First Sunday after the Epiphany – the Baptism of Our Lord
  • First Sunday after the Epiphany – the Baptism of Our Lord
    January 12, 2020 

    Hymns:  46,   89,   38,   68    
    First Lesson:  Isaiah 42:1-9    
    Psalm   45, (page 83)   
    Second Lesson:  Acts 10:34-38    
    Gospel Lesson:  Matthew 3:13-17 
    Matthew 3:13-17 
    Understand the Baptism of Our Lord  
    I. It announces Him as our Substitute
    II. It anoints Him as the Lord’s choice 
    In the name of Christ, the world’s only Savior and thus the Light to lighten us Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel, fellow sinners redeemed by who Jesus is and what Jesus does,  
    How are we Lutheran Christians supposed to explain this lesson? Others have questions about the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Why do you Lutherans baptize infants? What good does water from an ordinary faucet do? Why don’t you baptize by immersion the way Jesus was baptized? This lesson seems to show that we should not baptize infants, but wait until people become adults, like Jesus waited; that we shouldn’t use ordinary water, but use some special water from the Holy Land, like John used; that we should dunk the baptized person completely under water, like Jesus was. Or was He? Stay tuned.  
    We confess that in Holy Baptism the powerful Word of God works with plain water to change eternally even infants. Others object, But infants can’t do anything to change their lives! We respond, Exactly! In Holy Baptism God does all the work to change sinners! But then how do we explain the baptism of our Lord? He didn’t need any changing! He didn’t have any sins to be washed away! So why was He baptized?  
    The Lord doesn’t confuse us here. The Holy Spirit blesses us by having us stop at the Jordan River today. The Holy Spirit strengthens us for daily life by showing us today Jesus being baptized. The Holy Spirit fills us today with His instruction, not our ideas, about the baptism of our Lord. It announces Him as our Substitute, and it anoints Him as the Lord’s choice.  
    I It announces Him as our Substitute
    We can understand why John the Baptist objected to Jesus’ request that John baptize Him. John had recently refused to baptize Pharisees and Sadducees who had made the trip to the rugged region of the Jordan to hear John and be baptized by John. “You refuse to repent of your sins! You offspring of vipers (Matthew 3:7)! You won’t even admit that you anger God!”  
    Then John declared Jesus to be the promised Messiah, confessing, “I am not worthy to carry His 
    sandals” (Matthew 3:11). After that, Jesus came “to be baptized by John” (v. 13), who said, “How can I baptize You? Everyone I’ve baptized has repented of sins. You have no sins. You have no need to be baptized!” No wonder “John tried to stop Jesus, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?” (v. 14).  
    The Savior ended the discussion with one sentence. “Let it be so now, because it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). Jesus coming to John to be baptized was all about sin; but not Jesus’. It was about the world’s sins – John’s, mine, yours. Ever since Adam and Eve, sinners have supposed that “righteousness” before God is theirs to earn. But sinners can never do enough, can never do anything!, to get right with God.  
    When the Holy Spirit gives us insight into His word “righteousness”, He gives us the key to much of His truth! God’s “righteousness” condemns sin and demands punishment for those who disobey Him. God is right when He does that. But God’s “righteousness” also delivers sinners and saves them by His work for sinners. Jesus is our “righteousness”.  
    For the thirty years before His baptism, the Son of God – the son of Mary, too – had been working for our “righteousness”. He had been obeying His own law with His ordinary, but holy, life.  At His  baptism, Jesus began the public phase of His work, and showed He was heading to His suffering and death.  
    Those aspects of Christ’s redeeming work were done for us and in our place. From infancy, He kept His own laws perfectly every day, every hour, every minute, every second with everything He did, said, and thought. He wants sinners to claim His righteous living as their own. At His baptism, Christ showed Himself to the world as the One of whom we sing today, “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He agreed to take on the weight of our sins by His suffering as our Substitute. All that “fulfilled our righteousness”.  
    We understand the baptism of our Lord correctly when we see Him presenting Himself for baptism to announce Himself as our Substitute. He had no sins to forgive, but He was baptized to show His willingness to be our Substitute. Jesus stands next to us sinners in Baptism where we receive personally the forgiveness He won for the world! His baptism is powerful proof that our baptism connects us to Him! Our baptism wasn’t some cute ceremony when we were babies. It was the power of God by which He established His kingdom in our hearts for an eternal relationship with us! “God made Him, who did not know sin, to become sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ’s Baptism announced that He is our Substitute to do just that!  
    II It anoints HIm as the Lord's choice
