26 October 2020

Homily for Reformation Day (Observed) - 2020

"Free Indeed"

John 8:31-36


Jesus says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Talk of freedom resonates with us Americans; our ears perk up. We love our liberty. Freedom is our national middle name, our country’s heart and soul, our very DNA. Everything from the year 1776 to the Fourth of July every year to freedom of speech and religious liberty proclaims our love for liberty. But when we talk of freedom, we must ask two crucial questions: 1) Free from what? and 2) Free for what?

In our national experience, our love of liberty is rooted in freedom from government tyranny—that is, from government presuming it knows better than you how to run your life for you. Think King George, Great Britain, and burdensome taxes and regulations in the late 1700s. Building on the notion that all people are created equal, our American founders built a governing system “of the people, by the people, for the people,” as Abraham Lincoln would say a century later. Think freedom for living by the God-given rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” which means keeping your property.

In our Gospel, we hear of a different, deeper freedom. Jesus  teaches some Jews who had believed Him. They’ve heard His teaching and they believe that He is God’s promised Messiah. Exactly what they understood that to mean may be up for debate. So Jesus begins His sermon: “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” At that all ears perked up. “Will set you free?” These good Jewish believers thought they were already free. We good Americans think that we are already free. What does Jesus mean by “free”? Free from what?

The Jewish believers who listened to Jesus could not stomach being told they were slaves. They pushed back: “We…have never been enslaved to anyone.” On the surface we might say, “Oh yeah?” Had they conveniently forgotten their forefathers who lived in Egyptian slavery  for 400 years? What of their ancestors who lived in Babylonian exile for 70 years? Must have slipped their minds. Did they have blinders on to the Roman Empire occupying their backwater little country even as they spoke?

Or they may have been thinking of something else. Even when they were enslaved in Egypt, they could claim they still belonged only to the God of Israel. Even when they were exiled in Babylon, they still belonged to and served Yahweh. Even as they lived under Roman rule, their self-proclaimed allegiance was to the true God.

Either way, Jesus had to redirect their focus. They were forgetting one undeniable truth—slavery to sin. We also conveniently forget that we are, in fact, slaves to sin. As Jesus says, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” We all commit our sins—insensitive words or deeds, uncaring, spiteful thoughts and feelings, neglecting to care for family or friends, gossip, greed, and so on. Jesus wants us to “abide in His word,” His word of truth. But we succumb to the slavery of our society and question if there is such a thing as absolute truth. We say with our fellow slaves in society, “What’s true for you is not true for me.”

Jesus wants us to abide in His Word. He wants us to remain in His truth. He wants us to dwell in His message of the liberated life. But all we need to do is examine our daily routines and priorities. Daily routines of work and school tend to crowd out time spent dwelling in Jesus’ Word. Our slavery to our schedules drives us to say, “I don’t have time for worship, for Bible study, for family prayer.” We are slaves to thinking we are in control of all things in life. We are slaves to our calendars, our commitments, and our self-imposed goals and priorities. We are slaves to the very computers, devices, and smart phones that are supposed to make life more free. We are slaves to ourselves—to imagining that we must control everything in life, even God Himself.

So Jesus says, “the slave does not remain in the house forever.” No slave—no sinner—gets to dwell in God’s house—that is, no sinner-slave who is not freed by Christ Himself. Our sins hang around our necks and weigh us down. Our guilt for putting ourselves in the place of God shackles us down. We cannot move. We need help. We need Someone to liberate us.

So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Jesus Christ, true Son of God in the flesh, comes to set you free. How so? By taking the chains of your sin and your guilt off of you and putting them on Himself. And He takes not only your chains, but also the chains of the people around you, the chains of all people of all times and all places. These chains of sin shackled Jesus to the cross. And bound there by His eternal love for you and for all people, He was crushed under the burden. But then He rose from the dead. And you are free. Free from what? Free from sin, free from a guilty conscience.

