“Faith, Fellowship, and Forgiveness” (John 20:19-31; 1 John 1:1 – 2:2; Acts 4:32-35)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 12, 2015

“Faith, Fellowship, and Forgiveness” (John 20:19-31; 1 John 1:1 – 2:2; Acts 4:32-35)

Did you get any gifts for Easter? Maybe an Easter basket, filled with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and Easter eggs that you open up and there’s a coin inside? Well, I can think of some Easter gifts that are even better than that. And today I want to tell you about them. They’re right there in our readings for today, and they are these Easter gifts, three of them: “Faith, Fellowship, and Forgiveness.”

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Published in: on April 11, 2015 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Silas: Fellow Worker, Faithful Brother” (Acts 16:19b-40)

Commemoration of Silas, Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

“Silas: Fellow Worker, Faithful Brother” (Acts 16:19b-40)

Back in 1969, the first moon landing took place, Apollo 11, and the first man set foot on the moon. Most of you probably know his name, Neil Armstrong. “One small step,” and all that. There was another man on that trip who was the second man to step on the moon, and some of you may know his name, too. That’s right, Buzz Aldrin, the #2 guy on the first trip to the moon. But that was the first trip. Later that year there was another trip to the moon, Apollo 12, and even if I gave you the name of the lead astronaut, Pete Conrad, I bet you no one here could come up with the name of the second man. Give up? Alan Bean. Alan Bean was the #2 guy on the second trip. But no one remembers him.

The saint we are commemorating today, St. Silas, is the Alan Bean of the Book of Acts. Because, like Astronaut Bean, Silas was the #2 guy on the second trip–in this case, the second missionary journey of Paul. Of course, we all know about Paul. And most of us know something about Barnabas, the #2 guy on the first trip. But the #2 guy on the second trip–now that’s getting a little fuzzy. We don’t know too much about Silas, the second “second banana.”

Now the “official” description you get for the Commemoration of Silas, as you find it in the hymnal, is, “Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul.” “Fellow worker”: Hey, that sounds like all of us! For we are all fellow workers, aren’t we, in one form or another, pastor and people alike, in a lead role or a supporting role–all of us, fellow workers in the church’s great mission of spreading the gospel. Silas, then, may have something to say to us today.

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Published in: on February 10, 2015 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Living Room of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon” (Acts 2:14a, 22-36)

The Holy Trinity
Sunday, June 15, 2014

“The Living Room of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon” (Acts 2:14a, 22-36)

Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity. On this day we sing hymns emphasizing the Trinitarian nature of the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On this day we say that really long creed with the funny name, the Athanasian Creed, which goes into the most detail on the relationship of the three persons in the Trinity. Today we are celebrating, not some dry doctrine with no connection to life, no, rather we are celebrating a living reality–the reality of who God is, as he is, as he has acted to save us and give us life, as he has revealed himself to us in Holy Scripture. Today we are confessing the truth of the Holy Trinity, over against all heretics that have arisen in history, from the Arians of the fourth century to the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses of our day. The living reality of the triune God and the true and saving doctrine concerning the same–that’s what this Holy Trinity festival is all about.

Now there is much about the mystery of the Holy Trinity that is hard for us to understand. How can there be three persons and yet only one God? How can this triune God have always been, uncreated, from eternity? I suppose that if we could fully understand God, we would have to be God!

But while there is much that remains hidden to us mortal creatures, there is also much that has been revealed. God wants us to know him, in a living, vital relationship, and to know what we need to know about him in order to be saved. And that’s where our Scripture readings today come in.

Today I want us to focus on one of the readings, the one from Acts chapter 2. This reading picks up where our reading from last week left off. It’s Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Last week we heard the first part of his sermon, the introduction, what I called the “front porch” of his sermon. Today we continue with the main part of that sermon, what I’ll call “The Living Room of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon.”

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Published in: on June 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Front Porch of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon” (Acts 2:1-21)

The Day of Pentecost
June 8, 2014

“The Front Porch of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon” (Acts 2:1-21)

The purpose of a front porch is to get people into the house. The front porch may be small, the front porch may be large, but it does its job if it gets people into the building. The front porch is not the place where you want people to stay, but it should provide a good entryway into the house. And ideally, it should match, and be suitable for, the rest of the building.

That’s the way it is with the front porch of a house. That’s the way it is with the front porch of a sermon. The introduction of a sermon is like the front porch of a house. It should provide an entryway to get people into the main part of the sermon itself. The introduction is not where you want people to stay, but it should lead the people in, draw the people in. And ideally, it should match, and be appropriate for, the rest of the sermon.

Well, today we get to hear the first part of Peter’s sermon that he preached on the Day of Pentecost. This is the introduction to his sermon that we find here in Acts chapter 2. It’s not the whole thing; we’ll hear the main part next week. But it does serve as a fitting entry point to get us into what Peter is getting at. And so our theme this morning: “The Front Porch of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon.”

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Published in: on June 7, 2014 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Full of Good Works, Dearly Missed, in Resurrection Hope” (Acts 9:36-42)

Funeral Service
Friday, February 28, 2014

“Full of Good Works, Dearly Missed, in Resurrection Hope” (Acts 9:36-42)

Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. –Acts 9:36-42 (ESV)

She was a woman whose life was full of good works. She was a woman who, at her death, was dearly missed by all who knew her. And she was a woman who lived and died in resurrection hope.

Who is this woman I’m talking about? Was it the one we heard about in the reading from Acts, that woman named Dorcas? Or is it Elaine that I’m talking about? Answer: Yes. Both Elaine and Dorcas could be described as women “Full of Good Works, Dearly Missed, in Resurrection Hope.”

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Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“We Are Baptized for This Moment” (Acts 2:14a, 22-47)

The Holy Trinity
Sunday, May 26, 2013

“We Are Baptized for This Moment” (Acts 2:14a, 22-47)

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday, the day in the church year when we most give attention to the great biblical doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the truth that the one true God is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For example, on this day we confess the Athanasian Creed–like the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene, a trinitarian creed and one we believe, teach, and confess all year round, but we speak the Athanasian Creed aloud on this day, since it goes into the most depth and detail on the doctrine of the Trinity.

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. But really, every Sunday is a Holy Trinity Sunday, since we are gathered here, as we say at the start of the service, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, for the Christian, every day is a Holy Trinity Day, since each of us has been baptized in the name of the triune God, and we live in our baptism daily.

And that brings us to our message this morning, namely, “We Are Baptized for This Moment.” This is picking up on the theme of our synod’s national convention coming up in July, which is, “Baptized for This Moment.” And in that connection, we will be having a five-part Bible study by that title, starting this Wednesday. I hope many of you can come.

And so, for right now, we consider as our theme today: “We Are Baptized for this Moment.” Briefly now, I want us to focus on these three points: 1) We are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. 2) We are baptized into a life of repentance and forgiveness. And 3) We are baptized for this moment–for witness, for mercy, and for life together.

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Published in: on May 25, 2013 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Parthians and Medes at Pentecost” (Acts 2:1-21)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, May 19, 2013

“Parthians and Medes at Pentecost” (Acts 2:1-21)

One of the ironic things about the readings for the Day of Pentecost is when the lector–that is, the person reading the lessons–when the lector comes to Acts 2, verse 9, and has to read the following list of persons and places: “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians.”

Now that is a mouthful! It is like the tower of Babel come to life: “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” For the lector may not even understand his own speech! All those funny words: “Parthians”; “Mesopotamia”; “Cappadocia”; “Phrygia and Pamphylia”; “Proselytes.” Huh? Instead of speaking in tongues, the lector will be busy untwisting his tongue! And so, “amazed and perplexed,” the person reading the lessons, as well as the people hearing them being read–we all may be saying to ourselves, “What does this mean?”

What does this mean? Why this long laundry list of persons and places? What’s up with all these “Parthians and Medes at Pentecost”? Let’s find out.

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Published in: on May 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep” (John 10:14-15, 22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 21, 2013

“The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep” (John 10:14-15, 22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today is what is usually called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Every year on this Sunday in the Easter season, the theme of all the parts of the service is Jesus as the Good Shepherd of the sheep, his flock, the church. He lays down his life for the sheep and takes it up again–that’s the Easter connection. On Good Shepherd Sunday, the Holy Gospel is always a portion of John 10, in which Jesus identifies himself as that shepherd several times. The other two readings also fit the theme of Christ as shepherd. The Introit and Collect of the Day, likewise. The appointed psalm, of course, is always Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” And the Hymn of the Day is a musical setting of the 23rd Psalm, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” which we just sang. So we always have a very clear theme to work with on this Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is why we call it “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

Take, for example, our readings for today. In the first reading, from Acts 20, the Apostle Paul uses shepherding language when he instructs the elders of Ephesus on their task as pastors: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock,” Paul says. “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock,” and so on. In the reading from Revelation, we see the multitude arrayed in white, and we’re told that “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water.” And in the Holy Gospel, from John 10, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” So we have shepherd imagery throughout.

Now what does this have to do with us? Well, “we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand,” as Psalm 95 says. We are those sheep for whom the Good Shepherd lays down his life and takes it up again. We are members of Christ’s flock, the church. We are being led to those heavenly springs of water. We hear our shepherd’s voice, and we follow him. All this by God’s grace, of course, since we sheep would be lost forever without our Good Shepherd.

Today I want you to see yourself, to see your identity, as part of Christ’s flock, his church, and to appreciate all the more all that your Good Shepherd does for you. For truly, “The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep.”

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Published in: on April 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Words of Life” (John 20:19-31; Acts 5:12-32; Revelation 1:4-18)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 7, 2013

“Words of Life” (John 20:19-31; Acts 5:12-32; Revelation 1:4-18)

To those sitting in prison, facing a death sentence, filled with fear at what awaits them, nothing is more welcome than someone coming with a message of pardon and release. Those words come as words of life in a world of fear and death.

“Words of Life.” That’s what we hear in our readings today–in all three of them: the First Reading, from Acts; the Epistle, from Revelation; and the Holy Gospel, from John. Words of life, to people sitting in prison, overcoming their fear and giving them the faith and the boldness and the final victory that they need. And the good news is, these words of life come not only to the people in our readings, they come also to us, sitting here today.

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Published in: on April 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Spirit, Breath, Wind: The Lord and Giver of Life” (Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15; Acts 2:1-21)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, May 27, 2012

“Spirit, Breath, Wind: The Lord and Giver of Life”
(Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15; Acts 2:1-21)

Today is the Day of Pentecost, a day when we call special attention to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. That is what I would like to do now, using as our theme a phrase we just spoke in the Nicene Creed, where we called the Holy Spirit “The Lord and Giver of Life.”

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Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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