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A New World. Funeral Sermon–Job 14:1-17, 1 Cor. 15:20-26, Matt. 27: 33-60

February 26, 2017 Leave a comment

In Memoriam + Kathe Schroeder

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Job 14:1-17, 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, Matthew 27: 33-60

February 25, 2017

“A New World”

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

Sandi, Ron, John,

All of Kathe’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren,

Her family and friends,

Members of her church family at St. Peter:

 

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

 

God’s Word for our comfort today comes from all of the readings we just heard, and in particular these words from first Corinthians: For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  (1 Cor. 15: 22-24)

 

Beloved in Christ:

 

In the old version of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism that I had to memorize, the fourth commandment was longer than the one the kids learn now.  Honor your father and mother, we learned.  But it used to have more, a promise: that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth. 

 

I want to start off by saying that I have not seen, in ten years as a pastor, a family that honored their parents (and grandparents) more than you have shown honor to Reiner and Kathe.  I have seen quite a few families that loved and honored their parents at St. Peter, don’t get me wrong.  But in a day when people no longer do this, your family has been exemplary—even the grandkids.  The promise of blessing God attached to the fourth commandment applies to you.

 

Frequently when loved ones, particularly parents, die, people feel guilt that they did not show enough love and honor to them when they were alive.  Perhaps some of you feel this way today.  It is true that before God even the best fall short of keeping this commandment like we do all the others.  Before God we can’t brag that we have done all that He asks even when we’ve done our best.  But God covers our sins; He blots them out with the blood of His Son, and covers us with Jesus’ perfect righteousness, just as now Kathe’s body is covered by a white cloth emblazoned with the cross.  She always expressed to me her feeling that God had blessed her and Reiner by giving her children and grandchildren that loved and honored them.  So I hope that this will be a comfort to you—your care for Kathe was an example, and wherever you failed, God has covered your failings, just as Kathe’s whole life was covered with the perfect life of Jesus when she was baptized.

 

Kathe was blessed in many ways in this life, and she always said this when I visited her.  She was blessed with a husband that was the love of her life, a gift which is not given to everyone.  She was blessed with three children that she loved and that loved her; then with a similar relationship with her grandchildren.  She had a beautiful family, a beautiful home.  God gave her a good character, an ability to work hard and do good for others, which she passed on to her children and great-grandchildren.  Above all, she was blessed in a way that so many are not.  She was baptized into Christ as a baby and taught to know Him as her only Savior from her sins and from death.  And she remained in this faith which was given to her in baptism until her end.

 

For all these blessings she received, and for the blessing her life was, we give thanks to God today.  You remember her, and you rightly feel grief that this woman, with all of the little things she did, will not be present in the rest of the years of your life on earth.  You are right to feel grief about this and even to express it to God.  For years when I would come to visit she would make me tea and give me those pieces of sugar that looked like ice; when I put them in the tea they would make cracking noises.  She would put a plate of cookies and pastries in front of me.  I will remember those times, but I will not experience them again in this life.  You have other memories.  One that was in her obituary that made me laugh was that she never let her grandkids win at any board games!  You have many memories like this, and it is a loss over which it is right to grieve that during the years of this life you will no longer see her or hear her voice.

 

I say this not to rub it in, but because we try to deny the loss to make the pain go away.  But it is in facing the reality of the pain of death that God’s comfort comes to us.

 

Kathe’s life was filled with a lot of happiness.  But in a way it was happiness snatched out of the hand of great powers that loomed over her and the whole world.  She had many griefs.  She just didn’t talk about those—at least not to me—or dwell on them.  Her father died when she was a child, leaving her family in poverty.  She was confirmed in 1942, when the world was in the middle of a terrible war and her country was a police state.  And when the war was over, it only kind of got better for her country.  Half of it came under the control of another police state from the other side of the political spectrum.  The world sat on the brink of a much worse war in which the whole world could be destroyed.  No one was sure when that might happen.  And Germany was right on the border.

 

People kept on living.  They got married, like Kathe and Reiner, and started families.  Yet it could have all come crashing down.  They were lucky and moved to the United States where it was a little safer.

 

But even now, this world is under the control of dark authorities and powers.  We live in their shadows.  It is the darkness of the shadow of death.  In this world, God appears remote and absent.  When we want to come near to Him, there is a barrier—that in thought, word, and deed, we break His commands.  Pain, sickness, and hardship come to all of us, and also death.  And for many people, at many times, the sense arises that these bad things are happening to us because God is against us.  People don’t say this usually, but the feeling lingers.

 

That was what Job was saying in the first reading we heard.  Why do you keep such close watch on my sins, God, he asks, that you are punishing me so intensely?  I’m only on earth a little while—then I’m gone.  I was born in sin, and when I have done my best, I still am a sinner in your sight.  He expresses longing that God would bury his sins forever, deal with him as a father, give him life in place of the death that comes as a result of sin.

 

Then we heard another apparently depressing reading.  Jesus was led out to “the place of the skull” and crucified.  And while he hung on the cross by nails in his hands and feet, Jesus cried out in agony, My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?  A few hours later He let out a loud cry and gave up His spirit in death.

 

Then something happened that doesn’t usually happen.  The earth shook.  Rocks split open.  The curtain in the temple that closed off the holy of holies, the place where God dwelt on earth, ripped from the top to the bottom.  Almost unbelievably, graves were opened and a bunch of holy people who had died rose and appeared to many people.  The event was so overwhelming that even one of the Roman soldiers who was there, who probably didn’t believe in the God of the Jews, said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” 

 

This was not an ordinary, natural event.  Jesus was and is the Son of God.  When He died, God tasted death.  The punishment of death, the penalty for rebellion against the God who made us, was experienced by God.  Jesus took our sins as His; and He took the punishment for them.  He experienced being forsaken by God.  He died.  And the result was—the earth shook, as if the world itself was being moved, changed.  The way into God’s presence was made open.  The dead rose to life again.  The dark powers that have controlled the world were thrown down.  And the way was paved for a new world to being—a world in which there is no death, where God is near, and the darkness over our world and in our hearts becomes light.

 

That all happened in a moment when Jesus died.  But then everything seemed to return to normal.  Jesus was taken down off the cross and buried, just like everyone else.  That seemed like the end.

 

You know what comes next.  If not, Paul reminds us.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Even though the world seemed like it had gone back to normal, to darkness and death, it had not.  Things had changed. Jesus rose from the dead; his followers came out on Sunday and found an empty tomb.  Then He appeared to them, told them what was going to happen next, and forty days later ascended to heaven.

 

What was going to happen next was His disciples would go out into the world and proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead.  They would also say what this means.  It means that the sins Jesus carried on the cross have been paid for.  God released Jesus from them into resurrection and eternal life.  And everyone who believes this shares in Jesus’ release from sin and death and His eternal life.

 

People often say to grieving friends, “Don’t worry; she is in a better place.”  For those who die believing in Christ this is true.  But people seldom believe that this world will be the better place.

 

Jesus is the firstfruits.  He rose from the dead.  And all the people He died for will also rise from the dead in the same way when He returns.

 

It will be a new and better world.  It won’t be a world where our happiness comes in the shadow of the powers of darkness that run this world, where we enjoy what we can while we can, and God seems far away.  It will be a world where the powers of darkness are thrown out forever, and the darkness of our hearts is also gone, and God will be all in all.

 

Kathe became a citizen of this new world in 1927 when she was brought to the baptismal font in Firrel, Germany.  She was baptized into the risen Jesus, with His righteousness, life, and victory over death.  Her sins were forgiven.  That is why now the Easter candle burns in front of her body.  The life of Jesus, risen from the dead, became her life.  The perfect righteousness of Jesus, and His atonement for the sins of the world, was drawn over her infant life.  Today it still covers her like the white pall with the cross covering the casket.  We do not know what she will look like when the day of resurrection comes exactly.  We know that just like the image of Adam was on her when she suffered, when she got old, when she died, the image of Jesus will be evident in her body when she rises—the image of righteousness, joy, victory, everlasting life.  There will, beyond all shadow of a doubt, be a smile on her face—of gratitude, of joy, of victory.

 

Jesus died and rose again and claimed the whole world—all people who share His flesh and blood—to live in that new world.  You as well—whoever you are, whatever you have done, whatever you believe.  Everyone is in, no one is out, except those who refuse to be in, who won’t believe it, who insist on their right to remain in the darkness, in the shadow of the dark powers running the world now.  He claimed you with His blood, and when you were baptized He put on you the garments of righteousness of the new world that He will reveal when He returns.  Don’t throw it away.  Daily take off the old clothing of slavery and death and put on, by faith, the new man, risen from the dead.

 

That is where we get peace and strength to live in this world where the darkness overshadows us.  We receive the life of Jesus—in His Word, in the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, in the sacrament of His body and His blood given and shed for us on the cross.  We receive in those things the assurance that we belong to Him and His new world which enables us to come near to God without fear and ask for the strength and peace we need to continue until the day when we will no longer be without the visible presence of our loved ones who have died in Christ—the day when we will see Kathe and Reiner, happy forever—and when we will see the God who made and redeemed them and us, face to face.

 

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

The Victory Remained With Life. 16th Sunday after Trinity, 2016.

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment

widow-of-nain-waterford.jpg16th Sunday after Trinity (10:45 Church Picnic Service)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 7:11-17

September 11, 2016

“The Victory Remained with Life”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

It was a strange and dreadful strife

When life and death contended;

The victory remained with life,

The reign of death was ended.  LSB 458

 

 

I imagine everyone here who was alive will never forget what happened fifteen years ago on this day.  Strange and dreadful strife appropriately describes what I saw on tv all day that day in 2001, and for the next several weeks.  It was strange—the world felt strange for weeks afterwards.  Strange to watch an airliner come screaming into a skyscraper and explode into an orange ball; strange to watch Manhattan fill with atomized concrete and pieces of paper—who knew that that was what comes out of a skyscraper when it falls—white paper everywhere!  It didn’t feel real.

 

It didn’t feel real because the World Trade Center and the New York Stock Exchange and the giant metropolises of our country and the airports that enable people to do business one side of the country in the morning and go home in the evening—that’s what feels real to us.  What happened on September 11th in 2001 was—for just a day—we saw how fragile our reality is. For a second we sensed that our reality is not real.

 

They said on the news people went back to church for a little while after the attacks.  Maybe that’s because people realized that our American way of life—represented by skyscrapers and jet airlines and megalopolises and stock exchanges—aren’t God.  Some fanatics screaming Allahu akbar fly four planes the wrong way and two of the world’s tallest buildings collapse, one of the most important cities in the world shuts down, and the whole country goes into shock.  The gods we trusted in didn’t fall over; they just swayed a little.  But for a second we realized they are false gods.  There is another God who can knock them over in a second.  It inspired dread in the whole country.  Every time we saw replayed on television the flying into the tower—something that isn’t supposed to happen!—it was a voice that said, There is another God who with a flick of His finger can destroy this whole country.  He can destroy the whole world if He wants to.  And He just let us know that He might not be happy with us.

 

We saw death that day.

 

Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.  He said that when he saw the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima he thought of a passage from a Hindu scripture: I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. 

 

Death destroys worlds on a smaller scale every day.  The widow from Nain who lost her son, for instance.

And sometimes death destroys the worlds of people who haven’t died.  People who live in marriages where love has died and they have stopped hoping that it can be brought back to life.  People whose life has been interrupted, scarred, by illness, chronic pain, or depression.  People who had bright idealistic hopes to accomplish something with their lives who now laugh bitterly at their youthful selves.

 

A surprising number of people say things like, “I think God hates me” in response to death or suffering.  You hear it expressed more frequently than you’d expect by people that aren’t religious at all.

 

The voice that whispers that God hates us is closer to the truth than the voice that says God never would do anything so harsh.  The truth is that everyone who sins provokes God’s anger and hatred, comes under His curse.  Paul writes in Romans chapter 5, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…” (Romans 5:10).  We were God’s enemies, Paul writes to the Christians at Rome—not just that we hated God, but He hated us, because we followed the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.  Among these we all once lived…following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  (Ephesians 2:2-3).  Doing what comes naturally, following the desires of our bodies and our minds, we, along with the whole world, were following the devil and were “children of wrath”.  God was full of anger toward us.  He was angry enough with us to give us pain in this life, kill us, and sentence us to eternal torment.  All this because we followed the desires of body and mind that we were born with, desires which add up to wanting to be like God, to do what pleases us and answer to no one.

