“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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“Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani?” (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Psalm 22; Mark 15:1-47)

Good Friday
April 3, 2015

“Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani?” (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Psalm 22; Mark 15:1-47)

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” This is one of the seven words from the cross, that is, one of the seven times Jesus spoke during his crucifixion. “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” This saying of Jesus is recorded for us in two of the four gospels, in Matthew and Mark, where it is the only word from the cross that is recorded. For the other words from the cross, we have to go to Luke and John.

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” I think what is so striking about this word from the cross is that it is spoken, and recorded for us, in another language. That language is Aramaic, which is sort of a cousin to Hebrew. Aramaic was the everyday language that Jewish people like Jesus spoke at that time. And we find several times that Jesus’ words in Aramaic are recorded for us in the Bible. In Mark’s gospel, for instance, we hear Jesus raising a girl from the dead, saying, in Aramaic, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, arise.” Jesus heals a deaf man, touching his ears and saying, again in Aramaic, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.” When Jesus prays in the garden, he starts his prayer by saying, “Abba,” which is Aramaic for “Father.” And now here today, this word from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

Fortunately for us, who do not speak Aramaic, Mark always provides a translation every time he quotes Jesus in that language. And so it is here, where Mark gives the meaning, and it is in the form of a question: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But that in turn raises the question of the meaning beyond a mere translation. Why is Jesus saying this? Why has God forsaken him? And what does that mean for us? Those are the questions we will explore now, as we ponder the meaning of “Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani?”

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Published in: on April 3, 2015 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Blood of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:3-11; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Mark 14:12-26)

Holy Thursday
April 2, 2015

“Blood of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:3-11; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Mark 14:12-26)

“Blood” and “covenant” go together in the Bible pretty much all the time. Whenever God establishes a covenant with people, generally it is sealed with blood. And tonight is no exception. In fact, tonight is the culmination of this connection between blood and covenant. It’s Holy Thursday, the night in which our Lord Jesus Christ establishes a covenant with us and says, “This is my ‘Blood of the Covenant.’”

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Published in: on April 1, 2015 at 9:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Your Committed and Determined King” (Mark 11:1-10; 14:12-26)

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion
March 29, 2015

“Your Committed and Determined King” (Mark 11:1-10; 14:12-26)

Today is a Sunday that goes by two names, “Palm Sunday” and the “Sunday of the Passion.” As such, we get readings for both of these emphases. There is the Palm Sunday Processional Gospel at the start of the service, the account of Jesus riding into Jerusalem with palm branches spread before him. And there is the longer reading of the Passion of Our Lord, giving us an overview of the events later in Holy Week, through Jesus’ suffering and death.

And as I looked over these two readings, something jumped out at me, something that these two readings have in common. It’s a little detail, but it tells us a lot about who Jesus is, and who he is for you. So now listen as you hear about “Your Committed and Determined King.”

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Published in: on March 28, 2015 at 11:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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“The Tree of Life in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 21:22 – 22:5, 22:14)

Midweek Lenten Evening Prayer
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

“The Tree of Life in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 21:22 – 22:5, 22:14)

And so we come full circle. One month ago, we began this series on “The Tree of Life” back there, at the tree of life in the garden. Now tonight we end up back where we started, once again at the tree of life. This is the story of the Bible, how we got away from the tree of life in the beginning, and how we end up at the tree of life in the end. The opening chapters of Genesis and the closing chapters of Revelation form matching bookends for the whole of the Bible. And so tonight we end this series where we ourselves will end up for eternity, an unending eternity at “The Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.”

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Published in: on March 26, 2015 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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“To Serve and to Give His Life as a Ransom” (Mark 10:32-45)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2015

“To Serve and to Give His Life as a Ransom” (Mark 10:32-45)

These boys just don’t get it. The disciples, I mean. There’s a whole lot of misunderstanding going on in our text for today, the Holy Gospel from Mark 10, and it’s the disciples who don’t get it. They don’t understand what Jesus is telling them about why they’re going up to Jerusalem. They don’t understand about glory or greatness. They don’t understand suffering or servanthood. You know, maybe we don’t understand these things fully, either. But fortunately for the disciples–and for us–there is one person in this story who does understand, who does get it, and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one who came “To Serve and to Give His Life as a Ransom.”

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Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Growing Tree” (Ezekiel 17:22-24; Matthew 13:31-32)

Midweek Lenten Evening Prayer
Wednesday, March 18, 2015

“A Growing Tree” (Ezekiel 17:22-24; Matthew 13:31-32)

The image of a tree, which may have started out rather small and insignificant, but which grows and expands until it becomes a very large tree, with branches and leaves where the birds of the air come to make their nests–this is an image that is used in a number of places in the Bible. And it is generally used to signify the rise and growth of a kingdom, a kingdom that grows and expands to include many nations in its empire.

For example, in the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has a dream about a tree like that, a tree that grows and becomes strong, and its top reaches the heavens. And the birds of the heavens live in its branches. Daniel is called in to interpret the dream. He tells Nebuchadnezzar: “It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.” And that was a true description of the Babylonian Empire early in the sixth century B.C.

Likewise, in Ezekiel 31, there is a similar story about the Assyrian Empire. It was like a cedar that towered high above all the trees of the field. All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs. And that was true at one time of the Assyrian Empire.

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Published in: on March 18, 2015 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“By Grace You Have Been Saved” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 15, 2015

“By Grace You Have Been Saved” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Our Epistle reading for today is one of the outstanding passages in all of Scripture for putting together in one package several important realities. And they are: man’s natural condition; God’s great love and kindness in saving us; how that salvation comes to us as a gift; and then the result of what God has done for us in how we lead our lives. And there’s a key phrase that is repeated in this passage and that sums all this up, and it will serve as our theme this morning: “By Grace You Have Been Saved.”

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Published in: on March 15, 2015 at 3:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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