First Lesson: Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Responsive Reading: Psalm 25: 1-10
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13
Gospel Lesson: Luke 21: 25-36
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you a Thanksgiving story involving a Northern Minnesota family the Peterson's. The Peterson’s family probably isn’t too different from your own family. You had the uncle who drank too much at Thanksgiving dinner and made all sorts of inappropriate comments. You have the nephew who’s every step around the house threatened to knock something valuable over. The Peterson’s had their arguments about politics and their petty jealousies that they hoped wouldn’t explode. All that people didn’t say about Grandpa Peterson’s will was probably for the best.
There was one member of the Peterson family that created emotions like no one else in Bubba. Bubba was in his early 40’s with blonde hair and scruffy facial hair that stayed in relatively good shape. Bubba had a pretty wife who submitted to his every word and three very blonde daughters. Bubba was a religious man. Bubba attended a Bible college, was a Deacon at his local Evangelical Free Church and quoted the scriptures whenever he got a chance. You very well might have a family member like Bubba.
When the Peterson family got together this year: Bubba had plenty of things that he wanted to talk, I mean to preach about gay marriages, ISIS and a society that got less and less Christian with each passing year. Whenever you got Bubba going, he would always point to some world leader being the newest version of the Anti-Christ. Whenever Bubba spoke, he was convinced that all these things of which he spoke pointed to a reality that the world would soon be coming to an end. A funny thing about all of Bubba’s talking is that very little of it centers around grace, forgiveness, or salvation. Bubba’s talking all implies that if someone is a real Christian that what they better do is shape-up or ship out.
Now most people in the room would try to get Bubba to change the subject waiting for Pumpkin Pie to be served. There were a few members of the Peterson family though that hung on every word of Bubba’s preaching with great fear and trembling. The thing about Bubba, his critiques of the world, were such that people were going to listen to him.
Human nature quickly convinces itself that life is no longer worth living at any number of moments. For some, their life might be over when their spouse vanishes one morning never to return again. For others, life is over when they receive a medical diagnosis letting them know that their life will never be the same again. For others, their life might be over when their employer can no longer issue them a paycheck. For others, life’s end seems to be nearer witnessing a culture whose moral failings seem darker day by day.
People like Bubba realize that the Bible talks about the end even more then it tells about the beginning. Jesus talks about the end quite a bit within his ministry. One of the most famous speeches that Jesus gives about the end is the Parable of the Fig Tree.
“For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”-Luke 21:35-36
Jesus within this parable is seeking to remind his audience of the nature of upheaval within this world.
Let me tell you the story of Raymond and Dawn. Raymond was a terrific engineer who made a very nice living. Raymond was president of his church council and active with the local Lions’ club.
Raymond was able to retire soon after his 58th Birthday. Dawn and Raymond had made all sorts of grandiose plans to travel the world together. The future was bright till something strange started happening to Raymond, his usually sharp memory began forgetting things one after another. Raymond goes to the doctor who diagnoses him with early onset Dementia. Within a year, Raymond can’t find his way home from the store. Within two years, Dawn is unable to take care of Raymond. Within three years, Raymond is unable to recognize Dawn. Within four years, Raymond has passed. Dawn’s hope and dreams are no looking very different than years before. What this story reminds us is that even our greatest of optimisms can be crushed within a moment.
The community of faith that Jesus is addressing in our Gospel lesson for today is not unlike Christians like Bubba and Dawn. They are struggling nearly every day of their existence with the question of when Jesus will come back to make the world right and whole once again. Jesus chooses a unique image to address this problem in a “fig tree”. The significance of Jesus talking about the “fig tree” is the fig tree’s budding is a reminder that summer is around the corner. The fig tree budding is similar to the signs in the sun, moon, and stars that remind us that our God has not forgotten a broken world.
The reality is within the course of our lives that we will encounter some Bubbas. Bubba might be a family member, Bubba might be a next-door-neighbor, or Bubba might be a preacher at a funeral.
What we can say to Bubba is that there is plenty in this world in which we grieve. We see power abused every day by those who cling to it. We see no evidence of any utopia coming on the horizon. What we do cling to in this world is hope. Our hope is found that in as many terrible things as we experience in this life: wars, persecutions, earthquakes, and all sorts of nasty death. These things might seem to be the definition of hopeless events, yet within them we find hope. Our hope is found that Our Lord is present in these very moments of intense personal pain. When Jesus speaks to us today he is not seeking to predict the future, but rather he is attempting to state the truth of life as we know it.
The problem with Bubba is he only sees life in the present in all the ways that we fall short. Bubba assumes that Jesus Christ is not here yet, but will soon be returning. When in reality, Christ Jesus is present pointing us towards God’s future. Christ Jesus is in our present when we are baptized into his death within the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Christ Jesus is present when we receive his supper reminding us that our lives cannot be apart from the presence of death, but that one day this death shall give way to resurrection. Christ Jesus is present at the very moments of our greatest weakness pointing us towards the hope of his Gospel through Word and Sacrament.