Now we can ask: Free for what? Luther and the Reformation give us a great blessing: the Church always refocusing on God’s unshackled grace in Christ Jesus. In Christ we have all of God’s boundless mercy and love. In Christ Jesus we have freedom from sin, death, and hell. Now what? Now that we no longer have to impress God, butter Him up, or buy Him off, how do we go about life? For what are we free?

It’s sad but true that in our liberty-loving land of America, freedom has come to mean “free to do whatever I want.” Many in our land love freedom so much that they trash and defame the very country that gives them freedom. It’s even sadder that we Christians do the same with God’s rich, sweet, life-giving mercy. How often do we use the freedom of our Lord’s forgiveness to slip back into our sinful ways? What of the times when we either think or act as though hearing our Lord’s Word and receiving His Body and Blood were somehow optional, rather than necessary for life?

St. Paul captured this dilemma. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Rom. 6:1-2) Shall we use our freedom from sin to sin all the more? Of course not! St. Paul goes on: “Having been set free from sin, you become slaves of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:18). Yes, you are freed from sin for living a better life, a different kind of life. You are freed from service to self so that you may live as God designed you to live.

Luther expressed it this way during the Reformation: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Here’s the paradox of our freedom in Christ. We are free before God—free from sin, guilt, and eternal death. We are completely free to relax in God’s presence. At the same time, we are also free for living as God’s servants. We are completely free to practice the kind of humanity that God designed for us. That means trusting God above all things and serving our neighbors in love.

For what has Christ set you free? He has set you free for service to other people. You are free to serve one another. Parents, you are free to serve your children, especially by teaching them God’s life-giving Word. Children, you are free to serve your parents by honoring and obeying them. Workers and students, you are free to put your best efforts into your work. Supervisors and managers, you are free to take care of your workers. As Christians—God’s free forgiven people—you are free to be slaves—slaves to people around you, free for service.

By God’s grace, may it be so for you—free from sin before God, free for service to your neighbor. If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Amen.


19 October 2020

Homily for St. Luke, the Evangelist - 2020

"Physician of the Soul"

Luke 10:1-9


“Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe on Him, and have Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel” (LC II:38). So writes Martin Luther in his Large Catechism on the Third Article of the Creed. The Holy Spirit’s work is to sanctify and heal us by bringing us to Christ and Christ to us.

This is what St. Luke, the Evangelist, proclaimed by his words and his vocation. Luke, of course, wrote the Gospel bearing his name as well as the Acts of the Apostles. He gives us the beloved Christmas story, many powerful parables, and the encouraging accounts of early Christians. He traveled with St. Paul on his missionary journeys, and the Bible calls him “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14).

In our Gospel reading, St. Luke fixes our eyes on Jesus and His healing for our souls. As we prayed in the Collect, Jesus called “Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul.” The Church and her pastors have a singular task—to bring us “the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments” so that Jesus Himself “may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve [Him].”

Early Christian tradition says St. Luke was probably one of the seventy-two whom Jesus sent out. These men were in addition to the Twelve Apostles. Jesus sent them out “two by two” to establish the evidence of their witness. He told them not to take moneybag, knapsack or sandals, because they were not going on a vacation. He said not to greet folks on the road because their mission was urgent.

Jesus sent them out to do what He Himself would do. They were to proclaim, “Peace be to this house!” They were to stay in the house that received them, not going on progressive dinners searching for the best cook in town, because “the laborer deserves his wages.” They were to “heal the sick” and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near you.” Jesus also told these pastors-in-training that they would be sacrificial “lambs in the midst of wolves.” When we read on in Luke 10, Jesus even prepares His evangelists and ministers that some stubborn souls just will not receive them or their message of peace and healing. When that happens, He says, just wipe the dust off your feet and move on.

Jesus ties Himself to the work of these pastors and evangelists. “The one who hears you,” He tells them, “hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).

You see, Jesus knows what you need most. What you need is healing—in your soul. You need peace—in your soul. You need to hear, believe, and know that “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” And when Jesus says, “kingdom of God,” He’s referring to Himself.

You and I need Someone—the only One—who can come and put to flight the diseases of the soul. Remember, Jesus called Himself a physician: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Lk. 5:31).

So what diseases of the soul do you have? Consider the times you doubt God and are not sure that He loves you and does everything for you in mercy—even in times of widespread sickness and chaos. Consider the times you neglect to call upon Him in trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. Consider the times you grow cold or indifferent to holding His Word sacred and gladly hearing and learning it. Consider the times when your neighbor—at home, at church, or at work—taxes your patience and stretches your ability to love to the point of snapping. Consider the times when you truly are sinned against and end up wallowing in victimhood or stewing in the juices of anger. As Jesus said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Mt. 15:19-20). Such are the diseases of the soul.

The Augsburg Confession calls this “concupiscence”—“a disease and original vice that is truly sin” (AC II, 2). On the one hand, we are inclined to live our lives “without the fear of God, without trust in God.” On the other hand, we feverishly seek to live our lives “with the inclination to sin” (AC II, 1).  

So St. Luke, the evangelist, the beloved physician, gives you the Great Physician, your Lord Jesus. When He was born, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Lk. 2:14)—uniting heaven and earth with His peace and healing. He is your Good Samaritan who binds up the wounds of your soul, pours on the oil and wine of His Word and Sacraments, and brings you into the inn of His Church where you may convalesce and receive His healing (Lk. 10:33-35). He is the loving shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the pen to go looking for you. And when He finds you, aching and hurting in your diseased soul, He takes you up in His arms, He rejoices, and He restores you to His Father and His flock (Lk. 15:3-7).

And when your Great Physician hangs on the cross, wounded by lacerations and spikes, by mockings and betrayals, He utters the most healing, peace-giving vaccine we can ever hear: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Yes, that includes you! There’s your healing medicine! “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:4-5).

Now you can rejoice with the thief crucified next to Jesus. You get to hear the same hopeful, peaceful, soul-healing words: “You will be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43). Oh, you say you still have doubts about God, His Word, or His will for you? You still struggle to call upon Him, praise Him, or give Him thanks? You still have dry times in hearing and learning His Word? And loving your neighbor is still difficult? You still have diseases of the soul? That’s what the promise of Paradise is for! “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Is. 35:5-6). That’s when the full and final healing will come.

It’s also why your Great Physician gives you His Body and Blood as healing medicine for your soul. It’s “a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved” (LC V:68).

Speaking of the body being relieved, we also thank our Lord, the Great Physician, for His gifts of health care workers. As we thank our Lord for St. Luke the physician, we also thank Him for our brothers and sisters here at Hope who serve as health care workers—Gabrielle, Colin, Sally, Donna, Chad, Joel, and Christina. (If I have accidentally missed someone, please forgive me!) During this time of pandemic, our health care workers have been serving on the “front line.” At least two of our Hope members have served patients suffering from COVID. In a few minutes we will publicly thank our Lord for you and give you our own heartfelt “Thank you.”

Your Great Physician Jesus comes to heal you. He sends His ministers, such as St. Luke, the beloved physician, to deliver His divine healing medicine in water, words, and meal. That’s why today we thank our Lord for His servant Luke, as well as others who practice the art of healing the body. It’s also why we praise Him that, even in our day, He gives servants who dispense and administer the healing medicine of Jesus, our Physician of the soul. Amen.

12 October 2020

Homily for Trinity 18 - 2020

"Where Does Your Love Face?"

Matthew 22:34-46

It’s been a rough few days for Jesus! On Sunday, He rode into Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna!” and then cleansed the temple. That angered the religious leaders. On Monday, He cursed the fig tree and taught some Greeks. Now, on Tuesday, He’s had His authority questioned. He’s had to teach some hard things by means of parables. And He’s been peppered with gotcha questions to test Him. Would He pay taxes Caesar? Does He really believe in the resurrection?

Now some self-righteous teacher of God’s Law tests Him about the greatest commandment. It’s the ultimate gotcha question: “Which is the great commandment in the Law?” Would they finally catch Him or trip Him up? Would they confirm that He’s actually on their side against the Sadducees? Jesus gives a “two-for-the-price-of-one” answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The two go together, hand in glove—love your God and love your neighbor.

What does this mean? Bible commentator Frederick Bruner gives a helpful picture. When  Jesus gives this “love command” as supreme, Bruner says, “he opens the hearts of believers, like flowers to the sun, to their living posture. We were made for love…. [Jesus] does not so much give us an activity that can be calculably done as he gives a direction to face.” (Churchbook, 794). When our Lord commands us to love our God and love our neighbor, He does not so much give us things to do; He gives us a direction to face. Of course, that direction to face bears fruit in things to do.

Where does your love face? In the first and greatest commandment, Jesus says your love must face God-ward.

That’s easier said than done, though. You see, you and I are so accustomed to looking in the mirror and taking selfies. We’re quite efficient at looking out for number one. Martin Luther used the Latin phrase “incurvatus se”—being curved in on oneself. We might also call it “navel gazing” or “belly-button-itis.” And what happens when you walk around in life with your face directed toward your belly button? You run into lots of things and get hurt.

We are accustomed to the “love God” command showing us our sin. As our catechumens learned last week, when God gives His commandments, He demands full compliance, perfect completion, no exceptions whatsoever. In God’s grading scale 100% is the passing grade; everything else—even 99.99%—is a failing grade. We do not love God as we should because we cannot. It’s rather difficult to face God-ward when we are so prone to facing self-ward.

When Jesus says, “Love God,” He says, “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” We can also say, “With all your will, with all your emotions, and with all your reason.” If you love God with your whole heart, you make God’s will your will. If you love God with your whole soul, you fully desire God more than anything else. If you love God with your whole mind, your every thought is continually directed toward God.

Whoever loves God with the heart but not with the whole heart is straddling the fence. That’s not love for God, because God wants to fill a person’s whole heart. Whoever loves God with the soul, but not the whole soul has a lukewarm love. God will spit that lukewarm love out of His mouth. Whoever loves God with the mind but not the whole mind does not yet know God as their highest good. That person may suppose to love God, but really only loves God’s gifts and creatures.

Where does your love face? In the second greatest commandment, Jesus says your love must face neighbor-ward. This is the pure extension of love for God. As Paul said, “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Again, this is easier said than done. Just reflect on how every human being loves himself or herself—on how you love yourself. You do not merely love yourself, but you love yourself sincerely; not coldly or lukewarmly but ardently. You never seek your own hurt but always your own safety and benefit, even when it’s most difficult to achieve.

So to love your neighbor as yourself, you must think the same way toward every other human being—whether he’s a friend or enemy, whether he’s godless or devout. Your Lord commands you to love each person as sincerely, as ardently, and as continually as you love yourself. He calls you to defend your neighbor from all harm, just as you would protect yourself. He summons you to seek the profit and benefit of your neighbor as though it were your own profit and benefit. A person loves his neighbor as himself only when his whole life and all his actions have the purpose of serving the neighbor, even to the point of giving his life for the neighbor.

Where are the Christians who can say that nothing but God’s love dwells in them? Where are the Christians who can say that their whole life is only and always a joyful service to their neighbor? Where are the Christians who first face only God-ward and second face only neighbor-ward? When you examine yourself and are honest with yourself, you must join David in falling on your knees and confessing: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Ps. 143:2).

So it’s a good thing we have another question before us today: Where do you face God’s love? The first part of our Gospel reading is all Law; the second part is sheer, sweet Gospel. The first part of our reading brings us a gotcha question from the Pharisees to Jesus. The second part gives us a gotcha question in the other direction—from Jesus to the Pharisees. He asked them: “Whose son is the Christ?” They thought the question was too easy: “The son of David,” of course! Okay, then, why does David also call Him, “Lord”? “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”?

Yes, the Christ is David’s Son, fully flesh-and-blood human. That means He’s also your neighbor who loves you as Himself. He has faced you in His incarnation, in His life of love and humble service, in His crucifixion and in His resurrection. “See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down” (LSB 425:3). He is also David’s Lord, “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God” (Nicene Creed). His perfect, divine love has also faced His Father from eternity and for all time. It’s the same love that led Him to come down from heaven for us and for our salvation. It’s the same eternal love that meets us face-to-face in the washing of rebirth, in the words speaking forgiveness, and in the meal giving His very Body and Blood for healing and living in love.

Where does your love face? Both God-ward and neighbor-ward. Of course, you and I are most imperfect in loving God with our all and loving our neighbor as ourselves. That’s why we seek our refuge not in our love, either for God or for our neighbor. No, we seek our refuge, our comfort, our confidence, our very peace in His love for us. “Love so amazing, so divine,” it “demands my soul, my life, my all” (LSB 425:4). Amen.

05 October 2020

Homily for Anniversary of a Congregation - 2020

"That We Might Have Hope"

Revelation 21:1-5

Just over a century ago, mail carrier William Eickoff noticed that some homes in the developing Southampton area were receiving Lutheran periodicals and letters from Lutheran churches. A Lutheran himself, Eickoff became acquainted with those Lutheran families. Soon they discussed the possibility of starting a new Lutheran congregation—our congregation. With the help of the old Western District of the LCMS and students from Concordia Seminary, the new Lutheran mission opened and dedicated its portable chapel on October 8, 1916. The mission’s first name was “Southampton English Lutheran Church.” Four months later—February 22, 1917—the new congregation held its first Voters Assembly meeting. Led by their first pastor, Rev. Martin Engel, the new mission chose a new name. Three names were proposed: “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Good Shepherd.” The name “Hope” was chosen by an overwhelming majority—“Hope English Lutheran Church.”

Perhaps our congregation’s founders were echoing Martin Luther when he said: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. No [farmer] would sow a grain of corn if he hoped not it would grow up and become seed…. [No] tradesman would set himself to work if he did not hope to reap benefit thereby.” We humans do seem to function best when we have hope—when we can see the purpose of our efforts, the end of a struggle, or some other light at the end of the tunnel.

We see a more explicit reason for naming a congregation “Hope” from 79 years ago, when our forebears celebrated our 25th anniversary. “The story of Hope is not complete unless we realize that hundreds, perhaps thousands of those to whom Hope Church, through the preaching of the Gospel, gave the opportunity to live here in this evil world with real hope will someday by the grace of God in Christ Jesus be translated to the Home Above where hope will change to reality, where faith will be changed into seeing, where everlasting peace and contentment will dwell.” (25th Anniversary Book, p. 19)

Why name a congregation “Hope”? To fix our eyes on the most meaningful purpose of our lives, to comfort us with the best and brightest light at the end of the tunnel. The Apostle Paul said, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Hope for more than getting through the day or to the weekend. Hope for more than merely surviving a pandemic or slogging through another election year. Truly, hope for a better existence, a better life, and a better creation than we’ve ever known. This is the light we see shining so brightly in our second reading from Revelation.

Anytime we hear from or read Revelation, we must remember one crucial detail. This last book of the Bible is not a road map of the End Times, as so many teach it these days. Instead, Revelation is a book of comfort and hope.

First century Christians were being persecuted—hunted down, locked down, and put down—by the Roman government. St. John had been exiled on the island of Patmos, just off the coast of modern-day Turkey—whisked away to waste away for confessing Christ. So God revealed His message of the victorious Lamb, Christ Jesus, to give comfort and hope to His embattled yet faithful people. The Revelation to St. John gives comfort to suffering Christians. It encourages them in their faithful witness. It does so by means of symbolic images and prophetic portraits of the victory that is already ours in God’s risen and living Lamb, our Lord Jesus.

