Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Hebrews 5:5-6: So also Christ did not exalt Himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by Him who said to Him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten You"; and He says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."
For those of us who are pastors, especially in the Lutheran beliefs and traditions, we believe that the office of pastor is not one we seek out "on our own." Men are sought out by God, chosen in order to serve amongst people, to lead them to believe, repent, confess, receive forgiveness and life from God through Jesus, and live out their lives in faith to the end of living with God forever. We are to be priests to offer the "sacrifices" God gave for the benefit of His people. Pastors are also prophets, telling the people of God's pending judgement while telling the people of God's overwhelming grace when they repent, confess, and believe they are forgiven. As a man who is a Pastor, I did not seek this role. The Lord of the Church placed His call upon me, especially when the people of God at Faith Lutheran Church and School called me to be their Senior Pastor. Other denominations have variations on the same theme.
Yet, as a pastor, my role is that of a servant to the "Good Shepherd" and the "Great High Priest," and "THE Prophet." My role is subservient to the ONE who God placed to be shepherd of the world, THE ONE and ONLY sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and cleansing for all people of every age, AND the ultimate Prophet of Law and Gospel. It is my role, when you boil it down, along with Pastor James, is to lead YOU to HIM. Our calling as pastors is to lead you to Jesus, the priest forever in the order of the "King of Righteousness." Melchizedek is a combination Hebrew word. "Melech" means "King." "Zedek" means "Righteousness."
So, Jesus is the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and Pastor." He serves us (remember yesterday's blog), and I, along with Pastor James, serve You. Why? To lead people, you, to believe in the forgiveness that He gave. Father, send Your Spirit to lead us to believe more fully, Amen
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Mark 10:43b-45: But whoever would be great among must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
What is servanthood? What does it mean to serve? Does it mean that some person benefits from what I do for them? Partially. Society today adds, "And you'll feel better for the service." It seems that we serve in order to feel good about ourselves. We serve so that we feel better.
Have we lost the fuller focus of service and servanthood? You may feel good that you provided help for someone else. You may even derive some joy from helping someone get back on their feet. However, that is not the reason that we serve. Service is about the joy the person who we served has from what we do. Is it okay to "feel good" for doing good for someone else? Yes it is. It's a benefit of serving, for sure. That's not WHY we serve.
We serve because Jesus first served us. We help people because Jesus gave His life in order to save us from our sins. We serve for the good that our service gives for the other person. It is never about us. It is always about the one who is being helped.
The final part of servanthood that needs to be defined is, self sacrifice. We have Jesus as the ultimate example. Jesus served to the point of death. For Jesus, it was all about the sacrifice. Jesus' "joy" was giving His all for the sake of the people. His body was broken and His blood was shed to bring life to broken and bleeding sinners, to heal the wounds of sin by His sacrifice. We are healed of sin, death, and the influence of Satan by means of His wounds. Jesus sacrificed it all so that we will live in order to serve.
So, we serve and give our all, all that we can for other people, because Jesus served us by giving up of His life. God, thank You for Jesus' service to us, Amen.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Mark 11: 27-33: And they [Jesus and the disciples] came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes came again to Him, and the said to Him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" Jesus said them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me." And they discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'From man'?" - they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
"Who gave to you the right...?" is a common question that is, as we can see, very old. The Pharisees and Scribes were the leaders of the people of Israel. They thought that they were "in charge." So when they questioned Jesus as to who gave Him the authority to teach, preach, heal, do miracles, and even raise people from death, Jesus threw their "authority" right back at them. The question was, "Who gave the right to John to baptize? God or people?" Their politically correct answer of "We do not know" showed that they didn't want to take responsibility with the authority they did have.
Now let's move forward in time to today. The question can be, and is being, posed to us as Christians. "Who gave us the authority to tell people that they're sinners who need to repent? Who gave us the authority to proclaim the Gospel of salvation and life that comes from Jesus alone? Who gave us the authority as well as the responsibility to carry out the mission of Jesus of making disciples?" Our authority is constantly being attacked. "Who told you that you can tell my son about Jesus?" "Who gave you the right to publicly broadcast your message of hope in Christ above all else?"
I'll tell you who. JESUS DID. Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, told me to "make disciples." Jesus, my Savior and my Lord, gave to me the authority to do the things that need to be done AND the responsibility to do it. Throughout the Word of God, God continues to equip the faith of His people, encourage His people with hope and promise of new life today and forever, and to engage His people with love and mercy with the responsibility to take action. We have the authority through the infallible, inerrant, and inspired Word of God. Let us be responsible and fulfill His Will for the world. Holy Spirit, be with us always, Amen.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Numbers 21:8-9: And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
I have not been bitten by a snake. I was asked by a member of a former congregation to go on a backpacking trip. He said, "On this trip, you'll see rattlesnakes on the trail sometimes." By a blessing (?) there was a fire in the area so we had to cancel the trip.
Some snakes are poisonous. In our Bible story, the camp of the traveling Israelites was infested by poisonous snakes. People were dying. And why were the snakes there? It was because the people rebelled against God. They were grumbling and complaining against God because they didn't like what He provided for them. The deeper reason was, they didn't trust God that He would lead them the way they wanted Him to lead them. So God put the snakes in the camp to rebuke them and lead them to salvation.
