Monday, December 2, 2019

Sermon November 30- December 1, 2019 First Sunday in Advent

Title: Christ the King Comes for You!
Text: Matt. 21:1-11

10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

The Advent season is upon us! The time of Christ’s coming is near!

Surprise and wonder and stirring are all good descriptions of the anticipation that accompany us all as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child. With the beginning of Advent the focus is on the baby Jesus as you and I together watch, for this long expected Messiah.

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to the Daughter's of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The coming of Jesus into the city was prophesied by Zechariah the prophet and was now being fulfilled. Some in the city wondered who this is. That Jesus came in humbly, on the colt the foal of a donkey and not as the Messianic King who would come to rule this earthly kingdom was a different entrance than most expected.

Though He was welcomed with; “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 

As Jesus traveled over the cloaks and palm branches that had been spread on the road in honor of his arrival, how quickly this joy would turn to despair and doubt and hatred for this humble man who came as the baby king to reconcile and restore the relationship between God and man.

Anticipating the “Holidays” as it is called in the world can bring grief for many. Shopping and buying gifts for those we love can become less loving and more stressful and you may find yourself being led away from the manger … or even walking and running away of your own accord.

What you seek, at this time of year, may be different than what the Lord desires you to receive.

Hope in the holidays may blind you of the hope of the Christ child and the true gift his coming brings.

It may be the good intentions of relatives, friends, and coworkers, X boxes, holiday hours or advertising or it may be sadness in the hope for the holidays that never comes … or a family divided by divorce and simply broken in grief.

In this broken world death can be very close and life a precious gift.

Ill.

2-1/2 year old Michelle Funk fell into a creek swollen by runoff from the winter snow near her home in Salt Lake City. Her brother saw the accident and called their mother, who searched for Michelle before calling, 911.

Within eighteen minutes, rescue workers began a search. When they found no trace of the girl, they reduced the outflow from a reservoir that feeds the creek. As the water level dropped, rescuers saw the child's arm sticking out of the water. She was wedged against a rock, and there was no evidence of an air pocket.

When rescuers finally pulled her from the water, 62 minutes after her mother's call, she was very cold and blue. She had no pulse and was not breathing. Her pupils were fixed and widely dilated, as they would be with severe brain damage or death. A monitor detected no heartbeat.

Nevertheless, rescue workers began cardiopulmonary resuscitation, forcing air into her lungs and blood throughout her body. They continued it in a helicopter ambulance that flew her to the hospital …

As death loomed there was also hope. Hope in re-warming procedure used for those dealing with severe hypothermia so as to restore life … but how far could they go?

In the operating room, the doctors delicately inserted tubes into the narrow blood vessels of the child's groin and connected the tubes to the machine. It began pumping, and slowly her temperature began to rise.

When it reached 77 degrees Fahrenheit, she gasped. Then the doctors detected a faint heart beat. After 53 minutes of re-warming, Michelle was removed from the machine and sent to an intensive care unit. As the days went on, Michelle's brain activity showed steady improvement. After two weeks, she smiled when she heard her parents enter the hospital room. After three weeks she whispered a few words, and by four weeks she used four-word phrases and sat up for 10 seconds.

By the time she left the hospital, more than two months after the accident, she talked at the level of a 3-year-old and her motor skills were normal, except for a slight tremor in her hands that soon disappeared.

http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/26/science/the-doctor-s-world-ingenuity-and-a-miraculous-revival.html?src=pm

Where death was a certainty … we see a child, hope, and newness of life.

Through the God given talents of the “wise men and women” headed by Dr. Robert G. Bolte at the Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah … life from certain death was given back to a family in despair.

In the midst of death, despair and all that the world can bring upon you there is hope because:

The blessed Jesus, the Christ child and his coming, is your salvation!

Hope is not a blind hope but a hope understood and reasoned in faith. It is a hope from God’s own hands given as a promise in his word and brought to life by the Holy Spirit through the word proclaimed and sacraments given and received. 

