Monday, August 13, 2012

Sermon - Farewell - Revelation 7:9-14

Pentecost 11
Farewell Sermon
Revelation 7:9-14
Dear Christian friends, since today is my final sermon as pastor here at Grace, I wanted to share some concluding thoughts as my ministry here comes to a close, and I begin a new phase of service to the Lord.

We've been through a lot together. I began here as a young pastor 13 years ago. When I came, as you recall, my wife Brenda was very ill, and Grace was extremely supportive as she was hospitalized, and as she returned to health. You rejoiced with us as we welcomed our three daughters into the world, and into God's kingdom through Holy Baptism.

I've baptized your children, presided at your weddings and the funerals of your loved ones. I've visited you in the hospital, and kept you in countless prayers, both in the struggles and joys of your lives.

As I've been a part of your lives, you have been a part of mine. You've seen me through some of my best and worst moments, in the hard times and the good. You've suffered through my worst sermons, and there have surely been some clunkers. You've supported me and my ministry in your midst faithfully, and I thank you.

Special thanks to Pastor Poppe, a faithful servant of Christ, in whose capable care you will continue to receive healthy doses of Jesus Christ. It's been a pleasure to serve alongside you, pastor, and I wish you the best as well.

But now it is time for me to depart from you, officially. As I serve God in a very different context, I will draw on the experiences I've gained here, and I am sure I will continue to grow. I hope above all that you consider my new calling less a matter of losing a pastor, but more like you are sending a missionary. As a new congregation is established in a new country, Grace Lutheran, Racine, will have played a huge part in it, as I will carry you all in my heart even there.

I thought of using some scriptural farewell sermon as our text today – Moses' farewell address, St. Paul's concluding remarks, or even words of Jesus saying his goodbyes. But I am not Moses or St. Paul, and I am certainly not Jesus Christ.

Instead I thought I would call your attention to one of my favorite passages of Scripture, one that has been a comfort to me as I have served here, and along with you these 13 years. It's a text I've often preached at funerals, but it also seems fitting for today. From Revelation 7:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
(Revelation 7:9-14 ESV)

As I think back on the great multitude of people I've met and shared life with here at Grace Lutheran Church, Racine, I will remember you. And there are certain things I can say about you all.

One, you are sinners. Like me, you struggle through life with your own self-inflicted guilt and shame, bearing the burdens of suffering and sorrow that life in this broken world brings. You're not perfect people, as there is no such thing this side of heaven. And I don't expect to find perfect people where I am going.

You are sinners, but you are my kind of sinners. You are people who live repentant in your baptism, gathering here each week to receive God's Word of forgiveness, and the life-giving body and blood of Christ. You are redeemed sinners, people of the multitude pictured here in Revelation. You are among those who have washed your robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.

We live in the great tribulation, trying times for God's people. We've been through many struggles together – personal, and as a congregation. Life in this world is hard. Tears flow. Even Jesus wept. We grieve over our sins, and over the effects of sin – diseases, troubles, even death. In so many ways we are all the same... stumbling through from one crisis to another, looking for help wherever we can find it. We bear each others burdens, but that isn't enough.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, that he gives you all good things. God sends his Son to your rescue. The Father and the Son send the Spirit to help you, comfort you, and keep you, even through the valley of the shadow of death. So fear no evil.

You are baptized. You are washed in the holy waters of his promise. You live by a daily drowning of the Old Adam, and a daily arising of the New Man. You are sealed in those waters for eternity with a promise that keeps you ever fresh and clean. A multitude of white-robed palm-branch waving, victorious people, pure and righteous and holy in Christ along.

You are beggars, as am I, who live only by the generous hand of God. He who fed the 5000 with bread and fish feeds the multitude clad in white with his own body and blood. As you gather each week at this rail and receive what is far more precious than gold or silver, know that we remain in that one holy communion of all the saints. We are one body, one holy Christian church, united in Christ alone.

And as I go forth to preach in a new land, pray with me that many more will hear of Christ crucified for sinners, and join that great multitude washed in the blood of the Lamb. For the message will be the same – Law and Gospel, Sin and Grace. Jesus Christ, who died for you and me. Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns, for you. Jesus Christ, our righteousness, our sure defense, our only hope.

And may they, too, hear and believe and join us at the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom that has no end. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

1 comment:

Joy Tschawuschian said...

This, I stumbled on while searching for the chapter and verse of the
last sermon of Moses. You reference to the book of Revelation is interesting. Your message is inspiring. Yes, we shall all meet
someday. How wonderful to see those
patriarchs of old. What a day that
will be when the Savior we shall see.
God bless you in your new endeavor.
Joy T. of Corrales, NM.