Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hiding from God or in God (A sermon based on Psalm 32)

Ever wish you could just run and hide? Leave all your problems and go where no one could ever find you? Sorry to break it to you, but it won't work. No such place exists because there is no place where God cannot find you. And there is no way that we can ever hide ourselves or our sins from him. He knows us and our sins better than we do. But the good news is that we don't need to hide from God. Instead, when we confess our sins to him, seeking his grace, we can hide in him. In Christ, we have God's gift of forgiveness! Our sins are covered by him, hidden from sight for all of eternity! Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Psalm 32 and hide in God! 

God's Gift of Forgiveness
Hiding from God or in God
A sermon based on Psalm 32
Sunday, February 24, 2013 – Lent 2C 

Little Jimmy was playing a game of hide and seek. Only no one else knew he was playing. You see he was hiding from mom, but he didn't tell her that she should come looking for him. He didn't need to. The sound of the basketball ball bouncing upstairs followed by the sound of the lamp shattering on the floor told mom she'd better drop the laundry and head upstairs.

Of course, it didn't take long for mom to find little Jimmy's feet sticking out from under his bed. The game of hide and seek was over. And you can bet that Jimmy lost.

Did he really think he'd get away with it? Did he really think he could hide from mom? That she wouldn't find him? That she wouldn't know? How foolish of Jimmy!

How foolish of us. Don't we often do the same? Don't we try to hide our sins, cover them up, pretend they weren't our fault? But do we really think we'll get away with it? Do we really think we can hide from God? That God won't find us? That God won't know? How foolish of us.

This morning as we again rejoice in God's gift of forgiveness as we examine Psalm 32, we see how foolish it is to try to hide from God. How much better it is to just come clean, confess our sins to him, hiding nothing. They we can hide in God and be safe and sound in him. We read Psalm 32… 

1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. 7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. 10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! 

I.              Hide from God 

Adam and Eve rebelled against God. They did the one thing he commanded them not to do and ate from the one tree they were forbidden to eat from. And everything came crashing down. They were full of guilt. They were full of shame. They looked at each other differently. And in their foolish fallen state, "they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:8) Or at least, they tried. Of course, God found them. They could run, but they couldn't hide… not from God.

And ever since, it's been the same way. To avoid the consequences of their sin, sinners hide what they've done from other sinners—and often quite successfully—which in turn leads them to think that they can hide their sins from God.

You know the story of King David's fall. He saw Bathsheba on the rooftop and soon acted on the lust hidden in his heart. And though she was a married woman, he took her into his bed. But things didn't go as planned. She was pregnant. So David had to devise a scheme to cover things up—to hide his sin. After several failed attempts to get Uriah to spend some quality time with his wife, he finally resorted to murder. With Uriah dead, David was free to marry his widow without scandal and without breaking the law. The sin was covered. It was well hidden from everyone… everyone, that is, but God.

For months David kept up the charade. He didn't confess his sin. He didn't try to make it right. He just kept it covered up. But the sin was still there. The guilt was still there and it gnawed away at him sapping his strength…

3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

How foolish to try to hide from God! How foolish of Adam and Eve! How foolish of King David! How foolish of us…

Don't we do that same? "It's not my fault. Did you see what he did to me first?" "Come on! This isn't that big of a deal. Others have done much worse." "Well, sure I did it, but it was accident." We try to cover up our sin, hide it, minimize it, justify it, or find excuses for it. We do anything but confess it and own up to it.

How come? Because it's uncomfortable to admit my guilt. It's painful to deal with the consequences. It wounds my pride, my relationships, and sometimes by bank account if I'm to come clean. And it's never fun to confess. So, too often we act like children trying to avoid the consequences of our sin by hiding from mom or dad under the bed. We try to hide our sins.

But have you ever seen a little kid try to hide by covering up his own eyes, thinking that if he can't see you, you can't see him. That's what we try to do when we try to hide or sins from God. "If I refuse to talk to him or acknowledge my sin, he can't see me."

But trying to hide from God is like playing a game of hide and seek where the seeker gets heat-vision goggles and a GPS locator linked to the cell phone in your pocket or a chip embedded in your skin. You'll be found every time! Except God doesn't need that technology because God's got more: He has infinite knowledge of all things.

