“Feasting and Fellowship Forever” (Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 7:9-17)

Funeral Service
Thursday, January 21, 2021

“Feasting and Fellowship Forever” (Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 7:9-17)

Our brother Ron has died, and we feel the loss. And especially you, John, for Ron was not only your brother in Christ, he was also your father in the flesh. But for all of us who knew him, we will miss Ron. For our congregation here at St. Matthew’s, Ron was a reliable and faithful presence, coming to church whenever he was physically able, stationed back there in his wheelchair, where I would bring him Holy Communion. And before he became wheelchair-bound, even when he was in not-great health, Ron helped out in whatever way he could, like working at our Men’s Club barbecue. That was the kind of heart he had.

Barb and Del, you did so much for Ron, in the way that you have cared for Ron and John’s practical needs. And for me as a pastor and you as caregivers, there were several times when we had to rush to this or that hospital, thinking this might be the end for Ron. But each time, that tough old bird pulled through. It wasn’t his time yet. But now that time has arrived. And we will miss him.

These last months have been especially tough for us, and they were even more so for Ron. I was last able to go visit Ron in September, but then the Covid restrictions tightened at hospitals and nursing homes, and I couldn’t get in to see him since. Even you, John, could not get in to see him. But think of how that must have been for Ron himself. The isolation. Being cut off from friends and family, while his health was declining. And as his health declined, Ron wasn’t able to eat and keep his strength up. He kept losing weight. Then finally, it all became too much for his weakened body to take. A sad end to a good long life. And so here we are today.

But dear friends, today I want to assure you that this is not the end of the story for Ron Benear! On the contrary, this is only the beginning! For according to our Lord’s promise, Ron has gone from hunger and isolation to “Feasting and Fellowship Forever.”

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Published in: on January 21, 2021 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Year of the Lord’s Favor” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 13, 2020

“The Year of the Lord’s Favor” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

We’re coming to the end of this year, and what a year it has been! 2020–a year that will live in infamy! Our country has had a very tough year: Covid-19, economic shutdowns and lockdowns, people losing their jobs, people losing their businesses, people losing their lives. We had rioting in the streets, looting and burning, and governors and mayors letting it happen. We had a tense election season, with the results very much in dispute. What a year it has been! Those “year in review” retrospectives you’ll see at the end of the month–they will not be a happy trip down memory lane.

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Published in: on December 12, 2020 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Remembering Betty” (Isaiah 43:1-3a, 25; Hebrews 10:11-25; Luke 23:33, 39-43)

Funeral Service
March 10, 2020

“Remembering Betty” (Isaiah 43:1-3a, 25; Hebrews 10:11-25; Luke 23:33, 39-43)

You know, it’s funny, sometimes, what we remember–and what we don’t remember. Oftentimes that’s the case with how we remember someone who has recently died. We tend to focus on that person only as they were in their last few months or their last couple of years. Take, for example, our dear friend and sister, Betty. What’s most recent in our memory of her is how she was in declining health these last few years, especially the last few months. We think about how her memory was going, and so on. But there’s so much more to remember about Betty than that.

How do we remember Betty here at St. Matthew’s? I remember when I first met her, oh, probably about twelve years ago. She was not a member of our church at that time, but one of our members had talked to her, and recommended St. Matthew’s. So I had the opportunity to go visit Betty when she was living over here on Benham Street. I found out that Betty had been a Lutheran, having been confirmed many years ago in St. Louis, but she had been away from church for a long time. So I then proceeded to re-catechize Betty over the next few weeks, and soon she became a member of our congregation.

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Published in: on March 10, 2020 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” (Luke 14:15-24; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
July 7, 2019

“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” (Luke 14:15-24; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Recently I read this quote from an observer of the American church scene: “15 years ago, 40% of church members attended four times a month. In 2018, only 10% attended four times a month, a 37% drop in worship attendance. So you could have the exact same membership church, and on Sunday mornings it looks like you’ve lost over a third of your members.”

Now a certain amount of this can be attributed to aging. There are people still on membership rosters, but now they are homebound and no longer able to make it to church. And others who were in the pew fifteen years ago who since have graduated to the church triumphant. But at the same time, this big drop in attendance shows that we haven’t replaced those people. In our own congregation, attendance is down compared to what it was when I arrived here 13 years ago. And if you look across our synod–indeed, all across the American landscape–church attendance is down pretty much everywhere. Lots of empty pews, everywhere you look.

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Published in: on July 6, 2019 at 6:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?” (James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4-10)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 16, 2018

“Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?” (James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4-10)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a boy who was deaf and mute. In last week’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute. The man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed. And the crowd said about Jesus, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Now not one of us here is either deaf or mute. Some of us may be a little hard of hearing, but at least we can hear. And none of us is mute. We all can speak. Our ears and our tongue are working. But the question is: What are we doing with them? What are we using our ears and our tongue for? How are we using them?

And besides having functional ears and tongues physically, we also have had our ears and our tongue opened spiritually. In our baptism, God has given us ears to hear his word and tongues to praise his name. How are we using these ears and this tongue? To God’s glory? For our neighbor’s good? Or for different purposes? And so our theme this morning: “Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?”

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Published in: on September 15, 2018 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“In the Presence of the Holy God” (Isaiah 6:1-8)

The Holy Trinity
May 27, 2018

“In the Presence of the Holy God” (Isaiah 6:1-8)

What would it be like if you knew you were in the presence of the holy God? Try to imagine. Would it be cool, casual, awesome, inspiring, overwhelming? What would your reaction be? “Oh well, just another day in the park. Nothing to see here. Ho hum.” Or maybe you’d think: “Oh wow! I must be pretty special to be given this kind of revelation of God. Yay me!” Or would you be terrified and frightened, shaking in your boots, to be in God’s presence? Well, today on this Holy Trinity Sunday, we’ll find out what one man experienced. Because today we’re going along with Isaiah as he gets to be “In the Presence of the Holy God.”

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Published in: on May 26, 2018 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 17, 2017

“When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

Have you ever seen one of those makeover shows on TV? My daughter used to watch one. It was called “What Not to Wear.” The idea of the show was that they would select a woman whose wardrobe and appearance wasn’t that great. Then they would help her pick out some new clothes that would look better on her. They would give her a nice haircut and do up her makeup. So this woman, who at the start of the program was looking all drab and dowdy, by the end of the program was looking like a million bucks. And she would be absolutely delighted with the results. The makeover had made a big difference.

Well, today I want to tell you about an even better makeover. And the good news is, it’s for you. It’s for all of us. And it’s free of charge. This makeover will make the biggest difference in your life, and you will be absolutely delighted with the results. What I want to tell you about now is “When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover.”

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Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down” (Isaiah 64:1-9)

First Sunday in Advent
December 3, 2017

“Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down” (Isaiah 64:1-9)

The Old Testament Reading for today, from Isaiah 64, is an intense prayer. The prophet is begging God to intervene on behalf of his people. As such, it is a fitting prayer also for God’s New Testament people, the church. And so, on this First Sunday in Advent, as we enter this season of waiting for the Lord’s coming, we cry out with Isaiah, “Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down.”

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Published in: on December 3, 2017 at 12:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Invited to the Feast” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

Funeral Service
Friday, October 13, 2017

“Invited to the Feast” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

There’s a big feast coming, and Bob is invited! In fact, his seat is already guaranteed. There’s a big feast coming, and you are invited too. That’s what I want to tell you about today, that we have been “Invited to the Feast.”

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Published in: on October 13, 2017 at 8:39 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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