What to do with saints

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9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat.17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”Rev. 7:9-17
Some people just go gaga over celebrities. I grew up without any sisters and my brothers weren’t much into big names. Some rock bands were considered a big deal, that’s true. My one brother once took me to a Kinks concert. If you ask me, I was too young for it, but he made sure to let me what an important and famous group they were. Real admiration for celebrities I first encountered when I was an older teenager. The young woman across and street and I would attend worship services together. She had posters of movie stars. She spoke about them as if they were friends. She followed their personal lives. It was more than a hobby for her. You had a sense that something of her own identity was wrapped up in their stories. It’s no wonder we talk about big stars as idols. They can easily become something like gods for many people.
It’s all Saints Day and we in the church have people to celebrate, too – our own celebrities, if you will – those noble people of God who have gone before us, blazing the path of following Christ, shining like stars in the pages of Sacred Scripture and all subsequent history. But we, too, need to be careful to receive the saints rightly, not as idols, but as models, not as intercessors but as inspirations.
There are two extremes we want to avoid. One is to ignore the stories of the Christians who have gone before us. In America, where we’re not particularly keen on history, this is easy to do. The problem, then, is that our Christianity boils down to you and me and the Bible and we lose all the wisdom, all the warnings, all the beauty of the works of God in and through His people between the close of Revelation and our own birth. A recent study has found that a surprising number of American Evangelicals are falling into old heresies that the saints of old denounced and defeated long ago. This is surprising because Evangelicals typically want to be conservative, orthodox believers. Nevertheless, about a quarter say that Jesus is less divine than the Father and 16% call Jesus a purely created being. Half of them think the Holy Spirit is a force and not a divine person of the Trinity. Over half say that their own effort contributes to their salvation. These are the old heresies of subordinationism, Arianism, Pneumatomachianism and Pelagianism, but the names don’t matter as much as the fact that many Christians don’t really understand what the Bible is teaching about God and salvation. One commentary lays blames an unwillingness to learn from those who have gone before us and a presumption that we can figure the Bible out all on our own. A neglect of the legacy of the believers before us leave us vulnerable to repeating mistakes of the past.
Tossing out the heritage of all the intervening centuries, we impoverish ourselves. What if the only hymns you could sing would be ones written by you yourself? Wouldn’t you feel like there are very few good Christian songs. Even if this generation were to limit itself to songs written by Christians in our lifetimes, we’d be missing out on Amazing Grace and Abide With Me and A Mighty Fortress. The vast majority of Christmas hymns would go silent, unsung. Easter would come and go without I know that My Redeemer Lives. We have saints to thank for Christian traditions in music and literature, for holidays and liturgies and more – all things we couldn’t come up with on our own, and thanks be to God, we don’t have to. The heritage of the saints is like a grand attic where our ancestors have stored away all kinds of good things. We can go up there and explore. What we find may surprise us, may delight us, may even make us ask ourselves challenging questions now and then. And we find some things which we take down and we say, “Let’s use that again. Let’s sing a Te Deum or pray Luther’s Morning Prayer or hold a Tenebrae Service on Good Friday.”
So, one extreme is to ignore the saints and to forget what they have to teach us and give us, the other extreme is to idolize them. In this same neighbor’s home, when I was growing up, I first found a card for a saint. I don’t remember if it was St. Theresa or some other. On the front was a nice drawing of the saint. On the back were the promises, made by the saint, that if you prayed to her, she would help you and you should tell others about her to give her the credit. Well, that’s what I remember of it, at least. Some nations have patron saints: Patrick supposedly takes care of Ireland; England has St. Georg; St. Andrew for Scotland; St. David, Monk and evangelist for Wales; Mary rules as the Patroness and Queen of Brazil. We go into some churches and we’ll find statues of saints and candles lit before them. There may be pictures, called icons, and we’ll see Christians approach them and kiss them. Maybe we can remember Luther’s own experience. Caught in a thunderstorm, he called out to Saint Anne to save him and made a vow that he would become a monk. Funny thing, if Luther hadn’t made that vow to the saint, he wouldn’t have spent so much time studying the Bible, he would have never discovered that God commands us to call on Him alone and trust in Him alone, he would have never argued against the dominating place that saints had been given in the hearts and minds of the people. When Luther was a professor at Wittenberg, Prince Frederick the Wise of Saxony kept his own huge collection of relics from the saints there – bits of bone and strands of hair, remnants of clothing and other items associated with them. St. Bartholomew was a particular favorite of the prince and his collection boasted five bones from his hand, one from his jaw, a couple of the saint’s teeth, six skull fragments and the entirety of his facial skin. On all Saints Day when the whole collection would be opened to the public and everyone who came would be given an indulgence –release from the penalties of sins for their devotion to the saints. That was why Luther pounded his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church the day before. It was a big holiday for indulgences granted by the merits of the saints and Luther had come to realize that this was twisting and undermining the true Christian faith. If anything, this extreme is even more dangerous than the first. It’s better not to recognize saints at all than to have them crowding out the place of Jesus as your Lord, your Savior, your helper and your friend.
So what do we do with saints? Here we are, only one week after the Reformation and we’re already going back to celebrating All Saints Day. I guess some people might wonder whether the Reformation made any difference for us after all. Are we just going back to superstition and error? Actually, I think the juxtaposition of Reformation Sunday and All Saints Day is probably a healthy reminder for us that Reformation did not mean rejection of everything that Christians had done before. Actually, we want to celebrate the Christians of the past and learn from them – but we need to receive them rightly. So, what are saints are for? Let’s just look at our first lesson, the one from Revelation, and see the answers we find there.
First John sees people from every nation under heaven standing in the presence of God and praising him. That wonderfully diverse and international crowd gives illustration of the grace of God which calls all people to faith in Christ. The saints show that God is not exclusive in His salvation, but He reaches out to you and me, other people like us and other people not like us at all. Whatever their backgrounds, whatever their origin, whatever their sins, the saints found salvation in Christ and so they have become a living demonstration of the universal grace of God for all people.
And there they stand, dressed in white robes of Christ’s righteousness, palm branches of victory in hand, and standing before God, upright, accepted and beloved. All this is the work of God for them in Christ. Here are the effects of Christ’s salvation which bear out for them and for us. Jesus has atoned for sins. Jesus has conquered sin, death and the devil. Jesus presents us spotless before the Father. And so the saints demonstrate not just the universality of grace but the power of God’s grace to accomplish what He promised. And so they sing God’s praises, shouting: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10). The saints show us what the saved then do – we glorify God for His goodness and mercy in our lives.
At this point, I feel I should point where the Bible locates the saints: they are in the presence of God, praising Him. Sometimes we call it the nearer presences of God, because we too live in God’s presence, only not quite so visibly and perceptibly. But the saints are not visiting their departed loved ones on earth. As recently as a couple weeks ago, my local paper had a story about a park bench which had been dedicated to a public servant who had died suddenly. The family commented how fitting the gift of the bench was, because he liked to walk that path with his dog. Then they went on to say that when they sat on the bench they would feel his presence and the children in the family would be close to their dad that way. The Bible never depicts departed Christians as hovering around old haunts and connecting with surviving loved ones. Rather, it says that we will see them again on the Last Day, when Christ returns, when the dead are raised and we are ushered into glory together with them. If we want to be close to our departed loved ones, I recommend that we draw close to Jesus. They are with Him. Come to Holy Communion often, where we join with angels, archangels and the whole company of heaven to praise Him.
One of the elders in the vision ask John: “Who are these? And where do they come from?” John replies, “Sir, you know.” Saints are for knowing, not ignoring, but getting to know them. The first way to honor what God has done in the lives of the believers who have gone before us is to get to know their stories, read their words, learn to pray their prayers with them, consider their poems, sing their hymns, meditate on their art. As Christians we have a large family of the faith. There are names you may know like Friedrich Schmid, the founder of this St. Thomas Church, and St. Patrick; but there are also others to get to know like Chrysostom, the world famous 5th century preacher, and Cyril and Methodius, missionaries to the Slavs, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose warm spiritual writings were endorsed by the Lutheran Reformers themselves.
Now these all praise God, standing before Him and serving Him day and night, as our Scripture text tells us today, but they have left behind wonderful and true relics, the historic remains of lives lived by faith in the grace of God in Christ Jesus. And we are truly blessed by what we can learn of them and from them. The elder in our reading describes their blessed state: God shelters them, provides for them. They know no hunger, thirst, scorching heat. Christ leads them; He shepherds them to springs of living water. God comforts them and wipes every tear from their eyes.
And here you are no different. Just like the believers of time past, God made you to love you. He created you to save you, to fill you with His Holy Spirit and to make you a glorious creature. You too are to illustrate the power of His grace and the pervasive power of His love. As St. Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 1, we have been redeemed “for the praise of His glory.” His gracious work in our lives – saving us, loving us, protecting us, blessing us, and leading us – all these works of His for us make us witnesses to the goodness of God. It’s cause for praise. As the saints praise God and extol His salvation we join in. And, God grant, through us may others too join the chorus of all the saints.

