Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wisconsin Lutheran High School Sunday April 28th, 2013

Pastor Ken Fischer
Psalm 23 
(First Person - a sheep speaks) 

Baaaaaaah!  Baaaaaaaaah!   Baaaah!

Isn’t not easy being a sheep!  Do you know how difficult it is for us sheep to make it through life?  Wandering here.  Waiting there. The heat.  The cold.   Searching for green pastures.  Feeling lost and confused. Always searching for a little more food and water.  Climbing up steep pathways through mountain valleys to find a few blades of grass to munch on.  It isn’t easy for us sheep to make it in this world. It’s a cruel world out there for us sheep.  It’s baaaaaaaaaaaad!

By the way, why do keep staring at me like you’d never expect a sheep to talk.  Don’t you know your Bible stories?  After all, didn’t God make Balaam’s donkey talk?  If God could speak through a donkey, then why can’t the Lord speak through me to you on a Sunday when you’re talking about feeding his sheep. 

Did you hear something?  I thought I just did.  Sounds worry me.  I have a lot to worry about!  Sheep are like giant jelly donuts for predators like mountain lions, coyotes, bears, wolves or cougars who prey on a flock. Their sharp teeth can tear you apart in a minute?  And do you see any claws on these paws to protect myself?   God didn’t give me any.  Nor did he give me sharp fangs? Not that I’m complaining -- who wants fangs -- I like my two rows of plain white teeth.

You can hear them rattling when something frightens me. I get a little skittish when I hear strange sounds like rushing waters.  Don’t look at me like I’m crazy – haven’t you ever been a little anxious when you’ve wandered into a new place. And yes, I’ve been known to wander a little but who hasn’t tried to go off on his own in search of a little greener pastures. It’s not like I’m the black sheep of my flock or anything.  Ok, I am a little color blind. <smile>  I guess I am a little black.

You’ve got to be careful with every step as a sheep.  There can be rock slides, mud or snow avalanches and a dozen other natural disasters that would destroy or injure us. 

And if the predators, elements and your own weakness aren’t enough to content with – you’ve got to be careful of the other sheep.  Your own friends can lead you literally off a cliff if you follow them.  And all of us sheep are just a bunch of stupid followers.  One sheep walks off the cliff and everyone will follow him right over it as well.  One sheep gets spooked and the whole flock scatters. One sheep starts eating poisoned grass and the rest of us will soon be swallowing it.  That’s why I get a little stubborn sometimes when someone if trying to lead me some place.

You know you’re looking at me like you’re superior or something! Don’t stare down your noses at me tell me like I am the only one who is ever been wayward, fearful, stubborn or stupid.  Baaaaaah!   I’ve seen enough human beings to know you’re more like sheep than you’d like to admit.   Talk about mob instincts.  One person buys something and the rest of you think you’ve got to have it.  You have plenty of fears and timidity. You can display as much stubbornness as any sheep I’ve ever seen.  People have as many perverse habits and perform as many acts of stupidly as any sheep who’ve ever been part of the flocks I’ve traveled in.  Wouldn’t you agree?  Baaaaaaaah!  It’s time to admit that we need a shepherd. A sheep can’t simply live without a shepherd. Whether we like to admit or not – we, sheep, need a shepherd.  And not just any shepherd will do. The lot of any sheep depends on the type of man who owns the sheep.  And I’ve had a few different shepherds.  Some men are gentle, kind, intelligent, brave, and selfless in their devotion to their sheep. Others are not. Under one man a sheep will only struggle, starve, and suffer endless hardship. In another's care I will flourish and find contentment. . .  I’ve know both. That is why I am glad to proclaim to you now:  “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD!” 

Like the shepherd boy, David, who became king of Israel, I can appreciate the words of Psalm 23 which relate to yearly cycle of a sheep's life. Our year begins when the good shepherd takes us with his home ranch where every need is so carefully supplied by the owner, out into the green pastures, along the still waters, up through the mountain valleys to the high tablelands of summer and back home again.


I say this with a strong sense of pride, devotion, and admiration for my shepherd – the living Lord.  Just look at who my shepherd is -- my owner -- my manager! The Lord Jesus Christ is!

