Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 

Psalm 90:12-17 

Hebrews 3:1-6 

Mark 10:17-30 

“Healthy Wealth” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

While in Seminary I had a friend a couple years younger  than me who was in the work force, preparing for college. Now  the wage he was receiving for his job was higher than minimum  wage for he had spent some time with said company and had  earned the amount he was then being paid. But on one fateful day  he told me that he was going to receive a significant raise and I  was genuinely excited for him. Congratulations, you’ve earned it! Then he proceeded to tell me that actually he did not earned it, for  what was happening was that the state was increasing minimum  wage which would result in him also earning more than what he  was currently earning. My excitement turned to sadness for his  sake, which made him confused. Why are you sad? My wage is  increasing; I’m getting more money per hour. And that was when I  gave him a hard lesson on wealth. I taught him the difference  between wealth and money and the value of things. I explained to  him that though we was earning more money, his wealth went  down. 

Most of you may not know this but when I was in college I  was duel majoring in Mathematics and Religion. Had I not of  received my calling in Chaplaincy and the Clergy, I would have  instead Majored in Mathematics and Economics. My Master’s 

would have also changed to Engineering or higher levels of  Economics rather than Ministry. 

So as I talked to my friend I imparted on to him some basic  economics 101 lessons; mostly how to understand wealth and  thus have a healthy relationship with wealth. The biggest thing I  told him is that everything has value, and that the collective value  of things you own is your wealth. The next biggest thing I told him  is that money has no value but represents value. And the last  thing I told him is that the values of things overtime change, and  this change is usually determined by the base value. So what was  the hard lesson I told him. Just because you have more dollars  does not mean you have more wealth. So I proceeded to explain.  Originally the value of the collective money you earned was  greater than those who entered the work force; their value is X.  Now, without the economy changing to influence the value of the  dollar, minimum wage is being force to increase. The collective  value of the increased money is still X. You increased the wage,  but not the wealth. And because the new minimum wage is  greater than your wage you will be earning the new minimum  wage. So originally you were earning a wage that valued a wealth  greater than X, but are now earning a wage that valued X. He was  slightly confused, so I told him, basically you got more dollars but  are now poorer because the value of the dollar went down on you. 

I say this because his lack of understanding lead him to have  an unhealthy relationship with wealth; for he thought that as long  as he had more things then he would be better off.

There are many things that can lead us to having unhealthy  relationships with our wealth. This includes, but is not exclusively:  envy, greed, and merit. That last one, merit, is interesting for that  is what Jesus focused on in today’s Gospel. First and foremost,  as a reminder, money is not a root of sin; it is love of money that  is a root of sin. Having wealth is not bad. In fact, in the culture that  Jesus was in, having wealth was a sign that God was looking  favorably upon you. It was believed that of all people, the ones  who earned heaven would be the wealthy. This was a common  belief, but an incredibly unhealthy one because it caused people  to think they could earn their way into heaven, aka merit, through  money. It is for this reason that Jesus said, “It is easier for a  camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to  enter the kingdom of God.” Again, Jesus said this not to say  wealth is bad, but to counter the belief that rich person can enter  heaven simply for being rich. 

Let me provide a more current example to help elaborate  what Jesus meant. In today’s society, of all people, what type of  person would you say is the highest most respected and  applauded? For me, I would say philanthropists, local  philanthropists. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a  needle than for a philanthropist to enter the kingdom of God. No  one can earn their way into heaven; Only through Christ can you  enter into heaven. If you believe than money can earn you divine  merit, then you will develop an incredibly unhealthy relationship  with money. The rich man in question that started this teaching is  no exception.

For the longest time people have thought they could earn  themselves into heaven so they followed the law believing that by  doing so they could stack up divine merit. This rich man was one  such person who obeyed the Judean laws, yet he was not  convinced that he merited eternal life. He asked, “Good Teacher,  what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Now Jesus said something  that I believe most of the disciples didn’t catch, to include the rich  man. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God  alone.” As followers of the Law, the rich man should have known  that only those who are truly good can enter eternal life for God  cannot have sin within him and the reward for sin is death. Jesus  quite plainly says that no one is good, therefore no one can  achieve eternal life. Not the rich man, not the disciples, not you,  nor me. None of us could ever earn eternal life. Thus, it is easier  for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then for any of us to  just waltz into heaven. The only one who can do that is God  Himself. 

