Commitment Sunday – Nov. 13, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


Isaiah 65:17-25

17For I am about to create new heavens
  and a new earth;
 the former things shall not be remembered
  or come to mind.
18But be glad and rejoice forever
  in what I am creating;
 for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
  and its people as a delight.
19I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
  and delight in my people;
 no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
  or the cry of distress.
20No more shall there be in it
  an infant that lives but a few days,
  or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
 for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
  and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21They shall build houses and inhabit them;
  they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22They shall not build and another inhabit;
  they shall not plant and another eat;
 for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
  and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23They shall not labor in vain,
  or bear children for calamity;
 for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
  and their descendants as well.
24Before they call I will answer,
  while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
  the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
  but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
 They shall not hurt or destroy
  on all my holy mountain,
 says the Lord.

Isaiah 12:2-6

2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not | be afraid,
  for the Lord God is my strength and my might, and has become | my salvation.
3With joy you | will draw water
  from the wells | of salvation. R
4And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call | on God’s name;
  make known the deeds of the Lord among the nations; proclaim that this name | is exalted.
5Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done | gloriously;
  let this be known in | all the earth.
6Shout aloud and sing for joy, O | royal Zion,
  for great in your midst is the Holy | One of Israel. 

Luke 21:5-19

5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, [Jesus] said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  His followers were aghast and now they are awed.  They trudged after him.  As he approached the city, Jesus declared that God’s “visitation” had come with his reign.  He declared that the very stones of the temple would testify against those who rejected him (19:41-44). Now Jesus predicts again that all the stones will be thrown down.

Jesus contrasts his teaching with those of the false prophets of his day.  They also quoted the ancient words of God.  Jesus is announcing the coming judgment, but he is also cautioning against following prophets who claim to know God’s timetable, even invoking Jesus’ name.

This text from Luke’s gospel does not authorize yet one more set of charts or timetables to read God’s clock down to the last second.  Yes, Jesus followed the true prophets of old in teaching that the struggles in history and in disturbances in nature are more than accidental.  They remind believers that God triumphed over chaos in creating the natural world.  Yet, both human and supra-historical forces are still contending for the earth. 

And so, Jesus’ followers, you and I among them, are aware that Jesus’ death and resurrection is God’s ultimate act in a struggle of cosmic proportions.  Only the final outcome is sure.  As the apostle Paul testified, “We ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

The hope to which Jesus testifies is not a trivial denial of the struggles, the pain and agony of human life.  It is not a trivial denial of the catastrophic forces of nature. These are real.  All summer we heard from prophets who interpreted such devastations as the context of God’s saving work.  Jesus joins this chorus.  He brings it close to the concrete realities of early Christians. But he adds something else, something that serves as the hinge of today’s text.  Jesus says, “This will be an opportunity to testify” and “By your endurance you will gain your souls!”

Jesus is promising that he will give the “words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.”  He commissions his followers, his disciples, to be his “witnesses” (Acts 1:8).  He does not send them out alone.  He assures them of the power and presence of his Holy Spirit.  And so even the harsh prophecies of Luke 21 are filled with the confidence of Jesus’ enduring presence.

Jesus references the various trials the disciples will face.  “This will give you an opportunity to testify” (v. 13). Is it possible for us to see, claim, and testify to God’s work amid the various setbacks, challenges, and even tragedies we face? The truth is that the last three Sundays, during this Season of Gratitude, we have listened in as three Trinity members have testified—have spoken clearly about the Holy Spirit at work in the life and reach of this congregation. 

Usually when we read texts like this one from Luke about being persecuted for testimony, we must face the fact that Christians have a place of privilege in this country. Unlike places like China, we are free to build sanctuaries and worship the Triune God without fearing for our lives.  

In the days and weeks ahead, I do not believe that we will suddenly be persecuted but if we live as the church we believe God has called us to be then we might become unpopular in our community or we might at least face raised eyebrows. 

For the past few weeks we have been lifting up our ministry initiatives for 2023. Our church council reflected on our history, strengths, and assets as a congregation. We read through our larger church body’s goals. We talked at length about our current context—both our geography and this moment in time. 

Faith formation became a priority, faith formation for children, youth, and adults. For some people in our country, the fact that we want to spend resources nurturing the Lutheran Christian faith of all people may seem laughable. I can imagine questions like, “You all still read the Bible? You pray and worship? But we gathered in this space believe the gospel of Jesus Christ still has the power to transform lives, so here we go.

As our leaders pondered a ministry initiative that could benefit the larger community of Canyon County, we returned to the idea of equipping people to have tough conversations in love. There will be Christians who think this is antithetical to the gospel. After all, all we should care about is saving souls, not helping to bring the kingdom of God to our corner of the cosmos. But we believe that part of what we are transformed to do is love and serve our neighbors. So here we go.

And finally, we want to keep going—as a community of faith, as one expression of the Body of Christ, as a Lutheran Christian congregation at the corner of Midland and Lone Star. We want to be stewards of the ministry our ancestors dreamed up when they first started this congregation. We want to continue gathering in this space for Word and Sacrament ministry. To quote our mission statement, we want to continue to be “a place to gather, refresh the faithful, and reach out with word and service to all others through the Holy Gospel.” 

To have the gospel as our focal point is counter cultural. So much of what we read or watch or hear encourages us to put our trust in material things or our own individual abilities. What does it mean to turn to Jesus as our leader, the one in whom we place all our trust? And then to testify? No physical possession, no human being, not even a political candidate can guarantee our life or our future.  That is work God has done through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to whom we are joined in the waters of baptism.  So, what, to what does this identity lead us?

In addition to our congregational ministry initiatives, there is the regular, daily work of God’s beloved people: welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, work for justice and peace, all in the name of our source of hope, love, and peace, Jesus Christ.  

God is active in the difficult, hard, broken experiences of life, always working to help, comfort, and save. And when we recognize these things, we discover the opportunity not just to see and benefit from God’s act but also to witness to it.

Just after this Jesus says, “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and wisdom…” (v. 14-15). No, we will not be dragged before kings and governors. But we will face trials and tribulations. There are people who fear their physical safety and caring for them may be seen as wrong.  

God will not only help us to endure but also give us the courage and words with which to witness. It does not matter where we may go, or what may happen to us, or how often it may seem like the whole world is coming to an end. Jesus will be with us. Jesus will be protecting and providing for us. And we will be able to see God at work in our lives and give thankful testimony.

Jesus is not telling his followers to find some “silver lining” or “hidden blessing” during the tragedies of their lives. We are meant to look for God and, while we are looking, see God at work even in the most difficult of conditions. In the days ahead we will practice seeing and naming God at work in the everyday and ordinary parts of our lives and the lives of others. 

Jesus finishes his address with some words about endurance.  The “endurance” that “will gain your souls” is also not mere heroic persistence. The early Christians knew all about the “endurance” of toughing it out, and their endurance was often tested. But through Christ, this endurance is transformed from reliance on human strength to trusting in God’s love: “We also 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.”

Endurance is itself a gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christians who have been admired for their persistence regularly discount their own strength with such words as, “It was only by God’s grace that I held on.” 

David Livingstone, the legendary missionary to Africa, prayed, “Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me.” And he testified, “What has sustained me is the promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.’”  This is the promise Jesus conveys in the midst of his prophetic warnings of what will yet come. It is a promise for us today. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

United with your saints across time and place, we pray for our shared world.

A brief silence.

Reviving God, keep your church active in its mission and ministry. Encourage bishops, deacons, pastors, and lay leaders to risk boldly in their proclamation and fill them with wisdom and endurance for challenging times. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Renewing God, as the northern hemisphere prepares for winter, make us mindful of the ordered beauty of your creation. Teach us to treasure cycles of rest and new life. Help us care for what you have made. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Loving God, accompany all who make sacrifices for the sake of others. Safeguard first responders and active duty military personnel. Grant peace to veterans and heal any wounds in body, mind, or spirit. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Healing God, your people cry out to you. Sustain doctors, nurses, and hospital personnel in their tireless work. Uphold mental health professionals and those in their care. May the sun of righteousness rise on all who are sick (especially). Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Uniting God, unite this assembly in its shared mission and ministry for the sake of the gospel (specific ministries or initiatives may be named). Highlight ways we can better work together and give us patience to work through disagreement. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Consoling God, abide with all who grieve for loved ones who have died (especially). Comfort us with the promise of resurrection and new life with you. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Accept these prayers, gracious God, and those known only to you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


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