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Nothing Separates Us from the Love of God

Sermon: “Nothing Separates Us From The Love Of God”             

LSB Series A; Proper 12

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; July 26, 2020

Epistle Reading: Romans 8:28-39

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).

Nothing. Absolutely nothing…separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing.

But it just seems like there is so much evidence to the contrary. Now the following is going to be a bit heavy, but that’s because we live in a world with heavy stuff. We live in a world where there are so many bad things going on and so much stuff that weighs upon our hearts that tries to convince us that we are separated from God’s love.

When I wrote this sermon, the city of Portland, Oregon had now endured six straight weeks of unrest due to protests. Though they may have started as peaceful protests, it was estimated that there had been $23 million dollars in losses due to looting and rioting. Think of those business owners and their livelihoods being lost. The effects of the murder of George Floyd still rage on.

          It was also reported that 39 states are reporting an increase in Covid cases. States, especially in the south, are doing whatever it takes to care for those in need. At the hospital where my sister-in-law works as an occupational therapist, due to the ICU beds all being taken, they are taking beds from occupational therapy unit so that additional people can receive care.

          Then there was the schizophrenic guy in Florida who drove his vehicle into a Catholic church, and upon breaking in, set the vehicle on fire which set fire to part of the church. What’s more is that in his state of mind, there seemed to be no remorse for his actions.

          It’s all enough to just make us scream and ask where in the world is God? Does He really love us? And it’s not just because of what is on the news, it’s also because of what is going on in our lives.

          You see, when we watch the news and see the tribulation going on, we sometimes have this way of thinking that we are insulated here in Carver County. We can sometimes even adopt the mentality that such problems will never rear their ugly head in our neck of the woods.

          But the sense that we are separated from God’s love goes deeper than what is simply on the news. It’s everywhere, and certainly has a way of hitting us closer to home.

          Just ask the husband or wife who just had to say goodbye to their spouse as death darkened their days. Just ask the child who can’t figure out how a parent who said they would love them, but treats them as if they are garbage. Just ask the family that can’t gather anymore because no one can get along and there are so many grudges that no one can figure out who to talk to anymore.

          Then it gets even deeper than that. Because, after all, when we talk about separation, nothing separates more than sin. I heard in a sermon the other day that said, just imagine if someone kept a record of all of the sites that you visited on-line and all of the posts that you posted. What would it reveal about your heart? Or if you aren’t on-line, what would happen if someone recorded all of your comments that you made to people when you didn’t get your way or the comments you made about people when they weren’t around and you felt free to talk behind their back? What would it reveal about you?

          Yes, we live in a heavy world of sin, and there is ample evidence to try and make us think that we are hopelessly separated from God’s love. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

Listen again: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

          Through all that Paul had endured: beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, being stoned, he still expressed this sure and certain confidence that absolutely nothing would separate him from God’s love.

          You see, we have this tendency to think that when bad things happen in our lives that God has either abandoned us or that He is punishing us. But that is simply not true. At the beginning of the chapter, St. Paul writes: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Later, just before our text he writes: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

          God is not condemning us as we live in this world. But it is a world of sin, and sin has its consequences and effects. In no way, however, has God abandoned us and left us to be separated from His love. Just listen to this: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32).

          Yes, we live in a world of heavy stuff going on and we have heavy stuff going on in our own personal lives. But God gave up His Son, and He did the heavy lifting that was need so that in the end we would stand victorious, as those who are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

          And how does He make that possible? By joining the sheep that are led to the slaughter. He is the sacrificial lamb.

          In my personal devotions the other day, I read the end of the book of Luke. It got me thinking about what it must have been like for Jesus on that day we call Good. Because when you look at it closely, it sure doesn’t seem like anything good happened.

          In that text it says that the chief priests and the scribes were vehemently accusing him and the soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Now we have all heard the line: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” And everyone knows what a lie that is. Words can really hurt, especially depending upon who those words come from.

          If you have ever had someone verbally abuse you or put you down…maybe it was spouse, or a parent, or a friend, or someone in authority over you, see here today that Jesus knows exactly what that is like. He knows that pain of separation deeply and He bears it with you and for you because nothing separates you from His love.

          If you have ever had hatred and grudges separate you from someone you love, maybe it was a family member or friend, see here today that Jesus enters into the thick of just such a separation as many of the people that treated him so poorly were supposed to be his brothers in the faith. 

          It was a few verses later in that chapter of Luke that a riot broke out, a riot calling out, “Crucify, crucify Him.” The taunting and the ridicule in no way subsided as they drove nails into His hands and feet…as they hung Him there on the place called the Skull in between two criminals, left there to die.

          As I said before, in no way did it appear that anything ‘good’ happened on that Good Friday. But with His very own body and blood, Jesus entered into the separation that existed between you and the Father in heaven. He endured the horrific pain of calling out to His Father and getting no reply. And even as He suffered in ways we can’t begin to imagine, He said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

          “I forgive you”. If ever there are three words that express that nothing separates you from God’s love, those are the ones. “I forgive you.” Those are the words of Jesus that you heard at the beginning of this service today. “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.”

          All those sites you visited that you shouldn’t have. All those posts you made that you should have never posted. All those comments that you made to people or behind their backs, Jesus says: “I forgive you.” 

          Your sins will not be held against you, because nothing, absolutely nothing will separate you from God’s love. So go, and sin no more. And as you go out into a world filled with the darkness of sin, do so in the confidence of a Savior who loves you beyond all measure and promises to be with you always…In His Word…In His body and blood…given and shed for you.

