Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.
Many of you may know of the concept known as king maker. It is a political term referring to those with such power that they in the end have the ultimate say of who is at the top and how those at the top operate. This could be the long standing respected elder who speaks and all listens. This could be the stubborn collective of individuals who will always vote in tandem and never for anything except for that which perfectly matches their ideals. This could be those close to seats of power directing the country from the shadows. Examples of such that comes to mind includes a young king's wise high counselor of whom the young king listens to and respects; or a conspiring rich person who has his money in the pockets of many who legislate, judge, and execute power; or Benjamin Franklin during the early years of our country whom many were willing to change their minds if Benjamin said so; or, in fantasy, Merlin who practically raised the new King Arthur.
There are many variations and examples of this concept of “King Maker” but there is one thing they all have in common, they all have the power, whether that is out of respect or cunning or abusive behavior, to get their desired outcome. For many, all they have to do is speak and things happen.
Now there is one “King Maker” that is far grander and effectively capable than all the other “King Makers”. For all other “King Makers” are but humans, but this one is God Himself, particularly God the Father. Is not God the creator of all things? Did he not just speak and things came into being. Let there be light, and there was light. Let there be earth, and rain, and vegetation, and beast, and humans. All came to be with a simple word. He speaks and it is so. Then there is the fact that he gave dominion over the earth to his final and greatest creation, humans. He gave us dominion, authority, the right to tend to His world as we please, and eventually also the right to govern ourselves with the sword. He basically made us kings.
But there cannot be a house full of chiefs, for one must eventually take charge. Wars and power struggles have been waged all to settle who would have dominion and power and the right to rule. Many have waged battles out of fear of a new rising power. The Hebrews were persecuted by the Egyptians out of fear of their rising numbers. So the pharaoh craftily put them into chains of slavery. Yet these people, chosen by God, Children of Israel, eventually were freed from slavery and found themselves in the land given to them by God. Israel grew in strength, by the blessing and direction of God to the point that it became a shining beacon that all other nations looked up to. They, a once small people, a cedar sapling, became the mighty and noble cedar tree that grew on the highest peak, placed by God Himself.
Israel's might came from God, for without Him they would have been nothing, but through Him they became the envy of the world. God was their King Maker, but he didn't just make Israel. It was God who appointed David and made him King of the Jews, this little shepherd boy. God picked him of many to become the mighty king of Israel. And through David, Solomon, and the many descendants there of. Some good, some bad, all of whom would have never of been King without God who first chose David.
But eventually the kingship of Israel came to an end with God's people being put back into chains. Israel split into two countries and their might was halved and they became enemies of each other. Rival countries filled with evil did Israel become, brother against brother. They were not the united country they once were. They ceased to be what God intended to be. Instead the land of Israel that was blessed by God split into Israel and Judah. Two nation states occupying an area intended by God to be as one nation. Kind of like Israel and Palestine today. God did not like this, and because the two could not unify under God's Judean law, under the Torah, as one Israel, He, their benefactor, led them to slavery as punishment by blessing their enemies. God is their King Maker, and because they could not follow Him, He, the source of Israel's might, took this great country and brought it to its knees. Israel under Egypt was the lowly, and under God they became the high tree; Israel before their Babylonian Captivity was the high tree, and God brought them low.
Eventually Israel was released from their captivity and was starting back up again, yet there was still great sin and turmoil. Israel was never the same, and instead of being a great nation they found themselves subjects to the First Reich, the Roman Empire. When will their next David come? When will God send a savior? When will our King Maker appoint for us a Messiah who would lead us back into Salvation? God gave His people a promise; when was He going to deliver?
Under Pontius Pilate there was a new king. For God sent us the greatest of kings, His own Son, King of Kings. This, Jesus of Nazareth, was to be the desired Messiah, but not the kind the Israels expected. He came in might, but not their expected might. He came with power, but not with the expected power. He came with authority, but not with the expected authority. Jesus Christ, the greatest of kings, did not come with political might, power, or authority, but with God, His Father's, might, power, and authority. None could challenge His might. But what is His might? The authority Jesus was one of true Salvation and eternal life. His was not a temporal usage that granted momentary pleasure, but a much higher one which provides for all who come to Him everlasting bliss.
