Archive for November, 2012

Sermon for the Last Sunday in the Church Year

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Again, Jesus speaks about last things.  This sermon too, was not written out, as it had some similar themes from the week prior and a few other reflections.  I do hope you enjoy the audio.

Click here for mp3 audio 57 Sermon for Last Sunday in Church Year.mp3

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Sermon for Thanksgiving

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Paul teaches about contentment in Philippians chapter 4.

The sermon was not written out, per se, that is I don’t have a manuscript.  The content was influenced by a sermon in Concordia Pulpit Resources that I thought especially fitting for the evening.  I do hope you enjoy the audio.

Click here for mp3 audio 56 Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve.mp3

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The season of Advent is quickly approaching

November 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

– Psalm 122:1


The season of Advent and the Festival of Christmas are upon us once again.  I thought this an especially appropriate time to write you in order to encourage you in the faith.  Unfortunately this can be a very hectic time of year as we attempt to meet everyone’s expectations of us.  Often we end up wearing ourselves out running after the things of this world, with little of the Light our Lord brought when He entered this sin-darkened world.

The message of Advent and Christmas is that our Lord comes to bring us together with Him and one another by speaking His Word to us and by gathering us together at His Supper.  Real life and Light are not found in the things of this world but in our Lord Jesus Christ and the life He has given us to live together.

I look forward to receiving the Lord’s Gospel gifts with you this season.

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Sermon for Pentecost 25

November 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Mark 13.1-13

Augustana, 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 55 Sermon for Pent 25.mp3


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.   Amen.

The text for the sermon today is the Gospel for today from Mark chapter 13.

The church year is quickly drawing to a close and the readings certainly reflect that.  This section of Mark’s Gospel records Jesus teaching on the Last Things.  This focus on the end, is certainly a Christian perspective.  Increasingly in the culture around us, people are encouraged to think that things just keep going.  “Life goes on,” we say.  With or without us, things will keep on going.  We’re even encouraged to celebrate this idea that life has no real end, and therefore no real goal, no real purpose; it’s just meant to be lived the best way we can.  Each reading today is a firm contradiction to that worldview; they each show us the end that God has in mind for His creation.  The Old Testament Reading from Daniel chapter 12 gives us the shocking prophecy that at the end of time the dead will rise, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer reminds us that after Christ offered Himself as the one sacrifice for sin, He sat down at the right hand of God, waiting for the day His enemies are a made a footstool under His feet.  And in the Gospel reading today, our Lord instructs His disciples about those things that will happen in the last days.  When they happen they are the birthpangs.

That’s an odd expression, is it not?  In the not very distant past, men were far removed from the birthpains of children entering the world.  That has disappeared now and for the better, in my mind.  What tremendous agony it is to bring such joy into the world.  Jesus lived and taught in a world that much of private life wasn’t very private at all.  Everyone knew everyone else’s business.  The villages just weren’t that big.  It’s hard to imagine any of the disciples not having multiple opportunities to witness the pains of childbirth.  The age to come will come accompanied by birthpains.  It should come as no surprise to us that if Jesus’ mission was to bring about the kingdom of God, the new age of peace, where justice and truth abound, it should come with birthpains as the prophets had foretold.

Jesus compares wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines to the beginning of these pains, but warns they are not signs that end will come immediately.  He said, “the end is not yet.”  These signs are not there to give us some ability to countdown to the Last Day.  No man knows the day or the hour.  And remember Jesus was speaking about these things while walking around the temple in Jerusalem and foretelling its destruction in the future.  So Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple as much as He is the coming of the Last Day.

So they’d been walking around the temple and then leave the city and go down in the Kidron valley and up to the Mt. of Olives where all the Middle East reporters stand to get the shot of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem over their shoulder.  Jesus and the disciples are sitting there and Jesus begins to tell them how things really are.  Things will come to an end.  Jerusalem, even Herod’s magnificent temple will come to an end.  Nothing lasts forever; it will all come to an end.

Perhaps we can gain even greater insight on this sermon from Jesus when we understand that it is given during what we call Holy Week, maybe even the day before Jesus is betrayed and arrested.  Jesus is talking about the end of all things in the very week He knew He was facing His end.  He had come to Jerusalem for that very purpose.

