April 24, 2016, Text: Revelation 21:1-7

April 24, 2016    Text: Revelation 21:1-7

Dear Friends in Christ,

David C. Steinmets, a noted American historian of late medieval and early modern Christianity said, “A church who has lost its memory of the past can only wander about aimlessly in the present and despair of its future. Having lost its identity, it will lose its mission and hope as well.”
That is why we value all of Scripture – both the Old and New Testaments. We learn from them and they guide us. They keep us focused on Jesus. Today it is the last book in the Bible and John helps us so that we are . . .
“SEEING WHAT WE NEED TO SEE”
The text begins, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared a bride adorned for her husband.”
Have you ever given that much thought? “Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” That is a description of how God sees His church – you and me. A beautiful bride loved and adored by Christ. So much so that He would suffer and die for her. And that’s hard to imagine, don’t you think? Christ sees us as a beautiful bride even though we are all self-centered and tend to put His love on the back burner of life.
David R. Schmitt of Concordia Seminary relates the following from a TV reality show called Bridezillas. Perhaps some of you have seen it. He writes:
“Among the shows is a bride named Courtney. Courtney and her soon-to-be husband Dan. Courtney wanted to have a murder-mystery themed wedding. They were going to have a murder at her wedding and then the guests would play a game of Clue. She sat there on the floor with a board and place cards in front of her, planning her wedding, when her future husband Dan foolishly critiqued her changing the rules of the game. She had a complete meltdown. She threw the place cards and board into the air. Her face became red. Her voice was raised. And she started shouting and began destroying her wedding. She launched into a full assault on Dan and his family. She screamed about how she hated him and his stupid family. The bride became Bridezilla, argumentative and ugly.”
And then Schmitt makes this observation: “Watching these shows, you realize that all of these brides have one thing in common. They have all forgotten one fundamental thing. You can’t make yourself a bride. They try to orchestrate their weddings and they forget that no amount of clothing or cake or flowers or fancy invitations is going to make you a bride. You can’t make yourself a bride. You are a bride because someone loves you…Unfortunately, no one ever says that on Bridezillas, which is why we need to turn off the TV and open up the Scriptures.”
This is what we are to see as we look to the past of John’s vision in Revelation, because that vision propels us right into the new heaven and the new earth to come.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” (vs. 3-4)
Got it? All the things of this world that we spend a lifetime trying to avoid will be taken away forever and ever. The tears and the death and the mourning and the pain of life! Oh, what we have to look forward to.
Then these words: “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.’ (v. 5) The assurance of that promise is placed before us in the next verse, “And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.’” (v. 6)
“I will give…without payment.” That’s the way it is with God’s love in Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ for every sin made the payment and that assures us a place in everlasting life.
The last promise is in verse 7. “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
So here we are this morning. The church. The Bride of Christ. And what do we see? So often, little of what God wants us to see. And that is because we are distracted. The visuals thrown around us day and night remind us we need to focus on the latest cell phone, the best pizza for your money, the political future of our country, and the latest movie or TV offering of violence and vulgarity. As David Schmitt noted, there in the distance is Eternity . . . by Calvin Klein. Everything is earth bound.
Through the Spirit we say no to all of this. We are the bride of Christ. We should be willing to enter the lives of those filled with sorrow and conflict and extend the love of Christ. This earth is choking itself to death and not on pollution. But on lies and scandals, and people with agendas no one can read – and few want to study – until it’s too late.
Jesus said to His bride on earth, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of the wolves, so be as wise as servants and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) And Jesus said to His Bride on earth, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
This is where we are now. A bride seemingly unadorned, struggling and laboring in this world for Christ. But, we are also the company who sees the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. We are citizens of that new homeland. John writes, “…what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 2:2) Seeing what we need to see!
Amen.