Under Pontius Pilate, Jesus came to His fulness when he willingly gave Himself up on the cross. He hung on that tree, raise for all to see, wounded, bleeding, broken, with a crown of thorns on His head, and a sign that claimed Him as the King of the Jews. He was the mighty who was humbled for our sake and crushed with all our sins towards Hell. He was the humble, lifted up for all to see, on that awful tree. Yet through Him, we too are lifted up. We send to Hell with Jesus all our sins, denying ourselves, humbling ourselves. We like in baptism, are buried with Jesus, putting to rest the old Adam. But also through Jesus we are raised high as new Adams.
We are dreadful sinners, and because of our sins we can't do anything but despair over our inadequate nature. We are doomed to fail, doomed to damnation, already. Who are we but wicked worms? Yet we who are tarnished rubble, cracked and damaged, because of our sins, through Christ are wiped clean, restored, mended. Through Christ we are like a cracked and dirty piece of furniture that is sanded, glued, repainted, stained, buffed, and all sorts of measured used to restore a piece. Christ does this to us and for us. He looks on us lowly persons with compassion and gives Himself up for us so that we may be able to be brought up to lofty heights.
And I ask you this, are we, saved by Christ, not heirs to God's Kingdom? Did not Christ say that if we love Him and follow Him that we we be considered His brother or sister? And if we are brothers and sisters to a king what does that make us? What was that title I used to describe Jesus Christ? King of Kings! He is the King of kings, but who are these kings that Jesus is the king of? You and me. Because we are heirs of God's Kingdom then through Christ our King, God the Father anoints us lowly servants as kings. God is still our “King maker”.
In the beginning He appointed Adam and all of humanity through him as “kings” by giving him authority over all the earth. Through Christ, we are once again appointed, Christian Kings.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you who placed all the stars in the sky and appointed the hours of day and night, you who created all thing and is the source of all authority, We ask that through your Son Jesus Christ that you continue to humble us and put to rest our wickedness, and to each day help us rise from our sinfulness in faith toward you. We ask this in your most glorious name Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon "Equal Sin" by: Pastor Chris Boyd
2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
This last Thursday I had a friend come over to this church to be baptized, but before the baptism I instructed her on what is baptism and its importance. I told her multiple things that you yourself have heard me confess, such as: Baptism is not an act of man but an act of God; once Baptized always baptized, but not necessarily always saved since you can deny your baptism; you don’t receive baptism because you believe, but so that you may believe; the importance of infant baptism; etc. We had a good discussion, for I wanted her to be not only ready and to know exactly what she was receiving, but to also be properly educated so that her kids would be properly baptized as early as possible, which is the most loving thing you can ever do for your children. Yet there was one subject that we went on which served as an important foundation as to why Baptism is so important. And that is Sin and forgiveness.
There is an imagery that many use with regards to good and bad, and that is talking about white and black and the various shades of gray in between. The image goes as such, you may have a discussion on what is right and what is wrong, and this would be considered as black and white thinking. Then someone who interrupt the conversation and interject that there are nuances between such thinking and that we should in all reality be thinking in terms of multiple shades of gray. They may say that certain topics have many gray areas and attempt to get you to come to terms with each other, or at least to avoid extremism. The only problem is that such gray thinking is deeply wrong.
Many of you may know that I am not a big fan of this many shades of gray thinking, and how when it comes to ethics, morality, sin, evil, there can be only black and white thinking, for gray is black in these regards. Let me explain, if white represents good and black represents bad, then what is gray? It is good mixed with bad. Well if even the tiniest speck of evil is present then the whole thing is tainted. You can only have good or bad. Good mixed with bad is bad. Some may have heard the saying that the greatest trick the Devil ever played was to convince the world he did not exist. That is what gray thinking does. It shifts our focus away from Godly things and things of the Devil, while shifting towards excepting some misguided nuances that shatters holy desires and permits evil ones.
Another image, you have two people discussing on what is true. One is correct and the other is false. These are the only two options, you either speak the truth or you are speaking that which is not true (knowingly or not is not the point). Then alongside comes a person who represents a “Third Truth” who is trying to get to the center of the disagreement. The only problem is a half-truth or half-false statement is still a false statement. You are either entirely true, or you are not. Thus third truths will always be false. And in the case of black and white thinking, third truths will always be black. And in the case of good vs evil, third truths will always be evil. The Third Truth is the tool of the Devil, designed to hide him so he could infiltrate and perverse The Truth which comes only from God.
