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Oct. 6th, 2019 "Fan the Flame"

“Fan the Flame” by Pastor Steve Sommerer

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost Oct. 6th, 2019

Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

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

            The sermon text is from 2 Timothy chapter 1:

            Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.  So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner.  But join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God, Who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, Who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.  So far the text.

            Paul’s last Epistle 2 Timothy contains final words of wisdom from a dying apostle to a young pastor.  In it there are 4 Greek imperatives or commands for Timothy’s pastoral calling.  The first:  “Fan into flame the gift of God… for God did not give you a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

             “Fan into flame the gift of God.”  A campfire that smolders and never flames can’t keep you warm.  No one will be drawn by a flameless, dead fire. One of the cardinal rules of wilderness survival is to find dry wood to make a fire.  A strong fire can save you from the cold and attract rescuers.  It has often turned out badly for people in the wilderness who didn’t attend to build a fire.  And it will certainly turn out badly for any church or Christian who doesn’t stoke the flame of faith by drawing near to Jesus the Light of the World. 

Our young people in youth and Sunday school and our children in the home don’t need to be amused, but immersed in the Word of God, equipped by the Holy Spirit and fanned into flame so that they can be lights in their school hallways and on their ballclubs and marching bands and in their future homes.  A small fire brings small comfort from the cold; and a small fire won’t attract others; and a small fire is easily snuffed by life’s storms.  Fan the flame of faith. Pray for yourselves and your family, “Lord, increase our faith.”

            A strong flame attracts others to come in from the cold.  The best evangelism program a church has is members who know why they believe what they believe, so when a friend says, “Why do you baptize babies?” or someone from a different church says you have to be re-baptized because you weren’t immersed as an adult, you can speak God’s truth.  People are attracted by truth shared lovingly.

2 Timothy 1 reads: “He saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”  God wants you and me to live every moment in the joyous recognition that we are saved eternally through faith in Jesus, trusting that your sins and mine were paid for at Calvary’s cross; that God forgives and enfolds us in His loving arms in good times or bad; that we have a merciful Father who invites us to trust in Him for salvation and to come to Him with all our prayers, worries, and problems.  Paul’s words are true:  “God saved you… through Jesus Christ who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”

            Paul’s second command in our text is related to the first, “Do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.”  Notwithstanding the whistleblower in the news, in the real world no witness is allowed to testify in a court without knowledge of the event or some related expertise.  You can’t witness your faith if you never advanced past a confirmation level.  How many of you remember the 7th or 9th commandment?  Can you give one Bible verse that proves Jesus believed the Bible to be 100% true and accurate?  How can you testify about something you don’t know anything about?  Parents aren’t going to pray with kids or teach them the way to heaven if they don’t know.  We’re not going to invite friends to church or share Christ with a grieving neighbor, if we don’t know our faith.  You can be a bold witness when you are anchored in the saving truths of God’s Holy Word. 

            A third command from our text says, “Keep the pattern of sound teaching.”  I’m a Lutheran pastor because I’m absolutely convinced that the Lutheran Reformation faithfully teaches what the Bible says about being saved by grace alone through faith alone for Jesus’ sake alone.  I’ve read it backward and forward.  No other church has the theology grounded in God’s Word.  That’s not pride in Luther, it’s gratitude to God.

Why would you compromise God’s truth to avoid offending the world?  This dying world is never gonna think anything good about you, just because you despise your birthright and compromise God’s truth.  Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are truly My disciples.”  I find that many Christians are ashamed to say, “Jesus is right! I’m gonna stand with Him!”  Are you afraid your classmates or kids or friends will look down on you for standing up for pure Biblical truth?  Are you afraid to offend or anger your adult kids?  If you are smart, you’ll be more afraid of God for denying Biblical truth.  Fear, love and trust in God above all else, rather than worry about being intolerant or whatever the PC crowd dredges up. 

That’s not to say we don’t love and respect others.  We are very tolerant of sin in the lives of others as we invite fellow sinners to join us in repentance.  We know better than anyone how desperately we need a Savior, because we know what the Bible actually teaches about what we are.  But it’s never a loving thing to tolerate sin or approve of what God’s Word condemns.  That’s hate masquerading as love, so surely as Satan “masquerades as an angel of light.” 

By the power of the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism and His Word, God called you from the dreary dungeons of death.  “Not being ashamed to testify for our Lord” is simply to invite fellow inmates by the Spirit’s power to step through the prison doors which Jesus opened for the world.  A prisoner in that dungeon may well refuse to come through the open door and receive their pardon… they may well refuse to acknowledge that they’re actually in prison, but God gives you His Word and your family and friends to extend the invitation to life through Christ the Savior. 

Dear parents and grandparents, this is nowhere more important and closer to your heart than with our little children.  “Do not be ashamed to testify for the Lord.”  Don’t be spectators or entertainers or chauffeurs in their lives, but guide and guard them.  If your biggest impact on their lives is buying a phone or taking to another practice or game.  Something is wrong.  Pray with them.  Talk about Jesus.  Don’t let them be discipled by classmates or TV or Snapchat.  Bring them to Sunday school and midweek classes.  Take their questions seriously as important. 

We need to realize that like the French resistance in Nazi occupied France in World War II we need to view our job consciously as forming resistance thinkers… caring less that they look and act like their peers, than equipping them to survive these Last Days of this dying world.  Don’t leave the job of discipling your kids to public schools or social media.   

            You’ll see that the 3rd and 4th commands are closely tied to the first two.  “What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus.  Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in you.”  Keep the pattern of sound teaching.  Guard the good deposit.

            There is a deposit of faith handed down in God’s Word, a good deposit we sing each week in the Divine Liturgy.  God’s Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and doesn’t change with each new pastor.  God’s Church receives from our Lord and passes on her treasures, not just because they are old, but because they are faithful and true - a holy heritage handed down to us.  The world nurtures a dangerous fascination with new ideas and teachings glammed up and marketed as “authentic.”  We take our stand on God’s Timeless Truth. “Guard the good deposit.  Keep the pattern of sound teaching.”

