Feb 17, 2019
Marriage and the Need for Forgiveness
  • Feb 17, 2019Marriage and the Need for Forgiveness
    Feb 17, 2019
    Marriage and the Need for Forgiveness
  • Feb 10, 2019Leave and Cleave
    Feb 10, 2019
    Leave and Cleave

    “Leave and Cleave”

    Genesis 2:18-24

    February 10, 2019


         When two people get married sometimes we refer to it as “tying the knot.”  Apparently this phrase grew out of an ancient custom where the bride and groom would actually have their hands tied together with a rope during the wedding ceremony, indicating that they were making a special commitment to each other.  Even today some pastors will put a sash around a couples’ hands instead of a rope to symbolize their commitment to each other as two people become one in marriage.  Marriage is hard work.  It can be tough in that dating often revels the best of you, while marriage often reveals the worst of you.  Even couples who have the best of marriages still have their obstacles, difficulties, and battles on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, this knot – known as marriage – can easily become untied these days as some people simply walk away from their vows when the marriage becomes a bit stale or uncomfortable.      While there is certainly nothing in this world that will guarantee a successful marriage, I do believe if people build their marriage on God and His Word or if they let God tie the knot, their marriage will be stronger.  The first marriage between Adam and Eve was intended by God to be a model for every marriage, of what marriage should be like and why marriage is important.  But sadly, it was attacked and destroyed by Satan.  Did you ever realize that Satan didn’t appear to bother Adam until Eve was created?  As soon as Adam and Eve were married Satan attacks.  Clearly Satan hates marriage as he looks to destroy all families and relationships.       It all started when Adam was naming all of the animals that God had made.  One by one, Adam examined these creatures, noticed what their individual characteristics were, and then he named them accordingly.  Imagine the situation, Adam looking each creature and saying, “Giraffes, Lions, Elephants.”  But it didn’t take long for Adam to realize that something was missing in his life.  There was no one like him in all the world.  He couldn’t have an intelligent conversation with an animal.  He could talk to God, but it wouldn’t be quite the same.  Adam needed someone by his side and without that companion, that helpmate, something was missing.       Up until this point, everything that God had created was good, and in the case of humanity, very good.  But God knows that it is not good for Adam to be alone.  It is not that God had made a mistake or had forgotten something, but His creation was just not completed yet.  So God decides to make a helper suitable for Adam.      Now before I say anything further, I should state that there is nothing wrong with being single.  God doesn’t call everyone to be married.  Jesus was never married.  Paul, who wrote our text from last Sunday, 1 Corinthians 13, which describes in great detail what true love is all about, was never married.      So initially, Adam is in a situation that is not good as there is no one like him.  But Adam doesn’t complain.  He trusted that God would take care of him and do whatever was best.  So, as we heard in our Old Testament lesson, God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, He took one of Adam’s ribs and made a woman from the rib, and brought her to Adam.  We should also note from where God took the bone to make the woman.  He didn’t take a bone from Adam’s head, so Eve could rule over Adam.  He didn’t take a bone from Adam’s foot so he could (figuratively) walk all over her.  God picked a bone from Adam’s side, a bone close to Adam’s heart, so that she could be an equal helper to Adam in every way, but they would have different roles in marriage.      Husbands and wives, do you see this blessing that God has given you in your marriage?  Adam noticed this blessing right away.  When God presented him with Eve, notice Adam’s response.  He said in verse 23, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  Adam was so happy to be blessed with a spouse, and this is what God wants our attitude to be in marriage.  God has provided you with someone to help complete you, to help cover up your weaknesses.  How could anyone complain about this gift of God?  How could a husband ever beat or hurt his wife, a gift given to him from God; and how could a wife ever speak poorly or take advantage of her husband, a gift given to her from God?      We should also note that the word, “helper” in verse 18, “…I will make him a helper fit for him” is not derogatory term to suggest that the woman is the “man’s assistant” or someone less equal than a man.  The word has the idea of supplying something that would otherwise be lacking.  Many times in the Bible it is used to refer to God as our helper.      There is an old saying, “It is not how you start, but how you finish that counts.” But when it comes to marriage, how you start is just as important as how you finish and may determine how you finish.  The main principle of marriage, of “tying the knot,” is to let God bring the two strands (man and woman) together, and to let Him tie the knot together.      Then, when the wedding is over and the marriage is official, God tells the bride and groom in verse 24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”  The Hebrew word for “leave” is often translated “abandon” as in “abandon ship.”  That’s some strong language.  Those who are about to marry are to abandon the ship of their parents in which they have been nurtured for as much as 20 or 30 years.  But there’s a reason for that as the man and woman now have to get on their own ship called “marriage.”  This doesn’t mean that we are to suddenly neglect or disrespect our parents who have given so much of their time and treasure to care for us.  After all, the Bible tells us that we are to always honor our parents and we are to provide for our relatives, especially our immediate families.  But in this sacred bond called marriage, a new home, a new family, a new life is being formed.  A man and a woman form a new body, one flesh from two; and this new body is to be nurtured and cared for at all times.      As the husband and wife leave that parent-child relationship, our text for today says that the man shall “hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Those words “hold fast,” suggest something that means, “to be glued to” or “to be cemented together.”  Every husband should hold fast to his wife for dear life – no matter what, because it is in this process of holding fast that God builds character, perseverance, faith, trust, and love.       Other translations of this text say that the husband and wife cleave to each other in marriage.  That word, “cleave” suggests more of a strong “stick-to-itive-ness.”  This bond of marriage is more than a mutual agreement.  Agreements can be changed.  Opinions can be swayed.as we see more and more of this happening today when it comes to the understanding of marriage.  But the bond that God had in mind and instituted in marriage despite our opinions is to be lifelong: “…a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to His wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  They will be two hearts, woven together as one.      But a good weave always involves 2 strands plus one.  Consider a hair braid.  For all appearances it looks like 2 strands of hair twisted together, but in reality there is always a third, not immediately evident, but playing an important role in keeping the other two closely woven together.  If we were to pull that strand out the other two would be weakened and eventually pull out.  The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that “a cord of three strands is not easily broken,” and when a man and woman come together in marriage as one flesh, behind the relationship is the understanding that God is the third strand, though not immediately evident, who has promised to be with all married couples and every one of us to the very end of the age.      Therefore, when two people come together in marriage, God weaves that new life together around His love.  A love that forgives the past, gives us a new start, nurtures and sustains us in all circumstances, and keeps our love from growing stale and weak.  Indeed, God’s love can deepen our love and help it to grow stronger through every joy and sorrow shared together.   
  • Feb 3, 2019Love
    Feb 3, 2019


