Sermon: John 15:1-8 Abide with Me
This sermon was preached on April 29, 2018 at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, Frazier Park, CA.
(Sorry the audio file is not working properly. Will try to fix later today/)
This sermon was preached on April 29, 2018 at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, Frazier Park, CA.
(Sorry the audio file is not working properly. Will try to fix later today/)
This last week as I was struggling with some sickness, I let slip a day or two of prayers for the women who were abused by Larry Nassar. I had gone 87 days following that pattern. Yet I missed two days last week.
The sickness wasn’t life threatening for me by any stretch. But with my age and the challenges this past year with adjusting to a new normal after my accident, it caught me by surprise. This thing wore me out, not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
I reflected on that last night. I began thinking about the more than 200 women who had been sexually abused by Nassar, some more than 20 years ago. How many days have they faced their burdens? The weight of no one listening to them for years. And when some reported the people who could have helped never did anything. No one responded with help for them.
I wonder how tired, overwhelmed they felt all that time? And then they faced their abuser, and yet still they are attacked, sidelined, and ignored by #MSU and #USAG and others. This was not a episode from which they would recover with a couple weeks of rest.
This is daily, weekly, monthly, yearly —drains on the life, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That is the tiring and wearying reality of so many. My little episode pales by comparison.
This reminds me when we pray for each of them, it is not just an instant in their lives, it is their lives. Yes, they are growing, maturing, but also hurting, angry, standing strong in public, and setting a course for many others who are beginning to address the horror, injustice, and pain.
And new names beyond the sports scandal are added to the list of abused, seemingly each day. Our prayer life is extended, not as a burden, but a necessity, a promise, a joy. They are Survivors and Conquerors. And, yes, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, these women are strong. And we stand with them as Prayer Warriors.
I am no longer sick or tired; my illness has passed. But my prayer focus for each of them continues. They all need our prayers, every day.
If I fail to do that, Lord, forgive me, strengthen me, and even give me the appropriate words in prayer. Here is God’s promise for us as we pray:
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 NAS)
Again a summary of prayers for those abused in the MSU and USA Gymnastics scandals. We have to remind ourselves that abuse and its consequences can affect the survivor for a long time, even a life time. These prayers are a tribute to each survivor, and a petition for mercy for each one of them and their families.
Day 53 Lyndsy Garnet #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Jesus, Your name is above all other names. You have come for the hurting, the broken, the forgotten. May Your love surround Lyndsy each day, giving her strength and hope. Heal her. IJN Amen
Day 54 Taylor Cole #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, look w/favor on Taylor each day. Whatever her concerns, hurts, anxiety, may You heal, comfort, & strengthen her. Bring people in her life to care for her & her family. IJN Amen
Day 55 Jessica Smith #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we pray for Jessica; her needs are daily, may You more than meet them. Grant her comfort, peace, & hope. Bless her & her family to heal & grow stronger, may she know love. IJN Amen
Day 56 Arianna Guerrero #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors O God of hope & healing, bring all comfort, strength, & love to Arianna. Grant her days of hope, gaining an inward strength & beauty. Protect her heart & bless her & family. IJN. Amen
Day 57 Melody Posthuma Can der Veen #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors LORD, look with favor upon Melody. Heal the abuse, give her a vision of life free from the past. Encourage, comfort, strengthen her and her family. Grant her peace. IJN Amen
Day 58 Christine Harrison #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, look w/favor upon Christine in all her needs. Whatever she experiences may there be joy even in heartache. Sustain her in challenging times & fill them w/hope. IJN Amen
Day 59 Victim 153 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we pray she who is in shadows but is known to You. We pray for Victim 153 & her family. Whatever her needs, raise up people to meet them. Strengthen, encourage, & comfort her. IJN Amen
Day 60 Victim 11 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, altho nameless to us, Victim 11 is certainly known to You. Continue to strengthen her each day as she grows beyond & above what has happened. May her past not define her, but who she is now. IJN Amen
Day 61 Victim 136 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, our hearts ache for each victim, but today especially #136. Grant her healing of physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual wounds. Raise up people to encourage, comfort, & support her. IJN Amen
Day 62 Kristen Thelen #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may this day bring new hope, added strength for Kristin. May the scars of abuse become reminders of healing, no longer chained to her abuser. May Your love surround her each day. IJN Amen
Day 63 Katie Rasmussen #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, today we pray for Katie and all her needs. Whatever they are may You abundantly provide for her. Grant her times of peace, nights of rest, and strength for each challenge. IJN Amen
Day 64 Jessica Tarrant #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors O Lord, our God, how majestic is Your name. In Your love guide, protect, & heal Jessica each day. Give her wisdom, strength, & comfort to meet every challenge. Surround her w/people of love. IJN Amen
Day 65 Mary Fisher-Follmer #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Heavenly Father, we pray for Mary today that You would meet & surpass all her needs. Where wounds exist bring healing. Where discouragement bring hope. Where loneliness bring love & friendship. IJN Amen
Day 66 Jordyn Wieber #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, bless Jordyn today as she continues to heal & grow. Wwhat happened to her does not define her, but how she is responding. Strengthen her on difficult days, encourage her when challenged. Bless her family as well. IJN Amen
Day 67 Chelsea Zerfas #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Heavenly Father, You know victories & fears, losses & challenges of abuse. Even more, You know the path of healing & the gifts You provide for her. May these all be for Chelsea especially today. IJN Amen
Day 68 Samantha Ursch #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, bless Samantha in her walk in freedom from abuse. Give her wisdom & strength. May You guide her, love her, & encourage her with friends who can daily support her & her family. IJN Amen
Day 69 Kara Johnson #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, extend mercy in a special way today for Kara. In fears, doubts, concerns, may You be sufficient. Grant Your peace to her & her family. Bring relief & joy at the right time for her & her family. IJN Amen
Day 70 Maddie Johnson #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, be present w/Maddie in special. Continue to strengthen her, & guide her. Remind her of Your love in Jesus. Bless her family as well as they journey together. Through the process may You bring newness & hope. IJN Amen
Day 71 Marie Anderson #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, You know the needs, hurts, & challenges Marie faces. But You also have gifted her in ways to grow thru the turmoil. Strengthen her each day. Bless her family as they provide support. IJN Amen
Day 72 Amy Labadie #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors We ask, O God, Your mercies to be new every morning for Amy. Grant healing of her heart, strengthen her in living beyond the abuse. Bless her & her family as they receive love & care. Give her hope beyond each day. IJN Amen
Day 73 Ashley Yost #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may Your blessings flow to Ashley. Grant her healing, peace, comfort, & wisdom as she moves forward. May she experience times of joy. Bless her family as they walk w/her. You mercies are new every morning. IJN Amen
Day 74 Aly Raisman #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, thank You for strengthening Aly as she continues to speak out against abuse. Surround her w/people of love to encourage her. May You continue to heal her wounds. Use her voice to speak for many who are abused. IJN Amen
Day 75 Kassie Powell #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Heavenly Father, today our prayers are for Kassie. Whatever her needs, may You more than meet them. Strengthen her each day to meet all challenges. Grant her grace to speak truth & help others. Bless her family. IJN Amen
Day 76 Megan Ginter #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Our Father, we bring Megan before Your throne of mercy. You know her needs, hurts, desires. Grant her healing, strength, & comfort for the days ahead. Open paths for her to follow enriching others and using her gifts. IJN Amen
Day 77 Katherine Gordon #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, look with favor upon Katherine. You know her needs for healing, strengthening, comforting. Raise up people to provide for her and a safe friendship in her life. Bless her family as well. IJN Amen
Day 77 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Supplement I am including a prayer for Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. Lord, we give thanks for this conscientious judge who provided the avenue for many women to speak about abuse. May You continue to bless her & in her service. IJN Amen
Back in the mid 1990s, Marcus Allen had already been an NFL star for more than ten years; he played on a Super Bowl winning team. Now he was playing for the KC Chiefs. One young player just out of college was touted as being the real deal, a star before he even put on his uniform. One time he scored a touchdown, and was parading around in the end zone and showing off to the crowd. Marcus Allen finally spoke and told him, “Don’t believe your press reports. Act like you have been there.”
In 1960 our family went to our local town (~5,000 at the time). My father was very strict, and he kept us in line. We saw a few teenagers messing around, causing some havoc, but nothing serious. I remember my father commenting, “If you ever see this kind of actions by teenagers, all you have to do is look at the parents and you’ll see the cause.” Little did I know that this would be my “press release” as a parent 20 years later.
I served in the Navy when we adopted our sons (1978). Early on it became obvious that the older son (8 when they came to us) was going to be a problem. Little did we know how big of a problem. He began stealing from us within a year, and it escalated from there.
In 1982 I left the Navy to attend seminary in St. Louis. He soon began stealing from others (we didn’t know it for quite some time). The lies and stealing escalated to the point that when I went on vicarage the first week he purposefully stole from a store—his intention was that the police would take him away from us, then he could do his own thing apart from our parenting role, i.e. supervision. That didn’t happen. But the drugs soon entered the picture. And my father’s press release was coming to mind almost every day.
When we returned to St. Louis he quit school in the first two months of his freshman year. Frequently after study and work, I began searching for him in the surrounding suburbs after 10 PM, sometimes finding him under cardboard, or in a make shift lean-to. He spent his 16th birthday and several weeks later in the county jail. We didn’t know it at the time, but he was severe bipolar and schizophrenia. We just knew something was severely wrong with him. And my father’s press release was pressing on my mind.
When he was released to us he became so violent that we had to call the police to have him arrested. They first had to take him to hospital because he put his fist through one of our windows, cutting a major blood line in his wrist. He had sprayed blood all over the ceiling, floor, walls. And my father’s press release was pressing on my mind.
We then had him committed to a psychiatric hospital, eventually for 18 months in another state. The next year he had reached the age (17) he could legally check himself out (without our approval). I drove 900 miles one way and straight back without sleeping to pick him up. He stayed with us for a few months, but eventually drugs and alcohol were back in his life, and I kicked him out in late 1988. And my father’s press release was pressing on my mind.
My parents would visit us once a year for a few days. In 1989, when they came, our son was not around—we had not seen in several months. But my parents decided to spend one day shopping at the larger city in that area. When they came back later in the afternoon, I will never forget that encounter. We had told them a few things that we faced with our son, but not the really bad stuff.
Prior to that day there were two things I had never observed about my father—he never apologized to anyone, and he never cried. Apparently the only time he cried in his life was in 1944 when serving in the Pacific as ground crew for B-29s. One day all his best friends were on a plane that crashed at the end of the runway, all dying—he had to clean them up and the debris from the plane.
As we talked this day, they mentioned that they had seen our son. My father took me aside with tears in his eyes and said, “I am so sorry. I didn’t know how bad it was for you with your son.” He never said what happened, but it shook him up so much that he couldn’t even offer any advice or hope. But having him apologize to me was overwhelming… and a little relief.
My father died two years later. He missed the worst of the torment: our son was in seven different prisons in several states over the next 27 years, homeless the rest of the time, violent… And my father’s press release was pressing on my mind—even after his death.
Needless to say that my own press release as a father was not high praise. It was barely above zero, and sometimes felt far below zero. Over the last few years I have begun to move away from my father’s press release that had become my own prophetic failure.
Interestingly over the past couple years (both in their mid to late 40s) I have spoken to both sons about my struggle as a parent. It shocked me when both sons independently told me how much they appreciated me as a father, how much they learned, especially how much they learned about love, with a never-failing love, and never giving up on them.
I think God was using them to give me a new press release:
broken sinner (for what had happened and what I did),
forgiven sinner (for my sins and failures),
redeemed sinner who could love again with God’s love.
I have not written about, talked about, nor published this change in press release until today. I love my sons, but it is because of God’s unfailing love for me that I can even do a little in this regard.
Contra Marcus Allen, I like this new press release—and I believe God’s press release!
I wrote the following article for current issue The Evangel (magazine of The AALC). The topic is the “Three Uses of the Law,” a critical topic for Christians today.
See pages 6 and 7.
Read the other articles, too.
Dr. Curtis Leins has an excellent lead article on “Passion for the Catechism.”
Pastor Dave Spotts writes about the “8th commandment: Honest Humility.”
Pastor Nathaniel Hoff addresses “Worship Matters.”
Vicki Wilhem presents the ministry of “Operation Christmas Child.”
Thank you to Lisa Cooper for editing The Evangel.
Isaiah 53 (MEV)
1 Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before Him as a tender plant
and as a root out of a dry ground.
He has no form or majesty that we should look upon him
nor appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from him;
he was despised, and we did not esteem him.
4 Surely he has borne our grief
and carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
the chastisement of our peace was upon him,
and by his stripes we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray;
each of us has turned to his own way,
but the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away,
and who shall declare his generation?
For he was cut off out of the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was struck.
9 His grave was assigned with the wicked,
yet with the rich in his death,
because he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him;
He has put him to grief.
If he made himself as an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days,
and the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the anguish of his soul and be satisfied.
By his knowledge My righteous servant shall justify the many,
for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death,
and he was numbered with the transgressors,
thus he bore the sin of many
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday caused quite a stir. Many were involved in proclaiming the praises due to Jesus. “Hosanna. loud Hosanna!” “Come, save us!” was their declaration. But are they ready for that salvation?
In the three days since then, Jesus teaches the people in the temple area. He confronts the religious leaders with parables. Instead of making a coalition with the leaders, Jesus demonstrates how far they have drifted from God’s intention. More broadly, He shows how much the entire people of Israel have lived, not as the people of God, but as whiny spoiled children who demand that God start working for them— constant refrain from the time of Moses leading them in the wilderness 1500 years prior.
But now it is Thursday, the passover celebration. Unlike other major festivals among the Jews, the Passover was not connected to the temple and the sacrifices. Rather it was a family festival, remembering God’s deliverance from Egypt. The night is not hurried, it is not time to prepare to escape at any moment. Passover had become a time of relaxing, retelling the story of the Exodus, in a night of lavish eating, joy, rejoicing in their life as God’s people.
Earlier in the Gospel accounts we find a realigning of family:
Then his mother and his brothers arrived. While they were standing outside, they sent word to Jesus, calling for him. A crowd was
sitting around him. They began to tell him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.”
He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He looked at those who sat around him in a circle and he said, “Look, my mother and my brothers! (Mark 3:31-34 EHV)
That finds fulfillment tonight at the Passover meal. Jesus joins His disciples, not His family. The new identity of family is established—those who believe in Him are the family of God. That means these disciples have to relearn what relationships are like.
Earlier and even that night, they want to know the pecking order in this new community. “Let me sit on your right” and “Let me sit on Your left” become the questions. Instead, in John’s Gospel we read:
He got up from the supper and laid aside his outer garment. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:4-5 EHV)
Jesus takes on the form of a servant, the lowest servant who washes the feet.
After Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer garment, he reclined at the table again. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. (John 13:12 EHV)
It takes them a while before they put all this together. For tonight they have a lot to digest.
But since Jesus knows that they are all sinners, He will do two things about that. Tomorrow He will die for their sins and the sins of the whole world. We will revisit tomorrow. But for now, Jesus takes the family meal of Passover and makes it a life-giving meal for sinners. Each of them will sin before the night is over. Each of them will experience the affects of sin in their lives: guilt, shame, fear, blame, etc. One will betray Him, another will deny Him, and all of them will flee in His greatest need.
So tonight Jesus changes the Passover meal with these words:
He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is
being poured out for you. (Lk 22:19-20 EHV)
Instead of being a remembrance of a past event (Exodus) now in the Lord’s Supper Jesus Himself be present with His body and blood—for the forgiveness of sins, cleansing of conscience, taking away guilt, shame, fear.
Tonight we celebrate not the Exodus event, but Jesus serving us in the best way possible, giving us His body and blood. Thus through that we have the greater deliverance: from sin, death, and the devil.
We leave here not with an uncertainty like those disciples around Jesus. We know what happened, that the disciples run away afraid. But we know that Jesus fulfills all things written about Him. He dies, yes. He also rises from the dead. And His victory becomes our victory by faith in Him including what He did for us.
We leave tonight anticipating the events coming, but with faith and hope—not fear and failure. We are sisters and brothers of Christ. And we give thanks to God, family of God!