Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

And Was Buried. Holy Saturday Tenebrae 2018

jesus burial.PNGHoly Saturday Tenebrae

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Matthew 27:57-66

March 31, 2018

..And Was Buried


Iesu Iuva


In the Name of Jesus.


There are two parts of the Creed that almost never get preached.  “And was buried.  He descended into hell.”  How often are these preached?  Almost never.


That’s why we are observing Holy Saturday today.  Because, surely, of all years, this one for us at St. Peter is one where we would benefit from hearing Christ’s burial preached.  And you who are here today are mostly members of the altar guild.  This year two of the altar guild’s saints died and were buried.  Others who we loved and who were pillars of this congregation also died and were buried this year.


How do we deal with this?  Apart from Christ, we just do it.  Death is part of life, and you have to go on as best you can, soldier through it.


You women on the altar guild have a lot in common with those women who were the only ones left with Jesus when He died on the cross.  The disciples fled.  Only John was left.  But none of them had the authority to bury Jesus.  You could not take someone off the cross and bury them unless Pontius Pilate gave permission, because part of the penalty of crucifixion often was that the person crucified was not buried.  His body was left to become food for the birds and to serve as a warning and an example.


So the women watched as two members of the Sanhedrin buried Jesus, wrapping His body in a linen cloth.  But they went home that evening and prepared spices and ointments to anoint His body on Sunday.  They would have to wait, because they still believed that it was against God’s Law for them to give Jesus the common honors of burial on the Sabbath day.


But you are like them.  Because it falls to you to make sure the house of Jesus is adorned, treated with honor, treated with dignity.


There are no doubt many people who say or think, “What is the point of all the work the altar guild does?  The point is that God’s Word is preached, that we receive Holy Communion.  What does it matter how the linens are arranged, whether there are lilies on Easter, whether there are flowers and candles?  These are all just decorations.”


That is what some people said when a woman broke open an alabaster jar of expensive, perfumed ointment and poured it on Jesus at the beginning of the week of His death.  “This is a waste.  We could have sold that and given the money to the poor.”


And today people say, “What difference does it make whether you bury me after I’m gone?  You can just throw my body in a ditch.  Or just cremate me.  It’s much cheaper.  What’s the point of the ceremony of a funeral?”


Perhaps people who say these things would be right if there was no resurrection of the body.  But Jesus rebuked the people who criticized the woman who anointed Him.  “She has done a beautiful thing to me.  She did this to prepare me for burial.”  So Jesus commends her for preparing His body for burial.  It may seem like a waste to us.  After all you don’t need to be perfumed and embalmed to be buried, since your body is going to return to dust regardless.


But the people of God hoped for the resurrection of their dead loved ones.  By their actions they said, “These bodies matter, because God will raise them from the dead.”


And Christians did a new thing that the Old Testament saints did not.  The Jews typically had tombs, like Joseph of Arimathea—family burial places.  That is what we see throughout the Old Testament.  The kings from David’s house were buried together, but not with everyone else.


But from the earliest days of the Church, Christians buried their dead together.  Christians were buried together in cemeteries—which means “sleeping places.”  That’s what the catacombs under Rome were.  Imagine the danger involved in having a Christian burial place when your religion is illegal, and if you are caught practicing it you could quite likely be tortured and finally sent into the arena to be torn apart by lions or bears.  And yet the Christians did it anyway.  And when Christianity became legal, they began to bury the dead Christians in the church yard—around the church.  Even our church has its cemetery, even though it is full and it is a distance from the church.  The old church books call it Gottesacker—“God’s Acre.”


Why did the Christians for so long think that God needed an acre in which to put the bodies of dead Christians together?


Because, as St. Paul says, 7For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.


If we were not Christians, we would die alone and to ourselves, just as we also live for ourselves alone.


But we live and we die in Christ, who lived and died for us, in us, so to speak.  In our life, in our humanity.  He entered into our sin and wretchedness and died in it.  That is why the women had to watch Jesus suffer and die on the cross.


And He also entered into the grave.  He entered the grave that human beings began digging and placing their dead in.  And human beings began doing this—Adam and Eve did it with Abel, no doubt, and Seth did it with Adam and Eve—because they believed God’s promise, given long ago, that Eve’s offspring would crush the serpent’s head.


A son of a woman would destroy Satan’s power, would destroy sin.  And having destroyed sin He would also destroy death and conquer the grave.


