Sunday, July 26, 2015

“I Am Confident!” (Phil. 1:1-6) FAREWELL SERMON to the saints in Armour, SD

S-1509 9SAP/3B 7/26/2015 Hymns: (O) #20; (S) #464; L.S. #292; 201; #339; #43 SOD (C) #47

Texts: Isaiah 52:7-10; Philippians 1:1-6; John 10:1-10

Theme: “I Am Confident!” (Phil. 1:1-6)

Question: “What is it that gives you confidence?


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost and my farewell message is from my favorite book in the Bible, the book of JOY—Philippians. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am CONFIDENT of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6).


Beautiful and Beloved people of God, you who are His SEGOULA = that is, His treasured possession, loved and precious in my sight but more importantly in His; rest in the confidence of Christ’s cross and empty tomb. This sermon is one of the hardest I have ever written and even harder to preach—because it is heart-wrenching to say farewell after 21 years of being your under-shepherd and caring for your needs.

Since I have been with you as your called pastor, I have been privileged and blessed to spend 7672 days, 1096 Sundays, and by the grace of God I have preached 1383 sermons. Through it all you have listened, received the admonitions and exhortations with joy (maybe not the admonitions). You have grown in your walk of faith and been nurtured through the eternal Gospel that I was so privileged to share with you. You did all of this not because of me, but because it is ALL, and always only about Jesus. He is the author and the finisher of your faith.

In this holy house everything that has been done, has been done to show you the face of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus. For it is ALL about Jesus. Through it all you listened, you pondered and you took the words to heart and shared them with others. I could not be more humbled, nor more proud of how you have received the Gift that is Jesus!

In this sacred place, I remember well holding some of your children in my arms and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I remember fondly the private communion we shared. I rejoice in giving you the forgiveness from the lips of Jesus. I remember well the e-mails saying, “Pastor, thank you for this message, I NEEDED TO HEAR THAT!” And I also remember a particular e-mail message of one saint whom I had spent a year catechizing. The message read: “Pastor, I finally understand what grace IS!” This is all the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His people in this place.

It hasn’t always been a smooth journey. We haven’t always seen eye to eye on things. We have gotten into disagreements. But we never let these disagreements get in the way of the Good Shepherd. We came together as brothers and sisters in Christ and asked for mutual forgiveness. You were gracious to forgive and we continued to work together to spread the Gospel. That is ministry par excellence. PAUSE.

21 years ago (this past Friday, 7/24/1994) I was installed as your pastor to bring you the message of hope and help and point you to what awaits you—eternity with the Lamb who was slain, dead but is alive forevermore. You took a young man—green behind the ears and taught him with confidence what it means to be a pastor. You in word and deed demonstrated the fellowship we have together as the blood-bought of God. You are the ones who have molded me and shaped me to be the man of God I am today. I owe you a debt of gratitude and appreciation for your patience while I fumbled through learning what it means to be a pastor, forgiving me my many shortcomings and loved me just the same. How I thank my God upon my every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.

Throughout the past 21 years together as Pastor and People we have laughed together, cried together, celebrated together and rejoiced together because of what Christ has done for us on Calvary’s cross and the way He used us to spread His glorious news of power over sin, death and the grave in spite of us. This is the confidence that the Apostle Paul shared with the saints at Philippi saying, “And I am CONFIDENT of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” This is the same CONFIDENCE that has been at work among us and will continue to be carried out long after I am gone from among you, because it is ALL about Jesus. That word, “Confidence” is from the Latin, Con = with, and Fide = Faith. It is with calm assurance the Faithful Shepherd is ever leading and keeping you that I can and do now commend you into His care, as He brings you a new under-shepherd, under Grace to serve and love and tend you.

As I reflect back on the grace of God, I am speechless and awe-struck that God in His mercy would permit me to be YOUR pastor. Oh, the joy that fills my heart because of you and your service to the Lord. Tears run down my cheeks as I think of your partnership in the Gospel, your love for us (my whole family) and the ministry we were able to carry out together. PAUSE.

Beautiful and Beloved people of God, you who are His SEGOULA = that is, His treasured possession, loved and precious in my sight but more importantly in His; I remember well the night I got the call to be your pastor. As I stood with my colleagues at the chapel of St. Timothy and Titus @ Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, my name was called out (I am weeping as I am writing this) Nabil Subhi Nour, SD District, Armour, SD. I was shocked to hear that I was going back to my home state.

The irony is I had never heard of Armour or known anything about it. As I was walking out from the Divine Service, my oldest son, Tony, grabbed my call document envelope and I didn’t see it till about 10. When I finally looked at it, I read that I needed to call the chairman and let him know that they have a pastor. A little after 10 I called, and Mr. Gordon Wunder answered. I said, “This is pastor-elect Nabil Nour, I am answering your call to be your pastor!” He responded, “I am not interested I don’t want to buy anything from you!” He was about to hang up. I raised my voice saying, “Please don’t hang up! I am not trying to sell you anything; I am simply informing you that I am the new pastor that received the call from the saints at Redeemer!” I now laugh at that conversation and the joy that filled my heart ever since.

But I have also wept with you folks. As I stood with you by the bedside of your loved ones and the doctor said: “I am sorry; there is nothing we can do! It is cancer!” We would hug, weep and share a word of prayer together. I have been with you as we lowered the casket into the earth of one you love so dearly who has been claimed through the curse of sin, and comforted you with the glorious resurrection that Christ has earned for us.

This is the confidence we have—a confidence that is rooted and grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, it is ALL about Jesus and Jesus ONLY. This is the confidence that no matter how the future holds, we know we will see each other again because Jesus has promised there is eternal resurrection to those who believe in Him as Lord and Savior.

Though my ministry among you will come to an end today, know that the ministry we have together will never end until the Lord Jesus Christ returns in glory to take us to be with Him. While we separate, we continue in confident hope to point others to Jesus and His great accomplishments through His suffering, humiliation, death on Calvary’s cross and resurrection from the grave on the third day—which guarantees our own resurrection. PAUSE.

Beautiful people of God, you who are His saints, as I think of our time together there is only joy in my heart and praise on my lips for His kindness and graciousness to use us in a way that the fellowship of the Gospel might go forth to the ends of the earth and others come to know Him as their Lord and Savior. This is our confidence today and always.

This is the joy and blessing the Lord of the Church gives to us. Together through the mercy of God and the working of the Holy Spirit we have made disciples by teaching the young and the old. We have over the past 21 years sent some of our beloved saints to heaven knowing that we will see them again. Add to this, so far this year, with your help and work, we have had 9 Adult confirmands as we continue to make disciples who will follow the Lamb till the end of days. To that we say, THANK YOU JESUS FOR WORKING AMONG US. All of this is the confidence that the Lord is at work in us and through us in spite of us. We have this confidence because the Good Shepherd leads us and guides us.

This doesn’t mean that our ministry is done as we go our separate ways. On the contrary the ministry will continue here and everywhere until the end of time. Therefore, I encourage you to remain steadfast, unmovable and laboring in the work of the Lord—for it is the highest privilege to be partners in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and share His victory with the world who so desperately needs Him today and in the unknown future. Furthermore, even as Joshua was to take the reigns for Moses in leading God’s people, this was the Word of the Lord to the Children of Israel (Duet. 31:8). “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Do, have confidence, you who are His beloved, the sheep who know His voice!”


So then beautiful and beloved people of God—you the saints of Redeemer Lutheran Church of Armour, SD; with all the more confidence, let’s look to the road ahead with hope and joy. Indeed, let’s not be deceived by doubts and the wily schemes of the devil—our arch enemy. Though we go our separate ways there will be challenges that you and I will face. What will the future bring? Will we have a pastor who will love and lead us? Who will teach our young and who will help us continue to spread the Gospel? Through it all, look to the Lord of the Church Jesus Christ. He will not abandon you or forsake you. He will at the right time in His Divine wisdom bring to you a shepherd who will love and lead you. This is the confidence we have in Him, because He will never neglect His church nor His sheep.

Therefore don’t lose heart, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, cling to the promise of Christ Your Savior, Your true and faithful Good Shepherded. The Apostle Paul shares these words of encouragement with us. “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thess. 3:3-5). Wonderful words to remember during this transitional time in our lives as Pastor and People.

Remember please, the mercy of the Lord has no end! It is new every morning; and His faithfulness is great. Therefore with great confidence we look to the future with hope and go on our way rejoicing, as the Eunuch did after he was baptized (Acts 8:39) by Philip. Yes, immediately after the teaching and the Baptism, Philip was removed from the sight of the Ethiopian Eunuch, and this eunuch having received the gift of God through the waters of Baptism was filled with joy and went on His way rejoicing and so do we. I will no longer be your pastor, but will forever hold you in my heart. As brothers and sisters in Christ, with hope and confidence we wait His glorious return to take us to be with Him forever. This is our mutual confidence, for He alone is our Confidence now and always! Amen and Amen.


Now the peace…

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