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Created. Redeemed. Called. January 17, 2016

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Isaiah 43:1

Life Sunday

January 17, 2016


Focus:  God gives value to all human life.

Function:  That the hearers value their lives as God does.

Structure:  Outline provided by Rev. Dr. Jim Lamb of Lutherans for Life.


Created. Redeemed. Called.


As we recognize Life Sunday, we also recognize just how difficult it can be.  All the issues we can talk about, issues of life from cradle to grave.  Many of them we have talked about before.  Many of them we’ll talk about again.  But so many of them can seem complicated, confusing, controversial, and uncomfortable.

Complicated, like stem cell research, cloning, in vitro fertilization and genetic engineering.  Maybe we need scientists to figure it all out.    Confusing, should we remove the feeding tube, stop the treatments, sign the Living Will, or use a Do Not Resuscitate order?  Maybe we need pioneers in the realm of ethics. @  Then there’s the controversies surrounding any of these topics.  Is church really the place?  Is worship or Bible study?  Should we just leave it all to the politicians?  Maybe we need to just stick to the gospel and leave the rest to our Biblical scholars.  @  And they can definitely make us uncomfortable, there are likely people here today who’ve had an abortion or pressured someone they know, or maybe they feel guilty because they couldn’t talk someone out of it.  Perhaps psychologists can be helpful, too.

These words are true.  Complicated, confusing, controversial, uncomfortable.  But today, today we’re not going to talk about those things.   Today we’re going to answer a different question.  A question that isn’t complicated nor confusing.  A question that isn’t controversial and doesn’t make us uncomfortable.  It’s actually pretty simple.  But it speaks to all of these issues.  In fact, it speaks to all of life, all of life everywhere.  And before we can even talk about life issues, this is where we have to begin.

Our question today is this: “what has God done that gives value to human life?”    And our Scripture text, Isaiah 43:1 gives us the answer.  “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

It gives us three simple words to consider.   Created.  Redeemed.  Called.  We don’t need to be scientists, ethicists, politicians, Biblical scholars or psychologists to talk about these things.  Those men and women can help, and are good to have in our community, but we get to look at these things as the very people of God.  We see them as followers of Christ, as we live in His Spirit and in His gifts.

Every life, every person has value because God made us all.  God created every single person.  And the Bible tells us that this is intimate, it’s hands on.   “Your hands fashioned and made me” (Job 10:8).   “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).  We could all just as well have a tag on our back the same as we do on our clothing.

It would read @ “Handmade by God.”  And even though some would challenge this by asking about children born with deformities or illnesses or any number of challenges, the answer is still the same.  They are the work of God’s hands and they are precious in His sight.

And should we want to go deeper on that question, God would have a couple of questions for us.   “Do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?” (Isaiah 45:11)    “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’?” (Isaiah 39:16).  What right do we have to challenge God?  We’re not the creator, we’re the created.

God is also clear in Psalm 51, saying that He has made even the smallest of human beings, even from the moment they were conceived.  “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).  And when we think about sinfulness as being part of our human condition, and then realize that we are sinful from the very moment of conception, that means we’re human from the moment of conception.  But it also points to the next thing God has done for us that shows how much He values human life.

God knew that as sinners, we would be in need of a Savior.  From the moment of conception and onward, we are in desperate need of a Redeemer.  And we have One!  As the angel Gabriel told Mary “You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus” (Luke 1:31).  Those are great words not just at Christmas, but all year round!  And it mentions two separate events, both the conception of Jesus and His birth.  And it’s His conception that is the miracle, not the birth.

As God willed it, Jesus was conceived without an earthly father, by power from on high (Luke 1:35a).  That’s why the angel calls Him the Son of God (Luke 1:35b) because that’s what He is, from the moment of His conception.    “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14a).  At the time of His conception, not just His birth.

Jesus wasn’t just God-man, but also God-embryo, if you want to use that language.  Our unholiness in our conception is replaced by His holiness in His conception.  He comes to take our place.  And that gives value to embryos the world over.  They are being redeemed!

But there’s more to it.  It doesn’t end at conception.    Jesus needed a womb to develop in.  He needed feet so that He could walk among us.  He needed hands so that He could reach out and heal the sick.  He needed a mouth so that He could teach and proclaim the kingdom of God, forgiving us of our sins. He needed a heart to be filled with compassion for the lost, for the least.  He needed a body so He could hold children in His arms and bless them.

