“Food that Satisfies” (Isaiah 55:2; Matthew 14:19-20)

Do you remember the TV commercial that claimed: “Snickers really satisfies me?” I really enjoy eating a Snickers, but usually as a snack between meals; not in place of “real food.” What if you were invited to dinner for your birthday or anniversary and they just brought you a Snickers? What if you went to your favorite “fancy restaurant” and all that they served was a Snickers? Would you be satisfied? Wouldn’t you agree that it takes MORE to REALLY SATISFY our hunger?

Sadly, it WOULD satisfy some people! We are too easily satisfied with immediate gratification rather than enjoying “food that satisfies!

Since God made us, He knows what we need (much better than we know ourselves!). That is why He gives the gracious invitation: “Come, all you who are thirsty… and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to Me; hear Me, that your soul may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3a) Notice how God’s invitation calls for His people to “buy without money” food that satisfies: wine, milk, bread… the richest of fare… and God relates these to “Listen, listen to Me… and your soul will delight in the richest of fare… Give ear and come to Me; hear Me, that your soul may live.”

And in today’s Gospel, Jesus graphically demonstrated this promise as He fed and satisfied over 5,000 people with more than just a meal of bread and fish. MAY THE HOLY SPIRIT WORK IN OUR EARS AND HEARTS THAT WE TOO MIGHT RECEIVE THE “FOOD THAT SATISFIES” through the preaching, reading, study and hearing of God’s Word; and the Sacrament of Jesus, “the Bread of Life” – in The Lord’s Supper.

Like so many people today, the people in Jesus’ day were deceived into “settling for a ‘snicker’s bar.'” Just before today’s Gospel reading, Jesus had gone to His hometown, Nazareth. There He “began teaching the people…” (13:54) but rather than being satisfied, “they took offense at Him;” (13:57) they only saw Him as “a hometown boy” and certainly NOT the world’s Teacher and Savior which He was! So Jesus tried to “(withdraw) by boat privately to a solitary place. But the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (v.13-14) NOTE that all day Jesus was “feeding” the people with His Word and blessings. Then, “as evening approached, the disciples came to (Jesus) and said, ‘This is a remote place and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.'” (Matthew 14:15-16)

The disciples KNEW that they couldn’t possibly satisfy all of them – not even with 5,000 Snickers’ bars! The disciples had already taken “inventory” saying to Jesus, “‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.’ ‘Bring them here to Me,’ Jesus said. And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. (indicating that Jesus was going to feed them!). Matthew simply records: “Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven, Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate AND WERE SATISFIED, and the disciples picked up 12 (large) basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (v.18-20) JESUS HAD BEEN “FEEDING” THE PEOPLE THROUGH HIS WORD AND MINISTRY OF HEALING; NOW HE “SATISFIED” THEM WITH BREAD AND FISH FOR THEIR STOMACHS; in fact, thee were 12 baskets full (one for each of the disciples?)!

What an “object lesson!” Without Jesus, never enough / but with Jesus, more than enough! Jesus said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” And having said this, JESUS PROVIDED THE FOOD THAT SATISFIES THROUGH HIS DISCIPLES. The command is the same today: Jesus also says to us: “You give the ‘hungry world’ something to eat” – “As you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… and teaching them.”

Remember when Jesus, tempted by the devil in the wilderness to turn the stones into bread, said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Remember how Jesus proclaimed, “I Am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty… I Am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This Bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:35, 51) The FOOD THAT SATISFIES is GOD’S WORD AND SACRAMENTS – the MEANS OF GRACE.

Each day of our lives, Jesus invites us to “The Banquet of God’s grace” – “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; (Baptism) and you who have no money (a good description of all of us sinners), come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost (bread and wine of Communion). Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, (Jesus, the Bread of Life) and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Give ear and come to Me; hear Me, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:1-3) In the Communion hymn we sing: “The Feast is ready, come to the feast” – but too many Christians settle for the ‘snickers’ of this world – missing out on “the Banquet of God’s Word and Sacraments” for the pleasures of this world (sinful pride, pleasures, ungodly profit). NO WONDER they are SPIRITUALLY STARVING and living lives that are less than “satisfying!”