Life re-warmed, so to speak, is life not rekindled but … life restored, born from above, born from death itself as we all have been born dead in trespass and sin. (Eph. 2:1)

But Paul comforts in his words to the Romans today:

11 Besides this you know the time … that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

The hope for you and me is the anticipation of the child. But not just any child … for this child is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus Christ himself! This hope in Him is not something you seek out, look for or find but it is a hope given from God to a lost world covered in sin by the joyful coming of a babe … in a manger.

Today we watch … knowing that salvation has come in the one who entered into the joyful celebration and triumphant entry into Jerusalem and also that He came as the babe … foretold of old and received in the manger stable because … there was no room ...

Christ has made room … for you.

He has made room also for all the cares and trials that consume you. Everything that brings sadness He carries for you so you can see the joy in the simple things of life, a kind word, thanks given, a need met and hope for life forever in him.

The blessed Christ child and his coming is your salvation.

Christ the King Comes for You!

Christ has been promised and has come and will come again. The truth is evident by faith given in this blessed joy and eternal hope. You have this joy given in Christ and as you watch for His coming this Christmas remember that Christ has brought you from death to life. You were redeemed from the spiritual death given in birth and have been promised a place with Christ forever.

Watch … and see by the working of the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ do all that He has promised.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sermon November 23-24, 2019

Title: Thanksgiving is found in Christ’s forgiveness!
Text: Luke 23:27-43

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Martin Luther once gave a brief, simple, but expressive eulogy upon a pastor at Zwickau in 1522 named Nicholas Haussmann.

He said, "What we preach, he lived," - Martin Luther.

It is also fitting with end of the church year upon us, that the end of sin and death also be proclaimed and heard in Christ’s cross of triumph.

For what we preach, Christ lived and died for!

The story of the cross is one of pain and suffering but also hope. As Jesus was led away following His trial towards his impending death,

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. (Luke 23:32-33)

The cross of Christ is either death or life depending upon your perspective. Take the two criminals for instance:

One rebukes Jesus saying:

“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

The perspective of the first sees not the wages of sin and the death that sin brings. His call to Jesus is to save, not from the once and for all death that we all must endure, but his call is to save me from this temporal death now, that will at some point in the near future, for him, need to be paid again and in full.

No one will escape death in this life because sin has made sure of that. So, for thief number one, the cross of Jesus is a failure and of no great value for him because it leads only to death for Christ and Him.

Thief number two sees the cross of Christ through eyes of hope when he says:

“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And recognizes that the condemnation is right and just when he says: 41 for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

The mirror of the Law, written on his heart, has shown him that his deeds are indeed the result of sin and that he is being rightly condemned but in Christ he finds hope when he repents saying:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Today too, the cross reflects either death or hope for you and for all broken by sin in this corrupted world as well. The perspective of the cross from our sinful nature can only see the death that sin brings and a hopeless future bound to death like the bonds and ropes that bind all flesh to the wood of their own cross … void of hope.

Ill.

Timothy George writes in “Giving Thanks in Hitler’s Reich” of the life and death of German pastor, Paul Schneider, who preached the Sunday before Thanksgiving 1937 a sermon on Psalm 145:15-21, which says:

15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

He began by acknowledging how (inconsistent or incompatible) it might seem to be giving thanks “in this year of our church’s hardship.” Yet this is precisely what the psalmist calls us to do—to give thanks for the material blessings of harvest and home and also for the generous gifts of God in Word, sacrament, and worship. Yet God’s Word does not come cheap, Schneider said. “Confessing Jesus will carry a price. For his sake we will come into much distress and danger, much shame and persecution; Happy the man who does not turn aside from these consequences.”

He was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp and on July 18, 1939 put to death for his proclamation of the word of the gospel. But while there, this Preacher of Buchenwald as he was known, “Wholly and without fear … bore witness of his Christian faith. He called the devil by his name: murderer, adulterer, unrighteous, monster and throughout this witness … he presented the grace of Christ together with a call to repentance.”

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/11/giving-thanks-in-hitlers-reich/timothy-george

And just like thief number two who cried:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

True thanksgiving is only found in Christ’s forgiveness!

