Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quiet Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week - mad preparations taking place in the churches around the nation as Easter weekend approaches. Extra services in most churches. Special events taking place. Perhaps a breakfast or two to buy for and get set up for. Kinda sounds like what was taking place in Jerusalem 2000 years ago (or a little less that 2000 years since this was actually taking place around 33 A.D. and it is currently 2010. You do the math.). People had Passover meals to prepare. Lambs had to be purchased and taken to the Temple to be sacrificed. Then back home with the body of the lamb in order to get the meal together. Where would this meal be eaten? (On Thursday, Jesus sends the disciples into Jerusalem to get things ready. They were probably rushing around trying to make sure that they had everything.) Busy, busy, busy. Lots to do. So little time to do it. (I find I still have 4 sermons to write. Services are together. That is the good news.)

Yet, in the midst of this chaotic scene comes Wednesday. We know little or nothing about what happened on that day during Holy Week. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday Jesus had gone into Jerusalem and had many confrontations with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. It had been a challenging time. But Wednesday was a say of quiet, peace, rest. Jesus knew what was coming and it appears that He spend this one day away from the hustle and bustle of the city. A day of rest. A calm before the storm.

We could learn from Him. Yes, we have much to do. But that should not really distract us from the life we are given. We should stop for just a little bit to sit back and let the events of the week wash over us. Take time today to sit quietly and meditate on the Passion of your Lord. Think of what it really means for you. Think of the pain, the suffering, the death that you will not have to face because of what Jesus is going through. Yes, we will still have pain and suffering in our lives. We will still die. But it is different now. All because of those events that took place in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. He pays our price. He faces our sin. He takes our death. And He gives us peace in the midst of suffering, joy in the midst of pain and life in the midst of death.

A quiet Wednesday - not a bad thing. We really should look at that time He has taken out of the week and realize, while we have much to do, we too should take some quiet time and spend it with the Lord,

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Palm Sunday notes

Palm Sunday, March 28, 2010
Luke 19:38
“Join the Procession!”

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in the heaven and glory in the highest!”

Goal: To help the hearer to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, using Palm Sunday as the day that begins the walk through Holy Week.

Malady: We are often like the Pharisees, not wanting to join the procession but preferring life the way it is – with Christ quietly tucked away only to be used when needed or wanted.

Means: The Word, the gospel with the OT, points us to Christ. We will use the procession of palms as a way to join the festal procession.

Background: Zechariah 9:9 “rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you, righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The people of Israel understood this to be a Messianic prophecy – telling of the coming of the Messiah. They waited for the Messiah to arrive. They had hopes and dreams – many of which had become corrupted.
They wanted a Messiah to set up an earthly kingdom, to throw off the mantel of Rome, and other oppressors, make Israel as it was in the time of great King David. O, if only the Messiah would come, we would be free of the pain of oppression.

We get it wrong too- the wrong idea about the Savior. We want One who will take away all pain and suffering, all struggles of life. The “health & wealth” preachers tell us that Christ came to give us a life here on earth – great life. Pray for wealth – you will get it. Pray for freedom from financial struggles – you will be free. Set us up here on earth.

v. 37b “Praising God for the mighty works they had seen.”

What were those works?
• raising Lazarus from the deed a few weeks before.
• The blind beggar on the side of the road receiving sight.
• The feeding of the 5000.
These are the mighty works. People forget what they meant. John calls them signs (not miracles), these signs point out who Jesus is – the Son of God. The Savior of the World. Losing sight of that can lead to problems.

As the people saw all Jesus had done – they began to think this might be the Messiah.

Jesus goes out of His way to fulfill the OT prophecy. He sends the disciples to get the donkey – as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah. It would awaken in the people the thought of the Messiah.

Did it? Oh yeah! The people were beginning to jump out of their skin, Young and old alike began to do as was expected – singing praises to God.

Psalm 118:19 “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
:20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous may enter through it.”

It was a holy procession, a joyous parade. Stately old King David could dance at the front of a parade. As the ark enters Jerusalem – some didn’t like it. 1 Samuel 6:14 “And David danced before the Lord with all his might.”