          Yes, it is easy to doubt God’s love when we look at the circumstances around us. But the assurance comes when we look at Jesus Christ. When we look at Jesus, we know that God is for us…we know that we are justified…we know that we are more than conquerors…and we know that nothing will separate us from His love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Groanings too deep for words

Sermon: “Groanings Too Deep For Words”             

LSB Series A; Proper 11

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; July 19, 2020

Epistle Reading: Romans 8:18-27

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to wait in line at the grocery store. It’s hard to wait for our name to be called at the clinic. It’s hard to wait to open Christmas presents. It’s hard to wait for dessert to be served. It’s hard to wait for someone to stop talking so that we can finally talk. It’s hard to wait.

It is especially hard to wait when we suffer. It’s hard to wait when we are told the results will be coming in a few days. It’s hard to wait when we are receiving a treatment. It’s hard to wait when we feel sick to our stomach. It’s hard to wait when we endure chronic pain. It’s hard to wait when the depression sets in again. It’s hard to wait for a pandemic to end. It’s just hard to wait.

It’s also hard to wait for the Last Day to come. Our text says: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Here we are living in a world of sin and brokenness, holding on to a promise that Jesus will return, and it’s just not easy. It’s especially hard because it seems like we’ve waited long enough and suffered long enough. It has been two thousand years. And I know that God says in His Word that a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. Well, in God’s time, isn’t two days long enough? It’s just so hard to wait.

I have yet to find anyone who really appreciates waiting. I have yet to find someone who says, yeah, I am a really patient person. I often joked that when God was passing out patience, He skipped me. I am guessing many of us feel the same way. 

When we have to wait, and especially when we are suffering in the process, what is our response more often than not? We groan.

Any of you familiar with groaning? Ever heard someone else groan before? It’s that deeply embedded feeling in the body that comes out in the form of a sound. It kind of goes like this (give example).

Parents are probably pretty familiar with groaning sounds that come from their children when they don’t get their way. “Awww, do I have to?” “Why do they always get to do what they want, and I never do?” “Why do I always have to do the harder jobs?” Sound familiar?

Before all the kids here think I am only picking on them, adults groan too, a lot. And the lines that the kids use are the same ones adults use: “Awww, do I have to?” “Why do they always get to do what they want, and I never do?” “Why do I always have to do the harder jobs?” Sound familiar?

Groaning just has this negative connotation that it is something we do when things are just not going our way. But is that the only form of groaning that goes on?

In our text, we hear that creation groans. We groan. The Spirit groans. There is a lot of groaning that is going on. But, there is a different ‘tone’ to the ‘groan’ that is going on here that St. Paul highlights for us.

First, we hear that creation groans. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:19-22).

Long before we were born, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve fell into sin. We are all familiar with the story. The serpent came and deceived them and they ate of the forbidden fruit. Then, the serpent was cursed, then came the promise of a Savior from the offspring of Eve who would crush the head of the serpent, then came the pain in childbirth, and lastly came the curse of the ground. Ever since that day, creation has been groaning.

But it is not a groaning like we often groan. It is a longing. It is a hoping with excited anticipation. It is likened to the pains of childbirth, where the mother endures great pain and looks forward to the joy of holding her child once the intense labor has drawn to a close. It is looking forward to finally being set free from bondage and corruption. That kind of a groan.

As we look around and we see the world in decay; hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, these are but the groanings of a creation that just can’t wait for the Last Day to come. They are reminders to us as we wait, as much as we hate waiting, that the time of Christ’s return is drawing closer with each moment that passes.

Our text also says that ‘we’ groan. It says, And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:23-25).

I am reminded of my Dad who talked once of the time that he was adopted. He was four years old and his younger brother was three. His biological father was working in a gravel pit. There were three men that had fallen into the pit, and his dad tried to save them. Unfortunately, he was also pulled in, and all four of them suffocated to death. So, there my grandmother was widowed at a very young age with two young boys to raise on her own. She then remarried, and as my dad tells it, that man adopted us, and in doing so “chose” us as his own sons. He didn’t have to, but he chose to anyway, and he raised us as his own. Oh, what comfort there must have been for my dad and his brother as their eager wait to be adopted as sons was fulfilled by the man they grew up calling their dad.

That is the groaning we are invited into this world filled with its suffering and hardships. We long to be chosen, to be adopted into the family of God, and not left as orphans to fend for ourselves. We long to be fed at the table of a Father who loves us beyond measure. We long to have someone who will hear and answer the groans that we let out as we wait in this world that hurts so much to endure from day to day.

And we can all attest that it does hurt. Some of us are grieving right now as loved ones have gone to be with the Lord. Some are filled with loneliness, especially in this pandemic time filled with isolation and separation. Some are suffering physically. Some, spiritually. Some, mentally. We just can’t wait for the day when the redemption of our bodies will be here. We just can’t wait to look up into the clouds and see Jesus descending, to hear the voice of that archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God, and to always be with our Lord.

This is our hope in this world of sin and suffering. But it is not a vain hope. This hope was secured for us in the water and Word of our Baptism. The book of Hebrews describes the hope that we groan for with great anticipation, to be a sure and certain hope. It is an accomplished hope. 

It was accomplished by Jesus who groaned on our behalf on the cross. Think of how he must have groaned with longing and eager anticipation as He bled and died on that tree. Think of how He must have groaned as He willingly subjected Himself to the wrath of God against sin. Your sin and mine. Think of how He must have groaned as He let out His last breath, and in doing so, swallowed up death, once and for all. 