After the Lord told him to compose letters to seven churches and their pastors, St. John saw several visions of things happening on earth and in heaven. On earth the church lives under great distress. The heavenly visions give God’s view of all the goings on. Fast-forward to the end of the book. Babylon, the earthly enemy of God and His kingdom, is fallen. There’s great rejoicing in heaven as the victorious soldier—our Lord Jesus—comes riding triumphantly on a white horse to receive His bride, the Church. Satan, God’s spiritual enemy, is bound and defeated. Now John leads us to look beyond the end of the first world to the creation of “a new heaven and a new earth.” To what end? That we might have hope.

This present heaven and earth were good as first created by God. But we know how Adam, Eve and all humanity have spoiled and ruined it with sin and death. Just read, mark, learn and inwardly digest your Bible stories. Just observe what happens around you in your home, in the workplace, in society. Just pay attention to times past and current events. This world is not a good place. It’s broken. People suffer. You and I suffer. And none of us can change it, no matter how hard we try. Let John’s vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” give you hope. This broken creation is not fit for you who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, for you who are sealed to be resurrected. John sees the broken creation passed away.

He also sees that “the sea was no more.” Does that mean no water sports or no water to drink in the new creation? Probably not. After all, bodies of water were part of God’s original creation. “No more sea” is a biblical way of saying that everything that separates you from God will be gone, no longer a thing. All of the fear and terror evoked by “the sea” of this fallen world will be sent packing.

Next John sees “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” That’s you; that’s me; that’s all of God’s faithful who are redeemed by Jesus. Because of Jesus’ ugly, bloody death, you and I and all the redeemed are made clean and beautiful. Now that’s something to look forward to!

Then a voice rings out: “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.” God binds Himself to His people in an incarnational and sacramental way. Remember the Word becoming flesh and tabernacling among us. It’s what He does now in word, water, and meal. Now we receive Him by faith; then we will get to see Him dwelling with us face-to-face.

Next John gives us a most curious way of describing this coming new heaven and new earth. It’s described in negative terms—what’s not there, what it’s not like. No tears, no death, no sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of these things that are now part and parcel of the fallen creation and our fallen existence will be no more. It’s as if we could never really comprehend life without tears, sorrows, pain, crying and death. That’s exactly the way it is. That’s why we need hope, the light at the end of the tunnel. We cannot even imagine what life would be like without disappointments and diseases, without chaos and corruption. But we do have our Lord’s promise, that we might have hope: all of that will be gone.

Finally, as John views “a new heaven and a new earth,” he hears the voice of God the Father. It’s only the second time the Father has spoken in Revelation. The first was when He identified Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). Now He gives a creative word. Just as He said in the beginning, “Let there be…,” and there was, now He will say, “Behold, I am making all things new.” All things will be made new and improved, of much better, far superior quality than we can even imagine. “All things” means earth, heaven, creatures great and small, and even you, me, and all believers. God will not throw out His creation as some sort of trash. Instead, He will recreate it, transform the old into the new. And that includes you, that you might have hope.

How does John’s vision affect our faithful witness? We keep hearing how we live in “challenging times” and “unprecedented times.” You can hear the hopelessness in those words. It’s what happens when humans go it alone  through this broken, fallen world, without God. And that’s why our victorious Lamb has put us here, in this place, at this time. That others around us may have hope. That those around us may be brought to life in Christ Jesus through His shed blood. What’s truly unprecedented is the new creation awaiting in Jesus.

It was only two years after Hope English Lutheran Church was founded that the Spanish flu pandemic hit St. Louis. I can find no record of how those challenging months impacted our toddler-aged congregation. But we do know this: the people of Hope endured it, survived, and thrived. They went on to proclaim Christ crucified and risen for sinners. And because of their faithful witness, we too have hope. Now we get to look forward “to the Home Above where hope will change to reality, where faith will be changed into seeing, where everlasting peace and contentment will dwell.” Amen.