You may hide from others, convince them all you're a perfect saint. You may hide your sinful thoughts and keep them locked up in your head and heart. But you can't hide anything from God. Man looks at outward appearance. God sees the heart. He sees the pride. He sees the malcontent and the greed. He sees the lust. He sees the motive behind the action. He knows you better than you know you.

How foolish to try to hide from him. How foolish to try to cover up your win. It only leads to more problems. It only leads to more pain.

 "For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer."

The guilt gnaws away at you. Its eats you up from the inside out. Cover it with alcohol or drugs if you like. Cover it with mind-numbing entertainment. Cover it up with a web of lies and deceit. But that's all you do: cover it. It won't go away.

But God, in love, won't let it go away because if the guilt simply went away while the sin remained hidden, it would be like coving up the cancerous spot with a band aid to pretend it wasn't there and then leaving it untreated. It would mean your spiritual death. It would mean hell. God wants to forgive you, but to do that he has to confront you. He has to do major surgery to remove the sin. He has to kill you with the Law and lead you to confess your sin, before he can heal you with the Gospel.

So don't hide your sin anymore! Don't hide it from others. Don't hide it from God! But confess it. Talk to God. Talk to your friend or your spouse. Talk to me. And when you quit hiding, God can deal with it. He can really hide your sin… 

II.            Hide in God 

Though Adam and Eve aren't exactly the best example of honest confession, shifting blame like a hot potato, when their sin was out in the open, God forgave it, not destroying them, but promising a Savior in Eve's offspring who would crush the devil's head.

When David was confronted by Nathan and confessed his sin, he found peace in God's forgiveness too. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. How? In Jesus—David's redeemer yet to come—David's transgression was forgiven. His sin was covered up. He couldn't hide his sin from God. But God would cover it up and hide it himself.

Which do you think is better then? To hide from God (which you can never do)? Or hide in God (which he longs for you to do)? Confess your sins, friends, to God and to each other. And find mercy. Find peace.

Your sins are covered up too! Not by your deceit. Not by your excuses. Not by pretending they're not there. But by Jesus. They're covered in his blood, shed for you on the cross. They're hidden from God's sight, removed from you as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), hurled into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Now when you're guilty conscience nags, hide in God's promises of forgiveness. Your sin is gone! Now, when satan comes to pester you, hide behind Jesus. Tell satan to go away! And when you stand before God's throne on Judgment Day, you can hide behind the cross. And God will see only Jesus' perfection, his robe of righteousness covering you completely.

 And right now, find peace and joy because what Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians is true of you: "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). Don't run from God anymore. But run to God. Don't hide your sin, but hide in Christ and in his gift of forgiveness. Hide in God, not from God, and God will protect you, and hold you in the palm of His hand. In Jesus' name, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

God’s Mercy is Bigger Than Our Sin (A sermon based on Psalm 6)

Ever been sick? How did you feel? Ever been sick with guilt? Feels even worse, doesn't it? But that feeling is good when the God uses it to move us to true repentance and to cry to him for help. God in his mercy sends consequences and pain into our lives to lead us to confess. Then God in his mercy sends the comfort of the gospel assuring us the he hears and answers our cry for mercy. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Psalm 6 and rejoice that God's Mercy is bigger than our sin...

God's Mercy is Bigger Than Our Sin

A sermon based on Psalm 6

Sunday, February 17, 2013 – Lent 1C


I remember as a kid getting pretty sick. My dad, brother and I were out fishing when the two of them got sick first. I thought they were just sea sick until we got home that night and I fell ill too. It was worse than just throwing up, which seemed non-stop. We were fevered, tired, and the worst part was the horrible stomach cramps that seemed to shoot through your whole body. After my mom got the virus from us, though I think she must have been exaggerating, she said the stomach cramps were far worse than giving birth.

Ever been that sick? It drains you. It saps you of every bit of strength you have and leaves you helpless. If you have, you know how King David felt. King David felt sick with his sin. He felt so guilty in fact, that it began to destroy his physical health. He was aching to the core—to his very bones. He couldn't sleep at night, his sins terrified him so much. He drenched his bed in tears and tossed and turned all night.