    All the Bible gives us about the life of Jesus from three years old to thirty is His appearance at the temple when He was  twelve. But Jesus wasn’t twiddling His thumbs during those years, waiting for the salvation action to start; He was living in perfect holiness for us. At thirty He began publicly to preach and teach, help and heal, perform miracles and endure our hell. Who said He should do that, that He could do that? Understand the baptism of our Lord! It anoints Him as the Lord’s choice to do all that.  
    Was Jesus immersed at His Baptism? Many insist immersion is the only baptism that has any power, and point to Christ’s baptism as proof. What God says here is simply, “He…went up out of the water” (v. 16). That could mean Jesus raised His body up after being completely under water. It could mean Jesus walked up the riverbank after wading in where John had put water on His head. The word for  
    “baptized” (v. 13) means to apply water, without specifying how water is applied.  
    The important point from the baptism of our Lord isn’t how the water was applied, but that He was anointed. It wasn’t with oil, used for centuries to anoint Israel’s priests and kings. It was with water, muddy water, from the Jordan River. More important, Jesus was anointed also with the Holy Spirit. “Suddenly, the heavens were opened for Him! He saw the Spirit of God, descending like a dove and landing on Him” (v. 16), which is why we use a dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. This let Jesus know He had special power for His saving work.  
    Did Jesus really need anointing by the Holy Spirit? Hadn’t He had the Spirit ever since the Spirit miraculously conceived Jesus in Mary’s still-virgin womb? Yes! But here Jesus was assured He had the very special gifts He needed for His mission as He publicly stepped forward to complete His mission!  
    This was a public way for the Spirit to say to the Son what we heard earlier, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on You: the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2). And later in Isaiah, “the Spirit of the LORD God is upon You, because the LORD has anointed You to preach good news to the afflicted” (Isaiah 61:1).  
    Understand also that the baptism of our Lord showed Jesus was approved by the Father in heaven. This was the first time the Father said, “This is My Son, whom I love. I am well pleased with Him” (Matthew 3:17). The second time was at Christ’s transfiguration. See the significance? Here at the beginning of Christ’s public work, then near the end of His redemption mission, His Father told the world, “He is My Chosen One!”  
    Security guards allow only authorized people to enter secure areas; you need credentials issued by authorities to prove that you are who you say you are and that you should be going where you are going. The baptism of our Lord is one of Christ’s many credentials, showing Him as the authorized choice of the Father, and as the One equipped by the Spirit, to go to the cross to deliver the world from sin, Satan, and hell.  
    What needed approval for Christ’s human nature! Imagine His enemy in hell whispering to Him for thirty years, “You’re the world’s Redeemer?!? Look at You here in Podunk Nazareth.  You are a good boy. An obedient teen. A faithful son. A nice man. But You are not the world’s Savior! See Your lowly life? Your Father in heaven has forgotten all about You! Give up!” Now hear His Father in heaven shout from heaven, “This is My Son, whom I love. I am well pleased with Him.”  
    How powerful for Him who heard that that day, and for us who hear that this day! When Satan and unbelievers tell us there is another savior so we can let go of Jesus, shut him up and respond to them with this heavenly approval by the Father!  
    Understand the baptism of our Lord as the important event to anoint Jesus publicly as the Lord’s choice to rescue sinners. God never says about sinners, “With you I am well pleased!” God says just the opposite about us, “You have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  (Romans 3:23). But in His Son Jesus He sees us as forgiven, righteous, redeemed. Through faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit, we know all of that is most certainly true for us, and has been given to us sinners. Jesus wasn’t left alone – and neither are we! He is the Lord’s choice to win our adoption as God’s children now and forever!  
    There are still details about the baptism of our Lord that baffle us. But what we need to know is most 
    certainly clear here. The baptism of our Lord announces Him as our Substitute. His anointing with the Spirit and His approval by the Father show Christ to be God’s choice to save us. Thanks to God, all our sins lie on Him, and none remain on us! In that repentant, rejoicing spirit, communicants, come to receive further assurance of that in that sacrament. In that triumphant, rejoicing spirit, Christians, go forth to live in peace with God and to share Christ with others. Amen.                                                     Pastor David A. Voss
    Fourth Sunday of Advent - We Prepare for Christmas Like Joseph Did
  • Fourth Sunday of Advent / Choral Service December 22, 2019
    Hymns 363, 24
    (Four numbers were sung by our choir.)
    First Lesson: Isaiah 7:10-14
    Second Lesson: Romans 1:1-7
    Gospel Lesson: Matthew 1:18-25
    Matthew 1:18-25
    We Prepare for Christmas Like Joseph Did
    I. Trusting God’s plan
    II. Heeding God’s Word

