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 -|—

 

An Easter Prayer of Faith

Holy and awesome God,
We come to this place this morning to worship YOU
because of the LIFE we have through faith in Jesus.
But I am keenly aware,
oh God,
that there may be people here this morning
only because they are visiting family
or because grandma and grandpa said,
“You’re going to worship this morning”
or because they were taught this is just what you do on Easter.
Whatever the case,
oh God,
I pray that the words I speak here may have power,
not because I say them,
but because they are ordained by YOU
and infused with Your Holy Spirit.
If it be Your will,
may someone who doesn’t know You come to faith,
so much so,
that they proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
May people be drawn to You
that You may be glorified.
And so, may the words of my mouth
and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable to You,
oh God,
our rock and Redeemer,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Sermon teaser for Palm Sunday

Here is the opening paragraph for this Sunday’s sermon. May God be glorified…

The holy bookends of Palm Sunday and Easter, encapsulate a holy drama that ends in a sure and certain hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the king of peace, is later mocked as the King of the Jews and then bursts through as the victorious King; one who obliterates sin, death and the power of Satan. We enter this morning in jubilation but leave somber and reflective as we contemplate the events of Holy Week. We enter worship this morning shouting, “Hosanna” which means “save us now” and leave hearing how Jesus does just that. The scope of this day is a microcosm of the holiest week of the year but may we not be satisfied with only this, rather, may we encounter the Passion of Jesus Christ anew as we listen to our salvation unfold and the power of death crumble into oblivion.

May God bless you as you journey through Holy Week; coming through the darkness and emerging into the Light of Easter morning.

The Pastor -|—

The Thief is Coming

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Are you ready?
Are you waiting?
Are you looking for the Lord?
Are you longing for the Lord?
Are you being complacent?
Are you clinging to worldly peace?

My friends, the Lord is coming. He has risen and now is planning his return. The only thing not certain (to us) is when, but I fear that many people either don’t know this or are taking this for granted. But if we truly fear this then what are we doing about it? It’s one thing to proclaim the Easter message and but are you talking about getting ready for the Lord, and not getting caught eating and drinking and making merry.

So the question shouldn’t be, “Are you ready?” but rather, “What are you doing to get others ready?

Our politicians are so focused on providing peace and security for people that many get drawn into these messages of worldly hope. And as people get drawn in, then Christ gets left in the rear view mirror, barely an after thought. But this is dangerous stuff, for the Lord will return like a thief in the nigh and catch many off guard.

Don’t be one of them.
And don’t let your neighbor be one of them.

We can’t afford to be complacent and say, “I’ll take them tomorrow”, for tomorrow may never come.

Living Easter hope, as I mentioned in my post from yesterday, is not about getting better in this life, but preparing ourselves for the next Life through holiness, though obedience to God and following Jesus to the cross. And living Easter hope is being hold and courageous in your faith, because really, what do you have to lose.

Fear not those who can destroy the body but the one who can throw the body and soul into hell.

So let’s get ready for the “thief” as he steals away our souls for eternal worship of God our Father.

And don’t forget about your neighbor.

Holy God, may I never forget about why Jesus died and the place in your mansion that he went to prepare. May I be found ready when Jesus returns. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Living Easter (Romans 5:6-11)

[From the Easter prayer breakfast at the White House]
“We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country,” Biden said. “We live Easter — and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better.”

NO, NO, NO!!!

That is not living Easter; not even close.

This is living Easter:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. [Romans 5:6-11]

The hope of Easter is not about the notion of us doing better (don’t get me though, we should want to do better all the time), but rather living with the joy that we have been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus. Jesus did better and therefore we should rejoice and celebrate that. And because Jesus did better I strive to be more like him; striving to be more Holy. But the fact of the matter is I know I will fall short. I will takes steps forward but then take steps back. Living Easter is about God and the promise of the empty tomb.

Living our faith?

“We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country,”

What a vague statement. Living our faith is following Jesus and obeying him. If that is what Biden means then great but I have my doubts whether that is what he is getting at. Call it what it is. Living our faith, Easter faith, is living in joy that despite this messed up and fallen world (which will pass away), though faith in the crucified and risen Jesus, we will not pass away. Living our faith is about glorifying God.

That is Easter faith
That is Easter hope
That is Easter joy

If it is about you getting better in this life then you will be sorely disappointed. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and on his perfect obedience that lead him to the cross because we are not better.

Praise be to God that we can have this TRUE Easter faith and hope.

Holy God, thank You that Jesus came to save an imperfect and disobedient people. Help us become more like Your son that we may glorify You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Dwelling and Gazing

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This here is the Easter hope:

Dwelling in the house of the Lord
Gazing upon the beauty of Lord
Inquiring in his temple

I mean, really, this is the Good News and our hope. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave that we might dwell with him. He didn’t die and rise that we might have a good life now. It really bugs me and worries me when preachers try to sell this message of hope in this life. Scripture says that if in this life we have hope in Christ only then we are most to be pitied. Jesus didn’t die that we may have a temporary hope; a limited hope; a shortsighted hope. Jesus died that we may have eternal life; dwelling in his temple and worshiping him forever.

But something else to think about. Not only will you, through faith in Jesus, dwell in his temple, but you will gaze upon a beauty that is absolutely mind blowing. There is nothing in this universe that can compare. If someone tries to sell you a worldly hope you need to respond:

That’s not good enough. I want more.

And Jesus gives you more.

Praise be to God that our hope is more and better and wonderful and beautiful.

Holy Father, I praise you that death has been defeated and that I can live this life with hope of something more. And I look forward to that day when I am dwelling and gazing on your beauty and inquiring in your temple. All praise and worship be to you, oh God. In Jesus name, Amen.

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 -|—