300 S. Ardmore Ave. Villa Park, IL 60181

Worship Times

Saturday - 4:30 pm Sunday - 8:00 am & 10:30 am Christian Education Sunday - 9:15 am

By grace you have been saved through faith.

And this is not your own doing;

it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Rob Rogers was born in Seattle Washington. He has a B.A. in Communication from Concordia University, Austin, TX and a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. READ MORE >>

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Worship Service

September 24, 2017
September 17, 2017
September 10, 2017
September 3, 2017
  

Pentecost 16 – September 24, 2017
Text:            Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30
Theme:         “I Wish I Were Dead”

        Life does not always make sense to us and when it fails to make sense, it is helpful to remember that God always has a plan that he is working without our knowledge.  A few months ago I heard this story on Snap Judgement, a show on NPR.  Apparently there was a pastor on the south side of Chicago who got into some trouble with the law.  He had been trying to obtain a mortgage to build a new church and he got involved with a person who turned out to be a fraudulent mortgage broker. Unfortunately for the pastor, he was the legal representative for the congregation and his signature was on all the documents.  So, when the mortgage was proven fraudulent, he went to Federal Prison for 15 months.      That was when he tried mightily to remind himself that God always has a plan.  God will always turn all things for the good of his people.  But it was not easy to stay upbeat and empowered when he was losing his career, away from his family and hearing from a congregation full of people whom he had let down.  Besides all of that, this pastor had some baggage from his youth about prison. 

      His father had gone to prison when he was a small child and he had spent his life hating his father for abandoning him and vowing that he would never be like his father.  Now here he was, in a Federal Prison, away from his children, just like his father.  Well we all know that God has a wicked sense of humor and guess who the pastor’s cellmate was…yep, there was dear old dad standing in the cell door and welcoming his son to prison. 

      Over the 15 months of his imprisonment, he got to know his cellmate who was also his father. He had not seen him in 20 years.  People can grow in 20 years and his father regretted the life he had once led that put him in Federal Prison.  In fact, he had vowed to have nothing to do with his son while he was growing up because he did not want to be a bad influence on him.  But, while he had been absent from his son’s life, his son had not been absent from his life.  It turns out that his father had saved every newspaper article, every announcement, every scrap of paper he could lay his hands on with his son’s name on it.  The pastor came to know, forgive and love his father and that filled a huge hole in both of their lives.

      I thought of St. Paul during this story.  He was in prison when he wrote Philippians.  Like this pastor, he had gone to prison for violating the rules of the civil authorities while trying to serve God by proclaiming the Gospel.  He was tired of fighting the battle.  We all get tired of the fight.  Paul said that he would prefer to be with Christ. That is to say, frankly speaking, that he wished he were dead.  It drives me batty when sick and tired people say that they wish they could die and their well-meaning loved ones swoop in and say, “Oh you don’t mean that!  We need you here!”  The sick and tired person is made to feel guilty for speaking honestly about how he feels.  The loved ones are so consumed with their own selfish needs that they don’t think about what they are saying when they demand that someone stay alive.  Would anyone really rather his loved one suffer a little longer so that no one is upset by his death?  There is nothing at all wrong with wishing to be with Christ and unless he returns for us now, the only way to do that is to die.  When a Christian says “I wish I were dead,” he understands that being dead means being in paradise until the resurrection.  Give me the option of Paradise or Villa Park and I will take Paradise every time! 

      We all understand that the 5th Commandment, “Thou shall not kill,” prevents us from taking any life, even our own, but that does not mean that we cannot look forward to the day we get to enter paradise and all the strife of life is over.        But sometimes we have to stay alive even when our bodies are broken down and our minds are fading. Why? We are not told. God sees a bigger picture than we can ever imagine and his ways are higher than our ways.  His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and he will do what is best for us and the body of Christ even if we have to be miserable for a short time. 

      Paul knew that as horrible as imprisonment is, because of his imprisonment, he had been able to proclaim the Gospel to people he would have never otherwise have seen.  God opened door after door for him and he strived to remain faithful to his calling.  And that’s the secret.  Remain faithful to your calling.  Whether Paul was in prison or in the Areopagus or stranded on an island in the Mediterranean, he knew that his calling was to proclaim God’s Word and he did that. Remain faithful to your calling. 

      When you keep searching the Scriptures and keep asking God to reveal what you are to do, he will.  When you continue receiving the body and blood of Christ, your eyes will be opened by His power and although you will probably never understand most of God’s plan, you will clearly see that you are serving him.  When we are in the midst of trials, we can choose to sit and mope.  We can complain about whatever unpleasant situation in which we find ourselves or we can take St. Paul’s advice.

      “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”  When we struggle against the powers of darkness in this world, it is a clear sign that we have correctly identified them and that they will be destroyed by our God.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and he will guide us through this valley of death and into his marvelous light.

      Of course there is also the possibility that you love this life and never want it to end.  If that is the case, let me introduce you to Jesus.  He is the creator of this world that fell into sin and because he did not want us to have to live in a broken, dying world, he suffered hell in our place to pay our justification.  Having done that, he secured paradise for us and paradise begins for us the minute we die.  That’s why to die is gain. 

      I’ve been in graduate school three times, once in Seminary for my Masters in Divinity, once in Louisville for work in pastoral counseling and now with Institute of Lutheran Theology for a Doctorate in Ministry.  The last two times I have done it for fun because I like learning but the first time, Seminary, was different.  I had just gotten married and I wanted to get full time work and start a life.  Those years dragged on and were miserable because all I wanted to do was be a pastor and get out of school!  There were others who really enjoyed being in school.  There were even some who stayed behind after graduation and pursued another degree.  For me, the first call was the heaven I pursued and I would have done anything to hurry things along and get out of school faster. But the program was 4 years long and could not be hurried. 

      I see life in terms of my time in Seminary.       I have important work to do while I’m on this earth.  God has a plan for me and while he gives me nice, refreshing breaks from time to time, life is not usually a picnic.  Yet, I know that, in the end, when all my work is completed, paradise awaits.  We do not live for worldly accolades or monetary rewards.  We live for Christ because the one who has prepared paradise for us when we are finished serving him here.