“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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“For All the Saints, With All the Saints” (Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day
Sunday, November 1, 2020

“For All the Saints, With All the Saints” (Revelation 7:9-17)

Yesterday, October 31, was Reformation Day, when we remember how Martin Luther had to break with the Roman Catholic Church. Luther made it clear that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone and not in the slightest measure by our works. This teaching of justification is the central teaching of the Christian faith. It is the article by which the church stands or falls. And the Lutheran Church is still waiting for the Catholic Church to correct her errors, but she has yet to do so. So we Lutherans are certainly not about to go “home to Rome.”

Well, then, what do we do with a day like today? Because today, November 1, is All Saints’ Day. Today many churches around the world–including Catholic churches and Lutheran churches–are observing this ancient festival. Now what in the world is All Saints’ Day doing on the Lutheran church calendar? I thought “saints” were strictly for Catholics. What do we do with the saints? What we do with them is to thank God for them. What we do with them is to praise God with them. That’s what we do with the saints. And that’s what we’ll explore now this morning, under the theme, “For All the Saints, With All the Saints.”

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Published in: on November 1, 2020 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Thanking God for All the Saints” (Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Sunday, November 3, 2019

“Thanking God for All the Saints” (Revelation 7:9-17)

Last week we celebrated Reformation Day. We remembered how Martin Luther broke with the Roman Catholic Church by saying that we are saved by grace through faith, faith in Christ, and not in the slightest measure by our works. This is the eternal gospel that Luther proclaimed loud and clear. And this doctrine of justification is the central teaching of the Christian faith. It is the article on which the church stands or falls. Sad to say, Rome has never corrected her errors on this most important teaching. And so this is still the underlying issue that divides Lutherans and Roman Catholics to this day.

At the same time, though, some people think that being Lutheran means that we must avoid anything they regard as “too Catholic.” For example, making the sign of the cross or chanting the liturgy or going to private confession–they think that we must not do these things or else we are being “Romish.”

Well, then, what do we do with a day like today? Because today we’re observing All Saints’ Day. Now what in the world is All Saints’ Day doing on a Lutheran church calendar? I thought “saints” were strictly for the Catholics. What do Lutherans have to do with saints?

What we do with them is to thank God for them. And praise God with them. And so our theme this morning: “Thanking God for All the Saints.”

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Published in: on November 3, 2019 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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“An Eternal Gospel to Proclaim” (Revelation 14:6-7)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 27, 2019

“An Eternal Gospel to Proclaim” (Revelation 14:6-7)

Our text is one of the traditional readings for Reformation Day, Revelation 14:6-7. There St. John writes: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’”

Now the question immediately arises: How did this text come to be a reading for Reformation Day? What does this vision of an angel flying directly overhead with an eternal gospel to proclaim–what in the world does that have to do with the Lutheran Reformation?

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Published in: on October 26, 2019 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Thanking God for St. Michael and All Angels” (Revelation 12:7-12)

St. Michael and All Angels
September 29, 2019

“Thanking God for St. Michael and All Angels” (Revelation 12:7-12)

Today in the Christian church year is Michaelmas, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. It always falls on September 29, and since this year that date falls on a Sunday, that’s why we’re celebrating it today. Angels, thus, will be topic of this sermon: who they are, what they do, and why we thank God for them. We’ll even get into who this mysterious figure St. Michael is. So now let’s get to it, under the theme, “Thanking God for St. Michael and All Angels.”

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Published in: on September 27, 2019 at 4:18 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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“From the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18; Revelation 7:2-17)

Funeral Service
Sunday, November 25, 2018

“From the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18; Revelation 7:2-17)

Today we remember our dear brother, Bill McBride. Some of you called him “Bucky.” I always called him “Bill.” Or maybe you called him “Dad” or “Grandpa,” because he was that, too. You could also call him “Soldier,” because he was proud of that part of his life, as well.

As you’ve seen in the obituaries, Bill McBride proudly served his country in the U.S. Army: 37th Field Artillery Unit, Second Indianhead Division, during the Korean War. Good work, soldier! And for decades after Korea, Bill was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Yes, if you got to know Bill, you knew that was a big part of his life, serving in the military. When I’d visit him in his home, I could see various memorabilia of his service to our country.

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Published in: on November 25, 2018 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Are These, Clothed in White Robes?” (Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Sunday, November 5, 2017

“Who Are These, Clothed in White Robes?” (Revelation 7:9-17)

Today, on this first Sunday in November, we observe All Saints’ Day. On All Saints’ Day, we rejoice that we are part of that great communion of saints that is the church of Christ, both the church on earth and the church in heaven. All the saints, all those made holy by the blood of Christ. Saints, holy ones, set apart to belong to God alone. All saints, all of us who have been baptized into Christ and clothed with his righteousness.

On All Saints’ Day we commemorate the faithful departed, those saints who have fallen asleep in the Lord and joined the Church Triumphant. In particular, we remember the faithful departed from our own midst who have died in the last twelve months. This year we remember our dear friends Homer and Dorothy Rouggly and Bob and Dottie Worsham. What a thing it is with each of these two long-married couples that the wife should go first and then the husband just a few months later: Dorothy in May and then Homer in August, Dottie in June and then Bob in October. I think maybe the Lord was being merciful to those poor husbands who were left without their dear partner in life.

This is a special All Saints’ Day for me personally, as this year the first Sunday in November falls on November 5. For it was on November 5, 1995, All Saints’ Day 22 years ago, that my daughter Anna was baptized on the eighth day of her life, one week after she was born, and it just so happened to be my mother’s 80th birthday, what turned out to be her last birthday on earth. What a memorable All Saints’ Day that was!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today I want to tell you that there is a strong connection between a person’s baptism into the new life in Christ and the sure hope of the resurrection unto the eternal life we have in Christ. We see this connection reflected in the white gown of a child’s baptism and the white funeral pall that often is placed on a Christian’s casket. We see it in the white liturgical color of the paraments for All Saints’ Day.

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Published in: on November 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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