“Render to Caesar, Render to God” (Matthew 22:15-22)

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 22, 2017

“Render to Caesar, Render to God” (Matthew 22:15-22)

Our text today is the Holy Gospel from Matthew 22, the passage that includes the famous saying, “Render unto Caesar.” But as we’ll find out, that is only half of the verse. The other half is about rendering unto God, and really that is the main point of the passage. So today our theme: “Render to Caesar, Render to God.”


Published in: on October 22, 2017 at 12:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Rejoice in the Lord Always” (Philippians 4)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always” (Philippians 4)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always”: So says Paul in our Epistle reading today. Really? “Rejoice”? “Always”? Are you kidding me? “Rejoice always”? That’s easy for you to say, Paul. You don’t know what I’m going through. If you did, you wouldn’t be telling me to rejoice always.


Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Invited to the Feast” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

Funeral Service
Friday, October 13, 2017

“Invited to the Feast” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

There’s a big feast coming, and Bob is invited! In fact, his seat is already guaranteed. There’s a big feast coming, and you are invited too. That’s what I want to tell you about today, that we have been “Invited to the Feast.”


Published in: on October 13, 2017 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Joy of Knowing Christ” (Philippians 3)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 8, 2017

“The Joy of Knowing Christ” (Philippians 3)

I noticed in the news about a week ago–maybe you saw it too–that Monty Hall died. He was the longtime host of the television game show, Let’s Make a Deal. You remember how the show worked? Monty would pick out a member of the studio audience and offer that person, say, $200 for the tennis shoes she was wearing. Then Monty would suggest a deal. Do you want to keep the $200 you have in your hand, or do you want to trade it in for what’s behind the curtain, where Carol Merrill is standing? Of course, the catch was, the contestant did not know what was behind the curtain. It could be a zonk booby prize, like a bucket of sand. Or it could be some fabulous expensive prize, like a dream vacation to Cancun. That’s how the game worked. Do you think what you have in your hand is worth more than what’s behind the curtain? Or not? Which would you rather have? What you’re holding on to, or what you could have instead?

Well, we kind of get a version of that in our Epistle reading today, in Philippians chapter 3. There St. Paul is saying that what he had in his hand before, while it may have seemed rather valuable to him at the time–now he can see that, in comparison to what he has now, what he had in the past is not even worth comparing. Because now Paul has received as a gift what is of infinitely surpassing worth–and something you can be absolutely sure of, as well–and that is, “The Joy of Knowing Christ.”


Published in: on October 7, 2017 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ” (Philippians 2)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 1, 2017

“The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ” (Philippians 2)

Today is the second in our four-week series on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. We’re going chapter by chapter through the four chapters of this letter. Last week we introduced the series by noting that Philippians is often called “The Epistle of Joy,” because of the recurring theme of joy running through the letter. We saw it last week in Philippians 1. There Paul describes his relationship with the Philippians in what we called a “Joyful Gospel Partnership.” Through the message that Paul had preached to them, the gospel of Jesus Christ, God had formed the Philippians into a church, a family of believers gathered around the gospel. And thereby God had established a partnership, a “koinonia,” a fellowship, between Paul and the Philippians, in the faith and in the church’s mission. This was a joyful gospel partnership, because the gospel of salvation in Christ brings such good news to gladden the heart, a joy that goes deeper than happiness, because that joy is there, whether our circumstances happen to be happy or sad. Paul, at the time he writes this letter–his circumstances were not that great. He was in prison, probably in Rome, and yet he had great joy, and he wants the Philippians to share in that joy. For the gospel unites pastor and people in a partnership, a partnership of prayer, a partnership even in prison, and a partnership of progress and joy in the faith.

So that was last week. Now we come to chapter 2. More joy in this chapter also! Look at what Paul says in verse 2: “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” And a little after that, in verses 5 and following, he explains what that one mind is: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who” etc. So today I’m calling the theme of chapter 2: “The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ.”


Published in: on September 30, 2017 at 11:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Joyful Gospel Partnership” (Philippians 1)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 24, 2017

“A Joyful Gospel Partnership” (Philippians 1)

Today we start a four-week series of readings and sermons–and Bible classes, as well–on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. The official Epistle readings from the lectionary have big chunks of each of the four chapters over these four weeks, but since we’re diving in whole-hog, as it were, I decided I’d read the whole chapter each week, as you just heard.

So today we begin with Philippians chapter 1. In trying to come up with a theme for this message–and really, for the whole book–I thought back to a sermon I heard long ago at my home church in Chicago. We had just installed a new pastor, and his first sermon to us was based on this passage from Philippians 1, verses 3-5: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” And so the pastor’s sermon that day, almost forty years ago–and I still remember the sermon title–the message back then is the same as it is for us here today, that the church is “A Joyful Gospel Partnership.”


Published in: on September 23, 2017 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 17, 2017

“The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Forgiveness doesn’t count. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I don’t mean that it doesn’t matter of that it’s not important. By no means. No, forgiveness counts for a lot in that respect. In fact, it’s everything. We’d be lost without forgiveness. But when I say, Forgiveness doesn’t count, I mean it in the way that Jesus teaches it, which is to say, forgiveness doesn’t keep score. Forgiveness doesn’t count. It doesn’t keep score or keep track of how many times it has to forgive or how much sin it has to have mercy on. That’s the way it is with God toward us, and that’s the way it is with us toward one another. God forgives us, freely, fully, completely. Therefore we are to forgive one another in the same way: freely, fully, completely, not counting or keeping score or keeping track. That’s the connection Jesus draws for us today in “The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.”


Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Dealing Drastically with Sin” (Matthew 18:1-20)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 10, 2017

“Dealing Drastically with Sin” (Matthew 18:1-20)

How seriously do we take the matter of sin? Our own sin? The sin of others? I think that is the theme running through the teachings of Jesus today in the Holy Gospel from Matthew 18: the seriousness of sin and our need to treat it as such. And so our message this morning: “Dealing Drastically with Sin.”


Published in: on September 8, 2017 at 9:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“How to Understand–and Do–Christian Exhortations” (Romans 12:9-21)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 3, 2017

“How to Understand–and Do–Christian Exhortations” (Romans 12:9-21)

Take a look again at the Epistle reading for today, as printed on your Scripture insert. It’s Romans 12:9-21, and it starts out as follows: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” What do you notice about all these verses? You’re right, it’s a series of commands, if you will, telling us what to do.

And the passage goes on from there with a whole bunch more of these instructions about how we are to live: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

And there’s even few more verses along those lines after that. So what do you make of this text? How do you understand it? What’s more, how do you do it–that is, how do you live out all these instructions for Christian living? Do we even try, or do we just throw up our hands and give up and hope that God will forgive us? Those are the questions we’re going to consider now, under the theme: “How to Understand–and Do–Christian Exhortations.”


Published in: on September 1, 2017 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Is This Man?” (Matthew 16:13-20)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 27, 2017

“Who Is This Man?” (Matthew 16:13-20)

“Who is this man?” Who is this man Jesus? This is the most important question that has ever been asked. How will you answer it?

The question comes up in the Holy Gospel for today, from Matthew 16. Our text begins: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’”


Published in: on August 26, 2017 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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