Sunday, December 09, 2018

Sermon: Populus Zion (Advent 2) - 2018



9 December 2018

Text: Luke 21:25-36 (Mal 4:1-6, Rom 15:4-13)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The great writer C.S. Lewis, who famously converted from Atheism to Christianity, wrote, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy.  I always knew a bottle of Port would do that.  If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”  

So here we are in the time of year of Santa and toy trains and trees and gift exchanges, of caroling and parties and beautiful lights – and I am duty bound to preach to you the words of Jesus that begin: “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity.”  Fear.  Foreboding.  The powers of the heavens being shaken.

I do hear a lot of people argue that it doesn’t matter what religion you follow, as long as it brings you comfort.

But, dear friends, we aren’t Christians because it’s comfortable.  We are Christians because it’s true.  Our Lord Jesus Christ was accurately foretold by the prophets of old: by Moses, by King David, by Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and by the prophet Malachi, who prophesied similar words as our Lord Jesus, about a coming time, “burning like an oven” in which the wicked will be judged.  

Our Lord Jesus Christ was testified to by the apostles, all of whom but one died for the faith rather than renounce their Lord, His miracles, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His blood shed for the forgiveness of sins.  Even the enemies of Christianity wrote of the monumental events of that first Good Friday and that first Easter Sunday, being perplexed by the empty tomb and the tenacity of those first Christians.  

We are Christians because it is factually and historically true.  And the Christmas story is not a story: it is a historic fact that the virgin Mary, as foretold by Scripture, miraculously became pregnant with the Son of God, who broke into our world to destroy death.  We celebrate that unique birth every year.

It is also a fact that death is part of the unpleasant reality of our world.  And, the decay of our culture and the uncertainty around the planet is part of what our Lord is warning us about.  He isn’t telling us this stuff about the signs in the sky and the fear of mankind as part of a horror story or as a form of thrilling entertainment.

He is telling us this because it is true.  He is telling us this because we need to know it.  He is telling us this so that we will be informed.

We don’t know when He will return, but we know that He will.  And just as we know that “summer is already near” by the way trees sprout leaves and the way flowers come out, we can look at the signs in the heavens and on the earth and we can “know that the kingdom of God is near.”

For the point of these signs is not to frighten us, but to steel our resolve.  Like the five wise virgins in the last Gospel of the church year, we need to be ready; we need to be wise; we need to be vigilant – and not just go with the flow of the world.  

For at our baptisms, we were asked if we renounced the devil and his works and his ways.  That means that we renounce the wickedness of the world.  That means that we Christians are different.  We are countercultural.  We are not seeking after our own pleasure above all.  We are to serve the Lord and our neighbor.  And if we aren’t, well, now is a good time to correct that.  Our season of Advent is a time of repentance.

Look around, dear friends.  Don’t you see the leaves on the trees?  I don’t mean that literally, but don’t you see the signs of the times?  There is a worldwide movement to crush the Christian Church, to redefine marriage, to criminalize repeating the words of Scripture.  There is a renewed hatred of life.  There is a resurgence of Islam.  Even Socialism is making inroads in our very own country.  Globalization and technology have brought these images to our phones and our computers.  We see the conflict and the tyranny that is targeting the Church. 

And so Jesus tells us to have courage.  This is no time for handwringing, but rather to pray with King David, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”  The Lord trains our fingers to come together in prayer, to flip through the pages of Scripture, to point others to the cross, to type the word of God into cyberspace.  

And our Lord tells us to “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

And this, dear friends, is the comfort that Christ offers, the call for the preacher to “Comfort, comfort My people” as the Lord spoke of the coming of Jesus to Isaiah.  But it only comforts us because it is true.  Our Lord brings us comfort because He has warned us and He has won the battle for us.  Christianity will be comfortable in eternity, but as Dr. Lewis pointed out, in this life, if you want nothing more than physical comfort, a bottle of wine might do a better job.  But if you want to know the truth, the discomfort of our Lord’s words is worth it.  

For no matter how much our governments, our schools, our entertainment industry, our sports figures, our celebrities, our universities, our neighbors, and even in some cases, our churches – all conspire to silence God’s Word, listen to what our Lord, the Word made flesh, promises us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

People may not like this side of Jesus (who more closely resembles the angry Jesus cracking the whip against the moneychangers than He does the happy Jesus of the little statues of playing soccer with children), but Jesus has not come into our world make us wallflowers, but rather to make us warriors.  We are the church militant, not the church comfortable.

But once again, dear friends, after the warfare comes the reward: the armistice, the triumph, the peace, the spoils of victory.  And for us Christians, that means victory over sin, death, and the devil.  It means the triumph of the cross, the “It is finished!” the return of the Lord in power and might to destroy the devil and to restore our bodies and minds to perfection.  It means eternal life.

And so we wait for His return, but not passively.  We wait vigilantly, expectantly, and militantly.  We take to heart our Lord’s warning not to be caught unawares, “weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”  Our Lord is warning us, once again, not out of morbid entertainment, but as preparation and encouragement, to ready us for battle.  

Ultimately, the comfort that people seek by running from Christianity (and toward things like bottles and sexuality and drugs and consumerism), the true and abiding comfort, will come to us Christians when our Lord returns, when Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire, when our bodies are raised from the dead, and when the heavens and the earth are made anew.  We will then have our comfort that will never end. 

This is why our Lord tells us in the meantime to “straighten up and raise [our] heads.”  St. Paul understands what it means to be militant in a war that was already won by our Lord at the cross.  This is Christian hope: having the knowledge of victory even when we do not know the date nor the hour.

This is why St. Paul reminds us: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope,” and the Apostle blesses us: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Amen.