            There is timeless, eternal truth.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He said, “You shall know the truth; and it will set you free.”  God has revealed it in His Word.  We sing it in Christ-filled hymns and confess it in our creeds.  Our children are taught it in their catechism.  The Church stands most firmly when she stands on what she has received from God’s Word through faithful teachers.  Guard it.  God’s Church doesn’t change, because Jesus Christ is “the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”

            When you cling to the unchanging promises of God you share Paul’s confidence:  “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

            And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Sept. 29th, 2019 "St. Michael and All Angels"

“St. Michael and All Angels” by Pastor Sommerer

Sept. 29th, 2019

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

          Today, God’s Church celebrates the Festival St. Michael and All Angels, an especially important day as fewer really understand what God’s Word teaches about angels and demons.  Angels are part of God’s invisible creation.  You won’t become an angel or a squirrel or anything else.  If you die believing in Christ, your soul will be with Jesus until the Day God raises your body from the grave.  If you die as an unbeliever, you will burn in the eternal fires of hell.

You shouldn’t think your dead loved ones become angels.  Don’t think your dead in Christ are doomed watch over you, suffering silently your struggles on earth, or that they’re your guardian angel doomed to take care of your every whim after death.  They probably don’t even like doing that while you’re alive.

If you think about it – wouldn’t that be a real drag? To watch your loved ones flail and make mistakes and go through life’s struggles…  certainly not what Jesus could call being with Him in Paradise.  I’d rather Aunt Tilly rest with Jesus, and rejoice God is more than strong enough to take care of me.  The Christian hope isn’t growing angel wings, it’s the resurrection of the body.

Hebrews 1:14 says the angels are “ministering spirits sent from God to serve us who will inherit salvation.” In other words  1) The angels serve God.  2) At God’s command they help us.  3) There are lots of angels and they are strong.  There are also lots of demons who hate God and want to destroy everything good – especially faith in Jesus.  But remember demons or devils are no match for God, they’re just fallen angels.

Angels do God’s bidding, and the angels’ work glorifies our Lord in heaven.  So don’t pray to angels or Mary or anything else – that’s idolatry, making false gods.  The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  And, for sure, learn how to talk about the Christian hope without making it seem like our dead are angels now.

Since angels are spirit beings – that means no body – It’s interesting that they can take forms… most often as young men.  Angels are God’s creation, they don’t “get their wings” every time a bell rings!  There are different kinds of angels – cherubim and seraphim – some are pictured with wings in Scripture, sometimes 6-wing seraphim or 4 or two-winged angels – most times wings aren’t mentioned at all.

            Only three angels are mentioned in the Bible by name.  Gabriel is the Christmas Angel, announcing to Zechariah and then to the Virgin Mary that God’s saving plan was beginning.  Gabriel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife, because “the child to be born was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”  Because of his prominence in the Birth of Jesus, Gabriel is often thought of as an archangel – though Scripture doesn’t refer to him that way.

            What’s an archangel, you ask?  Well, in God’s angel armies there are ranks – just like in any army – and the highest ranked angel is an archangel or chief angel.  In the communion liturgy we sing: “Holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth.”  When I was a kid I thought “Sabaoth” meant – Lord God of the Sabbath – as in the day of rest.  Really, Sabaoth means armies.  So when we sing about the Lord God of Saboath, we’re praising the Lord, God of the angel armies.

            The only archangel of God actually named that way in the Bible is Michael the Archangel found in our first two readings.  Michael seems to be the angel commander in chief.  In Daniel, Michael is the protector of God’s chosen people.  In Jude, Archangel Michael protects Moses’ body and takes it to the Lord when Moses dies.  In Revelation 12, Michael and his angel armies threw Satan out of heaven after Jesus ascended into heaven.  So this is the significance of St. Michael, he’s the Protector of the Church, the angel designate for God’s chosen people.

            Sadly, the Bible mentions another angel by name – Satan.  Satan was an angel, too, a good creation of God who rebelled against God and many evil angels or demons joined him, falling into sin and falling under God’s judgment.  From Revelations 12, we guess that 1/3 of the angels fell with Satan in that initial rebellion against God.

            The Bible tells us that after Adam and Eve listened to the devil’s lies and fell into sin, Satan was constantly before God’s throne accusing and condemning God’s people.  God promised Adam and Eve to send a Son to crush the devil’s head.  Jesus defeated Satan by concealing His Divine nature in human flesh, like fishing bait that hides the hidden hook.  The devil knew Jesus was God’s Son, but Satan remembered God’s threat of one who would crush the devil’s head. 

            When Satan tempted Pilate and the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus, he was like a fish that swallowed the bait.  When God raised Jesus from the dead, the devil’s plans were destroyed.  In the perfect, sinless life of Christ and by His innocent sufferings, death and resurrection, God fulfilled His promise.  Jesus crushed the devil’s head by rising to life.  Christ the Savior swallowed up sin and death by gulping it down to the dregs and emptying the cup of death – all that you and I could drink of His waters of life and salvation.

            Satan means accuser, but since Jesus defeated the devil on Easter morning.  Satan can’t accuse God’s chosen people in the Divine Courtroom.  Romans 8 says, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?...  I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

            Through Jesus’ victorious death and resurrection, Satan was thrown down from heaven.  Revelation 12 tells us Michael tossed him out.  But like a snake with his head cut off, Satan still flails and lashes out against God’s people.

            His days are numbered and we need not fear, but we must be wary.  There are demons and devils who want to destroy God’s people.  “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  So “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  Wise Christians see the demonic activity all around us and heed the words of 1 Peter 5: “Be self-controlled and alert; your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  Stay away from the Ouija boards and New Age junk.  Don’t crack a door in your heart to demonic influence.  Joined to Jesus’ victory in the waters of Baptism through faith, Jesus said, “No one can pluck you from My hand.