After all, I know from firsthand experience what it is like to be without a shepherd or with the wrong one leading you into more misery.  It is not that I deserve such a wonderful shepherd since I’ve wandered, rebelled and resisted.  But despite my past, God has chosen to call me his sheep. Aren’t you, human beings, glad now to be called members of his flock through your baptisms?  Despite your weaknesses, perverse, and rebellious characteristics Christ chooses you, buys you back, calls each of you  by name, makes you His own, and delights in caring for you.

Do you call him your shepherd?  You like us sheep need direction.  How many people are following the bad influences of others? Just think the long parade of people who lives are ruined by alcohol abuse, busted by gambling habits, and shattered by drugs.   But the path is well worn by others who are following them to their own destruction. 

You like us sheep need protection.  You’re defenseless with out the Lord against the wiles, schemes and strength of the enemy – just as much as I am.    

You like us sheep need someone to lead.  Without a shepherd’s leading, sheep will eat down a field until there is no grass left.  Even if there are greener pastures only a moments walk away.   People are no better.  They will graze on dirt for weeks without seeking out – greener pastures.  How many people will sit week after week – eating what amounts to spiritual cotton candy, worse yet – dirt – never budge -- never think to move to the place where they can be feed God’s riches fare?

So people are like sheep that are in desperate need of a Shepherd who will care, feed, protect, guide and always be there for us.   Jesus is that shepherd for each and every person.  There is no “if” nor “but,” nor even “I hope so.”

It is one thing to know Jesus Christ as THE Good Shepherd OR as A SHEPHERD – but quite another to know him as MY SHEPHERD that personal pronoun “MY” – speaks of relationship. It speaks of ownership – “I belong to Him.”  Can you say that?

If you can say “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD” then you’ll be able to continue “I SHALL NOT BE IN WANT.” (verse 1)


The sheep that has such a good shepherd lack no good thing.  For a good shepherd goes to great lengths to satisfy all his needs.   

What do you need? Your Good Shepherd met your greatest need!  The Lord Jesus shares his life with you.  At the cross, he stepped in front of the predator against whom you were defenseless and in dying crushed him that he could not take your life. Now he puts his unlimited resources at your disposal and he cares for you as though we were the sole care and concern he had in the universe.  After rescuing you, whatever your further needs, your Heavenly Father knows your needs and supplies them.

When a sheep knows that he has such a good shepherd, he comes to listen to his voice, trust his leading, and look to him to supply that he needs. 

Complete trust in the shepherd, leads the sheep to confess: “HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES,”

I can’t lie down to sleep without 4 requirements being met … well, no sheep can… 1) freedom from fear, 2) tension, 3) aggravations and 4) hunger.  And do you know the only one who can who can provide release from all of these anxieties?  Only the shepherd.  I will stand up ready to flee for my lives as long as there is even the slightest suspicion of danger from my enemies.  Only a shepherd can calm their fears, release the tension and satisfy the hunger pains.  Only he can lead me to green pastures. 

Such green pastures don’t just happen by chance! Green pastures come from tremendous labor, time and skill in land use.  The sheep don’t do this – the shepherd does.  He clearing rough, rocky land; tearing out brush and roots and stumps;  plows and carefully preparing the soil; seeds and plants special grains; or irrigates with water and care the crops of forage that would feed the flocks.

The green pastures of Bethlehem fattened us for the long journey to the mountain peaks.     Are your strong enough for the journey ahead of you?  How much have your feasted in the verdant pastures of the Scripture lately? 

Here’s the wonderful news!  You are his lambs and sheep.  You have under Shepherd in your families and in your congregation. He says to you like he said to Peter: “Feed my lambs.”  “Take care of my sheep.”?   Isn’t that why you support Christian education for the little lambs, and curious and sometimes staying teen sheep who are not yet sheep (but aren’t lambs either), and even up to the grayest sheep in the flock?   All of you need to be feed in his Word!

A sheep needs to be well-feed in order to be led.  Notice that rest comes before the walk: Before you learn to walk with Jesus (living your life as a Christian) you need to learn to rest in Jesus (feeding on his work completed for you).  When I am rested and well feed…


A good shepherd leads.  He never drives his sheep.  He leads us!  Big difference.

Your Good Shepherd wants to lead you.  Look around, there are so many things that seek to drive you!  Are you driven by the desire for success, climb the corporate ladder, retire early? Does the pursuit of status drive you? Do you want to appear to be someone? Are you driven by the “keeping up with the Jones’s mentality.”?

