Memorial Day 2018

Memorial Day devotion delivered at cemetery services in Natoma and Paradise.

There is no form of government set forth in Scriptures.  The only direction given, is that the government, whatever form it may take, is to reward righteousness and punish wickedness.  Any government can, and has, filled that description throughout the history of the world.

It is by God’s true grace and favor that we enjoy the freedoms we do under the government that is over us.  It is possibly one of the most remarkable achievements in human history that this government, for all its warts and blemishes, stands strong in the face of trial and tribulation from those who would do us harm.

And yet, it is not without cost; a cost that is paid out in blood and treasure.  You can always get treasure back, there is always more treasure to be had and found; but blood is not so easily replaced; once blood is gone, it is gone forever.

Today, we remember especially the blood that has been shed to preserve the government and the freedoms afforded to us.  Blood that was shed in the towns and villages, on the fields and on the seas of this nation; blood that was shed in Europe and Asia and all places in between; blood that was shed in combat and in peace times.

Blood that was shed by men and women, by those in the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force to preserve the freedoms that you and I can enjoy today in many and various ways.

And one of those ways, is the gathering to worship the one whose own blood was shed not to preserve a government or a designated piece of land, but blood that was shed to redeem all people, both those in uniform and those at home, from the ultimate enemy of sin, death and the devil.

This Memorial Day, there are a great many freedoms for which we give thanks, laid out most clearly in the Bill of Rights; among those is the freedom for the free exercise of religion; let us rejoice and give thanks to Christ Jesus, the one who truly has won an eternal gift for us that cannot be taken away by friend or foe, but that resides for us in our eternal home of Paradise forever.

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How can these things be?

The Holy Trinity – St. John 3:1-17

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The gift of the Holy Spirit

The Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:1-21

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Where do you think you’re going?

The Ascension of Our Lord – Acts 1:1-11

There is an episode of The Simpsons that seems particularly relevant to our reading from Acts this evening.  The episode finds the cartoon family in church, where they fall asleep and dream about various Biblical accounts.  At the end, they all awake to find themselves in an empty church.  When they get outside, it is the end of the world; and there is hellfire and brimstone everywhere.

The Flanders family are seen piously praying, when a light from above shines on them and they are taken into heaven.  Though stunned at first, the Simpsons are immediately reminded why they are not ascending into heaven.  But then that same heavenly light shines down upon young Lisa, who likewise begins to ascend; that is until Homer grabs her by the ankle, and says ‘Where do you think you’re going?’

One could easily draw such an image from our reading from Acts.  Unlike the Ascension account recorded by the same author in the Gospel of St. Luke where Jesus ascends into heaven and the disciples return to Jerusalem rejoicing and praising God, the Acts account shows a far different side of the disciples.

Jesus leads them out to the mountain, and the primary thing on the disciples mind is whether or not Jesus will now, finally, establish an earthly kingdom in Israel, from which He will reign.

To which it only seems reasonable to assume that Jesus asks Himself: Where have these guys been?

At the end of our reading, as Jesus ascends into heaven, the disciples are left standing on the mountain with strained necks, watching Jesus as He ascends out of sight.

One can almost imagine Peter grabbing onto Jesus ankle, and asking: where do you think you’re going?  Or perhaps James and John asking if they were now in charge.  Or maybe even Andrew and Levi contemplating a return to their previous careers now that the three year adventure with Jesus is over.

Such is the mood on this The Ascension of Our Lord.  We read in Revelation that the other side of this is a celebration unlike any other in heaven, welcoming back the Son of God who has soundly and eternally defeated the old evil foe; but the picture on earth is much different; it is one of the disciples trying to hold onto Jesus, trying to keep Him here just a little while longer.  They lost Him once, they dare not lose Him again.

Where do you fit into all of this?

It is easy to say that you are not like the disciples of Acts 1, but more like the disciples of Luke 24.  You have never known what it is to have Jesus in human form, in your physical presence, so that He is now in heaven makes you no mind.

And yet, which would you rather have?

Do you, like the disciples, wish that Jesus would come and establish an earthly kingdom and set the world right?  Of course you do; sure the promise of heaven for the believers and hell for the unbeliever is well and good, but why not make them suffer a little bit first?  An earthly kingdom, established and governed by Jesus Himself, would be the perfect way to ensure that those who have done you wrong, would be made to pay for their offenses.

And if the unbeliever is suffering, there is no reason as to why you should not be rewarded.  Is that not the command given to the governments of this world?  To reward righteousness and punish wickedness.  If the unbeliever is made to suffer, ought not you, the faithful and devout believer, be made to shine like the sun?  Should you not receive a mansion prepared for you, and plenty of power and authority to make things right in your life.

Or perhaps, you just want Jesus to stick around because with Jesus here, you are safe and protected.  With Jesus here, you have purpose, you have a reason for being.  Without Jesus around, it is back to the same old way of life, with hardly anyone around at all to notice you?

How many would find themselves grabbing Jesus by the ankle, and asking Him, where do you think you’re going?

And yet, to cling to Jesus, to prevent Him from ascending into the clouds to take His seat at God’s right hand, is to miss the entire point of the Ascension.

The Ascension is the completion, the exclamation mark on the resurrection.  Relatively speaking, lots of people rose from the dead: Lazarus and the widow’s son at Nain were raised directly by Jesus; not to mention those raised in the Old Testament and in the book of Acts; but what they all have in common is that they all died again, likely of old age or of a future illness; but also possible through persecution.

Jesus on the other hand, rose from the dead and never died again; and today, He ascends into heaven, thus signaling that He will never die again, but will rule at the Father’s side, not as second in command, but as equals in majesty and glory.

Jesus ascends today, but He does not leave us alone.  Jesus ascends to the Father’s side so that He might intercede for us.  We now have an advocate with the Father today, and it is Jesus Christ the righteous one, who points to the holes in His hands, feet and side, as remainders of His death for our sins.

Jesus ascends today, but He does not leave us alone.  Jesus now sits on every altar in the bread and wine, the body and blood, give and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.  Jesus is more present now than He ever was, no longer just on a mountaintop outside Jerusalem, but on every altar, waiting to be received by those who come forward to eat and drink a foretaste of the eternal feast that awaits them.

Jesus ascends today, but He does not ascend without a purpose; and the ultimate purpose is that one day you too will ascend.  Jesus goes ahead to prepare a place for you, a place where you will live and reign with Him without end.  Just as there is no resurrection for you without Christ’s resurrection, so to there is no ascension for you without Christ’s ascension first.  And that is the promise today, that as Jesus ascends into heaven, you can now await the day when you too will be taken into heaven to live and reign without end.

The question we started out with was Where do you think you’re going, directed at Jesus as He drifts higher and higher into the clouds; and yet the question could very well be directed at each of us: where do you think you’re going?

You are going forth with the disciples, rejoicing and praising God for all that He has done, making His name known to the ends of the earth, all the while as you await the day when you will follow the path that Christ has set, ascending into heaven.

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An easy burden

Easter 7 – 1 John 5:1-8

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Busy? Take a Sabbath

First Lutheran Church   Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

May, 2018

The saying goes, at least in these parts; don’t schedule anything during May, because everyone is too busy with graduations and weddings and Memorial Day and the start of summer and a million other things all going on at the same time.

I suppose that is true, except for the fact that no matter what time of year it is, people always seem to be busy, or at least too busy for the things they don’t want to do.

Why do we choose to cram our schedules to the breaking point with things to do?  Why must every weekend have ten different things happening from morning to night?  Why must every night of the week have a meeting?  Why do we inflict such hardships upon ourselves?

Is it the expectations of others?  Is it the promise of scholarships and awards and other honors?  Is it the fear of what would happen if we just stayed home one weekend?  It is the realization that we are just not happy with our lives, so we clutter them up in the hope that others, or more likely we, won’t notice?

We often laugh when we discuss Old Testament Sabbath Day regulations; the idea that you can only walk so many steps, or that you have to restrict your activities to certain things, is just a completely foreign concept in our lives where every moment must be filled with something.

And yet, think of the benefits.  What would you do if one weekend a month, you scheduled no out of town activities?  What if you were told that one weekend a month, you could go no farther from your house than your own 2 feet could carry you?

I suppose the first time you would feel rather awkward; the second time you might go stir crazy; but from there on out, you would probably start to enjoy it, and enjoy it so much in fact, that you would start to clear out other weekends so that you could do the same.

Today, the Third Commandment, Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, refers for us, those freed from the demands of the Law by Christ’s death and resurrection, to the regular praise and worship of God, to gladly hear His Word and to hold it sacred.

But that does not negate the original intent of the Commandment.  The body, your body, needs rest, it needs to relax, it needs to refresh and recharge itself.  The heart needs to be refreshed by the Word and the Sacraments; and the whole body needs to be refreshed from the busy life that we find ourselves in.

Consider that the curse given to Adam, and to each of us, is that work would be hard, it would no longer be easy.  And God, in His wisdom, saw that work would be hard, so He set aside a day of rest for His people, rest in His Word and rest for the body.

As you celebrate with friends and family this month, particularly at graduations and at weddings, take a moment to remind both the graduate and the newlyweds about the gift of rest.  Rest for the soul in the house of the Lord, and also rest for the body in the house of the family.

What benefit will you reap?  Actually both places of rest will yield the same reward: the heart and the body will be ready to go forth and love and serve in whatever vocation you find yourself in with a new vitality and energy that you never knew you had, because that is what rest does: it gives you energy to do what the Lord has called upon you to do, whether it be witnessing to neighbors or serving your neighbor.

And then follow your own advice, and rest: in the pew as you hear the Word and receive the sacraments, and later in the recliner.

God Bless!   Pastor Schmidt

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The hard work of the Church

Easter 5 – Acts 8:26-40

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