Psalm 6, our sermon text for this morning, is one of the seven penitential Psalms in the Christian tradition and has been called the Little Book of Job. Because, though we don't know the particular circumstances David faced when he wrote this Psalm, we do know that like Job, he suffered a great deal—he was physically and emotionally hurting, forsaken by his friends, and worst of all spiritually hurting and near despair because of the guilt he felt. But like Job, David's story in Psalm 6 has a happy ending. It ends in rejoicing in God's great mercy that was bigger than David's sin.

And though at times we too suffer physical, emotional and even spiritual pain, in the end we too rejoice because we know that God's mercy is bigger than our sin. In mercy he leads us to repent of our sins, just as he did for David. And in mercy he leads us to rejoice in the end for the salvation and comfort he brings. Listen now to Psalm 6 as King David describes his great suffering and God's even greater mercy which led him to rejoice…


1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. 3 My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? 4 Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. 5 No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? 6 I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. 7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.


I.              In Mercy He Leads Us To Repent


We don't know the circumstances of David's life that led him to write this Psalm. It could have been when he fled from Saul who was hunting him down to kill him. It could have been after his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent confrontation by the prophet, Nathan. It could have been when his son, Absolom, rebelled against him and tried to take his throne. Or it could have been other some other low point in David's life. But boy was it a low point!

David was hurting physically, emotionally, and worst of all, spiritually. He knew that he had sinned against God and he was terrified. His soul was in anguish. The great king who once faced Goliath himself without a shred of fear, this well-seasoned warrior who had gone from battle to battle without flinching, now melted away in fear and terror before a righteous God.

Why? Because he knew his sin and felt a huge burden of guilt for it. One author wrote of these verses, "The greatest anxiety of all comes from the realization that we have sinned. All other anxieties pale by comparison. One would gladly exchange its pain for anything else, even physical pain. It is the anxiety of hell itself." That's what David was feeling.

And this extreme guilt he felt for his sin, whether for a specific sin, or just for his sinful condition in general, caused his body to ache it was so intense. When I was experiencing those stomach cramps it was near impossible for me to be in a good mood. Likewise, enduring such guilt and agony over his sins, it was near impossible for David to have good health. Torture of the soul and agony of the body often react to each other.

David, said, "my bones are in agony." He was hurting to the core, cut to the bone by his guilty conscience. He said, "I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears." Or as we might say, "I'm drowning in my sorrows." He said, "My eyes grow weak with sorrow…" Or again, "I cry my eyes out."

Have you ever had a migraine headache? I never have. But I've been told they make you miserable and rob you of all joy with the unrelenting pain. Similarly, I've been told that rheumatoid arthritis is an excruciating fire in your joints that doesn't seem to ever cease or let up. What David suffered in his guilt was far worse. "My soul is in anguish," he said. And in frustration, close to despair, cried out, "How long, O Lord, how long?"

Why would God allow someone to suffer like this? Why would God allow such misery and pain? Well, we don't always know the specifics to say, "Here's why David suffered…" But we do know that the answer to the question "why?" is always "out of love." In love, God allowed David's physical and emotional suffering to bring him to repentance. In love, God let David feel that crushing guilt.

If there had been no consequences to his sins, no pain that he felt, no suffering, David might have never repented of his sins. He might have never seen his great need for a Savior. He might have died in his sins only to go to Sheol, to hell, where he could never remember God or sing his praise ever again. But because the sin that once seemed so enticing and promised happiness now brought about pain and agony, David  recognized his sin and took it seriously. As David admitted in verse one, God was chastising or disciplining David for his sin.

And because of God's discipline, even though David was terrified by what he knew he deserved for that sin—namely, God's rebuke in his anger, God's discipline in wrath—he could confess his sin. And he knew where to turn in his great suffering. He turned to God in prayer to relieve him of his guilt…

David prayed, "O, Lord, not in your anger rebuke me, not in your wrath discipline me…" "Be merciful to me, Lord…" and in verse four, "Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." David recognized that only God could relieve his pain. Only he could soothe his aching soul. David made no appeals to his faith or how faithful or virtuous he'd been toward God, he didn't try to argue why he deserved better, but instead begged God to overlook what he deserved. He appealed to the one thing that would cause God to act and remove David's guilt and pain: God's great mercy. "Save me," he said, "because of your unfailing love."