So Jesus is placed in the tomb to conquer it.  Later tonight, with the smell of lilies in our nostrils, the church will light up and alleluias will sound from our throats, the bells will peal.  The ancient darkness, we will sing, has been forever banished.


When we bury our dead, we do not bury them as those who have died alone.  We bury them in Christ.  They go into God’s acre because their dead bodies are the Lord’s. They are His planting for the resurrection, and He will raise them from their graves in the glorious freedom of the sons of God.


They have died not to themselves but to the Lord.  They are not their own.  They are the Lord’s.  He bought them with His blood.  He placed His seal of ownership on them when they were baptized, His Name, and He sanctified their bodies.  Their bodies, though still sick and corrupted by sin, are nevertheless holy.


When they are buried, their graves are not unholy places of decay and death.  They are sanctified and holy because Jesus’ body rested there first and then rose in life.


He purchased them to be His own and to be united to Him as members of His body.  So, with Him we die and are buried.  And with Him we will rise.  He is the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead.


We are not waiting for God to fulfill His promise.  His promise has been fulfilled.  The resurrection of the dead has come, because Jesus has risen from the dead.


That is why Christians buried their dead together.  They are not so many separate people who have died alone with their separate graves.  They are members of one body—the mystical body of Jesus, who died and rose again.  They are members of the same body that we are, who come together to eat His body and drink His blood; so they were buried together, preferably near where we who still live gather as the body of Christ.


Today, unfortunately, it is not so.  We do not have this picture before our eyes when we bury our dead.  Increasingly funerals are no longer in church, but private family affairs.  That is too bad.  It is sad, because have seen more than one person who stopped coming to church because a pious loved one died, and the pain of remembering them in church was too much to bear.  Or they didn’t have a loved one’s funeral in the church because they were afraid that if they did, they would break down every time they came.  They could not put the death of their loved one together with the church and with Jesus Christ.


That is unutterably sad to me.  On Holy Saturday we see that Jesus has entered fully into our death.  He has been placed in our tomb.  When we die, our tombs will be Jesus’ tombs.  For we are the members of His body.


The women who followed Jesus spent the Sabbath in pain, longing to go to Jesus’ grave and anoint His body.  But when they went they did not find Jesus’ body there.  He was placed in our tomb, but He conquered it, and left it empty.  Death was swallowed up in life.


So it will be for those who rest in the tomb with Jesus, who are baptized into Him.


Jesus, my Redeemer, lives;
I, too, unto life shall waken.
Endless joy my Savior gives;
Shall my courage, then, be shaken?
Shall I fear, or could the Head
Rise and leave His members dead?  (TLH 206 st. 2)

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen


Soli Deo Gloria

A husband’s prayer after his wife has delivered a stillborn child (1752)

February 26, 2013 3 comments

baby casket152.  Prayer of a husband after his wife has delivered a stillborn child.

Breslau Hymnal, 1752

taken from Evangelische Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz

Oh my dear, gentle God!  Since it has pleased Your wisdom to summon the fruit of our bodies in its birth and to take it to Yourself, we must also let it be pleasing to us.  We will not doubt that You have , in answer to our hearts’ prayers (whether spoken or in the sighs of the Holy Spirit), received it and lifted it up to all grace, for the sake of Your dear Son, so that it is now without doubt a dear little child of everlasting blessedness and life.  In fact, it is now cared for and kept safe from all evil in the best possible way, instead of what it would have had to endure in this evil world.

But apart from this I thank You from my heart for preserving my beloved wife alive through these bitter birth pangs, that You have snatched her from the very jaws of death and given her back like new to me and my young children.  Oh help, so that she might regain her strength, which she has almost lost entirely in this great trauma, this difficult childbirth.  Thus I will laud and praise You, and magnify Your mercy, here in time and hereafter forever and ever, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Father is Well Pleased with the Cross of Jesus. Transfiguration/ Life Sunday Sermon

January 20, 2013 1 comment

P1000266Transfiguration Sunday [Life Sunday]

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 17:1-9

January 20, 2013

“The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross”




[The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross.

  1. 1.        We are pleased with our work and think it brings life.
  2. 2.       The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross because it does bring life to you.]


“I was single, living with some friends, had a good job, and was having a good time. Having a baby just wasn’t in the cards. I told the father, and he said he had no intention of marrying me. He made his intentions quite clear right from the get-go. I had no desire to marry him either. I didn’t think a child was the right reason to get married. He said he’d pay for an abortion. Adoption was, quite truthfully, not an option I ever considered…At the time I thought that I could never give a child up, but now I look back and wonder how I could have done what I did. Giving it up would have been so much better. I didn’t really think of this as being a little person. It was a purely selfish decision. All I thought was, “What am I going to do now? This is a problem, and I have to take care of it.” I went to the doctor, and he suggested a clinic. It all happened so quickly. Looking back, I didn’t agonize. I had to make a decision; something had to be done.”


Those words come from a collection of stories told by women who have had an abortion, and you can find them at the top of the bulletin.  Further on the same woman explains how she has tried to deal with the regret and guilt that came to her later as she looked at the children God gave her in her marriage, wondering whether the child she aborted would have been a boy or a girl, whether the child is in heaven.  “I just don’t think about things that trouble me.  I push them down.” 


She goes on to describe what she thinks about God’s forgiveness: “I hear the pastor saying that it doesn’t matter how great our sins are, that God forgives us.  But I think, ‘But mine are really bad.’  I guess I believe that my sins are forgiven, but a lot of times I have a lot of trouble feeling that they are forgiven.”


There will be people hearing this sermon who have had an abortion or paid for a woman to have one.  Others have been involved in other sins against God’s gift of life.  They should hear at the outset of the sermon, now: God put away your sin on the cross of Jesus.  Don’t despair.  Listen to God’s beloved Son who says “Do not be afraid.”


Others know someone who has had an abortion.  And there are those who do not.  Tuesday is the 40th anniversary of legal abortion in the United States, but it has been done in this country for much longer than that. 


Regardless, the confession of this woman is not only her confession, and not only the confession of people who have had an abortion.  St. Peter could relate with it.  Like her, he also followed the wisdom of his flesh, called God’s work “bad” and tried to replace it with his own work.  Like her he also tried to gain life for himself in his own way, apart from God’s word.  He also fell into grave sin and would have despaired if Jesus had not restored him with His absolution.



What was true of Peter is true of all of us.  Apart from the Holy Spirit

  1. 1.        We are pleased with our work and think it brings life, but
  2. 2.       the Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross because it truly brings life to you.

Read more…

Ghosts, Haunted Houses, Prayer to the Dead, and Pastoral Care

December 27, 2012 2 comments

Spirits of the Departed, Ghosts, Prayer to the Deadancestor worship2

I’ve noticed a strange thing in the time I’ve been in the ministry that I didn’t notice before.  Maybe you’ve noticed it too. 

Kids believe in ghosts and spirits much more than they did when I was a kid.  People pretended to believe in ghosts when I was a kid, but I don’t think that many people really believed in them.  Certainly not that you could communicate with them.  We believed in demons—at least, Christian kids did—but it was kind of an esoteric thing.  I played with a Ouija board once, but I was just messing around.  And there was also this superstition that if you went into a dark room and looked at a mirror and said, “Bloody Mary” a certain number of times you would see a demon or a spirit.


Times have changed.  I’ve met a lot of kids who not only believe in ghosts but claim to have seen them, or communicated with them.


And demons are much less esoteric.  A few months ago a bunch of pastors were up in Wisconsin listening to Dr. John Kleinig talk about the ministry of deliverance from demons, about the increase in overt demonic oppression encountered by pastors in Australia (and the United States). 


But what seems to me the strangest of all is the prayer to the dead engaged in by lifelong American Lutherans who are sixty or seventy or eighty years old. 


The reason this is so strange is because, typically, Lutherans who are above age 50 or so hate everything that smacks of Catholicism.  Yet I frequently hear parishioners speak of dead loved ones as if they continue to communicate with each other.  The loved one is spoken to in prayer, and sometimes speaks back by phenomena in the physical world—lights flickering, changes in the weather.


This less rationalistic take on the souls of the dead is I think quite different from what pastors a generation ago encountered.  In his Church Postil sermon for Epiphany, Luther has an eye-opening digression where he talks about the souls of the dead and what to make of spirits claiming to be the souls of dead loved ones, as well as spirits that haunt houses or cause strange noises.  This would probably have been a section of the postil where in previous generations we would have simply assumed that Luther lived in a more superstitious age, and these things just don’t apply to us.  But if you have experienced your parishioners praying to dead relatives or communicating, supposedly, with ghosts, then this section of the sermon will be enlightening.


This openness toward communication with the dead has some positive implications.  It means that the rationalism that controlled so much of our thinking is mostly dead.  People are able to conceptualize the ongoing existence of souls whose body has died.  They are able to think of invisible spirits continuing to exist without being utterly divorced from us.  This is positive.  It means that when we speak of the communion of saints we will not meet the same wall of resistance.  If people think dead loved ones can be spoken to, it means that they are not closed to the idea that the angels and the holy, departed souls are present with us together with Jesus.  And it also means that the Calvinist notion that Jesus and the saints are somehow locked away in another plane of existence called heaven no longer has a death grip on people.


But unfortunately the superstition about the dead that I keep encountering has a lot of negative ramifications as well.

Read more…

Sermon for Populus Zion. “We are not of those who shrink back.”

December 9, 2012 1 comment

2nd Sunday of Advent—Populus Zionmy words will not pass away

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 21:25-36

December 9, 2012

“We are not of those who shrink back” Hebrews 10:39

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 44.


Jesu Juva

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Amen.  Rom. 15:13


There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and on earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the waves of the sea. 


The ocean and its waves crashing on a beach in the sun is the picture of paradise to a lot of us who have spent our years among cornfields and blizzards.  But ask the people who live on the coast about the ocean, and you might get a different perspective.  The sea can turn wild and malevolent and swallow 50 years of work and building in a few minutes.  It’s only the illusion and dream of sunbathers that the sunny beach is always paradise.


People fall into dreams about their lives, too.  We are sure that the security and comfort that are ours now will be there forever.  We often think that the confidence and strength we have now we will always have, not realizing that we have not been tested yet and that we are depending on things that are not stable.  Then the unthinkable day comes and confidence is replaced with terror and perplexity—confusion.  We run here and there looking for answers but cannot rest.


That is what happens to unbelievers when death suddenly becomes a reality.  Even worse, when the end of the world is no longer a possibility, but is upon them, unbelievers will be bewildered.  Certainly it was no real surprise that the world is not really a safe place that supports us in all our dreams.  History shows us wars and disasters have engulfed people who were better than we are.  Yet people continue to believe that it will be different for them—until the reality is forced upon them that they too must die.


And then everything we have learned in our society fails us.  We have been taught to find meaning in ourselves—who we are and what we like.  When you go to a funeral of a person whose family has no connection to the Christian faith you see, painfully, how false these gods are.  The favorite song of the loved one who has died does not comfort the grieving.  The memories of better days do not give peace, but only remind that these things were only temporary—not enough to support a person or his loved ones through death.


But now it is too late to find more solid and certain comfort.


As the end of the world approaches, Jesus warns His hearers to watch carefully so that their hearts are not burdened and weighed down by the cares and pleasures of this world—the things that seem so certain that they demand our full attention.  Neither the troubles of our lives nor their pleasures are permanent and solid. 


What is solid and certain are His Words. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will never pass away.” 

Yet we have allowed our hearts to be weighed down. 

We have lived as if the concerns and pleasures of this world (drunkenness, feasting, cares of this world) are permanent.



Then when everything seems to fall apart and come to nothing we are dismayed.


As our personal dreams come apart, or the work of our lives seems to come to nothing, we are reminded that even this creation—heavens, earth, sea—will be destroyed.

            Soon the Son of Man will come in power and great glory.


            And the unbelievers will grieve, because in resisting the destruction of this world they were resisting the Messiah.  And so have we done when we looked for the world to remain forever.




But Jesus says: Lift up your heads when these things are happening!


The day is coming, burning like an oven…and all that is evil will be burned up.  But Jesus says to head toward that day, look toward it, embrace it.  The fire of that day comes to you who fear His name as the rising sun of righteousness who heals you.  Jesus who is risen shines upon you now through the word of His grace—your sins are forgiven.  On that day He will rise upon you with perfect healing, when the old adam is completely incinerated and the new man replaces him like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.


The burning up and destruction of this creation and the things that we want to be stable in it is actually our redemption.  The old Adam and the evil that is in us—all that does not fear the Lord—will be burnt up.


What is temporary is destroyed.  What is eternal remains—His Kingdom.  Our life, which is hidden with Christ in God.


The Savior will rend the heavens wide.  The earth, sky, sea will be rolled up like a scroll along with false hopes.  But He who rends the heavens is He whose body was torn open and whose precious life He gave to us, streaming out so that it might be ours.  He was torn open so that we might hide in Him, be destroyed in Him and be recreated in Him, when He returns in glory and those who set at nought and sold him are looking for mountains to fall upon them to hide them from the day that is burning like an oven. 


We are baptized into His death that we may be raised from the dead.


We eat and drink His body and blood and receive life—but everlasting life is the destruction of the old Adam.


In confession and absolution, the old Adam with his false righteousness dies a humiliating death in confessing what he really is.  But this is replaced with Jesus’ recreating, enduring word—Your sins are forgiven.


The sun of righteousness rises on us with healing in his wings.  Do not run from  judgment, but toward it.  His mighty power which seems against us is really for us, for He has risen from the dead for us and He rises on us with healing in His wings.




5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus ChristRomans 15:5-6


Soli Deo Gloria.


O Muslims! Teach not your children to say: “We love death”!

December 4, 2012 1 comment

child preacher martyrdom  (I thought the video was on here when I published this post! Sorry.  )

O Zionists, we love death for the sake of Allah just as much as you love life for the sake of Satan.  We long for martyrdom for the sake of Allah just as much as you hate death, O enemies of Allah….I am just a small child, but nevertheless…If it were up to me, I would come to you [Palestinians] and I would fight alongside you in the battlefield. –Wee Egyptian TV preacher Ibrahim Adham 

I heard a Lutheran 6 year old preach a sermon in response to this video.  Unfortunately I didn’t record it.  But below is the transcript.

“O Turks, why do you protest so loudly that you love death?  That is not something to brag about.  By saying this you show that you are Satan’s children, since he is a liar and a murderer from the beginning.

nea-molech-sacrificeO Mohammedans, the true God does not love death.  Idols love death, especially the death of children.  The Jews who did not know their God sacrificed their children to Moloch, and you, O Mohammedans, are the spiritual children of those unfaithful Jews who offered up their children to a bloodthirsty god.

O Saracens, the true God loves life and blesses little children.  This God Whom you do not know said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it.’

O prisoners of the bloodthirsty idol Allah, the living and true God said, ‘Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain upon the just and the unjust.’

cranach law's torment (2)O you who have been ensnared by the false prophet Muhammad!  The true God became man and died on the cross–not because He loves death, but because He loves human beings who are made slaves through the fear of death.  O deceived ones!  You may love death, but you are still slaves to its fear.  That the dead will rise is certain, but whether God will raise you to paradise or the fires of hell you do not know.  O false ones!  Your conscience does not let you rest.  You run toward death and push your children ahead of you because you seek to atone for your sins with your own blood!

O you who submit to the devil’s yoke!  O you among the Mohammedans whose consciences are not yet completely seared!  Your heart condemns you that you have done evil deeds which God must surely bring to justice.  Let the pain of your conscience remain as a witness to the truth that Islam cannot deliver you from your sins.  Do not believe the false hope that death for Allah will result in certain salvation for you.  If Allah could take away sins he would have done so for you already.

O you whom Christians should pity, even while you rape their daughters, bear false witness against their husbands, and steal their property!  The only Muslims who have relief from the accusations of their consciences are those who have destroyed their consciences and have lost the ability to see that ablutions and prayers and special diets do not erase sin or give the conscience rest.  Or else they are those who are convinced that “martyrdom” is an assured path to salvation.  But when a Mohammedan’s body falls to the ground while waging jihad, his soul is carried away by angels not to paradise but to the laughing mouth of Satan, who says, “Well done, my faithful martyr!”

cranach_law_gospelO Moors, Turks, and Saracens!  Christian martyrs die willingly for Christ because they have already died with Him.  O idolaters!  Christians wear crosses not because we love death and execution, but because by the true God’s death on the cross, death’s power and fear is taken away.

O blind, most miserable Muslims, who intend to die for God but do not know Him!  The true God was crucified, dead, and buried, and rose again on the third day, and destroyed death.  O lost ones!  For Christians death is no longer death.  Christians have been born a second time.  They are sons of God, not His slaves.

nativity giotto 1311

O Mohammedans!  the true God was born a human being to live in the midst of His enemies.

O you lovers of violence! The true God died for His enemies.  Because all men were His enemies–Jews, Christians, Mohammedans.  But He had compassion on all the sons of Adam and gave Himself as a burnt offering to take away their sins.

O murderers of Christians, oppressors of the helpless!  You have blasphemed the true God and shed the blood of His saints! Yet He seeks your salvation.  His believers with whose blood you paint church walls seek your salvation.  They pray for you.  Even though you have made your children preachers of murder and worshippers of death, the living God suffered for you to rescue you from the eternal fire.

O Janissaries and Assasins, do not believe that God will receive you into Paradise when you embrace death for the sake of Allah and when you murder in the name of Allah.

O you who desire to be martyrs!  The true God only receives those who embrace His death in their place.  His true martyrs suffer or die not to earn something but because they have already been given everything in Jesus Christ crucified.

O Mohammedans, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and will come to judge the living and the dead.  This Jesus is the true God, and no one can know God unless they know Him.

crucifixion-1904 russian guyO Muslims!  If you would submit to God, you must know who He is.  He makes Himself known through the cross.  Through Jesus the true God is known–the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  They are not three gods, but one God; not one person but three.

O Mohammedans, do not think that you can philosophize with God.  Do not think that you will be able to present yourselves before God without shame for your sins on judgment day.   O Mohammedans! God does not judge like men.  He will not overlook sin or take a bribe, or accept suicide and murder as a ransom.  He will not accept your arguments that “God cannot have a son.”  God knows far better than you what He can and cannot do.

O blind-hearted Muslims, like all Adam’s race blind to God because of self-love!  The Trinity, the God you do not know, is love.  He loves you, O Arabs, O Mohammedans, and He seeks your blessing.  Wearing the scars from nails which pierced Him He loves you, even now.  Even though you have burned churches and blown His believers apart in the countries where they pay you tribute, Jesus the Lord God still loves you and wants you to live.  So he allows you to kill His people so that they may bear witness to you that He died to save the whole world.  He allows you to display your remarkable zeal for your idol and your false prophet by slaughtering Christians like lambs, spilling and spattering their blood on your streets and walls, thinking that in doing this you do God service.  He hears their blood crying out to Him, and yet He delays your punishment.  coptic-martyrs

Oh Mohammedans, listen to the true God.  You love death, but He loves you.  He wants you and your children to live.

‘So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them.  I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in an dout and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.  So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” ‘ (John 10:7-12, 14-18)

‘At this time Jesus declared, ‘”I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealeed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.  All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Fahter, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”‘ (Matthew 11:25-30)”

This Burning Light–Last Sunday of the Church Year Sermon

November 26, 2012 2 comments


Jesu Juva

Last Sunday of the Church Year

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 25:1-13

November 25, 2012

“This Burning Light”
In the Holy Name of Jesus.


“Receive this burning light to show you have received Christ, who is the light of the world.  Live always in the light of Christ, and be ever watchful for His coming, that you may meet Him with joy and enter with Him into the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, which has no end.”

The pastor hands to your sponsor the little baptismal candle which has been set on fire by the flame from the Paschal candle, the large candle by the baptismal font. 


That large candle symbolizes the light and life of Jesus Christ, which burst forth from the tomb for us on Easter.  The flood of death and sin has been dried up by the consuming fire of the love of God.  “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea.”  (Revelation 21:1)


That fire burned a bush in the wilderness but did not consume it, and drew Moses to its flame and sent him to tell Pharaoh to let the Lord’s people go.  Then it went as a pillar leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the desert.  It fell on Mount Sinai and set it on fire, and the people heard God’s voice thundering, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.  You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…”  The Lord God is love; and He is a consuming fire.
That fire was hidden in the body of Jesus, who is the Lord God of Israel.  It appeared only as light to men, but it did not burn them.  But when the lamp of Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb and descended into hell, it burned death to ashes and set Satan on fire forever.  When He rose and ascended to the Father, the fire of the Lord transfigured His body the way earthly fire transfigures metal and makes it glow red or white.  That same fire burns within the members of His body.  It began to burn in Your body when the pastor splashed water on you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit—our God, the consuming fire.


So they handed your sponsor your little candle lit from the fire of the Easter candle, but that was only a symbol. 


The water they poured on You, joined with the Lord’s command and name, was not just a symbol.  It was reality.  Before that you were the offspring of adulterers—not physical adulterers, but worse—spiritual adulterers who had gone whoring from the Lord.  You were born with the stain of their adultery and with the same adulterous, faithless heart. 


But then you were dipped in the water joined with the Holy Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  You were immersed in the fire, born again into Jesus as He died bearing Adam and Eve’s impurities which had to be burned up before the holy face of the Lord.  With Him you were doused in the flood of death.  But with Him you leaped out of death, leaving Satan burning in eternal fire and death scorched to ashes. 
You arose with Jesus.  No longer an adulterer or an adulteress; but a virgin going to meet the bridegroom.  You were made pure and holy, unspotted, unstained.  You were born again in Christ.  And though the unclean flesh of Adam and Eve remained, inside burned consuming fire: the Holy Spirit—giving light to the world through you, but burning away the uncleanness of sin from within. 


Outside you wore virgin’s clothes marking you as belonging to the wedding party of the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  You wore the clothes because Jesus was Your purity; His suffering and death and His blood shed in payment for Your sin washed away all uncleanness and covered you with righteousness.  Over your innocent skin was the garment of Jesus’ perfect obedience to the law of God.  He dressed you and called you a virgin—pure, untouched, reserved.

You were not afraid to meet the bridegroom. You were in the wedding party.  You ran out into the darkness with joy, your lamp burning.  There was nothing to fear.  The bridegroom was coming to bring you to His wedding banquet.


How wonderful that wedding feast will be, for which all of Jesus’ wise virgins have waited so long!  It will be in a city with 12 foundations, and each foundation will be made of precious stones.  To get into the city we will have to pass through gates each made of one massive, costly pearl.  And all the people at this feast will be like Jesus; they will be transfigured by the consuming fire of God’s love like metal glowing red or white with earthly fire.  All of them will have all evil burned away, and so there will be no one to insult, or injure, or defile, or shame us.  The consuming fire of God’s love will not burn us.  Nothing evil will be able to come near us.  Words fail to describe the glory that will be revealed there.


Of one pearl each shining portal, where joining with the choir immortal, we gather round Thy radiant throne.  No eye has seen the light; no ear has heard the might of Thy glory.  Therefore will we eternally sing songs of praise and joy to Thee.


We were perfectly ready to meet the bridegroom when we were baptized.  When did that change?
So soon after that momentous day you lost your first love. My two year old godchild likes to run around the house and pull everything he can off shelves onto the floor.  But at bedtime he wants his mom to sing “Jesus songs.”  That’s not hypocrisy; that’s the fire of the Holy Spirit burning within the jar of clay.
Just a few years older than that and you already had other priorities that made you less eager to run out and meet the bridegroom.  It was more conscious then.  The bridegroom has taken a long time to come bring us to the wedding.  We fall asleep.
Looking and waiting for Jesus to come doesn’t mean going out to the edge of town and standing with a candle.  It means letting your light shine before men so that they see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5).  We go out to meet Jesus by faith, believing that He has made us ready for His coming.  By faith we follow Him into the place where He has called us and we meet Him there in our neighbor.  People see Christ, the light of the world, whom you have received, in you, as you go about your tasks.  As a hearer of the word your light shines when you gladly receive Scripture and faithful preaching not as the word of men, but as the word of God, and you joyfully support the preaching of the Word with your offerings and prayers and by showing love and honor to the office Jesus set up for the proclamation of the Gospel.


As a father and mother your light shines when you gladly meet Christ in your children, provide for them, and train them in the Lord’s teaching. 
As a child your light shines when you meet Jesus in your parents and honor and obey them as gifts which He has given to you.
As husband Christ’s light shines in you when you love your wife and lay down your life for her, when you do it gladly because Christ did not come and condemn you for your sins and weakness but washed you with the water by the Word after carrying your sins on the cross.  As a wife Christ’s light shines when you gladly honor your husband as your head out of love for Jesus whose love, a consuming fire, caused Him to leave His own comfort and pleasure and take death and shame for you. 


As an employee your light shines when you work for your employer not only when their eye is on you, but you serve him or her gladly, knowing that it is really Jesus you are serving.


We go out to meet Jesus by faith that when He comes He will take us to His wedding.  Faith shows itself in the daily tasks to which Jesus has called us. 


To serve gladly and sacrificially in those daily tasks, always looking for Jesus and not looking to enjoy ourselves in this world requires a steady source of oil to keep our lamps burning.  The oil is the Holy Spirit.

When you were baptized, you were given a little flame from the consuming fire that is the life and love of God, which has burned up death.  Your lamp was lit from the fire of life that burned gloriously in the body of Jesus.


This little flame is so precious that nothing in the world can compare to it.  Our greatest concern in life is to not let that light burning in us—which is God Himself, the Holy Spirit—go out. 


Keep your lamp burning and be dressed for service like a man waiting for His master to come home.  It will be well for the servant who the master finds doing so when He returns.  He will gird Himself for service and wait on them.  And He is almost here!  That is why we light the candles on the Advent wreath in the days ahead.  Our greatest joy is nearly here.  Whatever else we are occupied with, nothing can compare with the joy of meeting Jesus the bridegroom when He comes and entering His eternal feast.


Yet we do.  We fall asleep.  We forget about our calling to meet Jesus in our neighbor.  We forget about the wedding feast.  We wander from Christ and our lamps grow dim or they go out.


But some day soon we will be startled awake.  “The bridegroom is here; come and meet him!”  It may be the day of your death.  It may be the moment of Christ’s return.  At that time your only concern will be to have your lamp lit and be ready to meet the bridegroom.


It’s not a good thing to fall asleep when we should be watching for Christ to come.  On your wedding day, you want your bridesmaids to share in your joy.  If the maid of honor rolls out of bed and just barely gets to the church on time, you would be grateful that she made it, but not exactly pleased that she didn’t take more care to be ready for one of the biggest days of your life.

But if she doesn’t show up on time because she has to run out to the store to get makeup or something for her hair, you’d be furious.  Of course, we all make mistakes.  But your wedding is too big a day for your guests to be foolish and unprepared. 


That’s how it will be on the day when Jesus returns for many who were baptized.  There will be no baptized Christians who will be able to say that they never fell asleep looking for Jesus the bridegroom to come. 


But those who are wise will have oil with them.  “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you,” Jesus said.  Now is the time to ask, seek, and knock—not the day of death.  He says, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, though you are evil, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  (Luke 11).  Today is the day to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”  “The Kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father grants us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His Holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” 

We pray daily for the Holy Spirit, so that we may lead godly lives, awake, looking for Jesus’ return, with clear consciences, letting the light of Jesus shine in us through love toward our neighbor in our callings. 
If you find yourself neglecting your calling and serving yourself; if you frequently forget about Jesus’ return and find your heart set on the world, whether by falling into sin or simply by neglecting His Word and prayer, now is the time to ask and seek and knock, that God give you His Holy Spirit, so that you believe the gospel and lead a godly life, looking for Jesus’ return.


We pray for the Holy Spirit, and seek the gift of the Holy Spirit where the Lord promises to give Him.  That is in Scripture, in faithful preaching and teaching, in absolution, in the Lord’s Supper.  In that way we carry extra oil with us so that we are prepared.
We also do it because it is in hearing the word and serving in the callings He has given us that we are with Him and are prepared for Him. 


The joys of eternal life are great and no one is able to speak about them properly.  But one thing is certain.  Those who dislike Christ’s word now and who find no pleasure in serving their neighbor in love would not like eternal life either. 
No one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return, and so trying to predict the day is sinful—then you could postpone repentance until the last minute.  Instead, Christians live as if every day is the day of Jesus’ return.  And they do it not out of fear only, but out of joy, because Christ’s return is the joy of their hearts.
We have divided hearts.  Our flesh wishes that Jesus would never come back so that we can go on serving ourselves.  In Christians the flesh which does not want Jesus to return is still very much present.  That is why daily we need the Holy Spirit.  We pray for Him in the Lord’s prayer.  And the Lord has promised to give Him to us.  As often as you see your flesh not wanting to hear the Word of God, not wanting to serve your neighbor, not wanting Jesus to return, that is the sign that you still need to knock and ask for the Holy Spirit, and seek His Word, praying, “Lord, let me not be among the foolish virgins who say, ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do the will of Your Father in heaven and so do not enter the Kingdom of God.”
If you have been ill prepared, begin to pray this way now, but also rejoice.  Whether your faith is weak or strong, you have received Christ, the light of the world.  His light shines upon you and lifts up your eyes to the cross, where the darkness of sin died, and to His resurrection, where eternal life and righteousness dawned for you.  The Sun rose upon you in your baptism.  And now the bridegroom comes to give you a taste of His wedding feast in His body and blood, which cleanse you inwardly, make you holy, and pour out the oil of His spirit on the flickering lamp of your faith in Him, so that you may go forward with joy and confidence to meet Him when He comes again.


Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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