Thanks be to God that He gives “the food that satisfies” in great abundance!

  • Every day in Bible reading, devotions and prayer He seeks to “feed us;”
  • Every weekend in worship services, Sunday School and Bible Classes;
  • The Lord’s Supper offered every weekend!
  • Our Christian Day School and Catechism instructions, etc. (beginning again SOON).

Jesus says: “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Thanks be to God for the opportunities to do this through our church’s ministry; our Concordia Universities and Seminaries; the missionaries and missions; the work of our District and Synod.HOW IS YOUR APPETITE FOR GOD’S WORD AND SACRAMENTS? We know that a lack of appetite is a sign that something is wrong with our bodies – EVEN MORE SO, with our spiritual lives! Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

See you in church this next weekend!

Pastor Myers

Sermon Audio

“It’s Just Not Fair!” (Matthew 13: 24-30 and 36-43)

At one time or another, most people have uttered the words, “It’s Just Not Fair!” On the job, other workers seem to get the assignments, recognition and promotions we had hoped would be ours! At school, other students seem to be the “teacher’s pet;” they have easier teachers, professors, homework and tests! At home it seems, to us at least, that we are working harder, doing more, and putting more into the relationship than our spouse is! And in all of these circumstances, it just doesn’t seem fair!

If you’ve ever felt this way, Jesus is talking to you in the gospel reading! He reminds us that He is in charge and that we can trust His judgment. Jesus told a parable – an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. He said that a farmer planted good seed on his land, but while everyone was sleeping at night an enemy came and planted weed seeds on the same land. Eventually, when the grain began to grow, the workers on the farm discovered the weeds and want to uproot them, but the owner wouldn’t allow them to do so because he knew that they would destroy the grain while they were trying to pull the weeds. He commanded them to wait until the harvest at which time the grain could be safely gathered in, and the weeds would be gathered and destroyed by fire.

Privately, with His disciples, Jesus explained the meaning of the parable. 1) He, Himself, is the farmer; 2) the good seed represents all true believers; 3) the field is the whole world; 4) the bad seed is all unbelievers and false-believers; 5) the enemy who sowed the bad seed is the devil; 6) the harvest is the end of the world; and 7) the harvesters are the angels whom God will send to gather all people on the last day, taking believers safely home to heaven and destroying unbelievers and false-believers by means of eternal fire.

When we look at the world around us, it may seem that “It Just Isn’t Fair” for unbelievers to enjoy so many material blessings, comforts and joys! Why doesn’t God simply “uproot” and destroy them because of their unbelief? In Matthew 5:45, Jesus reminds us that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Even when it seems that “It Just Isn’t Fair,” we are reminded it isn’t up to us to decide who is “worthy” or “unworthy” to receive the gifts God graciously gives, nor should we judge who should or should not be “uprooted.” Ultimately, the decision is God’s alone. We know, without a doubt, that on the last day God will judge perfectly – Jesus will send out His angels and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. Unbelievers and false-believers will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mt. 13: 41-42) At that same time, we and all believers in Christ will be safely gathered to be with Him forever where “in His presence there is the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:10)

In the meantime, as we wait for Him and His perfect judgment, He calls us to remember our salvation, His perfect and unchangeable love for us, and His promise “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

See you in church this next weekend!

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Snow

Sermon Audio

“The Devil Never Misses Church!” (Matthew 13:18-23)

The nursery rhyme asks: “Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Whether Mary is a good gardener or not, her honest answer must be: It depends on a number of things, not the least of which is the condition of the soil! The seed can be the best, but unless it gets into the soil it will not have a chance to grow, nor to yield a harvest of any kind!

In this well-known parable of the Sower, Jesus describes four different conditions of soil into which the seed falls. We might misunderstand this parable as talking about four different kinds of people, placing ourselves self-righteously in the “good soil” category, but all of these different conditions of soil are in each of our ears and hearts. We pray that the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts and understanding and prepare our ears to be “good soil” as we receive the “seed” of God’s Word and it grows toward an abundant harvest.