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Reformation Sermon – Everlasting Good News

Read below or download here to listen: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7uvcq2rgnoqwumq/sermon10-26-14.mp3?dl=0
Our lesson this Reformation Day is from the epistle lesson from Revelation. Since it’s short, I will read the whole in its entirety: 6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Rev. 14:6-7)
Once I was making a home visit as a pastor and the person I was visiting said something to me which really took me aback. I had been encouraging this person to return to worship at church and the response came, “If you do a Bible study on Revelation, I’ll come to that.” Again, something similar happened this summer when I was at the Fort Wayne Seminary visiting with the high school youth on retreat there. I had been invited to come back and give a lecture series in 2015, so over lunch I asked some of the youth what they’d like me to teach about next summer. The answer? Yes, again the book of Revelation. It seems nothing in the Bible excites the popular imagination like it.
Coming at the very end of the Bible, Revelation piques our curiosity, though for some it also instills a sense of fear. It’s mysterious with all its symbolic colors and numbers, its dragons and beasts and travels up beyond space to heaven and forward in time to the end of the world. But it can be scary, too, with the depictions of war and judgment, persecutions of the righteous and everlasting condemnation for the wicked. It seems that no one gets out of the book unscathed and unscarred. As it peers into the future, the options set before you are either to face death or damnation—death from the world for those who confess the name of Christ as Savior, eternal damnation from God for those who don’t. In the meantime there will be brutal wars, plagues, and environmental catastrophes.
Maybe I understand those people who would rather not hear what Revelation has to say, just leave it sealed up at the end of the Bible. After all, who needs more bad news? The newspapers already read like the fulfillment of passages from Revelation: unceasing bloody war in the Middle East; brutal dictatorship and persecution of Christians in North Korea, China and across the Arab world; the plague of AIDS and now a plague of Ebola; terrorists attacking capital cities, as we saw again in Ottawa this week.
We can understand all too well how it is that in Rev. chapter 8, we read of an eagle flying in mid-heaven and crying out “woe, woe, woe” to the earth for the judgments that are come. We can understand all too well how it is that in Rev. chapter 19 an angel invites the birds, again flying in mid-heaven, to come and feast on the flesh of the slain who lie dead after the great battle. We know woe and we are sadly familiar with scenes of countless dead. But here, between those two mid-heaven revelations, we have our reading today which strikes a different note and gives another message, a message of hope and comfort. It’s an angel flying in mid-heaven proclaiming an eternal gospel to all who dwell on earth.
As good news and bad news come and go, here is an announcement of news which is forever good. It is good news that lasts forever, good news that will make all the future of our forever good because of Jesus Christ. And it’s good news for everyone, because Jesus Christ has come to be the Savior of all people. The book of Revelation frequently portrays Him as the Lamb of God who was slain, giving His life for our lives, to atone for our sins and to buy us back to God. He is the Risen Lord who has conquered death and hell and in His name eternal life is offered to all who believe in Him. There is no condemnation for those who trust in Christ, only glory and joy in the presence of God.
And so the lectionary gives us this reading to read and listen to and learn from on Reformation Day. Even though it comes from the book of Revelation, it’s a good news announcement – and that’s what the Lutheran Reformation itself had been. Yes, there had been abuses and problems in the Roman Catholic of the day, but what Luther had truly rejoiced in and the reason why others listened to him as he preached the Scriptures was because of the good news that they found there. Judgment is coming, yes. But we need not fear it. Through Jesus Christ, we have peace with God in the forgiveness of all our sins.