The rich man truly had an unhealthy relationship with his  money because he, like most people, believed that one could  earn their way into heaven, when in reality no one by their own  ability could do such. Because only God is good, the only way we  can enter heaven is through God, particularly through Jesus. Only  faith alone in Jesus are we saved. For though we do not deserve  heaven; Jesus died on the cross so that we may inherit heaven.  Thus Jesus said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For  all things are possible with God.” 

When Jesus told the rich man that his love of money was  holding him back, Jesus did this out of Love. The rich man truly 

loved God and wanted eternal life and was doing all he could do  to inherit it, but Jesus knew that the rich man, influenced by the  culture, would be unable to earn himself into heaven because of  this one thing that was holding him back. And this leads me to the  other things that could hinder your ability to live a healthy life with  wealth, and that is envy and greed, or quite simply love of money. 

Growing up there was a radio station I occasionally listened  to, the Dave Ramsey Show. He was always so informative and  capable of providing tips that would help you live a wealthy life  style, but also a healthy life style in relationship with your wealth.  For Dave Ramsey is a strong Christian, and he always used  scripture to help explain the financial lessons he provided. His  financial programs are so well made that Chaplains in the military  are all able to be trained as trainers, free of charge, in the Dave  Ramsey model. And of all the things he teaches, there is one  thing that caught my attention, He encourages tithing. 

Here is the thing, whereas Jesus did tell the rich man to give  up everything, in Scripture it is encouraged that all tithe. But why?  There are many reasons why, but let me use the reason that  Dave Ramsey gave: it helps you live more healthily with your  wealth. When you tithe are you getting anything out of it? In all  reality, no. To tithe is to give up a portion of your wealth. There is  no transaction, you are literally giving it up. Now who in their right  mind would do that? That is exactly what the rich man was  troubled with. Why tithe? The answer is simple, tithing helps you  develop a healthy relationship with your wealth. When you are  capable of just giving it up, then you are not so tied down by it.  Wealth no longer becomes a shackle a curse that causes you 

stay awake all night. Tithing is to Envy and Greed the same way  Humility is to Pride and Vanity. It serves as a counter to these  vices that cause us to live unhealthy lives. Again, there is so  much more to Tithing, as well as stewardship which is more  providing your time and service freely, but the focus here is that it  does help in our efforts to create and sustain a more healthy life  style with our wealth. 

So I hope that through my words, you may come to  understand that it is okay to be wealthy and that wealth in of itself  is not a stumbling block, but, like all things, wealth may become a  stumbling block if treated in an unhealthy fashion, thus the Lord  God has provided us with measures that would help us live a  more healthy life with our wealth. 

Let us pray, 

 


Dear Heavenly Father, there are many things in our life that  could serve as distractions and many more things that though  good can be twisted by harmful beliefs and life styles. Help us we  pray to appreciate what you have given us and to be humble  enough to relinquish things so as to not become too attached that  we fail to see your grander purpose. In your most holy name we  pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Genesis 2: 18-24

Psalm 128

Hebrews 2:9-18

Mark 10:2-16



“The Happy Home”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

You’ve heard of Mother’s Day, when most people gets flowers and other gifts for their mothers and sometimes grandmothers while also thanking them for taking up the God-given duty of Motherhood. You’ve heard of Father’s Day, when the same, minus the flowers, happens for fathers and grandfathers. Both are days when we honor our parents, recognize the parents in the Bible such as Mary and Joseph, and above all recognize the Almighty Father. We remember what it means to be a mother and what it means to be a father in accordance to the Bible, using examples in the Bible as well as God as an example, and reflecting on the various verse’ that describes what it truly means to be feminine and masculine.

 

You’ve also heard of the many minor “Holidays” that dots the calendar such as Daughter’s Day or Son’s Day or Siblings day or Grandparent’s Day or Grandchildren’s Day. Now we are just establishing celebratorial days for everything. In fact I’ll open my Facebook app and my feed would be bombarded with family and friends says happy “who-knows-what” day. Ok, I get it! It’s Great-Great-Step-Brother-Once-Removed Day today… Sheesh! I promise I’ll remember next year. What holiday is tomorrow supposed to be, Happy Medieval Ancestor’s Day? Regardless, it seems like there is a holiday for everything, and to continue the trend that is if it doesn’t already exist, today can be Family Day. So I wish you a Happy Family Day.

