“Confidence, Unity, and Joy: God’s Gifts to Our Church” (1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11b-19)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2015

“Confidence, Unity, and Joy: God’s Gifts to Our Church” (1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11b-19)

Today we are very happy to receive yet another family into our congregation. That makes seventeen new members added to our little church so far this year. Seventeen! That is remarkable. From out of the blue, quite unexpectedly, God has gifted us with these brothers and sisters in Christ, who are joining our church. Thanks be to God!

Yes, today we give thanks to God for the gift of these new members, who already are being a real blessing to our church. But now I want to tell you about some other gifts that God has for our church, and these are gifts that are spoken of in the Scripture readings for today. And they are these: “Confidence, Unity, and Joy: God’s Gifts to Our Church.”


Published in: on May 16, 2015 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” (1 John 5:1-8)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2015

“Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” (1 John 5:1-8)

“Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying”: That’s the hymn we just sang (LSB 597). Listen again to the words of the first stanza:

Water, blood, and Spirit crying,
By their witness testifying
To the One whose death-defying
Life has come, with life for all.

The One to whom the Spirit, the water, and the blood are testifying is, of course, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has defied and defeated death for us, who comes with life for all, and whose Easter victory we are celebrating during this season.

But now where did the hymn writer get the idea for this hymn and the very words that he uses? He got them from our Epistle for today, from 1 John chapter 5. And in particular, from verses 6-8, reading again as follows: “This is he who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” This is our text.


Published in: on May 9, 2015 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“We Love Because He First Loved Us” (1 John 4:1-21)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2015

“We Love Because He First Loved Us” (1 John 4:1-21)

Love, love, love. How often do we hear that word “love”! We use it so freely, so loosely. We use it for McDonald’s hamburgers: “I’m lovin’ it.” We use it for clothing and cars and hairstyles and lots of things we like, but instead of saying “like,” we say “love.” I found myself doing that just the other night: Lance Lynn struck out a batter with the bases loaded and two outs, and I said, without thinking, “Love it!”

Well, a step up from that very loose use of “love” is when we apply the word to people. But even there, it can be overused. So many pop songs have “love” in the lyrics, but what they mean is “I’m really infatuated with you” or “You really turn me on.” Meh, that’s a little weak. Better is when we use “love” about people for whom we have a strong and lasting personal affection. “I love my grandma.” “I love my daughter.” That’s pretty good. That’s the love of personal affection.

But we can do even better than that. There is the love of commitment, of caring and serving others, even the love of self-sacrifice for the good of another. Now that is really the best and highest use of the word “love.” And where and how do we learn that kind of love? That’s what we’ll take up now, under the theme, “We Love Because He First Loved Us.”


Published in: on May 2, 2015 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“One Name, One Flock, One Shepherd” (Acts 4:1-12; John 10:11-18)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2015

“One Name, One Flock, One Shepherd” (Acts 4:1-12; John 10:11-18)

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the day in the church year every year when the propers–that is, the various parts of the service–revolve around Jesus as our Good Shepherd. The Holy Gospel is always a portion of John 10, in which Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. The Psalm is always the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd.” The Hymn of the Day, which we just sang, is “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” And so on. This theme of the Good Shepherd really comes through loud and clear.

Now the First Reading today, from the Book of Acts, chapter 4, doesn’t exactly fit the Good Shepherd theme. There is no mention of sheep or shepherd. But still, it is an appropriate reading for the Easter season. For it describes how the apostles Peter and John were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead,” which is the great emphasis for Easter and these weeks that follow. And what Peter says here about the preaching of the resurrection in Jesus’ name does tie in well with what Jesus himself says in John 10–as we shall see now, as we focus our attention on “One Name, One Flock, One Shepherd.”


Published in: on April 26, 2015 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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“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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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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