But His groaning was not in vain. His Father in heaven accepted His perfect sacrifice, and after three days in the grave, He was raised back to life. Raised to bring hope to our hurting hearts…to bring healing to our suffering selves…to declare that our death does not get the final say. Jesus does. And now we await the day of our resurrection with great and eager groaning, both for creation and for us.

And we do not wait alone. Our text says: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

How many of us have ever been at a loss for words when we go to pray? I think we have all been there a time or two. Well, the Spirit is here to help as we endure the trials and tribulations, hardships and heartaches of this life. We are not left to our own devices. 

The same Spirit that we have embedded within our hearts through the water and Word of Baptism is the One who is interceding for us before the Father Himself with groanings too deep for words. And where our prayers are so often prayed in the vein of “’my’ will be done,” the Spirit is always faithful to pray in those groanings too deep for words: “Thy will be done.”

That’s the beauty, among many, of praying the Lord’s Prayer. It has this way of reorienting all of our groans in this life back to our Father who is in heaven. He knows how hard this world is to go through. He has been here before in the person of His Son. But in the power of His Spirit, he constantly redirects our groans back to Him so that we might patiently await Jesus’ return.

On that glorious day, our waiting will come to an end. Creation will be restored and it will be everything we had hoped for. Our groanings will be replaced with great shouts of joy as we will behold a new heaven and earth, all tears will be wiped away, death will be no more, nor will there be mourning, or crying, or pain anymore. And there before us will be our God, and we will dwell with Him forever (Revelation 21). It will definitely be worth the wait. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Reckless Sower

Sermon: “The Reckless Sower”             

LSB Series A; Proper 10

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; July 12, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Reckless. It is defined as “utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action.”

Other words that may come to mind when hearing the word “reckless” may be ‘careless’ or ‘wasteful’.

These are words that would most definitely describe the sower in our text for today. Just look at what he did. He throws some seeds on a path. Picture the seeds bouncing this way and that. Then he throws some in the rocks, no doubt falling down into the cracks and crevices between those rocks. Some of the seed he throws into thorns. Then the last amount of seed he throws into good soil.

If we had been there to watch this sower at work, we might have wanted to say, “What are you doing?! Why are you being so reckless? Don’t you know that is a waste of good seed? What are you thinking?”

After all, what sower, what gardener in his right mind just throws seed on whatever surface he sees? Anyone in their right mind knows that you only throw seed on good soil.

I love gardening. I am not a great gardener. I would not say that I have that natural green thumb. But I have learned a thing or two in my years of gardening. I have learned that you don’t throw seed all over the place. You don’t throw it on pavement, or in rocks, or in thistles. I mean, can you imagine one of the farmers from our congregation going down highway 30 toward Waconia pulling a planter, and then just letting the seeds go everywhere. Just imagine the stories that would circulate in Carver County. “Did you see that farmer driving down the road trying to plant corn on the pavement? He’s crazy! How wasteful! How reckless!”

Yes, any good sower, gardener, or farmer knows that if you want a good harvest, you plant your seed only in the good soil. But not with the sower from our text. He is reckless. He is so desperate for a harvest that He is willing to just let his seed fly every which direction. He isn’t concerned about where it lands, He just wants to get it out there.

If you do the math, the sower only gets a twenty-five percent return on His sowing. Can you imagine a group of farmers in our community conversing, and one of them bragging, “Hey guys, check this out, my crop yielded a whole twenty-five percent of what I planted.” Do you think the other farmers would be like, “Wow, that is awesome?!” No! They would probably wonder what on earth that farmer is doing wrong. As I have been told, corn should yield about 95% of what is planted, and soy beans should yield 90%. So, we would in no way call this guy with a twenty-five percent yield a good farmer. 

I must confess that one of my crops this year is making me feel like I am the sower in the parable to some extent. You see, in one of my two gardens, I have sweet corn planted. I counted out my seeds, and wouldn’t you know it, only a third of them came up. So, I went and bought another bag of seeds and planted those. Only a few of those came up. I have now planted over 130 seeds, and I think I only have like 30-some plants of corn coming up in my garden. Now it was not that I was trying to be like sower in the parable here, but here I am with only about 25 percent of my crop coming up. And why is that? Well, little did I know, but there are these birds nesting near my garden, and sure enough, they are having a ‘field day’ eating my corn before it ever comes to fruition. Sad thing is, I actually have netting to put over my garden, but I guess I was just too lazy to put it on to keep them out. The gardener reaps what he sows, as it goes.

And that is true. Though I had to use more seed, more corn did come up out of the ground. My harvest will be greater because I planted more seed. It may seem quite wasteful in some respects, but the truth of the matter remains, the more seed you sow, the more harvest you get.

This is the approach of the sower in the parable. You see, the sower in the parable is Jesus, and the seed is the Word of God. And more than anything, Jesus just wants a harvest. He just wants to get the seed out there. He isn’t concerned with the soil that it lands upon. He just wants His Word to be spread. He wants people to have faith. We wants people to know the joy and peace of forgiveness. He wants people in His kingdom. Jesus “desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1st Timothy 2:4). So He spreads His Word…recklessly.

Just look at the people that Jesus spends His time with as He spreads His Word. He eats with tax collectors and sinners. He converses with prostitutes and the demon possessed. He interacts with the sick and the lepers. Where anyone else would just avoid ‘those’ people, Jesus jumps right in with reckless abandon and starts throwing His seed everywhere. His Word is scattered this way and that.

Is that the way we are with the Word of God? Do we desire all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth? Or are we like a sower who only sows where we know there is going to be a crop? Or worse yet, do we hoard the seed to ourselves? 