Jesus tells us: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.” And Jesus gives the meaning: “When anyone hears the Word of the Kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path.” This first condition is the unresponsive or hard heart. It can happen to any of us! This is the kind of ears that are hardened by pride, self-righteousness and the refusal to forgive; that harbors revenge and bitterness. Those of us who are life-time Christians are especially susceptible to this – thinking “I’ve heard this all before.” Or maybe it’s the judgmental attitude that this applies to someone else without taking it personally to heart. Before “the seed” of God’s life-changing Word can penetrate, take root and soften; the devil, the world and our own sinful nature quickly snatches it away before it can do it’s growing.

In this respect, take note that the devil recognizes the power and effectiveness of God’s Word! That’s why he seeks to “snatch it away.” For just as a seed can get into the smallest cracks, even in concrete, it grows, widening the crack; how much more powerful is the seed of God’s Word! It is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) This is why God encourages us to continue to “sow the seed” of His Word because it has the power to soften even the hardest heart!

And isn’t it also interesting and instructive that Jesus compares the devil to birds? Just as birds can easily be shooed away with little effort (although they come back again and again), so also the devil must flee when we resist him. God’s Word says: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7)

Jesus also tells us: “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun arose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away.” … “This is he who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately he falls away.” The “shallow growth” of mere emotionalism is scorched by the sun of opposition and disappointments in life. Without being deeply rooted in God’s Word and attached to Jesus, the True Vine, it can quickly dry up. Without being “rooted” in God’s Word, mere emotionalism is affected by the changing thoughts of others; by sickness; lay-offs, the death of a loved one, our impending death and other “rocks” in life that can quickly scorch and dry up any kind of beginning growth from the seed of God’s Word.

But again, take note, the waters of Holy Baptism and the forgiving rains of God’s Word can once again give new life to the sun-scorched plant. God provides His refreshing rain of forgiveness so that we can begin anew, with His blessings of new, healthy and stronger growth.

Jesus says: “Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them… The cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the Word and it proves unfaithful.” For most of us it’s not that we deliberately despise God’s Word, but we can become so “entangled” in our daily affairs that thoughts of God and the growth of God’s Word are “crowded out” of our mind and heart. The busyness of our lives, all the “things” and “cares” of this life can keep us so busy (always “on the go”), there’s no time to “grow” in God’s Word. It used to be that families sat down together at least once a day and ate a meal together, in which they talked with each other about what happened that day and what their plans were, and the family members could have family devotions together. But this is rare today. What a blessing each week, as God gathers us together here, as His Family of God, to take time to hear and grow through His Word and Sacraments amidst the busy pace of life!

Still other seeds fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” … “This is he who hears the Word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit…” Ah, this is why the sower sows, and what God desires for you and me, and all people! This is the very purpose of the “sowing!” The “seed” of God’s Word “falling” on good soil in our lives; watered by the blessings of Holy Baptism; fed and nourished by His Word and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; the growth showing itself in loving acts of service to God through our service to others so that “everything we do is done to the glory of God.” (Colossians 3:17).

And what a promise, as we read in today’s first reading: “As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out of My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) We pray that God will create in our ears, hearts and lives, “good soil,” and as a result of the “growth in us,” we too continue to “sow” the seed of His Word, regardless of the “conditions” we might experience. Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him listen!”

Pastor Myers

Sermon Audio

“Freedom in Christ” (Galatians 5:1,13)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.” Gal. 5:1, 13

This is the 4th of July weekend; a time we celebrate our “freedom;” we have so many freedoms living in the United States: Freedom of religion, speech, the press, to bear arms, to vote and elect our leaders. We celebrate these “freedoms” as we thank and praise God that we live in a land of “liberty and justice for all.”

