“The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-57)

Funeral Service
Monday, August 14, 2017

“The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-57)

Over 25 years as a pastor, I have had a number of World War II veterans as members of the congregations I have served. Homer Rouggly was one of them. In fact, Homer Rouggly might well be the last one that I will have the honor of laying to rest. That “Greatest Generation” is quickly passing away, and they were quite a crew.

By the way, for a number of years I had two World War II veterans sitting near each other in the pews at St. Matthew’s: Homer Rouggly and Albert Mertsch. The ironic thing was, they were both World War II veterans, but they had fought on opposite sides, Albert for his native Germany, and Homer for the United States. The fact that they were united as brothers in Christ and fellow members of his church is a testimony to the power of the gospel to reconcile people to God and to one another. Last year Albert died in the faith, and now it’s Homer’s turn.

And so it goes. One after another, the people we’ve known our whole lives slip away from us, and we feel the loss. For you in the Rouggly family, it’s been a double loss this year, first Dorothy in May and now Homer in August. Just three months apart. Married for 70 years, and then going home to the Lord within three months of one another. You who have known them your whole lives, as your father and mother, as your grandfather and grandmother, as great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents even, this is going to leave a void in your lives. But you will have all those wonderful memories to look back on, and that will help. And you will have one another to lean on for support.

Even more, though, you will have the comfort of the gospel of Christ to strengthen you and to give you hope. That is the rock you can rely on that will never let you down. Because of what Jesus Christ did for you and did for Homer, you can have the sure hope of a joyful and eternal future. For in Christ we know that the final outcome has already been decided. The victory has been won. And “The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death.”

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Published in: on August 14, 2017 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word Is Near You, in Your Mouth and in Your Heart” (Romans 10:5-17)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 13, 2017

“The Word Is Near You, in Your Mouth and in Your Heart” (Romans 10:5-17)

There is a wealthy author and art dealer in New Mexico by the name of Forrest Fenn. A lover of adventure, Mr. Fenn decided to fill a chest with gold nuggets, rare coins, jewelry, and gemstones, and to hide this treasure somewhere in the American West. He gave out clues, so that other adventure-seekers could search for the treasure chest and hopefully find it. The hidden treasure is said to be worth about two million dollars.

Well, in the seven years since this began, dozens and dozens of treasure hunters have gone searching for this hidden treasure. They have covered hundreds of miles, traversed deserts, scaled mountains, forded rivers, and faced all kinds of obstacles and dangers. In fact, two, possibly three, searchers have died in their quest for Fenn’s treasure.

These treasure hunters have gone to great lengths, literally, trying to find this fortune. How far would you go? Now if I told you there was a treasure far richer than Mr. Fenn’s–millions of times richer, incalculable–and that this treasure was reachable, attainable, able to be found, how far would you go? What if I told you that this treasure was not far away, that you don’t have to go searching hundreds of miles in the wilderness to find it? Even more, that I will give you not just some obscure clues but the very message you need to find it? That’s what I’m talking about today when I say, “The Word Is Near You, in Your Mouth and in Your Heart.”

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Published in: on August 12, 2017 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Come and Be Satisfied!” (Isaiah 55:1-5)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 6, 2017

“Come and Be Satisfied!” (Isaiah 55:1-5)

Today the Lord is extending an invitation to you. He is saying to each one of us today: “Come and eat!” “Come and drink!” “Come and Be Satisfied!”

“Come and be satisfied!” This is the message God is speaking to us today through his prophet Isaiah. Our text is the Old Testament Reading from Isaiah 55. Listen again to the first part of this text: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”

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Published in: on August 5, 2017 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Inseparable!” (Romans 8:28-39)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 30, 2017

“Inseparable!” (Romans 8:28-39)

Do you ever worry that God has given up on you? That he’s finally had enough and is ready to kick you to the curb? It’s like God is thinking: “Oh, my goodness! There he goes again! Haven’t I told him often enough not to do those things? What am I going to do with this one?” Yeah, how could God put up with a supposed Christian as lousy as I am? So I wonder if I’m going to make it with God all the way to the end.

Or maybe you think God has forgotten about you. I mean, look at all the troubles you’re having. You don’t have enough money. Your income is going down. Your expenses are going up. Your health–well, it’s one thing after another. Your life is a mess. Some of the people closest to you have deserted you. And you think: “Maybe God has deserted me, too. He doesn’t seem to care. Nothing is changing for the better. I mean, come on!”

This is how we feel. We look at all the troubles in our life: “Where is God in all this? Why isn’t he doing something about it?” We feel the pangs of conscience in our heart: “What kind of a Christian am I? How can God accept me?” And we feel distant from God, separated from him. We wonder, and we worry. So it is to people like us that our Epistle reading today especially speaks. To Christians who are wondering and worrying whether God really still loves us, St. Paul today declares that God’s love for us is “Inseparable!”

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Published in: on July 29, 2017 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest” (Matthew 11:25-30; Romans 7:14-25a)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 9, 2017

“Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest” (Matthew 11:25-30; Romans 7:14-25a)

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Here in this verse from today’s Gospel, Matthew 11:28, Jesus issues a gracious invitation and makes a wonderful promise. “Come to me” is the invitation, and “I will give you rest” is the promise. And to whom does he address this invitation and promise? To “all who labor and are heavy laden.”

What is it, then, to labor and be heavy laden, to be weary and burdened? What does Jesus mean by that? Jesus speaks to those who are weary of trying to please God by their own efforts. He speaks to those who labor under the law. Those who are burdened with their weight of guilt. Loaded down with the weariness and burdens that life in this vale of tears lays upon them. Jesus speaks to those who are heavy laden with loads they are unable to carry. To those who realize their weariness and burdened state, Jesus says today, “Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest.”

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Published in: on July 8, 2017 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Sword, a Cross, and a Life” (Matthew 10:34-42)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
July 2, 2017

“A Sword, a Cross, and a Life” (Matthew 10:34-42)

Today Jesus tells us that he came to bring us three things: “A Sword, a Cross, and a Life.” Are you sure you want these things? Let’s find out.

Our text is the Holy Gospel for today, from Matthew chapter 10. Jesus has been instructing his disciples in this chapter, preparing them for what they’re getting themselves in for. And it’s not going to be a bed of roses. Because some of these roses are going to have thorns. Are you ready for this?

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Published in: on July 1, 2017 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Confessing the Faith with the Augsburg Confessors” (Psalm 119:46)

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
Sunday, June 25, 2017

“Confessing the Faith with the Augsburg Confessors” (Psalm 119:46)

Today Lutheran churches around the world are celebrating the 487th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. On June 25, 1530, in the city of Augsburg, Germany, a group of Lutheran princes presented a confession of their faith, composed by the theologian Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s right-hand man–they presented their confession to Emperor Charles V. That document, called the Augsburg Confession, summarizes what our Lutheran churches believe, teach, and confess, on the basis of Holy Scripture. Today then we want to consider what it means for us to be “Confessing the Faith with the Augsburg Confessors.”

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Published in: on June 24, 2017 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Kingdom of Priests” (Exodus 19:2-8)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 18, 2017

“A Kingdom of Priests” (Exodus 19:2-8)

“You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” What did this mean for Old Testament Israel? What does it mean for the church today? What does it mean for you in your life? That’s what we’re going to explore now as we consider the Lord’s calling for us to be “A Kingdom of Priests.”

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Published in: on June 17, 2017 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified by the Triune God” (Apostles’ Creed)

Funeral Service
Friday, June 16, 2017

“Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified by the Triune God” (Apostles’ Creed)

Bob, Karen, Michele, friends and family of our dear sister Dottie: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Christian funeral service is both a time of sadness and a time of hope. It is a time of sadness, because we will miss our dear loved one. And so we grieve. However, as St. Paul tells the Thessalonians, we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We do have hope, the only hope that works. For the Christian, our hope is firmly anchored in the goodness and the promises of the triune God. The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as we just confessed in the Apostles’ Creed: This is where we find the hope to sustain us in the midst of our sadness. And so it is today at this Christian funeral service for our sister Dottie. We mourn her loss, but we also find hope. The basis for our hope is that Dottie was “Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified by the Triune God.”

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Published in: on June 16, 2017 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Athanasian Creed: Incomprehensible?”

The Holy Trinity
Sunday, June 11, 2017

“The Athanasian Creed: Incomprehensible?”

Today is Trinity Sunday–or, more properly called, the Feast of the Holy Trinity–and as such, this is the one day in the year when we confess the Athanasian Creed. Actually, we believe, teach, and confess the Athanasian Creed 365 days a year; it’s just this is the one day in the year when we speak it aloud in church during the service.

You see, the church confesses three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. They are called “ecumenical” creeds, because they are held all across Christendom.

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Published in: on June 10, 2017 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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