“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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“A Fruitful Tree” (Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:1-5; Psalm 1)

Midweek Lenten Evening Prayer
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

“A Fruitful Tree” (Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:1-5; Psalm 1)

We just heard a bunch of readings from a variety of places in the Bible–Psalm 1, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and words of Jesus from the gospels of St. Luke and St. John–and all of these readings, about trees bearing fruit. This is an image of course of people and the fruits or works that they produce in their lives.

Now the first thing to recognize is that we all bear fruit. We all produce works in our lives. The question is, though: What kind of fruit are we producing? Good fruit or bad fruit? There is this distinction, you see, among fruit. Some fruit may be bad or rotten in God’s sight. Some fruit may be good and acceptable to God. So what kind of fruit are you producing in your life? Is God pleased with it? Our topic tonight, then, is this: How do I become “A Fruitful Tree”?

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Published in: on March 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Cross of Christ, the Tree of Life” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 8, 2015

“The Cross of Christ, the Tree of Life” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

What a joy it is to be back here in the house of the Lord! Because of the snow and ice, we lost four out of the first five services we had scheduled this Lent: Ash Wednesday; the First Sunday in Lent; the Second Sunday in Lent; and then this past Wednesday, what was to be our second midweek service. But we were able to have the first midweek service, in our series called “The Tree of Life.” And since we didn’t get to do the second message in that series, we’ll pick it up today, and that will get us back on track for this coming week.

Now it is a happy coincidence that what would have been our message on Wednesday ties in perfectly with one of the readings appointed for today. I’m speaking of the Epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 1. This is St. Paul’s famous passage about the word of the cross, that the preaching of Christ crucified, while it may seem like folly and weakness to the world, in reality it is the power and wisdom of God to save sinners like you and me. And so this passage ties in very nicely with our “Tree of Life” series. Thus our theme this morning: “The Cross of Christ, the Tree of Life.”

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Published in: on March 8, 2015 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Tale of Two Trees” (Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17; 3:1-24)

Midweek Lenten Evening Prayer
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“A Tale of Two Trees” (Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17; 3:1-24)

This is “A Tale of Two Trees.” Oh, there were a whole bunch of other trees besides, lots of them, but this story will focus on just two.

Our story begins back in the garden, the garden of Eden, that is. There the Lord God had formed the man from the dust of the earth, and he gave the man the authority and the responsibility to take care of it. The Lord was very generous toward the man, withholding nothing, providing him with everything he needed, in abundance. There were lots and lots of trees in this garden, all sorts of trees that were nice to look at and good for food.

Now there were two trees in the middle of the garden that were especially important. One was called the tree of life, and the other was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These are the two trees our tale is focused on.

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Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Transfiguration: The Bridge between Epiphany and Lent” (Mark 9:2-9)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sunday, February 15, 2015

“The Transfiguration: The Bridge between Epiphany and Lent” (Mark 9:2-9)

Today is the Festival of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, remembering that day when our Lord Jesus Christ was transfigured, that is, his appearance was changed, up on a mountain. This was a key event in our Lord’s life, and it marked a turning point, a pivot point, in his ministry. So, likewise, does this festival mark a turning point, a pivot point, in the church year calendar. Transfiguration comes at the end of the Epiphany season, just a few days before the beginning of Lent. The church year mirrors the gospel narrative.

And so today, what I want to say to you is that this Feast of the Transfiguration serves as “The Bridge between Epiphany and Lent,” and perfectly so. You will see how the placement of the Transfiguration event in the context of the gospel narrative, as its pivot point–and therefore also the placement of this Transfiguration festival, in the context of the church year, as the bridge between Epiphany and Lent–how all of this works for you, to strengthen your faith in the Christ who is transfigured.

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Published in: on February 15, 2015 at 2:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Silas: Fellow Worker, Faithful Brother” (Acts 16:19b-40)

Commemoration of Silas, Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

“Silas: Fellow Worker, Faithful Brother” (Acts 16:19b-40)

Back in 1969, the first moon landing took place, Apollo 11, and the first man set foot on the moon. Most of you probably know his name, Neil Armstrong. “One small step,” and all that. There was another man on that trip who was the second man to step on the moon, and some of you may know his name, too. That’s right, Buzz Aldrin, the #2 guy on the first trip to the moon. But that was the first trip. Later that year there was another trip to the moon, Apollo 12, and even if I gave you the name of the lead astronaut, Pete Conrad, I bet you no one here could come up with the name of the second man. Give up? Alan Bean. Alan Bean was the #2 guy on the second trip. But no one remembers him.

The saint we are commemorating today, St. Silas, is the Alan Bean of the Book of Acts. Because, like Astronaut Bean, Silas was the #2 guy on the second trip–in this case, the second missionary journey of Paul. Of course, we all know about Paul. And most of us know something about Barnabas, the #2 guy on the first trip. But the #2 guy on the second trip–now that’s getting a little fuzzy. We don’t know too much about Silas, the second “second banana.”

Now the “official” description you get for the Commemoration of Silas, as you find it in the hymnal, is, “Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul.” “Fellow worker”: Hey, that sounds like all of us! For we are all fellow workers, aren’t we, in one form or another, pastor and people alike, in a lead role or a supporting role–all of us, fellow workers in the church’s great mission of spreading the gospel. Silas, then, may have something to say to us today.

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Published in: on February 10, 2015 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Comes Today with Healing” (Mark 1:29-39)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 8, 2015

“Jesus Comes Today with Healing” (Mark 1:29-39)

Well, look at all those people Jesus healed! On a Sabbath afternoon, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and Jesus healed her. And then that evening at sundown, after the Sabbath was ended, people brought a whole bunch of sick people to Jesus, and he healed them. So it didn’t matter if you had a Saturday Day Fever or a Saturday Night Fever, Jesus could heal you.

“They brought to him all who were sick,” our text says, “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases.” Boy, it would have been nice to have been around back then, huh? You got an achy back? Go see Jesus. Bronchitis, allergies? Run down and see Jesus. He’ll heal you. Yeah, this must have been some kind of health care system! Better than Obamacare. It’s Jesuscare, and he won’t raise your premiums.

So we may wish to have been around back then. Get in on some of those healings. And really, why can’t we have some of that today? What, did Jesus go out of the healing business? Close up shop? What are we, chopped liver? Don’t we rate as much as those folks back then? “Hey, I’ve got a friend with cancer. She could use a healing just about now. What about us, Jesus?”

Yes, what about us? Why don’t we get included on these healings that Jesus performed so long ago? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow”? Yes, it does. Jesus Christ is indeed the same yesterday and today and forever. And that’s why I’m here to tell you that, yes, “Jesus Comes Today with Healing.”

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Published in: on February 7, 2015 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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