Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Second Sunday in Advent, December 4, 2005, Gen 3:9-15

St. John’s, Howard, SD, November 30, 2005, Midweek Advent 1.
Genesis 3:9-15, ESV
"Adam, Where are you?"
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Adam and Eve hid cowering among the trees of the Garden. For the first time in their lives they were afraid... afraid of God. They had never been afraid of Him before... never before had the sound of God approaching sent the scurrying for cover. Never before had they needed protection... But now, as they hid trembling, covered in their newly created clothing, they realized that their enemy was approaching. God would be angry. He would be angry at what they had done. Maybe it was a dream... maybe they really didn't take the fruit, but its taste still lingered on their lips, sweet... and bitter. It was not a dream. The shame clung to them, soiled them, so that they couldn't bear even to look at each other. No amount of clothing cover covered it... no amount of washing would remove it... They just wanted to hide, away from each other and away from God.
Why had they listened to the Snake? Why had they believed what was now so clearly lies? He had told them what it would mean... to know good and evil. The Snake was evil. What was it about what he said that was so irresistible? The lies dripped from his flickering tongue like drops of honey, but they held only poison and death. He had brought them to their hiding place with his promise of knowledge. Now they longed to forget. But it was the Snake... his evil... his lies... his deception... his fault. God couldn't blame them. They were too weak to resist. The fruit was too sweet.
Didn't God know that... didn't He know they couldn't stand up to such temptation. Now they were sure that it wasn't so much that they had failed... God had failed.... He should have protected them... He should have told them about the Snake. Clearly God was at fault, anyone could see that. So they crouched there, in their hiding place, blaming God. Hoping that He wouldn't see them, hoping that he would pass them by.
Satan howled in delight to see what he had done. He had driven a wedge between God and his most treasured creation. It had all seemed too easy. The man and the woman were indeed weak and pitiful. A half-hearted promise was all it took; a glimpse of the greener grass... They were so easily led away... And now, they were... lost, enemies of God; sinful creatures cowering among the leaves, hoping for protection from God's wrath. Satan watched in eager expectation, anticipation for what he considered a glorious victory. God was coming to the Garden, the man and his wife would face judgment.
God's heart was broken... He knew what had happened. He knew what Adam and Eve had done... how they had cast aside His love. Instead they believed Satan's lie. After all that He had done for them, they had chosen... the lie. And now, they were afraid... There in their poor hiding place, they were fearful and alone, not able to help each other and not able to turn to Him. The enormity of what they had done escaped them. They only knew their fear. It was right for them to be afraid... His anger burned. The sin in them was intolerable; a dark rotting spot; a self-imposed blemish in His perfect creation. They deserved destruction... but, now was not the time for destruction... now was the time for promise. "Adam... Adam, where are you?” He called to them.
We the people of the jury in the matter of the State of South Dakota verses John Doe, find the defendant... guilty. He is guilty, guilty, guilty... guilty, we don't even like the word. We want to pass it over as soon as possible. Push it aside. Get rid of it. To be found guilty is to be discovered, put to shame, and publicly humiliated. Guilty people will go to great lengths to show that they are not guilty. And if they are found guilty, they will do what ever it takes to show they had sufficient reason to do what they are guilty of doing. You see it really wasn't my fault... I was abused as a child... I'm a drug addict... It must be genetic.
So when we see Adam and Eve afraid in the Garden, when we see them hiding from the wrath of God, we may not see what it has to do with us. We know that we sin. We don't have to look very hard at ourselves to see that. We even use it as an excuse. "Well, I'm not perfect. I'd like to seem someone else do better." But we justify ourselves by comparison. “I’m no Sadaam Hussein. I’m no adulterer. I’m no murderer. I’m no slacker.” We don’t see ourselves cowering in fear over our sin, it is just an unpleasant fact that we deal with every day. The truth of the matter is we seldom feel guilty about it. And if we do happen to feel guilty we don't feel guilty long... just like our first father and mother our guilt turns to excuses. I did it but... I was pushed into a corner. I did it but... I was only following the crowd. I did it but... I couldn't help it. I'm weak and sick. I did it but... it really isn't my fault. I'm not really guilty. When the finger of guilt points to us we stammer and shake... and push it away. Point that thing at someone else... we don’t care where it points as long as it doesn’t point at me. It is his fault, not mine.
