“Receiving God’s Gifts: Grumbling or Grateful?” (Exodus 16:2-15; John 6:22-35; Ephesians 4:1-16)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2015

“Receiving God’s Gifts: Grumbling or Grateful?” (Exodus 16:2-15; John 6:22-35; Ephesians 4:1-16)

There is a theme that runs through all three of our lessons today. Did you spot it? It is the theme of God’s gifts. In the reading from Exodus, in the reading from Ephesians, and in the reading from John–in each of those readings, God is busy giving gifts to his people. Our God is a gracious and giving God, there is no doubt about that. But how God’s people receive his gifts–how we receive the gifts God gives to us–now that can be quite another question. Do we recognize the gifts God gives us? Do we grumble about them, that they’re not what we want, and really, God, we’d rather have some other things instead of what you’re giving us? Or do we recognize and receive God’s gifts for what they are, which is, the best that God has for us for now and for eternity, even if we don’t understand why we’re getting what we’re getting? And so our theme this morning: “Receiving God’s Gifts: Grumbling or Grateful?”

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Published in: on August 2, 2015 at 12:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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“God’s Building Project” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 19, 2015

“God’s Building Project” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

“Built on the Rock the Church shall stand.” “Christ is our cornerstone.” “The Church’s one foundation.” These hymns that we’re singing this morning–they’re all drawing on the imagery of our text today, the Epistle reading from Ephesians 2, specifically, from verses 19-22: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” In other words, the church is “God’s Building Project.”

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Published in: on July 18, 2015 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Blessings in Christ: Past, Present, and Future” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 12, 2015

“Blessings in Christ: Past, Present, and Future” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Today is the beginning of eight straight weeks in which the Epistle reading is a portion of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. And at the same time, as soon as we wrap up our study of Mark, I plan to start Ephesians for our Bible class on Sunday mornings. So I encourage you to read through this wonderful epistle, perhaps even a couple of times, over these coming weeks.

If I had to choose my favorite epistle in the New Testament, I just might pick Ephesians. There is so much here, packed into just six chapters. Christ, the cross, the church, the work of the Holy Trinity, the proper distinction of Law and Gospel, justification, sanctification, daily living, marriage, family, spiritual warfare, and the big picture of God’s plan for the universe–it’s all right here in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It’s really quite remarkable.

And our text today, the opening of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians–this in itself is something quite remarkable. Twelve verses, and if you read it in the Greek, it’s like Paul is hardly stopping to take a breath, rushing from one blessing to the next. Evidently, Paul is quite excited to get this letter going–he’s excited about the gospel of Christ–and so he just bursts out, right off the bat, with this fantastic doxology of praise to God for all his wonderful blessings: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. . . .” And that’s just the start. So let’s take up this passage now, under the theme, “Blessings in Christ: Past, Present, and Future.”

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Published in: on July 11, 2015 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Prophets without Honor” (Ezekiel 2:1-5; Mark 6:1-13; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 5, 2015

“Prophets without Honor” (Ezekiel 2:1-5; Mark 6:1-13; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

“Prophets without Honor.” That’s what we see in our readings today, in the lessons from Ezekiel, Mark, and 2 Corinthians. “Prophets without Honor.” That’s what we see in our world today–that’s what we see in our nation today. And who are these prophets who do not receive the honor befitting the message that they bring? Well, guess what? It’s us, we in the church, who bring the word of God. So it behooves us today to listen now, as we consider the trials–and the blessing–of being “Prophets without Honor.”

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Published in: on July 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Flow of Blood and a Rising from the Dead” (Mark 5:21-43)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 28, 2015

“A Flow of Blood and a Rising from the Dead” (Mark 5:21-43)

Two women, forever bound together in Holy Scripture. Two women, one an adult, suffering from a flow of blood for twelve years; the other a young girl, twelve years old, dead, but then rising from the dead. Two women, afflicted by disease and death as we all are. And yet two women, both saved, delivered, and healed, in the same way that we are. And so our theme this morning, “A Flow of Blood and a Rising from the Dead.”