Most of us are third, fourth, fifth generation citizens and it’s easy to take our freedoms for granted. But listen to the story of Eileen Ritter, the granddaughter of a first generation man from Poland – Mr. Schlutski, who operated a delicatessen in a small town:

Eileen writes: “I loved to go to Papa’s store because I knew I would always find him there. If I stopped in early on my way to school, I knew Papa and Grandma would already be busy stuffing the fragrant meat into casings in the back room of the shop. While I spent the morning studying at school, Papa swept and cleaned and ordered groceries. In the afternoon, Grandma went to her other job, cleaning at the hospital, while Papa waited on customers. And late at night I could always find Papa restocking shelves for the next day’s work.

“You must hate working all day and all night,” I told Papa one day. “You’re just a slave here in this store!”

Papa suddenly became very serious. “A slave?” he said. “No, no, it’s just the opposite. I work because I’m free. In Poland I was a slave. I started working before it was daylight. My wife and I worked hard all day long and far into the night. In Poland we were slaves.”

“But, Papa,” I said, “that’s exactly what you do here!”

“It looks the same,” Papa explained, “but here we work because we’re free. In Poland, no matter how hard we worked, the government owned the shop, and our work made no difference. We could not raise our children the way we wanted; we could not worship in our own church. But here we have worked and saved our earnings. We bought our own store, which we manage as we please. Our sons attended college and found good jobs. And we close the store on Sundays and go to church together.”

Mr. Schlutski felt like a “slave” working in Poland because he was under the “yoke” of an oppressive government. He rejoiced in being “free” because he was serving others in love – not political oppression / not fear and obligation.

But freedom can be abused. There is a vast difference between “freedom” and “license” (do as you please, whenever and wherever: “indulge in the sinful nature.”) Independence Day did not happen in the Garden of Eden – rather just the opposite! When Adam and Eve declared their “freedom” – they were enslaved to sin, shame, guilt, death and brokenness between God and each other!

All of us, when caught up in self-indulgences / favorite sins / maybe even addictions, are “enslaved” and need to be “freed.” One of the best-known of Jesus’ parables, the Prodigal Son is a good example of “license” rather than “freedom:” the son wanted to be free FROM his dad; but in his selfish independence he found out that he was NOT free at all; not until he returned in humble repentance to his loving father was he really “free.” The prodigal son had “misused his freedom to indulge the sinful nature” and had found how “enslaved” he was. It was finally in humble, loving service IN HIS FATHER’S HOUSE that he found true freedom.

True freedom is ours ONLY THROUGH a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus is telling His disciples (and us) as He invites: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened (enslaved), and I will give you rest (freedom). Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

All of us were born into this world with an impossible yoke – the yoke of original sin / inherited at conception. And to this unbearable burden is added the actual sins that we do – piling on the weight so that there is no possible way that we can bear the yoke. The “yoke of legalism” often is added by others. Those who say “you must do this or that” in order to be saved, prescribing prayers to be said, etc., only add to the already overwhelming burden of sin and guilt and shame.

Do you feel the terrible weight of the “slavery” of your sins? Today, Jesus comes and invites: “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (real freedom!). Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (v.28-30)

Jesus’ yoke is so very different: First of all, Jesus takes away our yoke of sin, totally removing it, “as far as the East is from the West.” (Psalm 103:12) Jesus ALSO takes away the yoke of legalism: having to keep the Law in order to be saved. He DID this by His perfect life of total obedience to His heavenly Father; His willing suffering and death on the cross – and IN EXCHANGE, gives to us HIS YOKE OF REST.

Jesus assures us: “My yoke is easy” / “My burden is light.” The “burden” that Christians now bear are the GOSPEL commands such as:
– Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
– Grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
– Pray at all times.
– Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
– Take eat, take drink this is My body and blood given and shed for you!
– In freedom – serve one another in love.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and … do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.” Gal. 5:1, 13

See you in church next weekend!

Pastor Myers

Sermon Audio

“What Do You Expect?” (Matthew 10:34)

Jesus says: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Regardless of what the commercials say (the “easy” button) – It is not easy – we know that right? But we want it to be easy; we expect it to be easy – but it isn’t!

It’s not always easy in family situations; marriage; at work; with health issues; and certainly the “to do” list that we continue putting off!