So what else does the Bible tell us about angels?  When one sinner comes to repentance, the Bible tells us the angels of God are celebrating and praising God in heaven.  Matthew 18 even says God’s angels are sent to guard and serve his people – especially the little children.  On the Last Day Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, and the angels will gather the harvest of souls for judgment.  1 Thessalonians 4 tells us Michael will sound the Call that heralds Jesus’ coming.  Jesus’ coming will be very visible – not a secret – like lightning from east to west.  That’s also why cemeteries are oriented to the East so our dead in Christ will stand up and see Jesus when He comes.

            Earlier in the service, we took upon our lips the angels’ song in the heavenly temple: “Worthy is Christ the Lamb who was slain; Power, riches, wisdom and might be to God and the Lamb forever.  Amen.”  Our worship is with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  We sing their words, though one day we’ll learn their tunes.  We sing their songs because they stand in the presence of God, and so do we when we receive Christ in His true body and blood.  As Jesus says, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood will have eternal life and I will raise him at the last day.”  One day our bodies, fed with Christ, will be carried home by God’s angels.     Amen.

          And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Sept. 22nd, 19: "Manage God's Resources Shrewdly"

“Manage God's Resources Shrewdly” by Pastor Sommerer

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost Sept. 22nd, 2019

Sermon Text: Luke 16:1-15

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

Our text for today is one of the most difficult parables to understand.  And I think there are two keys to getting this straight.  First, it’s important to notice that the dishonest manager wasn’t commended for his dishonesty; he was commended for his shrewdness.  God calls us to be shrewd in the use of God’s goods and resources as we use them to win friends.

The second key to our text is found in Jesus’ word: “Make friends… who will receive you in eternal dwellings.”  In other words, that use of our earthly goods and gifts should be directed toward God’s Kingdom, eternal life and salvation.  Wisely use your resources and opportunities so that people are saved.  Those whom God has helped along the way through your words and gifts and love will then be there to greet you. 

            What this text does is give us a true perspective on the things we have: we are managers, not owners.  This text also pries our eyes from the daily grind to direct us to the greater priority of planting seeds for eternity.  Everything that you have you hold temporarily, except your hope in Christ, which lasts forever!  Every penny in your pocket.  Every minute in your day.  Every ounce of strength you hold as a caretaker.  Even the children that you nurture and care for.  These things aren’t yours.  They are God’s gifts to you to be received with joy and thanksgiving while you live, and are to be dedicated to God’s purposes and Kingdom. 

Our problem is that we, myself included, fall into the habit of viewing my time and money as mine.  The truth is they are God’s.  They are a trust from God’s care for your life and your family and your support for God’s work.  But they’re only temporary.  God gave them.  God can certainly take them away.  A lifetime of saving and investing can’t follow you to the grave, but wisely planning and using God’s gifts while you live and after you die can care for the needs of your life and support the spread of the Gospel, building bridges to Christ long after your life has ended.   

As God’s people, we must distinguish between faith and works.  Christ gives salvation freely by grace.  We don’t deserve it.  We didn’t earn it.  He came into the world “to save sinners.”  Works play no part in saving us.  But we can’t separate them.  If our faith is a living one, it works.  Our text invites us to step back and ask not:  “What’s the bare minimum I can get by with and still be a Christian?” but, rather, “As one saved through faith for Christ’s sake alone, how can I do God’s work?  How can my gifts, my time, my dollars extend God’s Kingdom in this place?  How can I feed the hungry or clothe a needy family?  After I die, how can I still share God’s Kingdom work by wise planning and giving for His mission?”  How can you shrewdly use your gifts?  How can a will or estate plan help even after my life help to carry out God’s work or build His kingdom? 

            Jesus talks a lot about how we are to use our money.  He affirms the tithe of 10%, and Paul even says, “Excel at the grace of giving.”  In other words, do more with joy, not less.  But the devil tempts us to begin clutching our wallets, or complaining how busy we are.  Could my stinginess indicate a heart problem on my part: a lack of trust that God will bless my giving or lack of gratitude or recognition that it all came from God in the first place?  God doesn’t need your money to do the work of His Kingdom, and if you give it begrudgingly you’re wasting your time.  But He also attaches great promises to faithful stewardship.  It is certain many Christians fail to receive blessings God would give, because they don’t trust Him enough to part with what He’s already given them to manage. 

2 Corinthians 9 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  It should be said that as you prayerfully set apart a portion of your money or estate or dedicate time to teach Sunday school or sing in the choir or volunteer at the rescue mission… you can’t out give your Giver God.  Paul wrote: “God is able to make all grace abound to you… You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion… and your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 

In our text, Jesus is speaking primarily about a Christian attitude toward money.  He speaks more about money than nearly any other topic, because it so easily becomes our false god.  Money is a good gift from God for us to feed and clothe our family and provide for our needs.  Like all good gifts, we should thank God for the wealth and comforts we enjoy beyond any people on the planet.  It’s not money but the “love of money” that Scripture condemns.  Do we use it for God’s work or do we selfishly horde it?  Do we hope to enrich our survivors after we die or further God’s kingdom while we live?  And the shrewd manager can do both those things through thoughtful planning. 

Give thoughtfully.  Decide on the percentage ahead, so your not tempted toward stinginess.  The Bible gives 10% as a floor not a ceiling.  It’s something to work toward.  Do it prayerfully.  Ask God to bless those gifts.  Do it cheerfully, and when it’s hard ask God’s forgiveness and strength.  Finally, remember whether its time, talent or treasure; you are only a manager.  You own nothing.  You are only discharging a sacred trust.  “The earth is mine and everything in it; the world and all who live in it,” Psalm 24 says.

