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

Jan 29, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

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

The text for our meditation today is the Epistle Lesson for this 4th Sunday After the Epiphany of our Lord, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. There we read these words:

"For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’"

In the name of Jesus Christ, we begin, AMEN.

Choices. Choices. How many of you had your first exposure to the reality of choices on a school play ground many years ago. (For some of you certainly more years ago than for others). Do you remember in your early years standing on a playground somewhere waiting to be chosen, to be picked by the person who was in charge of whatever game it was that was about to be played.

Do you remember those days. Everyone lined up, the first captain would make a pick and then the other captain would make his pick. Your only hope was that you wouldn’t be the last one chosen, or worse yet, that you wouldn’t be chosen at all.

If you were among the last to chosen, in your mind it sort of said something about you - either you weren’t big enough, you weren’t fast enough, you weren’t popular enough, or maybe you just weren’t known enough.

The criteria for the choosing was never really written down but everyone seemed to know what the criteria were, and everyone knew if they had the "right stuff", then they had a much better chance to be chosen. Are you with me here?

Choices. You make them everyday of your lives, don’t you? For example, in the temporal realm, that is, in the physical things of life, God has given each human being the gift of reason so that people can make good choices in life. By the use of that reason even the non- Christian makes choices that make good sense.

All people, Christian and non-Christian alike can, for instance, choose a political candidate for office who they feel will make good, well informed, reasoned decisions. By the same token, people can make choices that provide for the greater good, people can choose to give of their wealth to helpful endeavors and they can even make right, moral choices.

On the other hand, the non-Christian and the Christian alike, can deny this God given reason and, having done so, make immoral choices. The right to make choices, one of the very foundations of our freedom, is corrupted by the corruption of reason. It is a sad commentary on our generation, but by choice many children have never seen the light of day, their right to that life having been judged null and void by another person who has been given a "choice", a choice over the life and death of an unborn child, a choice given them by the state, not by God

Tragically, we live in such an age in which it is said that to be truly free requires the right to choose death over life and sadder still, many churches of our day have made the choice to support a woman’s right to choose death over life.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Choices. You make them everyday of your lives, don’t you? Some of your choices are good and right and moral, and yet, some of your choices are against reason and the very Word of God itself. It is for those choices that you often suffer the consequences in life, for, it is indeed as the Word of God says, "God is not mocked, a man will reap that which he sows."

The Apostle Paul, in this letter to the Corinthians, takes us from the choices that we might make in the temporal realm to the choices of God in the spiritual realm. In doing so he calls us to acknowledge our condition at the time before God called us into His everlasting Kingdom, when our free will, so to speak, was bound by evil such that we didn’t even have the ability to choose good in the sight of God.

Paul reminds us that before our faith in Christ Jesus was given to us, we were free, free to choose good or evil in the temporal realm, and in so doing, we, were at times able chose the good and with that choice serve well a just society. And yet, at the same time, Paul reminds us that we could not choose Christ even though our salvation depended on it.

Why couldn’t we choose Christ? Because, as the Apostle Paul says elsewhere, "the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing" and again he says, "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Left to yourselves, you would never have chosen the Cross. The flesh, you see, your old nature, is constantly trying to be God, not to choose God. The flesh is constantly vain-glorious. The flesh is constantly trying to save itself. The flesh is constantly deceiving itself by thinking that it is wise, strong, powerful and noble. The only thing which can stop our boasting is repentance and faith - the only thing that can stop our boasting is the gracious choosing of God.

This is really one of the central points of this whole Epistle reading for this morning. Paul calls the Corinthians, even as he calls you and me, to look at your calling, your choosing by God, for, and I quote: "not many of you were wise according to the flesh, not many were mighty, and not many were noble. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen."

It is a fascinating study to look through the Scriptures at the choices of God. Even a casual look would suggest that He makes choices using a whole different criteria than what you use in making choices.

He chose Abraham to be the father of many nations, to be the father of Israel, the father of the faithful, even though Abraham was brought up in a pagan household. (Joshua 24:2) He chose Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt even though Moses thought himself unfit for the task. (Exodus 3:11) He chose David to rule as King over Israel even though David was the youngest and smallest of all the brothers. (I Samuel 17:14, 39)

He chose Bethlehem to be the city of the Messiah’s birth even though Bethlehem was among the smallest of the all the cities of Judah. (Micah 5:2) He chose His own Son to visit His people even though those same people would despise, reject and ultimately crucify Him. (John 1:11)

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

He chose the twelve disciples even though one of them would betray Him and the rest of them would desert Him in His hour of greatest need. (John 18:2, Matthew 26:56) He chose the Apostle Peter to give that confession of faith upon which the church would be built even though it was Peter who would later deny three times that he even knew Jesus. (Matthew 16:, John 18:15)

He chose the Apostle Paul to be the great spokesman of the Gospel among the Gentiles even though Paul, in his own estimation, was "the least of all the Apostles." (I Corinthians 15:9).

And dear friends, He chose YOU.

The choices of God are filled to overflowing with His grace, and therefore they defy our understanding, even as grace itself defies our understanding. "You did not choose Me, Jesus said, but I chose you."

With those words you should truly be humbled before your Lord. Grace means you have nothing to boast about before the Lord. Indeed, did we not just sing in the hymn:

"Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood."

Choices. You make them everyday of your lives. By the sheer goodness of God you have all been given sound reason to enable you to choose between good and evil in the temporal things of life. You can choose, for instance, a political candidate who will make good, well informed, reasoned decisions. By the same token, you can make choices that provide for the greater good, you can choose to give of your wealth to helpful endeavors and you can even make right, moral choices. A just society depends on those good choices.

What you could not do, lost as you were in your sinful condition, was to choose Christ as your Savior. That is why He has chosen you. "You did not choose Me, but I chose YOU." Jesus said. There is the magnificence of the Gospel of Christ right there in those few words. "You did not choose Me, but I chose YOU." God’s choices are simply filled to overflowing with grace. And so you can humbly confess with your lips the conviction of your hearts;

"When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride."

Choices. Choices. Jesus says, "You did not choose Me, I chose YOU."

Christ is risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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