Monday, November 30, 2015

Sermon Nov. 28-29, 2015 - First Sunday in Advent

Title: Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!
Text: Luke 19:28-40

“37b… the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

The Advent season is here! It is a time of beginnings or beginning again. We all need those times to begin again and Advent gives us that time. It is the new church year where we once again anticipate the coming Christ and the salvation that he would bring. It is a time to look at the beginning of his coming and the hope that his incarnation, or his becoming man brings. As we ponder these beginnings I want to share a few beginnings with you.

The first electric light was so dim that a candle was needed to see its socket. One of the first steamboats took 32 hours to chug its way from New York City to Albany, a distance of 150 miles. Wilbur and Orville Wright's first airplane flight lasted only 12 seconds. And the first automobiles traveled 2 to 4 miles per hour and broke down often. Carriages would pass them with their passengers shouting, "Get a horse!"

Source Unknown.

It is not surprising that our salvation and the coming of the Christ child began in a way that was most unexpected.

Luke tells us in Chapter 1 of his gospel:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.

We hear of an unpretentious young woman, a virgin named Mary, who has a visit from an angel. What started in this small town of Nazareth would lead to a manger in Bethlehem where a baby is born who will be called holy—the Son of God.

The traditional text of the Annunciation of Mary by the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1 speaks of the conception of our Lord which is usually celebrated in the church year on March 25 nine months before the birth of Christ on Christmas day.

This announcement from the angel calling Mary the favored one, and telling her that the Lord is with you!  You can understand that this visit was very troubling to Mary. Even to the point of the angel saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

Our gospel today speaks of the triumphal entry of Jesus, the man, riding into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey – because he has need of it. These too bookend accounts … the announcement to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son who would be called holy … and the son of God, this Jesus, who would ride into to Jerusalem to the cries of the people:

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

This Jesus … who we wait for at Advent as the coming King – this babe in a manger - comes to us as the King eternal in our daily lives, as we remember our baptisms and receive his true body and blood with the bread and wine – for the forgiveness of our sins.

This Jesus we also anticipate in his return - who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11b

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

But how blessed is this coming - this Jesus - for you? Is it an anticipation of what God blesses you and me with daily or is it just another season in the year? Do the troubles in our day lead us to this coming king or away from the king of glory into self pity and doubt?

For many are leads away. Only you know how your relationship with Christ is affected with the troubles of this life. It is though the devils delight to cause you to fall away from the faith. It is his delight to have you see Christmas in a secular way and not through the lens of Jesus as the coming savior. It is the sinful flesh that we all enjoy and give in to that makes a mockery of his death and life eternal won at the cross. It is the mask of our own brokenness that we at times hide behind, showing a peaceful exterior where a sinful burden hides.

Ill.

In Basel, Switzerland each year the good protestant townspeople have a festival in which they all don masks and go through the city doing things and going placed they would never consider doing/going under normal circumstances. The mask, which veiled their identity emboldened them to do these things. One year, the Salvation Army, concerned about the abandonment of moral standards, put up signs all over the city, which read, "God sees behind the mask."

Dr. Kenneth Gangel, Scofield Memorial Church, May 22, 1983.

Whether a wanton sinful behavior or a brokenness of heart. The coming Christ child brings peace. This peace passes all human understanding and is brought to you through God’s word of forgiveness on account of Jesus … this coming King and savior  … born in a manger.

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence as she carries the child to Bethlehem. Mary has become the place where the Lord dwells. In her womb the fullness of the Godhead is found in Christ’s bodily presence.

God has called you too, by the working of the Holy Spirit, to a special purpose by faith in his son, and through this he called you and has made you his child by this same faith. And by faith you are brought into fellowship with the creator of the universe and have peace with God.

Luther speaks of this when he says:

“The angel Gabriel terrified Mary with his salutation, but at the end, he comforted her most sweetly [Luke 1:26-37]. Therefore, a repentance which is preoccupied with thoughts of peace is hypocrisy. It must express a great earnestness and deep pain if the old man is to be put off. Similarly, when lightning strikes a tree or a man it does two things at the same time; it rends the tree and swiftly slays the man, but it also turns the face of the dead man and the broken tree towards heaven. So the grace of God terrifies, pursues, and drives a man and turns him towards God.”