How many of us are just plain content with the fact that we have salvation, but have little concern for the lost and the fact that people will die and go to hell? It’s a tough question to grapple with, but as we look out into our world, we see that there are a whole lot of people that need to hear the good news that we hear week after week. Some close to us, others perhaps not.

Have we taken for granted God’s Word that is given to us again and again? Have we forgotten our calling to be witnesses of Jesus’ light in a dark world? Have we just grown cold and complacent in our love for others.

The parable of the sower wakes us up from our complacency to see that His recklessness with His Word is what were invited into. We don’t need to concern ourselves with the results or the harvest. He takes care of that. 

Just like He took care of our being converted as well. We, who were conceived and born into sin (Psalm 51:5) were doomed to death and damnation. Yet, the seed of the Word that became flesh entered the soil of our sinful hearts in and through the water and Word of baptism. There, He worked faith in us so that through us He might yield thirty-fold, or sixty-fold, or even one-hundred fold.

Yes, God’s got plans for you as you receive the Word of God into your ears here today. In fact, the prayer I pray from the front of the hymnal before every sermon as you see me stand before the altar says this: 

“Lord God, bless Your Word ‘wherever’ it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.”

That is the goal of the Word being spread, is it not? To confirm those who have faith and to convert those who don’t. And that’s why Jesus is so liberal in His spreading of the Word. He will do anything and everything just to be able to have one more person be saved.

Anything and everything is exactly what He did to save us. Like those thorns that the seeds were thrown into, so thorns were fashioned into a crown for His head as He carried His cross to Calvary. Like those seeds that were withered and those that were choked out, so it was that Jesus’ breath withered to nothing as He was choked by the suffocating reality of His lungs filling with fluid before He died. But it was all worth it to save you.

Where anyone else might think that such a death was careless or wasteful…I mean who dies for a group of sinners, especially when we stop to consider all that we have done. But such is the reckless love of our God. 

God’s Word says: “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of 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” (Philippians 2:6-8).

That’s a reckless love. And it’s the love Jesus has for you. In no way is He wasteful with His Word, rather He just so wants as many people to be there as possible when the day of the harvest comes. And what a day that will be…when He gathers us in, draws us close, and keeps us in His presence for all eternity.

So, who in your life needs to hear God’s Word right now? Who needs to hear of our God who loves us with a recklessness that knows no bounds, not even when it comes to dying on a cross?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, share God’s Word. Spread it recklessly. Don’t worry about what the soil is like. Leave the growing part to Him. After all, He is the reckless sower, the Savior, Jesus Christ. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Have no fear. Do not fear. Fear not.

Sermon: “Have no fear. Do not fear. Fear not.”             

LSB Series A; Proper 7

The Third Sunday after Pentecost; June 21, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Have no fear. Do not fear. Fear not. Do you think that Jesus is trying to tell His disciples’ something? How about us? Do you think He might have a point that He is trying to get across? Do you think there might be a lesson that He wants us to learn?

Fear is gripping our world these days. Fear of the coronavirus. Fear of going out in public. Fear of dying alone. Fear of unemployment and underemployment. Fear of rioters and looters. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear of saying the wrong thing the wrong way in a world of racial divide. Fear is everywhere.

One of the most famous presidential quotes is about fear. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inauguration speech as president in 1933 while this nation was in the grips of the Great Depression said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear is gripping. Fear is paralyzing. Fear is overwhelming. Fear is all-consuming. And Jesus tells us that we don’t need to be afraid while living in this world. The only fear that is necessary for us is to fear God.

Fear of God is a good thing. The First Commandment instructs us that “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean? “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

What does it mean to fear God? The catechism tells us that “It means to take God seriously as our Creator and Judge. He means what He says when He threatens to punish those who disobey.”

Scripture tells us in Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.”

Scripture also tells us in Matthew 10:28, in our text for today: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

A fear of God is good for us. When we fear God alone, all other fears fade away. Our focus is only on loving, honoring, and serving Him. And the service that He calls us to is to proclaim His good news “in the light and proclaim it from the housetops.” He’s given us the Gospel, and now He wants us to share what we have been given to share.

But instead of fearing God and sharing His good news, how many of us allow the fears of this world to run our lives? 

Have we allowed the fear of what others think about us to dictate our words and actions? Have we chosen to be silent in our faith for fear of how it might affect our livelihood, our reputation, and our relationships? Have we?

It’s certainly understandable in a world that is filled with fear these days, but it is not inexcusable. Just because there is fear in this world, doesn’t mean we abandon God’s calling for us to serve as His witnesses.

If we have abandoned this post He has placed us in, then we have misplaced our fear. What is the worst that another human could do to us? Though they can take our life, they can’t destroy our soul. Only God has that power, and we are called upon to obey God, rather than men. We are called upon to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, for He alone has the power to save us from eternal death. So, let us obey His command to proclaim His name all the while trusting in His loving care.

Yes, God cares for us…immensely. Jesus says: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

If each sparrow that falls does not escape God’s watchful eye, then what makes us think that He will not care for us? If He goes to the great length of counting each of our hairs, an extremely tedious process, then what makes us think that He will not watch over and protect us? Yes, God cares for us. (Pause)

Now look, let’s not mince words. Sharing our faith is difficult, at least we think it is. Let me explain. Each of us has in our minds that we desire to share the faith, but we question if we have the wherewithal to do so. We are afraid we are going to mess up. We are scared we might say the wrong thing. We think we might offend somebody. We think they might reject us, or even worse, we may even think they might harm us. The devil uses all of these things to work to his advantage to silence us in our witness. He doesn’t want the good news getting out. He doesn’t want Jesus spoken in the light or proclaimed from the housetops. So, he convinces us that we are doomed before we even begin. So what do we do? We clam up. We clam up in fear.