Why? “I will make merry before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 2:21b
Michal, his wife, despised him because of it. How could you? She didn’t humble herself before the Lord.

And as the people praise god for sending the Messiah (even if it was misunderstood) they were wild, filled with great joy. The Pharisees felt the same way about the people – and even Jesus – on Palm Sunday. How could the Teacher allow this? He should stop them. This is the time of great solemness. Stop the people.

This is Lent. Don’t celebrate. It is a somber season. Yet is it really meant for that? Why do we have Lent? To prepare us for the joy of Easter – it helps us to know one thing – Jesus is our savior! He is the Son of God. He has come to bring us salvation.

The people say, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” (vs. 38b) recalls what the angels say at Jesus’ birth (though the people didn’t know this – a Holy Spirit led event!).
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

Peace in heaven – man’s peace with God, sin paid for, Law fulfilled, life given, restored, peace that was lost when Adam sinned. No peace has been given by the action of men (we try, with “good deeds” and sacrifices, and the following of the season). God brings peace – in the One who rides upon the donkey. The Messiah, the Savior, the Peacemaker and Peace bringer.

Glory to God in the highest! God gets all the glory. We don’t. The glory comes in Christ, the One who comes in the name of the Lord.

Why keep quiet? All creation has been waiting in anticipation of the coming events. It is building to a crescendo – not the cross, for all creation stands in silence before the cross.

The crescendo comes on Sunday morning – as the grave bursts open. Palm Sunday is the procession – a time of preparation. Join in! We know where this is heading. We know the outcome. We look at what took place

Before the sorrow sets in, before the darkness clouds our vision, we look at the joy of the day! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

The children brought in the Palms. We sing. Was it with joy? It should have been. “Hosanna! Loud hosanna!” Join in the procession. Come to the Lord.

Be filled with joy – your Savior is come.
Be filled with hope – forgiveness is given.
Be filled with expectation – the hope of heaven is yours.

What is the challenge? Not to lose the joy of today to the everyday life.
Not to expect a Savior that gives earthly existence but heavenly.
Not to be overwhelmed by the world that wants to silence the voice of the One
who proclaims hope and salvation.

Focus: on Christ
on the Savior
on the joy of all that comes to us.

Ephesians 5;19 “addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
:20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday – worship – celebrate – in faith.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Monday

This is Holy Week - the week that Christians remember that which took place during the last week of the Lord's earthly life. We have to be careful how we say that, for the Lord did have an earthly life after Sunday - since He bodily rose from the dead. This is the last week of Jesus' state of humiliation. After Friday, after He has been laid in the tomb, Jesus begin His state of exaltation. He will show Himself to be the Son of God, not just in word but in action. It is truly a glorious time.

Today is Monday, the day that follows the excitement of Palm Sunday - which in itself is quite the experience. The people would have returned to their camps and their families with a real excitement. They had been part of a parade of sorts. They had hailed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David, the Promised One of old. It was a powerful day. Imagine being on a spiritual mountaintop. That is the people at the end of Sunday. They were praising God for all that they had heard and seen - which was just as the prophets had said. (Read Zechariah 9:9 for a taste of the prophecy.)

Monday dawns and Jesus heads back to Jerusalem after spending the night in Bethany, probably at the house of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. The worm turns. The religious leaders begin to go on the attack. They know what the events of Sunday meant. And they were not ready to accept them.

Read Luke 20-21 and you get a real taste of the battle that is taking place on Monday and Tuesday. I can only imagine how the disciples must have been confused. Jesus was hailed as the King of the Jews on Sunday, a day of celebration only to be attacked over and over again on Monday and Tuesday. How could this be?

