Poverty in Christ

moneyProper 24B:

Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Mark 10:23-31

Ever since those thirty pieces of silver, money has played a treacherous role in the life of the Church.  Why, even the Lutheran Reformation was launched on October 31, 1517, because of money!  Oh yes, it was also about those great themes of grace and faith…but if you read Martin Luther’s 95 Theses which he nailed to the Wittenberg Castle Church door, most of the theses deal with money!

#27, “It is nonsense to teach that a dead soul in Purgatory can be saved by money.” #42, “Christians should be taught that the buying of indulgences does not compare with being forgiven by Christ.” #82, “Why doesn’t the pope [empty Purgatory] for holy love, if he can redeem innumerable souls for sordid money?”

It’s no wonder Luther found himself in hot water.  Yes, the abuse of the Gospel riled him concerning the selling of indulgences, buying God’s forgiveness like a sack of potatoes.  A person can quickly find himself getting burned at the stake because of what he says in the Church about money!

Oh sure, the wise and faithful use of money has witnessed incredible blessings in the life of the Church, from the time of the Apostles and even the Old Testament.  But it is this potential for great blessing is also the potential for great treachery, greed, and angst. And in this passage, Jesus makes it scary: “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

The passage makes me think of various accounts of the same scene, one who is not viewed as particularly religious is once found him studying the Bible and the friend asks,  “What are you doing with that?” To which the reply is, “lookin’ for loopholes!” Continue reading

Posted in Ethics, Luther, Reformation, sermon | Leave a comment

Rev. Dr. Marion L. Hendrickson

Isaiah 25:6-9, John 11:17-44

Dear Connie, Matthew, and Michael, beloved family members, dear brothers in the ministry, saints gathered today, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In just two short weeks we will celebrate this day, and yet there will be many more remembered as well. Every funeral is in a way a commemoration and celebration of All Saints Day. A day of memory for those who have died before us. Today, we mourn, we remember, but we look forward to the day we will celebrate. 

For you dear family, it may be accounts that recall not only Marion’s life but those whose lives traveled across the Atlantic and are but a mere memory. The memory will continue back on the farm in Iowa, back to Lars and perhaps even to Silas or even back to Lars who traveled across and settled the farm life for this family. Ah yes, all the saints who now rest from their labors, those who have died in Christ are many, from this family, from this congregation, and from the holy ministry. 

Today highlights once again how much we know death. We’ve experienced it much. There are many not here to mourn this day, for they too now rest from the labors. Death surrounds us, it makes us uncomfortable. As the 14th century poem often read at committal, a favorite of pastor’s and written in Latin in memorial on the plant given from Pastor Dave Herald and on the back of your bulletin proclaims, in the midst of life we are in death.

We much prefer the life of Easter Sunday and shy away from the death of Good Friday. We all want to go to heaven…but no one wants to die to get there! Yet, it is precisely through death that we have life. It is through death that we are delivered from death. This was true of Marion and is true for you. And it is through death that you are declared a saint. 

It’s like when Ole moved and he discovered that he was the only Lutheran in a little town of Catholics. That was okay, but the neighbours had a problem with his barbecuing venison every Friday. Since they were forbidden to eat meat on Fridays, the aroma was so tempting that something had to be done.

Neighbours went over to Ole and managed to convince him to join their church. The big day came and the priest made Ole kneel. He put his hand on Ole’s head and said, “Ole, you were born a Lutheran, you were raised a Lutheran, and now,” he said as he sprinkled some incense over Ole’s head, “now you are a Catholic!”

Ole was happy and the neighbours were happy. But the following Friday evening at suppertime, the aroma of grilled deer steaks was coming from Ole’s yard. The neighbours went to talk to him about it. As they approached the fence, they heard Ole say, “You were born a deer, you were raised a deer, and now,” he said as he sprinkled seasoning salt over the choice tender loin cut, “now you are a fish!”