How you use money is like a window into your heart.  Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal.  Store up treasures in heaven, for where you treasure is there will your hearts be also.”  Be rich in faith, trusting the One who snatched you from poverty and death to make you eternally rich in Christ.  Of Christ, God’s Son our truest treasure, Paul wrote: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”  Completely apart from your checking account or social security, insurance policies, or estate plans God has given you the greatest security of all, and it came absolutely freely.  In Jesus through faith, yours is a marvelous, eternal inheritance “kept in heaven for you who through faith are being shielded by God’s power.” 

Stretching out His hands on the cross, Christ made you an heir of His heavenly mansions through faith.  You might hardly afford a meal here on earth, but trusting in Jesus God feeds you with the richest food of all.  At His altar, He gives Himself into your lips.  You may not be very fashionable in the eyes of the world, but the rich robes He gives to his believers are the robes of His righteousness, “for as many who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Rejoice in your truest, eternal treasures that are yours freely in Jesus, and, led by the Holy Spirit, wisely use God’s earthly blessings to build bridges connecting a lost world to Christ.  Amen.

And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.  

Sept. 15th, 2019: "Seeking the Lost"

“Seeking the Lost” by Pastor Steve Sommerer

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost Sept. 15th, 2019

Sermon Text: Luke 15:1-10

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

           Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me;  I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  So far the text.

            Jesus came to “seek and to save all who are lost”, but the Pharisees didn’t hob-nob with the tax collectors and so-called “sinners.”  One reason the Pharisees refused to believe in Jesus – despite His amazing miracles – is that Jesus received and welcomed and ate with sinners. 

            I think we struggle with parables like this one.  We think of the Lost Sheep as those out cohabiting in sexual sin or wading in the pornographic sewer.  We chafe at the idea this might have something to say to us.  The “lost sheep” are the ones sleeping in this morning or out carousing last night.  But Jesus’ parable speaks to you.  You and I are the lost sheep.  So, let’s stop wandering.  The old saying goes, “When you’re in a hole; the first thing you have to do is stop digging.”    

It’s easy in church, in some hypothetical way, to admit we’re lost, but in reality most of the time we think we’re fine on our own.  I can easily find the faults and problems in my wife and kids, my neighbors and church members, but I’m far more tolerant of my own wandering ways.  

That’s the truth, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, and you and I in the parable aren’t the 99, we’re the ones that wander!  Most of our days are lived out serving ourselves, thoughtlessly grabbing for the next clump of grass.  We think that our goodness and admirable qualities have us smack in the middle of the flock, but God’s Law points the finger “You’re all alone!  You wandered away from the Shepherd!”  Isaiah says, “All we, like sheep, have gone astray, each one to his own path.” 

Most people’s take on religion goes like this:  “If I’m ever getting back with God, I’ve got to make the decision; to surrender my heart to Him; to decide for Jesus.”  In the real world, that’s not how it works.  You might fancy yourself able to lay hold of God and straighten out your life, but God’s reality is:  The sheep doesn’t come home on its own.  Jesus’ point isn’t just some lame version of now that you know you’ve wandered, come back.  If that were His point, He would have told a parable about homing pigeons. 

Kenneth Bailey, a Christian theologian living in Palestine, wrote: 

“The image of the good Shepherd is now spelled out.  The open pasture lands of Israel are rugged.  Each rock could have a sheep quivering behind it.  (Finding the lost sheep is no easy task!)  The shepherd goes until he finds it.  A sheep once lost is terrified.  It sits down, usually in as sheltered a place as is immediately available and starts shaking and bleating.  When found, it is in such a state of nervous collapse that it cannot stand or be made to stand.  It cannot walk or be led, nor will it respond to the shepherd’s well-known call.  If it is to be restored to the fold, the shepherd must carry it on his two shoulders.  The animal can weigh 70 pounds.  The country is rugged.  It is a mark of the strength, courage, and character of the shepherd that he rejoices when he finds it.”[1]

            You and I are the ones Jesus came to find; we whose burdensome sins have been lifted on His shoulders; we over whom the angels in heaven rejoice.  Jesus left everything behind to save you, “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor,” Paul wrote.   God sought you out.  Repentance is the whole life of the Christian… but repentance isn’t how you get your head right and come back to God.  It’s Jesus finding you and restoring you to the flock.  Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to call you in His Word to search out and gather all His sheep into the protection of the fold.

            The parable of the Good Shepherd shows us just what God sent His Son into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish for us.  Jesus lifted you to His shoulders and carried you.  He lifted your sins to His shoulders and nailed them to the cross. 

            In the Catechism, we learned that we can’t by “our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, or come to Him.”  The Shepherd didn’t find the lost sheep, strike it, or yell at it.  The Shepherd rejoices to lift the sheep on His shoulders.  Jesus loved us so deeply, despite our wandering, and His love will sacrifice anything to restore us, even His life.  1 Timothy 1 says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  In Romans 5, Paul says:  “God demonstrated His love for us in this:  That while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

            In the waters of Baptism, God sought you out to bring you into His fold.  Each day, this perfect love of the Shepherd searches you out to carry you back to the fold.  Each day of our lives, the Holy Spirit seeks us, shows us our sin and carries us back to the foot of the cross, confessing our sins.  And having confessed our sins, the Spirit pronounces His Word of forgiveness.  But this same Spirit “leads us in the paths of righteousness”, enabling us to leave behind the things that lead to death and serve God “in righteousness and purity forever.”  God helps you to live like a child of God, like sheep in the Shepherd’s flock.

            Some still wander.  Even in this place – even you and I – spend too much of our lives pulling at the next clump of grass filling our bellies, unconcerned that our Savior is searching for you and me and wants to bring us safely home.  Dear friends, beware the night falls soon when the time for searching is over.  Don’t put off another day learning and loving your Savior’s voice, as you and your family learn your faith.  “My sheep listen to My voice and follow Me,” Jesus said, “they will never follow a false shepherd.”  Let His voice of love fill your ears, and remember, “Satan masquerades as an angel of light.”  His lies can seem attractive, but bring death. 

