“Not Peace, but a Sword” (Matthew 10:34-42)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 28, 2020

“Not Peace, but a Sword” (Matthew 10:34-42)

You are in a battle. It is a battle every Christian is called upon to fight, from the time we are baptized till the day we die. There is no opting out. You are engaged in this battle whether you realize it or not. So the thing to do is to fight it well. And that means we need help. For on our own we would not be strong enough to prevail.

What is this battle? The one I’m referring to today is a battle from without, that is, from the world attacking us Christians. Oh, there is also a battle from within, namely, our own sinful flesh fighting against the new persons we are in Christ. Both of these battles, the conflict from without and the conflict from within, are inescapable for every single Christian.

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Published in: on June 28, 2020 at 1:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Fear Not, for Your Father Cares for You” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2020

“Fear Not, for Your Father Cares for You” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

In many of the Gospel readings during this time of the church year–as is the case in today’s reading–Jesus teaches his followers about the life of discipleship that we Christians are called to live. And this is not an easy life, this life of following Christ. For one thing, the world will be against us. And so, many of the Gospel readings this summer will describe the opposition we will get from the unbelieving world. And that opposition can be brutal, even deadly. But the amazing thing is, even though Jesus knows that people will treat us this way–indeed, he tells us they will treat us this way–even so, he tells us to fear not.

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Published in: on June 20, 2020 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Extends His Compassionate Authority” (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 14, 2020

“Jesus Extends His Compassionate Authority” (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” So we heard in the Holy Gospel for today from Matthew. And that particular verse, Matthew 9:35, sounds an awful lot like a verse from five chapters earlier, Matthew 4:23, where it says: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Those two verses are almost verbatim the same. What the writer, Matthew, is doing is framing this major section of his gospel, in which he recounts the early ministry of Jesus in Galilee. In this section, he shows Jesus doing these several activities: “teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”

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Published in: on June 13, 2020 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The God of New Beginnings” (Genesis 1; Acts 2; Matthew 28)

The Holy Trinity
Sunday, June 7, 2020

“The God of New Beginnings” (Genesis 1; Acts 2; Matthew 28)

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is on this day every year that we call special attention to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This teaching is true every day of the year, of course, but on this particular Sunday, we call special attention to it. The Scripture readings for today bring out the nature of God as being triune, that is, one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The hymns we sing on this day are trinitarian in their content. And Trinity Sunday is the one day of the year when we read out loud the Athanasian Creed, the creed that goes into the most depth and detail on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Now when I say “doctrine,” maybe some of you, your eyes glaze over. You think of “doctrine” as “boring” or “academic” or “unrelated to life.” But no, that is not so! The word “doctrine” simply means “teaching,” and what the Bible teaches about God is anything but boring! And while Christian doctrine can be taught and studied in an academic manner–and there is great value in that–that does not mean it is “unrelated to life”! Indeed, doctrine is life! What God’s Word teaches us gives us life! God’s Word guides our life, and guides us all the way into eternal life, life with God, life forever.

And then when we talk about the doctrine of “the Holy Trinity,” again, our eyes may glaze over. How can we understand this great mystery, that there is only one God, yet there are three distinct persons in this one God? How can this be? We have trouble wrapping our heads around it. Our little brains can’t comprehend it. The circuits start to fry out.

Well, today you don’t have to figure everything out. Instead, I want you to relax and just take it in, who this God is whom we worship and adore, who God is, and especially, who he is for you. Today I want you to know God, more than just to know about God. Because today in his Word, God reveals himself to us. He shows himself to be “The God of New Beginnings.” And we could all use that.

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Published in: on June 6, 2020 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Out of His Heart Will Flow Rivers of Living Water” (John 7:37-39)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, May 31, 2020

“Out of His Heart Will Flow Rivers of Living Water” (John 7:37-39)

Please take a look at the front of your bulletin for today. There you will see a photograph of water flowing out in a river. And written over the picture are these words from John 7:38, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Those are the words of Jesus from today’s Holy Gospel. There Jesus says exactly that: “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But the question is: Who is it that Jesus is talking about? Out of whose heart will flow those rivers of living water? Today I want to explore with you two possible answers, either one of which will come out as good news for us. We’re going to take two different routes to get there now, but hopefully we’ll end up at the same place.

Let’s look at the Gospel reading again, John 7:37-39: “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

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Published in: on May 30, 2020 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Casting All Your Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11)

“Casting All Your Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11)

It came as a shock this past Monday morning. I got an email telling me that the son of a pastor friend of mine–that over the weekend this pastor’s son had taken his own life. Fifteen years old. A good kid. A bright kid. A faithful, church-going young man. I had gotten to know this boy a little bit at various conferences over the years, when his parents had brought him along. So that made it all the more shocking and sad. Just fifteen years old. And in a sudden moment of what must have felt like hopelessness and despair, he took his own life.

And this came about two weeks after another pastor’s son also committed suicide. This young man was twenty-five. So tragic, these losses. And these are in good Christian households.

And then there’s the added stress of the shutdown. Yesterday I saw a headline, quoting a doctor in California about what they’ve been seeing there. It says: “A Year’s Worth of Suicide Attempts in the Last Four Weeks.”

Dear brothers and sisters, there but for the grace of God, go you and I. There but for the grace of God go our sons and daughters. Sudden despair, overwhelming anxiety and depression, can overtake any one of us. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Truly we do walk in danger all the way.

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Published in: on May 23, 2020 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“I Will Not Leave You as Orphans” (John 14:1-6, 18-19)

Funeral Service
Friday, May 22, 2020

“I Will Not Leave You as Orphans” (John 14:1-6, 18-19)

It was a day in May of 1996. And on that day my mother, Marjorie Henrickson, died. My father had died some years earlier, and now my mother died. I realized on that day that now I was truly an orphan. The next morning was a Sunday, and the Holy Gospel for that day, which I had prepared to preach on, was the passage from John 14 in which Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Suddenly that text became extra meaningful for me.

Fast forward to a day in May of 2020. On that day your mother, Mary Heineman, died. Your father had died some years earlier. And now your mother has died. Now you her children are truly orphans. And it just so happens that the Holy Gospel from this past Sunday is that same passage from John 14 where Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Today I pray that this text becomes extra meaningful for you as well. “I Will Not Leave You as Orphans.”

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Published in: on May 22, 2020 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Ascended and Still Present” (Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23)

The Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, May 21, 2020

“Ascended and Still Present” (Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23)

Where is Jesus, and what is he doing? That’s a good question to ask on this Ascension Day. Where did Jesus go when he ascended, and what is he doing now? Alright, you say, I know the answer to that; we just confessed it in the Creed: “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” OK, fine, but what’s the big deal about that? Is that enough to have a whole special festival service, to come out and have church on a Thursday? Well, I would say, yes. But I want you to be able to say yes, too. I want you to know why the church historically makes a big deal about this day–more than just, “Well, it’s forty days past Easter and that’s when Ascension falls on the calendar.” Today then, let’s find out where Jesus is, what he’s doing, and what this means for us, under the theme: “Ascended and Still Present.”

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Published in: on May 20, 2020 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Making Known the Unknown God” (Acts 17:16-31)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2020

“Making Known the Unknown God” (Acts 17:16-31)

The reading today from the Book of Acts is the story of Paul preaching at the Areopagus in Athens. There Paul was preaching not in a Jewish synagogue where he could assume some biblical literacy. Rather, he was speaking in a Gentile, pluralistic marketplace of ideas. And so this text has great relevance for us today, for this is the world we live in. Thus our theme this morning: “Making Known the Unknown God.”

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Published in: on May 16, 2020 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“But Joy Comes with the Morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020

“But Joy Comes with the Morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

This is our traditional Easter greeting. But this year has been anything but traditional. When last we met here, eight weeks ago today, it was still Lent. Easter Day was four weeks ago, so we didn’t get to say it then. But today we are still in the Easter season, and this is our first opportunity to say it together, so let’s do it again with gusto:

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Amen! And this reality is what gives us hope and joy, in the midst of any sadness. The resurrection of Christ on Easter morning tells us that what Jesus did on the cross for us really works! His sacrifice for our sins has been accepted by God, and the resurrection is the big “Amen!” affirming our forgiveness. The resurrection of our Lord gives us the sure hope that we who have been baptized into Christ will likewise share in his resurrection. What hope, what joy, this gives us!

This joy is greater than, and overcomes, any sadness we experience. Think of the sadness, the overwhelming sadness and gloom that gripped Jesus’ disciples after his crucifixion. The Emmaus disciples, for instance. Their faces were downcast, it says. Their hopes were crushed. Everything they were hoping for with Jesus–gone, thinking that the death of their master meant it was all over. But Jesus surprised them, didn’t he? Or the women at the tomb that Easter morning. They went there sorrowful, expecting to find a dead body. But God had a surprise in store for them. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” That’s the verse that sets the tone for us this morning. It’s Psalm 30:5, a verse from the Introit we sang earlier. And I just love this verse. It tells me that whatever bad stuff I’m going through at the moment, God has something beautiful in store for me to follow. This promise from God’s word gives me hope for the future and joy in the here and now. And today I pray it does the same for you also. Weeping may tarry for the night, “But Joy Comes with the Morning.”

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Published in: on May 9, 2020 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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