Monday, January 27, 2020

January 25-27, 2020 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Mark 12:41-44 “JESUS IS WATCHING!”


STEWARDSHIP 3

January 25-27, 2020

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Mark 12:41-44



“JESUS IS WATCHING!”



Mark 12:41-44  Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”



“Jesus is watching!” That’s what a burglar heard as he entered a house one night through an unlocked patio door. “Jesus is watching!” His plan had been to grab whatever valuables he could and get out but the small high pitched voice made him pause. “Jesus is watching!” He looked around and saw no one. Maybe he had imagined it. So he continued searching. About 5 minutes later he heard the voice again "Jesus is watching." He turned his flashlight in the direction of the voice and he saw a parrot. Relieved he said to the parrot "What is your name?" The parrot replied "Moses." The robber then said "What kind of silly people would name their parrot Moses?" The parrot looked up and said "The same people who named their pitbull Jesus!" Now some of you may have heard that joke before. I got it first in one of the email forwards from a member when I was in Texas. It brought a smile to my face to see it again in Forward in Christ, the magazine of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Then Synod President Karl Gurgel had used it in an article. Jesus is watching. What comforting news it is that wherever we go Jesus is with us. What uncomfortable news that is to realize that all the things we try to hide from other people Jesus sees. Jesus is watching!

And Jesus was watching. As you heard Mark tell us in the Gospel lesson, Jesus was watching something else. Jesus was watching people bring their offerings. What surprises us here is how blatant he was about it. He didn’t peek to see if the person next to him in the pew put something in or try to see what numbers were written on their envelopes. Jesus blatantly sat down and watched people what people put in as their offerings. What might surprise you even more is when Jesus did this. It was Tuesday of Holy Week. He has precious little time with His disciples before He will die and rise and then ascend to heaven for good. Surely he had better things to be doing! Watch for a place to hold the Passover, Jesus, so you can bless us with the Lord’s Supper. Watch your back, Jesus! They are plotting your death. Watch what people give? It’s un-American, unLutheran at least. But Jesus was watching. He sets His priorities, not us. This was important to Him.

What did He see? “Many rich people threw in large amounts.”  That isn’t out of the norm. We expect that those who have more should give more. That’s actually Biblical. In Luke 12:48 Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” That makes sense. What Jesus saw next did not. “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.” I don’t know if you can see this, but this is what she gave. Two of these. Can you imagine the thoughts of the disciples who were watching with Jesus when He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” What, Jesus are you crazy? She just put in the bare minimum she could get by with for the Temple tax. The only way she could have done worse is by giving one or nothing. How could she have put in more than all the others? Jesus explained. “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Ah, so what was Jesus really watching? He was watching people’s hearts. What he saw was a bunch of people giving to God what they would not miss. They were giving large amounts but they had plenty more to live on. The widow was different. She didn’t offer to God her best. She gave her all. She wasn’t giving to God the frosting on the cake because she didn’t have any cake. She gave her bread money, her milk money. All she had to live on.

          If you were one of the disciples there what would you have told her? I know what my heart would prompt me to say and do. “Ma’am, keep that. You need it. I have plenty. Let me pay for you. God knows your heart. He knows what you want to do. Keep what you have for yourself. You need it more than the Temple and the priests.” You’d say that too, right? But you know, if we had done that we would have robbed her of the very thing Jesus was commending her for, complete and utter trust in God. She made no excuses for herself. She would bring her portion even when that meant giving her all. She trusted God and His ways fully. Jesus knew that because Jesus was watching her heart.

          Wow! That is humbling. I have to honestly admit I don’t think I could do what she did. What am I saying? I haven’t even though I could and have no plans to. I have no plans to have one massive rummage sale and empty all my bank accounts to give it to God to use in this church or any other. I’m guessing I’m not alone in that. Hats off to the widow woman. What do you think happened to her? You kind of want a Paul Harvey “And that’s the rest of the story.” Did she go to her spot near the city wall to wait for the hunger to pass and weakness to lead to the sleep that would take her to heaven? Did the Lord turn her life around and send a Boaz to rescue her from poverty? Was every day a day where with delight and amazement she discovered how the Father gave her daily bread in a brand new way? We aren’t told. I have my own ideas. But at some point earthly life ended and this poor widow woman became as rich as anyone can be. Why? Because of Jesus. You heard what God had the Apostle Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus gave up all, the glory and riches of heaven. He became poor, one of us, so that by living His life for us and giving His life for us we will one day be the richest people in the universe, co rulers with Christ, whatever that means. This is going to happen not because we are so good at living the Christian life, not because of anything we do or can do. It has nothing to do with our offerings to God. It’s a gift through faith in Jesus Christ.

          Now, friends, Jesus is watching. He’s watching our hearts. Has what He has done for us changed them in any way? Does His sacrifice mean something to us so that we want to live for Him and not for ourselves? Jesus is watching, every area of our life and yes that means He is watching our giving. Today we conclude this year’s stewardship emphasis and yes, it’s been all about money, only not, if you’ve been listening. Let’s review what we learned. We learned that giving what is precious to you is a meaningful way to show LOVE. God so loved He gave Jesus. His one and only Son. We love God so we give what is precious in our society, money. We learned that firstfruit giving, giving to God right away when we get paid or receive income instead of waiting to see what bills come and giving to God our leftovers each month shows TRUST. We learned that proportionate giving, a percentage of our income cheerfully and joyfully given shows HONOR.

