Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feb. 19 Sermon for Service of Corporate Confession & Individual Absolution

Feb. 18-20, I was blessed to be a part of a Higher Things Retreat in Sheboygan. I was honored to be asked to proclaim God's Word at the Feb. 19 Service of Corporate Confession & Individual Absolution. I was asked for a copy of that sermon by someone who was in attendance. I post it here for all who might like to read it.

Peace of the Lord be with you.


The Lord Has Put Away Your Sin
2 Samuel 12:1-13

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

The pastor gives Johnnie a nod. When he comes over, Pastor asks him to take a walk with him while the rest of the youth group went off to work on the power point presentation they were going make to the congregation from their Higher Things Retreat – Angels & Archangels in Sheboygan.

Pastor said, “Johnnie, there was a boy who decided he was going to give presents to all his friends, so he burned CDs for 20 friends of the 5 latest albums he’d purchased and gave them to his best friends. Thing is, the bands who recorded those albums only receive their royalty of $1.00 per album when they are purchased. So, in actuality, by burning the CDs, $200.00 that would have been paid in royalties if each of the 20 friends had bought those albums, never went to the band members. Can you imagine if 100 people did the same thing, they’d lose out $10,000? How would the musicians feed their families and put roofs over their heads if a couple thousand people decided to so the same thing?”

Johnnie said, “That should be illegal!”
Pastor responded, “It is!”
“Whoever did such a thing should be ashamed of themselves and punished.”
“You are the man! My son was one of your friends who received a burned CD from you.” his pastor informed him.
“Pastor, I’m a sinner. How could I do such a thing? I didn’t know!”
“Johnnie, the Lord has put away your sin.”

David’s sin in our text was pretty obvious, wasn’t it? Let’s face it, we know that it is wrong to take another man’s wife in adultery, and then kill the man to cover the adultery. If we were to put sins on a scale, that’s one that would rank pretty high, murder is one of the serious biggies. At least, that’s what we think according to the attitude of our society and justice system.

Of course, stealing is another one that ranks right up there. But burning a CD for a friend? That too is stealing, we just don’t like to think of it that way.

As for the others? No, you may have not murdered your neighbor to get his wife as your own, but you have committed both murder and adultery. What’s that? How does that work, you ask?

You hate the jocks at school who make fun of you because you don’t play football. You despise the popular girls who make fun of you because you hang out with the other girls that aren’t on the pom-pom squad. You cannot stand that boy who’s getting straight A’s and it seems like he doesn’t even need to try. And whenever you see Suzie in the hallway, if looks could kill, a million daggers would shoot from your eyes and bore into her heart for dating Herman – she was your best friend and knew you had a crush on him, but she asked him out anyway.

As for adultery, which of you hasn’t lusted in your heart – and Jesus does state that whoever lusts after someone in their heart has committed adultery. And yes guys, that’s why you like girls to wear short shorts, it’s all about the lust. You too girls, you know the thoughts you’ve had about Antonio, the Italian exchange student – he’s such a great athlete and his accent, omg, it’s just so sexy.

But that isn’t all. Sinfulness permeates your entire life. You don’t study your bibles as you should, you don’t pray as often as you ought, sometimes your minds wander during the sermon – are you even paying attention now?

Truth be told? I honestly cannot speak for you, I can only speak for myself, but I am guessing you and I are a lot alike. We ask God for forgiveness and then we turn around and go do the same sins all over again.

Yeah, I know how David felt, "I have sinned against the Lord.” And, I know that I might add words which David didn’t speak, but which I am guessing you also may feel in your heart, even as I feel them in mine, “And there is no way that I should be forgiven for my sin. I am a Christian pastor, I know better, I know what God has done for me, and still I go on sinning? I deserve death and eternal punishment.”

Hear the word that God would speak to you through the mouth of His servant, the pastor, in the absolution, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die”

That’s it exactly. There is nothing left of your sin, it is put away. No, you did not overcome it, you may have tried harder – for a couple minutes, but you certainly didn’t do better. In short, it wasn’t you who put your sins away, the Lord did. Christ lived that sinless life you cannot live, a perfect teenager! (Oh how I’d love to have just one of those at home - just as they’d probably like to have a perfect father at home.)