And the salvation? Look to the snake that Moses made which was on a pole. Then you will live. The poison will not continue to hurt you.
God allows troubles, sorrows, and strife to come to us. These troubles, sorrows, and strife are in the world, and in our lives, because of sin. Sin causes rebellion against God. Sin is, by nature, selfish and self-centered. That goes against the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods besides me." God cannot abide that. So He rebukes us with the desire for us to repent of our sins and turn back to Him and His way. We have to die to our self and self will.
And He sets up a way for salvation. Just as the snake was lifted up on the pole for people to see and thereby be saved, God the Father had Jesus the Son lifted up on the tree of the cross to save us from our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The end result of Jesus' death is our forgiveness. Jesus' resurrection is our resurrection to live by grace now along with living with God forever in heaven. God, open our hearts to sin our sin and to see our Savior, Jesus, Amen.
Monday, March 5, 2018
Mark 10: 32-34: And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, He began to tell them what was to happen to Him, saying, "Se, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise."
Now you may think that the title doesn't match up with the text. Jesus is saying a lot about "gloom and doom" that will happen to Him. Everyone is aware of being handed over to the Gentiles means. It means crucifixion. It means a horrible way to die. I can understand why His followers would be afraid. And it would be natural for us to fixate on all the pain and suffering that will happen to Jesus. And that is why we would naturally focus on the title being wrong.
NOW, let's focus on the last sentence that Jesus says here. "And after three days He will rise." Everyone was so focused on the "lead up" that they missed the point. Jesus was going to die a horrible, gruesome, and humiliating death. AND Jesus was going to rise to life. Jesus was going to go through the agony of the crucifixion only to come back to life. Jesus was going to die to be the one time sacrifice for the sins of humanity for all time in order to forgive humanity and rise to give humanity a brand new life that lives with Him and for Him. By means of Jesus' death, He has destroyed the influence of sin, evil, and the Evil One. By means of Jesus' resurrection, He has brought life, light, and immortality to all who believe in Jesus. This is GOOD NEWS.
And this is the good news that we celebrate AND live out every day. We first are sad and afraid of what our sins cause to happen in us and what God had to do. We are ALSO joyous in believing that Jesus' death and resurrection freed us from sin, cleansed us from all unrighteousness, and gave to us a brand new life. God, thank You for all you did to save me and give me life, Amen.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
1st Corinthians 1:18-19: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
It's been said, "The more you know..." NBC has used that catch phrase for years is trying to lead people to understand life and when you understand life you'll be able to make better choices. In other words, when you know what is right and what is wrong, you will choose the right because you know it. Does that really work?
Not as much as we want to. I think the reason that it doesn't work is, the will is captive to the self. And the self will do things that will, ultimately, please the self. For example, do you like crime dramas where the "good guys" always win? Or do you like that the "bad guys" win every once in a while? Do you watch reality shows or science fiction? My point is, we do things that gravitate toward what we like. And at times, a persons will and desire gravitates toward "the dark side." They know what is and isn't right. They ignore what they know.
Martin Luther once said, "My conscience is captive to the will of God." Luther not only knows what the will of God is. He is also saying that his will, or his self, his personhood, is captive to the will of God.
It's not about just knowing God and His will. It's about allowing Him to "take hold" of you in order to shape you to His will. The end result is living your life according to the desires and grace of God and not yours. And the more you and all who believe, by daily contrition and repentance and learning the will of God, allow God to take hold, of your will, lives change. You life changes because God is leading you. So know the will of God and live the will of God and let Him lead you and change you. God, thank You for Your will and live. Take me, mold me, and lead me, Amen.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Mark 10:26-27: And they were exceedingly astonished and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God."
I have heard the same question asked for most of my lifetime after tragedies. Every time the "powers that be" have asked this same question. Whether it is Columbine, 9/11, Sandy Hook, or Parkland, just to name a few, people have been asking, "What can we do to fix this so that it will never happen again?" People have asked for tougher legislation on guns, illegal immigration, airport security, along with many other ways to attempt to fix the problems by means of passing laws or not passing laws. Has legislation worked to keep things from happening again? It has not.
To God, there is no way fix the problem of people by means of legislation. The cause of all "man's inhumanity to man" is SIN. That is why Jesus is saying as He replied to the question, "Who can be saved?" "With man it is impossible." We cannot fix ourselves. We cannot save ourselves. We need to get real with this. Without God, people cannot fix themselves. Without God, we cannot save ourselves.
If it is impossible with people to fix people, then what do we do? What can be done? There is also a second reality we need to wrap our brains around. With God, all things are possible. With God, and the salvation from sins given to us freely through Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension, we are turned around from the path that we are on. We are "dead to sin and alive to righteousness." We are new people. We have been changed to live a different life.
