The preaching of God’s Word, administering of God’s Sacraments, and serving others in Jesus’ name are marks of the church and the foundation of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.  We are a congregation of traditional values that seeks to reach out into the world so others might know the love of our risen savior, Jesus the Christ.  “We believe the church to be the hospital for sinners”...Luther. “We also believe that evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread”...Luther.  If you are looking for a church home or just visiting, you are welcomed!   God bless you.  

Pastor Suehr

Sermon by Rev. Dr. Clifton Suehr

To be given February 18th, 2018

Text Box: Come and Worship...Go and Serve

EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH

OF THE HOLY TRINITY

502 Main Street, Irwin, PA  15642    724-863-7350

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             Several years ago, there was a strange story that came out of Binton, Louisiana in the summer.  Police there stopped a car with twenty passengers packed in it -- none of whom were clothed.  No, this was not a college fraternity prank.  According to news reports, Sammy Rodriguez, a Pentecostal preacher from Floydada, Texas, told police that he and his family fled Texas in their four cars because the Devil was after them.  Along the way they decided their clothes were "possessed" and so they discarded them along with the three cars that had run out of gas.  Squeezing five people in the trunk, they ventured on.  When police tried to pull over the curious car, Sammy sped into the woods and struck a tree.  His family is staying in a nearby shelter.

             Because we are the baptized children of God, there will be times when we must confront the evil one.  This is most certainly true!  It is inevitable that we will have to deal with the ancient adversary of humanity, the devil.  Although this is the bare truth, I am not convinced Sammy and his family was wrapped very tightly.  We may wonder what part Satan may have played in this escapade.  When we allow the devil to embarrass us on any level, it hurts the whole Christian church.  Don’t be deceived, there is much evil in the world as the student shootings in Parkland Florida horribly remind us.

             There are two things that may help us when it comes to confronting evil or the devil in this world.  The first thing is God's protection.  The second thing is God's perfection.  God's protection and perfection of his children work together for the common good. Both things are part and parcel of the Christian life in this world. 

             First, we can count on God's protection.  By our own power, we would always fail.   By faith we can count on the many promises of Jesus to not desert his precious saints.  In Matthew 28: 20, the risen Lord tells his disciples that, "... Lo, I am with you always even to the close of the age."  In John 10, Jesus says that, "My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they will never perish.  No one will snatch them out of my hand."  Saint Paul adds to this picture of protection by reminding us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  The Lord is with us indeed!  In the words of a popular Christian song often sung by the Youth Encounter group, Captive Free, "If God be for us, who can be against us.  No power on earth can take his love away."

             The psalms are full of the promise of God's protection.  The most notable of the psalms offering the security of the Lord is Psalm 46.  There we read, " God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble in its tumult."  It was this psalm that Martin Luther based his superb song entitled "A Mighty Fortress".  Luther, Saint Paul, all the saints, and even Jesus himself inevitably had to face Satan.  The disciples of Jesus have always had to put their trust in our Lord who overcame the tempter as shown in our gospel lesson for today.

             Because Jesus defeated the tempter and even defeated death, why is it that we must still deal with evil in this day and age?  Why is it inevitable that we must face Satan?   The answer to those questions may in a large part have to deal with God's perfection.  Ultimately, trials, tribulations and temptations, may strengthen our faith.  Saint Paul points out to us in II Corinthians 12: 9 - 10 that the Lord said to him, "‘my grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.'  So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."  Perfection boils down to letting go of self and letting God be in control. 

             In I Peter 4: 12, we are again reminded of the testing of the children of God.  There we read, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as through something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you are sharing in Christ's suffering, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed."

             Going back to Saint Paul in Romans 5: 3 - 5, we learn that we don't boast only of hope of our sharing the glory of God, but we boast in our sufferings knowing that, "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." 

             God's protection and perfection are there for us to get through this life.  Because we are God's baptized children, we will inevitably face evil.  That evil will face us in many ways.  We will be tempted to use drugs that destroy our bodies.  We will be tempted to use our bodies in ways that go against God's will for us. We will be tempted to do things our way instead of God's way.  We will be tempted to lie, to cheat, to steal, to gossip, to ridicule, to hurt others and all sorts of evil things.  We will be tempted to turn our backs on those victimized by hatred, bigotry, war, abuse, disease and other natural disasters.  We need God's protection.  We need God's perfection.

             I don't think Pastor Sammy Rodriguez's way of exposing Satan was all that helpful to those involved.  Although it is inevitable that God's children will meet the evil one, we need not be terrified of the evil one.  God promises to protect us!  Indeed, our trials will help perfect us!  One last thought from the writer of I John 4: 4, "... the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."  We are reminded that by his cross, Christ has conquered.  

             Amen