Even to Old Age and Gray Hairs
Psalm 71:17-18 – O God from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth, you will bring me up again.
Isaiah 46:3-4 – Listen to me, O House of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
Dear Friends in Christ,
There are at least two views one can take regarding living life, growing older, and approaching death. View #1 is to think that bad things happen, and then you die. View #2 is to believe that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. View #1 says that one should eat and drink and be merry when you’re young and in your prime, because the day is coming when it’s all downhill. View # 2 is to believe that every stage of life is to be lived for the glory of God and for the encouragement of others along the road to paradise. View #1 is to live according to what you can see, and View #2 is to live by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. View #1 is sort of the common sense approach to life, that it is what it is, and you have to plough your way through life on your own, and View #2 is to see that Jesus Christ has gone the way of the cross on your behalf, that He has lived the perfect life that Carol and you and I could not even get close to living, that Christ has suffered all that Carol and you and I should have suffered, that Jesus Christ died the death we should have died on a Friday and rose up again on a Sunday morning, and because He is risen, we can be sure that every word of Scripture is absolutely true, without exception. Because Jesus Christ is risen, the sins of Carol Bollman and your sins and my sins are washed away, sent away as far as the east is from the west, never to be held against us, in the courtroom of Almighty God, which is the only courtroom that matters. Because Jesus Christ is risen, there is a mansion in heaven prepared for all who have been baptized into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost and have found a way to remain in that Baptism faith. Because Christ is risen, the body you must lay into the ground this afternoon will be raised up again on the last day, to be reunited with her soul / her spirit, and because Christ is risen, Carol Bollman will live body and soul face to face with her Savior into eternity.
View #1 is to think that the good old days have passed us by, but View #2 is to know that the really good days are yet to come. My parents are both passed away, as are yours now, but while they were still living, my two sisters and I all lived at a distance. Once in awhile, we would plan out a surprise visit on them, and we’d all appear at their house unannounced. My parents were delighted, but Mom was a bit frustrated that she had not prepared for our visit with her usual baking and cooking and cleaning. We eventually figured out that if we were to tell her ahead of time that we were coming, she could enjoy the visit even before we showed up. She could spend her days not only getting ready, but her heart would be absolutely delighted in anticipation of that visit.
I tell you all of that to tell you this. Our Scripture lessons for today invite you to live the rest of your days being absolutely delighted as you anticipate that great day when our Lord Jesus Christ will visit this world the second and final time. To be living every one of your days with View #2, which is the view of the cross and the empty tomb.
Two lessons I share with you about what it means to live with a distinctively Christian view of life, according to the Psalmist and the prophet Isaiah.
Lesson #1 is to know that in all the stages of life, even to old age and gray hair, your God is willing to do the heavy lifting. When Isaiah wrote his words of comfort, the house of Jacob wasn’t at all what it had been. The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been swallowed up in the Assyrian advance. Samaria, its capital, lay in ruins. God had checked the Assyrian advance by destroying 185,000 soldiers and had preserved Jerusalem from destruction. The Jewish countryside ahd nevertheless been ravaged by the Assyrians.
Into that context, God promises, “Even to your old age and gray hairs, indeed, I am he, I myself will bear you as a burden. I have made you myself, and I myself will carry you. I myself will bear you, and I myself bring you to safety. All these promises depend on the action of the Lord. Only his gracious action has sustained his people in the past, and only his action will sustain them in the future.
One pastor described old age this way. “You think of old age and you think the time when your knees buckle and your belt won’t. Old age is when you turn out the lights for economic rather than romantic reasons. Old age is when you have too much room in the house and not enough in the medicine cabinet…If you want to know what it feels like to be old, smear dirt on your glasses, stuff cotton in your ears, put on heavy shoes that are too big and wear gloves, and then try to spend the day in a normal way.
