Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Funeral Sermon for Anne Whipple: "A Time to Live"

+ In Memoriam – Anne Whipple +
February 24th, 1936 – May 5th, 2016
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Romans 6:3-11; John 14:1-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh…

Solomon’s words ring true in our ears, especially today. There was a time to be born and a time to die for Anne. Just as there is a time to be born and a time to die for all of us.
And so we may think that today is only a time to mourn, but we would be wrong. To be sure, we grieve. After all, the wages of sin is death. Death is the last enemy. Like a decapitated snake, Death still has some venom in its fang that leaves a deadly sting. Even Jesus joins us in our grief. He wept at Lazarus’ tomb.

We live in a broken world, our families hurt and suffer, loved ones get sick and die, and we rightly mourn and weep, and maybe even get angry because of Death. We’re troubled that there is such a thing as a time die. For we know that it wasn’t always this way. Scripture teaches us that there was a time where there was no time to die, no time for mourning, no time for weeping…only life, joy, and peace with God.

And Scripture also teaches us that there will be a time when death, mourning, and weeping will be wiped out forever. For all who are baptized – as Anne was –in Jesus’ name, then we are united with Jesus in a death like his and, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. And if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Anne died with Christ and now lives with Him. And so we do not grieve as others do without hope.

For Jesus destroyed the last enemy of Death for you, for Anne, and for all. For Jesus there was also a time to be born…for you, for Anne, and for all. For Jesus there was also a time to die, for you, for Anne, and for all. For Jesus there was a time to live, to rise from the dead, for you, for Anne, and for all.

As St. Paul declares: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

As strange as it may sound, St. Paul reminds us that for Anne, the time to die happened long before May 4th, 2016; she died in a baptismal font in Fremont, Nebraska on April 4th, 1936. Anne died to sin as the pastor poured those hallowed waters over her head; she was crucified and buried with Christ by the water and word that washes away sin and clothes us with Christ. Which also means she was raised to new life. Baptism is her resurrection. Now Anne, and all who are baptized, are dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus. And that so for Anne there is only a time to live.

For Anne, there is no more time to weep. There is only a time to laugh. To mock the grave. For it is empty of its power to hold us. Death has lost its sting because Jesus bore it for Anne, and for you. Each scar on his hands and feet, every thorn pierced wound on his head, and every pain he suffered was to suck sin’s venom from our flesh.

Yes, there is a time to mourn; but there is also a time to dance and leap for joy in Christ’s resurrection. For death has no dominion over Jesus, over Anne, or you.
Yes, there is a time to die; but there is also a time to rise; a time to be planted in the earth for a rest from our labors; and a time to be plucked up from our graves by our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 

These words give us, as they did for Anne strength, comfort, and peace in life and death. We go where Jesus goes, through the grave to life in Jesus. This is why Anne took her confirmation vows seriously, earning the name “defender of the faith” from her husband, Scott for her confidence and boldness in confessing the faith given her at Baptism.

This is why she had, as family members describe it, the servant-gene. From lost dogs in her neighborhood to her patients in hospice care, she revealed compassion and care that can only come from God’s grace. As I looked in her church file – don’t worry, it’s not like the CIA, FBI, or IRS; our files are about receiving Jesus’ gifts, caring for others, and things like confirmation or baptismal records – I noticed a lot of letters thanking her for serving the congregation in countless ways. For Anne there was a time to serve and love others because Christ had first loved and served her by laying down his life.

In every stage of life, Jesus fulfills and fills these words with his own suffering, death, and resurrection for us.

For Jesus there was a time to be born and a time to die…for you.
For Jesus there was a time to be planted in the earth, and to be plucked up again three days later and rise from the dead…for you.
For Jesus there was a time to cast away the stone from his tomb; and one day, there will be a time where Jesus will cast away the stone from all of our tombs as well.

Therefore, let not your hearts be troubled; in Jesus there is only a time to live…for Anne and for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sermon for Easter 7: "Jesus Prays For You"

+ 7th Sunday of Easter – May 8th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Acts 1:12-26; Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20; John 17:20-26

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Scripture is full of prayers. The Psalms are the prayer book and hymnal of the Old Testament. Abraham, Moses, and the prophets prayed. King David and lowly Job prayed. The disciples requested of Jesus:” Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Every book from Genesis to Revelation includes God’s people in prayer.

And, as we hear in John 17, even God himself prays. John takes an entire chapter to give us the words of Jesus’ prayer to the Father, for his disciples, and for you.

It’s often called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, and for good reason. Like the priests of the Old Testament, only better, Jesus intercedes for us. Jesus is our mediator. Jesus is the one priest who laid down his own life as the sacrifice for our sin. His death was our death. His blood covers our transgression. Jesus lives to intercede on our behalf.

