30 September 2014
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11 September 2014
09 September 2014
08 September 2014
Saint Paul Lutheran Church
The Divine Service of Rededication
September 7, 2014
St. Luke 19:1-10
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, the eternal Son of God comes to dwell with sinners. He comes to this house, to be present according to the promises of His Word to forgive, bless, relieve, comfort, guide, sustain, redeem, and save His people. He comes to seek out the lost and save them. This is what he does always. He comes to a house made with hands and He makes it a place of salvation by His presence, by His words. 83 years ago our fathers and mothers in the true faith gathered in this Church for the first time and dedicated it as the house and temple of God, invoking the Name of the Blessed Trinity. They prayed that here He would dwell and be present for them and for us who would come after them. Today, we rededicate this house, asking the same thing, we wish to see Jesus here, to have Him come to this house and save us, forgive us, be our guest and our host and he does just that. And for him to do it for those who come after us. He said, “Today salvation has come to this house…for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” And he does it.
Last year on November 10th, it was a Sunday like most, except of course it was the Sausage Supper day. The Word of God was preached, the Sacrament was administered and right after Church the pastor took a quick nap before heading out to the fry shed. Then we learned how quickly something that you think you can hold onto can be taken away from you. Many of you had been coming to this Church your entire life, and very quickly it was taken away. Well, the building was renovated, restored, but it was gone, for a while. Buildings burn, they deteriorate, eventually they fall. They can be built up again, made beautiful again as we see today. But if Jesus is not here, not present, not preached, not believed then it wasn’t worth restoring. But Jesus is here, and He comes even without our asking, just like He did with Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was yearning for a vision of the Lord Jesus, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Zacchaeus, was a rich man; rich off of the taxes of others. Why would he need to see Jesus? Because he was a sinner and he knew it. And here is where Jesus does what only he can do, something that would seem to be rude, as you shouldn’t invite yourself to someone’s house. That is just what Jesus does though, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Why must Jesus go there to that house, because the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Zacchaeus. You. And so He comes here. To this beautiful place, to this house. And like Zacchaeus, we receive Jesus joyfully. For where Jesus is, there is the Father and the Holy Spirit. Undivided God. Holy, Holy, Holy, Heilig, Heilig, Heilig, as they used to say here. Here comes God, to this place, to save and forgive sinners, you.
But what of the grumbling? “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who was a sinner”. Well that is what Jesus has come to do, to be the uninvited guest, to be near sinners, and that is what you have to understand and believe. He comes to this house as the one who serves sinners, and you need to understand and believe that you need him, not just on Christmas or Easter, or on a day like today. You need Him always. If you were honest with yourself you would understand and believe this. You simply cannot hide from God the things you have done against Him and His commands. Those who were grumbling about Jesus going to the house of a sinner, could not imagine that they would need Jesus to seek and save them. They could not be honest with themselves, examine themselves and see their great need of salvation. This is what you are to do, examine yourself and see what is in your heart is wretched, and see how you have rejected the true God by your thoughts and deeds, by your words things said, and also things not said that needed to be. Zacchaeus had no problem understanding and believing he was a sinner, he even told Jesus that He was. He had stolen. Jesus sees that Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham through faith in Him because what sinners need above all is Him.
And what you need is Him to offer Himself for you as a sinner. This is what He did. He went to the cross, without grumbling, not condemning the world that rejected Him, but saving the world by dying. Saving you by dying. This is why He came of course, to die for you. Salvation comes through His death and his house for but a few days was a tomb. But He is out of the prison house of death. It could not hold him, and the prison house of death cannot hold you, it cannot hold those who 83 years ago dedicated this house and now are at rest in the grave. Someday like the blessed dead who have been buried from here, you will be in your casket right here, and then placed in the cemetery down the road, but you will not be lost in death. Jesus lives to save.
He lives to save you, to save you from the prison house of death. He lives to seek you out in your sins and now he brings you to this house, drawn by His Spirit, to be forgiven here, to be saved here through preaching and His word, saved here by eating His body and drinking His blood. Saved here together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, joined together as one Body with Christ as the head of us all. Living in a house made with hands, made beautiful again after fire, to live together waiting for the day when we with the blessed dead who lived here once will be joined together again in house not made with hands, in the new heaven and the new earth, the holy city, the new Jerusalem. For behold the dwelling place of God is with men. It is now, here. It will be there, when he wipes away every tear from our eyes and there will be no mourning or crying or pain anymore for the former things will pass away. There will be a day when this house will no longer stand, fire will come upon the earth, but listen to what Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new”. This house is new again, but soon, even better, all the people of God in Christ Jesus will be in His Father’s house, prepared by Jesus Himself through His death and resurrection. And then you will no longer find Him by His Word of promise, then you will no longer be a sinner at all, but resurrected and alive, with Him, His Father’s house, brought together by the Spirit, to live, not lost, but found and saved with every tear wiped away, with no pain, but alive with Him. And you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.
07 September 2014
So the old temple that Solomon, Son of David, dedicated in Jerusalem was a connecting place of sorts. There earth could come up to touch heaven for a bit, there sinners could flee to find sacrifices of blood with promise of forgiveness, there petitioners could address their requests to the God who is like no other, the God who keeps covenant and shows steadfast love to those who walk before Him with all their heart, there earthly hymns mingled with heavenly ones. And it was a beautiful place. Adorned with the skills of men working their utmost for His highest. Every bit of art and music shouting out: Holy, holy, holy!
And yet, people loved by God, majestic and awesome as Solomon’s temple was, it pales in comparison to THIS house whose rededication it is our joy to celebrate today. Yes, for between that temple and this, came great Solomon’s greater Son, building the grand temple of His body, the Church. A temple that would not stand for a few measly years only to be swept away in a time of war and bloodshed. A temple, instead, built of living stones. Of sinners whose sins have been covered by the blood of the One sacrifice, the offering of Christ upon His cross, a fragrant offering, acceptable to His Father. And in this sacrifice to end all blood sacrifices, wiping out a world’s sin, the cornerstone of this majestic new temple of God was laid. Cross and resurrection, a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense, but the one who hopes in the crucified and yet risen Lord shall NOT be put to shame. By His Spirit He has enlivened stone upon stone, person upon person, sins wiped out in His blood, His Spirit uniting hearts to Him in faith, and to each other in love, and so the temple grows in majesty through the centuries. Lives linked to the Savior’s undying life. One holy Church, the Body of Christ. You and me part of it.
And so to THIS temple, to this place, which is the inverse of Solomon’s temple. There, you remember, the holiest place was sealed off by the curtain and only with the blood of atoning sacrifice could the high priest ever enter, and only once a year, to obtain that forgiveness for which the people yearned. But behold the open arch. Behold heaven itself come down to you, born for you of the Virgin, crucified for you on the tree of the cross to cover your sin and pouring out on you in Baptism and through His Words the gift of the Spirit, building you into His house. And above all behold the altar. Have you missed it as much as I have this year? I think you have. Here the one offering that was upon the cross for the wiping out of the world’s sins, all yours and all mine, here it is ceaselessly given to us. The body and blood that opened heaven and made it our home again. In Solomon’s temple, yearning earth reached up to touch heaven. But here Holy heaven, with overflowing joy, gushes forth to touch earth.
Solomon’s temple could point forward to the age of grace and picture it in some ways. But it was nowhere near as great as this place, this beautiful place two miles north of Hamel IL where Solomon’s greater Son continues His temple building in your life. Here you may gather every week around the sacrifice of God’s Lamb and He, alive and never to die again, your Great High Priest delights to impart to you His Body and Blood that heaven and earth cannot contain and yet who was contained in the Virgin’s womb for you, on Calvary’s tree for you, and on this lovely altar and so in your mouths, in your hearts, in your lives.
A God who is everywhere is not much different than a God who is nowhere. But YOUR God is somewhere. He is here as He promises and it is He and His presence which is the true adornment that all the beauty and the art and the music proclaim. For you see, this truly is an awesome place. It truly is the house of God and the gate of heaven, because here is Your Jesus. For you. Amen.
Following the liturgy, we gathered for a picture on the steps of the Church. Picnic followed, with bouncy house for kids, with pastor in the dunking booth, with St. Paul's usual barrage of food. After visiting for a bit, I came home and enjoyed a few hours of quiet.
The Evening Prayer liturgy wrapped up the day and I was blessed to stand again in that old pulpit, but as a guest pastor. It's not my pulpit anymore and it was the oddest sensation to be far, far more at home up in the balcony singing with choir than standing in front and serving there. St. Paul's is my beloved home congregation and I cannot thank God enough for the pastors he has sent us: Pastor Ball and Pastor Gleason continue to provide us one joy after another. But truly the better part is to sit with Mary at the feet of Jesus and soak up the gifts rather than serving the gifts out. I remember years ago when my friend Lee Maxwell had cancer and had to step aside from the pulpit. He said the same thing to me: actually, nothing beats receiving the gifts. He was right. Nothing does.
We ended the day lingering at the bonfire with a bright autumn moon shining down on us and the noise of children running and playing and feasting on s'mores. A blessed, blessed day indeed.