We get it wrong if we fall into the trap of thinking things will pretty much keep going more or less forever.  Behold, Jesus is bringing them to their end, to their goal, to their fulfillment as is the plan of God for His creation.  It’s only natural to not want these times to come or to dread their coming with great fear.  But that too is to get it wrong.  Jesus is in charge.  We need no fear.  Things coming to their fulfillment is the order of things in God’s plan.  Jesus says all these things with the certainty of His comfort.  In verses 10 and 11 we read, “10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”

That may not sound like comfort that when you have to testify as to your faith, the Holy Spirit will give you the precise words to say the right thing.  By the way, that right thing is not the thing that will get you freed either.  I read something recently another pastor said, to the effect of  “the Holy Spirit will give the exact right words to make the people who arrested you the most angry with you.”  Jesus even admits that the persecution that will come down on us is not accidental.  It’s planned.

But do not fear.  Don’t take your eyes off what Jesus did for you on the cross, what He went through for your sake.  Jesus’ death on the cross was the culmination of a centuries’ long plan to atone for the sins of the whole world.  All those sheep and all those goats and all those oxen and their blood shed for the people throughout the centuries, all pointing forward to God’s own Lamb, His Son Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world, who dies the death to sin in your place.  God’s plan is, in a very real sense finished on the cross.  Everything else is epilogue.

But the epilogue was even greater.  Jesus did not stay dead but on the third day was raised.  The resurrection shows that God is good to His Word.  “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”  Jesus death and resurrection are not just a history lesson for us.  His suffering is not just an example of who we can endure.  He is our assurance in the end.  What Jesus says happens and it happens just as He said it.  He speaks His Word and it is a Word of life for you.  “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Your future is secure because you have been delivered by the one who makes all things happen.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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How much do people remember?

November 18, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m in the process of some other work right now and I stumbled across this comment from a presenter:

If you are lucky
· In one hour’s time they’ll remember two points
· Tomorrow they’ll remember one point
· In four weeks they may remember you spoke

If you are really lucky
· In four months’ (or four years) time they won’t remember that you spoke
· But they’ll quote a new idea you lodged in their minds

From here:

Of course, as someone who speaks for a living, for as much as 20 minutes at a time, it causes all sorts of doubts about the act of preaching. The whole enterprise often feels like a waste of time, (sometimes even for the preacher!) It’s no wonder then that there are so many different approaches to the task of proclaiming the Word and why there are so many failures.  And the time and effort that goes into these sermons from the preacher’s side is inordinate. One wonders why such effort?

Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single sermon that has lodged itself in my memory but the character of the preachers I’ve encountered is certainly a part of my memory.

Something else is happening in the proclamation of the Word.  It is not a marketing presentation; it’s the proclamation of life in the presence of the open grave, forgiveness in spite of sin, and end of the power of hell in the face of all the evidence to the contrary.

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Sermon for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

November 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Mark 12:38-44

Note: This sermon was adapted from one in Concordia Pulpit Resources.  Click here for mp3 audio 54 Sermon for Pent 24.mp3


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is the Gospel reading for today, from Mark chapter 12.

This is one of those readings from the Bible that we all know so well, the story of the widow’s mite.  It fits into Church Year when things are starting to wind up toward the Last Sunday of the Church Year, two weeks from now.  It’s hard to believe Advent is just around the corner.

I’ve been joking in most of the classes this week about the coming end of the world.  Remember a couple years back some folks thought the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world on December 21st this year.  A couple of years ago, it sounded like quite a ways off.  Now, the end of the world is just next month.  Now the whole Mayan calendar thing has been debunked and so no, I don’t really believe nor would I try to get you to believe that the world is coming to an end next month.  But think about how you felt the first time you heard about the ancient Mayans having predicted the end of the world.  It’s a little eerie, isn’t it?  It can make us feel a little less certain.  Couple that with the “coming fiscal cliff” in Washington, the election now over, and business are more uncertain than ever about how things are going to work out.  Everywhere we look it’s just more and more uncertainty.

