Monday, April 30, 2018

Sermon for 4/30/18: The Funeral of Melba Baker

This is the link to Melba's obituary.

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Wages and Gifts

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

Death is inevitable for all of us. That is the essence of what St. Paul is saying. Even when we know it is coming, it surprises us when it comes. As much as we may try to prepare ourselves for it, we are never really adequately prepared. That’s because death is unnatural to us. We weren’t created to die. When God created Adam and placed Him in the Garden of Eden, and then formed Eve from Adam’s rib, they were in a state of perfection. They should have lived forever. They knew God as fully as human beings can know Him. But they gave in to temptation, and they fell into sin, wanting to be like God. They wanted to be the Creator rather than the creature, but that could never be. And once they had fallen into sin, they could not go back.
And now, death is inevitable for all of us. Generations and centuries have changed none of this. When we enter into that realm of sin and its outcome of death, we are entering into something so profound that we human creatures just don’t have the mental resources to deal with it. And we never really will because, as the apostle says, “The wages of sin is death…” Wages are things we earn. None of us wants to think we have earned death. We would much rather think that we have done something useful with our lives that would earn an outcome other than death. But that is never the case.
To our great blessing, that is not all Paul has to say to us. For as true as it is that the “wages of sin is death,” so it is equally true that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The answer to death as “the wages of sin” is a gift that comes from God. That gift is life where there should be no life; life in the midst of death itself. For God’s answer to our death, a death for which we have no answer, no solution, is the death of another—the death of his own dear Son! This same apostle Paul writes elsewhere, “God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
God is about life; He always has been. And though sin will continue to result in death, He doesn’t want that to be the final word written about any of us. He wants to spare us from the wrath we deserve. That is why He poured it all out on his Son. That is why, again, St. Paul says of God, “He made [Christ], who knew no sin, to be sin for us…” Everything that sin is and everything that sin does was laid on Christ’s shoulders. And He bore them all to the death of the cross, enduring the judgment and punishment of God the Father, for the sins of the whole world; for yours, for mine, for Melba’s. And when, three days later, Christ rose from death, it was to assure us that all He had done was not only true, but sure and certain. Eternal life had been won, and now it was available to all as a gift.
And that is where our hope must rest. We have no answers for these things, but God does. This world, try as it might, will never find a way to overcome death, because death is the wages of sin. But God Himself has eternally overcome death. He has done so through His Son, Jesus Christ. And He offers that to us as a gift, not something we can earn, but something we can only receive, through faith in Jesus Christ. If we would find comfort, we will find it there: in the death and resurrection of Jesus. If we desire peace and rest for Heart, mind, and soul, we will receive it from those hands that still show the marks of the nails that will remind us of what that peace and rest cost Him, but which He will now freely and lovingly give us. For, as St. Paul finally says, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your Heats and kinds through Christ Jesus.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sermon for 4/29/18: The Fifth Sunday of Easter

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Freedom in the Truth

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

If you're honest with yourself, then you'll readily admit that the truth is something you're really not comfortable with. The truth will certainly set you free, but in reality we find it easier to tell our version of the truth: the truth from our perspective, the truth the way we think it ought to be. What we forget is that truth ultimately is not a series of facts or a virtuous concept. Truth ultimately is a Person: our Lord Jesus Christ. And since He is Truth, to bend the truth is to sin against our Lord Jesus. The truth—our Lord Jesus—really does make us free. But deep down we despise the truth. That's why it's so difficult for us to tell the truth and to face the truth. Deep down we hate the truth. That's why we work so hard to bend the truth—because, really, we're trying to pull one over on Jesus. And we actually believe we're getting away with something because we do not now see Truth in the flesh.
Yet Truth says, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. How does He do that—especially when we firmly believe that no one really has the full truth? The Spirit of Truth leads us into all truth first of all by helping us to see and understand the truth about ourselves. And the whole truth is that we are unworthy of the truth. And so the Spirit convicts us—the whole world—of sin. And this is our sin—not just that we do things wrong, but that we do not desire or hold firmly to Truth.
Yet our Lord, who is Truth, does not come to lead us to despair, but to lead us to all truth. So once He helps us see the truth about ourselves—once we admit that we are unworthy to stand in the light of the Truth, and to stand before Truth Himself—then the Spirit preaches into our hearts the truth of Our Lord's righteousness. And what is this Truth? The Lord God blesses us and deals graciously with us because He is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. He embraces us and wishes to draw us deeper and deeper into Himself, into the Truth He is, and more so into the fellowship, friendship, and communion that is the Holy Blessed Trinity.
The Spirit of Truth comes to persuade us to believe and take to heart that Satan, the prince of this world, the father of lies, the enemy of Truth and every true thing, is judged. His deadly reign is over. He can harm us no longer. He's finished. The victory has been won by our Lord Jesus Christ, and it has been delivered to us in the waters of Holy Baptism.
We have no need to fear the Truth. The truth is our ally, for He allows us to live with Him, and He dwells within us. We have no need to run from the Truth, for He invites us to walk in His footsteps. We have no need to twist the Truth, or tell the version you think makes us look good. Take hold of Him fully and love Him, even if it means you must suffer because of Him. For when you suffer for the Truth, you partake more fully of the Lord's sufferings and rejoice more joyfully in His victory.
Love the truth and abide in the truth, here at the altar and at home in your prayers. Let your love of the truth extend to your brothers and sisters in Christ and to everyone you meet. For the Spirit of truth leads you not only to know and confess and experience communion in God, but also to accept and live in communion with each other. Truth Himself has been given to you and implanted within you by the Spirit of Truth. So forget your perspective which only speaks what you want to hear. Forget your little white lies. Live in the freedom, for the Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ, has made you free. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sermon for 4/22/18: Jubilate--Fourth Sunday of Easter

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ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

We are in the midst of the Easter season. Jesus is risen. Our sins are forgiven. The good work of the Spirit has begun in us. But on this Sunday of jubilation, we acknowledge that all is not yet complete. The enemy is defeated, but he still howls at us. Our flesh has been subdued, but it still pulls at us. The world is drunk in its delusion. It thinks either that Jesus is dead or that He doesn’t care. The Lord foretold this. He said that you will weep and lament. No one gets out of this life unscathed. No Christian is spared the cross. And no one gets to Easter without going through Good Friday.
In that weeping and lamenting, even in temptation and sorrow, we are comforted by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died and was taken away from the sight of the disciples for a little while. Then He rose and they saw Him. Though they had failed Him, He was not angry. He had died for them. He returned as a Bridegroom to His chamber. He came in mercy and love for the Father’s redeemed children. He bestowed His peace upon them and sent them to share the good news of His resurrection with the give them joy.
To illustrate what we currently suffer, and what the disciples suffered that Holy Saturday, He compares us to women in the throes of labor. It will hurt. You will think that you can take no more. You might even curse your husband and wish to die. But the pangs of childbirth are the ushers of joy. You will discover on the other side that it was all worth it; that your husband was faithful; that the child is worth every ounce of pain, every sacrifice. Part of this is simply the promise that the suffering will finally end. But the passage of a child out of the womb also shows something of the Lord’s passing through the dank womb of the earth and into the light of day. Death is the passage to life.
But more than that, the mother does not even remember her pain, so great is the joy which follows. There is no room left in her for that memory because of the joy that a child has been born to her. In the same way, the Lord has caused a new man to be born out of death, out of sorrow. He has drowned the Old Adam in the waters of Holy Baptism. From those waters, a child of God has been born: redeemed, spotless, righteous before God.
Here is the point: You have sorrow now. That is real. Contrary to what some false preachers would have you believe, the life of a Christian is not a life of ease if you just believe enough. We pray for relief. But we understand that God works through sorrows, that He keeps you close to Himself, that He afflicts you and chastens you according to His mercy. Through sorrow, pain, and temptation He is working virtue in you. He is teaching you to trust in Him. He is keeping you close to Himself. This is why confirmation was such a big deal in the early church, and why we still practice it today. They understood that the catechumens were joining an army; that they were being set up against Satan and the world and their own flesh; that they were taking up their crosses.
That work, those crosses, will turn to joy. It will not be different joy. It is what you have already now, for Jesus is risen. You are not alone. Your sins are forgiven.  But you see Him now only dimly in the Sacrament. You receive His risen body in bread and know it by faith. But you will see Him again…and you will see Him fully. You will see Him in His risen, glorified body. You will see this with your own eyes—not hidden in bread and wine, but visible to all the world. Then your joy will be full. You will remember your anguish no more, and no one will take your joy from you. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sermon for 4/20/18: Funeral of Dale Lampe

Here's a link to Dale's obituary. I apologize for the lack of an audio recording. I forgot to record the sermon at the funeral home.

“If You Had Been Here...”

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Both Martha and Mary cried out to the Lord in this way. The implication is that Jesus didn’t care enough about Lazarus or the sisters to see to their needs. They’re His friends, but apparently other things were more important than His friends.

You may be feeling something similar this morning. Usually, when someone goes into the hospital, they expect to come out healthier than when they went in. Sadly, this was not the case for Dale. It would be easy—and certainly it would be convenient—to blame Jesus for the death of our beloved son, brother, friend. “Lord, where were you?” “Lord, it’s not supposed to work this way.” “Lord, don’t you care?” The hard part of the Christian faith is accepting that the Lord’s will is not our own. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.” And we think we mean it when we say it. But we don’t understand the Lord’s will. We think He should do what we want Him to do. So when hard times come, when grief assails us, it’s easy to blame Jesus.

But our Lord knows your grief. He cried over Lazarus. It gives him no joy that the wages of sin is death. But at the same time, the Psalmist writes, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” The Lord revealed to the Apostle John, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” And both these statements are true. Our Lord rejoices that He is able to welcome His children into their rest. Those children are blessed, for they now rest from their labors and rely fully on Jesus, whose death and resurrection paid the price for our sins. Dale won’t walk from his tomb to resume his earthly life with us. But on the Last Day, everyone will be raised from the dead. And those who live by faith in God, those who believe that Jesus died for their sin and rose from the dead, will rise to live in the eternal presence of their Savior.

We have no need to cry out, “Lord, if you had been here...” for He is here, even now. He is here, comforting you with His Word. He is here, rejoicing that Dale rests from his labors. And He is here to remind you that He is preparing a place for you, too. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

HYMN: O Great Physician, Dear Lord Jesus

I’d like to say that I’ve been working ahead of the need this time, getting a hymn out early for once. But if I’m being honest, I’ve been working on this text, based on the readings for the Twelfth Sunday After Trinity, since October, not long after Michael went back into the hospital. All I had was one snippet to start me off with—“Ears to hear and tongues to sing/The praises of my King”—and that didn’t even make it in its full form into this draft. And then, yesterday evening, I was sitting near the back of a church as a visitor at the Divine Service, thinking on an unrelated text, when an idea came to me for a direction to take this text. 

It still needs some work, I think, especially in the second verse, but it’s a start. Anyway, here it is. As always, feedback is love.

O Great Physician, Dear Lord Jesus

1. O Great Physician, dear Lord Jesus,
You heal the body and the soul. 
From all sin’s wages You release us
And by Your grace You make us whole.
I pray You, lay Your hand on me
And set Your servant free.

2. I stand before You, humbled, lowly,
With knotted tongue and deafened ears.
I call on You to cure me wholly.
You only are the God who hears.
You only have the gift divine
To make full healing mine.

3. Open my ears, that I may listen
And hear Your Gospel’s joyful sound.
My flesh with holy water christen
And let You Word of grace abound.
Your Word will teach me to repeat
A creed both pure and sweet.

4. Then loose my tongue to sing your praises,
Confessing You as Lord and God,
Guiding my voice to festive phrases
In anthems, psalms, and hymns unflawed.
Open my lips, that I may sing
Glad songs to You, my King.

98 98 86
Occasion: Trinity 12–Mark 7:31-37

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Sermon for 4/1/18: The Resurrection of Our Lord (Hands series)

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Hands That Prove

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The hands of the grieving ladies had been busy. They wrung their hands helplessly as their Lord, the Lord of life, suffered and died. And after watching their Lord be put through a farce of a trial, after watching Him be crucified, after watching Him die, after watching the soldiers pierce His side, after watching Him being removed from the cross, after watching Him be placed in the tomb and then sealed inside, the ladies prepared spices to anoint the body of their deceased, beloved Lord. Nothing would ever be the same for them, they thought. And they were right, though they could never have imagined the way the Lord would change everything. Their crucified, dead, and buried Lord had risen from the dead, and in doing so He destroyed the power of death forever. 
Mary Magdalene touched the Lord with her hands, but that wasn’t good enough. Our Lord appeared to the disciples, hidden for fear in the upper room, as we will hear next week. He showed them His hands, and they believed. That same evening He appeared to two unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus. He taught them what His life, His work, His death, and His resurrection meant, and then His hands proved to them who He was by breaking bread before them, just as He had done at the feeding of the 5,000, just as He had done when He instituted the Sacrament of the Altar. He then showed His hands and feet and side to Thomas, proving to him that Jesus is His risen Lord and God.
But He had spent His whole ministry proving Himself to be their God. When parents brought children to Jesus so the He might touch them, He was insistent: “The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And no one would know that better than the Son of God, for He brought the Kingdom with Him. When the blind, the lame, the deaf, and the leprous came to Jesus, He placed His hands on them and healed them. When He came upon the dead—the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Nain, and even His friend Lazarus—even before He rose from the dead Himself, He brought these dead back to life. He proved Himself to be the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Life. 
That’s all very well and good for the people who actually got to see Jesus with their eyes, who were touched by His hands, who walked with Him, who were healed by Him. But what about us, Lord? What about the people who walk as yet by faith and not by sight? Are we to wallow in despair because we cannot see His hands upon us? No. Our Lord does not leave us to walk in uncertainty. We may not see Him with our eyes, but He still touches us today. Just as He picked up the little children in His arms and blessed them, He does that today when the pastor takes a child in His arms and washes that child “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And more than just blessing these children in His arms, He has raised them from the dead, and even more profoundly than raising Lazarus, for these baptized children will not face the eternal death their sins deserved. His holy, wounded hands lay His own body and pour His own blood into your mouth by the hands of His chosen servants who stand in His stead. 
We have spent the past 40 days looking at our Lord’s hands and how they serve us. Today, those hands invite you to come to Him in this place for rest. His hands heal your soul by pouring his blood into you as the medicine of salvation. His hands provide for your needs of body and soul. His hands are folded in prayer over you, that you would be united to Him. His hands protect you from the strokes of Satan and your own sinful flesh. His hands have set you apart, consecrating you for service. His hands have bled into the cup you will come forward to receive. And His hands have proved that He is your good and gracious God, your Lord of life, and your Life in the midst of death. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.