Luther’s works Vol. 32. Pg 40 Fortress Press

For in the Christ child God saves his people from their sin. The power of the most high, the Father, through the Holy Spirit, conceives Jesus the son in Mary. The whole Godhead is involved though only Christ takes on human flesh.

By the working of the Holy Spirit through the word you too are made God’s children and brought to faith in Christ. Just as Mary heard the word of the angel and conceived you hear the word of God through his appointed means of word and sacrament and by the Holy Spirit believe.  When sins are confessed and you hear the blessed good news that you are forgiven by Christ’s called and ordained servants, that forgiveness is the same as if you heard it from Jesus himself and your forgiveness is the same on earth as it is in heaven.

Because Jesus’ name means savior you have salvation in him. And by him and his work receive the forgiveness he won for you.

What looks so ordinary … a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger … is very substantial. God himself has come down, humbled himself by becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation in him.

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

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

Amen


Monday, November 23, 2015

Sermon Nov. 21-22, 2015 - Thanksgiving

Title: By God’s mercy you are found blameless!
Text: Jude 20-25

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time. Families get together to celebrate, have a meal and for some watch football. My family will be celebrating our Thanksgiving this afternoon as my wife Monica is scheduled for surgery on Monday and will probably be in the hospital until after the holiday.

Her cancer has caused us as a family to reflect on what we are truly thankful for. Certainly the gift of life from our loving God is a gift that we enjoy daily and with illness the gift of life is compromised. We then also think of the gift of newness of life and the rebirth we have been given in Christ in our baptisms. Apart from this, I’m not sure how many of us could get through the illness part, but in Christ we have the hope of an eternity with him, a life eternal that never ends, and a bodily resurrection free from death and the wages of sin.

By God’s mercy you are found blameless!
Our epistle reading for today from the book of Jude begins:

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

There is a statement of purpose:

20 But you, beloved.

Those who have been called by the Holy Spirit to believe are given faith in Christ and are loved by God. That too is you and me. This love is not earned, but it is freely given in the one who is righteous and the one who is righteous is Jesus. He has taken our sins and the sins of the whole world upon himself and we receive what he has earned by faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph. 2:8b-9

There is also a call to action:

building yourselves up in your most holy faith – Or, “on your most holy faith,” not listening to the lie of those who would pervert the faith 3b I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (truth and doctrine Jude vs 3b) This is done by means of the holy Gospel.

praying in the Holy Spirit - the Holy Spirit is the means by which you can pray rightly. Apart from him coming first to you we cannot know God or his love for us. All we can know is his Law and wrath. But here the Holy Spirit causes and invites us to pray to the one who has made peace with God and intercedes for us and thus this faith in Christ Jesus builds us up, you and me … his saints.

keep yourselves in the love of God –This is God’s love not our love so we look always outside ourselves to what he has done for us in Jesus. God’s love is only for those who believe in him leaving those outside the church outside God’s love in Christ because they have and are placing their trust in the filthy rags of their own righteousness. It is with that in mind that we together call those outside to come. This is through the good news of the gospel and by the working of the Holy Spirit so that they too might be Christ’s own and receive all that he has earned for them.

waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. – This can also be translated as “expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.”  R.H. Lenski commentary Vol. 11 Jude Pg. 646

Here we see that all the things Jude called us to do is done in us and for us by the Holy Spirit.

God’s mercy leads to eternal life, and for that we wait, expecting God to keep us in his Love by the Holy Spirit who calls us to pray in this most holy faith and by that we are blessed and built up by the Spirit’s work in us.

By God’s mercy you are found blameless!

22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Ill.

