“Behold, I Am Coming Soon” (Acts 1:1-11; Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2016

“Behold, I Am Coming Soon” (Acts 1:1-11; Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Take a look at the picture over our altar. Of course, it’s a painting of the Ascension of Our Lord, that time when Jesus ascended into heaven. But if you didn’t know that, and you just look at Jesus there midway in the sky, you might wonder: Is he going up or is he coming down? It looks like it could be either. For just as Jesus ascended into heaven on Ascension Day, so too will he come down from heaven when he returns in glory on the Last Day. That’s the point of our message this morning, namely, that Christ’s ascension points us to his return. Not only so, today we’re even given a glimpse at what’s in store for us when he does return. For today our ascended Lord gives us his promise, “Behold, I Am Coming Soon.”

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Published in: on May 7, 2016 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Tribulation and Peace, Guaranteed” (John 16:23-33)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2016

“Tribulation and Peace, Guaranteed” (John 16:23-33)

There are very few guarantees in life, very few things you can be sure of. For instance, there are no guarantees about the success of your baseball team. The Chicago Cubs were riding high in April, but who knows if they will be shot down in May? No guarantees. You have no guarantee that you’re going to be rich, or, if you are, that you’re going to stay that way. Things could go south in a hurry. You have no guarantee about your health. You could be fit as a fiddle one year and then come down with a mysterious disease the next. No guarantees. But today I want to tell you about two things you can be sure of, and they are these: “Tribulation and Peace, Guaranteed.”

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Published in: on May 1, 2016 at 7:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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“A Whole New World” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2016

“A Whole New World” (Revelation 21:1-7)

“A Whole New World”: Aladdin may sing about it, but God will deliver it. Are you looking forward to it? You should be, and today I’ll tell you why.

Yes, a whole new world. That’s what John sees in our reading today from Revelation 21. A new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem. And he who is seated on the throne says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” We’re coming into the last two chapters of the Bible now, and we get a glimpse of where all this is headed. And it is new, and it is glorious, and it is something to be ardently looked forward to.

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Published in: on April 24, 2016 at 1:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Our Guiding, Guarding Good Shepherd” (John 10:22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 17, 2016

“Our Guiding, Guarding Good Shepherd” (John 10:22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Every year on this Sunday in the Easter season we focus our attention on Jesus as our good shepherd. On this day every year our psalm is Psalm 23, “The LORD is my shepherd.” On this day every year the Holy Gospel is a portion of John 10, the chapter in which Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Every year on this Sunday the other readings and our hymns also carry this theme of Jesus as our good shepherd. And so it is today. Thus our theme this morning: “Our Guiding, Guarding Good Shepherd.”

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Published in: on April 17, 2016 at 12:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Worthy Is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:1-14)

Third Sunday of Easter
April 10, 2016

“Worthy Is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:1-14)

In this presidential election year, we look around at the various candidates in both parties, and we ask ourselves, “Who is worthy? Who is worthy of holding the highest office in the land?” And we look at the candidates, and we examine and scrutinize their various failings and shortcomings, and we say to ourselves, “I’m not sure if any of them are worthy! Is there no one out there I can put my confidence in, someone I can trust to hold this high office and do the right thing? After all, the presidency is a position of great power and authority, and the person in this office will have a significant impact on determining the course of our immediate future. So who is worthy of this high honor and this great responsibility? Maybe no one.”

Well, today I want to direct our attention to a higher office than the presidency and the search for someone worthy to hold it. Is there someone, anyone, worthy of determining the entire course of the history of the world? Who is worthy of that kind of awesome responsibility? Who is worthy of that kind of honor? Who is worthy of our trust, so that we can be confident that things are unfolding for the good, even when they’re looking very bad? Is there anyone worthy of that kind of trust? Anyone? The answer comes today: “Worthy Is the Lamb.”

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Published in: on April 9, 2016 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“If Christ Has Not Been Raised” (1 Corinthians 15:1-26)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, March 27, 2016

“If Christ Has Not Been Raised” (1 Corinthians 15:1-26)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Yes, he is risen indeed! Risen from the dead! Risen bodily. And everything depends on this. Your faith, your forgiveness, your future. Your eternal future. The future of your loved ones who have died in the Lord. Everything hinges on this great and glorious fact: that Christ has indeed risen from the dead.

But what if Christ has not risen from the dead? What then? What would be the consequences? You know, not everyone believes that Christ has risen from the dead. And for us who do believe, what if our faith is misplaced? What if it never really happened? What if this is all a big made-up story? Or what if we’re just misunderstanding the idea of Christ “rising from the dead”? Maybe it just means that he kind of rose spiritually, but not bodily? Like, his memory lives on, the great moral example that he set, the nice teachings that he set forth about loving one another, and so on. But not that he rose bodily from the dead! Surely that is too much! Let’s not go that far! You know, that is what a lot of people think about Jesus. Good moral teacher, fine example, died unjustly, but that was it. His body must be somewhere. His followers must have taken it and hidden it and made up this story about Jesus rising from the dead. For surely there is no such thing as a real, physical resurrection of the dead!

But then this is nothing new, this way of thinking. It was around also way back in the first century. This idea had even infiltrated the early Christian church, that there’s no such thing as a bodily resurrection of the dead. It apparently was the thinking of some people in the church in Corinth, because the apostle Paul takes on this notion and contemplates the consequences of it, if that were the case. That’s what’s going on in our Epistle reading for today from 1 Corinthians 15. So let’s ponder that prospect now for a few moments, under the theme, “If Christ Has Not Been Raised.”

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Published in: on March 26, 2016 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Confidence, Unity, and Joy: God’s Gifts to Our Church” (1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11b-19)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2015

“Confidence, Unity, and Joy: God’s Gifts to Our Church” (1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11b-19)

Today we are very happy to receive yet another family into our congregation. That makes seventeen new members added to our little church so far this year. Seventeen! That is remarkable. From out of the blue, quite unexpectedly, God has gifted us with these brothers and sisters in Christ, who are joining our church. Thanks be to God!

Yes, today we give thanks to God for the gift of these new members, who already are being a real blessing to our church. But now I want to tell you about some other gifts that God has for our church, and these are gifts that are spoken of in the Scripture readings for today. And they are these: “Confidence, Unity, and Joy: God’s Gifts to Our Church.”

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Published in: on May 16, 2015 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” (1 John 5:1-8)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2015

“Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” (1 John 5:1-8)

“Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying”: That’s the hymn we just sang (LSB 597). Listen again to the words of the first stanza:

Water, blood, and Spirit crying,
By their witness testifying
To the One whose death-defying
Life has come, with life for all.

The One to whom the Spirit, the water, and the blood are testifying is, of course, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has defied and defeated death for us, who comes with life for all, and whose Easter victory we are celebrating during this season.

But now where did the hymn writer get the idea for this hymn and the very words that he uses? He got them from our Epistle for today, from 1 John chapter 5. And in particular, from verses 6-8, reading again as follows: “This is he who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” This is our text.

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Published in: on May 9, 2015 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“We Love Because He First Loved Us” (1 John 4:1-21)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2015

“We Love Because He First Loved Us” (1 John 4:1-21)

Love, love, love. How often do we hear that word “love”! We use it so freely, so loosely. We use it for McDonald’s hamburgers: “I’m lovin’ it.” We use it for clothing and cars and hairstyles and lots of things we like, but instead of saying “like,” we say “love.” I found myself doing that just the other night: Lance Lynn struck out a batter with the bases loaded and two outs, and I said, without thinking, “Love it!”

Well, a step up from that very loose use of “love” is when we apply the word to people. But even there, it can be overused. So many pop songs have “love” in the lyrics, but what they mean is “I’m really infatuated with you” or “You really turn me on.” Meh, that’s a little weak. Better is when we use “love” about people for whom we have a strong and lasting personal affection. “I love my grandma.” “I love my daughter.” That’s pretty good. That’s the love of personal affection.

But we can do even better than that. There is the love of commitment, of caring and serving others, even the love of self-sacrifice for the good of another. Now that is really the best and highest use of the word “love.” And where and how do we learn that kind of love? That’s what we’ll take up now, under the theme, “We Love Because He First Loved Us.”

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Published in: on May 2, 2015 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“One Name, One Flock, One Shepherd” (Acts 4:1-12; John 10:11-18)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2015

“One Name, One Flock, One Shepherd” (Acts 4:1-12; John 10:11-18)

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the day in the church year every year when the propers–that is, the various parts of the service–revolve around Jesus as our Good Shepherd. The Holy Gospel is always a portion of John 10, in which Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. The Psalm is always the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd.” The Hymn of the Day, which we just sang, is “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” And so on. This theme of the Good Shepherd really comes through loud and clear.

Now the First Reading today, from the Book of Acts, chapter 4, doesn’t exactly fit the Good Shepherd theme. There is no mention of sheep or shepherd. But still, it is an appropriate reading for the Easter season. For it describes how the apostles Peter and John were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead,” which is the great emphasis for Easter and these weeks that follow. And what Peter says here about the preaching of the resurrection in Jesus’ name does tie in well with what Jesus himself says in John 10–as we shall see now, as we focus our attention on “One Name, One Flock, One Shepherd.”

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Published in: on April 26, 2015 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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