“You’ve Got A Ticket To Ride” — 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 (12-14-2014 )

Dec. 14, 2014 Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Dear Friends in Christ,

Have you ever been on the standby list for a flight? You wait to see if someone doesn’t show up or gets bumped because of an overbooking. You are not sure if you will make it home.
Once you are on the standby list there is no peace and no way to relax. Every airport announcement and every conversation the ticket agent has brings on another Maalox moment. Ticketed passengers, by contrast, read magazines, thumb through books, or play games on their phone. They have the peace that passes all understanding. Oh to be numbered with the confirmed. Oh to have your own seat number and departure time. Oh to know on the next flight that you’re going home.
I can’t guarantee that the next time you are on the standby list that you will get a ticket. I can guarantee that you have a seat for the final flight home. Reservations have been made. The fare has been paid. In the immortal words of John, Paul, George and Ringo . . . .
“YOU’VE GOT A TICKET TO RIDE!”
We believe as much from our text. Paul writes, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.” (vs. 14-16a)
The Thessalonians were not only worried about their own departure; they also were concerned about loved ones who had died in the Lord. Paul assures them, and us, that Christians who die are in fact only asleep. This is what Jesus teaches (Matt. 9:24). That’s how Luke describes Stephen’s death (Acts 7:60). Paul repeats the word “sleep” three times in our text.
When you die, if you die (if Jesus doesn’t come again) are you immediately resurrected? No. Our body, the shell, stays here on earth. But our spirit goes to be with the Lord. Jesus said it to the thief; “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Paul talked about it when he wrote, “To depart from this body is to be present with the Lord.” When believers die their spirits go to be with the Lord in heaven. And they sleep. But not forever.
Christ will return with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God. It’s going to be quite a day. Those who are asleep will wake up. They will be raised with transformed bodies. Meaning what? If you die in the Lord, you’ve got a ticket to ride!
“And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (v. 16b) Aristotle called death, “The end of everything.” Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher wrote, “Death removes all meaning from life.” Another Frenchman Francois Rabelais, made this his last sentence, “I am going to the great Perhaps.” Not Jesus. He exclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25) Because he lives, we too shall live.
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (v. 17a) If still alive we will be caught up with Jesus. The term “caught up” in the Latin version is rapiemur. From this we get the English word “rapture.” So “rapture” is a biblical idea. The problem is that some Christians distinguish the rapture of Christ’s church from the second coming of Christ in judgment for the world. This is incorrect. The rapture and the second coming occur simultaneously. They are the same event. If you believe and have been baptized then you are rapture ready. You’ve got a ticket to ride!
“And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (v. 17b) If you have ever been to a reunion you know how good it can be to see friends and family you know and love. But the heavenly reunion is even so much more. People’s bodies reunited with their spirits for eternity. Family members seeing each other for the first time in years as they rise to meet Jesus Christ. It’s part an incredible reunion.
This experience tops everything. I can look out to all of you and say with confidence that the most exciting experience of your life has not even happened yet. No matter what you have done. You may have skied the Swiss Alps. You may have landed the dream job. You may have gotten to sit in A section at the Assembly Hall/State Farm Center in Champaign. You may have made the winning free throws in a basketball game. You may have lounged on the beach in Hawaii. You may have gone skydiving. This is not skydiving – it is the opposite. We will be caught up to join this joyful and wonderful reunion.
Even as some of you live dark days here on earth, as a believer in Jesus you have something to look forward to. Nothing can take that away. By God’s grace in Christ Jesus you most certainly have a ticket to ride! How shall we respond? “Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (v. 18).
Amen.

“A Vision of God’s Love” — Isaiah 40: 1-11

December 7, 2014 Text: Isaiah 40:1-11

Dear Friends in Christ,

Jeremy Cowart is a professional photographer in Los Angeles. His portfolio includes Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, and the Kardashians. One of his most beautiful and intriguing photographs, however, involves people you don’t know. It was taken when Cowart was in Kiev, Ukraine. He photographed two people standing outside St. Michael’s Church and Monastery. When you look at the photo, you can’t help but be surprised.
At the bottom of the photo, there are two people, young, preoccupied. One carries a bag over her shoulder and looks straight in your direction. The other is wearing a suit and a tie. His head is slightly tilted as he looks off into the distance. Both have the appearance of anyone you could meet on the street.
Behind them, however, is the wall of a monastery. It rises above them and is covered with angels. There are so many angels that you can’t see all of their faces. Behind these two ordinary people is a world of gold, filled with angels and wings.
If they would just turn around they would be amazed at the world that surrounds them. Their ordinary life is filled with the presence of angels. God is inviting them into an overwhelming experience of his personal love.
Unfortunately, what we see in this photograph often happens in our lives. We are so preoccupied with life that we never truly see the wonder of God’s ways. For this reason our text from Isaiah is a blessing this morning. He calls us today to stop and listen. Isaiah offers you . . .
“A VISION OF GOD’S LOVE”
Right away you have probably noticed there are no angels explicitly mentioned in our text. No picture of God seated with thousands of angels around him. In fact, Isaiah only gives us a voice, the voice of God that he hears.
Earlier though when Isaiah first received his call, he saw a glimpse of the heavenly council. He saw God “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” (Isa. 6:1) This God called Isaiah to speak, and he gave him the words to say.
This is what he is doing in our text. Instead of speaking judgment on the people, God is bringing comfort to his people. Hear this mercy: “Comfort, comfort my people,” says God. Not once but twice. God is emphatic. He is sending an army of angels to provide this comfort. They are to speak to his people, proclaim that their exile is over, their sin is pardoned, and they have peace with their God.
This mission, once given to angels, continues in our midst today. Advent reminds us of God’s mission. John the Baptizer was out in the wilderness calling all people to repent and prepare for the Lord. They were to receive baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The one coming was greater than John. The one sent from the Father would die for our sins. He rose and ascended to his Father to be seated on the heavenly throne. Jesus rules, and as long as this world endures, his mission continues. He now sends his Spirit to equip us to join in this mission of mercy to the ends of the earth.
This is a mission of love. The angels are to speak tenderly to God’s people. The language of God, who is in love with his people. Though they have strayed, God continues to seek them out.
This text is a foretaste of a more personal love. Advent prepares us for Christmas and God’s gift of personal love. Remember the angels who filled the heavens to announce this event? God in the flesh came in the person of Jesus to suffer God’s wrath and bring us back into a right relationship with our heavenly Father. When we stray he seeks us out and brings us back. Personal love, spoken in his Word, and also spoken personally by a preacher he has sent, today, to you.
Have you noticed how talk of religion can become divisive? The ways of God are different from the ways of the world, and religious speech is often heard as an attack on others rather than as an invitation to participate in a new way of life.
God invites you into his personal mission of love. Knowing the forgiveness of sins in your life and being equipped by the Holy Spirit you join the chorus of witnesses who speak of His love. Angels surround you as you serve God in the world, and they look forward to singing a song of joy over one sinner who repents.
When you look at Jeremy Cowart’s photograph, it is interesting to see how near the angels are to our world. One angel stands there behind the man in the suit and tie. In one hand, the angel carries a lily. In the other hand, a staff and his forefinger are extended. It reaches out from the mural to point the young man in front of him, standing there, staring off in the distance.
In Renaissance art, one angel often carries a lily. Gabriel. The angel God sent to Mary to announce that she would bear God’s Son. How beautiful that this angel, so close to the incarnation, is also so close to this young man.
God sent his Son into the world for individual people, like this young man. Though they may not be attending to God in the world, God is attending to them. Sending His Son to forgive their sins and then sending his angels, sending his prophets, sending his Pastors, sending his people to join in this mission of love.
God’s overwhelming mission, so personal in Jesus, remains personal today as God sends you to be a messenger, bearing his word of good news to others.
Amen.

Dec 14, 2014 Bulletin Announcements

THE ADULT BIBLE CLASS, led by Pastor Lueck, is studying “Luther’s Small Catechism”.  The class meets in the basement at 9:15 a.m.

 TODAY IN SUNDAY SCHOOL:  The children will study “An Angel Visits Joseph.”  Just as the angel proclaimed to Joseph that Mary would bear an infant who is the Son of God, the Savior, so God proclaimed to us in His Word that this same Jesus is our Savior from sin and death.  Parents could ask, “What important message did the angel give Joseph?  What important message do we hear in God’s Word?”

 THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP:  1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”   Christians express their thanks to God in many ways: in prayer, in giving to the Lord word, in acts of service to others, in faithful living in their daily callings.  Everything we do to honor God in our lives is a means of returning thanks for the Lord’s many gifts to us.

 TODAY is our 2nd Sunday door offering for Reverend Michael Kearney and Seminarian Chris Suggitt.

 POINSETTIAS:  If you would like to contribute toward the purchase of a poinsettia for the altar at Christmas, the cost is $6.00.  There is a sign-up sheet and envelope to put your money or check in available on the table in the narthex.  We need to have your order by TODAY, December 14th.  You may pick up your poinsettia after the New Year’s Eve Worship Service.  If you have any questions, please contact Luanne Huth.

 THE MIDWEEK ADVENT WORSHIP SERVICE:  Our Choir will lead the Midweek Advent Worship this week.  This “Service of Lessons and Carols” will be Wednesday, December 17th at 7:00 p.m.  We have a meal served at 5:30 p.m. in the basement of the church.  The sign-up to prepare and bring food is in the narthex.  The free-will Offering this week will support the Hilbert Family with Lutheran Bible Translators.  They plan to return to Sierra Leone to continue their work once it is safe to do so.

FROM THE OFFICE:  Good Shepherd has received a recent correspondence from both the Suggitt Family (at the Seminary in Ft. Wayne) and the Hilbert Family (LBT Missionaries).  These have been posted on the bulletin board outside the church office.

PORTALS OF PRAYER:  The January – March 2015 Portals of Prayer are available on the book rack in the narthex.  Please pick up your free copy today.  Large print also available.

 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.

 ANNUAL TRIP TO FORT WAYNE, IN:  John & Paula Hardy will be making their annual trip to Fort Wayne, IN.  Please bring to the church any slightly used adult and/or children’s clothing and any household items such as small appliances, kitchen items, etc. and place in the box located in the narthex.  The trip date has yet to be finalized but will take place in either January or February.  Please see John or Paula if you have any questions.  Thank you.

 THE LUTHERAN HOUR:  “Surprised By Grace” is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from Luke 1:26-38.  God’s grace comes as a surprise and blessing to those who deserve none of it.  The speaker will be 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.

December 7, 2014 Bulletin Announcements

THE ADULT BIBLE CLASS, led by Pastor Lueck, is studying “Luther’s Small Catechism”.  The class meets in the basement at 9:15 a.m.

 TODAY IN SUNDAY SCHOOL:  As we observe this Second Sunday in Advent, Sunday School students will study the story “An Angel Visits Mary.”  In the womb of Mary, Jesus, the Son of God, became a man so that we sinful people might become adopted children of God and share in the inheritance of heaven.  Parents might ask, “How does God make us His children?  What do we inherit as God’s children?”

 THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP:  1 Corinthians 1:7:  “…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The Lord sees to it that we do not lack any gift – He has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ as well as every earthly need as well.  He is the Provider.  And we can trust Him to always provide for us in every way.

 THE MIDWEEK ADVENT WORSHIP SERVICES continue this Wednesday, December  10th, with Worship at 7:00 p.m.  There is a meal served at 5:30 p.m. in the basement of the church.  The sign-up to bring food is located in the narthex.  The free-will Offering this week will go to Reverend Michael Kearney and family.  Also, next Sunday, December 14th, is our 2nd Sunday door Offering for both Reverend Kearney and Seminarian Chris Suggitt.

POINSETTIAS:  If you would like to contribute toward the purchase of a poinsettia for the altar at Christmas, the cost is $6.00.  There is a sign-up sheet and envelope to put your money or check in available on the table in the narthex.  We need to have your order by NEXT SUNDAY, December 14th.  You may pick up your poinsettia after the New Year’s Eve Worship Service.  If you have any questions, please contact Luanne Huth.

THANK YOU notes were sent out to everyone but in case someone got missed, “Thank you” for all the wonderful cards, kind words, and gifts for Pastor Appreciation.  As I complete my 15th year as your Shepherd, I appreciate all the love and support for my family and I.  The Lord continues to bless us through you.  In Christ’s Love, Pastor

 ADVENT DEVOTIONS:  Pick up a copy of the “Advent Devotions” located on the table in the narthex.

 THE LUTHERAN ANNUAL:  It’s time again to order copies of the “Lutheran Annual”.  The cost is $25.00.  If you are interested in obtaining a copy, please contact Janet or Sandy in the church office by phone (309) 662-8905 or email at: goodshepherdblm@frontier.com or even in person.

ANNUAL TRIP TO FORT WAYNE, IN:  John & Paula Hardy will be making their annual trip to Fort Wayne, IN.  Please bring to the church any slightly used adult and/or children’s clothing and any household items such as small appliances, kitchen items, etc. and place in the box located in the narthex.  The trip date has yet to be finalized but will take place in either January or February.  Please see John or Paula if you have any questions.  Thank you.

 FROM THE OFFICE:  We have a 2015 Large Print Scripture Text Calendar available for anyone who wants it.  See Pastor Lueck.

 THE LUTHERAN HOUR:  In Christ, Unbroken“” is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11.  God’s grace restores those broken by sin and grief.  The speaker will be 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.

Newsletter Announcements

GOOD SHEPHERD LUTHERAN CHURCH  TO CELEBRATE 20TH ANNIVERSARY

Time flies! Did you know that our congregation is celebrating our 20th anniversary in 2015? Please keep July 18 and 19th, 2015 open for our celebration – including a dinner, special activities, and worship services!

 

 

Due to the harsh winter, Good Shepherd is facing a budget shortfall for energy needs – this includes heat and gas. “Energy Needs” offering envelopes will be available for giving above and beyond your regular offering to help cover these important expenses.

 

December Baptismal Birthdays

Theron Noth                          12/1

Caleb Evans                          12/4

Curtis Kessler, Jr                 12/5

Sierra Parker                          12/12

Gordon Schroeder                12/18

Jeanette McNeely                 12/20

Lawrence Nord                      12/22

Samantha Logue                   12/23

Jacob Piper                           12/23

John Campbell                      12/25

Aaron Scott                            12/27

Maria Kirchner                       12/28

Heidi Bliese                            12/29

Karson Lueck                         12/29

December Birthdays

Matthew Culp                         12/3

Jacob Piper                           12/3

Eli McNeely                            12/6

Kaitlin Culp                            12/7

Brian Hitch                              12/7

Kimberly King                         12/10

Johanna Kirchner                 12/14

Pauline Hanner                      12/17

Karson Lueck                         12/17

Matthew Holland                 12/19

Heidi Bliese                            12/20

Lawrence Nord                      12/21

Devin Kemp-Golden             12/24

Tanner Hitch                          12/28

Audrie King                            12/30

Richard Olson                        12/31

December Pastor’s Notes

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

 

During this month of December, we think a lot about gifts.  Giving gifts.   Receiving gifts.  Having to shop for gifts.  How elaborate do you get?  Over the years, what gifts do you most remember? 

 

Interestingly, it is not always the large purchases that bring back the best memories.  Oh sure, I remember the one Christmas where my whole Christmas from my mom and dad was a VCR.  Yes, kids, a VCR.  My parents were always very generous at Christmas, and they almost felt guilty that I only was getting the one gift.  But the gift was expensive and what I really wanted.  So that does stand out.  But many other years, it was the least expensive gifts that I got the most use out of.  I played a hand-held football game for years.  Books that were just stocking stuffers brought me great joy.  Our boys have enjoyed many great gifts over the years, but the one thing that we still have and use is 13-year-old Fisher-Price basketball hoop in our basement.  It was probably about $29.95 when purchased, but it has gotten a lot of play for the price. 

 

What gifts do you remember?  For many of us, it is the simple ones.  The ones that didn’t stand out while unwrapping but provided the most usefulness over the years.  You ever watch kids?  We think we need to shower them with the latest and the greatest.  Give them a cardboard box and they can have great fun.  I saved the box from our fridge when we moved 15 years ago.  The kids loved it.  When it would no longer stand up, we folded it down and used it for a sliding baseball game in our basement.  The boys are great sliders on the baseball field even today because of that simple piece of cardboard. 

 

The wonderful gift that we celebrate at this time of year is also very simple.  The wrapping was not glitter or gold but swaddling clothes.  While Jesus came inexpensively – no labor or hospital charges – what He brought was the most expensive gift the world has ever seen.  He laid down His life for the sins of the world.  That same baby in the swaddling clothes would someday be wrapped in linens and placed in a tomb.  The resurrection would signify an eternal gift that awaits all who believe in Jesus as Savior. 

 

This gift will be remembered for all time.  This gift lives on.  This gift is your gift.  Cherish it as you worship Him this month. 

 

In Christ,  

Pastor 

“The Waiting Is The Hardest Part” — Sermon: Sun, 11-30-14 (10:30am)

Nov. 30, 2014 Text: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Dear Friends in Christ,

Can you think of times in our world when people were not prepared? How about these: The German invasion of Poland in 1939. The Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Islamic terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The tsunami that roared across the Indian Ocean in December 2004. Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast back in 2005. Tornadoes that come without warning. The recent snowstorm in New York State.
Waiting is one thing when we’re prepared. Waiting is quite another when we’re unprepared. And how can we possibly be prepared when we don’t know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen?
Today begins the new church year and the season of Advent. This liturgical season is all about preparation and . . . waiting. I’ve titled the sermon after a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song from the 1980’s. Even though it was probably not meant to be theological this is the line in the song right before the title. “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart . . .
“THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART”
Paul as he writes to the Corinthians acknowledges that they lack nothing. They were enriched in speech and knowledge. They have been given grace through Jesus Christ. The testimony of Christ was confirmed among them.
We also lack nothing. We have been enriched through God’s good gifts. Christ revealed, salvation completed, surrounded by the grace and mercy of the Savior.
Yet we are waiting. We are waiting for “the day.” (v. 8) When I say that, what do many of you immediately think of? You think of the day that is still twenty-five days away. You think of the preparations that still have to be made. You will not be caught unprepared. You know it’s coming so why worry.
It is true that many of us are waiting for Christmas and the blessing of celebrating and worshipping Jesus Christ, the revealed Son of God the Father, born in Bethlehem. But Paul is not writing about Christmas. He is writing about the Greater Day. The return of Jesus Christ. And so we wait. Strangers in a strange land.
While many may agree that “waiting is the hardest part” when it comes to Christmas, do you feel the same way about the return of Christ? Is waiting the hardest part? Or is it not knowing when this will occur the hardest part? Do you take it on faith? Do you take it to the heart? Is the waiting the hardest part?
With Christmas we have a fixed date. Even though we may flitter around wondering how we will accomplish all that needs to get done, we can look back on a record number of years where we accomplished what we wanted. The worry melts away like the spring snows because we have been through it before. The rhythm of life helps us to be prepared.
The opposite can happen with the return of Jesus. Since we do not know the date, we can worry about whether our faith life is in the right place. Do I fully trust Christ as Savior? Has my heart been prepared for His salvation? We may even begin to join the scoffers of the day who insist that Jesus isn’t ever going to return, because after all, where has He been as the world falls apart?
And still, we are ready. We are prepared. This is not we scurrying to the mall to get eternal clothes for Jesus’ arrival. We are not the ones hanging the stockings by the chimney in hopes that Christ would soon be here. Paul writes, “as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (vs. 7b-9)
We are not sustaining ourselves to the end. God is. He is preparing our hearts and our minds for the expected arrival back to earth of our Savior. We are not always faithful. God is always faithful. We are no longer guilty of our offenses but through the death and resurrection of Christ we are guiltless. “Jesus has cleansed His church by removing the sins of believers through His own blood on the cross. This cleansing has been applied to Christians through Holy Baptism.” (Eph. 5:26) When Jesus returns the church will be blameless because God who is faithful keeps it in the cleansing flow of His grace. It all God’s doing through the Word and the Sacraments. He has prepared us. Yes, the waiting is the hardest part because we cannot wait to experience the joy of being with the Lord forever.
Take it on faith. Take it to the heart. The return of Christ our Savior is the blessed part.
Amen.