Friends, do you shake in terror at your sin? Do you ache all over unable to sleep at night because guilt over what you've done keeps you up at night? That unkind word you spoke to a co-worker? The harsh way you dealt with your spouse? The images you paused to view on the computer? The Bible you left sit on the shelf all week?

Are you terrified by what you've done? That terror over sin is experienced by few—the devil sees to that. But if you've never felt this crushing guilt over your sin, look once at what your sins deserve. None of us deserve the blessings God gives us day after day. None of us deserve to have the health that we have, even if you are sick. None of us deserve to be free from the most excruciating pain at any moment. What you and I justly deserve is to be tortured in body and soul for all of eternity in hell for all of our sins both big and small.

            But God's mercy is too great to leave us to that fate. So in his great mercy he sends pain into our lives to lead us to recognize our sin and repent. He disciplines us for our sins, so we cry out to him and beg, "O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, Lord…Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." When our pain becomes great enough, we finally turn to God. It's like the man who cried out, "God, enough is enough! I can't deal with my problems on my own anymore." And God said, "Finally you're ready to turn to me!" When we can longer appeal to our strength or our skill or cleverness, when we no longer appeal to our faithfulness or merits before God, but simply rely on his great mercy, God will grant relief and will lead us to rejoice.


II.            In Mercy He Leads Us to Rejoice (8-10)


Listen to how quickly David changes his tune: In verses six and seven he says, "I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes."  But then in verse 8 the tone of David's song lyrics do a one-eighty: 8 Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. 9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace."

            I can't help but think the melody of David's song suddenly got much less dreary and much more exciting and upbeat. But what caused David to change his tune so drastically? It was God's great mercy. Satan wanted to rob David of all comfort, to lead him to despair thinking, "God can never forgive me for what I've done. He will never deliver me from my suffering. I'm abandoned. All is lost." Satan wanted David to go to hell where he couldn't praise God ever again, but would join Satan in cursing God forever. But God again demonstrated that his mercy was far greater than David's sin.

Not only did God in his grace lead David to repent of his sins, but in his mercy he heard David's cry for forgiveness, accepted his prayer and forgave his every sin through Christ. So David could say, "Get away from me Satan! You would have me curse God and die, but by God's great grace, I will live and will bless God's name proclaiming the great things he has done."

And what comfort David had! His enemies would turn and flee in disgrace since his appeals to God's mercy calmed that raging storm of despair and fear that David once faced. Though moments ago David was weeping uncontrollably giving up all as lost, in his great mercy, God removed every one of David's sins and turned his sorrow into joy, causing David to rejoice.

And we can be confident that God will do the same for us. If you're feeling that crushing weight of guilt pressing down on you, if you inwardly weep over your sins in remorse for what we've done, whether some specific sin or over our sinful condition in general, then dear friend, take heart. God promises to hear your  weeping and your cry of mercy. He promises in Psalm 50(:15), "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." He promises that once he's awakened contrition in our hearts and we cry out for forgiveness he will grant it.

In our Savior we have complete healing of every sin. Because he suffered that spiritual agony for us on the cross when he was forsaken by God we don't need to despair. We won't ever be forsaken. He has turned back Satan in shame and dismay. Death itself turns back in sudden disgrace. And with our sins forgiven, God accepts our every prayer and promises relief from our suffering—if not in this life, in the life to come.  God's great mercy calms the raging storm of our fear and causes us to rejoice.

So as we pray this prayer of Psalm 6, we give glory to God for his great grace which is so much bigger than all of our sins. For in his mercy he leads us to repent, and in his mercy he leads us to rejoice in the forgiveness that he gives. Trust in his unfailing love even in the midst of the bitterest suffering. For one day soon he will cause you to rejoice forever in heaven surrounded by God's great love. Amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our Hero Shines in All His Glory (A sermon based on Luke 9:28-36)

Wouldn't it be nice to have a real superhero come to your rescue whenever you got into trouble? You do have a real Superhero! Jesus outshines all the imaginary heroes -- quite literally. On the Mount of Transfiguration he gave us a glimpse of his divinity so we can be assured that he has the power to fight our real enemies of sin, death, and hell. He has fought them and won. And our Hero will always take care of us until we too shine in glory in his paradise! Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Luke 9:28-36 and rejoice as you see our Hero shine in all his glory!

