Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ – us to whom Jesus
Christ speaks. Jesus spoke three parables to his disciples and to all
who had come to hear Him. The parables of Jesus have the same importance
and power today as they had two thousand years ago when He spoke them to
his disciples and the people who honestly wanted to hear Him. These
parables were about a very important and embarrassing subject: money and
wealth. Jesus does not mention money or wealth by name in the parables.
He does mention treasure or wealth in the the verse preceding the
parable’s text: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will
be also.” (Luke 12:34) (The
parable texts and the texts describing the disciples, viz. Christians by
Holy Baptism, vv. 22-34, as being free from worry over earthly matters,
i.e. “What you will eat (or) what you will wear” (v. 22) as well as
the parable of the Rich Fool, vv. 13-21, constitute a unified lesson on
a Christian’s (for that matter every human being’s) basic reliance
on God’s provision and the importance of admitting this and being
grateful to God for them.)
Treasure in heaven is treasure in God's hands and treasure that
comes from God to us and into our lives. But what about the sending of
treasure into heaven? Can we send treasures to heaven? We can do it and
must do it in two ways. The first way that Jesus teaches is: "Give
to the poor!" READ LUKE 12:33-34.
This means that we do not forget our neighbors or fellow human
beings who are in need or poor, in trouble or going through tough times
(like right now when the job prospects are poor). As Christians or
disciples of Jesus, that we are through Holy Baptism, we give from what
we have from God to help out those who need help. Martin Luther taught
that as Christians we help those whom we can help most easily. They are
people who are closest to us. Those are the members of our family, our
relatives, then literally our neighbors and friends, then those in our
city and county and nation and all over the world. Giving and helping
starts with a loving heart that helps one and all, beginning with the
one who is next to us, or whom we
meet in our everyday life. Our heart and help has to be big enough to
help the smallest to the largest: from our home to the whole world. The
apostle Paul teaches us how to do Christian giving and why in today's
Epistle text: READ 2. CORINTHIANS 8:8-9 and 14-15 & 9:6-7 &
The second way we can have treasures is heaven is by faith and
love. This begins by knowing and believing that all that we have comes
from God. Our treasure or things we own from money to houses, jewels to
cats, food and clothing is a gift from God.
This is what the three parables of Jesus teach us. All that makes
up a household from treasures to things, objects, household goods and
food to servants belongs to the master or owner of the household not the
servants or the manager. We are the managers of the property of God
entrusted to us. When the master who is Jesus the Son of God and Son of
Man (humanity) comes, He will find out how the manager has managed and
used the master’s property and lived in the master's house. READ LUKE
12: 37a. 40. and 45-46. The
bad manager who started drinking and wasting the master's things and
became bad to the master's servants under him made the mistake on
forgetting that the house and all that was in it including the other
servants belonged to the
master and not to him. By doing that he was stealing from the master.
The Lutheran pastor through whose sermons and worship services I came to
a living faith in Jesus Christ, pointed out that we as Christians can be
stealing from God and nor even know it. He directed me to the Old
testament text that teaches that. In the prophetic book of Malachi (the
last book of the Old Testament). God, the Lord and Master of the world
and all that is in it, accuses the people of stealing—even robbing --
from God: READ MALACHI 3:8-10. When a Christian robs from God he
or she becomes as guilty as
The more we admit that we have, the more we know how much God has
trusted us with and given us to use as He wants us to use it, the better
Christian managers of God’s property we are.
How can we best use what we have from God as good managers? We
have to treat and use everything with a positive holy will and ways as
good servants and managers of God. How can we know how to do this? We
can by having the mind and will of Jesus Christ in our heart and head.
Jesus Christ the Son of God was of one mind and will with god, as the
good manager who does as his master wants him to do. This does not come
about through a command or law (the Apostle Paul taught right giving by
saying: “I am not commanding you.”(2. Corinthians. 8:8a.) When
people hear teaching about contributions and giving, they very easily
think about counting out a percentage or even grabbing the loose change
in their pocket or purse to give like an alm or offering, or they try to
compare their financial state with those who are “richer” than they
are, or some other “point of law”. As Christians we do not live by
the “letter of the law”; we live by grace and love of God in Christ.
We have the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2:1ff and 5) We can be good
servants and managers of God by having the mind and will of Jesus Christ
in our head and in our heart. Jesus Christ the Son of God as the good
manager has who does as his master wants him to do.
This does not come through the force of the law but grace and
love. The Apostle John taught giving through loving in Christ:
READ 1. JOHN 4:7 and 10-11.
us Christians all of this does not come about through law or force. It
comes through grace and love. The Apostle John taught giving through
loving in his First Letter: LESE 1. JOHANNES 4:7.10-11. If Jesus
Christ is our treasure our hearts are in heaven even on this
time we bring the offering or contributions to the altar we sing
"We give Thee but Thine own, whate'er the gift may be. All
that we have is Thine alone -- a trust, O'Lord, from Thee!" I
learned to sing this offering verse when I was a new believer
The Pilgrims gave up their house and home, nation and country because of their faith in and service to God. in their first winter in America almost half of them died of illnesses. But they kept going in faith in the new world thanking god, for "All that we have is Thine (God's) alone -- a trust, O'Lord, from Thee!" They received abundantly next fall. They shared the good harvest in the first Christian Thanksgiving festival in New England with the Indians who showed them how to plant corn so that they had a good harvest. The tradition of Crhistian giving and haring that is especially American had a start with the Pilgrims and has continued to our day.
My Pilgrim experience convinced me how I owed everything to God from my freedom from sin to my money and position and place in life. Every time I sing the words of the offering verse: "We give Thee but Thien own!", I wonder how fully the people in the service understand and how fully do they give?
A modern Christian hero, a Lutheran pastor, wrote that blessed are people who are happy not because they lack nothing, but because they receive everything from the hand of God.
can be like the Pilgrims who were happy to serve God with all they had
including their lives and possessions. We are not in such a critical
situaiton as the Pilgrims; but we are Christinas who can have Pilgrim's
attitude to giving and hsaring -- not only asking and receiving.
Thanksgiving is sharing what God has given us -- "All that we have is His alone and a trust to us!"
Holy Ghost Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Service Ending the Synod
Pastor Markus Vaga - USA First Synod Deanery, Assisting Minister
Peter 2: 1-10
What is a living stone? I recently went with my wife to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden where we took a moment to look at the Children's Garden. One of the displays teaches children about desert plants. The sign next to the display asks visitors to find the plants, called "living stones," from amongst other, normal stones.
In many deserts around the world, and maybe even in Israel, living stones can often be found.
They look like regular stones, but are actually plants. Perhaps St. Peter was talking about just these kinds of "stones" when he wrote this letter. Like all plants, living stones grow. Living stones propagate.
The Bible speaks often about stones and rocks. In Deuteronomy we read that "[God] is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just." The prophet Samuel also often writes about God as a rock. "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge..." (2 Samuel 22:2-3)
When we read the Bible, we often find comparisons between God and a rock. The comparison is perfect -- rock's can be awesome things. Rocks and stones are hard. We can build many things from stones, like our church - our own Estonian people's church -- here in Lakewood. Even the most splendid churches in Europe are all built with stones - and many of them are hundreds of years old! Yes, we can build many things with stone, and we can do a lot more with stones as well.
St. Peter wanted to remind his congregation that they had a responsibility to build a church. They were given a direct obligation to build a church from Jesus when He said: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
A Christian's obligation back then, and also our obligation today, is to spread the Word, or to evangelize. And if we do this effectively, we build congregations and churches. But we need to be careful here. We build a congregation, yes, but not a physical congregation and church. It's necessary to differentiate between earthly and spiritual thinking. We, as people, often think in a worldly way - about worldly things. It's difficult for us to comprehend Jesus' and God's will since our understanding and way of thinking is often worldly, and often not correct.
If we look at the many churches of the world -- and we find some of them here in America -- we often find that the physical building and the size of the congregation are very important. We've all heard of so-called "mega-churches" where there can be thousands and even tens of thousands of members. This is different from the official state-churches in Europe, where everyone is pretty much automatically a member, because in mega-churches, all these thousands and tens of thousands come to church - every Sunday!
Now there isn't a problem, per se, with such a church. They often preach God's Word, believe and trust in Christ, and are properly Christian, if you will. No. Rather, a problem comes up when an individual places their trust in such a church -- in a physical church, which has been built with sweat and money. Because from that kind of trust, it is only a short step to thinking in a worldly way. In other words, pinning your hopes on your success, work and actions.
Even during the time of St. Peter, only a few decades after Christ's ascension, there were those who came to churches to spread false doctrine. We read from the Bible that people began to believe that favouring one disciple over another was somehow better. The Apostel Paul writes (1 Corinthians 1:12-13) "Each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Appollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,' or 'I follow Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"
It's true -- even so early in the life of the church -- only a few years after Jesus' ascension, many Christians were putting their hopes on worldly, physical things, or in other people. They put their faith on stone-built churches, and in the people who had built them. But these churches were built with ordinary stones -- and we could even say dead stones!
Stones are not alive. They don't grow or propagate. A stone is just a stone. They can be found in nature, and if there are no stones, we end up building things using other materials. Yes, every church here in the world which has been built with stone, has been built with the same stone. And these stones are not alive. We could even say that architecturally speaking, there really is no difference between a church and a department store as far as the construction is concerned.
Our church here in Lakewood, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, St. Mary's Cathedral [Toomkirik] in Tallinn and even St. Peter's Basilica in Rome - all have been built with stones - and all of them, basically, are a large, physical building. These stones are not alive!
Communism has not understood this, and so in Soviet times they attempted to destroy faith and congregations by turning old and beautiful churches into theatres. In St. Petersburg, the famous and beautiful Church of the Saviour on Blood [Spass Na Krovi] was turned into a vegetable warehouse. The buildings were not churches anymore -- but the Church did not die and faith was not lost. It can even be said that the church during the Soviet Union was more alive under communism than today in the current time of freedom and democracy.
Why? How can this be? Because, a church and a congregation is not a physical thing. It is not built with stones or walls. No. Rather, it is built with living stones. And those living stones are you and I. Living stones are everyone who believe and place their hope in Christ. Like Peter writes: "you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house."
Yes, a Christian person, a believer, is a living stone. We who believe in Christ are together with Him, our cornerstone, building a spiritual house - a holy church, over which, like Jesus has himself said: "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
I recently saw on a church wall a poster which had something like this written on it: "First we are Catholics, then we are Western Catholics, then we are Lutherans."
This caused some problems for me. Maybe in a worldly understanding this may be true. But as a Christian, shouldn't the sign read: "First we are Christians...." and then so forth, adding on whatever group you belong to.
The problem is not with the church. We here are Lutherans and this will not change. We must, however, keep in mind that Christ is the first and the last, like the Bible teaches. He is our cornerstone, on which we have built our living church. A worldly, physical church will not save anyone -- no-one gets to heaven because they are a member of one or another congregation! No one.
"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live," said Christ. (John 11:25) A believer builds a congregation on Christ by believing in Him first. And He makes us into living stones. Paul writes: "For no one can lay any other foundation than the one we already have - Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)
old Estonian proverb says: "No stone goes up without being
raised." And we have Christ, who raises us up and gives us grace
and saves us from death with eternal mercy. Let us, therefore, be living
stones, building together a spiritual house exclusively for the glory of
This page was last edited on November 11, 2016 09:25 PM