 

Now during the days of creation, all that God made he deemed good. One such thing he made, though not physically, was the bond of family. For on the last day he made bother Adam and Eve, with the intention that the two were meant to be one. Just like how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate persons but one God, Adam and Eve were two separate persons but one family, married, united as one flesh. This was the beginnings of the family model, one Man and one Wife wedded together with the ability to grow the family. And they did for after they were expelled out of Eden they bore two children, Cain and Abel. Though Cain ruined the family, for out of hatred and jealousy he murdering his brother, before such, the family was one happy house: a mother, a father, and kids. Eventually out of Cain more generations were born and humanity prospered on Earth. Yet it all started with the first family: Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel.

 

Because family was one of those institutions created by God, we recognize it as one of the three Holy Estates, the other two being Church and Government. And by observing the family model as a holy estate we are acknowledging that not only was it created by God but that God has high expectations for it. Again, the family is not just some mere estate, something that merely exists due to the natural order of things regarding reproduction. It is a Holy Estate, God intended there to be families, for just as God is not in of Himself ever alone and because we are made in His image, we are made as social creatures who desire close relationships of which the family fulfills. Our relationship between parent and child mirrors the relationship between God the Father and both His Son and Humanity whom through Christ are brothers and sisters of Christ. Our relationship between husband and wife mirrors the relationship between Christ and His Church, a most glorious relationship that was purchased through the ultimate sacrifice, the Son of God shedding His blood to purify His wife, which is the whole Church. God serves as our example in how he desires the family estate to be conducted, thus this is why we deem the family as one of the Holy Estates.

 

In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther lists out several duties in how this relationship between family members manifests, all of which are scriptural texts:

 

For Husbands

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

“And do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:19

 

For Wives

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands… as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” 1 Peter 3:1,6

 

For Parents

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

 

For Children

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother” this is the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’” Ephesians 6:1-3

 

God provides us with this and many other instructions throughout the Bible for the sake of the family. God made the family and He deemed it good, thus it will always be his desire that the family remains good, for His name sake and also for our own sake. For in the end, in accordance with Psalm 128, it is one of God’s chief desires that the whole household is blessed and thus truly happy. That we should eat the fruits of the labor of our own hands so that we may be blessed and well with us. That wives be like fruitful vines, vibrant lifelines of the house, of which children surrounds your dinner table like olive shoots, well nourished by the fruitful vine. That husbands fear the Lord above all else so that they and their family may see the blessings of God all the days of their life. That all may live long lives so they could witnessed the growth of their family.

 

God made the family all for our sake, and it is because of this that He will never take pleasure in that which tears apart His creation, the family. What God has joined together, let no man separate is what Jesus tells us in Mark 10:9. Because we are sinners, and we can’t help but destroy things, such as our relationships, by attacking each other and letting our pride get the better of us, God allowed divorces. But this does not mean God delights in divorces, for you’ve just heard Jesus’ words, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” The reason why Jesus says this is because though God allowed us to conduct the secular practice of creating man-made certificates of divorce, mere paper, thus appearing to be a man-made separation legally, the God-made union between the two never truly separated. Again Mark 10:9, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” I understand this is a hard teaching, for whereas it is very easy for me to say that homosexuality is a sin and abortion is a sin, both affects the family, I am also a child of an extended family filled with multiple divorces and remarriages. Woe on me if I point out the atrocities of those churches who cuts out the scripture verses identifying homosexuality as a sin all for the sake of not labelling themselves or those they love as sinners while at the same time I ignore the Word of God and cut out scripture verses which labels the conjoined act of divorce and remarriage as sin all for the sake of not labelling myself or those whom I love as sinners. In the end, God delights in a happy family and does not delight in that which tears apart the family.

 

But Jesus doesn’t end with the relationship between husband and wife, but he also talks about our relationships with our kids. As Christian parents, Christ has given the chief duty of raising our kids as Christians who understands the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Instead of shooing them away and letting them figure things on their own, like the Anabaptists of the Reformation who wait to baptize kids only after they have grown up enough to choose to be baptized, Jesus instructed us to welcome children into the family of God. Thus He instructs parents to baptize their infants allowing their children to enter into the family of God as early as possible; to bring their kids to worship so that the children witness their parents and their church family worship, thus leading by example; to teach the faith, using the small catechism as a guide, to their own kids so that they know that Jesus loves them so much that he died on the cross for their sake. By doing this the whole family can grow together, and as a Holy Estate, grow in holy union under God who is their protector and guide and the source of many blessings.

