Friday, June 12, 2015

Sermon: Funeral of Bonnie Schexnayder

12 June 2015

Text: John 10:10b-15, 27-30 (Job 19:23-27a, Rom 8:28-39)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Merlin, (Carol), Kelli, Kris, Rachel, grandchildren, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests, “Peace be with you!”

That greeting, “Peace be with you,” is not just a pious expression.  It is a powerful reminder of why we are here.  We mourn Bonnie’s passing, dear friends.  How can we not?  But that is not why we are here.  Neither are we here to celebrate Bonnie’s life.  Indeed, we do remember her with joy, as we should.  But again, dear brothers and sisters, that is not why we are here in this place at this time.

We are here, gathered as the Body of Christ, hearing His Word, because when Jesus died on Good Friday, his disciples were crushed.  But on Easter Sunday, they were filled with joy to hear of His rising again.  And the following Sunday, they saw the Lord appear physically in His resurrected body, and the first thing He said to them was, “Peace be with you!” 

Our Lord Jesus means something by this greeting.  It’s important.  It’s profound.  It’s comforting.  He means that by His peace, the warfare is over.  He means that the struggle against sin, death, and the devil are all ended.  He means that sickness and sorrow and doubt and fear and worry and pain and suffering are all finished and done away with.  

“Peace be with you!”

That peace that passes all understanding is why we are here, dear friends, here with Bonnie’s body that was baptized, that was fed with Holy Communion, that was forgiven, and that has the promise of rising again, just as our Lord Jesus Christ did!  For Jesus came to us where we are: in the flesh, in a body that feels pain, living in a world of sin, surrounded by brokenness, subject to suffering.  This is the price of our sins: Bonnie’s, yours, mine, and that of every person ever born in this world except for our Lord Himself.

For He came to save us from our sins. He died for us, so that we might live, dear friends.  He paid for all of our sins at the cross so that we might be forgiven.  He died so that death might be destroyed.  And He has given this new life to Bonnie and to all who believe and are baptized.  Bonnie lived in this truth, taught in this truth, died in this truth, and will rise again in this truth.  That is what the Lord means by: “Peace be with you!”

That is why we are here, dear friends.  We are here to declare victory over death.  For we have received His peace, even as He says to us anew: “Peace be with you!”

To the unbelieving world, death always wins.  It claims everyone.  Money and power and fame cannot abolish it.  To unbelievers, death is horrifying.  But, dear friends, there is One who has abolished it: our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is the promise He made to Bonnie; that is the blessing He gave to the disciples when He appeared to them.  And He extends the offer of that peace to every person ever born.  That is what we believe, what we confess, and what we teach, dear friends.

In her 23 years of teaching children – not only teaching them their letters and numbers and colors and how to treat one another – but also teaching children about Jesus and His cross and His empty tomb – Bonnie brought the peace of Christ, the risen, living, victorious Christ, to countless children – children who grew up and in many cases now have children of their own.  Bonnie touched the lives of people too many to be numbered, young and old – most of all, her beloved husband of 53 years.  For the peace of Jesus is also the love of Jesus.  That love is demonstrated in her ongoing love for Merlin, his ongoing love for her, and the ongoing love between Bonnie and her daughters and their families.  Love never ends.

This love, dear friends, this life of devotion, is rooted in Christ, in His gospel, in what St. Paul teaches us about His love: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  For, “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.”

Nothing, dear friends, nothing, can separate us from God’s love in Christ.  Bonnie’s death does not separate her from Christ, nor us from Christ.  And in Christ, and in His love, we are eternally connected to Bonnie and all the saints.  Nothing can separate us!  This is what He means by, “Peace be with you!”

And what’s more, even though we have our memories of Bonnie, and in a sense she lives on through those memories and through her children and grandchildren, nevertheless, we have something even greater: we have the promise of God in His Word, “inscribed in a book” as if written with “an iron pen and lead… engraved in the Rock forever”  that we will rise in our flesh, that our bodies will be made anew: perfect, without aches and pains, without diseases and infirmities, without the effects of age, and without all of those things that we consider “normal” – including death itself – all of which come from sin.  

For as Job said in his suffering, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” and “after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”  We Christians confess “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  Think of what this means, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  It means that we will hold Bonnie’s hand again, we will hear her speak, we will see her smile, we will share hugs and laughter and joy.  That is what the physical, risen Jesus means when He says: “Peace be with you.”

For Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd.  He knows His sheep, even as His sheep know His voice, the Word of Jesus, who comes to us in His Holy Word, and who calls us when it is time for Him to take us to eternity.  And listen to what He says about His beloved sheep: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand.”

This good news, dear friends, this blessed assurance, this care of the Good Shepherd for His sheep, including Bonnie, is what our Lord means when He says: “Peace be with you!”

He is our Shepherd, and we shall want for nothing.  He makes us to lie peacefully in green pastures, beside the peaceful still waters.  He restores our souls.  He leads Bonnie, and He leads all of us who hear His Word, who receive His love as a free gift, and who believe His promises.  This is truly what our Good Shepherd means when He says: “Peace be with you!”

Peace be with you, dear friends.  Indeed, peace be with you!  Amen.

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

Monday, June 08, 2015

Restoring the Sacred!

St. John Cantius, Chicago

Here is a remarkable 30 minute, exquisitely beautiful video about restoring the sacred in Chicago's St. John Cantius Church.

In a decaying culture that celebrates death, embraces mediocrity, and revels in the perverse and ugly, this is a refreshing and inspiring respite.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Again, click here!  You will be inspired.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Sermon: Trinity 1 – 2015

7 June 2015

Text: Luke 16:19-31 (1 John 4:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“God is love,” says the apostle John, “and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is, so also are we in this world.”

So, God is love, and yet there is a day of judgment.  God is love, and yet there are Ten Commandments for us to obey.  God is love, and yet our Lord Jesus Christ tells us about hell and anguish and torment.

Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?  Why would God be judgmental?  If God is love, why would he call people “sinners” for just being who they are?

These are actually very good questions that people ask, and it cuts to the heart of who God is, who we are, and what our purpose is as God’s creatures.  

And without understanding the sin that infects all of us, none of this makes sense.  We have all chosen to go our own way, to rebel against God by breaking His commandments.  This is why things are the way they are.  We live in a world of crime and violence, of sickness and sorrow and sadness, of money problems, family problems, health problems, conflicts between people and between nations.  Who, dear friends, is not disappointed with parents, with children, with bosses, and with workers – and if we’re honest: with ourselves.

God did not do this, dear friends, we did.  And if God is just, as He must surely be to be God, there has to be justice.  We all intuitively understand this.  We don’t applaud the bully; we don’t emulate the coward and the traitor; we don’t hope that a deranged person succeeds in an act of terrorism; we don’t smile when children are abused, animals are tortured, or the elderly are taken advantage of.

So we have this dilemma.  We want justice.  But we want it for others, and not ourselves.  We want to see sinners get what’s coming to them, but we want an exception for ourselves.  It is when we look at ourselves that we most seek a forgiving God, a merciful God, a God who is love.

How can God be both just and merciful?

Our Lord’s story of Lazarus and the Rich Man teaches us that God’s kingdom is not like the world.  For here we see both justice and mercy, heaven and hell, a reversal of the ways of the world, and finally, a promise of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, the ultimate act of love.

The rich man “was clothed in purple and fine linen and… feasted sumptuously every day.”  Lazarus was a “poor man… covered with sores.”  Let me ask you, dear friends, whom would you rather see visiting our church: a rich, well-dressed man who knows how to put on fancy dinners, or a beggar with festering sores?  Whom would you rather see your daughter marry, a well-dressed wealthy man or a disfigured homeless person?  Which type of person would you rather be seen with in public? 

We know how the world works, what the world admires, and whom the world wishes to emulate.  And as much as we might like to think otherwise, we are guilty of being “of the world” even as Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

But what about the kingdom of God, dear freinds?  We learn about God’s kingdom from the rich man and Lazarus.  We learn that the rich man was indifferent to suffering.  He lacked compassion.  He lacked love.  Clearly, he lacked repentance, for by virtue of his sins and lack of forgiveness, he finds himself in hell, in torment.  By contrast, the rich man’s fellow sinner Lazarus finds himself “carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.”  He is not being rewarded for being poor.  He was not being rewarded for being a victim.  Rather, Lazarus receives God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness and life.  

For the kingdom of God does not work like the world, which favors the wealthy, the well-dressed, and the well-connected.  Indeed, God, being love, offers something better than being wealthy in the worldly sense (offering instead treasures in heaven); He offers something better than being well-dressed by clothes that will eventually wear out (offering instead a garment of righteousness that will never fade); He offers something better than being well-connected to powerful people in this life (offering instead communion with God Almighty).  God gives all of these to Lazarus as a free gift, even though he suffered in this world, was shunned and scorned because he lacked these qualities that we poor miserable sinners love and admire.

We love the rich and powerful because, dear friends, as sinners, according to our fallen flesh, we do not know what true love is.  But God is merciful, dear brothers and sisters.  Jesus has come into the world not merely to teach us about love, but to demonstrate it to us, and most importantly of all, to love us as only he is capable of doing: dying for us to save us from our own sins, transferring them to Himself and taking them to the cross, though He is truly the only innocent Person who ever lived.  This is love, dear friends.  He offers Himself for us, dies so that we might live, suffers the punishment of suffering so that we might be comforted.

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.”

So what about justice?  It is fulfilled in Jesus, who takes the wrath of God for us.  And this, dear friends, is the greatest love of all: the innocent dying for the guilty.  For the Lord Jesus Christ died for both Lazarus and the rich man.  The love of God is neither excluded from a poor man with sores, nor from the wealthy who wear fine clothing and feast like kings.  

The bad news is that the rich man died in his sins.  He refused the free gift of salvation.  Like his brothers that remain on earth, the rich man was impoverished in one area: repentance.  He lacked this, and suffering the consequences of his impenitence, sought to find a way to warn his brothers to repent.

Our Lord says: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

That “someone” dear friends, is Christ.  He loves you, sores and all.  He redeems you, not because you are wealthy, but because He is merciful.  He gives you everlasting life, not because you have earned it, but rather because He has earned it, and gives it to you out of divine love.  

And the most loving thing the Lord is doing in this gospel is warning us, dear friends.  For He did rise from the dead, and He bids us to heed His warning.  Repent!  And believe!  Acknowledge your sinfulness, and then receive the gift of grace.  Turn away from the world’s evil so that you might receive the Lord’s kingdom of righteousness!  

Listen to Moses and the Prophets, for they testify of Him who is love.  Receive the Holy Supper, for it is given to you for the forgiveness of sins.  Remember your baptism, for in that sacred washing, you have been covered by the blood of Christ out of sheer love.

“God is love,” says the apostle John, “and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is, so also are we in this world.”  Amen.

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