One interesting thing that we should note about the Bible is one of the most common phrases within is “Do Not Be Afraid.” Jesus says these words when walking on water; Jesus says these words when encountering his disciples immediately after his resurrection. God says these words to Abram right before delivering unto him his covenant. Our God knows your fears and anxieties. Our God gives us the signs of water, wine, and wheat to remind us that the world will once again be alright.
On this day as Christian people, we begin our Advent season. What we remember is that our religion is not obsessed with everything wrong in the present. We have more important battles to fight than over Thanksgiving turkey. Our religion consists of looking towards the future. We are not a people of life than death, but rather a people of life then death then finally resurrection.
What we remember on this day is “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”- Luke 21:33.
We take confidence that the Lord’s words assure us that our mission goes way beyond trying to save the world from all the ways that it falls as Bubba imagines. Our mission is not to attempt to recreate the world in our own image. Our mission is rather to bring broken, imperfect people the love of Jesus Christ.
As we gather around Thanksgiving tables this weekend, we see that people out there are getting more and more broken every day as they see the ways that they seemingly don’t measure up. The truth is Christmas is coming soon around the corner. People that are close and dear to you are going to have bad things happen to them. What we will have to remind them is although the world has changed, it is certainly not over. Our Lord is present not only in this place but their suffering. What this presence is seeking to remind us is though which may appear to be dead shall soon be resurrected.
“Weeping may endure for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”-Psalm 30:5
 Inspired by Harrison Goodman post “Sometimes I Wanna Punch Norman Rockwell in the Mouth” . Lutheran Pastor Says Blog. 20.Nov.2014. Web. Nov.25.2015.
 This paragraph was inspired by Chad L. Bird’s “The Church of Chicken Little” . Flying Scroll: Musings and Poetry of Chad L. Bird. Nov.20.2015. Web. 23. Nov.2015.
 Luke 21:35-36
 Lose, David. “Commentary on Luke 21:25-36”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. 29.Nov.2009. Web. Nov.25.2009
 Capon, Robert Farrar. Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. Eerdman’s Publishing. Grand Rapids, MI. 2002. Pages 479-483.
 Lewis, Karoline. “Why Advent”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 22.Nov.2015. Web. Nov.23.2015
 Bird, Chad L. “The Church of Chicken Little”.
First Lesson: 2 Samuel 23: 1-7
Responsive Reading: Psalm 132: 1-12, (13-18)
Second Lesson: Revelation 1: 4b-8
Gospel Lesson: John 18: 33-37
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
This morning I wish to tell you a rags to riches story. This is a tale that isn’t your typical rags to rich tale as it’s a story of rags to riches to lion’s den back to riches once again. This morning I wish to tell you the story of Daniel and the lion’s den.
Daniel’s story begins with a king named Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar conquers the land of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are forced to spread throughout all the earth. A select group of men from the Jewish people was chosen to live in Babylon: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You might know Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from fiery furnace fame. These Jewish nobles journeyed to receive an education in Babylon. The transition to life in Babylon was hard as these men were devout Jews in their observances of the faith. They refused to eat any food that wasn’t kosher leading to initial conflict with their king. Things would soon turn around for Daniel.
Daniel served in King Nebuchadnezzar's court. Nebuchadnezzar though was having a problem. Nebuchadnezzar was having all these dreams that he couldn’t make sense. Nebuchadnezzar's dream had four kingdoms after his kingdom falling before God’s kingdom endures forever. Daniel’s ability to interpret dreams was such that even Nebuchadnezzar begins to worship Daniel’s God. Nebuchadnezzar soon dies. Nebuchadnezzar’s son though did not follow in his way. The Babylonian Kingdom soon fell just as Daniel predicted. Daniel was now under the rule of the Persian King Darius the Mede.
The thing to know about Darius the Mede is that he wasn’t an evil king. Darius liked Daniel quite a bit! Darius elevated Daniel to high office within his kingdom. Darius wanted to put Daniel in charge of all the administration for his kingdom. Daniel’s story of interpreting dreams and rising to second in command to the most powerful man in the world mirrors Joseph’s in many ways.
Daniel’s story though was not going to be smooth or easy. Darius’ fellow officials got jealous of Daniel. They couldn’t believe that Darius would appoint a “Jew” to such a high office. Daniel’s co-workers resented him because he had an attitude or spirit that they did not possess.
Darius’ officials and Daniel’s enemies begin to hatch a plan. At first they try to find signs of Daniel being dishonest or corrupt. Daniel was a political figure though on whom they could find no dirt. Daniel’s enemies finally discovered what they thought was a weakness within him. Daniel was like really, really religious. Daniel would pray towards Jerusalem three times a day. Daniel prayed three times a day without exception; it didn’t matter what else Daniel had going on in his life. Daniel’s enemies decide to trick Darius the King into issuing an edict that any member of Darius’ kingdom could not pray to a foreign God for thirty days. Daniel’s enemies knew that he would not compromise his faith under any circumstances. Daniel is shortly after that caught violating the king’s edict, so Daniel is sentenced to go to the lion’s den. King Darius didn’t want to send Daniel to the lion’s den you see. Darius had to do for if he violated the laws of the Persians then he would lose authority over his people.