Now why did I mention all this? When you have different shades of gray you end up with having a system with various levels of sin. Some sin is permissible, some are bad, and some will always lead to Hell. A fifty shades of gray system for sin will always have a chart that classify sins on a scale of what is ignorable and what can never be ignored. In the days of old, the Church Catholic had such a system, until our Church Fathers dubbed that as heresy as it was a system that allowed the Devil to enter and dictate what sin was permissible within the church.
When it comes to sin it will always be wrong to approach it with the lens of gray; instead one should always approach sin with black and white thinking. Sin is sin, and sin is evil, therefore all sin is evil and will never cease to be such. If we think in terms of black and white then we get a much more healthy approach towards sin. God is good and He cannot have any sin within Him. Therefore he represents purity and all that is good. Therefore all that is against Him or stands outside of Him is black. Thus in a black and white realm of thinking, white is sinless and black is to have sin. It doesn’t matter how much sin for even the tiniest blight of sin would make the whole outside the definition of sinless.
Here is the thing, God wants us all to be in heaven, but he cannot have any sin within him. You are either clean, void of sin, or you are not. There is no in between, there is no gray. Basically, because God demands perfection, all sin from the greatest to the least is equal. The only problem is that no one has ever lived a life void of sin; therefore all have failed God and are incapable of lifting ourselves towards Salvation. Despite this, God loved us so much that He gave His only Son so that through faith in Him we may be forgiven of all our sins thus cleansed and capable of presenting ourselves to God who cannot have sin within Him spotless. Jesus took on all our sin and went to Hell so that when it is our time to be in heaven Christ would serve as our advocate and tell the Father that He already paid the price therefore, we are indeed spotless.
Because God cannot have any sin within Him, all sin is equal; Black and White. At the same time, because of the Salvation through faith alone in Christ Jesus, who through faith in Him forgives us all our sins, once again, all sin is equal; Black and White. Of course if you blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, not willing to accept the faith which comes first from the Holy Spirit, then you will never have faith in Christ and thus will never be forgiven. That is the only criterion, faith, true faith which is living faith, in Christ.
When I talked with my friend about baptism it is this equality of sin and the forgiveness of sin that I used as a foundation to explain sin. If all sin is equal, if all people sin, and if God cannot have any sin within Him, then no one through their own devises ever be able to reach salvation. But because Christ died on the Cross to forgive all sin, then as long as you have faith in him then you are saved. And this faith can only come from the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not something you are born with nor can generate within yourself. The Holy Spirit can only externally enter you, and with it provide the gift of faith, the faith in Christ necessary to be saved. Through Baptism you will, 100% guarantee, free of charge, receive the Holy Spirit and the seal of God will be placed on you.
This is why infant baptism is so important, because what you are doing is allowing the Holy Spirit to enter the infant, and provide the faith necessary to belief in Christ who is the ultimate source of love and forgiveness and salvation and all that is good. Therefore the most loving thing any parent could ever do for their child is baptize them. The child still have the opportunity to deny Christ, but unless the Holy Spirit externally enters into them they will never have the opportunity to have faith.
Here is the idiotic thing I have heard often by those who choose not to baptize their kids, they want the child to choose, there for they are withholding baptism until said child can decide on their own. What lunacy! Do they not know that unless the Holy Spirit enters into you that one cannot love God, let alone know God? Do they not know that through the Holy Spirit you are not forced to believe but given the freedom to choose between good and evil? Do they not know that baptism is not an affirmation of one’s faith but a sacrament intended to provide faith? Many do actually know all the above, but still do not baptize.
But the point is this, I told my friend, through Baptism know this, you are indeed sealed and filled with the Holy Spirit. Faith has been provided and through faith you are indeed saved. All sin has been forgiven, and if at any point you struggle with sin and you will remember your Baptism.
