Sunday, February 27, 2005

Third Sunday in Lent, February 27, 2005, Ephesians 5:8-14

Sunday, February 27, 2005, Third Sunday in Lent

St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City

(Ephesians 5:8-14, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, … I will turn the darkness into light before them” (Isa 42:16) Isaiah writes that in the Old Testament lesson for today. Those words remind us a lot of the reading from the book of John where Jesus heals the man who was born blind. Jesus does exactly what Isaiah said, he turns this man’s darkness into light. That blind man himself said as we sang in the hymn, “I was blind but now I see!” as the story continues the sees more and more. The more the Pharisees grill him about how he was healed the more his faith grows. In the end he gives a very powerful witness to Jesus. He worships Jesus, the one who took his blindness away. He moves from darkness into light.

The Pharisees go the other way. They see the light that Jesus brings but they choose to stay in the darkness. The fulfillment of the prophecy is there for them to see, the blind man who was healed, stands before them. It is sight and light brought to a man born blind, but they refuse to believe. For the man born blind, Jesus created a completely new world of light where there was only darkness before. How much different would his life be now?

That’s what this text from St. Paul is about. The words he wrote in Ephesians answer that question.

The man that Jesus healed was blind, in darkness, and now he is in the light, he could see. The world that he only knew by his other senses was brought to new light. And not only that, but he could see the one that God had sent to be the Savior of the world. He saw the “Son of Man,” the light of the world.

You and I, we can see. We’re not blind. Probably very few of you even know person who is blind. Few people in this room even suffer from poor eyesight, that is disabling. We have the best of medical care that corrects and protects most of the problems we have with our eyes. In lots of ways we see better now than any generation. When I was a senior in High School the teachers told me they thought I might need glasses. I didn’t believe them, but I went to the eye doctor anyway. It was one of those “in-the-mall” eye clinics. After the checkup the doctor brought me out to pick the frames for the new glasses he said I needed. As I sat there he must have seen the dubious look on my face. “You don’t think you need glasses do you.” “No!” I answered. “I can see just fine.” He pointed out the window of the shop to a tree. “What do you see?” he asked. A tree,” I said in a sarcastic voice. Holding the lens that would be my glasses prescription in front of my eye he asked again. “Now what do you see?” Leaves!” I said. Before that, I didn’t know that that when you looked at a tree you were supposed to see leaves. I was blind to it. I was brought into the light. I couldn’t wait for the glasses to be done.

We also have light… at least the electric sort. It’s not very often that the power goes out around here. The lights are very dependable. Once in a while, we have power outages from snow and ice. Whenever you mention the power being out you always here about the old days when the snow piled up the roof and power was out for weeks. All that is just in our memory, our lights rarely go out today. But even if we can see and we have light there is darkness to be found in our lives. It’s blindness that doctors have no cure for. It is darkness that you can’t fix with a flashlight. And it all lives in the chambers of our hearts.

We live with this darkness every day. We struggle with what we know is right and what we want for ourselves. It comes out in our selfish desires. It comes out in our anger. It comes out in our laziness. It comes out in our apathy. We know the darkness. We most often point it out when we see it in other people. But we know that what we see in others is only a reflection of our own troubles. What’s more, God’s light, His Holy and Perfect Word exposes us for what we really are. It shines the light on our sinful nature. When what’s in our hearts is in control of our lives there can be only darkness in our lives.

Saint Paul also knew well what he was talking about when he said; “You were once in darkness…” He lived it in his own life. Before Jesus changed his life he stood by and approvingly watched as people threw stones at Stephen until he was dead. Stephen died because he confessed Jesus. He was the first Christian martyr. Paul even held the killers coats while they worked. Paul’s world, before Jesus, was darkness. And even if we don’t care to admit it, we know what he’s talking about, too. We don’t like it when the light of truth shines on our dark hearts and reveals our sin. We would rather keep our secrets, secret. We want our private lies, our private desires, our private darkness, to be only ours. But, God’s light shines on it and exposes it all and when it does we want to cower in the corner, and stay in the darkness.