April 10, 2016, Text: John 21:1-14

April 10, 2016                                                                        Text:  John 21:1-14

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Some you might recognize that Lemony Snicket is the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler.  One of his works is entitled Horseradish:  Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid.  He wrote:

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one.  We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up.  And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know.  It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is.  Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”

There are many realities of life we try to avoid.  One that we cannot:  the end of everything here.  And with it, the fact that everything here becomes…well…nothing.  It’s like your foot moving through the air for the next step, only to discover that there are no more steps.  And the biggest truth of all:  the reality that the last step leaves no time for readjusting the way you thought about anything.  It’s over.  There are no “re-do’s.”  That’s it.  And so the theme . . .

“THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE YOU TAKE THE LAST STEP”

The text begins, “After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.  Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.  Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’  They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’  They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.’” (v. 1-3)

Jesus is revealing himself again to the disciples.  This is the third time since the resurrection.  And it is important because their life is going nowhere.  You caught that, didn’t you?  “They caught nothing.”  P.E. Kretzman writes,

“The interval between the resurrection of Jesus and the miracle of Pentecost must have been unusually trying for the disciples.  They were without a leader; they had not yet received the extraordinary communication of the Spirit, which would enable each one to strike out for himself.  In this mood of uncertainty they were standing on the shore of the sea when Peter suddenly exclaimed, ‘I am going fishing.’”

Well, at least it was something to do.  Think of the their life in the preceding three years:  the raising of the dead, the miracle of feeding thousands, the healings of the sick and lame and the crowds following.  The words of the Savior to his disciples and then the horrible reality of his death and the life changing stuff that went with it.

So they fish…and catch nothing.  Life can be like that, can’t it?  Just ask the person who got hit with, “You’ve got, maybe, six months.”  Ask them about life’s adventure.  Listen to this – author unknown:

“Tomorrow is a blank page, just waiting to be filled with your dreams…All you have to do is be yourself and live the story of your own unique life.  Be proud.  Be confident.  And most of all be happy.”

Does that inspire you?  What do we say about words like that – get real!  Life does get all jumbled up, doesn’t it?

But look who breaks into the picture.  Jesus stood on the shore, though they do not recognize him.  He says, “Children, do you have any fish?”  It is a term of endearment for these men who had abandoned him and were behind locked doors out of fear.  He then tells these professional fisherman how to fish and it so large they can’t get it all in the boat.  The power of the resurrected Christ shines through.  They then notice it is the Lord and Peter – the rock – the denier of Christ three times – throws himself into the water so he can get to his Lord first.  Even in the heaviness of his wet clothes it must have been a relief for Peter.

Standing there, next to the shore, was God, the Word…fixing breakfast for these men about to take the next step with Him.  They ran to the Word – not to question Him – but for comfort and help.  The food was secondary – unless you understand the next step.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’  Now none of the disciples dared asked him, ‘Who are you?’  They knew it was the Lord.  Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.  This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.’” (v. 12-14)

You understand what’s happening here, right?  The resurrected Christ is feeding them.  Bread and fish.  The living Christ, now comforts these struggling sinful humans who had seen so much, struggling with their failures.  He loves them.  He feeds them.  There is forgiveness here.  There is the assurance that He is there for them.

And it’s the same here, for us.  We know we have made our messes, thought some rather twisted thoughts about others, avoided some people we don’t like, picked up our Bibles and threw around some prayers…as time permitted.  Was it this past week that someone you know was troubled and struggling?  Was it this past week?  And you gave that weak, shallow worldly advice like, “Hang in there.  It will be alright.”  But you forgot Him Who can heal and comfort?

He is there for us every day.  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27)  To “put on Christ” is to be covered in forgiveness, His perfect life and assured of eternal life.  He’s there:  “This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me…This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:24-25)  He’s there:  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105)

These are the things to think about – and vigorously pursue before the last step.  And the last step?  That moment when the resurrected Christ takes us to be with Him where He is – “It is the Lord!”

Amen.

April 17, 2016, Text: Acts 20:17-35

April 17, 2016                                                                        Text:  Acts 20:17-35

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Back in April of 1977 the Broadway musical Annie debuted.  It’s the story of an orphan girl living in New York City during the Depression, hoping she’ll one day be with her parents, whom she believes are still alive.  She and her fellow orphans are under the care of a woman who doesn’t love them or care for them, and some people prey on Annie, trying to get money by pretending to be her parents.  Those who should care for her don’t.  In fact, instead of shepherds, they are like wolves.

Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders are about proper love and care for those entrusted to them.  We are spiritual orphans in need of a loving heavenly Father.  The image on Good Shepherd Sunday of Jesus as a shepherd caring for us is expanded in the role of those undershepherds who watch over the flock of God’s people.  We are called to that relationship of caring for those wherever we are.  But there are challenges and so let’s talk about . . .

“SHEPHERDING AMONG WOLVES”

We thank God that He has made us shepherds and sheep together, like Paul and the Ephesians.  The call of the faithful Pastor is to preach the whole counsel of God for the good of His sheep.  This had been Paul’s work for three years in Ephesus.  This is my call here at Good Shepherd.

The call includes testing and tears.  Paul faced theological questions, objectors, and a mob.  In a sinful world, Pastors and congregations do have heartache and difficulty.  Sometimes the heartache is within as people drift away from the Gospel or as we watch personal situations tear at our heartstrings and we find no easy answers to help.  Sometimes the heartache is from the outside as people question our stance on marriage or communion or fellowship or creation or even the divinity of Christ.

Yet what a joyful relationship God has established for shepherd and sheep.  Paul thanked God for his ministry.  I thank God for the three churches I have been privileged to serve in almost 25 years as a shepherd.  The joys and sorrows of ministry are strong when realizing what is at stake – the eternal salvation of souls.

We acknowledge that God sometimes leads shepherds and their sheep to different pastures.  Paul acknowledged that the Spirit was leading him away from Ephesus to other things.  What happened to him was not as significant as the Word being preached faithfully.  The Spirit guides Pastors and people into new places of services.  Sometimes it is a call for the Pastor, many times as we have see in our own congregation it is families moving away for work.

In any case, God continues to care for both his shepherds and sheep – even in difficult times.  Difficult times lay ahead for both Paul and the Ephesian Church.  Paul is off to Jerusalem not knowing what dangers he would be facing.  Wolves would attack the Ephesians.  There are wolves within and outside of congregations who prey upon the sheep and who demand the best efforts of the shepherd to fight off.

Every false doctrine rends and tears to the degree that it is false.  It is most destructive when it parades as the true teaching of Christ or of his apostles.  One fang or false doctrine may cause faith to bleed to death.  The wolves are ready to attack and we must be careful.

What happens to us is we get caught wandering.  Wandering toward the greener grass of worldly goods or a catchier sounding philosophy or religion.  We wander from God’s house, losing confidence that his simple Word and Sacrament are the richest table anyone could ever spread before us.  Oh, the wolves of deceit that dance in our own minds.

But we have a Shepherd who has given his best effort to fight off the wolves that attack us.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, laid down his life for the sheep.  Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated Satan and all his henchwolves.  God gives us the grace of Christ’s cross – forgiveness and life everlasting – through the hard work of faithful ministry:  preaching, baptizing, distributing Jesus’ body and blood.  But the key is this:  in that hard work of ministry we call attention to Jesus’ work, not ours.

In the midst of attacks working in God’s service is a blessing.  “More blessed to give than to receive.” (v. 35)  Ministry often calls us to times where we are blessed by serving.  Conducting a funeral for a faithful child of God.  Coming in contact with students from around the world through serving a meal or having them stay in our home.  Giving our time or blood in the service of our fellow man.  Sharing God’s Word with a sick friend or family member.  Reaching out in love to the sheep that have wandered away.

The musical Annie ends up with the last predators, the last wolves pretending to be her parents, under arrest, while Annie and her fellow orphans go to live with Daddy Warbucks – an incredibly wealthy man who truly loves them.  Life doesn’t always work out like a Broadway musical.  But in the Church, we – Pastor and people, shepherd and sheep – stick together through very real spiritual danger, all the while knowing, though, that our Good Shepherd has already apprehended our enemies and that our Father has unending joys waiting for us.

Amen.

Bulletin Announcements

 April 24, 2016  †

THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP:  Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”  The things of this world are passing away.  We are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth that has been promised to us in Christ.  This knowledge is foundational for our stewardship of what God has put into our hands.  What is truly important?  What is worthy of our support?  How has God called us to use “unrighteous mammon” for the good of our neighbor and His kingdom?

THE ADULT BIBLE CLASS, led by Pastor Lueck and meeting in the church basement at 9:15 a.m. is studying “Lutheran Doctrine and Practice Today”.

“THE GOOD SHEPHERD” IS OUR SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON TODAY:  The children learn how we are all like sheep who have gone astray, in need of Jesus, our Shepherd, who rescues, gathers, and cares for us through His Word and Sacraments.  As a family, consider discussing; in what ways has Jesus rescued you?  Where can we find our Shepherd?

TODAY:  We welcome to our congregation by way of transfer Helen Jensen.  Helen comes from Austin, TX where she was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church.  Helen retired as a librarian at the University of Texas.  Helen was blessed with three children (one who is in eternal glory); and five grandchildren.  She enjoys reading, working on her computer and research.  Helen lives at Luther Oaks, 601 Lutz Road, Bloomington IL 61704.  Her phone# is (512) 636-9928 and her email is: utex@gmail.com.  Take a moment to welcome Helen to our body of believers.

NEXT SUNDAY, May 1st, IS CONFIRMATION in the 10:30 a.m. Worship.  We will have Holy Communion in both services.

OUR ASCENSION DAY WORSHIP SERVICE will be Thursday, May 5th at 7:00 p.m.  We will celebrate Holy Communion with the message: “Christ Is Lord Over Your Frustrations”.

FROM THE OFFICE:  Pick up your copy of the Church Directory located on the table in the narthex.

FROM THE OFFICE:  The congregation has received a thank-you note from the Ferch family concerning their recent visit.  It is posted on the bulletin board outside of the church office.

PORTALS OF PRAYER:  The April-June 2016 Portals of Prayer are available on the bookrack located in the narthex.  Pick up your free copy today.

FELLOWSHIP HOSTS:  The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell.  We need an individual/family to sign-up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee.  If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled.  We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

GOOD SHEPHERD BLOOD DRIVE:  People are eligible to donate whole blood every eight weeks.  One unit of blood can help save up to three lives.  This is where you and your left or right arm come in.  Our Blood Drive for the American Red Cross is Monday, May 2nd, from 2-6:00 p.m.  You may sign-up either on the sheets in the narthex or go to: www.redcrossblood.org.  Put in the church’s zip code (61704-9103) and then follow the prompts.  Also, we have posters available for those who can put them in their workplaces.  Thank you for your help and if you have any questions, please speak with Pastor Lueck who is a long-time donor.

2016 REGISTRATION INFORMATION:  Camp CILCA Outdoor Ministries 2016 Registration Information is available on the table in the narthex.  Camps are available for many different age groups.  The Camp is a CID LC-MS and LLL/LHM sponsored Camp.  It is located in Cantrall, IL which is northwest of Springfield, IL and west of Sherman, IL.  Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends are great for family camping.  Enjoy a Camp this summer.

FREE TICKETS:  The church has received free tickets for the ISU Men’s Baseball Game against Purdue on Tuesday, April 26th at 6:00 p.m.  They are available on the mailbox cabinet in the church office.  Enjoy!

THE LUTHERAN HOUR:  “So, Ask Already!” is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from John 16:22-33.  God loves you.  He wants to hear from you.  Ask Him anything and everything.  Go ahead, ask!  The speaker is Reverend Gregory Seltz.  Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720) at 6:00 a.m.; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.  Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Tune in!  You can also listen to The Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org.

PRAYER CHAIN:  If you have a prayer request please submit them by email to Mary Anne Kirchner at makirchner@yahoo.com or you may phone a Prayer Request to Mary Anne; her home # is (309) 661-6522; her cell phone# is (309) 532-2582.  The Prayer Request box is on the table in the narthex for any written requests.

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Bulletin Announcements

†   April 17, 2016   †

THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP:   John 10:27: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”  On their own sheep are in great danger.  They need a shepherd to guide them.  The sheep know the Shepherd’s voice – and we delight to go where He leads.  Of course, the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh want to pull us in another direction.  Namely, they want to pull us in the direction of death.  But following the Shepherd means life.  So no matter how difficult the path is that the Shepherd points out: let us follow Him!

THE ADULT BIBLE CLASS, led by Pastor Lueck and meeting in the church basement at 9:15 a.m. is studying “Lutheran Doctrine and Practice Today”.

THE SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON FOR TODAY IS “The Good Samaritan.”  As a family you could discuss, “Who could we consider our neighbor?  How could we share God’s love with our neighbor?”

TODAY is the deadline for items to be submitted for the MAY NEWSLETTER.  Mandy Kluender is our Editor for the church newsletter and any announcements you want to be published in the Newsletter should be submitted to her at mgkluender@hotmail.com or you may call her at (309) 838-9868.

FROM THE OFFICE:  The congregation has received a thank-you note from the Ferch family concerning their recent visit.  It is posted on the bulletin board outside of the church office.

PORTALS OF PRAYER:  The April-June 2016 Portals of Prayer are available on the bookrack located in the narthex.  Pick up your free copy today.

FELLOWSHIP HOSTS:  The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell.  We need an individual/family to sign-up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee.  If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled.  We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

GOOD SHEPHERD BLOOD DRIVE:  Your whole blood donation may help save as many as three lives.  One out of 10 people admitted to the hospital needs blood.  As I like to say: “a portion of our world has a little bit of CLueck running through their veins.  Aaaaagh!!”  This is where you and your left or right arm come in.  Our Blood Drive for the American Red Cross is Monday, May 2nd, from 2-6:00 p.m.  You may sign-up either on the sheets in the narthex or go to: www.redcrossblood.org.  Put in the church’s zip code (61704-9103) and then follow the prompts.  Also, we have posters available for those who can put them in their workplaces.  Thank you for your help and if you have any questions, please speak with Pastor Lueck who is a long-time donor.

THE WALK FOR LIFE for the Pregnancy Resource Center is this coming Saturday, April 23rd, at 9:00 a.m. at Christ Church in Normal.  If you would like to walk, Pastor has the material in his office.  Also, Pastor and family will once again participate in the Walk.  If you would like to sponsor them with a cash donation, please speak with Pastor.  Thank you.

FREE TICKETS:  The church has received free tickets for the ISU Men’s Baseball Game against Purdue on Tuesday, April 26th at 6:00 p.m.  They are available on the mailbox cabinet in the church office.  Enjoy!

THE LUTHERAN HOUR:  “One-upmanship” is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from Revelation 21:1-7.  Heaven will be more beautiful than we can imagine, it will rectify our problems and satisfy our most profound longings.  The speaker is Reverend Gregory Seltz.  Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720) at 6:00 a.m.; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.  Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Tune in!  You can also listen to The Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org.

PRAYER CHAIN:  If you have a prayer request please submit them by email to Mary Anne Kirchner at makirchner@yahoo.com or you may phone a Prayer Request to Mary Anne; her home # is (309) 661-6522; her cell phone# is (309) 532-2582.  The Prayer Request box is on the table in the narthex for any written requests.

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