Jesus says: “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my father in heaven.”

These words are both encouragement and warning. He strictly calls upon us to acknowledge him before others. When given the chance, don’t clam up, don’t fear, he is with you. 

But if you get into a steady diet of not saying anything, then what may happen is that you yourself may begin to deny Him as Savior as well. He doesn’t want that to happen, so He encourages all of us to not be afraid.

Let’s not mince words again. When we go to witness about our faith to others, we aren’t going to get it perfect. Much of the problem is that we just haven’t put our witness into practice. We have allowed fear to keep us from sharing the good news we’ve got. And we’ve most certainly got it. We all have stories of the profound impact that Christ has had in our lives. Share that story. People will listen. If they are willing to hear about the fish that got away or the most recent vacation or the struggle you’ve been going through, then they will listen to your faith story as well. And yes, we are going to mess things up. We are going say things in ways we wish we had not. But remember, all of what we say is covered in the protecting hand of our God who loves and forgives us. He’s got our backs.

Literally, He carried us and our sins upon His back as He went to the cross of Calvary. He had every reason to be afraid. His own people were surrounding him with shouts calling for His crucifixion. They wanted him to die. They were spitting on him and beating him. They were saying some of the nastiest things to him. Just imagine how much fear he could have had in his heart at that time.

But He wasn’t afraid. He knew that He was doing the will of His Father. He had been sent to do just this. In honor and respect of His Dad, He kept going, living His life out fully in obedience to the end. All the way through the suffering, the bleeding, the unending ridicule and tormenting…all the way until it was finished. That’s what He did for you…and for me.

And it was all to ensure that you and I would be protected in this world that is gripped with fear. It was all to ensure that we would have no need to fear the terrors of the night or the arrows that fly by day, as the hymn says. Those flaming arrows of the evil one have been quenched in the blood of Jesus our Savior.

His blood covers us from all that would harm us in this world. Our place in this life is not positioned in fear or in trepidation. Rather our firm foundation is the solid rock of Christ on which we stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Jesus does not back down in the face of fear. Yes in this world we will have trouble, but we can take heart, He has overcome the world. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God exercising His authority and divine power on our behalf.

On our behalf, He pleads to the Father to provide for us all that is needed to navigate a world filled with fear. And He does. With His Word and His Sacraments, He fills us to overflowing. We are cleansed inside and outside, protected inside and outside. Our salvation is secure.

Security in this world does not come in the absence of fearful situations. Security in this world comes in knowing that when everything is said and done, Jesus Himself will stand before us and all we will have left to do is bow our knees and with our tongue confess that He is Savior and Lord.

And that is exactly what He is. He is our Savior and Lord, and now He sends us, covered and protected in His blood to share His Gospel in the light and to proclaim His name from the housetops.

Yes, His name is written on your hearts and upon your forehead. You have been redeemed, by Christ the crucified. And His name is now on your lips, the same lips that have tasted and seen in the blood of Christ that He is good.

So have no fear! Do not fear! Fear not! He is with you as you share the good news of great joy that is for all people! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Compassionate Shepherd

Sermon: “The Compassionate Shepherd”

Lectionary Series A; The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:35-10:8

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Compassion. It’s that feeling deep down in your gut that says I care. I care more about this person or these people than I even do myself. I see their hurt, I hear their hurt, I feel their hurt. And it hurts me to see them hurt this way. There is this unsettling reality deep within your bowels that says this is not right and something needs to be done about it. I need to do something about it because I care enough to do so.

Please allow me to ask a series of questions: What do we see when we see the protestors…the police officers…the business owners that lost their businesses…the first responders…the politicians…and many others who are on the news these days? Do we see their hurt? Do we see their pain? Do we feel it in our gut? Do we feel compassion for those in the crowds, no matter who they are, no matter what they say or do?

I am guessing that for most of us, adopting that disposition of compassion for all people is difficult at a time like this. We look at the television broadcast, and all we see is a problem that we want to go away. We may be inclined to think that it is much easier for us to dismiss it or try and put our heads in the sand and hope that it goes away rather than take the time to truly try and hear and even feel the hurt that is being expressed right now.

I read an article in which the person being interviewed was Larry Fitzgerald, NFL wide receiver, and former resident of Minneapolis. In that interview, he shared something that was a great step toward being more compassionate toward those who are crying out for compassion these days. Now what he said is not ground-breaking, but then again it doesn’t have to be. He suggested that people start ‘listening to each other’. Like I said, not ground-breaking, but profound nonetheless.

You see, listening leads to learning and understanding. Right now, it seems like there is just a lot of shouting going on, but very little listening. Some of us can unfortunately liken such things to our households or workplaces. How much gets done, when everyone talks or shouts and no one listens? Not much, or nothing at all.

Adopting a disposition of compassion means doing what is necessary to step into the shoes of the person who desires to be heard. And that takes listening. It takes time and intentionality, great care and concern. It means putting aside our own agendas to pay attention to what the other person has to say. No matter if we like what the other person has to say or not. We just give them a chance to be heard. 

How many of us have deeply embedded hurts and wounds in our past that we have buried down deep in our souls? And if we were ever given just a chance to bear our souls, people would begin to understand how we tick and operate, why we do and say what we do and say. We just want someone to take the time to listen and understand us.

But so often, we argue that we just don’t have the time to do that with someone else, even if we do want it for ourselves. But is it really that we don’t have the time? Perhaps. But it probably goes deeper than that. More than likely, if we were truly honest with ourselves, it is because we care more about ourselves than we do others. The whole concept of loving our neighbor as ourselves is very difficult for us. And so is being compassionate.

Our text says that when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

He ‘saw’ them, and he had compassion for them. Here they had been afflicted by the religious leaders, weighed down by unnecessary guilt for not following their laws. And now they had just charged Jesus with being an agent of Satan, even though the crowds had come to Him for help in their time of need. So, when Jesus looked at them, He saw their hurt. He felt their hurt. He could feel it deep down in His gut, and He instantly wanted to do something about it. 

It was the same feeling He got in His stomach when He saw the crowds of five thousand and then four thousand. He saw them, had compassion for them, then He fed them with a few loaves of bread and a few fish.

Time and again, what we get with Jesus is that when He looks at people, He sees people, beautiful people created in His image…people that are ripe for the harvest of receiving the gift of His Gospel. But what breaks His heart is whenever He sees any form of divide that exists between His most prized creation.

Our nation and our world have been riddled with that divide for far too long, ever since the Garden of Eden really. It started with Adam and Eve’s fall and then Cain killed Abel, and on and on it has gone with every generation. And the only way it will ever be any better is with the help of Christ and His Spirit of compassion at work in us.

In our baptism, the Spirit of God was poured into our lives, filling us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

This is our God-given identity to live out. It is not limited to our race or our occupation or anything like that. Our identity comes from our Triune God who from the very depths of His bowels pours out His love and compassion for us.

He saw us in the crowd of this world. He hears our pain. He sees our pain. He feels our pain. He suffers with us, and so He doesn’t hesitate to suffer for us. He does not leave us in our agony, but rather enters into the very depths of it with His very body and blood. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. 

He has heard our cry for mercy. He has seen just difficult it is for us to navigate this world of sin and death, and He knows that we are truly helpless without Him, like sheep without a shepherd. We need His tending. We need His protection. We need His care. And we need His compassion.

And our Compassionate Shepherd came into this world to deliver just what we needed. He delivered us Himself. We needed a substitute to take our place. Someone who could do all the things we have failed to do. Someone who could be loving and compassionate when all we could do was express anger and hate. And so he took all of our anger, all of our hate, all of our sinful prejudices, and our lack of desire to take time and listen and be compassionate toward others, and He bound all of that up into His body and then He went to the cross, and He finished it all off once and for all.

Because that’s what the Compassionate Shepherd does. He does not leave us to suffer as those harassed and helpless. He does something about it. He did do something about it. On the cross. It is finished.

And now He calls upon His Church to spread this good news to a world that is desperately hurting, desperately desiring compassion. In our text, He tells His disciples that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

You see, Jesus looked at that crowd, and He didn’t see a problem, He saw opportunity. He saw with eyes of compassion. He saw people as people, created in His image, and they were ripe for the harvest of the Gospel. He knew what they needed. They needed to be saved from their sins, and He was that Compassionate Shepherd who came to deliver just that. Then off He sent His disciples, to be the extension of His compassionate self to a world that needed it. And we continue to pray for pastors in our day and age to do just that through Word and Sacrament ministry.

But it doesn’t stop there. He calls the whole Church, each and every one of us in our vocations, to open our eyes and see people as people. To see their hurt with the compassionate eyes of Christ. To hear their hurt. To listen to the needs of the people that are ripe for harvest with a God-given Spirit of compassion…and then share the hope that we have in Christ.

As we look out into our world today, there is one thing that is clear… Everyone could use a little compassion, because everyone, just like us, needs the Compassion of the Shepherd. Not-a-one of us is without the need of what He gives. We all come to this place today and we have one thing in common. We are sinners in need of a Savior…and our Compassionate Shepherd is that Savior. 

Let us pray. Dear Heavenly Father, give us eyes to see people as people, who just like us, need your compassionate love that comes in the person of Your Son. Help us to look out into the crowds and see that this world is ripe for harvest. Make us bold to share Your compassion so that all will hear of the comfort of Your Gospel Good news that with You there is forgiveness, life and salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

          The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Barrier is Broken

Sermon: “The Barrier Is Broken”

Lectionary Series A; Holy Trinity Sunday

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 28:16-20

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

This coming Friday marks thirty three years since President Reagan stood beside the Berlin wall and delivered one of his most famous Cold War speeches. As the Cold War had pressed on for over four decades between the United States and the Soviet Union, the country of Germany still found itself divided into two very different countries. East Germany and West Germany. Between the two countries stood a wall to separate one from the other. The Berlin wall which had stood since August of 1961 was the great barrier between democracy and communism. It was built to keep citizens of East Germany from escaping to West Germany. And so after 36 long years in 1987, as he stood on the western side of that wall, President Reagan issued a directive to Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” It was a little over two years later, on November 9, 1989, that the Berlin Wall finally did come down. The barrier between East and West Germany had finally been broken. 

The barrier is broken. We have longed for the barrier to be broken for us to gather once again in the house of the Lord, and now here we are. Here we are in God’s house. Thanks be to God!

Here we are on Trinity Sunday, and once again, God’s Word brings us to that great barrier breaking moment as Jesus ascends into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father. No longer are we separated from God. Jesus has given us access to the Father Himself. Through water and the word of Baptism, our sins have been washed away, and by the power of the Spirit, we have been given life and salvation. We gather here today, both in person, and on-line to rejoice that that barrier has been broken.