We face that in our lives. We hail Jesus as the King of kings, the Savior, the Son of God as we celebrate over the weekend (at least I hope you celebrated by attending worship and hearing the Word of God). We join in the festal procession to the altar of the Lord as we receive the body and blood of our Lord in the blessed Sacrament. And then we are attacked - mercilessly. Satan, the world and our sinful nature go on the attack. They seek to make us doubt that Jesus is the Savior, the One who is there for us day after day. "How can you believe that Jesus is with you when you see the struggle of your fellow man? How can you expect Jesus is the Son of God when you suffer from cancer, heart problems, or a whole host of other physical ailments? How can you expect that Jesus is the ruler of all when jobs are lost, income is slashed, and financial woes increased? How? How?" And we begin to...

doubt? Do you begin to doubt? That is what is meant to happen. Satan wants you to doubt. Christ Jesus warns you of this over and over again. Read Luke 21. He says, "Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:36 ESV) We will be attacked. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit, only as we are strengthened by Word and Sacrament, can we stand firm in faith, ready for the return of Christ. Only in that way - not in ourselves or in our power - will we be able to overcome the temptations that we face.

Holy Week - a powerful week. We will continue to address this (each day, hopefully, if I make the time for it). Watch and pray that you fall into no temptation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's Done

I don't really want to be political. But I have to voice myself this morning. Last night, the House of Representatives passed a bill that overhauls health care in the United States of America. I pray, oh do I pray, that this was the right thing to do. I am not sure. I fear that it has actually made more of a mess of health care than it already was.

You see, I don't disagree that health care needed to be overhauled. I don't think any of us disagree on that point. But did they do the right thing? The longer the debate went on, the less it became about health care and the more it became about our president. This became the critical point in his presidency. Excuse me? Why is it about his presidency and not about the people of the USA? Why do the people of this country have to pay for him to get his name in the record books? And why did this become a Democrat/Republican issue? What happened to working together? Why was there so much arm twisting and back room deals made to get this passed? If it really is a good thing, those who were to vote for it would have jumped on the bandwagon and no deals would have to be made. If it was so wonderful, then why would anyone's arms have to be twisted to vote for it?

I pray that the we have not just hastened the ruin of our nation. I know that the Lord can work good out of all things for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes. But does this nation still love Him? Do we still put Him first in everything we do? Or is it about us, the individual person and the goals and ideals we have set? I fear the worst and pray for the best. My heart aches. My mind is confused. My soul cries out to the Lord to guide all of us back to Him.

Perhaps this is the consequence of the sinfulness of our nation. Maybe it isn't about earthquakes and hurricanes. Maybe it is the financial destruction of our nation that comes as a consequence of our sinfulness - out desire to become gods, to love the self more that others, the inflamed passions of the flesh, the murder of innocent children, the lustful actions of the same sex, the living together, the biting and tearing apart of one another, the walking away from the way of the Lord day after day - perhaps all of these are leading the USA the way of other great nations. A financial collapse would hurt this nation worse than anything else.

We all need to search our hearts, our lives, our directions and ask ourselves, "Am I following the Lord in my life? Or am I following the devil, the world and my own sinful nature?" Maybe John the Baptist had it right, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." The first coming of the Savior followed that call. I cry out, "Come, Lord Jesus! Come and save us from ourselves."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Creatures of Habit

We are creatures of habit. That may not be a surprise to you - it isn't to me. I know that I am a creature of habit. I get up at the same time. I go through the same routine. I lay my clothes in the same place. I put the right sock and shoe on first and then the left (and I can't hardly bring myself to do it the other way around, it doesn't "feel" right). The hardest thing for me to do is to remember to pull a clean handkerchief out of the drawer. The reason - I don't do it that often. It isn't part of the routine. If I need a clean one, I need to get it out the moment I think of it. Otherwise I will be reaching for my back pocket only to find I don't have one with me - because I forgot to pick one up. Habit. Creature of habit.

What habit do you have? I know that you have many habits, tens, perhaps a hundred or more. But as I think about this, I am left to wonder about these habits. Are they good? Are they bad? Do you have a good habit or two that you do? Do you have a few bad habits? That is a good question.

What is a "good" habit? Reading the Bible. A special time for prayer. Weekly worship. Sharing the love that is in your heart with your spouse, your children, your parents. Walking with the Lord on a daily basis. These are all good habits. They are ones that you and I need to cultivate. But they are hard - aren't they? Some are harder than others. Take reading the Bible, for example. Why is it so hard to get in the habit of sitting down and reading the Word? Our sinful nature doesn't want to do it. It knows that the Word has the power of the Lord and to be immersed in it regularly will kill the sinful nature. Self-preservation - the sinful nature wants to preserve itself. To develop a good habit of being in the Word goes contrary to one's nature. How do you develop it? By action. Doing it. Day after day - reading the Word. The same time every day (roughly the same time). Asking the Spirit to help you, to fill you, to guide you to fight against that sinful nature. It isn't easy, but it is very worthwhile - for your spiritual life and your daily life.

