November’ 25 & 26, 2017
2 Corinthians 1:19-20 “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you … was not “yes” and “no” but in Him it has always been “yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ. And so through Him the Amen is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
Amen – It’s dangerous to begin a sermon with the word “amen”… it’s almost always the end: of a prayer, the Creed, sermon, the Benediction! We say “amen” all the time, we teach it to our children; but do we even think about what it means and why we say it? Many times don’t we treat “amen” sort of like a punctuation mark? We say our prayers; then say “amen,” and it just means “O.K. — the prayer’s over / time to eat, time to crawl in bed / the sermon is done / the church service is almost over…” But “amen” means a whole lot more than that!
In Jesus, God says His “yes” and “amen” to us through His promises; and in Jesus, we say our ‘yes and amen’ back to God in our worship and in all of our lives.
Ending a prayer with Amen is an act of faith. It means we believe what was said; we acknowledge that God’s truth must stand, and God’s will is most assuredly done. In public worship the Amen is regularly spoken by the congregation. For example, whenever the pastor prays a prayer on behalf of the congregation, the response of the people is Amen. The same is true of various points in the service where the pastor speaks words of blessing from God. Following the words of absolution, the congregation’s Amen indicates that these words of forgiveness spoken by the pastor are not mere words, but words of power and life. To say Amen means “Yes, this is true.” God’s gift is received.
A similar use of the Amen is our response to the Invocation, the Benediction and especially after the dismissal from communion. What could be a more powerful witness to our belief in the real presence of Christ’s body and blood through which he distributes forgiveness and life than for the communicants to respond with a hearty Amen following the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood? What else can be said as the pastor sends us off with such comforting and encouraging words: The body and blood of our Lord strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the true faith to life everlasting. Go in peace. Amen is the only word that will do.
Are you living in the fullest enjoyment of God’s YES to you in Christ Jesus? Is there any of God’s YES to you to which you are saying NO or MAYBE or NOT NOW? [Faithful and regular in Bible reading, prayers and devotions? Faithful and regular in worship and group Bible Study? Faithful and regular in the use of our time, abilities and resources?] Let our consecration to God at the end of another church year be this: the renewal of my YES to you, O God. I consecrate myself to forsake the NO and the MAYBE and the NOT NOW of my unbelief. And I say YES to everything in your YES to me.
Jesus spoke the “Amen” often at the beginning of His teachings: “Amen, Amen, (NIV “I tell you the truth”) heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:34-35) Jesus was talking to Nicodemus: “Amen, amen, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” [78 times in Matthew – John and 25+ more times in the rest of the New Testament!] We must be careful not to lose the passion in God’s heart as He tries to get our attention. God wants us to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we must turn away from sin, and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.
In Jesus, God says His “yes” and “amen” to us through His promises; and in Jesus, we say our ‘yes and amen’ back to God in our worship and in all of our lives.
Perhaps the most powerful use of the word amen in all of Scripture is in Revelation 3, where our Lord is given the name and title of “Amen.” John shares the divine message: “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.’ ” Jesus is the beginning and the end, to Him belong our praise and our Amens. And so John also writes: Revelation 22:20-21 “He who testifies to these things [namely, Christ] says, “Yes [= Amen], I am coming quickly,” to which John (and we, believers) respond to Jesus’ “Yes” with our bold: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. (And all God’s people say…) Amen.”
See you this weekend as we begin the New Church Year of Advent, and as we welcome our brothers and sisters from Divine Savior Lutheran, Zacapa, Guatemala.
“Ready or Not…” – Matthew 25:13
November 11 & 12, 2017
Do you remember playing Hide and Seek? One of our rules in playing this game was that the person who was “it” had to hide his eyes and count to 50 while the others scattered to find a place to hide. Upon reaching the number 50, the person who was “it” had to shout out in a loud voice, “Ready or not, here I come!” Then, the person who was “it” tried to find those who had hidden and try to tag them before they could run and touch the place where the person who was “it” had been counting. Those who delayed and were not ready, were caught immediately.