Yet, even as we gather here once again, it is hard, isn’t it? We currently live in a world of barriers all around us. Pews are roped off. Social distancing signs are posted. Plexiglas is everywhere. People are in isolation and quarantine.

For example, my wife Emily has to have laparoscopic surgery tomorrow. But, before having the surgery, she had to have a Covid test on Thursday. We have had to quarantine as family away from everyone since that day. Then on Saturday, I moved to the basement of our home so that I could go in and out of the sliding glass door to prep for and lead the services today. So we have this barrier of living in the same house, but on two floors. I am guessing she will be thrilled when I can move back upstairs, because from what I can hear downstairs, she might want a hand with the kiddos. J 

But as much as these barriers may seem inconvenient in our lives, we know that they are in place to help keep people healthy. There is a pandemic that remains ongoing. So all these extra measures are being taken to make sure that we are safe, and we do what is needed to love our neighbors. And isn’t that what this world needs these days…safety and to love our neighbors? 

We have all been rocked recently by the events that took place when George Floyd lost his life and the protests and riots that have ensued since. The images have been heartbreaking. Lives lost, buildings burned, people hurt.

We also know that many of our congregational members work down in the Cities, and there is a wave of fear that no doubt creates mental, emotional, and physical barriers as they make their journey to work. Please be in prayer for all who are impacted by these tragic events.

What’s been additionally unfortunate throughout these events is that we once again see the barrier that exists because of race in our country. Instead of seeing that each individual is created in the image of God, walls are built instead of bridges. Such instances that we have witnessed on the news ought to lead us all to ask: Where do we stand on the barrier of race? Do we love our neighbors without question of race, or do we pick and choose based upon our sinful prejudices?

Yes barriers are all around us. And when we start to search our hearts, and examine our lives, we see that the greatest barrier that exists is sin. The Berlin Wall or any other barrier has nothing on the walls that we often build because of our hardness of heart. Though we may not have ever participated in something like the riots we have seen on television, there is a riot of wrath that often wages on in our hearts as we build barriers in the relationships all around us. Most especially, when we sin, we build a barrier between us and God. 

In our Old Testament lesson, we heard of how God created the heavens and the earth. Before God acts, all we have is formless and void. But He changes all that with His Word. With the Word that became flesh, He spoke, and it came to be. All the while, the Spirit of God hovered over the darkness of the deep, watching over all of creation as it came into existence. And through it all, we heard of how our Triune God did all of this for us. We are His most prized creation.

But only a couple of chapters later in Genesis, the barrier of sin entered the world. And with that one sin, every human thereafter has inherited the penalty that came from it: Death.

The current numbers from the pandemic now list that over 100,000 people have died from the coronavirus. On top of that, people have died needlessly during these unfortunate riots. The wage of sin is all around us. So, where do we turn when the barriers of sin and death surround us?
          People of God, we turn to the great barrier breaker. We turn to the Triune God. We turn to God the Father who created us and preserves our lives and secures our salvation. He takes chaos and delivers order in the person of His Son. For God so loved the world that He gave…He gave His Son.

We turn to God the Son, who faced the wrath and riots of the crowd calling for His crucifixion by entering into our death willingly and voluntarily even though He was innocent. He gave his life sacrificially so that we could be saved. In a world of violence, our Savior faced the most violent of deaths by being crucified on a cross…doing so with our best interest upon His heart and mind. He did so because He loves us. And that’s why He also sent us a Helper.

Yes, we turn to God the Spirit. Baptized into the name of the Triune God, sin no longer separates us from God. The Spirit has given us faith. And living out that faith in this world of barriers, the Spirit brings us together to support, encourage, and build each other up.

Not by our reason or strength can we understand why He would do such a thing. Not when we consider all of the barriers we have built with our sins. But our God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8). His ways are far beyond our comprehension. Just like the Triune God Himself. In no way can we fully understand Him or His ways. All we do know is that what He does, He does for us and for our good. And because of that, we can be at peace in world filled with barriers. 

You see, our God has not lost control one bit. There He stood before the eleven disciples on that mountain in Galilee and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age.” And then He ascended up into heaven.

I couldn’t help but think about Jesus ascending as I watched the Space X Falcon 9 rocket lift off from Cape Canaveral last weekend. It was the first ever commercial launch of humans into orbit. It was simply breathtaking to watch with 1.2 million other viewers as the rocket went faster and faster up into space. But, what I found most interesting was the need for an additional boost to make it through the barrier of the ozone. Once through, they were travelling at nearly 17,000 miles per hour.

Jesus didn’t need to travel that fast. Nor did He need an additional boost of speed along the way. But as He ascended into heaven, He revealed that He had broken through much more than an ozone layer. He showed us with His very self that the barrier between heaven and earth had been broken. Salvation is now ours to be had. That, my friends, is the greatest news ever in a world filled with barriers all around us.

May we bring this message of hope in Jesus to our world filled with barriers as we work together to make disciples of all nations. And as we do so, may we be encouraged that He will be with us always to the very end of the age. 

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

          The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

"Going Out in Glory"

Sermon: “Going out in Glory”

Lectionary Series A; Seventh Sunday in Easter

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Gospel Reading: John 17:1-11

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

In 1939, this famous speech was given as one of the greatest athletes left the game of baseball. I share with you a portion of that farewell address: “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.” He then went on to acknowledge his fellow players, coaches and family members before closing with: “So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

Lou Gehrig died two years later from ALS, a nervous system disease that weakens the muscles and impacts physical function. Most of us now know it as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

I am left to wonder what went through his mind as he tried to put into words what to say as he left the game that he loved. In watching the footage, he was so overcome with emotion, that he didn’t even want to approach the microphone. After some encouragement, he made his way to the microphone to wish farewell before going out in glory. (Pause)

What does one say when they know they will be leaving? What are the right words to share with those one cares about in a farewell address?