Believe me, there’s a lot of truth in those words, but lesson #1 today once again is this, in all the stages of life, your God is with you, He loves you, He spared not His only Son on your behalf, what is there He wouldn’t do for you? Even into her old age and gray hair, He had every one of Carol’s hairs on her head numbered, and His promises stand for you as well.
Lesson #2 is as important as Lesson #1, maybe even more. It is that in even in the later stages of life, God has a great purpose for His people. The Psalmist said it this way, O God from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
It’s clear to me that this dear Christian woman, this mom, this grandma, this great grandma has been the glue holding together this family. It looks to me as if she has been appreciated and even adored by kids, grandkids, and great grandkids alike. The other day, when Tim and Jodi came into my office asking for a funeral service in this house of God, the message was message was clear. This was and is to be a funeral service and burial where Jesus Christ would be honored and proclaimed.
To you sons and daughters and grandchildren, I say this – it’s your turn. The baton of Christian faith has been handed to you, and it’s your turn to make sure the next generations know how great is their God. To make sure they know the simple truths that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that God loves them, always has, and always will. To make sure they know God the Father almighty as creator of heaven and earth, to make sure they know Jesus as Savior and Lord, to make sure they know the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier and Teacher and Comforter. Make sure they know the Ten Commandments as the very word of the Lord, make sure they know the difference between right and wrong, make sure they know that in all the stages of life, their God is more thanwilling to do the heavy lifting, that in fact He has already done the heavy lifting, make sure they know that even in the later stages of life, God has great purpose for His people, and finally make sure they know that Grandma Carol is resting in peace and they will be able to see her again some day soon. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
First in a Series of Seven Sermons on Shared Vision
• Titus 3:5-6 – He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.
• Romans 10:17 – So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
• Take eat, this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me…..Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.
Dear Friends in Christ,
It is our vision here at Trinity Lutheran to mature in the Christian faith. That is to say, to grow up into Jesus Christ by receiving His good gifts of grace and mercy, to enjoy those good gifts of grace and mercy, and to help others to recognize and acknowledge and accept and enjoy those same good gifts of grace and mercy.
We have identified seven habits of Christians who are first of all being transformed by the Gospel, and secondly as they live out their faith are actually transforming, having an impact on the world around them. The first three habits are on the receiving side of what it means to be a Christian, and the next four habits are on the living out and giving away side of what it means to follow Christ.
Tonight we focus on the first habit of a maturing disciple, which is to receive gratefully the good gifts of God in Divine Service. That’s a fancy way of saying, Go to Church and receive what God has this great desire to give you! Three good reasons to go to church are 1) God says so, 2) it will be good for you, and 3) it will be good for people around you.
First of all, you should go to Church because God says so! That’s a law statement for those of you who are doing sermon summaries. Most of you have probably had this kind of a conversation with a parent, as I did with my dad. Dad would say, “It’s time to go to bed, son.” I would say, “I don’t want to go to bed.” He would say, “Go to bed anyway.” I would say, “Why do I have to go to bed now?” Dad would say, “Because I said so.” I was never really afraid that my dad would hurt me, but I was very hesitant to cross the line whenever Dad had drawn it in the sand.
Our God has drawn ten lines in the sand. We call them the Ten Commandments. The Third Commandment says it this way, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” The Psalmist said this way about the man of God whose delight is in the law of the Lord on his law he meditates day and night, he is like a tree that is planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, in all that he does he prospers….The writer to the Hebrews said it this way, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Again Jesus says Paul said it this way, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Luther explained it this way, “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and the Word of God but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
Reason #1 to receive gratefully the good gifts of God in Divine Service is because God says so and that should settle it. Reason # 2 is that it’s going to be good for your heart and it’s going to be good for your mind and it’s going to be good for your soul and it’s going to be good for your life as often as you put yourself in a position to be hearing that your sins have been washed away (Gospel statement for you 7th and 8th graders), to be hearing that God loves you and isn’t angry with you, in spite of how badly you have messed up!