Bad habits - why are they so interesting and so hard to break? For the same reason. It is natural for you to do that which is wrong. Human nature, the way that we are when we are born, the way that we live our lives, is a mess. It is easier to talk poorly about another person than it is to talk kindly about them. Why do you think it is easier to pass along bad news rather than good news? Why do you think that people are drawn to shows that have nudity and sexual scenes rather than ones that are wholesome and clean? Why is it easier to use a curse word than to praise God? Sinful nature, plain and simple. Why are bad habits hard to break? They appeal to our natural self and it is like cutting a part of ourselves off.

So how do we break these habits? Once again - through the power of the Holy Spirit, guiding us, strengthening us and making us new every day. Returning to the waters of our Baptism. Strengthened in the Lord, we are able to face those habits with that which brings real power to our lives. Trying harder doesn't work. You will fail. Being more "faithful" won't work. You will fall short of that faithfulness. Only in the Lord, only through the Spirit, only in Word and Sacrament can we find that which will help us in our lives.

So I ask you, what habit are you a creature of? Look your life over. I know that I will. I will commit to God my life - empowered by the Spirit. Lord, be with each one of us. Help us. And make us creatures of good habits.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sermon Notes, March 7, 2010

1 Corinthians 10:11-13

“Be Careful”

This is the beginning of National Lutheran Schools week. It is an opportunity for us to join our hearts and lives together with all the other Lutheran schools around the nation and celebrate the wonderful opportunity we are given to have good, solid, Christian Lutheran education. As a congregation, we support Lutheran education as we work within our school – our teacher/staff help to teach our students the Word of God for a guide in their lives. Our Board seeks to give guidance to our staff/school/families that will remain solidly Lutheran in all that it teaches.

Why? Because there are a lot of temptations in the world. Our children need the solid Lutheran foundation for their life. Without it, temptation will seize them – much as it did the people in Corinth. They were Christians struggling with temptation. They struggled with many areas in their lives.

They felt inclined to quit struggling and give in because temptation was too much. The world around them tempted them. They couldn’t withstand because of how wicked and powerful the world was.

Paul tells them, “Now these things occurred as examples…” It wasn’t that they were done purposefully to give examples. No, they were done. The Israelites were tempted and sinned>>>over and over again>>>the Golden Calf, Baal of Peor (with Moabite women) and Midianite women, grumbling against God and suffering from the snakes.

Israel was tempted and sinned. They did not follow the Lord. Look at the outcome!

In the Gospel, there were people whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices, the people at the tower of Siloam>>>terrible sinners? More than others? No>>>serves as an example to us of what can happen. We can die in our sins>>>either directly due to what we have done or indirectly, by a natural disaster, such as in Haiti or Chile or Turkey.

As we look at these events, we listen to the word of Jesus>>>repent of sin. Turn form the sinfulness of life and follow God!

To die apart from God is the greatest disaster to befall anyone>>>we are teaching the next generation the way of the Lord>>>>If we do not teach them, who will? The world? It is already teaching them. But is it godly? NO! >>>So we find ourselves teaching our children the way of the Lord. We focus on God’s Word and find the guidance we need to live as His children. We are to teach the faithfulness of God

What is that faithfulness?
He does not abandon us.
He does not leave us to ourselves to face temptation.
He does not try to get us to fall/fail by sending us evil temptation.
He is faithful >>>This is shown in Christ. Christ Jesus was faithful to the will of the Father. He is the Savior. The One who shows us how to live our lives>>>in faith, following Him, strengthened by Word and Sacrament, trusting Him for guidance.

Not tempted/tested beyond what we can bear. What does this mean?

• It doesn’t mean we will not be tested.
• It doesn’t mean that we will not be tempted.

