“Who Is This?” (Matthew 21:1-11; 27:11-66)

Palm Sunday / Sunday of the Passion
April 13, 2014

“Who Is This?” (Matthew 21:1-11; 27:11-66)

“Who is this?” That would seem to be the question of the day for this day that serves as both Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion. “Who is this?” That’s what the people of Jerusalem were asking about the man who came riding into town on a donkey. That’s the question that swirled around this same man later in the week when he stood before Pilate and the crowd and when he went to the cross to suffer and to die. Who is this? Who is this man, Jesus of Nazareth, the subject of so much controversy, the object of both accusation and acclaim? Who is this guy anyway?

And it’s a question that echoes down to our day, too. Who is this man Jesus? The answers that people give reveal a wide range of opinion, ranging from rank unbelief to raw ignorance to a polite dismissal, from a correct yet canned response to a heartfelt trust and worship. How about you? How would you answer this question about Jesus? “Who Is This?” It’s the most important question you will ever answer.

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Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“And Forgive Us Our Trespasses . . .” (The Lord’s Prayer)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

“And Forgive Us Our Trespasses . . .” (The Lord’s Prayer)

Today we continue our series on the Lord’s Prayer with the Fifth Petition, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” By the way, since this is the last of our Wednesday midweek services, and we’re only up to the Fifth Petition, you may be wondering how we’re going to finish out the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t worry. We’ll do the Sixth Petition, “And lead us not into temptation,” next week on Holy Thursday; the Seventh Petition, “But deliver us from evil,” on Good Friday; and the Conclusion, the “Amen,” on Easter Sunday. And so tonight, the Fifth Petition, “And Forgive Us Our Trespasses. . . .”

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Published in: on April 9, 2014 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Raising Lazarus–and Other Things as Well” (John 11:1-53)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
April 6, 2014

“Raising Lazarus–and Other Things as Well” (John 11:1-53)

Today we come to another one of those memorable chapters in the Gospel of John. So far during this Lenten season we’ve had: John 3, Jesus and Nicodemus; John 4, Jesus and the Samaritan woman; and John 9, Jesus heals the man born blind. Now today we have John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. But that’s not all Jesus raises here in this chapter, as we’re about to hear. Thus our theme today: “Raising Lazarus–and Other Things as Well.”

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Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 6:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” (The Lord’s Prayer)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” (The Lord’s Prayer)

We continue with our Lenten series on the Lord’s Prayer, “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” Tonight we come to the Fourth Petition, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.”

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Published in: on April 2, 2014 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Man Reborn Seeing–and Speaking” (John 9:1-41)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 30, 2014

“The Man Reborn Seeing–and Speaking” (John 9:1-41)

Today’s Gospel, John chapter 9, is usually referred to as the story of Jesus healing “The Man Born Blind.” But since the actual healing takes up only two of the 41 verses, and that, right near the start, and the rest of the chapter has to do with the aftermath of the healing, the reaction to it, and how the man who was healed not only sees but also speaks, speaks up in the face of the threat of persecution, and comes to faith in Christ–for those reasons, I think today I’ll call this story “The Man Reborn Seeing–and Speaking.”

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Published in: on March 30, 2014 at 9:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Thy Will Be Done” (The Lord’s Prayer)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

“Thy Will Be Done” (The Lord’s Prayer)

We continue in our series on the Lord’s Prayer, “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” And tonight we come to the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, namely, “Thy Will Be Done.”

“Thy will be done.” Are we sure we really want to pray this? You know, sometimes we think of “Thy will be done” as just a resigned afterthought, after we’ve prayed for what we really want. “Lord, here are the things I really want you to do for me, but I know you probably won’t answer me the way I would like, so I’ll tack on a ‘Thy will be done’ disclaimer at the end.” It’s like we’re bracing ourselves for the inevitable disappointment when God doesn’t come through for us. But we know our prayers are supposed to sound pious, and so a little “Thy will be done” thrown in at the end does the trick.

Well, that’s kind of a minimalist view of this petition. We’re undervaluing it. There’s a lot more going on here than a mere “escape clause” for when our prayers don’t come true.

