“Paradise Restored” (Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 29, 2022

“Paradise Restored” (Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Paradise lost. Paradise restored. That’s the story of the Bible, from cover to cover. In fact, the Bible literally has bookends, at front and back, telling that story. As we will now see. Thus our theme this morning: “Paradise Restored.”

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Published in: on May 28, 2022 at 7:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Holy City, the New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 22, 2022

“The Holy City, the New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27)

Last week we went from the now to the new. We saw that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Indeed, we heard the Lord say, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And so we also saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city coming down out of heaven from God–the new Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God with man.

This morning we take a tour of the new Jerusalem. This is good, because the new Jerusalem is our final destination. It’s where you and I are going to spend eternity. We are citizens of that holy city. Our citizenship has been bought and paid for with the blood of Christ. Where we’re heading is “The Holy City, the New Jerusalem.”

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Published in: on May 21, 2022 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From the Now to the New” (John 16:12-22; Revelation 21:1-7)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 15, 2022

“From the Now to the New” (John 16:12-22; Revelation 21:1-7)

Our readings today take us “From the Now to the New.” What I mean is, they take us from the “now” we are experiencing in the present to the “new” that awaits us in the future. And that knowledge of the “new” gives us the hope and strength we need to carry on in the “now.”

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Published in: on May 14, 2022 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Good Shepherd and His Flock” (John 10:22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2022

“The Good Shepherd and His Flock” (John 10:22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today is the Sunday in the church year known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” You’ll notice that on this day all of the readings, the psalm, the hymns–all carry the theme of the shepherd and his flock, the sheep. And this will strengthen our faith today and give us life and hope for the future, as we see what God’s word says about “The Good Shepherd and His Flock.”

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Published in: on May 7, 2022 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Lion of Judah, the Lamb Who Was Slain” (Revelation 5:1-14)

Third Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2022

“The Lion of Judah, the Lamb Who Was Slain” (Revelation 5:1-14)

What’s going on in our world? Is anybody in charge here? It seems like the world is spinning out of control. We’re just getting over a global pandemic, and then we go into a global panic. Russia attacks Ukraine for no good reason, putting everyone on edge. Here at home, we’ve got men winning women’s swimming tournaments and a new Supreme Court justice who doesn’t even know what a woman is. Then there’s the economy. I checked my investment portfolio the other day, and, year to date, it’s down over 10%. If that’s not bad enough, at the same time inflation is at its highest rate in 40 years. Think of what you’re paying now for gasoline and groceries. So investments are way down, inflation is way up–it’s a double whammy.

And then there’s what’s happening to the church. Church membership and church attendance are way down, all across the country. The percentage of people who identify as Christians has dropped dramatically in the last ten to twenty years. We’re becoming a secularized, post-Christian nation. And in the parts of the world where Christianity is growing, our brothers and sisters are suffering terrible persecution.

When we’re faced with these situations–unless we have our heads in the sand and are unaware of what’s going on in the world–we may be tempted to despair, to lose hope. We look at the world and say: What’s going on here? Is anybody in charge? The present is pretty bad, and it doesn’t look like there’s any hope for the future.

Dear friends, today I want to encourage you. Yes, there is hope for the future. There is someone in charge. History does have a destination, and it’s a good one. What I mean is, the history of the future has already been written. It’s like a scroll to be unrolled. And the good news is, someone has been found who is worthy to unroll the scroll. Thus he reveals the course of events and their final outcome to us. He not only reveals them, but he is in charge of them. We meet that someone in our reading today from Revelation 5: “The Lion of Judah, the Lamb Who Was Slain.”

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Published in: on April 30, 2022 at 6:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Only Jesus: No Other Name” (Acts 4:1-12; Revelation 1:4-18; John 14:1-14)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2022

“Only Jesus: No Other Name” (Acts 4:1-12; Revelation 1:4-18; John 14:1-14)

Something significant, something momentous, happened in the city of Chicago 175 years ago this week. No, I’m not talking about the day I was born. I was born in Chicago, yes, but I’m not quite that old. No, but something else was born there 175 years ago. It was the birth of our church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It was on April 26, 1847, that representatives from fourteen Lutheran congregations came together at First St. Paul Lutheran Church on the north side of Chicago, and they formed a brand new synod. They were all German-speaking congregations, mostly from the Midwest, so they called the new synod “Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio, und andern Staaten,” that is, being translated, “The German Evangelical-Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States.”

Well, in the 175 years since then, we’ve grown from fourteen congregations to about 6,000. We’ve expanded far beyond the Midwest, with congregations all across the country and mission work and partner churches all around the world. And we’re not nearly as German as we used to be: You’ve let some of us Scandinavians in, as well as Blacks and Hispanics and Asians and every ethnicity under the sun. But there’s one thing that still binds us all together, and it is this: “Only Jesus: No Other Name.”

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Published in: on April 23, 2022 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints” (Matthew 5:1-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
November 7, 2021

“The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints” (Matthew 5:1-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today, as we do every year on the first Sunday in November, we observe the historic Christian festival known as All Saints’ Day. On this day we thank God for making us all his saints, his holy ones, set apart by God’s grace to belong to God alone. We thank God for the saints of the past, those who have preceded us in the faith, who by the witness of their lives inspire us and encourage us to carry on. And we remember the faithful departed from our own midst, from this congregation, who over the past twelve months have fallen asleep in Jesus and now rest from their labors. This is All Saints’ Day, a time to reflect upon and ponder “The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints.”

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Published in: on November 6, 2021 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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“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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