I remember many arguments resulting from this game; some saying that the person who was “it” hadn’t counted all the way to 50; others that “it wasn’t fair” because someone had taken their hiding place, or the person who was “it” had peeked; or some other excuse for not being ready. But no matter what excuse was used, “ready or not” the person was caught!
The Bible never mentions if Jesus ever played “hide and seek.” Yet Jesus uses a somewhat similar example that WAS familiar to His disciples and the people of His day. Jesus said, “At that time (talking about the end of the world), the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1)
Because of the stony ground and dry dust of Jesus’ day, the highlight of the day for women of Jesus’ day was the daily trip to get water from the well! (no TV, radio, cd players, cell phones, computers, automobiles, shopping malls, etc.) Therefore, a wedding was an event that not only broke the monotony, but was always greatly anticipated for the celebrating and feasting that went on for days!
To make these events more exciting, there were certain “challenges.” The high point and start of the wedding was the coming of the bridegroom. The challenge was that the bridegroom would try to sneak up on the wedding party and try to catch them unawares. If he was successful, those who were not ready would be the brunt of the joke, and would be the talk of the town for years afterwards! But the “challenge” was understood that the bridegroom had to come within a certain period of time, and someone had to run ahead of him to announce his coming. The unmarried women (virgins) were to meet the bridegroom and light his way to the festivities. If they were ready when the bridegroom came, they could come in. If they were not ready, the door was closed and they would be caught outside, not only missing the excitement of the party, but also being the victims of the practical joke, suffering doubly from the exclusion!
I remember that being caught in the game of “hide and seek” was bad. For the people in Jesus’ day, being left out of the wedding festivities was even worse! But in this parable, Jesus is NOT talking about any “child’s play” or “social embarrassment,” He is speaking to us about spending eternity either in heaven or hell! He tells this parable to warn us that we MUST BE READY when He comes again on the Last Day. If we are not, it will be too late, the door will be shut and we will be eternally excluded from heaven!
Just as in my childhood games of hide and seek, there are those who make excuses. Inevitably, there is someone who blames the bridegroom for the reason that the five foolish virgins were not ready. They say that if the bridegroom had not delayed, none of the virgins would’ve run short on the oil. But these people miss the very purpose why Jesus told this parable.
Unlike the bridegrooms of Jesus’ day who tried to fool those who were waiting for him; Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom does exactly the opposite. He provides all that we need to be ready and to remain ready for His coming. Throughout the entire history of time, as recorded for us in the Bible we have the continual crying out, “Get ready, He’s coming!” (whether for Jesus’ first coming, announced over 400 times by all the OT prophets; or the message, “He’s coming back, He’s coming soon!” of all the NT apostles and evangelists.) And Jesus, the Bridegroom continues to bless His Church with committed lay members, as well as pastors, teachers, DCE’s, deaconesses and other professional church workers to keep up the cry, “Be Ready, Jesus is Coming!”
The point of the parable is the utter foolishness of not being ready! Note that Jesus says: “The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.” (v.3-4) (Like carrying your uncharged cell phone, or flashlight with no batteries; or try to drive a car with no gas! – totally foolish!)
We come to worship each week to hear God’s precious Word and receive God’s generous supply of “oil;” always ready for Jesus, the “Bridegroom’s” return. We have God’s Word available to us daily in devotions and prayer. We have Bible studies in which to be filled with the “oil” of Jesus. Jesus has delayed His coming to give time for more to become “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Just as we are assured in Scripture that God waited for just the right time to send His only Son, Jesus, so also He is waiting for just the right time for Jesus’ second coming. Will it be today? Are you ready? Are your family members and friends ready?
Ready or not, He’s coming! As we pray in the 2nd petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come, we confess that God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. Therefore, “ready and waiting” we join the Apostle John, as he concludes the book of Revelation: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelations 22:20)
What a joy and blessing to anticipate worshiping with you and being “filled up” with God’s Word in devotions and Bible Classes again this coming week and weekend. Jesus supplies plenty of “oil” – Do you have the oil for your lamp?