    1 Corinthians 13:1-13

    February 3, 2019

           A couple came to see their pastor (not me), because the man was concerned about his wife’s depression.  He had tried everything he could think of to help her, but nothing seemed to work.  After talking to the couple for about an hour, the pastor gave the woman a hug and kissed her.  He then turned to the husband and said, “That’s all your wife needs about 4 days a week.”  The husband said, “Oh, I can’t do that, I can only bring her here on Thursdays.”      Many research organizations tell us that about 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and that bothers me, because it makes me wonder at times if we do enough to strengthen and save our marriages.  After all, if I told you there was a 50% chance that you would lose something of great value to you, you would probably do everything you could to protect it, to insure you didn’t lose it.  So if we value our marriages, then we ought to be doing everything we can to insure that they will succeed.       The problem is many times married couples do all kinds of things to save or strengthen their marriages, but they don’t do the most important thing and that is going to God.  Our world offers all kinds of books and seminars about marriage that will teach you how to communicate better, how to handle conflict, how to manage finances, how to be more intimate with each other, and these are all fine – they are very helpful, but one thing is still missing and that is love.  Marriage is supposed to be based on love, which you would think ought to go without saying – husbands and wives should love each other.  But since we are sinners by nature, and sin leads us to love ourselves rather than others, we need to be reminded to love each other.      So what is love?  Ask that question to 10 different people and you will probably get 10 different answers, because love can mean different things to different people.  The New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek language has several words for love.  There is the word “eros,” which means a physical or sexual attraction, which is a legitimate and necessary aspect of marital love.  But marriages need a lot more than “eros” love.  Another word for love in Greek is pronounced “phileo.”  This love has to do with friendship and companionship, which is also an important part of marriage.  There should be friendship and things you enjoy about each other in marriage.  But you can have all kinds of “phileo” and “eros” love and still not approach what the Bible means by love that makes marriage work best.  The third word in Greek for love is “agape.”  This word describes God’s love for us and in the confines of marriage it is a commitment on the part of each married partner to be primarily concerned for the well being of the other in a giving, sacrificial, and unconditional way.      Now that’s a tall order and we all fall short, as a result many marriages struggle and fail, especially when people have all of these misconceptions about love, such as “love is a feeling.”  It’s a feeling deep down in your heart, that’s it.  Well, love does affect our feelings in a powerful way, but it is more than just a feeling.  Another popular misconception is that “love is uncontrollable.”  Many times people will say, “I fell in love.”  What does that mean?  When someone says that do they mean, “It just happened.  I was walking down the street and I fell in love.  I couldn’t help it.”      God’s “agape” love that we see in our second lesson for today from 1 Corinthians 13 is quite different.  Jesus commanded us to “love (agape) one another as I have loved you.”  That means we have control over who we love and who we don’t love; when we love and when we don’t love; we get to choose.  God says that love is a matter of choice.  In Colossians 3:12-14, God says, “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.”  In other words, to put on love involves an action we must take.  If love was just a feeling or an accident then God would not have commanded it.  He commands love, therefore love is an action, and how we act towards our spouse in marriage and towards others is what love is all about.  In verses 4-7 of our second lesson we see a definition of how love acts.  It says, “Love is patient, love is kind, love always trusts, it doesn’t brag, it’s not arrogant, it’s not rude, and it does not insist on its own way.”  This gives us a list of how love acts, and what I would like to do is to use this list as a guide this morning to determine whether our love is alive, dying, or dead in our marriages (and this can apply to all relationships).  