Saturday, May 31, 2014

Confirmation and Graduation

This is fairly stale news by now, but I have been tardy in getting some milestones noted on the blog.  Below are pictures from Caleb's confirmation on May 18 and from Nathanael's graduation from Michigan Lutheran Seminary on May 24.

Congratulations and God's blessings to both of you!

 Alyssa, me, and Caleb
 Grandpa Schroeder, Caleb, and Grandma Schroeder

 Grandma Schmidt and Caleb (Feel better soon, Grandpa!)

Okay, so this is on a liturgical gesture....
Psst, Caleb, I used to have hair like yours.

Nathanael is all about maternal affection. 

President Petermann presents Nathanael with his diploma.  

Nathanael and Charli on their big day. 

The sunny day was great for the graduation, but lousy for putting shadows across people's faces.  Anyway, here's the whole family at MLS.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Two crazy weeks

It has been a strange and wild two weeks.  It was all supposed to revolved around Caleb's Confirmation and Nathanael's graduation from Michigan Lutheran Seminary.  That is the short version.  But the last two weeks looked a little more like this:

Sunday (May 11): Divine Service; house cleaning; Happy Mothers' Day!; Greenfield Village; take Nathanael, Andrew, and Charli back to MLS

Monday: Catechism Class wrap up; house cleaning

Tuesday: House cleaning; Shut in visits; 6th Grade Bible History Class; Church Council

Wednesday: Clean out the garage; pack up for trip; go to library to get a book on CD for the trip to New Ulm; get bulletin printed

Thursday: Leave at 6:15 AM for New Ulm, Minnesota to get Faith from Martin Luther College; begin disc 1 of biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer; slowed down in Chicago; lunch at the Arby's in Johnson Creek, WI where I also revise the upcoming sermon; Mississippi River about 4:00 PM CDST; New Ulm about 7:00 PM CDST; meet Faith; supper at Veigel's Kaiserhoff (no sauerbraten -- arrrgghhh!); bed time at the Colonial Inn.

Friday: Breakfast at the Ulmer Café and revise Sunday's sermon some more; pack up Faith; kill time at the Library at Martin Luther College; tried to nap in a quiet corner there, woke up to students giving their parents a tour; Commencement Concert at 4:00 PM; pack up Faith's last stiches of clothing and the Buick is FULL; supper at Subway; Faith takes the wheel at we leave New Ulm at 7:00 PM CDST; Mississippi River at night; I take over driving.

Saturday: Rerouted through Milwaukee at 1:00 AM CDST; Fly through Chicago at 2:30 AM CDST; Gas up in LaPorte, IN and Faith takes over driving the rest of the way; Home at 8:00 AM EDST.  Go to bed till about Noon; House cleaning

Sunday (May 18): Examination of Catechumens; Divine Service with Rite of Confirmation; Photos; Get ready for Open House at 2:00 PM; Mom passes out in our kitchen about 7:15 PM; EMS techs show up; Mom to hospital and we follow close behind.

Monday: Go to hospital with kids (after they finally get up) to see how Grandma is doing; take Nathanael, Andrew, and Charli back to MLS; listen to Bonhoeffer CD on the way back home; back to the hospital for a while.

Tuesday: Mother is released from the hospital; Mom & Dad immediately return to Wisconsin; take a nap; Laura gets her blood tested and platelets are down to 2,000; conduct final 6th Grade Bible History Class of the year; Laura has a bloody nose, so we go to the hospital immediately; stay until about 9:30 PM.

Wednesday: Take kids to school; then to hospital; try to do some church work; go to sports banquet at St. Peter; leave during banquet to pick up Laura who had been released; back to St. Peter to get kids; home and to bed.

Thursday: Get bulletin done; get a few other church-related items done; thanking God that I booked a guest preacher for Sunday.

