Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

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

Monthly Archives: August 2015

Feasting with God #31 – The Mountains Shall Drip Sweet Wine

Feasting with God #31

The Mountains Shall Drip Sweet Wine

Text: Amos 9:13-15

13“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,

“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper

and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;

the mountains shall drip sweet wine,

and all the hills shall flow with it.

14I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,

and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;

they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,

and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

15I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted

out of the land that I have given them,”

says the Lord your God. 

The prophet Amos was a violent preacher of the Law, proclaiming the harsh judgments of God against the people of Israel and Judah for their idolatry and injustice.  God says repeatedly throughout this little book: “I will send a fire upon” those who committed transgressions.  With all this fire the mouths of readers quickly become parched.

And then comes this beautiful Gospel promise of restoration.  Although fire may destroy the land and make it inhabitable, indeed killing all the inhabitants, there is a future time when this land will be bountiful to the point that “the plowman shall overtake the reaper”—the harvest will hardly have come in when the plowing and planting is begun again.  After famine and war and thirst and mourning and captivity look at the abundant crop, and at the wealth of wine!

“The mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Just imagine that picture.  All the thirst is quenched, and it won’t be just to give each person just enough, but the mountains shall drip; the hills shall flow; it will be so superabundant that we will just rest and enjoy it.

The prophet Amos was describing the situation for the literal nation of Israel, when they were attacked and taken captive by the Assyrian nation, and then when they were able to return to their homeland.  But he was also describing a future time when destruction and judgment loomed for people, but then the sweet advent of the Savior brought about reprieve.

And we can also apply this to each soul: the threats of fire and destruction loom before us on account of our sins; we are the idolaters, the unjust, the trespassers, and we are already captive in the devil’s chains and bound for the fires of hell; but then the sweet Gospel comes and quenches our spiritual thirst, so that the blessings won by our Savior flow like wine over us, as his blood flowed from his pierced side on the cross.

Our own fortunes are restored, and our dwelling place is rebuilt, so we have mansions we may inhabit forever; as the Garden of Eden was taken away from us in the Fall, it is restored to us in Christ, and we are provided “vineyards” where we may “drink [our] wine,” “gardens” where we may “eat [our] fruit.”  We are planted firmly in the promised land, and we will never be uprooted, because this is given to us by God.

Lord, we praise you for your blessed gifts, which we by no means deserved.  We thank you that you sent your Son to suffer the wrath we earned, and to bleed his precious blood which is given to us as a refreshing wine.  Bring us to our promised blessed home where our vineyards and gardens yield abundant fruit in your presence.  Since you have promised us this, we ask it in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  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.

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Feasting with God #30 – What Living Things Need

Feasting with God # 30

What Living Things Need

Text: Mark 5:41-43

41Taking her by the hand [Jesus] said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”  42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.  43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Notice how Jesus has concern for the little things.  Jairus, a Jewish elder in the synagogue, had come to Jesus asking him to heal his sick daughter.  By the time Jesus arrived, however, it was too late; the daughter was dead, and the family was in mourning.  But Jesus surprised them by telling them that it wasn’t too late: “The child is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39).  They laughed at him, naturally—how could such a highly reputed healer not know the difference between sleep and death?  So Jesus sent the mourners away and, before his disciples and the girl’s parents he performed this miracle: raising her from the dead.

Shock and awe immediately overcame them.  They knew she was dead, and now she was alive!  Such a change, how could they help but to be amazed?  Jesus knew how their amazement would distract them from what was needed next, so he “told them to give her something to eat.”  He paid attention to the little things.

This girl’s eating after being raised to life accomplished two things: 1) It filled her stomach.  Doubtless she was hungry.  It had probably been hours since her last meal (and perhaps a great deal more, if her illness had kept her from eating anything substantial).  Jesus knew the parents would be excited about their daughter’s rising to life, and that this would probably distract them from doing anything practical about it.  Their natural reaction would be to parade her around town, show her off to all their friends, and forget totally about any sort of food, not out of negligence, but out of excitement.  So Jesus showed he was concerned for her well-being, because as a newly alive being, she needed the sustenance of food.  2) It proved that she was indeed alive.  Yes, she had started walking around, and this proved her coming to life, but the need for food, the act of eating, was the nail in the coffin of proof—so to speak—because all living things need to eat something.  Jesus himself would demonstrate this very proof at his resurrection (“And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ [Luke 24:41]).