And to all of you, I say this: first, if you are not baptized I am willing to baptize you… I want to baptize you; second, baptize your kids as early as possible for their sake at least; and third, the most important message, through faith in Christ, which you did receive through the Holy Spirit in Baptism, all your sins are forgiven, for in the eyes of God all sin is equal, there is no gray.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you who is all good and mighty cannot have sin within you but desire all to be with you, gave for us the most amazing of gifts, through your Son, the opportunity to be forgiven of all our sins and thus live eternally with you in heaven. Help us to never turn away from your gifts but willingly accept them. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 2/30/2021 “St Athanasius” By: Pastor Chris Boyd
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
When America was founded it was founded on Religious Freedom. And as the identity of America was being molded and shaped, the desire to preserve our God-given human rights became a cornerstone for the foundation our great nation. Eventually we declared independence, and in the struggle to protect our newly founded Judeo-Christian nation of freedom, many lost their lives.
Once the war concluded, we established our Constitution, appointed a Lutheran Pastor as our first Speaker of the House, and then identified in our Bill of Rights the God-given human rights that are not government-given, but rather government defended; at the top, was Religious Freedom.
Many lost their lives in order to lift up this new nation with its new style, one that prized above all else a Christian-like freedom. And many more jeopardized their livelihoods, their jobs, their friends and family all for the sake of freedom. They were selfless, and were more concerned with preserving the freedom of others, the freedom of this nation, and the freedom of future generations.
As time passed, this freedom we enjoy has been tested, and many took up the mantle to help preserve this freedom we so cherish. They, like our forefathers, were willing to give it all up for the sake that you and I can be free. Though these Americans will be missed, their sacrifice will be remembered and put not in vain.
Jesus said in St John 15, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Out of love toward the world, Jesus, who is God, gave up his life on the cross in order to save all people. He died to make men holy. Now whereas we are indeed free though Christ, the world hates this freedom and either out of malice or genuine care will try to control you. Many Americans died in order fight against this natural worldly tendency, all for the sake of defending your God-given rights and the Constitution which was built to defend such rights from corrupt overbearing governments.
Christ died to free us; free us from the tyranny of Satan, free us from the slavery of sin, and free us from the terror of death. He, like our American Soldiers, did this all out of love. And just like how there are many American Soldiers who continue to lay down their lives to defend the freedom we won by those first Soldiers who died for our sake, there are many Christian Soldiers who continue to lay down their lives to defend the freedom that Christ won for our sake.
One such scary time in church history, when many Christians were either killed or exiled, was when the majority of the church was brainwashed by Arianism. Arianism basically is the belief that Jesus is not God, is not divine, and thus there is no
Trinity but only God the Father. To them, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not only not God, not equal to the Father, but were also created beings. This Anti-Trinitarian believe is extremely harmful for it would mean that God did not come down to Earth, that Jesus is not Christ, which is God, and that God did not die on the cross to save us from our sins. Such a belief would also mean that Jesus was a sinner for all humans are sinners and only God cannot sin because sin is the opposite/absence of God. The only reason why Jesus wasn’t a sinner, is because he is God; and if Jesus was a sinner then that would mean the forgiveness of sins through the cross never happened. Plus, to say that Jesus was not God would make Jesus himself a liar. Can you see the issues at stake here and why Anti-Trinitarianism is so deadly?
Yet, when Arianism started there was a Great Champion of Orthodoxy who stood against the heretics who denied the deity of Christ, St Athanasius. Athanasius, an Egyptian, saw the horrors of Arianism and boldly fought against it even though the risk of this was being branded a heretic. Yes, under Arianism to believe Jesus is God was considered heresy. Many lost their lives to defend the faith against this atrocious belief, but that did not stop them. They kept on pressing forward.
Eventually, Constantine, Emperor of the Roman Empire, called for a council at Nicaea to settle this issue once and for all. St Athanasius showed up and presented what we now call the Nicene Creed. This was the Athanasian’s attempt to preserve the faith against Arianism. And it appeared Athanasius won the fight, for his Creed was accepted and Arianism was officially labeled a heresy, or so it appeared.
The fight for Christianity and the Holy Trinity wasn’t over. Though it was acknowledged that the whole universal, or catholic, Church, across all time and space, believed in the Trinity and the deity of Christ, thus labeling those who do not follow the Creeds as outside the universal, or catholic, faith, political figures influenced by Arianism did not allow the issue to die out. In fact, after the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius was exiled multiple times, for believing that Jesus is God. He was kicked out of his homeland, and if he showed his face, would have been killed. Athanasius never gave up, and he kept on fighting the good fight against Arianism which just would not die out. Eventually Athanasius grew old and died, passing on the mantle of fighting Arianism to St Augustine and his followers.