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

Friday, December 07, 2018

Sermon: Funeral of Claire Bealer - 2018

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7 December 2018

Text: Luke 2:25-32 (Isa 43:1-3a, Rom 5:1-5)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Charles and Brenda, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests: peace be with you.

It was my honor to give pastoral care to our beloved Claire for thirteen years – bringing her the Word of God: the Good News of Jesus Christ, as well as the body and blood of the Lord – both in the church building, and at her home.  And all pastors know about those certain people that you visit, and when you leave, you wonder who was providing care to whom.  

Visiting Claire was like that.

We know that the Christian life, like old age, is not for sissies.  When Christ calls us to follow Him, He bids us to take up our cross.  That is what it means to follow Jesus: we follow Him to the cross, to the tomb, and to the resurrection.  That is our journey; that is Claire’s journey; that is the journey of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Claire’s life on this side of the grave was marked by bearing many crosses – which she carried by God’s grace.  She suffered many things in her life, but like Jesus, she turned her face resolutely toward Jerusalem.  She lived with purpose and trust in the Lord.  I was always struck by her contentment.  Her faith served as a saintly example to me, as we servants of the Word also bear our share of crosses.  Thanks be to God for Claire’s discipleship of our Lord.

For we are all sinners living in a sinful and broken world.  We all stand in need of a Savior.  And Claire’s greatest strength was that in her weakness, her trust was in the Lord to carry her through.  And He did!

The prophet Isaiah spoke to us anew just now, uttering the promise of God that I often read to Claire: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned…. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

This promise is for Claire, for me, and for you, dear friends, for all who have been called by name, as Claire was on May 3, 1931.  She was born again of water and the Spirit two weeks into her life on this side of glory.  According to the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, Claire was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that divine name was placed on her, and her name was written in the Book of Life.  As Claire memorized the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ in Mark 16, let us hear it now in this place while she is with Him: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”  

And as St. Paul also spoke to us anew, let us remember: “We were therefore buried 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.  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

The Lord said then, and says now, to His servant Claire: “I have called you by name, you are Mine.”

And this explains Claire’s peace in Christ: “Since we have been justified by faith,” says the apostle Paul, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This is how we Christians can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”  

Claire’s hope was not merely for her soul to “go to heaven” when she died.  This is not what God promises us.  He promises so much more!  For our hope as Christians is in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” as we confessed in the Creed.  For “just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too might walk in newness of life.… we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

Jesus walked out of His own tomb in victory, and so will Claire, dear friends!

Unbelievers try to derive comfort from the fading memories of their loved ones, or maybe in some kind imagination of a ghostly, spiritual afterlife.  But we Christians have the ironclad promise of the risen Lord Jesus Christ that we too will walk out of our tombs, and we will live forever in a restored flesh, a glorified body: without sin, without suffering, and without death, just as we were created to be in the Garden of Eden.  This restoration of paradise is why our Lord shed His blood on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, as the final victory over death, and the ultimate triumph over the devil!  That, dear friends, is the promise given to Claire, the promise that she confessed and clung to, the promise that we will all be reunited in the flesh in glory!

Every time I visited Claire, I brought her the Lord’s body and blood.  And just as we do in church, after receiving Holy Communion, we would speak or sings together Simeon’s Song – even as we will speak it together again in this service.  St. Simeon was elderly.  He was a believer in the promises of the Lord.  He was waiting to encounter “the Lord’s Christ.”  In fact, “it had been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until” this physical encounter with Jesus.  And when it happened, when Simeon experienced the baby Jesus in His very flesh and blood, he rejoiced, he “blessed God” with these words that were Claire’s words and are our words: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”

St. Simeon was prepared, he was ready to “depart in peace” according to the Word of God.  His eyes witnessed salvation.  He experienced the flesh and blood of Jesus in his own body, and now, death was not a defeat, but rather a victory.  For Jesus has come to destroy death, and to turn the grave into a temporary resting place for those who believe and are baptized, to those called by name, to those who place their trust in Jesus and call upon the name of the Lord, to those who eat His body and drink His blood, to those who hear the Good News and take it to heart.

Like the elderly servant of the Lord, St. Simeon, who was prepared to “depart in peace,” so too was Claire.  She was ready and prepared to be called home.  Claire loved her life that the Lord gave her, and she loved being with her family and loved ones, but she said many times that when the Lord was ready for her, she was ready to go.  She knew this because she knew the Scriptures, she knows her Lord Jesus, and she sang with all of us: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.”

She has departed in peace, dear friends.  She has departed to be with the Lord Jesus Christ and to await the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.  She waits in glory, in peace, in joy.  And we wait, still on this side of the grave, still in this broken world, in sorrow because we miss her, grieving, yet not like the unbelievers, but as a people of hope: hope of the glorious “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  And having experienced our Lord Jesus Christ, being called by name by Him, and in faith in His promises, having met Him in the flesh, we too are bold to pray: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word.”  Amen.

Peace be with you.

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

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Sermon: Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1) - 2018


2 December 2018

Text: Matt 21:1-9 (Jer 23:5-8, Rom 13:8-14)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Jesus is drawing near to Jerusalem. 

But this advent, this coming, this arrival, is different than the previous times when our Lord came to the Holy City.  This time, He is not on foot, but rather on a donkey.  And the crowds understand the symbolism.  This is the entrance of a king, but not just any king.  For the last such royal entrance into David’s Royal City was a thousand years earlier when David’s son Solomon rode in, similarly “humble and mounted on a donkey,” actually the donkey of his father David.  It was a statement that Solomon was humbly acting as his father David’s son, but at the same time, it was David’s donkey.  He was asserting his rightful place on the throne in the face of the claims of others.  This was not a statement of his own personal greatness, but rather his greatness because he is David’s son, the rightful heir.