It seems, after all, that we have a lot in common with our relative in the Garden. That's exactly what he did. When God confronted him with his sin, he did the 'manly thing'... he blamed his wife. "She did it... she brought me the fruit. She picked it from the tree... she listened to the snake first... I was influenced by her 'feminine ways'. It isn't my fault. And don't forget, God, you are the one who gave her to me. I think you made her wrong. She's defective. It isn’t my fault." Adam didn't linger long on his own sin. He didn't deny it... he just pushed the finger of guilt out of his face, and he didn't care where it landed. Don't think, though that Eve did any better. When God turned to her, when she was confronted about what she had done... "It was the snake. I was afraid of him. He was too clever for me. He picked the fruit... I mean he knocked it off the tree with his head. He gave it to me... so I ate it... it isn't my fault." It doesn't take much to hear those words in our own mouths.
Our unwillingness to accept blame is really a matter of fear. Fear over the guilt of sin. But, really we’ve tried to forget exactly why we should be afraid when we fall into sin. We’ve change the bible’s picture of God from a God who demands perfection, to a god who’s all excepting, a god who overlooks our little faults and problems. A god who says about our sin, “Well, that’s ok, you did the best you could.” That’s not the God Adam and Eve were rightfully afraid of in the garden. If you want to remind yourself exactly how God’s anger burns against sin, all you have to do is stand at the foot of the cross and see it. The punishment of Jesus is a very clear picture of the wages of sin, a very crisp portrayal of just exactly what our guilt should bring. Just like those two hiding in the garden, we try to cover over the fact that we are guilty. Guilt brings punishment. When they heard God approaching... they knew that he would be angry. They knew they were guilty, and they knew they should be afraid. What their guilt had done was turn the sound of their loving protector and provider in to the terrible sound of coming judgment. They tried to deflect it to each other. They tried to reflect it back on to God himself. That too is just like us. We have done that very thing; blaming God when we are faced with the consequences of our actions. Why did He allow this to happen? Why didn't He stop me? Why didn't He tell me about the Snake?
But this story is more than a story showing us the lousy way we deal with guilt. It is more than a quaint moral tale to show us a part of the human condition. It is the story of how God deals with sin. When He came to the Garden, He found Adam and Eve frightened, but He didn't destroy them. When he called out to Adam, “where are you?” He was calling for him to come out of his hiding place. “Come out here Adam. I have good news for you, instead of bad news.” Instead of destruction and punishment God was bringing a promise. Not a promise to just forget their sin, but a promise to remove it by taking it on Himself.
Think of it this way... There in the quiet darkness of his room sits a boy. He has been sent there to await punishment for something he has done wrong. He has been waiting for what seems like an eternity, dreading the arrival of his father. The silence grows loud as the anticipation of the punishment grows, the longer he has to wait to more terrified he becomes. Then way down the hallway he hears footsteps. Each one brings his dreaded punishment closer until at last they stop outside his door. He watches the doorknob waiting for it to turn... The door opens... Father walks in and sits beside him. "I have good news for you son," he begins, “I have not come to punish you."
That was the Good News in the Garden, too. God did not come to bring punishment. He came to bring a promise. It is that promise that we remember as we light the first candle of the advent wreath. It’s called the ‘prophecy’ candle for that very reason. This promise in Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. With this promise Adam, Eve, and all humans began the wait for the promised Savior. We know who the promised Savior is. We know who it is who was bruised by Satan but also who crushed Satan’s head. We know whom it is who came to take away the sins of the world. Adam and his wife put their trust in the promise of God. And because they trusted God and His promise they began to wait.
When God walked into the garden looking for Adam and Eve, instead of coming as their enemy, instead of bringing wrath and punishment, He came with the Good News of their Savior. Jesus Christ the promised one is the one who solves the problem of the guilt of sin. As promised He suffered in shame on the cross, alone and afraid, not able to hide from God’s anger over sin. And even though He was totally innocent, God poured out on Him all His anger over sin. He was declared guilty for us. He bore the punishment that our sin earned. He bore the sin of Adam and Eve. He bore your sin. He bore my sin. We all have sinned but Jesus was made guilty and Jesus was made the punishment. When God pointed the finger of guilt at us, He redirected it and turned it to His Son instead. “No! He is the guilty one, not you.” He said. And we breathe a sign of relief, as the punishment passes to Jesus and our guilt and punishment goes with Him to the cross. And God says to us, “I’m not here to punish you.”
God called out to Adam in the Garden. “Adam, where are you?” What He wanted was for Adam to turn to Him and say, "Here I am Lord. I am guilty. Please forgive me." Instead Adam did as we often do... "It isn't really my fault." He said. But, Jesus makes everything different. He has taken away the punishment that your sin deserves. So when God calls out to you, “Adam... Adam, Where are you?” Through faith in the promises of God, you respond, "Here I am Lord, I am guilty, please forgive me for Jesus sake." Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