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Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Samaritan Woman at the Well” (John 4:5-30, 39-42)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 23, 2014

“The Samaritan Woman at the Well” (John 4:5-30, 39-42)

Have you ever felt like you’re a bit of an outsider? Like you didn’t belong? That maybe you’re being looked down upon by others–whether fairly or unfairly. Maybe you’ve done something to bring some shame upon yourself. And maybe you feel some guilt before God. If this is the case, then I’ve got good news for you today. And we’ll find it out at the side of a well, where a Jewish man has come and meets “The Samaritan Woman at the Well.”

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Published in: on March 22, 2014 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Thy Kingdom Come” (The Lord’s Prayer)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

“Thy Kingdom Come” (The Lord’s Prayer)

We continue our Lenten series on the Lord’s Prayer, a series that we’re calling “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” We come now to the Second Petition, “Thy Kingdom Come.”

I have three main points to make about this petition: 1) In this petition, our Lord is teaching us to seek first the kingdom of God. 2) In this petition, we are praying that God’s kingdom would come in our midst now. And 3) In this petition, we’re praying that God’s kingdom would come with Christ’s return at the Last Day. We’ll take these points now one at a time.

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Published in: on March 19, 2014 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Hallowed Be Thy Name” (The Lord’s Prayer)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

“Hallowed Be Thy Name” (The Lord’s Prayer)

For our midweek Lenten services this year we’re doing a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. I’m calling it “Lord, Teach Us to Pray,” because that was the request of the disciples to Jesus, as you heard in the reading from Luke 11. And Jesus responded by giving them the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Notice, by the way, that the request was “Lord, teach us to pray,” not just “Lord, teach us about prayer.” And notice that Jesus’ response starts out, “When you pray, say. . . .” Not “When you think about the concept of prayer, sit there and do nothing.” You see, the point of this teaching, and the point of this whole sermon series, is not just to fill our heads with information about prayer, but rather, that we would actually pray. “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Last week we started out with the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus teaches us to address God as “Our Father who art in heaven.” We said that God is not some abstract “Higher Power” that we cannot reach, that we cannot know, and that we can’t be sure if he’s hearing our prayers and looking favorably upon us. No, in and through Christ, we have a much better relationship with God than that. Jesus has revealed God to us. We can know that God is our kind and loving heavenly Father. Jesus has opened the way to God for us. By his death and resurrection and his ascension into heaven for us, Jesus Christ has won forgiveness for our sins, has given us new life, and is seated at God’s right hand, interceding for us, so that now our prayers do have access to the throne of grace. God hears our prayers, and he has mercy on us, for Christ’s sake.

Now after the introduction, that is, the address to God as “Our Father in heaven,” we come to the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. The First Petition means the first thing we are asking for in this prayer. The petitions are the things we’re asking for or requesting. And the first one in the Lord’s Prayer is “Hallowed be thy name.” Notice, the first thing we’re asking for is not something like, “Lord, give me a new car,” or even, “Lord, help Aunt Tillie in the hospital.” We’ll get to Aunt Tillie, and maybe even to a new car, later in the prayer. But that’s not where Jesus would have us begin. See, Jesus has us start out with something about God himself, a request and a concern about God’s name, that it would be hallowed. Now of course this will be of the greatest benefit to us, but we don’t start out with a bunch of requests for our own immediate needs. God’s name comes first.

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Published in: on March 12, 2014 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“If You Are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:1-11)

First Sunday in Lent
March 9, 2014

“If You Are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:1-11)

Apparently there is a movie out in the theaters now called “Son of God.” I haven’t seen the movie, and I don’t plan to, but it’s supposed to tell the story of Jesus. However, I understand that this movie doesn’t even include the account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness–which is pretty ironic for a movie that calls itself “Son of God,” since a central issue in the account of the temptation is precisely Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.

Well, I haven’t seen the movie, but I have read the book–the Bible, that is. And in the Bible–specifically, in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke–the account of the temptation of Christ is definitely included. And every year, on this First Sunday in Lent, we get one of those three accounts as the Gospel reading for the day. This year it’s St. Matthew’s account, from the beginning of Matthew chapter 4, which we will now consider under the theme: “If You Are the Son of God.”

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Published in: on March 8, 2014 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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