“Christ the King”
Grace, Mercy & Peace be multiplied to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am John Tape, a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and a member here at Holy Cross. I serve as the director of the Lutheran Student Center. We recently started the best coffee shop in town as a new outreach to the WSU students. So if you want a delicious cup of coffee, a sandwich or a salad, stop in at the Fairmount Coffee Co that is part of the Lutheran Student Center on 17th Street.
Occasionally I get to preach here at Holy Cross, when both of our pastors have to be gone. Today is such a day.
I would like to focus on our attention on our Old Testament lesson for today which tells us about a very special king—King Cyrus. We are going to look at kings today and take a special look at the greatest King of all—our Lord Jesus, the King of Kings. But before we get into that, let’s look briefly at a few other kings.
Here are some trivia questions for you about different kings. We’ll see how well you do. If you know the answer to any of these questions, you can just shout it out:
- In the 40’s who was the King of Swing? Benny Goodman
- In the late 50’s and throughout the 60’s, who was the King of Rock & Roll? Elvis Presley
- In 1964 who was King of the Road? Roger Miller
- In the 80’s who was King of Pop? Michel Jackson
- From 1998 to 2007, on CBS, who was King of Queens? Kevin James as Doug Heffernan
- And last and certainly least, if you are into cartoon sitcoms who is King of the Hill? Hank Hill of Arlen, Texas—salesman of propane and propane accessories.
(Those probably aren’t the kings you thought I was going to ask you about, are they?)
The rising and reigning of those kings was not prophesied ahead of time by anyone—unlike King Cyrus in our text.
In Isaiah 45:1-2 we read:
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron.
The fascinating thing about this passage is that it was written 200 years before Cyrus! Calling Cyrus by name, Isaiah is saying God will choose this one special man to be king. God will raise this man, give him the reigns of the kingdom. And he will do God’s will. Two hundred years after Isaiah wrote these words, a man by the name of Cyrus did indeed become king and guess what he did? He wrote a decree saying that all the Israelites in Babylonian captivity could return him to Jerusalem.
Isaiah’s prophecy came true, because it was a promise from God and God always keeps His word. This passage shows us that God is trustworthy, but it also shows us more than that. For this prophecy, the kingship, and the deliverance from slavery, all point us to a greater king whose coming was also foretold, one who would deliver His people from sin, death and the power of Satan. This was the greater king Isaiah was writing about in Isaiah 9:6-7:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.
So when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary she was going to have a baby he said to her,
And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)
But there was a problem here. Jesus never seemed like much of a king did he? And the cross certainly wasn’t much of a throne. Throughout history God’s people have struggled with this notion of kingship and who should reign as the supreme ruler over their lives. There are many kings who seek to dethrone Jesus and reign over His people. What king you have reigning in your life makes a big difference now, and for eternity. When the ancient Israelites first came to the Promised Land they had no king. God ruled directly over them. They had a series of leaders called Judges such as Deborah, Gideon, Samson and Samuel. And this made them different from everyone else. All the other nations had kings. And Israel did not like being different. So they complained to Samuel. Listen to a portion of 1 Samuel 8, starting with verse 4:
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel …. They said to him, ….. Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses . . . He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks . . . . He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves . . . He will take a tenth of your grain . . . . Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. . . . . But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations.”
Do you see how good the Israelites had it, and what they wanted instead? God was their king. He was ruling over them in kindness and mercy. He was generously providing for all their needs. He had freed them from Egyptian bondage and brought them into the Promised Land, given them victory over their enemies. But what did the Israelites want? They didn’t want the Lord for their king. They didn’t want all He had to give them. They wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted another king to rule over them.
The Lord warned them. “A different king will take your sons, and take your daughters, and take your fields and take your servants and take your cattle and eventually take your freedom and make you slaves”. “We don’t care,” they said, “This is what we want. We want to be like everybody else.” So the Lord reluctantly gave them the king they wanted in King Saul. And he did exactly what the Lord said he would do. And their life became miserable.
Isn’t that the way it is with us today? We are not so different from the ancient Israelites. We have the Prince of Peace reigning over us—the Lord of Lords—the King of Kings. He who loves us so much that He gave up His own life for us on the cross, now lives and reigns to all eternity to supply our every need.
But like the Israelites we are often tempted to turn our back on our reigning Lord. Because we want to be like everyone else. We get so tired of not fitting in. We are often worn down with the accusations people make.
- We are accused of being narrow minded when we say the Bible is the inspired word of God.
- We are accused of being politically incorrect when we say Hell and eternal damnation are real.
- We are accused of being old fashion when we say Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Such accusations hurt. They cut deeply down to our souls and may even cause us to question our faith. Then we are tempted to find another King to reign over our life.
- Perhaps the King of popular opinion.
- Or the King of Self and personal desires.
- Maybe it is the King of material wealth and earthly possessions.
But remember what Samuel said about other kings—remember what they do. They don’t give. They take your sons and daughters and fields. They take and they take and they take. And they eventually turn you into their slaves.
- So many people today search for wisdom and they go to The king of popular opinion. But he will not give you wisdom—the king of popular opinion will only rob you of God’s eternal truth
- So many people today want freedom and they go to the King of Self and personal desires. But he will not give you freedom—the king of Self and personal desires will only make you a slave to your passions.
- So many people today want happiness, so they turn to the King of material wealth and earthly possession. But he will not give you happiness—the King of wealth and material possessions will rob you of your tender heart, your generosity and your love for others.
These false Kings all use a bait and switch tactic. They promise you wonderful things. They claim they will give you, life and peace and wealth and happiness and all kinds of good and glamorous things.
But then, after you let such a King rule in your life for a while the time comes when you eventually discover—wait a minute this is not what I expected at all. This is completely different. But by then you are firmly in it clutches.
It is like taking cocaine. I assure you that I am not speaking from personal experience. But I read an article that explained; when a person first uses cocaine they fell absolutely wonderful. It’s a feeling they want to have again and again. But each time they take it and every time they feel wonderful the drug is secretly doing damage to their brain. Eventually the user realizes wait a minute my life is in the pits. Because of my drug use, I have lost my money, my job, and my family. My life is in an uncontrollable downward spiral. But by that point they are firmly addicted and all they can think about is getting high again to keep their mind off all they have lost.
This is what the other kings are like. They promise you the world, but they lie. They give you nothing; rather, they take and they take and they take and eventually make you their slave.
There is only one King who gives and gives and gives. In fact He gave until it killed him when he gave his very life for you on Calvary’s cross. And because He is risen from the dead, He still reigns today to continue to give countless blessings to all who believe in Him and live in his kingdom.
- He gives light to those in darkness saying, “I am the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
- He gives rest to all who labor and are heaven laden saying, “Come unto Me and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
- He gives forgiveness to all sinners saying, “Be of good cheer your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)
- He gives eternal life to all who die, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25)
- He gives courage to those who fear the uncertainties of life saying, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
- He gives peace to those whose life is in turmoil saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27)
- He gives direction to all who are lost saying, “Come, follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)
That’s the kind of King we have in Jesus—One who gives and gives and gives. May He alone reign in our hearts and lives, now and forever. Amen
Pastor John Tape
“Come to the Feast”
Matthew 22:4, 14
October 14 & 15, 2017
“ Everything is ready (the Feast is ready); Come to the feast!
Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:4, 14
Since Jesus died for all people, why are not all people saved? Jesus gives us the answer in this parable about “The kingdom of heaven.”
There is something special about being invited to a birthday celebration, a wedding reception dinner or some special meal. God has made us in a special way that eating together helps us to celebrate! Therefore, as Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of heaven, He says, it is like “a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” (Matthew 22:2)
Those who first heard Jesus’ parable knew all about wedding banquets! The common Jewish ones lasted up to 7 days, with food and drink in abundance! And whereas a common Jew might not be able to provide the best food and wine; a king would be able to provide the best of everything in great abundance! And, obviously, this is what Jesus would have us realize: the Almighty God is The King, who has prepared the Greatest of Feasts for His Son (Jesus) and in His great love and generous grace, ALL are invited!
