“Set Free to Serve” (Mark 10:32-45)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 18, 2018

“Set Free to Serve” (Mark 10:32-45)

I want to start out our message today with a little quiz. Multiple-choice. Which of these two statements is true: a) “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none,” or b) “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Which one is true? Well, this is a trick question. The correct answer is c) “both of the above.” A Christian is both a perfectly free lord of all and a perfectly dutiful servant of all. It was Martin Luther who set forth these two seemingly contradictory propositions in a treatise called “The Freedom of a Christian.”

And this idea was not new with Luther. Our Lord Jesus himself says as much in our text today from Mark 10. Here Jesus tells us two things: 1) that he came as a servant to set us free, and 2) that the way to live out that freedom is by being servants of one another. So today we want to deal with both aspects of the Christian life, both to celebrate our freedom and to grow in our servanthood. You see, because of Christ the Servant, you and I have been “Set Free to Serve.”


Published in: on March 17, 2018 at 8:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“It’s a Gift!” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

“It’s a Gift!” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

You are a Christian. You are saved. You believe in Christ. You are heading for heaven. And in your Christian life, you do good works. Now the question arises: How did all this come about? To what extent does all of this, or any of this, depend on you? The salvation, the faith, the good works: Which parts are a gift, by grace, God’s doing? And which parts are up to us, our doing, our contribution to the equation? That’s what we’re going to explore today.


Published in: on March 14, 2018 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Gospel on a Pole” (John 3:14-21)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 11, 2018

“The Gospel on a Pole” (John 3:14-21)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That, of course, is John 3:16, a verse you all know. Because it sums up the good news of Christ so succinctly, John 3:16 is often called “the gospel in a nutshell.” But today, instead of the nutshell, this morning we’re going to be looking at the verses right before it, what I call, “The Gospel on a Pole.”


Published in: on March 10, 2018 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“One Option or the Only Way?” (John 14:1-6)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

“One Option or the Only Way?” (John 14:1-6)

We live in an age of religious pluralism. Religious pluralism is the belief that there are a plurality of religions, many religions, that can work. No one religion has a corner on the truth. All religions are equally valid. What really matters is you being a good person, however that is defined. So whatever religion you choose, that is your choice, and that’s fine for you. Your religion is just one option among many equally valid options. All roads lead to heaven.

And going along with that idea, then, is this: You can’t tell me that my religion is wrong. You cannot say that one religion is right and all the rest are wrong. There can be no such thing as exclusive truth claims for any one religion. No, that would be intolerant, and that’s the worst thing you can be.

So this religious pluralism raises the question about Christianity: Is Jesus just one option among many? Or is he, instead, the only way to God, the only way to eternal salvation? To put it more briefly: Is Jesus just “One Option or the Only Way?”


Published in: on March 7, 2018 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018

“Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Every so often an organization called the American Religious Identification Survey conducts a national survey to find out how Americans are identifying themselves by their religion. And so we have data to compare from complete surveys taken in 1990, 2001, and 2008. In 1990, 86% of Americans identified themselves as some sort of Christian–Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, non-denom, you name it. By 2008, that number had dropped ten points, down to 76%. In 1990, the percentage of the population that said they had no religion was just 8%. By 2008, that number had gone up to 15%. And since 2008, the trend lines have only gone more in that direction. There was a survey of college students in 2013, and it found that 33% of that younger generation said they had no religion. 33%! These people are called the “Nones,” spelled “n-o-n-e-s,” meaning those with no religious self-identification. What we are seeing is an increasing secularization in American life. We’re witnessing the rise of the Nones.

Friends, there is a religious recession going on, an ecclesiastical downturn. What’s behind it? Well, it’s obvious that our society is not buying what the church has to offer. But compounding the problem is that many churches, in trying to attract more customers, have abandoned what they ought to be offering and instead have resorted to gimmicks and entertainment. In that way, the world is not even hearing the genuine Christian message. Large parts of the church seem to be embarrassed by genuine, historic, biblical Christianity. They have watered down the message, in order to cater to the world. And the world is impressed by things like power and wisdom. But the genuine Christian message, namely, the message of the cross, Christ crucified–this comes across as “Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom.”


Published in: on March 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Is the Real Jesus?” (Matthew 16:13-23)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

“Who Is the Real Jesus?” (Matthew 16:13-23)

In Bible class on Sunday mornings, we just started a study based on the book, “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?” In this book, the author discusses twelve false christs that are popular in our culture today, but all of which miss the mark. These twelve redefinings of Christ are Jesus as: The Mascot; One Option among Many; The Good Teacher; The Therapist; The Giver of Bling; The National Patriot; The Social Justice Warrior; The Moral Example; The New Moses; The Mystical Friend; The Feminized Jesus; and The Teddy Bear. I encourage you to come to this Bible class, because I guarantee you, you are going to meet people in your circle of relationships who hold one or more of these false views. In fact, you may have held some of these views yourself. So a study like this can help you to be a better witness for Christ in your personal life and may help straighten out your own thinking about who the real Jesus is.

“Who Is the Real Jesus?” This is the theme for our midweek Lenten services this year, as we pick up on some of the ideas from the book. We want to ask: How does the real Jesus contrast with some of the false christs current in our culture? And so we begin tonight with that fundamental question: “Who Is the Real Jesus?”


Published in: on February 28, 2018 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Passion Prediction, Passion Production” (Mark 8:27-38; Romans 5:1-11)

Second Sunday in Lent
February 25, 2018

“Passion Prediction, Passion Production” (Mark 8:27-38; Romans 5:1-11)

Most of you probably remember a movie a few years back called “The Passion of the Christ.” It was about Jesus’ suffering and death. That’s what the word “Passion’ means in that sense, the things that were done to Jesus, his being betrayed, arrested, beaten, crucified, and killed. Well, our Gospel reading today is about the Passion of the Christ, his suffering. To be more precise, it is a prediction of it–the first prediction of his Passion that Jesus makes. In the gospel narrative, the early ministry of Jesus in Galilee leads up to the point of Peter’s great confession, “You are the Christ.” Then, right after that, Jesus tells the disciples what his being the Christ will entail, that he, the Christ, must suffer and die. Our Gospel today records it as follows: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

This kind of a passage, where Jesus speaks ahead of time of his suffering and death–and he does this three times in the gospels–this is referred to as a “Passion Prediction.” And this is the first one. In this “Passion Prediction,” Jesus tells us what will happen to him–suffering, rejection, being killed. That’s the “what.” But we also want to know the so what.” So what difference does this make in our lives? What is the result, the outcome, of his suffering? What good will it produce? And so our theme for today: “Passion Prediction, Passion Production.”


Published in: on February 24, 2018 at 5:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Out of the Water, into the Wilderness” (Mark 1:9-15)

First Sunday in Lent
February 18, 2018

“Out of the Water, into the Wilderness” (Mark 1:9-15)

Today is the First Sunday in Lent, which means that the Holy Gospel is an account of the temptation of our Lord. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this episode that took place right after Jesus’ baptism. This year we hear from Mark, who tells it the most briefly. Just two verses, as follows: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”

Mark gets us right into the action, very direct, straight to it. Jesus is plunged right into the conflict and opposition that will mark his ministry and lead to his death. The word “immediately” stands out in Mark. When Jesus was baptized, “immediately” he saw the heavens opening. Then the Spirit “immediately” drove him out into the wilderness. Wham! Bam! Straight to it! “Immediately”!

Jesus goes “immediately” from his baptism in the Jordan to his temptation in the wilderness. And what I want you to see today, friends, is that this is how it is for us, too. We have been joined to Jesus in baptism, and so we also will be tempted. There is no escaping it. Like our Lord, we go immediately “Out of the Water, into the Wilderness.”


Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Hearts and Ashes” (Joel 2:12-19)

Ash Wednesday
February 14, 2018

“Hearts and Ashes” (Joel 2:12-19)

Today is Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is a day for sending your love a box of candy and a Valentine’s card. Something like this:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.

Yes, it’s a day for hearts and flowers.

But by coincidence of calendar, today is also Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a day for recognizing our sinful heart, repenting of our sin, and remembering our mortality:

Roses are red,
Ashes are gray;
Remember you’re dust–
You’ll return there one day.

But Ash Wednesday is also a day for returning to the Lord and receiving his grace from his heart of love. So this is a day, as we’ll hear now, for “Hearts and Ashes.”


Published in: on February 14, 2018 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Where Is the Healing?” (Mark 1:29-39)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 4, 2018

“Where Is the Healing?” (Mark 1:29-39)

Every year during the Epiphany season, we get Gospel readings in which Jesus is doing the activities of his public ministry. We see Jesus busy with things like preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. For example, take the readings from Mark 1 we’ve had these last few weeks. Two weeks ago we heard Jesus preaching, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Last week Jesus was in the synagogue teaching, and “he taught them as one who had authority.” Now this week we see Jesus healing the sick, healing Simon’s mother-in-law–in fact, doing a whole lot of healing: “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases,” it says.

So in his ministry Jesus was very much engaged in these activities: preaching, teaching, and healing. But this raises the question: Is Jesus still doing these things today? Preaching? Yes, Jesus still today is preaching to us, proclaiming the gospel of God. To be sure, he does it now through his preachers, for he says, “He who hears you hears me.” Alright, so there’s the preaching. What about teaching? Yes, same thing. In Bible class, the Lord opens our minds to understand the Scriptures, so that we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So preaching and teaching–yes, Jesus still is doing these things today, through the ministry of his church.

But then that leaves healing. And now we’ve got to ask: Where is that going on today? Has Jesus given up on the healing part? Was that only for back then, and that’s it? Is there nothing for us today? And so our question this morning: “Where Is the Healing?”


Published in: on February 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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