Funeral Sermon for Terry Hinze
(55 year old man, husband of Pam and dad of two sons)
Looking to the Things That Are Unseen
II Corinthians 4:16-18 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are seen are eternal.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Both the Psalmody for today and this text from 2 Corinthians were chosen by Pam for us to hear today. In this text, the Holy Spirit would invite us to spend our days living by faith instead of by sight. To walk according to what we believe in our hearts instead of what we can see with our eyes. I’m sure that we will all agree that that is far easier said than done. It is of our very nature to believe only what we can see with our own eyes. We are distracted by what we see.
We are like the farmer who told his wife that he was going out to plough the field the next day. He got up early the next morning so that he could oil the tractor. He needed more oil, so he went to the shop to get it. On the way to the shop he noticed the pigs weren’t fed. So he proceeded to the storehouse, where he found some sacks of feed. The sacks reminded him that his potatoes were sprouting. Then when he started for the potato pit, he passed the wood pile and remembered that his wife wanted wood in the house. As he picked up a few sticks, an ailing chicken passed by. He dropped the wood and picked up the chicken. When evening arrived, the frustrated farmer had not even gotten to the tractor, let alone to the field.
In our text for today, Paul warns us not to be frustrated, not to be distracted, not to be discouraged by what we see. He mentions at least two things that make our hearts grow faint – our ailing bodies and the troubles we see all around us. Our sermon theme today is “Looking to the Things That Are Unseen.”
The beautiful promise from God in which we rest this morning is that as often as we look to that which is unseen, that often we will not lose heart. As often as we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ crucified, risen, ascended into heaven, sitting at the right hand of God and coming back again, that often we will not be discouraged. As often as we focus on the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting, that often cancer and death and urns full of ashes and visits to the cemetery will not get the best of us. As often as we listen to God’s Word and remember and hold onto and cherish what we have learned from our mother’s knees, that often we will be able not only to survive our days of trouble, we will be able to be of good courage, and more than that we will be able to encourage other people in our lives, and even more than that, the peace and the joy and the strength that we Christians have in this Christmas season will be like a wave of fans rising and circling the stadium encouraging their team to do well.
Hunter and Ryan and Pam and Ken and Loretta and Travis and Trinette and Kenda and Darin and all of you who are bent low in grief today, your family and friends gathered here today are rooting for you, we are praying for you, we are collectively urging you to look to and hold onto the promises of God you cannot see. We are praying for you to not be growing faint, to stay as close as you possibly can to Jesus Christ, and more than that, the pastors and the people of this church believe that if you keep on incline your ears and listen really closely this morning, you’ll hear Him crying with you. You’ll feel Him holding tight your hand as you walk on through the valley of the shadow of death. You’ll hear Him whispering that in the waters of Baptism, the Triune God claimed Terry as His own son, that His Name was written in the book of life on Christmas Day, 1960, that His Savior has been following Him around with goodness and mercy, that his sins are forgiven, that at the moment of death the angels of God carried his soul into the presence of God, and that the day is coming, and it’s coming soon, when this body of dust and ashes will be raised and glorified and will join you in living face to face with Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4 and 5 are all about us not losing heart in days like these. Days of grief that are almost too much to bear. I say “almost” for good reason. Paul writes earlier in this chapter that we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
Believers are not exempt from pain and suffering, as this family knows full well today. But we are exempt from being driven to despair, we are exempt from being forsaken by our Father in heaven, we are exempt from being destroyed. In fact, we know that though even as Terry Hinze’s body was wasting away, his inner self was being renewed day by day. We know that all of the hell on earth this family has gone through in these past 10 months was light and momentary affliction, when compared to the eternal glory that is promised.
