Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ash Wednesday and the Imposition of Ashes

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

            Ash Wednesday is March 5.  We will have a Divine Service at 7:00 PM with the Imposition of Ashes.  The Imposition is still fairly novel in our circles, so some words of explanation are in order.

            These words paraphrase Genesis 3:19 where the Lord proclaimed a curse upon man when he had first sinned.  St. Paul repeated that thought in his letter to the Romans: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

            Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust.  This is the harsh reality of sin.  The use of ashes long pre-dates the New Testament Church.  In the era of the Patriarchs, Job confessed his sin and declared, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)  The Imposition of Ashes teaches a dual lesson. 

            1)  It is a mark of penitence.  We demonstrate outwardly the sorrow for sin that we have inwardly. 

            2)  It is a mark of death.  It is a reminder that we are all dust, and to dust we will return.  The ashes remind us that we are helpless in our sinful condition.  Our only hope is a Savior.  We repent of our works.  We cling to Jesus for his.

            No one should feel obligated to receive the ashes on the forehead.  If you do not want to do it, the ushers will simply pass you by and go to the next row.  Children may participate at the discretion of their parents.

            We will begin the service with the rite.  Where the bulletin indicates, the ushers will begin to invite people by row to come to the communion railing to receive the ashes.  The penitent will kneel at the railing (like Lord’s Supper), and wait as the pastor applies the ashes to the forehead in the shape of a cross.  Please resist all temptations to scratch or smear the ashes.  (The ashes will easily be washed off with soapy water.)

            This ceremony truly sets the tone for Lenten season.  We are marked as sinners.  We are marked for death.  We are marked as the penitent whose only hope is Jesus Christ. 

            Our comfort comes from Jesus who takes our sin.  He dies our death.  He marks us as his own who have been baptized into his name.  That is where the penitent find comfort.  That is where the dying find life.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Another Senior Year Moment

A long time ago, when Laura and I were young parents with only two children, we were gushing over all of the firsts that we were enjoying with our children.  First steps.  First words.  First full night's sleep.  First day of pre-school.  All of those good things.  And then a pastor with children who were quite a few years older than ours was talking about the lasts.

Quite often, you don't even realize that you had your last moment of something.  When was the last time you picked up and carried your child?  Even if you can remember it, you had no idea that it would have been the last time.

But the senior year of high school is marked by a whole string of lasts, and we can pretty much mark them all.  Last Saturday, we had a few lasts.

It was the last time Nathanael would play a home basketball game for MLS.  They played Ithaca, a decent opponent, and won the game, 56-48.  It was also the last time Nathanael and Andrew would play a home game together in any sport.  They had played a lot of basketball together in grade school, and this year Andrew got pulled up to varsity.  I hope they enjoyed playing together all these years, because we are quickly come to the last time it will happen.  They have at least three games left, all on the road.  And it seems unlikely that we will get to see any of them.  (Playoffs begin on Ash Wednesday?!  Really?!?!?)  So this was probably our last time getting to see them play together, and our last time getting to see Nathanael play high school basketball.

I know that Nathanael will miss these games, and we will miss seeing him play.

Nathanael's last shot at the MLS gym.  He made it.
Brothers line up on the home court for the last time. 
Nathanael walks off the home court for the last time.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sermon -- Sexagesima (February 23, 2014)

ISAIAH 55:10-13

In the name + of Jesus.