I looked up some suggested quotes that one might use in a farewell address, and these were some of the popular ones. 

Ernie Harwell, sports broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers, whose voice I heard each time I was in the garage with my dad or at my grandmother’s house while I laid it bed at night, he said: “It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.”

Elwyn Brooks White, author of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan once said: “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss once said: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Alan Alexander Milne, author best known for his books about a bear named Winnie-the-Poo said: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Saying goodbye is hard. Jesus sat there in the upper room and he went on saying farewell for four chapters before He came to our text for today. And then, when it was time to draw things to a close, he spoke the words that have now become known as the high priestly prayer.

Jesus, our prophet, ‘priest,’ and king, said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:1-5).

Here He was about to go out to the Garden of Gethsemane and be betrayed and arrested by one of His own. But before leaving the upper room, He gave His disciples one last gift as we was about to go out in glory. 

Jesus prayed for His disciples. Where so many times He had gone off on His own to pray, this time He welcomed them into the conversation between Him and His Dad. Just imagine what that must have been like to sit and listen to the Son of God speak to His Heavenly Father.

Then, just imagine what it must have been like to hear what petitions Jesus placed before His Father’s throne. It was all about them. Jesus was concerned about them, not Himself. Here He was about to go and die for the sins of the world on the cross, but what He cared about most in that hour was them. And not just them, but if you keep reading His prayer beyond our text for today, He even included those who believe because of the Word spoken through the disciples. That includes us. 

In a time, where anyone else would have only been thinking of themselves, Jesus lays aside His glory, and focuses His attention in prayer on those for whom He is about to die. 

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for His friends (John 15:13). Indeed the disciples were His friends, and so are we.

Jesus continued to pray for those He loves, that they be kept in His Word, that He be glorified in them, that the Father would keep them in His name, and that they would be one. 

It was His prayer for all of us as He went to manifest His glory for the entire world. But where worldly glory would only draw attention to the self, Jesus did quite the contrary. He showed us what true glory looks like. It doesn’t come in the spotlight being shown upon us. It comes in suffering for the sake of others. It comes in sacrifice.

Going out in glory for Jesus meant laying aside His crown in heaven to be fitted with a crown of thorns. It meant removing His royal robes to be stripped of His clothing and beaten and spit upon. It meant forfeiting His throne next to His Father to be fastened with nails to a cross next to two criminals. And yet then and there, His prayer remained for us: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He did it all for us. (Pause)

How often do our prayers focus on what is best for others? How often do we get caught up in a list of worldly wants and desires, and neglect what our neighbor needs? How often are our prayers just down-right selfish as we manifest before the Almighty God how discontent and unsatisfied we are with His gracious provision?

We hear a prayer from the lips of Jesus here today, and we ought to ask ourselves, where is our prayer life at? Are we fervent in prayer and pray without ceasing, or is prayer like a last life-line only to be used in utter desperation?

The Catechism teaches us that prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts.

So what is on our minds as you pray? Is it others? Is it ourselves?

From the upper room to the cross, we can be thankful that Jesus’ thoughts and prayers were not for Himself. What remained upon His heart and mind was doing the will of His Father. What remained upon His heart and mind was doing what was necessary to forgive our sins. What remained upon His heart and mind was journeying to that cross, through the empty tomb, and returning to His Father in heaven.

And that is where He is now. We confess it week after week. “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.” 

This past Thursday was Ascension Day. On that great and glorious day, while surrounded by His disciples Jesus went out in glory and was raised up into heaven. This was the coronation of the Son of God. No longer was He to wear a crown of thorns. Once again, a crown of high esteem was placed upon His head, His royal robes were placed upon Him just as they once were, and he sat down on His throne right where He belongs.

And from that very throne, He continues to do the unthinkable. He exercises His authority on our behalf. He prays for us, He pleads for us, He petitions for us. 

Jesus’ prayer for us is that we would go out in a blaze of glory…that we would be people concerned about God's glory and not our own…that we would be people of prayer…that we would be focused on others…that we would share what we have been given to share…and that one day we would see His glory face to face.  

Oh yes, at the Father’s right hand, Jesus is there interceding on our behalf, and the Father delights in what He has to say because the Father loves to hear from His Son.

And all the while, even though He has gone in glory into heaven, He has not left us. As we heard last week, He keeps coming to us…in His Word…in His Sacraments. He does not leave us or forsake us...ever!

For all those who are struggling with feeling alone and isolated right now, please take that to heart. As Jesus goes out in glory, He does not abandon us. He never will. Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). And He keeps coming to us to shed His light into the darkness of our lives to deliver us the peace of His presence and the hope of life everlasting.

And that is what we all look forward to as we look to His return. Where He once went out in glory through cross, the empty tomb, and the ascension, there is a day that we look for in joyful anticipation.

What a day that will be! To look into the clouds. To see the Son of God descend. To witness the dead raised back to life. And to always be with our Lord. 

On that day great and glorious day, we will see with our own eyes that His farewell address was no “good-bye,” but rather, “until we meet again in glory.”

And we will meet again. Jesus, our King who went out in glory, is coming soon. And so we pray: “Come, Lord Jesus! And come quickly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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