Share the Faith. 

“He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” (Mark 4:27-28)
The three readings for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost teach of the necessity of preaching the Gospel. The problem is that most of us do not do it at all or make feeble attempts at it. We often feel that we are not good evangelists, so we often shy away from our calling. We think we have to be like salesmen who have to work hard to seal the deal before the person walks out. 
But these parables Jesus taught in Mark as well as the portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy show us otherwise. We are not the ones sowing the seed of the gospel nor are we the ones who make that seed grow and bear fruit: the Holy Spirit is. Along the way He uses us to accomplish the steps in the process, but the result as well as the who, where, when and how is up to Him, not us.
When we realize this, we should feel some of the pressure taken off of us. What we have to do is place ourselves at the Lord’s disposal. We can start to do so by being a loving friend, neighbor or relative right where we are. One way we can do this is by striking up conversations with people about almost anything and in any place: the doctor’s office, a wedding, the supermarket, the coffee shop, the park, the mall, out in our neighborhood streets, or wherever we go. These can all be divine appointments that God has with people that He desires to reach. In these appointments He is, in a sense, incarnated in us so He can use us to do His work to preach the gospel of salvation in Christ. We become friends with people and eventually, in God’s time, the Holy Spirit provides us the right opportunity and the right words that will touch that person and lead them to repentance. Other Christians may be involved in that process anywhere along the line, but it is always the Holy Spirit who produces the fruit. 
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

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Find Comfort.

“And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:24)
Ezekiel presents us a prophecy of the Messiah. This prophecy follows a condemnation of the people of Judah for their unfaithfulness and wickedness. When the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar led the leading people of Jerusalem off into exile, he left Zedekiah as his puppet ruler. Although Zedekiah was in a place where he had opportunity to look to the Lord and lead the nation in repentance, he sought help from other nations for support and aid, but received nothing.

So it is with the unbeliever and all who fail to look to the Lord for help and comfort. They receive nothing, at least nothing of substance that will provide lasting comfort or strength. The plain fact is, man always thinks he knows better than God even though the lessons of history prove that we really have no clue. The Lord, however, promises to provide help and security to His people, if only they look to Him and enter into covenant and keep faith with Him. He will provide help, strength, guidance and mercy to those who come seeking Him even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Those who look to human ways and ideas and strength for answers to life’s problems will always be disillusioned, but those who trust in God will not be disappointed.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

The Hope of Faith.

“‘Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”
(Mark 3:28-30)

These words of Jesus have struck fear into the hearts of many impressionable believers who have wondered if they had committed the unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. As it turned out most of them were experiencing the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit over their sins. They needed to remember their faith in Christ and live in His mercy and forgiveness.

As bad as most sins are the only really unpardonable sin is this blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This amounts to the rejection of the mercy of God in Christ. This may happen through outright unbelief, intense despair or by the hardening of the heart by embracing sin and self rather than God’s will and His ways. Thus only the rejection of faith in Christ will send anyone to hell. While that may be comforting to many, the bad news is that there are billions of people down through the millennia and living today who have done exactly that.
Now sin is indeed a serious offense against the Lord. We cannot except it as good nor can we try, like Adam and Eve, to excuse it or redefine it as something good, as an acceptable lifestyle choice. Rather we need to seek the Lord’s strength and grace to admit and repent of sin, overcome it and not give in to the temptation which we daily experience. We cannot do it on our own.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

The Hope of Glory.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

As I write this I have just heard of the suicide of yet another celebrity. When we hear such things we tend to wonder why such successful, wealthy, popular, and famous people kill themselves. Didn’t they have all they could want? Didn’t they have everything to live for?
While they and God alone know the reasons for such self destructive behavior, one answer may lie in our cultural attitudes toward life and death, that is if you leave God and faith out of consideration. Without God, life is filled with despair. Death seems often to be a pointless waste that calls into question everything we have done in our lives, all that we have ever hoped for as well as all the physical suffering we have endured. If death is the end, then what was the value and purpose of all we did and experienced? People make up their own meaning and purpose for life based on cultural values or philosphical and religious systems which, in the end, tend to fall apart in the face of suffering and death.