And although this was happening a thousand years after Solomon’s anointing, the crowds knew what was happening.  They were seeing David’s Son riding in to take the throne as the Anointed One, the Christ.  So what did this mean?  Was Jesus going to overthrow the impostor puppet King Herod?  Was he going to expel the hated Roman occupation governor Pontius Pilate?  Was he going to raise a mighty army and restore the independence of Israel?

Of course, the kingdom of Jesus was none of these things, and many would be disappointed.  And just as this crowd “spread their cloaks on the road” and waved branches as a royal welcome, in five days, the crowds would be yelling “crucify” and Jesus would be in the custody of Pilate, have a hearing before Herod, and the only mighty military presence would be Caesar’s execution team carrying out Jesus’ crucifixion.  

But on the top of this cross was to be a confession of sorts – written by Pilate, and offensive and scandalous to the Jewish church and state, saying officially: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”

For Jesus had testified before Pilate (who actually found Him innocent, acting as judge, but ordered Him executed, acting as politician): “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Pilate himself seems to understand that Jesus is truly a king, and yet does not seem to understand the full meaning of this kingdom.

The meaning of this kingdom, and the reign of this King, this Son of David, is found in a single word that the crowds cried out to Jesus on that Palm Sunday advent into Jerusalem: “Hosanna!”  What does “Hosanna” mean?  There are other Hebrew words that we use often in English, like “Hallelujah,” which means, “Praise the Lord,” or “Amen,” which means “May it be so!”  But we don’t say this word “Hosanna” in our day to day life, although we do sing it during the Divine Service every week, when we sing the very same song sung by the people of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

“Hosanna” is a praise, but it has a specific meaning: “Save us, we pray!”  It is a cry for help.  It is like the desperate shout of a person who is drowning, or trapped in a burning building.  And this word is the same in every language.  You can attend a Christian liturgy anywhere on the globe, and you will hear this same word “Hosanna” being said or sung as part of the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper.  That, dear friends, is the kingdom of Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of God.  It is not of this world, as it transcends every border, both in space and in time.  “Hosanna” is our prayer, and Jesus is the answer to that prayer.  Like the Israelites, of old we are asking for a King, but our prayer “Hosanna” is fulfilled not by a wicked king who taxes us and conscripts our children, but rather a divine King who saves us: from sin, from death, and from the devil.

Our Savior King comes to us “humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” – the Son of David, the Son of God, the only one who can answer our cries of “Hosanna.”  Our Savior King comes us humiliated and mounted on a cross, suffering and bleeding as a sacrifice to pay the price of our sins, a King who dies for His people in order to save us.  Our Savior King comes to us, humble and in the forms of bread and wine that are truly His body and blood, given to us to eat and drink into our bodies to restore us to perfect life.  Our Savior King is coming again, in a second Advent, but this advent, this coming, this arrival, will be different than the previous times, for there will be no humility or humiliation, but rather victory and vindication.

Pontius Pilate was right: Jesus is a King.  The crowds were right: Jesus is the Savior.  We are right in recognizing that we need to be rescued, and joining in the cry of the millennia: “Hosanna!  Save us, we pray you!  Hosanna in the highest!”

Our Palm Sunday prayer of Hosanna was answered by our Lord’s Good Friday cry of “It is finished!”  And just as Easter was a glorious and victorious resurrection, so too will be the Lord’s return.  For it will be our glorious and victorious resurrection, made possible, and made inevitable, by that “It is finished!” as Jesus bled and died at the cross.  

And while we yet live in the flesh, in the world, and in militancy against the devil, we continue to pray “Hosanna.”  We continue to cry out to our Savior King.  We continue to pray and sing “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest” just before the ongoing Advent of the Eucharist.  We continue to wait – even as did the children of Israel, waiting under occupation, waiting in the midst of corruption, waiting surrounded by violence, waiting expectantly and joyfully for the coming, the Second Advent, of our King.  

For “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”  We have begun a new church year, and we approach a new calendar year, Anno Domini, a new year of our Lord and King.  We are another year closer to our victory and vindication.  We reflect on the cross, the blood shed by our Lord for our sins and for our forgiveness; we remember our baptism; we resist the trials and temptations of the devil; we gather around the Holy Word; we gratefully receive the words of Absolution from our Lord as the answer to our “Hosanna,” – and we join with our brothers and sisters, week in and week out, both here in this parish and around the world. 

We wait for His Advent, waiting for our King, waiting for the end of our trials and tribulations in this fallen world with our faces turned toward the New Jerusalem, the new world, the new heaven, the new life that will never end!

Let us pray our Hosannas fervently, hopefully, and faithfully!  Let us pray our Hosannas joyfully and victoriously!  Let us pray our Hosannas in expectation! 

For Jesus is drawing near to Jerusalem.

Amen.

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sermon: Funeral of Bernadine Capdeville - 2018


28 November 2018

Text: John 14:1-6 (Ps 37:4, Rom 6:3-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Roy and Ralph; family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests: “Peace be with you.”

1919 was quite a year.  Woodrow Wilson was president.  The treaty that ended World War One was signed.  Prohibition went into effect in the United States.  And Babe Ruth joined the New York Yankees.  Closer to home, the City of Gretna was six years old, there would not be a paved street for several years, and people were still getting around with horse and buggy, and of course, the ferry.  Our congregation had a new pastor named Eugene Schmid.

In November of that year, our beloved Bernadine was born, twice.  She was born in the flesh on November 4, to her loving parents Herbert and Edna Bennerfield.  She was born again of water and the Spirit on November 16, baptized in that font right there by Pastor Schmid, being carried to our church and to that font by her parents.  And being born of water and the Spirit, our Lord Jesus Christ rescued her from sin, death, and the devil.  

