“When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 17, 2017

“When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

Have you ever seen one of those makeover shows on TV? My daughter used to watch one. It was called “What Not to Wear.” The idea of the show was that they would select a woman whose wardrobe and appearance wasn’t that great. Then they would help her pick out some new clothes that would look better on her. They would give her a nice haircut and do up her makeup. So this woman, who at the start of the program was looking all drab and dowdy, by the end of the program was looking like a million bucks. And she would be absolutely delighted with the results. The makeover had made a big difference.

Well, today I want to tell you about an even better makeover. And the good news is, it’s for you. It’s for all of us. And it’s free of charge. This makeover will make the biggest difference in your life, and you will be absolutely delighted with the results. What I want to tell you about now is “When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover.”

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Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“New Heavens and a New Earth” (2 Peter 3:8-14)

Midweek Advent Evening Prayer
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

“New Heavens and a New Earth” (2 Peter 3:8-14)

This year’s theme for our Advent midweek services is “Waiting for the Day of the Lord.” We’re looking at the Epistle readings for the first three weeks of Advent, all of which are about looking forward to the second coming of Christ and, in view of that, how to live now while we’re waiting for that day.

Last week we began by looking at the biblical background of the term, “The Day of the Lord.” We saw it as a day of both judgment and salvation–judgment for the unbelieving world, but salvation for us as the redeemed people of God. We took comfort in God’s promise that he will sustain us to the end, “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Today we continue to explore what it means to be waiting for the day of the Lord. Our text this week is from 2 Peter 3, where St. Peter alerts us to be ready for that day. Peter’s message to us tonight is threefold: First, while there may seem to be a delay in Christ’s return, don’t think that God has forgotten his promise to bring it to pass, and so don’t be caught unawares when it finally does come, for it will come like a thief in the night. Second, Peter tells us what will happen to this evil world on that day, and he points us to the new creation that God will then bring about: “New Heavens and a New Earth.” Third, Peter exhorts us to live as God’s holy people even now, since that is who we are in Christ, and those new heavens and new earth we’re waiting for will be a place “in which righteousness dwells.” Let’s take these three points now one at a time.

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Published in: on December 14, 2017 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins” (Mark 1:1-8)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 10, 2017

“A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins” (Mark 1:1-8)

Well, here comes John the Baptist again. He always shows up around this time of year. Always with kind of a depressing message: “Repent! Get your life straightened out!” John the Baptist is like the Denny Downer of December. Everybody else is having a good time getting ready for Christmas–going shopping, listening to Christmas music, watching specials on TV, having Christmas parties–and here comes John, telling us to repent. John, is that any way to get ready for Christmas?

I mean, listen to this part of our text today from Mark 1: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

A baptism of repentance. People confessing their sins. Kind of dreary, isn’t it? Not too cheery. But oh, wait! This was John’s baptism, right? Yeah, John’s baptism doesn’t apply to us, does it? So I guess we can go on and skip over this repentance stuff.

Hold on, not so fast. Yeah, John’s baptism was not exactly the same as our baptism. His was preparatory, provisional, for a limited time only. But is it totally irrelevant to us? I mean the repentance stuff. I don’t think so. Let’s find out more now, as we consider “A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins.”

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Published in: on December 10, 2017 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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“A Day of Judgment and Salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)

Midweek Advent Evening Prayer
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

“A Day of Judgment and Salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)

In thinking about a theme for our three midweek Advent services this year, I decided to go with the Epistle readings for the first three Sundays in Advent. For there is a common theme that you can see in all three. There is a phrase, a connecting thread, that runs through these readings. See if you can notice what it is.

First, from the Epistle for the First Sunday in Advent, 1 Corinthians 1, the part where it says: “as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Then from the Epistle for the Second Sunday in Advent, from 2 Peter 3, phrases like these: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. . . . waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God. . . . we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth. . . .”

And from the Third Sunday in Advent, 1 Thessalonians 5: “may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Did you catch it? What is the thread running through these lessons? It is “the day of the Lord,” the coming and revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, his second coming, and how we are to wait for that day. Thus our theme for this Advent series: “Waiting for the Day of the Lord.”

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Published in: on December 6, 2017 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down” (Isaiah 64:1-9)

First Sunday in Advent
December 3, 2017

“Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down” (Isaiah 64:1-9)

The Old Testament Reading for today, from Isaiah 64, is an intense prayer. The prophet is begging God to intervene on behalf of his people. As such, it is a fitting prayer also for God’s New Testament people, the church. And so, on this First Sunday in Advent, as we enter this season of waiting for the Lord’s coming, we cry out with Isaiah, “Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down.”

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Published in: on December 3, 2017 at 12:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Sheep and the Goats” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 26, 2017

“The Sheep and the Goats” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Are you a sheep or a goat? You will be one or the other, you know. When? When Christ comes again. Listen again to today’s Gospel reading: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.” Dear friends, you and I will be there when this happens, either among the sheep or among the goats. So it’s important that we listen today and learn about “The Sheep and the Goats.”

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Published in: on November 25, 2017 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk” (Philippians 4:6-20)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 23, 2017

“Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk” (Philippians 4:6-20)

Today I have three words for you. These are three things you can do to celebrate this Day of Thanksgiving. They are three words that are easy for you to remember for the rest of this day. And here they are: “Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk.”

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Published in: on November 22, 2017 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Faithful Stewards of Our Master’s Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30)

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
November 19, 2017

“Faithful Stewards of Our Master’s Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30)

Our text is the Holy Gospel for today, from Matthew 25. It’s the story known as the Parable of the Talents. A master gives his servants talents, varying amounts of money, to manage on his behalf. When he comes back, we see what they have done with those talents and what the master says to them about their stewardship.

This parable has real application to us, for you and I have been gifted by God with varying talents and abilities, as well as money, to be used faithfully for God’s purposes. You and I are stewards, entrusted with what our master has given us. Talents on loan from God, we might say. So how are we using what we’ve been given? Faithfully, or not so much? And so our theme this morning: “Faithful Stewards of Our Master’s Talents.”

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Published in: on November 18, 2017 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 12, 2017

“Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

You may notice that we still have the white paraments up from last week, when we observed All Saints’ Day. That’s because today we’re doing a kind of “All Saints’ Day, Part Two.” Last week we remembered those from our midst who entered the Church Triumphant over the past twelve months: Homer and Dorothy Rouggly, Bob and Dottie Worsham. This week, today, we’re remembering other departed saints from our midst, whom we commemorated at the start of the service with a plaque at the entrance to our church. The plaque is in memory of Elaine Hadler, Ralph Duncan, Lee Hoffman, Jan Burr, and Doris Benear. Why those names? Because their memorial funds were used to build the entryway to our church, and so it’s appropriate that there be a memorial to that effect.

And how fitting it is that the verse inscribed on the plaque is something all of these dear saints would heartily agree on: Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” For Elaine and Ralph and Lee and Jan and Doris–they were very glad to come to this house of the Lord, St. Matthew’s. They loved coming here over the years. And now they, by means of this entryway and this plaque—now they are saying to us and to future generations: “Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!”

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Published in: on November 12, 2017 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Are These, Clothed in White Robes?” (Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Sunday, November 5, 2017

“Who Are These, Clothed in White Robes?” (Revelation 7:9-17)

Today, on this first Sunday in November, we observe All Saints’ Day. On All Saints’ Day, we rejoice that we are part of that great communion of saints that is the church of Christ, both the church on earth and the church in heaven. All the saints, all those made holy by the blood of Christ. Saints, holy ones, set apart to belong to God alone. All saints, all of us who have been baptized into Christ and clothed with his righteousness.

On All Saints’ Day we commemorate the faithful departed, those saints who have fallen asleep in the Lord and joined the Church Triumphant. In particular, we remember the faithful departed from our own midst who have died in the last twelve months. This year we remember our dear friends Homer and Dorothy Rouggly and Bob and Dottie Worsham. What a thing it is with each of these two long-married couples that the wife should go first and then the husband just a few months later: Dorothy in May and then Homer in August, Dottie in June and then Bob in October. I think maybe the Lord was being merciful to those poor husbands who were left without their dear partner in life.

This is a special All Saints’ Day for me personally, as this year the first Sunday in November falls on November 5. For it was on November 5, 1995, All Saints’ Day 22 years ago, that my daughter Anna was baptized on the eighth day of her life, one week after she was born, and it just so happened to be my mother’s 80th birthday, what turned out to be her last birthday on earth. What a memorable All Saints’ Day that was!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today I want to tell you that there is a strong connection between a person’s baptism into the new life in Christ and the sure hope of the resurrection unto the eternal life we have in Christ. We see this connection reflected in the white gown of a child’s baptism and the white funeral pall that often is placed on a Christian’s casket. We see it in the white liturgical color of the paraments for All Saints’ Day.

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Published in: on November 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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