Darius thought Daniel was a goner in the lion’s den. Daniel’s enemies thought he was a goner in the lion’s den. Daniel, however, was calm as he could be. Darius was struck by how calm Daniel was through the whole ordeal. Right before Daniel entered the lion’s den, Darius cried out “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you.” The king’s men escort Daniel into the lion’s den. The king’s men place a giant stone before the door. Darius then left Daniel for the night. Daniel had no means for escape; Daniel merely had to rely on his faith that God might deliver him.
Darius the King couldn’t sleep all night long because of his worries about Daniel. Imagine a friend or loved one of yours in surgery where the outcome is uncertain. These were the emotions felt by Darius on this night. Darius’ reaction says something important that even as Darius was the most powerful man in the world that he lived. There were limits to Darius’ power!
Finally, the morning comes; Darius travels down to the lion’s den. Darius fully expects to find Daniel eaten up by lions when he arrives. Darius shouts out “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
What Darius heard next stunned him, Darius heard Daniel’s voice “O king, live forever!” An outcome that Darius previously could not imagine had become reality.
You see as soon as Daniel entered the lion’s den an angel of the Lord also arrived. The angel shut the lion’s mouth so that the lion would not harm Daniel.
Darius is joyous that Daniel was alright. Darius released Daniel from the lion’s den. Darius then cast Daniel’s enemies into the lion’s den. The story ends with Darius declaring that all his royal people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
Now that you know Daniel’s story how should we interpret it? Daniel’s story is a tale of God’s presence in the face of the end. Daniel’s story seeks to reinforce how God can rescue us from the most seemingly insurmountable of situations even death itself.
Daniel’s story is a story of power within this world. King Darius could have anything he wanted at the snap of his fingers. King Darius’ power though had his limits. Darius had to send his best administrator to the lion’s den against his wishes for fear of a popular uprising. Darius was forced to wait for Daniel's fate nervously throughout the night. The most powerful man in the world had to pace his bedroom like a son awaiting word on the verdict of his father’s surgery. Darius himself needed a higher power. Darius knew that as mighty as he was that even his kingdom could one day fall.
Daniel’s story heavily influenced Christians in the first century as they received the long awaited Messiah. These Christians had seen mighty kingdoms from Babylon to Persia to Greece and eventually Rome fall before their very eyes. Daniel’s vision had become a reality. One day, God’s Son will rule over all the Earth.
Why was Daniel so calm and willing to die? Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.” There was not one place that Daniel was afraid to go in life because of his faith.
Daniel believed that even if he went forth to his death, his God would deliver him on the other side. Even though none of us will probably be thrown into a lion’s den like Daniel, this doesn’t mean there is not plenty to learn from his story.
What Daniel’s story reminds us is that we will always face moments of uncertainty and moments of terror in their eventual outcome. We pray on this day for the future of this community that we love as we reflect upon the idle at North Shore Mining. We pray for those who don’t know their economic futures on this day. We have no doubts that there will be some scary nights ahead just as the night in the lion’s den was for Darius and Daniel. What we should be assured of is that our God does not stand idly by in the time of our fear. Our God can rescue us at the times when rescue seems hopeless. God’s response to our hopelessness is what we call grace!
Apple Founder Steve Jobs once stated, “Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
Some of the most powerful words that Jesus speaks within the Christian scriptures are in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation when he declares “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”-Revelation 22:13.
Jesus is reminding us that no matter what forces out there are threatening to destroy your faith and your soul on this day they shall not ultimately win out.
“My Kingdom is not from this world,” says Jesus. As we celebrate this Christ the King Sunday, we remember how different God’s kingdom is from our own. Our kingdoms shall fall! Our rulers shall tremble! Our God will still deliver people even from the mouths of lions! Amen
 Daniel 3
 Daniel 6:3
 Daniel 6:3
 Daniel 6:4
 Daniel 6:10
 Daniel 6:5
 Daniel 6:14
 Markquart. Ed. “Books of the Bible: Old Testament Daniel”. Sermons from Seattle. Web.
 Daniel 6:17
 Daniel 6:20
 Daniel 6:21
 Daniel 6:22
 Daniel 6:25
 Dr. King said this in a speech in Detroit in 1963.
 The following was said by Jobs during his Stanford Commencement Address on June 12th, 2015.
 John 18:36
First Lesson: Daniel 12: 1-3
Responsive Reading: Psalm 6
Second Lesson: Hebrews 10: 11-14, (15-18), 19-25
Gospel Lesson: Mark 13: 1-8
“And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”- Mark 13:1-2
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Disaster had struck! Giant stones laid everywhere! The disaster was their 9-11. The following was their Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The emotions that people felt were similar to the emotions felt by those in Paris in the last few days as they witnessed unbelievable terror. The reactions onlookers felt were the same as you would feel watching the only church that you had ever known burn to the ground. The temple was destroyed. The center of a nation’s worship life lies in ruin. The temple collapsing was the day from which there would be no recovery. The Romans had reoccupied holy ground. Christian persecution was going to run rampant once again. The temple collapsing was the worst possible of all outcomes.
This event known as “The Siege of Jerusalem” took place in 70 AD about forty years after Jesus’ death. We might not know the history of Jerusalem’s siege, but we know its story. Think of the moment of your life that you dread again and again. The moment to think of is probably the time of total upheaval in one’s life.
For people in this congregation, it might be the day of the plant closing. I remember Gary recalling one day to me how Courtney and he drove around the time of the plant closing just counting “for sale” signs hanging on the outside of houses. Reserve Mining closing would be the day of upheaval from which there was no easy recovery.
My Grandma will always recall to me the moment that she found out her husband had died in a boat. Grandma’s life would never be the same from that day forward. Grandma has told me time and time again how many days she had spent wishing for a different outcome.
The other Saturday, I’m driving to Bemidji for the State 9-Man. I’m between Cherry and Hibbing when I receive a call from Julie Koepp saying that her father Harold had been diagnosed with cancer. This cancer had no treatment as it had spread to the kidneys, lungs, and liver. These moments are the moments that we dread as human beings.
There is something very noteworthy though about the “temple” falling to the ground. Jesus had predicted it happening about forty years before. You see Jesus knew what the future to his followers was going to bring: earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, and famine. Jesus knew that when he made this prediction, people were going to dismiss him as a nothing more than a doom and gloom preacher.
Jesus knew he had to make this prediction. Jesus knew what the reaction to this event was going to be panic. People were going to shout out “The End is near!” Every generation has its Jerusalem burn to the ground. As long as there has been a Christian Church its members have been convinced that they are living in the final generation.
Every group of people experiences the nastiness of violence. Every human being experiences pain that seems to be unbearable. Our natural reaction to such events is to become convinced that The End is upon us.
I think we as Christian people often get Jesus’ statements about the End Times wrong. Our Gospel lesson serves as an example of this. Jesus isn’t so much seeking to give Christians a timetable for the end as even Jesus himself says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Jesus is rather seeking to get Christian people to prepare for the end by speaking to God’s response to the forces of evil that threaten to overpower them such as sin, death, and destruction. Jesus is seeking in times of turmoil to encourage steadiness in the Christian faith.
Why does the temple falling matter to your life? The answer is because we all have temples, our sources of stability and comfort that we have watched fall before our very eyes.
Let me tell you a story told by Tim Zingale, There once was a little girl no more than eight years old. This little girl’s prized possession was a little rag doll. The doll wasn’t much to look at, but this girl had made it with her own hands. This girl cared for this doll no differently than a mother would for a child. One weekend, she and her family was taking a trip out of town. The little girl wanted to bring the rag doll everywhere that she went, but her mother told her that she couldn’t as the doll was fragile and could be damaged within their travels. The girl reluctantly leaves the doll at home. Over the weekend, disaster strikes the little girl’s home. An unexpected storm hit the river valley where the girl lived. Houses all throughout the little girl’s neighborhood were flooded. The little girl saw her house and feared the worst! She ran upstairs to her room. The girl was devastated to find that the flood had washed away her little rag doll. She sobbed and she sobbed over not finding her doll.
After a few days, the girl was nearing the point of acceptance of never seeing her doll again when she wanders downtown. She looks into the window of a salvage store that had collected items from the flood debris. In this window lay the girl’s little rag doll. Twenty-five cents was on the price tag. She rushed home and scoured the house from every cent that she could find. The girl then ran back down the store as fast as she could. She put her twenty-five cents on the counter and began holding the doll like a mother reuniting with a son home from war.
What Jesus is seeking to remind his followers of in our lesson for today is the point of the story of the little girl and the rag doll that no matter how bad things seem today that God is still working towards the day when everything shall be alright once again.
Let me tell another story as told by Mickey Anders, A young woman volunteered to help tutor children in a large city hospital. This tutor was one day instructed to visit a nine-year-old boy. The tutor contacts the boy’s teacher to learn that she should work with him on nouns and adverbs. As the tutor tries to find the boy’s room, she quickly realizes that the boy is a patient in the hospital’s burn unit. The tutor’s eyes are jarred upon seeing such a young boy severely burned and in great pain. She would have left the room if she could, but she knew that boy needed her, so she gathered courage.
The tutor introduces herself and proceeds to give the most awkward lesson that she could ever imagine on nouns and adverbs.
The next morning one of the nurses from the burn unit calls the tutor up on the phone. “What did you do? The tutor is immediately distraught over all the ways that she failed the boy, she began sobbing over the phone.
The nurse interpreted to say that she didn’t understand. The nurse said the boy’s attitude did a complete 180 since the tutor’s lesson. He decided to fight back on his treatment; the boy’s attitude had turned from one of hopelessness to hope.
The boy said something very simple changed his attitude “Why would they send a tutor to work with a dying kid on nouns and adverbs.”
Jesus in our lesson today is saying that even the most seemingly impenetrable things in our lives will one day fall to the ground just like stones in these great buildings.
We as Christian people often misunderstand the End Times. We view the End Times with dread because too many people don’t get how God is working below the surface.
Jesus does predict the temple to fall. The temple does fall. Christian persecution increases. About twenty years after the Destruction of the Temple, John of Patmos writes the Book of Revelation. Revelation is a book that acknowledges that things are bad; the future does contain a significant degree of uncertainty. Yet ultimately in the end, Our God will restore the whole of his creation. Our God will restore the Garden of Eden and bring back the Tree of Life. The road to get there certainly will not be easy and Jesus is seeking to acknowledge this in his words to us today!
People will scoff upon hearing this promise. Plenty of people have gone through life disappointed by God’s lack of imminent return before. There’s something worth saying to these people on this day.
“Yet, you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”-James 4:14.
We claim control all we want over how the world should work; yet our goodness, power, and grace pales in comparison to what our God promises to pour out upon us. God will come through for us and the evidence of this is the Cross to which we cling.
So what do you say in the presence of the End Times, this brings me back to going to see Harold. So as I’m driving to Bemidji, I’m pondering what exactly do you say to Harold when you see him the next day. I then realize that all I can do is point him towards Christ’s promises given unto Harold in his holy body and blood. Remind him that his God will come through in the end. Harold had communion Sunday night. We had a good visit on Thursday evening. He was gone very early the following Monday morning.
My sense of peace for moments such as these which are never easy is the belief of all that the Resurrection reminds us that the world needs to end to bring us back to the beginning. You can’t have Resurrection without Death. You can’t have Hope without Despair. You can’t have Grace without Sin.
As we leave this place this morning, we remember that the world is fragile that this much is certainly true. The reason that we obsess about the End Times is we possess nothing beyond faith in God’s promises. Our faith will indeed shake in the presence of our temple falling moments. Jesus is telling us today that this is ok. Jesus’ promises shall still stand. We draw comfort on this day in the promises that we are about to receive this is Christ’s body and blood given and shed for you. We draw hope and comfort that just as times seemed darkest on the Good Friday of our lives, our God promises that this darkness shall not remain and we shall soon see the morning dawn. Amen
 Mark 13:7-8
 Mark 13:33
 Zingale, Tim. “The High Priest”. Yahoo Group: Pastor Tim Zingale’s Sermons. 13. Nov.2006. Web. Nov.10.2015
 Anders, Mickey. “Everything Nailed Down is Coming Loose!”. Lectionary.org. 2000. Web. Nov.10.2015
 Revelation 22:2
First Lesson: Ruth 3: 1-5; 4: 13-17
Responsive Reading: Psalm 127
Second Lesson: Hebrews 9: 24-28
Gospel Lesson: Mark 12: 38-44
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you the story of a woman not unlike a woman that many of you might know. This woman’s name is Naomi. Naomi’s life for most of it seemed to be going along good but not great. Her husband was a farmer who made a decent existence. She had a couple of sons. Naomi’s life was about to take a turn for the worst. Naomi’s life was about to face one disaster after another.
Disaster 1- Famine strikes the land where Naomi lived. Naomi’s life quickly went from the stable to the unstable. Naomi’s whole family was going to be forced to move to the land of Moab. No one would have lived in Moab by choice. Moab was a violent and dangerous place. The people of Moab didn’t just sacrifice individual human beings; they sacrificed entire villages to appease their Gods. Moab was a strange land filled with people unlike Naomi in any way, yet Naomi’s life would now be in Moab.
Disaster 2- Naomi’s husband dies. Ten years later then Naomi’s first son dies. A few years after that Naomi’s other son dies. Naomi was now as poor as any woman could be. Naomi had no income, no social security, no pension, no immediate family, nor any means of support. The only people that Naomi really even knew in Moab were her daughters in law Ruth and Orpah.
Naomi could have easily been the little old lady left to die alone with hardly anyone noticing. Naomi decides that Moab is no longer for her. Naomi hears that the famine is over in Judea. Naomi hopes to travel back to her homeland hoping to get some support from distant blood relatives. Naomi might get charity at home, but never in Moab.
Naomi’s Daughters in Law begin to travel with her out of Moab. Naomi stops them. Naomi wishes for them to remain in Moab living their own lives. They were young and they didn’t need to be surrounded by an old anchor like Naomi. They would never find men to marry in Naomi’s land. The cultures were just too different. One daughter in law Orpah returns home at Naomi’s pleading. The other daughter in law was a stubborn woman named Ruth. Ruth refused to leave Naomi’s presence.
I said earlier that we all know women like Naomi. Women that figure that time has passed them by. Women that think that they are just running out the clock on life. Women that figure they’re better off being alone. Women that assume that they have nothing else left to give. Who you probably haven’t met is a woman like Ruth. Many of us have heard horror stories involving someone else’s mother in law. There is no less steady relationship than the one between mother in law and daughter in law, yet Ruth would not leave Naomi’s side.
Ruth begged Naomi not to leave her “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”.” The promise Ruth of loyalty made to Naomi would have seemed like the promise of a crazy woman!
Naomi probably thought Ruth to be a foolish woman wasting her life on her decrepit, mother in law. Ruth was a young widow who could land a nice husband and enjoy a comfortable life in her homeland. No other widow it seemed would display such loyalty to their mother in law in the last years of her life. Ruth’s promise to Naomi though would not waver.
So even though Naomi had Ruth by her side, Naomi returned home a bitter woman. When her relatives and former friends saw her, they did not recognize her because she had aged so poorly. She no longer wished to be called Naomi which means “pleasant,” she wanted instead to be called Mara which means “bitter.”