At the age of twelve, Bernadine recited the catechism from memory and she was confirmed by Pastor Schmid, who gave her the verse that we heard as our Old Testament reading: “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  And as the years and decades rolled by, many things changed in our world, our country, and our city, but Dee continued to sit in these pews, confess her sins and receive absolution, hear the Good News of Jesus Christ from this pulpit, and partake of the Lord’s Supper at this altar – week after week, right up until the week of her departure.  Just three weeks ago, we sang Happy Birthday to Dee as she smiled right there, celebrating her 99th birthday.  Dee took the Lord’s invitation to “delight in the Lord” literally, and she faithfully lived it out here in the church her whole life long.

Dee also carried all three of her own children to this very same font, where they too were born again by water and the Spirit at the hands of Pastor Schmid.  She raised three faithful children who also take their delight in the Lord.  

And in her inability due to age to come to church on her own, Ralph brought her here to continue to delight in the Lord.

Dee’s faith, which was given to her at baptism, and which she passed along to her children, is a kind of circle of life.  But not in the morbid sense of the Disney song.  No, we mean a literal circle of life, for circles never end.  Bernadine’s eternal life began at the font, about which St. Paul teaches us: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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.”

Dear friends, just as Jesus rose from the dead, so too will Dee and all the redeemed of the Lord.  She is with Christ in heavenly glory, and we wait for the reunion in which we will all be reunited in a new body, in a new heaven and new earth, a new world free from sin, from sickness, from age, and from death.  That is the promise Jesus made to Dee at her baptism.  It is the promise that we share as Christians.  It is the ironclad promise testified to by the empty tomb that stands defiantly in Jerusalem, and the marble font that stands defiantly in Gretna. 

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his,” St. Paul continues, “we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Dee knew this.  Dee confessed this.  Dee lived this.  And this Christian faith is Dee’s “delight in the Lord.”

Those who do not delight in the Lord do not share our hope, dear friends.  They are deprived of what fueled Bernadine Bennerfield Capdeville’s life of delight in the Lord of 99 years, and then even to eternity.  But the good news, dear friends, is this delight in the Lord that Dee enjoyed, and now enjoys forever, is there for anyone.  It’s for you.  It was earned by our Lord at the cross, and it is delivered at the font and in the Word.  Our Lord promises eternal joy beyond anything that we can imagine to those who are baptized and believe.  This is why we Christians mourn, but not in the same way as unbelievers.  We mourn because we miss our loved ones, but we mourn knowing that we will see them again, in the flesh, with perfectly re-formed bodies, and hearts and minds that are perfect.

That blessed assurance is the gift that the Lord gave to Bernadine, and the gift that she made sure her own children have.  That is the gift that is given to Christians young and old every day in every far-flung village on our planet, and it is the life of the delight in the Lord, the Good News that still resounds from this pulpit, and has consistently from many pastors over the decades.  

Hear the comforting words of our Lord, the one who claimed Bernadine as His own, who has taken her to Himself, and who redeemed her for all eternity: “Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says. “Believe in God; believe also in me,” He says, tenderly inviting us to join Him.  He says, “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.”  That is why, dear friends, Dee takes her eternal delight in the Lord.  

Jesus says, “And you know the way to where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

That magnificent revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” was true when He said this to Thomas, it was true in 1919 when He said this to Bernadine, it was true at your baptism, dear brother, dear sister, and it remains true for all eternity.

And so we Christians take heart, even as we mourn, for we are comforted.  We remember our baptism every time we hear the invocation at the beginning of the Divine Service: “In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  We gather here in this same holy house “with all who offer here their worship and praise,” with our dear brothers and sisters whom we see, as well as with “angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven,” that are unseen to us: the company that includes our dear sister in Christ, mother, grandmother, parishioner, aunt, great-grandmother, and friend: Bernadine Bennerfield Capdeville.

It is our great joy to sing with her for eternity, to confess Christ with her, to remember our baptism with her, and to hear anew that verse that was given to her right here 86 years ago, and is, because of Bernadine, given to us again right here and right now: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Peace be with you!  Amen.

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

Economic Hedonism and the Federal Reserve


I shared this meme, and a lot of people didn't seem to grasp the problem.

Part of the problem is that the dollar is a unit of measure, like the pound or the gallon.  If the size of a pound or gallon changed over time, it would make economic calculation difficult, it would render contracts virtually impossible.  Everything would be a moving target.

This is especially true of savings.  If you were trying to put away, say, $500,000 for retirement, but if at the end of your work life, that $500,000 that you saved is actually only worth $50,000 - that's going to make saving for the future next to impossible.  This is why a lot of people bought pre-arranged funerals, so that their children and grandchildren wouldn't have to bear the burden.  But what actually happens is that a pre-paid funeral actually costs thousands of dollars - because of this very intentional devaluation of the dollar at the hands of the Federal Reserve.

Moreover, if you have the option to sock away a thousand bucks, and at the end of five years, you're going to see a profit of maybe fifty bucks, why tie that money up for all that time?  Why not use it as a down payment for a low-interest purchase of a new car?  The Federal Reserve (which was created in 1913) incentivizes debt and creates a disincentive to savings.

Governments also love this because they can crank up the printing presses to pay for ever-increasing entitlements and endless wars.  There is no need for fiscal discipline.  Inflation is a regressive and yet hidden tax that loosens all restraint on government spending - until, of course, it it too late, as with Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe, or Venezuela.



Here is a chart showing the relative value of the U.S. dollar since 1790:




A helpful documentary about how this all works can be found here:



Jeff Deist, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute (the Internet's leading source of free books, courses, videos, and other educational material about free market economics) spoke of the Fed's policies as "Economic Hedonism."  See also this issue of "The Austrian" for more.

Hedonism is a philosophy in which the pursuit of pleasure is the highest good and one's goal in life.  This leads to a short time preference in pursuing immediate consumption rather than planning for the future.  "Economic Hedonism" applies this idea to the economic policy of the Federal Reserve.