In honor of the life Athanasius gave, sacrificing everything in order to fight Arianism, St Augustine and those of the Augustinian tradition wrote what we call the Athanasian Creed. It was long, ungainly, to some confusing, others repetitive, but this Creed was necessary for it once and for all was the nail that, in excruciating detail, put to rest the Arian threat. In no uncertain way could any respectable Christian read this Creed and be an Anti-Trinitarian. For by invoking the words, “this is the catholic faith,” within the lengthy body of the Athanasian Creed, the Augustinians laid out exactly what the faith of which all respectable Christians hold looks like. This universal faith, held by all true Christians, in accordance with this Creed, is one that believes in the Triune God, believes in the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, believes in Heaven and Hell, believes not in Rapture theology but in bodily
resurrection through the Coming Lord, and believes that one cannot be saved without faith.
Understand this, the Athanasian Creed was crafted by those of the Augustinian Tradition, the predecessors of the Order of St Augustine, which was later rebranded by the Roman Catholics as Lutherans. St Augustine himself wrote many letters, preached many times, and fought still more for preserving Faith alone. Those of the Order of St Augustine, preserved this teaching, and did so all the way up to Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, who preached in accordance with the catholic faith laid out by St Augustine, which included Faith Alone. After this, the Church kicked out the then Order of St Augustine, gave them the derogatory name known as Lutherans, falsely claimed that they sided with the Protestants who were seeking to leave the Church and start their own faith, and then reestablish a new Order of St Augustine that didn’t include that nasty Faith Alone clause that could be found in almost all of the well-known letters by Augustine.
It was these people who created the Athanasian Creed and who so craftily added a couple faith alone clauses. Let me read them, “Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity. It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus became flesh… This is the catholic faith. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.” Nowhere in the Creed does it talk about works, yet here, multiple times, it states that salvation comes from faith. Whoever wishes to be save should think this… it is necessary for salvation to faithfully believe… one cannot be saved without believing. This is the catholic faith.
Again, nowhere is works mentioned, but multiple times faith is when it comes to salvation. And here is another nugget, in accordance to the Augustinian Tradition which observes Paul, they recognize in accordance with Romans, and Galatians, and Ephesians that you can only believe in Works Alone or Faith Alone, not both. The people who wrote this Creed, believed in faith alone and believed that you are saved through works alone or faith alone for once works is present faith is null n void, but because humans are naturally wicked and cannot save themselves that means you could only be saved through faith alone. These are the people who wrote this Creed which states, “This is the catholic [universal] faith.”
Because of this Creed, the fight against the Arians was just around the corner. The long fight that Athanasius started was not in vain. Those who died to preserve the belief that Christ is God, those who were exiled to preserve this faith, and those whose lives were ruined all for the sake of Jesus’ name, we thank them for their selfless service and remember their sacrifice. God never abandoned them, and nor did He allow their sacrifice go in vain; for had not God been working through them, there would be no hope in eternal salvation which was won for us through the cross.
The same thoughts could also be extended to our American Soldiers. The long fight that the first settlers started was not in vain. Those who died for liberty, those who were persecuted for preserving the American way of life, and those whose lives were
ruined all for the sake of promoting and defending our God-given rights, we thank them for their selfless service and remember their sacrifice. God never abandoned them, and nor did He allow their sacrifice go in vain; for had not God been working through them, there would be no hope in living in a free and just land.
Let it be known that God was indeed working with, in, and through our American Soldiers, our Founding Fathers, our Church Fathers, and through those who follow the Augustinian Tradition.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, + to you, your Son, and the Holy Spirit we give praise for you are all indeed one true Triune God who saved us from sin on the Cross and works alongside us the Church now and forever. Amen.
Sermon 6/6/21 "All for our Sake" By Pastor Chris Boyd
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
“All for our sake”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Many of you may have grown up with parents that regularly gave you a healthy dose Vitamin N throughout your lives; N as in “No”. You ask for something and your mother or father would, from your perspective, unreasonably tell you that they would not allow you to do or receive said thing. Now I say unreasonable because we were just kids and could not understand. It is only when we grow up that we come to realize the love of our parents through the copious no’s we have received.
Can I have a cookie from the cookie jar? No, you will ruin your appetite before supper. Well that is unreasonable, cookies taste good, so they must be good to eat and it appears that my parents are starving me by telling me I can’t eat these delicious treats. This is a perspective a kid might have, trying to rationalize the desire of their sweet tooth. Of course, adults would definitely understand why eating treats before supper is not ideal and why it is perfectly reasonable to tell their children no in this respect. This is but a simple example, and there are many more less humorous examples of Vitamin N: don’t smoke, don’t hang out with that crowd, no games until after you do all your homework and studied, don’t be away from home after a certain time, no
sleepovers with the opposite gender, no allowance until you do this or that, etc.
All of this is done because your parents truly care for you, the copious amounts of no to all the things you want to do. Growing up, my mother was such a person to me and I thank her for the strict parenting I received. Her goal was to raise a respectable adult. Compared to her parenting I have seen multiple grown kids that act like complete spoiled brats who whine and give temper tantrums and mentally manipulates whenever they don’t get what they want. Usually I notice that they were not raised with a healthy dose of Vitamin N. Many are adults now, but to me they still act like children, thin skinned, malicious, and ill prepared when they find out that they are not the center of the universe.
From a Christian perspective, we are all still children, incapable by our own desires to act in a spiritually mature fashion. We are in constant need of the Word and Holy Spirit to feed us soft foods and liquids for one we cannot feed ourselves and two we are not ready for solid food. This is imagery that Paul uses multiple times. Another way of putting this is, because we are sinners we cannot function by ourselves in a way befitting a holy life. We can’t help but sin, let alone work ourselves towards salvation. There is a reason why Jesus came to die on the cross to save us from our sins. Yet, through Christ, we are still children, and like all children, we need a guardian to guide us and teach us and provide for us sinners a healthy dose of Vitamin N. And that dosage comes in the form of the Law.
There are many reasons why we have the Law. To point out what is sinful, to point us to our sins and expose that we are sinners which is something to dread over, and to point us towards Christ who is the source of our Forgiveness. Now many people absolutely hate the first reason why we have the Law, to point out what is sinful, but then again what toddler likes it when a parent tells them quite forcefully, “No!” Now just like a good parent, because God the Father is also good, in fact the source of what is good and should truly be the example we should use in what good parenting looks like, He provides us a list of do nots. He does not do this out of ill-will or hatred or whimsicalness. He provides the Law out of love. A child does not know what is good and bad, thus they need a parent to teach them this. The same goes for us spiritual infants, for we cannot comprehend morality and will always depend on God to give us the template, aka the Law, to help us truly understand what is good and what is sin. He gave us the Law so that we would know how to walk a healthy life style.
The Law was given to us all for our sake. God didn’t force it down on us like some evil tyrant who orders his subjects to do this or that. And the Law wasn’t given in such a way that we would get thrown into Hell because we disobeyed it. Instead the Law, which existed since the beginning of time, was given to illuminate for us that which was already considered good and what was already considered bad. Thus we don’t go to Hell because we disobey the Law per se, but because we act in a manner that the Law is trying to warn us will always lead us towards Hell. The Law is good, it warns us of bad behavior and guides us towards good behavior, all for our sake. In fact the only reason why perceive the Law as
bad and a curse is because we are sinners and can’t help but keep on sinning despite the fact that the Law warns us of such sins. This is why many come to hate the Law, because their guilty conscience is getting attacked by the Law which was designed not to damn but lead us towards the only healthy life style.
Now, one such habit of a healthy life style, provided for us by God, is to keep the Sabbath day holy. Like the Law, the Sabbath was designed for humans, given to us by God as a gift out of love, all for the sake of directing us toward a healthier life style befitting a mature Christian. And like Jesus said, Man was not created for the Sabbath but that the Sabbath was created for Man.
So if the Sabbath was created for Man then what purpose does it serve? Quite simply, it was made to encourage recharging. Men were not created capable of working each and every day without getting tired physically, mentally, nor spiritually. Eventually we all need a rest so that we can recharge and keep on working. A man who works six days a week and rests on the seventh will always be more productive, happier, focused, energized, and stable than the one who works all days of the week. In fact, all things eventually finds rest, either due to strain and your body or mind forces you to slow down, or unfortunately due to death. Having a day of rest, a day to relax and recoup, will always be important. God knew this, so in the Laws he provided us the instructed necessity to stop one day out of seven and to reflect on God who is the source of life. So who better can recharge you than God himself, most especially through Word and Sacrament?