We will. Our faith will be tested – severely at times, gently at other times. It will not be beyond what we can bear. It may push us right up to the edge. We may be right at the edge of the cliff, looking over, but we will not be sent beyond the edge. It will try your faith. At those times we ask, “Will we rely upon god in all things?” Or do we only rely upon God in good times? That is the huge challenge to our faith>>>How will we be in the midst of the challenge of our lives?

For our children -> This is why we teach them, by what we teach in the classroom, by what we say, by how we react to the situations of our lives. Our teachers and staff are doing as Paul tells Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Faith, rooted in the word of God, is able to stand in the face of many trials and temptations. It is a powerful took we have in our school. Does it make a difference? YES! For 9 years (2 more if you add preschool) – rooted in Christ – gives our children a good foundation for when they face the challenges of life.

Yes it is just as important that you (parent, grandparent, member of the church) live that faith. You will sorely tested and tried. The devil, the world and your own sinful nature will try to get you to see faith and God as either irrelevant for life, or wore, unable to help you in life.

Too many, when faced with issues and challenges of faith, turn from god. They become upset with God, blame God, leave God>>>and then pass that on to the next generation.

Yes, bad things happen. They happen because of sinful men and women>>>but that is no reason to leave God>>>or the church. That is what we try to teach out children.

Instead we are told, “But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13b) Provide a way out>>>strength of faith, body of Christ that enriches and up lifts.

What is our challenge for today?
2-fold challenge
1) support of the school.
2) to face the trials of this life with the firm foundation.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thoughts on Anger

Last night's Lenten service focused on our Personal Baggage: Anger. We talked about how we pack our bags full of our anger, trying to justify our anger, making ourselves the "right" person who has every "right" to be angry. Then we looked at the One who truly had the right to be angry over the situation of His life - Jesus Christ. Yet, in the midst of that which would make us furious, turning red with anger, he didn't offer up an angry word. Instead He offered up, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV) We could really learn something there. The Lord unpacks our bags that are filled with anger and replaces them with His love, a love born to the cross, a love covered with His blood, a love that is not filled with anger. We listened as God said to us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)

Thank You Lord for unpacking me and my anger and for repacking me with Your love. (The challenge really comes in when we don't "feel" like being unpacked. We want to hold onto our anger a little longer. There are times when we wallow in our anger, feeling as though we want it to keep ourselves focused. That, my friend, is wrong. It is simply put - a sin. If you are holding onto anger over something your brother or sister, father or mother, friend or neighbor has done to you or said to you, take that to the cross. Look up at the cross and ask yourself, "Is what he/she did to me worse than what I did to Christ? Then why would I hold onto that anger? Christ didn't. Instead He forgave - me. Gulp. Me? Yes, me. He forgave me my sin - which includes the sin of anger - and therefore, should I be holding onto that anger? If I want to hold onto it, then Lord, hold onto the anger against me. Do not let it go. Punish me instead of Jesus. Let me carry my own sin of anger. Don't forgive me either. Do you really want to say that? Didn't think so. So why are you keeping your bag of anger locked tight? Let the Lord unlock that anger and give you true peace instead. Pray to the Spirit to move in your heart and let the love of Christ fill you - towards that person who has caused you such anger.)

I was asked after service - "What do you do if someone is angry with you?" Listen to what the Lord says, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24 NIV) Go to the brother and work it out. Ask for forgiveness. Ask him what is wrong. Ask him what you have done to make him upset with you. Do everything in your power to work things through with him.

What happens if you have done that, tried at least, but he still refuses to let go of his anger? What happens if he refuses to be unpacked by the Lord? Have you tried everything you can to work things out? Have you offered up your apology? If you have done all you can, then it falls on your brother. You cannot change him. You cannot "make" him become "unangry" with you. It is out of your hands.