 

And as our children learn from us, because we are one holy family all under Christ, we may also learn from our kids; for whereas we have reason and intellect, nothing pales in comparison to the faith of a child. You know that it is not reason that saves us, but faith. Therefore there is so much we can learn from kids, whether that is patience and mercy as they tempt us with their own distractions, whether that is joy in the little things, and, yes, whether that is the unwavering trust of a child.

 

So on this self-appointed “Family Day” let us appreciate the families we do have, observe the Scriptures about family, and welcome what little blessings God is trying to provide us with through this Holy Estate.

 

Let us pray,

 

Heavenly Father, father of all creation, maker of all that is good, out of love towards your creation you have blessed us with the amazing gift of family and holy instructions so that we may appreciate this wonderful gift. We ask that what you joined together and made, we preserve and keep whole. And when we do mess things up, that you look upon us with mercy and grace, helping us to mend our faults and learn to be grateful for things we still have. In your heavenly name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Isaiah 50: 4-10

Psalm 116: 1-8

James 2: 1-5, 8-10, 14-18

Mark 8: 27-35

 

 

“This Little Light of Mine”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

        Since the beginning of the Christian Church, those outside the church have always and still do to this day look at those who are in the one holy united church, those who believe in Christ, and wish ill will upon them not for who they are but because of who they worship. You know that the world hates Jesus. He himself has told us that many times, and no matter what age we live in, until the last days comes upon us we will forever live in an age where the world will consider the most hated of all people to be faithful Christians, Orthodox Christians, Religiously-Conservative Christians, Mere-Fundamentalists, Christians who at all times and in all places lifts up above all else the Lord God and all His commands to include the Great Commission. Yes, the outer-community by its very fallen nature, will always hate Christ, and de facto you as well because of your faith in Christ.

 

        Some of you may have heard of the stories of Nero, for he was the first ruler to specifically persecute the Christians. Many of the Books of the New Testament were written during the time of Nero, or were deeply influenced by his wicked acts. It was under Nero that Jerusalem was sacked and the Temple destroyed. It was under Nero that Peter was crucified and Paul beheaded. There are many atrocious things about Nero, who was the fifth Emperor of Rome, but the most atrocious was how he intentionally caused what is known as the Great Fire of Rome, scapegoated the Christians, then used this as an opportunity to present himself as a hero by using his own funds, acquired by taxing the rich, to rebuilt homes for the poor while also create a massive estate for himself known as the Golden House in this burned area. The result of his actions caused a massive persecution against Christians leading to genocide. There are many atrocious things about Nero, but this is by far the worst, and the beginning of many more horrendous attacks against the community of Christians.

 

        Under Nero, many Martyrs were born. The darkness that spread over the community of Christians induced a lot of fear, for many had to make the hard decision to either abandon/hide their faith or to openly and boldly stand up for Jesus. Those who went into hiding were spared, but those who were true to their faith became martyrs. If you wish to live all you had to do was still your tongue. You claim that there is a time and place for everything; well here is your time to be quiet. I mean, don’t you love your neighbor? You wouldn’t want them to suffer the consequences of you proclaiming your faith, would you?

 

        And this wasn’t just for the time of Nero, but many more that came after. For era after era, age after age, generation after generation, new times of darkness are spawn out of the outer secular community. And in many of these dark times it appears as if there is no light to guide us. How can we walk in such darkness? Where is the path? Who can be our guide? It says in Isaiah, “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Yes you may walk in a time of darkness, and the darkness may be oppressive, particularly against you because of your faith in Christ, but regardless, even though it might appear that there is no light, the Lord your God is your light.

 

        In the beginning of John it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Our light is Jesus. Now the darkness hates light and only wishes to live in darkness. Darkness loves to remain hidden and unexposed, but light eradicates the shadows, revealing what is underneath. Though the light reveals sin, Christ who is the light also forgives us of our sins, for how can you ask forgiveness for a particular sin if you are unaware of said sin? But, darkness does not like this exposure, it fights against Jesus, and effectively against all who hold Jesus in their hearts.

 

        Here is the thing, the World is darkness. Because of the complete corruption of sin which has twisted the intended Human nature into a fallen human nature, when we form cultures outside of God, we form cultures that are by their very nature equally twisted and fallen. Outside of God, the cultures of the world are darkness. Therefore, if we set our minds on the things of man, but not on the things of God, we set ourselves up for failure as we walk willingly as citizens of darkness. But if we deny ourselves, understanding that we are indeed sinners, thus setting our things on God, and having faith and trust in his searing life-giving light, then we become citizens and heirs of God’s earthly kingdom.

