“Look to the Cross” Reformation Sunday/23rd Sunday of Pentecost 10.28.2018
I heard a story once about a boy who was wandering around the narthex of a large, old downtown church one Sunday morning and stopped and examined a large bronze plaque that was hung on the wall. “Why are all those names up there?” he asked one of the ushers. The usher replied, “Those are the names of people who died while in the service.” Curious, the boy asked the usher, “The early service or the late service?”
Today is Reformation Sunday when we remember the work of Martin Luther & the other reformers of the church, and continue to remind ourselves that reforming the church never really ceases.
While Martin Luther was a prolific writer, preacher, & speaker there are three main themes that he stressed: Faith alone; Word alone; Grace alone.
He wrote about Faith:
- “The whole being of any Christian is faith and love. Faith brings the person to God; love brings the person to people.”
- “We are saved by faith alone.”
- “Faith is a living, unshakable confidence in God’s grace.”
Concerning God’s Word he wrote:
“If we do not love God and God’s Word what difference does it make if we love anything at all?”
And about God’s Grace he wrote: “This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works in everyone, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.”
Luther also wrote & taught that all Christians have direct access to God through prayer. We don’t have to go through any person or church to access God.
Today is also known as the 23rd Sunday of Pentecost.
Pentecost is the day when God poured out the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and they were literally driven into the streets to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Every year we celebrate Pentecost and we did so back in May of this year.
And for 26 weeks following that celebration we continue to identify Sundays by Pentecost titles.
Pentecost is about power, God’s power. And the Sunday scriptural readings during the Pentecost season tend to be about the early church, or the works of the disciples, or teachings of Jesus that formed the basic teachings and foundation of our faith.
Pentecost is about the movement of the Spirit of God in, through, and around you – God’s people. Pentecost is about the power of the Holy Spirit. This power is given by God to each of us at our baptism.
Pentecost connects us with Easter not only because of its close proximity to Easter, but because it completes the Easter and Ascension story – when Jesus rose into heaven – by moving the story of Jesus out into the world.
This is significant.
- Easter is about who we are.
- Pentecost is about what we are to do. They go hand and hand.
So let me remind you on this 23nd Sunday after Pentecost, this Reformation Sunday that you are Easter People and as Easter people you need to always stay focused on the empty cross the symbol of our faith; for it is this empty cross that makes you Easter People.
The cross is about who you are, and where you are going because God is leading you individually and as a congregation. God is in charge of your lives, and God has been, and will always be in charge of this congregation.
Now as Easter People you have your Good Fridays and these GF’s happen throughout your lives and the life of this congregation. These Good Fridays include your struggles with relationships; struggles with one’s faith, with work, with health & family, just to name a few. These Good Fridays include times of loss, periods of transitions, and your many good-byes that are said throughout your lives.
Just remember, you are Easter People, and you can’t have an Easter without a Good Friday. This is our faith tradition, namely, wherever there is a Good Friday, there is an Easter. Whenever you see an empty cross remember that the cross is a reminder that there is hope, and there is joy, and that Easter always comes.
Yes, you are on a journey, as individuals and as a congregation. Change has happened; is happening; and will continue to happen. And with all the change that you will experience in your individual lives, or as a family, or the change in this congregation, the one thing that stays constant is the non-changing empty cross which reminds all of us of the reliable, never changing love that God has given to us and continues to give us through his son Jesus Christ.
You are Easter People!
Now our journey in life and faith has brought us to this point where you will no longer see me on Sunday morning. As of this coming Wednesday I am no longer your pastor.
Now at this time there are a few things I need to ask of each of you. These are the same things I asked of you in a sermon 27 months ago, and I’m sure you will remember these.
- I ask that you remain faithful in Prayer and in your Devotional Life.
- Pray for your new pastor (Pr. Sue & her husband David), for the church staff, and pray for the future mission of this congregation.
- Pray for the many ministries of this congregation and its many leaders and workers (EGH, Teen Feed, Sanctuary Arts, Share Wheel); pray for the church council, pray for the co-location joint building committee, pray for each other and pray for yourself.
- Pray for this world that peace may come between nations, and religions.
- Pray for our country. It needs it desperately
- I ask that you remain faithful in Corporate Worship.
- You need to worship regularly – not just when you “feel like it” or when it is “convenient.”
- You need to come to sing praises to God, to pray for the world, the church, and all those in need.
- You need to hear the spoken word of God’s forgiveness.
- You need to share in the “Family Meal of the Church” through the bread and wine.
- You need to welcome into God’s church the newly baptized and the guest that is amongst you.
- You need to be with other Christians.
- I ask that you remain faithful in Stewardship.
- Take care of yourself; feed your body, feed your mind, & feed your spirit. This is about being a good Steward of yourself.
- Be generous in your financial giving. In some way God has richly blessed and continues to bless each and every one of you; and it isn’t always about processions.
- Please consider increasing the weekly/monthly financial amounts that you give towards the mission & ministry of University Lutheran Church.
- As I have told you before, you should not worry about not having enough.
- Remember, you can never out-give God. God always out gives you. This is Biblical. And that is a promise that God gives and a promise God keeps.
- I would encourage you to remember University Lutheran Church in your will.
- Give of Your Time.
- Time is like gold, very precious, and there never seems to be enough time to do all that needs to be done.
- If everyone would just find one small way to serve here at University Lutheran Church, that would go a long way in assisting in its mission, and ministry.
I now want to close with some personal words: I want to thank you for your words of encouragement, your prayers, and for your willingness to step forward and do things while I was here. I want to thank you for your trust in me as your pastor.
- I also want to publicly thank Brian, Logan, Gia, Luke, & Mari for their ministries.
- I want to thank the Eucharistic ministers and others who visit and help me keep tabs on all our elderly & shut-ins.
- I want to thank the Church Council, Transition Team, Call Committee, the Co-location building committee; anyone & everyone who helped with Sunday school, the quilters, and anyone who has led a study of any kind for the adult forum – I thank you for your commitment and your ministry.
- I want to thank those persons who prepare this space for worship, and who support worship every Sunday: the altar guild, the ushers, the greeters, acolytes, the bread bakers, scripture readers, those who give a children’s message, communion assistants, the band, the offering counters, the choir, lounge/hallway safety monitors, and those who provide food for the fellowship time.
- I want to thank those who make an effort to take care of our facilities both inside and outside – namely, the Monday morning work crew, as well as others who have helped at various times.
And I want to thank the kids & youth of this congregation.
- You bring wonderful energy to this congregation.
- You are not the church of the future. You are the church now.
- And I appreciate your attempts at firm handshakes, or firm finger shakes on Sunday morning.
I want to thank them and all of you for your dedication to the ministry and mission of University Lutheran Church.
It has been a distinct privilege and honor to get to know you, and to serve with you. I am taking many, many wonderful memories with me. I am also taking the Pipe Organ, the Quilters, and the Altar Guile.
Easter People, on this 23nd Sunday of the Pentecost season, on this Reformation Sunday, as the Spirit of God continues to move in, around, and through your life and the life of this congregation, I invite you to once again to Look to the Cross & Live!
I have appreciated our ministry together. God bless you all.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, October, 2018
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 10-28-18” name of the sermon.