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Paradise is not found in worldly wealth or in a pristine uninhabited Island. But it is found in the bloody cross of the God/ man Jesus Christ who willingly bore the sins of thief one and thief two on His cross placed between them.

And though one thief judged Jesus and his death as a failure and proof that the filthy rags of his own righteousness were the same rags and covering that Jesus wore, the second thief saw through repentant eyes the one true hope and victory over sin, death and the power of the devil.

Dear friends, hope in Christ is not only a thing of the past. It is not only a hope for those who witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus but it is the true and certain hope for you and for me too.

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)

We live in the hope of the cross but also in the hope of the resurrection and of Christ’s future return in glory. As our epistle for today comforts us:

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

As you gather together to celebrate the Lord’s blessing of family and friends this Thanksgiving, joy in the eternal thanksgiving of Christ redeeming grace!

He will gather his church on the day of His return, raising the dead in Christ first and joining the physical body of his saints, incorruptible, forever, and forgiven in the blessed name of Jesus.

A truly happy and Blessed Thanksgiving indeed!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Monday, November 18, 2019

Sermon November 16-17, 2019

Title: Christ is our Blessed Hope!
Text: Luke 21:5-28

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Abraham Lincoln wrote in proclamation for “A National Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer.” On March 30, 1863: 

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power. … But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. 

― Abraham Lincoln

5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Redemption requires destruction. Before something can be rebuilt it must first be destroyed. To make new again requires demolition.

As Jesus and his disciples walked through the temple, some of His disciples remarked in admiration on the Temple itself, on its various buildings, porticoes, halls, and chambers, and especially did they mention the beautiful stones, the huge marble monoliths, which formed the Corinthian columns, and the gifts that were consecrated to the Lord, the many articles of adornment which were so noticeable throughout the Temple.

P.E. Kretzmann popular commentary on the Bible Pg. 378


Jesus then tells them of the things to come:

8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.

Jesus warns His disciples that it is easy to be deceived into following false, messiahs and false gods. To know the true God is to know His word and to follow His teachings only.

He warns of wars, trials and persecutions when He says:

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

The coming end will not be a time of joy and for His children there will be a time of persecution.

… they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness.

To speak the gospel to those who persecute you, Jesus says, is a time for witness. It is a time to proclaim the gospel.

He will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict and promises that you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and that some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated, he says.

He tells them of the surrounding of Jerusalem by armies and the destruction that will come:

20 “… let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.

This will not be a good time:

For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.

24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Trial and persecution are coming. You see it, read about and know it firsthand. To be a Christian means you will be an offense to some as Christ was and offense.

Ill.

Beginning in the late 1890's, the Boxers rebellion as it became known was made up of - members of a secret society of mostly peasants in northern China called the "Boxers" by the Western press – who began attacking Christian missionaries, Chinese Christians and foreigners in northern China. These attacks eventually spread to the capital, Beijing, in June 1900, when the Boxers destroyed railroad stations and churches and laid siege to the area where foreign diplomats lived. It is estimated that that death toll included several hundred foreigners and several thousand Chinese Christians.

https://www.thoughtco.com/1900-boxer-rebellion-1779184

Today the persecution is not from a fringe group of peasants in Chinese society but from the government itself. Churches closed, pastor’s imprisoned and followers in hiding. The church is being demolished physically and psychologically.

On October 19 of this past month, in the latest blatant attack against the church-at-large in communist China, Chinese government authorities tore down a megachurch's building in the Funan, Anhui region, starting the demolition while the congregation was worshipping. The church's pastors were also arrested and detained.

Government officials did not provide any documents ordering the 3,000-seat church building's demolition. But they did produce arrest warrants for leaders Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao. Both pastors were detained on the charge of suspicion of "gathering a crowd to disturb social order."

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2019/october/war-against-the-faithful-chinese-govt-tears-down-church-building-as-christians-worship

Can the persecution come to your country, your church and even your home too? We already see the beginnings of it. Sin affects us all. The sin of others can and will affect you. How might we react if the wrecking ball started tearing down Peace in the middle of the service as it did for our Chinese brothers and sisters last month?

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)

Apart from faith no one can come to God or call on him as a loving Father. The cross of Christ is an offence. It says that God and salvation in Christ is an objective fact and that the humanistic and rational thought of the day that says that all ways lead to the heaven and to the same loving God is false.

The Blessed Hope of the Christian is in the one outside ourselves who came down from heaven Jesus Christ. You do not need to ascend to God because he humbled himself and came down for you and he will return as he has promised

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

But then:

27 they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The fear of persecution is met with the joy of redemption. The joy of eternal life found only in Christ. This is the joy that these believers knew awaited them and that they were not abandoned … but rescued in Christ. In His death they too would find life … and find it abundantly.

The truth of trials is real but so is the rescue by Christ for all who believe. Officiating at my dad’s funeral brought this reality home literally for me. Here was death, close and personal but so to the eternal hope that Christ gives to you and to me. That in Him we all who believe will spend eternity together. It is a comfort when you morn and it is a joy that will take away the tears of sadness because Christ has wiped them away and replaced them with the tears of joy in the resurrection; in reunion in heaven one day; in a forever not covered in sin and death and the devil will no longer have the power to accuse and condemn because he and death will be cast down to the pit of hell forever.

13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Titus 2:13 ESV

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sermon November 9-10, 2019

Title: You have been raised and are seated with Christ!
Text: Luke 20:27-40

37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”

In 1972, Laszlo Toth, a 33 year old distraught Hungarian, walked into St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome with a hammer hidden under a raincoat over his arm. He climbed over a railing and began to smash the Pieta a beautiful sculpture by Michelangelo of Mary, the mother of Jesus, holding the crucified Christ at the Vatican. While the damage was great, shocking and heartbreaking to those who witnessed the attack the officials made every effort to as humanly possible restore the treasure.

The fall into sin brought separation between God and His creation. You have been severely damaged, so much so that you are brought into this life dead in trespass and sin. So what did God do, throw away his perfect creation and begin again?

No!

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The Gospel reading for today tells a story of Jesus’ meeting with a group of Jewish leaders. If you remember from the lessons over the last two months about Jesus and His dealing with the Pharisees, Chief Priests and scribes.

Now, the group, the Sadducees, denied the resurrection and they also denied the existence of angles and didn’t accept the authority of any books of the Old Testament except the first 5 books, which were also called the books of Moses. 

So they came to Jesus with a question:

28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

Well, there are a few clear truths here:

Seven husbands will surely bring about the death of any woman!

But, the Sadducees real objective was to put Jesus on the spot with this creative story as a means to dispel the truth and teaching of the resurrection.

But Jesus, as has been seen trough out these discussions with the Pharisees, Chief Priests, Scribes and now the Sadducees … has an answer for their trickery.

34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Now this didn’t sit well with my wife when she first this verse. “You mean I have to put up with him in this life for all these years and he’s not bound to our marriage in heaven?” Well, Jesus then gives the Sadducees a bit of Moses from the book of Genesis in answer to their question:

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:27-28)

God gave marriage for procreation (for children), to fill the earth … to be fruitful and multiply and Jesus continues his thought when He says:

36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are (all) sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

So rightly Jesus tells them that at the resurrection all who are God’s children will be in Heaven and will not be marrying or being fruitful and multiplying because all who are to be there will be there because of God’s choosing.

Now, their argument is not about marriage but about the resurrection. So the contention from Jesus hits them right between the eyes.

37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord … the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 

38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”

Those even in our midst also deny God and his power and work.

How can an infant who is baptized believe?

How can Christ ascend to the right hand of God and still present in the sacrament?

How can God take on flesh and blood and be both divine and human?

How can God who is eternal die on a cross?

How, as the Sadducees ask can the dead rise?

If you think of it this way; There’s life—the life we live right now, day by day. Then we die, and there’s life after death—when the souls of those who believe in Jesus go to be with him, while their bodies are left behind. Then there’s “life after life after death.” That’s the Last Day resurrection of the body when your body is reunited with your soul. That’s what Jesus was talking about: The resurrection of the body. There’s still more to come. Life after death communion with God will have a final day resurrection of the body.

The Sadducees said, “There’s no more.” Jesus said, “There is.”

Concordia pulpit illustration Vol. 23 pt 4 – Rev. Glenn A. Nielsen PhD. (Note: The phrase “life after life after death” comes from an interview with N. T. Wright conducted by Preaching Today at the 2008 National Pastors Conference.)

And the more that God gives … is not a fallen world filled with sickness and death and marriage - or divorce and remarriage - even seven husbands for goodness sake.

But a forever eternity with Him, as we who are the bride of Christ are set free from all that this broken and all that is corrupted in this sin filled life.

You dear friends are made new forever by the atoning blood of Christ!

Like the beautiful sculpture that had been damaged and broken in pieces in this life, breaking and corrupting its beauty … you too have been and will be fully restored to your created beauty, free from sin and death and the power of the devil by the one who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light raising you forever to be with him, Jesus Christ our Lord!

And May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

November 2-3, 2019 LSB Setting I with Holy Communion All Saints’ Day
Title: You have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus!
Text: Rev 7:9-17

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The list of departed Saints in the bulletin is a list of active members here at Peace who are now resting in the arms of Jesus. I’d like to tell you about one, Hilda Kline.

The back corner of the church will never quite be the same. It was where Hilda sat – some time by herself and many times with her family. It is where she got up to go sing with the choir - when we had a choir - and when she was able. It is where her walker rested when she sat in the pew when walking became difficult, and it is where the wheelchair was placed when it became her mode of transportation.

I would go and visit her at Autumn Ridge – her home away from home -asking how she was doing … she would always say in mock consternation: “They’re always pushing me around!” Referring to her wheelchair and the way she needed to go. A slight smile coming across her face – like it was the first time she thought it or said it. As I would wheel her to her room or to a guest room to talk, she might exclaim, “See, you’re pushing me around too!”

Hilda was a fixture in my life here at church in many ways. Not only as pastor but for many years as a member here, singing in the choir or leading bible study that she always attended when able, or singing at her beloved home where the Christmas Caroling was made that much better because Hilda joined in to sing with us and we received some of her famous cookies.

Our first reading today gives us a picture of eternity:

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

This heavenly picture has some wonderful and awesome truths depicted as well. There is an uncountable multitude – more than you can even imagine. This multitude is made up of people like you and me … real flesh and blood people. And they come from every nation and tribe – people from around the world – dressed not in the rags of their own unrighteousness but covered in white robes, the robes of Christ’s righteousness … and carrying palm branches!

Wow! It sounds like Heaven is a very real place too. Because to speak of palm branches … we might reasonably assume palm trees, but the image that also comes to my mind is the glorious ride of Christ into Jerusalem and the waving of palm branches by the people:

9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:9)

Their cries of welcome led up to the cries of “Crucify Him” and the cross of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and now these cries of death are completed in the heavenly cries of glory in the gathering of the multitude before the throne of grace who have been brought to faith in this same Jesus Christ, crying:

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

What had been anticipated before the cross is now fulfilled.

What had been a triumphal entry for Jesus is now a triumphal fulfillment for you and me though the cross of Christ and though you - of many faces are many - you have been adopted into God’s family and are now His child, a child of His own choosing.

That is the good news for you too. God knows you are His child. To see you is to see Christ. Though we are born in sin and death awaits us all, we are made new, washed clean and adopted into Christ by the working of his Holy Spirit.

As I continued to visit Hilda in her final year her son Jim texted me that she wasn’t doing well one evening and I replied that I would go in the morning for a visit. When I got there at 10:45 Hilda was laboring. The aftermath of her stroke had taken her smile and banter away. As I sat by her bedside I read her the 23rd Psalm – one of her favorites and then these four Psalm passages:

Psalm 4:8 (ESV)
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
27 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I prayed and concluded with the Lord’s Prayer and then I said,

“Hilda it is okay to go and be with Jesus. We who remain behind will be alright. When he calls - go, rest in his arms.”

I got a text from Jim at 11:50 as I pulled into the church drive. It read:

“Marie got a call from Autumn Ridge. Mom passed away.”

“Heaven is now mom’s home.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Being brought to faith in Baptism makes you part of this great number from every nation and from all tribes and peoples and languages. And that was the good news for those early believers too. They knew that this Jesus who had died on the cross was the same one taken up to heaven was the same Jesus who said:

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Dear friends, every one of those Peace members on our insert today have a story to tell just like Hilda’s, and there are countless others who are not part of this sheepfold but have been part of your lives and mine. They have trusted Jesus just as you and I do and we honor their memory and all the saints who from their labors rest, but more importantly we are honored by our loving heavenly Father who has brought us all into relationship with him through the life, death and resurrection of his beloved Son.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Behold, you are part of that great multitude that no one can number! (Rev. 7:9)

Dear Saints … the Kingdom of God is yours!

May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sermon October 26-27, 2019 - Reformation

Title: Fear God and give him glory!
Text: Rev 14:6-7

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

The word of God is truth! It is the essence of Jesus - the word made flesh. It is the word revealed as we learned last week in Paul’s letter to Timothy where he writes:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17

It is this eternal gospel that Luther hoped in and wrote for our benefit in his Large Catechism about the second article of the creed:

[27] I believe that Jesus Christ, true Son of God, has become my Lord. But what is it to become Lord? It is this, that He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death, and all evil. For before I had no Lord or King, but was captive under the power of the devil. I was condemned to death and, entangled in sin and blindness.

http://bookofconcord.org/lc-4-creed.php 27

It is this truth that Luther found joy and peace in.

It is this joy and peace that the Reformation blossomed and gave way to.

It is the bondage to sin that Luther felt and was crippled by.

It is the freedom in Christ that brought him peace.

It is a peace that we now share in Christ who made peace with God and has given that peace to you and me by faith in his saving work.

The eternal Gospel spoken of in Revelation is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world in our gospel reading in John.

Jesus tells the believing Jews in our Gospel today who had been following Him that:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.

To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. One who is connected to God’s very words and who abides in them – who takes rest in them - is one who accepts and acts in accordance with those words.

Martin Luther had this to say about discipleship in his lectures on the Psalms:

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own. We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.”

–Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms II, in Luther’s Works, Volume 11 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1976), 245-46.

And as a disciple Jesus tells the Jews and you and I as well:

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This freedom and liberty of the gospel is what we celebrate today. It is what Luther searched for and why he became a monk – thinking that being locked inside the walls, devoting himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, pilgrimages, and frequent confession would keep him away from sin and the power of the devil.

He said:

"If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so." He described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul."

But later he found the eternal gospel and blessed peace in the words of Romans 5:1 which reads:

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you felt closed in by the walls of sin? Have you or have your loved ones fled the blessings and Peace found only in Christ and his gifts given in word and sacrament? Are you burdened by the Law and a slave to sin?

33 They Jews answered Jesus, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

The truth is you are all bound to sin and its cravings. You desire to do the will of your sinful nature which is in opposition to God’s will and as a result you fall short daily. The world says, “Deep down he is really a good person” - when the truth is deep down we all are worse and worse. The more you get to the core of who we are in our fallen human condition the more you see the sinfulness of man, corrupted to the core from the beginning by our first parents Adam and Eve.

But Jesus reminds His hearers and you as well that:

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The freedom for the sinner is found only in Jesus. That was the joy that Luther found and what we celebrate in the Reformation. In Christ, true freedom from sin is possible and true liberty for we who are bound with the chains of guilt and despair is broken.

7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Rev 14:7

Christ has set free those who could not free themselves by his own binding.

The binding of His flesh to the cross in your place;
The shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of your sin;
The death worthy of a criminal for you and I who are guilty;
And the burial in a tomb meant for another;

In Jesus’ case … Joseph of Arimathea, for it was his tomb where Jesus was laid. But, the tomb and death was meant for you!

Jesus took your place, He took your cross, He took your death and He took your tomb and He made them what you couldn't … life, freedom, liberty, salvation and forgiveness because …

… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon October 19-20, 2019

Title: Christ is made known through the word!
Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Two men had an argument. To settle the matter, they went to a judge for arbitration. The plaintiff made his case. He was very eloquent and persuasive in his reasoning. When he finished, the judge nodded in approval and said, "That's right, that's right."

On hearing this, the defendant jumped up and said, "Wait a second, judge, you haven't even heard my side of the case yet." So the judge told the defendant to state his case. And he, too, was very persuasive and eloquent. When he finished, the judge said, "That's right, that's right."

When the clerk of court heard this, he jumped up and said, "Judge, they both can't be right." The judge looked at the clerk of court and said, "That's right, that's right."

Roger von Oech, Ph.D., A Whack on the Side of the Head, Warner Books, 1983, p. 23.

Truth is Truth! "That's right, that's right."

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Ill.

In a recent poll, light is shed on the paradox of religiosity vs. decreased morality, or God’s truth vs. our actions and how we live.

According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81% of the American people say they agree that "an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue." (That truth is determined apart from God’s word and teaching in our case.)

This interesting thought is key to the paradox that that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms -- terms that make no demands … on behavior … or Christian values.

Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 98.

The apostle Paul tells Timothy and us:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Truth - when it is God’s word - is Truth!

At times life and society tell us what truth is to be believed – whether marriage is between a man and a woman or whether we can celebrate this gift from God in any way we choose. Whether even,

27… God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply Gen. 1:27-28a

Today even gender is no longer a physical determination of male and female but a psychological determination as many see fit - and society in its many forms - in many ways has bought into that truth. How someone sees themselves, or feels about themselves, becomes the determining truth or reality.

Ill.

An interesting video that I saw on line has a white man of about 30 years of age and around 5’-8” in height on a college campus asking students what they would say if he told them that he is 6’-4” tall.

Most smile a bit and say: “Well who am I to disagree with your truth. If you see yourself as 6’-4” than I guess you are 6’-4”."

When he pushed it further and asked how they might react to him being 6’-4” and Chinese they smiled and said: “If that is your reality then who am I to argue against you?”

Finally, when he claimed to be a 6”-4” Chine woman, one student said: “Oh come on!”

You see, if you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then truth is determined by the reality of the individual. If we believe that the child in the womb is just a bunch of cells then removing it is no different than removing a tumor that is benign or cancerous.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then there are many paths to the Father as some claim, and Jesus is not the savior and only way that he claimed to be.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then you might be a pretty good person from your perspective and not dead in trespass and sin as Paul writes the truth of our condition in Ephesians 2.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then everlasting life is given to all apart from faith in Christ and the death of Jesus Christ was unnecessary and accomplished nothing.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then the rich man from our lesson a few weeks ago was not in torment in hell and he could have easily gone from death to life just by changing his reality.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead and you are dead in trespass and sin.

But truth is truth … when it is God’s word …

That is what Paul keeps telling young Pastor Timothy: Preach the Word.

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

As Christians we have the truth and we know this by God’s gift of faith alone.

Jesus prays for his disciples in his high priestly prayer of John 17 when he prays to the Father:

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, [dear friends we’re here for the duration] but that you keep them from the evil one [from sin, death and the power of the devil]. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them [or keep them holy and separate from the world] in the truth; your word is truth.

We are kept in the truth, as we gather together to hear the truth of God’s word, as we receive the gift of forgiveness of sins in our Lord’s word and sacraments and then we go forth joyfully with that same word of comfort and peace to seek those who remain dead in trespass and sin.

For St. Timothy and for you and me all the road remains the same as Paul reminds him:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 

4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths [or lies of the evil one as the time now shows]. 

5 As for you, as it was for Timothy, always be sober-minded, [clear headed and knowing that the truth is truth] endure suffering, [that is the reality for all who believe] do the work of an evangelist, [preach the word and comfort those in need the truth you have been comforted with] fulfill your ministry.

We have been blessed by faith with God truth may you all by that same faith be steadfast in receiving God word as truth for and always.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen