Weekly audio recordings of sermons presented at Grace Lutheran and Bethel Lutheran churches Seward and York NE. Justin Wilkens, Pastor.
Luke 12:49–53 We Want Peace, But God’s Word Divides
We often divide humanity into groupings that are not really significant: this ethnic group versus that one, men versus women, wealthy versus the poor. Yet, every ethnic group is under God’s law. That law convicts both men and women of sin. Because of sin, the wealthy and the poor will both die. Only through faith in Christ is sin forgiven and the sting of death removed. God’s Word creates that saving faith, but not in everyone who hears it. Fallen man retains the awful power to resist the working of the Spirit inside him… to reject the gift of faith. Therefore, God’s Word produces the only people grouping that ultimately matters: believers and unbelievers. We want to overcome division and live in peace with other people. Here is a hard truth: total peace is impossible for the believer to achieve. Those who embrace the gospel in faith will inevitably face hostility and opposition. Following Jesus will come at a price. Yet he promises us our perseverance will be rewarded.
Luke 12:22–34 Focused Living Properly Values Heavenly Treasure
Last week Jesus warned us against overvaluing earthly wealth. This week Jesus warns against undervaluing heavenly treasure. Last week, Jesus exposed the folly of greed. This week, Jesus exposes the folly of worry, even when faced with the prospect of having a shortage of earthly wealth. This week might be the bigger challenge! When it seems we lack providence or protection for our daily lives, it can be hard to avoid worry. But Jesus focuses us. He points to creatures that do not labor or toil, yet are daily fed and clothed. Even more Jesus points to our Father who promises to give us the heavenly treasures of his kingdom. Jesus assures us that Father will throw in needed earthly possessions as well. We can pursue heavenly treasure wholeheartedly, confident that our Father knows all we need.
Luke 12:13–21 Focused Living Properly Values Earthly Wealth
Jesus wants focused followers. However, one of the things that can most easily get in the way of our focus is our earthly possessions. It is no surprise, therefore, that Jesus’ words so frequently focus his followers on wealth. Jesus’ followers don’t reject earthly wealth or despise it. They can be grateful for every good gift that comes from the hand of God. However, Jesus’ followers value earthly wealth correctly. They understand what earthly wealth can and cannot do. They don’t give earthly wealth a role in their lives it will never be able to fill. This week we focus on the fact that the identity and security earthly wealth can never provide is found fully and freely in Christ.
Luke 11:1–13 Prayer Claims What God Wants for Us
In a sense, prayer comes naturally to us. We want so we ask. We hurt so we cry out. We are frustrated so we vent. We are blessed so we give thanks. So we sometimes define prayer as “speaking to God from the heart.” Seems so easy. What does not come naturally, however, is the focused prayer God wants for us. We need focus when it comes to the basis of our prayers. Our prayers are based entirely on the unique and unearned relationship with have with God, our Father. We also need focus when it comes to the content of our prayers. Yes, we can speak from the heart and ask for anything we want. But our Father invites us to pray specifically for the things he wants to give us. Prayer is the opportunity to bring our will into conformity with God’s will, not the other way around. We have much to learn about prayer. So, along with Jesus’ disciples, we say, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
Luke 10:38-42 Followers of Christ Listen to His Word
We call worship a "service.” Which raises the question: who is serving whom? In answering that question, it is easy to focus on what we do in worship. “I set aside time in my week to come to church. I am singing praise to God. I brought him an offering. Clearly, I am serving him.” True enough. However, as God speaks this week, he clarifies our focus, letting us see that worship is primarily about him serving us. Through Word and sacrament, he delivers every spiritual gift he wants us to receive. Our service to God is good. His service for us is perfect. Our service to God is important. His service for us is essential. God loves our service to him. But we desperately need his service for us. Receiving his service is actually the highest form of worship. “God wants to be worshipped through faith so that we receive from him those things he promises and offers” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV).
1 Peter 5:1–4 Pastors—The Under-Shepherds of the Chief Shepherd
Christ has not only given us his powerful Word. In his grace, he gives us ministers who proclaim that Word to us in whatever ways we need at the time: words of comfort, words of instruction, or even words of rebuke. Those who are entrusted with the care of Jesus' flock are expected to shepherd that flock just as Jesus would. They humbly assume that privilege, not to proclaim their own ideas or opinions, but to speak Jesus’ own words. They share Christ’s words, not just when it is welcomed gladly by those who hear it, but also when it is not. Ministers carry out their calling, not because of what they might gain from the flock, but because of what the flock might gain from Jesus through them. God’s words possess God’s power. Therefore, God provides us with ministers to proclaim God’s Word, so that God’s kingdom might come powerfully among us.