I got to talk with Jeff on the Jay Taylor podcast about this topic back in 2016.



Sunday, November 25, 2018

Firefighter Graduation, 2018

I had the honor and privilege to give the invocation and benediction at the November 24, 2018 graduation of the Jefferson Parish Firefighter Class 2/18 at the Jefferson Parish Sammy P. Lazzara Fire Training Center.

The graduates include two of our own David Crockett firefighters: Skyler Goodwin and Brian Gueringer - who were presented their graduation certificates by Chief Michael Labruzza.

Here are my prayers:


Invocation

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

Lord God, Heavenly Father, it is our privilege to gather here on the happy occasion of the graduation of these firefighters to celebrate their achievement and to pray for their continued advancement and safety in the Fire Service.  With gratitude for this holy vocation, we pray Your continued blessing upon them, upon their families, and upon the people and communities You have placed them into. 

May their training better equip them to serve You and those whom they are called to serve, and finally, O Lord, we pray that we may be ever grateful for their tireless, selfless, and heroic service.

In the name of Jesus, with whom You live and reign in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


Benediction

O God, the source and sustainer of all life, we thank You once again for the blessings You so freely bestow upon us.  We are bold to seek Your divine protection upon these firefighters and upon us - even as we vigilantly pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are at this moment risking life and limb - especially in California.

Dear Lord, be with them, protect them, and bless them, in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sermon: Last Sunday of the Church Year - 2018


25 November 2018

Text: Matthew 25:1-13 (Isa 65:17-25, 1 Thess 5:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord’s parable about the Ten Virgins is a lesson that used to be taught in all schools, but no more.  Teaching students to be wise and to avoid folly is as old as teaching itself.  The Old Testament is filled with discourses on wisdom – especially in the Book of Proverbs.  The ancient Greeks put wisdom on a pedestal and saw wisdom as an important part of living the good life.

Wisdom vs. Folly was a staple in education until very recently.  Now we don’t want to say that some people are wise, or that certain lifestyle choices are better than others.  And even more so, teachers are not going to speak of people being “foolish.”  The Greek word used here is actually where we get the word “moron.” Woe be to a school teacher that would use such a word in a classroom today!

Instead of contrasting the wise with the foolish, our schools now just say that nobody is foolish, and wisdom is nothing more than a cultural construct.  We now teach lots of facts and things to memorize.  We teach our students to obey rules.  But we don’t dare teach our students to be wise.  And one look at our culture shows how well this is working out.

Dear friends, we need to understand and teach the difference between wisdom and folly.  The wise young women in our Lord’s story were prepared.  The foolish young women had their priorities mixed up, they were lazy, and they procrastinated.  And that contrast makes all the difference.  The wise knew that they were going on a journey and needed oil for their lamps.  So they brought what they needed.  The foolish did not.  And when the foolish demanded that the wise give up their oil, the wise did not give them any.  For that itself would have been foolish.  The wise were not penalized and forced to give the lazy and the foolish some of their oil.

Instead, the foolish virgins were forced to waste valuable time rectifying their folly.  They had to “go to the dealers” when they should have been waiting vigilantly for the bridegroom.  The wise were ready to go; the foolish were not.  The wise made it to the wedding feast; the foolish were locked out.  

And Jesus makes it clear that this parable has to do with His return.  We don’t know when He is returning.  And so we do well to be prepared.  We are to wait vigilantly.  We don’t know when we may breathe our last.  And so we do well to be prepared our whole lives long.  The wise hear the Word of God and keep it.  They keep it in their hearts and minds.  They treasure it.  The wise come to where it is proclaimed and taught.  The wise partake of the Lord’s Supper.  The wise avail themselves of Holy Absolution.  The wise remember their baptism and do not make important decisions in their lives without prayer and reflection upon how such a decision will impact their life in Christ.  “The fear of the Lord is,” as Scripture teaches us, “the beginning of wisdom.”

The foolish do not fear the Lord.  They do not prepare.  The foolish have other priorities.  The foolish have better things to do than pray, than read and study the Word of God.  The foolish don’t see the importance in gathering with other believers to hear the Word proclaimed, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, to be absolved of their sins, to remember their baptisms, and to avoid things that negatively impact their life in Christ.

Jesus is teaching us this important distinction.  For it really does matter.  People who do foolish things eventually pay a dear price.  We see people taking foolish risks on motorcycles.  We see people making foolish purchases and getting into debt.  We see people making foolish choices concerning their family life.  We see people foolishly procrastinating the things that they must do.  And eventually, something bad happens.

But conversely, we see wise people driving safely, being prudent with their resources, doing right by their families, and taking care of their responsibilities.  And by and large, their lives are better.

And in the case of eternal life, the stakes are much higher. 

Jesus is pleading with us to hear His Word, to meditate on His commandments and strive to keep them.  And when we don’t, to confess and be absolved.  Jesus is pleading with us to pray – not just in church and not just when we are desperate.  But we are to lead a life of prayer, in which praying is as natural to us as breathing.  Jesus is pleading with us to keep our commitments: to our parents, to our children, to our spouses, and to our church.  We need to make it an ironclad reality in our lives that we hear the Gospel proclaimed and we partake of the Lord’s Supper as often as possible.  We should not miss the weekly Divine Service unless we are sick or out of town.  It should be as unthinkable to go a week without the Lord’s Supper as it would be to go a week without eating.  For “man does not live by bread alone,” as the Scripture says, “but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Being a “good person” is not being prepared.  Besides, you’re really not a good person.  And neither am I.  Scripture teaches us this, and we know it even without Scripture.  Being nice is not being prepared.  Being a good worker or student or athlete is not being prepared.  Being happy is not being prepared (how many parents make their children’s “happiness” their highest goal?  Is that wise, or foolish, dear friends?).

Being prepared for the Lord’s return, being prepared for death, being prepared for eternal life, this preparation is rooted in Baptism and expressed in our faith – our faith that is fed and nurtured and confirmed and prepared by contact with the Word of God.

The Lord is pleading with us to be wise, to lead a life of wisdom, to put away all foolishness.  For where does folly lead?  It leads to nothing good.  It leads to a separation from God.  It leads to a selfishness that waxes cold and grows to hate God.  It leads to hell.

Jesus is warning us now, dear friends, for we do not want to hear these words from our Lord: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”  That is pure foolishness, for Jesus gives us everything we need to join the eternal banquet.  Everything we need is handed over to us with no strings, all for the taking.  For it was given to us as a gift on the cross.  It is all by grace.

And that is where what the world considers the foolishness of the cross is, in fact, our true wisdom.  For by holding fast to the cross, to Christ, to the Gospel, to the Word, to the Sacraments, and to an active struggle against sin – that is what it means to be wise unto salvation.  Jesus is telling us, or more accurately, pleading with us in love, to be wise.  Be wise, dear brothers and sisters!

And so Jesus says, “Watch.”  In Greek, it literally means, “Be vigilant, be awake and aware.  Don’t nod off.”  As you might have heard a wise old coach or a wise old sergeant say, “Keep your head on a swivel.”  Jesus says, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  It could be today.  It could be this hour.  Watch and be wise, dear friends, for the Lord, our Bridegroom, is merciful, and He is coming to save us!

Amen.

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sermon: Thanksgiving Eve - 2018



21 November 2018

Text: Luke 17:11-19

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Thanksgiving Day has been through a few changes since the days of Jamestown, Plymouth, and the declarations by both American presidents of the national holiday during the War Between the States.  For what was once a day of prayer of gratitude for God’s providence – largely through the blessings of the harvest – has now been replaced by a day of gluttony, sitting on the sofa and watching football, and getting into political arguments with rarely-seen family members.

But there is indeed a “more excellent way.”  

Thanksgiving is just that: the giving of thanks.  And we give thanks in return for something done for us: which is what “grace” is.  The word “gratitude” is based on the Latin word “gratia,” and in Latin, that’s even how you say “thank you.”  For the harvest is not of our own doing.  It is the ultimate in human hubris to take credit for the Lord’s bounty.  For in spite of all of our work in planting, tending, weeding, and harvesting – all it takes is one storm, one freeze, one bout of fungus or insect infestation, and we are looking at famine.  It is only by God’s grace that we have food and drink, house and home, land animals, and everything that “has to do with the support and needs of the body.”  Only by God’s grace, dear friends.  And as St. Paul says to the Church at Ephesus: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

The tenth leper in our Gospel understood that.  He was a beggar, suffering a painful sentence of death known today as Hansen’s Disease: a disfiguring and highly contagious rotting away of the flesh.  Like all sickness, leprosy exists because of sin: all sin, our own sins that we commit continuously, and the sin that we bear in our flesh that was inherited from our ancestors, even Adam and Eve, in their own flesh.  And so the ten lepers plead with Jesus to save them from the death that awaits the destruction of their own flesh.  

And the Lord heard their prayer.  It was by grace that they were saved, through faith.  But only the tenth leper came back to give thanks.  

He understood that his salvation was by grace, not through his own works, lest he have grounds to boast.  And so, he is humble, falling at the feet of Jesus to worship Him, praise Him, thank Him, and serve Him, and obey Him.  And that, dear friends, is the Christian life.  It is to be a grateful recipient of God’s grace.  It is to be in the presence of Jesus, where He promises to be, to receive His gifts and to give thanks.  The Christian life is an eternal Thanksgiving Day.  It is an eternal Thanksgiving feast, a feast that has no end!

The ultimate thanksgiving meal is not one of turkey and dressing, but rather of the bread and wine that is the very body and blood of the Lord who graces us with His presence.  The Greek word for thanksgiving is εὐχαριστία.  This is why the Lord’s Supper is called “the Eucharist.”  It is both our reception of His gifts and our thanksgiving for that gift of grace by means of the Eucharistic miracle.  We kneel as we receive Him.  We eat and drink as we thank Him.  For that is what He bids us do in His own testament, dear brothers and sisters.

And our entire liturgy is a response to the Lord’s grace, His mercy, a celebration of the eternal feast, a giving of thanks for the Lord’s incarnation, passion, death, resurrection, and coming again.  It is the expression of our joyful gratitude for salvation, a salvation won for us by our blessed Lord at the cross.  In the Eucharist, we partake of that same body and blood that was given and shed for us.  And there is nothing, dear friends, nothing that should bring us to gratitude more than this.

Yes, indeed, we should give thanks for all things that we receive from the hand of our merciful God: the harvest, our freedoms, good health, technology, family and friends, material possessions, a bountiful land, and anything else that comes to mind.  But the one thing that lasts forever, the one thing needful, is our redemption, our forgiveness, our atonement, won for us by the blood of the Lamb, the blood that causes death to pass over us.

For that first Eucharistic meal established by our blessed Lord with the apostles was not just the Last Supper, it was the Last Passover.  It connects our life of thanksgiving for being freed from sin, death, and the devil with the thanksgiving of the Old Testament people of God for their liberation from suffering, bondage, and Pharaoh in their meal of bread and wine, in the sacrificial lamb whose blood set them free.

This thanksgiving Eucharist, dear friends, is the fulfillment of the Passover, for the angel of death passes over us by the forgiveness of our sins.
Indeed, it is a more excellent way than the way of the world: of gluttony, of selfishness, of political argument.  It is the Thanksgiving of the Lord, the Eucharistic feast, the celebration of our salvation, of coming back to Jesus to fall at His feet.  For this thanksgiving is to receive in full measure, selflessly, and in honor of our King, whose kingdom is not of this world.

All praise and thanks to God,
The Father now be given,
The Son, and Him who reigns
With them in highest heaven,
The one eternal God,
Whom earth and heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.

Amen.

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

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sermon: Trinity 26 - 2018




18 November 2018

Text: Matt 25:31-46 (2 Pet 3:3-14)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“We are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells,” says St. Peter.  The old heavens and earth, created perfect by God, have been corrupted by our sin.  The result is chaos, conflict, pain, suffering, and death.  Every single bad thing in this world can be laid at the feet of this reality: we are sinners in rebellion against God’s perfect will.  We have allowed Satan’s question: “Did God actually say?” to live rent-free in our minds.  And were it not for our Lord’s coming, His death on the cross, the full atonement for our sins, the grace of the full pardon that we receive in His name – our universe, that is, the heavens and the earth, would be without hope, just grinding along in increasing dysfunction, until one day, it all just falls apart.

But, dear friends, we are not waiting for the world to come apart at the seams.  No indeed!  “We are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  Yes, the old universe will “pass away with a roar” and “be burned up and dissolved,” but only so that, through the Lord’s coming, they may be refashioned in a new beginning in which God will recreate the heavens and the earth, again, “in which righteousness dwells.”

And we long for this righteousness, dear friends.  For a world in which righteousness dwells is a world without pain, sorrow, suffering, or death.  For it will be a world without sin, without the diabolical question that isn’t really a question: “Did God actually say?”  This “world in which righteousness dwells” will be a homecoming, a return to Eden, a recapitulation of Paradise.  It will be as glorious as life was before the Fall.  

But, of course, we’re not there yet.  We await the Lord’s return.  And while we wait, the Lord bids us to be prepared, to wait expectantly, to wait wisely.  We wait with joy, and we wait yearning for that righteousness which will dwell in our new earth.

And so St. Peter asks, while you are waiting, “What sort of people ought you to be?”  Does it make any sense that while we wait and yearn for righteousness, we spurn righteousness and seek to lead ungodly lives?  Or as St. Paul put it, should we sin all the more so that “grace may abound?”  St. Peter comes out and says that we ought “to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”  And “since you are waiting,” he says that we should “be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”

Of course, we will not actually be “without spot or blemish” not at perfect “peace” until the old heaven and earth pass away, until our own sinful flesh is remade by God Himself, but we should at least see that this is the goal.  We should be striving in this direction.

But aren’t we saved by grace alone, through faith, apart from works?  Of course!  That is the Word of God.  But what happens now that we have received this immeasurable gift?  Does the gift somehow change us?  Does the gift somehow reorient our minds?  Does the gift manifest itself in our lives?  How could it not, dear brothers and sisters?  Of course, we are still sinners who sin in “thought, word, and deed,” and of course, we are still trapped in our mortal, sinful flesh, and of course, the devil and the world still conspire against us.  But we are also redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and we are indeed waiting for the consummation of His kingdom, holding fast to His promise.  This Good News changes us, even as the Holy Spirit comes to us and brings about our growth, our love for holiness, our increasing desire to dwell in this coming eternal and perfect world, and to be found by our beloved Lord “without spot or blemish.”

But what does this even look like as we wait, dear brothers and sisters?  For we still live in our sinful flesh in a sinful world?  How can this kind of righteousness – even when it is a gift of grace – actually be lived out in the fallen world?

Our Lord tells us that when He returns, there will be two kinds of people: the sheep and the goats.  The sheep will hear these words: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  They will hear the Lord recounting those times when He was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison, and the “righteous” came to Him in His need and was given food, drink, welcoming, clothing, and visitation.  The sheep were too busy doing good works, that he had no recollection of doing them.

The righteous person does good works without thought of buying his way into the new heaven and the new earth.  He just acts out of love, the love of Christ.  And that is why Jesus says that whatever good works we do to our neighbor, we are actually doing to Christ.

The sheep are not redeemed as a reward for doing these works.  Indeed, the kingdom was prepared for them “from the foundation of the world.”  But these good works are a confirmation of the saving grace of God.  The one who does these true good works doesn’t even think about it.  But, dear friends, our neighbors need these acts of love for our Lord.  Our neighbors are hungry, thirsty, alone, in need, suffering, and bound by chains of various kinds.  Love impels us to help.  Love seeks no reward, but is rewarded nevertheless.  Our good works do not save us, but they do save our neighbor from suffering.  

Our good works matter.  And while they are not necessary for salvation, our Lutheran confessions bluntly declare that “good works are necessary.”  For this is what it means to yearn for the new heavens and the new earth.  We desire that restored Paradise to the point where we begin (though imperfectly) to live it even before it gets here.  We don’t wait in despair or passivity, but rather, we wait in victory and in expectation!

But what about the goats?  The goats will be denied the new heavens and new earth, and instead will be cast into the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  For in despising their neighbors, they despise Christ.  And in despising Christ, they spurned His gift of Paradise.  For they rejected the way of love: the way of the cross.  And in rejecting the love of the cross, they rejected the grace of the cross.

And so we see how it is that we are saved by grace alone, and yet it is equally true what we say in the Athanasian Creed: “Those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.”

And so, what we do matters: not as the price of admission to the new heaven and the new earth, but rather as a picture of the love that Christ has given us and how that love has transformed us – even when we ourselves are ignorant of it.  This is why St. Paul urges the Christians at Rome to “Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.”  He exhorts us and encourages us in our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, in love for our neighbors, and as our Lord Jesus Christ has bid us, to love even our enemies.  

And knowing that these are the works of the Spirit in us, and not works for which we can take credit, we would do well to pray for the Holy Spirit to come to us and instill in us a zeal and fervency, a burning desire for the “new heavens” and the “new earth in which righteousness dwells” even here while we wait.  And indeed, dear brothers and sisters, we wait in hope, even in joy, even in the midst of the darkness of sin and the assaults of the devil.  For we know how this all ends.  God did “actually say.”  The Lord Jesus did actually come into our broken world to heal us.  He did actually pardon us on the cross.  He has actually saved us by grace alone.  And the Spirit continues to implant in us a love of righteousness and a desire to actually serve our neighbor in gratitude for this free gift.  

Indeed, we are waiting, dear friends, “waiting for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  Amen.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sermon: Trinity 25 - 2018



11 November 2018

Text: Matt 24:15-28 (Ex 32:1-20, 1 Thess 4:13-18)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

A hundred years ago today, the most horrific war up to that time came to an end.  November 11, 1918.  Every year, this date is celebrated around the world as “Armistice Day.”  “Armistice” means “to stop fighting.”  It usually precedes a treaty that formally ends the war.

The war that came to an end a hundred years ago was the first modern war.  Today we call it World War One.  This was the first war to feature planes and tanks and chemical warfare.  The entire globe was involved, and about 15 million people were killed outright.  It was so horrific, that it was called “the war to end all wars” – and yet, only twenty years later, World War Two would begin and would add to the global horrors with even more destruction, including the atomic bomb.

World War One was a frightening time to be alive.  People wondered if they were on the cusp of Christ’s return.  The death and destruction were apocalyptic.  Humanity still bears the scars of this war, nobody can even really explain why it happened.

Ultimately, all such things happen because our world is fallen.  Humanity is broken.  Scarcity causes men to fight against men, tribe against tribe, and nation against nation.  The lust for domination propels tyrants and dictators upon a quest for world domination.  

In our Gospel, our Lord gives us a glimpse of the world at the time of His return.  As bad as World Wars One and Two were, this truly apocalyptic time will be all the more horrific.  It looks like there will even be demonic deception or some kind of technology to fool us into thinking that Christ may be on the earth.  But Jesus has warned us: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you beforehand.”

This future “abomination of desolation” – that the future reader will understand when the time comes – will precede a “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, and never will be.”

We Christians will look to the heavens in hope, knowing that the Lord will come.  He will come the way He went up – not according to the lies of those who will say, “Look, He is in the inner rooms.”  We are not to believe them.  For when our Lord comes, there will be no mistake, no wondering who He is.  All the world will see, “For as lightning comes from the east and shines in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

We need to know this and remember this.  We need to teach our descendants this.  When the time comes, they (or we) will need to be ready.  That is why Jesus said, “See, I have told you beforehand.”

For as horrific as this Great Tribulation will be, we have been told that it is coming.  Like a woman’s birth pangs and labor pains, we know that this agitation will precede something great and magnificent: the coming of our Lord, our redemption, the vindication of the saints – as we heard in last week’s first reading: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  In Christ, they are sheltered by “His presence,” they suffer no want or hunger, and all of their tears have been abolished by God, Himself.

So how do we prepare for this eventuality, dear friends?  By being washed in the blood of the Lamb, by being baptized, by believing in Him and in His Word, being immersed in the Holy Scriptures, and the frequent reception of the Lord’s Supper.  Pray, dear brothers and sisters, pray without ceasing!  Pray for your children and those yet to be born, pray for our families, and pray for the Holy Christian Church throughout the world!

Pay heed to the lesson of the Israelites, who having been freed from bondage, in the short span of forty days as Moses went to the top of the mountain, the people forgot about God and His mercy, and their concerns became nothing more than eating and drinking and playing.  They elevated entertainment to the level of worship.  They replaced the Divine Service with a party.  They replaced the true God with an idol.  They led their own children into destruction by their unfaithfulness.

Please don’t repeat their mistake, dear friends!  Listen to what St. Paul taught us about these lessons of old: “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’  We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.  Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”

The end of the ages has come upon us, dear friends.  For Christ has come, and Christ is coming again.  We need to be prepared, and we need to prepare our children.  What could be more important? 

Only the blood of the Lamb can prepare us for this great tribulation: the very same blood that He offers you here, along with His body, along with His Word of warning and of comfort, of Law and Gospel, along with His Holy Absolution that declares you forgiven, along with your own Holy Baptism that washed you with the blood of the Lamb and bound you to the saving cross!

For like the Passover, when the children of Israel were spared the angel of death, we too will be raised from death in a bodily resurrection.  This, dear friends, is why we Christians do not “grieve as others who have no hope.”  For, says the holy apostle, “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”  And “we will always be with the Lord.  Therefor encourage one another with these words.”

The entire history of mankind is one of domination and destruction.  But with our Lord’s coming, by His death upon the cross, an abomination that results in our redemption, we are assured of our salvation, even amid this unknown future abomination of desolation, and this great tribulation against the people of God.  

For in the midst of war and destruction, of rubble and smashed buildings, of blood and gore, and the wholesale slaughter of millions of people, it seems as if peace is never going to come.  But even in the midst of that Great War such as had not been seen from the beginning of the world until that time, on this very day one hundred years ago, the last gun fell silent.  The last bullet came to a stop.  The last combatants crawled out of their foxholes, shook hands, and went home.  It was sudden.  The silence was deafening.

One day, our broken world’s warfare will come to an end.  Satan will be cast into the lake of fire.  The last sin will be no more.  The last tears to stream from the face of the redeemed will dry up.  We will stop fighting.  There will be no more strife: no more attacks from the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.  There will be no more scarcity or hatred between men, tribes, and nations.  There will be an armistice that will have no end, followed by a treaty signed in in the blood of the Lamb.  

And this, dear friends, will be the peace to end all wars.  Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters.  The peace of Christ be with you, now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

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