Today’s reading has a lot to say to us living in this climate of uncertainty.  This morning we’ll look at the story of the widow’s mite.  We’ll look first at some of the things everybody knows about the reading and then at some things you may not now, and finally we’ll look at one thing that nobody knows.  We’ll start with the things that are quite certain and move to the things that are less certain and see what God has to say to us about our uncertainties.

Some things everyone probably knows about the story of the widow’s mite.  We know the story.  It’s a simple short story.  Jesus is sitting in the temple courtyards and can see people putting in their offerings.  Offerings weren’t handled the same way we do.  Back then, there were thirteen receptacles in the temple courtyards.  They looked a lot like the toll baskets on toll roads.  The faithful would just walk up and drop in their coins.  There was no paper money.  We have some evidence that people would even stand around and watch and make an appropriate reaction when a particularly generous offering was made.  As Jesus sat there that day watching, there were plenty of offerings like that made, and probably duly noted by the crowd.

Then along comes a woman, a widow, obviously poor, with a couple of little copper coins.  These were the smallest coins in circulation, in today’s money, a fraction of a cent.  But Jesus calls His disciples and tells them her offering was the greatest of all.  Other folks gave more in raw dollars, but she gave all she had to live on.  We all know that story don’t we?

All of you probably also recognize that this story teaches proportional giving.  Jesus said the rich had given out of their abundance.  It was a surplus, an overflow.  They made a lot, they gave some of what they made.  But the woman gave all she had, literally, “she gave her whole life.”  In total dollars, she couldn’t compete, but percentage-wise, her gift was the greatest.

Proportional giving, or give a percentage of your treasure is always what God prescribed.  Old Testament Israel was required to give 10 percent of their crops or whatever form of income they received.  The tithe was God’s system of proportional giving.  One reason God prescribed percentage-based giving is that it works on any income level.  Some folks say, “If I had a big income, I’d give 10 percent; but my income is small.”  The nice thing about percentage-based giving is that it grows or shrinks with the paycheck.  It works for everybody.  Here in the New Testament, the Lord is still speaking about percentage-based giving, but He is not demanding a particular percentage.  We can give more or even less than ten percent right?

Right.  But offerings should still reflect the way we’ve been blessed.  How do our financial blessings compare with those of the widow in our text?  More importantly, how have we been blessed spiritual compared to those OT people who had to give ten percent?  They were blessed with the promise of a Savior to come someday.  We are blessed with the certainty that the God’s promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.  We know he came.  He died and He rose from the dead all for us.  We are certain of these things.  We are certain that His coming death and resurrection was for us, to take away our sins and to bring us into full communion with God the Father once again.  Could we who have beheld the glory of the Lord revealed really consider giving a smaller proportion of our blessings than people who only looked ahead for the promise?  The story of the widow’s mite teaches us that percentage-based giving is alive and well and it remains God’s plan for His people, for us.  But most of you knew that too, didn’t you.  Okay.

Now for something you might not know—or may not always consider—about the story of the widow’s mite.  While proportional giving is certainly here in the text, the story isn’t primarily about proportional giving at all.  All those rich people putting money in the Temple treasury, undoubtedly they were giving their ten percent, as required.  They may have even been giving more than required to make a show of it.  But think about this poor widow and these rich people.  One of them could give 100 percent and not be commended by the Lord.  If we think giving gets us in good with God, then no percentage is good.  The story of the widow’s mite is not primarily about giving.

It’s primarily a story about faith.  Faith is recognizing what God has done for us in the past and trusting that God will continue to do for us in the future.  The widow in our text had so little of everything except faith.  She’d lost her husband, which in those days meant she’d lost her source of income.  Yet somehow the woman trusted God had done right by her and trusted that He would continue to do right by her in the future.

Christian giving is always a matter of faith.  Do we recognize what God has done for us in the past?  Do we trust that God will take care of us in the future?  God has given us all we have.  God has given us a Rescuer in Jesus.  Do we believe that He’ll continue to provide for us in the future?  If we trust like the widow did, our giving will be a substantial proportion too.  Christian giving is primarily a question of faith, of trusting that God will take care of us.  The widow in our text trusted God completely.  That comes into play on the last thing we want to talk about this morning.

