Monday, July 11, 2016

July 3, A Sermon from Al Jesness

This sermon was preached by CtK Council President, Al Jesness on July 3, 2016 at Christ the King Lutheran Church. It is the last in a sermon series on Galatians called, TO KNOW and TO GROW:

 Galatians 6:1-16

1My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5For all must carry their own loads.
  6Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
  7Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
  11See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Our worship is made up of different components which is called liturgy.  This liturgical worship follows a sequence as it has for hundreds of years.  We begin with the gathering continue with the word, have the meal-communion and close with the sending, that is the flow of a liturgical worship.  As our young people learn in their preparation for Confirmation, Liturgy is defined as “the work of the people.”  Liturgy is prayer, song, reading and communion.  While we won’t have communion today, the other components, prayer, song and reading are present and God is no more or no less present.   It isn’t about the pastor, or in today’s case, me; but it is all of us, gathered by the Holy Spirit to experience Jesus Christ together.  Worship and Liturgy are about Jesus Christ.    
Worship is nourishment, we need nourishment to grow.  Worship is our exercise, that helps us grow strong.  Today we gather here to worship.  We hear, we think and we know.  We exercise, get nourished and we grow.  That is the vision Pastor Mark has been communicating, his wish and his call for us to Know and to Grow.
Children’s sermon. 
Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. 
Do they have a Fourth of July in other countries than the United States? 
If Yes, you are pretty smart, many of these people older than you would say “No” because they think of the 4th of July as the celebration of Independence Day…but every country has a fourth of July, they just don’t celebrate it as Independence Day as we do. 
If No, what day is on the calendar between July 3 and July 5?  The question is tricky because when we think of the Fourth of July, we think of it as the 4th of July holiday and the celebrations, parades, picnics and fireworks.
My next question:  What is Independence Day?  Yes, it a movie that just came out.  What else is it?  It is a day that we celebrate because our country became free over 200 years ago, that is what independent means.  We became independent or free from being ruled by a King in another country and not by a president as we are now.  You’ll learn more about in school so I’ll skip the details of that today.

I want to think of Independence Day another way.  Every Sunday we celebrate Independence Day.  God has made us free.  God brought Jesus to us so we can be free.  We are free from worry about God’s love, we know he loves us so we celebrate that every day, but not necessarily with fireworks.  We are free from sin, we know that when we do something wrong, God forgives us. 
So every Sunday you can celebrate independence day, but not the 4th of July.
(Thought, get some red-white and blue pinwheels at Ocean State Job lot or Christmas Tree shop and give each child one.   They can spin it in the wind as they leave, and then celebrate every Sunday.) 
god -wind

Message – “sermon”
Two Greek words, Theos and Logos, mean “God’s Word.”  Theos and logos may sound familiar, or if you see it in writing, my point may be more clear.  Theos Logos, God’s Word, is what we today call Theology.
Rather than frighten everyone and have your eyes glaze over thinking we’ll be here until sundown talking theology, we’ll make it simple, this part of worship is based on and is – God’s Word.

Page 1
Pastor Mark’s messages over the past five weeks and now the message today, have their focus on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and the theme “to know and to grow.”
In the first week of this series, the reading was from the first chapter of Galatians.  Refreshing your memory (as I did in preparing with Pastor Mark for this message today) a key point in that reading was, “as the people of God, are we seeking human approval or God’s approval?”
Things that we seek human approval for lead to emptiness. In the human approval I am actually seeking self approval.  God gives us abundance, but then I see I don't have enough. I want more, I want the things that I think make me feel good and give me approval of others. When we seek to serve ourselves we isolate ourselves, we cut ourselves off from God and from each other. What does human approval get us?  For example, if we can't see the abundance that God has given us and we get tied up in wanting more, where are we?  Do we really feel fulfilled?
We already have God's approval; we don't really need to seek it; we need to accept it. We already have God's love. We must trust in the approval we've been given.
We know and grow when we just consider this question of approval, even though we don't have it answered. If we had all the answers we wouldn’t need to trust in God. The one answer we've been given is Jesus Christ. This tells us about God's love and his approval.
Our second week is where Paul speaks about God's approval, his mercy and grace, and how far it can go. Paul was once Saul and was a horrible person. He was called, just as we are. Like Paul, we are all sinners but we are also the people of God.
How do we know we are a part of God's people? The sign of our baptism is where we physically acknowledge his love for us. Our call is to share that message with others. That leads us to our third week.
The gospel message here is we are justified by faith and not good works. Paul tells us this and Martin Luther was all over this one. That is one of the areas where he wanted reform and here in Galatians is his basis. 
Paul shared his faith, his life and the love that Jesus has for us. Our faith is defined by this, it is what we are called to believe and trust in. To know that our faith is not about how we act but how we are loved. We know our faith is not about how we act but about how are loved by God and his grace.
The fourth week continues to emphasize faith. We are all children of God because of his love for us. Think about someone evil or who hurt you. Is God's love any different for them? Are we really any different from them? 
I want to put these two questions aside for now and take a moment here for a mental exercise. In your bulletin is a one-page reference sheet for today's message. For weeks we have repeatedly heard the word faith. Take a moment and write down what you think or how you define what faith is.
Now turn to someone, preferably other than a family member, and share with each other what you just wrote. 
Page 2
At the beginning of today's service I defined worship and liturgy, and said that liturgy is “the work of the people.”  So now we’re going to do a little work. As good Lutherans, we are timid, shy, and not boastful. So the work I'm going ask you to do is to share what someone else said is their definition of faith.  We don’t need to know who said it, just what they said.
Thank you for that exercise. As I said at the start of today’s service, worship is nourishment (to know) and exercise (helps us grow.) In the past few moments we received a little snack and you got little exercise. This is what “to know and to grow”  is about.
You had and shared great examples of how you define faith. In our series Paul defines faith as “trusting the promise of God.” We know that, and because we know that, we grow.
Because we have faith, we know that even as sinners, we are accepted by God, we have his approval.
When differences or conflict arise, our calling in faith is to love rather than our human nature which is to win and to get human approval. Our calling to love is how we live, knowing that we have God's approval.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” was a clear message in our fifth week. A moment ago I said our calling is to love. Loving our neighbor can be hard work. The fruits of that hard work are love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, and gentleness.  What more could we want or need?  Worship is where we are nourished with these rewards. When we leave worship, whatever our lives or feelings are at the moment we know that God loves us, we know we are a part of the promise God gave Abraham, we know we have grace and Jesus Christ, and our faith in trusting the promise of God is how we know and grow.
In this final week it is summed up in two of the verses Dave read, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up. So then whenever we have an opportunity let us work for the good of all and especially for those of the family of faith.”  In other words, let’s not get tired of receiving God’s love, and as a result, in doing the work of the liturgy, the work of the people.
Today we are here, called to worship, to be nourished and to grow.  We know God's grace, and because of his grace we are people of God. We know of God's approval.  That answers our question of approval in chapter one.  We know that this work is not just for us, but for all.  by this work we know of God’s approval, not just for us but for all people and all creation. 
As we leave here today we know this grace, may we grow in our trust of this grace, and by faith may we be united under that grace as people of God.


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