          The question before all of us here is so now what? This whole series was designed to have you think about why and how you give offerings to God instead of doing it mindlessly, casually, because you have to or because the church is behind in the budget. It was designed to help you grow in your Christian living so that you can cheerfully give in a way that shows love, trust and honor for God loves a cheerful giver. If your way of giving already reflects that, great, keep it up, put your money where your heart is. If for whatever reason this has not been something you do here is an invitation, try it! “Hey Mikey, he likes it!” Many of you remember that memorable commercial for Life cereal. You, too young people, pull out your phones after service and google it. Three brothers are around the kitchen table. Two older ones are trying to decide whether they want to try this new cereal called Life. They decide to make Mikey try it first because he hates everything. Lo and behold Mikey tries it and starts devouring the cereal. “Hey Mikey, he likes it!” Just had to try it first.

          In your service folders you see an example of what will be coming to you in letter form soon. It’s a 10 for 10 invitation. It invites you to deliberately and purposefully consider why you give and what you give. 10% is a suggestion. Doesn’t have to be that. You could be like the widow and give 100%. You could be like Zacchaeus and try 50%. You could follow Bible greats like Abraham and Jacob who long before there was an Old Testament law called tithing, on their own, felt that amount would show God honor and thanks. You can pick 5% or something else. Do you know what the average American gives away for all charities combined? Around 2.5% of their income.  I guess I’ve never thought  that what an average American would do is good enough for my God. I believe that you too want to do better than average for our Lord. For Chris and myself we like giving 10%. It gives us joy. We feel it honors God. The math is easy too. We started that when we were first married and had a double income with no kids. And God always took care of us and we had what we needed and more. We continued when we had a single income with kids at home. God still took care of us, gave us what we needed and more. Double income with kids at home. Same story. Double income with kids pretty much on their own. All we need and more. That’s stayed the same even though the amount of our income changed vastly. Jesus has been watching--over us. He watches over you too. Chris and I have decided we will make an increase for 10 weeks and make the math harder. Each of you will need to decide for yourselves. No matter what you decide, heaven is your home. Jesus made sure of that. Whatever you decide make sure it comes from heart that loves God, trusts God, honors God. That’s what Jesus is watching for. Amen.


Friday, January 24, 2020

January 19th, 2020 Pastor Waldschmidt


What Really Matters is Knowing The Master
Matthew 25:14-30  “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I’ve done my best to hide it but I’m very much fashioned challenged.  I have to ask my wife or my daughters if this shirt looks ok with these pants.  Does this tie match?  With a big barrel of mismatched socks at home, I sometimes just grab a pair of those and sneak out of the house.  I have to ask my wife because otherwise even more, I just would not look right.  Our God is a God of order.  He created things to look right and be right.  In Jesus’ parable about servants there is something that just doesn’t look right.  Something in the response of one of the servants that just doesn’t look right.  It doesn’t fit the master.  The other two servants know the master and knowing the master makes all the difference. 
Jesus tells the story of a man who went away on a journey.  He put his servants in charge of his finances.   He gave one of his servants 5 bags of gold and another servant two bags of gold of gold and another 1 bag of gold.  Two of servants got busy right away and put the master’s money to work.  They invested it.  One of the servants was a lazy servant.  He buried the bag of gold he had been given in the back yard. 
Then the master came back home and asked his servants how things had been going.  The man who had been entrusted with 5 bags of gold  brought the 5 more he had gained and the same with the man who had been given 2 bags of gold to take care of.  He brought 2 more.  They heard the master’s praise , ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
All three of the servants were entrusted with a lot of money, just like God has entrusted us with many things.   The Lord is always serious about how we manage what he entrusts to us. Seven times in the New Testament Jesus repeated that hell is a place of eternal darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth for those who rebel and turn away from God. The wicked servant’s rebellion was not dealing drugs with the master’s money or funding people who do nasty stuff.   It was doing nothing—not using God’s gifts for God’s glory.  His rebellion was… “Leave me alone so I can do what I want!” 
My little sinful mind likes to think that I’m the 5 bag of gold guy or maybe the 2 bag guy- using the gifts God has given pretty well.  But then I hear the lazy servant talk and I hear his voice in my throat.  Maybe it’s that he is just kind of coming of with excuses for his laziness.  I knew you were a hard man master.  I didn’t want to mess it up and besides you gave that other guys more money for investing- no wonder they did well.”  If we have a nice place to live, a nice car to drive, and maybe even a nice TV to watch, that’s not wrong or sinful at all. Those are gifts from God, thank God for them, and take good care of what God has given you. But also take inventory of every good thing he’s given you and figure out the answer to this question: How much of what God has given you have you buried in the ground of self-advancement or self-enjoyment rather than directing every gift you’ve been given toward the glory of God and the good of others? The first commandment that requires perfect love for God buries us in guilt that goes way over our heads.  The excuses might be different but the fact remains.  We haven’t, I haven’t always used God gifts well and to his glory. 
Here’s the thing about those two faithful servants. They weren’t perfect. They were sinners, too. But their story started long before their master went on a journey and entrusted them with bags of gold. There was something that was already firmly in place, something that had been created inside them, so that when they were given that money and the master traveled abroad, the first and only thing they could think to do was to devote themselves to activities and projects that would be pleasing to him when he returned. What do you think that something was?  They knew their master cared about them.  That love drove them to devote themselves so completely to working for him while he was gone. Of all the things they could ever have had for themselves, hearing “well done” from him was better than anything. The master’s great love was also what the wicked servant was missing.   Isn’t that something that imperfect sinful servants like us know too?
The master showed his great loved for us when Jesus took our place in the spot where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Before you were born and before he created all things, God the Father had already made that choice of love. On Good Friday he acted on that choice. The thick, unbreakable cords of perfect and eternal love that bound the Father to the Son—God the Father sliced through those cords, severed them, and dropped his beloved Son into the torturous, darkness of God forsakenness. Even in that hell of hells, with the guilt of everyone counted against him, Jesus did not gnash his teeth in anger against God. In silent suffering he was condemned and  died for you. Your Father in heaven kept you and me … and cursed his Son.  You know the master’s love. 
God has given us so many gifts and talents including the treasure of his son worth far more than gold or silver.  As we try to use his gifts faithfully what really matters is knowing the Master. Love is what’s in his heart for you. Let it be love that is in your heart for him.  Let it be that love that love that moves us more and more to put God’s gifts to us to God’s glory.  History people might know that on September 22, 1776, Captain Nathan Hale had been discovered and arrested as a spy, and he was due to be hanged on a British gallows. The Captain rather famously stated, “I only regret, that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Knowing God’s love for us isn’t that a good thing for us to have in our hearts? —It’s too bad that I have only this one life that I can live for God!  