There is one thing that no one knows about the story of the widow’s mite.  What happened to her after she gave?  No one knows.  Did Jesus help her that day?  We don’t know.  Did she starve?  Maybe.  It’s absolutely possible.  We’d like to say, “No way! God would not let her starve!”  But we don’t know that.

It’s no accident that Mark doesn’t tell us. If he did, it would ruin the story.  If he did give us some earthly happy ending, we might think that the point is that if we do what God wants, He’ll take care of us.  If we tithe, our income will go up next year.  If we commit to giving to the church, God will make sure we don’t lose our job next year.  If we obey God, He’ll be good to us.  These are all purely pagan notions about God.  The Christian faith is that God cares for us because He loves us, not because we make a deal with Him.

Mark fully intends to leave us in uncertainty about what happened to the widow because our offerings are always given in the face of uncertainty; our offerings are always an exercise of faith.  We don’t know what will happen to our jobs next year.  We don’t know we won’t get sick.  Those events are absolutely possible.  They’re always possible because God does not promise that kind of security.

What do have is a far greater security—one that is altogether certain.  Our Epistle from Hebrews reminds us, “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of man, will appear a second time… to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” (Heb 9:28)  Here’s something that’s never uncertain.  Christ is coming back for us.  The promise of eternal life with Him in the new kingdom is a certainty that every Christian can hold on to.  Jesus has secured it for us.  His death and resurrection have made it certain for all who believe.  And if we mattered to God that much, we can be certain that He will care for us every day in the meantime—somehow.

This was the faith of the widow.  Not that she’d have a meal tomorrow; she really didn’t know where her next meal was coming from or if there’d be one.  She did not have faith in the next meal, but rather faith that God would take care of her, His way.  Maybe a well-to-do widower would walk into her life tomorrow.  Maybe friends would take her in.  We don’t know the whole story and she couldn’t possible know it either.  Maybe she would starve but if so, it would be the culmination of what she’d been trusting all along: God’s perfect and unending provision and security.  This is the certainty we know even when we face uncertainty.  When God tells us He’ll take care of us, He tells us everything we need to know to face that uncertain future with faith and trust.

This is your faith.  You don’t know what’s coming next year.  But you need not give in to that uncertainty.  You know you have the Lord.  You know He has earned eternal life for you.  That’s absolutely certain.  And you know He cares for you and He will care for you in His way.

Ironically, this woman of great faith had no idea that the one she was trusting in was sitting so close to her that day.  Surely you know that the one you trust is sitting with you today and every day as you face the struggles and uncertainties of this life.  He sympathizes with you.  He truly understands financial uncertainty; His whole ministry was spent traveling, living day to day on the good graces of others.  He understands our struggles against doubt, our fear about really committing our resources to the work of the church.  He was tempted in every way, just as we are—but without never giving in.  He is with you here today, and you can be certain He’ll be with you into the future.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Sermon for All Saints’ Day — Observed

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Sermon for All Saints – Matthew 5:1-12 

Note: This sermon was adapted from one in Concordia Pulpit Resources.

Click here for mp3 audio

Grace and peace to you from God our Father the Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to an Eastern Orthodox church.  Years ago I went into one and the first thing that really struck me was the large screen that separated the altar in the chancel from the nave.  It’s covered with icons, pictures of the saints of the church, many from centuries ago.  Walking into a church like that you can almost get a physical sense of being surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.”

Lutheran churches, in fact most western churches tend to be far more, well… “restrained,” even though there were times in our history when Lutheran churches were much more enhanced by art than is typical today.  And even though in Lutheran churches our attention is supposed to be drawn to the altar where the gifts of Christ’s body and blood are given out to us, our worship services are still places where we are surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses, namely the saints of God both past and present, including all of you.  And if you’ve ever looked through the hymnal, you’ll notice that throughout the year on various dates, we commemorate saints of the past, men and women, clergy and laypeople.

Today is a little different though.  Today we observe the feast of All Saints.  You might wonder why we would have such a day on a Lutheran church calendar and whether the saints have any significance for us today.  Just to be clear, the Bible in no place suggests that we should call upon the saints or pray to them.  We don’t pray to saints because we have access to God directly through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and all people.  Yet along with all the saints in heaven, we all are sitting here today as members in the One, Holy, Christian, and apostolic Church.  Not even death can dissolve membership in this Church.  Together with them we pray to Christ, we from our side, they from the other side of eternity because we, like them, are totally dependent on the undeserved grace of Christ and the forgiveness He has promised to give freely to any repentant sinner.  And so it is that Christ Himself shows us what kind of encouragement the saints can provide and why it is good to remember them.

We remember the saints, because it frees us from relying on our own spiritual achievements, because it encourages us to grow always in faith, and because it directs us to the final goal, eternal life with Christ.

We should never rely on our own spiritual achievements.  The Gospel reading today has us witness a most impressive beatification, that is, an action that turns sinners into saints.  It is Jesus who does it.  The great crowd that has come out to hear Jesus teach becomes blessed in the hearing of His preaching.  All of these sinners are turned into saints on the green hillside along the Sea of Galilee.  To become a saint, one need not die, at least not bodily.  One is a saint when Christ calls him or her “holy.”  Being blessed is being holy.  It means something akin to belonging to God.  And you belong to God when Christ Himself declares that you belong to God; you now live in fellowship with God and will live in that fellowship with Him forever.

Christ our Lord has already said this to each and every one of you.  He called you and has made you a saint in Holy Baptism.  So all of you who have been baptized, you are all holy, you are all saints.  You did not earn this title because of the life you’ve led or even the because of the live you will live from now on.  You are holy because God Himself has called you by name, washed your sins away and claimed you as His own.  The situation on the hill in Galilee was a little different.  Jesus led those who had gathered to hear Him preach, He led them into the kingdom of heaven that day.  He didn’t do it because they were special or because they could all point to some spiritual achievement in their life or had passed some holiness test, or even a testing of their faith.  Nothing of their own qualified them to be called “blessed” by God.  Nothing, except this, that they came to Jesus with completely empty hands, that they had nothing to offer God that could have impressed Him.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  That’s how Jesus makes saints.

That’s how Jesus made you a saint and there was nothing you added to it.  Infant baptism is a tremendously powerful testimony to the belief that it is Jesus who makes holy, not the believer who makes himself holy.  There in the water, God took you to be His own child.  What counts at the end of your life is not the number of spiritual brownie points you’ve racked up.  At the end, only this counts: that you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, with completely empty hands, and beg His grace, completely for you.  And this is what we ought to be practicing in our spiritual life now: asking Christ to constantly shower us with His gifts of grace and mercy and teach us not to consider ourselves worthy of any of it.  This is what the saints who have gone before us can teach us.  In many old Lutheran churches in Germany, you can still find the old Lutheran confessional booths.  In Wittenberg, there are two of them in St. Mary’s Town Church.  On the confessional booths in this church there are depictions of the saints.  There is Peter and the rooster, David after his adultery with Bathsheba and the prodigal son.  What an encouragement these sights must have been over the centuries for those going to confession and absolution.  Behold the saints of old!  They were no better than you.  The only thing that counts is God’s forgiveness in Christ, so richly promised to all who trust in Him.  Don’t try to rely on your meager spiritual achievements.  Learn instead from the examples of Peter, David and the prodigal, and all the saints of old.  The only thing that counts is the undeserved grace of Christ Jesus.

But the saints also encourage us always to continue to grow in faith.  We all need to be reminded that becoming a saint is not another step in your spiritual career advancement; rather, it is a gracious gift of God to those who rely not on themselves.  We all need a little encouragement while we struggle in this world.  Our own Augsburg Confession puts it this way:  “We teach that we are to remember the saints so that our faith may be strengthened when we see that they received grace and how their faith helped them; and also that we take example of their good works, each according to his calling.” (AC XXI)

Did you see the same thing here in the Gospel reading?  The great crowd whom Jesus receives into the kingdom of heaven is pretty much the opposite of what most people in our society would aspire to.  Poverty is not our goal; we seek more and more possessions and wealth.  Instead of suffering we would much rather have fun.  Meekness is certainly not apparent on most people’s Facebook profile.  Instead of mercy, we choose cleverness.  And we certainly don’t want to sacrifice our lives; we do anything we can to keep them.  But let me repeat: our Lord is not issuing a new set of demands that need to be fulfilled in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Rather, He is consoling those who do not seem to fit into the kingdom of this world.  It is not you who are unfit for the God’s kingdom but those who are the leaders of this corrupted world.  When Christ invites people into His kingdom, He puts His imprint on them, empowers them to live lives that from then on follow in His footsteps.  The examples of the lives of the saints gone before us encourage us to lead the different life.  Instead of being consumed by leadership of the people of this world we are surrounded and supported in faithfulness to Christ by those who have gone on before us.

We could spend the rest of the day recounting examples of extraordinary faithfulness.  But where to start?  And probably more important, where to stop?  Let me offer just one.

In the year of our Lord 304, in the small village of Abitene in what today is called Tunisia, North Africa, forty-nine Christians gathered for their usual Sunday service.  But it was a time when the Christians were being persecuted by the Roman emperor, Diocletian, and Christians were prohibited to assemble on Sundays under threat of execution.  The group was found out while they were celebrating Holy Communion.  When they were interrogated about why they disregarded the imperial law, they answered: “We cannot live without Sunday.”  What they meant, of course, was that as Christians they could not exist without the Sunday Divine Service.  Well, the Romans were not impressed.  They tortured all forty-nine of them and then executed them.  Today some might think the forty-nine of Abitene were terribly naïve, perhaps even stupid.  Yet to my mind they give us a marvelous example of what Christians ought to consider important for nourishing their faith.  They were right: we cannot live without Sunday.

Now, we are certainly not saying that the forty-nine Christians of Abitene earned their way to eternal life by their faithful deeds.  It took tremendous strength not to back down to the Romans.  Our takeaway is that God gave them grace to remain faithful.  The Augsburg Confession is right, “We see that they received grace.”  Remembering the forty-nine of Abitene encourages us always to continue to grow in faith.

Remembering the saints also keeps us pointed toward our true goal.  Our Lord makes some amazing promises to those He calls blessed—promises that go far beyond anything that we see fulfilled in our lifetime.  Jesus promises nothing less than heaven itself to the poor in spirit, to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, to those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  And He promises never-ending consolation to those who mourn and are reviled for His sake.  They who are pure in heart shall see God.  Jesus directs our eyes to that goal at which so many before us have already arrived.  He fulfilled the promises He made in the Sermon on the Mount.  They now stand in the presence of God.  They see what they believed, participate in heaven’s unending life, and are forever consoled, and sing God’s unending praise.

Dear friends in Christ, this should be great encouragement to us to stick to it, to persevere in the faith delivered to us, never to give up or fall away, always focusing on the goal to be achieved.  Don’t let up.  Don’t be seduced by the temptation of this world or think you are too weak.  God has led the saints of old to their goal in faith; He will do the same for you.  He baptized you.  He promise is sure.  From before the throne of God today, the saints of old join our celebration today, or maybe we theirs.  We join them and the whole heavenly angelic army of God, in worship and sing, “Glory be to God on High” and “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth,” Lord God of the heavenly army of angels.  The liturgy here is part of the unceasing praise before the throne of the Lamb and the Table around which Christ Himself has gathered us today is the table of everlasting life and joy and peace, the foretaste of the great feast of heaven.

We do not walk toward the goal by ourselves, alone.  What a great comfort to us to realize we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.  Not just those we can see in the pews around us, but those who have joined our sings of praise in eternity.  “Rejoice and be glad,” Jesus said to all of those on the green hill in Galilee.  Rejoice and be glad.  You have not taken the wrong road, even though some might try to convince you otherwise, or it may, at times, even look like that to you.  You are on the right path headed to the right goal, already you are part of the kingdom of heaven.  Rejoice and be glad.  You join David and Peter and the forty-nine saints of Abitene, and the innumerable others who have gone before us.  Rejoice and be glad.  You are blessed.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.