Every time we gather together for worship we come with a variety of “not easy” situations and issues. So when we come to worship, what do we expect? / What CAN we expect?
– We can expect “divine power and direction” from God’s Word;
– We can expect “divine strength” from the forgiveness of sins, the reminder of your baptism and receiving Jesus’ true body and blood for the strengthening of your faith and daily life;
– We can expect “the peace of God that passes all understanding through Jesus Christ.”
Peace with God is what Jesus’ coming and God’s Word is all about. At Jesus’ birth the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14) This is in fulfillment of God’s promise through Isaiah, “He shall be called… Prince of Peace… the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 9:6; 53:5) The New Testament apostle Paul, writes in Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So, what does Jesus mean today as He speaks to His 12 disciples and to us: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” and “anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34, 38-39)

Jesus is telling us plainly “Don’t expect it to be easy!” Rather, Jesus is teaching His disciples (and us) that because of the natural condition of sinful, hardened hearts and lives; because we live in a fallen world; when we live, act and speak as a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, expect to be swimming against the stream.” There may be divisions (even in families!) because of unwavering faith in Jesus Christ / there may be suffering: financial, social, personal loss and even death because of unwillingness to compromise the truth of Jesus (“take up your cross” “lose your life” in this temporary world but “keep eternal life” with Jesus.)

Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” – because the saving relationship with Jesus means a radical exclusive change – in direct opposition to the world and popular opinion. For some of us this conflict because of our faith in Jesus is minor – and we thank God for this! But for some, especially unbelieving spouses or rebellious children, it is a “battle;” and particularly in Muslim and totalitarian countries, where confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, living as a Christian means being shunned by your family and may even mean imprisonment and death!

Now, please also note, this “sword” Jesus speaks about is NOT the Crusader’s sword (Muslim vs. Christian / ethnic cleansing) still happening in our world today – rather it is the powerful “Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) – that converts / changes / gives life. It is the Word of God that changes lives, that works “new life.”

So we are presented with a choice and a challenge. Our natural reaction might be: If standing up for my faith in Jesus and the truth of His Word is going to invite trouble, why not draw back and remain quiet? (“Look out for yourself, protect yourself, avoid trouble.”) Jesus knows this and clearly says: “Anyone who loves father or mother (son or daughter) more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Standing up for Jesus is more important that sitting down to a peaceful dinner with the family. Jesus wants us to know the reality / what we can expect when we live as His sons and daughters; it may mean the loss of “social peace” / uncomfortable situations with people close to us.

Now, it’s clear that we try to avoid antagonizing anyone, especially our family. Rather, as God’s Word tells us: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:16-18) But as we do everything possible to “live at peace with everyone” we never compromise Jesus and His Word.

In fact, Christians need to be more loving, more patient, more accepting of non-Christian family members, co-workers and friends than we may otherwise be, since the love we receive from Christ enables us to display Christ-like love, whether or not it is returned. At times God will use such a loving, uncompromising witness as part of His way of bringing unbelievers to faith; they may be “won to Christ without words.” (1 Peter 3:1-2). Other times, God will use the loving, gentle, inviting and uncompromising words of the faithful Christian pointing to Jesus and His love, forgiveness and daily blessings!

What Do You Expect? Jesus’ love, direction and blessings as we remain faithful in His Word and Sacraments.

See you next weekend for more of God’s blessings through Jesus and His Word!

Pastor Myers

Sermon Audio

“So, Who Will You Serve?” (Romans 6: 18-23)

In our text, the Apostle Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome. Like us, they had received the Holy Spirit and by His power they too received all the blessings which Christ earned for us on the cross – forgiveness, mercy, grace and eternal life. They had formerly lived in ungodly ways and now he was reminding them “Who they were; Whose they were; to Whom they belonged; and How they ought to live in order to glorify God!”