Naomi was truly a bitter, old woman. Naomi was at the point in her life where she figured that she had nothing more to give. Naomi believed that God had indeed abandoned her to die.
The thing about Naomi is that she had legitimate reasons to be unhappy about the direction of her life. People will empathize with Naomi because everyone on some level probably had legitimate reasons to be unhappy with their lives. Naomi’s story speaks to all sorts of widows out there.
Here was Ruth vowing to stay with her mother in law, who seemingly had previously shooed her away like a stray dog. Ruth now worked in the fields day and night hoping to support her and Naomi. Ruth wasn’t going to make much doing this, but something is better than nothing.
Ruth’s work ethic though one day gets her noticed by a man named Boaz. Boaz was a few years older than Ruth. But the thing to know about Boaz is that he was one of the most eligible bachelors in all the land. Boaz had a good reputation; he owned the fields where Ruth worked, and people knew Boaz for his kindness. As Boaz saw Ruth work away in the fields he wondered “What’s her deal?” Boaz began asking around when he heard about her loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi. Boaz became intrigued by Ruth. Boaz first offers Ruth water to drink. Boaz then gave Ruth the gift of extra barley to take home to Naomi.
Ruth goes home to Naomi talking about what a nice man that Boaz was. Naomi after earlier in the story figuring that she served no purpose now had her purpose come to the surface.
Naomi was going to help Ruth with a matchmaking plan. The thing to know about the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz is that it takes place during the Harvest. Boaz was going to be spending days and nights during the harvest at the threshing floor. Boaz was even going to sleep at the threshing floor. Naomi instructs Ruth to sneak into the threshing floor to lie at Boaz’s feet. Ruth’s moves were the definition of aggressive. Ruth was the aggressor in the relationship with Boaz at Naomi’s wishes. Ruth is saying to Boaz “marry me” in as forceful of terms as possible. Thankfully, Boaz felt the same way about Ruth. Boaz knew that Ruth might not have been his type being a woman from the land of Moab, yet Boaz is smitten with a woman so hard-working and loyal to her mother- in- law.
The story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz ends happily. Ruth and Boaz marry. Ruth and Boaz have a son named Obed. Whereas Obed might not be a famous name, Obed had a little more famous son named Jesse. Even if you don’t know Jesse’s name, you might know his son’s name. Jesse had a son who would be the greatest king that the land would ever know in David. David united the people like never before. The greatness of Naomi’s family tree though was just beginning. Centuries later, another descendant of Naomi’s would be born in the same town of Bethlehem to which she returned. This descendants name would be Jesus. The story of Naomi had indeed come full circle.
You see the story begins with Naomi thinking that she was told old to offer anything of value. Naomi had given up. In her descendant, Jesus he would encounter a lot of the same types of people: lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners and others on the margins of society. Jesus promised to be faithful unto people like these, regardless of whether the believed it to be possible. Whereas Naomi thought she had been abandoned, Ruth promised to be faithful unto her in both life and death. This is the same type of promise that her descendant Jesus gives unto us, today. Naomi’s story will play out like many of all our stories.
How does the story of Naomi relate to our lives? We all know someone like Naomi. We might even think of ourselves like Naomi. We wonder what the closing chapters of life’s story might have for us as a people? As long as God has us in this place, we have something to give.
Now matter how old a person might be the words of Jeremiah ring true “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
The story of Ruth and Naomi might appear to be a story of God and suffering and how things will work out in the end. That’s not Ruth and Naomi’s story though that story rather belongs to Job. The story of Ruth and Naomi is ultimately a story of the value that God places upon our elders. Ruth saw in Naomi what she could no longer see in herself. Ruth saw wisdom and understanding brought about by a life that no one would desire to live. Ruth saw God’s purpose in Naomi’s life at a point where Naomi had given up. Naomi and Ruth’s actions impacted those around them long after either of them were around to witness them. So the point is don’t give up on the days that you have left. Our actions today can influence thousands of years from now.
Why are you here today? I can not give the answer to this question. Perhaps you’re here to teach the Christian faith to a grandchild or a friend either in good times or suffering. God might even have you around to play matchmaker.
God has a plan and purpose for your life even if you might be like Naomi thinking that time has gone past you. Above all else the story reminds us that our God will come through in the end for his people. The following is the Biblical story of Naomi and Ruth as told in the Book of Ruth. Amen
 Ruth 1:17-18
 Ruth 2:1-18
 Hoffracker, Reverend Charles. “Naomi, Ruth, Boaz and You.” Lectionary.org. 2006. Web. Nov.2.2015.
Hoffracker is citing from Eugene H. Peterson, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids. MI. 1980. p.102
 Ruth 2:19-23
 Ruth 3:1-5
 Ruth 4:17
 Gerhardy, Vince. “A Love Story”. Lectionary.org. 2006. Web. Nov.2.2015
 Jeremiah 29:11
 Markquart, Ed. “Ruth: Old Testament Series: Ruth 4:13-17”. Sermons From Seattle.com. Web. Nov.3.2015.
First Lesson: Isaiah 25: 6-9
Responsive Reading: Psalm 24
Second Lesson: Revelation 21: 1-6a
Gospel Lesson: John 11: 32-44
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Last Friday, I was down in Esko helping Jeff Asmussen call the Silver Bay-Floodwood section championship game on the radio. For four quarters, it was a back and forth affair. Now there were forty seconds left in the game. The play was 4th and less than one yard. Floodwood was fifteen yards from the end zone and going to state. The game was the definition of a nail-biter. In true Silver Bay fashion, Carter Leblanc burst through the Floodwood line makes the tackle, officials measure, and the Mariners are going to win the game! Ozzie and I start high-fiving and probably display a questionable level of appropriateness for radio. I then remember that our videographer was all alone on top of the press box taping the game all by his Mariner lonesome. So I leave the booth to give him a high-five. The emotions of the “victory” were such that he’s crying out “tears of joy”. These tears were for his friends and how much excitement this event was going to bring to the school and people in the community.
Silver Bay going to State in football was unexpected, last year the Mariners were 3-6. Cromwell was considered to be the unbeatable power in the section. Here people were celebrating a reality that could have only been reality months before in one’s dreams explaining the tears.
Let me tell another story, shortly after leaving home for college, my sister Anne was having a 16th Birthday party. I knew that Anne’s birthday was going to be a really big deal in her life, so I would make the four hour drive home from Moorhead for it. Anne was so surprised that I would go out of my way for her; she burst into tears as I came walking into the door. Anne’s emotions were a byproduct of regardless of someone being absent in a given moment, they were promising to come through for you in the end.
Today, we gather as a Christian people to reflect on death: we remember seven saints of Sychar that have gone before us in the past year. Today’s lesson comes to us from Revelation 21. Let me tell you a little bit about this chapter of the Bible.
Revelation was written to people who stared at death every moment. Revelation was written by John the Apostle as he was exiled on the Greek Isle of Patmos for his faith. John writes Revelation to seven churches in modern-day Turkey who had seen their friends, families and neighbors suffer and die for the Christian faith. These people had shed all sorts of tears over their powerlessness to control the present, so John seeks to lay out a vision for the future.
This vision according to John will only be fulfilled after years of hardship, but this vision will ultimately result in a “new heaven” and “new earth”. Our passage today lays out a vision of a fallen creation being done away with, for a new creation to emerge.
Where many Christian people misunderstand, salvation is in its meaning. Revelation doesn’t describe salvation as merely coming down to individual people. Revelation 21 when all of creation will be redeemed, once sin and death finally leave the world behind for good.
The new creation or “New Eden” signifies the defeat of all who oppose God’s purposes. The promise of the new creation is that there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, or no more pain for the former things of this world have passed away.
This week in Confirmation, we were having a discussion about scary things from the Bible in honor of Halloween. We discussed things like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the number “666”, and Armageddon. Scary concepts like these are how people often think about the end times when the end times are rather defined by the Scriptures differently. The Scriptures portray the end times not in terms of fear but rather in terms of promise.
I think of the famous funeral words from 1st Corinthians 15 “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
As we gather today, we do grieve. We grieve those that have left us in the past year. We grieve that our lives shall never look the same ever again. But we remember that the tears that we shed are not permanent. On this day, we eagerly await our Resurrection, a day when every tear is wiped from our eye forever.
We celebrate that those who have gone before us are recipients of a promise that is proclaimed in our lesson “Behold, I am making all things new. Write this down, for these things are trustworthy and true.”
Today we remember those who have gone before us as we look towards this powerful vision of the future on All Saints Sunday. Let me say a few words about each of our departed saints.
Bertha Savonen: When I think about Bertha, I will always think about Bertha and Toivo. I remember the visits over on Garden Drive where Bertha, as you can imagine, would do nearly all the talking. Toivo sat in his chair with a twinkle in his eye hearing Bertha once again tell the tale of going sky-diving on her 80th Birthday. Once Toivo died two summers ago suddenly, not a visit went by where Bertha didn’t mention her longing to reunite with Toivo. Bertha also loved being a part of Sychar’s Mission Circle. On Bertha’s fridge hung a picture of Bertha, Esther, and Lorraine when they came down to visit her. Bertha cared deeply about the people of this church. What I will always remember about Bertha is when planning the funeral with Darlene her daughter, Bertha’s one wish for her service was that they have Zup’s cater it because Bertha knew how hard it was for the church women to serve in the kitchen. Bertha wanted to show her appreciation to them.
Lois Kind: Bob’s favorite story to tell about Lois was about the time when he was a highway patrolman and he pulled Lois over down by Gooseberry Falls and she never let him hear the end of it. It was difficult for Lois being married to a cop because she was such a worry-wort whenever Bob went out on call. For Lois’ compassion was such that she would pray for the deer outside once she thought it was getting too cold. Lois’ daughter Gail drove up from the cities nearly every weekend for the last several months of Lois’ life. Gail and Bob sat by her dying bedside for weeks and weeks. Gail told me that the reason she did this was because Lois would have done the same for anyone. In Lois’s last days she kept repeating the same phrase over and over again continually citing from the 23rd Psalm how “She shall dwell in the house of the Lord” after passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Mabel Jacobson: Mabel was a charter member of Sychar. We will remember her and Leroy for the many years that they ran Jacobson’s hardware in town. Mabel was a proud Norwegian and Saint Olaf grad”. This week, I talked to Mabel’s close friend Dorothy Ives about what she remembered about Mabel to which Dorothy recalled what a “true friend” that she was. How Mabel was so easy to have a conversation with about nearly any subject. Whenever I would go see Mabel what I will remember is what an interest she took in asking me about all areas of my life, but always giving the freedom to not have to give an answer.
Lorraine Hendrickson: Lorraine was a woman of “great faith”. Once Lorraine was unable to read from her Bible, she would listen to her Bible again and again on CD. When I went to see Lorraine, she would always have a particular part of the Bible to which she wanted to listen, and she nearly always had a question about the Christian Faith that she wanted me to give an answer. Lorraine was a formalist as she would not call me “Pastor Stew” for her it was always going to be “Pastor Carlson” no matter how I introduced myself.
My favorite Lorraine story is this. Lorraine was 92 years ago; she had fallen and ended up in the hospital in Two Harbors. When I entered Lorraine’s room, I had to announce who I was. I notice Lorraine had a picture that I didn’t recognize by her bed. I ask, “Who is this?” It turns out that Lorraine had met a 90-year-old boyfriend at the assisted living in Two Harbors. I have never seen such a happy hospitalized woman in my life as she starts telling me all about him while beaming. Lorraine’s boyfriend had even come to the hospital to see her as she recovered from the fall. So let Lorraine serve as an example that you’re never too late to have someone special to come into your life.
Arnold Overby: The one thing that I will say about Arnie is that he truly lived out his convictions regardless of what people thought of them. We will remember Arnie as a long-time history/ geography teacher and passionate environmentalist. One of Arnie’s former students recalled getting into trouble during his class and being forced to sit by herself in the back. She was then compelled to run the film projector and pay attention. This student today now works for the Minnesota Historical Society because of Arnie. We will remember Arnie for his love of Polka music and inline-skating. Arnie was a faithful member of the Thrivent Board for a number of years. Arnie and his wife Marlene were responsible for the Adopt a Highway stretch that Sychar has maintained since the mid 1980’s in the Split Rock area.
Darrell Carter: We will remember the humorous Darrell Carter as part of vaudeville act of the last thirteen years of his life “Darrell and Carol.” Holy Hilarity Sunday was one of their favorites of the church year. Darrell was arguably the best dancer at Sychar as we got to witness Carol and him dancing up a storm during Rally Sunday 2013. What I will remember about Darrell is that when he would go through the receiving line at church, I would always ask him “If he was staying out of trouble?” Darrell never answered the question but would instead flash his mischievous smile at me.
Kent Shamblin: Kent admitted that in the later years of his life Marion would get on his case about being a “grouch” to which Kent replied he just choose to be selective about his commitments. I had spent quite a bit of time visiting with Kent over the last several months of his life. Yet when I read Kent’s obituary I was blown away by the depth of his civic commitments: president of two Lutheran churches including this one, president of Saint Paul Winter Carnival, numerous non-profit boards including a stint with Saint Thomas’ Center for Non-Profit Management.
Kent really cared deeply about this church. When Kent was living at the nursing home in Stillwater, he would always bring up who we could get to serve as the officers of the church. Kent was an extremely thoughtful man, who sent me some of the nicest notes of appreciation that I have received within the ministry. Kent last preached here in November of last year. The reason that people enjoyed Kent’s preaching so much is that he was very contentious about the faith that he was going to proclaim. Before Kent’s last sermon we had a very engaging email exchange over how we proclaim the Gospel as Christian people. What it all comes down to is the promises that we here on this day.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”-1 Thessalonians 4:13
The ultimate point of our lesson is that at the times when we’re unable to make sense of it all. Our God is there. Our God is there eager to wipe away our tears and promising to turn them one day into tears of joy as our eyes lay sight upon the “new heaven” and the “new earth”.
The promise that we here today is that what lies before our eyes in the grave, is not what heaven and earth shall become.
So as we leave this place on this day, we remember those who have gone before us: Bertha, Lois, Mabel, Lorraine, Arnold, Darrell, and Kent. We remember them as sinners of God’s own flock, yet saints of God’s own redeeming. We give thanks for how they impacted not only this church, but the world around them. Yet as we grieve their losses, we reflect on God’s promises that “one day all things shall be made new”-Isaiah 43:19. We shall not ascend into heaven, rather heaven will come down to us in Christ Jesus. We await the day when the savior walks into our presence and gathers us into his arms forever. Amen.
 Revelation 21:1
 Koester, Craig. Revelation and the End of All Things. Eerdmann’s Publishing. Grand Rapids. MI.2001.pages 191-192.
 Revelation 21:4
 1st Corinthians 15:51-52
 Revelation 21:5
 Psalm 23:6
 The following story comes from Jennifer Ehlen-Niemi posted on the Cavallin Funeral Home Website on June 10, 2015.