With the washing of water, buried with Christ and raised with Him in Holy Baptism, Marion and you are declared saint, Christian, child of God. It’s the same song that continues for all the saints. That song goes on…and, as the saying goes, we contribute our verse.  But it remains His song we sing, His land we plow, His life we live, His cross we bear—that is, His death and resurrection, His blood, His sweat, His tears, His joy, His life, His glory we preach. 

You cannot face death honestly and fully unless you have faced that death on the cross. But we face death knowing that it is swallowed up forever by Jesus on the cross. We can make that confession with Isaiah only because of what Jesus said to Martha in the cemetery at Bethany: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live.” We gather here today because we believe Jesus’ words are true for Marion and for all who cling to the Savior in faith.

Jesus does what Ole and so many others cannot do, change reality with a mere word and declaration. But first, he mourned, he wept. He wept for death is why Jesus came. To swallow it up forever. With a word he raised called Lazarus forth from the tomb and brought him to life. 

Soon, Jesus would swallow up death in Himself. The next week in Christ’s death we see that victory over death and the grave comes by death and the grave. His death shows us that Paradise, the Resurrection, is there in death. Risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, we await for him to come again in the resurrection to hear “Marion, come out!” Jesus is going to say that again someday– with your name too! 

So, as we have memorial of a dear husband, father, brother, pastor, colleague, and friend, let us keep memorial of that which he preached, Christ, and him crucified for you. As you dear saints of St. Peter’s receive from the chalice given at his retirement let us keep in remembrance the preaching and teaching that accompanied that first chalice passed, this cup is the new testament in Christ’s blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

We now lay Marion’s body, spent from a lifetime of living, into the grave to await the resurrection. So weep, mourn, but in these days listen, but lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day, the saints triumphant rise in bright array, for the King of Glory says to you, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” 

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Posted in Baptism, Day of Resurrection, Funeral, resurrection, Saints, sermon | Leave a comment

Image and Likeness

Audio Link, Proper 22B: Gen.2:18-25, Hebrews 2:1-18, Mark 10:2-16

There are many things that are basic in life. The basics are needed for a person to build on. Learning the ABCs is basic for education. Learning to boil water is a basic for culinary skills. As Vince Lombardi brought his team back to basics at the start of the season when he said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

And today we get this wonderful text which does the same thing, brings us back to basics. Ladies and gentlemen this is how God created you. This is His desire for creation, in the midst of a perfect garden, with everything necessary provided and living life with God.

And yet note what is said toward the end of the creation wee, something is said to be “not good.” This is in contrast to the end of the first five days of creation where everything was always good. Now it wasn’t said to be “bad,” but rather “not good.” Not good for whom? All is good for Adam, newly created, new life given, complete dominion over the creation, even naming the animals. God says it is “not good,” not bad but more along the lines of “not yet complete.” Continue reading

Posted in Baptism, sermon

Angels Guard and Keep

Observed: St. Michael’s and All Angels (Audio Link)

You don’t get very far in the Bible before you start bumping into angels of this sort, that sort, and the other.  They come in a bewildering array of varieties, but in two basic flavors:  good or evil.  And since the fall of our race into the power of the evil angels (and the evidence of that is all around you – you don’t need to open your Bible for it.  Just check a social media news feed, or read the newspaper, or watch any so-called news channel for a bit – or you might even try the gutsy approach and look into your own heart), as I was saying, since the fall of our race, we find the good angels somewhat frightening.  Even holy prophets do.

So when Daniel in his room suddenly feels an angel’s hand touching him, he drops trembling to his hands and knees.  But the angel wasn’t sent to scare him, just to bring him good news.  Hence:  “O Daniel, man greatly loved… fear not!”  The good news the angel brings is more than a tad mysterious.  It’s hard enough to make sense out of human warfare, knowing who to believe and sorting out what really happened and such.  But angelic warfare?  How will we ever understand that?  Continue reading

Posted in Angels, Day of Resurrection, End Times, sermon

You Ain’t First, You Last

Audio: Proper 20B, James 3:13-4:10, Mark 7:24-37

Every good thing…and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17).  Dear children of our never changing heavenly Father; God continue to bless you with His perfect gifts from above through Jesus Christ our Lord:

Most of us recognize that big talk is rarely a sign of strength.  Pushing people around physically or verbally, acting tough, seeking recognition are often actions of people with deep insecurities.  Outward swagger regularly hides inward weakness that doesn’t want to be seen.  

But position-seeking is a game that can be played in many ways.  In fact, the desire for recognition and approval can be disguised so well that it can even fool the heart in which it lives.  There are many little ways of pushing people aside and even pushing God aside and putting ourselves forward – in the work place – in the family – in the church – in relationships – and especially in our minds.  Gaining the advantage can frequently be done quite respectably and without undue meanness – even with a smile.  Human hearts may seek to out-shine, out-nice, even out-serve others – being the very best in people’s opinion, in our own opinion, and even in God’s opinion.   Continue reading

Posted in children, sermon

Armor of God

At Camp Luther, WI Labor Day Family Camp Weekend

The last word from Paul, a prisoner of the Roman government, to the church in Ephesus and the surrounding churches of Asia minor. Paul loved this congregation. Before he sent to Jerusalem, he specifically sent for the elders from Ephesus. Paul knew what they were up against, he knew the enemy. And so he writes: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His strength.

He doesn’t just say, “Be strong.” Their own strength means nothing. Their strength is in the Lord. Their power is His power, a power perfected in weakness, the power of the cross and the open tomb. That was their strength, and ours too. Left to our own devises, abilities, methods, we’re doomed. It’s only in the strength of the Lord that we can “be strong.”

We need to be clothed, too. Not in the latest fashions of the culture, but as a soldier of the Crucified. You can imagine the apostle Paul, writing while imprisoned in Rome with the ever-present Roman guard standing there beside him. I’m sure Paul spoke with his guard, and if the book of Acts is any indicator, probably evangelized him. For Paul, every situation was an opportunity to proclaim salvation in Jesus. He looks the soldier’s uniform, and through His Christ-centered vision, he sees a picture of the baptized believer dressed in the gifts of Christ. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

The Flood That Sanctifies

(Audio) Proper 12 B: Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 6:45-56

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

When you see a rainbow in the sky, what’s your first thought? Is it trying to find the leprechaun’s pot of gold? Do you sing “Somewhere over the rainbow” with Judy Garland? Or is it more along the lines of Care Bears, My Little Pony, or even a particular Pink Floyd album? Are you struck by the sheer beauty of the raw colors of nature projected into the sky as the sun reflects through the rain drops of the storm that passed? Do you pause and remember why the rainbow is placed in the sky in the first place? The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky show the wonder of God’s paintbrush in the order of nature! It is the bow placed as a reminder of God’s promise, His protection for the faithful in the flood, His promise to not have the world flood again.

Or perhaps your thoughts are to that which many in our culture have now taken the rainbow as a symbol of Pride. Ironically, these rainbows are being displayed for a purpose completely contrary to nature’s order, contrary to God’s Word. Also ironically, a rainbow is used as a symbol of pride, one the seven deadly sins. The Scriptures constantly call Christians not to a life of pride but to a life a humility and repentance, to turn from our inclinations.

It’s why we confessed as we did at the start of the service, I am by nature sinful and unclean, in thought, word, and deed, in things done and things not done. Our nature, our natural inclination, our desires, our hearts are sinful. It why I chuckle at the notion of following one’s own heart. Why would we do that? For as Jesus reminds us, “out of the heart comes all matter of evil.”

We forget what the purpose of the rainbow was in first place. Continue reading

Posted in Baptism, Ethics, Marriage, sermon

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