Post-Easter Thankfulness

The Pastor is on vacation.

I am currently resting with family and friends; relaxing and reflecting on another Lenten and Easter season and the verdict is in:

It was good.

Notice that I did NOT say (with a sense of relief):

It is finished.

The jokes are out there, you see, that pastors are so shot after Easter that they feel like crawling into and curling up in Jesus’ empty tomb for a while.

“Don’t talk to me for a few days.”

I don’t feel that way. I feel energized and content and happy and filled. No, I didn’t take a 46 day vacation between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It’s just that the congregation I serve with, served together and thus I don’t feel drained but filled. I gave it my all but was never disconnected from the True Vine. I am not bragging but just thankful. I led worship and preached twice a week, but also worshiped and listened to what I was saying. Lent was refreshing, not life-draining.

And this is the way it should be. Looking back at a season that focuses on our mortality and sinfulness; worshiping while reflecting on Jesus’ last moments and death on a cross and then seeing an empty tomb and then hearing that proclamation: HE HAS RISEN! How can one not feel energized and thankful and joyful.

It is (indeed) finished and I am (indeed) thankful; thankful that Jesus finished what he came to do. Thankful that I have the hope of the resurrection. Thankful that I have been refreshed and ready for another season.

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Holy God,
You have refreshed me
through this Lenten and Easter season.
You have reminded me
who we are and whose I am.
You have shown me the extent of Your love.
May I cling to this Truth.
May I dwell in Your love.
May I proclaim this Good News.
May I continue to know Jesus better.
Oh God,
You are an awesome God.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The (thankful) Pastor -|—

 

Lenten Sermon Teaser ~ The Good Shepherd

Sermon teaser for our midweek Lenten worship tonight…

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
[John 10:3-4]

As followers of Jesus Christ, it is our joy to hear the beautiful voice of our Shepherd; knowing that that voice is one of peace and love and compassion. It is a voice of Truth. It is a voice that can be trusted. It is a voice the beckons. It is a voice that soothes. To ignore that voice is foolish and dangerous; not because our Shepherd is vengeful; but rather to follow another voice means following unto our death. The Good Shepherd is the only one who loves us unto death and beyond; for he lays his life down for his sheep. The Good Shepherd is the only one who true cares about you. And therefore it behooves us to drown out the competing voices and listen to THE Shepherd and joyfully follow him…

The Pastor -|—

Holy Saturday ~ Limbo

I feel like I am in limbo today.

The past two days we traveled through the cross of Jesus and now today ~ Nothing. Jesus has been crucified and buried, but tomorrow, though, is the joyous celebration of his resurrection. But I’m still in today ~ so nothing, at least for now.

And so I am here in my office reflecting on the cross, my sin and Jesus’ willingly going to the cross for me. And as I reflect on this I am polishing off TWO Easter sermons.

That’s right, I am just crazy enough to do that 🙂

This is something I have never done before. You see, I have two Easter services here at Salem Lutheran Church and one out at Belmont Lutheran Church. Every year I have written one Easter sermon and preached it three times. But there are a couple “problems” that I have never addressed before:

(1) Some people that come to the Sonrise worship service at Salem will come back for the Festival worship service later (I lead the Sonrise service at Belmont in between). And so those people hear the sermon twice, not necessarily bad since I need to hear something more than once to really get it, but I have heard comments.

(2) The crowd at each service is generally different (with a few the same). And so with a different crowd, a different message is needed; a different focus, if I am going to be contextual.

And so I felt the Spirit move stronger than ever, this year, to write TWO sermons. Besides, there shouldn’t be a problem, since I have plenty of material 🙂

Praise be to God!

And so this “nothing” day is turning into something. I am reflecting on the cross and preaching to myself an Easter message in two ways (but yet the same) as I get ready to lead God’s people in worship tomorrow.

What a day
Nothing to something ~ yup, that sounds like God

Holy Saturday, a day of limbo, but also a day of great expectation and hope as we know what is coming, and I am not talking about tomorrow.

God bless you as you wait expectantly for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Come, Lord Jesus, with your glorious Kingdom and praise be to God!

Living God, what a roller coaster ride this week, and now we wait for the glorious return of our Lord Jesus. Bless our waiting, Oh God, and may we feel the passion to share this Good News every single day. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Good Friday Prayer

As you contemplate the cross on this Good Friday, I offer this prayer for you:

Holy God; loving, compassionate and merciful,

we were not actually there when they crucified our Lord, but we were there, for it was our sin that Jesus died to take away. And when I think about this it indeed causes me to tremble and shudder and be ashamed that Your Son would suffer and die as he did so that we could live.

What an awesome show of love; Jesus laying down his life for us all.

And so I ask that if anyone here tonight does not claim Jesus as their Savior, that Your Spirit may speak to their spirit and convict them of their sin and show them the truth of Your mercy and grace. May they run to You and fall into Your loving arms.

For those who have placed their trust in Jesus may they feel drawn ever closer to You and strive to live a life worthy of the Gospel; bringing You praise and glory.

May the cross convict us and may the empty tomb on Easter bring forth joy from our hearts.

In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Holy Friday ~ Good Friday

image

It’s Good Friday, a day that has always been very power for me as I contemplate why Jesus did what he did for me. Last night was Maundy Thursday when we traditionally strip the altar at the end of the service. That always get me, too, not just seeing the naked altar and chancel area but being the one who is doing the stripping. It almost feels like I am the one involved in mocking Jesus. And in way, that’s what we do when we sin; we mock God and nail Jesus to the cross.

And so tonight we are going to get involved in contemplating our sinfulness by placing these nails (pictured below) at the foot of the cross (pictured above):

image

Throughout the worship service (as we hold these nails) we are going to be hearing about the various ways we “nail Jesus to the cross” through our sin. Then there will be a time of prayer and confession where people are going to be invited to come up, when they’re ready, and place these at the base of the cross. Following worship and as people leave, they will be invited to take another nail but this one they keep. People will be invited to place this nail in their pocket as a reminder of their sinfulness but also of where these nails belong and what they point to:

You are a sinner
Jesus was nailed to a cross
Jesus suffered and died
FOR YOU
Jesus was buried

And then…

…well, the rest of the story (THE Good News) will be coming on the 3rd day 🙂

Praise be to God!

Merciful God, we are sinners worthy of condemnation but Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Wow! Now, there is hope. Wow! Thank you, oh God, thank you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

The Pastor -|—

New Covenant ~ A Lenten Prayer

Tonight is the final Wednesday Lenten worship service of the season. And tonight we get to hear from my brother in Christ, from First Presbyterian, as he brings the Word from Jeremiah 31:31-34. We have been talking about covenant throughout Lent and tonight we end on the sweet note of the New Covenant.

And  so, this is the opening prayer I wrote for worship tonight. Let’s pray…

Behold, the days are coming, oh Lord, the days are coming, when You will fulfill the New Covenant promised to us through Jesus. And how we look forward to that day; that when the trumpet sounds we will be made brand new; glorious new bodies that will shine with Your Glory.

In the mean time, sting us with reminder that death is our rightful punishment but through Your grace, New Life is the amazing gift we have through faith in Jesus. May the sting convict and humble us and may Your response bring us to our knees in worship.

Teach us Your ways
Lead us into all truth
Guide us in obedience,

that we may show our love for You, for all to see, that You and You alone may be glorified.

May this worship be pleasing to your ears and may Your word fill our hearts to overflowing. In Jesus awesome and amazing name I pray, Amen.

God bless you as you prepare yourself for Holy Week (which begins on Sunday).

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

A Fiery Lenten Prayer

For Lenten worship tonight, with our brothers and sisters from First Presbyterian Church, I get the privilege of preaching. The text is Numbers 21:4-9 and below is the prayer I wrote to be prayed before I preach.

This Numbers text continues our Lenten theme of Old Testament texts dealing with covenant (Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses). Tonight we get the fiery serpents and then next week my brother in Christ from First Presbyterian will be closing our Lenten worship series with the New Covenant from Jeremiah 31. It’s been a great series and one of my favorites.

And so I leave you with this prayer tonight…

Father God, You have made Your expectations clear but yet we have turned away from You. You have made salvation a reality through faith in Jesus but we get impatient on our way to the promised land. You have given us Your holy law but yet we go our own way; speaking against You through our rebellion. You provide for us yet we whine and complain about what we don’t have; detesting Your holy provision. And therefore Your fiery judgment is right and we are deserving of it.

Oh God, turn our hearts to You that we may follow faithfully; placing our trust in You and our faith in Your son, Jesus Christ. May the sting of death remind us of our sinfulness but also of Your faithfulness. It’s not a bronze serpent we look at to be healed but rather the cross of Christ. May that produce a fiery faith in us as we praise you for Your grace.

And so I humbly appeal to You to bless these words we hear tonight that we may be transformed. And as we turn away from the fiery consequences of sin in obedience to You, may we see the way to eternal life through Your Son and may we give You all praise and honor and glory, forever and ever. In Jesus’ holy name I pray, Amen.

Have a blessed night 🙂

The Pastor -|—