Do you know the only one who has to drive a sheep?  Butchers drive us to the slaughterhouse.  The strange truth is that so much in your culture that seeks to drive you – in reality – destroy you, too!   That’s baaaaaaaaaaaad!

The shepherd leads us to what we need most in a semi-arid country – water.  He knows where to find it even when it’s not obvious.  He knows when to look. I remember being thirsty once, becoming restless and set out in search of water to satisfy my thirst. I drank from a polluted pot holes where I picked up parasites and some other disease germs. 

When the Lord makes me to lay down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters, the result is HE RESTORES MY SOUL. (verse 3)  

Have you ever found yourself on your back staring up with no way to get up?  If a
sheep gets  turned over on his back and cannot get up again by itself.  You feel pretty pathetic?  Lying on its back, feet in the air, you flail away frantically struggling to stand up, without success. You might bleet (“I’ve faaaaaaallen and I caaaaaaan’t get up) or just stay silent. Without a shepherd, plenty of sheep die this way.  If the shepherd does find you, he can’t just stand you up again.  He has to restore you. Your legs need time to have the circulation restored.  If it ever happened to you, you’d know that as you start to walk again, you often stumble, stagger and collapse again. Little by little, you regain your equilibrium and begin to walk steadily.  All of us need a good shepherd to “restore our souls.” And will lead you home again:


A sheep’s life is a daily marathon march. As the sun rises, I begin the journey from the fold to the mountainsides of pasturage. As the day closes, my tired hoofs and weary limbs take the track again to reach the fold before nightfall home.    The good shepherd guides us in the paths of righteousness, not our own paths than lead to destruction, but his paths that lead to the eternal rest.  The homeward journey is not necessarily an easy one:


The path home leads through the darkest valley.  Dangers lurch behind every shadow as you march through the shadows of the valley. But in spite of the hazards the shepherd also knows that this is still the best way to take his flock to the high country. He spares himself no pains or trouble or time to keep an eye out for any danger that might develop.

Without the shepherd, a sheep may be afraid of his shadow.  But there is no reason to fear.  The Lord is with him. There is comfort from his rod and staff.   The rod was a small club (used for fighting off predators) and the staff (a long stick – hook – gently pull in a stray, out of harms way). If my shepherd can do this for me, how about you? 


Maybe you wouldn’t know what relief his anointing brings? Nothing could be better in the summer season of scabs and nose flies than a shepherd’s anointing my head with oil.  The warm weather bring nose flies.   These hooves can pick flies out of your nose!  For relief from this agonizing annoyance, I have seen many sheep deliberately beat their heads against trees, rocks, posts, or brush. In extreme cases of intense infestation, a sheep may even kill itself.  The good shepherd, at the very first sign of flies among the flock, he will apply an antidote to their heads – oil.

What an incredible transformation this makes! Once the oil is applied, you can feed quietly again, and lie down in peaceful contentment.


Here is the good news that this sheep has learned in many summers of following my shepherd. I don't care how much trouble comes your way; the good shepherd will never leave your side. He will not desert you in times of trial. That is news that will let you get through the night; that is news that will enable you to keep your sanity in the midst of the storm.  It is the promise that will carry you to home again as your Good Shepherd carries you like a lamb close to his heart! 

I am still his little lamb at heart.  Do you see consider yourself a sheep in his flock or a lamb in his arms, too? No matter what our age, we still can have that lamb-like faith that confesses the joy of having Jesus as your shepherd. I like to invite you confess the truth of the Shepherd’s Psalm by joining me in singing the stanza “I am Jesus’ little lamb” as your confession of faith this morning:  AMEN   (Please stand as we sing)

I am Jesus' little lamb; Ever glad at heart I am,
For my shepherd gently guides me, Knows my needs and well provides me,
Loves me ev'ry day the same, Even calls me by my name.

Text and Tune: public domain. *Setting: c 1982 Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission of CPH.

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 20-22, 2013 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: John 10:22-30

April 20-22, 2013
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: John 10:22-30

                             1. The Good Shepherd speaks plainly.
                             2. The Good Shepherd’s sheep listen and follow.
                             3. The Good Shepherd keeps His sheep safe.

John 10:22-30 (NIV 1984) “Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

          Brothers and sisters, we live in a messy world, don’t we? Probably at the forefront of our minds right now is the Boston bombing. But there is more, so much more. North Korea. Ricin in the mail. Deaths in the family. Accidents and disease. Drug use among teens on the rise. So many messy things going on in life. So many things that cause us to fear. But this is nothing new for God’s people living in a sinful world. That’s one of the reasons that God’s picture of Jesus as our Good Shepherd is so near and dear to our hearts. So many Scripture references. So many hymns and songs and paintings and pictures of Jesus the Good Shepherd.  All of them comforting us, soothing our fears. Today as we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday let’s take our fears, worries and concerns to the Lord who loves us and listen to some comforting words from a caring Good Shepherd.
          They came after Jesus had healed a man who had been blind from birth. The Pharisees who fancied themselves shepherds for God’s people in Israel criticized the man for being healed, accused him of being a liar, questioned Jesus’ authority to heal. Jesus responded with what is known as the Good Shepherd chapter of the Bible, John 10. Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”
          The Jewish religious leaders came to Jesus with a question and a complaint. If you are the Christ, the Messiah, the one sent from God, tell us plainly. You are keeping us in suspense. They were full of baloney. Jesus had spoken plainly, several times. He identified Himself as I AM. That’s God’s name. John the Baptist had pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man. Religious leaders who read the book of Daniel certainly heard a Messianic title. Then the miracles. All the miracles including healing the man who had been born blind. You  see the problem wasn’t that Jesus wasn’t speaking plainly enough. He was speaking too plainly and they did not believe.
          But these are comforting words for us who do, for us Jesus’ sheep. It’s a comforting and caring Good Shepherd who does not leave us in suspense but speaks comforting and caring words quite clearly. Like, “I will be with you always to the very end of the age. In my Father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me. Come to me. I will give you rest. Today you will be with me in paradise. This is my body. This is my blood for the forgiveness of your sins. As the Father has loved me so have I loved you. I am the way, the truth, the life. In all things I work for the good of those who love me. I am seated at the right hand of God will everything under my control.” These and so many more. We don’t have to wonder if someone else was meant. Is there trick language. Jesus speaks plainly. Whatever He says you can count on.
          It’s important that you do. While Jesus pointed out that the religious leaders of the Jews were not His sheep, listen to how the Good Shepherd describes those who are. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Imagine you are in a field. It is filled with thousands and thousands of sheep. They are all from different flocks. They are all mixed up and milling together. Your job is to separate them, each to its own flock. You have a minute to win it. What will you do? Have their shepherd call them of course. They know their own shepherd’s voice. They feel safe and comfortable following him. The reason the Jewish religious leaders did not believe Jesus was simple. They were not His sheep. But we are. Jesus knows us. Even when we are covered in the mud of our sin He knows and owns us. And now it’s gut check time. Do you listen and follow? The voice of the Good Shepherd is here in God’s Word. You listen when you come to church. Can you listen some more? Will you make the time for the one who loves you each day with some Bible reading or devotion? Do you follow? When it comes to what marriage is and isn’t and when we use God’s gift of sex and don’t and when we live together or not whose voice do you listen to, who are you following? The Good Shepherd or the government or your own desire, your friends, your lover? When Bible truth comes under attack, the Devil is causing doubts there’s only one voice to listen to, one for us to follow. Jesus, because we are His sheep.
          And glad to be for He keeps us safe. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” People have many needs on earth. One of the strongest needs that people have is for safety and security. Children have that need very strongly and that’s why parents try so hard to provide that for them. Parents have the need to know their kids are safe. Any parent who has been in a store or a mall and “lost” their child for 30 seconds or 30 minutes knows the awful fears, the worries and how your imagination runs wild. The whole goal behind terrorist plots and evil bombings is to attack people’s feeling of safety at normal events.
          The Devil is a terrorist of sorts. He likes to cause hurt. He likes to play on our fears. He wants us making our decisions and living our lives out of fear rather than faith in Jesus. The Good Shepherd has a different plan and more power. He promises to give us eternal life. He says we can never perish. He tells us that no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand because no one is greater, stronger than Jesus and the Father. Comforting words from a caring Good Shepherd. Sometimes when a believer is facing their death and you tell them it’s OK you’re going to be with Jesus . As the Devil tempts them they might say “I hope so.” “I don’t know. I’m not a good person.” Lifelong believers will say that. How nice to replace doubts with the comforting words from a caring Good Shepherd. O yes you will. It doesn’t depend on you but on Him. Your loved ones who are believers, sheep of Jesus, they can’t get snatched at the last moment. Your children who are sheep of Jesus. They are safe. Fear gets to be replaced with faith.
          And that’s a good thing because we don’t live in a clean world but a messy one. It seems like it’s going to get messier. If present trends continue there will be more frequent random acts of violence, more and more of our country’s laws will be in defiance of God’s holy will as fewer and fewer American citizens are really sheep of the Shepherd. But that’s OK. Jesus remains the Good Shepherd. He knows us. He owns us. He keeps us safe. He speaks plainly. His Bible book is filled with comforting and caring words. Let’s make sure we listen and follow. Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April, 14th, 2013

Easter 3 April 13,14 &15, 2013
Pastor Richard Waldschmidt
 John 21:1-14 
I. He Cares. II. He Counsels. III. He Keeps You!
In the name of our living Lord Jesus, dear fellow redeemed children of God,
      Just before Easter we had to put our dog Archie to sleep. Old age just caught up to him. He had only lived at our house for about a year and a half. He grew up on a farm in his younger dog days. When it became apparent that he was not doing well, I called his former owners. They came down to visit him one last time. Archie had not lifted up his head most of the day, but when the doorbell rang and he heard their voices, he struggled to get to his feet. He couldn’t get himself up but he let up a combination cry/bark that seemed to say, “Oh you’re here!” Today in God’s Word the disciples let out a cry that says, “Jesus is here!” They had been through some long days but then they saw Jesus there on the beach. There might be days when we struggle to make it to our feet. Maybe today is one of those days. Along with the disciples this morning we say, “It’s Jesus!” I. He cares. II. He counsels. III. He keeps you.
      There are also days when it seems that everything is “hurry up and wait.” Maybe that’s the way Jesus disciples were feeling as Jesus told them to go to wait for Him in Galilee. Sometime after Easter the disciples had gone to Galilee but now were waiting for Jesus to come. "I'm going out to fish," said impetuous Peter. Remember that many of the disciples had been fishermen so since there was nothing else to do, why not? They got skunked. They caught no fish. All of a sudden they noticed a "stranger" on the shore. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you caught any fish?"
      Jesus called out “Friends.” He didn’t call out, “You rascals! There you are! I’m going to pay you back for deserting me in the Garden of Gethsemane. He didn’t use his power to come up behind the disciples and overturn their boat like they deserved. Jesus doesn’t treat us like we deserve either. He doesn’t crush us like we deserve for all the times we have deserted him. He calls out, “Friends!” to his disciples and in His mercy He calls us “Friends!” to you and me. It’s Jesus. He cares for you. “Friends, haven’t you caught any fish?” The disciples being experienced fishermen must have been gritting their teeth when they called back, "No!" The disciples might have been thinking “Hey! Mind your own business!” But that wasn’t the attitude Jesus had for His disciples. He didn’t say, “I’ll mind my own business.” With that question “Haven’t you caught any fish?” Jesus showed that he was concerned about the disciples. He had just rescued the whole from the jaws of Satan. You might think that Jesus would sit back and rest a while and not be concerned about anything for at least a while but instead Jesus is concerned about how many fish the disciples have caught.
        Even with all of the big things going on in the world like sequesters and North Korea Jesus is concerned about how things are going in our lives- our struggle to put food on your table or our struggles in school, struggles with our aging or the aging of a loved one. So he has not only done the big thing of rescuing you and me from an eternity in hell’s flames but he is also concerned about the seemingly little things in our lives-how we did on the math test, how things are going at work and yes, even how many fish we catch. In Psalm 139 King David said about his risen Savior: "You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways."
      Someone once said, “We all admire the wisdom of people who come to us for advice.” We all think we have the best advice. But then there are times when we all have to admit that we don’t know what to do. But here’s Jesus! He counsels us.
      To the fishless disciples, Jesus said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish." Remember something like this happened before with Jesus and his disciples. The lights went on in John’s head. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Peter does the first thing that popped into his mind. He jumps into the water. It seems like he can’t wait to see Jesus and hear him talk. "As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards." There is no better place to look for advice than Jesus.
      What things do you need counsel about in your life right now? Is your conscience tormenting you? Jesus said, “It is finished!” from the cross. Your sins are all paid for. Are you following a path of sin? Jesus, your Savior says, “Go and sin no more.” Are you wondering what’s on the other side of death’s door for you? Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I’m going there to prepare a place for you.” Are you tired and weary? Jesus says, “I will give you rest.” In His word Jesus directs us to what is really important in life. "A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." "What can a man give in exchange for his soul." He told His followers that only one thing is needful." Jesus points our hearts and eyes away from this temporary world we are passing through to our real home in heaven.
      Are you wondering a little about how you going to make it through the next months? Time is flying by- there so much to do and not enough energy or time or money put food on the table let alone all the things that need to be paid for? It’s Jesus! He keeps us. He provides all that we need and more! “The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." 11Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead." The Lord provided more fish than their boats could handle- 153 big ones, to be exact! Notice too the simple way Jesus provided what the disciples needed and more. He not only provided the fish, He also cooked them breakfast. Perhaps it isn’t always with a miracle on the shores of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus provides for us but certainly it is our risen Jesus who is responsible for our every breakfast, lunch, and supper, every snack along with everything else he provides for you and me each day. As the psalmist says, "The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
     You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." Jesus was a sight for sore eyes for the disciples. Jesus is a sight for sore eyes for us. It is the Lord! He cares. II. He counsels. III. He Keeps you. Amen.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sermon - April 7, 2013, Easter 2
Pastor Paul G. Eckert
Sermon text - Revelation 1:4-20

Jesus lives!  The victory is won!  Amen.

    The opening words of our text are: “John,  To the seven churches
in the province of Asia.”  The seven churches to which John wrote
were all located in what we today know as Turkey.  I’ll here try to give
my short  summary of what was said to each church or congregation.
Ephesus was told: “You are strong; but don’t forget your first love.”
Smyrna was told: “In your tribulation, be faithful to death and
receive the crown of life.”  Pergamum was told: “In your strength,
you are still permitting false doctrine, and this cannot be.”  
Thyatira was told: “You are tolerating in your midst an abomination
that will bring judgment.”   Sardis was told: “Dead church, repent;
or else you will lose all.”  Philadelphia was told: “I have opened the
door for mission work before you.”  And Laodicea was told: “Realize
your poorness; be ‘hot’ for Me; or else I will spit you out.”  You can
read the whole letter to each congregation in chapters 2 and 3 after our
text.  You might want to do that at home some time, maybe today.
    All of these 7 churches, as I said, were in Turkey.  But let us think
now of another church that is, an eighth church, a church not in
Europe but in the United States.  To be more specific, let us make this
eighth church one that is located in the state of Wisconsin, in the city
of Greenfield, and talk about
    1. It speaks of the Trinity. (4-5a)
John,  To the seven churches in the province of Asia:  Grace and
peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus
Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead,
and the ruler of the kings of the earth. 
        a) We hear of Him who is eternal, God the Father; we hear of the
Holy Spirit, with the number 7 possibly being used to identify the Spirit
working in all 7 churches; and we hear of Jesus, God’s Son risen from
the dead.  We often use the word “Trinity” to describe this our God.
        b) We also hear what is ours because of our God.  It is grace and
peace: God’s free gift of love and forgiveness that fills us with peace.
    2. And it speaks of what our God deserves.  (5c-6)
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and
Father - to him be glory and power for ever and ever!  Amen. 
        a) God has freed us from our sins by the shed blood of His Son.
He has made us members of His kingdom with everything that means.
        b) What does He deserve for that?  His is “the glory and power
forever and ever.”  Let us praise Him, serve Him joyfully.
II    MORE DETAIL.  (7-8)
    1. We are told more about our Savior.  (7)
Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will
mourn because of him.  So shall it be!  Amen.
        a) He who arose from the dead, who ascended victoriously into
heaven, will come back visibly for Judgment Day.
        b) What will that be for those involved in getting rid of Him, for
those who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, the only Savior from sin?
        c) Or what about those in our Acts reading before, persecuting
the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection, wanting to kill the followers of
Jesus as they had rejected and killed Jesus?
        d) For them, and for any today who reject the risen Lord Jesus
Christ, Judgment Day will be a mourning day and far from a happy
day.  Whoever did not or does not believe will be condemned.
    2. Let there be no doubt about that. (7-8)
Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will
mourn because of him.  So shall it be! Amen.  “I am the Alpha
and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and
who is to come, the Almighty.” 
        a) In our Gospel reading we heard about doubting Thomas.  At
first he would not believe, until Jesus convinced him.
        b) Don’t be like doubting Thomas!  Let there be no doubt for us
today.  Be convinced by these words from our eternal God: “I am the
Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was,
and who is to come, the Almighty.” 
    1. Persecution of Jesus’ followers didn’t stop. (9)
        a) James, one of the original 12, was the first disciple to be killed.
Eventually, according to tradition, 10 more of Jesus’ disciples were
killed, and only one, John, escaped being killed for his faith in Jesus.
        b) But he did not escape completely; instead we are told that he
was put into exile on an island to punish and to silence him.
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and
kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the
island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of
    2. But the Lord permitted him still to testify. (10-11)
On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a
loud voice like a trumpet,  which said: “Write on a scroll what you
see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna,
Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
        a) John wasn’t killed.  And in exile he apparently had some
freedom to function and even to write.
        b) Clearly the Roman government that exiled him wasn’t
completely in charge.  God always is.  And God made use of this exile
to record the book of Revelation which includes special letters to 7
congregations - and now let’s not forget the eighth, St. Jacobi.
    1. A person is described here.  (12-14)
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me.  And
when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the
lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe
reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his
eyes were like blazing fire.     
        a)  Who is this person who is “like a son of man” and who here
is speaking to John?  In the opening verse of this book of Revelation
we have this answer: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God
gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.”
         b) In other words, this person pictured here and speaking is
God’s eternal Son who took on Himself our flesh and blood, became
“like a son of man” in order to be our Savior.
    2. Coming in judgment is also pictured.  (15-16)
His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was
like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven
stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His
face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
        a) Jesus came not only to save.  He will come again for “what
must soon take place,” for Judgment Day, as these words from our
 text indicate: “His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace,” and
also these words: “a sharp double-edged sword.”   
        b) There is a warning in these words: “Be prepared!”
    1. The explanation gives us comfort. (17-18)
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed
his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First
and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am
alive for ever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” 
        a) This is our Jesus telling us not to be afraid.  He was dead but
He no longer is.  He is alive!  We just celebrated that fact in Easter.
        b) And for all who believe in Him, His key at  death will open
wide the door to heaven.  For those who reject Jesus - let’s  not go
    2. The explanation also points to us. (19-20)
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will
take place later.  The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in
my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The
seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven
lampstands are the seven churches.”
        a) The explanation is simple enough.  The lampstands pictured
the congregations, and the stars pictured the pastors, the leaders of
those congregations.
        b) To the 7 mentioned in our text, let’s add an eighth, St. Jacobi.

    Letters to 7 - or 8 - churches.  The whole book of Revelation.  The
whole Bible.  Why all of this?  We heard a simple answer in the closing
words of our Gospel reading at the lectern earlier: “These are written
that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
that by believing you may have life in his name.”   

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

EASTER FESTIVAL SERVICE March 31, April 1, 2013 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: John 20:10-18

March 31, April 1, 2013
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: John 20:10-18

1.     With our emotions.
2.     With our understanding.
3.     With our purpose.

John 20:10-18 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”  14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? ”Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

          A happy blessed Easter to all of you. I’m guessing most of you are looking forward to some sort of happy Easter gathering with food and family. Children look forward to enjoying the contents of Easter baskets. You know, Easter wasn’t alway like that, the first Easter anyway. It started out as anything but joyful. But things changed when it became clear that Jesus was alive. Today let’s see what a difference the living Lamb makes. For our guests, we’ve been following the Bible’s picture of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world during our Lent and Holy Week services. We’ve seen what a difference the Lamb dying for us makes but now we go on to see what it means that He is alive.
          We join a woman named Mary Magdalene. The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about her. This is what we know. She once suffered from demon possession. Seven demons lived in her and made her life miserable until they met up with Jesus. By His power and authority as the Son of God Jesus cast those demons out of her. Mary was grateful for that blessing. She became a follower of Jesus and used her financial means to support Jesus and His disciples as they did the Father’s work. Mary Magdalene was there at the death of Jesus on Good Friday. She accompanied some of the other women who went to the tomb and watched where Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus. She hurried to the tomb that first Easter morning. She found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Jesus’ body was not there. Now pause for a moment, if you were her, what would you be thinking? Did the chief priests who hated Jesus snatch his body to desecrate it? Was this a cruel Roman soldier joke?
          The Bible tells us what she was thinking. Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”   Mary was thinking someone had taken her Lord’s body away. She was sad. She wouldn’t be able to show her love for Him by properly burying his body.
          We can relate, right? I mean, anyone here who has had a loved one die. When a mother has a miscarriage, or you experience the death of a child there is great sadness. All the plans we had, the things we would do, the milestones of Baptism, first words, first steps, first day of school, they’re gone. When someone dies “too young” in our eyes, they don’t reach the 70’s or 80’s or a normal lifespan, we are sad. So much potential left on the table. Widows, widowers, children without parents or grandparents. Even when someone old dies, someone whose health has been failing, someone whose death we have been praying for because physically things have gotten so bad for them, still sadness. We miss the people separated from us by death.
          But what a difference the Living Lamb makes not just with our emotions but with our understanding. Let’s find out what He did for Mary Magdalene. “At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? ”Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”) Jesus was alive! What a difference that made for Mary. Gone were her tears. They were replaced with joy and excitement. Mary thought she knew what was going on. Jesus dead. Gone. His body stolen. But things weren’t what they seemed at all. Jesus was alive!
          Brothers and sisters, Easter, the Living Lamb makes that difference for you and me too. How often in life haven’t you had it happen where you looked back at a situation or a course of events and said, “If I knew then, what I know now, I would have…” Can you imagine Mary Magdalene playing that game? Well if I knew you’d be alive I’d have come with bread and goat’s milk, not spices for embalming. I would have come with my smiley face, not my sad one. The truth is Mary Magdalene should have known. Jesus had plainly told His disciples and those following Him that He would be betrayed, put to death but after three days rise again.
          Hey, we’re no different, are we? Why do we cry when loved ones die? Don’t we know what Jesus has said? “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die!” We know. But we also know it’s not supposed to be that way. We know that death is only part of our lives because sin is part of our lives. Sin and its effects will always make us sad. But look what a difference the Living Lamb makes. Jesus died to pay for sins, ours and all others. Jesus rose from the dead and lives because He paid for sins in full. He can’t stay dead because His work is complete. His resurrection is God’s proof that our sins are forgiven and death’s separation isn’t eternal anymore. It’s only temporary. What a difference that makes for our emotions. We get to be sad when our loved ones who believe in Jesus die but we get to be happy too. They are with Jesus. They live. At the moment of their death on earth they got to turn, see Jesus and say, “Rabboni!” We’ll see them again.
What a difference it makes in our understanding. And not just our understanding of death. We get to be eternal optimists because Jesus lives. Like Mary Magdalene experienced, there will be times in our lives when things seem out of control. We will not understand why God is allowing things to happen. Remember then that Jesus lives and what a difference a living Lamb makes. God has a plan. God keeps His word. God keeps His promises. The living Lord Jesus stands as God’s proof that He knows what He is doing when we do not. Trust, wait and see.
And see what a difference the living Lamb makes in your purpose. “Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. When Mary realized Jesus was alive she naturally wanted to hold on to Him. Jesus words reminded her that their relationship had changed. It wouldn’t be the old one but a better one, a heavenly one. Mary was given a new purpose. Instead of showing love for Jesus by embalming a dead Lord she was to show love for Jesus by going to His disciples and being  a witness for a living Lord.
          That’s our purpose too. Once you know Jesus lives your relationships change. For the better. For our loved ones who have died believing in Jesus we won’t have sin marred relationships but we get to look forward to better ones, perfect ones, heavenly ones. All the milestones we think we’ve missed out on for earthly life with believers will fade next to the ones we rack up into eternity. And our relationships with those who are stuck on earth are different too. Each one becomes an opportunity to be witnesses for the living Lord, to fill their lives with the same hope and optimism we get because Jesus lives.
          That first Easter may not have started out very happy, but every Easter after has been. Jesus lives. Enjoy your meals, the goodies in your basket but know that your real Easter blessing is having a living Lord. He has taken away your sins. He takes sadness and turns it to joy. He takes fear and confusion and replaces it with trust and understanding. And someday when the time is right He will be taking you and me to heaven. Christ is risen! Amen.