September 11, 2016

Pastor Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Exodus 32:7-14

Epistle Lesson; 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Sermon Text; Luke 15:1-10

Today we hear two parables told by Jesus in Luke chapter 15, verses 1 – 10.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the Scribes grumbled, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So He told then this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or, what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

These are your words. Heavenly Father, lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


Today, all across our synod, (The Evangelical Lutheran Synod), congregations are kicking off what is known as, The Two Year Anniversary Thank Offering titled,

“Proclaim the Wonders God Has Done”.

In the next two years, our synod is going to be celebrating two, very huge, anniversaries. Those of us present for this sermon were given a pamphlet. On it, there is a little logo. It has the number 1517, a hammer and two nails.

That hammer, and two nails represent the day in October, of 1517, when a young man by the name of Martin Luther walked up to a church door in Wittenberg, with a hammer, and some nails. There, he nailed the 95 Thesis to the Wittenberg church door. Thus beginning what is now known as The Lutheran Reformation. Were it not for that Lutheran Reformation, you would not be a Lutheran. The Lutheran Church would not exist. And, it is very possible that you may not know

you are saved by grace alone,

through faith alone,

in Christ alone.

So, next year, we are going to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of that very significant event that affected you.

In the center of the pamphlet, is a little, white church. And, on the right of the little, white church is what looks like the letters 'p', and 'x'. Those actually are the Greek letters 'Chi' 'Ro'. They are the first letters of the word 'Christ', in Greek. The logo of our Evangelical Lutheran Synod is the 'Chi' 'Ro', with the 'x' that looks like a cross. It is a reminder that

Jesus is the center of everything we do.

That little, white church is actually a drawing of a little, white church that is just south of the Minnesota border in Iowa, called Lime Creek Lutheran Church.

One summer day, in 1918, there were, (I believe) 13 pastors, (but there may have been a few more), along with some lay people who got together. They refused to join in this huge merger of a whole bunch of Norwegian Lutheran churches. In order to join in that merger, they would have had to compromise one of the key teachings of scripture. It is the teaching that we are saved by grace alone. So, those 13 men, almost one hundred years ago, organized the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. This congregation would not exist if the Evangelical Lutheran Synod did not exist. So, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Over the next two years, we are going to be thanking God for this great heritage He has handed down to us. And, we are also going to understand this heritage is now in our hands, in this time, in history. It is our privilege, and responsibility to hand it down to the generations, yet to come.

In order to do that, we are going to look at the text I read today, and I am going to take you to the top picture on the front of the booklet. That top picture is actually a picture of one of our Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregations. It happens to be in a place called, Hudson Oaks, Texas. It is a home mission congregation. So, this is a brand new congregation. It was started by our synod about two years ago. The pastor in that picture is a man by the name of Kyle Madsen. He is an excellent young pastor. If you were looking at the pamphlet, you would see a little girl, who is sitting at his feet. She has on a little, orange skirt, and a little, white blouse. She has red hair with a lavender bow in her hair. I don't know who she is. I have no idea who she is. And, probably none of you reading this know her, either.

But, Jesus knows who she is.

I want to talk about her. The reason I want to talk about her is because in today's scripture reading, Jesus makes it very clear that He is concerned about every, single, individual, person in the whole world. Now, you could put yourself in that picture, but for today's purposes, we are going to talk about the little girl in the orange skirt.

In today's scripture reading, Jesus talks about one lost sheep, and one lost coin. He is concerned about every, single lost sheep. He is concerned about every, single lost coin.

As Jesus looked at this little girl, He knew (and this is hard to say), but He knew she was a little, lost sheep. And I can say that, because the Bible says that of all of us, when it says,

“All we, like sheep, have gone astray.

Each one of us has gone to his own way.”

So, she too, had gone her own way. She was a lost sheep.

And, she was a little, lost coin.

The Bible says,

“All have sinned,

and fall short of the glory of God.

We have altogether become worthless.”

And so, she too, was worthless like a coin that is lost. It is of no value, whatsoever, because it is lost.

Jesus saw her, He saw this little, lost sheep. A lost sheep is in a very, very dangerous situation. A lost sheep can't help itself. It can't rescue itself. It doesn't know how to get out of danger. It doesn't, maybe, even know it is in danger. A lost sheep is in grave danger of getting sick, falling, being hurt, and even being attacked by predators. Jesus saw this little, lost sheep, and He knew the danger she was in, the danger of being caught by the devil, and yes, ending up in Hell for eternity. One little, lost sheep, and Jesus saw her.

She also was a little, lost coin. A little, lost coin is an inanimate object. It doesn't even know it is lost. It can't do anything to find itself. Jesus saw her, and He knew she didn't even know she was lost, and couldn't do anything to save herself.

And so, in this parable, Jesus shows the predicament of the one, little, lost sheep, the one, little, lost coin. Then, Jesus shows the heart of the Good Shepherd, the heart of Jesus. The heart of Jesus, toward this little girl in the orange skirt was this. He said,

“Who of you, if you have one sheep that goes astray, won't leave the ninety-nine, and go to look for that one lost sheep, until you find it? Or, what woman, when she looses one coin, won't light the lamp, sweep the house, and search diligently, until she finds it?”

That is the heart of Jesus toward every single, lost sinner. Now, that means Jesus was willing to say, “I will go to whatever cost, and to whatever expense. I will face whatever danger. This little girl is in danger of Hell, death, and Satan. I will face any danger for her. I will go into any darkness for her. I will diligently search for her.”

Now, we read in today's scripture reading from The Old Testament about Moses. Moses was willing to make some pretty big sacrifices for the Children of Israel. Did you know Moses, one time, told God he would make a trade. He told God, “You can blot my name out of Your Book, if you will just save the Children of Israel.”

In other words, he was saying, “I will go to Hell, I will go to Hell, if doing that would save the Children of Israel.”

St. Paul once said that, too. St. Paul was so zealous for lost souls, that he told God, “You can cut me off from your people, if it would mean the saving of all the other Jewish people.”

That is a real zeal for lost souls.

Well, Moses and Paul can't give their souls in exchange for anyone else. And, neither can you. Would you say you would be willing to go to Hell, if that little girl in the orange dress could go to Heaven? Would you? And, even if you would say it, could you, a sinner give your soul in exchange for hers?

Jesus loves the little girl in this orange skirt so much that He (now wrap your head around this), He suffered the eternity of Hell, for her! That is zeal, and passion for lost souls. When Jesus hung on the cross and said,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

He was suffering, compacted into that time, the eternity of Hell for this little girl in the little orange skirt, so all of her sins could be forgiven. Now, having seen her in her lost condition, and having the zeal to come and rescue her at the greatest cost to Himself, then Jesus saw to it that this little girl in that little orange skirt, came to know Jesus is her Savior. In today's scripture reading, He describes it as coming to repentance. You know a sheep, a lost sheep, can't save itself. A lost coin can't do anything to save itself. We can't bring ourselves to repentance. Repentance is the work of God.

God brings us to repentance.

       -God is the One who causes us to see our lost condition.

       -God is the One who picks us up on His shoulders, and saves us.

And so, through a pastor who is preaching the Word of God, or a pastor who is baptizing a little child, the Holy Spirit is working repentance in the heart of that little girl.

Isn't that something? That little girl, hearing The Law, hearing she is a sinner, is being brought to recognize, “I acknowledge I have gone against God. I am sorry. I know I would be lost forever, were it not for Jesus.”

Then, through the Gospel, the Good Message of Jesus, she is being brought to,

       -number one, sorrow over sin,

       -and then, trust in Jesus, as her Savior.

She is put up on the shoulders of Jesus, who has found her. She is a little, found sheep on the shoulders of Jesus, believing in Him, safe in His arms.

The Bible tells us there is rejoicing by the angels, and it is only mentioned three times.

       -Number one, in Job, chapter 38, the Bible tells us that at the creation of the world, the angels rejoiced. That must have been something for the angels to witness the creation of the world.

       -Number two, we know the angels rejoiced at the birth of Jesus, our Savior, when God took on human flesh. Wow! There was rejoicing in Heaven.

       -The only other time Jesus says there is rejoicing in Heaven is over one sinner who repents. On the day this little girl in the orange skirt repented, sorry for her sins, trusting in Jesus, there was rejoicing in Heaven. On the day a little baby is baptized, and brought to repentance, and faith, there is rejoicing in Heaven.

So, we have a lot to be thankful for, in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, as Lutherans, and members of The Evangelical Lutheran Synod, because you can put yourself in this picture, knowing Jesus has done the same for you.

Now, let's imagine this little girl in the orange skirt stands up, she turns around, and you can see her face. She looks at you, and says, “I am an atheist. I don't believe in God. I don't believe there is a God.” And, what if she were to look at you, and say, “If you are a Christian, and you don't try to convert me, you are not a good person. Because, if you really believe you have the cure for my soul, for eternity, and you don't tell me about it, either you don't love me, or you don't believe it.”

That would be a pretty accurate statement.

       -Thank God, thank God over the centuries there have been people who have had a zeal for Jesus, and a zeal for lost souls, who have served as the shepherd looking for the lost sheep, or the woman looking for the lost coin.

       -Thank God there have been people like the apostles who were willing to sacrifice whatever it took to tell the Gospel message to others.

       -Thank God for all of the apostles who were willing to give up their lives, so they could spread that Gospel Message.

       -Thank God there was somebody like Martin Luther, who was willing to stand up. He knew it was at the risk of his own life, to tell other people about the saving Gospel Message of Jesus.

       -Thank God there were people like the forefathers in our Evangelical Lutheran Synod, who were willing to stand up. And yes, some of them even sacrificed relationships with family members, in order to spread that saving Gospel Message of Jesus. Thank God.

We have a lot to be thankful for. And, now it is our turn. Now, it is our turn to take that saving Gospel Message, and hand it down to the generations next to come. That is what the purpose of this thank-offering is.

       -Number one, to thank God for what He has done to us, but

       -number two, to perpetuate this saving Gospel Message.

So, one of the things that is going to happen with The Thank Offering is we will start new home mission congregations. The cost to start a mission congregation in our synod, from start to finish is about 1.5 million dollars, to go to places where they don't know Jesus, yet.

The second thing that is going to happen with The Thank Offering is we need pastors who know how to spread the Gospel to people who don't know Jesus. And so, we have a program called, “The Vicar in Mission Program”. That is the fourth year of a seminary student's education. He becomes a Vicar. He goes to a congregation, and there he learns how to put the pastoral ministry into action. These men are sent to mission congregations, and they learn under a home missionary how to spread the saving Gospel Message. That costs about $30,000.00 a year.

The third thing that is going to happen with The Thank Offering is what is called, “Cross Cultural Ministry”. You know, the Lutheran Reformation happened in German. I don't know German. I am glad somebody translated what happened in the Lutheran Reformation into English, or I might never know that I am saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Some people can't speak English, here in this country. One of our goals is to take the Gospel to them in their language. That costs about $100,000.00 a year for us to do that.

So over the next two years, we will be gathering that offering, as a synod.

As we do that, it is our goal to reach out to lost souls, be zealous for them, and sacrifice for them, even at great cost. We do that as a synod, but here locally, too, as Holy Cross Lutheran Church. So, whatever you give to the synod, (and I pray all of us do), it should be in addition to what we do here, locally, as a congregation.

Soon, we will be coming up on a big capital campaign. It will be kind of 'the last lap' of our capital campaigns to build our new sanctuary at our new site. Now, the goal of that has always been, always been one thing. It is not because we don't love this building, because many of us do. And, it is going to be hard for some of us to walk out of here, two weeks from now, when it is the last service here. But, the goal has always been about little, lost souls, and finding them. Over the past year, at Holy Cross Way, 50 new, little children were at the feet of Jesus, hearing the saving, Gospel Message! We have nine Korean students at Holy Cross Way, right now! And, I have a girl in class who had not ever heard about Jesus, but she is hearing about Him, now!

Is it worth, is it worth the sacrifice to win more lost souls for Jesus? I am sure glad Jesus made the sacrifice for us! And yes,

it is worth the sacrifice!