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Published in: on June 27, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Keep Calm, Jesus Is in the Boat” (Mark 4:35-41)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2015

“Keep Calm, Jesus Is in the Boat” (Mark 4:35-41)

“Be still, my soul.” Oh, really? You don’t know what I’m going through! My life is a wreck! My finances are in free-fall. My health–oh, don’t get me started! It’s just one thing after another. First it’s this, then it’s that–I get one thing fixed, and then something else goes wrong. Relationships gone wrong, too. Loneliness, despair, depression. Well, and then there’s what’s going on in the news. A shooting in South Carolina, nine innocent people killed–in a church yet! Where was God in this? Asleep at the switch? Doesn’t he watch over his people? Doesn’t he watch over me? And you’re telling me to sing, “Be still, my soul”? Come on, get real!

Well, yes, let’s get real. Because it would be just wishful thinking if we had no basis in reality for singing “Be still, my soul.” That would just be happy talk, whistling past the graveyard, if there were nothing more to it than that. But dear friends, I want to tell you today that there is a real basis for us to say to our souls, “Be still.” And that is because we have a Lord who says to the storms of our life–even to real, physical storms–“Peace! Be still!” And so I am keeping it real when I say to you now, “Keep Calm, Jesus Is in the Boat.”

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Published in: on June 20, 2015 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Different Opinions about Jesus–and His Followers” (Mark 3:20-35)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 7, 2015

“Different Opinions about Jesus–and His Followers” (Mark 3:20-35)

In the Holy Gospel for today we encounter people expressing a couple of different opinions about Jesus. One is a temporary misunderstanding about him. The other is a hardened rejection of Jesus. Both opinions are negative.

Now by extension what people think about Jesus will also shape what they think about his followers. And so today as we see people expressing these negative views about Christ, realize that people will have similar negative views about his Christians. And we need to be prepared for this. People will say this stuff about us. But at the same time, there is another opinion about Jesus’ followers that we will discover in our text. Now the question for us is, whose opinion do we put more stock in? Whose view do we pay more attention to? It makes a difference. So our theme this morning: “Different Opinions about Jesus–and His Followers.”

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Published in: on June 7, 2015 at 2:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Loving Father, the Lifted-Up Son, and the Life-Giving Spirit” (John 3:1-17)

The Holy Trinity
Sunday, May 31, 2015

“The Loving Father, the Lifted-Up Son, and the Life-Giving Spirit” (John 3:1-17)

The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for our salvation. That’s what this Feast of the Holy Trinity is all about. This is not an occasion to strain our brains to try to figure out what for us, with our finite reason, is ultimately incomprehensible, namely, how there can be one God in three persons and at the same time three persons and only one God. That would blow out our circuits, if we even could comprehend it. Rather, the thing to do on this day is simply, with childlike faith, to receive the saving truth of the Trinity and to rejoice in the reality of the triune God. Which is what we will do now, as we rejoice in “The Loving Father, the Lifted-Up Son, and the Life-Giving Spirit.”

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Published in: on May 30, 2015 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Helper: The Paraclete of Pentecost” (John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, May 24, 2015

“The Helper: The Paraclete of Pentecost” (John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15)

“To You, O Paraclete, we raise / Unending songs of thanks and praise.” Did you catch that last line of the hymn we just sang? And did you wonder who or what this “Paraclete” was? Well, it seems to be a reference to the Holy Spirit, because earlier in that stanza we’ve been praising the Father and the Son, so this must be the Holy Spirit. But why call the Holy Spirit “Paraclete”? Is that because the Spirit came down in the form of a parakeet at Jesus’ baptism? No, wait, that was a dove, not a parakeet. And besides, this is “Paraclete,” not “parakeet.”

Alright, so what in the world is a “Paraclete”? Well, if you noticed the fine print at the bottom of the page of that hymn, Hymn 500, you saw that there was this explanation: “‘Paraclete,’ another name for the Holy Spirit, comes from the Greek, meaning ‘comforter’ or ‘counselor.’” And so it is. “Comforter,” “counselor,” “advocate”–these are all ways the Greek word “Paraclete” can be translated. Or, as the term occurs in the Holy Gospel for today, there the word “Paraclete” is translated as “Helper.” Jesus uses this term “Paraclete” several times to tell the disciples he is going to send them the “Helper.”

That’s what this day, the Day of Pentecost, is all about: It’s about the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ sending the Paraclete, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to the church, to help the church, to help us Christians, in several ways. So let’s find out how, as we now consider our theme, “The Helper: The Paraclete of Pentecost.”

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Published in: on May 24, 2015 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“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.”

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Published in: on May 16, 2015 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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