But, Paul also says that we are Children of the Light. We are that because we have been made so by the Jesus. He said himself that he is the light of the world. He not only brings light into the world, like when he made the blind man see, but he is the light of the world. Jesus is life, and that life, is the light of men. St. John says at the beginning of the Gospel of John. So Saint Paul can talk about our darkness as a thing of the past. Just look how Paul says it You were once in darkness… he said, but now you are light in the Lord. God’s Word of Light shines on us and tells us of our need for a Savior. It shines on the darkness in our hearts and exposes it. God’s Word also tells us that Jesus Christ is the Savior we need. He won forgiveness that makes the darkness in our hearts go away. God’s Word tells us again and again of God’s great love for us in Jesus. His love was so great that, on a darkened hillside outside of Jerusalem, the Light of the World endured the pain and suffering, the punishment and the condemnation, that our darkness deserved. All the darkness of the world was gathered into that one place, and placed on Jesus. He took the darkness of our sin to death, and left it in the grave. We know what happened after that, he rose again. He came alive. The darkness of death was defeated by the Light of the World. That’s the Light that shines into your darkness with God’s great love.

When you walk into a darkened room you simply flip a switch and soon light floods every corner. We do it every day without thinking. Light makes a difference in the room. The Light of Jesus makes a difference in your life. Jesus is your Light. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in Word and Water and Bread and Wine, he enables us to push the darkness away, and see Jesus even more clearly. The Light that Jesus gives defeats the unholy, secret, dark things in our hearts. Like the blind man who saw the light of the world for the first time when Jesus fixed his eyes, our lives are also forever different.

Paul tells us again, Live as Children of the Light. The fruit of a life as a Child of Light is evident goodness, righteousness, and truth. And that describes you and me, too. Even though there still times when the darkness comes out, because of Jesus we always have the moments of light. Visits to the hospital miles away from home, a caring touch for a hurting relative, and an understanding smile. Faithful, often unnoticed, work for the church, and money that sends missionaries to the farthest, darkest corners of the earth. The Light of God shines in and through us, as the love of God reaches out from us, to the dark world that is all around us.

And there are times when we point to the darkness of the world around us, and shine the Light of Truth there, too. It isn’t that there isn’t darkness in us, but that God’s light is needed out there. “…light that makes everything visible.” There are times to speak up about sin in the world: to defend the lives of the helpless; to point out what God says is evil. So there are times when we must speak out against public sin. It’s not that we want to condemn but that we want to bring to light what God had done about the whole world’s sin. We want there to be repentance to life. We what God’s light for other people, too. Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. “God has sent Jesus Christ to remove the darkness from your life. We say to those whose lives are controlled by the darkness. “Turn to him and live in the light.”

Jesus sent the blind man to a pool of water to wash the mud off his eyes. When he did his new life in the light began. Our new lives, our new life in the light begins with our washing too. Every day we as we wake, when the light of day wakes us from sleep and we hop into the shower or wash our face, we remember the new life, the light that Jesus brings to our lives in Baptism. We remember that we were blind but now we see. We remember that Jesus washed the darkness in our hearts away. We are no longer blind but are in the light. We also remember that every day we wake and rise only because the Light of Jesus Christ has shines on us. The Light of the World shines through us to make us a light to the world. Darkness no longer controls us, but light, the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Second Sunday in Lent, February 20th 2005

I am not preaching this week due to a guest speaker for our Mission Fest. Rev. Dennis Konkel - Deaf Ministry - Des Moines, will be bringing us God's Word this week.
Look here for:
God's Blessings
Pastor Watt.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

First Sunday in Lent, Febrauary 13, 2005, Matthew 4:1-11

First Sunday in Lent, February 13, 2005

St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City

(Mt 4:1-11, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Last week we talked about Jesus’ transfiguration. There on that mountain he shines like the sun. We very clearly see Jesus as God there. We hear the voice of God booming out of a cloud, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” It’s Jesus in glory showing himself for who he is: Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and God in human flesh standing on the mountain, having come to take away the sins of the world.