     In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And God said, “Let there be light.”  And there was light. (Genesis 1:1,3)  And there was light, because God said so.  That is the way it was with all the rest of creation.  God called forth the dry land from the seas; and it was so—because God said so.  God called forth the sun, moon, and stars; and it was so—because God said so.  God commanded that the earth bring forth all kinds of land animals; and it was so—because God said so.  After he formed Adam and Eve from the dust of the ground, God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it….” (Genesis 1:28)  And to this day, people reproduce one generation after another, because the word of the Lord works.  It is so, because God says so.
     The Lord also gave another word to Adam.  “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)  And it would be so, because God said so.  Of course, you know that Adam and Eve did eat from the forbidden tree.  And so just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…. (Romans 5:12)  The Lord was true to his word.  The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)  And the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)  It is not good news, but it is exactly what God said would happen for all who have sinned against him.  God is true to his word.  He will not mislead you or lie to you.  The word of the Lord does the work he says it will do.
    Of course, you also know that the Lord has not abandoned you in your sinful, mortal, and cursed condition.  But the Lord does not simply declare that all his previous words are reversed.  God does not contradict himself.  The wages of sin is death no matter how much the Lord does not take pleasure in the death of anyone.  The soul who sins shall die no matter how much the Lord is not willing that any should perish.  The word of the Lord stands because God is not wishy-washy.
    Still, the Lord worked through his word.  The Word made flesh has come to demonstrate that God is merciful and just.  God is just; for he sees to it that the wages of sin is death and that the guilty perish.  Jesus has taken all your guilt from you.  He has borne the curse for all mankind.  Jesus made himself the guilty one on behalf of all sinners, and he has died the death and received the damnation for all sinners.  God said that is the price for sins.  Since God said so, so it was. 
     But Jesus also shows you that God is merciful.  Jesus willingly suffered and died for you.  He did it because God does not take pleasure in the death of anyone.  Jesus did it because God is not willing that you should perish.  Jesus suffered for your sins.  Jesus died under your curse.  Jesus did all of this for you, so that you would be forgiven of all sins and saved from every hellish torment.  So, Jesus’ sufferings and death mean that God is just and that God is merciful.  The guilty has been punished—Jesus on behalf of you.  The guilty have been pardoned—your sins are remitted.  God has been true to his word; and the Word made flesh has saved you.  The Lord has worked through his word.
     Now, God does not simply make a decree which reverses the curse of sinners.  It is not accurate to say that all are saved simply because God says so.  Even with salvation, God works through his word.  This word still stands: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)  But in order to believe in Jesus and confess his name, people need to hear about him.  The word of the Lord must be preached so that Jesus’ sufferings and death are proclaimed, revealing God’s mercy and salvation.  And that is why you come to church, study the Scriptures in Adult Bible Class, and read your Bibles at home—so that the Lord would work in you through his word, creating and sustaining in you the faith which saves you.
     Now, you have heard a good number of sermons over the years, and chances are you vividly remember few of them.  And you may also hear a sermon that you think is a dud.  It happens.  Not every sermon will be an award-winner.  But do not think that means listening to sermons is a waste of time.  And do not despise preaching and his word; for, this is where the Lord does his work.  Listen to Isaiah: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) 
     As often as you hear the word of the Lord, the Lord is sustaining and strengthening your faith.  If you neglect or ignore the word of the Lord, the Lord cannot feed your faith.  Jesus does not tell his parable for nothing.  Sometimes our hearts are the hardened path where the word never takes root.  Sometimes we let the weeds, that is, the cravings of worldly pleasures, choke out our zeal for Jesus.  Sometimes times of testing cause us to cast of the cross the Lord would have us bear so that he might teach us to rely all the more on him.  This is to our own detriment. 
     Our sinful pride convinces us that we do not need the word of the Lord, and that we can get along fine without it.  After all, many people live for decades without God’s word.  But do not be deceived by their supposed happiness.  In these cases, the Lord still works through his word, but he works against them.  Remember: The wages of sin is still death, and they have no deliverance from their sins.  The souls who sins will die, and they call on no Savior and so they have no salvation   Do not envy those who ignore or defy God’s word.  Rather, cling tightly to the Lord and yearn to hear his word.  This is where the Lord works salvation in you.
     Hear what the Lord works for you through his word.  Isaiah states: “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:13)  Isaiah proclaims the salvation worked by the word of the Lord.  No longer shall life be cursed by thorns and thistles, weeds and briers.  Instead of a cursed and crooked world, we shall know a lush and vibrant life.  Instead of a life filled with pain and toil, we shall know peace and rest.  For now, you know the peace which comes from God’s mercy and forgiveness.  But that peace is still marred by a world that is marred and a life that knows sorrows.  But you have a salvation coming where all things shall be perfect and all things shall be made new.  The world will not know thorns and briers, but cypress and myrtles.  Bodies shall not know pain and disease, but health and wholeness.  The world shall not know disaster and destruction, but all things shall be verdant and vibrant.  Everything shall be restored to the glory and perfection of Eden. 
     This is the salvation which is promised by the word of the Lord.  It has been won by the Word made flesh.  This salvation is pledged to you by the word which is preached.  It was poured upon you by the word which was attached to baptismal waters.  It is poured into you by the word which is combined by the bread and wine on the Lord’s altar.  The Lord works through his word to strengthen you, to sustain you, and to save you. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sermon -- Septuagesima (February 16, 2014)

MATTHEW 20:1-16

In the name + of Jesus.

     In this world, you earn what you get.  The more experience you have at your craft, the more valuable you become and the better you will be compensated for it.  If you invent a product that everyone wants, you will cash in.  If you work an eight hour shift at an hourly wage, you are going to make more money than the man who works a three hour shift.  These things are obvious, and they are generally true.
     But Jesus tells us that in the kingdom of heaven, it all works backwards.  He concluded the parable with the phrase, So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16)  And when you consider Jesus’ parable, you might find yourself objecting to it.  You want to correct Jesus and tell him to be fair.  But this is where the problem lies.  You and I have a warped view of what is fair, especially when it comes to the kingdom of God.  Because God’s kingdom is not based on what is fair.  God’s kingdom is ruled by grace.
     You know the parable well enough.  The master of the house goes out to find day laborers to tend the grapes in his vineyard.  He goes to the marketplace at the break of day to find men to work for him.  The master promises a fair wage – a denarius.  A day’s wage for a day’s work.  So far, so good.  But there is more work to be done.  More hands are needed.  So the master goes back to the marketplace and finds more men standing around doing nothing.  He goes at the 3rd hour, the 6th hour, and the 9th hour.  Still hoping to get more work done, the master goes back even at the 11th hour.  The work day is almost done, but the master recruits more workers anyway. 
     And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’  And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.  Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.  And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’” (Matthew 20:8-12)   
     You can appreciate the anger of the day laborers who worked a full day.  From 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM, they toiled in the hot sun, tending the vines and harvesting the grapes.  But what about those who only worked half a day?  Isn’t half a wage fair?  And what about those who only worked for an hour?  How do they deserve a full day’s wage?  And if they are rewarded a full day’s wage for an hour’s work, then shouldn’t the other laborers get more?  Fair is fair.  But the master gives the same gift to all.
     One laborer was bold enough to speak to the master about his denarius.  “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” (Matthew 20:12)  In other words, “Master, you are not fair.”  And the master does not deny it.  He does not pretend to be fair.  He responds to the criticism, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.  Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Take what belongs to you and go.  I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:13-15)  In this master’s house, all receive the same gift.  All are treated as equal.  None had deserved to be there.  The master had gone out and found them.  He did not treat them according to what is fair.  His behavior was generous and gracious.
     Now, you may find yourself having sympathy for the disgruntled laborer.  You could probably argue that he is right.  And in fact, you do agree with him when you get angry about God’s grace.  For the most part, you are among the workers who were hired at the first hour of the day.  You have been Christians your whole life long.  And your denarius is forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation. 
     But you know that there are people who have been called into God’s kingdom much later in life.  Some have been saved in their 20’s.  Some, in middle age.  And a few in old age.  Life-long Christians get upset because others got to give themselves over to their seedy and selfish desires for all of those years.  Now, they are forgiven, and you feel ripped off.  Surely you must be better; but then you discover that you are made equal to those who sinned more and were believers for much less time.  The master gives the same gift to all.
     You shake your head at the injustice of it all.  “God, you are not fair!” is the cry.  But this demonstrates that sin has gripped your heart just as fully as it has gripped the hearts of others.  Do you really want God to be fair?  Then he must judge you by your actions.  And he does not just weigh your good deeds, which are not as many as you think.  But he also measures every sinful, selfish moment.  He sees the heart which thinks it deserves a reward, a heart that wishes it could have sinned more and gotten away with it, a heart which has deceived you into thinking you are good and does not really see a need for grace or mercy.  If you insist on being put first, you will be made the last.  If you demand that the Lord be fair with you, he will be.  He will give you what your deeds deserve.  The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
     But the Lord came and found you.  He called you from standing idle, out of your sin and death, to bring you in his vineyard, that is, into his Church.  And here, he promises you your denarius—the gifts of forgiveness, new life, and salvation.  Your Lord has called you, and he has given you the gifts.
     The master gives the same gift to all, and that is because all are the same.  All are sinners.  All deserve to be damned.  But that is also why Jesus came for all.  Jesus has borne all your sins.  He did not ask which sins were little, as if they need no forgiveness.  He did not ask which sins were big, as if some are too great to be forgiven.  Jesus bore the guilt for all sins.  And he came to bear the guilt for all sinners.  He did not ask which sinners were nice, as if you are worthy.  He did not ask which sinners were violent or mean or filthy, as if there are some who could never be saved.  Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for every sinner.  All are equal.  All are sinners.  All need to be saved.  So the master gives the same gift to all.
     Is it fair?  Hardly!  It is not fair that Jesus should be pierced to the cross for your hands which have taken what does not belong to you.  It is not fair that Jesus should have his side pierced for your heart that schemes to do wicked things.  It is not fair that Jesus should perish in bitter darkness for the sins you commit in secret.  It is not fair that Jesus should have been mocked for the sarcastic and slanderous words you have used.  It is not fair that Jesus should have died for you.  But he did, and he did it willingly.  By his willing and innocent death, Jesus has made atonement for you.  He has made atonement for the whole world.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) 
     The Lord has called to into his kingdom and gives you salvation.  This is your denarius, given to you by your Lord.  The master gives the same gift to all who believe in his Son, Jesus Christ.  The Lord does not give it to you because he is fair, but because he is gracious. Do not begrudge him for being generous, but be grateful.  For, he has generously given his Son to save you.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Pastoral Concern: The Christian funeral