A story posted on line about the tragedy in Paris told of a man, Ludo Boumbas who while at a restaurant café celebrating the birthday of a waitress friend dove in front of one of the gunman who was shooting into the crowd in the outside café’ taking a bullet that was intended for another girl. She was hit but is in the hospital and expected to survive. His friend, Huda Saadi who was celebrating her 35th birthday and her sister Halima both died along with Ludo and 16 others in this senseless act. Ludo sacrificed himself in the hope that another might live.

One man who could not make sense out of the carnage said, “I am making prayers for them even though I don’t know if religion is true.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3319334/Hero-La-Belle-Equipe-Frenchman-died-throwing-bullet-save-woman-s-life-massacre.html#i-c5b7979eb7b7b497

22 And have mercy on those who doubt;

Those who doubt are in danger of everlasting damnation. We must continue to be light in a dark world with the gospel of truth. Some are snatched from the fire itself by the work of the Holy Spirit even through you and me and God’s word we speak and share. Others we pity as they continue to cling to the garment of sin in their life while they reject the good news and fall further away. It is like calling some to come into your home or pavilion of rest in the midst of the storm but they continue on their way only to be consumed by the elements of this life … a life apart from Christ with no hope for tomorrow.

By God’s mercy you are found blameless!

But God in his mercy does not leave us hopeless.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Jesus has made the rough ways smooth and the crooked ways straight. He will keep you strong in the faith. He does it through his means. It may at times seem trite … word and sacrament. But God uses the weak to confound the strong, the ordinary to do extra ordinary things.

24 Now to him who is able, Christ is able … all things are possible with God.

to keep you from stumbling, those who desire to lead you a stray and to preach a gospel different than the one we preached – Paul says to the Galatians. He warns that there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Here the Holy Spirit through the word will keep you safe. If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

By God’s working in you by his Spirit you will be protected from the wiles of the devil. This good news will remain and go forth until Jesus returns.

This Thanksgiving, make God and his gifts to you the center of your thanks and joy as you gather with family and friends. Lift him and the one who supplies all your needs and by his working in you, you can know true thanksgiving, life and peace in his name.

By God’s mercy you are found blameless!

25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen


Monday, November 16, 2015

Sermon Nov. 14-15, 2015

Title: The one who endures in Christ is saved!
Text: Mark 13:1-13

This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

13 As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him:

“Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

The reality of this became a bit clearer to me a few years ago. As I do sometimes, and you may do as well, I looked at a place of my youth to see what it was like today. Growing up as a young boy in Pennsylvania I searched a bit about the church that I had been baptized in and that my family attended. It was Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. It was made up largely of Slovaks who had immigrated to the McKeesport area to work in the mills.

The church was founded in 1892 in a former Jewish Synagogue of all things and the building I was baptized in had been built in 1911. It was a beautiful and big church with two towers and steeples in the front and some of the most beautiful stained glass you could imagine. It was often packed with worshipers in their Sunday best when I was a child, and even when we visited on vacations after moving to Michigan in 1960.

I found a site on the internet that had some beautiful pictures of Christmas and other services that took place in the church and information about the merging of Holy Trinity with two other Catholic churches into one parish family in 1993. The most beautiful feature of the church was a painting in the dome area above the altar where two figures sat on thrones with ministering angels around them. The older had gray hair and a long beard represented the Father while the younger had brown hair and represented the Son! Between them were two letters from the Greek alphabet the alpha and the omega, though I didn’t understand what that meant at the time. The dove as the Holy Spirit was painted above them and rays of light shown down on the Cross of Jesus below showing the fullness of God’s involvement in bringing about our salvation.

Looking through these beautiful pictures brought back wonderful memories and I even thought about taking a trip back to visit and maybe even attend a service again there. When I got to page two of the picture page all that changed for me as this once beautiful church was turned to rubble … not one stone left upon another … just a pile of debris – even the two steeples of this beautiful church were thrown down.

As is the case with many churches in the intercity as the population moves away the churches that at one time had flourished are now closed and many unfortunately see that same fate as the property is cleared and repurposed.

The one who endures to the end in Christ will be saved!

