Funeral for Matthew Reddeman

unnamed-1(Note: Matthew tragically took his life. This is posted for those who may need comfort during such a time as well.)

(Note: This hymn on the side is the hymn referenced, listen to it sung by Lutheran youth at a Higher Things Conference.)

Audio of this sermon found here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

From time to time, people expect me to have “the answers.” Because of what I do, people thing that I must have some sort of direct line to God; that I must know “why;” that I must have something to say that will make it all better.

I don’t. Because the truth is that there are no words that will magically make it all better.

I could say all sorts of nice things – things about God’s plan and God’s purpose, things about how everything will work out for the best – and I’ll bet that well-meaning family and friends have said those things to you in the last week. But, however true those things may be, they do not make today any easier, and they do not make this any less painful.

For a week ago, no one could have predicted that you would be here this afternoon.  This has been an especially hard week.  Know this: life is so very fragile.  When you stop and pay attention, it can seem as though everything around us makes life dangerous.  Sometimes the things that endanger us the most are sneaky and unimaginable.

In the reading from the Gospel you just heard, Jesus shows up in Bethany where his friend Lazarus has died. And there are immediately questions. Mary and Martha both approach Jesus and the first thing they say: “Jesus, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

I wonder, today how many of us have faced the same question – how many of us have sat in the quiet of the night, and accused ourselves just as Jesus was accused by Mary and Martha.”If only I had said something. If only I had done something different. He would not have died.” Sound familiar?

What if, Maybe, Perhaps – these questions haunt us, and they are not our friend. They are from the evil one who would seek to likewise overcome you in a moment of despair.

No, our question today – the real question – is not “What if.” Our question is “What now?” We do the same as Jesus did for his friend Lazarus. Today we grieve. As Jesus came to Bethany, he wept over the death of his friend. As Jesus joins our worship this day, I believe he weeps as well. It is a good for us to mourn – to acknowledge our pain together.

Our God, is not afraid of the dark places of life, and is not afraid of our grief. Jesus wept, and so will we today. And in the days to come. And Jesus will continue to walk with us to the tomb, will walk beside us no matter how dark that grief gets. The promise is not that we will understand the “Why” or the “What if” – but that there is no where we can go that God will not go with us. As we sang, “thou camest to our hall of death, O Christ to breath our poisoned air, to drink for us the dark despair, that strangled our reluctant breath.’

The God we proclaim today is not a God who magically makes everything better, but a God who stands beside us in the darkest hours and troubles of life.

What now?

We are not sad for Matthew. Not today. No, as we grieve, we are not sad for Matthew. We are sad for ourselves – for that place that Matthew filled in our life, for the laugh that we won’t hear every day, for the smile that we can’t see today. And so, in our grief, we name that empty place, and we remember Matthew. These unanswered questions, these gaping holes that it feels like will never be filled, may easily deafen us to the reality of the questions that God’s Word clearly answer for you and I today.  These questions which God answers in His Word are far more comforting, far more helpful than anything that our souls or the world may try to answer for us.

First of all, we know that Matthew is baptized.  Notice I didn’t say was baptized.  I said is baptized.  When God baptized Matthew at this font that changed everything for him. Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection from the tomb now became his. There the Old Adam was killed and there Jesus proclaimed to the new man as He did to Lazarus, “come out!”

Second, we know that he heard God’s Word and received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.  In 1987 he was confirmed in the Christian faith right here, at this altar. The picture is in the back to remember that day. As you may look through, remember more though, the faith confessed in Christ, the promise to remain faithful unto death, and the continued receiving of Christ’s saving body and blood which flow from the altar. His church attendance of late is unclear, but always remember that God’s Word does not return void.  When God makes promises in His Word, He keeps them. So we trust God’s Word more even that what our eyes or hearts might have us believe.

Matthew’s death has brought sorrow and heartache, pain and unanswered questions.  There are a lot of tears, and even guilt.  And if we are honest about it, there is a lot of fear as well.

I don’t know what was going through his heart and mind in those last few days, those last few hours. But I have some idea though, as many of you well know, it is dark, it is frightful. 

But I also know this, that day in Bethany did not end in the tomb. No, our Lord brought new life into being — life in the midst of death. Because that is what he does. And that is what he will continue to do in your lives.

In Christ, God has marched into our hall where sin and death were given royal room, until our servant Prince of Peace has broken those walls to release us. Christ died for Matthew. Nothing can change that. He also died for you, that in these dark and latter days there may a life of praise.  

Today Christ weeps with you as you weep. And even now – here, in the valley of the shadow of death – even here, God is working to bring new life and joy into the world. And in the midst of questions trust that which alone is certain and true, the gifts of Christ given for you. Weep, but not as those without hope. Weep for today, but rejoice for tomorrow and look to Christ who calls sinners out of tombs unto life everlasting.

In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted in hymnody, sermon

Stubborn Foolishness

Matthew 7:24-27

“What are you building?” Little children ask that question when they play with Legos. I’m sure I asked it when I used to play with my Lincoln Logs. What are you building? I’ve heard members ask other members that question as new houses were built – or old houses got a new look. What are you building? I’m sure our great-grandmas and grandpas were asked that question when they built this sanctuary. 

So let me now ask you: what are you building? And no, I’m not talking about a new house, new barn, or storage bin.Those building projects come and go. Know for certain that not one of those projects will last for all time! No, I’m talking about the real building projects in life: your heart, your life, your soul? What are you building?

We don’t always think about those critical building projects as we ought. You might even think that you are in a “holding pattern” in life: I am who I am. I know what I know. I think what I think. Nothing being built here! If you think that way, think again! This morning, every single one of us from pulpit to pew is engaged in a life-long building effort! Every single one of us is building something. The big question, however, is what are we building? How do we know if our building is quality construction or a money pit? Are we building a shack on the beach or a house on the rock? Listen to Jesus’ words once again:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Let’s quickly put these few verses in their context. The parable of the two builders comes at the tail end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The parable of the two builders is Jesus’ loud Amen! to everything that Jesus just preached about money, marriage, prayer, etc. But especially the grace He brings. Continue reading

Posted in Ethics, Life, Parable, sermon

Breathed Upon


Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Breathed upon. No one likes being breathed on. Usually because there is a case of halitosis. Even when they’ve disguised the smell with mint or some such, the fact is that fallen human breath isn’t much of an improvement on dog breath. It has the tinge of corruption about it. It smells like it comes from an organism that is decomposing (which is truly what is constantly happening.) The same is true of all parts of the body, which is why we wash, bath, and (hopefully) brush our teeth. But not so for this man, Jesus, the one who has conquered death.

And so when Jesus, still the same day as Easter, fresh from the grace came and stood among His disciples and breathed upon them, it was like something they’d never experienced before. His breath was like the spring breeze, only sweeter. It was the smell of life, the sweet scent of eternity was upon it, and so, of course, it was alive with the Holy Spirit.

“Receive the Holy Spirit” our Lord said, as His breath was breathed out on them. Continue reading

Posted in Day of Resurrection, Divine Service, Liturgy, Pastoral Office, sermon

No April Fools!

Listen Here from the Festival Divine Service

img_crucifixion-225x300Alleluia, alleluia, Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed, alleluia!

The resurrection of Jesus is both a matter of fact and a matter of faith.

It is a matter of fact in that it is a fact of history. A pivotal fact of history. It is the fulcrum around which all of human history pivots and has its ultimate meaning. It is a matter of fact as any other fact of history from the Ming Dynasty to the Greco-Roman empire. The tomb of Jesus is empty. The body of Jesus is risen. That is a matter of fact.

It is a matter of faith in that the entirety of what we believe rests on the fact that Christ was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification. We don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we believe because Jesus rose from the dead. It’s not April fools joke, it is a matter of history.

Here are the facts. Continue reading

Posted in Day of Resurrection, Ethics, Holy Week, Life, Missions, resurrection, sermon

Good Friday Sermonettes

Listen here: A series ofHP_Holy_Week_07-770650
short sermonettes (alternating between Pastor Amen and Vicar Brown) highlighting different aspects of our Lord’s Passion. In between the conflation of the Passion of the four gospels from the LSB Altar Book. Continue reading

Posted in Holy Week, Lent, sermon

Faith of a Child: Maundy Thursday

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img_9592-300x200Most every child and parent goes through it. It’s late in the evening, kids are tired out, and they are placed safely into the car seat. Not ten minutes into the ride home they are sound asleep and so very tired that not a thing would wake him. They don’t realize how long it takes to get home. Just simply and soundly asleep. Finally, the car pulls into the driveway. Mom or dad gets out, reaches into the back seat, unbuckles the child, carries her safely up to her room and gently lays her in bed.

It isn’t until the next morning that the child wakes up. The last thing they remember is getting into the car. Now safely in bed, in their own bedroom and home. When they got into the car the previous night, they did so in complete faith of getting safely home. So trusting that they could sleep through an entire car ride. Never knowing how it all happened, but simple faith and trust in mom and dad meant that never doubting about arriving safely home. The kids get out of bed the following day standing in the faith that their parents take care of them, protecting and giving whatever is needed to live every day.  Continue reading

Posted in children, Church, Holy Week, Lent, Liturgy, Lord's Supper, Luther, sermon

Palm and Passion: Celebration to Victory

Listen herepalm and passion

It was the palm branches that made this day unique, and then again, it wasn’t.

For centuries, the church has memorialized today, the first day of Holy Week, as Palm Sunday because of the palm branches and cloaks that the people spread out before Jesus entering Jerusalem.

The Gospel writers tell us a crowd gathered, gushing with excitement, and lined the road in front of Jesus as he slowly rode into the city. As he made his way, one step at a time by the beast of burden on which he sat, a sort of carpet was being sewn together ahead of him.

And according to the Pharisees, this was a problem.

But actually, it wasn’t the palm branches that were the problem so much as what the people were saying.

Hosanna, which means “save us now.” “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Continue reading

Posted in Lent, Liturgy, Old Testament, sermon

The Test: Lent 1

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our culture is quite smitten with the yin-yang symbol from Chineses Taoism philosophy. In the dark half there is a contrasting dot of light and in the light half a contrasting dot of darkness. This symbol is meant to picture a dualistic philosophy of the universe with two equal and opposing forces of good and evil. The same philosophy is infecting our culture with belief and talk of karma, that good and evil work in harmony and counteract each other. It is also based on the assumption that even in goodness there is some evil and in darkness there is some light.

While it may be true that people the world considers good do some evil and people the world brands as evil do some good, this dualistic philosophy is not true and it does not reflect reality. At its heart, it is a false and deceptive philosophy that accuses God of evil and impotency to conquer evil.  Continue reading

Posted in Lent, sermon

Transfiguration: What He Meant

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Unknown-1In the story of the ugly duckling, the true beauty of the swan is revealed in the end. Until the beautiful swan is recognized for whom he truly is, he is mocked and ridiculed by the ducks. He is considered unattractive and out of place. When you find a cocoon, you donot see the beauty of the butterfly. Until it emerges, its beauty and majesty are hidden within the cocoon.

In today’s Gospel, we have our Lord’s Transfiguration where Christ’s hidden glory is revealed.

Though, when properly understood, the Transfiguration of our Lord is not so much a new miracle, as the temporary halting of a 33 year miracle. The one whom the inner circle of disciples saw shining like the sun had done so since the beginning of time. He is the light of the world!  At creation He said, “let there be light” and there was light. The real and astounding miracle is that His sun-like glory was veiled from His cradle to His grave – excepting for this day.   Continue reading

Posted in sermon, Transfiguration

Hope for Life

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Who’s asking about hope? Who’s gonna ask about our hope? And why would they have to ask us, Mister Apostle Peter? Wake up and smell the progress! I mean, welcome to the Roman Empire! You’re writing during the good old days, the golden age, classical antiquity, the height of human civilization. We’re living in the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome, an awesome civilization beyond the best years Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, or Greece ever saw. Over 200 years of bliss and economic growth. We are at the height of technological innovation and philosophical insight. They paint masterpieces and put up monuments to our society. Half the calendar is named after our era. Our cultural achievements will epitomize the western world for millennia to come, often imitated but never duplicated. Hope? We don’t need those stinkin’ pledges! We’ve got tonight; who needs tomorrow? Carpe diem!

How’s that working out for us? Continue reading

Posted in children, Life, sermon