 

God was angry with us, angry enough to destroy our worlds.  And He had been angry for a long time with us.  And has anything changed?  Has God gotten over His anger?  From what we can see in the world, there is no reason to think so.  People still die; they are still receiving the wages of sin (Romans 6). 

 

And the widow from Nain?  Sin had just cut her a check too.

 

The truly terrible thing about coming to the knowledge of sin is that—unless God’s heart is changed—there is no relief and no way out.  The teachers of the Jews told people that repentance would atone for their sins and bring about a change in God’s heart toward them.  But who could be sure they had repented enough to change God’s heart?  The only sure way would be to never sin again.  The widow, if she believed what the rabbis taught, couldn’t be sure if her son was in heaven or hell, nor which way she would go when she followed after her son into death.

 

Now the rabbis said that people should join in any funeral procession they came across.  To do this was to do something that found favor with the Lord; it was good in His eyes, and it would help take away His anger at your sins or increase His love for you.

 

Jesus, who is the Lord, doesn’t do what He’s supposed to do.  He doesn’t get out of the way. Instead He has compassion on her, which is to say He feels her grief like a stab in his own stomach.  He says, “Don’t cry.”  He moves past her, up to the stretcher on which men are carrying the body of her son, and reaches out and touches it.  They suddenly stop.  They are probably in shock that he would touch the dead body and contaminate Himself with the uncleanness of sin and death.  Then Jesus simply says, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”  And the man sits up and starts to speak, and Jesus gives him back to his mother.

 

The crowd’s response to this is interesting.  They call Jesus a great prophet and say that God has visited His people.  They are also stricken with fear, but they still praise God for the miracle.

 

That they are afraid is not surprising, really.  To see a man tell a dead man to rise, and the dead man does so—that would shake your world more than the twin towers falling.  If the technology and wealth are reality to us, death is even more so.  To see someone dismiss death with a few words is to behold power.   When they say “God has visited His people,” they are more right than they know.  They think it means that God has sent a great prophet through whom He will work to deliver them.

 

But a prophet, like Elijah, doesn’t raise the dead like this.  A prophet calls on God, and God in answer sends His limitless power to raise the dead.  But Jesus didn’t do that; He spoke the word that raised the young man from the dead Himself.  They are afraid when they see Jesus as a prophet who can pray to God to raise the dead and be heard.  They cannot fathom that in the man they see all the fullness of God dwells bodily (Colossians 2).  If they could they would probably run.

 

But God is not there in human flesh to destroy or to give out the due reward for our sins.  He is here to change the reality of death.

 

He is on earth to reconcile God and human beings.  To take away God’s anger toward us and replace it with love and favor.  To take away God’s anger toward mankind means to take away sin.  And where sin and God’s anger is taken away, death goes with them.

 

Jesus doesn’t preach in this Gospel.  This is an illustration of His preaching.

 

Jesus didn’t preach like Moses; He still doesn’t preach that way today.  His preaching was not about what you should avoid, what God wants you to do, the rewards and punishments that go with obedience and disobedience.  The substance of Jesus’ preaching was Himself.

 

I have come, He preached and still preaches, to make a sacrifice to God.  I offer up my life of holy obedience, and my agony and dying, to God for you.

 

When Jesus is dragged out through the gates of Jerusalem carrying His cross to the place of His death and burial, God will impute to Him the sins of the world.  And Jesus will feel the agony of those sins and God’s anger as He hangs on the cross.  He will feel the sins of the world as His own sins, and the wrath of God as His own wrath, and cry out that He is forsaken by God.  Until He gives up His spirit and hangs dead on the cursed tree.  And by submitting to sin, death, and God’s wrath, He undoes it—this reality that is the only one the world knows.

 

But by this suffering God will be reconciled to the world and all the sinners in it.  And that is how things stand now.  People can’t figure this out from looking at the world.  They can only learn this in the church where Jesus continues His prophetic ministry through the pastors who preach Christ (and not the wisdom of men.)  The message is that God is reconciled to the world and no longer counts the sins of men against them.  Which is to say, God has forgiven the world and all the sinners in it.  His anger has been discharged.  Our sins have been blotted out.  When Jesus offered up His holy life, His agony and His death, God’s anger against us was spent, and His favor came in its place.

 

The debt of our sins was paid and the price for our release, and the receipt was Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

 

And if sin and God’s anger has gone, then so has the power of death.  Death is different for those who believe in Christ.

 

The grave is no longer a place of uncleanness.  It is a holy place, sanctified by the body of the Holy One who laid there before us and was resurrected in glory.  So our grave is the holy place out of which we will rise imperishable, never to die, never to weep, never again to sin.

 

And dying no longer has the sting and terror of God’s wrath, the despair of being abandoned for those who believe in Christ.  God’s wrath ended on the cross, that Jesus was forsaken once, so that God will never forsake us.

 

And the deaths we experience in life also are not death to Christians who cling to Jesus.  Neither pain, nor sickness, nor failure can separate us from the joy, life, and victory we have in Him.  In Jesus we have God’s good pleasure; in Him God says of us, “Well done, good and faithful servant”—because Jesus has done well.  Because of what Jesus has already done for the world, God regards and declares us to be righteous in His sight, overruling the accusation of our conscience, the raised voices of those who know our sins, even the curse of the Law on our works.

 

This meeting of the two crowds was a foreshadowing of the strange and dreadful strife that happened on Calvary.  There were crowds there too, but only two wrestlers—the eternal Son, pinned to the tree and forsaken by God, and Satan, wanting to hold all people in bondage to sin and death.  It was a strange and dreadful strife…

 

The victory remained with life. A new reality emerged from this struggle. It appeared that Satan had won, that He had claimed Jesus with all the men who had come before Him.  They took Him down from the cross.  No one stopped the funeral procession.  They laid Jesus in the tomb and rolled the stone to shut it.  And then…you know the rest of the story.  Those who go to the tomb to mourn, honor the dead, pay their debt to death, find that the world has changed.  The tomb is empty.  The book recording the world’s transgressions has become clean white paper. The victory remained with life; the reign of death was ended. 

 

When we come out of our graves we will see how true that hymn is.  A little rest in the earth.  Then these mortal bodies will put on immortality.

 

A little cross and suffering here with our Lord.  Then God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

 

But we should not forget that life is ours now before the resurrection.  It lives within us, in these jars of clay that break so easily.  And when they break it shows the more clearly that the life within us is not from us.  When you break, and your world is destroyed by death, God is giving you a new world, and bearing witness to this world of the life of the world to come.

 

 

Holy Scripture plainly saith

That death is swallowed up by death;

Its sting is lost forever.

Alleluia!  LSB 458

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Holy Easter 2014 + St. Mark 16:1-8 + “The Very Flame of the Lord”

resurrected-christHoly Easter Day + St. Peter Lutheran Church Joliet, Illinois + St. Mark 16: 1-8 + April 20, 2014

“The Very Flame of the Lord”

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  (etc)

 

First we consider the history of our Lord’s glorious resurrection from the dead, and second, the meaning of His resurrection for us.

 

First of all it is necessary to emphasize that this is the history of the resurrection of Jesus that St. Mark presents to us.  It is clear that he understands what he is writing to be fact rather than fiction.  He presents us with historical, public figures interwoven into the story, men that people knew and could possibly talk to at the time the Gospel was published.  None of these men tried to deny that Jesus was crucified and was buried.  People in Jerusalem could show you the place of the skull where he was crucified and knew the place where the guards stood watch.

 

Why is it important that this is presented to us as history, as the accounts of witnesses?  Because the Gospel of Jesus has no meaning if He didn’t really rise from the dead.

 

Jesus’ resurrection is either a fact that makes claims on everyone who lives in the real world where people die, or it is a lie that would be laughable if it had not had so much influence on the world’s history.  It really can’t be something in between.

 

Too often not only non-believers but also Christians act as if this belief in the resurrection of Jesus is a non-threatening, domesticated belief that can safely be brought around unbelievers and taken for a walk in polite society.  Such a Christianity doesn’t make any claims on people.  It says, “Jesus lives in my heart” without at the same time insisting that He also lives outside of our hearts at the Father’s right hand.

 

No, if Jesus rose from the dead, it means nothing in the world can remain the same.

 

It meant in the days of the early Church that it was wrong to worship Caesar as a god.  In fact, it upset the status quo by claiming that all of the old gods worshipped by the Romans and all the other nations of the earth were idols.  And the Jews, who had the Scriptures from the true God, had nevertheless not known their God.  They had actually called for His crucifixion when He visited them.

 

The preaching of the resurrection of Jesus was an announcement that all the people of the earth, especially the wise and noble ones, had not known God.  And now they were to repent.

 

Now they were to turn and worship the true God, who was a Galilean who had died the scandalous death of the cross.

 

To both Jews and Greeks this was blasphemy.  To say that God would allow Himself to be spit on, put to shame, torn by whips, cursed and suspended naked from a gallows by nails pounded through his hands and feet was like saying that God was not God at all.  That’s why the early Christians who died as martyrs were condemned for being “atheists.”  They said everyone else’s gods were not gods.  Then they proposed as the one true God a man who had come from a miserable town in Galilee and was crucified.

 

The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus is no less earth-shattering today.  If Jesus rose from the dead, the idols of our time are exposed for what they are.

 

Islam is shown to be a false religion that not only brutally oppresses women and adherents of other religions, but also leads people to worship a false god and be damned.

 

The worship of reason, knowledge, earthly prosperity and pleasure—which is the dominant religion in the West—is shown to be foolish idolatry if Jesus is risen.  Because if God was crucified, prosperity and pleasure can’t be the highest good.  If this crucified man is God, that means human reason is not the final authority about where human beings came from and where we are going.  Human reason would never have looked for the eternal God in a man nailed up to die naked, suspended above a public place of execution.

 

Jesus rose from the dead.  He will return to judge the living and the dead.  This message is an attack on politeness and tolerance as our age defines it, claiming that all religions are equal.  It means God is calling the world to repent, because the world in all the great things it has done has not known God and has been giving His worship to idols.

 

The history of Jesus’ passion and resurrection as Mark has written it does not put the disciples of Jesus in a favorable light either, though.  It tells us that the three women, as they went to the tomb of Jesus to finish embalming him, were worrying aloud about who would move the stone that sealed the tomb shut.  The disciples had abandoned Jesus and weren’t even around to ensure that He got a decent burial after His death, and now they seem to have been too afraid to go out with the women to help them open the door of the tomb.

 

As the three women walked by the place of Jesus’ execution to the nearby garden where He had been buried, they saw, unexpectedly, that the stone had already been rolled away.  And when they came to the tomb, they were startled to find no mangled corpse of a man who had been crucified, but instead a young man in white clothes sitting where Jesus’ body had been.

 

Imagine the terror you would likely have felt if you were there.  What is a young man doing sitting in Jesus’ grave?  As though he had been waiting for you to come?

 

And the young man said, “Don’t be alarmed.

 

You’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the crucified.

 

He isn’t here.  He is risen.

 

Behold the place where they laid Him.”

 

And there the women could look and see—no Jesus.  Only the cloths in which He had been buried lying there, unoccupied.

 

“But go and tell his disciples and Peter that He is going before you into Galilee.  There you will see Him, just as He told you.”

 

And the women fled from the tomb.  They were trembling and in a trance-like state.  And they were afraid, and said nothing to anyone until later.

 

The women were expecting what the disciples expected, and what human reason expects today.  They were expecting to find the body of Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, lying cold in the grave.

 

But Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified, was no longer there.  And the young man who met the women said, “He is risen and going ahead of you to Galilee.  He is not only alive, but He is ahead of you.”

 

Now regarding the significance of this for us.

 

Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified, is no longer in the tomb.

 

He is now no longer suffering and put to shame, but has been raised from the dead.

 

He really and truly died.  His life in the flesh ended.  But He has been given a new life in the flesh.  And this life is not the same as the one before, where He was subject to weakness and humiliation, shame, and death.  In short, subject to sin.

 

He is now free from sin and death and all the suffering that comes with them.

 

Instead He is glorified.  He lives forever.  The nature and life of God is not hidden any longer but radiates from His body.

 

And why is this significant for us?  Because the life of God that raised Him and that is manifested in His human body is communicated to us.  He shares the life and glory in His flesh with our flesh.

 

When God wanted Moses to hear Him He had Moses see a bush that burned and was not consumed.

 

That is the nature of God.  He is a fire that does not burn out; He burns forever.  God is love.  The Song of Solomon says, “Love is stronger than death; jealousy is fierce as the grave.  Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.  Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”  [Song of Solomon 8:6-7]

 

God is love.  God is the fountain of life.  He burns with love and life and never burns out.  And He does not consume those who are in His fire.

 

That fire of the divine nature always burned in Jesus, the man from Nazareth, but it was not clearly visible.

 

And it was not yet visible to the women, because they did not see Jesus yet.  They only heard the report of Him—just as you and I do not yet see the glory of Christ face to face, but only hear the report of Him in preaching and the Scripture.

 

But because Jesus had truly died for sins that were not His own but ours, now that He is risen, the divine fire that Moses saw now burns in Jesus without being concealed.

 

And it burns in Him, this immortal life of God, so that every human being might also burn with this fire of God’s life.

 

This happens not because we choose it but because Christ has done it.  He has laid our old nature in the tomb and raised a new man who is united to God and shares His nature.

 

Moses looked at the fire of God from outside.  The resurrection of Jesus means that the fire of divine life that never burns out is inside everyone who hears the word of Jesus’ death and resurrection and believes that his sins are forgiven on account of it.

 

What does this mean for you?  It means you are reborn in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

 

He lived our life under the law, bearing our sin.  He died under the penalty for our sin.  And after His life poured out in water and blood from His heart, and He was buried, God raised Him up, not to live the old life under sin, but the new life, in which He lives and reigns forever, true God and true man, the unquenchable fire of the divine nature burning in full glory and strength and brilliance in Him forever.

 

From His risen body He pours the divine flame into us in the Word of Him—when it flows over us in the water of Baptism, when it enters our ears in preaching, when we eat and drink the word with the bread and wine.  You could say we eat fire at the altar—the body and blood of Jesus, and the unquenchable fire that is God’s life and passionate love.  Like Isaiah, whose sinful lips were touched with a coal from the heavenly altar when He saw the Lord on His throne and heard the seraphim singing the Sanctus—Holy, Holy, Holy…

 

That fire does consume our sinful nature.  But it does not destroy us.  Because when our life in the flesh is over He will raise us up and we will have not just a little gospel light burning in the darkness of our sinful bodies in the great gloom of a sinful and dying world.

 

We will be flames in the blazing fire of God’s love and life.  That fire will illuminate our bodies forever, but not consume them.

 

What does this mean?

 

It means if you do not believe that Christ has been raised from the dead you are cut off from the God of life.  You bear your own sins, and the fire of God burns against you instead of for you.

 

But if you do believe that He rose from the dead, you must also know that He was raised for you, for your justification, your being counted righteous, just as He was handed over for your sins.

 

He is the righteous one with whom God is pleased.  He stands before the Father in human flesh not simply for Himself but as your advocate.  Because He is before the Father as the righteous one who was crucified for our sins, the Father no longer counts your sins against you.

 

Yet just as the women were terrified when they heard about Jesus’ resurrection, so it is often with us. 

 

We are afraid.  How can it all be finished, without my choosing, or willing, or changing?

 

Don’t despair because of your doubt and fear and because you feel how your flesh doesn’t believe, how it wants to go on living as though Christ were still in the grave.

 

He is risen.  His new life is ours.  His righteousness is counted to us.  We will have this life in its fullness in the resurrection.

 

So as we experience weakness and draw closer to death we are really drawing near to the day when these mortal bodies are consumed completely and we put on bodies that are glorious not with earthly splendor but with the glory of God.

 

That fire does not burn out.  It burns in you now, but then it will burn from within you like the sun.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

SDG

Sermon Holy Easter Day 2013 Mark 16:1-8

empty tomb iconHoly Easter Day

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Mark 16:1-8

March 31, 2013

Jesu juva.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Dear Christians: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I was a child being raised in the Lutheran Church I felt like I was close to God.  Maybe some of you had the same experience.  It’s not that I was innocent.  But I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins.  I believed that He rose from the dead.  It was not an effort to believe this.  I just did.  And I had peace, even though not everything in my life was perfect.

It seemed impossible that I would ever doubt that Jesus was my Savior and that He had risen from the dead.  When I was a child, falling away from Jesus was not something I thought about because it seemed utterly impossible.  I just could not imagine my faith in Christ failing.

I imagine at one time it must have seemed impossible, unthinkable, that there would come a day when nearly everyone in America didn’t put on a spring dress or a suit and go with the family to church on Easter.  It was hard to imagine Christianity (or at least cultural Christianity) being anything other than a success in the United States.

When I got older the certainty of my childhood no longer seemed desirable and no longer seemed possible.  I doubted things that I never thought that I would.  I no longer was a child, and it seemed like Christianity was easy answers for people who would accept easy answers.  I dabbled with other religions and other philosophies.  And this was intoxicating because it meant that I was the judge.  I would determine on my own what was true.  A side benefit of this was not having to observe all the moral requirements of Christianity—not having to be humble, or forgiving, or chaste.

But then the day came when I needed to be rescued from myself.  Actually that is every day.  But a day came when I really knew that I needed to be saved from myself.  And then I found myself helpless, hanging on the edge of the cliff of hopelessness by my fingernails.  What I never doubted as a child, I couldn’t stop doubting.  Really, God turned the entire Nile River into blood?  Really, when Jesus died dead people came out of the tombs and showed themselves to people?  Really, Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven?

My faith, my conscience, and my life were bruised and torn and broken.  When I stopped doubting what the Scripture said happened in history, I started doubting whether the promises of God applied to me.  Whether I was forgiven my sins and would not be cast out by Jesus on the last day.

I did not have a victorious faith.  I was like the body of Jesus that Joseph buried—torn, humiliated, past hope.

My inner life was like that.  Outwardly I didn’t have a mark on my body.  I was like the young man in St. Mark’s account of the passion.  When Jesus was arrested they tried to arrest this man too, but the young man left everything behind to save his own life.  When they grabbed his garment he left it behind and ran away naked.  His body had no scars or bruises, but it was covered with shame and sin.

Read more…

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

December 4, 2012 1 comment

child preacher martyrdomhttp://www.memritv.org/clip/en/3644.htm  (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)”

Taunting Death–Funeral Sermon

August 30, 2012 4 comments

In Memoriam+Esther…

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, St. Luke 2

August 30, 2012

“Taunting Death”

 

Dear John,

John Jr., George, Jennifer,

Esther’s brother George, grandkids, family, friends,

Members of St. Peter:

 

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

God’s Word for our comfort this morning is from St. Paul’s letter to the Christian Church in the city of Corinth: Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:56)

 

Since Esther and John had two boys and a girl, I am sure that you know what taunting is.  I am sure that you and Esther heard your share of it around the house.  Oh, the joy of taunting your siblings when they get in trouble and they can’t do anything about it.  When one kid gets in trouble, and the other waits until dad or mom isn’t looking and then says, “Ha ha, nah nah nah nah nah nah,” and the other kid hits him and gets in trouble again!

 

Of course that’s a sin.  Jesus wants us to love our enemies, not to mention our brother and sister, as I’m sure at one time or another mom probably told you. 

 

But there is a right time to taunt and gloat.  Not when we win a battle and get glory, but when God does.  God will shout in triumph over his enemies on judgment day.  And in the verse from First Corinthians, St. Paul, a man just like us, is taunting and bragging over death and the devil.  Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?

 

To say something like that you are either crazy, or kidding yourself, or you have something amazing within you that is almost scary that the world and human beings can’t understand.

 

What is it people say?  ‘Your mouth shouldn’t write checks your body can’t cash.’  If I’m going to pick a fight with someone or taunt them, I better be sure I will win. 

 

If I’m going to pick a fight with death and the devil, I’d better be pretty certain that they won’t be able to take me.

 

Today, hasn’t death won a victory? 

 

From what I’ve seen from spending time with you, your family is a happy one with a treasure chest of happy memories.  Even though I only saw a little bit of your life together, it is still true that you have had much happiness as a family, much to be thankful for.  And I know from the time I got to spend with Esther what a comforting, beautiful person she was to me, so how much more to you?

 

None of us were ready for her to be taken away now.  Yet here we are, missing her.  Now we have to live, but now a huge source of happiness and joy for you is gone.  So how can we say, “O death, where is your sting?”  How can we taunt death, as though it is beaten?

 

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Those words are said a lot, so they are easy to ignore, but let us hear God again: 

 

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Those are easy words to read and say, but impossible for us to believe, apart from the miracle of God’s Spirit raising us from unbelief to faith, from eternal death to eternal life.  Believing in Jesus as our Savior is easy as long as the weather is fair and the seas are calm, but when the seas are rough, then we start to cry out, “Jesus, don’t you care if we drown?”  Or like the apostles and Peter, we falter in the time of darkness and then we lock ourselves in a room, forgetting that Jesus told us that He was going to suffer and be abused and mocked and crucified, and then rise from the dead on the third day.

 

It was not the will of the disciples that those things should happen to Jesus.  They wanted Him to go to Jerusalem and have everyone accept Him as the Messiah and then have His glorious kingdom come to the whole earth.  But He told them, “It is necessary” that he suffer and rise from the dead.  It was necessary—that was why He had come—to bear sin and bear God’s holy judgment and wrath against sin.

 

That looked like the end of the world, and in a very real sense, it was.  The sun was dark.  The rocks split and the earth shook.  But Jesus let out a loud cry at His death.  It was not a cry of despair but a cry of triumph.  Now the awful power and guilt and punishment of our sins was removed.  Jesus came as our brother, helper, and friend, and swallowed up sin and death and Satan’s power in His suffering and death.

 

That is the word of comfort, of unspeakable comfort, that Isaiah speaks about; God binds up the hearts of the brokenhearted.  He opens the prison.  He proclaims the year of His favor, that His anger is gone and His gracious, fatherly heart is open to us, because our sins have been paid for, and our enemy Satan has been defeated. 

 

Satan likes to tempt us to sin and then remind us of the law of God that threatens death, anger, and judgment against sinners.  That is the sting of sin Paul talks about.

 

But the devil’s power is all just an empty show now.  It looks terrifying, but God’s Word says that he is stripped of his power.  He pretends to be strong and mighty, but he no longer has power over us. 

 

Because God has “clothed us with the garments of salvation” and “covered us with the robe of righteousness” as a bridegroom decks himself out, as a bride puts on jewels at her wedding.  He clothed us with Christ’s righteousness by pouring on us the water joined with His Name—Baptism.  Then Jesus’ death that paid for our sins washed us clean. 

 

That is why the white cloth covers Esther’s casket.  We are taunting death.  Death looks like it can destroy everyone and everything that we love and that makes life worth living. 

 

“Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave, and at death no longer tremble.”

But not so.  Esther’s death was received by Jesus.  Esther’s body  is wrapped up in Jesus’ body that rose from the dead.  Her whole life is covered in the white garment of Jesus’ holy life and His payment for the sins of the world on the cross.

 

Our will for ourselves is not as loving as God’s will for us.  Our flesh would never want to leave this world, even though it is sinful, we are sinful, and there is much heartache and pain here. 

 

God’s will is to bring about the final victory and make it so that we rejoice over our enemies forever.

 

“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; listen, I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  When the perishable has put on the imperishable, and the mortal has put on immortality, then will come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.”

 

We are still living in perishable, mortal bodies that can die, and will die, unless Jesus returns first. 

 

But our Lord Jesus, into whom we were baptized—will never die again.  Death has no claim on him.  He paid for sin forever; He lives and reigns forever.  He shares human flesh, but His human flesh can no longer die; it is immortal.

 

God has prepared for us a body like Christ’s.  We will be resurrected and wear that glorious body forever.   Then death will be gone forever, and misery.  But first we must take off  the mortal body. 

 

Our flesh is sinful—it constantly pulls us to sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.  It is subject to death.  But in baptism it was crucified with Jesus, and the risen Jesus, the new man, came to live in us.  Yet we still daily are in a fight with the old flesh until it finally is put off.

 

But today Esther is no longer fighting that fight.  Instead her soul rests with Jesus and sees His face.  Her eternal joy has begun.  All that remains is the day when the body will be raised and put on eternal life, immortality, the glory of God.

 

Christ has baptized us for that same day; and all who believe in Christ, have the Holy Spirit, and live by faith in Christ, daily putting off the old Adam with its evil desires—we have eternal, everlasting union with Jesus, and with all the holy ones who have finished the race and begun to taste the joy of our Lord.

 

Esther rests.  She is not  a ghost, who you should pray to; let her enjoy her rest with her savior.  But she is not separate from you, if you are a Christian.  Because she is united to Jesus.  And all of us who by the Holy Spirit believe in Jesus alone as our righteousness, and who fight against the sinful flesh and desire forgiveness for the sin still remaining in them—we are also united with Jesus.  That is what the funeral pall shows.  We have his righteousness covering us, because we were put into Him in Baptism—into His death for our sins, and also His victorious resurrection over death.

When we come to receive Jesus’ body and blood at this altar, we don’t just come ourselves, the 100 plus people of this church.  We come together with the whole family of God, the Holy Christian Church in heaven and on earth.  We can’t see them, but they are with us, because they are with Jesus, who comes to us in His body and blood and gives us a foretaste of heaven.

 

That is why, even though we grieve, we can boast over death and the devil.  It is not boasting in ourselves but boasting in Jesus, God and Man, our friend and the deliverer of helpless sinners.

 

 In the midst of tears and grief, and the recognition of your own helplessness, know for certain that the almighty power of God is for you.  His victory over sin and death is for you. 

 

So you have the right to comfort yourself and to rejoice even as you go on in a world that is broken by sin and death.  Simeon said, “Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation.” The Lord’s salvation was a little, poverty stricken baby that he held in his hands. 

 

Jesus hardly looked like the world’s salvation then.  And compared to the power that death seems to have, it’s hard to think that the Jesus who speaks to us in His Word, who baptizes us, who feeds us His body and blood under bread and wine—it’s hard to see that those humble gifts give us the world’s salvation and the blessing of the Lord of the whole earth.

 

Yet Jesus promises.  So may God grant you comfort and strengthen your faith, and mine, and the whole church to look at Jesus’ resurrection, and His baptism, and taunt death, saying, “Where is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sting?”

 

Look at Jesus Christ crucified, and risen.  He is for you.  He is your Savior.  And He gives you the victory already over death.

 

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

 

 

Funeral Sermon in an Uncertain Case

July 16, 2012 3 comments

For the last however many years I have been a pastor, I always did funerals for associates and relatives of members of the church who died, even if it was unclear whether they were Christians.  I did it even though I was aware of the fact that at least Walther’s pastoral theology said, basically, you only do funerals for church members who gave evidence of faith, because your presence at a funeral is a sign that the person is in heaven.

I figured, “Well, the people in my congregation simply could not accept this.”

But now I am thinking of changing this practice.  Maybe a private service could be done–apart from the burial–for the comfort of the family, to proclaim the Gospel to them.  But I am starting to think that even though that would be an extremely difficult stance to take, it may be the only way of making clear to people the certainty of God’s judgment and the reality that we cannot expect to find the Holy Spirit apart from the marks of the church–that is, the preaching of the Word, the Sacraments.

In addition, this means that church discipline would need to be re-instituted.  In theory, it’s still in the books.  In reality, it’s been ignored.  And I really question whether the “compassion” which has led me to be slow in reinstituting it has actually helped the congregation. I think my compassion has more to do with “compassion” for myself in that I don’t want to be hated.  It has more to do with that than with real compassion, which would seek the salvation of people’s souls through the truth, and at the same time the honor of Christ, rather than a desire not to see people get upset.  If it really is good and necessary for people’s souls, then I will continue to do it.  But I don’t think it is.  I think it helps people whose family members turn from Christ to lull themselves to sleep.

At any rate at this point it does not appear that preaching and teaching is likely to help the people who have been listening to at least the preaching for the last six years and yet either have rejected it or it seems to have borne no fruit.

Luther did not institute church discipline right away into the churches but preached and taught.  It seems to me that many of us are asking: at what point do we simply say–look, we’ve preached and taught, and now it is time for you to heed the Word or no longer be considered a Christian.  Do you have an answer to this question?  If so, tell me.

Anyway, here is the sermon.

+++

In Memoriam ….

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 13.1-5, 22-30; 1 Corinthians 15; Lamentations 3

July 16, 2012

 

[Father], [Mother], [Girlfriend], [Son],  [ Brother], [sister], [sister], [Little Brother],

All of [name’s] uncles, aunts, family, friends,

Members of St. Peter:

 

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

 

Personal expressions of sympathy and grief.

Who knows your grief?

 

Even we don’t know it; our hearts confuse us.

 

God knows it.  He knows the depths of the human heart, the depths of human suffering, the depths of sin.

                Lamentations: He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.

 

God wants to speak to you in your grief.

 

Do you have regrets—things you wish you would have said?

                I do; I wish I had been more faithful as a pastor in seeking him out.

 

Things you wish you could take back or undo? 

                How can you live with and love someone for years and not say or do something wrong

against them?

 

The living God wants to speak to you.

 

Not religious sentiment.

Not human opinions about God. 

Not false gods, idols, gods that don’t exist and can’t save.

The God who created you;

The God who made Himself known in history; the living God.

 

What does He want to say to you?

 

He wants, after all, to give you real hope:

 

The hope of the resurrection of the dead.

                Life is short.  It is not forever. 

                The things we set our hearts on in this world are temporary.

                God wants to give you the assurance of the resurrection from the dead;

                                That this body and all who taste death will rise again;

                                And God wants to give you the certain hope that you will be raised to everlasting life.

 

But real hope means that we must first give up on false hopes.

 

Our world is full of false hopes:

                “Everyone will go to heaven.”  No; God will judge the living and the dead, the righteous and

the wicked.

 

“No more pain.”  Not so.  There will be everlasting pain for those remain God’s enemies.

 

Not “he was a good person.”  [Name] surely was good in our eyes; he gave us joy.  But there is a difference between God’s judgment and ours about who and what is good.

 

Jesus explains that tragic death does not come because a person has done worse sins than everyone else; rather, death comes to all sooner or later.

 

Mentions tragic deaths at the time; his countrymen murdered by Pilate during worship, the people who suddenly died when a tower fell on them.

 

The issue, Jesus says, is not really them, but you.  “Unless you repent, you too will perish.”

 

What kind of heartless, judgmental thing is that to say?  How could Jesus say that they also need to repent or perish eternally?  Did he know their hearts?

 

                Yes.  But one does not need to be God to know the human heart. 

               

God has revealed to us what is in the human heart—sin, rebellion against Him, idolatry.

                Adam’s fall.

               

Death is the penalty for sin, and it falls on everyone; Pharisees and tax collectors alike.

 

Sin dwells in us even when we live well; even in Christians.  The heart inclines to idolatry.  We do not wish to love God with all our hearts.  We want to be independent—at least our old nature does.

 

How does God regard this sin that dwells in good people and bad people?  It calls forth His wrath and judgment.  He is just and must punish sin.

               

You know how you desire vengeance when someone wrongs you.  That is because sin and wrongdoing earns/deserves punishment.

 

Therefore each person stands under the wrath and judgment of God; He stands ready to judge the living and the dead.  And those who sin and do not receive cleansing from their sins will certainly be punished in eternity by the just wrath of God.

 

God announces real hope to us in Scripture: “The wages/ just desserts of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

 

                Paul says it plainly in 1 Cor. 15.  It’s practically the first thing out of his mouth.  What is the

good news, the Gospel you heard from me?  “Christ died for our sins…”

He died under God’s wrath for our sins; He who is God from eternity, but is also our brother, a fellow human being, born of a woman, the virgin Mary.

 

                He died, and He rose from the dead; defeating death for us.

               

                God’s righteous wrath against sin and sinners—on Jesus, His Son!

 

Therefore all sinners have this promise from God—Your sins are forgiven through His innocent suffering and death alone.  Not through anything you have done, not through any striving of yours. 

 

Thus with sin paid for, He ransomed us from death.

 

He treads on the ancient lying serpent’s head and sets us free from his slavery and bondage. 

 

He gives us the certain hope that we will rise again from the dead in Him.

 

He promises us a new creation in which we will see His face and never again weep, suffer, die, sin.

 

Yet Jesus still warns: Unless You repent…

 

I used to hate these words of Jesus.  Why would he die for me and then insist that I do what I cannot do?  I have tried to stop sinning, but I failed, over and over.

 

Maybe you experienced this and so you gave up on Christianity.

 

Repentance means “Change your mind.”

                You used to love sin—now hate it.

 

You used to trust yourself and your works and your own goodness and your own broken ideas about God.  Now trust only in the God who was crucified for you.

 

The great sin in our lives—not our evil actions, but our worship/trust in false gods—idols.

                We trust ourselves.

                Love of the world.

                Love of money, power, lust.

 

Turn from this.  Fear God’s wrath, flee the sin that provokes his anger, looking to Christ alone who died for our sins.

 

Be baptized.  Put your sinful life away and come to be washed in Christ’s blood and to live as His redeemed one.

 

If you are already baptized, turn away from your sins and that which you know is displeasing to God; return to His Word, to prayer.

               

                Not that you no longer sin, but that you no longer desire it.  You want to be free of it.  And though it still lives in you, you look to Christ’s death on the cross to cover it.

 

In the ongoing struggle with sin that begins when you are baptized or return to the life of following Jesus, the life of Baptism, look to Jesus alone.

               

Even though I am a sinner, I do not want it, and I cling to Christ for righteousness before God.

 

I do not preach to you today because I do not sin; I preach what I myself cling to—the righteousness of Jesus only which saves the ungodly.

 

Baptism is God’s promise that in your ongoing struggle with sin you are not alone.  Jesus’ death and resurrection which forgives and conquers sin and hell is yours, placed on you like a robe covering the filthy garments of our sin.

 

 

This is the chief thing: not ‘why did this happen’ but that you may repent and not perish.  But what about [name]?

 

                How do we find comfort for ourselves about him?

 

                No false hopes.

 

                Not [Ns] good qualities.  Instead thank God for those; He gave them to you because He

Loves you.  He lets his sun shine on you, feeds, clothes, puts you in a family, gives you life—because He wants what is good for you.

 

This limitless mercy is what we trust.

 

[N] was not baptized.  Yet the Son of God bore his sins and shed His blood for him.

 

And the Lord Jesus, the true and living God who speaks to you to day to comfort you, also spoke to him in the Gospel of His cross.

               

He spoke to him in church, through his mother, through some of you, so that he might forsake sin and find forgiveness and cleansing by faith in Jesus.

 

In the last few months/weeks, God worked on his heart to bring [N] into his church to hear the word of God.

               

He was here just a few weeks ago.  I thought he was here for the potluck, but he was here because he wanted to go to church.

 

Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  So we put our hope in Christ’s mercy that the gospel he heard also brought him to repentance in his last hours, weeks, months—brought him to Jesus. 

 

                But besides all this, Jesus made him.  He was [N’s] creator, and redeemer.  He made him and

                He died for him.

                               

As hard as this is to believe, Jesus loved [N] more than even his own mother. 

 

And as hard as it is to do, you are safe in entrusting [N] along with yourself into the hands of Jesus.  He is wise and far more merciful than we are.

 

“He who comes to me I will by no means cast out” says Jesus.  “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” says Jesus. 

 

                Jesus says this to you in your grief.

 

Now we give [N] and ourselves into the hands of Jesus.

 

                We can’t control when death comes; God is in control.  But the one true God does not hate

                you.

 

He gave you [N], and every earthly blessing.  And He has given you His Son—on the cross and in Your ears.

 

He looked your sin and hatred of Him in the face and gave His Son to die for them.

 

Come to the true God who does not lie to us and whose word does not leave us in the dust or crush us and cast us into hell, as do the lies of the evil one.

 

He does not hold your sins against you; He will not cast you out no matter how you have lived; He frees you from sin and death.  He calls you “Son” when you turn to Him and believe on the name of His Son—that Jesus died for you.

 

He calls you His own.  He justifies you, covering your sins with the blood and righteousness of Jesus.

 

He enables you to say in the words of an old hymn:

                I fall asleep in Jesus’ wounds; There pardon for my sin abounds

                Yes, Jesus’ blood and righteousness—My jewels are, my glorious dress.

                In these before my God I’ll stand  When I shall reach the heavenly land.

 

God grant it to us.  Amen.

 

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

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