Friday: Faith and I go to MLS for their final chapel of the year to listen to recipients of sports awards (academic awards were for the previous day); get Nathanael and Andrew's dorms packed into the van (as much as they could empty at the time); get checked into the hotel; nap; commencement concert at 7:00 PM; fiasco trying to get everyone picked up and back to the hotel for pizza; return Nathanael and Charli to the dorms by 11:00 PM; bed.

Saturday: Graduation at 10:00 AM; photographs to follow, then parties all day.

Sunday (May 25): Get to sleep in much later than a normal Sunday; check out of hotel; more parties to go to; home at about 10:30 PM; bed, sweet bed (kicked out by a 5 year old at 3:00 AM).

I am looking forward to what is supposed to amount to a normal week this week.  I suppose God's sense of humor will have other plans.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sermon -- 5th Sunday of Easter (May 18, 2014)

JOHN 16:5-15

In the name + of Jesus.

     Today, two teens will be asked a question that is not often laid upon people.  Today, Alyssa and Caleb, you will be asked this question: Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? (Rite of Confirmation)  For the past number of years, you have studied and memorized and prayed so that you can give your answer with confidence: I do so intend, with the help of God.” 
     It is not a question asked lightly, and even more so, answered.  You also ought to be warned that around half of the people who have so vowed have not lived up to their intentions.  They have been led away by other interests.  Those interests may have been innocent enough, but if they led people away from Jesus, they have to be evil.  While people may insist that their ambitions and accomplishments have been noble, if they are in place of Jesus, then God cannot be pleased no matter how many people were helped.  Only through Jesus Christ will you find God’s favor and salvation.  Even if you should have to suffer death rather than fall away from him, you have really lost nothing.  You will not even have lost your life, for at death your life in God’s presence begins. 
     When Jesus spoke with his apostles on Maundy Thursday, they all vowed their undying allegiance to Jesus.  You may recall Peter proclaiming something that sounds similar to a confirmation vow.  Peter said to (Jesus), “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.”  And all the disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:35)  Of course, such fire and zeal will not save you.  Within hours, all the disciples fled from Jesus.  Likewise, your confirmation vow will not save you.  Good intentions and solemn vows never save you, just as they did not save Peter from denying his Lord.  It is not your word to God which saves, but God’s word to you.  That is what you and I must cling to every day of our life.
     The apostles boldly confessed their faithfulness to Jesus, but boldness turned to sadness when Jesus declared, “Now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:5-7)  The apostles were sad because they wanted Jesus to stay with them.  They wanted to keep seeing miracles by him.  They wanted to continue feasting with him.  Life would be better if Jesus did not depart.  Jesus acknowledged, “Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away….” (John 16:6-7) 
     Jesus sends his Spirit for your advantage.  It is better for you that Jesus not be physically in one place on the earth.  If he were, then you would never get near Jesus, and he could not be with you.  But now he has ascended to heaven.  Jesus has gone so that rather than being in one place, Jesus is now in all places.  Jesus sends his Holy Spirit who comes to all people wherever the word is preached and the sacraments are administered.  By giving you his Holy Spirit, Jesus marks you as his own redeemed brother or sister.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you, making you the very temple of God.  And what is the temple?  It is where God dwells with his people.  So far from having abandoned you, Jesus is with you always, to the very end of the age.  And if Jesus’ Spirit is with you, so are Jesus’ mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.  So it is for your advantage that Jesus sends his Spirit.