He needed those same hands and feet so that on Good Friday they might be pierced through, as one nail after another was used to secure Him to the cross.  So that He could take our place.

He needed a mouth so that He could cry out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1) so that we wouldn’t have to.

He needed a heart pumping blood so that it would pour out from His veins, flowing from His side, to cleanse us of our sins as He fell still in death.

And He needed a body to be buried in the tomb so that on Easter morning He might rise again, breaking forth from the tomb, victorious over death and the grave alike!

Paul tells us that we have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:20a).  From the very time of His conception until the moments spent on the cross, it all comes to a price, a price paid for us.   And so Paul reminds the Ephesian elders to “Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood” (Acts 20:28b).  We weren’t bought by some man or even a martyr.  God purchased us back for Himself with His own blood in the person of Jesus Christ.  The price paid for our life, to destroy our sins, was high.  The value that gives to human life is incalculable.

And that price was paid for all.  For all mankind.  Every human ever conceived.  Jesus Christ died “once for all” (Hebrews 9:12).  Sadly, not all men know this, but that doesn’t change the fact.  Christ’s death and His resurrection give value to all human life.  And it’s then our task to share this good news.

So far, we have two simple answers to our question, “What has God done that gives value to human life?”

Every human being, every life has value, because we are all the works of God’s hands.  We are all a part of His creation.    And we are also all the work of His hands as He stretched them out on the cross to offer us redemption.  We are all created and redeemed.

That leaves us with one simple answer left.  Every human being has value because every life is someone God desires to call into a relationship with Himself.  He truly “wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  He wants every human being to be brought to the font, to be splashed by the water of Baptism, called in the words.  He has created and redeemed every life with His own hands  and He seeks to call us His children, to hold us, to engrave us in the palms of His hands both now and forever (Isaiah 49:16).

We are created, redeemed, and called.  It’s not complicated.  It’s not confusing.  It’s not controversial, and it’s not uncomfortable.  It’s simple.  But even in its simplicity, it speaks to all of our life’s issues.  It’s the starting point before we can even begin to answer the questions.

Let’s try on some quiz questions here: why do we strive to protect tiny embryos in Petri dishes or frozen in a fertility clinic?    Because they are little ones created and redeemed by God whom He seeks to call to Himself.

Why do we speak up for those in the womb who cannot speak?    Because they are all created, redeemed, little ones whom God wants to call.

What do we teach our little children so that when they are older, sexual promiscuity and abortion will be unthinkable?    They are special not because of what they do, how they look or how they dress, but because they are created, redeemed, and called!

What do we tell you young people as you struggle with temptations and tough choices, mood swings and confused feelings about your identity?  @We want you to know whose you are and that you can make good choices because you are created, redeemed, and called. You are His!

What do we share with that unmarried, pregnant high school young woman who is ashamed and afraid and sees only one way out?  We share that she is loved and forgiven and not forsaken because she is created, redeemed, and called. And we let her know that we care.

What do we say to women and men crushed in the aftermath of an abortion decision?  They are created, redeemed, and called, and therefore NOTHING can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

What do we share with the infertile couple desperately desiring a child?  They are created, redeemed, and called, and they can trust in the ways and will of their God. We can then pray with them and help them look at all of their options.

What can we say to those who miscarry a child they already know and love?  They are created, redeemed, and called, and God holds them in His hands.

What do we have to share with the frail and elderly who wonder about God’s purpose for their lives?  They are created, redeemed, and called, and as long as God gives them life, He gives their lives meaning and purpose.

How can we help the family struggling with a difficult end-of-life decision for a loved one?  We can encourage them to know that they and their loved one are created, redeemed, and called. They can make a decision they believe is in accordance with God’s will and trust that He will work through it.

This list could go on and on, but the answer is still the same.  Our lives have value.  Every life has value because every life is someone who has been created by God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and they have either been called or God is still seeking to call them into an everlasting relationship with Him.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  In fact, it’s simple.  All life has value because God has created, redeemed, and called.  Amen.





Seeing is Believing? April 27, 2014

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This is an updated sermon that you can find earlier on this blog.  Some changes were made, but the gist is the same.


John 20:19-31

Second Sunday after Easter

April 14-15, 2012


First Sunday after Easter

April 27, 2014


Focus: God raised His Son from the dead.

Function: That the hearers hope is firmly rooted in the gospel.

Structure: Here is a prevailing view, but here is the claim of the gospel.


Seeing is Believing?


Christ is risen!  (wait)

Our gospel lesson today has left one of the disciples branded.  Face it, when you think about the disciple Thomas, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  Doubting.  Doubting Thomas.  It’s just the way it is.  But is it fair?  Should we really pin it all on him?

Often times we think it was just Thomas, but was it really?  On Easter morning, what did the women do?  Did they go to the tomb looking for a resurrected Lord?  Quite the opposite: they went to take care of the body.  And what about the rest of the disciples when the women came and told them?  Did the disciples rejoice?  No!  Peter and John went to try to figure out who had stolen the body as Pastor Fritsch mentioned last week.  And then they locked themselves up in a home and hid from the Jews.

We blame Thomas for doubting because he needed to see it to believe.  But look back at the text.  As the Greek says it, “The disciples were overjoyed having seen the Lord.”  They, like Thomas, needed to see it to believe it.  Until the resurrected Christ showed up in their midst and spoke with them, they doubted.  We’ll just have to face the facts: all of the disciples were doubters.  They all struggled to understand the message even when Jesus was with them.

But, was it really so bad that they wanted proof?  For those of you who don’t know my background, I was born and raised in Missouri, a state whose official nickname is the Show Me State.  There are a couple different origin stories for the nickname, but the most likely deals with Missouri’s first congressman, William Vandiver.  While serving on the House Committee on Naval Affairs, and perhaps fed up with political bickering, Mr. Vandiver questioned the accuracy of an earlier speaker’s comments.  “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me.  I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

Missourians aren’t alone in wanting proof of a matter.  We all do it, all the time.  Think of our justice system and how it revolves around the ability to produce evidence and witnesses.  If you go to the store to return an item, you have to provide proof of purchase, a receipt.  And at this point, unless you’re a real pessimist, if someone told you it was going to snow again today, you’d probably have to see it to believe it.

The disciples weren’t really any different.  Even though Jesus had already told them, they still didn’t quite get this concept of rising from the dead.  Seeing Lazarus raised didn’t help much, either.  And telling them that He would rise on the third day didn’t stop the women from going to the tomb that morning.

Let’s not mistake this for disciple-bashing.  It wasn’t some horrendous thing that the disciples needed to see it.  Notice, Christ didn’t scold them or yell at them.  Bear in mind what Christ said, “Peace be with you!”  And then He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit.

Believe it or not, the real purpose of this text isn’t about the disciples, or Thomas, needing to see anything.  Instead it’s in what Christ instructed them to do.  “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”  Get out from behind these locked doors and go share the good news.  Let the world know that I have been raised from the dead.

And then there’s what He said to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Christ’s concern in this passage is getting the message of His resurrection to as many people as possible.  His concern is for both Jew and Gentile.  His concern is for both you and me.

The problem in the text is that the disciples were hiding.  Their disbelief in Jesus’ resurrection caused them to fear the Jews and hide.  It prevented them from sharing the message of a Messiah.  And even after appearing to them once, they were still locked inside a week later.

In 1 Timothy, Paul tells us that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”    That is also the clear mission that Jesus gave them in Matthew 28: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus’ own disciples, the men and women who had lived with Him during His ministry needed proof.  They had to see it to believe it.  But what’s that mean for everyone else?  The disciples would soon find out.  After Jesus left them, they eventually did unlock the doors and start preaching the Word.  They taught that Christ had indeed been raised from the dead.  Paul would tell the Corinthians that if they doubted the resurrection, they could go to any of the five hundred brothers who had seen the resurrected Christ and ask about it.  They baptized, they instructed, they made disciples.

Over the next couple of months we’ll be reading from the book of Acts, which recounts how Christ’s bride the church grew during that early period.  But there’s a lot of history between Acts and our present day, too much for me to handle in a sermon unless y’all like the dark ages.

But think about the world around us today.  We already talked about how people still want proof of things.  And it’s no different when they look at God.  How many Christians do you know that want proof of God?  Maybe you’re one of them right now.  Just a couple of weeks ago, as a congregation, we went and saw a movie together, God’s Not Dead.  It’s easy to see in that movie, and in the world around us, how people are trying to either prove, or disprove, the Bible.  Prove or disprove the existence of God.  Non-Christians want proof, or they say we should give up our faith.  We all want to be shown.  Missouri just admits it.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  We fit that verse.  And we are indeed blessed.  We are blessed in that God would call us His children.  We are blessed in His love for us and the forgiveness that He has given to us through Christ.  We are blessed by the gift of everlasting life that God grants to His children.

Christ’s admonition to His disciples, to share the gospel with others, is still for us today.  We may not be able to show others a resurrected body of Christ; but, there is much we do have.

It is now precisely as John said, that “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  We have the Word of God, the Bible, printed in mass quantities that we can share.  And as the disciples did, we can talk about the message of salvation, forgiveness, and love that God offers.  In baptism, God still pours out His Spirit.  In the Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of Christ still bring forgiveness.  When your Pastor tells you that in the name of Christ, your sins are forgiven, they are forgiven.

The desire for proof plagues all men, those who believe and those who don’t.  But as we learn from one of our brothers, whoever wrote Hebrews, faith isn’t about proof.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Assurance and conviction.  Although we haven’t seen it, we’re sure of it.  Our hope isn’t wishy-washy, our hope is certain.  Our faith is in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It’s in the relationship that He established with us as His people and as His children.  It’s in the forgiveness He died to give us.  It’s in the life He promised to us.  Indeed, we can be certain.  Christ is risen! wait


Lenten Season Sermon Update March 3, 2014

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Good morning!  For those of you who follow my blog, I wanted to let you know what Lent will look like.  As an associate pastor, I only preach essentially half of the sermons at my congregation.  During the Lent season, the senior pastor here will tackle all the midweek Wednesday services, and I will be handling the Sundays.  For the next several weeks, I will be revisiting an old sermon series: Giving Up ____.”  In Lent, it is a tradition to give up something you enjoy, to fast from it, in order to give you more time to be with God, strengthen your relationship with God.  The focus of this series, though, is on the things that invade the life of Christians that God would want us to give up anyway.  It’s a five sermon series and will be preached as follows (you can find all of these sermons already on the blog!):

March 9:  Giving Up Popularity

March 16: Giving Up Control

March 23: Giving Up Expectations

March 30: Giving Up Superiority

April 6:  this will be a new sermon (I already used Giving Up Enemies at this congregation).

April 13: Palm Sunday, I am not preaching

I will be preaching Maundy Thursday and Easter morning, so stayed tuned for those!

Crying and Shouting October 21, 2012

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Isaiah 49:8-16a

October 20-21, 2012

Focus: God never forsakes us.

Function: That the hearers rejoice in the compassion of Yahweh.

Structure: Here is a prevailing view…but here is the claim of the gospel.



Crying and Shouting

Text: v.14-But Zion said, “Yahweh has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.”

            “MOMMY!!!!!!”  It’s the sound that I’m becoming all too familiar with.  It’s the part of my day I can always count on.  As I sit in my apartment writing papers or reading for class, that’s the sound I hear.  It’s more of a whine, really.  So, I look out the window and there he is.  Little Ben.  He’s just learned how to walk and the only word he seems to be able to say is mommy.  And he uses it, a lot.

We may not be able to read the minds of babies and infants, but we hear them.  We hear them cry out.  From the ear-shattering cries, to the cries that wake us up in the middle of the night, they’re good at it.  They cry out.  But why?  Why is it that one of my classmates was rejoicing earlier this week because he and his wife managed to get five hours of sleep one night?  Why can’t they just let mom and dad catch up on some sleep or get a few things done that need to be done?  Why is it that if you put them down for even just a few moments, those cute little eyes start to become red and filled with tears?

They cry out for needs and attention.  They cry because they feel alone and neglected.  They cry when they find themselves alone in fear that they’ve been forgotten.  Alone, forgotten, forsaken.

It’s the nursing child, the son of her womb that Isaiah mentions in the text.  It’s Israel, God’s children, Zion.  “Yahweh has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.”  Israel conquered and led into exile.  Judah, exiled.  All of God’s people, treated poorly by the Assyrians and Babylonians alike.  Alone, forgotten, forsaken.

Have you ever been there?  Have you ever felt alone?  Have you ever felt so betrayed by life that there was nowhere and no one you thought you could turn to?  I have.  I remember a time when I was overwhelmed by everything going on in my life.  It was just before I started the seminary.  My wife, fiancée at the time, Hannah was still off at school in Nebraska, as were most of my friends for that matter.  And one day the idea of being a pastor scared me.  Could I really do it?  Was this really what I wanted do with my life?  Is this what God wanted me to do with my life?  If I bail now, is everything up to this point lost?  I remember crying out for help.  I tried speaking with a few people; but, none of them seemed to get it.  I felt alone.