First Sunday in Advent, Nov 27, 2005, Isa.63.16b-17.64.1-8

Nov 27,2005, St. John’s, Howard, SD
(Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1-8, ESV)
(from a sermon by Rev. Daniel N. Jastram, CPR)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Advent is a time, the season before Christmas when we think about and prepare for the arrival of our Lord, Jesus Christ. God in a manger, gentle animals peering in, shepherds look on in wonder. It’s an important picture in our minds. It’s very important to prepare before we celebrate Jesus becoming a human being. But there is another emphasis that’s brought out by Holy Scripture today. Isaiah’s words about God coming don’t sound so gentle. He paints a picture of mountains crumbling and rivers boiling. In fact, Isaiah is calling upon God to come and destroy all that’s wrong in the world. “Burn up my enemies. Wipe out all the trouble in the world! Get rid of what’s wrong!” In a way he’s saying, “Visit us, and take care of us!”
Now maybe you’ve shouted something like that to God, too. In fact, I think, there are times in our lives when we are more impressed by what feels like God’s absence than His presence. When we run into trouble or hardship we ask the “Where was God?” question. You know; “Where was God, when the Tsunami killed thousands of people? Where was God when the plane crashed? Where was God when I lost my job, or my crops failed? Where was God when I had to move out of my home? Where was God when my husband/wife died of cancer? Where was God when the accident took away my child?” It’s like asking if God is really “there” for us when we need him most. God’s people have felt like this every since Adam and Eve left the garden. King David knew the feeling too! He wrote in Psalm 13, How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? (v1) If you’ve ever been in the hospital, suffered the loss of a loved one, or spent a holiday alone, you know the feeling. You just want to shout out to God and say, “God, visit me, be with me now, and take care of me!”
Those of us sitting around here this morning aren’t the only ones who have this feeling, about wanting God around. In fact, over the last few years it’s been very popular on Television. You see it in shows like Joan of Arcadia. It’s a show all about God, and God being among us. I think the opening song covers it’s theme pretty well.
What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
While the show had its theological problems, it emphasizes the human desire to have God at hand, to be able to talk to Him, especially when things aren’t going well; to have God visit us, be with us and take care of us, is a common human feeling.
That’s just what Isaiah is asking God to do. Visit. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God would do just that? But, Isaiah quickly backs off the idea. God had already visited them, in fact. The Assyrian army trampled the northern part of the kingdom. And Isaiah prophesied that they would tromp right down to the gates of Jerusalem and flatten the temple too. God was visiting them, their sins brought God’s judgment, and God was visiting them in the Assyrian army. The people of God couldn’t deny that they had fallen into terrible sin. They are a people who continue to sin; who are “unclean”; whose “righteous deeds are like a polluted garment”; who “fade like a leaf”; whose “iniquities, like the wind, take [them] away” (64:6 ESV); among whom “there is no one who calls upon [God’s] name, who rouses himself to take hold of you.” All of their sin brought terrible judgment. Judgment that was visited upon them. That’s not exactly the “stranger on the bus” from Joan Osbourne’s lyrics, is it?
That’s the problem with God coming to be with us. We might want Him to take care of everything that’s wrong with the world. But are we sure that when He comes we won’t be the object of His justice? Are we sure that when He comes He won’t pour out His anger on us? Are we sure that we’re not the problem? And that’s just what Isaiah realized. If God comes, He would destroy them, because of their sin. That’s us too, because of sin, we are what’s wrong with the world. We can’t deny our sinfulness. Well, and we don’t really. We say it here Sunday after Sunday. Our lives are a dreadfully sinful state of affairs. Sin clings to our every thought, word and deed. Even the good stuff we do is polluted by it. We are full of self interest and self serving. We are quick to speak harsh words and quick to be angry. Our first thought when we are asked to help, is “What do I get out of it?”
I love the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” There are times when the cartoonist is so profound in what he says and he hits the nail precisely on the head. One example is when Calvin is talking to his imaginary pet tiger while careening down “Dismemberment Gorge” on a sled. “Christmas is getting near, huh?” the tiger asks. “You got it,” says Calvin. “I’ve been wondering though,” he thoughtfully continues, “Is it truly being good if the only reason I behave is so I can get more loot at Christmas? Is that good enough or do I have to be good in my heart and spirit? Do I really have to be good or do I just have to act good?” The furry Hobbes answers, “I guess in your case, Santa will just have to take what he can get.” “Ok, so exactly how good do you think I have to act? Really good, or just pretty good?” You see, Calvin understands his true human nature. Even when he tries to be good he knows he’s really doing it for selfish reasons. And the reason we like cartoons like that is that they speak to us, just as we know we are.
This Advent, as we look forward (or not) to God visiting us, we remember that the baby in the manger is the same one who will come again in judgment. We have to acknowledge that we stand before God, sinful and unclean.
Ah, but there a “rest of the story” in this waiting, isn’t there? Just like the television asks, just like Isaiah wanted, God has already become one of us. He has already visited us, not bearing his arm in anger, in naked, terrifying power. He came naked, bare and helpless, as a tiny baby. He came to bare his back to the smiters, to bear everything that’s wrong with the world—and everything that’s wrong with us—to the cross.
Isaiah also said it this way,
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6, ESV)
God’s people back then held fast to the confidence they had in God. They even called God by his saving name. “You, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” (63:16 ESV) Isaiah calls God “Redeemer” over and over again in his book. He used that name for God to remind God’s people that God is faithful to His promises, especially His promise to save. Just as He had saved them from slavery in Egypt, He promises to save again.
But that’s not all. Isaiah also calls God, “our Father.” We do it all the time, whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer. But in those days they didn’t. In fact, it happens only 15 times in the OT scriptures and three of those times are in these few verses. When Isaiah calls God, Father, he’s emphasizing the relationship God’s people have with Him. He’s giving them a basis for their confidence. Because no matter how rich, warm, comforting, and embracing or how shallow, self-serving, faulty, or incomplete our experience of fatherly love from our earthly fathers may have been, it is only a pale, sinful reflection of our heavenly Father’s love. You see, God’s Fatherly love for us is perfect. God’s perfect love for His people is acted out in ways that are always for our benefit. It’s hard for us always to see it that way. Especially when painful things happen and we don’t feel like God is around at all. But that’s not His promise to us. He promises to be right in the midst of even our painful experiences. We can endure those painful times…
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:2-6, ESV)
That’s the confidence we have, that when God visits us it is always in love.
He makes his love personally clear to us in his means of grace. He comes here in his Word and Sacraments. We can have absolute confidence in the good news that He forgives all our sins through Christ’s death on the cross. We can be absolutely assured of that forgiveness through Baptism and the presence of His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. You see, God comes to us right here through these things, too. We have every reason to be confident in the coming of Christ through the forgiveness of sins!
This Advent, we look forward to the coming of Christ, our Savior. That’s because He is God, himself, coming to save us. We are confident in His coming because He came 2000 years ago, the newborn infant, to fulfill God’s promise to save us from sin. And He visits us right now as our means-of-grace Savior, too. His Word encourages and His Sacraments build up our faith. And those troubles that we face, those too are God visiting us in love. He visits that way so that we are drawn closer to Him in our need. Whenever God visits us we can say with Isaiah, But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isa 64:8 ESV). Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005, Phil 4:9-13

Thanksgiving, November 24, 2005
St. John’s, Howard, SD
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:9-13, NIV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Children’s Message:
This package was delivered to the church yesterday. Inside is something for you! In fact inside is something for all of us. What does this say? Care Package from God
What is a care package?
It’s a special package because it’s a message about love. If you are away from home for a long time, your mom might put together a package kind of like this for you. Or suppose you know someone who is hungry and you have lots of food. You could put food in this care package and give it to the person who is hungry.
The bible verse I read just a minute ago was written by St. Paul. He knew how to use a care package. He knew that Jesus died to forgive all people and to take them to heaven. So he traveled around to many places and told people that Jesus loved them.
But some people didn’t like what Paul did, so the put him in jail. Then the people who had learned about Jesus from Paul had a chance to give a care package to him! They brought him food and clothing and because he was a pastor they also brought him books. But most importantly they reminded Paul that Jesus loved him, just as he had told them.
Now, I get to give you something from this box. Small Cross with the words “Jesus Loves You” The best gift you can receive from God is Jesus. Because he loved you so much he died on the cross for your sins. That’s a wonderful gift that he has given especially for you.
Ok, now you’ve gotten something from this box, this care package from God. Did you know you can use care package to give God’s love to other people too. What are some ways that you can show God’s love to other people? giving food to people who don’t have food. Clothing. inviting friends to Sunday School. Being kind to other children. Forgiving people who hurt you
Remember that this care package works in two ways. First, it tells you how much God loves you and blesses you. Second, you can use the package to care for others.