I don't care who you are; you are going to have a funeral one day.  People dream about their wedding day.  Likewise, we even think about what our funeral will be like.

In many cases, thinking about our funeral is just plain narcissism.  We want to think about how much people will cry over us, tell stories about how great we are, and gush over us.  And to be fair, that probably happens for most people after they die (not that they are there to witness it).

The Christian Church also plays a role in the funeral for those who confess the Christian faith.  But the pastor and the surviving family members are often at odds concerning what the funeral should be.

The family often wants to take time at the funeral to tell their stories, read poems, sing songs, etc...  It can get to be quite a parade of eulogies and performances, all to honor the one who has died.  Such affection for the loved one is understandable.  After all, it is not one's enemies who come to the funeral, but friends and family.  It is also healthy and soothing to share the stories.  There is a good reason we tell the stories.  We loved that person.  We wish we still could have time with that person.  And so we remember that person with stories and laughter and tears.

But what is the purpose of the Christian funeral?  Is it to tell stories?  Is it to hear eulogies?  That is becoming more and more common in Christian churches.  Everyone wants to have their say.  And the pastor becomes just the next person with something to say.

Perhaps the biggest problem is rooted in this: People confuse their own affection of their loved one with God's judgment of their loved one.  They simply assume their loved one goes to heaven because they think he should.  That's why they would rather hear their own stories than to hear God's promises.

The Church is not here to give eulogies.  The Church speaks for Jesus and proclaims his word.  The Church has no license to say anything different.  The Christian funeral offers an amazing opportunity to point people to Jesus and to his promises.  The Christian funeral is the deceased Christian's last chance to have his loved ones hear the confession he lived and died in.  It is the chance for people to hear of the confidence and joy we have even in the moments of deep sorrow.  It is the chance for the loved ones to hear how Jesus Christ has secured the eternal life of the one who has died.  Death does not have the last word.  Jesus does. 

It is important that we let the Christian funeral be its own time.  It is a time to remember that we are all dust, and to dust we will return.  It is a time to remember that all are sinners, and that our only hope is Jesus Christ.  It is a time to proclaim God's comfort in a Savior who lived the life we need, who died the death we deserve, and who conquered death by his own resurrection.  It is a time when the Christian faith gives a real comfort and a solid hope when all seems lost.  Why would we want to cloud that up with poems and stories?

Let the Christian funeral be the Christian funeral.  Let Christ be proclaimed.  Let God's promises be heard.  Family and friends will always have time to tell their stories and remember their loved one.  But our memories do not save anyone.  Jesus Christ does.  Let him have his say.  It is the only real comfort we ever have, and especially in death.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

St. Peter's basketball

St. Peter's Lutheran School had a tournament last weekend at Michigan Lutheran Seminary against other co-ed teams.  Generally, these are pretty small schools who do not have enough students to have a boys' team and a girls' team.  Some schools even dip as low as 3rd grade to round out the roster.

The short of it: St. Peter's won their tournament.  It was a nice moment for Caleb in his 8th grade year.  Philip enjoyed his playing time, too.  Both managed to score a few points throughout the weekend.  But after 4 games in two days, they were happy to get home and sleep.

Here are some photos.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Best Super Bowl Commercial

In my opinion, it was not much of a contest.  I thought most Super Bowl Commercials were nothing special.  But I thought Chrysler, once again, hit a home run with their most recent installment narrated by Bob Dylan.

I also enjoyed the one with Adrian, the undersized football player, running through Ashwaubenon and into Lambeau Field.  And yes, I actually recognized Ashwaubenon right away  The green and gold uniforms with the "A" on it made me wonder, but that water tower with the large green stripe on it was the give away.  That water tower is the landmark to help me remember where I park when I get to games at Lambeau Field.  Also, the yellow fence with the green lettering in right across the street from the stadium.  They change the message every season.

EDIT:  I got the link to work now!

Okay, so my favorite commercials featured Detroit and Green Bay.  I couldn't be influenced by home town pride, could I?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl reflections

Super Bowl reflections.

          As opposed to many other years, I applaud the choice of MVP this year, linebacker Malcolm Smith.  The Seahawks defense ruled that game.  They held the most prolific offense in the NFL to a mere 8 points!  It was nice to see someone from the defense be recognized for that, even if one particular player did not have an eye-popping game. 
         And thank you for NOT giving the MVP to Russell Wilson who, while having a decent game, was not exactly MVP-special in doing so.  The Seahawks played the whole game so well and were so dominant in their win that it was hard to pick anyone who was the most valuable.  That had to be the most thorough team win in Super Bowl history.

DENVER BRONCOS observation:
          Sometime in the next week or so, I imagine that Peyton Manning will have a get together with his father, Archie, and his brother, Eli.  After a lull in whatever conversation they have, Peyton asks, "Do you have any idea what it is like to have your butt handed to you in the Super Bowl?" 
          For very different reasons, Archie and Eli look at him and say, "Nope."

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sermon -- The Presentation of our Lord (February 2, 2014)

LUKE 2:22-40

In the name + of Jesus.

     The proud parents came to the Temple.  They were not there to show off their child, but to do what the Law had required.  The Lord had spared the firstborn sons of Israel at the first Passover, and so he declared that every firstborn son of Israel belonged to him.  Israelites, therefore, were to redeem their firstborn sons with an offering.  In obedience to God’s Law, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple on his 40th day.  And because they were poor, Joseph and Mary presented their two doves to redeem their son, Jesus. 
     Jesus’ first entry into the temple could have gone remarkably unnoticed.  An Israelite couple brought a baby into the temple.  They offered the appointed sacrifice.  And they would have quietly slipped away and returned home.  But there is more here than meets the eye.  The prophet Malachi had foretold this day some four centuries earlier:  And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)  Not just in fulfillment of the Law, but also of the Prophets: The Lord has come to his temple. 
     Jesus also came in fulfillment to a particular promise to Simeon.  This man was … waiting for the consolation of IsraelAnd it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.  (Luke 2:25-26)  Directed by the Lord, Simeon came into the temple that day to see the Lord’s Christ.  In your mind’s eye, you might envision an elderly man being moved by the sight of a baby.  While he was moved, it was not just any baby that did it.  Rather, he confessed, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:30)  This baby is the one who would save.  He would fulfill every sacrifice by being a sacrifice himself.  This Israelite who was redeemed by a blood sacrifice would redeem all Israel by the sacrifice of his own blood.  He would bring consolation to hearts which are troubled by guilt and are fearful of death.  Simeon no longer feared his own death; for he held in his arms the one who would guarantee the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  Simeon praised God, for the Lord had come to his temple.
     It is no accident that the temple is where Simeon and Anna found their Lord.  Do you remember what they were waiting for?  The consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem.  Simeon and Anna were expectant and hopeful for the one who would fulfill the very purpose of the temple.  The temple is where the Lord dwelt with his people.  But now the Lord did not come in a cloud of smoke, and he was not hidden in the Holy of Holies.  The Lord had come in person, in the flesh.  God was pleased to dwell with his people.  The Lord had come into his temple.
     The temple is also where the sacrifices were offered every day.  It is the place where God proclaimed his atonement for the sins of his people.  Blood was shed at the slaughtering of each animal.  Their bodies were placed on an altar where they were turned to smoke.  The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and forgave theirs sins.  In the case of some sacrifices, the whole animal was not consumed by fire.  For certain offerings, a portion of the meat was given back to the one who brought it for a sacrifice.  The man and his family feasted on this meal, which was sacred to the Lord.  In this way, the Lord declared fellowship with his people who had been reconciled with him.  Jesus is the fulfillment of all these offerings.  He is the Lamb slain for your sins.  He shed his blood for you.  He was consumed by God’s wrath for you.  He comes in the sacred meal where the Lord declares his favor and fellowship with you.
     The Lord has come to his temple.  Where else should we expect to find him?  And in the same way, if we desire God’s mercy, we must go where he is to be found.  I have heard people try to rationalize why they do not come to church.  “I can worship God just as well from my boat as I can in church.”  “When I am at the beach, there is where I can truly commune with God.”  “Sometimes, I just find my quiet place and think about God.  That’s worship.”  That’s wrong.  It is a Satanic lie that God comes to bless you where you think he should come to bless you.  Do not rationalize why it is okay to stay away from God’s house.  Repent, and come back as soon as you can.  For, this is where God pours out his mercy and applies his forgiveness.  Israel was told that the Lord appeared to them at the temple.  That was the only place where he atoned for their sins and blessed them.  That is why Simeon and Anna found the Lord is in the temple.  
     Of course, Jesus does not come to you in person today.  So where do you find the Lord so that he will save and bless, console and redeem?  Where do your eyes see God’s salvation?  It is where Jesus told us he would come to bless us—in his word and sacraments.  This pulpit is where you hear the voice of your Lord preached to you.  This font is where you receive the washing of renewal for the forgiveness of your sins.  This altar is where you partake in the sacred meal in which the Lord takes away your sins and declares his favor upon you.  The Lord gives his gifts and his salvation through these things and not through the beauty of creation or quiet contemplation.  The Lord comes to you in word and sacraments.  This is how the Lord creates and sustains faith.  This is how the Lord takes up his dwelling in you.  This is how the Lord makes YOU his temple.  And this is how the Lord remains in you so that you remain his temple.
     The Lord had come to his temple.  Simeon spoke about the child and what he would do.  Parents might be prepared to gush when someone comes to talk about their newborn baby.  But this was not the case when Simeon spoke about Jesus.  “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed … so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) 
     Simeon warned that Jesus would not often be well-received.  For, he must cause your fall before he brings about your rising.  If Jesus is to be your Savior, then he must show you that you need to be saved.  He drives you to fear of judgment and in despair of your own goodness, showing you that the only status with which God is pleased is holy and obedient.  This, then, is your falling.  You cannot stand before God and boast of how good, how kind, how generous, or how nice you are or try to be.  You cannot fix yourself.  You must stop pretending that you can.  Your must repent.
     Do not exalt yourself.  You can’t.  But Jesus does!  Jesus raises you up and is your hope and consolation.  His perfect obedience answers for you.  His bitter sufferings and death atone for you.  Jesus’ innocent blood covers over your sins.  Jesus’ resurrection declares that death is dead and that the grave is powerless.  And by your baptism, you are united to Jesus in all of this.  Just as Jesus is risen and has ascended into heaven, so also you shall rise and ascend to dwell with him.  You have been raised to the status of saint, and you shall be raised from the dead to dwell with all the saints in God’s glory forever.
     The Lord had come to his temple.  He filled Simeon with peace and joy.  He answered Anna’s prayers and filled her with thankfulness.  He still comes to you in his word and sacrament with his saving gifts.  He is the Light which shines God’s grace upon the world.  He is the Glory of God’s people.  He is the redeemer of God’s Church.  He is your salvation.  And so, when your last day comes, whenever it is, you can depart in peace.  For the Lord is in his temple, and he makes all things right with you.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.