 

        As citizens of the light, we carry a little light, not our own for we cannot produce light. The light we carry is Christ, for God has sent his Spirit who through the spoken Word gifts us all with faith in Christ who is our salvation. And as long as we carry this light in our hearts, then Christ who is the light will continually forgive us and strengthen us and provide us with wisdom and sanctify us. On top of that, this light serves as a beacon for others, helping others to see the Truth which comes only from God and so to have for themselves this light. The only trouble, this light is also a beacon for evil.

 

        Again, the darkness hates light, and will use all of its power to extinguish it. It may send armies. It may use extortion or bribery. It may tempt us by pulling at our heartstrings. It may use our own loved ones against us. It may cause deceitful schemes that convince us into believing a lie thus leading us to hating the real God. It may use good intentions. It may even use your own brothers and sisters in Christ against you. There are many ways the darkness will attack you, all in an attempt to extinguish the little light that you carry.

 

        As some may have noticed, looking at the title of this sermon, I am reminded of a children’s song, “This little light of mine.” If you know the words feel free to sing with me;

 

 

This little light of mine,

I'm gonna let it shine. (x3)

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Won't let Satan blow it out,

I'm gonna let it shine. (x3)

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Hide it under a bushel - NO!

I'm gonna let it shine. (x3)

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Let it shine over the whole wide world,

I'm gonna let it shine. (x3)

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

       

        The words in this song are simple, but they speak of great boldness. The little light is Christ, and as Christians when we shout the words of this song we are proclaiming that this light that we have will not go out. Satan can send whatever he wishes to send our way and no matter what we will not allow him to blow out this light we possess. On top of that, as Satan sends his forces against us we will not hide from him by hiding the very light he wishes to extinguish. No! Instead we will hold the light high and bright so that the entire world will see it. So you plan on murdering me because of my faith? Well if that is the case then I will even more boldly, even more loudly, for all to hear and see, proclaim my faith. I was comfortable simply worshiping, but now that you’ve threaten my life, instead of cowering in your might I will stand up with a stiffened back and worship all the more loudly. And when we do that, all who watch will see that death does not terrify us, for our strong faith in the Lord is greater. It is a wonder that the times that the Church is the most persecute just so happens to be the times that the Church grows the most.

 

        I’ll end with two stories. The first is my own the other is of St Peter. Not long ago I was commanded by a higher ranking officer to never say the name Jesus while in Uniform. I was told that if I was to pray, then I was not allowed to openly pray to Jesus. His reason was that as a member of the Chaplain Corp, all Soldiers attached to my Battalion should have the freedom of conscious to approach me regarding counseling. Apparently openly Christian chaplains are unapproachable, thus in order to be approachable I must stop saying the name Jesus. You know what I did? From then on, I said His name more often and in every single prayer while in Uniform. As for Peter, the same thing happened. In Acts, he was called to a counsel in Athens, and ordered by the high priests to stop invoking the name of Christ. They threatened death if he continued. What was his response? He decided to go to the synagogues every day after that and preach Jesus every day until he left. Do not hide the light of Christ. And when the world oppresses you because of your faith, proclaim Christ twice as much.

 

Let us pray,

 

        Lord God, our light, which is you, causes us distress as the world rears its ugly face against us all in an attempt to extinguish it. Help us to not fear the consequences of holding firm in our faith, but to be ever bolder in an unkind world, so as not to save ourselves bodily but to save all others eternally. In most precious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Numbers 11: 4-6, 10-16, 24-29

Psalm 135: 1-7

James 4: 7-12

Mark 9:38-50



“Clerical Fatigue”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

Several years ago, while conducting Annual Training, one night I and my fellow Chaplain were wakened for a Soldier had attempted to commit suicide. So in the middle of the night, myself and CH Farr hightailed it as fast as we could to the sight. He went to the Soldier in question and I to the ones who witnessed the attempt. It was a lone night and eventually all Soldiers calmed down. Food, water, counseling, rest, and supervision was provided and within a couple days the Soldier in question was back in his right state of mind, though follow-up supervision was still advised.

 

Though not a common occurrence in the military, the need for Chaplains and the occasional middle-of-the-night disruption with regards to emergencies of various natures are somewhat common. Add this to the fact that the military is steadily becoming more anti-religiously-conservative Christian, Soldiers typically conduct jammed-packed drills that drains you, sleep in the military can be rare to come by, and that Soldiers in general have their own unique set of difficulties. The recipe you receive is a drained chaplain.

