03-10-2019 Sermon - Jesus Encounters the Tempter in the Wilderness

It matters how we read Scripture. And Jesus provides the clue as to how. He says the Scriptures are primarily about him! The trouble is, we tend to want to make them all about us. And the Gospel Reading this morning is a case in point. How quickly we leave the narrative of Jesus' encounter and victory over Satan in the wilderness to trying to draw lessons about what we can learn from Jesus not succumbing to temptation. There is that. But the main point is to focus on how Jesus' victory on our behalf is good news for us! Such good news that we are invited to place our faith in his victory over sin, death, and the devil, and to give up relying on our ability to defeat the devil ourselves. The Gospel is about what God in Christ has done, and is doing, on our behalf and for our benefit.

02-24-2019 Sermon - What This Family Does

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If there is one thing our fallen human nature loves, it is taking center stage and leaving God the role, if any, of being a supporting actor. If we are not careful we might read Jesus' sermon in Luke 6 in such a way that we think we are center stage. After all we are told if we love our enemies and our reward will be great in heaven, and if we forgive then we will be forgiven. If, then. I know, those are the words. But if we are not careful we will conclude that we need to step up and assume the leading role. So how might we understand our Lord's admonitions without minimizing the difficult expectations that we endeavor to follow them? I think the key is to remember who indeed is center stage, and then understand we are a part of his family. Let me explain..

02-17-2019 Sermon - Woe To You Who Are Rich

St. Augustine once remarked, "If you believe what you like in Scripture, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Word of God you believe, but yourself." Jesus taught a lot of things that cut against the grain that I suspect many of us would be tempted to gloss right over and move on to things he said that we like. The Gospel Lesson this morning is a case in point. "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God." And, "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation." Unless you are truly poor, I suspect his saying makes us a little uncomfortable. And I would not be surprised that many who are impoverished would struggle to realized how it is that they are blessed. So what is Jesus getting at? Who indeed are the fortunate ones? That is what I want us to struggle with in this lesson...

02-10-2019 Sermon - Forgiveness And Cleansing from the Altar

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The Prophet Isaiah had an encounter with the Holy One of Israel that was terrifying. He knew he was a dead man in the presence of such otherworldly holiness, for as he confessed "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips." And the great prophet was right. He was a goner, except for the fact that the Lord offered him the most unusual method for taking away Isaiah's guilt and atoning for his sin. Isaiah cleansed would be able to serve the Lord, and cleansed we too can serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

02-03-2019 Sermon - Christ Speaks With Authority And Power

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Jesus encounters a demon possessed man in the weekly place of worship. And at his spoken rebuke the demon fled the man possessed and the assembly of gathered worshipers, but not before exclaiming who Jesus was, "the Holy One of God". The people marveled commenting that Jesus spoke with authority and power. They knew demons had power, more power than they had. But demons did not have legitimate authority. Many kings and magistrates had authority, but some of them were weak and pathetic people. But Jesus had both authority and power! And what he speaks accomplishes what he purposes. And how does he speak in our midst? Things like this: To repentant sinners "I forgive you your sins." And to baptized believers gathering at the altar, "This is my body given for you," and "This is my blood shed for you." And we can believe such words because he has authority and power...

01-27-2019 Sermon - The Reading And Teaching of Scripture

In the middle of the 5th Century BC the returning exiles from Babylonia, under the direction of their Governor, Nehemiah, had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. The people clamored for a reading of the Torah, the Book of the Law of Moses, which was the Scripture of their day. And they stood at attention as Ezra, the priest and scribe, read from the Torah for upwards to six hours. Levites also helped Ezra give the sense of the Word of God to the people. This incident helps us to understand important elements of what goes on in the Divine Service as we gather each week as a Christian Community.

01-20-2019 Sermon - A Toast to the Newlyweds

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John's Gospel makes a big point that changing water into wine at a wedding feast was the first miracle Jesus worked. But John called it a "sign" instead of a miracle. And that in itself is significant. What did this miracle point to? What is the significance that this miracle took place at a wedding feast? Although perhaps a minor point, that Jesus was no cosmic killjoy because he provided wine to gladden the feast, the point would seem to be far more than that. It pointed to Jesus' unique identity and what it is that he was accomplishing for us.

01-13-2019 Sermon - The Implications of Baptism

That the holy and innocent one received John's baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins surely indicates the importance of our receiving Holy Baptism! When the Son of God assumed our humanity in the incarnation he fulfilled in his flesh all that is necessary for us. It is our sinful lives that need the washing of the Word with water that is Holy Baptism. And although we are saved by the gift of forgiveness, and not by our obedience or good works, that does not give us a license to sin with impunity. In fact if we keep on sinning without any resistance, we really don't understand the significance of Baptism which the Apostle Paul takes pains to explain in our Second Lesson this morning.

12-23-2018 Sermon - Mary's Great Hymn of the Church

Whereas Lutherans do not pray directly to Mary and the Saints, nor seek their assistance, we nonetheless pay a great deal of respect to them. Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, is a great example of what it means to be a Christian. You can say that she conceived the Christ Child in her womb by way of her ear, for when she heard the Word of the Lord from the Angel Gabriel, that Word found a believing heart. Mary said, "Behold your servant, let it be to me according to your word!" And we too, as Christians, receive Christ into our lives when we hear and believe the Good News of what Christ accomplished by his dying and rising so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life.

12-16-2018 Sermon - The Weakness of God.

Even the Great Prophet and the Forerunner to the Messiah had his doubts! John the Baptism was taken by surprise that the one he had pointed out as the Christ was presenting himself, by all appearances as weak. Jesus had been run out of his hometown synagogue and most of the religious leaders and teachers in Israel were saying that Jesus was a law-breaker, especially of the Sabbath Commandment. So this morning we consider how John was offered comfort that indeed Jesus was the Christ, and how we also may take comfort in the Apostle Paul's words that "the weakness of God is stronger than man." In fact it is by this so-called weakness that we are rescued from sin, death, and the devil.

12-09-2018 Sermon - The Fruit of the Silversmith

It’s one thing to flee from the wrath of God, and it is another thing to turn to the judge and plead for the mercy that he has promised to repentant sinners. Even snakes flee from a brush fire. But in fleeing they don't open themselves to having their serpent like nature changed. When we truly repent we are exposed to the refining fire that is able to purify us. Forgiven and cleansed by our Lord, we can then bear fruit in keeping with true repentance...

12-02-2018 Sermon - It's The End of the World

In 1987 the rock band R.E.M. released a hit song entitled "It's The End of the World" to which the oft repeated refrain was "It's the end of the world as we know it." There has long been a fascination with the end of the world as we know it. And the Bible speaks of the same, as when Jesus says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." Such sayings, visions, and writings dealing with the end of the world are known as apocalyptic. And whereas Jesus spoke of cataclysmic events that would have the world in perplexity and then in terror, he comforts his disciples in how they need not be caught unaware. In fact, these very events would be occasions to raise up one's head in great hope. Find out why... 

11-25-2018 Sermon - The Rightful Claimant to the Throne

Pilate had never met a so-called king like Jesus. Neither had any of Jesus' disciples. The long awaited advent of the Jewish Messiah/King was anticipated to be a glorious event, full of pomp and grandeur, with a mighty king crowned and sitting on a royal throne. Instead Jesus was mocked with a crown of thorns and he was elevated on the wood of the cross. In the most surprising fashion this is how the warrior king accomplished his victory over the devil, and over sin and death. But he also promised to return at the end of the age and make his surprising and more hidden victory a glorious and consummated reality that all could see. Those awaiting this return will be those who will celebrate in the end. The rest will wail on account of him...

11-11-2018 Sermon - The Lord's Care for Beggars

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Two of the appointed Lessons and the Responsive Psalm reading all make mention of widows in an exemplary light. And at least part of the reason has to do with the vulnerable status of widows in the ancient world. Along with refugees and orphans, widows were not the beneficiary of a family pension plan, a 401k, Social Security, or Welfare. They were often forced to beg. But this did not prevent the widows in our lessons from looking to God for mercy, trusting His care for them, going about their vocations, and sharing what little they had with others. If only we all were in touch with the vulnerability of our lives and that we could, like Martin Luther, recognize that we are mere beggars, and that from one beggar to another we can tell people where to find the Bread of Life...

11-04-2018 Sermon - Known By the Company We Keep

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You have perhaps heard the parental admonition, "Be careful of the company you keep."? I even heard it put this way, "When you walk with trash you end up smelling like trash." Well, have you ever considered the company we were placed in when we were baptized? It is called becoming children of God, members of the household of faith. We also call it "the communion of saints" which we confess belief in as we recite the Apostles' Creed. This is good company to be a part of! And we could have never earned our way into this company. But there is the ever present danger that we can drift from this good company, and in its place prefer the company of the world in this age, the very company that neglects God's Word, places too much value on transitory things, and which ever dreams up new forms of evil. So it is all the more important that we recognize that indeed we will be known by the company that we value...

10-28-2018 Sermon - Thankful for the Hour of Judgement?

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On a day we celebrate the hallmark of the Reformation, namely moving the Gospel once again front and center, how is it the angel messenger in our Revelation Lesson is proclaiming an eternal gospel when he speaks of the coming judgment? Sound fearful! Well the eternal Gospel is all about salvation as a gift to be received by faith on account of the work that Christ alone accomplished on the Cross for us. And when we know that we are acquitted, then the judgment against all evil will mean the day is coming when we will no longer to injure others, and no one else will be permitted to injure us. Eternal life will not just be an endless number of days as we know them in this fallen world...

10-21-2018 Sermon - Of Camels And Sewing Needles

Some of us have enough trouble passing thread through the eye of a needle, so we can appreciate it when our Lord said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. We correctly understand this to be an impossible task. And in our Gospel Lesson we learn that it is not only an impossible task for the rich, but it is an impossible task for all people. So we can understand the disciples astonishment and why they ask Jesus, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus reassures us that all things are possible for God! Find out how our Lord does the impossible so that repentant sinners who believe can be saved...

10-14-2018 Sermon - The Inheritance Goes to Sons

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Would that all evangelistic outreach could be as easy as having someone run up to you and asking you what they must do to inherit eternal life! But that is what a rich, young man did to Jesus. What will surely surprise you is how Jesus handles the man's question. If you know anything of how our Lord dealt with questions you will know that he asks a couple of questions back at the man. But what he asks, and then what he says may surprise you...

Speaking the Word of God with boldness!

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This week we take a look at the fifth of ten footprints of the Holy Spirit as evidenced in the Book of Acts. So far we have identified the following footprints. First, we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, we are to wait upon, or pray, for the Holy Spirit. Third, the Spirit first comes upon the community before filling each one individually. And fourthly, the Holy Spirit helps us overcome language barriers.

The fifth footprint is how the Holy Spirit takes us out of hiding, timidly cowering in fear, and makes us bold to publicly proclaim the good news of God’s love shown us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Acts 2:14 we read, “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them…” You will note that Peter stood! But he did not stand alone. The eleven other disciples stood with him, even if at the moment Peter did the proclaiming. There was no more hiding for the disciples. They were enabled and emboldened to witness to the nations.

What will become surprisingly clear in the days ahead is that persecution will not dampen this Spirit enabled boldness. When for example Peter and John were arrested by the Jewish religious authorities in Acts chapter 4, their voices were not rendered mute when they stood on trial. The leaders themselves remarked that although Peter and John were uneducated, they nonetheless spoke with boldness.

Then when Peter and John were released by the authorities with strict orders not to speak anymore in Jesus’ name, they instantly told the leaders they had no intention of following their orders! Moreover, when Peter and John were reunited with other disciples they prayed together. And amazingly, they did not petition God to keep them from persecution and trial. Instead, they asked the Lord that he would enable them to keep on speaking the Word of God with boldness! And this is precisely what the Holy Spirit enabled them to do!

Since You Asked…

What is the significance of sharing the peace?

“The peace which enables people to live in unity and in the spirit of mutual forgiveness comes only from Christ whose word has been proclaimed. … The peace is a sign that those who participate in it open themselves to the healing and reconciling power of God’s love and offer themselves to be agents of that love in the world. … The personal exchange of the peace should be as unpatterned as possible, but its meaning and significance should be kept clear. It is not the occasion merely for conviviality. The choice of gesture, whether a handshake, holding hands, or an embrace, should be left to the persons themselves.” (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)