The first thing it says on that list is “love is patient,” which means love is alive when it has time.  It is dying when it is hurried, and it is dead when it cannot wait.  Love takes time, it requires patience, because we spend a lot of time waiting in our lives.  We wait in traffic, we wait at the grocery store, we wait for an appointment, we wait for an illness to pass, we wait for marriage, and we wait for children.  Waiting with someone is not so bad, but waiting for someone is where we struggle with patience.  But our God is a patient God as He forgives us again and again and again in our lives.  And if God can take time to make allowances for our faults, then we can be patient with one another.      Second, 1 Corinthians 13 says “love is kind,” which means love is alive when it cares, it’s dying when it forgets, and it’s dead when it ignores.  Kindness means the ability to care for each other in the practical details of everyday life.  Kindness knows how to turn the grand vows that we make on our wedding day into cleaning the house, changing diapers, staying up with sick children, and caring for a spouse in their older years.  Jesus showed loving kindness in the care and healing He offered to people who were brought to Him in our Gospel lesson from Luke 4.  All of them were healed without question or conditions.      Third, the Bible says “love always trusts,” which means love is alive when it is secure; it is dying when it starts doubting, and it is dead when it stops trusting.  Trust or security is vital in relationships; and if you add just a little bit of doubt to a marriage you can make it very unhealthy.  Ask yourself this morning if it would make any difference in your marriage or in your relationship with your parents, children, or other family members if you said, “No matter what happens, no matter how ill you become, no matter how many times you fail, and no matter what we have to go through in life, I love you.”  It should make a difference, because God says that same thing to us: “No matter what you do or fail to do, I love you.”  That is the security we have with our God.      Finally, the last thing we read on that list is “love does not insist on its own way,” which means love is alive when it is giving; it’s dying when it is exchanging, and it’s dead when it is taking – when it’s selfish.  It’s interesting how many different kinds of relationships we have.  We have “give and take” relationships, which often means I take and you give.  We have “fair exchange” relationships – you do this for me and I’ll do that for you.  But the best relationship to have, especially in a marriage, is a “give and give” relationship, with both people giving because they want to give and are not forced to give.  Many people want romantic love in their marriage and that’s fine, but it’s very important to understand that romantic love demands constant attention, while real love gives constant attention.      As Christians we know that God loves us – by what He says here in His Word, but more importantly through His actions.  Every Sunday the one object we all see, without fail above our altar, is the cross.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18, it says that “the message of the cross is the power of God.”  God’s power was demonstrated when Jesus rose from the dead; but His love was demonstrated – was put into action – when Jesus willingly died on the cross for our sins.  The cross says to each of us: “I love you.”      The Bible tells us that Jesus is love, so every place that you see the word “love” on that list, you can replace it with the word Jesus – “Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind, Jesus always trusts.”   Think of yourself like a rechargeable battery – unless you are plugged into God’ Word often, your love for each other will quickly dry up and be replaced with love for yourself – and that does not lead to a happy marriage.  We need Jesus in our marriages, not just to model love, but to give us that love through the forgiveness He won for us on the cross so it will empower you to love one another with the same love He has shown to you.        
  • Jan 27, 2019Bad News and Good News
    Jan 27, 2019
    Bad News and Good News
    Series: (All)
  • Jan 20, 2019Every Life is Valued and Gifted
    Jan 20, 2019
    Every Life is Valued and Gifted
    Series: (All)
  • Jan 13, 2019Jesus’ Baptism is Our Story
    Jan 13, 2019
    Jesus’ Baptism is Our Story
    Series: (All)
  • Jan 6, 2019The Light of Christ has Come
    Jan 6, 2019
    The Light of Christ has Come
    Series: (All)