But keep asking the Lord, "Lord, please work in me to make sure that I am not the one that is standing in the way of reconciliation. Help me to not pour fuel on the fire by my words, actions or attitude. And Lord, please, O please, help my brother/friend/neighbor to be reconciled. Please unpack his/her anger and replace it with Your love." Keep your heart pure. Keep your motives pure. Let the Lord repack your life so that you are not the one causing the hurt or anger. And as much as in you lies, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men." (Hebrews 12:14a NIV)

Unpack me Lord. Repack me with Your love, peace and forgiveness. Let me share that wherever I go.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Boy do I wish that winter was over. I am getting so tired of the cold. After spending a few days down in Phoenix, AZ last week, when it was nice enough to sit by the pool and soak up the sun and eat dinner (Thursday), lunch (Friday) and breakfast (Saturday) outside, it was difficult to come back to the cold. Brrrrrrr. As I sit here typing tonight, my feet are cold. I wish they would warm up. They will, after I get to bed.

It is March now. The average high is supposed to be in the 50's. It only got up into the upper 30's today. My sweaters are ready to take a break till next winter. My ties are ready to come out. And I am ready to go outside and begin walking. Unlike some of my members, I don't like walking in the cold. I long to sit out on my front porch in the morning and read my devotions and talk to the Lord.

I hear the birds starting to sing. I see the sun coming up earlier and setting later. And it tells me that spring is on the way. The temperature tells me that winter doesn't want to let go. I cry out, "It is time for warmth, for spring, for flowers and green grass?" And the weather remains cold.

I realize that I am not in charge. Who is? The Lord. So Lord, I wait for You to bring warmth to my life. I wait for spring to come. Much like I wait for You to return. I long for spring like I long for the walk in heaven. When will it come? I know spring is coming. I also know that the Lord is going to come again. I am ready for both. I am ready for spring. I am ready for Him to return. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Sermon notes from Feb. 28

Jeremiah 26:12-13

“Reform Your Ways”

Goal: To help the hearer to see the sinfulness of life and the outcome of that sin, to be moved by the Spirit to reform life under the Gospel.

Malady: Our lives are sinful. We are content in sin. We get upset when our sin is pointed out.

Means: by showing the life of the Israelites, we hear the call to reform our ways.

Luke 13:34 Jesus’ sorrow over Jerusalem. “I have longed to gather your children together…but you were not willing.”

Philippians 3:18 “For as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
:19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

(The following did not appear in the sermon, they are merely thoughts that preceded the writing of the sermon.)
As I read this I think of Mardi Gras. We celebrate this time as a time of debauchery and excess. People travel long distances to be a part of such an event. For what? Good food? No. Peaceful, family-oriented entertainment? No. It is for the party, the drinking, the wild times – debauchery. Glory in shame. We revel in our shame. It is seen as a good time, a time to long for. Why/ Because our god is our stomach/party/drinking/wild time. We long for it. Why? Sin is the pattern of our life.

But who can preach against such excess/ A pastor is called by God to present the word plainly. It is plain that such activity is sinful. Yes, it is sinful. To drink to the excess is a sin, but is not that which takes place at the St. Louis Mardi Gras in St. Louis? It led to the police cutting off beer sales at 8”00 p.m. so that the drinking would come to an end early and the problems would be cut down on.

There is the excess of pagan sensuality in New Orleans. How do women get beads? By exposing their breasts to others. How is this godly? How is this the way that God wants us to act? Our body is meant to be private – for our spouse only. Yet we brag about how many beads we got – only after drinking too much. Our shame is seen as good!
(Thoughts begin to move towards the sermon at this point.)
It is wrong. Yet we do not need to go so far to see such excess. Look around. Hustler Club has a billboard on the interstate as you leave St. Louis. Pornography is no longer seen as the depraved person’s area of life. It comes right into the house – not just on the internet – but on TV. Popular TV shows expose sexuality in a less than God-pleasing way. And many people, many Christians eat it up. We find ourselves living in a life of sinful desire or regular neglect of the Lord.

I figure that we are shocked at that thought. We are God’s people. We love the Lord with all our heart, our life and our soul. We follow the Lord regularly. After all, we are the ones at church right now. We are the ones who regularly put something in the plate, willingly give our time and use our talents in whatever way we are needed. Don’t we?

I was once asked, “What is your idol?” that seemed like such a strange question. After all, I love the Lord. I am a child of God. More than that, I am a professional church worker – a pastor nonetheless. I don’t have any idols, do I?

