Monday, June 10, 2013

Sermon June 8-9, 2013 Pastor's retirement

Title: Jesus will take us home!
Text: Luke 7:13-16

13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church having a Chicken barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.

"Excuse me," Governor Herter said, "do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?" "Sorry," the woman told him. "I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person." "But I'm starved," the governor said.
"Sorry," the woman said again. "Only one to a customer."

Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. "Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am the governor of this state." Well. She looked at him, "Do you know who I am?" the woman said. "I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister."

Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, pp. 5-6

As we prepare for our chicken BBQ I pray that we deal a bit more kindly and compassionately with one another.

In our gospel lesson for today we see the compassion of our Lord. Compassion can be defined as, a sympathetic awareness of another’s distress, together with a desire to alleviate it.

The bible is full of these opposites or contrasts. Darkness to light, blindness to sight, lost to found but nothing is quite as captivating as death to life.

In our Old Testament lesson for today the story is told of Elijah, the widow and her son. You might remember the story of how Elijah told King Ahab, who being the seventh King of Israel and reigning for 22 years, married Jezebel, and under her influence, built a pagan temple, and allowed idols into Samaria. Elijah the prophet warned Ahab that the country would suffer from drought if the cult of Baal was not removed from the land of Israel.

“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

So as the story continues, Elijah stays with this widow and her son, asks her for water and a morsel of food and assures her that the ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’ This all leads up to the lesson today where the son becomes ill, was so ill that he was not breathing … we all might say … that he died! Obviously, this would be very distressing to any mother and Elijah goes up to the boy’s room, stretches out on this dead body three times and pleads crying out to the Lord:

“O LORD my God, let this child's life come into him again.” 22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. (1Kings 17:21b-22)

In contrast, the gospel lesson for today tells of a funeral procession and this takes place chronologically right after the healing of the centurion’s servant from last week’s lesson.

“Soon afterward” we are told, so that directly after the healing of the Centurion’s servant, Jesus and His disciples, along with a large crowd, travel to the town of Nain. Here they come upon this procession leading to burial. The Jews typically buried their dead quickly after death.


When I worked at ACORN building Components doing architectural drafting in Detroit in the mid 1970’s I worked with a man named Harold Adler. I saw Harold one Friday as I left work and said goodbye to him and his nephew Jess, as I went home for the weekend. When I returned to work on Monday I found out from Jess that Harold had passed away on Saturday and was already buried! Not unlike the account of our reading for today.

Biblical accounts of burial arrangements reveal that the Jews took great care in preparing the corpse. As with our Lord’s own burial, family and friends washed the body of the deceased, rubbed it with spices and fine oil, and wrapped it in cloths. The reading for today would have followed a similar procedure.

Jesus, seeing this, shows compassion at the death of this woman’s son and tells the widow:

“Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, (Now a bier is a coffin together with its stand) and the bearers stood still. And Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

Now, can you imagine! This is not a sleeping man but a man that has died and been prepared for burial and in fact is being carried to the tomb. You can imagine in your mind’s eye the look on the face of the mourners after carrying a dead man and seeing this man rise from the dead – burial cloths and all.

In both stories today the young men … are given back to their mothers. For all of us, Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters alike … we can take great comfort that in Christ:

Jesus will take us home!

So, if you’re a mother with a son or daughter or a father for that matter like me, do you hope and pray that your child life is blessed, and that they have a good life?

Well, sure you do; but, what about everlasting life? Some conclude that, “Well, they’ve been confirmed, I did my part, now it’s up to them.”

Many children young and old should be in Sunday school but for some reason they aren’t. Again it is not the well who need a doctor but the sick. I’m sure you – as would any loving parent - would take your child to the Doctor’s office, emergency room or wherever was necessary to make sure they received the care that they needed. So why would their Spiritual care be any different?


The story that was all over the internet recently, was of the child in China that was found in the drain pipe … what an unbelievable story. This newborn had been brought to life and then found stuck and crying in a most unthinkable place. The latest update on the story says it was an accident?

The young woman who gave birth didn’t immediately say to police that she was the baby’s mother. Who keeps this info from the police? What do you suppose the chances of survival would have been for that child if no one had heard the cries?

Compare that to the spiritual birth of a child in Baptism. What chance does a child of God have to remain in the faith, apart from hearing the word of God, being taught all that the Lord has done … and receiving God’s continued gifts of word and sacrament? What might happen to the faith of a child who is left in this metaphorical drain pipe of discarded spiritual life? Could you even hear the spiritual cries for help?

Death is the consequence of sin and from this our physical life death awaits. But as we have already been raised from death to newness of life in our baptisms we have gone from death … apart from Christ, to a life born anew or from above in him. To allow this new life in Christ to die is the working of the devil and the sinful nature we all fight. But, by the working of the Holy Spirit through the word, God will keep you covered with the righteousness won by Jesus Christ at the cross and we can all have comfort that, in Christ and by faith:

Jesus will take us home!

Home … for many of us gathered here today, our faith was built in the spiritual home of Peace Lutheran Church being fed on word and sacrament through the faithful service of Pastor William Merrell. When Pastor Merrell retired it was the same day as my ordination … so his retirement took a back seat. Then we had our 50th anniversary celebration and once again his retirement was moved back. Soon after it was Lent and Easter so again let’s look at April or May. No, Confirmation is in April. But, all the while Pastor says … Nancy and I don’t want anything special.

So, what do you do for a man who has meant so much to us all, serving his Lord and savior here at Peace for 32 years! Well, I for one would not be standing in front of you today… if it were not for him. I found a Godly servant … an under shepherd who proclaimed Christ and the Gospel of forgiveness; who always illumined the light of the Gospel on the cross of Christ and never on himself. Who humbly served the flock here at Peace, feeding, caring and visiting those whom the Lord had place under his care.

In October of 2009 Pastor Merrell called me into his office to see if I might prayerfully consider entering the ministry and ultimately serving here at Peace. In hindsight, I’m humbled and honored to follow in (his) your footsteps which are quite frankly, all over this place because the footsteps that I follow … are Christ’s … just as they always were for you.

… and they glorified God, saying,  “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”

God has visited His people here at Peace because of faithful under shepherds who proclaim forgiveness of sins on account of Christ and the blessed exchange that removes sin and the guilt that leads to death replacing it with the pure white robes of Christ Jesus … that neither you nor I deserve.

But because Jesus is worthy … heaven is our home!

Death no longer has claim to you. Christ has named you in your baptism and washed you clean in the blood of the Lamb. During Confirmation it was a joy to have Pastor Merrell participate in the rite, giving a blessing to these newly confirmed members of Peace … being the instrument that God used to first (as Pastor later remembered that six of the eight confirmands, he first baptized) marking these babies as one redeemed by Christ the crucified and then to hear them confirm all that God has done in their lives- by faith. What a great blessing!

Jesus has confirmed our home and He has our room waiting!

Shortly our Chicken BBQ will feed our physical needs and we thank all who make this possible but today we thank Jesus for the faithful servant, and service of Pastor Merrell, who has fed and continues to feed the sheep wherever God calls him to serve whether in visitation or as a Chaplain for the Waterford Police. May God continue to bless you Pastor Bill and Nancy in all you do, wherever Christ leads. May you continue to be blessed as you have been a blessing to us all through Christ Jesus our living God who comforts the broken with the blessed Gospel of peace.

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


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