No doubt, sin plays a part in all this.  Sin is the cause of all this.  Sin leads to death, disease, and broken relationships.  Your sin, my sin, opens us up to this feeling.  We hurt one another and the people we care about hurt us.  Maybe you’ve lost a relationship because of something you’ve said.  Or maybe gossip about you hit a little too close to home.  Betrayal leaves us feeling alone.

But sometimes we can’t stop it.  Even if we aren’t actively sinning, sin still isolates us.  Learning that you or a loved one has a terminal illness.  Losing your job and no longer having the ability to support your family.  The riddles and tragedy of broken homes caused by divorce or abortion.  Life can be tragic.  Sin, grief, and loss cause us to wonder if anyone really cares.  And worse yet, they cause us to wonder where God is in all this.  We feel alone, forgotten, forsaken.

Together with the children and Israel, we cry out.  “MOMMY!!!!!!”  We shout and we scream hoping that someone, anyone will hear us.  Hoping that somewhere, someone will help us.

And then, out of nowhere, there’s an answer to our cries.  How many times when I hear little Ben cry out does he get an answer?  Every time.  Without fail, though he feels alone, he never is.  I watch out the window as mom comes to the rescue.  She swoops in, arms open wide (open arms wide, cross-like), and lifts him up off the ground into her arms (cross arms over chest).  Sometimes dad even gets in on the action.

God speaks this very illustration through Isaiah to His people.  “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”  Only in rare cases does a parent neglect their child.  That’s part of being in a sinful world.  But that’s not the case with God.  Yahweh, our Father, never forgets.

There was another child, the Son of God, who cried out as well.  Like Zion, like us, Jesus Christ, hanging on the cross, cries out.  He asks the question. “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachtani?”  “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”  In suffering, in pain, in a time where He had been abandoned by all those around Him, Jesus cried out.  Alone, forgotten, forsaken.

And if ever there were an answer to that question, it’s here, it’s in Christ.  When He asks why He has been forsaken, God answers.  The reason Christ is on that cross is for Israel, for the crying children.  God’s answer is for us.

And as God told Zion, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” Do you know what the American Sign Language sign for Jesus is?  Make sign. The marks in His hands.  Our aloneness has been inscribed in His hands.  He will never forget His people.

As we cry out, as we look for help, this is what we see.  We see God.  We see what He has done for us on the cross.  We see Christ, hands lifted up and stretched out. Stretch out arms.  And as the mother cradling her child, we see God’s love for us.  Cross arms over chest.  This, by the way, is the sign for love.  In Christ’s aloneness, He died for us.

Unfortunately, sin still plagues this world.  Even though we’re no longer alone, sin can still make us feel like we are.  Sin, death, betrayal, they can still make us isolated.  How then can we overcome these feelings?  How do we overcome feeling alone?

We keep crying out.  But those cries are no longer the same.  We cry out to the One who cares for us and loves us.  Isaiah provides one such answer in the text.  Yahweh spoke to His Son.  He spoke to Christ saying “I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people.”  When is Christ given as a covenant for us?  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul all see fit to answer that question.  Pastor Mitteis will recite the words here among us in just a few minutes.  “In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  When you feel alone, where can you turn?  Right here. Point to rail.  We come together and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  His blood has been shed so that we need not feel alone anymore.

We also overcome being alone by crying out in prayer.  Jesus tells us this in Matthew 7. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  We know that God hears us when we pray.  We know that He answers us when we pray.  If you’re feeling alone, forgotten and forsaken, take it to the Lord in prayer.  Cry out to your Father who loves you.

What Christ did for us didn’t stop on the cross.  It didn’t stop with our Savior alone, forgotten, and forsaken in the ground.  No!  But instead, on the third day, that first Easter morning, the cries and shouts of loss turned into cries and shouts for joy.

We hear it from Isaiah.  “Shout for joy, O heavens!  And rejoice, O earth!  Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains!  For Yahweh has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.”  For through His death and resurrection, we know that we are loved, forgiven, and restored.  Through the covenant of His blood and through prayer, we know that He remembers us and is with us forever. We know that we will never be alone, forgotten or forsaken. In 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul encourages us to “[r]ejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Together, as God’s children, we cry out, we shout out for joy in our Savior.