3 And [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”

The disciples wanted to know when the end of the age would be. We might also want to know.  Jesus says that there will be signs and don’t be led astray. Some will claim to be him and the second coming and there will be wars and rumors of wars – we’ve seen them – both foreign and domestic. The attacks in Paris this weekend bring to light the brokenness of this world.

To quote the Buffalo Springfield song from a sermon a few weeks ago:

“There’s battle lines being drawn.”

Stephen stills – For What It’s Worth 1967

Nations and Kingdoms will rise against each other and this will only be the birth pains. We’re not there yet. So, keep watch and be on your guard. The disciples expected Jesus to make things alright in the world and we do too.

Ill.

Our Elders meetings have been difficult. We see the signs too. Average attendance in 2005 was 160 and in September of this year it was 76. The households that haven’t attended Peace in at least 5 years is large while many have been inactive over 10 years.  I would love nothing better than to see our church return to how it was when I first attended … where the church had overflow seating for Christmas and Easter. We also had an active pre-school and were looking to add an additional staff worker. Many of our once active members who had built this church have been called home, some have moved and others have fallen away.

These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

This is a harsh reality. It is a hard pill to swallow. It tears at the very fiber of every pastor, called worker and lay servant of Christ who desires to see the church grow under their watch.

Jesus says though:

9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

The one who endures in Christ is saved!

It is the witness … not the building; it is the witness … not the numbers; it is the Gospel … of Jesus Christ that changes the heart and brings to faith by the Holy Spirit.

10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

This has been going on since the church was founded on the day of Pentecost and will continue until the Lord returns. We must continue to proclaim the Good News and the truth of Christ Jesus in a world of sin and doubt to family, friends and strangers. It has been going on for over 2000 years and will continue so that the Gospel can go forth into the entire world.

And while buildings may fall and the stones may be torn down and not left standing; while some members may become apathetic and listen to the world, their own sinful flesh and a devil that calls them away from the truth, God will continue to call them back by his word through his Spirit to an eternity that he has won for you and me at his cross.

Luther sais in a sermon for the advent season:

The rejection of Christ does not happen only with [others] but also among us, for the high and mighty scorn us because of our gospel and sacraments. What folly [foolishness], they say, that I should let myself be baptised with water poured on my head, supposedly to be saved thereby; or that some poor parish preacher, barely able to put a coat on his back, should pronounce forgiveness and absolve me from my sins; or that by receiving bread and wine in the Sacrament I should be saved. On that basis they despise a Christ-preacher.

And he concludes:

But no one ought to despise Christ in that way, for he is our Saviour and seeks to give us everlasting life. It ought not faze us that he comes in poverty. He requires neither armour nor mounted cavalry for his message; but simply proclaimed: "Whoever believes in me shall have everlasting life."
Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, House Postils I.35-36. Sermon for Advent I, 1534

The one who endures in Christ is saved!

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

Holy Trinity McKeesport Pa. 1911-2011 The church of my youth. The church though is not the building but is made up of those brought to faith in Christ!

Holy Trinity

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sermon Nov 7-8, 2015

Title: Christ has made you rich in him!
Text: Mark 12:38-44

3 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not [Christ], and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."

Patrick Henry.

Those are the words of Founding Father Patrick Henry. Certainly his words resonate for we who as Christians desire to see our love ones receive that same gift that has been given to us – faith in Christ.

And it is through that gift of faith that:

Christ has made you rich in him!

Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!

No. This isn’t going to be a sermon on stewardship and giving. This will be though, about being given and receiving. You see our God is a jealous God. He wants it all!

4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:4

Even those whom you and I would cast off … he desires!

Jesus says:

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,”

Beware of them!

They are seen publicly; they have the best seats in the house; and are honored at the feasts and gatherings.

No, I’m not talking about the Kardashians, though the image might be appropriate. Being seen, having the best seats and being honored is a desire we can all fall victim to. At times we see it play out in our lives. At Weddings, those guests of importance are placed at a table near the bride and groom, while those who are acquaintances are seated back in the corner and away from the action.

