?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, share God’s Word. Spread it recklessly. Don’t worry about what the soil is like. Leave the growing part to Him. After all, He is the reckless sower, the Savior, Jesus Christ. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Have no fear. Do not fear. Fear not.

Sermon: “Have no fear. Do not fear. Fear not.”             

LSB Series A; Proper 7

The Third Sunday after Pentecost; June 21, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Have no fear. Do not fear. Fear not. Do you think that Jesus is trying to tell His disciples’ something? How about us? Do you think He might have a point that He is trying to get across? Do you think there might be a lesson that He wants us to learn?

Fear is gripping our world these days. Fear of the coronavirus. Fear of going out in public. Fear of dying alone. Fear of unemployment and underemployment. Fear of rioters and looters. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear of saying the wrong thing the wrong way in a world of racial divide. Fear is everywhere.

One of the most famous presidential quotes is about fear. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inauguration speech as president in 1933 while this nation was in the grips of the Great Depression said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear is gripping. Fear is paralyzing. Fear is overwhelming. Fear is all-consuming. And Jesus tells us that we don’t need to be afraid while living in this world. The only fear that is necessary for us is to fear God.

Fear of God is a good thing. The First Commandment instructs us that “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean? “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

What does it mean to fear God? The catechism tells us that “It means to take God seriously as our Creator and Judge. He means what He says when He threatens to punish those who disobey.”

Scripture tells us in Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.”

Scripture also tells us in Matthew 10:28, in our text for today: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

A fear of God is good for us. When we fear God alone, all other fears fade away. Our focus is only on loving, honoring, and serving Him. And the service that He calls us to is to proclaim His good news “in the light and proclaim it from the housetops.” He’s given us the Gospel, and now He wants us to share what we have been given to share.

But instead of fearing God and sharing His good news, how many of us allow the fears of this world to run our lives? 

Have we allowed the fear of what others think about us to dictate our words and actions? Have we chosen to be silent in our faith for fear of how it might affect our livelihood, our reputation, and our relationships? Have we?

It’s certainly understandable in a world that is filled with fear these days, but it is not inexcusable. Just because there is fear in this world, doesn’t mean we abandon God’s calling for us to serve as His witnesses.

If we have abandoned this post He has placed us in, then we have misplaced our fear. What is the worst that another human could do to us? Though they can take our life, they can’t destroy our soul. Only God has that power, and we are called upon to obey God, rather than men. We are called upon to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, for He alone has the power to save us from eternal death. So, let us obey His command to proclaim His name all the while trusting in His loving care.

Yes, God cares for us…immensely. Jesus says: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

If each sparrow that falls does not escape God’s watchful eye, then what makes us think that He will not care for us? If He goes to the great length of counting each of our hairs, an extremely tedious process, then what makes us think that He will not watch over and protect us? Yes, God cares for us. (Pause)

Now look, let’s not mince words. Sharing our faith is difficult, at least we think it is. Let me explain. Each of us has in our minds that we desire to share the faith, but we question if we have the wherewithal to do so. We are afraid we are going to mess up. We are scared we might say the wrong thing. We think we might offend somebody. We think they might reject us, or even worse, we may even think they might harm us. The devil uses all of these things to work to his advantage to silence us in our witness. He doesn’t want the good news getting out. He doesn’t want Jesus spoken in the light or proclaimed from the housetops. So, he convinces us that we are doomed before we even begin. So what do we do? We clam up. We clam up in fear.

Jesus says: “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my father in heaven.”

These words are both encouragement and warning. He strictly calls upon us to acknowledge him before others. When given the chance, don’t clam up, don’t fear, he is with you. 

But if you get into a steady diet of not saying anything, then what may happen is that you yourself may begin to deny Him as Savior as well. He doesn’t want that to happen, so He encourages all of us to not be afraid.

Let’s not mince words again. When we go to witness about our faith to others, we aren’t going to get it perfect. Much of the problem is that we just haven’t put our witness into practice. We have allowed fear to keep us from sharing the good news we’ve got. And we’ve most certainly got it. We all have stories of the profound impact that Christ has had in our lives. Share that story. People will listen. If they are willing to hear about the fish that got away or the most recent vacation or the struggle you’ve been going through, then they will listen to your faith story as well. And yes, we are going to mess things up. We are going say things in ways we wish we had not. But remember, all of what we say is covered in the protecting hand of our God who loves and forgives us. He’s got our backs.

Literally, He carried us and our sins upon His back as He went to the cross of Calvary. He had every reason to be afraid. His own people were surrounding him with shouts calling for His crucifixion. They wanted him to die. They were spitting on him and beating him. They were saying some of the nastiest things to him. Just imagine how much fear he could have had in his heart at that time.

But He wasn’t afraid. He knew that He was doing the will of His Father. He had been sent to do just this. In honor and respect of His Dad, He kept going, living His life out fully in obedience to the end. All the way through the suffering, the bleeding, the unending ridicule and tormenting…all the way until it was finished. That’s what He did for you…and for me.

And it was all to ensure that you and I would be protected in this world that is gripped with fear. It was all to ensure that we would have no need to fear the terrors of the night or the arrows that fly by day, as the hymn says. Those flaming arrows of the evil one have been quenched in the blood of Jesus our Savior.

His blood covers us from all that would harm us in this world. Our place in this life is not positioned in fear or in trepidation. Rather our firm foundation is the solid rock of Christ on which we stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Jesus does not back down in the face of fear. Yes in this world we will have trouble, but we can take heart, He has overcome the world. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God exercising His authority and divine power on our behalf.

On our behalf, He pleads to the Father to provide for us all that is needed to navigate a world filled with fear. And He does. With His Word and His Sacraments, He fills us to overflowing. We are cleansed inside and outside, protected inside and outside. Our salvation is secure.

Security in this world does not come in the absence of fearful situations. Security in this world comes in knowing that when everything is said and done, Jesus Himself will stand before us and all we will have left to do is bow our knees and with our tongue confess that He is Savior and Lord.

And that is exactly what He is. He is our Savior and Lord, and now He sends us, covered and protected in His blood to share His Gospel in the light and to proclaim His name from the housetops.

Yes, His name is written on your hearts and upon your forehead. You have been redeemed, by Christ the crucified. And His name is now on your lips, the same lips that have tasted and seen in the blood of Christ that He is good.

So have no fear! Do not fear! Fear not! He is with you as you share the good news of great joy that is for all people! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Compassionate Shepherd

Sermon: “The Compassionate Shepherd”

Lectionary Series A; The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:35-10:8


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Compassion. It’s that feeling deep down in your gut that says I care. I care more about this person or these people than I even do myself. I see their hurt, I hear their hurt, I feel their hurt. And it hurts me to see them hurt this way. There is this unsettling reality deep within your bowels that says this is not right and something needs to be done about it. I need to do something about it because I care enough to do so.

Please allow me to ask a series of questions: What do we see when we see the protestors…the police officers…the business owners that lost their businesses…the first responders…the politicians…and many others who are on the news these days? Do we see their hurt? Do we see their pain? Do we feel it in our gut? Do we feel compassion for those in the crowds, no matter who they are, no matter what they say or do?

I am guessing that for most of us, adopting that disposition of compassion for all people is difficult at a time like this. We look at the television broadcast, and all we see is a problem that we want to go away. We may be inclined to think that it is much easier for us to dismiss it or try and put our heads in the sand and hope that it goes away rather than take the time to truly try and hear and even feel the hurt that is being expressed right now.

I read an article in which the person being interviewed was Larry Fitzgerald, NFL wide receiver, and former resident of Minneapolis. In that interview, he shared something that was a great step toward being more compassionate toward those who are crying out for compassion these days. Now what he said is not ground-breaking, but then again it doesn’t have to be. He suggested that people start ‘listening to each other’. Like I said, not ground-breaking, but profound nonetheless.

You see, listening leads to learning and understanding. Right now, it seems like there is just a lot of shouting going on, but very little listening. Some of us can unfortunately liken such things to our households or workplaces. How much gets done, when everyone talks or shouts and no one listens? Not much, or nothing at all.

Adopting a disposition of compassion means doing what is necessary to step into the shoes of the person who desires to be heard. And that takes listening. It takes time and intentionality, great care and concern. It means putting aside our own agendas to pay attention to what the other person has to say. No matter if we like what the other person has to say or not. We just give them a chance to be heard. 

How many of us have deeply embedded hurts and wounds in our past that we have buried down deep in our souls? And if we were ever given just a chance to bear our souls, people would begin to understand how we tick and operate, why we do and say what we do and say. We just want someone to take the time to listen and understand us.

But so often, we argue that we just don’t have the time to do that with someone else, even if we do want it for ourselves. But is it really that we don’t have the time? Perhaps. But it probably goes deeper than that. More than likely, if we were truly honest with ourselves, it is because we care more about ourselves than we do others. The whole concept of loving our neighbor as ourselves is very difficult for us. And so is being compassionate.

Our text says that when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

He ‘saw’ them, and he had compassion for them. Here they had been afflicted by the religious leaders, weighed down by unnecessary guilt for not following their laws. And now they had just charged Jesus with being an agent of Satan, even though the crowds had come to Him for help in their time of need. So, when Jesus looked at them, He saw their hurt. He felt their hurt. He could feel it deep down in His gut, and He instantly wanted to do something about it. 

It was the same feeling He got in His stomach when He saw the crowds of five thousand and then four thousand. He saw them, had compassion for them, then He fed them with a few loaves of bread and a few fish.

Time and again, what we get with Jesus is that when He looks at people, He sees people, beautiful people created in His image…people that are ripe for the harvest of receiving the gift of His Gospel. But what breaks His heart is whenever He sees any form of divide that exists between His most prized creation.

Our nation and our world have been riddled with that divide for far too long, ever since the Garden of Eden really. It started with Adam and Eve’s fall and then Cain killed Abel, and on and on it has gone with every generation. And the only way it will ever be any better is with the help of Christ and His Spirit of compassion at work in us.

In our baptism, the Spirit of God was poured into our lives, filling us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

This is our God-given identity to live out. It is not limited to our race or our occupation or anything like that. Our identity comes from our Triune God who from the very depths of His bowels pours out His love and compassion for us.

He saw us in the crowd of this world. He hears our pain. He sees our pain. He feels our pain. He suffers with us, and so He doesn’t hesitate to suffer for us. He does not leave us in our agony, but rather enters into the very depths of it with His very body and blood. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. 

He has heard our cry for mercy. He has seen just difficult it is for us to navigate this world of sin and death, and He knows that we are truly helpless without Him, like sheep without a shepherd. We need His tending. We need His protection. We need His care. And we need His compassion.

And our Compassionate Shepherd came into this world to deliver just what we needed. He delivered us Himself. We needed a substitute to take our place. Someone who could do all the things we have failed to do. Someone who could be loving and compassionate when all we could do was express anger and hate. And so he took all of our anger, all of our hate, all of our sinful prejudices, and our lack of desire to take time and listen and be compassionate toward others, and He bound all of that up into His body and then He went to the cross, and He finished it all off once and for all.

Because that’s what the Compassionate Shepherd does. He does not leave us to suffer as those harassed and helpless. He does something about it. He did do something about it. On the cross. It is finished.

And now He calls upon His Church to spread this good news to a world that is desperately hurting, desperately desiring compassion. In our text, He tells His disciples that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

You see, Jesus looked at that crowd, and He didn’t see a problem, He saw opportunity. He saw with eyes of compassion. He saw people as people, created in His image, and they were ripe for the harvest of the Gospel. He knew what they needed. They needed to be saved from their sins, and He was that Compassionate Shepherd who came to deliver just that. Then off He sent His disciples, to be the extension of His compassionate self to a world that needed it. And we continue to pray for pastors in our day and age to do just that through Word and Sacrament ministry.

But it doesn’t stop there. He calls the whole Church, each and every one of us in our vocations, to open our eyes and see people as people. To see their hurt with the compassionate eyes of Christ. To hear their hurt. To listen to the needs of the people that are ripe for harvest with a God-given Spirit of compassion…and then share the hope that we have in Christ.

As we look out into our world today, there is one thing that is clear… Everyone could use a little compassion, because everyone, just like us, needs the Compassion of the Shepherd. Not-a-one of us is without the need of what He gives. We all come to this place today and we have one thing in common. We are sinners in need of a Savior…and our Compassionate Shepherd is that Savior. 

Let us pray. Dear Heavenly Father, give us eyes to see people as people, who just like us, need your compassionate love that comes in the person of Your Son. Help us to look out into the crowds and see that this world is ripe for harvest. Make us bold to share Your compassion so that all will hear of the comfort of Your Gospel Good news that with You there is forgiveness, life and salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

          The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.