    In the name of Jesus, our focus this season and our Savior every day, dear Advent believers preparing to celebrate His birth.

    I haven’t seen today’s paper yet, but I’m sure it has dozens of ads that read, Last chance sale! Only three shopping days left! We’re being blasted with the reality that time is running out to prepare for making this Christmas a Christmas to remember.

    The church year calendar seems to scream a similar message. This is your last chance to worship together as you prepare for Christmas! That’s true. But in this last worship service before Christmas, there are no cookies to bake, gifts to wrap, cards to write, lists to consult. The real Christmas is the mass, the celebration, of Christ and His birth. Our most important preparation is to focus on Him. In this last service before Christmas, we prepare for Christmas, the real Christmas, like Joseph did: trusting God’s plan and heeding God’s Word.
    ITrusting God’s plan
    The verses of our Gospel Lesson are all the Holy Spirit had Matthew write about the birth of the Savior. No mention of the manger, no strips of cloth, no shepherds, no angels, no Mary pondering all these things in her heart. But there is mention of Joseph “considering these things” (v. 20).

    Considering what things? Not changing colleges or his major, a job offer or a new house. It was what to do about his marriage plans. “Mary was pledged in marriage to Joseph. Before they came together, she was found to be with child” (v. 18). They didn’t live together during their betrothal, which involved signing a document to establish a legal marriage. In Israel, the legal marriage usually preceded the festivities and consummation of the marriage. They were husband and wife, “pledged in marriage”, but hadn’t yet been together sexually.

    Before they began to live as husband and wife, Joseph’s life was turned upside down. Mary was “with child”. That doesn’t bother us because we hear every December there was a good reason, the most Godly reason, she was pregnant. But Joseph didn’t know that yet. Imagine his turmoil. How could she? Our future is over! Imagine Mary’s dilemma. How can I explain to Joseph the baby has no human father?! Joseph “decided to divorce Mary privately” (v. 19) for what he could only conclude was her sexual activity with another man.

    Why “divorce her privately”? In keeping with God’s laws for Israel before Christ came, Joseph had the right to haul Mary before the leaders of their town of Nazareth and have her exposed as an adulteress. But Joseph’s motive wasn’t bitter revenge. He was “a righteous man” (v. 19) before God through his faith in the coming Messiah; righteous Joseph didn’t want to make the matter more public than it might already be.

    As Joseph thought through pursuing a divorce, “an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (v. 20). No, Mary’s child wasn’t Joseph’s. But neither was the child any other man’s. This was the miracle conception by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s still-virgin womb, the miracle God had used Isaiah to foretell centuries earlier.

    As “a righteous man” in the eyes of God through faith in God’s promised Savior, Joseph knew God’s plan to send the promised Savior, born of a woman. God had said that to Adam and Eve in God’s very first promise of the Savior. God had repeated that many times in the four thousand years from Adam and Eve to Joseph and Mary. God’s plan called for God to take on flesh and blood. God’s plan called for God to conceive the Savior in a virgin’s womb. Joseph, who humbly trusted God’s plan as “a righteous man”, was now to be part of God’s plan. Joseph was married to Mary, the mother of the Lord. As her husband, he would help care for the most precious Child ever.