Our Hero Shines in All His Glory

 A sermon based on Luke 9:28-36

Sunday, February 10, 2013 –Transfiguration C


One of the popular genres of movie these days is the story of the superhero. And you know how the plotline always goes. Before he gets to the real challenge, the superhero must face some smaller problems. Before he gets to the supervillian—the mastermind behind the destruction of the planet—our hero first has to defeat a few thugs that aren't really a threat to him. Isn't that how it always goes?

But why does the plot always run that way? It's because those smaller victories reveal to you who the hero is. They show his superpowers so you know that he has what it takes to take care of the supervillian. The initial glimpses of power prepare you for the real struggle yet to come.

Today, as we take a look at Jesus' Transfiguration, we see how God does the same thing for us. He reveals the strength of our superhero, Jesus, as he's revealed as true God in all his glory. And the timing of this revelation of who Jesus is was no accident. Right before the real struggle of dying for the sins of the world, this glimpse of his glory prepared his disciples (and prepares us) for it. We can be certain that Jesus is the Son of God who can (and who has) overcome all of our enemies.

Listen now to Luke's account of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Luke 9:28-36 and see Jesus revealed in all his glory at the pinnacle of Epiphany to prepare us for his suffering in this lead-in to Lent… 


28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.) 34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen. 


I. On the Mountain


After a physically exhausting climb to the top of a mountain, the disciples were understandably worn out. They were "very sleepy" Luke tells us. But nothing like having a spotlight shined in your face to wake you up, right? What a startling sight the three saw! Jesus face was light up as bright as the sun itself! (Matthew 17:2) His clothes were brighter than anyone could bleach them (Mark 9:3), as bright as a flash of lightening! And he wasn't the only one shining!

There with him was the prophet Moses—the one with whom God had spoken face to face! The one through whom the law was given! And with him was Elijah—one of the truly great prophets, who never even had to face death! What guests! What glory! What a privilege for these disciples to see the kingdom of God!  

And Peter rightly confessed, "Master, it is good for us to be here!" And though he wanted to contain the glory that was on that mountain and bottle it up with a couple of tents, that's not what Jesus had in mind. Jesus hadn't come to bring heaven to earth, but sinners from this earth into heaven. And to do that Jesus still had to suffer and die. The real struggle still lie ahead. He still had to "depart" in Jerusalem. 

And before those events took place, how good it was for Peter, James and John to see what they did! For on that mountain Jesus revealed his glory. Though he usually walked around like an ordinary man, or as Isaiah put it, with "no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him," (Isaiah 53:2b) though he usually looked more like the nerdy Clark Kent than the powerful Superman, now Jesus pulled back his humanity to reveal his glory to the disciples, like Clark Kent pulling off his glasses, shirt and tie to reveal his tights and cape. Here, for a moment, Jesus let his divinity shine through clearly to reveal who he was! If the miracles he had performed had left any doubt of who Jesus really was, for Peter James and John that doubt was certainly removed there on the mountain!   

And how clearly you and I see who Jesus is! We've been catching glimpses of his divine glory all Epiphany season. We've seen the Holy Spirit descend on him and heard God the Father boast about him. We've seen him turn water into wine and fulfill all prophecies of Scripture. But now, seeing his glory shine through at his transfiguration, we see more clearly than ever the proof of his divinity! While Moses reflected the glory of God (cf. Exodus 34:29-35), Jesus glowed with it himself! Here, on the Mount of Transfiguration, we have seen Jesus shine in all his glory!


II. In His Exodus

Now, for Peter, James and John, this revelation of Jesus' glory couldn't have come at a better time; right before Lent, when they would be tempted to wonder if Jesus really was God. After all, if he had the power to stop disease, why didn't he stop these men from scourging him? If he could raise the dead to life, why didn't he prevent his own death?

