Welcome to Living Savior Lutheran Church
Living Savior church is now having regular worship services at 9:00a.m. every Sunday. We will be practicing social distancing. Masks and gloves are available for those who wish them. Communion will be given at the end of the service. After communion, you will leave through the back door, so please take all your belongings with. Offering plates will not be passed, but will be located at the entrance and at the exit. For those of you who are not comfortable with this arrangement, we also are offering the service to you in the parking lot on 105.7 FM on your radio dial.
Scriptures & Message for Sunday, July 5th, 2020
First Reading — Zechariah 9:9-12
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
Second Reading — Romans 7:14-25a
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what You were pleased to do.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Called to Freedom
The temptation in the Middle ages and the temptation of many in our time, is to make religion a matter of rules, and to believe that those who obey the rules are the ones who are good, and saved, and those who do not obey the rules are the ones who are damned. Which is bad enough as religion, but what made it worse is that God is made the enforcer of this system of rewards and punishment.
What Luther did was break through all of that and establish for all time that Christianity is not about law, but about grace. So Luther talked an awful lot about grace. He also talked about freedom. Freedom, he said, is what you experience when you receive grace.
We read Paul’s letter to the Galatians as our Epistle lesson for this morning, the fifth chapter. That passage was such a crucial passage in Luther’s understanding of his own life. The fifth chapter reads:
For freedom Christ has set us free…do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Those who experience grace are free. But it was not freedom from rules and morality. As a Christian you are free from the law, but you are not above the law. You are free now to obey the law, to be moral, for the right reason, not the wrong reason. You are free now to be moral for the love of God, or for the love of neighbor, not for the love of self.
That is the problem without grace. We do things, we even do good things, for the wrong reason. We do them to boost ourselves, or to put other people down, to make ourselves look good in comparison. You have heard that expression, “He was a good man in the worst sense of the word,” which suggests that there are some people who are good, but not very nice. And the reason, Luther would say, is that they are in bondage to the self. Doing good things does not free you from sin.
The Gospel is that we are freed from ourselves by God’s grace. To experience that grace is to experience freedom. You are no longer curved in upon the self. You are now free to love the neighbor, as Paul so beautifully expressed it in the letter to the Galatians, with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such there is no law.”
Which means, you do this not because it is required. When you are filled with God’s grace you do it because you now love God and love the neighbor as yourself.
Having discovered that the essence of Christianity is grace and freedom, Luther opposed everything that was opposed to grace. It was as if he had taken Paul’s counsel literally: “You are free…do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
The most immediate form of slavery that he saw was the system of indulgences. Luther was not alone in this protest. The sensitive leaders of the Church before Luther also protested indulgences, and after Luther, they were removed.
Indulgences were added on to the system of penance. Penance was doing good works. Good works would result in merit. You could accumulate merit by doing a lot of good works.
The deal with indulgences was that you could purchase the merits of other people to help yourself at the Last Judgement. It amounted to buying salvation.
The archbishop was allowed now to sell indulgences in Germany, half the proceeds would go to pay off the loan to the House of Fuggers, the other half would go to Rome for the construction of the new Cathedral of St. Peter.
Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church, in front of which the sale would be held, ninety-five theses for debate on the abuse of indulgences, and other practices of the Church.
Very few events have had such an immediate and dramatic impact.
Luther became a national hero overnight.
The pope called for Luther to recant the ninety-five theses. Luther refused. Luther was summoned to Rome. Frederick intervened. He had enough influence in Rome that he could do this. He said that Luther would meet the papal representative half way. He feared Luther’s life if he were to leave Germany. So the papal legate came to Augsburg and Luther met him there.
Luther entered the cardinal’s room at the Fuggers House. For three days they talked. Cajetan argued from the councils of the Church and the canon law. Luther argued from scripture alone.
In Wittenberg Luther would begin to write.
The first affirmation is the priesthood of all believers. Luther said there is no need now for a mediator between the individual and God. it was unthinkable that a common lay person would ever approach God without a priest.
Luther said that all Christians have a religious vocation. You are to be a Christian where you work in the world.
Next he replaced the authority of the Church and its councils with the authority of scripture. Then he made scripture available to everybody. He translated the Bible from Latin into German, the language of the people.
It also fueled the fires of individualism. You place a Bible in everybody’s hand, in their own language, and you teach them how to read (and Luther did that, Luther started schools to teach people how to read), and pretty soon they will start thinking for themselves.
In 1520, the pope once again declared Luther’s writings heretical and ordered all his books burned. The pope then asked Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, to call a “diet.” So a diet was a meeting of the major powers in Europe. He called the diet to meet at Worms for the purpose of trying Martin Luther for heresy.
Luther walked into the room expecting to debate theology. He was told to sit down. The attorney for the pope pointed to a stack of books on a table, and he asked Luther two questions: “Did you write these?” and “Will you recant?”
The next day Luther entered the room. The room was packed with people straining to hear him. He began the speech that he had prepared to defend his writings. The emperor interrupted him, and said, “Answer the question. Will you recant?” What followed is one of the most famous speeches in all history.
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of scripture and by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils, for it is known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves, I am bound by scripture and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. May God help me. Amen.
With that the emperor got up, left the room, thus dismissing the assembly, since you can’t continue without the emperor. The Germans cheered, the Italians hissed and whistled, and Luther walked out of the room. Carlyle, incidentally, will say this is the beginning of the modern age, an individual standing before authority, and defying authority in the name of individual conscience.
God used him mightily. God used Luther because Luther was transparently honest, without any sham, hypocrisy or pretense. He was often as crude as his peasant origins. Luther manifested the genuine Christian spirituality that is based on an honest admission of who we are: that we are creatures, and we are sinners, and we are in need of God’s grace.
The next day he died, with his three sons at his bedside.
They took his body to Wittenberg and buried him in the CastleChurch, the church on whose doors he nailed those ninety-five theses.
Katherine was there for the service with her children. After the service they went home. That night she sat down and wrote her sister about the events of the day, and concluded by saying, “We have lost this dear and precious man.”
Let us pray…
Gracious God, we give you thanks for the heritage which is ours and the Reformation. We pray that we, like Martin Luther, might open our lives to the influence of your grace and the power of your Spirit, that we, too, might be faithful disciples of our Lord. Amen.
Scriptures & Message for sunday, June 28th, 2020
First Reading — Jeremiah 28:5-9
Then the prophet Jeremiah replied to the prophet Hananiah before the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD. He said, “Amen! May the LORD do so! May the LORD fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the LORD’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if His prediction comes true.”
Second Reading — Romans 7:1-13
Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Gospel — Matthew 10:26-31
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Getting a Grip on Fear
Black Bart was a professional thief whose very name struck fear as he terrorized the Wells Fargo stage line. From San Francisco to New York, his name became synonymous with the danger of the frontier. Between 1875 and 1883 he robbed 29 different stagecoach crews. Amazingly, Bart did it all without firing a shot. Because a hood hid his face, no victim ever saw his face. He never took a hostage and was never trailed by a sheriff. Instead, Black Bart used fear to paralyze his victims. His sinister presence was enough to overwhelm the toughest stagecoach guard.
Black Bart’s intimidating impact on others reminds me of a story about two little boys whose mother asked them to chase a chicken snake out of the henhouse. They looked everywhere for that snake, but couldn’t find it. The more they looked, the more afraid they got. Until finally, they did find it. When that happened, they fell all over themselves running out of the chicken house.
“Don’t you know a chicken snake won’t hurt you?” their mother asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” one of the boys answered, “but there are some things that will scare you so you’ll hurt yourself.”
Most of us have been there at some time in our lives.
Fear is a terrible thing. Isn’t it? All of us are afraid of something. Some of us disguise our fear better than others, but fear can make our lives miserable.
The award winning movie from a few years back The Shawshank Redemption is about fear. In fact, posters promoting the film carried these words: “Fear can hold you prisoner, Hope can set you free.”
Take the character Brooks Hatlen, played by actor James Whitmore. Here is how one character described Hatlen in the film: “The man’s been in here fifty years, Heywood, fifty years. This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man, he’s an educated man. Outside he’s nothin’–just a used‑up con with arthritis in both hands. Probably couldn’t get a library card if he tried . . .
The truth of this comes home when Hatlen is finally released. He discovers that he can’t enjoy it at all. He’s grown accustomed to life within the constraints of a prison where he didn’t have to make his own decisions. Someone else did the thinking for him, and now, on the outside, he faces a prospect more daunting and terrifying than incarceration: freedom. This newfound freedom scares Brooks so much that he contemplates various ways of breaking his parole in order to return to the security of his prison cell. “Maybe I should rob the FoodWay,” he says on one occasion, “so they’ll send me home. He sums up his dilemma in one line: “It is a terrible thing to live in fear.” And it is.
How can we get a grip on this terrible force in our lives? Jesus gives us some clues in our lesson for today, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
First of all, we need to see that fear can play a positive role in our lives. There are things in life that are legitimately fearful. We need that built-in voice that tells us, “Don’t go there. Danger is lurking.” We want our children to fear running into the road without looking both ways. We want our teenagers to fear driving at high speeds.
“Some years ago, a research psychologist, Dr. Irving Jarvis was looking at surgery in hospitals and asking questions about peoples’ recovery from surgery, and the place that fear had in their recovery. And what he discovered may seem to us in the end to be quite simple or obvious, but it’s really very important. What he discovered was this: Those who had crippling fears didn’t do well when it came to recovery. They didn’t do well at all.
“He also discovered that those who had no fear of surgery didn’t recover well either, because when trouble hit, they were thrown for a loop. The unexpected pain, for example, completely floored them. They hadn’t thought about it. They weren’t prepared.
“But those who had enough fear to ask the right questions, to say, ‘Now, what’s going to happen? How long is this pain going to be?’ to make sure they asked those questions to prepare themselves for what was scary. No denial there for what was scary. They were the ones who overall . . . dealt with surgery and recovered best.”
Fear can play a positive role in our lives. If nothing else, fear sometimes teaches us to depend on God. Most of us have short memories. We go along living our lives as if we are in control of our universe, and then something traumatic happens, something we can’t handle on our own. At times like that we reach out for God. Sometimes we might make promises to God about how we are going to change our behavior when the crisis passes. And it does pass, and we forget just how frightened we were, and we forget our promises.
Fortunately God does not forget God’s promises. And we discover in our time of fear that we have a reliable Friend. Fear can play a positive role in our lives.
However, overcoming excessive or misguided fears can be one of the greatest gifts God can give us.
Dr. Arthur Caliandro is Senior Minister. He tells about a member of that church, a woman named Amelia Rossi who died some years back at the age of one hundred and five. Mrs. Rossi started coming to the church when she was in her late eighties. They become acquainted when she was eighty‑nine.
On her ninetieth birthday, and thereafter every year on her birthday or close to it, Dr. Caliandro would take her to lunch. They always had fascinating conversations. Mrs. Rossi was about five feet tall–a bundle of positive energy. He says she was always in the present. She talked very little about the past, but she was in the present and always looking forward to the future. He called her a veritable “faith factory.” Here is what he meant.
What does a factory do? It manufactures things. Mrs. Rossi, says Dr. Caliandro, seemed to manufacture faith and miracles. On her ninety‑ninth birthday he asked the question that is usually asked of people when they are one hundred years old. He didn’t know if she would make it that long and so he decided to ask her then. He asked, “Amelia, tell me what is that has kept you living so long and so vital so long?”
She thought for a minute and she said, “I’ll tell you what’s given me this long life. I have learned how to not be afraid.” Wow! This little woman had learned how not to be afraid. Caliandro testifies, “I saw her facing adversity and loss, I was with her when she lost two sons. She had broken bones–a broken toe from stumbling, a broken hip at one hundred years of age. She was mugged on several occasions. She had a tough time in the years that I knew her. But I never knew her to be afraid. And she would always say, ‘All things work together for good when you love God.’ But the phrase she used the most was what Paul said to the Philippians: ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.’”
This little lady had learned one of the great secrets of life: “I have learned how not to be afraid.”
How do you do that? Listen again to Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
The secret to overcoming fear is to realize how much God loves you. Jesus uses the analogy of tiny sparrows. In the eyes of the ancient world, a sparrow was inexpensive and monetarily worthless. Matthew has two sparrows being sold for one penny. “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
It’s so simple really. Only one thing keeps us bound by fear–our lack of faith in God. Isn’t it time you let go of your fears and trusted God?
Fear is a gift from God.
There are some things of which we need to be afraid.
But fear without faith is a monster that will deprive us of the joy of our salvation.
Learn how not to be afraid. “For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.”