Ok, now for the rest of us. Like I said this is a care package from God, there are wonderful things in it for all of us. Inside are all kinds of gifts from God…
• Church Directory (fellowship); Hymnal (music); Money; Food; clothing; medicine; Recipe book; Coffee;
The care package from God offers all these things to us. But one of the nicest things about these gifts is that there is always much more than we need. God gives us gifts like these because he loves us and he wants us the have the things we need to live, but he also wants us to share them with others. It is a wonderful thing that even though we receive things from the box, we also get the box. We get the box so that we can pass gifts on to others.
We use this care package right here in our congregation. People, who receive the Good News about Jesus Christ, share what they receive from God with others. It is a natural part of being a Christian. Just think about all the ways this package is used right here in our church. We have teachers that use it to tell their students, the children who come here every week, the message of how Jesus Christ loves them. How he loved them so much that he died for them. In an important way the new chair lift is another wonderful gift from this box. It shows the folks who have a little trouble getting around that we care that they can come here and hear about Jesus. That’s a way that we show how important God’s love is, that we want to make it easy for people to come here and hear about him. On Sundays we have beautiful music here. We are blessed with three wonderful organists who take time to prepare for worship. God gives us that gift in the care package, too. He gives us talented musicians that help make our worship service meaningful, to lead us in singing about our Savior and all that he has done for us. All of these things are examples of how this package is used right here in our congregation.
We have received so much in this package that we can offer it to others right here in our community. Think of the times we’ve used Thrivent matching funds to benefit someone in the community. In a small community it’s easy to hear about people who need help and we have a chance to help them. There are many, many ways that individuals sitting here this morning use this package, out there in our community, so many ways that they show God’s love.
And there is even more. Not only have we used this care package in our community, we’ve used it around the world. Each year we set aside a part of our regular budget for world missions. Just think God gives us a care package filled with treasure, and we use it to help a missionary share that same love with someone halfway around the world. But it isn’t just money. Right now we’re filling this care package with soap for missions. LWML has all kinds of project (most of them I don’t even know about yet!) The ladies group has given gifts to seminary students, and local missionaries. All of it is God’s love in action. All of this comes to us in this care package from heaven.
This care package is a part of being a Christian congregation. This care package is part of a Christian. It’s a part of being a Christian doing our daily work serving each other, serving the people in our church and the people in our community. But, I don’t want you to get the idea that this care package is only used by you in stuff that happens here at church or through the church. As if the work that’s done here is somehow more holy than the work that you do every day. The truth is that God has placed you in your place in this community to serve other people. In fact, he has called you to be as servant to other people right where you are. The things you do every day, feeding your family, growing grain to feed the world, serving food in the school cafeteria, teaching children, selling groceries, fixing cars, etc. Whatever you do every day is the work that God gives you to do to serve other people in his name. You are a gift that God gives in this care package, too.
Of course, there are many opportunities to serve, opportunities to use this package that we miss. There are times for all of us when we know that we should share the love of God that comes in this care package but we just don’t do it. We think we’re too busy to help a neighbor who needs it, or we convince ourselves that someone else will do it. We fall short of God’s expectation for our work when we don’t always do it to our best ability. When we are lazy or do work that isn’t up to the quality it should be. We over extend breaks. We cut corners that shouldn’t be cut. And sometimes we even lie to our customers. That’s sin, and it even creeps into the work we love to do. And when it comes to sharing God’s love by telling people about Jesus, we’re afraid of what other people will think of us. “Oh, he’s one of those religious kooks.” Or “Keep your religion to yourself. I don’t need any of that religion stuff.” So in the midst of all this great stuff here in this box we often just don’t live up to God’s call to share it with others.
We show our true sinful nature, the sin that resides right here in our hearts, when we are quiet when we should talk about Jesus; when we are inactive when we should show God’s love in action; when we are lazy and unproductive at work. Because of that sin, that we all have, we don’t deserve any good gifts from God; instead we only deserve his anger and punishment. We deserve to suffer and die. The wages of sin is death. We deserve to be separated from God forever.
But, guess what? That brings us to the best thing in this box. It’s the thing I want to tell you about the most. The best thing in here is what Jesus put in here. You see, he knows that we aren’t perfect. He knows that we fail to share God’s good gifts with others. He knows that we’re afraid to speak about him. He knows about our lazy habits, and our work faults. He knows all that and he still loves us anyway. In fact, he loves us so much that he suffered and died for us. Jesus love and care for us is greater than our sin. That’s why God sends us the best thing of all in this care package. Inside is the forgiveness of sins instead of the punishment we deserve. That’s what Jesus is all about. That’s why he became a human being. God hates sin so much that he can’t just let it go on and on without punishment. So he sent Jesus, his only son, our Savior, to suffer God’s anger and punishment instead of us. Jesus took it all into the grave, our grave; our death for sin; became his. And because God’s anger and punishment was put on Jesus on the cross, it is all paid up our slate is wiped clean. That’s what forgiveness is taking away punishment that we deserve. And that’s exactly what’s in this care package for you and me. It is given to us freely through faith in Jesus, not because we do good stuff to earn it, but simply because we need it, and because we can’t do it for ourselves. Now that’s a wonderful gift, and, in fact, it is what makes all the other gifts in this care package possible.
Now, how what does the forgiveness in this box look like? Well, of course we find the gift of God’s forgiveness in his Word. In it God sends us the Good News about Jesus. It travels through the air and enters our hearts through our ears. That’s where the Holy Spirit takes up residence, through faith. The gift of forgiveness comes through water connected with God’s Word. When God brings us to be baptized he pours water on our heads, marks us as his children and washes away our sins. We get connected to all that Jesus did through what God does for us in and through baptism. And finally the gift of forgiveness comes through bread and wine. Jesus Christ himself comes to us in his very body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. St. John says it very clearly. The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:7 ESV) The wonderful gift is placed right into your mouth. All that Jesus did in his life, death and resurrection is given to you right there. You see that’s one of the best things about God’s gift of forgiveness found in this care package. He makes sure that you know the gift is for you. You hear it and you feel it and you taste it.
So, here’s a care package for you. Inside of it you’ll find all kinds of great things. Gifts for you and gifts for you to share. Hey there’s lots in here, so help yourself, these things are for you, but remember also that there’s plenty more where this all came from, so take what’s here and pass it on. Amen.
The peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Last Sunday of the Church Year, Matt 25:1-13 - November 20, 2005

Last Sunday of the Church Year
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Howard, SD
November 20, 2005
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;
Well, here we go again! Another Sermon on the "End of Time?" We get to the end of the church year and zing, zing, zing. We get inundated with this "last days" stuff. Don't you pastors ever get tired of this topic? We know Jesus is coming again. We know that there will be a great feast that day. We know all the dead will rise and we will be reunited with our loved ones. We know that there will be "wars and rumors" and we know that there will trouble and persecution before he comes again. But, after four or five Sundays we get kind of tired of the topic. (The first 2 Sunday’s in December will have the topic too!) Do we have to listen to another one? Don't you think we are ready?
That’s the real question here. Are we ready? That is what this text wants us to think about. In Jesus usual way he asks that question by telling us a story. Actually this story falls in the middle of a long discourse on the end of time. Right before this one, He tells us about a wicked servant who isn’t prepared because his master returns before he is expected. Kind of like the teenagers who throw a party while their parents are out of town for the weekend. But, the parents return on Saturday night and find the party in full swing. Then he tells us this story about the ten virgins. The previous story tells us that we must be ready because he may come earlier than we expect. The story in our text tells us that he might come later than we expect. So which is it? It’s both, and neither. Jesus’ point is that we can’t know the time. He is simply telling us that we need to be prepared. The whole thing is about preparation not timing. The story goes like this…
There once was group of young women. They were friends and you probably will have something in common with them, you will probably relate to them at least a little because they in grew up in a small town. These ten girls were very good friends, they did everything together.
Now it is important that even though they had a lot in common, these friends could be divided into two totally separate and different groups. Five of the girls were rather practical. They always seemed to be thinking ahead, prepared for what ever might happen. The other five… well that's another story. This second five girls were well, foolish. They had their heads in the clouds. They were always thinking about other things than what was important at the time.
Now these wise and foolish women friends were just like lots of kids who live in small towns, they were convinced that nothing very exciting ever happened to them. So you can understand how excited they were when one day the received some very important news. The news was big, one of their friends was betrothed to be married. In case you are wondering, in those days a betrothal was a yearlong engagement that went before a wedding. Betrothal was a big deal. It meant there was going to be a big party, well, actually two parties. There would be one party now, at the betrothal and one and for the wedding next year. Actually it was more like one yearlong excuse to celebrate with a little celebration to start and a gigantic one to cap it all off. Oh, sure people still had to work in between, but the party, the celebration, lasted the whole year.
The girl friends were excited. They especially looked forward to the wedding party itself. It would begin on the assigned wedding day and last for at least seven days afterward. The wedding day was the day when the bride actually went to live with her husband. He would dress in his best clothes, gather his closest friends and family, and parade over to the bride's house. The proud father of the bride would be waiting for him. And so would our girls. You see they were the bride's friends. It would be their job to escort the groom and the bride in a fiery procession through town. It would be a huge parade leading the new family to their new home. It was a great honor to be selected.
Well, the year went rather quickly and the day of the bridal parade soon arrived. There was excitement everywhere. The girls could hardly wait for dark to go and wait for the groom. What fun it would be to parade with their lamps burning brightly, through town. How often did one of your friends get married after all?
We should take just a moment to describe their lamps. They play an important role in the story too. You see they were more like torches. A long stick with a piece of cloth tied to the end. The idea is that you would soak the cloth in oil and light it. The oil would burn brightly and the cloth would act more like a wick. After about fifteen minutes the flame would go out. Then you would take the cloth soak it in the oil again and re-light it. The most important thing about the whole process is the oil. The most important thing about the way the lamps are supposed to work is the oil. Without oil all you would have was a very short-lived flame, without any oil the cloth just burns up and the light will flicker out in a few seconds.
Well back to the story. The day of the wedding party had finally arrived. Darkness set in, the wise women, and their foolish friends, gathered with their torch lamps. There was a difference, however. The wise girls brought oil for theirs. The foolish girls didn't. Now remember that the torches are no good without oil. There is no good reason not to bring it. And remember, it isn't that they didn't bring enough. They didn't bring any. The purpose of the lamps was to light the wedding procession; they were not used as a flashlight while they waited. Like so many other foolish actions it really doesn't make any sense. The foolish girls simply didn't do what was necessary. No sensible girl would make this mistake. At any rate, the girls, each confident in their preparations waited for the groom. They waited long after dark. Soon they became sleepy. They huddled together and fell asleep. Suddenly, later in the night there was a loud voice. "Girls! He's coming! Get ready to meet him. Finally he is here!" The long awaited time had arrived. The girls rose from their nap and prepared their lamps. They cut off the charred strands and soaked the cloth in oil (that is, if they had any). Soon each was burning brightly. Now it was apparent, at least to the foolish five, that there was something wrong. Their lamps sputtered out after only a few seconds. "Oh, we need oil.” They said to themselves. They tried to get some from their friends. "You can't use ours; there simply isn't enough for your lamps and ours. If you use our oil we won't have enough to light the whole parade. If you would use some of ours, before the end of the parade, we will all be in the dark. Maybe there is time for you to go and buy some now!" The suggestion was hollow, no shopkeeper held such late hours. Unless they had purchased oil before there was little hope of getting any. Still, the foolish girls left immediately to seek out the nonexistent shops. And of course, no sooner had they gotten out of sight, than the bridegroom arrived and the celebrating began. Everyone left for the party; lighted by the light of the wise women’s lamps. Eeveryone that is, except the oil seekers.
After a time those girls also arrived at the party. I don't know if they actually found oil or not, but that really doesn’t matter. They had already missed the parade, the time and purpose for the lamps and oil was past. When they got to the bridegrooms house, they found the door was closed and locked. They stood for a long while wondering what they should do. Finally one of them knocked on the door. "Hello! Hello! We have arrived! Please let us in to the party." After some time the groom himself came to the door. "Who do you think you are!" he answered. "You had a very important role to play in my wedding. Instead you acted like a stranger. You didn't make the necessary preparations. You are not the friends I had thought you were. Since you acted like you didn't know me, I tell you the truth, I don't know you." And with that, he closed the door with a very loud thud. After a brief silence, the sound of the party inside resumed, and the girls were left standing outside, surprised and alone.
And bridegroom, that is our Lord Jesus, said. "Therefore keep watch, be prepared, because you do not know the day or the hour." Be prepared! Don't be like the foolish girls. Jesus the bridegroom is coming to claim his bride, the church. He is coming to claim you and me. We don't know when he will come. Jesus tells us, “Hey, it may be sooner than you expect! Or it could be later than you expect! The main thing is that you are ready whenever it happens.”
And you ask, “How can we be ready.” Well it’s not rocket science; the foolish girls had no excuse for not bringing oil. They knew it was necessary for the lamps to burn. They simply didn’t do the obvious things necessary to be prepared. That’s why they were foolish. When we neglect to prepare, we too, are foolish. It isn’t difficult. We know what to do. God has given us this house of worship. We are foolish when we are unprepared by neglecting to worship here. He has given us opportunities to study his word, to read, mark and inwardly digest it. We are foolish when we make excuse after excuse, and don't come. Jesus Christ has given us his very own body and blood as spiritual food, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. We are foolish when we refuse to receive it, or think that we don’t need it very often. Jesus calls to us to pray, ask anything in my name, and I will give it. We are foolish when we doubt his promise. "Make disciples," he says. And we foolishly sit at home watching television. You see, it isn't difficult. The prepared girls had the oil they needed. It was available, and easy to get. We can be prepared just as well. What we need is available and easy to get.
The foolish girls acted as if they didn’t care. They acted as if the wedding feast didn’t really matter. They neglected their relationship to the bridegroom. When they tried to enter the feast the bridegroom said he didn’t know them, because they didn’t act as if they knew him. If we neglect worship, prayer and God’s word, when we stay away from the gifts Jesus gives us in the Lord’s Supper, we neglect the relationship that Jesus Christ won for us. He cared so much for us that he suffered and died on the cross to build a relationship with God for us. Christians walk in dangerous territory when they neglect their relationship God. St. Paul talked about some who had made a shipwreck of their faith. If you neglect your spouse he/she will soon wonder if you really love them. Our relationship with God needs attention, too. And the best part about the attention it needs is that God has provided everything, God has done everything, God asks nothing of you than to receive His wonderful gift of faith. And this place of worship is where it happens. This altar is where Jesus comes to you in the body and blood that hung on the cross bleeding and dying for you. This font of water is where God brings faith and makes you His friend.
The difference between the wise and the foolish girls isn’t that the wise ones were better; the story says they were prepared. They were prepared because of their relationship to the bridegroom. They did the necessary preparations because they were anticipating the celebration with the bridegroom. The foolish girls may have had their minds on the party, on who would be there and what they would be wearing. The wise ones concentrated on being the guests of the bridegroom. They were thinking about celebrating the great day with him. When he came they were prepared go with him, and light the way as they were asked to do. Because of their relationship they were inside when the door was shut.
Thanks be to Jesus Christ, he has forgiveness for foolish people. In fact His forgiveness is bigger than our foolishness. When we stand before God and our foolish sins weight us down... When we see how our foolishness separates us from him… gets in the way of our relationship. We confess, "I, a poor miserable, foolish sinner, confess unto thee all my foolishness…” Jesus reaches out to embrace us with his forgiveness, saying, “I forgive you, my dear child. You are clothed in my righteousness, it was purchased at great cost because I love you, even your foolishness cannot separate you from me.” The Bridegroom Jesus restores our relationship and our foolishness melts away.
The Bridegroom is coming sooner or later. We are prepared. We live in his forgiveness that melts away a lifetime of foolishness. We are prepared because he restores our broken relationship. He invites us into the wedding party, and so we wait patiently, for him to arrive. When the cry is heard, 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ we will rise and meet him; we have been prepared. And the party will begin. Amen.
The Peace of God, that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year, Nov 13, 2005, Matt 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-46