Our text began with the words, "About eight days after Jesus said this…" But, said what? Well, a week earlier Jesus told his disciples, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." (Luke 9:22)   

He explained that they were going to Jerusalem so he could accomplish his mission. But that's not what Peter wanted. A week earlier he said, "Never, Lord! ... This shall never happen to you!" And now, Peter still didn't want Jesus to go to the cross. He wanted to keep this moment of glory for as long as he could. He said, "Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." Here Jesus didn't respond to Peter's request. He didn't need to. God the Father did it for him.  

"While [Peter] was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them… A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him."  

God pointed out to Peter that Jesus was his chosen one. But he also pointed out that his chosen one was not chosen to bring the disciples glory, but forgiveness. In Isaiah 53 he spoke of Jesus' mission in the past tense when he said, "…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)  

This is the mission that Moses, Elijah, and all the prophets described. This is the mission Jesus explained to his disciples when he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and… be killed and on the third day be raised to life." This is the departure—literally the "exodus," the "exit" or "going out"—that Jesus discussed with Moses and Elijah on the mountain top. This is the mission the chosen one—the Messiah—had come to fulfill.

And this is exactly the kind of Superhero Peter and all the disciples needed. Not one to shine in triumph over Rome, not one to shine in splendor on the mountain, but one who would suffer and die and take their sins on himself.

And that's exactly what kind of Superhero we need. Let's face it. We don't always listen to Jesus like God the father commanded. And implied in "Listen to him!" is "Obey him!" Yet, how often don't we put our desires above what God desires and let our selfishness creep in. You and I are far less than perfect and since it's perfection that God demands, we deserve hell.

And yet, how often don't we still wish Jesus were some other kind of Savior. We want him to save us from this economy. Save us from the growing government. Save us from our physical or emotional pains. Like Peter, we cry, "Save us from the boring and mundane, Jesus, and show us your glory, right here, right now. And let us hold on to that glory! We'll  build a tent and you can stay here and give us our best life right now."

But thank God he doesn't give us the kind of Savior we want, but the Savior we need—a Savior from sin. That's what his departure–his exodus from this life—was was all about! That's what his mission—the whole reason he came to earth—was all about! And it's there, in his exodus, not there on the mountain, where Jesus real glory shines!

It was good for Peter, James and John to be there to see Jesus on the mountain top. And it's good for us to see him there too. For as we soon watch him suffer and die this Lenten season, we can take comfort that he is true God. His death wasn't just the death of a man, but the death of God himself. It was God's blood shed on the cross. And therefore his sacrifice was enough to pay for your sins and for mine—for every one of them!


III. Through Us


So how do we respond this view of Jesus' glory shining through? We do what God told Peter, James and John to do. We listen to him. When he tells us it's time to leave the mountaintop of worship where we see his glory and it's time to go into the plains of our mission fields at work, at home, and in our neighborhoods. And just as Jesus' glory shined on that mountain, well, we obey him and do as he says in Matthew 5:16: "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  

Others will see how you live differently, how you work more faithfully, how you're kind and compassionate, even to those who hate you. And they'll want to know what makes you different. And you can tell them. And when you do tell them that it's because you long to serve your Savior for winning your forgiveness of sins on the cross, then Jesus' glory will sine in all its splendor though you.

And finally, one day soon, you and I will shine with glory like Moses and Elijah did on that mountain top, like Peter, James and John and all the saints who have gone before us do right now! And while we can't have that glory here on earth, who needs it?! We rejoice that because of our Superhero, because of our Savior and his work, we'll soon leave this earth for the glory of heaven to experience Jesus' glory first hand! In him, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

All You Need is Love (A sermon based on 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13)

What do you need in life? Food? clothes? Shelter? What about friendship? Purpose and meaning? You need air and water and sleep. Or maybe you don't need all that. Maybe John Lennon was right when he said, "All you need is love." Wait... Really? Love is all you need?! What about money and security? And surely you need food and water! Well, if we're talking about human love, it is insufficient. But if we're talking about God's love to us in Christ, that really is all we need. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 1 Corinthians 12:27 -- 13:13 and rejoice that you have all that you need: God's love in Christ....

