“Only Jesus: No Other Name” (Acts 4:1-12; Revelation 1:4-18; John 14:1-14)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2022

“Only Jesus: No Other Name” (Acts 4:1-12; Revelation 1:4-18; John 14:1-14)

Something significant, something momentous, happened in the city of Chicago 175 years ago this week. No, I’m not talking about the day I was born. I was born in Chicago, yes, but I’m not quite that old. No, but something else was born there 175 years ago. It was the birth of our church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It was on April 26, 1847, that representatives from fourteen Lutheran congregations came together at First St. Paul Lutheran Church on the north side of Chicago, and they formed a brand new synod. They were all German-speaking congregations, mostly from the Midwest, so they called the new synod “Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio, und andern Staaten,” that is, being translated, “The German Evangelical-Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States.”

Well, in the 175 years since then, we’ve grown from fourteen congregations to about 6,000. We’ve expanded far beyond the Midwest, with congregations all across the country and mission work and partner churches all around the world. And we’re not nearly as German as we used to be: You’ve let some of us Scandinavians in, as well as Blacks and Hispanics and Asians and every ethnicity under the sun. But there’s one thing that still binds us all together, and it is this: “Only Jesus: No Other Name.”

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Published in: on April 23, 2022 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Power of the Easter Promise” (Luke 24:1-12)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 17, 2022

“The Power of the Easter Promise” (Luke 24:1-12)

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

This morning I want to tell you about the power of a promise. Our reading from Luke 24 puts on display the power of a promise. It’s a promise that was good, because of the one who made it. It’s a promise that was good, even though people forgot that the promise had been made; and even though when some people did think about it, they just knew that the promise wasn’t any good after all.

It’s about what happened at the tomb that morning. The angels said to the women, “Remember. Remember how he spoke to you. Remember what he said would happen. Remember the promise.” The promise came true in power back then, and the same promise is true today. Today we marvel at, and take hold of, “The Power of the Easter Promise.”

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Published in: on April 16, 2022 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday” (Luke 23:44-56)

Good Friday
April 15, 2022

“Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday” (Luke 23:44-56)

The theme for our Lenten journey this year has been “You Meant It for Evil, But God Meant It for Good.” We have seen how God can just plain grab something evil and use it for good, in his larger plan. No one could see it at the time, but that’s how God works.

We see God working this way in our reading tonight from Luke 23. Something evil was happening on the day our Lord Jesus was crucified. But God used it for good–for incredible, tremendous good–which is why call this day “Good Friday.” And so our message tonight: “Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday.”

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Published in: on April 15, 2022 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat” (Luke 22:14-20)

Holy (Maundy) Thursday
April 14, 2022

“The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat” (Luke 22:14-20)

During this season of Lent, we’ve tried to be realistic as we learn again to trust our God. The realism has to do with evil–the evil that betrayed, condemned, and crucified Jesus long ago, and the evil in our world and in our lives also today. In the face of that evil, we trust our God and the plan he carried out in Christ. We can say to Satan, to the world, and even to ourselves, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

This evening’s service is a break in the action in a way. It’s because of the gift that the Lord Jesus created that night long ago in the upper room. This is a night to be quietly joyful. It’s a night to marvel at what happened when Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples and to marvel at the gift that has come down also to us.

Jesus said to them that night, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you.” That was a particular ritual at a particular moment in a particular place. But it was also an eternal Passover. By “eternal” I mean that it was not isolated, disconnected, alone, or even limited. For the Jews, Passover gathered up and brought to fruition so many things from the past, from the exodus, and the past gave meaning to the present. But that particular moment in the upper room, with Jesus, was part of the most significant event in the history of the world. History was turning a corner that night. And from that Passover came a new gift for the future, a gift that would last until tonight and until the Lord returns in glory. It happened the night that Jesus was betrayed–past, present, and future, all coming together in “The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat.”

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Published in: on April 14, 2022 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Palm Sunday, Sunday of the Passion” (Luke 19:28-40; 22:1 – 23:56)

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion
April 10, 2022

“Palm Sunday, Sunday of the Passion” (Luke 19:28-40; 22:1 – 23:56)

Today is a day that goes by two names: “Palm Sunday” and the “Sunday of the Passion.” The title that we’re probably more familiar with is “Palm Sunday.” For it was on this day that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, greeted by the cheering crowds, and the people used palm branches to welcome him. Palms were used to indicate victory and triumph. Palms symbolized success and long life. And so on Palm Sunday, Jesus is hailed as the Messiah, the long-prophesied King of Israel, coming to Jerusalem to establish his reign: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

The people with the palm branches are correct. Jesus is coming to Jerusalem that day to bring in the messianic kingdom. But the question remains: How will he do it? How will this Messiah establish his kingdom? How will he win his victory? And the answer is, shockingly enough, by his suffering, dying, and being crucified. This king’s conquest will come with some strange signs: being mockingly arrayed with splendid clothing; having an inscription placed over him, “This is the King of the Jews,” but on a cross. From a procession of palms to a criminal’s crucifixion, this is how Jesus will triumph and bring in the kingdom of God.