But Jesus states the UNTHINKABLE in the parable: “those who had been invited… refused to come.” (v.3) This was TERRIBLY RUDE (at the least) and totally UNTHINKABLE considering that it was the King’s invitation that they were refusing! But what DIVINE PATIENCE is shown as the king, he repeats His gracious invitation: “everything is ready; Come to the feast!” (Matthew 22:4) “But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them!” (v.5-6)
It’s hard to believe that anyone would treat such a gracious and generous invitation in this way, isn’t it? But it continues to happen today, even among “church people!” “Many are invited” (v.14) through Baptism, Sunday School, worship, confirmation, family and friends sharing the invitation with them; “but few are chosen” because so many eliminate themselves in one way (v.3-7) or in another (v.11-13) – too many “pay no attention” / “refuse to come” as God “feeds” us with the “feast” of His Word every Sunday in worship; the Lord’s Supper; Bible Class every Sunday and throughout the week; personal devotions and prayer; etc. God’s invitation CONTINUES to be: the Feast is ready; come to the feast!” Why do so few take this LAVISH INVITATION seriously?
Maybe part of the answer is given in the 2nd part of Jesus’ parable. Jesus says, “The king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready… Go to the street corners (where the out-casts of society gather!) and invite to the banquet anyone you find… both good and bad…” (v.8-10)
IS IT POSSIBLE that some see themselves as “too good” for such an invitation? [“The church is only for weak minded people?”]
IS IT EQUALLY POSSIBLE that some see themselves as “too bad,” not “good enough?” [The devilish idea that “church is only for good people?”]
Of course, Jesus was referring to the world’s standards when He talked of both good and bad. For no one is “good” – no one is worthy to come to this Feast on their own merit (as the 3rd part of this parable clearly states – we’ll see this in a minute…)
The Gospel message in this parable is that God, the King, INVITES ALL – “the good and the bad” God’s Word clearly assures us the “God would have all to be saved and come to ‘the feast’” (1 Timothy 2:4). And the Gospel message is God’s great patience – repeating His invitation over and over again!
But we dare NEVER take advantage of God’s great patience. God’s Word warns us: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked!” (Galatians 6:7) In this parable: “The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (v.7) There is a heavy price to pay for those who continue to refuse and abuse (“make light of”) God’s gracious invitation. NOTE that The King’s invitation is SERIOUS BUSINESS!
And Jesus PERSONALIZES this parable for you and for me in this 3rd part of the parable: “when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.” (v.11) These “good and bad” guests of the king were NOT ONLY freely invited, but also FULLY PROVIDED with the finest of “wedding clothes.” It was sheer stubbornness that the man refused to wear what was freely provided for him! That was why he was “speechless” – the man had NO excuse, except for His stubbornness! And so “the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (v.13) – a description of hell – the opposite of the Kingdom of heaven!
We MUST have a change of “clothes” – God’s Word clearly tells us that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:4) We can NOT come into God’s presence (the Kingdom of heaven) on our own. Therefore, what Good news that God freely provides us with the “garment of His grace;” as His Word tells us in Isaiah 61 “I delight greatly in the Lord… for He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” (v.10)
Jesus begins His parable with the grace of God’s ALL INCLUSIVE invitation, “Everything is ready, come to the feast!” But He ends this parable with the GRAVE WARNING: “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” It is NEVER God’s fault that few are chosen – just like it was CERTAINLY NOT the king’s fault in the parable when some refused the invitation as well as the wedding garment. Rather, as Jesus said as He wept over Jerusalem: “How often would I have gathered you together… but you would not!” (Matthew 23:37) Jesus invites ALL, but many a) “refuse to come;” b) “pay no attention” but “go off to their fields and business” – so caught up in the busyness of doing the things of this world; and still others c) refuse Christ’s robe of righteousness (the forgiveness of sins) thinking they can do it “their way.”
Thank God, if you regularly “feast” on God’s Word and receive His Sacraments. Continue to live in His wonderful blessings. For the “many others” who are not yet in the Kingdom – not yet coming into the Kingdom, we have the privilege of sharing God’s invitation: “The Feast is ready, come to the feast. The good and the bad, come and be glad! Greatest and least come to the feast!”
Looking forward to continuing to “feast” with you this week and this next weekend as we gather together for worship and Bible Study.