The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

August 23, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

 

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

 

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

 

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

 

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

 

 

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

 

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

 

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve.  Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

C:     Amen

The Word

 

FIRST LESSON – 1 Kings 19:9-18

In the midst of discouragement, Elijah gets a renewed understanding of God’s ways and purposes.

 

There he went into a cave and spent the night.  And the word of the LORD came to him:  “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty.  The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.  I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too.”  The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty.  The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.  I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”  The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus.  When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.  Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.  Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.  Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”  (NIV1984)

 

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 73

 

I am always with You, O LORD;

You hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with Your counsel,

and afterward You will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?

And earth has nothing I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

                        and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

SECOND LESSON – Romans 9:1-5eba

With a note of anguish, Paul sadly recounts how the unbelieving Jews had cut themselves off from the true God.

 

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.  Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen.  (NIV1984)

 

VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Alleluia.  (Hebrews 11:1)

 

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 

GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 14:22-33 (Sermon Text)

Jesus reassures His trembling disciples with His miraculous power and immeasurable love.

 

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them:  “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  (NIV1984)

 

C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 

SERMON  Stay Focused on Jesus!

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Focus.  Have you ever stopped to realize how important it is to have focus in your life?  Anyone who has ever tried to hit a baseball knows how important it is to keep your eyes focused on the ball.  Anyone who has ever had surgery knows how vital it is to stay focused on how much better things will be once their wound has healed and the pain goes away.  Sometimes we have to remind our children or our grandchildren to stay focused on the task at hand— whether it’s doing their homework or putting together a new Lego toy.  Sometimes we adults need to be reminded to stay focused on today instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future.

 

Focus.  Just as focus is important in a variety of situations in our lives here on this earth, so  also focus is important in our lives as the children of God.  The Holy Spirit gives us a beautiful example of that truth here in the familiar words of our text for today.  Since the object of our focus is critically important, today let’s see how as Christians we are to:  Stay Focused on Jesus!

 

Last Sunday we watched in amazement as Jesus fed over 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two small fish.  Unfortunately, this miracle led this crowd to focus on Jesus— but for the wrong reason!  John tells us that while the crowd began to say to each other, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14), Jesus knew that “they intended to come and make him king by force” (John 6:15).  Before they could carry out their plan Matthew tells us in the opening verse of our text, “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side.”  Why did Jesus make His disciples get in the boat and leave?  I can think of a couple of reasons.  First, Jesus did not want His disciples to be tempted into thinking that maybe the crowd was right!  Maybe Jesus should simply bypass the cross and be “crowned” as King!  Therefore, Jesus lovingly separates His disciples from that temptation.  Then He “dismisses the crowd” before they could even try to force a crown on His head.

 

But I think that there was also another reason as to why Jesus made His disciples get into the boat while He dismissed the crowd.  Matthew tells us, “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”  The temptation to be crowned a king without having to endure the agony of the cross (Pointing to the cross) was real and it was powerful.  As the true Son of God and the true Son of Man Jesus knew how important it was for Him to spend time praying to His heavenly Father— especially when faced with temptation.  What did Jesus include in His prayer?  Scripture does not tell us, but considering the situation it’s not difficult for us to imagine Jesus asking His heavenly Father for strength— strength to continue overcoming Satan’s temptations as well as the strength to stay focused on His goal, His reason for coming into this world, namely, to save us from our sins!  (See Matthew 1:21)

 

As our text continues, we see that as the true Son of God and the true Son of Man Jesus knew that His disciples were now in danger.  Matthew tells us, “When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  ‘It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.”

 

How could the disciples be filled with so much fear after they just saw Jesus miraculously feed over 5,000 people with such a small amount of food?  Think about it.  The darkness, the danger of the boat being “buffeted” by the waves, the fact that it was now somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning, the sheer physical exhaustion of rowing against the wind— all of this combined to arouse a superstitious fear in the hearts of the disciples.  Lovingly, Jesus overcame that fear by saying, “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”

 

True to form, good ‘ol impetuous Peter said, “’Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.’  ‘Come,’ Jesus said.”  Then Matthew tells us, “Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  Peter’s faith and Peter’s trust in Jesus is remarkable!  After asking for and receiving permission from Jesus, Peter got out of the boat and literally walked on the water— until?  Until he lost his focus.  As long as Peter stayed focused on Jesus all was fine!  But when Peter let go of his focus on Jesus and started focusing on the wind and the waves he started to sink.  By the grace of God Peter’s faith led him to turn to Jesus and cry out, “Lord, save me!”  By grace Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of Peter.  Then He chastised Peter by saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt.”

 

Focus.  It is certainly no secret that many people all across the world and many people down through the history of this world have had and do have focus.  The critical question, however, is:  What is the object of their focus?  The current pandemic has made it clear that many people are focused on science.  How many times have we heard people say that their decisions will be based on “science and data”?  I have seen commercials which emphasize that “science” will get us out of this crisis.  To a certain extent that is true!  The almighty Creator has endowed us human beings with the remarkable ability to use science to “discover” many wonderful medical advances.  Hopefully, the good Lord will allow us to use science to defeat this tenacious little virus.  But that’s just one little virus.  Science will never be able to help us defeat the most destructive “virus” of all— death!

 

There are, of course, many other things that are the object of peoples’ focus.  It is not unusual to run across people whose focus is on money.  Money can solve just about any problem, right?  The more money you have the less problems you have, right?  Yeah, sure.  There are the people who are focused on themselves.  On a worldly level they focus on their abilities, their intellect, and their looks.  All of that begins to fall apart, however, as the years go by and their physical body begins to deteriorate.  On a spiritual level they focus on “doing the best they can” or “working hard” to make up for what they know they have done wrong.  Then their conscience won’t allow them to sleep at night and they shiver with doubts and with fears whenever they think about what comes “next.”

 

Focus.    The application of this text to our lives today reminds us of how important it is to have the correct object when it comes to focus.  What I mean by that is this:  By the grace and power of God alone we are Christians.  We are disciples, followers of Jesus the Christ.  By the grace and power of God alone we know that the Son of God came into this world as our true Brother with the singular focus of saving us from our sins.  By the grace and power of God alone we can share with someone the true meaning of the manger in Bethlehem, the true meaning of the cross on Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross), the true meaning of the empty grave in the garden.  When our life is going well, when we are in the company of our brothers and sisters in the faith, when our path through this world is relatively smooth, we have no trouble staying focused on Jesus!

 

Then there are the other times.  There are the times when we have a sinking feeling in our heart because it seems like nothing is going right in our lives.  Our family is falling apart and we can’t stop it.  A virus is turning our world upside down and no one knows how to stop it.  It’s getting harder and harder for people we know, for people we love to keep their heads above water.  They’re sinking deeper and deeper into debt because they’ve lost their job, or their hours have been cut.  No matter what you do, no matter what they do, no matter what the government does the wind and the waves keep getting stronger and bigger and more dangerous all the time!

 

Is there any hope at all?  Absolutely!  Like Peter we need to turn to our Jesus and cry out, “Lord, save me!”— and He will!  Jesus will reach out to us through His holy Word and through His holy Supper, He will take us by the hand and He will save us!  At the same time, we shouldn’t be surprised if Jesus says to us what He said to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

Now, I am not saying that if we stay focused on Jesus that He will miraculously calm all the storms in our lives.  What I am saying is that when we stay focused on Jesus, He will provide a way through the storms of life.  When we stay focused on Jesus, we will have the confidence of knowing that He will use the “buffeting” that we experience in this sinful world to strengthen our faith in Him and to bring us even closer to Him.  When we stay focused on Jesus we will have the comfort of knowing that He will fulfill the promise He makes to us through His servant Isaiah, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).  When we stay focused on Jesus we will have the certainty of knowing that no matter what happens to us in this world, Jesus is not only preparing a room for us in our heavenly Father’s home, but when the time is right He will come back and take us to be with Him so that we can live with Him in heavenly peace— forever!  (See John 14:1ff)

 

In closing today, I would like to direct your attention to the closing verses of our text.  Matthew writes, “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”  This is the ultimate result of staying focused on Jesus.  While the dangers of this world are real and while the temptations of Satan are powerful, we do not need to fear them!  As we stay focused on Jesus, we hear Him say to us, “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  As we stay focused on Jesus, we will see that He has the power to bring us through any storm that comes up in our lives.  As we stay focused on Jesus, we will see that we have every reason to follow the example of these disciples, joyfully worship Jesus and confidently proclaim, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen 

 

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 

OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

 

Dearest Jesus, our only Savior from sin, keep us from building our hopes on this earthly life with its sins and sorrows, its shallow pleasures and its imperfect treasures so that we can always keep our focus on you.  Dear heavenly Father, give each of us an earnest longing for that day when we shall be with you in the perfect peace of heaven.  In the midst of the troubles, the uncertainties and the storms of this life do not let our hearts be filled with fearfulness and anxiety, but rather give us a calm trust that calls on you for help in every time of need.  Having placed all things in your hands— ourselves, our troubles, our cares, our needs, our fears, our failures, our sins, our very futures— give us the strength and courage to go on and meet one by one the battles of life never doubting that you will make everything turn out for our good.  Trusting in you, O Lord, we ask you to save us from all our foes who oppress us and from all things that afflict us.  Dear Holy Spirit, as we wait for our final redemption supply us with an ever-increasing measure of grace that we may adorn our life with good works, giving ample proof of our faith and of the love we have for you.  While we journey here as pilgrims and strangers in a world hostile to you and to our faith, guard and keep us safe from all evil that may threaten our bodies or our souls.  While of necessity we must be involved in earthly tasks and labors, let us not neglect our higher calling as laborers in our heavenly Father’s vineyard, proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins to others and encouraging them to stay focused on Jesus

 

Dear Triune God, we whom you love are weary and distressed because of the fires that are once again ravaging our area.  We confess, O Lord, that we are not worthy of the least of your blessings, we are not worthy of the many good things which you shower upon us each and every day.  We confess that we are sinners who deserve only your anger; but do not cast us away.  We plead for your mercy, for your love and for your strength knowing that you have tenderly invited us to come to you in Jesus’ name with all our cares, all our needs and all our problems; knowing that you have promised to hear us and answer our prayers according to your will.  We humbly beg you therefore to strengthen everyone who has been impacted by these fires.  We also humbly beg you to put these fires out.  We ask dear Lord that you would be with all of the firefighters, the police officers and all of the people who are willing to help us at a time such as this.  Grant them your strength and your protection.  Bless them for their commitment and their dedication.

 

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

 

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

C:        Amen.

 

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

 

C:        Amen.