Story of preaching at a recent wedding that the groom should be all about paying attention to his bride and meeting her needs / I proceeded to take Debi to their wedding reception where I paid attention to just about everybody else except Debi / didn’t practice what I preached / the next morning in Divine Service, as Pastor Muther spoke words of absolution and as he waved the bread in front of my eyes and forgave my sins, it was absolutely good for my soul / heart / mind / emotional well-being. Oh how grateful I was in that moment to be reassured that God wasn’t about to give up on me. And oh how grateful I can be that Debi was and is and ever shall be willing to be gracious to this little short fat preacher man!
My invitation to you tonight is that you would cultivate gratefulness as your basic attitude toward life. Gratefulness is one of the most powerful forces in this world. It makes the difference between just going through the motion and really being alive. Gratefulness is the difference between having a heart of stone and receiving a heart of flesh from the Lord.
A Lutheran Pastor Bonhoeffer who was imprisoned and executed for his Christian faith said that it is only through gratitude that life becomes rich. The sign outside our church has this saying on it, “Get rich quick, count your blessings!” Being grateful does not protect us from rejection or pain or sorrow. But it has a way of grounding us, it gives us another way of responding to what is taking place. The grateful spirit can help us to know that when those painful or sad feelings are happening, that’s not all that’s happening. Counting our blessings does not mean that we no longer feel the grief that we feel, or the confusion, or the sorrow. It means we are feeling all of that, and we are also feeling a sense of warmth, peace, and connection.
Reason #3 is that as we cultivate and hang onto this attitude of thankfulness, it will be good for the people around us. Just about everything that we feel or think or say or do can be contagious, both that which is positive and negative.
For example, if I stood up here tonight and complained about young people these days, how they didn’t sit up straight in my classes, how they didn’t laugh at my jokes, how they didn’t always get their assignments done, how so many of them were out there drinking beer and using meth, and what’s this world coming to anyway, and on and on I went, no doubt a few if not many of you would nod your heads and mentally join in the moaning and groaning session.
On the other hand, if I stood up here tonight and told you five or six things I appreciated about your young folks, how they come to confirmation class and they do sermon summaries and they are here in church tonight and they’re going to go home and do their homework and clean up their bedrooms and tell their parents how awesome they are, you would catch that kind of fever, as well………
The kingdom of God is like a family that shows up in church on a Wednesday night mainly because their kids were scheduled to sing, and they went home that night saying to themselves, “well that wasn’t as boring as I thought it was going to be!” They often show up in church as a matter of habit, but more often than not, they sense that the Spirit of God is doing something inside of them. They show up in church feeling stressed out and busy and feeling like they have been falling short and more than a bit guilty, but they go home that night reassured that their failures have been forgiven, their stained records have been washed clean, and their status as sons and daughters of their Father in heaven is secure. That night, they lay their heads down and the very last prayer they pray goes something like this, “Gracious God, thank you for forgiving all that I did wrong and thank you for not holding it against me the good that I failed to do, and Lord, could you please bless and multiply anything I may have done well today.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Genesis 2 - So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Dear Friends in Christ,
April of 1916 and May of 1962 are red letter dates at (Trinity Lutheran). About ten years ago, we started a men’s Bible Study at ExpressWay and we called ourselves Men of Integrity. The purpose of that study was to encourage one to be better men, better husbands, and better fathers. Only about five or six men showed up for the class, and then we began to hear that one of the excuses for not coming to this class was that they didn’t have enough integrity to be part of the class. So we changed the name of the class to Men Who Need Help. Ten years later, we’re still meeting twice a month, in the same place, with the same purposes, and instead of five or six men of integrity showing up, we now have four or five men who need help showing up.
Men have always needed help here at Trinity Lutheran, and on this LWML Sunday, that’s why I say that April of 1916 is a red letter date – that’s when the Ladies’ Aid began to meet mainly for the purpose of serving their Lord with gladness, and when I say that May of 1962 is a red letter date here at Trinity, I say so because that’s when the Dorcas Society began to meet and to do so mainly for the purpose of serving their Lord with glad hearts. Our history booklets in this place indicate that going way back, the purpose of our LWML groups has been to foster Christian fellowship, to support the work of the church at home and at large, and to help the needy with works of charity. The motto of our ladies groups has always been and is to this very day simply to serve the Lord with gladness, and today we give thanks to God for all of that serving and all of that gladness which has been to the glory of God and for the building up of His saints in this place.
Of course, the idea that men need help goes back a lot further than 1916 or 1942. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where everything, absolutely everything that God had created was very good, except for one thing. It was not good that the man should be alone. It had never been the Creator’s intent to have Adam live alone, and so He designed a helper suitable for him. Our text makes it clear that God did not force this companion on the man. He had created animals of all kinds and now brought them to Adam to have him name them. One reason for God’s doing this was to provide Adam an opportunity to share God’s thoughts about his loneliness and to develop a longing for the special gift God was about to give him.
As Adam selected appropriate names for each of the animals and birds, he noted that each of them had a mate. Even though people like to say that dogs are a man’s best friend, Adam already then recognized that no animal was suited for intimate companionship with him. Adam had no one with whom he could share the joy of living in paradise. And so it came to be that God established the institution of marriage. An institution clearly defined as between one man and one woman where both of them pledge themselves unconditionally to each other and where they give evidence of this by breaking off a close family bond in order to establish a new one.
People have all kinds of ideas of what true love and marriage look like. When asked, “What is falling in love like? John, age 9- It’s like an avalanche, and you ought to run for your life. When asked, “Why do married people hold hands? Gavin, age 8 – They want to make sure their rings don’t fall off, because they paid good money for them. When asked, “How do you tell if two adults eating at a restaurant are really in love?” a child answered, “Lovers will be just staring at each other and their food will get cold. Married people will just be eating.”
In today’s sermon, I invite you to learn again three Biblical purposes of marriage. First, God intended marriage on earth as a cure for (loneliness). The order for Holy Matrimony we use in this Church says it this way, “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity.”
Socrates said, “There is no possession more valuable than a good and faithful friend.” Francis Back suggested that “friendship doubles joys and cuts in half griefs.” Through Solomon, the Holy Spirit said it this way, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down his friend can help him back up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also if 2 lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Recently I officiated at a marriage ceremony where the couple had chosen a Unity Cross ceremony. The suggested words in that ceremony say it well, The Groom places the outer Cross in the beautiful wood base as the Pastor explains how God created man- Bold, Strong, the Defender of the Family yet how he is empty and incomplete without the woman. The Bride then places the more delicate cross inside of the Grooms cross as the Pastor explains how God created Woman- Delicate, multi-faceted, taking care of all of the little things that completes the man, and the -Two become One. The Bride and Groom then use the 3 golden pegs to lock the union(cross) together in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the pastor exclaims that: What God has brought together let no man take apart.”
We don’t mean to give the impression that everybody has to be married. St. Paul was single and glad that he was single. He said he wished everybody could be single, but then he added, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Which brings us to a second purpose for marriage
Secondly, our Order of Service declares, God ordained marriage so that man and woman may find (delight) in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. Research suggests couples are waiting longer and longer to get married, that fewer and fewer are holding to the traditional values, but that there is still this desire to be connected to Christ and His Church. With that in mind, we schedule between 15 and 25 weddings each year here at Trinity. Our strong desire is to help young couples to stay connected to their Savior, to see the beauty of keeping their promises to each other, and to delight in honoring and cherishing each other in all the stages of life.
Third God established marriage as a place where the (baton) of Christian faith may be handed from one generation to the other. The Order for Holy Matrimony in our Agenda says it this way, “God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.”
For some of us, the kingdom of God is like a relay race where our parents handed to us the very baton their parents had handed to them. For others of us, a pastor or a youth counselor or a teacher were very much involved in the handing of the baton. For still others of us, marriage was the manner in which the Holy Spirit got ahold of us and started turning us around. For many of us, it is a combination of all of the above.
The prayer we offer in the Order of Matrimony includes this prayer, “O God, our dwelling place in all generations, look with favor upon the homes of our land. Embrace husbands and wives, parents and children, in the arms of Your love, and grant that each, in reverence for Christ, fulfill the duties You have given. Bless our homes that they may ever be a shelter for the defenseless, a fortress for the tempted, a resting place for the weary, and a foretaste of our eternal home with You.
If it’s true that a picture is worth a (thousand) words, then you just saw four pictures worth 4000 words. That our homes would be a 1)shelter for the defenseless, 2) a fortress for the tempted, 3)a resting place for the weary, and 4)a foretaste of our eternal home with You.
Dear friends in Christ, every time you see a husband be kind and patient to his wife, let it be a picture of Jesus Christ loving you with a tenderness unmatched. Every time you see a wife forgiving her husband for coming up short on his promises, let it be a picture of Jesus Christ sending away your sins as far as the east is from the west. Every time you see a single parent sacrificing so that her daughter can attend a Christian school, let it be a picture of your Savior slowly and prayerfully making his way to the cross for the joys of resurrection set before Him. Every time you see a child apologizing to his grandpa for being naughty, let it be a picture of the angels and archangels of heaven rejoicing over one sinner that repents. Every time you see in your church or in your community a couple getting married, why not get down on your knees and pray that their marriage would be a picture of Jesus Christ’s unwavering commitment to His Bride, the Church. Amen.
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all those laboring and having been loaded down! And I myself will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, that I am gentle and lowly in heat, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is pleasant (easy), and my load / burden is light.
Dear Friend in Christ,
Just yesterday, I was out and about and visiting a few of our shut in and elderly members with Holy Communion. I knocked on the door of one of our dear and elderly members. I heard a little voice say “come in” and so I did. She wasn’t feeling very good, still in her bed clothes even though it was 5 in the afternoon, and she was having a pretty bad hair day. What I saw her doing made my day. She was sitting there reading and underlining her large print Portals of Prayer, and underneath was her large print Bible. She welcomed me, as Bernice and so many of our elderly members do, with open arms. She yearned, as Bernice and so many of our home bound friends yearn, to hear the voice of her shepherd, to confess her sins, and to receive her Lord’s Supper. In contrast to so many of us who are younger and still in the busy stages of our lives, she and Bernice and so many of our sweet and aged Christian men and women have learned to be still and to pay close attention to the Voice of their Good Shepherd.
One of the hymns Del and Erv chose for this funeral is “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”. This hymn was written in the mid 1800’s by a Scottish pastor named Horatius Bonar. A glance at his life story indicates that he had married his wife Jane in 1843 and five of their young children died in succession. Towards the end of their lives, one of their surviving daughters was left a widow with five small children and she returned to live with her parents.
And so he writes, “I heard the voice of Jesus say, “come unto Me and rest, Lay down thou weary one, lay down, Thy head upon My breast. I came to Jesus as I was, so weary, worn, and sad; I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.”
Story of my days as a newspaper man here in Janesville, delivering papers to 30 customers or so every morning, including Alvin Rudolph. Most days it was a breeze, but on Sunday mornings and the day after Thanksgiving, the load was heavy, almost unbearable. One paper at a time, the load would become lighter, more bearable, and before long, all was well.
We come to Jesus with our burdens and our weariness as often as we cry out to Him for mercy. As often as we come with hearts that are at the same time sorry for having fallen short and believing that Christ has not fallen short. Hearts and minds that are at the same time terrified by the Law and comforted by the Gospel. At the same time tired of so many good intentions gone awry and resting in plan of salvation intended and carried out by God in perfect fashion. At the same time burdened with loads so very heavy and overwhelming but on the other hand resting in the knowledge that in Christ, all is well.
As we lay Bernice to rest in the Iosco Cemetery today, we do so with the confidence that her sins have been paid for at the cross, that there will be for her a resurrection of the body and life everlasting. In the waters of Baptism, she received the sign of the cross both upon her forehead and upon her heart, marking her as a holy and redeemed child of God. From her mother’s knee, she heard again and again that Jesus loved her and that she could take her sins and her sadness and her sorrows to her Savior in prayer any time and anywhere. She is famous in my mind for having a beautiful smile on the outside and a quietness on her inside, both suggesting that she had found in Jesus Christ a resting place, and that He had made her glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, behold, I freely give. The living water, thirsty one, Stoop down and drink and live.” I came to Jesus, and I drank Of that life giving stream; My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.
The rhythm of Christian living is that God gives and we receive. Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians that by grace are we saved, through faith. This is not of our own doing, faith is the gift of God and not of works, lest any of us should boast. In Divine Service, God serves and we are served. In the words of absolution and in the reading of Scriptures and in the preaching and teaching of His Word, the Good Shepherd speaks, and sheep listen.
Jesus said it this way, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. Bernice’s nursing home family and friends tell us that in the last few months of her life, she would have episodes where she would be unkind, unpleasant, and impatient.
I am reminded of the familiar Footprints poem, with a new twist, When the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back. I noticed that at some times along the path there was only one set of footprints. At other times, there was one set of footprints along with gouges and irregular lines in the sand. I also noticed that this happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life. This bothered me, and I questioned the Lord . . . "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way. I have noticed that during my most troubled times, you were not with me". The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and would never, ever leave you during your times of trial and suffering". "When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you and dragged you, kicking and screaming..
Even in her last months, as often as her pastors would visit her, that often she would receive us. As often as we asked her if we could pray with her, she agreed. Every time we asked her if she was sorry for her sins and believed in Jesus as Savior and desired to amend her sinful ways, she said yes. With all of her heart, she believed that with goodness and mercy her Good Shepherd was following her around, and that she would dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, I am this dark world’s light. Look unto Me; thy morn shall rise And all thy day be bright. I looked to Jesus, and I found In Him my star, my sun; And in that light of life I’ll walk Till trav’ling days are done.
One of Bernice’s favorite things to do was to listen to and watch the Twins’ games. Whenever the Twins won, she knew that they won, she could tell me what the score was, and she was as pleased as she could be. When they lost, which some years was more often than not, she knew that they lost, and she never seemed to get to down about it. Pretty even keeled she was in her day. She had figured out that even if the Twins lost and lost bad, the sun was still going to be coming up in the morning.
Dear friends in Christ, the Bible says that although there will be weeping in the night time, joy comes in the morning. No matter how faulty and full of failure your days may be, the mercies of God are new in every one of your mornings. No matter how dark is the darkness in your soul, it doesn’t have a prayer in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, Jesus says, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. In Jesus day, the religious leaders spoke of the yoke of the law as a glorious obedience to God. They thought that obedience to God would free them of obligations to the world and give them rest. Jesus described that yoke as heavy, and He offers us the alternative that we would be yoked to Him. As often as fix our eyes on Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and coming back again, that often life gets easy. Easy in this way – a great light has come into this world, and in His presence, darkness doesn’t have a prayer. Amen.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Saturday evening supper on the farm
There are at least two kinds of households- those with set routines and those where routines are the exception rather than the rule. I grew up in a family where three meals a day were common and each of the seven days included certain rituals. Sunday was go to church, go to Sunday School and Bible class, buy a Fargo Forum newspaper, get together with aunts and uncles and cousins for roast beef dinner or chicken dinner day. Monday was wash the clothes day, Tuesday was iron the clothes day, Wednesday was Ladies Aid day once a month, I don’t remember so much about Thursdays, Friday was go to town and get groceries day, and Saturday’s agenda was firm. Vacuuming and dusting in the morning, mowing lawns in the afternoon, pitching manure in the spring time, and all year round, Saturdays were for the baking of cookies and all kinds of bread. Not bread that would be broken, but bread that would melt away in your mouth at the Saturday evening meal. A meal where everyone had their assigned places, a meal that would include all four of the food groups, a meal where plates would be cleaned, a meal where there would be no singing, and a meal that would end as all supper meals would end –with Mom reading a devotion out of Little Visits with God. Growing up, I had no idea what the Spirit of God was doing on the inside of me. Looking back, I realize that this time of breaking bread and listening to Bible stories and praying the Our Father together as a family has been burned into my heart never to be extinguished. Three parts to our sermon today, as we examine our own family meal rituals, as we take a look at that first Easter Sunday supper meal in a little town of Emmaus, and the theme, “Bread Broken.”
Jesus started out the day as the student, but ended as the (teacher). Two Sundays ago, we listened in as Jesus sauntered up alongside of two disciples journeying, asked them what sorts of things they were talking about, and played the part of a student. Last Sunday, we listened in as our Risen Savior perfectly and carefully opened up prophecy and fulfillment to them. Today we make the case that table fellowship was an integral part of Jesus’ ministry. Professor Art Just from the Ft. Wayne Seminary writes, “Jesus frequently used the occasion of a meal to create fellowship with people. Jesus’ table fellowship may be defined as the gracious presence of Jesus at table, where he teaches about the kingdom of God and shares a meal in an atmosphere of acceptance, friendship, and peace. His usual table fellowship practice combined those three ingredients: his presence, his teaching, and his eating.”
To go back into the history of Israel is to see that it was often at the table where bread would be broken and God communicated salvation to His people. Already in the Garden of Eden, God provided fruit trees, but Adam and Eve violated the boundaries of fellship set by God by eating the forbidden fruit. In our Old Testament lesson for today, God appears to Abraham via three men, one of whom turns out to be the Lord. Abraham and Sarah show hospitality to their guests by preparing a meal, and in the context of that setting God promises a Son who would eventually crush the serpent’s head.
The covenants the Lord God Almighty made with his people often were celebrated with bread that would be broken. The Passover meal was the context in which the head of the household would teach his children the fundamental doctrines of God. On Mt. Sinai, after the Exodus, Moses and Aaron and Nadab and Abihu and seventy elsers “saw God and ate and drank.” Throughout their wilderness wanderings, God would provide the meals, including manna and quail. Even when the people of God were in exile, they would celebrate the Passover every week at their Sabbath evening Seder meal.
It is within this context of weekly Jewish Sabbath meals and synagogue worship that Luke records the table fellowship of Jesus. We find Jesus present and breaking bread and teaching at the feast with Levi the tax collector, at the meal where Jesus forgives a sinful woman who anointed his feet, at the feeding of the 5000, at meals with sinners, at the meal in the story of the prodigal Son, at the meal where Jesus lodges with Zacchaus, at the Last Supper, and post resurrection at the Emmaus Supper and later that very night when Jesus appeared in the upper room, startled them with his presence, comforted them with his peace, asked them why they were troubled, showed them his hands and feet, invited them to touch and see, and while they were still disbelieving and marveling, Jesus asked, “Hey, have you anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of fish, he at it in their presence, and proceeded to start teaching again! Lesson #1 today is to be impressed by how great is the desire of our the Holy Spirit to teach eternal and life-saving truths in the context of His people breaking bread together.
Second truth we want to receive today: Jesus began the meal as a guest, but finished as the (host). When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. It’s easy at this point to think of what we call the Common Table Prayer, which begins, Come Lord Jesus, be our guest….let these gifts to us be blessed. Wikopedia suggests that this is the best known mealtime prayer among North American Lutherans, that it was first published in 1753 in a Moravian hymnal, that the author is unknown, that a second verse was spoken by the Germans, “Blessed be God who is our bread; may all the world be clothed and fed.”
On the one hand we pray that God would give us our daily bread, and on the other hand, we believe Him to be the very bread of life. On the one hand, we ask Christ to be the unseen guest at every one of our meals, and on the other hand, we honor Him as the provider of all good gifts for body and soul. On the one hand, we ask Jesus to be the silent listener to every one of our conversations, and on the other hand, we recognize Him as the Teacher of our hearts and the lover of our souls. As often as we step forward to Supper of all suppers, we do so as invited guests. As guests with broken hearts, messed up lives, and failed records, we receive the very body of Christ which has been broken for us. The very blood of Christ which has been poured out on our behalf. Christ is the host, we the guests. He is the Giver, we are the recipients. He is the Forgiver, we are the forgiven. He is the lover, we are the beloved. He serves, and we are served. Lesson #2 today is eat and drink at our Lord’s Supper together, to do so often, to do so with broken and contrite hearts, and to know that every time we do so the Holy Spirit will be fanning into flame the fire in our hearts, the fire that was started so long ago in the waters of Baptism and at our mother’s knees.
As often as Christ reveals Himself, that often faith (grows) 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
I would like to think that Jesus was really looking forward to this moment. The when Jesus had taken the bread in his hands and looked up and blessed the bread, and then just as he handed it to them, they realized who Jesus was and poof! He was gone! Now you see him, now you don’t. I’d like to think that there was a smile on Jesus’ lips and a twinkle in His eye and a joy in His heart as He vanished and then listened in, “whoa, where did He go? That was Jesus. That was Jesus with us all the while! That was Jesus listening to us and talking to us and messing with us! Hey was there something going on in your heart earlier on today? Me too!”
As long as I can remember, Holy Communion has been something special in my heart. Like many of you, I can remember getting instructed in the faith, getting ready to be confirmed, memorizing all those Scriptures and hymns and Psalms, answering all those questions, learning what a privilege it would be to be a guest at the Table. For us at Peace Lutheran in little Barney, ND. Communion was the second Sunday of every month. My cousin Merlyn and I were ushers, we took turns being the gate, letting 6 or 7 people up for the Supper and then back into place. In recent months, more often than not, it’s Pastor Muther who holds the bread in front of my eyes, He looks me in the eyes, and assures me in his Pastor Muther kind of a way that the body of Christ has been broken for me, that my sins are forgiven, that I may go in peace. Lesson #3 today is to never forget and to look forward to with all of our hearts for Christ Jesus to reveal Himself to us, and that as often as He does – whether it be in the Supper or in the preaching of His Word, He is doing so with a smile on His lips, with a twinkle in His eyes, and with joy in His heart.
Boundary waters’ fire vs. Wahpeton fire Two stories to close off our message today. A story of two fires. The first is of the one and perhaps last time I chaperoned a youth group into the beautiful but primitive boundary waters. There were no Boy Scouts in my group, nor was I a Boy Scout leader kind of a camp fire builder. Our fires were weak and they were wet and they often went out altogether. Every evening, it misted or it drizzled or it poured down rain. Several evenings, I came to the point of hyperventilating in an effort to blow on those pathetic little fires. At least half the nights, I said to the cold and damp teenagers, hey let’s have a snack and a devotion and call it a night!
The fire in Wahpeton, where my folks lived for many years, was much better than that. It was in the lower level of my parent’s house, and it came from their electric fireplace. All one had to do is flip a switch, sit back in a comfortable chair, cozy up with a good book or deal out the cards, and the fire appeared. Thank God, somebody else had already done the work. Someone had designed that electric fire place, my folks had purchased that fire place, and when my sisters and I were divvying up our folks’ stuff, I said, “I’ll take the fire place.” To this very day, that fire place blesses my family, as often as we turn on the switch.
Dear friends, in every one of your days, no matter what how cool or hot or maybe lukewarm is the fire in your heart, remember these two truths.
• As often as bread is broken in your family circle, that often the Holy Spirit will show up as Teacher, as Counselor, as Comforter.
• As often as bread is broken in this place, that often Jesus Christ will show up as Lover of your soul, as Forgiver of your, as the Giver of the peace only He can give.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther