“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 Quarantine of Lent” (John 9:1-3; Hebrews 12:2; Psalm 27:5)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2020

“The Quarantine of Lent” (John 9:1-3; Hebrews 12:2; Psalm 27:5)

“Quarantine”: That’s a word we’re hearing a lot of these days. It means “a period of forced isolation,” and it is done in the interest of the public health. But do you know the origin of the term “quarantine”? It comes from the practice in medieval Italy of keeping ships suspected of carrying disease–of keeping those ships in isolation for a period of forty days. You see, the term “quarantina” literally means “forty days.”

Well, the church has its own period of forty days, during which we are to self-isolate, in a way, in the interest of our spiritual health. This time, this season of the church year, is called Lent, and we’re in it right now. Lent is a penitential season, in which we are to inspect ourselves, to see the symptoms of the underlying deadly disease we all are carrying–namely, sin–to repent of our sins, and to turn to God for forgiveness and renewed life.

It just so happens that this year the forty days of Lent coincide almost exactly with our national health crisis. Lent began at the end of February, which is just about the time concern over the coronavirus began to grow. We’re in the midst of the pandemic panic right now. Businesses are shutting down. Churches are canceling services. Governors are issuing “shelter in place” orders. People are “self-isolating” and doing “social distancing.” People are scared, both of the virus itself and of the impact it’s having on the economy–and your own personal economy.

Dear friends, while this pandemic is real, and people’s fears over it are real, today I want to invite you to use these forty days of Lent to good purpose. See this time as a quarantine, a time in which you come to grips with your sins and your fears, a time to trust in God to forgive and sustain you, and a time to look with hope to your long-range–yea, eternal–future. And so our theme this morning: “The Quarantine of Lent.”

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Published in: on March 22, 2020 at 2:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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“‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?” (Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-35)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 8, 2019

“‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?” (Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-35)

Please turn with me once again to Psalm 1, in the front of your hymnal. We sang this psalm earlier in the service, but now I’d like us to speak together the first three verses. Psalm 1, verses 1 through 3:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Well, this sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Delight in God’s word, meditate on it every day, and you will be blessed! In all you do, you will prosper! Hey, sign me up! This is a pretty sweet deal.

So, I am a Christian. I believe in the Lord. I like reading the Bible. I think about it a lot. Now all my life should be hunky-dory, shouldn’t it? I should be prospering like nobody’s business. No more problems. Smooth sailing all the way.

But maybe, just maybe, my life doesn’t exactly look like that. Maybe yours doesn’t either. All this fruit I’m supposed to be bearing, where is it? Why does it feel like I’m withering sometimes? Instead of prospering, I end up perspiring. Instead of my life being fruitful, it feels like it’s futile. This is being blessed? “‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?”

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Published in: on September 7, 2019 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord” (Psalm 1)

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 17, 2019

“Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord” (Psalm 1)

This morning I want us to look at the psalm appointed for this day, Psalm 1. And we’ll do so under the theme: “Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord.” If you have an ESV Bible or a Lutheran Service Book, turn now to Psalm 1 and follow along as I read:

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Published in: on February 17, 2019 at 3:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 12, 2017

“Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

You may notice that we still have the white paraments up from last week, when we observed All Saints’ Day. That’s because today we’re doing a kind of “All Saints’ Day, Part Two.” Last week we remembered those from our midst who entered the Church Triumphant over the past twelve months: Homer and Dorothy Rouggly, Bob and Dottie Worsham. This week, today, we’re remembering other departed saints from our midst, whom we commemorated at the start of the service with a plaque at the entrance to our church. The plaque is in memory of Elaine Hadler, Ralph Duncan, Lee Hoffman, Jan Burr, and Doris Benear. Why those names? Because their memorial funds were used to build the entryway to our church, and so it’s appropriate that there be a memorial to that effect.

And how fitting it is that the verse inscribed on the plaque is something all of these dear saints would heartily agree on: Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” For Elaine and Ralph and Lee and Jan and Doris–they were very glad to come to this house of the Lord, St. Matthew’s. They loved coming here over the years. And now they, by means of this entryway and this plaque—now they are saying to us and to future generations: “Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!”

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Published in: on November 12, 2017 at 12:04 am  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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“Like a Tree Planted by Streams of Water” (Psalm 1)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 4, 2016

“Like a Tree Planted by Streams of Water” (Psalm 1)

One of the delights of late summer is all the delicious fruit that we get to enjoy, fruit that the fruit trees have produced: peaches, apples, cherries. Juicy, ripe, sweet–the fruit is so delicious. I think the peaches are my favorite. But those fruit trees could not have yielded all that good fruit unless they had a plentiful supply of water. They need the water to produce the fruit.

In a way, that is a picture of our lives as Christians. We need the “water” of God’s word in order for our lives to be fruitful. Today I want to commend to you the word of God–the study of it, the reading of it, the receiving of God’s word and your living from it. The word of God preached and sacramented and taught here at church. The word of God read and devoted on in your home. If your Christian life has dried out, this is the way to be refreshed and get growing once again. This is the way for you to be “Like a Tree Planted by Streams of Water.”

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Published in: on September 3, 2016 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani?” (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Psalm 22; Mark 15:1-47)

Good Friday
April 3, 2015

“Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani?” (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Psalm 22; Mark 15:1-47)

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” This is one of the seven words from the cross, that is, one of the seven times Jesus spoke during his crucifixion. “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” This saying of Jesus is recorded for us in two of the four gospels, in Matthew and Mark, where it is the only word from the cross that is recorded. For the other words from the cross, we have to go to Luke and John.

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” I think what is so striking about this word from the cross is that it is spoken, and recorded for us, in another language. That language is Aramaic, which is sort of a cousin to Hebrew. Aramaic was the everyday language that Jewish people like Jesus spoke at that time. And we find several times that Jesus’ words in Aramaic are recorded for us in the Bible. In Mark’s gospel, for instance, we hear Jesus raising a girl from the dead, saying, in Aramaic, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, arise.” Jesus heals a deaf man, touching his ears and saying, again in Aramaic, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.” When Jesus prays in the garden, he starts his prayer by saying, “Abba,” which is Aramaic for “Father.” And now here today, this word from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

Fortunately for us, who do not speak Aramaic, Mark always provides a translation every time he quotes Jesus in that language. And so it is here, where Mark gives the meaning, and it is in the form of a question: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But that in turn raises the question of the meaning beyond a mere translation. Why is Jesus saying this? Why has God forsaken him? And what does that mean for us? Those are the questions we will explore now, as we ponder the meaning of “Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani?”

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Published in: on April 3, 2015 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Fruitful Tree” (Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:1-5; Psalm 1)

Midweek Lenten Evening Prayer
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

“A Fruitful Tree” (Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:1-5; Psalm 1)

We just heard a bunch of readings from a variety of places in the Bible–Psalm 1, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and words of Jesus from the gospels of St. Luke and St. John–and all of these readings, about trees bearing fruit. This is an image of course of people and the fruits or works that they produce in their lives.

Now the first thing to recognize is that we all bear fruit. We all produce works in our lives. The question is, though: What kind of fruit are we producing? Good fruit or bad fruit? There is this distinction, you see, among fruit. Some fruit may be bad or rotten in God’s sight. Some fruit may be good and acceptable to God. So what kind of fruit are you producing in your life? Is God pleased with it? Our topic tonight, then, is this: How do I become “A Fruitful Tree”?

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Published in: on March 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Restore Us, O God” (Psalms 80, 85, 126)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 3, 2014

“Restore Us, O God” (Psalms 80, 85, 126)

We’ve just heard three psalms that are appointed for this Advent season, Psalms 80, 85, and 126. Did you happen to catch what they have in common? There was a connecting theme running through all three of these psalms. And here it is. It is the prayer, in one form or another, that goes something like this: “Restore Us, O God.”

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Published in: on December 3, 2014 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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