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

January 11-13, 2020 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Haggai 1:1-11 “GIVING TO GOD JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!” (OR DOES IT?)


STEWARDSHIP 1

January 11-13, 2020

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Haggai 1:1-11



“GIVING TO GOD JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!”

(OR DOES IT?)



Haggai 1:1-11 “In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest: 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.’” 3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” 7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”



          “It just doesn’t make any sense.” We say that quite a bit, don’t we? Oh there are plenty of things in life that do makes sense. Like 1+1=2. When things follow a predictable pattern. When Lucy crouches to hold the football and pulls it again. What were you thinking Charlie Brown? But there are many others that do not. He was such a good kid, from a good family. How did he get hooked on heroin? It doesn’t make sense. She took such good care of herself, worked hard, ate right and she had a heart attack? It doesn’t make sense.

           It seems that the Old Testament people of God at the time of the prophet Haggai had one of those going on. Giving to God, doing His work first. That didn’t make sense to them. At least the way they lived showed that was what they believed. Roughly around 535 BC, after 70 years of captivity in far off Babylon God brought some of the people back. The Holy City of Jerusalem looked like a ghost town, walls and gates broken down and crumbling, the Temple a heap of rubble overgrown with weeds. But God had brought them back for a purpose, to rebuild and they started with gusto. They rebuilt the walls of the city. They set up a new altar on the Temple Mount. Soon they would lay the foundation for a new temple.

          But you know how people are. Soon they lost interest in the Temple project God gave them to do first. There were other things that it made more sense to do first. They needed their own homes to live in. They needed to be busy planting crops and gathering food to eat. That makes sense. You have to take care of yourself first. How could they be expected to do the work God wanted them to do if their own lives were a mess? How could they spend precious time and shekels building God’s house when their families were growing. I don’t think “Happy wife, happy life” is a new saying. Once everything was right at home, then they could turn their attention to God’s work and you know God is God. What does He need a house for and if He wants one, can’t He just build it Himself? Giving to God didn’t make much sense.

          Well it was 15 years later that God stepped in to help them. “Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” 7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

          The problem was not with God’s abilities. He could most certainly rebuild the Temple Himself and a better one that human hands could make. The problem was with the hearts of the people. No human being can be complete unless their heart is at rest with God. And no heart can be at rest when it is putting God in second place. There is a reason the First Commandment is the first. No other gods. No other number ones. Not self. Not others. God did not give that commandment for His good but for the good of people. He knows how He made them. He knows their real need. So God helped them. He showed them that putting God second does not make sense. You worked so hard and you have nothing. The same God who can make five loaves of bread and two small fish feed thousands made thousand of  bushels of grain feed no one. The same God who made clothes and shoes last 40 years while the children of Israel wandered in the desert made clothes wear out way too soon. As they worked hard to increase their income for themselves God worked harder to increase their expenses so in the end they had nothing. God is God. He knows what’s best for His people. He helps them. Even when He has to hurt them to do so. He could not let them go on putting their faith life with God last. This would eventually lead to unbelief and Hell. He loved them too much for that to happen. So He used Haggai to call them to repentance. It worked. Then, when their hearts were right, their priorities were too.

          That’s why giving to God does make sense, great sense. And it’s all about what’s going on in our hearts. Let’s review why. At our Christmas Eve service we rejoiced to know that God so loved us. How did we know? Say this passage with me. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” How do we know God loves us? He gave. What did He give? What was most precious to Him. His one and only Son. Jesus. Giving to God makes sense because it is a meaningful way to show we love God. We have to be honest here. Money is precious to us. Not because we like copper, tin and zinc or special paper with green ink but because money allows us to live comfortably, eat well and have fun. Things we value. Now read the next passage. “We love because he first loved us.” Since the measure of love is giving what is precious to you, giving to God makes sense. It shows we love God.

          It’s also a way to show trust. Read this passage with me. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits from your entire harvest.” You notice that the manner in which we give to God demonstrates how we honor Him. He says give firstfruits. Now, talk about not making sense. Because we live in an urban and not rural community and a money based rather than agrarian economy we might miss something here. First fruits are exactly what they sound like. The first and best part of your harvest or your calves or your lambs. Now try to think like a farmer. Start in winter. You have been living off of last year’s harvest. It feeds your family. You barter with it to get other things you need. Spring comes. You plant some of last year’s harvest. You continue to eat down and spend down what’s left in your barn all spring and all summer until nothing is left. Now it is fall. The first part of the harvest is ready. What should you do with it? Store it up in the barn of course, just in case something happens to rest of the harvest. You pay yourself first. Just about every non Christian financial advisor will tell you that. Save for yourself first. That makes senses. You save the best of the calves and the lambs for yourself because when they breed they are likely to have better offspring. It makes sense to keep the first and best for yourself…if you are all about yourself. If you don’t trust God to be the one to give you a full and bountiful harvest. If you don’t trust that God will give you more and better lambs and calves. Giving to God first makes sense, if you trust Him. That’s what it’s all about. When God’s people who farmed gave the first part of the harvest they showed they trusted God would provide the rest. When God’s people who raised cattle gave their best animals they showed they trusted God would provide them even more healthy animals. When God’s people who work regular jobs and get regular checks give the honorable portion they have decided on as the first check written it shows they trust Him for the rest of the week or month. Firstfruit giving, not leftover giving, does make sense because it shows we trust God.

          Let’s go to our next passage. Say it with me. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” God so loved He gave. We love Him so we give. If you are an average member and your weekly connection to St Jacobi is the weekly worship services and special worship services you might wonder why it costs 1.4 million dollars to operate this place and that does not count building expansion expenses. You do some quick math on your giving to God at St Jacobi and you could come off feeling you are getting ripped off. And you are, if you only care about yourself. But if you actually want to try to love others as yourself then you care that other people get visited even though you don’t need to. You care that others get Biblical counseling even though you don’t need it. You care that others are getting Bible class time even though you don’t want to. If you want to try to love others you care that children are carefully trained in God’s Word so they can continue to be the salt and light that America needs.  You care whether they are your children or not. You actually consider all the children to be yours. And what about the additional $180,000 we plan to give to Missions? That shows love to people we will never even see until heaven. Giving to God does make sense because it shows we love others.

          And finally if you are really money smart giving to God really makes sense. Those who are considered money smart in America will tell you to invest for your future. Put money away early and often so you will have plenty for later in life. I have a question for you. Let’s say you have $100,000 in investments right now. How much do you think it will be worth in 50,000 years? How much good will it do you? Let’s look at what God says. Read with me what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21. “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Treasures in heaven. Eternal investments. What are they? People. Only people last to heaven. Brothers and sisters giving to God makes great financial sense when the money we give is used to spread the Gospel. Where the Gospel is proclaimed the Holy Spirit goes to work. Where the Spirit works there will be believers. Those are treasures in heaven. Giving to God does make sense because it helps us store up treasures in heaven.

          Over the next couple of weeks God’s word will help us take a good hard look at how we give to God, what we give to God and why we give to God. We are all going to be challenged to try some serious firstfruit giving for 10 weeks. Let’s not close our ears to this because talking about money and how we choose to spend it makes us uncomfortable. God is interested in what we do with the money He gives us because it shows where are hearts are really at. He desires for us to show that we love Him above all else, that we trust Him above all else. Let’s not make Him treat us like He did the Israelites at the time of Haggai who learned to fear Him above all else. Instead let’s remember why we love God. Because He loved us first. God loved so much that He gave Jesus who forgives us all our sins and will welcome us into heaven whether we get good at giving or not. My prayer for us though is that we can grow find joy in this part of our Christian life that shows we love God, trust God, love others and value treasures in heaven so we can be an even bigger blessing to more and more people. Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2019

December 13-15, 2019 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Matthew 11:2-6 “IS IT ALL REALLY TRUE?”


ADVENT 3

December 13-15, 2019

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Matthew 11:2-6



“IS IT ALL REALLY TRUE?”



Matthew 11:2-6 (EHV) While John was in prison, he heard about the things Christ was doing. He sent two of his disciples to ask him, “Are you the Coming One or should we wait for someone else?” Jesus answered them, “Go, report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the gospel is preached to the poor. Blessed is the one who does not take offense at me.”



          Has something like this ever happened to you? You have a loved one coming in on a flight. You check the airline to make sure it is on time. You head to the airport and wait as close as you can get to where the people come out of the terminal. The Arrival Board says that plane has arrived. You see the lines of people coming down the walkway, but not yours. You note the business flyers and the leisure flyers. You see the people walking quickly and chuckle because you know they are just going to have to wait at baggage. You see the people who move a little more slowly but don’t see the one you are waiting for. The trickle ends. No one. You had asked the last group what flight they were on. Yup, 1514 from Timbucktoo. You text. No answer. How are you feeling? Now you just have been waiting really for 15 or 20 minutes but anxiety sets in. Flight mix up? Something happen? Fear and doubt set in when you wait and things don’t happen the way you expect them to.

          That’s what happened to John the Baptist. If Topps made Bible trading cards a signed John the Baptist would have to be at the top of the list. Listen to what Jesus said about John, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” And then remember this description of John the Baptist from the angel Gabriel in the pre Christmas story? “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” John was filled with the Spirit and it showed. Out in the desert. Wearing a cloak of camel’s hair. Eating locusts and wild honey. He didn’t care what people thought. He prepared people for Jesus. He called them to repentance. There was no PC mouth on this guy. He’d look you in the eye and call you a brood of vipers. And then Jesus came by. John pointed to Him. “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” By the Spirit John knew Jesus was the Messiah. It must have been fulfilling to see his life’s work come to coming to pass before his very eyes.

          So John watched and waited as Jesus quietly taught people. He heard of Jesus doing miracles but seemingly not wanting the extra attention it gave. He watched and waited for something great to happen. John kept up the work of making ready a people prepared for the Lord. He had the same message for prince and pauper and eventually his non PC mouth (also known as a faithful to the Lord mouth) caused this. “But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this them all: He locked John up in prison.” (Luke 3:19-20) And John waited, eager to see what Jesus would do. And he waited and still the unjust imprisonment continued. He waited for Jesus to do what John expected Him to do as Messiah. Swing that ax at the root of the unrepentant people. Cut them down and throw them into the fire. Make it really hot for Herod! But that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus preached and taught. Sometimes big crowds. Sometimes just one person. Mostly the group of 12 guys. John waited and watched and you know what’s going to happen. Fear, doubt. Is it really true? Is Jesus really the Coming One, the Messiah?

          Finally he had to do something about it. While John was in prison, he heard about the things Christ was doing. He sent two of his disciples to ask him, “Are you the Coming One or should we wait for someone else?” Doubt. Fear. Worry. Waiting will do that to you. Waiting when things aren’t happening the way you expect them to. I’m guessing the answer Jesus gave wasn’t quite what John the Baptist was expecting either. “Jesus answered them, “Go, report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the gospel is preached to the poor. Blessed is the one who does not take offense at me.” Now I’m guessing what John wanted was, “Yes, I am. And don’t worry. I’ll take care or Herod.” That wasn’t how Jesus answered. Did you pick out how he did? Basically Jesus said, “Go back to God’s Word, John. What does it say?” John knew the prophecy of Isaiah you heard today. He knew it told of what Messiah, the Coming one would do. “Strengthen the weak hands, and make the shaky knees steady. Tell those who have a fearful heart: Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! Your God will come with vengeance. With God’s own retribution, he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unplugged. The crippled will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy.” “If you want to know it’s all true, John, go back to the Word. God’s not asking for blind faith. He’s proven it to you. Careful prophecies. Prophecies you have seen me fulfill. Get your nose back in the Word John and you will see it’s all true.”

          Can you relate at all? Now I don’t think it’s a stretch to say if they made Bible trading cards on us signed ones wouldn’t go for much. But we too are children of God and it also happens at certain points in our lives where we wonder, is this really all true? It might happen when you visit a zoo and see there are some ways that monkeys and people are alike. It may just strike you when you start thinking too hard or try to make God fit in your box. Is this really all true? It’s mostly likely to happen when you have a John the Baptist moment, stuck in the prison of a trial or heartache, waiting for God to make it right. Like when a child or spouse dies young. Like when things go wrong for those who stand up for what God says. Like when those faithful to Jesus continue to struggle economically and those who are not seem to roll in the dough. Is this really all true?

          Then, like John, we may be looking for or expecting God to answer in a certain way. Some people might say God just says trust me. Recently Chris and I were doing some car shopping and I found one we really liked at a good price but there was a warning light on. I told the guy at the dealership, “It’s under warranty. If you get it fixed we can talk.” He called me later and said the dealership would sell it to me and then get it fixed under warranty. “You can trust us!” he said. God isn’t like that with us. Even though we have no right to expect it He proves Himself in His word.  He doesn’t just say trust me but powers our trust through His word. Find if you can anything in the Bible that you can prove is untrue. It won’t happen. God’s word is truth. People accept all kinds of things as true in history about Julius Caesar, or Genghis Kahn, and there is only oral history, next to nothing of the time written down. Yet the Bible has lasted from its first books written in 1500 BC to its last one in 100AD and kept going to this very time. Look at how God loves you to give you Baptism as proof you are His child, to give you the Lord’s Supper as proof you are forgiven. You know, Jesus could have chastised John. What are you thinking? You have the Holy Spirit. How can you doubt? But He didn’t. He firmly but gently pointed John to the Word. You too, child of God. When you have your doubts or worries, when you get tired of waiting, your Lord knows your struggle. He firmly and gently points you back to the Word. Is it all really true? Yes it is.

          Jesus’ last words in our text bear repeating. “Blessed is the one who does not take offense at me.” By take offense here Jesus means, stumble in your faith or trust. Blessed, means made happy, filled with joy. Do you want that? Get your nose in God’s Word because it’s all true. Amen.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

December 4, 2019 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 1:11-17 “DO NOT BE AFRAID! THE LORD HAS HEARD YOUR PRAYER!”


MIDWEEK ADVENT 1

December 4, 2019

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 1:11-17



“DO NOT BE AFRAID! THE LORD HAS HEARD YOUR PRAYER!”