Saint Paul, however, gives us real hope. He tells us that our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin gives purpose to our lives. And that same faith tells us that all the pain and afflictions, sorrow and loss we endure seem, in the light of eternity, as nothing. What we hold on to so dearly is vulnerable, weak and susceptible to dangers of all sorts. Eternal life is like a building that is strong, beautiful and permanent. When we die, we lose the tent but we are left homeless. The tent, our body we call home now, will be destroyed only to be replaced by our heavenly home, our glorified body, infinitely superior to what we cherish so strongly now. Therefore we can persevere by God’s grace knowing that we will live forever in glory.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

The Hope of Salvation.

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:8-9)
Now Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and knew they had to hide from Him. They felt guilt and shame even with the fig leaves, but human efforts to cover sin in this or any way are ineffective and useless. Adam’s sin had broken fellowship with God. Both Adam and Eve no longer trusted Him. They were afraid of Him. Consequently, neither of them took responsibility for their sin. Adam blamed Eve and, by implication, God, because God had given her to him. Yet he could not blame her for fooling him because he should have known better. Similarly, Eve tried to shift the blame to the serpent, the devil. In doing so she admitted that she had disobeyed but claimed she had an excuse. 

When we sin we too try to we shift blame, refuse to admit our guilt or claim some sort of excuse. But explanations and excuses do remove the guilt. God’s Law condemns without mercy or exception or excuse. There are no special circumstances.

This is why God promised to send a Savior. The Messiah would come and receive a severe wound. Yet that Messiah would conquer Satan the evil one decisively. Jesus is that promised Messiah who came to make us right with God, to restore us to Eden and into full fellowship with Almighty God. Now we no longer need to be afraid of God for we can, by faith, trust in His promise of eternal life through the body and blood of Jesus.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Jesus’ Authority.

“And he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’” (Mark 2:28)
Jesus proclaimed that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. With these words He indicated that He had come to do away with man made religious rules and enable people to follow Him by faith in spirit and with love. Such a pronouncement was guaranteed to bring Jesus into conflict with the religious rulers of the Jews. They resented the fact that He presumed to have authority to interpret the Law. Who was He anyway? He was not a Pharisee or priest or rabbi. 

But Jesus had such authority for He is God. The old religious system of law only served to remind people of their sin and guilt but never did anything to abolish them. This is because the Law was designed to lead people to God to seek His help and mercy. The new system, the New Covenant would do away with sin because it is rooted in the love and obedience of Jesus who would take away the guilt and punishment for sin forever. Forgiveness was the main reason why Jesus had died on the cross, the central aspect of His ministry. He came to provide us freedom from the bondage of the Law by fulfilling it in Himself.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Jars of Clay.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthian 4:7)
With the phase “jars of clay” Paul gives us a great image of the Christian life. This image proclaims the glory of weakness, a metaphor foreign to modern living. Our world treasures power, wealth and fame. All must stand up and be strong and control their own destiny. Weakness and self-doubt are vilified except when the powerful use the weak as tools to achieve their own agendas. But Paul’s metaphor tells us that the Lord demonstrates His glory and power through those who are weak. The self-sufficient autonomous person is not the one the Lord can use. These often reject God’s grace to seek inner harmony by means of human methods. They accept a glory that comes from human achievement, human physical strength, and human intellect. Such glory though popular today and praised throughout out culture cannot compare with the glory of God.

The great light of God’s glory is contained in jars of clay, our unattractive and frail humanity. This is great news for it tells us how we are to live. As jars of clay we have no reason to boast in our abilities, our attractiveness or any other reason. Any glory that we receive in carrying out the work of God belongs to the Lord. We are his servants. Like these clay jars, we are useful to contain the precious items of the gospel and the Holy Spirit. The contents are important, the vessel is not. Thus the most appropriate attitude for us humble gratitude for the privilege of serving a function in God’s kingdom. Such words so troubling to a world that seeks glory and celebrity are extremely comforting to the believer for they strengthen us in times of suffering and deprivation.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville