Tag Archives: hope

Saints Now Saints Not Yet

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Biblical Text: 1 John 3:1-5
Full Sermon Draft

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

That is one of the most profound and hope filled sentences in all of scripture. And it perfectly captures what it means to live as saints. We are saints now, but not yet saints. This was All Saints Day, so that is why I’m using that world. What this sermon attempts to do is describe the feeling and the facts that make it so. There is a reflection from family life that I think captures it better than everything that follows. But what follows that family picture attempts to follow John’s compact reading through three facts of the Christian life in the now and not yet. The resurrection opens the door which we enter through baptism. We are now God’s children by water and the word. But right now we live by faith. When he appears we will see him as he is, but that is not yet. Now by faith, not yet by sight. The final fact is what baptism and faith set us out on and that is sanctification. “Everyone who hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” The pattern of that is the life of Christ, but as the biblical text continues it is captured in the moral law. Christians do not practice lawlessness, but they practice righteousness.

I didn’t include them on the recording. (If you would like to hear just leave a comment.) But, the hymns today were both some of my favorites and All Saints staples. I didn’t include them because “For All The Saints” (LSB 677) has 8 stanzas. It is great to sing, but our recording isn’t exactly professional. We opened with Jerusalem the Golden (LSB 672. And we closed with Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus (LSB 660). You’ve got a picture of the Church at Rest, a hymn sketch of the Church militant through the church at rest and into the Church Triumphant, and a Church Militant remembrance.

The Best and the Worst

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Mark 5:21-43
Full Sermon Draft

The events of the week offered two extremes. The last fruits of a culture that would listen the church, and the declaration of the end of that listening. This is a little raw, but call it first pass a law and gospel in exile. The fact of repentance and the hope of return.

What’s Your Ending? – Hope or Fear

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Biblical Text: Mark 16:1-8
Full Sermon Draft

The Easter Text in Mark’s gospel ends on a strange word – fear. What this sermon does is look both at our discomfort at fear and at what Easter has to say about it. Mixed in with a bit about that interesting ending of the gospel.

Happy Easter! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia!

Babels and Beasts

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Biblical Text: Matthew 13:24-43
Full Sermon Draft

We continue this week with the parables in Matthew 13. The parable of the sower with its focus on individuals soils is more applicable on a personal level. The parable of the weeds and with it the parable of the leaven care less about individual reception of the gospel but are aimed more toward the various situations that the people of God might find themselves. The leaven is hid in the midst of a very large amount of flour. The wheat and the weeds grow together. The people of God find themselves in a wide variety of fields in the world.

The title points toward Peter Leithart’s taxonomy of the kingdoms of this world: guardians, babels and beasts. The sermon attempts two things: 1) a warning to the people of God used to a guardian what it means to live in babel and 2) a refocus on the core hope – the resurrection – that unites the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom might look small and weak, but that is how God has chosen to act, and the reign of heaven even small instills hope.

Text of Funeral Sermon for Charlie Gruschow

I almost didn’t get through this one…

Biblical Texts: Isaiah 49:13-16, Romans 5:1-5 and Matthew 11:28-30
Introduction
Charlie Gruschow was a fixture here at St. Mark’s. And I say that in more ways than one. He was a fixture as a greeter handing out bulletins on Sunday morning. Being the youngest of a large family, he was a great talker with a twinkle in his eye. A bit of rogue-ish charm. The family name is on the stained glass windows right there. He was never a junior, but Charles is also on there. And there is a great story about that organ. Charlie saw the bank account going down and took it upon himself to, and I’m quoting, “get something before the buffoons spent it all”. Charlie’s in the fixtures, and I’ve often reflected that when I stumbled across something fine or of good quality, Charlie was behind it. He didn’t go for junk.

He didn’t do that around church. Charlie didn’t do that in jobs he did. He was always willing to help and do the work.

Now I suppose that same unabashedness and charm combined with those high standards might have led to some confrontations over his years. Charlie was his own man and had his own opinions. That conflict continued in some ways in his later years as instead of battling things external Charlie started battling his own body. When work – like mowers and blades and tractors – that you’ve lined up just can’t be done, it grated. It sucks, when your own gait can’t measure up to your standards.

Gospel in the Life

But let me suggest that Charlie understood something very important.

Peace didn’t come easily to Charlie, he worked. He expected to work. I expect that was why he was here, even hobbling, almost every Sunday. In the midst of a life of work, He knew he needed the grace. In an era full of cheap grace – lowered standards, denial of culpability – Charlie would have none of it. He was plainspoken, even if the plain speech pointed at himself. He might not have shared that with everyone, he was a man of his time, but he didn’t spare himself. And he needed the real grace – the grace that is only available through Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Charlie needed that. When the work was beyond him, he was strong enough to take God’s peace declared on that cross. And due to his standards he knew the full measure of what that cross offered…of what that cross offers you.

Conclusion
I have to admit something, my prayers for older folks who have major surgery are often two-fold. Typically I ask for healing and restoration, but I also usually ask that God’s peace might be with them. My prayers were selfish with Charlie, I wanted him back. One more story, a couple of months ago at men’s club, Charlie started telling of one of those confrontations that happened roughly 20 years ago. An elder of the congregation had stopped by and somehow had expressed the thought or feeling that he was fine if God took him. That offended Charlie and that day that elder was practically thrown out of Charlie’s house. But at this retelling I got the feeling Charlie was telling it not as a saga of old, but as a current reflection.

Charlie’s passing was a shock – to the doctors and to us. I was too engrossed in my selfish prayers. But Charlie heard Jesus – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He was willing to put down the yoke he had pulled so long.

Charlie put that down, not in weakness, but in hope. Suffering produces endurance, and endurance character, and character hope. And Charlie was full of hope. Charlie knew that we who are buried with Christ in baptism will also be raised with him. We are engraved in the palm of His hand, and our walls our bodies will stand before Him. Resurrected bodies no longer bent by the work, but eternal dwellings full of grace.

So, the work remains our task, and we do not have Charlie to pull it anymore. But his witness remains with us as well. In the grace of Jesus, we stand. In the Hope of the Glory of God, we rejoice. (Rom 5:2) Amen.

Another Helper – The Spirit and the World

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Biblical Text: John 14:15-21
Full Sermon Text

The text is chosen on the basis of an inclusio. An inclusio is a method in an era lacking punctuation to signal a thought grouping. We would call it a paragraph or a section break today. John writes a topic sentence – “If you love me keep my commandments” and closes the paragraph with a repeat – “whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who love me”. So, the stuff between the inclusio is the supporting evidence for the assertion in the topic.

In this case, if all we did was take the topic – “if you love me keep my commandments” – we’d be very deep into legalism. I tend to think Jesus was more of a moralist than most Lutherans, but he was also the greatest realist we’ve ever seen. After all, he made it all. You can’t get more real that that. And as that realist, telling fallen creatures to keep the law is not in the first place about keeping the law. We will fail. What it is about is driving us to some solution for our inability to keep the commandments. In John’s case, until the end of the age the solution is “another Helper”.

That “another Helper” is the paraclete or the Holy Spirit indwelling within us. What this sermon does is trace out the works and means of the Spirit. It places the moral dimension within the larger story. Jesus means “keep my commandments” within both his work and the work of the Spirit. And it looks at the final promises that this helper lasts “until that day” or “into the age”. (The forever of John 14:16 is a not the point of the εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα , which is really an eschatologogical phrase. He will be with you in this indwelling way as another Helper until the new age is fully realized.) At that point, the dwelling of God is with his people. No longer in a hidden way as with the Spirit which the world cannot see, but in a manifest way. This is the Christian Hope – we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Job17:1-16 and John 7:14-31

Job 17:1-16
John 7:14-31
The Hope that Lives in Us, Appearances can be deceiving

Apocalypse: Distress at the roaring of the Sea

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Biblical Text: Luke 21:5-28
Full Sermon Draft

The jumping off point for the sermon is a veteran’s tale of the end of a world (Iraq) and where he goes from there. It is a well told tale of an apocalypse of the City of Man. Based in truth or at least true emotion and experience. Told well. Strengthened by a deep bit of truth related to The Apocalypse. The apocalypse of the City of Man is always about accepting its end. And that is the deep truth; the city of man ends. The question is does your identity end with it, or does it just transfer to another city of man. It too doomed to end, just in a way yet unseen. Or do you look for your residence in the City of God?

The world’s advice is always acceptance of death. The world’s advice is the true opiate, that all of this is meaningless, a striving after the wind. But Jesus says to us: “when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your head, because you redemption is drawing near.” Right now the world groans. Right now the nations are in distress and perplexity because of the roaring of the seas and the waves. People faint with fear and worry about what is coming. But not you. Straighten up and raise your heads. Your redemption is near. The creation waits with eager longing for the children of God to be revealed…to be set free from its bondage to corruption (Rom 8:21).

If your hope is in the City of God, if you identity is found in Jesus Christ, the roaring of the seas are but a receding sound before that last trumpet.

Wrestling with the Promise

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Biblical Text: Genesis 32:22-30
Full Draft of Sermon

This text is one of the strangest in the Bible, but I think it might be one of the most important for churches that baptize babies to understand.

The sermon is a character study on Jacob. You can read the entire story yourself starting in Genesis 25:19ff, but the core of my take away is that Jacob came into the world a child of promise and proceeds to attempt to earn it or escape from it. And he continues in conflict…until he can’t. Alone, in the night, scared he’s losing it all…Jacob prays. And then Jacob wrestles through the night..until he gets his blessing.

The blessing once taken from a blind Father by trickery is granted face to face. The blessing once traded for is accepted freely. The blessing that once came by grasping…is gained by letting go. And the name is changed. Not that those blessings were not true, they just were not claimed. They were not believed. But now, walking with a limp, no longer running. Israel no longer strives in conflict, but rests on the promise.

We baptized a child today. In baptism that child is made an heir of the promise – Just like Jacob. The promise is true. It doesn’t matter what we do because baptism doesn’t depend upon us. But why this text is important, is because we can turn our back on that gift. To learn the lesson of Jacob is wrestle with the promise. To hold onto God and not let go until we have made the grace and the hope ours. The christian life, lived with a Lutheran accent, is about those wrestling matches where we receive as ours what God has already given. Where we learn to live by grace in hope, instead of conflict.

Hope – the Spirit and Flesh are opposed

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Biblical Text: Galatians 5:1,13-25
Full Sermon Text

There are three theological virtues: faith, hope and love. We like to talk about love a whole bunch, but at least from my view we don’t understand it, at least not as a theological virtue compared to a pale emotion. Lutherans love to talk about faith, and when we talk about faith grace is right behind it. But Hope gets left to Star Wars and stale political campaigns. What is Hope?

The text from Galatians for the day revolves around the proclamation that you are free (grace and faith), but that freedom is not a pretext for the desires of the flesh but to Walk in the Spirit. And Paul contrasts what the desires of the flesh are with the fruits of the Spirit. One thing that we must understand is that our sex addled culture only hears more sex when Paul says the desires of the flesh, but Paul means a much wider view of our corruption. The desires of the flesh are everything that we would naturally do given free reign. And that is what we have been given. The law has no penalty in Christ.

If our adversary can’t attack grace and faith, he will immediately attack hope. “Sure, you are saved, but you can’t actually change who you are or what you do.” Such a hopeless grace is a submitting back to slavery – a slavery to the desires of the flesh which are natural in our fallen condition. Just as much as trying to add something to faith, trying to subtract from the extent of what God is doing is a denial of the gospel. Christ has placed His Spirit within us, and that Spirit opposes the desires of the flesh. The Christian has hope that we might crucify the desires of the flesh because it is not us but the Spirit of God with us.

Don’t live a hopeless life submitting to the desires of the flesh – which is submitting to death itself. But live in hope, walk with the Spirit, learn to carry the cross, to lose yourself to find life. Hope – the Spirit within us ensures the victory, because we are being made a new creation. In the resurrection we will put away the flesh that troubles us, until that day we struggle. And the struggle itself proves our hope.