Pentecost 3 -- Joint Outdoor Service with St. Paul’s

Preached: June 29, 2014

Seasons of Life
Ephesians 2:19, 20; Revelation 21:1-7

These are two of the devotions out of the four used for the joint outdoor service with St. Paul's of Morris. No audio available.

The word of God for our second devotion is from Ephesians 2:19, 20

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

This is the word of our Lord

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

2. Our Youth

As we grow, our world expands. An infant focuses only on Mommy and Daddy, but then we begin to realize there are others in the world as well: brothers and sisters, neighbors, other children our own age. We begin making friends. Did you enjoy long summer days hanging out with friends in your youth? Without school, summer vacation gave plenty of opportunities to while away the time with friends. Maybe a family vacation, summer camp, or time at the fair introduced you to new friends as well.

When we are reborn into God's family through Baptism, we not only gained a Father in heaven but also were united with his people, namely, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. Not only did the Holy Spirit give you rebirth, calling you personally to faith in Jesus, but he also calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. You are fellow citizens of God’s people, members of God’s household, friends in Christ.

What builds up this friendship in Christ? Not simply spending time together doing any old thing, but time together around God’s Word and sacraments. Those are the Spirit’s tools that gather and unite us.

Or think of the picture in the text. God’s Word, which is referred to as the apostles and prophets, since those our the men to whom God gave the words to write—God’s Word is the foundation. A house has many different parts and materials, all serving different purposes. But it’s one house, because it’s built on one foundation. We are different people, but God's Word is the foundation that unites us. It’s our one foundation. It molds our hearts and holds our minds captive to the truth, and so unites us in thought and attitude and faith. For God’s Word is centered around, our Savior, Jesus Christ, the one and only cornerstone. Wherever the word is correctly taught and the sacraments rightly used, there is God’s house, the holy Christian church, our friends in Christ. What a blessed fellowship!

But we fail to fully appreciate the time we have together around his word and sacraments. It becomes just another obligation in our schedules. We take our Christian fellowship for granted, or we even become resentful and mean-spirited toward our friends in Christ, nitpicking and complaining about our spiritual brothers and sisters. Do your attitudes, words. and actions tear down or build up others in Christ?

When we see the greatness of our sin, we cherish all the more gathering together with God's people to hear the good news of forgiveness in Christ. He became our brother, while we were still enemies against him and against each other—the opposite of friends. He became our brother and nailed our sins to the cross in his own body. He brings you and me peace, uniting us together. Now he blesses us with our friends in Christ to carry each others burdens, to share our joys and sorrows, to build each other up in Christ.

Just as we may have fond memories of our childhood summers and the friendships of youth, so also cherish the fellowship of friendship you have in holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.

4. Our Golden Years

How bleak and dreary a winter landscape can be! Life has faded. Stark coldness encases everything. Darkness enshrouds most of the day. So also as our seasons of life draw to a close, the vigor of youth is gone, faculties decline, aches increase, and the shroud of death comes closer. One member used to tell me that the "golden years" are not all that golden.

Decline and death with all its pains and sorrows preach to us how inescapable our guilt is. The wages of sin is death. Sin makes life a deathward drift from futile birth. How pointless! That's what our thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions have rightly earned us. Death and the hell that follows. Nothing we do can change the outcome. In the end all the medication, all the technologies, all the doctoring, all the surgeries and hospitalizations always lead to the same outcome: death. We all die.

Only Jesus overcame death. He rose in victory, and he gives you, freely gives you, that victory. For he died as your Substitute. He took on himself all that our own evil had earned for us. He paid the price. And in exchange, he gives you his victory.

For you who believe in Jesus, not even death can separate you from your dear Lord. Rather he brings us to paradise. Yes, our bodies die, but what hope awaits you, dear Christian! The unbeliever has only wishful dreams. They may be able to fool themselves and face death calmly, but they are in for a surprise, and not a good one.

But what a different kind of surprise awaits you, dear Christian—a surprise beyond anything we can imagine. What hope, what sure, certain, and unfailing hope lies ahead of you who trust in Jesus Christ as your one and only Savior from sin and death. For Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. He, our God, has already gone through death ahead of us and conquered it. He will raise your body from the grave, no longer hobbled by sin but glorified like unto his glorious body, free from death and mourning and crying and pain. He will wipe every tear from your eyes. We will rejoice in his blessed presences forevermore. This is what we confess every time we says: "I believe in ... the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting." God will raise me and all the dead and give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

Don’t doubt. Believe that hope in Christ will not disappoint. For he is trustworthy and true. For he is the first and the last word on it, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. Hope in Christ is sure and certain.

Even earthly winters have their beauty: winter wonderlands of icy crystals, Christmas lights and festivities, bright fires warming the darkness. But how much greater the glory that awaits you who believe in Jesus! Eternity in the heavenly Jerusalem are the truly golden years. Listen as John describes it in Revelation 21.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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