Jesus the Good Shepherd is also the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  “Jesus was led like a Lamb to the slaughter,” Isaiah wrote, “and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”  He routed the devil by rising from the dead… He calls you, His beloved lambs, by name. 

            Your Good Shepherd holds a feast, a meal of celebration:  “Rejoice with Me! I have found my lost sheep!”  For His baptized believers, there is a great heavenly banquet in your future, but even here at His altar the Good Shepherd gives you a foretaste of the feast to come.  At this altar, the precious flesh and blood of Christ once nailed to the cross and defeated the devil by rising from the dead.  This same flesh and blood He places into your lips as strength for the journey, the medicine of immortality.  Your Shepherd promised, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will rise Him up at the last day.”  Amen.

And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen. 

[1] Bailey, Kenneth, Finding the Lost – Cultural Keys to Luke 15,  page 74, Concordia Publishing House.

Sept. 8th, 2019: "Hate your family???"

“Hate your family???” by Pastor Steve Sommerer

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost Sept. 8th, 2019

Sermon Text: Luke 14:25-35

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

            The sermon text is from Luke 14:25-35. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be My disciple.”

Hate is a pretty strong word.  We don’t even allow that around our kids.  What does this mean, and how do we reconcile God’s universal call to love our neighbor with Jesus’ call in our text to hate the neighbor closest to us - our own family?  Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”  Jesus said, “If you hate someone, you’re guilty of murder.”  Jesus said in Matthew 15: “Honor your father and your mother.”  So what’s gives?

Sometimes Jesus uses hyperbole to drive home a point.  For example, when your eye causes you to sin, Jesus said, “Pluck it out.”  Your eye doesn’t really cause sin, it’s just Jesus’ way of saying, you’d rather lose your eye than open your heart to sin.

A good rule for reading the Bible is to read tricky passages in light of clearer ones.  Parents and kids aren’t free to hate and abuse each other.  God said, “Honor your father and your mother.”  Brothers and sisters and extended family, this text doesn’t give you permission to go home today and hate each other – and for families to become war zones.  This is how Matthew 10:37 expressed the same verse about hating father or mother: “Whoever loves his father or mother, son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”  You see the point isn’t that Jesus wants us to hate anyone, but if the choice is between anything – even family – and God, “Love God with all your heart.”

Sometimes, people have real life or death choices.  I have heard of Jews who converted to Christ, being disowned by their family… their family even having a ceremonial funeral for the Jewish convert to Christ.  They loved God and lost their family.  Sometimes homosexuals have insisted either you deny Jesus and reject God’s Word or our relationship is over.  Or sometimes when a parent has to help a child choose confirmation or Sunday worship over ball practice or game… a parent has to hate the child, so to speak, to love God’s Word.

The devil perverts it all, of course.  He says you’re a hater if you stand with God, but God’s Word is always what’s best for your life.  It’s never truly loving to excuse sin or compromise your faith.  How does that help anyone?  That’s a demonic love.

On an early Sunday morning, 79 year old Floyda Nunley was driving windows down to church in St. Louis.  As her car rested at an intersection, a car pulled alongside with three young men.  The one in front said, “What’s up OG, don’t get too hot!”  In the next instant another threw a lighted Molotov cocktail through her back window, engulfing her car in flames.  Floyda struggled to get the car in park before jumping out of the car.

Once outside, her fellow churchgoers ran to her car and reported having to restrain Floyda because she wanted to go into the flames and retrieve her Bible.  They firmly reminded her she could get another Bible.  What awes me about that dear senior saint is within seconds of the scariest, most shocking moment of her life, Floyda couldn’t restrain herself from spontaneously fighting to save her Bible.  The 79 year old hated her life for the sake of Christ’s love.

In our text, Jesus teaches us to value the eternal things of God.  Not your friends and family, not one other thing in this world will last forever – except faith unto salvation or unbelief to fiery damnation.  “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be My disciple.”  He’s teaching us that our faith and life in Christ is THE IMPORTANT THING!    Either your God is the true God, or you’ll spend your life avoiding the hard things in life, in search of happiness; and when that gets hard, you’ll scrap it all, living for your children or your work or your money or your boats and cars and school friends.  Being Christian isn’t supposed to be easy.  It’s carrying the cross.  It’s denying the one person, you don’t really want to deny – yourself.

            I’m not suggesting being reckless with your life – and neither is Jesus.  But my admiration for that woman is through the roof, because in the literal heat of the moment, without time to deliberate, her thoughts were of God’s Word and her Bible.  The Old Lutheran Hymnal had a song: “Oh, for a faith that will not shrink Tho’ pressed by many a foe; That will not tremble on the brink Of poverty or woe.”  Life challenges all of us to choose what’s most important; when confirmation starts you have to choose between a ball practice here and there or learning about Jesus.  Maybe you need to have a talk with that coach!  “As for me and my house,” Joshua said, “we will serve the Lord.”     

At work you might have to choose between honesty and integrity or lies and theft and cutting corners.  Don’t choose the easy path.  Do what’s right.  When a boy or girlfriend or school friends want you to go against God’s Word, you kids must choose; when the smart phone becomes a temptation to sin with pornography or endless useless gossip, choose between God and the devil.  Many a day I’ve prayed that a parent would throw away their kid’s phone and risk upsetting the child.  If Jesus said, cut off your arm when it tempts you, you can surely throw away a phone.  When public school propaganda and social media warriors and Hollywood tell us it’s loving to accept any and every lifestyle, even when God says it’s unhealthy and immoral, the path of love is to follow God.  When a boyfriend or girlfriend think it’s ok to shack up before marriage, be willing to hate them for the sake of loving Christ.

When you with your kids or you students in school or you workers on the job compromise your faith, you sell out your Savior.  God’s church has largely become useless and ineffectual and lost influence in our world, because we Christians refuse to make hard choices.  We look just like the world around us.  The salt has lost its saltiness.

What’s most important to you?  Who’s the “god” of your life?  I know Sunday School seems early on a Sunday morning, but parents, your single God-given priority must be to see your children in heaven with you one day.  That’s job one.  Students, when classmates group up in their cliques and gossip about others, do you speak up – or is belonging and following the devil more important than leading and following God?  Does your use of money reflect a love for God and the desire to extend His Kingdom?  Do you spend $50 on a family meal out, but only give a few dollars to support God’s Church?

Moses spoke words that he could well speak to us each day: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you today life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.  For the Lord is your life…”

            The children of Israel didn’t choose Jesus.  They were the Chosen People, miraculously rescued through the water of the Red Sea.  You didn’t choose Jesus either.  You didn’t invite Him into your heart or surrender your life to Him.  The Holy Spirit kicked down the doors of hell to rescue you, like a fireman pulling you from a burning car.  God rescued you through the water of Holy Baptism.  Titus 3 says, “Not by righteous things we have done.  He saved us by the washing of rebirth.”  When our hearts were cold and dead in sin and the only thing we truly loved was ourselves, Colossians 1 says, “God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

By Baptism’s water and Word, the Holy Spirit created faith and called you into God’s family.  God didn’t wait for you to figure it out and put Him first.  God put you first, before His own life.  Jesus said, “No one takes my life from Me, I lay it down of My own accord.  I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”

            That’s God’s Good News!  Jesus took up the cross, died and rose from the dead, not because He found something in you worth saving, but because God’s Fatherly heart loves you and wants you and all His children “to be saved and to come to know the truth.”  You were Jesus’ number one priority – to forgive and love you.

            Now, God could have taken you straight to heaven the moment you came to faith in Jesus – the moment He declared your sins forgiven.  But here you are.  God left you here to do His work until He comes to take you home on the Last Day.  That means you who are saved by God’s grace alone, face daily choices.  Will you be the “salt of the earth” flavoring the world with the Gospel?  Will you live out your calling - walking the walk and talking the talk, following Jesus even in the school hallways where the world needs your confession?  Will you stand with Jesus when it might make your kids mad or make them unpopular at school?  Are you prepared to “take up your crosses –whatever that might be – and follow Jesus?”

            The second parable in our text is important…  Some of you right now are confronting agonizing life and death moments in your life.  Some of you have it pretty easy.  If your life is blessedly peaceful be thankful.  Use this time to train for war by being in God’s Word…  Don’t wait till the war starts to figure out if you’ve got enough soldiers!  Don’t wait till the building project starts to figure out if you’ve got enough materials to finish the job!  Count the cost!  Like soldiers equip yourselves by living in God’s Word.

            Without a thought, Floyda Nunley was ready to run back into the flames, because God made her mighty through His Word.  The time for you to learn God’s Word and learn to pray is now.  You and your kids need to be in Church and midweek and Sunday School now.  You don’t need terrible news from a doctor before you consider Christ.  Right now, bury God’s Word in your heart and have it on your lips, daily praying for God’s strength.  One day, the choice or challenge you face will literally be life or death… Don’t wait for the battle to start.  Paul wrote: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can stand against the devil’s schemes.”

            Dear Disciple of Jesus, no matter how viciously the forces of hell rise up to assault you, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”  Jesus fought for you.  He has risen, and “No one can snatch you from His hand.”  Be faithful.  Let no one snatch your crown.  .God grant us such a faith today and always.  Amen.

            And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.    




"He Lifts up the Humble" Sept. 1st, 2019

“He Lifts up the Humble” by Steve Sommerer

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Sept. 1st, 2019

Sermon Text: Luke 14:1-14

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

          From Luke 14:1-14  When Jesus noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, He told them this parable:  “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited…  But when you are invited take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Then Jesus said to His host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors;  if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.”  So far the text. 

          Our Collect Prayer carries the golden thread that binds together the parts of our service: “Teach us by Your Holy Spirit to follow the example of Your Son in true humility… avoiding ungodly pride.”  We sang it this way in our sermon hymn: “As You, Lord, have lived for others, So may we for others live.  Freely have Your gifts been granted; Freely may Your servants give.”

          Today’s Scripture is about more than seating arrangements for formal occasions.  It’s really about the attitude of our heart.  What does it mean to be humble – to put others before ourselves.  Do we love our neighbor’s as ourselves?  Do our words build up or do we gossip and tear other’s down?  Our Hebrews’ text calls for hospitality, which is to say heartfelt concern for those around us, especially the stranger or those in need.  How easily we lose sight of the stranger we might invite to church or speak to in the grocery line… or even the spouse we could help with chores.  Our verses teach us about living outside our own self-interest.  Hebrews said, “Doing good and sharing what you have is a sacrifice pleasing to God.”           

          More often we get such tunnel vision.  We miss the people and needs and opportunities right in front of us.  We have eyes, but we don’t see.  But those are just symptoms.  The cause is sinful pride.  Pride makes us self-centered and ungrateful.  It makes us discontented.  Pride makes us dismissive of others.  Pride stalks the hallways of our schools, in our workplaces, and even in our churches.  Pride leads to marital unhappiness and pits parents against children.  And pride is deadly because the first commandment forbids making myself my god.

And so we pray the Holy Spirit teach us to follow Jesus in true humility.  The Christian life isn’t about pridefully putting others in their place, but about humility before God and our neighbors.  To be humble we have to see with God’s eyes and learn how things really are with us.  God tells us the sad truth, “In my flesh,” Paul said, “there is no good thing.”  “No good thing” doesn’t leave much to be proud of!  Ephesians 2 says:  “We were by nature objects of God’s wrath.”  Genesis says, “Every inclination of man’s heart is only evil, all the time.”  The Psalmist wrote:  “There is no one who does good, not even one.”  God’s truth about us is humbling.  And if God’s Word humbles us, it’s so that we can boast in the cross of Christ.  Remember, Galatians 6, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The child of God isn’t the proud, Pharisee pushing for the best seat at the table, making himself great at the expense of the spouse or child or fellow church member.  The child of God is in the lowliest place, unable to lift his eyes to heaven.  From this place, God can lift you up.  From the lowest seat at the table, God invites sinful people forgiven in the blood of Jesus to move up to the place of honor.  And that seat is freely set aside for you in Jesus’ blood. 

Genuine Christians will nod knowingly and join Paul when he says, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.”  We note in our verses Jesus is true God, yet didn’t demand to sit at the head of the table.  Jesus had righteous reason for pride, but instead suffered insult and injury.  Philippians 2 says, Christ Jesus “who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

God stepped forth from heaven and the King of Kings resided in a Virgin’s womb, nestled in a manger and died on a cross.  King Jesus humbled Himself to save prideful losers like you and I who couldn’t do a thing to earn our way back to Him.  Jesus had every reason for pride and yet submitted Himself entirely to the Father’s will to pave your path back to Himself through Spirit-born faith.

In God’s kingdom of grace, only the lowly will be exalted, only the last will be first… so let’s not waste one moment of our lives exalting ourselves over each other… better to take the least position… knowing that Jesus once sat in that place to give you God’s gracious invitation to move up to His higher place; your heavenly home.

Even now God would tap us lowly children.  We who are cast down to the depths are - in God’s unimaginable love and mercy - invited to an exalted place of honor at His Table.  Here at His Holy Communion we feast with our lips on His own flesh and blood… there to find through faith the full and free treasure of His salvation.

So here we are once again, prideful people, yet humbled by God’s grace.  Here receiving our Lord Jesus, He sends us out again with a word of kindness for the stranger, a word of comfort for the sufferer, a word and act of mercy for the person in need.  He sends us to welcome those who may not be welcomed anywhere else in the world, but through Jesus’ blood are welcomed into God’s family.

Taught by the Holy Spirit and following the example of God’s Son in true humility, God calls us to put into practice the words we sing.  “As You, Lord, have lived for others, So may we for others live.  Freely have Your gifts been granted; Freely may Your servants give.”  “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,” Hebrews taught us.  Don’t let your pride keep you from living for others.  God is able to replenish your supply.  When you give from God’s bounty, you will never lack all that you need.  When you love with God’s love, He will fill you up.  Don’t be ashamed to be ridiculed and reproached for Jesus’ sake. 

Don’t turn your head from the poor, the crippled, the lame or blind.  These are your brothers and sisters in the most powerful sense, for these are the ones for whom Jesus died, just as for you.  Taught by the Spirit serve your neighbor near and far, first with your prayers and compassion, with Your gifts to support Christian missions and ministry, locally through our Rescue Mission and worldwide through our partnerships in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  Serve in a humility born of your true identity as God’s baptized sons and daughters.  Jesus has given you a place at His table here at His Supper and through faith at His heavenly Table.  May God lead us to extend that invitation in words and action to all His redeemed.  Amen.

And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

"On Creation in 6 Days" August 25th, 2019

“On Creation in 6 Days” by Pastor Steve Sommerer

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost August 25th, 2019

Sermon Text: Genesis 1:1 & Hebrews 11:3

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

The sermon text is from Genesis 1:1  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And Hebrews 11:3  By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what was seen was not made out of what was visible.  This is our text.

This summer our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in convention adopted a resolution affirming the belief that God created the world in 6 natural days as related in the book of Genesis and encouraged pastors and teachers to teach and speak of this foundational truth.  The necessity of preaching on creation in these early days of a new school year was brought home during our Church Luau when reading the story of Noah, children believed the events happened billions and billions of years ago.

If I’m not yet an old country pastor, I’m an aging one, and don’t pretend or desire to be more.  If I use a few pictures this morning, I’ll beg your forgiveness and hope you’ll understand why I thought it might be helpful.  Our very visual children will see textbooks and elaborately produced media that preach a worldview that can be destructive to the faith of the unprepared.  So, I’ll say a few words about it today and hope you will talk with your children about some things they’ll be taught.  If you are like I am, you’ll need help in those conversations.  First, use God’s Word, which never misleads.  You don’t have to be an expert.  From baby on, remind them of how special they are to be “knit together by God in their mother’s womb”.  The Holy Spirit promises through that Word to strengthen your family, but there are also some helpful creation science groups, like Answers in Genesis that can help sift through the lies.

When we read or hear things like, “Billions and billions of years ago…”, we aren’t dealing with scientific statements.  It is more a theological statement on the part of the author or speaker.  They don’t know.  No one could know.  The only one here in the beginning was God, and God tells us He created a perfect, mature world in 6 days.  In other words, I’m not trying to prove God’s 6 day creation this morning.  I believe it because Jesus did and He’s God, so He was there.

There should be no true conflict between Christianity and science, because real science is what can be observed and tested.  But sometimes museum exhibits or text books and pbs shows blur the lines between what we know as fact, and their prior assumption God had nothing to do with it.  Young people can pursue science careers without compromising your faith, and I’ve certainly known brilliant people working in the field who believe in a young earth, thousands, not millions of years, and that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days. 

I had a veterinarian tell me once you can’t work in science without grasping molecules to man evolution, that life in all its complexity, came from non-life.  But it’s not true.  Chemists working on drugs don’t need the fairy tale of billions of years to observe, test and repeat.  No bridge gets stronger because its designer believed life climbed up from the primordial ooze.  No I-phone design depends on the Big Bang theory.

A Biblical, Christian worldview makes real science possible, understanding ours is an orderly world, that follows certain laws which can be discerned.  True science can’t be possible if you believe in a random, chaotic world.  Early scientists pursued their work striving to learn the mystery behind God’s creative work.  As the Psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmanment showeth the work of His hands.” 

In the evolutionary story, the elements collapsed into a dense, spinning singularity, no bigger than a period on your page, that exploded, and after cooling the planets and vast systems formed.  Conservation of angular momentum would lead us to expect if that were the case all the bodies would spin in the same direction.  [pic of merry go round/pic of solar system]  What we find is different.  Two planets in our own solar system, as well as moons, and great diversity among the galaxies.

If you believed in a Big Bang you’d still have to account for life.  The law of biogenesis simply put says, “Living things come from living things.”  Biology students get beat over the head with the statistic 97% of our DNA is held in common with orangutans, but that really skips over the problem of why there’s anything living.  Yet, 97% DNA between human and orangutans is preached as crowning proof of a common evolutionary ancestor. 

[show picture of 2 homes]  Both these homes were designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, sharing many of his design flairs.  Both have windows, doors, walls, ceilings, long overhanging roof lines, precise, well-thought out design features widely employed in his creations.  No one believes one of the homes evolved from the other.  They are not evidence of a common descendent.  Hebrews 5 says, “Every house has a builder; the builder of all things is God.”  What these two share [show pics] is not an evolutionary ancestor, but a Creator God.  Adam and Eve differ from the orangutan in that they were created in the image of the All-Wise Designer God.   

One of the great proofs every textbook will show is this one.  [pic of Grand Canyon]  The theological position of modern geology is that the Grand Canyon was formed in the last few million years by the Colorado River carving down through the solid rock of the Kaibab Plateau.  If you step back a century it was commonly believed the Grand Canyon was formed by a lot of water in a little time.  Many early and some contemporary geologists believe it was formed by a massive flood.  We’d say Noah’s or soon after. 

The problem with the origin story for the Grand Canyon as we see it in the textbooks is both evolutionist and creationist believe the Kaibab Plateau was elevated before the canyon’s formation.  That means the Colorado River must have taken a right turn and went uphill through solid rock.  Which is a pretty neat trick if you can get away with it.  The headwaters are lower than the channel the river supposedly cut.

Again, I’m just a farmboy who reads a little and doesn’t live in the field of science.  Much of what we see in the world is pretty amazing and mysterious, but sometimes it seems public school textbooks come up with the most fantastic, impossible explanations only because they refuse to consider the possibility of our Creator God.  Here’s a picture of a fossilized sea creature found in the world’s highest mountain range, the Himalayas.  God’s Word has an answer for that but the secular answer seems less convincing.    

We hinted earlier about the Law of Entropy, part of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamic.  Things tend to break down.  Evolutionists believe in a long gradual process of advancement and improvement and complexity, or that’s how I learned it in school.  The Bible teaches and we experience a world under judgment that breaks down.  Nowadays, many favor punctuated equilibrium because the fossil record doesn’t support long and slow.  Frankly, some are even so flummoxed to explain the presence of life where there should be no life, that they theorize life was “seeded” or planted on our planet by alien intelligence from somewhere in the universe.  For these scientists, it’s clear the problem isn’t a designer, but they don’t want to be accountable to the God of Holy Scripture.  King David wrote, “The fool says in his heart there is no god.”  St. Paul said, “The requirements of the Law are written on their hearts, their consciences bearing witness and their thoughts accusing them.”

Darwin was overwhelmed by the diversity of finches in the Galapogos Islands.  He built his theory on natural selection as the engine of evolution.  Some birds [show pic] lived because their beaks could reach food.  Short beaks died off.  But no matter how many times its viewed in a textbook.  Long beak or short.  It’s still a finch.  It didn’t evolve an arm buy bird seed at Walmart.  Same with the gypsy moths.  [pic]  The ones whose color camouflaged them from predators lived, the others died.  They were moths before and moths after.  They didn’t evolve into Florida condo dwellers.  [pic] Same with dogs.  The short-leg, thin-coated ones died in the cold and thrived in the heat, but despite the misleading story, none of these are examples of molecules to man evolution.

This is the Biblical worldview, and if you try you’ll see it stands up to the facts.  God created a perfect world.  Adam and Eve were the crown of that creation made in His image and after His likeness.  They knew God perfectly and were righteous.  They were created with a free will and when tempted by the devil to question the truth of God’s Word, they chose to eat from the forbidden tree.

God placed Adam and Eve and all creation under His judgment.  Death wasn’t the engine of evolution, but God’s judgment against sin.  From that point, what was perfect and good began to break down and the seeds of that Fall that brought sin and death were passed down from Adam and Eve to all their descendants.  That includes you and me.

But God wasn’t content with that.  His righteous judgment against sin demanded death, yet in God’s mercy He chose through the seed of the woman to crush the devil’s head.  Galatians says, “The fullness of time had come” when God chose a young Virgin from King David’s line to conceive in her womb Christ the Savior.

Just as God had once drawn a wife for Adam from his side, so from the spear-pierced side of Jesus the Second Adam, God brought forth the Bride of Christ the Church.  “As in Adam all died,” Romans 5 says, “so in Christ will all be made alive.  Through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous.”  Through faith in Jesus Christ every son and daughter baptized into His family of faith has been joined to God’s eternal Son.    

You and I don’t have to live the sad, fairy tale story of molecules to man evolution.  If it’s true, there is no god, no afterlife, no foundation for ethical living, no free will and no ultimate meaning in life.  St. Augustine said, “Ours souls are restless, O Lord, until they find their rest in you.”

You were created by God to live in His family, here and for eternity.  Your body isn’t an evolutionary accident, it’s a baptized temple of the Holy Spirit with a certain purpose to glorify your Creator, and it has a certain future, because Christ lives you who have died and risen with Him in Holy Baptism will live forever in His Kingdom with no end. 

Let me close with these words from 1 Timothy 4.  Dear young people, “Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.”  Amen

And now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.