On Sunday, we rest and come to church so that as one congregation, a communion of saints, may worship together to receive and proclaim as one body, the Word and the Sacraments, both of which Christ is truly present. Thus we literally are receiving Christ, and it is this receiving that gives us the strength, not just spiritually, but also mentally and bodily, to work all the other days of the week.
Now some may say why the 6 to 1 ratio? Why not once a month or once a year? Why is it once a week? Does not God know all the hairs on your head? Is He not the source of all knowledge and wisdom? And is not the supposed fooliest of God wiser than the wisest of men? He said once a week, because he knew this was the perfect ratio. He even lead us by example by creating for six days and then resting on the seventh. If God rested on the seventh, and if we lowly humans are much lesser than our creator, then I believe once a week should be satisfactory for us humans as well.
But so that the Pharisees of today’s times don’t abuse the Law, understand this: the Sabbath was made for us so that we do not needlessly tire ourselves out, believing in false narcissistic notions such as the might and wisdom of humans. Because of this, it is perfectly alright for me and all other pastors to lead worship on the Sabbath day for your sake, it is perfectly alright to care for the needy such as David did on the Sabbath, it is alright to feed your animals, your family, and yourself as food is necessary to live, and it is most certainly alright to worship on the Sabbath day.
Again the point of the Sabbath is to promote a healthy life style that lifts up Life, and of course the only way to truly accomplish this is by receiving Christ who is the source of Life.
As you come to the altar table today remember this, the Sabbath was made for man so you can be filled with new life through Word and Sacrament. Thus Communion, like the Sabbath, was made for man to fill you with Life, to fill you with Christ who is the source of Life.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, out of kindness for your most precious creation you instructed us the importance of the Sabbath, not chaining us to the Sabbath but creating it as a service for us so that we may receive the necessary portions of Life which can only come from you in Word and Sacrament in order to sustain us the rest of the week, bodily, mentally, and spiritually. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon "Dry Bones" May 23, 2021 By: Pastor Chris Boyd
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
During my days in Seminary, one of the classes I attended was Homiletics. Now the word Homiletics is just a fancy word used in Seminary for preaching, to give a sermon. So since I’m not in Seminary, from here on out I will use the more English word, Preaching.
So in my Seminary years, one of the classes I attended was for Preaching. I mean, that much should be obvious. Seminary… teaching how to be a pastor… pastors much preach… so yes, one of the classes I took was a preaching class. But while I was going through this class, my professor, Pastor Amy Shiffrin, who wasn’t well known for her preaching skills, kept on harping on one particular message. The purpose of preaching is to bring life to the dead. Let me repeat that again, the purpose of preaching is to bring life to the dead. If there is one thing I would like you to walk away with after this service it is that message. The purpose of preaching is to bring life to the dead. She harped on this message so much, because just like this sermon, if there was anything her students walk away with from her preaching class, it was this particular message. And woe and behold, I most definitely did.
Now it wasn’t her class that uniquely gave this message, for this message was a reoccurring theme throughout my Seminary life in of itself. In fact, I still hear it when I go to my Lutheran retreats and Convocations. Thus the reason why this message stuck wasn’t simply because of her class, thought that was the most importantly thing she taught me in her class, but because this is the overarching theme of the NALC with regards to preaching.
But what does this mean? What does it mean to say that preaching brings life to the dead, or at least its intended purpose?
The answer can be found by answering a different question. What happens when you preach the Word? Why, when the Word is preached, the Holy Spirit, which gave you the strength and faith in the first place to preach, externally enters into the ones who receive the Word. Basically when you preach, you are not preaching mere words, but The Word, and when you preach The Word you are not merely preaching of The Word but invoking it. The Word, the Holy Spirit is there when you preach it. For us lowly servants are but instruments of the Lord used as messengers like the angels to spread the Good News. Through us, the Word speaks. Through us, the Spirit, which proceeds from the Father and the Son, is truly present. We who are filled with the Spirit, speak the Spirit, and thus when we speak the Spirit, out of our mouths comes the Word which enters into the hearts and minds of others and fills them.