 

Now out of concern for his chaplain’s well-being, our State Chaplain, CH Burris, who came and visited us last year and may come again to visit next year, emphasized the importance of resting and relying on others so that you may rest. He then proceeded to expose the fact that he is well aware that most of the pastors who are also chaplains in the state of Ohio were sacrificing their vacation time for the military. Though he was serious, most of us, to include myself, chuckled because he hit the nail right on the head.

 

Many of you may have read some newspaper comics or seen some funny picture of a pastor all haggard with messy hair and bruise marks and tilting glasses, after being bombarded with countless complaints and ceremonies and counseling sessions and such. They’re actually quite funny, but they expose a most saddening reality. That is the cumulative exhaustion that most pastors after so many years of service experience. After one, two, three years, said pastor is still kicking strong. But with time, the lack of a sufficient break and assistance as the pastor takes on multiple duties quickly catch up. The reason why this happens, as it so happens to be, is because the pastor does not want to take away from the congregation. What if there is a death? What if someone gets ill? What if someone needs a pastor to talk to? I know of many pastors who out of the genuine goodness of their heart would not take a break. In fact, I have witnessed congregations forcing their pastor to do just that.

 

Now this month is pastor appreciation month, and to be honest, I had completely forgot about that and coincidentally, maybe even divine intervention, I just happened to preach on the fatigue that many pastors face on this first Sunday of pastor appreciation month. In fact, it wasn’t until I saw the insert in our bulletins that I was reminded of this fact. Now whereas I am still young, single, no family, and well within the beginning stages of my pastoral duties I pray that as I grow old and have a family of my own that you pay attention to signs of fatigue and provide the occasional help and uplifting word for myself and my family. And while you are at it, do so likewise for the other pastors in your live. Some of us have it much worse than others. There are many up-to-date statistics on pastors out there that you can research, helping you to understand pastor related stress and fatigue. And one anecdotal piece of evidence we can use is expressed in today’s first lesson.

 

While the Hebrews were slaves there was no lacking in food. The Egyptians wanted strong slaves capable of doing their tasks for it wasn’t the bodies that the Egyptian overlords wished to break but their spirits. So, even though the Hebrews lacked freedom, the state provided, thus they were fed. But now that they are freed, that is not so true. The Hebrews are finally free from their captivity, but no longer are they being fed by some overlord. With freedom comes responsibility, such as feeding themselves rather than waiting on the government to feed you. They are like a caged tiger newly released into the wilderness, a caged tiger that has been fed since birth and thus is incapable of understanding what it means to be a tiger, only to starve as it waits for a meal to be placed in front of it.

 

The Hebrews, though free are starving. Some even complain how it was better under captivity, thinking with their bodies rather than with their minds and souls. But to those who still wished freedom, they complained to the one person they knew would listen, some even complaining that their starvation is his fault, Moses.

 

An interesting hornet’s nest is a brewing here. The people get angry at Moses, the people get angry at God and complain to Moses, the Lord gets angry at the people He just saved, and Moses is stuck in the middle. Pulled in all directions, this displeased prophet gets angry at everyone. Moses is alone as the people literally dump all their distress upon Moses’ feet. Weeping loudly outside his tent… imagine what that does to your psyche, to your soul, to his ability to sleep. So Moses also complains to God, “Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me.” Moses is not a hunter. He is not a politician. He is not an economist. He is not a ranger. He is neither a gardener nor a chef. He is simply a prophet, but because he is the leader, he is the one who receives all the complaints. And because of this over load of complaints, he starts to break.

 

The weight of Israel’s demands is too great for Moses, as he carries on his shoulders like atlas the responsibilities of taking care of all twelve tribes. His ability to carry it all starts to slip as complaint and complaint, expectation on top of expectation, wants upon wants, crush him from underneath. The burden is too heavy, and Moses, well he can’t take it anymore. He will crumble, he will fail, he will disappoint. He is slowly descending into depression as he feels the overwhelming amount of pressure break his bones. Who is his help? Who is his guide? Who will help lighten the load?

 

So God appointed 70 elders, known for being leaders, to be the ones to help lighten Moses load. Now, through God’s blessing, it’s not just one person who is carrying the weight of Israel, but 70+. God’s Spirit rested on all seventy, but also on two extra outside in the camps, and all of them prophesied. But for the two extra, who were not selected by the people, there were complaints and the very people who unloaded their burdens all on Moses alone are now telling him to stop these two from prophesying. Maybe they are jealous for Moses’ sake, but they seem to have forgotten the whole reason why Moses cried out in distress and anger to the Lord. He was crushed and alone as God’s prophet. Therefore he could care less about being special, for the more help the better. In fact, he rather not be special at all, but that all people would be like him, prophets with the Spirit of the Lord in them.

 

Similarly, the disciples in today’s Gospel did likewise when they complained to Jesus about someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The response from Moses and Jesus are the same. They both desired the increase in helpers, those willing to work in the name of God. For as long as the household is not being torn into two camps then all the more help will always be appreciated. With pastors it is likewise. Though we are shepherds tasked with guiding the flock with Word and Sacrament, we are not special nor are we as capable as some may expect. So when someone comes around and volunteers, to take off the pastor’s load, and to not teach that contradicts Gospel, then why would a humble pastor not leap for joy? As more and more volunteer in the church and become involve, as more and more rise up and say they are willing to be leaders in the church, not expecting the pastor to do things for them but rather simply receiving the pastor and the church’s approval, then not only are the pastors able to relax, recharge, and come back refreshed and even more capable, but the economy of service in the church flourishes.

 

We all know that through the Salvation of our Lord, all who claim to have faith in him have been sanctified and are members of the priesthood of all believers. Christ’s saving grace did not make it so that only a select few received the gifts of the Spirit, but that all through Him as the Body of Christ receive the gifts. Though not all are talented at teaching, or speaking, or singing, or fixing things, and other talents, all have indeed received gifts from Christ and it is all a matter how the community of Christians together use these gifts.

 

Let us pray,

 

Heavenly Father, for the sake of good order you have provided us with pastors. Help us, who are all members of the priesthood, to appreciate pastors and all others who work for the sake of the church. Help us express our gratitude, and encourage us all to work together in manner that does not cause any one of us, to include the pastor, to stumble. In your most precious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Isaiah 50: 4-10

Psalm 116: 1-8

James 2: 1-5, 8-10, 14-18

Mark 8: 27-35

 

 

“This Little Light of Mine”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

        Since the beginning of the Christian Church, those outside the church have always and still do to this day look at those who are in the one holy united church, those who believe in Christ, and wish ill will upon them not for who they are but because of who they worship. You know that the world hates Jesus. He himself has told us that many times, and no matter what age we live in, until the last days comes upon us we will forever live in an age where the world will consider the most hated of all people to be faithful Christians, Orthodox Christians, Religiously-Conservative Christians, Mere-Fundamentalists, Christians who at all times and in all places lifts up above all else the Lord God and all His commands to include the Great Commission. Yes, the outer-community by its very fallen nature, will always hate Christ, and de facto you as well because of your faith in Christ.

 

        Some of you may have heard of the stories of Nero, for he was the first ruler to specifically persecute the Christians. Many of the Books of the New Testament were written during the time of Nero, or were deeply influenced by his wicked acts. It was under Nero that Jerusalem was sacked and the Temple destroyed. It was under Nero that Peter was crucified and Paul beheaded. There are many atrocious things about Nero, who was the fifth Emperor of Rome, but the most atrocious was how he intentionally caused what is known as the Great Fire of Rome, scapegoated the Christians, then used this as an opportunity to present himself as a hero by using his own funds, acquired by taxing the rich, to rebuilt homes for the poor while also create a massive estate for himself known as the Golden House in this burned area. The result of his actions caused a massive persecution against Christians leading to genocide. There are many atrocious things about Nero, but this is by far the worst, and the beginning of many more horrendous attacks against the community of Christians.

 

        Under Nero, many Martyrs were born. The darkness that spread over the community of Christians induced a lot of fear, for many had to make the hard decision to either abandon/hide their faith or to openly and boldly stand up for Jesus. Those who went into hiding were spared, but those who were true to their faith became martyrs. If you wish to live all you had to do was still your tongue. You claim that there is a time and place for everything; well here is your time to be quiet. I mean, don’t you love your neighbor? You wouldn’t want them to suffer the consequences of you proclaiming your faith, would you?

 

        And this wasn’t just for the time of Nero, but many more that came after. For era after era, age after age, generation after generation, new times of darkness are spawn out of the outer secular community. And in many of these dark times it appears as if there is no light to guide us. How can we walk in such darkness? Where is the path? Who can be our guide? It says in Isaiah, “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Yes you may walk in a time of darkness, and the darkness may be oppressive, particularly against you because of your faith in Christ, but regardless, even though it might appear that there is no light, the Lord your God is your light.

