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