“From Selfish Ambition to Humble Service” (James 3:13 – 4:10; Mark 9:30-37)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 23, 2018

“From Selfish Ambition to Humble Service” (James 3:13 – 4:10; Mark 9:30-37)

In this long green season of the church year, the non-festival half of the year, the Epistle reading is not chosen to go along with the theme of the Holy Gospel, as it is in the festival half of the year. Instead, it’s just a straight reading-through of a particular epistle. Thus any correlation between the Epistle and Gospel is merely a coincidence. Well, we have such a coincidence today. The Epistle reading from James and the Gospel reading from Mark do have a common theme. It’s the theme of Christians, disciples of Jesus, being called to move “From Selfish Ambition to Humble Service.”

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Published in: on September 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?” (James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4-10)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 16, 2018

“Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?” (James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4-10)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a boy who was deaf and mute. In last week’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute. The man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed. And the crowd said about Jesus, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Now not one of us here is either deaf or mute. Some of us may be a little hard of hearing, but at least we can hear. And none of us is mute. We all can speak. Our ears and our tongue are working. But the question is: What are we doing with them? What are we using our ears and our tongue for? How are we using them?

And besides having functional ears and tongues physically, we also have had our ears and our tongue opened spiritually. In our baptism, God has given us ears to hear his word and tongues to praise his name. How are we using these ears and this tongue? To God’s glory? For our neighbor’s good? Or for different purposes? And so our theme this morning: “Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?”

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Published in: on September 15, 2018 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus’ Sign Language” (Mark 7:31-37)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 9, 2018

“Jesus’ Sign Language” (Mark 7:31-37)

How do you speak to a deaf man? With sign language, of course. You make the appropriate gestures and actions to communicate the message you want to convey. And that is what Jesus does to communicate with a deaf man who is brought to him. He uses sign language, of sorts, to get his message across. But in so doing, and then in actually healing the man, Jesus is also using sign language to send a message to us. And so now let’s read “Jesus’ Sign Language.”

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Published in: on September 8, 2018 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Life in the Combat Zone” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2018

“Life in the Combat Zone” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Have you ever been in a combat zone? I mean, a real, live, active combat zone. A place where bullets are whizzing past your head and explosive devices are ready to take your leg off. That’s a combat zone, and it’s a very dangerous place to be. You could be killed or wounded at any moment. Making it out of there alive is a very precarious proposition.

Well, guess what? You are in a combat zone, whether you realize it or not. Every Christian is. It comes with the territory. The battle is real, and the battle is on! The battle is raging, and there are no deferments, no going AWOL. You are in this battle, automatically, and it is a fight to the finish, a life-or-death conflict. So what to do? Be prepared for this battle. Because it’s going to come. There’s no avoiding it. Are you ready? Are you prepared? And so our theme this morning: “Life in the Combat Zone.”

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Published in: on September 1, 2018 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Most Hated Verse in the Bible” (Ephesians 5:22-33)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 26, 2018

“The Most Hated Verse in the Bible” (Ephesians 5:22-33)

A couple of weeks ago I ran across an article on my news feed with the headline: “North Carolina GOP Candidate Preached Extensively on. . . .” Now I’ll tell you in a moment what he preached extensively on, but first let me give you an idea why this was even a story. You see, there’s a candidate in North Carolina running for Congress, and he used to be the pastor of a church. And of course his opponent and those who are backing him are looking for any dirt they can find on the guy. Well, apparently they went through his old sermons. And what did they discover? That he had preached, more than once, on something they found particularly distasteful, very incriminating–shocking, really. “Ah, here is what we’re looking for! Surely this will sink the man and doom his candidacy!” And of course this is why the news media all across the country ran with the story. So what was it that they found? What was so awful, so terrible, so outrageous? OK, now I’ll read you the full headline: “North Carolina GOP Candidate Preached Extensively on . . . Wives Submitting to Husbands.”

“Wives Submitting to Husbands”: Whoa! There it is! This evil man, this misogynist, this sexist bigot, had the gall, the audacity, to actually preach that wives should submit to their husbands! Where’s the rope?

Now it should come as no surprise these days that a Christian minister preaching on what used to be a traditional, commonly held belief–that this now is regarded as inflammatory hate speech, that it’s anathema, beyond the pale. The tolerant Left can’t tolerate such a thing!

But it’s not just the liberals and secularists who are aghast that anyone still thinks that wives should submit to their husbands. There are even Christians, church-going Christians, who don’t understand and even reject this biblical teaching. Perhaps even you have had some questions about this topic. And that’s why we’re going to take a look at it this morning.

The idea that wives should submit to their husbands is indeed taught in the Bible, in a number of places, most famously–or should I say, infamously–in today’s Epistle reading. The words come straight out of the first verse of that text, where it says, “Wives submit to your husbands.” And now you can see why I call Ephesians 5:22 “The Most Hated Verse in the Bible.”

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Published in: on August 25, 2018 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From Darkness to Light” (Ephesians 5:6-21)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 19, 2018

“From Darkness to Light” (Ephesians 5:6-21)

Have you ever come out of a really dark room into a bright, sunlit area? It takes a few moments to get used to, doesn’t it? Your eyes have to adjust to the new reality. But once they do, you have so much a better view of what’s around you and in front of you. No longer are you stumbling around in the dark, bumping into things. Now you can see clearly where to walk, what’s the right way to go. Well, that’s kind of how it is for us as Christians. We have come out of the darkness and into the light. It is the light of Christ we’re walking in now. And that makes all the difference. And so our theme this morning: “From Darkness to Light.”

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Published in: on August 18, 2018 at 7:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Put off the Old, Put on the New” (Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 12, 2018

“Put off the Old, Put on the New” (Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2)

“Clothes make the man.” I’m sure many of you have heard that old saying. “Clothes make the man.” The idea is that how you dress will affect how people perceive you–and maybe also how you perceive yourself. If you dress shabbily, in dingy, dirty old clothes, you will be perceived one way. If you dress your best, you will convey a different impression. “Clothes make the man.” Likewise, it’s a good idea to dress appropriate to who you are. If you’re a pastor, a clerical shirt is appropriate attire. If you’re a soldier, you wear your uniform when you’re on duty. And so it goes. You want to dress appropriately for your particular calling.

Now if that’s true it’s in the secular realm, it’s even more true in the spiritual realm. Clothes make the man–or the woman who belongs to Christ, as the case may be. And here I’m not talking about cloth-and-fabric clothing. No, here I’m talking about how you have been clothed with Christ, how you have put on Christ’s righteousness and holiness and character. That’s how you have been dressed. So that’s what you should wear, on a daily basis. Don’t wear the dirty old dingy clothes of your previous life. Put on the new garment of righteousness that is yours in Christ. That’s our message today, under the theme, “Put off the Old, Put on the New.”

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Published in: on August 11, 2018 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 5, 2018

“Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Our text today is the Epistle, from Ephesians 4. We are now entering the second half of Ephesians. In the first half, St. Paul laid down the foundation of our life in Christ, that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing, according to the riches of his grace. Now in the second half, Paul moves into the practical implications of this for our life together as church and our life as individual Christians. Today’s text emphasizes the churchly dimension of our life together, that we walk together in unity and growth, in truth and love.

Unity and growth–these are great goals for the church, aren’t they? Everybody wants, or should want, the church to be united. Everybody wants the church to grow. This is true for our congregation, of course. But what kind of unity? What kind of growth? We’ll explore that today, how unity and growth come about and can be strengthened. And so let’s look at our life together as church now, under the theme, “Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ.”

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Published in: on August 4, 2018 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Windstorm on the Lake” (Mark 6:45-56)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
July 29, 2018

“A Windstorm on the Lake” (Mark 6:45-56)

It’s a peaceful evening, and you get into the boat, along with a bunch of other people. You start out across the lake, and everything is going fine. Then suddenly a strong wind whips up from out of nowhere, and everything changes. The windstorm is whipping up the waves, and the boat is really struggling to make any progress. In fact, the situation is becoming downright dangerous. The wind is against you. The boat is in serious danger of sinking and taking everyone down with it. Will you make it to shore? It doesn’t look like it.

What am I talking about? Of course this describes the terrible tragedy that happened to those poor folks in the duck boat down at Table Rock Lake in Branson a week and a half ago. But it also fits what was happening to the twelve disciples in the boat, as we heard in our text just a few moments ago. They too were facing the very real danger of “A Windstorm on the Lake.”

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Published in: on July 28, 2018 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From What We Were to What We Are” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
July 22, 2018

“From What We Were to What We Are” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

From rags to riches. From the outhouse to the penthouse. From worst to first. These are different sayings we have to express a big change, a big contrast, between the way somebody was and the way they are now. There’s some big contrast involved between the former miserable situation and the current excellent one. And, dear friends, that’s the way it is for us, because there has been a major change, a huge contrast, between our former status and our current one. And so our theme this morning: “From What We Were to What We Are.”

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Published in: on July 21, 2018 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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