He wrote, “If we have been united with Him [Christ Jesus] in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection… Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” (Romans 6: 5, 8)

Their former way of life included immorality of every sort, debauchery and hedonism (seeking after pleasure “whatever the cost”). But now he urged them as disciples of Christ, followers of the Savior, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6: 12-13)

For us this might mean not letting our minds, eyes, mouths, hands, feet and “private parts” lead us into sin. Our minds, ruled by sin, could lead us to dwell on greed, anger, revenge and hatred. But God’s Word calls us to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2) Our “unchecked eyes” could tempt us to lust and pornography, but guided by God we can instead, “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) One of the most difficult of the body parts to tame is the tongue! From our mouths (with our tongues) come gossip, foul language and hurtful comments. Under the inspiration of God, Paul urges us saying, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4: 29) And further, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 10-11) By the grace of God, this will be our response and that of all creation. Finally, our sinful feet may lead us into those places that we should not be; our hands tempt us to take or to strike; our private parts invite us to fornication and adultery, while God urges us to “flee sexual immorality. Your bodies are members of Christ, Himself… You were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6: 15, 20)

By the grace of God, earned by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, in our place on the cross, we are no longer ruled by the law or crushed under the weight of our own sin, rather, we are free. “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” (Romans 6: 15) Of course not! We are called as disciples of Christ, empowered by His Word and filled by His Spirit, to offer ourselves fully and completely into the service of our Savior. We will either be servants to sin, which leads to shame and death, or servants to righteousness which leads to holiness and eternal life. Paul reminds us, “the wages [full and deserved payment] of sin is death, but the gift of God [free and undeserved] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6: 23)

“So, Who Will You Serve?”   “Choose for yourselves this day… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24: 15)

See you in church this next weekend!

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Snow

Sermon Audio

“Man Up! Oh Men of God” (Matthew 9: 18-19, 23-26)

Only a month ago, on Mothers’ Day, we celebrated the blessing of God’s love to us through our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers! It’s fitting that today we also give thanks for kind, strong, good and godly fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers! What an awesome privilege and responsibility it is for men of God to follow biblical examples as they fulfill their vocations as husbands and fathers by providing for, protecting, leading and loving their families.

In today’s gospel reading we meet a father who is just such a man. Matthew tells us (and the gospel writers Mark and Luke also) that Jesus had just crossed over the Sea of Galilee and “came to His own town” where He was met by large crowds. Among them was a loving father with great faith and hope. Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus, pleading with Jesus to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve was dead. (Luke 8: 41) This loving, earthly father begged, “‘My daughter has just died. But come and put Your hand on her, and she will live.’ Jesus got up and went with Him, and so did His disciples.” (Matthew 9: 18-19) Along the way He was “interrupted” by others for whom He performed miracles, including healing a woman who had been seriously ill for a dozen years!

Messengers from Jairus’ own house tried to dissuade Jairus from “bothering the Teacher anymore [but] hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:50)

When Jesus arrived at the home, He found a noisy crowd of loud mourners who were weeping, wailing and playing flutes. “He said, ‘Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at Him. After the crowd had been put outside, He went in [with her parents, Peter, James and John] and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.” (Matthew 9: 24-25) In order to demonstrate that she really and physically was alive, at Jesus’ command, they even gave her something to eat.

Jesus’ compassionate miracle, performed in response to the request of a loving earthly father, demonstrates the love of our Heavenly Father for all His children – including you and me. Men, He continues to love you and forgives your failures, shortcomings and sin as husbands and fathers. Jesus’ death and resurrection for all of us – men, women, boys and girls – brings us the Father’s forgiveness and the promise of eternal life with Him and all those who believe in Him!

Men of Faith, be the men who God calls you to be… kind, strong, good and godly fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers! What an awesome privilege and responsibility it is for men of God to fulfill our vocations as husbands and fathers by providing for, protecting, leading and loving their families. Our greatest privilege, responsibility and joy is bringing our families and loved ones to Jesus and Him to them! God bless you to that end as you “Man Up! Oh Men of God.”

See you in church this next weekend!

