Welcome to Grace Lutheran Church

The Weekly Word for August 31 – September 6,2014


Opening Prayer

O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

 

The Word

Matthew 16: (15-20) 21-28

(15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.)

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

The Sermon – “The Big Reveal”

 

Growing up I was a big fan of Scooby-Doo.

Loved that show, loved the dog, and I loved that each episode had a pretty good mystery.

My favorite part was the ending which I call “The Big Reveal,” where we discover the identity of the ghost or bad guy.

And the bad guy would always say, “And I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids.”

Today in our Gospel lesson we get a big reveal.

Our lesson is actually a continuation of last week’s Gospel where Jesus and his disciples have arrived at Caesarea Philippi.

CP was the location of many religions.

People could worship deities such as Baal, the Syrian god, Pan, the Greek god of nature, and Caesar the Emperor (who deemed himself a living god).

And it is in this backdrop that Jesus asks the disciples who they think Jesus really is.

In my last sermon I compared Jesus’ question to a Mid-Term exam, where the disciples, the “students,” now have to review all they have seen and heard in order to answer Jesus.

And we get the answer from Simon Peter: “Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Peter, the ever trying student, gets a gold star for that answer!

Now you might think that this is the Big Reveal that I teased at the beginning.

 

But it’s not.

 

The Big Reveal comes after Jesus shows Peter and the disciples just what the Messiah has come to do.

Today is the first of three passion predictions we get in Matthew’s Gospel.

That means Jesus starts to explain that the Messiah would not be celebrated and cheered, but rather be rejected and executed.

This is NOT what Peter and the disciples wanted to hear.

The Messiah is supposed to be kingly and usher in a new Jewish age free from Gentile occupation and once again the superpower of the Ancient World.

And with everything Jesus has done up to this point, all that has to lead to SOMETHING good right?!

But in the eyes and mind of Peter, nothing good can come out of what Jesus just said.

Peter, who was the star pupil last week, now starts to lose that hard-earned gold star.

He is so shocked that he does two things a STUDENT would never do to a TEACHER.

First, Peter actually pulls Jesus aside.

This is an act you would do when someone embarrasses themselves and YOU.

So Peter is dragging Jesus because “Jesus, you are embarrassing me!”

And the other no-no Peter does is he rebukes Jesus.

To rebuke someone was to “reprimand that person severely” and “to take him or her to task.”

Again this is the STUDENT doing this!

Peter believes, even after he has confessed WHO Jesus is, that he can tell Jesus what to do.

Now…here is what I believe is going on.

While Peter is saying these words of rebuke, there is another force at play.

 

There is another who is speaking through Peter.

 

Someone who thinks he has power and influence over Jesus.

Someone who has tried and failed before to turn Jesus away from Jesus’ appointed task.

But rather than giving up, this someone has stayed around, just off stage, keeping an eye on what this Jesus says and does.

Ready for a moment to strike again.

But it’s someone that Jesus always knew was there.

And that someone is revealed in verse 23.

“Get behind me, SATAN!”

I believe Jesus is not only rebuking Peter, he is rebuking Satan as well.

Now what Jesus is doing is putting into action what he said just a few short verses prior to this Passion Prediction:

“18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

Satan even tries to use Peter, the star pupil, to be a stumbling block to Jesus’ mission.

And in the past this is a strategy that has worked for Satan.

It worked on Adam and Eve, Saul, David, and…well…everyone!

But Jesus knows what Satan is trying to do.

So Jesus takes this moment to show Peter, the disciples, and US today, that Satan is not messing with another Adam or David.

The Devil is now dealing with the SON OF GOD!

 

And that is a battle that the Devil cannot win.

 

But that doesn’t mean the Devil has stopped trying.

To this day, the Devil continues to speak through people.

The Devil continues to put up stumbling blocks that hinder the faith journey of millions of Christians.

Martin Luther wrote that “(The Devil is) here, among us, he is struggling and striving to turn us out of the heaven in which we are through Christ.”

The Devil still at work in our lives, in our world:

And just like he tried to work his power through Jesus’ inner circle, he does the same today in our churches:

Here are some examples:

Think about-

How some churches close their doors and arms to people who are of different races, sexuality, politics, and social class.

How some churches fight over worship times and styles.

How some Christians will threaten to withhold money from a church or ministry if they don’t get their way.

How Christians complain about the lack of God in schools and yet do not spend the time to pray, read the Bible, and talk about God in their own homes!

This is how the Devil works.

And he is really good at what he does.

 

But our God is better!

 

The Devil cannot get Jesus to turn away from saving us.

The Devil cannot get Jesus to stop loving us.

 

Need an example?

Look at how Jesus rebukes Peter, but he does not send Peter away.

Jesus still looks to Peter to be one of the cornerstones of the Faith.

 

And for us,

Despite all the times the Devil can get a hold on us,

God’s hold on us is stronger.

God’s love for us is stronger.

It is so strong that each and every week, we are given the gift of the words “I forgive you” in our Confession.

We get the gift of the Meal where grace is given to us.

Let me quote Martin Luther again: “To be sure, the devil considers us weak, impotent, and faint; but when the battle begins, God says, I AM HERE.”

And the Devil cannot win.

THAT is the Big Reveal!

The Big Reveal is Satan the so-called “powerful tempter,” is very power-less when it comes to Jesus.

For us that means:

We do not face the Devil alone.

We are never alone.

We have a God who fights for us.

A God who loves us.

 

And that is no mystery.

 

Closing Prayer:

We thank you, Lord of heaven and earth,

That you have fed us in a way our hearts can understand, with the saving body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Enliven us by your presence in this meal, that we may be your presence in the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Ella Bunting 6th Annual Cancer Retreat October 11, 2014


You are invited to join The Open Arms Community for a FREE day of Pampering & Fellowship for cancer survivors & caregivers.
There is something for everyone including:

  • Healing Service
  • “Look Good Feel Better” Workshop
  • Manicures
  • Hot wax hands and feet
  • Zumba
  • Self Defense
  • Bingo
  • Cake Walk
  • Door prizes
  • Breakfast & Lunch Served

The retreat will run 8 am – 2 pm

To attend please RSVP at 476-4114

Download a flyer 2014 Ella Bunting Retreat

 

The Weekly Word for August 24-30


Opening Prayer

O God, with all your faithful followers of every age, we praise you, the rock of our life. Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son, that we may gladly minister to all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

The Word

Romans 12:1-8

12I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,* by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual* worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world,* but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.*

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Matthew 16: 13-20

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 

The Sermon – “The Exam”

To this day, I still have nightmares about college.

And the nightmares are always the same.

It’s the last day of class, and it’s time for the Final Exam.

And I come to realize that I have not been to class the whole semester.

I start to wonder, “How in the world could I forget about a class the entire semester?!”

Then I panic because I know my graduation depends on this one last class.

Then I wake up…I look at my degree and reassure myself that I DID pass.

 

Today, Jesus gives his disciples a test.

I would call it a Mid-Term Exam.

And this would not be a strange or rare occurrence because we can remember that “disciples” is another name for “students.”

And Jesus is their Rabbi, which means he is their “Teacher.”

So this Mid-Term would not come as a surprise, but the LOCATION of this test would be unexpected.

Jesus gives this test in Caesarea Philippi.

Now what is that important?

CP- was an area well known for the many religions found within its borders.

Here are some of the religions one could find in CP:

There were temples where people worshipped the Syrian god, Baal.

There was a cavern on a great hill that many said was the birth place of Pan, the Greek god of nature.

And there was a giant temple built to honor the Emperor Caesar.

Keep in mind that Caesar not only called himself Emperor, he also called himself a god.

And he expected the people to worship him.

 

So in the middle all these different religions, here comes a man, a Rabbi, from Galilee along with his 12 disciples.

It is among all these religions, that Jesus gives his students a test.

It’s a two question test.

First, Jesus wants to know who the people, the witnesses, think he is.

He wants to know whom they see as having the real power.

And the disciples answer that some say Jesus:

  • John the Baptizer- THAT would have been a story to itself since John was executed by Herod back in Chapter 13.
  • Elijah
  • Jeremiah
  • One of the prophets

Jesus responds, “That’s nice. Now who do YOU say that I am?”

This is the big question.

After watching Jesus perform miracles, preach, teach, and confront the religious establishment, who do these “students” think their “teacher” is?

Out of the two questions on this exam, THIS would be the hardest to answer.

But then we get the answer.

And it is provided by Simon Peter.

“Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

That one sentence carries a lot of revelation:

Jesus is the Messiah (The promised avenger of the Jewish people)

Jesus is the Son (the actual son of the Father)

God is the LIVING God! (In the middle of CP, Peter says that God is the one that is LIVING, that is REAL, and that is present)

 

Now how did Peter know?

Jesus says God the Father provided the answer.

Which for us Lutherans is important to keep in the back of our minds because Martin Luther expands on this statement by saying that Holy Spirit LEADS us to God.

We don’t do it on our own.

In our world today, we would not say:

“I decided to come to church.”

Or

“I decided to become a pastor.”

We would say:

“The Holy Spirit called me to church.”

“The Holy Spirit led me to the ministry.”

 

Now getting back to Peter and Jesus, Peter DOES answer correctly.

And I would bet that Jesus smiles at Peter.

It would be the same reaction when a teacher hears the correct answer in her class.

Like the information she or he is teaching is finally sinking in.

Now while our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters will say that Peter is the rock for which the church is built on,

We as Lutherans, as Protestants, would focus on Peter’s answer that becomes the spot, the rock.

But I do not want to discount Peter’s role,

It is because of Peter, the other disciples, the early followers and witnesses, that we have a worldwide church in the first place!

 

Today, we stand on the shoulders of the generations of disciples before us.

As Paul writes in our second lesson, “We, who are many, are one body in Christ, members OF one another.”

 

So Peter and the disciples survive the Mid-Term Exam.

But that does not mean the testing is done.

In fact, NEXT WEEK we will focus on what happens when Jesus reveals to Peter and the disciples just what The Messiah has been sent to do.

And Peter does not handle THAT lesson very well.

But that is next week. (We call that a tease)

 

But as for this week,

I want to ask you the same question that Jesus asked the disciples.

“Who do YOU say Jesus is?”

This is THE question that all Christians in one form or another will have to answer.

And the ones asking the questions are the people around us.

The people could be other believers, or non-believers.

People want to know who YOU say Jesus is.

And for many of us, we can react like we are in that Final Exam, and our degree hangs on our answer.

But the Good News is you do not have to struggle for that answer.

 

In the past, when I worked at Barnes and Noble, I knew there was always one section that was going to be popular.

The Cliffs Notes section.

I knew when mid-terms or finals were around the corner, because that was when the students would come RUNNING (not WALKING) into the store.

Desperately looking for help (usually at the last minute).

I know this from my OWN personal experiences.

 

Today I want to give you the Cliffs Notes that can help you answer the big test question:

“Who do YOU say Jesus is?”

The answer…

Is in your hands.

In your bulletin.

On page 4.

The Apostles’ Creed.

“I believe in God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

In these three parts (articles), you have the story of God.

And in this Creed you have the answer to the question.

 

That is why we say a Creed every week, to confess and PROfess who we say God is…

 

So this morning, I invite you, I encourage you, to let the Creed be the starting point for you.

 

And then let your answer not come from a piece of paper, but from your heart.

 

Another source I will suggest is from the Small Catechism, and it is the morning blessing, where it is said:

“I ask that you (God) would also protect me today from sin and all evil, so that my life and actions may please you. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine.”

 

Did you hear that part?

“My body and soul.”

 

You are not learning the answer just for the sake of a test.

You are learning the answer for the sake of your soul.

You are learning to LIVE. And to LOVE. And to SERVE.

 

Again I point back to Paul who encourages the Romans (and us) to be “Living Sacrifices.”

Let how we live, and respond, be our true WORSHIP of God.

Let our actions be the final answer to the exam.

 

 

 

 

Closing Prayer:

We thank you, Lord of heaven and earth,

That you have fed us in a way our hearts can understand, with the saving body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Enliven us by your presence in this meal, that we may be your presence in the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Ella Bunting Open Arms July 2014 Newsletter


The Ella Bunting Open Arms Cancer Support Newsletter for JULY 2014 is available now.

Just click on this link: Ella Bunting Open Arms July 2014

Grace July/August 2014 Newsletter Now Available!


Check out our latest newsletter to read about all the things going on at Grace this summer! GraceNewsletterJulyAugust2014

NOW AVAILABLE “Recipes for Hope:Cooking with Miss Ellie and Friends”


The Ella Bunting Open Arms Cancer Support Group Cookbooks “Recipes for Hope: Cooking with Miss Ellie and Friends” are now available at the church! The cookbooks cost $15 each. We would love to hold a copy for you. Just contact the church office at tvillegrace@aol.com or 336-476-4114 and we will put one on hold WHILE SUPPLIES LAST.