Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Monthly Archives: January 2015

Redeemer Report 1.6 (February 2015)

Read the Church Newsletter Feb 2015 here!

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Redeemer Report 1.5 (January 2015)

Read the Church Newsletter Jan 2015 here!

Redeemer Report 1.4 (December 2014)

Read the Church Newsletter Dec 2014 here!

Feasting with God #11 – Worthy Partaking

Feasting with God #11

Worthy Partaking

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

God’s people have been blessed with a glorious gift.  The Lord’s Supper was instituted for our blessing, so that whenever we eat or drink of it, we receive the forgiveness of sins that Jesus’ very body and blood won on the cross.  Who would ever wish to ruin such a wonderful gift?

But in this text St. Paul gives us a warning: if anyone eats or drinks “in an unworthy manner” he is “guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.”  The guilt here ought to be given its proper weight.  Rather than receiving forgiveness, those who eat and drink unworthily are sinning and racking up guilt.  This guilt is guilt against the body and blood of the Lord, which means that those who eat and drink unworthily are guilty of the same sins that the Pharisees and Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers were guilty of: of crucifying the Lord.

Consider those guilty of killing Jesus.  They looked at the cross and saw a man whom they had killed, and many thought he deserved it, while some knew that he didn’t but were happy nonetheless because his death meant something good for their positions.  Those who looked at the cross that way were guilty of killing God.  But consider those who follow Jesus.  We who believe who he is and what he has done for us look at the cross and see his selfless act which won our salvation, and so we are no longer guilty of any sins.

This is the same as those who eat in an unworthy manner.  No, that doesn’t mean those who eat or drink sloppily, or without shaving first or putting on their best Sunday clothes.  Those who eat unworthily are those who have not properly prepared to eat and to drink this holy meal, and those, as Paul says, who eat “without discerning the body.”  Those who do not believe that what they are receiving is the true body and blood of Christ, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, are the ones who eat unworthily.  Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, wrote, “He is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.’  But he that does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unfit; for the words ‘For you’ require altogether believing hearts” (SC VI, 10).  It is the eyes of faith that makes one worthy to receive this sacrament.

Be prepared, therefore, when you next receive the Lord’s Supper.  It is a blessed gift for you.  It is Christ’s own body, which was born from Mary and then was hanged on the cross.  It is Christ’s own blood, which bled from his hands, feet, and side.  And it comes to you with the forgiveness that his life, death, and resurrection accomplished.  Stand in wonder of this gracious gift, that you may always receive it worthily.

Jesus, Sun of Life, my Splendor,
Jesus, Thou my Friend most tender,
Jesus, Joy of my desiring,
Fount of life, my soul inspiring—
At Thy feet I cry, my Maker,
Let me be a fit partaker
Of this blessed food from heaven,
For our good, Thy glory, given.  Amen. (TLH 305:7)

 Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Temporary Worship Location (continued)

You were recently informed that we would temporarily be worshiping at an interim location, and that we would return to our building on February 1st. We have now pushed that return date back a week or so, so that wet can make the space that much more conducive to edifying worship and comfort. We will be sure to announce our return date, but in the meantime, we continue to meet at:

100 Island Drive
Iola, WI 54945

Thank you for your patience.  And keep a lookout for project updates!  The building is coming along!

Feasting with God #10 – Feeding the Five Thousand

Feasting with God #10

Feeding the Five Thousand

Matthew 14:16-21

16But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  17They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”  18And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing.  Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  20And they all ate and were satisfied.  And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.  21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Did you notice that, at the end of this passage?  We call this story “The Feeding of the Five Thousand,” but that’s not entirely accurate.  Five thousand was only the number of men there: there were women and children besides.  So this may very well have been “The Feeding of the Ten Thousand”!  But it doesn’t matter how many people were there.  It was an enormous number, and Jesus performed a great miracle.

A similar miracle he did at a separate time.  In Matthew’s Gospel we find “The Feeding of the Four Thousand” just a chapter later, and there as well he says, “Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children” (Matt. 15:38).  Twice, great crowds of thousands of people followed Jesus, and Jesus had compassion on their hunger, so he performed a great miracle to fill their stomachs.  So this miracle ought to teach us how Jesus is able to provide for our bodily needs.

But Jesus’ care for our needs does not stop with our physical hunger.  He fills our spiritual hunger as well.  Jesus had been teaching these people for days, and when he went off to be alone, they followed him (Matt. 14:13).  But rather than be annoyed, Jesus recognized their need and knew he could fill it.  So he continued to teach them, and to make them able to remain with him, learning from him, he provided for their stomachs.  Jesus is the provider for both body and soul!

Beginning with five loaves of bread and two fish, and ending with twelve baskets full of leftovers, Jesus proved how far his almighty power extended: He is God!  In fact, if he wished, he could have simply created the food out of thin air, made it miraculously appear in their laps, or even in their stomachs so that they were immediately filled and no longer hungry.  But the way he performed this miracle was purposeful.  He began with material the people could see, and the miracle expanded outward from that point.  This is the way God always deals with people: he humbles himself and stoops to our level, so that we can see him and his working.  This is what he did when Jesus became a human being, conceived in Mary’s womb, and then born in a stable.  This is what he does in baptism, using the water that is washed over us to wash out our very souls.  This is what he does in the Lord’s Supper, using simple bread and wine to bring to us his very body and blood with the forgiveness of sins.  And this is what he does in his Word, using language that we human beings can understand, remember, and believe, in order to teach us his truths.  So in this miracle of bread and fish, Jesus demonstrated his power, as well as his humility and care.

Lord, we thank you that you provide for our every need, both physical and spiritual.  We praise you that you decided to look upon us with compassion and to come to our aid.  Continue to come to us through these means that you have promised to use, so that we mere humans are able to see you, hear you, taste you, and feel you.  Daily, we ask, bring to us all your blessings to feed us on our daily bread, and to forgive us all the sins we commit each day.  We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #9 – Bread Alone

Feasting with God #9

Bread Alone

Matthew 4:2-4

2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  4But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

After Jesus was baptized, he went out into the desert with a very distinct—and very odd—purpose: “to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1).  He had just stepped into his public ministry, had just revealed himself to people as the promised Messiah, and his first public act was to seclude himself in the wilderness and to face temptation.

For forty days and forty night Jesus went without food.  Luke says, “And he ate nothing during those days” (4:2).  It seems impossible that someone could go so long without food and still survive, let alone walk and talk.  And yet Jesus was not only true man, but also true God, and his divine nature, with all the power of the Son of God, could have sustained him through this time.  But do not let that detract from the trial Jesus underwent.  The Gospel writers tell us that “he was hungry.”  And so it was from this angle that the devil made his first attack: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

It would not have been wrong for Jesus to make food for himself in the wilderness, but here the devil is asking for proof of his divinity.  To do what the devil said would first of all have been to obey Satan rather than God.  And, more than that, it would have demonstrated a lack of trust in God.  Jesus knew God’s plan: that he was to come into the wilderness and be tempted, even as all we human beings are tempted, and so earn the perfection that we could not.  Later that perfection would become ours when this perfect Jesus would die the punishment for all who were imperfect.  On the cross he took what we deserved for every time we listened to the devil and followed the desires of our sinful natures, and he provided for each of us the reward for never obeying the tempter’s voice.

Jesus suffered this bodily hunger as an illustration, to make clear the statement Moses made in Deuteronomy 8:3: “that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  Jesus, refusing to put his bodily needs over the spiritual needs of the whole human race, demonstrates for us that we, even amidst our temptations and our sufferings and hunger pains, we are safe and secure in the life we have because of the Word of God.  It is in that Word, in fact, that the reward Jesus won for us actually comes—when we hear and read and recite and believe the words of Scripture, Christ’s holiness comes into our hearts, and we are fed on that Word and nourished not merely for an earthly life, but for an eternal, heavenly life.

Lord Jesus, thank you for bearing up under temptation when we could not.  Thank you for providing perfection where we earned only damnation.  Thank you for blessing us with your Word and your works, through which we are saved and come to be sons of God.  Bear us up as we continue to face temptations and suffering, and never let your Word be taken from our presence.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Temporary Worship Location

Attention!

Due to our remodeling endeavors, we will temporarily have to vacate the church building.  In the interim, we will be holding worship in the home of a member family.

  • Sunday, January 11th,
  • Sunday, January 18th, and
  • Sunday, January 25th

Worship will be held at

100 Island Drive
Iola, WI 54945

We apologize for any inconvenience.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Matthew 18:20

Feasting with God #8 – The Wedding at Cana

Feasting with God #8

The Wedding at Cana

John 2:6-11

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim.  8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”  So they took it.  9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now.”  11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.  And his disciples believed in him.