     “And when he comes,” Jesus says, “he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:8-11)
     Jesus sends his Spirit for your benefit.  It is to your benefit to know what sin really is.  Most will limit sins to crimes—murder, rape, the kidnapping of Nigerian children, or a Sudanese woman sentenced to hanging for being a Christian.  Some will add that it is a sin to be against some social cause or group.  But Jesus tells you that the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin “because they do not believe in me.” (John 16:9)  All people are sinful.  Sin is not limited to crimes and misdemeanors.  The very heart of man is corrupt, so that even the good things he does are corrupted.  Man wants his reward from God, which betrays that man always thinks he can earn something by his works.  He does not want a Savior; he wants credit.  He does not crave mercy, but praise.  In short, man does not believe in Jesus, for he does not think he needs to be saved. 
     The Holy Spirit also convicts concerning righteousness, as Jesus says, “because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer…” (John 16:10)  Again, man does not know what righteousness is.  He thinks because he refrains from crimes and writes a check for a charity that he is righteous.  But no man is pure.  Everyone works with ulterior motives.  We do not crave righteousness from Jesus because we think that we’ve got it pretty well covered.  We may credit Jesus for dying for sins, but then we assume that we are getting the works done that would please God.  We do not seek comfort in Jesus interceding for us before the throne of God because we don’t think such intercession is necessary.  Jesus is out of sight, out of mind.  We think our righteousness comes from a place we can see, such as our own words and deeds. 
     Jesus sends his Spirit for your advantage so that you will recognize sin for what it is and so that you will know where righteousness can only be found.  Jesus came to rescue us from our sinful condition.  He knows that we are sinners.  He knows that we cannot stop it.  So he bled under the curse for all sin.  He completely covers us in that sacred blood.  Jesus supplies all righteousness.  Jesus has paid for all sins and provides full forgiveness.  Sins do not damn any longer; for Jesus has endured that.  Therefore, unbelief is the only thing which damns.  The Spirit convicts the world of this.  Whoever believes and his baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be damned. (Mark 16:16) 
     It is for your advantage that Jesus has gone into heaven.  Jesus has ascended into heaven so that he can give his gifts to his people in all the world.  So, if you seek righteousness, come where Jesus gives it—in the word preached, in absolution applied, in the Lord’s Supper where you commune with Jesus and he with you.  Through these, Jesus gives his Spirit, his mercy, and his salvation. 
     It is for your advantage that Jesus gives you his Spirit.  The Spirit dwells in you so that God will be with you and you will be with him forever.  He has sent his Spirit to you so that you will be preserved by his truth to the day you die.  You will likely not be martyred for the Christian faith, but the question you are asked will apply to you one day: Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? (Rite of Confirmation)  The day will come when you will suffer death.  But fear not.  Jesus has not abandoned you.  Even in death he does not abandon you.  Jesus has saved you so that you will follow where he has gone.  Jesus sent his Holy Spirit who lives in you so that you will not die but live.  The Holy Spirit he has given you marks you as an heir of the resurrection to eternal life.  This is for your advantage, and your salvation.

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

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sermon -- 4th Sunday of Easter (May 11, 2014)

JOHN 16:16-23

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus told his disciples, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.  Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.  You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” (John 16:16,20)  These apostles would soon have their Messiah suffer and die.  Few would witness it; most would desert him and hide in fear.  They would have heard reports of Jesus’ burial in a tomb, but they would not expect to see him again—despite Jesus’ own promises.  Their last memories with Jesus would have been memories of their fleeing from Jesus in Gethsemane, a denial, a betrayal, and perhaps even feelings of being such fools for having followed a Messiah who was now dead.  It was enough to drive one of the disciples to suicide.  The others hid, confused, saddened, and afraid.
     Jesus told his disciples, “A little while, and you will see me no longer…” (John 16:16)  This would fill them with sorrow and anxiety.  You can think of the same feeling when, as a child, you lost sight of your mother in a crowd.  You may have been familiar with the place, but if you could not find Mom, you were lost.  It was scary.  No comforting words from friends or strangers were going to make you feel better.  Only Mom would make everything better, and it would not get better until you saw her. 
     It was all the more true for the disciples.  They trusted in Jesus as the source of truth and life.  They had witnessed Jesus healing the sick and diseased, feeding the multitudes, stilling the storm, and even raising the dead.  If he were taken away, who would they cling to?  Who would teach them, guide them, comfort them, and encourage them?  They would still live in a familiar land, but they would feel lost, afraid, and sorrowful.  And all the words that are supposed to comfort people would be seen for the meaningless piffle that those words really are.
     The lesson is often learned in the most painful of ways:  In this world, everything is temporary.  In this world, you will suffer pain and loss.  You may lose a job, a car, a house, or your savings.  If you have not done so already, you will bid farewell to grandparents and parents.  You may bid farewell even to a spouse or a child.  All the blessings you see will be removed from your sight.  And in those painful days, you will understand that those things are not where your faith belongs.  While God’s blessings may give aid, support, and comfort, they do not save.  While you can and should be thankful for God’s blessings, do not put your trust in them.
     But they did not grasp the other part of Jesus’ message to them: “… Again a little while, and you will see me.  … Your sorrow will turn into joy.” (John 16:16,20)   Jesus would give them an irrevocable joy.  They would see Jesus again.  They would see a Savior who had risen from the grave.  They would eat with him and talk with him.  Jesus had gone into death to save them and all mankind from everything that is corrupted by sin.  Jesus is the God who suffered for all he has created.  He is the man who endured the curse for all mankind.  He is the Eternal One who paid the price for all people of all time.  He is the Omnipresent One who chose one place to die for people everywhere.  He is the Immortal One who died for you.  But now he is risen!  Jesus has slain death by his resurrection from the grave.  Sorrow has gone.  Joy has come.  Jesus lives, and the joy stays.
     Jesus gives you an irrevocable joy.  He has taken away all your guilt and your punishment.  You no longer have to live with the shame or regret of your sins.  You are forgiven.  You no longer have to fear the grave.  It has been overcome.  It holds has much threat for you as your bed.  You no longer have to think that God has it out for you.  Even if he withdraws blessings from you—if he takes away your family and friends, your senses and health—that does not mean he withholds his love from you.  By removing from you the blessings you can see, Jesus shows you that these were never really what were supporting and sustaining you.  Though they are blessings, they are not the source of your hope or joy.  Jesus is. 
     Jesus gives you an irrevocable joy.  Jesus forgives sin and conquers death.  Jesus makes you a child of the resurrection and an heir of eternal life.  Jesus shall raise you up with a body that will forever be free from weakness or pain, to a world that is free from disease and death, and to a life that will never know sorrow or loss.  These promises are not yours because you can see or feel them.  They are yours because Jesus proclaims them to you.  Therefore, you do not need to see Jesus for them.  You listen to Jesus to receive them.  Though Jesus ascended into heaven and is no longer seen by his Church, he has not withdrawn his promises, his mercy, his forgiveness, or his salvation.  These are yours and are regularly proclaimed and administered to you where the words of Jesus are preached and where the sacraments of Jesus are given.  These are where you are sustained and supported.  These are where you find your hope and joy.  And just as no one can undo Jesus’ death and resurrection, so also no one and nothing can undo Jesus’ promises to you—not sin, not loss, not sorrow, not pain, and not even death.  Jesus gives you an irrevocable joy. 
     It may seem that the world has it right as people rejoice and party through life.  They seem to have no worries or problems.  Do not be deceived by this; for their joy and peace are very fragile.  The blessings that they see and love will be taken away; for in this life, all things are temporary.  When those blessings are gone, so is the joy and the hope of those who love them.
     But Jesus gives you an irrevocable joy.  Skeptics and critics may mock you for believing in what is unseen.  Granted, you can’t see Jesus, just as you can’t see forgiveness, eternal life, the resurrection, and Paradise of God.  For that matter, you can’t see joy either.  But fear not, and do not get discouraged.  Jesus told his disciples, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.  When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.  So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:20-22)  Your risen Savior gives you an irrevocable joy.  Your days of sorrow and struggle will not endure forever.  Even these are temporary in this world.  A greater, everlasting joy is coming—so much so that you will no longer remember your trials and struggles now.  These are momentary.  The joy is eternal.
     But even in the midst of your trials and struggles, you do not live in misery.  Jesus has already given you a joy that cannot be destroyed by anyone or anything.  You have been relieved of your guilt.  Jesus has covered you in your baptism and has washed away all shame and disgrace.  Jesus also comes to you from this altar where the body and blood he gave into death for you are delivered to you for strength and forgiveness.  Here, you receive life in the midst of a dying world.  Here is something holy in the midst of a corrupt world.  Here is a peace in the midst of fears, joy in the midst of sorrows, and a firm hope which stands when everything else is stripped away.  Though everything else in life may be taken from you, Jesus does not withhold or withdraw his mercy and salvation.  Though everything in this world is temporary, Jesus gives you an irrevocable joy.  It sustains you though life now, and will be celebrated without interruption in the world to come.

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

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Junior / Senior banquet at MLS

          This is a week or so late, but I wanted to post a few photos from the Junior / Senior banquet at Michigan Lutheran Seminary.  It was on Saturday, April 26.
          Laura and I had made the trip up to get some photos.  When we got there, we asked Nathanael about the corsage he had gotten for Charli.  His reply: "I thought YOU were getting that."  Only 2 hours before the onslaught of photos, we scrambled to get this taken care of.  Google to the rescue to find a florist open on Saturday afternoon.  Okay, now, Gaertner's Flowers to the rescue!  30 minutes later, we have our corsage!  Thank you, Gaertner's!  And I don't think they even charged us extra for the rush job.  Then, off to Ojibway Island on the Saginaw River for photos.
          It would have been nice if it had been 20 degrees warmer!  The guys didn't mind so much, but those girls must have been freezing in their formal gowns.  We stayed there for about 30 minutes of pictures.  They gritted it out, and I hope everyone was happy with their photos.  And even though the calendar says it is spring, the leaves on the trees said, "Well, just barely."  As you can see, there was not much foliage.
         You will also notice Nathanael with a football in his hands in one of the photos.  Yeah, some of the guys decided to play catch.  I was waiting to see which guy would have to sheepishly tell his date, "Uh, I got my suit all muddy / ripped it out / sprained my ankle, so ... we can't go to the banquet."  Mercifully, that conversation did not take place. 
          We encouraged Nathanael and Charli to have "smart fun" and they went on their way.  They said it was a good time.  The seniors can all sense that there are not many grains of sand left in the hour glass for high school.  These are bittersweet times, and I hope they enjoy all their last moments.
     Anyway, some photos are below.

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of Easter (May 4, 2014)

JOHN 10:11-16

In the name + of Jesus.

Pastor:                          Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Congregation:            He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

     A good shepherd suffers all things for his sheep.  It is a strange, practically backwards relationship that the shepherd has with his sheep.  There is no doubt that the shepherd is greater than the sheep.  For, people are more important than animals.  What is more, the sheep are not often very alert or careful.  The sheep go about grazing, keeping their faces to the tufts of grass that will feed them.  They do not look for predators, and they can easily wander off into dangerous territory.  If they become prey, there is little the sheep can do to defend themselves.  Sheep don’t run fast, and they don’t fight well.  They are more fleece than fangs.  I am sure that many shepherds have figured that some sheep are just more trouble than they are worth.
     A hired hand will certainly think so.  A hired hand will not risk his time, his energy, and much less his life for the protection of the flock.  The hired hand will see the sheep wander off into the enemy’s clutches, and he will curse the sheep as he watches it get devoured by the wolf.  He doesn’t care.  It was not his sheep.
     But a good shepherd will suffer all things for his sheep.  Yes, a sheep will wander; but a good shepherd will go after it.  Yes, the sheep will be marked as prey by the wolf, but a good shepherd will stand between his sheep and the predator.  He will fight and he will defend a sheep, even if it costs him wounds—or worse.  A good shepherd will always care for his sheep; for they are his sheep.  And though he is greater than they, a good shepherd lives as though the sheep were greater than he.  A good shepherd will suffer all things for his sheep.
     Isaiah has taught us to confess, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)  We are sheep who have cared about only that which is right before our eyes.  We do not give thought to the enemies who would lure us away from Christ and his Church.  We focus on our pleasures, our obligations, our needs, and our interests.  Satan seeks to distract, deceive, and then to devour you.  He wants to draw you away from Jesus by making anything more important.  Sheep are not evil because they look for grass to graze upon.  But they are foolish for not being aware of the dangers around them.  And so it is with you.  Sure, your job, your children, and your schedules are important.  But if that is all that matters, Satan will seize you.  You will be drawn away from Jesus because other things are claiming priority.  Sheep do not flee from their shepherd, but they are drawn away.  Beware that you are not also drawn away.  Danger and death will seize you if you do.
     All we like sheep have gone astray…. (Isaiah 53:6)  This is what sheep are like.  For this reason, it would not be a surprise if the Lord would despise you.  It would not be a surprise if Jesus would declare that you are more trouble than you are worth.  You could imagine Jesus issuing his curse as you head toward a cursed death.  But he doesn’t.  If fact, it is the opposite.  Jesus declares that you are worth all the trouble he had to endure.  Jesus is not just “a” good shepherd.  Jesus is THE Good Shepherd.  And the Good Shepherd suffers all things for his sheep.
     Jesus said, I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)  Jesus suffered and died for you.  Though he is true God and worthy of all glory and honor, he chose to endure hardship and shame and slander and pain and even bloody crucifixion and a cursed death under God’s wrath for you.  Jesus stood between you and the wolves which would have devoured you.  He fought for you and suffered wounds—and worse—for you.  Satan got a taste of Jesus’ blood, hoping to devour him.  But it was Jesus’ blood that overcame Satan.  Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus overcame the grave and Satan and every enemy that would try to drag you into death and hell.  Jesus suffers all things for his sheep.
     Jesus lives and reigns to continue to lead you, to console you, to protect you, and to save you.  He gives you his body and blood to feed upon for your salvation.  By these, he nourishes his sheep so that you are sustained on your journey heavenward.  By these, he fends off your enemies so that sin, death, and the devil cannot touch you.  He speaks tenderly to you to direct you, to comfort you, and to encourage you.  He continues to speak to you so that you will not be led astray by a strange or seductive voice on your journey heavenward. 
     Jesus lives and reigns for you.  He loves you dearly.  He has shed his blood for you and laid down his life for you.  He has destroyed the enemy for you and has risen to keep you safe and secure.  You are his sheep.  And he will never forsake you; for he is the Good Shepherd. 

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

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sermon -- Funeral of Phil Obradovich (May 2, 2014)

ROMANS 5:6-11

In the name + of Jesus.

     I got to know Phil Obradovich pretty late in his life.  And though I didn’t know him for most of his years, I got to learn about many of those years.  Though it wasn’t always bad, it wasn’t always good either.  From talking to Phil, to his wife Beverly, and to you, his children, over the past few years, I learned that there were some difficult and painful times.  That may have resulted in some hard feelings or strained relationships.  One thing is for sure, Phil Obradovich regarded himself as a sinner, and he confessed it freely.  In fact, he spoke of it often.  He did not take pride in it.  The fact is, all people are sinners.  Phil confessed that he gave plenty of evidence for that, but more importantly, he repented of it.  If you did not know that before, you should know it now.  Even though he could not fix the past, he did repent of it.
     Now, I don’t know if your memories of your father and grandfather are fond memories or not.  But what matters most of all is this: What did God think of him?  That is all that matters for any of us.  If the whole world thinks you are fantastic or if the whole world thinks you are a failure, it finally does not matter.  God’s judgment is not based on what anyone else thinks of you—whether good or bad.  St. Paul told us what God’s judgment of Phil is.  While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8) 
     Our Lord Jesus Christ did not wait until we were good enough.  He came to suffer and die precisely because we are not good people.  Sins are rebellion against God.  God cannot brush them aside like they don’t matter.  For every snide word, for every heartless deed, for every perverted thought, and for the very sin that dwells in our hearts, there is a price to pay.  The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)  The price has to be paid.
     Therefore, Jesus paid the price.  You and I cannot pay for our sins, not even for one.  So, Jesus took it all.  God became man and suffered on behalf of all mankind.  He took on the weight of our guilt and the curse for our sins.  The accursed death has been died.  The full price has been paid.  Your crucified Lord was pulled down from his cross and laid in a grave.  But the grave could not hold him.  Jesus rose from the dead and overcame the power of death.  Sin and death had done their worst to Jesus, but now Jesus lives!  He had died for the ungodly and for sinners, but he lives to tell sinners that their sins are truly forgiven.  His death was the sufficient payment to appease the wrath of God.  So God the Father is reconciled to you, and you are reconciled to him.  You do not need to fear him, for he does not despise you.  That is Phil’s judgment: Phil has been reconciled to God.  His soul has not been banished to hell.  He has gone to dwell with his Lord and Savior.  He has peace.
     But just as the death of Jesus is not the end of the story, so the death of Phil Obradovich is not the end of the story either.  God has not created us to be mere souls or spirits.  God created you as body and soul people.  It is what he has always intended you to be.  Likewise, when God came to earth to save us, he did not come as a spirit.  He became a body and soul man.  That flesh and blood Savior went to the cross, and then to the grave.  And when Jesus rose from his grave, he was no mere spirit.  Body and soul, Jesus rose gloriously from death.  He even invited his apostles to touch his body and to inspect the wounds that were inflicted on him to save them.
     Death has done to Phil Obradovich what death will do to all of us—earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.  But this is not the end of the story.  Phil has been reconciled to God.  That means God shall restore all things for him.  The body which is committed to the ground today does not remain dust and ashes.  Phil Obradivoch has been baptized into Jesus.  That means he is united to Jesus in his life, his death, and his resurrection.  Phil was united to Jesus in Jesus’ life, which means that Jesus’ holy obedience covers up every flaw and failing of Phil.  God sees him as his own beloved and blameless son.  That is why he is an heir of eternal life.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)  Phil has been reconciled to God. 
     Secondly, Phil’s baptism also has united him to Jesus’ death.  When Phil was baptized, God put to death the sinner and raised him up a new creation.  God regarded Phil as a saint.  Now, Phil confessed that he was no saint.  He did not want to be judged based on his merits.  But he had a Savior who pleaded for him.  That Savior covered Phil with his own innocent blood and credited Phil with his own perfect merits.  And Phil rejoiced that he got to feast on the body and blood of Jesus.  For through Holy Communion, Jesus continued to cleanse him of sin and keep him united to Jesus.  Phil has been reconciled to God. 
     Thirdly, Phil’s baptism united him to Jesus’ resurrection.  Just as Jesus died and rose to live again, so it will be for Phil.  The grave does not own him, Jesus does.  At the last day, God will raise up all the dead for judgment.  Of course, Phil has already heard his judgment: Forgiven, reconciled to God.  But Phil will not merely be a saint in status.  Jesus will raise him up so that he will look like one and live like one.  Our Lord Jesus Christ will raise up Phil, just as he will for Beverly, and he will give them a perfect, glorious, incorruptible, imperishable body so that they will be what God had always created them to be—body and soul, holy and blameless, beloved children of God who will dwell in a flawless Paradise and enjoy a peaceful life in God’s glorious kingdom forever.  Phil has been reconciled to God. 
     Dear friends, these are not wishful, happy thoughts to get us through a tough time.  Death and pain are real things.  These bodies and souls we have are real things.  But these are also real things: the love of God which is revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and reconciliation to God which was won through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  God calls us to repent of our sins and to cast all of our hopes upon Jesus.  Through his word and sacraments, Jesus reconciles us to God and gives us real salvation.  This is the only hope for sinners.  For, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)  But now Christ has risen.  All who believe and are baptized into him shall be saved by him.  This was Phil’s hope, and he will not be ashamed in it.  These ashes shall rise and live, just as surely as Jesus lives and reigns.  God and sinners have been reconciled.  Sins are forgiven.  Death is conquered.  And life everlasting is yours through Jesus Christ.

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