“Casting All Your Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11)

“Casting All Your Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11)

It came as a shock this past Monday morning. I got an email telling me that the son of a pastor friend of mine–that over the weekend this pastor’s son had taken his own life. Fifteen years old. A good kid. A bright kid. A faithful, church-going young man. I had gotten to know this boy a little bit at various conferences over the years, when his parents had brought him along. So that made it all the more shocking and sad. Just fifteen years old. And in a sudden moment of what must have felt like hopelessness and despair, he took his own life.

And this came about two weeks after another pastor’s son also committed suicide. This young man was twenty-five. So tragic, these losses. And these are in good Christian households.

And then there’s the added stress of the shutdown. Yesterday I saw a headline, quoting a doctor in California about what they’ve been seeing there. It says: “A Year’s Worth of Suicide Attempts in the Last Four Weeks.”

Dear brothers and sisters, there but for the grace of God, go you and I. There but for the grace of God go our sons and daughters. Sudden despair, overwhelming anxiety and depression, can overtake any one of us. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Truly we do walk in danger all the way.

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Published in: on May 23, 2020 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Making Known the Unknown God” (Acts 17:16-31)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2020

“Making Known the Unknown God” (Acts 17:16-31)

The reading today from the Book of Acts is the story of Paul preaching at the Areopagus in Athens. There Paul was preaching not in a Jewish synagogue where he could assume some biblical literacy. Rather, he was speaking in a Gentile, pluralistic marketplace of ideas. And so this text has great relevance for us today, for this is the world we live in. Thus our theme this morning: “Making Known the Unknown God.”

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Published in: on May 16, 2020 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“But Joy Comes with the Morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020

“But Joy Comes with the Morning” (Psalm 30:5)

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

This is our traditional Easter greeting. But this year has been anything but traditional. When last we met here, eight weeks ago today, it was still Lent. Easter Day was four weeks ago, so we didn’t get to say it then. But today we are still in the Easter season, and this is our first opportunity to say it together, so let’s do it again with gusto:

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

Amen! And this reality is what gives us hope and joy, in the midst of any sadness. The resurrection of Christ on Easter morning tells us that what Jesus did on the cross for us really works! His sacrifice for our sins has been accepted by God, and the resurrection is the big “Amen!” affirming our forgiveness. The resurrection of our Lord gives us the sure hope that we who have been baptized into Christ will likewise share in his resurrection. What hope, what joy, this gives us!

This joy is greater than, and overcomes, any sadness we experience. Think of the sadness, the overwhelming sadness and gloom that gripped Jesus’ disciples after his crucifixion. The Emmaus disciples, for instance. Their faces were downcast, it says. Their hopes were crushed. Everything they were hoping for with Jesus–gone, thinking that the death of their master meant it was all over. But Jesus surprised them, didn’t he? Or the women at the tomb that Easter morning. They went there sorrowful, expecting to find a dead body. But God had a surprise in store for them. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” That’s the verse that sets the tone for us this morning. It’s Psalm 30:5, a verse from the Introit we sang earlier. And I just love this verse. It tells me that whatever bad stuff I’m going through at the moment, God has something beautiful in store for me to follow. This promise from God’s word gives me hope for the future and joy in the here and now. And today I pray it does the same for you also. Weeping may tarry for the night, “But Joy Comes with the Morning.”

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Published in: on May 9, 2020 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Real Normal” (Acts 2:42-47)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2020

“The Real Normal” (Acts 2:42-47)

We’re hearing a lot of talk these days about “the new normal.” “The new normal”: It means that the way we’ve been living these last seven weeks is how we’re going to have to continue to live for the indefinite future. Depending on the state you live in and who your governor is, you’re going to have to stay at home, self-isolating, and not do any unessential travel. If you do go out for anything deemed essential, you’re going to have to practice social distancing–stay six feet apart from anybody. You’re going to have to wear a mask–or not wear a mask, depending on who you listen to. You should wash your hands every twenty minutes and not touch your face. You need to stay shut in and locked down. Flatten the curve, slow the spread, and wait a year or two for a possible vaccine, which may or may not come. And this is supposed to be “the new normal.”

And for churches, this has been especially rough. Religion was deemed “non-essential.” We were told not to hold public services. In some places, you could have services, but only for ten people or fewer. In other places, you couldn’t have services at all. They even sent police around to give tickets to people attending drive-in services, people staying in their cars in parking lots. The police would write down license plate numbers to keep track of violators. And again, depending on your state and your governor and the local officials, they may be telling you, “Get used to it. Do your services online. This is ‘the new normal.’”

For our congregation, St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre, Missouri, we voluntarily decided not to have services temporarily, out of concern for public health and safety. This is now the seventh straight Sunday we’ve missed, plus services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We’ve tried to do the best we can in the meantime, doing these live mini-services on Facebook. You’re still getting the Word of God, the gospel of Christ, proclaimed in this way, and that’s good! But in some respects, it’s not the same. Virtual church is not the same as real church, full-bodied church, the church gathered as the people of God.

Right now, we are still in exile. As the psalmist wrote about a previous time when God’s people were in exile: “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” Their exile lasted seventy years. Our exile has lasted seven weeks. But it still stinks. It’s not normal. The new normal is not “The Real Normal.”

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Published in: on May 2, 2020 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Walk to Emmaus” (Luke 24:13-35)

Third Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2020

“A Walk to Emmaus” (Luke 24:13-35)

I hope you can see the painting I posted on my Facebook page to go with today’s Gospel reading. It’s called “Gang nach Emmaus,” “The Road to Emmaus,” and it was painted by a 19th-century Swiss artist, Robert Zünd. It’s one of my favorite paintings. It’s like I want to put myself into the picture and get up there and walk alongside Jesus as he opens up the Scriptures. What a Bible study that must have been! Well, maybe today we can zoom in (no pun intended) and hear what Jesus has to say. Yeah, come on, let’s take “A Walk to Emmaus.”

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Published in: on April 25, 2020 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“What You Don’t See Is What You Get” (John 20:19-31)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2020

“What You Don’t See Is What You Get” (John 20:19-31)

The doors were locked. They were in lockdown mode. They had quarantined themselves. They were self-isolating. Why? Because they were afraid.

Who is it that I’m talking about? Americans in 2020? No, I’m talking about Jesus’ disciples, around the year 30. Those disciples had locked themselves in. They were in self-quarantine. They were isolating and keeping their social distance. And the reason was, they were afraid. They were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had just had their master killed a couple of days earlier. Now, since they were known to be Jesus’ disciples, if it became known where they were, the authorities might come after them, too. So the disciples were afraid. They self-isolated, and they were keeping their distance, behind closed doors.

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Published in: on April 19, 2020 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Alleluia! Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!” (Matthew 28:1-10)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
April 12, 2020

“Alleluia! Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!” (Matthew 28:1-10)

“Alleluia! Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

“He is risen indeed!” Over many centuries, this is how the church has joyfully responded to the great Easter proclamation. Why such an exuberant response? Because of the glorious good news that precedes it, the news that Christ is risen. This good news of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ brings reassurance and restoration to troubled, weary hearts. His resurrection calls forth our joyous response. On this Easter Day, then, on this most glorious of mornings, the whole church in heaven and the church on earth–all across the earth–hears the good news, “Christ is risen,” and we rejoice to respond, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

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Published in: on April 11, 2020 at 9:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold, I Am Coming Soon!” (Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 2, 2019

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

This is now the third in a three-part sermon series on the readings from Revelation 21 and 22. We began two weeks ago when St. John was given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and he saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. And a voice from the throne announced: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne declared, “Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” Then last week John described more of what he saw, what the holy city looked like: beautiful and glorious, full of life and light. “Behold, the New Jerusalem!”

Now today, we come to the last chapter in the Bible, Revelation 22. Again we are given a glimpse of life in the new Jerusalem. This vision creates an eagerness in us for when these things will take place! When will we be able to be there, O Lord? When will you come again to bring this all about? How long, O Lord, how long? Today our Lord assures us and says, “Behold, I Am Coming Soon!”

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Published in: on June 1, 2019 at 7:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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“Behold, the New Jerusalem!” (Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 26, 2019

“Behold, the New Jerusalem!” (Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27)

This Memorial Day weekend is kind of the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. If you’re like me, I always looked forward to summer vacation. Maybe go up north, get away from the heat and the stress, relax by a lake, enjoy life. And it’s nice to know some things about your vacation destination–where you’re going, the place. This gives you something to look forward to: the beauty, the scenery, the pleasant temperatures, enjoyable activities, time to relax and unwind with people you know and love. And even though you’re not there yet, just knowing that you are going and knowing what you have to look forward to–this can put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. It lifts your spirits.

Well, today I want to lift your spirits by lifting your sights. I want to lift your sights to a place where you will be going one day. It’s the new Jerusalem, a place we were introduced to a little bit last week, but today we’ll get to see more of it. St. John will show us around the holy city. We’ll get to see the wall, the gates, the foundations–the layout of the city. We’ll see what’s there–and what’s not there. And even though we’re not there yet, just knowing that we will be there, and to have some idea of what to expect–this will lift our spirits, in the midst of all the tribulation of this world. So let’s take a look now, shall we? “Behold, the New Jerusalem!”

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Published in: on May 25, 2019 at 9:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 19, 2019

“Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Today we’re starting a three-part sermon series I’m calling “Behold, the New Jerusalem!” These messages will be based on the readings from Revelation chapters 21 and 22, where St. John is given a vision of our eternal dwelling place, the new Jerusalem. What we will discover over these next couple of weeks is what you and I have to look forward to as the people of God. Brothers and sisters, it will be new and exciting and beyond our wildest imagination!

We begin today with the opening verses of Revelation 21. Here St. John is given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and he sees a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. In fact, the Lord God says–and this is our theme this morning for the first message in our series: “Behold, I Am Making All Things New!”

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Published in: on May 18, 2019 at 9:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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