But why is this so important? If I was to preach the Good News to my neighbor and they converted to Christianity, did I convert them or did the Holy Spirit convert them? It was the external Spirit! We have no ability to argue someone into believing into Christ, but it is through the Spirit alone that the seeds of faith are planted.
God is the source of Life. Without Him we are dead. When we sin we die. To sin is to turn away from God, He who is the source of life. To sin is to deny life. In fact, due to original sin, we are already born dead, born sinners. There is no life within us because we are born incapable of knowing God, let alone loving Him. We are born lost, rejected, confused. There is a reason why Christ said let the dead bury the dead. For without Him, you are truly dead, in fact you are already dead and if you wish to be alive then you must follow him. Let the dead bury the dead, but we who are Christians instead bring life to the dead. Instead of letting the dead remain dead we speak the Good News, the Word, so that through the Holy Spirit they may come to life. The point of preaching is to bring Life to the dead! The point of preaching is to supply the Holy Spirit, the source of life, to those who sin, the source of dead. This is why we preach.
So we preach not only to those who are lost and do not know God, but also to those who are sinners. For regardless, all sin does is kills us. Yet, through the Word, Jesus breathes new life into us, forgives us our sins which causes us to die, and does this daily for our sake.
In the Book of Ezekiel, Jesus speaks through the prophet Ezekiel, providing for us a vision which perfectly paints this imagery of preaching life to the dead. In it the Lord brought Ezekiel to a valley full of dry bones and asked, “Son of Man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel said, “O Lord God, you know.” So the Lord commanded, “Prophecy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breathe to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breathe in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” After he did all this, a great army, filled with the Breathe of God, stood before Ezekiel, and the Lord said, “Son of Man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
Now the words from Ezekiel are interesting, for the Lord begins by commanding the Son of Man to prophesy these dry bones to life. Well who do we usually think of when we hear the name Son of Man? And does not Christ bring the dead to life? But the order of God’s command is most interesting. First, He commands the dry bones to hear the Word of the Lord. Then, the Breathe of God brings them to life. Last, after being brought to life these bones will know the Lord. And it is not like these bones truly represent bones for the Lord Himself says these bones are Israel. Instead I ask this, is not the order of God’s command similar to the order of conversion?
First you preach the Good News. Then there are those who willingly listen, who hear, the Word. As they hear the Word, the Spirit, which in Hebrew also means Breathe, of God enters into the hearer and brings them life for only God is the source of life. And alongside this life is faith, and it is because of faith in God, which only comes from the Holy Spirit, that we come to know God and maintain our knowledge of God.
The thing is this, before Pentecost, these Dry Bones was all of Israel. On top of that, before any of us received the Holy Spirit either through Baptism or through Preaching, we too were the Dry Bones. And until we hear the Word again, due to sin we become like the dry bones again. Yet because God sent down His Spirit in tongues of fire to bless His disciples by breathing His Spirit into them, the disciples were capable of going out with power to Spread the Good News and so bring life to the Dry Bones of the House of Israel. God placed His Spirit into them, brought them to life, opening their minds to the truth, and gave them the authority to speak. And they spoke. They spread the Good News with power, and those who listened so too was brought to life, filled with the Spirit, filled with its strength, and like the disciples so too did they spread the Good News. One by one the Dry Bones of Israel were being lifted out of their graves and rose as Christian Soldiers, a mighty army of those filled with the Spirit, armed with the Sword of God which was the Word.
And from generation to generation, the Spirit of God passed from one person to the next, bringing to life these dry bones, and a new generation of Christian Soldiers was born out of new life. And this kept on going until the Holy Spirit enter into you and so to saved you through the cross of Christ and brought you to life. And every single time you hear the Word, know this, the Spirit is indeed entering into you and is providing you with life.
Let the dead bury the dead, Jesus said, but through Christ we are not the dead, for we are truly alive. The living do not bury the dead, per se, no instead the living bring the dead to life, but not through our own power but through the power of God alone. We are alive because of Him, and through Him, we like the fire touched disciples, may also bring the dead to life.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, source of Life, you promised in the days of old to breathe life into the dry bones of Israel. On the day of Pentecost you fulfilled your promise by breathing life through the fiery Holy Spirit into first your Disciples and through them throughout all of Israel and the World. Continue to provide your Spirit and help your Church to breathe life into the congregations and into those who do not know you. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sorry this is late, Better late than never. Thank You!