All life must be nourished by food.  This is a fact of nature, and a given.  But it is sometimes forgotten that this applies to spiritual food as well.  When we are reborn in the waters of baptism and raised to new sanctified life in Christ, that New Man must be fed in order to remain alive, and that feeding must begin immediately.  The very Word of God which raised that New Man to life in the first place is his food.  We must return again and again to God’s Word to nourish our souls, so that we don’t go spiritually hungry and die spiritually.  But also such feeding proves that we are in fact alive to begin with.  An unbelieving heart does not seek nourishment from God’s Word.  An unbelieving heart may come to God’s Word in search of “teachers to suit [its] own passions” (2 Tim. 4:3), but not to be nourished.  It may come to God’s Word seeking to disprove God, to call God a liar, but not to be nourished.  In this way we can see a glimpse at the heart to find out whether it is alive or dead: only a living heart seeks spiritual food from God’s Word.

And this God provides, before we can even ask for it, just as Jesus provided food for Jairus’ daughter, before she could ask or her parents could think of it.  Just think: if God is so concerned for life to rise up in us, won’t he be equally concerned that that life be sustained?  He will sustain it.  He will give us all things necessary for this spiritual life; and he is even concerned about the little things, the daily bread we need for this physical life as well.

Give us this day our daily bread, heavenly Father, even as you have promised to do.  And above this, give us our daily spiritual bread, so that our souls may be ever nourished in faith toward you, and so that the spiritual life you have begun in us may be sustained by you until we come to our everlasting life with you.  In your Son’s 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.

Feasting with God #29 – Judged for What You Eat or Drink

Feasting with God # 29

Judged for What You Eat or Drink

Text: Colossians 2:16-17, 20-23

16Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  17These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ….  20If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—21“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22(referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

When Jesus said, “Judge not” (Matt. 7:1), it is commonly believed that he meant, “Don’t judge other people for their religion or lifestyle, just because it’s radically different from yours.”  But Jesus wasn’t speaking about interfaith relations; he was talking about how Christians should relate to other Christians.  And this passage from Colossians speaks to the same thing.

There were those in the early church who believed that Christians should hold to all sorts of Old Testament laws, such as fasting on certain days, avoiding certain foods, not working on the Sabbath, observing certain festivals.  They were openly condemning those believers who ate shellfish or pork (Lev. 11:7, 12).  But Paul wrote to some of these Christians and encouraged them to “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food or drink.”  Aside from the fact that Peter had received a vision from God, where God showed him all sorts of animals that had once been considered unclean and told him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat….  What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:13, 15), so that these “unclean” animals were now explicitly allowed to be eaten, Paul proves that all these Levitical laws, about diet, festival observances, fasting, resting, etc., were only “a shadow of the things to come.”  All these laws point to Christ, and in Christ they were all fulfilled, brought to their conclusion.

This is like someone who has a copy of the blueprints for their new house.  Currently their living situation is not the greatest, so they’re excited about this building, their new home.  They have the blueprints framed so they can look at them every day.  Then, finally, when the building is done, instead of joyfully going into their new home, they stay where they are, because they’d prefer to look at the blueprints.  All these Old Testament laws were the blueprints of salvation, things that pointed to how salvation would be accomplished, but they were not themselves that salvation.  So it would be ridiculous, once that salvation was accomplished in Christ, to hold onto what was supposed to point to him instead, just as it would be ridiculous to prefer the blueprints to the actual house.

Of course, there’d be nothing wrong for that new homeowner to take the framed blueprints into his new house, to have them framed, so that he could always remember how he got to where he was.  Just as it’s not wrong for us now, to remind ourselves how our salvation was achieved, to avoid certain foods, to take a day of rest (whether Saturday, as it was originally, or Sunday, when Christians traditionally worship now), or to keep any of these other laws.  The problem comes in when we start to focus on them, to believe they have some intrinsic merit for our salvation—and the problem really comes in when we judge others for not observing the Levitical laws we choose to.

Jesus freed us from these laws.  Yes, we will want to live our lives now in a way that pleases our God, out of thanks for the salvation he has accomplished for us, but we should be aware of which laws are good and right for all Christians to keep (i.e. the Moral Law: the Ten Commandments), and which are now obsolete because they were only a shadow of the substance which is Christ (i.e. the Civil and Ceremonial Laws).  It becomes easy, if we focus on keeping this or that Old Testament law, to puff ourselves up with pride, creating “an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion.”  But this is no replacement for true religion.

Therefore, if you choose to avoid pork, to not work on Sundays, to observe new moon festivals, that is well and good for your personal devotional life, but it must not be imposed on your fellow Christians.  Instead, recognize, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).  Recognize that Jesus fulfilled all laws, and our lives now are merely to be lives of thanks for his grace, given to us because of his death on the cross for all our sins, through the waters of baptism, his Holy Meal, and the very Word which proclaims us free.

Guide us to realize that we are free, O Lord; free from the power of sin, free from all law, free from damnation to hell, and all on account of your Son’s death on the cross, paying for our sins.  Lead us in our devotional lives now to always look to that Son, so that everything helps us to focus on him.  Lead us also not to judge our fellow Christians if their devotional choices are not the same as ours, but instead help us to point one another always to that same one and only Savior.  In that Savior’s 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.