    “The Light of Christ Has Come”

    Matthew 2:1-12

    January 6, 2019


         This is a picture a friend of mine sent me that he took in his neighborhood on December 26 – a Christmas tree waiting to be hauled away with the rest of the trash.  We can’t say that it’s wrong to throw the Christmas tree out the day after Christmas.  After all, people have their own decorating schedules for Christmas and their own timetables for packing their decorations away.  Many radio stations stopped playing Christmas music on December 26.  While I wish they would have continued playing Christmas music until today, I’m happy that they were willing to play music during most of December that talked about the birth of Jesus.  Several stores took their Christmas decorations down before January 1, but at least they put up decorations.  Some people don’t put up a tree at all, and there’s nothing wrong with that; but it’s sad if people do this with the Good News of Jesus’ birth on December 26 – throw it out or pack it away for another year.      Today, 12 days after the birth of Jesus, we take a moment to remember the last piece of the Christmas story – the coming of the Magi, or wise men, who came to worship Jesus, the newborn King.  While the story is probably somewhat familiar to us, our world has a tendency to mix up some of the facts of this story with the events that took place at Christmas.  For example, many of our manger scenes show the wise men, with their gifts, worshipping the baby Jesus at the stable, along with the shepherds on that first Christmas night.  But the Bible tells us that when the wise men found Jesus, He had already been circumcised and presented in the temple; and instead of being in a stable verse 11 of our Gospel lesson for today tells us that the wise men found Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a house; which Joseph had probably found for them to stay in until the time came for them to flee to Egypt.  Therefore, having traveled a good distance just to get to Bethlehem, the wise men probably arrived several months after Jesus was born.      In fact, we don’t even know how many of them there were at the house.  We often assume there were 3, since they brought 3 different gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh; and many of our Christmas songs tell us that there were three (we’ll even sing one of those great songs this morning, which clearly tells story we celebrate today) but the Bible never tells us how many wise men came to worship Jesus.  Plus, how did the wise men know that this special star that they saw in the east signified that the Savior of the world, the King of Kings had been born?  After all, these men probably had very little training in the Bible.  All we can say is that God revealed this to them.      But what we do know is that when these astronomers and astrologers arrived, they did not find a king surrounded by royalty, but rather they found ordinary people in ordinary circumstances.  They easily could have looked at this situation, with Joseph the carpenter, his wife, Mary, and the baby Jesus and said, “This can’t be it.”  They could easily have turned around and headed back home, but they didn’t.  When they saw that child, they bowed down and worshiped Him.  In that child, they saw and recognized the Son of God.  It was truly an epiphany moment for them.      However, when these guys showed up in Jerusalem and told the people they had seen a miracle star pointing to the birth of the Messiah, you would think that the people would have been filled with great joy.  Instead, the star that was such great news to the wise men turned out to be very upsetting news to everyone in Jerusalem.  Again, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Why would everyone be upset?  The answer: King Herod.  Herod was a clever and vicious warrior and diplomat.  On the one hand, he could be very compassionate.  Several years prior to this event, when a great famine hit the area, Herod had several gold items from his palace melted down in order to raise money for the poor.  Other times he refunded taxes to those who were struggling financially.      On the other hand, Herod could also cruel and jealous.  He killed his wife, three of his sons, and his mother-in-law.  Later in life, when he knew he was about to die, he ordered the arrest of 100 of the most respected residents of Jerusalem and had them imprisoned with the strict order that at the moment of his death, all 100 of the prisoners would be killed.  