Sermon Notes – September 8, 2019

Take Care – Deuteronomy 6:12


   The Ends of the Earth club was a group of explor-ers, academics, businessmen and artists from the Northeastern part of the United States. Founded in 1903, members included General John Pershing, Admiral Richard Peary, Gutzom Borglum, and Mark Twain. They held an annual dinner in New York and swapped stories of their travels, their projects and their accomplishments. Many in the group were caught up in the fervor of American colonization in other parts of the world, “the ends of the earth.” At their meeting in the winter of 1906, their chairman that year, General James L. Wilson, announced, “We are of the Anglo-Saxon race, and when the Anglo-Saxon wants a thing he just takes it.”

   Thinking about that banquet Twain later wrote, “It has always been a peculiarity of the human race that it keeps two sets of morals in stock—the private and real, and the public and artificial.” He then provided an example: “Our public motto is ‘In God we trust,’ and when we see those gracious words on the dollar they always seem to tremble and whimper with pious emotion. That is our public motto. It transpires that our private one is, ‘When the Anglo-Saxon wants a thing he just takes it.’”

   Twain was old and cranky and opposed empire building, but he did make a good point about private and public morals. How often is it true that pastors and parents and teachers don’t really practice what they preach to their congregations and children and students? We put forward pious mottos but can often fail to live up to them. [public motto = Joy:fully Lutheran; private motto = ?]

   Moses, in our Old Testament Reading for today (Deut 6:4-15) proclaims Israel’s motto: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” It is the basic confession of faith for the Jewish people to this day. Moses, however, does more than proclaim the motto. He also tells them how to live up to that confession of faith: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” He declares, “These words…shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Moses also warns, “Take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

   Take care that you live fully, publicly and privately, in the joy of God’s grace, love and mercy. Imagine, a confession of faith not only being part our public identity but fully part of our private identity as well. [Jesus admonishes the Pharisees and scribes in Matt 15:7-9] Our identity is more than just our public, pious platitudes. Don’t just say “Jesus is Lord,” but also and always love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Don’t say in public, “Jesus is Lord” but in your private conversations argue about which of you is the greatest. [Jesus admonishes the twelve Apostles in Mark 9:33-37] Don’t profess that “Jesus is Lord” but then treat the least of His brothers and sisters with contempt. [Jesus admonishes His disciples in our Gospel, Luke 18:15-17] Take care lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of bondage to sin and death.

   Members and friends of St. John’s, we need to rally today as pastor and congregation, parents and children, teachers and students for the cause of Christian education (worship, Sunday School, St. John’s Lutheran School, the confirmation program, Bible studies, youth groups, VBS, supporting a teaching missionary in Uganda, etc.). We need to look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) He endured the cross for us and for our salvation. We must take care lest we forget that and lose the reason to “rejoice in the Lord always.” (Phil 4:4; 1 Thes 5:16) [Taking the Gospel to the “ends of the earth” without hypocrisy or gimmicks; miniature golf in Rochester Cathedral, England]

   Our school’s theme this year should be the theme for all of our educational efforts (indeed, for our very lives): JOY IN JESUS: Rejoice. Pray. Give Thanks. That is our public motto. That must be our private motto as well! That must be our real motto and let no artificial mottos interfere! When the artificial begins to take root (and it will try), repent and remember your baptism when you received the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:39)

   Take care lest you forget. Remembering, have JOY IN JESUS! [Rom 15:13]

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