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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Aug 21, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

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

The text for our meditation today is the Epistle Lesson for this 14th Sunday After Pentecost, Hebrews 12:4-24. You have that text before you and I will read it for you now.

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned." Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear." But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

Dear Christian friends, I thought about asking everyone to stand up who feels tired or worn out. As I thought about doing that, it suddenly seemed like a bad idea for two reasons: first, probably very few people would remain seated and second, tired people usually prefer to sit.

Some of you are physically tired. Your hours are long, or worse, there are no hours because you job doesn't allow you to punch a timecard and walk away. You put your back into your job and some of you do it for more than one job. Some of you have more on your plate than you would like.

Some of you feel emotionally drained. You have something in your life that keeps on sucking the life out of you. Respite is rare. Grief, loneliness, fear, stress: it is a physical toll on you.

A few of you younger Christians among us might feel tired of being treated like a child; tired of parents who refuse to understand; tired of the absurdity and the stupidity they see played out every day by schoolmates and friends; tired of waiting for something that is real; tired of waiting for life.

Some of you not-so-young Christians among us might be tired of life itself. Tired of the world and ready to be done, if only the Lord God would allow it.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

The other day, I listened to a radio program that discussed exhaustion. Some lady has worn herself out by writing a book, which she titled, Exhaustion: A History. The book begins by stating the obvious: we all feel tired. Our entire society feels tired. When we get tired to the point of exhaustion, we begin to think about the good old days, when life was not so tiresome.

But then the author pointed out something noteworthy: Every generation in recorded history has described itself as exhausted. Every generation has longed for the good old days of lighter labor and easier times. Even the ancient Greeks believed that earlier times were less tiresome times!

The reason for your tiredness is NOT the unfortunate result of evolution, as this history book insolently suggested. It is not really your boss's fault or your family's fault, either. Exhaustion is a burden of sin. Hard labor was imposed upon our father Adam, and we all share in Adam's sin. To Adam God said,

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, "You shall not eat of it," cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:17-19).

Stated another way: Life is hard, you sinner, and then you die. Should you think that God uses your exhaustion, therefore, to punish you?

You can think that way, if you wish, but it will require you to stop being a Christian. The Christian faith holds and faithfully so that Christ Jesus died for the punishment of all sin everywhere. The punishment of Christ upon the cross includes not only the punishment for Adam's sin, but also the punishment for all the offspring ofAdam including you, including me.

Thus says the prophet Isaiah, concerning Jesus Christ, "The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him" (Isaiah 53:5).

There is no more any punishment for sin. The only remaining punishment is the punishment for unbelief and the rejection of Christ. That punishment is called the "punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7). You are God's Christians. You have not only been given the forgiveness of sins, but you have also been given the gift of faith in Christ Jesus.

Because the Christ has borne all punishment for sin on your behalf, you must turn your ears toward the Scriptures, so that you may find a different reason for your exhaustion. Today's Epistle is a very good place to begin:

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Why are you so tired? Why is there nothing left in the tank? Because discipline is infinitely better than punishment; because you have a Father in heaven who has made you His true children in the adoption of Baptism "and what son is there whom his father does not discipline?"

You feel exhausted because the Lord your God loves you with a love that stretches far beyond your best expectations: Your God allows your bodies to get worn out by hard labor and difficult years so that you might actually desire "the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting."

Your God drains your emotions to the dregs so that you will never confuse momentary sensations of happiness with the inexpressible joys of eternal life; Your God drains your emotions to the dregs so that you will understand the Word of the Lord that says, "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

God drains your emotions to the dregs so that you set your hearts and minds where true joys are found, gathered before the throne of God. God continually pushes you forward, even when you are feeling exhausted by your fears, and He does so for the one purpose of teaching you to hide behind Him in whom there is no fear; whose perfect love casts out all fear; whose death and resurrection have set you free from the fear of your enemies and from your fear of death, so that you may serve God without fear all your days.

God gladly empties you beyond empty, and He does so week after week, in order that you might gather week after week to be filled again.

Why are you exhausted? You are exhausted so the Divine Service might be worth something to you.

Today's Epistle wants you to know that you have not merely come to church! When you come here to the Word of the Lord and His baptismal font and His holy altar, you have actually come to... "Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."

Today's Epistle even explains to you why you might come to such a place as this. You come so that you may receive miraculous power for your drooping hands and strength for your buckled knees; so that you may, at least for a few blessed moments here in the liturgy, enjoy "straight paths for your feet"; so that "what is lame may not be put out of joint, but healed." That you might be Stewards Transformed By Faith.

It was an exceedingly bad idea, that I should think to ask everyone to stand up who feels tired or worn out. It is far better for all us to be found on our knees, or even flat on our faces before God. When He finds us there, He shall not fail to lift us up and set our feet upon the Rock.

"And the Rock was Christ."

Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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