All You Need is Love
A sermon based on 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13
Sunday, February 3, 2013 – Epiphany 4C

All I need is little more sleep. All I need is a little more cash. All I need is a better job. Or better behaved kids. All I need is food and shelter and clothes. With that I'll be just fine. But what do you really need in life?

In 1967 the Beatles released the single to their already popular hit, "All You Need Is Love." Written for a live television show which was broadcast in 26 countries and viewed by 350 million people, John Lennon wanted to tell the world that "Love is all anyone needs."

But what do you think? Were the Beatles right? "I don't need money or sleep or cash. All I need is love!" Is that true? Well, in a sense, it is. But it depends on what you mean by love. "I love summer sausage." "I love my wife." I love all four of my sons." "I love the color blue." "I love God." But hopefully I mean something entirely different in each of ways I just used the word "love."

If by "love" John Lennon meant "a fuzzy feeling you get around someone else," that love just won't cut it. If he meant a self-sacrificing love that we have for each other and that we demonstrate in our words and actions and the attitudes of our heart, well, he'd be closer but still wrong, since our love for each other is far from perfect.

But, if John Lennon meant the love of Christ for us sinners—a love so great that it took him to the cross to pay for our loveless actions—(and I don't really think that's what John Lennon was getting at, but if he did) then he was spot on. All any of us need is that love.

This morning we'll take a look at this Biblical concept of love—a love in action. We'll see how Jesus is revealed as love. He's revealed as love to us unloving sinners. He's revealed as love through us forgiven believers.

I.              Christ's Love for Us 

Out of Corinth, a city of commerce, culture and crudity, God called for himself a congregation of believers. And this congregation often reflected the wealthy and talented, but brawling city in which they lived. Though they were blessed with every spiritual gift (1:7) though they had been made the body of Christ (cf. last week's sermon) they weren't without their share of problems, with disunity, disharmony, and even fighting over who had the greatest spiritual gifts. So, the apostle Paul set out to straighten things up. And he sat down to write.

In Chapter 12 of his first letter to these Corinthians, he took up the topic of spiritual gifts. With the analogy of the human body that we've heard in our epistle lesson the last two Sundays now, he reminded the Corinthians that they all needed each other no matter what their individual gifts were. They were a unit, a whole, many parts that all served the same body. He ends chapter 12 with these words…

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.

The Corinthians loved to boast about their gifts. But Paul reminded them where those gifts had come from. God had "appointed" them all no matter what their gift or position might be. And how they were abusing those gifts! To them, "different" meant "not as good as" when they were comparing the gifts of others with their own. It was an attitude that sought to use their gifts for their own glory, rather than for God's glory. It was an attitude Paul pointed out when he showed them how they ought to be acting…

Eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If the Corinthians wanted to be great, they should have been using their gifts to love others. Boasting about their gifts to gain honor or glory for themselves, or using their gifts to serve themselves alone, was about as fitting to the church as a clanging symbol out of rhythm is to a symphony. If they knew everything there was to know, but in selfishness kept it to themselves, if they gave all they had away to the poor, but did it only so they would look or feel good, it was worthless. You see every act done for selfish reasons, is a sin. And for such selfish use of the gifts that God had given them they deserved to have those gifts stripped away. They deserved hell. But instead, they received God's love. They received it in Christ. 

And friends, we're not really all that different from those Corinthians, are we? Look at all the blessings God has showered on us. Look at all the gifts he's given you. This room is not without its share of talents and abilities. You are all incredibly gifted by God—each in your own unique way!

But, how do we use those gifts? Too often we use them selfishly. We easily say, "I love God. I love Jesus for what he's done for me." But love—real love—is not just a luke-warm "I'm sort of glad he did what he did for me." No. It's an action. Listen to the way Paul defines love with action words.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

A pastor once suggested to me that these verses served as a great mirror. Hold them up to see how loving you've been. Take the word "love" and replace it with your name.  "Rob is patient." No, not really. "Rob is kind." Sometimes, but not always to everyone. "Rob does not envy. He's happy with the gifts God's given." Well… no. "Rob does not boast, is not proud." Well, he's being humbled here pretty quickly. "Rob is not rude. Rob is not self-seeking." Failed, again and again. I think you get the picture, right? No need to go on. And I assume that being a sinner yourself, each one of you would have the same trouble comparing how your life really is to what God wants your life to look like—perfectly loving toward everyone in every way.