Now, we can “fear God and give Him glory” as the flying angel invites us. This is exactly what a true proclamation of the Gospel brings about: that we fear God and give Him glory. Does that sound strange? How does an announcement of good news brings us to fear God? First we need to understand this “fear of God” as a true, godly reverence for our Creator, a desire to please and serve Him above all else. It is part of our keeping the very First Commandment – “have no other gods before Me,” that is, to fear, love and trust in God above all things. And our relating rightly to God in this way follows from God reconciling us to Himself through His Son. As the Psalmist states in his prayer to God: “There is forgiveness with you, therefore you are feared.” Without God’s grace and forgiveness, we would have dread of God, even hatred for God; we might want to dismiss God or ignore Him or pretend He doesn’t exist. But because we matter so much to Him that He gave us a way back Himself, because He gave us His Son to come to us and make us His children again, we now find that God and God’s will can matter to us once again. He has given us His everlasting love and mercy; we desire to please Him by honoring Him and discovering what it means to do His will.
It’s this Gospel of the forgiveness of sins freely given in Christ which also gives the greatest glory to God. Believing that Jesus died and rose to make you right with God, you are giving glory to God by acknowledging His great mercy and goodness. You are confessing His justice – that He did not simply overlook sins, but He satisfied the demands of His own righteousness by paying the wages of our sin, but in the body of His Son. You are extolling God’s wisdom. Who else but God could take a world on its way to hell, held captive by Satan and doomed to death and bring about a complete reversal? In His wisdom He accomplished a total victory, and by a bloody death upon a cross, no less. Believing the Good News, you glorify God for His truthfulness, for He has been faithful to His promises spoken of old by His prophets and you are trusting that the promises given to you now in the Name of Christ are true. Here is how we glorify God and honor Christ: throw away your guilt, rest in His love; look to your future and all eternity with confidence that God is with you and will never leave you. Glorify Him by taking Him at His word and entering into the joy that He has for you even now as you believe His everlasting good news.
So we see how wrong we can be in matters of true faith and the ways of God. When people first heard Luther proclaiming the good news He found in the Bible, they were worried. They were afraid that telling people that heaven is a free gift given to all who believe in Christ would lead to immorality in life and disregard for God. Actually, the opposite is true. Only with the announcement of the Good News do we first come to love God and want to serve Him, only with the Good News stored up in our hearts do we honor Him as the loving Savior and Lord He is. The Good News restores us to God, reconciles us and puts us in a right relationship with Him so that we can begin to respond in thanks and praise, truly worshiping Him as He deserves.
Now we have heard the angel’s proclamation of the eternal Gospel, good news given to the whole world and also to each one of us individually. And he says: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth…” We will leave this beloved sanctuary and return to our homes. The news on the television and over the radio will be as bad as ever. But in our hearts we can guard and keep this assurance. We are loved for the sake of Christ. His death is our life and His resurrection is our entrance into life eternal. This world is hastening to its end, but there is eternity which follows for those who trust in Him. For us, the future is bright because God is good and His mercy is everlasting. Thanks and praise be to God.

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Unexpected Messiah (Resignation Sermon)

Text: Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:
2 “I will go before you
and level the exalted places,[a]
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:1-7)
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St. Thomas Lutheran Church
Is. 45:1-7 Unexpected Messiah Rev. Charles Schulz

I wonder if Cyrus ever read the Bible passage before us today. He was the King of Persia who expanded his empire to embrace all the empires and kingdoms of the Middle East. Perhaps he rode as a conquering general down the streets of Babylon and he set up his court in the old imperial palace. The Babylonians had been the ones who had deported Jews. The prophets explained that their devastating work had been a judgment of God on his people for not obeying his Word and worshipping him faithfully. Part of the Babylonian program to control their conquered subjects was to break their will for resistance by deporting them en masse to foreign lands. Now Cyrus was the new king. Imagine him in regal splendor, royal robes, attendants and dignitaries, golden crown, jewels and tapestries. Some of his new subjects request an audience. Before him are led some of the elders of the Jewish community and with them they carry a large scroll, a hundred years old or more. They read the Hebrew from the prophet Isaiah and translate it: “Thus says the Lord to Cyrus, His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him…”
Cyrus’ full title was The Great King, King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, and King of the Four Corners of the World. I think that about covers it, doesn’t it? But the passage before us give him one more title, one more important than all the rest: the anointed to God, or we might say Messiah, which means the same thing. He’s the only non-Jew the Bible addresses in this way. He’s not only a non-Jew, but a non-believer. Neverthless, God was equipping him and empowering him by His Holy Spirit to conquer. It was a divine plan that was unfolding as Cyrus’ troops marched from Mesopotamia to the borders of India and from there to the border of Egypt and up through all of what we now call Turkey. His new lands included the Jews deported from their homeland and that homeland itself – God’s Promised Land. It was God’s timing that they should go home and Cyrus the Great was God’s agent to accomplish that purpose. God’s people had learned their lesson and now they were to be restored. Cyrus published his edit of restoration, even commanding that the temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt: We can find it copied in the Bible – so important that it’s copied in 2 places—at the end of 2 Chronicles and again in the beginning of the book of Ezra: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him and let him go up!’” (2 Chron. 36:23)
Here we see all the elements of God’s anointing: The Word calls him, the Spirit empowers him, God equips him for a purpose and it’s God’s saving purpose in the world. The Jews will go back to their homeland and there the Messiah of the world is to be born. Jesus will come and teach and preach and heal. He will be filled with the Spirit to conquer not nations but the devil’s domain. He will give His life as a sacrifice to wipe away sin and by His resurrection He will establish His own everlasting kingdom. Cyrus will come with great might and earthly pomp and glory but he will go the way of the world. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But Jesus would come with humility and through his death lead the way to heavenly glory.
For many people in Jesus’ day, he was a surprising Messiah, too. Just as Cyrus was an unexpected instrument of God’s plan restore of His people, the coming of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth. He was not the Messiah they were expecting, but He was the Messiah God had sent.
And that’s just like you. You’re an unexpected messiah – maybe you don’t think of yourself as such. Still, you have been anointed. We don’t usually call ourselves christs or messiahs, but we do dare to say about the same thing when we accept the title “Christian” –a little anointed one, under Jesus our Big Anointed One, but we are anointed all the same. From your Baptism, you have the Spirit of God. You are empowered for God’s saving purposes in the world. You won’t issue decrees to send people back to their homeland, but you can proclaim Christ’s salvation which is their way back to their heavenly Father and their entrance into an eternal home of bliss. Granted, your name isn’t spelled out in the Bible like Cyrus’ was. Even Jesus was foretold to be called “Immanuel” by this same prophet Isaiah, but by faith you have learned to hear God’s call through the pages of Scripture. These passages have your name written all over them: “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:38-39); and “You shall be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8). That’s you: Baptized, Spirit-filled, promise-given, witnesses of Jesus.
Together as members of this congregation, too, you have been anointed for God’s saving purposes in this community. The Word read and preached calls you; the Spirit empowers you; God sends you into works of proclaiming the salvation of Christ and sharing His love. By God’s Spirit, we worship here in the Spirit of holiness and we invite our community to praise our God with us. Here the Bible is studied and children are taught. Here we care for one another and we grow in love. Our largest mission work, of course, is the child care center. With the blessing of God, every week, we love 20 children in the name of Jesus and share His saving grace with them and their families. Only with God’s anointing and the power of His Spirit could we get to this place. By God’s mercy, we own property visible on a main road which has been fit to meet all the state standards for licensing. (Those who were involved in this project may remember that this was no simple task). God has sent us an excellent director, who not only works as a professional of the highest caliber in her field but she integrates her work with the mission of God and of our church, keeping her focus on drawing people to the knowledge and love of God in Jesus Christ. We have staff who love the children in their care. After some initial bumps in our start-up, God has given us a good reputation in the community, so that people hear of our center as a place of quality and safety and care. And this mission has you, who through your contributions and your prayers, your time and your talents you can move this work forward. You are key to connecting this mission more effectively to the congregation, bringing people from 8753 Pleasant Lake to 10001 Ellsworth Road, as you yourselves go to the center at Pleasant Lake, as you welcome the people who come here, as you invite people here.
I hope and pray that each one of you take your anointing personally. I hope you understand that God’s Spirit has been given to you for a good purpose, a mighty purpose and I pray that you grow in receiving and exploring and fulfilling that purpose. Discerning your own calling from God is always a very personal task, one which each one of us much take up for ourselves. Nine and a half years ago, you were God’s instrument in calling me to fulfill God’s purposes with you here at St. Thomas. You prayed for a pastor whom God would raise up, equip with His Spirit and empower for His work. On June 25, 2005, we had an installation service here. It was a hot day, but for me a day I will always remember and cherish. It was the very beginning of my work as a parish pastor. A number of pastors came to participate. The congregation turned out in full force. Community members appeared. I received God’s anointing to be your pastor and together we have labored together and accomplished a great deal here. I am convinced that St. Thomas is more ready than ever to march into the future that God has planned. And even as I am convinced that God has great work yet for this congregation to do, I have also been reflecting on my own call here. I have become convinced that I am no longer to be part of this work here. Just as Cyrus was called to extend a kingdom over the Middle East and not really to the four corners of the world and just as even the Lord Jesus knew when the work of his earthly ministry was done and it was time for Him to ascend to the Father, no leader is called to do everything and certainly not forever. At peace that my work here is done, I am announcing my resignation as your pastor, to be effective in one month on Nov 15.
This conviction came as a surprise to me, as I’m certain it does to you today. For years I felt that I had effectively negotiated the balance between my service here, my work at the university, and my own family life. There were times when the days were hard and the hours were long, but I was constantly renewed by God’s Spirit to continue moving forward, trying again, meeting new challenges and starting new initiatives. By God’s Spirit, I both had the energy and the zeal for the work. It was an amazing experience which surprised me that I could always move forward and I had this sense that I must move forward in my service to you and St. Thomas and God’s mission here. It is now so that perceive that the Spirit is telling me that my work here has been brought to its conclusion. God has accomplished the things He has intended to do through me – though often in spite of myself. In the areas of teaching and preaching and reaching out and leading, what abilities the Holy Spirit has given me have been put to good use here. I have been challenged and I have been stretched and grown. Still, there are limits to what I can do. I recognize that this is God’s timing for another man to lead you, someone with other gifts and strengths who can lead you and serve you and bless you in new ways.
The timing may seem sudden, one month’s notice seems short to me too, but I believe it’s good. Both on the congregational level and the district level in our church, this is the time of planning for next year. It will be best for you to make your plans without me, as the Spirit directs you, for the ministry here is yours as you follow God’s call.
As the Lord raised up Cyrus, the Lord will raise up another leader to guide you forward. And the Lord Jesus Himself, your true Messiah, remains here as always in your midst with all the blessings and gifts He ever gave: His Word proclaimed, His Holy Sacraments given and poured out, His Spirit who equips you and empowers you to work together for your common goals in God’s mission here.
I know that every change that life brings has its challenges. Lots of questions arise. Let us put aside our fears. Trusting our Lord, we can be confident that God will provide a way. Hundreds of years before the birth of Cyrus, God had called Cyrus by name and recorded it in Holy Scripture. God already knows what leadership He has planned for St. Thomas. He has good in mind for His ministry to continue here and to grow and to flourish. You have a great deal of potential – more than my labors can work to realize – but God will fulfill his purposes for you as you faithfully follow Christ our Lord.

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All Saints Chorale Service and Potluck

Nov. 2, All Saints Sunday, St. Thomas has the privilege of worshiping together with the Concordia University Women’s Chorale. Our 10 a.m. service will be adorned with their beautiful music, and then we will invite them and the whole community to a potluck in the church fellowship hall. It will be a joyful day. Please consider joining us in this celebration of All Saints Day. If a loved one was called home during the past 12 months, this service also has an opportunity for remembering them before God with a toll of the bell for each name recited. Please see Pastor before service if you have a name you’d like to include.

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Parable of the wedding feast

Text (Matt 22:1-14):
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants[a] to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Listen by downloading here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/akqgjwbsv1pf389/sermon%2010-12-2014.mp3?dl=0

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