Of all the prayers in Scripture Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is perhaps the most comforting.
Of course, it’s a great comfort when someone says, “I’ll pray for you” or “You’re in my prayers.” And if our prayers, which falter and flounder, are a support for others, how much greater then, it is to know that Jesus prays for you.

Jesus never forgets to pray. Jesus never fails to pray for exactly what you need. Jesus faithfully prays for you. And what does Jesus pray for?

Jesus prays for those who will believe in me through their word. Whose word? The Apostles’ Word which is another way of saying Jesus’ Word. Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. Jesus is praying for you in this prayer, today as you hear his Word read, sung, and preached, and every time you read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest his holy Word. Jesus prays – not that we believe his word based on how we feel or that we believe what we want to hear in his Word - but that we would have faith and trust in his words, not ours.

It’s Jesus’ word that declares to you: Baptism saves you. Jesus’ Word promises: your sins are forgiven by his called and ordained servants of the Word. Jesus’ Word gives his new testament in his body and blood for the forgiveness of all your sins. Jesus’ Word does not return void or empty but creates life. Through his Word Jesus gives you the very faith and trust in him that he is praying for in John 17.

Jesus also prays: that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.

Jesus prays for you again, and for all Christians, that we all may be one, as the Father and the Son are one. We confess this divine reality in the Nicene Creed. Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made. And Jesus prays that this mysterious oneness in the Trinity, this unity that is at the very essence of God, would also be ours.

This may be one of the more difficult petitions to understand in Jesus’ high priestly prayer. After all, when we look around at the Christian church today, or take a brief stroll down history lane, it’s quickly apparent that we are not one. There have been divisions in the church since the days of the apostles, and there will be until Jesus returns. It’s sad. It’s not what Jesus intended. We long for the church to be one as Jesus prays.

And yet, when you look over the last 2000 years of church history, and consider the Church that began as 120 believers gathered in one room on the eve of Pentecost, it’s a miracle that the Church managed to survive throughout the centuries. Empires have come and gone. Nations have fallen and risen. Great cultures have reached their pinnacle and then disappeared. Antagonists have risen up: Islamism, communism, atheism, pietism, rationalism, agnosticism, skepticism, post-modernism. And there have been enemies from within too: heresies, false teachers, egocentric leaders, corrupt clergy, faithless laity. 2000 years of mismanagement that would have driven any other organization into extinction long ago.

But for this: Jesus promised He would build His church on the confession that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his Church. Jesus promised to always be with his bride, the Church. And Jesus prays for His Church, as a loving husband prays for his wife. Jesus prays for her, and in praying for the Church, Christ also prays for you.
And not only for you. Jesus also prays that the world may believe that you sent Me.” Jesus prays that we, his congregation in Huntington Beach, would be an outpost for the Gospel, a safe-haven of his forgiveness for all people. The Church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world around us, just as Old Testament Israel existed for the benefit and blessing of the world.

This is why Jesus calls his church not to be so self-absorbed that we worry about ourselves more than others. That means taking the time to speak the Gospel with someone else who doesn’t dress like you, eat the same food as you, smell or act like you.

Another danger is to pit the needs of those who already believe in Christ against those who do not yet believe. Jesus calls us his church to care for all: the faithful and the lost.
And lastly, Jesus prays, Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 

Glory is one of those loaded words in the Scriptures. It’s a freight train barreling our way, loaded with the Old Testament tabernacle, temple, and covenant on board. Where God’s glory was, God was present with his people and for his people. Think Moses on Mt. Sinai. Aaron and the priests in the tabernacle. Israel before the pillar of smoke and fire.

It is this glory that belongs to Jesus from before the foundation of the world. And yet, for our sake, God in all his glory comes and dwells among us in human flesh. In Jesus the glory of God is present. His holiness is accessible. God is no longer hidden in smoke and fire and the brilliant light of Sinai. Now God is present in our own humanity.

And nowhere is God’s glory more clearly seen on earth than Jesus’ death on the cross for you. This is what Jesus prays for us to see: his great glory and love revealed in his sacrifice and death for you.

Jesus prays that we see the glory of his death for us, so that we will also see the glory of eternal life with him. The glory of Jesus crucifixion for us, also leads us to the glory of his resurrection and ascension for us.

In everything he does, Jesus prays for you. Even now, at this very moment, Jesus is interceding on our behalf. Unlike our prayers, Jesus’ prayer never ends. So, when you’re receiving his gifts in his church, serving in your vocation at home or work, or just enjoying something in his creation – Jesus is praying for you. When you’re in a routine doctor’s visit, receiving chemo treatments, or undergoing surgery – Jesus is praying for you. When you’re talking with your neighbor about what you believe, when you’re not sure what to say, or when you’re afraid to say anything about your Christian faith – Jesus is praying for you.

Jesus is praying for you.


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sermon for Feast of St. Philip and St. James: "The Lord Builds His Church"

+ Festival of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles - May 1, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 30:18-21; Ephesians 2:19-22; John 14:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Today the Christian Church remembers two pieces of this foundation: St. Philip and St. James (the lesser/younger).

Through his prophets and apostles, God laid the foundation. God built the house, every wall, room, and floor on the Cornerstone of Christ Jesus, not with brick and mortar, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Some planted, others watered, but God gave the growth. As Jesus promises the disciples before he ascends to heaven: “I am with you always.”

Today is a blessed reminder that in every age, God builds his church.

From the early church to today, he added stones to the foundation such as Athanasius, Ambrose, and later Augustine. There was Basil, Bede, and Johann Bugenhagen. Luther, Melanchthon, and Martin Chemnitz, and many more.

Two thousand years later, God continues to build his Church. This past week was call day for our seminaries. God added more stones to the foundation. Laborers sent into his harvest. I remember sitting through a similar service myself just about 8 years ago, and by God's grace here I am still.

But the feast of St. Philip and St. James isn’t just a day to thank God for the church fathers, known and unknown who proclaim the Word to us.

Today is also for us, the hearers of the Word. As Paul reminds us, you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

Like Philip and James, God’s Word must come to us. Jesus speaks and makes saints out of sinners, disciples out of fishermen, and citizens of God’s Kingdom out of exiles and strangers from heaven. Jesus makes us a temple of the Holy Spirit out of a heart that was a den of thieves.

Jesus does all of this for you the same way he did for Philip and James: by His Word spoken and delivered for you. By his life, laid down for you. By his resurrection from the dead for you.

Philip and James don’t have long, fantastic tales written about their work as apostles. We do know that Philip told Nathanael to “Come and see” Jesus (John 1). Later he invited some Greeks to hear Jesus as well (John 12). And, as we heard today, he asked Jesus to show him the Father.

About James we know even less. His mother was one of the women at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday, and he’s listed among the disciples.

It seems like we know nothing about these men. But what we do know is enough. We know Jesus called Philip and James to be his disciples. We know Jesus sent them out as his apostles. And that is enough. They heard Jesus’ Word. Jesus sent them to preach and teach everything that he had given them. And that’s what Philip and James did. Acts 2:42 tells us the same: they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

That’s the simple answer that church consultants, endless vision statements, and countless books have missed. How does Christ build his church? Teaching God’s Word. Eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper. Fellowship in Christ with each other. And the prayers, that is the Divine Service.

Though we don’t have all the details, that’s what Philip and James were called to do. God calls us to do the same.

After all, the feast of St. Philip and St. James really isn’t about Philip or James. It’s about Jesus crucified for you. Jesus the Cornerstone of the Church for you.

That’s why Philip and James didn’t spend time counting or comparing how many people they saved by preaching the Gospel or baptizing. They didn’t water down the Gospel to make it make it more appealing to the Greeks. They didn’t try and spice up their church services with a little creative worship to attract the Romans.

For Philip and James, Christian faith was remarkably simple: listen to Jesus’ word, and proclaim Jesus’ Word faithfully to all.

Sounds so simple. And yet it’s the hardest thing to do. How many things distract us from Jesus and his Word? O Lord, let me count the ways! How often have we looked to and put our faith in the empty promises men when searching for answers on how best to declare and defend the Gospel, when our Lord has already given us everything we need in his promises of Word, Baptism, Absolution, and Supper? How much time to do we spend grumbling about our neighbor instead of looking and asking for ways to serve them in body and soul?

Philip and James teach us that if we’re looking for a sinless church this side of Eden, we’re going to be deeply disappointed. But if we’re looking for a church where Christ is present with sinners, well then, we’ve come to the right place. For unless the Lord builds the house, those who build labor in vain.

Wherever the Good News of redemption is preached and the Holy Supper celebrated, there Jesus gathers the crowds of the faithful witnesses of all times.

In his Church, Jesus pours heavy from the cup of salvation for you. In his church, you are no longer strangers, but fellow citizens and saints. In Jesus you are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. In Christ’s church you are never alone.

This is a sublime comfort for us in the church on earth. Here, around the Lord’s Table, Jesus is present with us and we have communion with one another. Though veiled from our eyes we, the church on earth, are joined by the church in heaven. This is what we mean when we confess in the Creed that we believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. The communion of saints.

It is the church of Philip and James and the apostles and prophets before them. It is the church of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the church of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men. It is the church of Bob Drews, Ryan Willweber, and all the faithful departed. It is the church where we are no longer strangers but fellow citizens. And where Christ is our Cornerstone.

Today we join Philip and James and all the faithful in hearing Jesus’ Words, receiving them with joy, and responding with thanksgiving. Using the Philip’s words, we say to our neighbor, “Come and see!” Come and see your sins forgiven. Come and see heaven on earth. Come and see water that washes away your sins. Come and see bread and wine that feed you with eternal life. Come and see Jesus for you.

A blessed feast of St. Philip and St. James to each of you…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.