Wedding receptions are meant to be joyful events.  The feasting and the drinking of wine are all intended to honor the estate of marriage, and specifically to commemorate the joy of the now-wedded couple as they enter into their new life together.  It would have been rather awkward, therefore, at this wedding in Cana, if the wine ran out at an inopportune time.  No, the bride and groom wouldn’t have been driven out of town for failing to supply adequate wine, but they definitely would have felt embarrassed, and been viewed in an embarrassing perspective by the guests.  When Mary initially came to Jesus, she had the comfort and well-being of the happy couple in mind.

And Jesus, too, had sympathy on them.  Really, this is the point of this miracle.  Throughout his ministry on earth Jesus had sympathy on those in need.  He felt what they felt, and he yearned to make them better.  This miracle, being “the first of his signs,” was where he began to show the public who he was, what power he had, and for what purpose he had come.  From here on out, Jesus’ sphere of influence really began to radiate outward into a wider and wider circle, but for now, his blessings came upon a simple family, a newly wedded couple.

John takes note first of all of the immense quantity of wine that was made: “six stone water jars… each holding twenty or thirty gallons each holding twenty or thirty gallons.”  Then, he also notes the remarkable quality of that wine created by Jesus: “You have kept the good wine until now.”  This was a very fine wedding gift granted by Jesus to the happy couple.  And it foreshadows the rest of what he would accomplish here on earth.  Jesus’ work was the salvation of mankind; in other words, Jesus came to transform the plain and grimy nature of man into the holy and glorious forms made in his image; he came to take what was base and unworthy of consideration and turn it into something noble.  This he did with the water used for ceremonial washing, turning it into wine, and this he did with our sinful human natures, turning them into his own righteousness.

It has been said that Jesus joins us in all our sorrows, all our joys, all our temptations (cf. Hebr. 4:15).  At this wedding he sought to join in the joy, and to enhance it.  He came into this world to increase our joy.  What joy can be greater than that of the knowledge of our salvation, won for us by the one who lived a perfection we could never reach and then died to take the punishment meant for us?  This miracle is called by St. John a “sign,” and what it signifies is both the divine power of Jesus as god, and the great delight he takes in lending a helping hand to his fellow man.

Dear Lord, you have suffered as we have suffered, and you have rejoiced as we have rejoiced.  But never let us lose sight of the great joy we have since you have won for us the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation from a wicked world.  Let us look on this your first miracle as a sign of your divine omnipotence and so find we can trust in you, and also as an indication of your great love for us, so that we can come with confidence to you in prayer for all our needs.  In your blessed name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Epiphany – After the Twelve Days of Christmas

January 6th is the festival of the Epiphany.  In our liturgical calendar, the next few Sundays are called “Sundays after Epiphany,” to observe this celebration.  While Christmas is a familiar holiday, however, not many recognize what Epiphany means.

The word “epiphany” comes from Greek, and means “manifestation.”  In this holiday, it is recognized how God manifested himself, or made himself present and visible to the world, in the person of Jesus Christ.  We can define the difference between Christmas and Epiphany by saying that Christmas celebrates Jesus as True Man, while Epiphany celebrates him as Very God.

In some parts of Christendom (specifically the Eastern Churches) Epiphany is regarded as the actual celebration of Christmas.  There are several reasons for this, but perhaps the most compelling is that while Christmas celebrates Christ’s birth, Epiphany celebrates his revelation to the world and the beginning of his ministry and work.  Christmas is his birthday, while Epiphany is his coronation.  Epiphany, in fact, is closer in relevance to the average human population than Christmas is – Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds are really the only ones directly affected by Christmas.  Epiphany meant that God had come to fulfill his promised work of salvation.

There are several little epiphanies celebrated during this season.  Historically, the first “epiphany” is the coming of the Magi or the wise men to worship Jesus.  They were the first from the broader world to see this God-Man, and actually to bow down before him, recognizing his glory and power.  Other epiphanies include when Jesus was presented at the temple and Simeon sang his famous song of thanks to God for sending salvation, when Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and the Father declared him publicly his Son and endorsed his mission, when Jesus performed his first miracle and demonstrated his divine power to the wedding guests at Cana, and when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain before his disciples so that they could see his divine glory.

All of these epiphanies and more are designed to bring proof to the world that Jesus is God made Man, that he is the promised Messiah and the Christ, and that he is the Savior of the world.  After seeing what this season and this holiday is about, can you fail to recognize its blessed significance?

At Redeemer this season, we celebrate on January 11th the Baptism of Jesus, on January 18th and 25th the calling of disciples by God, on February 1st and 8th the miracles of Jesus, and on February 15th the Transfiguration.