You might see it in black tie affairs or charity balls where the people with means pay a heavy price to be seen at the table of the well known … being seen and even well known maybe in their own right. Some, like Jesus suggests in the Gospel reading, may have gotten there:

 40 [by devouring] widows' houses

Breaking the 7th commandment and stealing our neighbor's money or property, or getting them by false dealing … taking advantage of those less fortunate.

Jesus says, “They will receive the greater condemnation.”

But joyfully, it is Christ who has made you rich!

Ill,

There was a time that you purchased your seats at church. This may seem odd because we seem to have fewer and fewer sell outs here at Peace. But there was a time that churches paid the bills they had by selling the best seats in the house to those who were prominent and well to do and could pay for the best seats in church.

Today we might see it as those who sit courtside at a basketball game right next to the players and the other well-to-do’s being seen in the place of honor.

When Abraham Lincoln was first elected President it was customary to pay for the best seats in church and St. John Episcopal Church, near the White House, had been established as the “Church of the Presidents.”  It vied for his attendance along with New York Ave. Presbyterian Church. Both had pew fees for the best seats so St. John offered to give President Lincoln the Presidents pew for no charge - seeing that it would be beneficial to them to have the President in attendance at their church. Instead, Lincoln, being the enigma that he was, paid the fee at New York Ave. Presbyterian Church and attended there - not wishing to be seen in the place of honor in the President’s Pew he chose a more humble seating arrangement.

41 [So Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.

The one who is the true Temple sits down in the temple to watch. Remember Jesus saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  John 2:9, speaking of himself and his passion. Here Jesus sits … and watches … and he sees many rich people put in large sums.

That in of itself is not bad. The giving in support of the work of the church is good. God works through means as we Lutherans often say. We see it in God’s economy of word and sacrament working through pastors as jars of clay that dispense God’s gifts not from us … but through us.

It is God who works through means so your gifts and offering are not needed by God in of himself, as it is in fact all his anyway, but he gives to you and me so that we can be of service and serve the work of the church and our neighbor.

So the object lesson that Jesus here teaches brings to light a great truth.

42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.

Certainly she was not rich by human standards. But she exhibited a sacrificial giving not out of earthly wealth but out of spiritual wealth.

Those who gave much were giving out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.”

Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!

You see … he wants you. He wants you to know him. He wants you to trust him. Because he gave everything for you. His only begotten son Jesus Christ took of human flesh and humbled himself and became man so that he could be your substitute and stand in your place and give his life so that you might live.

Jesus gave up everything for you. The widow gave all she had as a testament to where her trust was placed. But how did Jesus know her faith against the others?

God’s all discerning eyes look at the heart and every life and every heart lie bare before him.

It is made all the more evident to me as I visit the shut-ins. Their desire is to give even when they can’t. Some can and do, and do so very generously, while others are barely able to make ends meet. I always remind them that it is the work of the church to bring Christ to them in their need as James chapter 1 reminds us:

27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

“Many who live in abundance decline to give or give too little for fear that they will not have enough for the future” RH Lenski Mark Pg. 559

We cannot copy this widow’s act of giving and match the gold she gave in the Lord’s eyes, but by faith and placing your trust in the same Lord, Jesus Christ, you will have riches in heaven. The same riches she had and same Lord she trusted.

Christ has made you rich in him!

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sermon Oct 31, Nov 1, 2015 All Saints Day


Title:  Blessed are you … in Christ!
Text: Matt. 5:1-12

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Archaeologists digging in the remains of a … school in Rome found a picture dating from the third century. It shows a boy standing, his hand raised, worshiping a figure on a cross, a figure that looks like a man with the head of an [donkey]. Scrawled in the writing of a young person are the words, "Alexamenos worships his God." Nearby in a second inscription: [It reads] "Alexamenos is faithful."
Apparently, a young man who was a Christian was being mocked by his schoolmates for his faithful witness. But he was not ashamed; he was faithful.

Lieghton Ford, Good News is for Sharing, 1977, David C. Cook Publishing Co., p. 78.

Blessed are you … in Christ!

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The followers of Jesus were drawn to him.

Today [this weekend] we celebrate All Saints Day. The Saints, those who have followed Christ - you and me - who have been made Saints … not as in some earthly human rite where we are declared a saint by the church because of the life we’ve led or the things we have done but a Saint as in a disciple … a follower of Jesus.

Alexamenos was reviled by his classmates in ancient Rome for being a Saint. You and I might have times in our lives where we have been persecuted for our faith and for you and me it most probably like Alexamenos, being teased or made fun at for being a Christian. Real persecution goes way beyond that and Christians around the world know that all too well. We though, also see growing persecution in our day whether it is job, community, or societal and political persecution and pressure. What had been only teasing in my life has now real consequences for all who name Christ as there Lord and savior.

Jesus addresses those Saints who were following him:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The psalmist begins in Psalm 1 with this proclamation:

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed for those connected to Christ means joy because the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. We see this joy in our reading from Revelation today.

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 tangible 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)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

And blessed are you … in Christ!

In this life we do have trials that can block our joy. In the midst of the trial it seems insurmountable that joy can result. But with God all things are possible.

[Michelle's story of the loss of her boyfriend in a motorcycle accident.]

He promises to hear our prayers and to be with us and never forsake us so that even we who mourn will be comforted.

Certainly in life we mourn for those who have gone from this life to their eternal home but we also mourn for ourselves as sinners in need of a savior. It is what we proclaimed as we celebrated the Reformation last weekend. Being a sinner caught between God and the Devil being both condemned by God and tormented by Satan. But through Christ’s substitutionary work we have peace with God and are comforted.

Ill.

Robert Louis Stevenson tells of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, [and] made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the [pilot], at his post holding the wheel unwaveringly, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more, to sea. The pilot saw the [man watching] and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: "I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well."

Robert Louis Stevenson.

It is the pilot of our life Jesus Christ who guides us through this life as the hymn Jesus Savior Pilot Me says:

1. Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal;
Chart and compass come from Thee:
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
Blessed are you … in Christ!

Blessed are the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness because you will inherit the earth and be satisfied.

In Psalm 37 King David writes:

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
    though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

As we together hunger and thirst for just a bit more sanctification … being conformed into the image of Christ … we can know that we indeed are being sanctified.

Ill.

There was a video posted online and the caption reads “Sanctification.” There was an old man standing at the foot of an escalator. And there is an age where old men should not wear shorts. In one hand was a satchel and his other grabbed the handrail. As he prepared to step on the escalator the step caught his feet. He started to fall slowly backward, holding the handrail as his feet went before him. Slowly he was upside down slowly spinning as he headed to the next floor turning on his side until he was on his rear end on a step reaching the next floor backwards … no thanks to himself.

You see, the work of Justification [making us right with God as Luther found] and the work of Sanctification [conforming us to Christ] is all of God’s work. We’ll get there – flipping and turning and even going backwards – but God will get us there.

Blessed are you … in Christ!

Those who are merciful receive God’s mercy and those with pure hearts will see God.
“Luther says well that in all the beatitudes faith is presupposed as the tree on which all the fruit of blessedness grows.” It is not mere natural mercy as it is occasionally found among men generally [but grows out of personally experiencing God’s mercy of forgiveness in our lives, being pure in heart, by the working of the Holy Spirit and seeing God.]

God’s mercy makes his you and me, his Saints, merciful too.

R.H. Lenski, Gospel of St. Matthew Pg. 191

Finally, through Christ, in the battle of persecution that rages, we become peacemakers showing forth the son ship given us called the sons of God, and children of our heavenly Father.

Though persecuted, poor in spirit, mourning, and meek; though hungry for righteousness God’s mercy shows fourth in us as we remain pure in heart, being his sons by his gift of faith … in Christ, working through the Holy Spirit in us, giving us the great reward his won by his Son Jesus on our behalf.

Heaven … our eternal home!

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

Amen