The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

July 26, 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 God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your Word.  By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy and to bring forth fruits in faith and hope and love;  we ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 55:10-11

The Word of God is a power for accomplishing God’s will on earth.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 65

Praise awaits you, O God,

You call forth songs of joy.

You care for the land and water it;

You soften it with showers and bless its crops.

The streams of God are filled with water

to provide the people with grain.

You crown the year with Your bounty,

and your carts overflow with abundance.

The grasslands of the desert overflow;

the hills are clothed with gladness.

The meadows are covered with flocks

and the valleys are mantled with grain;

they shout for joy and sing.

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 8:18-25 (Sermon Text)eba

The glories we will enjoy in heaven are so vast that, by comparison, all of our earthly sufferings are insignificant.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (NIV1984)

VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  The Word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.  Alleluia.  (Deuteronomy 30:14)

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 13:1-9, 18-23

God plants His Word in our heart; His Word alone can produce saving faith and bring forth the fruits of faith.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.  Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.  Then he told them many things in parables, saying:  “A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  He who has ears, let him hear.”  “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is the seed sown along the path.  The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.  The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.  But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.  He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (NIV1984)

C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

SERMON  I Can Hardly Wait!

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I think it is pretty safe to say that most people are more than ready for this coronavirus pandemic to be over.  Last March we were ordered to Shelter in Place.  All schools were immediately closed.  All but “essential” businesses were closed.  The State of California even closed all churches.  All of this was done in an effort to “flatten the curve” of people being infected with this virus.  And it worked!  California did well in mitigating the spread of this virus.  Then as the restrictions began to be loosened, as businesses started to reopen, as people tried to get back to some sense of “normalcy” we all know what happened.  The number of positive cases spiked.  The restrictions became more strict.  Face coverings became mandatory.  Businesses were once again closed— along with churches.  But there is hope!  Just this past week I read about a vaccine that is being produced by Oxford University in England.  Scientists are very encouraged by the Oxford vaccine.  Not only does the vaccine produce “neutralizing antibodies” in the test subjects, but it also produced “T cells” which are able to fight off pathogens such as the coronavirus.  Shortly after I heard about the Oxford vaccine I heard about a therapeutic called “Favipiravir” which goes under the brand name “Faviton.”  Faviton has “shown promise in clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially in mild and moderate cases.”  All of this gives us good reason to say, “I can hardly wait until this pandemic is over!”

On a much lighter note, let’s say that you are so confident that the good Lord will give us the ability to develop both a therapeutic and an effective vaccine for COVID-19 that you have decided that in the summer of 2021 you are finally going to take your dream vacation — to Minnesota!  With one final click of the mouse your vacation plans are complete.  Your dream vacation has been booked.  As soon as the confirmation page comes out of the printer you put it up on the refrigerator as a reminder to you of what is to come.  Each and every day as you see that piece of paper you say to yourself, “I can hardly wait!”

No matter who we are, no matter how old we are we all have situations in our lives which lead us to say, “I can hardly wait!”  As children we anxiously wait for birthdays and holidays and summer vacation.  As adults we anxiously wait for the weekend, for our vacation or for the day when we get a new car or a new house.  In times like this we are anxiously waiting for this global pandemic to be over.  Waiting is part and parcel of our daily lives.  But what truly makes waiting difficult is when waiting includes enduring pain and suffering.  What do we say to someone who is enduring pain and suffering— whether that pain and suffering is physical or emotional?

That’s the specific issue that the apostle Paul addresses in our sermon text for today.  We are not exempt from pain and suffering simply because we are Christians.  In fact, the more we let our faith shine in our lives, the more we openly live according to the will of our Savior God the more likely we are to experience pain and suffering in this world!  With that reality in mind let’s see how this portion of God’s holy Word enables us to endure the pain and the suffering of this life while still being able to say:  I Can Hardly Wait!  There are two things I would like to emphasize from this portion of Scripture.  First, I would like to emphasize that waiting requires focus.  Secondly, I would like to emphasize that waiting embraces hope.

Look at the opening verse of our text.  Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  The apostle Paul was a man who was very familiar with suffering.  As Paul faithfully proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ the unbelievers retaliated by throwing Paul into prison, by beating Paul with whips and rods, and by harassing Paul as he journeyed from one city to the next.  (See 2 Corinthians 11:16-33)  Ultimately Paul was executed for faithfully proclaiming that Jesus is this world’s only Savior from sin.  (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Faithfully standing up for Jesus, however, is not the only reason we might endure sufferings and hardships in this world.  Look at what Paul tells us in verses 20-21 of our text.  Under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit Paul writes, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”  Ultimately, all pain and all suffering are either the direct or the indirect result of sin— the sin that mankind brought into God’s once perfect Creation.  God’s judgment against mankind’s sin can be seen practically no matter where we look in the natural world around us.  Every time a hurricane forms in the ocean and then comes howling onshore, every time an earthquake rattles people’s lives, every time a wildfire rages across the land, every time a drought or a flood destroys crops and ruins homes, every time a virus wreaks havoc on the human race we are reminded of the reality and the seriousness and the power of sin.  Sin always— and only— brings suffering.

Now look into your own lives, my friends, as well as into the lives of the people you know.  Cancer, strokes, heart-attacks, arthritis, and depression; financial difficulties and emotional difficulties; broken hearts and broken dreams— these are the types of things that I hear people talk about as I visit with our fellow members here at church.  If we were to allow ourselves to focus on all of the things that bring pain and suffering into our lives and into the lives of the people we love, we would quickly become overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.  Paul therefore gives us the proper focus we are to have when he says to us, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

No matter how difficult our life might be, no matter how much suffering we are asked to endure as we journey through this world, we must stay focused!  First and foremost, Paul tells us to stay focused on “the glory that will be revealed in us.”  What is Paul referring to here?  He is referring to the glory and the perfection, the joy and the happiness that we will most certainly receive in our heavenly Father’s home.

Our journey here on this earth is but a blink of an eye when compared to eternity.  Once this brief journey is over so is all of our pain and all of our suffering.  Once this brief journey comes to an end we begin a journey that will never come to an end— a journey along streets of gold, a journey that includes living in the very presence of our Triune God, a journey that brings us the privilege of worshiping and praising and serving our God face-to-face — forever.  The glory that awaits us in heaven, the glory that is guaranteed to us through faith in what God’s Son accomplished for us on the cross (Pointing to the cross) — that glory far surpasses any suffering that we could ever possibly endure here on this earth.  So stay focused!  Stay focused on the truth that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” so that even in the “worst” of times you will be able to lift up your eyes to the God of heaven and say, “I can hardly wait!”

As we stay focused on that “glory” we will also be focused on the truth that Paul proclaims to us in verse 23 of our text.  Look at what he says, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”  By God’s grace and by God’s power we have already received the “firstfruits of the Spirit.”  We have been given the gift of saving faith in our heart.  That precious gift of faith is strengthened through regular use of God’s holy Word and Sacrament.  Because we have been given the “firstfruits of the Spirit” even when we “groan inwardly” during our journey here on this earth we are still able to “wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Stop and think about what God is promising here, my friends.  Without using any names I want to remind those of you who are daily dealing with the frailty of your mortal bodies to peer beyond the horizon of time and focus on the body that your God has promised to you in eternity!  In Philippians 3:21 we are told that our resurrected Savior will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”  In the great resurrection chapter of the Bible (I Corinthians 15) we are told, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (I Corinthians 15:42-44).  So to those of you who are indeed struggling with the frailties of your physical body (you know who you are) I encourage you to stay focused and to be patient.  Stay focused on the glorious body that your Savior Himself will one day give to you so that you can patiently say to Him, “I can hardly wait!”

That thought ties in with the final point I want to emphasize from our text for today.  Paul closes by saying to us, “For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

The Christian faith and the Christian faith alone has the power to fill us with hope!  When we know that God the Father loves us so much that He willingly gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16), when we know that God the Son loves us so much that He was willing to lay down His life (Pointing to the cross) to take away our sin (John 15:13), when we know that God the Holy Spirit loves us so much that He not only began His good work in us by creating in our hearts the gift of saving faith but through the tools of Word and Sacrament He will carry on His work until it is completed in heaven (Philippians 1:6)— yes when we know the love of our Triune God then we know and then we have true lasting hope!  When we know the love of our Savior God we will always be able to lift up our eyes and say— I can hardly wait!

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies…For in this hope we were saved….”  May God grant that these precious truths will always give us the focus that enables us to look above and beyond the horizon of time and confidently say with a heart that is filled with hope: “I can hardly wait!”

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

Dear Savior Jesus Christ, your holy Word assures us that you want to take us home to heaven to live with you in that perfect and glorious life that has been yours from eternity.  For this reason you willingly suffered and died for our sins and then victoriously rose to life again.  Help us to always take you at your Word, trusting you as our Lord and Savior, and longing for the wonderful rest that awaits us in heaven.  Life here is wearisome and discouraging because of our daily struggles against the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.  We long for the day when that conflict will be over; when the enemies of righteousness will no longer tempt us and when we will always do what is good and right in your sight.

On earth our lives are filled with toil and sweat, with troubles and tears.  We have fears and doubts and apprehensions.  No wonder we long to be in heaven, where you have promised freedom from all that now burdens us, that makes life hard and that brings us grief.  Oh, for the perfect life in heaven that is free from every contamination and blemish!  Oh, to be in heaven where we shall see you as you are in all your glory and have a glorified body like yours!

Dear Savior, you are the only reason that we can hope and plan for heaven.  We have no righteousness of our own to make us worthy of everlasting life, but we know that through you God has forgiven all of our sins and He has declared us righteous.  Keep us from hardening our hearts against you and from turning to unbelief.  Help us resist the devil and his temptations, to quell the lusts of our flesh and to turn away the idols of this world.  By the power of your Spirit, enable us to always take you at your Word and to trust all that you promise.

While we live in this world, constantly remind us that our treasure is not here but in heaven with you.  Keep us watchful and waiting for the hour of your return when you will come to take us to yourself.  Until then help us in our daily toils and struggles.  Give us patience and strength to bear up under all things that test our faith.  In your heavenly wisdom lighten our load of suffering and sorrow.  Pardon all our wrongs and inspire our hearts and minds with the peace of God which transcends all understanding.  Live in us, O Christ, and grant that we who by faith have been crucified with you may live now by faith, ever doing the works of righteousness that bring glory to your name.  Take us to heaven and give us blessed rest there.  In your name we ask this and in your name we pray:

LORD’S PRAYER

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.