Monday, May 20, 2019

The Congregation at Prayer

For the Week of Easter 5 (May 20-25, 2019)

Invocation: In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Speak the Apostles’ Creed. 

Verse: John 16:24b - “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

Hymn of the Week:  Lutheran Service Book #556 “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice”
Hymns for Sunday: 556 (1-5), 556 (6-10), 618, 779, 490, 487

Readings for the Week: [The readings for Thursday-Saturday are the Scriptures for this coming Sunday.]

Monday: Psalm 67
How does God bless you? Why? How does God’s blessing result in praise? What does it mean to praise of God?

Tuesday: James 1:22-27
Why do hearers of the Word become doers of the Word? What is at work in us through the Word of God?

Wednesday: John 5:1-9
How was Jesus the pool that healed the man? How is Jesus this pool for us? Where?

Thursday: Acts 16:9-15
How was the Spirit working in the early church? How is the Spirit working in this way still today?

What splendor awaits God’s people, Christ’s Bride? Why? 

Saturday: John 16:23-33
Jesus comes and speaks that we may have peace. What kind of peace? How do we get it? How is prayer a part of that?

The Catechism - The Ten Commandments: The Third Commandment – Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

The Prayers:  Please pray for . . .
+ yourself and for all in need (remembering especially those on our prayer list).
+ a good and safe Memorial Day weekend for all.
+ God’s blessing, wisdom, and guidance for our congregation’s Commission on Mercy.
+ the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, for God’s blessing, guidance, and provision.
+ God’s blessing, guidance, and provision for Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN.
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s Morning or Evening Prayer from the Catechism.

Now joyfully go about your day (or to bed) in good cheer, child of God!

Easter 5 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“Sorrow Turned to Joy”
Text: John 16:12-22; Revelation 21:1-7; Acts 11:1-18

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

Jesus doesn’t try to insulate His disciples from sorrow. He is no helicopter God, trying to spare them any hardship or pain. He doesn’t promise them that every day will be sunshine and laughter. You will weep and lament, He says. You will have sorrow. But . . . your sorrow will turn into joy.

Jesus doesn’t try to insulate His disciples from sorrow. He takes it head on, and shepherds it. Good Shepherds it. He takes it into Himself. To transform it. For that is how their sorrow will turn into joy. In Him.

Yes, they will have sorrow. In just a little while. For Jesus is about to be taken from them. They will sorrow when they see their friend and fellow disciple come and betray Jesus. They will sorrow when they see Jesus bound and arrested. They will sorrow when they fail Him and deny Him. They will sorrow when they see Him condemned. They will sorrow when they see Him carrying His cross through the streets of Jerusalem and out to Golgotha. They will sorrow when they see the nails going through His flesh and the agony of their friend and master and Lord, as He is hoisted up onto the cross. They will sorrow when that mouth that spoke so graciously, so wisely, so truthfully, so compassionately, is silenced. They will sorrow when He bows His head and dies. They will sorrow at His tomb, when it is sealed shut. They will sorrow as they mourn for Him the next day - when they wake up that Sabbath Day and it wasn’t just a dream; the nightmare they hoped it was. All that sorrow in just 24-36 hours . . . though it probably seemed a lot longer than that. For that’s how it often is with “a little while” . . . when you are sorrowing. A little while can seem to take forever.

But then their sorrow was turned to joy, just as Jesus said. The joy of the empty tomb. The joy of hearing their master’s gracious and forgiving voice again. The joy of His peace being given to them. The joy of Thomas putting his finger into an alive Jesus’ hands and side. The joy of the great catch of fish again. The joy of Jesus’ ascension. The joy that chased away the sorrow, just as Jesus said. And then this too: this joy, Jesus said, no one will take from you.

But really? Can that really be true? Because it sure doesn’t seem like it. Living in this world so full of sorrow and challenges and struggles - things that rob us of our joy. Is there really a joy that no one can take from us? Think of the ongoing battles with abortion. Some states passing laws to stop it, some to permit it as never before. The lawsuits, the boycotts, the anger and name calling. Joy? 

There’s the continuing battle over religious freedom. Will we be able to continue to preach and practice what we believe? Or will there be threats and punishment and violence because of it? The marriage debate, the sexuality debate, the gender debate . . . Joy? 

Or what about the division in our country, or maybe even in your home? And then there are financial troubles, ever-increasing demands at work, too much to do, too little time . . . Joy? Yeah, four weeks ago, Easter was great. But Jesus, really? Joy that no one will take away?

That was the disciples’ question, too. They couldn’t imagine, couldn’t fathom, such joy. And yet there it is. Jesus said it. So either He’s wrong . . . or we are the ones who lose it, or give our joy away. For if no one takes it from us, that’s the only other option, isn’t it? So how do we do that? Lose our joy or give it away?

Well to answer that, we have to know the source of the disciples’ joy - what it was that turned their sorrow into joy. It was Jesus’ resurrection, that He was with them again, and that rising from the dead, He cannot die again; He cannot be taken away again. And that gave them joy

It is His fulfilling all His words and promises, everything that He said He would do for us and for our salvation, He did. It is finished. Signed, sealed, and delivered. And that gave them joy

It is the forgiveness of all our sins. He atoned for, paid for, every single one. They’re all on Him and so they’re not on you. All their stupid words, failures, doubting, denial, gone! And that gave them joy

It is His victory over satan, who could not stop Jesus. The promised heel came down on his head and issued a fatal blow. And that gave them joy

Everything that seemed so real and so final to the disciples and that plunged them into sorrow - Jesus’ death, the sealed tomb, their horrible sins, the triumph of evil - all was reversed in a moment, that moment when the Good Shepherd came out the other side of the valley of the shadow of death, alive! No one had ever done that before; been able to do that before. But He did! And so now everything is changed. Everything is transformed. Everything is new.

And the disciples rejoiced. They rejoiced when they saw Jesus alive. They rejoiced when He forgave their sins; welcomed them back as if nothing had ever happened. They rejoiced when they watched Jesus ascend into heaven. They rejoiced when they were beaten for preaching Jesus. They rejoiced and sang hymns while locked up in prison. Certainly they didn’t have problem-free lives of all sunshine and laughter! But it does seem that what Jesus said was true . . . that no one will take your joy from you.

So what of us? Was this promise, this reality, only for the eleven and not for us? No. The problem is, then, when we forget or lose sight of the source of our joy. When we forget or lose sight of the one who turns our sorrow into joy. 

When we forget the one who defeated death, then death looks so fearsome, so final, so victorious. When we forget the one who atoned for our sin, then our sin seems so crushing, so condemning. And the sins of others? Well, we have to do something about them! When we forget that satan is slithering around with a deadly heel dent in his head, then we think him more powerful than he is. When we forget our Lord’s Word and promises and that He has fulfilled every one, then we doubt and struggle. When we forget His strength, then we see our weakness. And when that happens . . . joy? Yeah, it seems really far away.

But just as Jesus changed the disciples’ sorrow into joy in just a moment, so He can, and does, for you and me. It’s why you come here every Sunday - to renew, to refresh your joy! To hear again, to remember, to lift up your heart to the source of your joy. 

You come to hear again the victory and forgiveness of Jesus, as He says to you I forgive you all your sins. And they are. All the stupid words, the failures, the doubting and denying of this past week and before that - gone! So they cannot rob you of your joy. 

You come to see that font and remember that you are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and know that you are a dearly loved child of God. Not because of anything you did, but because of everything He did. Not because you have to earn it or deserve it, but because of His unconditional, unfailing, love. And what a relief, what a joy, that is to know! 

You come to lift up your hearts and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus that once hung on the cross and laid in the tomb but is now risen and living for you. To receive the life you need and the strength you need and the joy you need.

You come to remember His promises fulfilled for you, that no one can take away from you. For the joyful confidence you need. 

And so the problems and struggles you face this week . . . you can have joy even in them, like the disciples. For you’re not alone and you’re not on your own. And you already know who won! And that when you stumble and fall - and you will! - it won’t change your Saviour’s love for you. 

And while your “little while,” your waiting for joy and hope and renewal may seem to last an eternity, remember it did for the disciples, too. Those three days of waiting seemed so long, while the forty days after that seemed to go by so quickly. So perhaps it is for you, in this world and life. But the Lord is not only the Lord of sorrow and joy, He is also the Lord of time. For Him, Peter tells us, a thousand years is like a day, and a day like a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). But no matter how long it takes, your Good Shepherd isn’t going anywhere. He is here for you. His victory is here for you. And His joy is here for you.

The disciples learned that. They didn’t know it when Jesus spoke these words to them, these words that we heard in the Holy Gospel today. They weren’t yet ready to bear it, Jesus said. That doesn’t mean they weren’t ready to hear what He had to say, but that they were not yet ready to bear it, to carry it out into the world with them as apostles, sent ones. Not yet. Not until after Jesus’ resurrection. Not until after His ascension. Not until after Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit to guide them and strengthen them and joy them. Then they will bear this good news of great joy out into all the world. Good news of great joy - remember those words? Those are the words of joy the angels sang at Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:10), and now the words of joy the apostles would proclaim once Jesus accomplished His saving work. The marvelous thing that He has done. 

And then the apostles did go out, and what did they do? Preach? Yes. Baptize? Yes. But through those means, this: they gave the joy of the Lord. They turned sorrow into joy. They gave comfort in sadness, hope in the midst of sin, healing for the sick, freedom for the captive, and all in Jesus’ name. All pointing to Jesus and His victory over all that plagues us. Joy for the Jew and, as Peter learned, for the Gentile. Joy for the young and the old. Joy for the rich and the poor. Joy for the sinner and the really bad sinner. Joy for those surrounded by friends and for the outcast and lonely. Joy for you and me.

And then on the Last Day, our joy will reach its fullness as John described in Revelation - when the heavenly marriage feast takes place. When At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing (LSB #633). The song we have begun to sing now, the song we will sing forever. When finally death will be no more, there will be no more mourning or crying or pain anymore, and those tears that stain your cheeks? Wiped away by the hand of God Himself. Write this down, He says, for these words are trustworthy and true. And he said to me, “It is done!” 

So, is it really true, that we have a joy that no one will take away? It is! It is done. As true as the empty tomb. Because that, and all that it means, is the source of our joy. True joy. Godly joy. Lasting joy. 

Or as we’ll sing at the end of the service today:
Let us sing praise to Him with endless joy;
Death’s fearful sting He has come to destroy.
Our sin forgiving, alleluia!
Jesus is living, alleluia! (LSB #466, refrain)

Yes, for Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!]
And His victory, and joy, is ours.

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Easter 4 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“A Washed Flock”
Text: Revelation 7:9-17; Acts 20:17-35; John 10:22-30

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

What does it mean to have a Good Shepherd?

Seems like a simple question. But what would you say? How would you answer that question? 

For most, I think, the answer would be that Jesus is watching over you. That He is feeding you, protecting you, guiding you. That He is making sure you have all that you need. And that answer would not be wrong. A shepherd who does those things is certainly a good shepherd.

But it is more than that. For you have not only a good shepherd, but the Good Shepherd. The one and only. And so there is something that sets Him apart from all others. And so He is not just not a bad shepherd, or even better than most. But when you have the Good Shepherd - or maybe better to say, when He has you, in his flock, it means this: that you will be one of the ones coming out of the great tribulation

That’s what we heard in the reading from Revelation today, of the great multitude around the throne of God in heaven. These are the ones, we are told, coming - a continuous process, like a parade; it’s already started but not yet finished - coming out of the great tribulation. Coming out of great trial and trouble.

So that’s good news, right? That a great multitude has come out of that, and still is. That the tribulation did not win. That it did not engulf and consume the Shepherd’s sheep. It tried. Or maybe better to say, the evil one behind it all, tried, but did not win. The Shepherd won. That’s what we’re celebrating this whole Easter season. Our Good Shepherd’s great victory over the evil one, over our sin and death, over hell and the grave. For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Right?

But it’s important today, I think, to go a little deeper, and think about this a little more. To think: what is it for you? What is the tribulation, the trial and trouble, you need your Good Shepherd to get you through? What is the answer you are thinking in your mind right now?

If you think the answer to that question (or one of the answers) is disease, then what happens when the disease wins? When cancer or Alzheimer’s or stroke or whatever, takes my love one away? Was your Shepherd, then, not a very good one?

Or maybe you were thinking of financial troubles, or relationship and family troubles, or unemployment, or some other kinds of hardship. Do those things coming, and maybe remaining in your life, mean that your Good Shepherd isn’t watching out for you?

These things, and many more, are certainly tribulations. But what makes them so is not the fact that they happen, but what happens when they happen. That the evil one uses them to try to rob you of your faith. To stop unbelievers from believing, and to make believers believe no more. To make you think that your Good Shepherd really doesn’t care about you; that He, in fact, hates you; that He isn’t helping you, and won’t help you. His love is a myth, a fiction. Because, see? Doesn’t a Good Shepherd means a good life, so if your life is not good (in your estimation at least), then . . . And if people who don’t believe have good lives (in your estimation, at least), then . . . 

Now let’s go a little deeper. If tribulation are those things in your life trying to rob you of your faith, then that list should include not just troubles or hardships - but things we might consider good, too. Pleasant and pleasurable. Sexual temptations. A good job, but one that keeps you away from church. Teachings and so-called truths in the world that cause you to doubt or disbelieve the teachings and truths of God’s Word. Things that the world says are good, and that maybe even seem good to us, but God and His Word say no, not good. And your faith weakens and wavers . . .

It’s hard being a Christian. It’s hard being a sheep or a lamb in the Good Shepherd’s flock. As St. Paul told the Ephesians pastors, in the first reading we heard today, from the book of Acts: I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And there’s no shortage of wolves, then or now.

But that’s what makes the words we heard today so important, and so precious. These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They survived! But how they did is just as important as that they did. And here’s how: They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. So the key to surviving and coming out of the great tribulation is not being spared either hardship or pleasure - that would be a rather dull and uneventful life! But in the forgiveness of our sins. That when these come, when trials and troubles come and we doubt our Shepherd’s love, we have forgiveness for that. And when the pleasures and seductions of life come and we fall for them, we have the blood of the Lamb for that, too. For the ones coming out are not the strongest, the bravest, the most steadfast, or the most faithful, but the washed. The ones who got dirty, who got bloody, who got beat up, who got trampled, but were washed by the blood of the Lamb.

Which means blood that didn’t stay in the Lamb, but poured forth from Him. Just as water in the pipes won’t clean your dishes, so the blood that stays in the Lamb won’t cleanse you! But His blood shed for you, His blood that poured out of the wounds on His head, His shoulders, His back, His hands and feet, His side, that’s blood that doesn’t stain, but washes away the stains of sin - that washes away the unbelief of doubt, the unbelief of chasing after pleasure, and every other kind of sin. These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation because they have washed, they are washed, in this blood.

Which is the amazing thing about this Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday - that the Good Shepherd isn’t the Good Shepherd just because He’s almighty and brave, but because He becomes the Lamb of God who put Himself into the wolve’s jaws to be devoured in your place. But this too: the Lamb who is thus devoured then rises from the dead to be your forever Shepherd. That’s what we heard from Revelation. Last week talked about the Lamb who looked as if it had been slain, for it had. But it was no longer. And today we heard that this Lamb is on the throne of God, because this Lamb is God. The Son of God. The Shepherd who became a Lamb, and the Lamb who became the Shepherd. The Good one. 

My sheep hear my voice, He said; this Shepherd-Lamb, Lamb-Shepherd said. And I know them, and they follow me

And you have heard His voice. That’s why you’re here. And to hear it again. To be washed again. From the doubt you had this week. From the temptations you have fallen for this week. To wash your robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb, here for you. From the very first words you heard today, the Invocation, which don’t just tell us who we are gathered here before, but which remind you I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I am washed in the blood of the Lamb . . . From these very first words, to the words you hear shortly after that: I forgive you all your sins, to the word of the sermon which proclaim this Lamb to you, to the Body and Blood of the Lamb put into your mouth. From first to last, beginning to end, you are being washed, forgiven, joining the parade of the ones coming out of the great tribulation.

That is what it means to have a Good Shepherd. Not just one who is good, not bad, or one who is better than most. The Good Shepherd is the Gospel Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is the dying Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is the one who, risen from the dead, is a Good Shepherd forever. So that when He says no one will snatch them out of my hand, He means it. No one. Ever. In life or in death. You have a Good Shepherd who is greater than all. Greater than all the evil hell can throw at you. Greater than all the seductions the world can heap up before your eyes. Greater than your doubts and fears, greater than your sin and despair. 

He won’t make you stay here in His flock, in His fold, though. You can get up, walk out that door, and never come back. But stay, come back, repent, and all His promises are here for you. His washing is here for you. His Body and Blood are here for you. His love is here for you. 

And then when you get up and walk out those doors, it is not to leave Him, but Him going with you, out into the world with that same love and forgiveness for others. For the dirty, the bloody, the needy, the downtrodden. For those in the seats next to you, in your home, and next door. That they may hear the truth of this Shepherd, the voice of their Shepherd, from your mouth, and have hope. For life now, and life forever. For you are, even now, even in this life, coming out of the great tribulation, following your Good Shepherd, being carried by Him, from life, through death, to life again.

Seems to me, that’s a Shepherd worth having. A good one.

For Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Easter 3 Sermon

We were privileged to have Rev. John Dreyer (Senior Admission Counselor, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN) with us today. HERE is the link to his sermon preached for us this week. Enjoy!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Easter 2 Sermon

We were privileged to have Rev. Charles St-Onge (Pastor and Missionary in Montreal and Missionary overseer in the Caribbean) with us today. HERE is the link to his sermon preached for us this week. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Phyllis Martin Funeral Sermon

No Audio
Jesu Juva

Text: Luke 24:13-35; Job 19:23-27; Acts 13:26-33

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Philip, Harmon, Maureen, Mary, and family,

My mother had a picture of Jesus laughing in her living room. I don’t know where that picture is now - I hope I still have it. But laughter is the first thing I think of when I think of Phyllis. Whenever I went to visit her, she was always smiling and we always made each other laugh. I would tease her to get her to laugh - especially about the chocolate she always seemed to have hidden around her apartment, even though she was diabetic. And she never let me leave empty handed. She always made sure I had some goodies to take home and share with the family.

But life wasn’t all smiles for Phyllis. She had her share of disappointments, too. She hadn’t planned on her dear Harmon getting Parkinsons, and having to take of him all those years. She hadn’t planned on back surgery and bad knees. She had so hoped to see her great-grandchildren baptized, but, she said, she didn’t want to nag. And she didn’t plan on this last year and a half and all the difficulties that came after her stroke. Telegraph Road and the house “out in the country,” the car trip around the country after Harmon’s retirement, those were the good times. More recently, though, it was rough - for her, and for all of you. 

Not unlike those two disciples we heard about in the Holy Gospel from St. Luke, walking back home to a village named Emmaus. They were disappointed. Things hadn’t gone as they had hoped or planned. They remembered the good times - Jesus teaching the crowds, the healings and other miracles. They had hoped He was the one, the promised Messiah. But then there was the arrest, the rigged trial, the crucifixion, and the cruel, agonizing death of their friend. It was rough. And all they had now were the memories and the dashed hopes. Or so they thought.

But this stranger who came up to them and walked with them, he had a different perspective . . . He wasn’t sad or disappointed, but confident. All that had happened, he said, it had been written, it had been prophesied, hundreds, thousands of years before. It was how things had to be, and God worked good through it. And they began to have hope again. What they saw had been so bad. But, they had to admit, the words of the stranger, the Word of God, gave them hope.

And then, just for a moment, they saw - Jesus revealed Himself to them as the stranger that had been walking with them! He was alive, risen from the dead. He had fulfilled all the Word of God. And their sadness and disappointment was now gladness and joy!

And so it is for us here today. We are disappointed and sad, but the Word of God gives us hope. The Word of God which tells us that Jesus died in order to destroy death, so they we who die might have the hope of life again. The hope expressed by Job when he said:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, 
and at the last He will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed, 
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, 
and not another.

After my skin has been destroyed, he says, my flesh, my eyes, I myself shall see God, as those disciples walking home to Emmaus did for a moment. But for Job it will be for more than a moment, because his flesh, his eyes, he himself will be raised from the dead, never to die again. Because our Redeemer lives!

We sang that loud and strong on Sunday. We’ll sing it again at the conclusion of the service today. It is what gives us hope in this world of sin, disease, and death. Because we know that though we die, we too are going to rise and see God - our flesh, our eyes, we ourselves - and not just for a moment, but for eternity. Because our Redeemer lives!

And Phyllis, she loved to sing. Whether it was in the choir, or as we sat at her dining room table, or in one of her other more recent rooms at Greenspring, having a service. The psalm we spoke today, Psalm 100, said: make a joyful noise unto the Lord - that was Phyllis. And Easter hymns, like the ones we are singing today, she especially liked to sing. 

In those services, she would often express to me her worry that she was doing the right things; she knew her sins were many and great. So how thankful she was to hear again and again that she was a baptized child of God with a heavenly Father who loved her more than she knew. How wonderful for her to hear the words of absolution, that all her sins, every one of them, are forgiven in Jesus. How grateful she was to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper, to eat and drink the forgiveness and life of her Redeemer.

And one day, to help her remember all this between my visits, I gave her an icon of Jesus as the Good Shepherd - it was still hanging in her rooms at Greenspring. And I put a little sticker on it with her name and an arrow. And I stuck it onto that icon so that the arrow pointed to the lamb on Jesus’ shoulders, and I said: Phyllis, that’s you. Yes, you’re a sinner, but Jesus died for you, Jesus has rescued you, and Jesus is carrying you. So you’re good - good now to live in His joy, and good to go whenever He will call you home, which He did last week. Sad for us, but oh, how good for her!

As a pastor, my visits with her were some of the ones I enjoyed the very most. So I’m going to miss Ladybug - as her nurses called her. As you know, it was a most appropriate name, given her love of ladybugs and the blankets with the pictures of them that adorned her bed. But appropriate also for another reason, I think. I looked up ladybugs yesterday and found out that there is a legend that ladybugs got their name because they were first called “our Lady’s birds” in the Middle Ages - a reference to the virgin Mary and the belief that these bugs were sent as an answer to prayer one year that saved their crops from a plague of pests.

Well, last week, Phyllis’ prayers were answered. Thy kingdom come . . . Thy will be done . . . Deliver us from evil. The Lord gave her a blessed end. Not blessed because it was easy or because it was the way she wanted - but blessed because the Blessed one was with her in it. The Lord who baptized her, fed her, forgave her, and blessed and watched over her every day of her life, was there for the end as well, and took her from this valley of sorrow to Himself in Heaven. Or, as we sung: 

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun. Alleluia! (LSB #464).

So now Harm-Phyl acres is no more. It was good while it lasted. It was a place of faith, a place of joy and smiles. And a place which knew trouble and struggle and hardship, too. But a new place is coming. A place where there is no hunger, no thirst, no sorrow, no sadness, no sin, no tears. Only joy and laughter. I will always remember the joy and laughter Phyllis brought me. But even more I rejoice today in the joy and laughter Jesus has given Phyllis - the life He created for her, redeemed her for, and now has called her to. A life that will never end.

That is the life He has for you, too. That He wants for all people. That what we sing today may not be just for today, but for every day - the faith and confidence we have that whenever, however, our end comes, I Know that My Redeemer Lives! (LSB #461) My Redeemer, my Jesus, alive, for me.

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Resurrection of Our Lord Sermon

Jesu Juva

“One Man”
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 24:1-12

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Death’s strong bands (LSB #458) look awful strong.
The cemetery looks very final.
And it doesn’t take much.
A tiny germ can cause it.
A misplaced step can send you tumbling to your death.
A drunk driver.
A tree limb with good aim blown down by a powerful storm.
Or maybe just old age. But that, too, is part of the curse. 
What qualifies as old age for us was just getting started for the people who lived before the flood.

And one man caused it all, Paul said today. One man. Named Adam.
Because of him there is sin.
Because of him there is death.
Because of him are all those things Isaiah mentioned today.
The sound of weeping and the cry of distress.
The infant who lives but a few days and the old man who does not fill out his days.
Or the old man, the old woman who lives, but their memories are taken from them.
Houses built and vineyards planted, but their builder and planted dead before they can enjoy them.
There is labor in vain and children for calamity.
Wolves that eat lambs and lions that devour oxen.
Death and destruction.
Because of one man. One man.

This is the life you live and the death you will die.
Life as we know it.
Mourning for loved ones lost.
Fear of our own end, and how it will come, and when.
Maybe slowly, maybe suddenly. No one knows. 
We only know that it will. Come.
Because of one man. One man. Named Adam.

But the good news that we are celebrating today is the second half of Paul’s sentence.
For as by a man - one man - came death, by a man has come also the resurrection from the dead.
Because of one man. One man. Named Jesus.

Because of Him, death’s strong looking bands are broken.
And cemeteries are mere resting places.

Because of him there is forgiveness.
Because of him there is life.
Because of Him all those things Isaiah mentioned are reversed.
Heaven and earth will be made new.
Mourning and sadness will be replaced by joy and gladness.
And death will be destroyed.
Because of one man. One man.

This is the life that is waiting for us.
Life that we know not yet, but we know the promises.
We don’t know when that life is coming either.
Maybe soon, maybe a long time from now.
We only know that it will. Come.
Because of one man. One man. Named Jesus.

That is what the women discovered when they went to the tomb on Easter morning.
The knew only Adam.
So they went looking for death, but they found life.
They went looking for the old, but they found the new.
They went sad and mourning, but they left . . . well, not joyous yet, but almost.
They were still frightened, marveling, and perplexed for now.
But the joy was coming.
The joy of life.
The joy of the one man who has come to put all enemies under His feet.
And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.

It is only a matter of time. Not if, but when.
For He is, the one man is, Paul said, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, not died. 
The firstfruits of those who will awaken, rise, from this sleep.
Meaning the first of many still to come.
Still to come, for while His tomb is now empty, ours are still full.
But it will not always be so.
For the day is coming when our death, too, will be destroyed.
And we will awaken from our sleep in the bed of our graves and rise from the dead as surely as He did.
Alive as surely as He is.
This one man. This conquerer. Named Jesus.

For yes, the hymn is true: Jesus Christ Is Risen Today (LSB #457).
And so we have hope for more than just this life.
For Christianity is not about improving the world and it’s not about living a blessed life, and Easter is not about starting over or trying again - if it is, then as Paul says, we are of all people most to be pitied.
That’s just putting lipstick on a pig.
Christianity is about more than that. Much more.
For it’s not about living a better life or even a blessed life, for however long your life lasts.
It’s about dying a blessed death.
It’s about living each day in the confidence of Easter.
That whenever, however death comes to us, because it will, it matters not.
Because it’s not the end and it can’t win.
In fact, it has already lost.
Because of the one man. The one man. Named Jesus.

The one man, Adam, didn’t do much for you. And what he did do . . . well, thanks but no thanks.
But what he did, we’re stuck with.

But the one man, Jesus, think of all that He has done for you.
He was born for you and lived a perfect life for you.
He was baptized for you, and has baptized you, to wash away your death-causing-sin and give you the promise of His resurrection.
He healed the sick and raised the dead - pictures of what He will one day do for you as well.
He became sin for you, so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
He offered His life for yours on the cross, with your sin and condemnation, and He now offers the same Body and Blood to you on the altar, for your forgiveness and salvation.
He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to reign as king.
And He isn’t going to stop until He destroys every rule and every authority and power; until He has put all enemies under His feet.

Relentless. Dedicated. Committed. 
Those are the words we would use for that today.
We simply call Him: Saviour.
That one man. Named Jesus.

That’s the vision Isaiah saw, that caused him to write what he did, what we heard today. That gave him such excitement and joy.
Because in his day, like in our day, we see so much trouble, so much destruction, so much death.
And it can rob us of the excitement and joy of life.
But Isaiah saw the reality that is coming.
The new heavens and the new earth.
The life and joy that awaits us.
Because of one man. One man. Named Jesus.

So Tuesday, we’re going to bury one of our own.
Phyllis Martin. Founding member of Saint Athansius.
And we’ll be sad, because what the one man did, that one man named Adam, showed up again last week.
His death and destruction showed up again.
But we’re also going to rejoice and sing Easter hymns, because we know she has fallen asleep in Jesus.
And the promises Jesus made to her will be fulfilled.
The Body and Blood Jesus gave to her was His pledge that her body and blood will rise from the grave.
And the sign of the cross placed upon her in baptism and repeated so many times over the years marked her as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.
And so we’ll rejoice in those words and promises of the one man, of Christ Jesus.
For hope in Christ will never be disappointed.

The women who went to the tomb that first Easter morning forgot those words and promises and so were disappointed and frightened and perplexed.
So the angels told them, reminded them, proclaimed to them, Jesus words and promises.
Remember, they said.
He said it, and He did it.
And what He has said to you, He will also do.
He called you His child, as you are.
He has absolved you, and you are forgiven.
And one day, that one man, that one man named Jesus, is going to say rise!
And you will.
Death will be destroyed and there will be only life for you.
Life with Him, and the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
Because of one man. One man!
Who annihilated death.
Who cast down the evil ones.
Who overcame sin.
And will empty the tombs of their dead.
One man. Risen from the dead. 
Yes, Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.