 

        In the beginning of John it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Our light is Jesus. Now the darkness hates light and only wishes to live in darkness. Darkness loves to remain hidden and unexposed, but light eradicates the shadows, revealing what is underneath. Though the light reveals sin, Christ who is the light also forgives us of our sins, for how can you ask forgiveness for a particular sin if you are unaware of said sin? But, darkness does not like this exposure, it fights against Jesus, and effectively against all who hold Jesus in their hearts.

 

        Here is the thing, the World is darkness. Because of the complete corruption of sin which has twisted the intended Human nature into a fallen human nature, when we form cultures outside of God, we form cultures that are by their very nature equally twisted and fallen. Outside of God, the cultures of the world are darkness. Therefore, if we set our minds on the things of man, but not on the things of God, we set ourselves up for failure as we walk willingly as citizens of darkness. But if we deny ourselves, understanding that we are indeed sinners, thus setting our things on God, and having faith and trust in his searing life-giving light, then we become citizens and heirs of God’s earthly kingdom.

 

        As citizens of the light, we carry a little light, not our own for we cannot produce light. The light we carry is Christ, for God has sent his Spirit who through the spoken Word gifts us all with faith in Christ who is our salvation. And as long as we carry this light in our hearts, then Christ who is the light will continually forgive us and strengthen us and provide us with wisdom and sanctify us. On top of that, this light serves as a beacon for others, helping others to see the Truth which comes only from God and so to have for themselves this light. The only trouble, this light is also a beacon for evil.

 

        Again, the darkness hates light, and will use all of its power to extinguish it. It may send armies. It may use extortion or bribery. It may tempt us by pulling at our heartstrings. It may use our own loved ones against us. It may cause deceitful schemes that convince us into believing a lie thus leading us to hating the real God. It may use good intentions. It may even use your own brothers and sisters in Christ against you. There are many ways the darkness will attack you, all in an attempt to extinguish the little light that you carry.

 

        As some may have noticed, looking at the title of this sermon, I am reminded of a children’s song, “This little light of mine.” If you know the words feel free to sing with me;

 

 

This little light of mine,

I'm gonna let it shine. (x3)

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Won't let Satan blow it out,

I'm gonna let it shine. (x3)

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Hide it under a bushel - NO!

I'm gonna let it shine. (x3)

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Let it shine over the whole wide world,

I'm gonna let it shine. (x3)

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

       

        The words in this song are simple, but they speak of great boldness. The little light is Christ, and as Christians when we shout the words of this song we are proclaiming that this light that we have will not go out. Satan can send whatever he wishes to send our way and no matter what we will not allow him to blow out this light we possess. On top of that, as Satan sends his forces against us we will not hide from him by hiding the very light he wishes to extinguish. No! Instead we will hold the light high and bright so that the entire world will see it. So you plan on murdering me because of my faith? Well if that is the case then I will even more boldly, even more loudly, for all to hear and see, proclaim my faith. I was comfortable simply worshiping, but now that you’ve threaten my life, instead of cowering in your might I will stand up with a stiffened back and worship all the more loudly. And when we do that, all who watch will see that death does not terrify us, for our strong faith in the Lord is greater. It is a wonder that the times that the Church is the most persecute just so happens to be the times that the Church grows the most.

 

        I’ll end with two stories. The first is my own the other is of St Peter. Not long ago I was commanded by a higher ranking officer to never say the name Jesus while in Uniform. I was told that if I was to pray, then I was not allowed to openly pray to Jesus. His reason was that as a member of the Chaplain Corp, all Soldiers attached to my Battalion should have the freedom of conscious to approach me regarding counseling. Apparently openly Christian chaplains are unapproachable, thus in order to be approachable I must stop saying the name Jesus. You know what I did? From then on, I said His name more often and in every single prayer while in Uniform. As for Peter, the same thing happened. In Acts, he was called to a counsel in Athens, and ordered by the high priests to stop invoking the name of Christ. They threatened death if he continued. What was his response? He decided to go to the synagogues every day after that and preach Jesus every day until he left. Do not hide the light of Christ. And when the world oppresses you because of your faith, proclaim Christ twice as much.

 

Let us pray,

 

        Lord God, our light, which is you, causes us distress as the world rears its ugly face against us all in an attempt to extinguish it. Help us to not fear the consequences of holding firm in our faith, but to be ever bolder in an unkind world, so as not to save ourselves bodily but to save all others eternally. In most precious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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