You see, we, like the Corinthians, too often use the gifts God's given us to bring glory to ourselves, rather than to God. We use our gifts to love "me first," not others. We aren't always patient or kind. We do envy and boast. We are rude and certainly self-seeking. We get angry when we shouldn't and we keep track of who's hurt us how much. We don't rejoice in the truth and love to hear God's Word. We do fail.  

And for such selfish use of the gifts that God has given us, for such lovelessness, we deserve to have our gifts stripped away. We deserve hell. But, we don't get what we deserve. Instead, we receive God's love. We receive it in Christ.  That same pastor who suggested I use these verses as a mirror suggested I also use them to see Christ. Read verses 4 to 8 again, this time replacing "love" with "Jesus." You'll see how much Jesus loves you.

Jesus is patient with us even when we reject him like those in Nazareth (cf. Luke 4:28-29). He is always kind giving us way more than we deserve. He was not self-seeking as we have been, but selfless, giving his life on a cross and suffering hell in our place. He keeps no record of our wrongs, but takes them away, assuring us of his forgiveness by giving us his very body and blood to eat and drink! And Jesus will continue to care for us and protect us because his love, unlike ours, will never fail. No matter what we do, no matter how bad we've been, he will always love us.

Now, by his love, we, who once delighted in evil, rejoice in the truth of Jesus, revealed in his perfect love for us. Now, we, who once used our gifts only for selfish gain, use our gifts to express our gratitude and love for God by loving others. Having had Jesus reveal himself as perfect love to us unloving sinners, we can't help but be his instruments of sharing that love as he reveals himself as perfect love to others through us forgiven believers…

II.            Christ's Love Through Us 

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

…where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Some of Corinthians boasted in what they thought were the better gifts—in having the ability to prophesy about the future, in the ability to speak in tongues, in languages they never learned, in having the most wisdom and knowledge. Others were envious of those who had these gifts when they didn't. But all of those gifts were incomplete without love.

There were no better gifts, no worse gifts, just different gifts. But none of them amounted to anything unless they were coupled with love. They were incomplete. And they would eventually become obsolete in heaven. But not love. Love would never be obsolete. And love completed the rest of the gifts. They could put away such childish, selfish use of their gifts and use them with maturity, in serving others.

You see, it didn't matter if they were a foot or an eye or a hand. Whatever gifts they had been given they could use to serve God out of love for him. They could use those gifts, no longer for personal gain, but out of thanks to Jesus for the perfect love he had shown to them, they could use their gifts to love each other. As the apostle John put it, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:16,18)

In thanks to Jesus, for his perfect love, they could be patient, kind, content, humble, and polite. They could be selfless, calm, forgiving and honest. They could be trusting and hopeful. They could persevere unfailing to the end.

And the same is true of us. Recognizing how great is the love the Father has lavished on us! (1 John 3:1) and how perfect the love that Jesus has shown to us, laying down his very life for us, we can't help but reflect that love toward others.

And it doesn't matter what gifts you have—whether you can work miracles or you're a natural teacher or leader. It doesn't matter if you have gifts of administration or the ability to speak in other languages. It doesn't matter if your gifts are none of these. No matter what your ability or position, you have been appointed by God to be in this place at this time. And you've been given the gifts you have to serve others in love.

Recognizing Jesus' perfect love for us, we can't help but love others, not with some shallow emotion, but with loving actions and in truth. We will be patient, kind, content, humble, and polite. We will be selfless, calm, forgiving and honest. We will be trusting and hopeful. We will persevere unfailing to the end. "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19) And through us, forgiven believers, Jesus will be revealed as perfect love to others.

Maybe John Lennon was on to something. Because all we need is love—Jesus' love shown to us unloving sinners, which leads to Jesus love being shown through us forgiven believers. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete." (1 John 4:10-12) All you need is love. Amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Read sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Sermons
Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast