Not Quarantined

0Alleuia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

We are so used to grand celebrations of this resurrection. Grand music, not just from our fantastic organist but usually many other musicians to trumpet this glorious day. After the sunrise celebration and the feast of the Lamb we are accustomed to the Easter breakfast. Churches usually gathering together in their greatest amount of any day of the year, for it is the culminating day of our life and history.

As the world lay still on the first day of the week after Jesus’ death, many were quarantined (okay, maybe more like hiding in fear as the disciples were), many in fear of not knowing what was next, how would they proceed after the death of Jesus. 

And that first Easter day was quite subdued. First the two women were told the greatest news in the history of the world. As they went to the tomb the angel let them know, Jesus is not here, He is risen, just as He said. There wasn’t a grand gathering of all the faithful. No, the faithful were scattered just like today. They were unsure. As the disciples heard from the women the news they ran to see for themselves.

You see, the devil had done his worst. That slithery snake took the biggest bite he could muster up in nailing Jesus to the cross. The old evil foe thought he had won. Little did he know Jesus would proclaim victory over him and death itself.

That slithery prince of this world still is nipping at the heals of the world. He has been salivating as he leads people to fear a virus; Satan has been rubbing his hands together as people fear economic collapse; the old evil foe has been rejoicing as he gives people opportunity to be away from churches and the hearing of God’s Word; and the father of lies has been pleased to have people love and trust their own feelings and thoughts as he spins conflicting reports and attacks so that chaos ensues and leads anywhere other than Jesus who has conquered sin, death, and the devil himself.

Yet, what great victory our Lord brings forth through the devil’s worst attempts. This is nothing new.

As Satan took Job’s family, his money, his land, his animals, as Job’s friends abandoned him, as his own wife encouraged him to give up, Job makes this great word of confession and proclaims the resurrection. For I know my Redeemer lives and at last He will stand upon the earth. And even more than that, I will see Him myself with my own eyes!

What sweet joy this sentence gives, I know that my Redeemer lives.

Satan has continued and tried his best to silence and kill the Word of God. There have been those even with the church who would be used to silence the preaching of the Gospel, focusing on money, making the Gospel a consumer product to change and pander to the whims of people’s thoughts and desires of what they want. Satan would try to take churches away, tell his lie that religion is merely a private matter, he may even be tempting you now to think that you do not necessarily need to gather with the saints and receive His gifts. 

The wily serpent will not give up. But neither does Your Lord.

In the midst of separation, the Gospel has been proclaimed on national news encouraging faith in Christ to be held on to, in the midst of isolation the love of Christ has brought people together to care for their neighbors in new and yet simple ways, in the midst of empty churches the Gospel has been broadcast more than ever taking up bandwidth to come into your lives.

For every bite the serpent Satan takes at the heals of Christ, his head just gets crushed. Death is defeated. Jesus is risen. Your sins forgiven. You have no fear of death, you do not worry about worldly matters as most essential, for you have been buried with Christ in baptism and if you are buried with Him, you are also raised with Him in glorious resurrection. 

As we go about our days, we may be scattered, we may have fears and doubts. But take heart, Jesus has overcome the world, He is risen just as He said, and in Him you have life and salvation.

When that slithery serpent comes to you and leads you into temptation, laugh in His face and proclaim this good news, you are baptized into Christ and Jesus has defeated Him. When you succomb to temptation and fail, and Satan, the accuser, points at your sins and says see, you failed, you lose, point to the cross of Jesus and say, see, in Christ I win, I am forgiven. When that father of lies would lead you think you are alone in these days, rejoice that you are gathered with angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven as you receive the Lamb’s high feast, that you are never alone here at the altar of Christ, even if you come during these days in groups of 10 or less.

For nothing that this world brings, nothing that the devil would attack us with, will separate us from the love of Christ. While the world has paused and sat in stillness and isolation, Jesus marches on into your hearts and lives to give you forgiveness of all your sins, to give you peace that surpasses understanding, to bring you life in the midst of death. What a great and glorious day this is, even in our present situation. Rejoice, sing, and feast. For death is defeated and in Christ you live in the new creation with Him forever.

Alleuia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia! Amen.

Posted in Baptism, Church, Day of Resurrection, Holy Week, Life, Lord's Supper, sermon

Midweek Lent Windows, Palm Sunday

Posted in Church, Holy Week, Lent, sermon

The Annunciation, Midweek Lent

With apologies, the COVID-19 restrictions caught us all by storm. The Lenten service and homily is available online here. As we continue through our beautiful windows.

Posted in Advent, Angels, Christmas, Lent

Laetare, Rejoice, Even in Quarantine

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

Rejoice! There hasn’t been much to rejoice about in many ways. COVID-19 has effectively shut most of us in our homes, making “social distancing” a new part of our vocabulary, the values of many savings and retirement accounts are dwindling, employment concerns abound as especially small businesses ponder their survival, school and education for many involves struggling with new approaches, and it may even be a struggle to find chicken at the store to prepare for dinner if you didn’t have any in the freezer (though I pray you have other options and if not please reach out to the church for such needs.)

Even before the last couple weeks people struggle with rejoicing. Tempers flair, struggles with finances still existed, and perhaps you were social distancing and grumbling on your own before a couple weeks ago, or I’m sure each one of us could come up with things to complain about rather than rejoice in recognizing what the Lord gives and provides for us.

Here in the church today is one of my favorite Sundays, as many from St. Peter’s know especially at Advent as well, is a little lightening of things. It is a little more subtle with just a stole as we don’t have full paraments, but with the chasuble worn with communion celebration a big man in rose tends to be noticed. The first words of our Introit from Psalm 122, “Rejoice, Jerusalem.” Continue reading

Posted in Lent, sermon

Cleansed, Midweek Lent, Stained Glass

Audio here, live streamed on Facebook due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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

For those at St. Peter’s here in Arlington, WI we have been going through our church’s stained glass, highlighting their detail as well as the the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they tell. This is a major purpose behind much of stained glass. Now, we have usually printed the pictures on the bulletin as well as people can look at them, but given our current situation, we thought it best to simply have said stained glass in your view.

In times such as this, we certainly need this reminder, that the narrative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, is our life and narrative. A beautiful thing being inside the church is this reality that we are living within the Gospel story. 

And what wonderful timing this is for our window tonight. A time to remember our baptism as we reflect on Jesus’ baptism. Our stained glass beautifully highlights the baptism of Jesus in simple and artistically profound ways. At the center of our stained glass window for Jesus’ baptism is a triad of symbols often together, the cross, an anchor, and a heart. 

Especially of note for us tonight is the anchor. The anchor became a key symbol of Christianity in times of persecution. As Christians were forced to hold services in secret, symbols came into use for other Christians to locate each other to gather for worship. The fish, ICHTHUS, is probably the most well known of these symbols. The Chi-Rho, the first two letters for Christ, as noted on our window for the Mount of Transfiguration. And as others who would persecute the church took notice, Christians adjusted. So the anchor came in vogue. After all it was easy to adjust crosses and etch out an anchor. 

Now we are not persecuted at this time in the midst of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, we are not being prevented from worshipping, though for the public good and out of love for others we are asked to refrain from gathering together in one location for this time. We can look for signs and still live as the people of God. We can serve our neighbor, we can gather through new means for now, I know it’s hard but we can give a phone call or write a letter and encourage one another. If you are around here, or wherever you are, though remember the church is the place where God’s Word is proclaimed and His Sacraments given. And so Jesus is here, in Word and in Sacrament. Come, even in these times and receive it. Be the people of God, receive His gifts.  Continue reading

Posted in Baptism, Church, Lent, sermon | 4 Comments

Overcomer, Lent 3, COVID-19

Audio here          Luke 11:14-28

Lent is when the Church emphasizes spiritual warfare. The first Sunday recounts Our Lord’s fasting and temptation by Satan in the desert. This Sunday has Him casting out a demon and being accused of being in league with Satan. The Pharisee’s charge wasn’t quite as far off base as it sounds. There are only two options: either Jesus was casting out demons by the finger of God or He was doing it by the the power of the devil. 

The pharisees say “Beelzebub” which was the name of an idol. Jesus cuts to the chase and calls him “Satan.” There are no other gods, no other ways. If you don’t worship Jesus you worship the devil. So even though the Pharisees were wrong, even though they accused Jesus of casting out demons by Satan, at least they realized what was at stake, what the options were, more than we who often like to play the middle road.

We have so often played the mild-mannered, timid Christian, more distressed about recycling than life, more concerned about the cancelation of the NCAA, NBA, NHL, and delay of the baseball season than the reality that so many regularly abandon, cancel, and delay the receiving of God’s Word and the Sacraments on a weekly basis. Even in the midst of seeming chaos and pandemics we’ve nearly forgotten what is real and what matters. We’ve preferred the good opinion of our neighbors to their salvation. 

This week has brought havoc upon our world. Thousands have died from influenza these months, COVID-19 threatens and most of the world, our nation, our community, our economy, and our lives have been driven to fear.

This is what Satan does, he divides the house, he will separate the world in as many slices as needed in an effort to cut into Christ’s people. He has done so repeatedly. Continue reading

Posted in Lent, sermon

Childhood – Stained Glass

Audio here 

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

We’ve mentioned before that stained glass has one purpose of teaching, of useful telling of a story, use of symbols in pictures, especially in places that are commonly visited and thus those images retain in the memory. This is true. Yet, not all stained glass serves for this purpose. There is another practical usage of stained glass that goes beyond the artist detail. Stained glass also creates different lighting. Specifically, even without artistic design stained glass keeps that which is outside, outside. That is it blocks out the world and keeps the focus and draw upon that which is within.

Churches well utilized this feature. While we live in the world we are not of the world. Also, practically, as the lights within glow, especially in the night, the stained glass beams out their artistic beauty and the church literally becomes a light to the world as a city set upon on hill. And with this, of course, with such artistic and colorful value, you may as well make use of it with expression of that which true, good, and beautiful, that is, the things of God.

And so it is that our focus shifts the nativity window tonight. Upon first notice you see that which is proclaimed so wonderfully by Simeon in the Nunc Dimitis as Jesus was 40 days old in the temple, that this child born is a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. This is who Jesus is, the light of the world. Thus the light shines brightly above the manger. We know of the star above the manger as well, it indeed lead the first Gentiles, the magi, to the infant Jesus. The use of the star in our window is wonderful. It is the traditional five-point star along with five dots, which as mentioned before in our medallion near the altar, is the star and dots historically used to proclaim the 5 wounds of Christ. 

This is also beautifully displayed near the bottom of our windows, ever so discretely it seems, in the simple fleur-de-lis, which translates and means flower of light. The Song of Solomon speaks of a lily among the thorns, of which the symbol became associated with. Of note, there is Trinitarian connotations with such a flower and emphasized here with the three dots as well. It soon also became the symbol of royalty, particularly French royalty, as is fitting for our King of Kings. Continue reading

Posted in children, Christmas, Church, Lent, sermon

Judgment: Midweek Lent 1

Audio here

IMG_0440Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

During the Lenten season we learn to abstain, to fast, to repent, to prepare. In doing so we are not attempting to earn favor with God, obtain a special recognition, but rather to discipline ourselves to be content with what we have, to resist the desire for more, to appreciate the gifts we’ve been given, and in doing recognize that things of this life are fleeting and be prepared for that which is eternal. This Lenten season we will then take time to appreciate and learn from what we have, especially in our stained glass of our sanctuary, the story and narrative that leads us not to more for ourselves and our desires but appreciation for our fleeting life in the midst of the eternal gospel. 

Stained glass in congregations used to be the norm, every church had them. Some more others less elaborate. Their purpose was to teach. Given that the life of worship was much more than merely an hour on Sunday and perhaps a little more in Bible Study or Sunday School or special services, but rather daily in the morning and the evening all year round, it followed that the art and architecture of the church was used to teach. People saw it every day.

IMG_0441Without quick access to books, google searches, and stained glass could be used to recall details that told a story. Our stained glass is no different. The purpose is to tell a story, the Gospel story. So it is fitting that we prepare in receiving the Gospel, that we prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus for us, in learning more of the story.

As we prepare, be it during Lent, in our Divine Service, and in our Christian life, it is always with an eye toward the end. Lent looks to Holy Week and Easter. We worship in receiving the tangible gifts of Jesus in Word and Sacrament with an eye towards the forgiveness we know and trust to receive and the life of the new creation to come in resurrection light. And so we begin with a look at the end.  Continue reading

Posted in Baptism, Church, End Times, Lent, sermon

Temptation: Lent 1

Audio may be found here

Read: Genesis 3:1-21, Matthew 4:1-11

Posted in Lent, sermon

Absolved: Ash Wednesday

Below are two pictures. The first is from Portals of Prayer, a quarterly devotionals from CPH, which I was honored to write and provide devotions and prayers for February 2020. The 2nd is a medallion mentioned in our church floor just in front of the altar.

St. Peter’s Homily Audio here.0

ashwedsportals

Posted in Ash Wednesday, Baptism, Lent