“‘Follow Me’: The Call to Discipleship” (Mark 1:14-20)

Midweek Lenten Service
February 24, 2021

“‘Follow Me’: The Call to Discipleship” (Mark 1:14-20)

Today we begin a series of four messages based on the four “Follow me” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. “Follow me”: In saying those words, Jesus was calling people back then to be his disciples. “Follow me”: Jesus is still saying those words to us today. He is calling us to be his disciples. So hear him now, as Jesus says to each one of us: “Follow Me.”

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Published in: on February 24, 2021 at 10:44 pm  Comments (1)  
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“In the Wilderness” (Mark 1:9-15)

First Sunday in Lent
February 21, 2021

“In the Wilderness” (Mark 1:9-15)

Today is the First Sunday in Lent, and every year on this Sunday the Holy Gospel is an account of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. This year the reading comes from Mark’s gospel. It’s the shortest, and the most compact and condensed, of the three accounts, but still it has much to speak to us today. So now let’s join our Lord “In the Wilderness.”

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Published in: on February 20, 2021 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Repent and Believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:1-20)

Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2021

“Repent and Believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:1-20)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first of the forty days of Lent. And while we’re not able to meet in person today, due to adverse travel conditions, we still are able to meet here, online, to meditate on God’s Word. And we’re thankful for that.

One thing we’re encouraging our people to do this year for our Lenten devotion is to “Read Mark.” That is, we have recommended a schedule for reading through the Gospel of Mark over the forty days of Lent. The readings average only about seventeen verses a day, so that’s very manageable. We’ve included the reading plan as a bulletin insert the last couple of Sundays, I’ve posted the schedule on my Facebook page, and I’ve sent it out to our members for whom I have email addresses. If you would like a copy of the “Read Mark” devotional plan, let me know, with your email address, and I can email it to you.

The first reading today, to begin our readthrough of this gospel, is from Mark chapter 1, the first twenty verses. And not only does it get us started in Mark, it also works to get us going in Lent. For Lent is a penitential season, a season of repentance, as we hear now in the words of our Savior, “Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”

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Published in: on February 17, 2021 at 8:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Christ’s Transfiguration and Our Hope of Glory” (Mark 9:2-9)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sunday, February 14, 2021

“Christ’s Transfiguration and Our Hope of Glory” (Mark 9:2-9)

O wondrous type! O vision fair
Of glory that the Church may share,
Which Christ upon the mountain shows,
Where brighter than the sun He glows!

So we just sang, and so we will now hear, under the theme, “Christ’s Transfiguration and Our Hope of Glory.”

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Published in: on February 13, 2021 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Jesus Vaccine” (Mark 1:29-39)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 7, 2021

“The Jesus Vaccine” (Mark 1:29-39)

Have you gotten the vaccine yet? That’s a question that’s been going “viral” lately (yes, pun intended). Have you gotten the vaccine? Everybody’s talking about that, because the vaccine is supposed to protect you from the virus–the Coronavirus, Covid-19. And so, people are lining up at the various vaccination sites in order to get the shot–or two shots, as the case may be. There are a couple of different vaccines available. The two I’ve heard about are the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer. And so far, the results sound encouraging. The numbers I heard Friday are these: The Moderna vaccine is currently posting a 94.1% efficacy rate and the Pfizer vaccine is showing an efficacy rate of more than 90%.

But, dear friends, those results are not nearly good enough. Because that still means that anywhere from six to ten percent of people who get the shot get the virus anyway. And if the Coronavirus doesn’t get you, something else will. So far, I have not heard of any vaccine that can prevent you from succumbing to something. As a famous surgeon general once said, “We all will probably die with something sooner or later.”

Well, actually, let me take that back. I do know of something that can and will prevent you from dying. And I’m here today to tell you about it. It’s called “The Jesus Vaccine.” The Jesus vaccine. It’s not 90% effective. It’s not 94.1% effective. No, the Jesus vaccine is 100% effective, and against all causes of death, Coronavirus included.

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Published in: on February 6, 2021 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Exclamation Mark: Immediately! Authority! Astonished!” (Mark 1:21-28)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 31, 2021

“Exclamation Mark: Immediately! Authority! Astonished!” (Mark 1:21-28)

The featured gospel in our lectionary this year is the Gospel according to St. Mark. While all four gospels are telling the same story, the story of Jesus, and all four are inspired by the Holy Spirit, each gospel writer tells the Jesus story in his own individual style. And what all readers notice about the way Mark tells the story is the sense of urgency and action he conveys and how the story moves along. Jesus is thrown into conflict right away. We move from one event to another in rapid fashion. Jesus does amazing, astonishing things, displaying powerful authority in his words and his works. Marks tells the story in bold, dramatic fashion. So much so that today I think I’ll call him “Exclamation Mark.” And what jumps out at me in our reading from Mark today are three words that I think could use an exclamation mark, namely, “Immediately! Authority! Astonished!”

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Published in: on January 30, 2021 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“When Jesus Calls, We Follow” (Mark 1:14-20)

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 24, 2021

“When Jesus Calls, We Follow” (Mark 1:14-20)

“Hark, the voice of Jesus calling, ‘Who will go and work today?’” Yes, true, Jesus calls us “to work for God’s kingdom and answer his call.” But first things first. Before our Lord calls us to go and work, he first calls us to come and receive. Jesus calls us to repent and believe. He calls us to come and follow him. Then we take up the tasks he gives us. And so our theme this morning: “When Jesus Calls, We Follow.”

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Published in: on January 23, 2021 at 7:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Feasting and Fellowship Forever” (Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 7:9-17)

Funeral Service
Thursday, January 21, 2021

“Feasting and Fellowship Forever” (Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 7:9-17)

Our brother Ron has died, and we feel the loss. And especially you, John, for Ron was not only your brother in Christ, he was also your father in the flesh. But for all of us who knew him, we will miss Ron. For our congregation here at St. Matthew’s, Ron was a reliable and faithful presence, coming to church whenever he was physically able, stationed back there in his wheelchair, where I would bring him Holy Communion. And before he became wheelchair-bound, even when he was in not-great health, Ron helped out in whatever way he could, like working at our Men’s Club barbecue. That was the kind of heart he had.

Barb and Del, you did so much for Ron, in the way that you have cared for Ron and John’s practical needs. And for me as a pastor and you as caregivers, there were several times when we had to rush to this or that hospital, thinking this might be the end for Ron. But each time, that tough old bird pulled through. It wasn’t his time yet. But now that time has arrived. And we will miss him.

These last months have been especially tough for us, and they were even more so for Ron. I was last able to go visit Ron in September, but then the Covid restrictions tightened at hospitals and nursing homes, and I couldn’t get in to see him since. Even you, John, could not get in to see him. But think of how that must have been for Ron himself. The isolation. Being cut off from friends and family, while his health was declining. And as his health declined, Ron wasn’t able to eat and keep his strength up. He kept losing weight. Then finally, it all became too much for his weakened body to take. A sad end to a good long life. And so here we are today.

But dear friends, today I want to assure you that this is not the end of the story for Ron Benear! On the contrary, this is only the beginning! For according to our Lord’s promise, Ron has gone from hunger and isolation to “Feasting and Fellowship Forever.”

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Published in: on January 21, 2021 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Leading a Chaste and Decent Life” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 17, 2021

“Leading a Chaste and Decent Life” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

Have you seen the January issue of the Lutheran Witness? On the cover it has a quote from Luther’s Explanation of the Sixth Commandment. It says: “We should fear and love God so that we lead a chaste and decent life.” And that’s the theme of the issue: The articles are on how we as Christians should lead a chaste and decent life in what we say and do.

And so, when I looked at the Scripture readings coming up for today, I thought, “Wow, the Epistle lesson ties right in with this issue!” And it certainly is a timely topic, as we shall see. Thus the theme for our message this morning: “Leading a Chaste and Decent Life.”

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Published in: on January 16, 2021 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Baptism with Our Lord” (Mark 1:4-11; Romans 6:1-11)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 10, 2021

“The Baptism with Our Lord” (Mark 1:4-11; Romans 6:1-11)

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. On Wednesday we celebrated the Epiphany of Our Lord. That makes today the First Sunday after the Epiphany. And that means that today, as we do every year on this Sunday, we hear an account of Jesus being baptized, whether from Matthew, Mark, or Luke. This year it’s the account from Mark.

And Mark says, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” And you say, “OK, so Jesus got baptized. Why is that important? What does this have to do with me?” And I say, “A whole lot. As we will now see.” The Gospel reading from Mark and the Epistle reading from Romans will make the connection for us, the connection between the Baptism of Our Lord and our own baptism, under the theme, “The Baptism with Our Lord.”

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Published in: on January 9, 2021 at 10:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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