Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sermon for 20 November 2016, Last Sunday in the Church Year (Historic One Year Lectionary)

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 25:1-13
Five Were Wise
Last Sunday in the Church Year, 20 November 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
For an Elder to Read

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
“You know neither the day nor the hour.” In these words our Lord Jesus tells us the easiest way to identify a false teacher. He or she will pick a day and time for the end of the world. When you hear of such a thing, run away as fast as you can and never go back. That is what the wise ones do. In Matthew 24 and 25 Jesus is answering a two-part question asked by His disciples: When will the Temple in Jerusalem be destroyed and “what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
The first question was answered in 70 A.D. The second is answered by “You know neither the day nor the hour.” Therefore, we should be prepared for His coming and the end at any time. That is the message taught in Jesus’ parable at the beginning of Matthew 25:
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Who is the Bridegroom? Jesus, of course. As in the beginning, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23). The Bridegroom, on the Last Day, will celebrate with His Bride, the Church, the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic Church. Back on All Saint’s Sunday, we heard how the Saints of God are called Blessed in the Beatitude beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This parable reminds us of one we heard in early October about the wedding feast and wedding garments.
In the ancient world, it was common to have a few people leave the wedding hall and go outside to wait for the bridegroom to come. That sets our scene. And what should happen when he comes? Would these greeters stay outside? No. That would be silly. Those who celebrate the marriage feast with bride and groom would obviously go inside once the bridegroom arrives. They know him and he knows them. And they celebrate together.
Jesus speaks of ten virgins. This speaks of the purity of Christians who wait for Jesus’ Second Coming. Ten is a number of completeness in Scripture. And God hadn’t invented flashlights yet. No Coleman lanterns, either. Metal or pottery lamps with a wick similar in principle to kerosene lamps were filled with olive oil. That’s what we usually mean when the word “lamp” is used. But small clay lamps were usually used only indoors. Outdoors, long poles were wrapped with oil-soaked rags. More oil needed to be poured on every fifteen minutes. That was work! It took a lot of attention to detail.
There were ten virgins keeping the lamps lit. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. And five were wise. They planned ahead. This wasn’t their first wedding. They had plenty of oil—even after they had fallen asleep on duty. Five were foolish. The Bridegroom had been spotted in the distance and they had to go to the store for more oil. They were not recognized as true wedding guests and were locked outside. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Jesus is very clear in verse 13. We know He is the Bridegroom and that the wise virgins were Christians ready and waiting with trimmed torches on the Last Day. We know we shouldn’t be like the foolish five. But what is the oil?
There have been many ideas over 2000 years. Some, like St. Augustine, had three different ideas all by himself. In our Lutheran Confessions, two brief quotes lead me to believe that faith is the oil in the lamps of the five who were wise.
St. Hilary is quoted in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. In response to the question of why the five wise didn’t share their oil he says, “In other words, no one can be aided by the works and merits of another, because it is necessary for everyone to buy oil for his own lamp” (Concordia, 206).
The Formula of Concord shares Luther’s definition of faith from his commentary on Romans: “Faith, however, is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1[:12–13]. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. 11 It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.
Luther continues, 12 Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all creatures. And this is the work that the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire [LW 35:370–71]” (Concordia, 548).
Because of faith, Luther said, “a person is ready” like the wise five. Faith is God’s gift to you in Christ Jesus. God gives you His Holy Spirit when you are baptized, when you hear His Word. He gives you the oil in your lamps and torches so that you are ready on the Last Day, even if you fall asleep in death before He comes again. That is why we rejoice in this parable.
We rejoice in the midst of colder weather with travel and outdoor work made more perilous, continuing financial uncertainty, speculation about the next presidential appointments, pressure at work, stress at school, maybe even tension at home. We mourn for lost dreams or for those who have died in Christ. We live in the valley of the shadow and dread phone calls with bad news. In the midst of all of the trouble in the whole world, Christ stands with you. He has comfort for you. He has given you Christian family here at Immanuel to be with you and support you. He gives you His gifts.
The Divine Service is where we usually go to find God’s gifts for us. Pastor is there in special times of need. In between Sundays, we prioritize individual and family devotions throughout the week, work diligently at our vocations for our families and the Lord, and then are joyfully gathered by Him around the gifts of Word and Sacrament. We rejoice at every Baptism and remember that we have been baptized. We celebrate each confirmation of Holy Baptism, when a person confesses the faith for himself or herself. The Holy Spirit gives individuals faith where and when He wills, working with God’s own Word. We taste and see that the Lord is good at His table spread for us, a foretaste of the heavenly wedding feast to come. Here we find Jesus our Bridegroom. He sustained the five who were wise. And He strengthens and preserves you also. Blessed are you. Wise men once sought the One who was born King of the Jews. Wise men and women today still seek Him. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Funeral Sermon for Jean Robinson

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Psalm 51:10-12
That’s the Savior
Funeral Sermon for Jean Robinson
Tuesday of Trinity XXIV, 17 November 2016
At Champion Funeral Home
While Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of Jesus Amen.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Jean Robinson prayed these verses of Psalm 51 on countless occasions during her life. In so doing, she confessed her sins. As a Christian, she also confessed her Savior.
When I was invited by the family to visit Jean at Sheridan Manor, I took the weekly bulletin and my hymnal with me. My wife and Jean’s daughters were there, too. As soon as Jean saw the bulletin for the Third Sunday of Easter, featuring Jesus as our Good Shepherd, she exclaimed, “That’s the Savior!” Over the course of that visit and many others, we read Scripture, including John 10, prayed, and sang. Jean was able to sing along with us on many hymns that remained in her heart by faith and in her long-term memory, even in the midst of the horrible disease that afflicted her. And Judy and Jody both read, prayed, and sang with her, especially in these last weeks. They were also smiling, crying, and hugging because of Jean’s response to the Word. The family had prayed for God the Holy Spirit to work through the Word and He did, answering those prayers.
Christians are not perfect. We are forgiven because of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. His suffering, death, and resurrection creates in us clean hearts by the work of God the Holy Spirit. He creates a right spirit within us. In the Father’s love, mercy, and grace, because of the atonement of Jesus, He does not cast us away from His presence. The Holy Spirit abides in us and we abide in Him by faith. The joy of salvation is restored, joy that the family and others saw for ourselves. The Lord Himself upheld Jean, gave her a willing spirit, and she joyfully heard the Word of the Lord, prayed with us, and sang with us. Today, as we miss and remember her, we sing some of those hymns and scripture songs.
In this life, each Christian is simultaneously a sinner and a saint, still in the flesh and in this world, yet forgiven in Christ. Jean’s family was important to her, and you know it. She loved kids. She also loved gardening and moving rocks…repeatedly. Jean Robinson also loved her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She confessed her sins and was forgiven. She confessed her Beautiful Savior and is now at peace, at rest, and with Him and all who trusted in Christ in this life. With Jean, we await the Last Day and the Resurrection, when the Lord’s long-term plan for her and us and all creation will be fulfilled. Creation itself will be restored. And we will rejoice.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.
As you look at the picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd on the cover of this bulletin, pray Psalm 51 and confess with Jean, “That’s the Savior!”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

13 November 2016

Today's sermon for the Commemoration of Martin Luther (Birth, Observed) was provided by synod, based on Hebrews 13:7 and written by the Rev. Dr. Larry Rast.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Funeral Sermon for Carol Hohbach

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Philippians 2:5-11
Funeral Sermon for Carol Hohbach
Tuesday of Trinity XXIV, 8 November 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of Jesus Amen.
“Shepherd of tender youth, Guiding in love and truth Through devious ways; Christ, our triumphant king, We come Your name to sing And here our children bring To join Your praise.” (LSB 864:1, 5)
March 29, 1953 was Carol’s Confirmation Day. Yes, it was when Immanuel was still at our Park Street location, but she had been a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, from before her Confirmation Day. That day, the confirmands heard Philippians 2: 5-11 read as the Epistle, for their Confirmation Day was also Palm Sunday. This is the second time I’ve buried someone from that very confirmation class. To confess Christ one’s whole life long, be a member of the same congregation for so much of her life (before and after what Gordon calls their 30-year U-turn after living elsewhere), and an active member at that, is something for which we thank the Lord.
There is a hole in our hearts because of her loss. For me, it is visual and physical. I can show you right where she sat on Sundays. She even brought her own personal pew. By faith and example, she believed, understood, and lived these verses from Philippians 2:
5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Carol clung so closely to her Savior. You see, the name Jesus means Savior, “the Lord saves.” He took the form of a servant, being born in the likeness and form of humanity. He was conceived, born, lived, taught, preached, suffered, died, and rose for you. And for Carol. And since Jesus is the only source of forgiveness, life, and salvation, this is where she came to receive those gifts and confess her faith (often in song) and trust in Him.
5          So now, and till we die, Sound we Your praises high And joyful sing: Infants and all the throng, Who to the Church belong, Unite to swell the song To Christ, our king!
How could she, and how could we sing a hymn like that this morning? By faith. By faith in Christ. Out of God-given trust in Christ. In this life, Christians confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, and we do so in joy, for Has more gifts in store!
Yes, heaven is one of those gifts. It’s not earned. It’s not deserved. Heaven is a gift because of Christ’s death on the cross for us and because of His Resurrection and empty tomb.
Carol knew the Lord’s language of invitation. She heard such language again in today’s Old Testament reading, read at our very first nursing home service at Sheridan Manor one month ago, where Carol was for rehab. The five of us met in the chapel there at the facility and heard Isaiah 55, Psalm 27, and our opening hymn, The Church’s One Foundation.
It was always special to me when Carol rolled up to the rail for Holy Communion. Gordon, you know what I’m talking about. She got to join the Elders and Ushers at the final table of distribution. Another member of the congregation told me: “She didn’t let anything get between her and Jesus. She was there at church, at Communion. Her example was encouraging to me.”
How many times did she hear the blessing when a pastor dismisses the communicants? “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. Depart + in peace.”
We now wait for our reunion with Carol and with the Lord. We await the fulfillment of those very promises in the dismissal blessing. We await the Resurrection. We trust the Lord and His promise to “raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.” On the Last day, she will receive a glorified, perfected body like that of her Savior. She won’t need her wheels in that Day of Resurrection. Her faith, her confession, will be a completed reality.
Today, we join in confessing the faith that Carol and so many before her confessed, as she and her confirmation class promised to in 1953, “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Remember her love for sports, music, art, and her family and friends, but above all, remember that she confessed Christ!
“Thine forever, God of Love! Hear us from Thy throne above; Thine forever may we be Here and in eternity!” (LSB 687:1)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.