    We prepare for Christmas like Joseph did. We trust God’s plan. This Christmas, some are dealing with the death of a loved one since last Christmas, others with a doctor’s disturbing diagnosis. Some are uncertain if their job will last. Some are reeling because the income is down and expenses are up. Some are feeling betrayed because a loving relationship has ended. Were we to trust some man-made plan, we’d be as every bit as upset and confused as Joseph had been. God doesn’t give us a crystal ball to tell us how long grief will grip us or how sickness will turn out, whether job prospects or money matters will get brighter, if there is someone special out there for us. But God does give us His plan, just as He gave it to Joseph. It involves the mighty God becoming a tiny infant to save us. That’s the Christmas we prepare to celebrate above all else as we trust God’s plan. Will God’s plan get as much attention in preparations at home as our plans for presents and food and family?
    II. Heeding God’s Word
    What happens with Christmas presents if instructions aren’t followed? An adult thinking, I know how this goes together, so I don’t need the directions may lead to a child crying when the present is broken even before the child gets to play with it because parts were forced into the wrong slots.

    What will happen with the real Christmas if it’s just our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day tradition to be in God’s house, but follow no further the Lord Jesus the rest of the year – well, maybe Good Friday or Resurrection Sunday, too? A church goer’s thinking, I was in church for Christmas, so I did my part hasn’t prepared for the real Christmas. We prepare for the real Christmas like Joseph did, also heeding God’s Word.

    Through His angel God gave Joseph more than the Godly explanation why his betrothed Mary was with child. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (v. 21). Though Joseph was not the child’s father, as the head of the family, Joseph would give the child the name “Jesus”. In Hebrew the pronunciation of that name is very close to our name Joshua. Both mean, The LORD saves. Joseph followed God’s Word given to him through God’s angel in the dream God sent Joseph; Joseph called the baby “Jesus”. The baby is more than a baby. The baby does what His name means: He “saves His people from their sins”. More about that from the children Christmas Eve and again in here Christmas morning.

    God gets us ready for the real Christmas the same way God got Joseph and Mary ready for the first Christmas. He gives us His Word that the baby is His Son, our Savior, the One who rescues all sinners from hell! Though it’s a miraculous conception and incarnation – God becoming also man – which we can’t understand, we need to understand that if that is not the essence of our Christmas, we are preparing for nothing more than a winter party. The real Christmas, the one we prepare for like Joseph did, hears and heeds, trusts and shares God’s amazing announcement: “He will save His people from their sins”.

    There is no more important preparation this season than preparing for the miracle in the manger! The Child and His work are hope, life, and salvation for us who have no hope to get ourselves to eternal life in heaven. God Himself stepped into our place. Jesus was our Substitute under His own commandments and did everything God demands of us. He was our Substitute under God’s wrath over our sins and paid for that by His innocent suffering of hell.

    God wants us to get that right as He gets us ready for the real Christmas. It’s not some dour Lutheran pastor mixing the good news and great joy of Christmas with the agony of Good Friday and the triumph of Resurrection Sunday. It is God’s Christmas message: “He will save His people from their sins”. It’s His Word. Real Christmas Christians trust it and prepare to hear it.

    Not familiar tunes or festive decorations, not perfect presents or great get-togethers, but God Himself “with us…Immanuel” (v. 23), and His truth with us in His Word. That’s what gets us ready for Christmas, the real Christmas. Like Joseph and Mary, we focus on the Gift, Jesus who “saves us His people from their sins”, and we trust the salvation God comes to earth to give us. Amen.             Pastor David A. Voss
    Third Sunday of End Time – Saints Triumphant
  • Third Sunday of End Time – Saints Triumphant
    November 17, 2019
    Hymns: 225, 207, 214, 331
    First Lesson: Isaiah 65:17-25
    Psalm 150 (page 122)
    Second Lesson: Revelation 22:1-5
    Gospel Lesson: Luke 20:27-38
    Revelation 22:1-5
    For Saints Triumphant, It Will Never End Where It All Began
    I. In God’s garden
    II. Without sin’s curse
    III. Before God’s face

    In the name of Christ Jesus, who will take all who trust in Him to be with Him in Paradise forever, dear beloved by the Lord,

    It’s a theme that’s been used ever since people started telling stories. The scene starts out serene – on a happy farm, in a content tent, by a cozy fire. Then sorrow strikes or tragedy invades; the happy, content, cozy lives are threatened. In most stories, either by daring determination or riveting rescue or unexpected luck, the good folks survive and end up right where they began – on their happy farm, in their content tent, by their cozy fire.

    The pastor is not implying that the Bible is only a story, a mere legend. It is God’s Word! But did it strike you how this lesson from the last chapter of the Bible sort of ends up where the first two chapters of the Bible began?! And what lies between Genesis 2 and Revelation 22? Tons of trouble. Sordid sins. Wicked ways. Deserved damnation. And the most dramatic rescue ever! All of that is written not to fit a familiar plot, but to tell about stubborn, sinful man and the mighty, loving Lord.

    The relationship between God and His people lasts throughout eternity. That thrust in our Saints Triumphant Sunday lessons is the Lord’s comfort for His suffering saints – sinners whom He has set apart, sanctified, made saints through faith in Him. He says, “Look at how it ends! Only, dear sinners for whom I shed My blood to buy back to Myself, life with Me never ends! For you saints triumphant, it will never end right where it all began!” Where is that, Lord? we ask. He answers here, “In My garden and without sin’s curse and before My face!”
    Many Bible students think the book of Revelation is a calendar used to calculate when the Last Day will be and a commercial for what heaven will be like. The truth is that much of this last book of the Bible is a slide show of the attacks by Satan, the sinful world, our sinful nature – attacks happening right here, right now – against us, and of the victory by Jesus over them for us who hold to Him. But Revelation Chapters 21 and 22 do show the forever future we’ll have in heaven. In these two chapters, God had a holy angel take Revelation’s writer, John, on a tour of the blessed abode for the blessed forever.

    And as you read what the Holy Spirit showed John and had John write here, you can’t help thinking back to Eden, God’s garden in which He placed our first parents. God had four rivers water Eden. Here we see “the river of the water of life, which was as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb” (v. 1). God placed the Tree of Life in Eden. Heaven is shown having “a tree of life” so huge it was both “in the middle of the city’s street and on each side of the river” (v. 2). That seems horticulturally and physically impossible. But this is a picture of heaven, the forever abode of God and for the saints triumphant. God invited Adam and Eve to eat fruit from all but one of Eden’s trees. Heaven’s tree of life “yielded twelve kinds of fruit…fruit every month, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations” (v. 2), all people.

    The details here are hard to grasp, but the overall picture isn’t. God created people to live in total joy, perfect peace, unending happiness, talking face-to-face with Him – a literal heaven on earth! That was Eden. But all that was ruined when Adam and Eve desired the devil’s lies over the Lord’s love. The results? Difficult life and daily trouble. Sorrow and sickness here, then death. Man lost the paradise God had made for all people. And it would have remained lost forever had God not sent His Son. The very night Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to send Jesus to sacrifice Himself to reconcile sinners with the holy God, and thus to forgive every single sin of every single sinner.

    Because Christ came, His Word can close the way it opened. Do you see it? The picture of a beautiful park as the forever home for the saints triumphant! For saints triumphant, life will never end right where it all began. That’s not a garden on earth, of course, but God’s new garden for His faithful people. So much of this life is unpleasant, awful, sad, sinful. “Look,” our Lord says, “at what is coming! I have life for you with Me in a place so pleasant, so beautiful, so holy, so perfect you can hardly imagine it! But it is real! And it really will be your home forever. Hold on to Me! I am the only Way to get there!”
    We’ve heard a lot lately about quid pro quo, something for something. Many see life with God that same way, I’ll give God obedience, then God gives me heaven. That’s not the way it works with God. Between Genesis 2 and Revelation 22 God warns, “Sinners can’t make a deal with Me. I must give them what they need to be Mine forever!” For saints triumphant, it will never end right where it all began – without sin’s curse.

    One last time on the last page of His Word God tell us how serious sin is. All who sin are under a “curse” (v. 3a). Sin isn’t a tiny smudge on a clean sheet of paper, a smudge gone after two seconds with an eraser. Sin brings a “curse”. Sin isn’t an error in judgment that I will try to avoid in the same situation next time, so now everything with God is okay. Sin results in a “curse”. Sin isn’t a different way to live, and therefore is no big deal. Sin angers God and places a ten-ton “curse” on us.

    Alarmist rhetoric from a preacher? No! Sin banished Adam and Eve from God’s presence. Paradise was lost! What was that but the “curse”?! Sin is always dangerous. Sin is always serious with God, which makes it personal for us. Sin affects our relationship with the mighty God. See sin for what it really is! Because it separates us from the Lord, sin carries the “curse”!

    But for saints triumphant, it will never end right where it all began: “There will no longer be any curse.” What happened? The curse didn’t melt like last week’s snow. It was removed at once when the Son of God, the promised Savior, took our curse on His holy soul. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. As it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). In Jesus, all the consequences of sin will be gone in the perfect Paradise He prepares for us. No sorrow or sadness. No pain or pressure. No trouble or toil. No death or damnation. Again, just like it all began, so it will never end for the saints triumphant!

    When we think we can’t take any more, when we wonder why the Lord lets things get so (seemingly) out of control, when we suppose life is unbearable, the Lord uses His Word to tell us what awaits the saints triumphant, awaits all who depart this life trusting His work at the cursed cross to rescue the world. “Hold to Me in faith! Sin and its curse will be no longer!”
    The greatest part of Paradise is not being with loved ones who have left or will leave this life like we will – trusting Christ alone for forgiveness, life as His child, and heaven. Oh, it will be wonderful to be with them. But what the Lord of heaven says throughout His Word He repeats resoundingly in this last chapter of His Word. The greatest part of Paradise is that for the saints triumphant it will never end right where it all began – that’s not at our loved ones’ sides, but before God’s face.

    Ever since Adam and Eve believers have asked it: What will we do in heaven forever? One of God’s answers is right here. “His servants will worship Him” (v. 3b). Do you hear your sinful nature? Boring! Who wants that!

    The root meaning of “worship” is serve. Sin has made serving something unpleasant. We chafe at doing menial tasks for others; we’d rather have them waiting on us! But in heaven the saints triumphant “worship Him”, serve God willingly, joyfully, eternally. We don’t know exactly what that service will be. But because it is service mentioned in connection with “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (v. 3b), Jesus, it will include this unbelievably wonderful activity: we “will reign with” (v. 5) God! Does that sound tedious? Did Adam and Eve find life in Eden boring? They didn’t chafe at, but found joy in doing what God asked them to do. And, until they sinned and tried to hide from God, they delighted to be face-to-face with God.

    For saints triumphant, it will never end right where it all began. “They will see His face. His name will be on their foreheads” (v. 4). Seeing God face-to-face and wearing His name are the same. Sin prevents us from looking at God. But the bodies of those who die in faith will rise on the Last Day in holiness to wear their Savior’s name. “There will no longer be any night or any need for lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will shine on them” (v. 5). The sun – s-u-n – won’t be there. God’s glory fills all heaven with all the light our risen bodies will need. There’s no time in heaven, so there’s no need to use the sun to mark days and months, seasons and years.

    And don’t the last words here remind us of the blessing God used Aaron to give the children of Israel, that God still gives us as we close “worship”? “The LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious unto you!” No longer will we look away from the glory of God! We will be before Him and see His face – not be off to the side talking to loved ones – every moment!

    There is much in this life we hate to see: prejudice and abuse, homeless and loveless people, cancer and crashes. But we know those sorrows won’t last. For the saints triumphant, it will never end right where it all began: before the face of God and in His perfect presence where nothing will dim our joy!

    It’s our custom to mention on Saints Triumphant Sunday those who are no longer our members because they have become saints triumphant since last year’s Saints Triumphant Sunday. Your loved ones, our dear friends, who have been granted by God that status in the past fifty-two weeks include Karen Groop, Rex Hannewald, and Linda Janecke. Many of us have other loved ones and friends who weren’t members of our congregation, but who have also become saints triumphant in the past year. Saints triumphant depart this life trusting in the only Savior, Jesus, and His work for us sinners, for all sinners.

    The mention of their names and the memory of their time among us make us sad for ourselves. We miss them! But we’re not sad for them. They aren’t missing anything! They have the blessed best! We thank God for the victory He’s granted them in Christ. We ask God to sustain us in our sorrow on earth, to help us in our troubles each day, to keep us in our God-given faith that trusts Him alone. We ask God to do that until we – like they – are given the life that will never end right where it all began: with Him in holiness “forever and ever”. Amen.                                                                                                       Pastor David A. Voss