“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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“The Greatest Victory Celebration” (Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Sunday, November 6, 2016

“The Greatest Victory Celebration” (Revelation 7:9-17)

On Wednesday night, late on Wednesday night, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. As I was sitting there watching it on TV, as soon as the ball went into Anthony Rizzo’s glove for the last out, I let out a shout and threw my hands into the air and was utterly excited and ecstatic. For a lifelong Cubs fan from the north side of Chicago, this was quite a moment. After decades of following my team and suffering disappointment after disappointment, and even in this series, being down three games to one, and even in Game Seven, losing the lead late and thinking this is just going to be another in a long line of disappointments–no, this time, finally, things turned out all right. We won. I couldn’t believe it. Finally, we won.

The next day, on Thursday, on the internet, I saw videos of other lifelong Cubs fans and their reactions at the moment the Cubs won the World Series. I saw people jumping up and down, shouting, screaming, in sheer excitement and joy. I saw grown men falling on the floor and weeping, grown men crying tears of joy, tears of relief. “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!” they would say.

And then I tried to understand all this. Why these strong emotional reactions? It was more than just a sports team winning a championship. It was more than that, it ran much deeper. It was the stored-up, pent-up emotion of 108 years of waiting. It was people thinking of their parents and grandparents who didn’t live to see this day–the generations of Cubs fans who passed down the faith to their children, as it were. And it was the unbelievable surprise that for once, finally, it turned out OK, all right. You see, being a Cubs fan you always expect, and you always prepare yourself for, something to go wrong. Something always goes wrong. You get real close, and then something goes wrong. And that looked like it was happening again Wednesday night. But then–but then it turned out OK. Something went right for a change. It was like a great weight was lifted from your shoulders. And a great wait, w-a-i-t, a really long time of waiting, was over. The weight was lifted, the wait was over, it’s time to celebrate.

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Published in: on November 5, 2016 at 9:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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“An Eternal Gospel to Reclaim and Proclaim” (Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 30, 2016

“An Eternal Gospel to Reclaim and Proclaim” (Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28)

It was 499 years ago tomorrow, on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, thus beginning the movement known as the Reformation. We are the heirs of that heritage, and so it is that on the last Sunday in October every year we observe Reformation Day in our churches. We are grateful to God for raising up his servant Luther to bring the clear truth of the gospel to light and to prominence once again. And we want to learn from the Reformation of the need to always be vigilant in guarding the doctrine and practice of the church, so that we remain faithful and steadfast in the truth of God’s Word. For the gospel of Christ that the church is entrusted to proclaim–this is the only saving word there is, and God wants all men everywhere to hear and receive it. Thus our theme on this Reformation Day: “An Eternal Gospel to Reclaim and Proclaim.”

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Published in: on October 29, 2016 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold, I Am Coming Soon” (Acts 1:1-11; Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2016

“Behold, I Am Coming Soon” (Acts 1:1-11; Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Take a look at the picture over our altar. Of course, it’s a painting of the Ascension of Our Lord, that time when Jesus ascended into heaven. But if you didn’t know that, and you just look at Jesus there midway in the sky, you might wonder: Is he going up or is he coming down? It looks like it could be either. For just as Jesus ascended into heaven on Ascension Day, so too will he come down from heaven when he returns in glory on the Last Day. That’s the point of our message this morning, namely, that Christ’s ascension points us to his return. Not only so, today we’re even given a glimpse at what’s in store for us when he does return. For today our ascended Lord gives us his promise, “Behold, I Am Coming Soon.”

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Published in: on May 7, 2016 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Whole New World” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2016

“A Whole New World” (Revelation 21:1-7)

“A Whole New World”: Aladdin may sing about it, but God will deliver it. Are you looking forward to it? You should be, and today I’ll tell you why.

Yes, a whole new world. That’s what John sees in our reading today from Revelation 21. A new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem. And he who is seated on the throne says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” We’re coming into the last two chapters of the Bible now, and we get a glimpse of where all this is headed. And it is new, and it is glorious, and it is something to be ardently looked forward to.

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Published in: on April 24, 2016 at 1:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Our Guiding, Guarding Good Shepherd” (John 10:22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 17, 2016

“Our Guiding, Guarding Good Shepherd” (John 10:22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Every year on this Sunday in the Easter season we focus our attention on Jesus as our good shepherd. On this day every year our psalm is Psalm 23, “The LORD is my shepherd.” On this day every year the Holy Gospel is a portion of John 10, the chapter in which Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Every year on this Sunday the other readings and our hymns also carry this theme of Jesus as our good shepherd. And so it is today. Thus our theme this morning: “Our Guiding, Guarding Good Shepherd.”

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Published in: on April 17, 2016 at 12:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Worthy Is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:1-14)

Third Sunday of Easter
April 10, 2016

“Worthy Is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:1-14)

In this presidential election year, we look around at the various candidates in both parties, and we ask ourselves, “Who is worthy? Who is worthy of holding the highest office in the land?” And we look at the candidates, and we examine and scrutinize their various failings and shortcomings, and we say to ourselves, “I’m not sure if any of them are worthy! Is there no one out there I can put my confidence in, someone I can trust to hold this high office and do the right thing? After all, the presidency is a position of great power and authority, and the person in this office will have a significant impact on determining the course of our immediate future. So who is worthy of this high honor and this great responsibility? Maybe no one.”

Well, today I want to direct our attention to a higher office than the presidency and the search for someone worthy to hold it. Is there someone, anyone, worthy of determining the entire course of the history of the world? Who is worthy of that kind of awesome responsibility? Who is worthy of that kind of honor? Who is worthy of our trust, so that we can be confident that things are unfolding for the good, even when they’re looking very bad? Is there anyone worthy of that kind of trust? Anyone? The answer comes today: “Worthy Is the Lamb.”

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Published in: on April 9, 2016 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Church Militant, Church Triumphant: All Saints” (Revelation 7:2-17)

All Saints’ Day
Sunday, November 1, 2015

“Church Militant, Church Triumphant: All Saints” (Revelation 7:2-17)

Today, November 1, is All Saints’ Day on the church-year calendar. This is a day for remembering our departed fellow Christians–those saints of old, as well as those from our own past–who have fallen asleep in Jesus and who now rest from their labors. Today we give thanks to God for keeping them in the faith; we are encouraged by the example of their perseverance amid affliction; and we rejoice and are filled with hope as we look forward to the glory that awaits us all. All Saints’ Day serves all of these purposes.

The glory that awaits us. One of the readings assigned for this day, appropriately enough, gives us a glimpse of that glory. It’s the reading from Revelation 7, a picture of the saints in glory: “Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,” etc. That’s what we just sang about in the hymn: “Behold a host, arrayed in white.”

But notice, our reading today from Revelation 7 actually comes in two parts. The picture of the saints in glory, verses 9-17, is part two, if you will. The first part, verses 2-8, presents a different-looking picture. There we see the 144,000, arranged in twelve tribes of 12,000 each, and they are sealed with the seal of living God before great harm is unleashed on the earth. This is quite a different scene from the one that follows.

And there’s a reason for that. In verses 2-8, St. John is given a picture of the church on earth, as it is now, organized for battle and under the protection of God. This is what we call the church militant, the church still fighting the good fight of the faith. But then in verses 9-17, John is given a picture of the church in heaven, as it will be, no longer fighting, no longer suffering, but at peace and at rest in the presence of the Lord. This is what we call the church triumphant. And I want to tell you today, both pictures give us great comfort and great hope, for now and for what lies ahead. And so our theme this morning: “Church Militant, Church Triumphant: All Saints.”

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Published in: on October 31, 2015 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Tree of Life in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 21:22 – 22:5, 22:14)

Midweek Lenten Evening Prayer
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

“The Tree of Life in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 21:22 – 22:5, 22:14)

And so we come full circle. One month ago, we began this series on “The Tree of Life” back there, at the tree of life in the garden. Now tonight we end up back where we started, once again at the tree of life. This is the story of the Bible, how we got away from the tree of life in the beginning, and how we end up at the tree of life in the end. The opening chapters of Genesis and the closing chapters of Revelation form matching bookends for the whole of the Bible. And so tonight we end this series where we ourselves will end up for eternity, an unending eternity at “The Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.”

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Published in: on March 26, 2015 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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