And what does the new person look like? When we believe in Jesus, the new person repents of his or her sins. The new person's life is marked by being forgiven and forgiving each other. The new person "walks humbly before his God" as well as people. The new person lives by means of the power of God the Holy Spirit who changed his/her life. When evil happens, and it will happen, the new person calls for repentance and for people to turn to God. The new person, also known as a Christian, seeks out to share and show love, to be compassionate and empathetic. The Christian shows the love of God that was manifested in Jesus and that lives out daily through the Christian. We don't show it by posting pictures and phrases on social media. We do face to face, hand to hand, heart to heart, with the real love that radiates from us.
So Christians, get ready. Call the world to repent of its' sin and turn to God. God is "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." Then let the world see God's love through us. God, lead us to salvation and life, Amen.
Monday, February 19, 2018
Isaiah 35:3-4: Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you."
I waited to weigh in on the shooting at the high school in Parkland. I thought it would be a good idea to wait for the emotional level to calm down. It hasn't. I think that it's intensified. There are some very angry and afraid students who are demanding answers and change.
I get it. They want answers. They want change. Why weren't the "warning signals" seen and addressed? What prompted this young man to want to shoot up his old school? Why didn't anyone see this in order to stop it? There is a lot of potential blame to cast. Yet casting blame doesn't solve the issue.
People want change. People want significant change. People want to feel safe. I want change, too. And I want real change. I want real life change. I want...
Stop. We need to "switch gears." We need to see that about what God has done already. It's about recognizing what He has done already and living our lives according to it.
So what has God done? God created the Church. God brought together people who believe in His Grace and love that creates the resurrected life. What is the "resurrected life?" It is the life of a believer who knows that he/she is a sinner, capable of many things that break God's commands, including shooting people for no apparent reason. AND the "resurrected life" is knowing and believing that those sins are forgiven and removed by Jesus' crucifixion and a "born again" life was given through Jesus' resurrection. We have this life in order to live it out for the sake of others.
So the Church is called out by God the Holy Spirit to hold the hands of those who are hurting and grieving. The Church was created to hold up the people who cannot stand because of grief and loss. The Church is the "touch of God" to bring sense out of chaos, the bring joy through sadness, and to bring hope to the hopelessness. We, the people of God in Christ Jesus, express, also through words, the salvation and grace that comes by believing in Jesus and what He did for us. God, lead Your Church to bring the joy of life from You to those who are hurting, Amen.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 Ash Wednesday:
2nd Corinthians 6:1-2: Working together with Him, then we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have help you." Behold, now is the favorable time,; behold now is the day of salvation.
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the day that begins the season of Lent. Lent is a season prior to Easter where our focus is on repentance, remembrance, and renewal. It is a time when we pay special attention to repenting of our sins and asking God to forgive us because of what Jesus did. It is a time to remember what Jesus went through in order to forgive our sins. We remember that Jesus was "stricken, smitten, and afflicted" along with His rising to life on Easter Sunday. And that is why this season is also a time of renewal. We have a new life because of Jesus.
And that is what St. Paul is saying to us along with the Corinthians. God promised us favor and life. Now is that time. It's hard to recognize that when we can't see it. Either the world is saying, "You don't need God's favor and help. You can create your own favor and happiness. You don't need a god for that." Or the world is tearing itself apart. All I see and hear on the news is bad news. Somebody died and the hands of someone else. Someone died of cancer. Where is "your god" in all of this?
I have to admit. The favor and help from God is tough to see. At the same time, it's here. It's here because the message of grace and the life of grace is seen in people who live it out day by day. They trust God to provide life and salvation. They trust God even though the world doesn't. And it is through Christians, who trust God and believe in His favor and salvation, that God's favor is seen and experienced. If you don't know about and haven't experienced God's love and forgiveness, reply to me, seek out Christians. They'll tell you. God, lead us all to see and experience Your favor and salvation, Amen.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Joel 2:12-14: "Yet even now," declares the LORD, return to me with all you heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster. Who know whether He will not turn and relent, and lead a blessing behind Him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?
I remember a time when I was in college and living at home. My friends and I were going out on a Friday night. Mom and Dad were playing cards with friends of theirs. I announced that I was leaving and my Dad says, "Be home by 11:30." "Really?" I shouted. I hadn't had a curfew that early since my high school days. I was furious. I stomped off in a huff. After a few hours of being with my friends, I said, "I have to get home. Dad put this curfew on me." My friends laughed at me. Yet they got me back home in time.
God is calling us to return to Him. He is expecting us to come back to Him. Why would we do that? Because He is gracious and merciful. When we return to God, it is because He is a forgiving God. He is the God who saves and redeems broken sinners like us. He is God who leads us to believe and understand that we have consequences for sin. He is reaching out to us to turn around from our sins, repent of them, and ask God to forgive. God is the ONE who loves us so much that He gave Jesus, His only Son, to us to bring life, salvation, and light into our lives. Why wouldn't we turn, confess, repent, and rely on Him. Dear God, lead us to turn from sin and turn to You, Amen.
Pastor Robert Hemsath joined Faith Lutheran Church and School as the Senior Pastor in January 2017. Pastor Hemsath comes to FLC from Christ the King Lutheran Church in Waxahachie, TX. He has also served congregations in Aberdeen, ID and Pocatello, ID. He has been a Lutheran pastor for the past 20 years.