What about you? What is yoru idol? I would imagine that you would respond much the same way I did. You are a child of God, You love the Lord. You don’t have an idol, do you?

I would imagine the people of Jeremiah’s day felt that way. In fact, when Jeremiah brought the word of the Lord to them, how did they respond? They were appalled that Jeremiah would even say such things. they were amazed at his audacity. And then they were angry, even furious, with him. They could not imagine that anyone would say such things. They were the people of God (the prophets, the priests were the religious leaders!). They did not have any idols. So angry were they that they wanted to kill Jeremiah for ever suggesting that they were not the people God wanted them to be.

Jesus approaches Jerusalem and is overwhelmed with sorrow, “How I would have gathered you into my arms…but you were not willing.” Can you imagine such a terrible statement to hear from Jesus? “I longed for you, but you would not have Me.” They had idols? Jesus seemed to say so – but this infuriated them. How could He say such things? They were the people of God! Kill Him! Get rid of Him!

What are your idols/ what do you put before God in your life? Nothing? Really? It is a struggle to be honest with yourself. It would be easy to say nothing comes before God. But is that the truth/ It doesn’t have to be some sinful, despicable act (such as at Mardi Gras). It might be work, reading, sports, another person, animals, food, money, sleep, friendship, etc. Name your idol. What are you holding onto? Jesus says to the rich young man, “Get rid of your idol.” He doesn’t want to – his wealth had become his idol. What is yours?

Jeremiah comes out and says, “Now reform your ways, and your actions and obey the Lord your God.”

Now? Not by trying harder for that doesn’t work. There is a plethora of books and videos to help you>>> “5 Steps to a better life.” “How to pray effectively.” “Forty day to a better life.” “How to have the husband you want by Friday.” Why do we continue to write these books? Because to try harder, to follow a prescription to a “better” life doesn’t work. You will fail. You will fall short. You will only find despair.

How then? Through the power of Christ – the One who came for us, to suffer and die. He gives Himself as the perfect sacrifice for you and me – because we fail, we are unable to live the way we are called to live.

Israel found out how – by rending their hearts, not their garments, by returning to the Lord with all their heart, by turning back to the timeless Word of God. Hezekiah followed the Lord and sought His glory – repented of his sins, led the nation to repent >>>by letting the Spirit guide them to reform their lives.

To reform yoru ways is to take your life, cut our what is not from God, and live as He would have you live. It is different for each person (though it is the same Spirit working through the same word). One person may be a glutton, another a drunkard, still another addicted to gambling, while another is addicted to porn. Each one have something to reform>>>a sinful behavior. While at the same time, it isn’t sinful “behavior” itself that you need to reform>>>>it is the place where you put God (1st, 2nd, 3rd…) each is just as wrong, for it is a 1st Commandment issue. What is your idol? That is what must be reformed. Your heart needs reformed. It all starts by turning to the very place yoru life in faith began – to Christ.

He is the One to turn to. He is the One who reforms you>>>>and in Christ, not in your actions>>>found in the cross, found in the Passion, found in His death ----not in us, it isn’t ‘found’ in your. He reforms you.

Is it easy? No. It is painful. For it will call for us to be honest, with ourselves and with God. Then it calls for a housecleaning – our hearts and lives>>>we may not like it. No, that isn’t true. We will not like it>>>we must deny ourselves>>>NO! I don’t want to! I want to follow my own desires! That, is the challenge.

Do I allow the Spirit to reform me? Or do I continue to hold to my idol? That is the tough challenge we face today.

The priests, prophets and people of Jeremiah’s day didn’t want to reform.

Many of the scribes, Pharisees and people of Jesus’ day didn’t want to reform.

Many of us today don’t want to reform.

What about you? When you leave here today, will your life become one of reform? Or will you continue as before?

That is the challenge.

Walk with myself <<<<>>>>> walk with Jesus
Follow my heart <<<<<>>>>>> Follow the Lord’s heart
Desire sinfulness<<<<<>>>>>desire what Christ desires
Live for self <<<<>>>>live for Christ

This truly the challenge that we have as we hear these three readings. To reform or not to reform, that is the question.