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Published in: on April 9, 2022 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“That Day, and Today” (Luke 23:26-43)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, April 6, 2022

“That Day, and Today” (Luke 23:26-43)

Our theme for this Lenten series has been, “You Meant It for Evil, But God Meant It for Good.” And evil is often louder than good. In news reporting, for instance, it’s the horrific story that catches people’s attention. Or another example: Criticism, negative comments, tend to be more powerful, “louder” to us than compliments or positive comments. The complaint or criticism or insult sticks with us longer. We keep hearing it long after the kindness or the affirmation has faded. Evil is often louder than good.

Well, that’s true in the reading for this evening from Luke 23. It starts with the rulers, the members of the Sanhedrin. “They scoffed,” it says, or it could be translated, “They kept on scoffing.” When evil speaks, it’s loud and long. Without realizing it, the scoffers do say some true things about Jesus, as he’s hanging there on the cross. Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, God’s chosen one. But he’s not there to save himself. He’s there to save others, by dying for all sinners. The rulers don’t see this. All they can do is scoff and ridicule. Evil is louder than good.

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Published in: on April 6, 2022 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Rejected Stone Is Our Cornerstone” (Luke 20:9-20)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
April 3, 2022

“The Rejected Stone Is Our Cornerstone” (Luke 20:9-20)

In our text today, from Luke chapter 20, Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem during Holy Week. Everybody is in town, Jesus, as well as his enemies, who are conspiring against him, plotting to get him arrested and put to death. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Jesus addresses that tension, with his enemies right there, listening to what he says. And what Jesus says in our text, he puts in two parts, using two different images. The first image is that of a vineyard, the second is that of a stone. The first part is the Parable of the Vineyard and the Wicked Tenants; the second part has to do with “the stone that the builders rejected.”

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Published in: on April 1, 2022 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Faith for a Complicated World” (Luke 23:1-25)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 30, 2022

“Faith for a Complicated World” (Luke 23:1-25)

The world around us is a complicated place that can be hard to figure out. Life sometimes sends us a fair amount of pain and suffering. Whether you’ve come through a lot or been spared a bit, we all know this. And it can be perplexing. For instance, we can pray to God, but what about the prayers where he says, “no”? Or the prayers that seem to be met with silence? So it’s complicated, and we don’t know all that we’d like to know about how it all fits together. The world is complicate, life can be hard, including for us Christians.

And yet, even though God’s ways are often hidden from us, still we Christians believe that God is at work in the midst of suffering. God is at work, and so we pray with faith, because of the kind of God we know he is. Even with evil in the world around us, we trust that God is at work against the evil, in spite of the evil. And sometimes God even uses the evil for his purposes. How God does that, we’re often not sure, but we-believe that he does.

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Published in: on March 30, 2022 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Prodigal Son, a Prodigal Father, and a Pharisaical Brother” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 27, 2022

“A Prodigal Son, a Prodigal Father, and a Pharisaical Brother” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

In our text today from Luke 15, the scribes and Pharisees are tut-tutting Jesus because he was hanging around with tax collectors and other obvious sinners. And he was not only welcoming them, Jesus was even having meals with them, table fellowship. “This man receives sinners and eats with them,” the scribes and Pharisees grumble–not even using Jesus’ name, just calling him “this man,” with a sneer in their voice.

Yeah, this was too much for these pious and respectable religious leaders. They figured a true servant of God would not associate with those lousy lowdown sinners. So Jesus figures he needs to teach the scribes and Pharisees a lesson or two about how God operates, what God’s plan is. And so he tells them a story. It’s the parable of “A Prodigal Son, a Prodigal Father, and a Pharisaical Brother.”

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Published in: on March 26, 2022 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“When You See Such Blind Ignorance, What Do You Think?” (Luke 22:63 – 23:1)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 23, 2022

“When You See Such Blind Ignorance, What Do You Think?” (Luke 22:63 – 23:1)

Tonight we’re going to look at how Luke describes the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Luke’s account is focused and shorter than the other gospels. It’s simplified, streamlined, stripped down. But what does Luke give us? Well, first, he tells us what those who had arrested Jesus were already doing to him, and from that it becomes clear where all this is going. Even before Jesus stands in front of the Sanhedrin, even before they have a chance to reject him, those who arrested Jesus were already beating and mocking and blaspheming against him. As far as they’re concerned, this is going in a certain direction, and it’s almost a done deal. It’s clear; it’s simple: Jesus will be condemned.

Next, notice this. We see that the council, the Sanhedrin, is speaking effectively with one voice. Note the word “they.” Three times “they” speak to Jesus, with one voice: “And they said”; “So they all said”; and “Then they said.” And at the last, “The whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.” Evil is speaking with one, unified voice.

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Published in: on March 23, 2022 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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