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

Jesus is coming! It’s that time of year when set aside some time to talk about it again. Of course we always want to have an eye on the idea, but we set aside these last few weeks of the church year to talk about it specifically. Jesus is coming! That is what we confess to believe every Sunday as a part of the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed. We believe that Our Lord, “will come to judge the living and the dead.” We say. It’s a day we claim to look forward to. A day of great joy, a wonderful day, but is it? Really? Is it good news or bad news that Jesus is coming again? Is it something to look forward to or something to dread? And the answer is… “yes!” At least that what the prophet Malachi called it; a great and terrible day (Malachi 4:5). And it will be a day of terror and a day of joy, a day of singing and a day of weeping. Which one it will be for you, depends entirely on what you are. Jesus puts it very clear He says the difference between weeping and singing and joy and terror is based on being a sheep or a goat. A song the kids love to sing has some significance as we talk about judgment day. It goes like this: I just wanna be a sheep (Baa Baa Baa Baa) I just wanna be a sheep (Baa Baa Baa Baa) I pray the Lord my soul to keep, I just wanna be a sheep (Baa Baa Baa Baa) (Words and Music by Brian M. Howard) And when I look at what happens to the goats, that song really echoes through my mind. ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ I just wanna be a sheep!

So what does the text tell us about how to be a sheep and not a goat? What is the key to judgment day? When we are standing before the Great Judge, Jesus Christ, how does he know that we are really sheep and not goats? Let’s look at the passage again.

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Well, that doesn’t sound too hard. It sounds pretty much like taking care of people who are in need. You don’t have to go very far to find people who are in need. But, it’s interesting that the sheep are surprised. “Lord when did we do these things?” the sheep say. Maybe Jesus words surprise us to because as Lutherans we confess that our works don’t save us. We say that there is nothing that we can do to get us right with God. In the confirmation class we were just talking about Luther’s words on the Third Article, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.” And yet this judgment that Jesus is talking about here seems to be based on works? As far as the goats are concerned they were doing good stuff, they are surprised, because they thought they were doing them for Jesus. And the goats seem to be just as surprised. “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” Lord, we fed the hungry and sent clothes to those who needed it, we built hospitals and help prisoners reform, we did all these things how is it that we missed you? So if both the sheep and the goats are doing the very same things how is the judgment made? How is it that the judge puts some on the right and some on the left? I just wanna be a sheep.

It would be easy to say that the works here are the evidence of faith. After all faith without works is dead St. James tells us. (James 2:26) So maybe Jesus is looking at the works here as evidence of faith and judging us accordingly. Maybe that’s what’s going on here. But, if that is the case I think that we all might be in trouble. I’ve heard it asked this way before: If you were put on trial what evidence would there be to convict you of being a Christian. Would there be enough, have you done enough good stuff in your life that people would look at you and say, “there goes a Christian.” I’ve got to admit I don’t think my stack of good stuff is all that high compared to some others. There was a rich young man that came to Jesus once, and he wanted to know what he could do to earn eternal life. Actually he was asking how to be a sheep. Jesus told him to keep the commandments perfectly. “Ok!” the young man said, “I’ve got that handled, I’m doing just that right now.” But Jesus quickly accused him of breaking the first commandment, love God above anything else. “If you really love God above everything, sell everything you have and give the money all away, and follow me.” The man left dejected. He loved his money too much to give it up. He didn’t keep that one commandment perfectly so he shattered the whole bunch. If we want to set our works up for God to look and judge they will be found faulty. If you want to be judged by your works God will do it, but you’ll fall short of his demand that you be perfect. I just wanna be a sheep.

What’s worse is the bible clearly teaches that we will all be judged, without exception. St. Paul writes, "For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So each of us shall give an account of himself to God" (Rom 14:10-12). Again the apostle writes, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10). So, how can judgment day be anything but bad news for us? I just wanna be a sheep!

Let’s look at the text again. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. It’s a sorting job. Just like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, like a child separates dimes from quarters, pennies from nickels, after breaking the piggy bank. During the day the sheep and goats live together, and before the bank is broken all the coins are in it the same containier. At night the shepherd sorts the animals into different pens, the sheep to his right and the goats to his left. When the bank is full it’s time to sort the savings. The truth is that Jesus very often talked about judgment as sorting. The wheat is sorted from the weeds, the chaff from the grain, clean fish from unclean. Judgment is sorting. Before the sorting is done everything is together. Before the end we live together right now, believers and unbelievers. We are all treated alike. Rain falls on us all. We are all plagued by the same illnesses, and problems; cancer and clogged arteries. We all suffer from the same family issues; dysfunction and divorce. We all live and we all die, just the same. And we will all be sorted, in the end. Sheep on the right and goats on the left… then our works will be judged. And that is the key. Our works will be judged, but we will not be judged by our works. You see the sorting of judgment on the last day isn’t based on what you have done or left undone, but on what you are. Are you a sheep? Then you go to the right. Are you a goat? Then you go to the left. It’s as simple as sorting coins on the desk. What you are determines where you go. It doesn’t have anything to do with what you have done. On the right hand is blessings, inheritance and praise for the imperfect works you have done. On the left is curses, punishment and condemnation for the works you did for the wrong reasons, or didn’t do at all; Life eternal on the one side and eternal fire on the other. It comes back to that question I asked at the beginning, “Are you a sheep, or a goat?” I just wanna be a sheep (Baa Baa Baa Baa)!

There is blessing on the right for the sheep. ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’ The sheep receive a gift that has been in the works since the very beginning. God has been at work preparing the gift of salvation for them even before they were born. And the key word there is inheritance. It isn’t wages for good work done. An inheritance isn’t based on what you’ve done but the promises and good grace of the person who gives it.

God has been working on your salvation since the foundation of the world was laid. He made His promise to Adam and Eve in the garden for you and for your salvation. For you he called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For you he guided Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness in the Promised Land. For you He caused His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, the Son who suffered, died, and rose again, for you. He took your imperfect sinful works and deeds to the cross and suffered God’s anger for not placing him first in everything. God brought you to His Word and to Holy Baptism that connects you to all that Jesus does for you. He brought you here today to hear His Word. Everything has been worked out so that Christ could hand you the kingdom on the Last Day and say, "Come, my blessed one, my sheep, and inherit the Kingdom that has been prepared for you.” I just wanna be a sheep!

And so I ask the question again? How do you know if you are a sheep or a goat? If you’re still trying to line up all your good works as proof you’re looking at the wrong place. If you’re trying to look into your heart to discover if you “truly believe” you’re looking in the wrong place. If you’re looking to anything you’ve done, even if you’re depending on a decision to “accept Christ,” or “Make Jesus ‘Lord’ of your life” your placing your faith on you and not on Christ. If you want to know if you are a sheep or a goat you have to look to what God does instead of what you do. You see, you are a sheep because God has made you one. Look for something in his heart instead of your heart. Look for something he has done for you instead of what you have done for him. The greatest thing about being his sheep. We never have to worry about not being one. God not only gives us the gift of faith we need to believe in Jesus, that is he makes us sheep, but he makes sure we know exactly who is getting the gift. Next week we’re going to have a Baptism here. At that font right there God is going to make another sheep. We won’t have any question about who God doing all the wonderful things he’s going to do. All we have to do is ask the question, “Whose head got wet?” Little Cody’s head is gonna get wet and God is going to line him up for the inheritance of eternal life. He’s going to make him a member of the family of God. He’s going to cancel all his sin by putting it in Jesus’ cross. And all his life Cody’s going to be able to know that He’s a sheep because of what God is going to do through His Word of promise given with the water.

Now since last Thursday was Luther’s birthday I can’t help quoting him one more time:

But with the word of God [the water] is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

I just wanna be a sheep (Baa…). So how can I know that I am? All I have to do is ask the question I asked about Cody? When God brought you to the font, when God made promises of forgiveness and life and salvation, whose head got wet? It was yours… that’s when you became God’s sheep. That’s when all the promises God has made have become promise to you. I just wanna be a sheep (baa…). And I am. Amen.

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

Thursday, November 10, 2005

John 14.27, Funeral for Dr. Bill Baum

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

When I asked Karla, if there was a special text she’d like me to preach on today, she chose these words of Jesus.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 (ESV)

It’s a good text for today, because that’s exactly what we need today, peace. As we sit here today looking death in the face, we need peace. We need peace to enable us to go on with our lives; peace to live in our community, peace that Jesus promises in these beautiful words. So it is good to look at Jesus words of peace today.

But I wonder today especially, especially on a day like today: Where is the peace? Where’s the peace for a community that wonders if this is the beginning of a string of business closings that will leave us just like so many other small communities in the state. One more business gone, one more building vacant and ready to be set to the bulldozer. Where’s the peace for our community?

Where is the peace for a congregation that looses such a young member? I have to admit that even though I’ve done quite a few funerals, this is the first for someone younger than I am. Where is the peace for a congregation when we wonder if this is yet another sign that we’ll eventually be closing our doors because we’ve just gotten too old? Where is the peace for our church?

But the question we ask specifically on a day like today is: Where is the peace for a family that has lost what you have lost? Where is there peace when you have lost all the promise of young love and marriage, children, grandchildren, growing old together? Where’s the peace for hearts that ache as yours are aching today? Where’s the peace for parents who should never out live there children, for a sister and brother who’s lives won’t ever be quite the same? Where is peace when we are angry with God for allowing Bill to be taken away from us in this way? Where is the peace… for you?

And where is the peace for us individually as we sit here today, knowing that for our lives will all end just as Bill’s did? That no matter what we do no matter how good we are, no matter humble and hard working, even if we live to be over a hundred years old, death will come for us, and our family and friends will gather around us, just as we have gathered here today. Where is the peace for us all today as we stand at the edge of the grave peering in?

Well, Jesus tells us where the peace that we need today is to be found. He gives it and it’s not like the peace that the world around us would give to us. He said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. The world would have us look at everything that Bill did. His accomplishments, his activities, how much he was loved, and as much as those were all good things in Bill’s life, as much as you have all been blessed by these things, they still have come to and end. Nothing Bill did could prevent bringing us here today. I think Karla said it best, “He should be up running around with me!” No if we want real lasting peace we have to look somewhere else. We have to look for the peace that Jesus gives. His peace. And that’s exactly why we have come together today right here in this place, to hear about Jesus, and have the peace that only Jesus can give.

I didn’t know Bill, I never met him, I never spoke with him, never saw him take a breath, and yet I’ll sure I’ll meet him one day, not because he was a great guy, but because of his faith in Jesus. As I said I don’t know Bill so there’s not a lot I can tell you about him. Pastor Hinkley will make some of those connections for you, along with telling you about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for Bill. But that doesn’t really matter because there’s really only one thing I know about Bill that’s really going to bring you peace today, and we already all spoken it together.

P In Holy Baptism Bill was clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness that covered all his sin. St. Paul says: “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

C 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.

That’s Jesus’ promise to Bill. That’s Jesus’ promise to you and me. It tells us that even though sin brings us here, even though sin brought Bill here, Bill was united with Jesus in Jesus’ death through baptism, so Bill is also united with Jesus in Jesus’ resurrection. Bill had faith in Jesus. Bill knew that His death on the cross covered his sins, and took the sting out of death. And because Bill had Bill had faith in Jesus, He believed in Jesus promise to bring his body back to life again.

I know a group of people who were feeling just like you and I are feeling today. They were huddled together, afraid, tired, angry, and mourning the all too early death of a friend, a son, a brother. Jesus had been crucified. They saw the whole bloody affair. He was dead and in the grave three days. What they really need is the peace that Jesus promised to give them. And just as they were wondering where they would find that peace, Jesus appears and stands right in the middle of them, even though they are in locked room. And what is the first thing Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you!” Peace, because he is alive even though he had been dead; Peace, because he takes death and wrings out all of its power to hold us; Peace, because He proved that he is stronger than death; Peace because he has taken sin’s punishment and the treat of hell and done away with them by dying and rising again; Peace because His resurrection is a promise to us that he can and will bring us out of death to life again. That’s the promise of Baptism. That’s God’s promise, made to Bill in his baptism. And it is only God’s promises made to us through Jesus that can give us peace on a day like today.

And so tomorrow when you go to Lebanon (South Dakota) to commit Bill’s body to the ground, it is in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our bodies, he will change Bill’s body, to be like His glorious body.

That means Karla, that he will be up and running around with you again. And that’s where we find peace today. Amen.

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