For today’s Gospel we have a strong contrast. For those spending 40 days with Jesus by reading the Gospel of Matthew you read all about the temptation of Jesus on Friday. Jesus’ temptation by Satan happens at the very beginning of Jesus ministry. Right after Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer, the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. If John’s Baptism marks the beginning of Jesus ministry, the Temptation is the first major event.

Before I was a Pastor, in my previous life, I used to travel all over the US. I still love it. Especially if flying is involved, the bigger the airplane the better. There’s just something about getting into a huge metal beast, that doesn’t look like it belongs anywhere… I mean, it’s too un-gamily on the ground, and actually too big to fly. But you sit there in your seat as the jet engines thrust the thing forward and you are pushed back. One thing I learned, that I was told by the pilots, is that the first five minutes and the last five minutes of flying are the most dangerous. The beginning and the end of the flight are where the most dangers lie, where the most can go wrong.

That seems to be the case with Jesus, too. If he forsakes his baptism, by failing the temptation of Satan, or by fleeing his death on the cross, we are lost. Thankfully, and this is the great joy of all Christians, Jesus didn’t abandon us in his temptation or at the cross. It’s at the very beginning of Jesus ministry that Satan’s attempts to turn him away from his task. But he fails; Jesus goes to the cross the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And everything that he gained by his perfect life, and perfect death and resurrection are given to us, freely in the gift of faith.

I said that today’s text is a strong contrast from last week’s Transfiguration. It’s true. Last week we saw Jesus clearly as God. Today we see Jesus in a way that shows us his humanity. And in fact, today we see Jesus in a way that brings his life very close to ours. Here we see Jesus dealing with something that we deal with every single day. Satan blows lies into our ears and very often we give in. That doesn’t mean that we are not to blame. Flip Wilson’s “The devil made me do it” isn’t an excuse. We give in to temptation because we are sinful people. We are accountable for the sin we commit. We deserve the punishment.

So today we have Jesus being tempted. We see him in a situation like the ones we face every day of our lives. But sometimes we might think that it really doesn’t mean anything at all. After all, isn’t this “temptation” really just a sham, a shadow play, because Jesus is going to win anyway? I mean, if what we said last week was true, and Jesus is fully and completely God, and God can’t sin, then what we’re seeing is a real temptation, is it?

Well, to answer the question we only have to look at the text that we are given. It begins; Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. It’s said a little differently in Mark’s Gospel. The ESV translation there is: The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. (Mark 1:12 ESV) Another way to translate it could be “he was thrown out into the wilderness.” One seminary professor said, “Jesus was willing, but did not go of his own accord.” It reminds us a little bit of Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as he waits to be arrested.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt 26:39, ESV)

Jesus does the God the Father’s will, at the cost of his own well being. Out there in the wilderness there was nothing to eat. And at the Spirit’s leading Jesus remained 40 days and nights. All that time he fasted, the text tells us… and adds this little understatement, he was hungry. You see, the hunger of Jesus was real hunger. He is human just like you and I are human. He eats and doesn’t eat, he sleeps and doesn’t sleep, and he laughs and cries, just as you and I do. Jesus is completely human. That’s the point of telling us that Jesus was hungry. The hunger was real; the temptation to do what Satan says is just as real. There is great comfort in Jesus humanity and his temptation. When we say, Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted, we can be sure it is true, because Jesus is fully and completely human.

As for Satan, he isn’t a fool. He knows whom he’s dealing with. In fact, that’s exactly what he’s using against Jesus. The question he asks is the same one he used with great success before. “If you are the son of God…” Really it could be read like this: “Since you are the son of God…” He’s saying to Jesus, “This hunger is beneath you. You’re better than this. You can do something about it. Make these stones into bread and save yourself.” But even more subtly he’s telling Jesus something else. “You know what’s good for you. You don’t have to tolerate this hunger just because God wants it. After all, you are here, you know how best to take care of things. You can do it your own way.” What Satan was saying was true to a certain point. Jesus was above hunger. He was above temptation and he was able to do exactly what Satan asked. But Jesus passes on the temptation because he has faith in God’s plan for his life. Not that he thinks God’s way is going to end up the easy and painless way either. Jesus sees the cross in his future. What is in his heart is you and me! If he does what Satan asks, you and I would belong to Satan instead of Jesus. And Jesus response tells Satan just that. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” “I choose to listen to God and not to you. I choose God’s plan for my life, even though I know exactly where it is going.”

Satan had used the same question before. It’s in our OT lesson for today:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Ge 3:1-5, ESV)

“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened…” Satan said. “Don’t you think you should decide what’s best for your life? Aren’t you better than to be controlled by God? Don’t you deserve to know everything? What’s God up to that he would keep this thing from you?” Eve ate the apple and Adam let her. Their answer to Satan wasn’t the same as Jesus’ answer. They looked to themselves to determine future instead of leaving it in God’s hands. They failed, just as you and I frequently fail. It’s not enough just to say God is in control, we have to leave it to him, but that’s not what we want to do.

Just think of all the times in your life when you thought you could get along by yourself. If only I work a little harder, I’ll get through this. We let our own self interest drive our business practices; easily setting aside the right thing to do because we don’t really trust God to take care of us. And how easy it is simply to give to the church only to meet the churches needs (the budget), instead of giving what we could give from the heart.

The mistake we fall into is in thinking that we have the option not to sin. Human beings are not morally neutral. We are sinful people from birth. We are born with sinful hearts. We cannot help but sin. When we actually do pass up on temptation we think we have accomplished a great thing and what we have done is going to make God proud. But the truth is weather we are tempted or not we sin. It’s in our hearts to begin with. We can’t help but sin because it’s a part of who we are. That’s what happened there with Adam and Eve. They pushed God out of their heart and sat themselves there as the final authority. And that’s how we are born, with our own self interest at heart, instead of depending on God for everything. God doesn’t want us to be independent; he wants us to be in-dependence to him and his will.

Jesus wasn’t morally neutral either. His heart was bent on the Father’s will from the beginning. When he was a fetus in his mother’s womb; when he lay crying in the manger; when he worked with his earthly father; when he was baptized in the Jordan River; when he set aside Satan’s whispered lies; when he healed and preached; when he suffered the Roman whip at the scourging post and nails at the cross; when he breathed out his last. In every single aspect of his human life he had a perfect relationship with God. He followed God’s will for his life. It is the very thing you and I are totally unable to do. It would be easy to look at the temptation of Jesus as an example to help us do better, but we’d never live up to Jesus’ example. Eventually, no matter how strong we think we are, we fall to Satan’s words. That fall leaves us completely without hope… if it weren’t for Jesus.

That’s also the point of God’s Word to us. That’s the Good News about Jesus. It’s not that he’s an example for us to follow. Jesus temptation in the wilderness is Jesus doing battle with Satan for us. It’s Jesus turning down Satan’s offers, in our place. It’s Jesus following God’s perfect will for us. It’s Jesus living and dying for us. That’s what Paul is talking about in the Epistle reading today (Rom 5:12-19 ESV): by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Ro 5:19, ESV) You see, it is one man who does it. Jesus is completely human remember? If he wasn’t, his living a perfect life wouldn’t mean a thing. But it means everything for you and me. Because that perfect life he lived and that death for sin that he died, is ours through faith in it as a free gift of God. That free gift is as sure for you as God’s promises have always been. As sure as your head got wet in the shower this morning, as sure as your head got wet with God’s promise in to you in Baptism.

You’ve heard that phrase; “If temptation bugs you; flea!” I have another one. If temptation bugs you, tell Satan off. Say, “Be gone! Jesus has already defeated you for me. I’m depending on him to take care of me. I’m leaning on His life and death in my place.” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Transfiguration of Our Lord, Feburary 6, 2005, Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration of our Lord, February 6, 2005
St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City
Mt 17:1-9, ESV
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Isn’t this nice, the bright white color here at the front of church. Rather reminds you of Easter does it not? But, it’s not Easter. In fact, this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday starts the season of the church year we call Lent. We will have two Ash Wednesday services this year: One at 6:30 am (for those who want to have it on their forehead all day) and the traditional one with Holy Communion at 7:30 pm. Those ashes set the mood for all of the next 40 days. When you get that little black cross you will hear the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It’s to help us to remember that because of sin, death is in our future. That in turn reminds us how much we need a Savior. We call that having a penitent attitude; looking at ourselves and seeing sin, then looking at Jesus and seeing Him as Savior. Lent is a penitent season. That is why we leave flowers out of the sanctuary, drape the altar in dark colors, and skip singing alleluias. We might rather skip the somber tones, but it is good way to keep in mind who we are and what we really need.

Ah, but all that is a few days away, right now the altar is white, we’re singing bright songs and looking at Jesus shining as bright as the sun. Today is the day we talk about the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is good to be here, just as the hymn said. It is good to be here where everything is bright and shiny, and there is not any of that dark talk about our sin and death and punishment.
That is kind of what Peter thought, too. He saw Jesus standing there with his cloths glowing and his face beaming like the sun. He saw Moses and Elijah with him (how he knew it was them, we will never really know). And even though he was frightened, it was too good to let go, he wanted it to last forever. Let us just stay here forever, he must have thought. It came out in the words, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
And yet, it isn’t all bad to dwell here for a little while either. Jesus did not scold Peter. After all Peter and the other disciples saw Jesus in a way they had not seen him before. That is, they saw the divine nature of Jesus shining out. What I mean is, that here on the holy mountain (2 Pet 1:16-18) we see that Jesus is really and completely God. His face shines like the sun. It is an internal light, not a reflected light. It is a part of who he is; not something he gets from somewhere else. It is like the pictures of God that are painted for us in the Old Testament and Revelation. In the OT; Daniel speaks about the “Ancient of Days” whose clothing was white as snow and the hair of his head as pure wool. (Dan 7:9) St. John saw a similar view of God in Revelation. (Revelation 1:12-16)
We should make sure we understand Jesus as much as we can. Jesus is not God in a human suit. It isn’t that he is a man with God deep inside. Jesus is God and man together, completely God and completely man. On the mountain of Transfiguration Jesus is not pulling back his clothes like Superman to reveal a great big “S” on his chest. What we see is Jesus as he is. St. Paul describes him like this: For in [Jesus Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:19-20, ESV) For the sake of what he had come to do, Jesus did not fully reveal his whole self. He humbled himself and chose to appear as a man, a servant, holding back the divine nature.
The 16th Century Theologian Martin Chemnitz said it like this:
He humbled Himself and willed, not only to bear the substance of our nature but also in it to be similar to men in the infirmities with which we are burdened because of sin (even though He could have been immune to all of them as penalties for sin; because where there is no guilt, there no punishment is required), and He was found in fashion as a man, that is, subject to the emotions, deeds, and actions of a complete human life, not exempt as someone who is beyond the lot of the others, but as any other man taken at random from among men. Chemnitz, M., & Preus, J. A. O. (1999, c1989). Loci theologici (electronic ed.). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
If he had not done so, brave Roman soldiers would have run in terror, Pharisees would have bowed in obedience without argument, and Pilate would have never assume authority to put him to death.
There were other times, too, when we see Jesus choosing to let his divine nature to come to light. He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). He healed the deaf, blind and sick (Mark 7:31-37, Matt 20:29-34, Matt 8:14-15). He cast out demons (Matt 9:32-33), and raised the dead to life again (Matt 9:18-19, 23-25).
Here on the mountain we see Jesus as he is; God and man together. God in human flesh come to earth to save human beings from their sins. And not only that but we see the ultimate end, Jesus will go to the cross and die, but that cross is victory for him, not defeat. As Jesus stands on the mountain with Moses and Elijah we see His resurrection.
Now, we shouldn’t think that because Jesus is God that the cross was nothing. Don’t forget we said that Jesus isn’t only God; he is fully and completely human. He is God born in humble human flesh, as we celebrated a few short weeks ago. All that affects human beings affected Jesus, because he is fully. As we heard a moment ago, he was subject to the emotions, deeds, and actions of a complete human life. That includes pain, suffering, and even death.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Php 2:5-8, ESV)
That obedient isn’t just talking about doing the right thing, it’s also talking about being completely human, suffering and dying, as a human would suffer and die. If you doubt the reality of Jesus suffering all you have to do is spend some time reading the accounts of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested. It’s a far cry from the Mount of the Transfiguration:
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Mt 26:36-45, ESV)
It’s the same cast of characters, except Jesus is suffering and the disciples are sleeping. Later on the cross for three hours, Jesus bore the pain of death (and more) and we see why it’s so important to know that Jesus is God and man. All human beings, except Jesus, deserve God’s anger and punishment for their sin. That’s you and me, that our sons and daughters, our grandparents and great-great-grandparents, in fact, every person who has ever live and will ever live. That’s a lot of sin, a lot of punishment, a lot of suffering. We deserve the suffering of hell. But it’s the suffering and death of Jesus, true God and true man, Jesus, the Son of God, that is set in the balance against it all. His death is enough to cover it. His suffering is enough to cover it. Not only did he suffer a physical death but also he suffered the spiritual consequences of our sin. On the cross and in his death, Jesus suffered torment of hell. God, the Father, abandoned him to death. Jesus suffering in our place was enough; we don’t have to suffer the punishment of hell anymore.
And that brings us right back to the Mountain where Jesus is shining like the sun. The story of Jesus doesn’t end with suffering, death and punishment on the cross. The transfiguration is like a little glimpse of the resurrection. The victory of the cross is shown when life returned to Jesus body in the tomb. It is no longer necessary for Jesus to hold back his divine nature. From then on he is just as he was described on the mountain; Jesus in all his glory; Jesus God and man in one person, still fully God and fully human; Jesus the one who conquered sin and death and hell.
And so where does that leave us, as we stand here at The Mountain of the Transfiguration, with forty days of Lent, forty days of a penitent attitude ahead? Well, depending on Jesus, I hope. Just think, the same Jesus that stood on that mountain shining like the sun, suffered the darkness of death, and rose again to shine like the sun. The big thing to remember is that he did it for you. You know how difficult life is. You know how death chases you around. You know how your sin makes your life miserable. You know that no matter how hard you try, nothing you do is going to change it. That shining Jesus is the answer to it all. His life, death and resurrection change it all for you. Your sin is forgiven. That means that you can set it aside and go on with your life. Your death won’t end in hell’s punishment; it ends in a resurrection like Jesus and in life forever with him. That’s why the dark colors and somber tones only temporarily cover up the joy that is coming at Easter. That’s the attitude that Transfiguration sets in place for Lent. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Funeral - Linda Smith (Name has been changed), Mark 4:35-41

Mark4v35-41 (NIV)
Funeral of Linda Smith (the name has been changed).
Jesus Calms the Storm

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Funerals are stormy events. Our families are torn apart by death, especially when it comes unexpectedly. You know, everything was fine with Linda when I visited her on Sunday. She looked good on Monday, but she died at lunch time on Tuesday. As the storm passes through we wonder if anything we could have / or should have done that would have made a difference. If only I’d been there! And the storm in our mind rages on. If only I’d gotten a chance to say that I loved her, one more time. If only I had visited again. Other things too add to the storm, like the pain of seeing little children who might not remember their great grandma. All these types of questions blow in with the storm of death. And we begin to wonder if we can bear up under the immense pressure of the storm. We feel like a tree blown and bent by the storm, ready to break. And it’s impossible to understand the storm until you have experienced it yourself.
Today we have gathered here, in the midst of the storm, to see what God has to say about the thing that causes the storm. Today we’ve gathered here, in the midst of the storm, to find comfort in one another, and comfort in the Good News about a Savior who has done something about the raging storm.
Linda had her share of storms, too these last few years. In and out of the hospital and doctor’s offices, rarely getting out of bed, dealing with the hoses that gave her the oxygen she needed. Thankfully now for her those storms are over. Those kind of stormy days are the farthest thing from her mind. She’s with Jesus. Thanking him for seeing her though them.
And we are left standing here in the wake of our own storm.
39 [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
More than anything else that is why we have gathered here today, to hear our Savior say to us “Quiet! Be still!” Just as the disciples cried out to him because they were facing death, “Master, don’t you care if we die?” We come to him here today saying, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are facing death?” and Jesus says to us too, “Quiet! Be still! I have calmed the storm of death.”
The disciples were often plagued with doubt and weak faith, even though they were there with Jesus, even though they had seen him at work everywhere they went. At the moment when death threatened them, they became afraid. Death brewed up a storm inside them. Yet when they looked at Jesus he seemed not to care, he was sleeping, calm and quiet. Finally, when they couldn’t stand the waves were lashing over the bow, and the picture of death each had in his own mind, they woke Jesus. And Jesus calmed the storms, first the storm on the lake, then the storms of the heart. “After all you’ve seen, do you still have trouble believing?”
“Yes Lord, we do!” we say as we look at this casket lying here in the front of the church, with the pain of separation that comes with loosing Linda. “Yes Lord, we do!” as we each try to come to grips with our own mortality; knowing that eventually we’ll all be here again. “Yes Lord, we do!” The storm rages in our hearts and in our minds because death is so personal. It shakes us to the core because it interrupts our lives and we wonder what can be done.
And Jesus calms the storm, “Quiet! Be still! I have conquered death. It has no power over you. After all you have seen and heard; when death threatens you remember that I have calmed the storm of death for you.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; family and friends of Linda; Remember now, especially now as we again face death, that Jesus Christ has won the final victory over sin and death. Remember what he did for you and me, and what he did for Linda. Remember why he did it. It is because of this . Adam and Eve rejected God’s control over their lives, and you and I following in the footsteps of our ancestors do the same. Their sin is ours. It marches through our lives, generation after generation leaving the storm of death in its path. Sin brings death to each of us.
But Jesus has calmed the storm. He bore the awful consequences of sin himself. He suffered the storm at his own death. As he hung on the cross, the sky darkened, the storm rolled in and he suffered there for us. But that storm too, He calmed, “Quiet! Be still!... It is finished!” and he bowed his head in death. In his death he bore the eternal punishment for the sin of the whole world. All the sin and death and punishment were buried with him in the tomb. And just when it seemed that death had defeated him too, its power was already broken. Jesus Christ burst from death, and walked out to life again. The storms of death need not plague human beings ever again, because Jesus Christ has won the victory over them. Jesus give us his victory over death through faith that what he has done he has done for us. Whoever believes in him has that new life that he won there. Whoever believes in him can be comforted in the knowledge that he has calmed the storm.
We said it at the very beginning of the service.
We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.
Baptism is God’s promise to us that just as Jesus died and rose again, we too will come alive again after death. It’s not just a matter of wishful thinking. It’s some kind of spiritual walking on clouds. This body, your body, that body there in the casket, Jesus will give new life in a resurrection from death.
Family and friends of Linda: Jesus says to you today, “Quiet! Be still! Even though you still struggle with the storms of death, I have won the victory. Turn to me now when the storms of death threaten you.” Jesus calmed the storm when his disciples were afraid of death; Jesus calms our storms when we face death. Turn to him today. Listen to his calming words for you. Let him calm your storm. Amen.
Let us pray;
Gracious Lord Jesus, calm the storms in our hearts today as we grieve the loss of our sister in Christ, Judy. Keep us focused on you and what you have done for us through your life, death and resurrection. Help us to be quiet and still as you calm the storm. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.