This family knows as well as any family I have ever known, what every good coach has preached down through the ages, “no pain, no gain.” Hunter was telling me a story about Terry’s commitment to intense physical training. If my memory serves correctly, it was a program called Play Opedia, and even on vacation, even while staying at the motel and in the motel parking lot, there would be the Hinze boys working out, sweating and grunting and punishing their bodies, in training for important athletic contests that lie ahead. This family knows better than most, that winning is way better than losing, and that a price needs to be paid if the trophies are going to be gained. No doubt many of the stories told today will focus on basketball and football and baseball, and how true is the expression, “no pain, no gain.”
Go ahead and remember those times, and by all means tell those stories and enjoy those stories, and then fix your eyes on the story that is even better, the best story ever told, the story that culminates with the story of Christmas, leading into the story of Good Friday, and culminating with the story of Easter. Keep looking to that old old story which led St. Paul to write, as he approached death, that for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. The story that led Paul to write to young Pastor Timothy, …train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.
In conclusion, a word to you, Ken and Loretta, we cry with you today and we hurt with you as you do what no parents should have to do, as you lay the remains of your beloved son into the cold dark earth. We commend you for making sure he was baptized, for making sure he knew the difference between right and wrong, for making sure he knew the six chief parts of Christian teaching, for making sure that you handed to him the baton of Christian faith. We pray that you keep on looking to that which you cannot see, that you spend the rest of your days staying close to your Savior and receiving all that your God wants to give you, that you never lose heart.
A word to you Kenda and Darin and Trinette and Travis and inlaws and nieces and nephews and good friends and family, we cry with you today, we hurt with you as you say goodbye to a brother who loved you with an amazing kind of love. We commend you for receiving his love and loving him right back in a way that was ever so pleasant to behold. We pray that you keep on looking to that which you cannot see, that you would spend the rest of your days staying close to your Savior, never losing heart, receiving all that your God wants to give you, and passing the baton of Christian faith to the next generations.
A word to you Pam and Hunter and Ryan, we cry with you today, we hurt with you as you do the unthinkable, as live the next chapters of your life without the man who was your earthly refuge and rock, your human and very present help in every day of trouble. We commend you for receiving his love and loving him in a strong and faithful way to the very end. We commend you for blessing so many of us in the way that you walked through this valley of darkness and almost overwhelming distress. We pray that you will keep on looking to that which you cannot see, that you never lose heart, that you would rest in the promises of the remission of sins and resurrection of the body and reunions that never end, that you would spend the rest of your days staying close to your Savior, receiving all of the goodness and the mercy that He is wanting you to have, that you would run your own races on that road which is straight and narrow, on that road which has shoulders and sometimes steep ditches on both sides, on that road which leads to a really happy ending.
This Christmas Day and in every Christmas Day to come, do remember that this was the day Terry Hinze was baptized, this was the day Jesus Christ came to us in the flesh, this was the day when all of God’s promises were verified as trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. Amen
Fifth in a Series of Seven “O Antiphons”
Malachi 3:16 – 4:3, 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, Luke1:67-79
O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Dear Friends in Christ,
In this Advent season, we are fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ, the very author and finisher of our faith. We have worshiped Him as Wisdom from on high and pleaded with Him to come again and teach us the way of prudence. We have worshiped Him as Adonai, as Lord of lords and cried out for Him to come again redeem us with an outstretched arm. We have worshiped Him as the Root of Jesse, before Whom we are speechless and asked Him to come again and to come quickly to deliver us. This past Wednesday evening we worshiped Him as the Key of David who remits the sins of the penitent and retains the sins of the impenitent, and we begged Him to come again and rescued prisoners yet sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. This weekend we hone in on Jesus as Dayspring from on high, as the splendor of light everlasting, and we petition Him to come again to enlighten those sitting in that same darkness.
(Sunny spring days on the farm) The readings for today are those appointed for December 21, the shortest day of the year, the day of Winter Solstice. On the day of deepest darkness, we would recognize Jesus Christ as God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. Back on the North Dakota farm where I grew up, winters seemed long, cold, windy, snowy, and dark. They seemed that way because they were long, cold, windy, snowy, and dark. My dad raised white faced Hereford cattle, and the cows would give birth in March and into April. More than occasionally, the calves would be born in the midst of a spring snowstorm, and mother cows and calves would end up in our little red barn for days and even a couple of weeks if the calves needed special attention. When the first sunny days of spring did arrive, the calves and mother cows would be released, and they were a sight to behold. They ran, and they kicked, and they leaped as if this was the best day ever! The prophet Malachi pictures the people of God who are understanding and appreciating that Christ has set them free as calves leaping from their stalls on a sunny spring day. In our sermon today, we invite you to consider the great and epic battle between darkness and light. Lesson #1 is to recognize how life is when darkness has its way, and Lesson #2 is to rejoice in how life is when the Dayspring from on high enlightens.
Three truths we want to recognize about how life is when darkness has its way. First, when darkness has its way, the cold barnyards have no frolicking. We Midwestern types know well the signs of winter. Trees lose their leaves, lawns go brown, storm doors and windows appear, fuel assistance requests skyrocket, and years ago at least, vehicles refuse to start. In the devotional book from Lutheran Indian Ministries, one author writes from Alaska that they are seeing less and less daylight every day; that they lose about seven minutes a day until there are 22 hours of night. Now that’s what you call darkness. Precious little frolicking, to be sure.
When the spiritual forces of darkness have their way, the nations have no peace. In Malachi’s day, the nation of Judah had gone so far astray that God was threatening to leave them and take the Gentiles as His people. Their priests were teaching false doctrine and leading many astray. Their men were divorcing their Israelite wives and marrying foreigners. Instead of honoring God with their tithes and free will offering, they were making Him weary with left-overs and blemished animal sacrifices. Malachi asked no fewer than 22 rhetorical questions in 55 verses to call this nation to repentance and to fix their eyes on the sun of righteousness who would be rising with healing in its wings for those who would fear the Name of the Triune God.
In our day, apart from Jesus Christ, the nations still don’t have peace. From sea to shining sea, there are wars and rumors of war. Christians are at odds with Muslims, Muslims are at odds with the Jews, gun control advocates are at war with the NRA, Democrats are against the Republicans and the establishment republicans are against the anti-establishment republicans, pro-abortion supporters are against the pro-lifers, traditional values folks are at odds with the not so traditional value folks, the baby boomers have their differences with the millennials and the elderly are asking the same questions they asked 50 years ago, “what’s the matter with young people these days?” The most basic of differences is till darkness vs. light. Unbelief vs. faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Sinful nature vs. new life in Christ. Culture vs. church. Bad angels vs. good angels. And still it is true what Jesus said to Nicodemus that “a great light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” When darkness has its way, first of all there is no frolicking in the barnyards, and secondly there is no peace in the nations.
And third, the minds of unbelievers have no good (eyesight). Paul said it this way to the Corinthians …the gospel is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Dear friends in Christ, we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood in these end times, we’re wrestling against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. And so we cry out again and again for Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and souls and minds in the preaching of His Word, in the teaching of His Word, in the remembering of His Word. For the Holy Spirit to keep on calling us by the Gospel and gathering us into the assembly and enlightening us with His gifts and sanctifying us with His truth!
O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Zechariah sang it this way, that as often as the sunrise shall visit us from on high, He gives light to those who are sitting in darkness and guides our feet into the way of peace. Three truths we learn about with the light of this world has His way.
First, When the Dayspring from on high enlightens, Christians have a hard time containing their (joy). As often as the Word of God is a lamp unto our feet, we are no longer like little white faced Hereford calves cooped up, penned up in foul air and packed down manure, we let loose with a running and a leaping and a frolicking kind of joy obvious to all. As often as the Word of God is a light unto our path, no longer do we sit in our corners swallowed up in darkness, paralyzed by the politicians, terrified by the terrorists, worried about what is to come, and yearning for the good old days which we think have passed us by. Now that the Dayspring has arisen, we can get up and walk, we walk about in freedom, we move forward on the pathway to peace. As often as we taste in our Lord’s Supper that our God is good, as often as we make the sign of the cross and remember that we are the baptized and believing people of God, as often as we get refreshed with the forgiveness of our sins, as often as we bring an offering and come into the house of our God, that often we want to shout it from the mountaintops that a Savior is born, that often we desire to direct those with whom we disagree to Joseph and Mary and their baby lying in a manger, that often we find it easy to forgive those who have harmed us, that often we just feel like singing like we’ve never sung before!
Secondly, As often as the Dayspring from on high visits us, nations get called to (repentance) In Malachi’s words, the day was coming when unbelievers will get what they have coming. The day was coming when the Lord of hosts will judge the living and the dead, the day was coming when all the arrogant would be burning as in an oven and evildoers would be stubble. In John the Baptist’s day, the message was the same. Repent, or you will die. Or to say it with a more positive spin, repent, and you will live. No matter what our culture says this December is about, the Church in fact knows what it is about. Advent is about throwing ourselves on the mercy of God, that the forgiveness of sins might sweep over our souls, as the sunrise sweeps over the horizon. It’s about Jesus Christ coming near, that we might be safe. It’s about this church and churches across the globe being little cities of light, set on a hill announcing judgment on the same old sins that keep on ruining our lives and Good News to sinners of all stripes and sizes.
Whenever the Light of the world has His way, new days keep (dawning). It’s as if we are living in the pre-dawn. It’s still dark outside, but we can see the first glow of the new day peeking over the horizon. We know that very soon the full light of day will be here. Christ, our day spring gives us hope. When you know the long dark night is about to end, you begin to get excited about the dawning of a new and more glorious day. There’s already enough light shining to give us light, to give us sight, so we can see where we’re going. Right now our eyes are getting adjusted to walking in the light. We’ve been sitting in the darkness long enough, this morning brings with it mercies that are new, and tomorrow will be the same.
The kingdom of God is like a large congregation of believers in a small town who can see clearly now. They agree with Johnny Nash, who sang it years ago, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright bright bright sunshin’ day.” Their days will be bright and sunny not because their lives are any easier or smoother than those who are living apart from their Savior, but because the God who said in the first place, “Let light shine out of darkness” has in the second place found a way to shine in their hearts in a regular sort of a way. They still have dark corners in their lives, but as often as they pray to be enlightened, they are. As often as they cry out for mercy, mercy is theirs. As often as they ask for their Father in heaven to hold their hand, He does. As often as they seek the face of Jesus Christ, they find it. And as often as they look for the light at the end of their tunnels, they can’t miss it, there it is. Amen.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We’ve been walking our way through the verses of this ancient advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and the Antiphons (antiphon means responsive verse) that serve as their basis. So far we looked at O Wisdom from on high, O Adonai, and this last Sunday at O Root of Jesse’s tree. Our text for tonight begins with a strange little story from Isaiah and with the O Antiphon that we begin to study – O Key of David’s house and Scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no one can close, you close and no one can open: Come. And rescue the prisoners, who are in darkness, and in the shadow of death. I used to work in the A/V Department of Concordia University where we would set up all kinds of technology in pretty much every classroom on campus, and because of that we would need we had a big old key ring that we needed to use. It took a lot of time and you had to remember which key did what, which punch-codes for which doors, until I got to the point when they trusted me enough to let me use… the A key… it was a key that could open any door on the campus. You could go into any classroom.
There were only a few of them on campus. It had a $1,000,000 (or more) insurance policy on it, because if you lost it, they would have to replace every single lock on campus. Our O Antiphon for today is talking about the keys to the kingdom of God. This is the power to unlock the riches of heaven itself. It’s the power to open every single piece of your life to your God. It’s how God opened up the kingdom of heaven to all believers. It is forgiveness. Tonight, our elders handed a little half-sheet of paper out to each of you with a little outline of the sermon and three lines. I want you during this sermon to think of the three people who have hurt you the most, or who are most difficult to forgive. I want them front and center in your mind.
Our first meditation for tonight is that forgiveness is the key to God’s house and the Scepter of God’s house. Just like Eliakim was given the keys to the house of David, and then he had every privilege and responsibility that came along with it, so we, when we recognize our Christianity, we see that our first impulse is to be quick to confess our own sins and quick to forgive others. That’s what Jesus is saying in Matthew 16. The M.O. of the Christian is to forgive. Now, let me tell you what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. It isn’t that warm, at peace feeling that you think you need to have before you can let go of what someone did. That will come and go. But you don’t have to feel forgiving to forgive. Forgiveness is not ignoring. Forgiveness is not saying “it’s ok.” Or “don’t worry about it.” Our schluffing it off under the rug. No. You don’t have to pretend like it didn’t hurt, or like it doesn’t matter. Forgiveness is when you look another person in the eyes, and you tell them, yes, you did hurt me. But I choose not to hold that hurt against you. Forgiveness is a choice, and it’s a discipline. It’s a choice when I choose to be kind and merciful even when I don’t feel like it. It’s a discipline when I choose to be merciful consistently, day after day. It’s a choice when you see others choosing to be cruel and vengeful.
It’s a discipline when you are called to do it to others who are being cruel and vengeful to you. Can you see how incredible a gift and how incredible a responsibility this is? Or, as I say to my premarital counseling couples, after forgiving your spouse of the same thing for the thousandth time, can you see why the work of being merciful is hard? It is the key to the kingdom and it is the kingdom’s power. If our first place of meditation was on the key and the Scepter, then the second is the phrase that follows: Forgiveness sets prisoners free. Physically and Spiritually. There are many physical benefits to forgiving. Studies show that those who forgive often have lower stress levels. They have healthy hearts, lower pain, lower blood pressure, and they tend to live longer lives. And those are true, and those things are good things. But. We don’t practice forgiveness because it lengthens our life or even because it keeps us from feeling our consequences. No, we forgive because we want to be doing what Jesus does. We forgive because Christ forgave us.
That is the truth that many of our members serving jailtime would know. The love of Christ set Charles Stanke free before even when he was still in jail. The love of Christ set Angie Bluhm free even as she still serves her sentence. The love of Christ set St. Paul free even as he lived out the last of his days under house arrest. The love of Christ, the forgiveness that opens the door to heaven, sets you free to eternal life whatever place you are in, whatever sins burden your back, whatever hurts you hold in your heart, whatever armor you’ve been lugging around all these years. Our Savior says, I know who you are. I know what you’ve been through. I know every struggle, every burden, every pain, and I love you with an everlasting love that will never go away.
This Advent time, I ask you, I beg you, to remember again that a forgiving heart begins by remembering how much God has forgiven you. By remembering how when we were an enemy and hostile to God, he still had sent his son to forgive us all our sins. By remembering how beautiful the love of God that he wouldn’t stop seeking us even after we wander off. By remembering how deep the love of God that he would reveal to us the most amazing, most incredible use of our humanity and then he would tell us to just go around and do it! He is a forgiving savior, and he will come again. Amen and Amen.
First in a Series of Seven Sermons on The Great “O” Antiphons
Proverbs 8:1-3, 22-26 and I Corinthians 1:25 – 30
O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things; Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The Advent hymn, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” has ancient roots. Since the 8th century A.D. Christians have traditionally sung these 7 great antiphons. The word antiphon means response, and they were sung to readings for the seven days before Christmas. They mine the riches of the Old Testament to portray the many facets of our Savior, as tender wisdom, as mighty Warrior, as rightful Heir, as forgiving Savior, as unparalleled Light, as Regal King, as God with us.
Perhaps you have heard the saying that Wisdom and age don’t always come together, sometimes age comes alone. Actually the exact quote from a comedian named Tom Wilson is, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up by itself.”
Here at Trinity it seems as if wisdom is coming with age. Now the world defines wisdom pretty much as good common sense, but the central theme of Israelite wisdom is that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” With that in mind, I would remind you that we are in the second year of a three year shared vision statement, which is simply this, “Our Shared Vision is to mature as disciples for Jesus Christ.” And the first habit of a Christian whose life is being transformed by the Gospel is “to receive gratefully God’s good gifts in Divine Service.” Recently Donita printed out for me a list of all 1778 members of this congregation according to age, starting with Ardis Erdman at age 100 all the way down to our newborn infants. I did a little analysis of a few different age groups here at Trinity, and here is what I found. 100% of members age 90 – 100, 15 of them, regularly hear the Word of God and receive Holy Communion. 100% of members age 80 – 89, all 58 of them, regularly hear the Word of God and receive Holy Communion. 95% of members in their 70’s, and there are over 100 of them, regularly hear the word of God and receive Holy Communion. When I went to those age 20-29, I found that at the most 25% of the 225 20 somethings are finding time to regularly hear God’s Word and receive their Lord’s Supper. You can spin that however you want to spin it.
Here’s my first takeaway, and it’s a positive one. At least here at Trinity, it seems as though old age isn’t just showing up by itself, wisdom in virtually all cases, is coming with it.
James reminds us that true wisdom is from above and that it is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Our sermon for today has two parts. The first is that wisdom is the beloved daughter, and the second is that wisdom is the firstborn son.
Wisdom is the beloved (daughter). The Book of Proverbs is a result of God giving Solomon that which he asked for – wisdom and understanding with which to govern the people. Solomon frequently describes wisdom as a dear mother or beloved bride.Like most languages, the Hebrew word for wisdom is grammatically feminine. By characterizing wisdom as a woman, Solomon uses this grammar for a play onwords, which is a common feature in his writing style. In our text for today, in chapter 8, wisdom is personified as a good woman, in stark contrast to the adulterous woman of chapter 7. The good woman’s purpose is to enlighten and give life, in contrast to the harlot, who aims to deceive and destroy. The good woman encourages in the right direction, in contrast to the prostitute who leads astray. Wisdom is from on high, in contrast to the foolishness of the demons below. Three truths Solomon would teach us about this good woman – what she was, what she is, and how she spends her days.
First, She (was) before the beginning. Solomon writes, The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” Here wisdom does more than take on godly characteristics. Here wisdom takes on the nature of God himself and plays a role in the creation of the world.
Secondly, She (is) stationed at the crossroads to be heard. Unlike the harlot who lurks at every street corner, wisdom stations herself to be heard in the midst of life. Wisdom makes an appeal for everyone. All the descendants of Adam need wisdom, for we are all part of a fallen race. It is in our sinful nature to be fools and to say that there is no God. No man can say that Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit. The only way to be in the Christian faith and to be growing in that faith is for the Holy Spirit to be working inside of us. Paul writes that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Often Jesus would tell a parable and follow it up by raising his voice and calling out, “He who has ears let him hear.”
A third lesson we learn about wisdom in Proverbs 8 is that She spends her days calling out to the (vulnerable). In the previous chapter Solomon compared young men who were being led astray by the persuasive words of the adulterous woman to oxen going to the slaughter, to deer stepping into a noose and having an arrow pierce his liver, to a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.
Just a couple of days ago, a young lady who has gone through drug addiction and all the nasty troubles that so often come along with it, came back to our church office for a visit. She had attended our Lutheran School for a time, and was a member of one of our Confirmation Classes years ago. She has told me on several occasions that our sanctuary and our school had been a safe place for her, a place where she found refuge and strength. She took her boyfriend into this sanctuary and wrote how she was proud of this church and the serenity she felt here. She said this for all her friends to read on Facebook, “ I always feel like home here, it's insane how some kids come back home and it's just another day, I stop by and get emotional because this place was where I was happy, surrounded by love, childhood memories and will always have a piece of me. I may have been born in Owatonna, moved around a bit, but I will have always been raised in Janesville. Pastor thank you for never turning your back on me and keeping me close with our savior and I'm proud to say, in 4 days, I will have 11 months clean. Sitting in the church with the same scribble cards and same look, I did the same thing that I used to do, just be at one and look up at the son, Christ our lord and felt safe and not alone.” Just be at one and look up at the son, Christ our lord and felt safe and not alone. It seems as though wisdom from on high is slowly but surely chasing away the demons of foolishness.
It seems as though the seeds of wisdom planted in her heart at ages 10-14 are bearing fruit some 15 years later, which would remind us to never give up on our young people as they travel through years of getting tossed to and fro by the temptations and the trials of life, especially in their 20’s. Robert Gary Lee wrote that “wisdom is nothing more than healed pain,” which would remind us that the only way to have a tested and tried Christian faith is to be tested and tried. St. Augustine wrote that “Patience is the companion of wisdom, which would remind us to stick with people through thick and thin, for better and for worse, in sickness and in good health.
James wrote that when we meet trials of various kinds, we should count it all joy, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Asking for wisdom from on high is simply asking for Jesus to come more and more into our hearts. Asking Jesus to be Who He is and has promised to be, the best friend we’ll ever have, the faithful brother who absolutely sticks with usin every chapter of life. Which is our second and final lesson for this morning - Wisdom is the firstborn (Son) of God. Jesus Christ is wisdom incarnate, wisdom in the flesh.
Proverbs 8, verses 23 ff declares, “I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began, When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water, before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth….I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep….then I was the craftsman at his side The first of three points we would make about Wisdom as the first born Son is that Jesus is begotten, not (made) No one writes more eloquently that John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
Secondly, we are reminded in this first antiphon that He holds the universe together in strong, yet (gentle) manner. Jesus is the creator of all that is invisible and visible. On the one hand, He rules the nations with omnipotence, and on the other hand He sends His Church out to preach the sweetest and kindest story ever told. At the same time He rules with power and with grace. On the one hand, His throne is in the heavens and on the other hand His kingdom comes every time a little bit of water is poured over the head of a little one, every time sorry sinners eat an unimpressive bit of bread and taste an ounce or two of ordinary wine. On the one hand, with irresistible power all things exist and move according to His will, and on the other hand, His grace moves in our tired and weary souls, drawing us closer and closer and teaching us slowly but surely to say no to ungodliness and yes to that which is excellent and worthy of praise.
I invite you to spend this season of Advent worshiping, trusting, and boasting. We would worship Christ as the only begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made. We would trust Him as the One Who even now sits at the right hand of His Father, ruling all of heaven and earth with authority. And third, we go back into our little corners of His Kingdom and spend our days boasting in the One Who saves by way of (foolishness). Not with gold and silver did our Savior purchase us, but with holy precious blood, with divine sweat, and with innocent tears. We have been called and gathered into this sanctuary today not as people with worldly wisdom nor power nor prestige, but as hungry beggars looking for a little bit of bread, as thirsty travelers crying out for just a little bit of water, as wanderers looking for a little bit of direction, as unimpressive people in awe of a perfectly impressive God.
Come, teach us the way of (prudence) Prudence comes from a Latin word which means to look ahead, to see into the future. To be prudent is to be wise in practical affairs, and to provide for your future. The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town saved by way of foolishness, traveling their way through Advent, spending their days living with purpose. Saved by way of the cross, worshiping at a manger, and crying out for prudence. They know that without the virtue of prudence, courage becomes foolhardiness, mercy encourages laziness, and weakness turns into spinelessness. And so they cry out for that wisdom which will enable them to look beyond this life which is short and full of trouble. That wisdom which will actually increase as they attend the school of hard knocks and climax as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. They spend their December not so much rushing around faster and faster, but being still, going slow, and rejoicing in the lover of their souls, the forgiver of their sins.
Less and less are they confused by the noisiness and the loudness of the culture, but more and more comforted by the clarity of the church. Less and less do they worry and are they anxious about what is to come, but more and more they cry out to Emmanuel to come back again, and to come quickly. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther