“To Understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:36-49)

Third Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2015

“To Understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:36-49)

Have you ever thought about what the Bible is all about? I mean, if you had to boil it down to just a few short sentences, what would you say is the main message of the Scriptures? You know, a lot of people have a lot of different opinions about the Bible and what it is saying. They pull this verse or that verse out of context and twist it like a wax nose to make it suit their purpose. People approach the Bible with their presuppositions and then find in the Bible what they want to find. But what really is the main message of the Bible, if you had to sum it up? And how would you know if you had summed it up correctly?

Well, today I’m here to tell you that there’s no need for guesswork or random speculation. No, because someone today is going to tell us what the Bible is all about. And more than that, he is someone who knows what he’s talking about. It’s Jesus himself, of course. So let’s listen now as our risen Lord Jesus Christ opens our minds “To Understand the Scriptures.”

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Published in: on April 18, 2015 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“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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“Just as He Told You” (Mark 16:1-8)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 5, 2015

“Just as He Told You” (Mark 16:1-8)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

And you say that with such conviction! As you should. The announcement of Christ’s resurrection elicits from us a hearty response of faith and joy. And rightfully so. This is the heart of our great hope as Christians, that Christ our Lord has conquered sin and death for us and has secured for us the sure and certain hope of our own resurrection and everlasting life.

Which makes our Gospel reading today a little strange. It doesn’t end the way we would like it to end. We want those woman at the tomb, who had just heard those great words, “He has risen”–we want them to join us in a hearty “Alleluia!” We want them to go away from the tomb with a spring in their step and hearts full of confidence and assurance, ready to tell everyone they meet the good news they just heard. But they don’t. That’s not how this reading ends. Instead, it ends with them being seized with trembling and astonishment. It ends with–and Mark’s whole gospel ends with–what seem to us these most unlikely words, “for they were afraid.” Now really, Mark, is that any way to end the story? Boo, we demand a rewrite!

But this morning I want to tell you that this ending does work. It’s an ending we can relate to. It’s an ending Mark’s original hearers could relate to. And really, it focuses our attention on the basis for our faith and our hope, and that is, the sure and certain words of Jesus. That comes through in this little phrase that the angel uses, when he says, referring to Jesus, “Just as He Told You.”

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Published in: on April 5, 2015 at 12:18 am  Comments (1)  
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“Glorious Suffering” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 1, 2014

“Glorious Suffering” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11)

Have you ever heard of the term “oxymoron”? An oxymoron is when you have two words placed next to each other in a phrase, but they really don’t belong together. For example, “jumbo shrimp.” “Jumbo” and “shrimp” would seem to be self-contradictory terms. Another oxymoron: “Rap music.” The two ideas don’t go together. Or this one, speaking as someone coming from Chicago: “St. Louis pizza.” Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

Well, a couple of our readings today seem to have an oxymoron going on, two self-contradictory ideas being placed right next to each other. In both the Epistle reading and the Holy Gospel, we find the idea of “glory” paired up with the idea of “suffering.” “Glory” and “suffering”? Those two don’t seem to go together. But in the Christian phrasebook, maybe they do. And so our theme this morning: “Glorious Suffering.”

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Published in: on June 1, 2014 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Baptized, Saved, and Ready to Speak” (1 Peter 3:13-22)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 25, 2014

“Baptized, Saved, and Ready to Speak” (1 Peter 3:13-22)

Are you ready? Let me ask you again: Are you ready? And you say, “Ready for what? Ready to do what?” So I say, “Ready to speak.” “Ready to speak about what?” Are you ready to speak about the hope that you have as a Christian? If someone were to ask you about your Christian faith, about your hope, would you be ready to answer? That’s the situation that St. Peter addresses in our text for today, the Epistle reading from 1 Peter 3. There Peter encourages the Christians hearing his letter, and he encourages us, to always be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” And he does this, not by hammering them over the head, but rather by reminding them of who they are in Christ. Thus our theme for today: “Baptized, Saved, and Ready to Speak.”

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Published in: on May 24, 2014 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Living Stones and a Holy Priesthood” (1 Peter 2:2-10)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 18, 2014

“Living Stones and a Holy Priesthood” (1 Peter 2:2-10)

In the Epistle for today, St. Peter compares us Christians to, among other things, “living stones” and a “holy priesthood.” Both of these images are based on things that were realities in the Old Testament for the people of Israel. “Living stones” has to do with the temple, that great building in Jerusalem where the people worshiped, and a “holy priesthood” has to do with the priests who carried out their duties at the temple. “Living stones” and a “holy priesthood.” But these are not just some quaint figures of speech that are stuck in the long ago and far away. No, these images are telling us about living realities for us today, with great relevance for our daily life, both individually for us as Christians and collectively for us as church. And so our theme for this morning: “Living Stones and a Holy Priesthood.”

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Published in: on May 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Redeemed: From What? With What? Now What?” (1 Peter 1:17-25)

Third Sunday of Easter
May 4, 2014

“Redeemed: From What? With What? Now What?” (1 Peter 1:17-25)

To introduce the sermon today I’d like us all now to open our hymnals to page 322, to the Small Catechism, the part on the Creed. And under the Second Article, on pages 322 and 323, you will see Luther’s Explanation of the Second Article, starting with “What does this mean?” Let’s read that now together:

“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

Now I’m here to tell you today that Luther did not make this stuff up out of thin air. No, he got these ideas from the Bible, the Word of God. And more specifically, from a couple of verses in our Epistle reading for today, from 1 Peter chapter 1. Looking at 1 Peter 1:18-19, where it reads: “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ,” and so on.

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Published in: on May 4, 2014 at 3:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Born Again to a Living Hope” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 27, 2014

“Born Again to a Living Hope” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Our reading today from 1 Peter 1 says a lot about your past, your present, and your future, and we can sum it up in this phrase from our text: “Born Again to a Living Hope.”

“Born again to a living hope.” The apostle Peter uses this phrase right at the beginning of his epistle. By the way, passages from 1 Peter will be the Epistle readings for the rest of this Easter season, starting today and going for the next five Sundays. And to go along with that, we’ll be starting a new Bible class on 1 Peter this Wednesday. I encourage you all to come.

So here we are at the start of Peter’s epistle, and he begins by saying: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope,” and so on. There’s that phrase, “born again to a living hope.”

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Published in: on April 27, 2014 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Amen” (The Lord’s Prayer; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 20, 2014

“Amen” (The Lord’s Prayer; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Yes, “Alleluia” of course is the word of the day for Easter Day. We’ve been saving it up all Lent, and now today we finally get to let it loose. And what a day to do so! Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on this day, winning the victory for us over death and the grave. If that doesn’t elicit an “Alleluia,” I don’t know what will. “Alleluia” is a Hebrew word originally, and it means “Praise ye the Lord.” And praise is most fitting for us to render unto the Lord God for the great salvation he has assured us of by raising his Son from the dead.

“Alleluia,” the word of the day for Easter. But today I’d like to suggest another “A” word that works just as well on this day. And that is the word “Amen.” “Amen” also is a Hebrew word that has carried over into English. It means “to be sure,” “to be certain.” The basic idea is firmness or certainty. In the Bible, the word “Amen” expresses a certain affirmation in response to what has been said. And that idea, and the word itself, carried over into the Christian church, and on through all the centuries, all around the world, down to this very day. “Amen,” we say, whenever we want to affirm as solid and trustworthy whatever has just been said, whether that is a prayer or a blessing or what have you.

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Published in: on April 20, 2014 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Prays for Us” (John 17:20-26)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2013

“Jesus Prays for Us” (John 17:20-26)

Did you know you are mentioned in the Gospel reading for today? You are. Jesus is talking about you–in fact, he is praying for you–in the passage known as his “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17. In the first part of that chapter, Jesus has been praying for his disciples, the ones he would be sending out soon as his apostles. You know, Peter, James, John, Andrew, Matthew–those guys. But then at verse 20 of John 17, Jesus shifts his prayer to include others, as well. He says: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word. . . .”

OK, let’s pause right there. When he says “these only,” he’s referring to the disciples he’s just been praying for, those who would be his apostles. But then he goes on to say: “but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” And here he is talking about you. Yes, you. For you are among those who have believed in Jesus through the apostles’ word–the inspired witness of the apostles that we find in the New Testament Scriptures. Through the gospel that has been preached to you, through the apostles’ teaching, through the sacraments the apostles were commissioned to pass on to the church from generation to generation–through the apostolic ministry of Word and Sacrament, you and I have come to believe in, trust in, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And so you and I are included in this prayer of Jesus when he prays for “those who will believe in me through their word.” Here in his High Priestly Prayer, “Jesus Prays for Us.”

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Published in: on May 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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