“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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“St. Michael and All Angels: Messengers, Worshipers, Warriors” (Revelation 12:7-12)

St. Michael and All Angels
Sunday, September 29, 2013

“St. Michael and All Angels: Messengers, Worshipers, Warriors” (Revelation 12:7-12)

Today in the Christian church year is 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 this festival today.

Angels, thus, will be topic of this sermon: who they are and what they do and why we thank God for them. And we’ll even get into who this mysterious figure St. Michael is a little bit. So with that by way of introduction, we begin our theme today, “St. Michael and All Angels: Messengers, Worshipers, Warriors.”

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Published in: on September 28, 2013 at 10:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep” (John 10:14-15, 22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 21, 2013

“The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep” (John 10:14-15, 22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today is what is usually called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Every year on this Sunday in the Easter season, the theme of all the parts of the service is Jesus as the Good Shepherd of the sheep, his flock, the church. He lays down his life for the sheep and takes it up again–that’s the Easter connection. On Good Shepherd Sunday, the Holy Gospel is always a portion of John 10, in which Jesus identifies himself as that shepherd several times. The other two readings also fit the theme of Christ as shepherd. The Introit and Collect of the Day, likewise. The appointed psalm, of course, is always Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” And the Hymn of the Day is a musical setting of the 23rd Psalm, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” which we just sang. So we always have a very clear theme to work with on this Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is why we call it “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

Take, for example, our readings for today. In the first reading, from Acts 20, the Apostle Paul uses shepherding language when he instructs the elders of Ephesus on their task as pastors: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock,” Paul says. “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock,” and so on. In the reading from Revelation, we see the multitude arrayed in white, and we’re told that “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water.” And in the Holy Gospel, from John 10, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” So we have shepherd imagery throughout.

Now what does this have to do with us? Well, “we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand,” as Psalm 95 says. We are those sheep for whom the Good Shepherd lays down his life and takes it up again. We are members of Christ’s flock, the church. We are being led to those heavenly springs of water. We hear our shepherd’s voice, and we follow him. All this by God’s grace, of course, since we sheep would be lost forever without our Good Shepherd.

Today I want you to see yourself, to see your identity, as part of Christ’s flock, his church, and to appreciate all the more all that your Good Shepherd does for you. For truly, “The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep.”

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Published in: on April 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Words of Life” (John 20:19-31; Acts 5:12-32; Revelation 1:4-18)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 7, 2013

“Words of Life” (John 20:19-31; Acts 5:12-32; Revelation 1:4-18)

To those sitting in prison, facing a death sentence, filled with fear at what awaits them, nothing is more welcome than someone coming with a message of pardon and release. Those words come as words of life in a world of fear and death.

“Words of Life.” That’s what we hear in our readings today–in all three of them: the First Reading, from Acts; the Epistle, from Revelation; and the Holy Gospel, from John. Words of life, to people sitting in prison, overcoming their fear and giving them the faith and the boldness and the final victory that they need. And the good news is, these words of life come not only to the people in our readings, they come also to us, sitting here today.

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Published in: on April 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Saints: Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (Revelation 7:2-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Sunday, November 4, 2012

“The Saints: Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (Revelation 7:2-17)

I’m sure you’ve all heard the old spiritual, “When the Saints Go Marching in.” The chorus goes like this:

Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Oh, Lord, I want to be in that number,
When the saints go marching in!

Well, I don’t know about you, but I sure want to be in that number! On second thought, I think I do know about you, and I know that you want to be included in that number also. For that great multitude of the saints who go marching into God’s eternal kingdom of glory–that’s the only place anyone in their right mind would ever want to be when that day comes. But that will happen only if we are numbered with those saints. And that means we need to be, to borrow a line from another song, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

“The Saints: Signed, Sealed, Delivered”–this is our theme today on this All Saints’ Day. What is this “All Saints’ Day,” anyway? Why do we observe it? And what do we mean by “saints”? And then, “What are you talking about, pastor, ‘signed, sealed, delivered’? What are we, a bunch of UPS packages?” Well, let’s get at this, shall we?

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Published in: on November 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“I Will Give You the Crown of Life” (Revelation 1:4-18; 2:8-11)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 8, 2012

“I Will Give You the Crown of Life” (Revelation 1:4-18; 2:8-11)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

What a joyful day this is, this Easter Day, the greatest day of the year! For today we celebrate, with all the faithful and with all the company of heaven, the great victory Christ won for us when he arose from the dead, victorious over sin and death and hell, opening up for us righteousness and life and the kingdom of heaven. Easter Sunday is the proof of the victory Christ won for us on Good Friday, when he died on the cross to gain that victory and obtain those benefits for us. Easter shows that Good Friday was not a defeat but a victory, not a detour but the goal itself. “It is finished!” Christ cried on the cross. “The goal has been reached. The victory has been won.” That’s what the atoning death of Christ accomplished. Easter is the validation of that victory, showing the results in store for all of us who trust in Christ and have been joined to him in Holy Baptism. What a day this Easter is!

The victor’s crown, the crown of life–that’s what Christ is wearing on this day. And the good news is, that’s what he shares with us! We have his promise on it. Listen to what he says: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” “Come, take your crown!” Jesus is calling to you today. “I’ve won it for you. It’s already yours. And I will get you to the finish line, where you will be awarded the victor’s crown.” This is our Easter message today, the promise of Jesus: “I Will Give You the Crown of Life.”

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Published in: on April 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“‘Fear God and Give Him the Glory!’: The Slogan of the Lutheran Church Reformation” (Revelation 14:6-7)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 30, 2011

“Fear God and Give Him the Glory!”: The Slogan of the Lutheran Church Reformation
Reformation Festival Sermon on Revelation 14:6-7 by C. F. W. Walther (1881)
Translated by Joel Baseley. Abridged by Charles Henrickson.

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabaoth, all the earth is full of your glory.” This we cry out today, O Lord our God, along with the cherubim and seraphim. For today we remember the glorious work of the Reformation of the church, which you began and gloriously brought to completion in the sixteenth century. Your glory had been taken from the very midst of your church, the glory that you alone are wise and just, and that you have given this glory to man. But behold! You then awakened your servant, Luther, revealed to him that he was by nature a poor, blind, dead, and lost sinner, and yet, at the same time, brought him to the living knowledge that your Word alone is the saving truth and your grace alone, the way to salvation. You restored your glory unto your church again through his faithful service. Oh, so lend us also your aid today that we render you solemn acknowledgment of this, so that by it we remain steadfast in your truth and finally be saved by your grace alone. Yes, do help us for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our only Savior. Amen.

Our text is Revelation 14:6-7: “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.’”

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Published in: on October 29, 2011 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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