Luke 1:11-17 (NIV 1984) “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”



          Fear is a powerful motivator. Startle a rabbit in a garden and watch how quickly it takes off and how fast it runs. Kids, you should see Mrs. Spaude’s face when I “accidentally” startle her at home. She jumps so high you’d think she was going to dunk a basketball! Fear has led to people doing amazing feats of strength like fighting off bears and mountain lions and lifting heavy cars when a person was stuck underneath. Fear is a powerful motivator. But it’s not a good one. Did you ever stop to think about why there is even fear in the world? It’s because of sin. Do you remember how that went? After Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, God came to them and they hid. When God went after them Adam said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid.” Before sin there was no fear and nothing to fear. No animals threatened. There was no pain to be afraid of. But now there is fear.

          It’s interesting to me then that when the angels of Advent appear the first thing they say is, “Do not be afraid.” Angels are always all around us doing the work God gave them to do. Rarely have they appeared to people as angels. In the Bible that happens when something important for salvation is happening. It’s no surprise then that we see angels appearing to people as Jesus is about to come into the world the first time. This year as we prepare to celebrate the first time Jesus came and be ready for him to come again we’ll let the advent angels guide us. Today’s angel says, “Do not be afraid! Your prayer has been heard.”

          “Yeah, easy for you to say,” poor Zechariah must have thought. You heard in the portion of the pre Christmas story read a few minutes ago how Zechariah was going about his business as a priest burning the required incense when all of a sudden the angel Gabriel appeared. No sinful being can be in the presence of a holy one without fear so of course Zechariah was afraid. But the angel soothed his fears.  13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” What prayer? From the information provided it is clear what Zechariah and his wife had been praying about. They wanted a child. For many years I’m sure they prayed. I’m sure they wondered if God was hearing their prayers, if He was answering them. I’m also sure that when they thought about why God wasn’t answering their prayers the way they wanted and when they wanted that that sin thing came up again. Why should God answer? As a priestly family Zechariah and Elizabeth would know the full extent of God’s laws better than most. They would know how far short they fell of what God demanded. It’s not a stretch to say they would think the same way we sometimes think. God’s not answering because of my sins.

          Do not be afraid, the angel said. Your prayer has been heard. Despite what Zechariah and Elizabeth thought or felt, all along the Lord had heard their prayer. He had not refused to because of their sins. In fact, part of God’s “now is the right time” answer was that their son, John the Baptist, would prepare the way for God’s Son, Jesus, who would pay for their sins. “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

          Do not be afraid, the Lord has heard your prayer too. While Zechariah and Elizabeth were waiting for the Savior to come the first time we find ourselves waiting for Jesus to come the second time. We too have things that bother us, things that we want. Like them we go to the Lord in prayer. Sometimes God reveals His answer very quickly. Sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes it is not in the way we want. Sometimes it is in a way we could never imagine. Always God hears and answers in the right time and the right way. Recently I was talking with a man who was concerned about his daughter who from all outward appearances seems to have strayed away from her faith in Jesus. He said, “You know this really takes a lot of faith. I keep praying for God to turn her around but nothing seems to have happened yet.” Children maybe you have prayed to the Lord for a pet that was sick or to find something lost. In every case when we don’t get an immediate response fear can creep in. Maybe God isn’t listening. Maybe He hasn’t heard. Maybe he won’t because of my sins. Don’t be afraid. The Lord has heard your prayer. In love He waits to reveal the answer that is the best for you.

          I mentioned at the beginning that fear is a powerful motivator and it is. It can cause rabbits to run fast and people to jump high. It can motivate feats of strength and heroism. It also is evidence of a ruined relationship with God and can cause us to doubt God and hold back from doing the right thing. There is a better motivator: love.  Listen to what the Lord had the Apostle John write to us in his first letter chapter 4:16-18. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: because in this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”   God is love. He loves you. His love for you motivated you to give His Son for you so you know you are forgiven and your prayers are heard. God’s perfect love for us drives out fear. And when Jesus comes back we get to have confidence, not fear. And as we wait and pray we get this confidence. The Lord has heard your prayers. Amen.

Monday, December 2, 2019

November 27-28, 2019 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Genesis 32:9-12 THANKSGIVING HAPPENS…


THANKSGIVING

November 27-28, 2019

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Genesis 32:9-12



THANKSGIVING HAPPENS…

1. When You Realize Why You are Blessed.

2. When You Remain God Dependent.



Genesis 32:9-12 (NIV 1984) “Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness You have shown Your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. 11Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12But You have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”



          To me Thanksgiving is one of those things in life, like teaching your kids how to handle their mistakes and sin. What do we tell them? “Now say you’re sorry.” “I’m sorry!” Are they? You are teaching them but the fact of the matter is either they are sorry or they are not. Your kid gets a gift. “Say Thank you.” “Thank you.” Are they? You can usually tell. “Thank you for the socks grandma.” “A new Xbox! Are you kidding me? Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” You see, when you are thankful no one has to tell you to be thankful or say “Thank you.” You are. Thanksgiving just happens. There were times in our country’s history, maybe in your history, that a gift of socks would elicit heartfelt thanksgiving. If it does not today it is because we have been affected by a pernicious gratitude stealer we will talk about later. I know all of us are gathered here today because we are thankful to God and to help us maintain and grow that attitude of gratitude let’s learn from the life of an Old Testament believer named Jacob.

          There are certain points in life when the gravity of your situation forcibly reminds you of how little you are in the big picture. It may be something like getting caught in an earthquake and being flung around like a rag doll. Or think of you would feel if you fell overboard in the ocean with no boats in sight. Or maybe how a husband feels while his wife is in labor, cognizant of all the things that could go wrong. Or how you feel as you wait for the test results and you are not expecting them to be good. You are not in control. You feel what is always the case. You need your God.

Jacob found himself at such a point in his life. He was about to have a family reunion with his brother Esau. What was on Jacob’s mind? All the good times they had had playing as boys? The bond they shared as brothers? Yeah, no. He was remembering the time Esau came back from hunting super hungry and Jacob made Esau “sell” his birthright for some stew. What a nice brother! He was remembering the time he and his mom tricked dad, Isaac, into giving Jacob the blessing Isaac wrongly wanted to give to Esau so Esau got very little. That had angered Esau so badly he said he was going to kill Jacob, so Jacob ran away. Many years had passed and Jacob was coming home. Esau was coming to meet him-- with 400 men. Jacob had his family and his servants. He turned to God in prayer. “Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness You have shown Your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.” Jacob was a wealthy man in his day. Some would say his shrewdness got him there, his wise business dealings. Jacob said otherwise. He was unworthy of the blessings God had given him. He didn’t deserve them because of his many sins. Jacob knew why he was blessed. Not because he was so good but because God was so good. So thanksgiving happened.

The same goes for us. I mentioned earlier that there was a time in our country when the gift of new socks would evoke heartfelt thanksgiving. Your smiles told me not so today. What’s changed? An insidious and pernicious attitude has infected the people of our country and that means us too. It’s best described as entitlement. And while we are probably more comfortable talking about other people’s sense of entitlement it is better for us to look into the mirror of God’s law and see we have it too. God has put us in a time of affluence. We get used to it. We think we deserve it. We are entitled. Why should I be grateful for socks? I should have many socks. That is my due. Don’t give me presents I need which is my due, give me what I want! Why do I have more money than others? I work harder. I am smarter with my money than they are. I deserve to have nicer things than they. I am entitled! How we Americans have fallen! Look on page 9 of your service folder. 1777. Look at that underlined portion! That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; There is no entitlement there. Forfeited God’s favor. They knew why they were blessed. Only because of God’s goodness. So Thanksgiving just happened. Brothers and sisters, let’s grab that back. Why are we in easy to live times? Why aren’t we living in a third world country? We came into life naked and with nothing and look now what we have. We don’t deserve God’s blessings. Like Jacob we have plenty of sins in our own past to own up to. We don’t deserve anything put punishment so thank you God, for socks and shoes and food and heat and Jesus and all our other gifts.

And thank you God that we can continue to depend on you. When you give up your sense of entitlement, when you are as painfully aware of your sinfulness as you need to be and when you come to a point in your life that you are painfully aware of how desperately you need your God to survive then you might wonder how God will deal with you. Again we learn from that Old Testament believer Jacob. His prayer went on. “Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12But You have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” Jacob’s scheming and conniving and deceiving is done. He had done what God had put into his hands to do. He had reached out to brother Esau and sent him gifts. But he knows the truth. He is at one of those points in life when he realizes how little of his life he is in control of. But he knows who is in control. The Lord. And he knows why he can go to the Lord. God had made promises. God had promised to make Jacob prosperous and give him many descendants. Since God had promised Jacob would rely on Him.

That we remain God dependent people is another way Thanksgiving happens in our lives. Again as American Christians we are disadvantaged. One of our core values is, or used to be, independence. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Be a self made man. We don’t have to live hoping just to get enough food for the next day. And it is true that like Jacob we are to do things God has given us to do. Financially we are to work. We are to spend wisely and save frugally. We are to eat well and get sleep to take care of ourselves physically. But in the end our best planning and our best efforts will not provide for our future health or wealth. God does. Best eating and exercise does not stave off cancer or accidents. We are God dependent. Thanksgiving happens when we remain God dependent people, praying to Him and trusting Him for our future well being.

And can we? Yes, we have promises to rely on. God has promised to give daily bread, to never leave nor forsake, to work all things for the good. And every promise He makes is yes, in Christ Jesus. While Thanksgiving time does remind us to count our blessings and the physical ones are the easy ones to see, it’s the ones we can’t see that matter most. In Jesus we have forgiveness of sins, we have the proof of God’s love, we have the sure hope of heaven. Now, does anyone really have to tell us to say “Thank you!” Never. For us thankfulness happens. Amen.

Monday, November 18, 2019

November 16-18, 2019 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 2 Kings 2:1-12a “WELCOME HOME!”


SAINTS TRIUMPHANT

November 16-18, 2019

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: 2 Kings 2:1-12a



“WELCOME HOME!”

1.     That’s what the death of a believer is.

2.     That’s not what it always feels like.

3.     But that is what it is!



Children here today, has it happened in your family that you can remember that one of your grandpas or grandmas died? Do you remember kind of how that went? I’m guessing it went something like this. So one of your parents got a phone call and you could tell they were upset. Maybe they started crying but they didn’t tell you what was happening or why. Then maybe a little later your parents talked to you and told you that Grandma or Grandpa went to heaven to be with Jesus. And of course you were happy for them. Maybe you even said something like, “Well that’s good!” before you went back to playing or whatever it was you were doing. Then later you noticed that Mom or Dad was still sad or crying so you were trying to figure out. Why were they sad when something good has happened like Grandpa or Grandma getting to go to heaven? Well that’s what we are going to talk about today, how the death of our loved ones who die believing in Jesus is something we are happy about and sad at the same time.

Probably one of the best illustrations of that in the Bible comes at a special point in the lives of two well known Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha. Elisha was the prophet that God had picked to replace Elijah and we are the point where it is time for Elijah to go to heaven. The job of a prophet was to tell people what God said, kind of like a pastor today. “People of God, this is what God says.” So both of the prophets were daily using God’s Word. What a blessing that was for them! The Holy Spirit worked through that word just like He does today. The Holy Spirit was strengthening their faith daily just like He strengthens the faith of everyone in this room who studies and meditates on God’s word. That’s important to remember because we are going to see two different responses to the upcoming death of the prophet Elijah.

Now some of you are now thinking, “Hey, wait a minute! I know that story. Elijah doesn’t die. He gets taken right to heaven in a whirlwind!” You’re right. But maybe we need to understand death a little better. The Bible uses the word death for separation. When Adam and Eve sinned, they died immediately. Not physically but spiritually. They were separated from God and it showed. Before sin they walked and talked with God. After sin they hid from Him, made excuses and played the blame game. A separation had taken place. At physical death a person’s body and soul separate. The body goes back to ground from which God originally made Adam and the soul goes to heaven or sadly for those who reject Jesus, Hell.  When people die they are separated from their loved ones. So keeping that in mind let’s look at how both prophets, Elijah and Elisha, deal with separation as Elijah gets to go to heaven.



When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”  Now if you are following along here Elijah knows he is going to get to go to heaven. This younger prophet, Elisha, whom Elijah mentored, knows it too. Elijah is trying to make it easier by not letting Elisha see the separation. But Elisha wants to hold on. “So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.” Ah, this is so classic! This time we meet some objective observers. They are not emotionally tied to Elijah. Did you know Elijah is going to heaven? They are able to talk about it factually. But look at the one who has the heart strings attached, Elisha. “Let’s not talk about it!” It happens again.  4Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho. 5The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “but do not speak of it.” Interesting. Elisha is a strong prophet of God, but even for him, death, separation, was hard. I don’t want to talk about it! “Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on. 7Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.” 11As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more.” No matter how much Elisha wanted it not to happen, it did. But wait, what about Elijah? Did you notice how he kept going? He was eager for that separation. Why?

          Welcome Home! Friends, that is exactly what happens when a believer in Jesus dies. Many of you have seen this or a similar picture and it helps us to understand why the death of believers is something to celebrate and be happy about. Elijah was an Old Testament believer. He got a miraculous ride to heaven in a whirlwind. The chariots and horsemen sound like angels to me. We don’t need to figure out the details of Elijah’s body and how God separated his sinful nature from him. That’s God’s business. What we can see and understand is how happy Elijah was to be home. His life had many struggles with Ahab and Jezebel and all the other ungodly kings. How good it was for him to be home in heaven. No wonder he kept marching toward it. He wanted to be home.

          Welcome home is exactly what will happen to you and me and has happened to our loved ones who died in the Lord. We too celebrate. Elijah believed in the Messiah that would come. We and our loved ones believe in the Messiah who has come. We know His name is Jesus. We know how He undid the sin of Adam. We know He lived perfectly for us. We know that His death paid for our sins in full. Welcome home! That’s what the death of believer is. Now think of how good it feels when you have been away from your earthly home and you get to get back. Heaven is so much better. Peace, joy, happiness, full knowledge. Let’s pause now to remember the St. Jacobi members who got that welcome home since the last time we celebrated Saints Triumphant. James Ortiz, Rayleen Schultz, Ursula  Arney,  Maynard Wagner, Otis Krebs, Terry Wegner, Pat Bauknecht, Judy Wantuch, Lucille Henning, Robert Zirbel. All of us know the names of many more from the past or other loved ones who died in the Lord.

          They got welcomed home. But for those left away from home, those on earth, the death of a loved one does not always feel like it. Children, that’s why Mommy and Daddy still cry even though they know Grandpa or Grandma are in heaven. That’s why Elisha didn’t want to talk about Elijah going to heaven. Remember death is a separation. Separation hurts. Separation is a consequence of sin. That’s why Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. He saw the hurt caused by sin. Sometimes it seems even our wearing down bodies don’t want to give up because they seem to know God did not create them for that purpose. Sin is the reason we may not always be able to celebrate a believer’s death. Sin is why it may not feel like a welcome home.

          But it still is a welcome home. Jesus proved it. Remember when He died in our place? After He had finished defeating sin by paying for it in full, what did He say? “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He was going home. You will too. That’s why the death of a believer really is something to celebrate. Like Elisha there will be times when we won’t feel like it or someone else won’t feel like it either. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is. The little ones with the true child like faith know it. That’s what got me thinking a few years back after we had observed a Celebration of Life Sunday. I said to Pastor Waldschmidt, “You know life is a great gift from God but death is too. It’s how God takes us to heaven. Why don’t we have a celebration of Death Sunday?” So here it is. Maybe more accurately it’s a celebration of eternal life Sunday. The time when God says, “Welcome Home!”