There is nothing left of your sins, for all of your sins were laid upon Christ who took them into His own flesh. When He died upon the cross, He took with Him the death that your sinfulness deserved, and put it away in His tomb. When He rose from the dead, it was left there, put away, buried from you, forever.

In the waters of baptism, the Lord has put away your sin. They are drowned in the water of daily contrition and repentance, and you are robed in Christ’s perfect righteousness.

You are invited by God to hear the precious words which Nathan spoke to David, proclaiming His sins forgiven. When the pastor pronounces the absolution upon you, He is proclaiming to you that the Lord has put away your sin, that they were buried with Christ. Do not doubt, but believe it is so. You shall not die, but live eternally in Christ. Amen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Higher Things Weekend 2/18-20

Well, for about 40 hours, over 200 people (predominantly youth) were gathered at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheboygan www.trinitysheboygan.org for a Higher Things retreat entitled, Angels & Archangels. You can go to their website and even view some of the services from that Retreat.

Trinity was a very gracious host congregation - great folks there who made us all feel welcome. I could try and say thanks to those involved, but I really don't know all the names of everybody involved, so I will just say thanks to everybody who was a part of making this retreat. Thanks to:
those who organized it,
who planned the meals,
stuck up posters,
cleaned the building,
cooked the food,
gave directions to lost youth looking for a room,
worked on the schedule,
organized the speakers,
planned the worship services,
and generally pitched in and helped in any way whatsoever.

Thank you!

Also a big thank you to all the speakers who taught, imparting great insight through ongoing catechesis to Christian faith and life. I managed to learn a few things, and from the conversations I had on the trip home, so did my youth.

I have been blessed to be a part of a number of Retreats and Conferences, and the youth entrusted to my care have also expressed great enthusiasm about what they learned and were glad to have been fed the Word. It is a blessing to be a part of something which tries so hard to be distinctively Lutheran, rejoicing in what we believe and how we practice and confess those beliefs.

Again, thanks to Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheboygan for their making the Angels & Archangels Retreat such a great event.

Peace of the Lord be with you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Weddings

In the past month I have had four couples either call me or come to speak to me about their upcoming marriages, and whether or not I'd do them. Of these three couples, only one individual was a member of either congregation of which I am a pastor. All these couples were living together without the benefit of marriage. My first question to each (on the phone with the three completely non-member couples)was, "Why do you want to get married in this church?"

There were interesting answers given. One couple's first answer was, "Well, we really don't want to get married in the church, but as you are the pastor of the church in Embarrass and since you are the closest pastor to the park in Embarrass where we are getting married, we thought we'd offer the job to your first." I let them ask a couple questions about what I'd do at such a wedding and what I'd require. They said they needed to talk about it. I haven't heard from them.

Another couple stated, "Well we've got our hall picked out, and so we've been driving around and looking at little country churches, and your's is the cutest one we've found." When they learned that one of the requirements the congregation has set as policy is that one of them would have to be a member, and go through a class to become a member, they decided against it. They did state, "You know, your church makes it pretty difficult to get married there?"

With a little proding, the other two couples which came in to meet with me all eventually came up with the answer I was hoping to receive when I asked the initial question, both stated, "We want God's blessings on our marriage."

I mention these four couples because all four of them have chosen not to be married in our church nor by me. They wanted God's blessings on their marriage, but they didn't think that regularly attending the services in God's house to receive His blessings in Word and Sacrament, nor repentance for their sinfulness, were necessary requirements for God's blessings on their marriage.

One couple did come right out and say, "But don't you think that everybody deserves a church wedding?"

If a church is just a building and nothing more, then maybe I could respond yes.

If however, as I believe, a church is the place where God comes to us with His gifts, and our presence there is a public confession of what we believe, then maybe everybody doesn't deserve a church wedding. If people want to dictate to God the conditions of His gift-giving, and if they believe something other than what God commands to be confessed in His walls, then maybe all do not deserve a church wedding.

Of course, as I've so often been told, that's just my own opinion/interpretation.

Peace of the Lord be with you.