That way he could ensure that there would be mourning in the city at the time of his death, for he knew that otherwise there might be only rejoicing.  Herod had the potential for good, but he was driven by jealousy.  If he saw any threat, real or imagined, he did whatever was necessary to destroy it.  So when Herod heard of this star, he didn’t think of God’s promised Savior and what a good thing this would be for him and all of his people; instead he saw the infant Jesus as a threat to his throne, who must be put down with force if necessary.  The people were also upset, because they knew that Herod could go on a rampage trying to get rid of this child and there was no telling who could get killed.  Therefore, the clever Herod figured he could get these wise men to unknowingly help him get rid of this child.  But, fortunately, God intervened and told the Magi in a dream not to go back to Herod.      These wise men, who probably knew little of the true God, were truly men of faith, because they saw in Jesus who He really was – the very Son of God and Savior of the world.  Did you see Jesus for who He really was this past Christmas or did you miss Him, because you were too busy with the hustle and bustle of parties, presents, and traveling?  If you missed Him this past year, today is a good time to see Him again and to learn from the example of the wise men.  In fact, there are 3 things that we can learn from these wise men, who were willing to act when God spoke to them.      First, they worshiped the Christ Child.  The wise men certainly didn’t come to impress Joseph and Mary.  They came to worship God’s Son, who was sent to save them and all the world from their sins.  All other religions in the world try to help people look better before God, so that God will finally accept them into heaven.  But only in Christianity do people come to know and believe that they are helpless sinners, who can do nothing to impress God.  And yet, out of His tremendous love for us, God sent His Son to suffer and die for us, so that we can live with Him forever.  Therefore, the appropriate response for us is to bow down, give thanks, and worship our God – like the wise men – every day of our lives, for the tremendous gift of eternal life He has given to us.      The second thing we learn from the wise men is that they just didn’t fall down and worship Jesus, they also offered Him gifts.  The gifts they offered were certainly not ordinary gifts from around the house, and they didn’t give to God what was left over in their wallets.  Their gifts had great meaning and value.  Kings in those days were the only ones who ever received gold as gifts.  Frankincense was usually used in the temple and it was burned as an offering to God as a sweet smelling sacrifice.  Myrrh was often a reminder of death as it was used in perfume in the embalming process.  So here are the wise men, offering gold to the King of Kings, frankincense to the Lord of Lords, and myrrh to the One who would die to save all people.      During this past Christmas, I’m sure we all gave gifts that had meaning and value to our families and friends, but what did we give to God?  Did we follow the example of the wise men and give God our best or did we give to God what we had left over in our wallets, after we purchased gifts for everyone else?      Third, when the wise men saw the Christ Child, they were transformed.  They were changed.  While they did go home a different way, it wasn’t a routine trip back home; it was an entirely new journey.  They had seen their Savior.  As God looks down upon our church, what does He see?  Does He see people who have been transformed?  The wise men had to make a long, difficult, and inconvenient trip to see their Savior, but we don’t have to do anything like that.  Instead, Jesus comes to us right here in this place, in His Word, and in His Sacraments of Baptism and Communion, to wipe out the darkness our sins and to fill us with the light of His love, so that when we leave this place we will be changed into today’s wise men: anxious to worship, ready to serve Him in humble ways, and willing to faithfully give God our very best every day in 2019.     
  • Dec 24, 2018Presence
    Dec 24, 2018
    Series: (All)
  • Dec 23, 2018Our Living Branch
    Dec 23, 2018
    Our Living Branch
    Series: God With Us
  • Dec 16, 2018Our Good Shepherd
    Dec 16, 2018
    Our Good Shepherd
    Series: God With Us