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Snow

Sermon Audio

“Lord, We Need Pentecost Today!” (Acts 2: 1-21)

Before the words of our text, Luke tells us that Jesus – in Acts Chapter 1 – gave “marching orders” to His disciples by telling them to stay in Jerusalem and wait until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then they would become His powerful “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8) He knew that after His ascension, they would feel abandoned/orphaned so He promised to send them One who would “stand beside them always” (the Paraclete). When the Holy Spirit came to them, He would bring to their remembrance everything Jesus had said to them. The Holy Spirit would teach them about sin, righteousness and judgment. [The Holy Spirit helps us to identify sin in our lives and in the world. He brings us the mercy, forgiveness and righteousness which Christ earned for us on the Cross. He reminds us that the devil and his evil hoard stand damned – under the eternal judgment of God – but that all who trust in the mercy and forgiveness of Christ are declared “not guilty!”]

And on that first Pentecost that’s exactly what did happen! The Holy Spirit came in the form and sound of a mighty rushing wind. He descended on the disciples, placed “tongues of fire upon the heads of Jesus’ followers” and they began to speak in languages they had never studied and didn’t know. The Holy Spirit performed a miracle so that those who had come to investigate the “loud noise” in fact heard the sweet gospel of God’s love and forgiveness proclaimed. That day, and the days that followed, saw thousands converted to the Christian faith and to responsible church membership.

How desperately we need a Pentecost today!

Many “main-line Christian denominations” have become “apathetic churches.” The Lutheran Church and many other denominations lose tens of thousands of members each year. Even growing congregations, like ours, can become apathetic and complacent! Why is it that some members quietly disengage from Holy Cross, never to return again? What is it that we do about it? Do we recognize that some believers who call themselves members of Holy Cross seldom or infrequently gather here around the Word and Sacraments to be built up and then sent out as His witnesses to the world? How do we react (or interact) with the billions of people around the world who do not know or confess Jesus Christ as their only Savior from sin, death and the power of the devil?

How desperately we need a Pentecost today! We need God to fill us – as a hand fills a glove – in order that He might use us to serve Him and those around us.

Jesus died to forgive our apathy; to empower our serving; to save us from our selfishness; and to embolden our witness!

Just like an artesian well that flows constantly with cold, pure, wonderful water – in season and out of season – God fills us to overflowing with His Holy Spirit. “Jesus said, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me… streams of living water will flow from within him.'” (John 7: 37 – 38)

May our church – Holy Cross – be a church “on fire” in the Gospel with the Spirit so that we will be His witnesses in Wichita, in our state, country and across the world!

See you in church this next weekend!

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Snow

Sermon Audio

“Up, Up, But Not Away” (Acts 1:8-11)

I know it’s been quite a few years ago, but do any of you remember the song: “Up, Up and Away in my Beautiful Balloon?” It’s not that important if you remember but it helps to explain the sermon title: “Up, Up, but NOT away…” Although the balloon flew away – Jesus ascended so that He might be with us forever!

As I’m asking if you remember: do you remember the name of the first man in space? It was over 53 years ago!—back in April 1961, when Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was sent into space. The next month, the American Astronaut Alan Shephard also went into space; John Glenn (1962) might also come to mind; and Neil Armstrong who walked on the moon (July 1969). You could possibly name many more men and women, but actually it is a trick question because it is not really about cosmonauts or astronauts. The question, “What is the name of the first man in space?,” was originally asked by a soldier in an army barracks one evening as the discussion turned to outer space. After the soldier let his buddies recall a number of names, he got out his Bible and read Acts 1:9 “After Jesus said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.” The soldier used this creative way to witness to his buddies about his faith in his crucified, risen and ascended Savior, Jesus.

Now, Jesus’ ascension was much different. Jesus did not get “thrust into space” with some rocket boosters; He did not wear a protective space suit; and “mission control” was not in Houston or Cape Canaveral. The benefits and results of Jesus’ ascension are also so much greater than any space program ever was or ever will be! God’s Word tells us, and we confess, that through Jesus’ ascension, His Kingdom continues to grow, as a) we learn the truth about the Kingdom of God; b) as we are empowered to be witnesses in that Kingdom; and c) as we look forward to Jesus’ “return,” His second coming to take us to the home He has prepared for us in heaven!

During the 40 days between Easter and the Ascension, Jesus “showed Himself to (His followers) and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive… and spoke about the Kingdom of God.” (v.3) Jesus’ physical presence was very comforting and assuring to His followers that He really DID rise from the dead. But as long as Jesus was physically present, His followers would not understand the truth about “the Kingdom of God.” They were still hoping for THEIR idea of an earthly kingdom. This is quite apparent when they asked Jesus, “‘Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ (Jesus) said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of theearth.'” (Acts 1:6-8)

In spite of the many hours of instruction Jesus had spent with His disciples, they were still thinking in earthly terms concerning the Kingdom of God even though Jesus had clearly taught, “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

By Jesus’ bodily ascension into heaven in the sight of His followers, Jesus helped them (and us) to see that His Kingdom is within us and comes into existence as, through His forgiveness, He frees us from our sins and the guilt of sin; through His Word and His rich blessings of the Sacraments: Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, He empowers us to live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.

Just before His ascension, Jesus promised, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (v.8) I would guess that this would have “caught” some of the disciples by surprise:

  • not the part that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit would be given – Jesus had been saying that for some time already. (Although the disciples showed they didn’t understand!)
  • not that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem (at home) and in all Judea (their neighborhoods and culture) – that was “home” and amongst family and friends to them.
  • BUT in Samaria??? and to the ends of the earth??? Didn’t Jesus know that the Samaritans and the Jews didn’t get along together! (Of course He did–that was the “hook” in Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan when the lawyer wanted to “justify himself.”) The Jews and Samaritans DIDN’T AGREE! In fact, they went out of their way to AVOID each other!
  • Jesus says we WILL be His witnesses also to those who we don’t think will agree with us! Yes, and “witnesses” to other cultures, other languages; to the ends of the earth!

A pastor was visiting with a factory worker when the pastor asked, “Are you a Christian?” “Yes,” the man replied, “I consider myself to be a Christian.” “Are you bringing others to Christ and His Church?” the pastor continued to ask. “No, sir, I am not,” came the reply, “that is not my business, it’s yours. You are called to preach.” The pastor opened his Bible to Acts 8:4 and invited, “Will you please read what God’s Word says?” The factory worker read, “Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.” “Yes, but those were the apostles,” the man objected. “Please also read the first verse,” the pastor invited. The Christian factory worker read, “all except the apostles were scattered.”

Jesus’ ascension reminds us that our reason for life on this earth is: “As we go, make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching them…” (Matthew 28:19) Not everyone is called to be a pastor, but ALL in the Kingdom of God receive power to be Christ’s witnesses, first (and foremost!) to our families, then to our friends and neighbors, also to those who don’t agree with us; and through our mission offerings and prayers, our witness reaches throughout Kansas and into the whole world.

And just like the cosmonauts and astronauts, as well as the rockets and satellites that we send up into space come “back down,” so also, as Jesus’ followers “were looking intently up into the sky as (Jesus) was going… suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand there looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.'” (v. 10-11)

Jesus hasn’t taken us to our heavenly home (yet) – He still has some “witness work” for us to do. Again today He assures us: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (as God “empowers” us through His Word and Sacraments) and you WILL be My witnesses…” not “pastors” but “witnesses” sharing God’s Word personally, supporting mission opportunities like those on the mission trip to Zacapa, Guatemala this week – this Summer and all year – as we are His witnesses through the ministry of our Lutheran school.

One day soon, all of us with true faith in Jesus will be “taken up” to join Jesus in the “heavenly kingdom.” But for now, we have important work – “witness work” – in our homes (“Jerusalem”), to our neighbors and friends (“Judea”), to those who don’t agree with us (“Samaria”), and through prayers and mission offerings, “to the ends of the earth.” Yes, Jesus went “Up, Up but NOT away!” As Jesus taught us, we regularly pray: THY KINGDOM COME in me, O Jesus, THY KINGDOM COME through me, O Risen and Ascended Lord!

See you in church this weekend!

Pastor Myers

Sermon Summary