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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Aug 19, 2018  SERMON TEXT

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our heavenly Fther, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN.

The text for our meditation today is the Epistle Lesson for the day, Ephesians 5:6-21. There we read these words:

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

If you were to take a few minutes and think about your life-in particular, some of the challenges or difficulties that have invaded-you might not have too much trouble agreeing with today's Epistle that "the days are evil."

Now, there is, of course, a certain sense in which each and every one of you could insist that the days are good. The sun comes up each morning, and that is a good thing; some of you live in a wonderful area that allows you to raise your children without some of the fears that others in America might face, and that is a good thing; even though you might not make all that much money, you still have full bellies and warm beds and shelter from the rain.

But the days are also evil. One battle follows quickly after another; situations at work or home remain continually tense or stressful, with no end in sight; bills keep coming even when paychecks do not; sin crouches continually at the door; news of injury, illness or death sweeps in like ocean waves; walls of uncertainty, fear, doubt and silence seem to grow by themselves and isolate you one from another before you even realize what is happening.

"The days are evil." In today's Epistle, St. Paul speaks to you about your defenses against the evil of the day. "Be careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Then St. Paul goes on to list a number of ways in which you can make the most of every opportunity:

First, St. Paul says, "Don't get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery [or excessiveness]." St. Paul's point is not exclusively about wine or alcohol, but about anything you might be tempted to use that would dull your senses to the reality of your evil days. Essentially, St. Paul is saying, "Do try to escape the evil of the days, because your attempts at escape will only make things more evil."

Then St. Paul goes on to say, "Be filled with the Holy Spirit." In other words, continually remember the power and the benefit of your Baptism. Bear in mind, as you face the evil of your days, that God the Holy Spirit took up residence in you at your Baptism, and that the God who dwells within you will never allow the evil of your days to overpower you.

Considering the evil of the days-the evil that confronts and threatens not only you but also your dearest loved ones-the next thing St. Paul says to you in this Epistle should strike as a thunderbolt: "The days are evil," he says, "speak to one another."

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Take a moment to think about why St. Paul might need to tell you to "speak to one another." Is it possible that even the most faithful worshipers among God's people, for all the time they spend hearing God's Words, spend relatively little time speaking God's Words?

This may surprise you, but some husbands and wives do not spend any time at all discussing the things they heard in Church the previous Sunday, reflecting on what those things might mean for them and for their families. Increasing numbers of parents do not teach their children the stories of the Old and New Testaments, either by bringing them to Sunday School or by reading to them at home.

In fact, some family members may have no idea what so ever whether or not the others in their family are Christian. They do not know because they do not talk with each other about God's Word and their life together in the Church.

Where might you fit into all this? Think about those in your life with whom you take no opportunity to encourage with God's Word or to rebuke with God's Word. Has your silence given them the impression that the divine Word is not all that important to you, despite the regularity of your worship?

Think about the various family situations you have faced-the major decisions, the struggles, the funerals. During such times, do you say to those whom you love, "I believe in the resurrection of the body" or "The Lord is [our] shepherd, [we] shall not want" (Psalm 23:1) or "Jesus loves [us], this I know"?

Are you absolutely certain that your loved ones are Christian-or do you hope against the silence that they are? Do they have any doubts about your faith, because of the things that you have never said to them?

Silence is NOT actually golden, no matter what people might say about children while they sleep. Rather, what the poet Samuel Johnson said three hundred years ago about friendship may also be said of your family ties: To let friendship die away by negligence and silence is certainly not wise. It is voluntarily to throw away one of the greatest comforts of this weary pilgrimage.

Silence concerning your faith impresses on your family and your loved ones that God's Word is only for Sunday mornings. Silence concerning your faith can and will create walls of fear and doubt between you and those you loved the most. Silence concerning your faith can and will also rob you of certainty about your loved one's eternal life, and it can and will rob your loved one of certainty about yours.

Against such deafening and destructive silence, St. Paul says to you in today's Epistle, "The days are evil. speak to one another." If you do not know what else to say, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs."

There are two great benefits included in this command. The first benefit is that you do not need to worry whether or not you have all the right things to say when you speak to one another. So many people feel that they cannot speak about their faith because they do not know enough to be able to answer the questions or challenges that might arise in such conversations.

Others feel like they can never memorize enough Bible passages to feel confident in speaking about the faith. Still others feel like they have tried so many times to speak to their loved ones about Christ that they no longer have any words to use.

Against such worries and fears, St. Paul says today, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." In other words, speak to one another with words and phrases that you use every Sunday in your worship!

Dear friends, you have prayed the liturgy so many times that you can now pray it with your eyes closed. You have sung the spiritual songs of worship-"Holy, Holy, Holy" and "This is the Feast" and "Lord, Now You Let Your Servant Depart in Peace"-you have sung these spiritual songs of worship so often that their words are imprinted on your memory and you can sing them in your sleep, right?

When your children wake up in the middle of the night, frightened by their dreams, speak to them the salutation's assurance that "The Lord [is] with you" and the Benediction's promise that God shall "give you peace."

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

When you fight with each other, don't end the argument by simply refusing to speak about it any more, but forgive each other and speak absolution to each other: "I forgive you. in the of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Perhaps you could even pray together the prayer that every worshiper in your family already knows: "Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world. Have mercy on us."

When members of your family turn away and question why they must worship, you can speak the Alleluia verse to them, which confesses that Jesus has "the words of eternal life." You can remind them of the Creed and its faith in "the communion of sins," where we are reminded again and again of the "forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting."

When you get together with the unbelievers in your family, do not avoid the Christian faith. No, you are not going to convince them of anything, but God's Word is a powerful Word, creating faith in even the stoniest hearts of men.

Is that not good reason to speak to them the opening words of our worship? "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

St. Paul's point in these words is not that you all should act like monks or nuns, going around all day long with nothing but Bible verses on your lips. His point is that you season your speech with the divine assurances that you so regularly hear, in order that you may speak this assurances to those who so desperately need them in these evil days.

As you speak to each other "with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" you shall not be alone. This is the second great benefit to St. Paul's command. (The first benefit is that you do not need to worry whether or not you have all the right things to say when you speak to one another.)

The second benefit is that God acts powerfully through His Words. When you speak to your loved ones with "with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs," you become the mouth through which God speaks to your loved ones. The rebuke you speak is God's rebuke; the comforts you speak is God's comforts; the forgiveness you speak is God's forgiveness, earned for all people by the death and resurrection of your Lord Jesus.

When you speak this way to your dearest loved ones, they, in turn, may even begin speaking this way to you. In so doing, they will provide you with overflowing joy and thanksgiving, because their words to you will assure you that they share your faith and eternal life.

God your heavenly Father loves you so greatly that He earnestly wants to speak to you words that will comfort you against the evil of your days. He wants you to know-and He repeatedly tells you-that all your sins are fully and completely forgiven because of Jesus death.

He wants you to know that you now have the gift of eternal life, by the power of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He also tells you that, no matter how evil the days, He will never leave you or abandon you in your weakness and strife.

He regards your dearest loved ones in the same way-and He can and will use you to give them certainty that He regards them in this way. "The days are evil. speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs."

These psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are nothing other than God's Word impressed upon your memory. "The days are evil," but God' powerful Word will not fail to keep the evil at bay.

Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose
Christ Is Risen
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