“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.”


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.”


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.”


Published in: on May 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“In Jesus, Peace; In the World, Tribulation” (John 16:23-33)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2013

“In Jesus, Peace; In the World, Tribulation” (John 16:23-33)

Hear again the words of Jesus at the end of John 16, verse 33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” This is our text.

“In Jesus, Peace; In the World, Tribulation.” This is what our Lord says his followers can expect. It was that way for his disciples back then. It is that way for his disciples still now. On the one hand, peace; on the other hand, tribulation. Both guaranteed, at the same time, for all those who follow the Savior in faith. How does this apply to you and me?


Published in: on May 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Little While” (John 16:12-22)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 28, 2013

“A Little While” (John 16:12-22)

“We do not know what he is talking about.” Maybe you say that sometimes towards the end of my sermons. “We don’t know what he’s talking about!” Well, if so, then I’m in good company, because that’s what the disciples said about a sermon Jesus was preaching. We heard it in today’s Gospel from John 16. “We do not know what he is talking about,” the disciples said. What was it they were puzzled about?

It was this. Jesus had just told them: “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Huh? Come again? Well, yeah, that’s just the point. Jesus will come again. He’s going away, and they won’t see him. Then he’ll come again, and they will see him. But it does sound like a bit of a riddle, doesn’t it? “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So you can just see the puzzled looks on the disciples’ faces, as they turn to one another and say, repeating his words: “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’?” “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”

What does Jesus mean? It’s not the easiest thing to figure out exactly, even now. In a way, we could say that his saying has kind of a double meaning, or at least a double application, one to the disciples’ immediate situation, right at that time, and then to a broader, longer-range situation that fits our situation also. So let’s see what sense we can make of all this. Let’s talk about this “A Little While.”


Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 11:48 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.”


Published in: on April 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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