“Raising the Stakes, Raising Our Sights, Raising the Dead” (John 11:1-53)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 26, 2023

“Raising the Stakes, Raising Our Sights, Raising the Dead” (John 11:1-53)

Today we come to another of those memorable chapters in the Gospel of John. So far during this Lenten season, we’ve had: John 3, Jesus and Nicodemus; John 4, Jesus and the Samaritan woman; and John 9, Jesus and the man born blind. Now today we have John 11, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. But that’s not all that Jesus raises, as we will hear. Thus our theme this morning: “Raising the Stakes, Raising Our Sights, Raising the Dead.”

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Published in: on March 26, 2023 at 4:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Confession: Confession Has Two Parts”

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 22, 2023

“Confession: Confession Has Two Parts”

Today we continue our midweek series on the Small Catechism with the section on Confession. The catechism asks the question, “What is Confession?” And the way the answer begins gives us our theme for today: “Confession Has Two Parts.”

Those two parts, of course, are Confession and Absolution: “Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.”

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Published in: on March 22, 2023 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Opens Your Eyes–and Your Tongue” (John 9:1-41)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 19, 2023

“Jesus Opens Your Eyes–and Your Tongue” (John 9:1-41)

The Holy Gospel for today is John chapter 9, the story of the man born blind. But he doesn’t stay blind, once Jesus comes along. Jesus does several things for this man: He opens his eyes physically. He opens his eyes spiritually. And he opens the man’s tongue, as well. And the good news is, he does these things for you also. And so our theme this morning: “Jesus Opens Your Eyes–and Your Tongue.”

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Published in: on March 18, 2023 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Sacrament of Holy Baptism: How Can Water Do Such Great Things?”

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 15, 2023

“The Sacrament of Holy Baptism: How Can Water Do Such Great Things?”

Today we continue our series on the six chief parts of the catechism, and we come to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. And the catechism has some pretty impressive things to say about Baptism: “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.”

“Wow! That’s quite a list! And you’re telling me that Baptism does all of that? That Baptism actually works? That it accomplishes such marvelous things? You’re kidding me, right? Just pouring some water over somebody’s head can forgive their sins and give them eternal life and salvation? Come on! You expect me to believe that?”

Why, yes, I do! I do expect you to believe that Baptism does those things. And today I’ll tell you why and how, under the theme: “The Sacrament of Holy Baptism: How Can Water Do Such Great Things?”

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“The Woman–and the Man–at the Well” (John 4:5-30, 39-42)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 12, 2023

“The Woman–and the Man–at the Well” (John 4:5-30, 39-42)

Acceptance is a big idea in our culture these days. Every weird subgroup wants to be accepted as normal. More than that, they demand to be celebrated and approved, even if what they’re proud of is really something to be ashamed of. And if you don’t approve, if you don’t celebrate them, then you are a bigot and some sort of “-phobe,” and you need to be canceled.

So the challenge is how to accept people in love without approving of what they’re doing that’s wrong. And our Gospel reading today is a good example. It’s the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, from John chapter 4. “The woman at the well,” she is often called. But our story today is not as much about her as it is about him–Jesus, that is. And so our theme this morning: “The Woman–and the Man–at the Well.”

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Published in: on March 11, 2023 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Pray Then Like This'”

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 8, 2023

“The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Pray Then Like This’”

This year our midweek Lenten series is called, “A Catechetical Lent: The Six Chief Parts of the Small Catechism.” And today we come to the third of those six chief parts, namely, the Lord’s Prayer. We call it the “Lord’s” Prayer, because our Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray this prayer. And so this is the prayer that our Lord teaches us to pray, because we too are his disciples. We follow him in faith and learn from him and listen to his voice. So when Jesus speaks, we listen. Today Jesus tells us to pray, and he tells us how to pray. In giving us the Lord’s Prayer, he says, “Pray Then Like This.”

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Published in: on March 8, 2023 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Born Again, Born from Above, Born of Water and the Spirit” (John 3:1-17)

Second Sunday in Lent
March 5, 2023

“Born Again, Born from Above, Born of Water and the Spirit” (John 3:1-17)

As most of you know, I’ve got a big birthday coming up this week, a milestone birthday, on March 7. But I have an even more important birthday coming up later this year, on September 10. Because it was on that date that I was “Born Again, Born from Above, Born of Water and the Spirit.”

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Published in: on March 4, 2023 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Creed: ‘I Believe in God'”

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 1, 2023

“The Creed: ‘I Believe in God’”

In a survey taken by the Pew Research Center in September of 2021, 91% of Americans say that they believe in God or a higher power. Well, whoop-de-do. That doesn’t say much. Which God or higher power do they believe in? And what do they mean by “believe”?

Maybe they believe that there is only one God, not many gods. OK, but that does not say much. In James, it says: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!” In other words, even the demons know that much, that there is only one God. But just knowing that doesn’t help them. Instead, they tremble with fear! That kind of “believing” is not the same as believing in God in the way we confess in the Creed.

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Published in: on March 1, 2023 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“To Be Tempted by the Devil” (Matthew 4:1-11)

First Sunday in Lent
February 26, 2023

“To Be Tempted by the Devil” (Matthew 4:1-11)

The Holy Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent is always an account of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. This year it’s the account from Matthew chapter 4. Today we will see how the devil operates, and we’ll see how Jesus overcomes his schemes. This has relevance for our lives, because the devil comes at us with the same sorts of temptation. And so now let’s see what it’s like “To Be Tempted by the Devil.”

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Published in: on February 25, 2023 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Ten Commandments: Curb, Mirror, and Guide”

Ash Wednesday
February 22, 2023

“The Ten Commandments: Curb, Mirror, and Guide”

Today we begin a series called “A Catechetical Lent.” In our six Wednesday services we will be looking at the six chief parts of the Small Catechism: the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar. These are the basics of Christian faith and life. Whether you’re learning the catechism to become a communicant member–and we have catechumens right now at both congregations, St. Matthew and Grace–or whether you are a lifelong Lutheran, it’s always good to come back to the basics. The words never change, but you do. So it’s always good to apply the unchangeable truth of God’s word to the changing circumstances of your life.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It’s appropriate then that we begin with the first part of the catechism, the Ten Commandments. Why so? Because Ash Wednesday is a very solemn and somber day, when we remember our mortality and repent of our sins. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” we heard as the ashes were placed on our forehead. The wages of sin is death, and we are all guilty under God’s law.

That’s one of the main purposes of the law, to tell us that we are sinners. And we need to know that. But there are also a couple of other purposes for which God has given us his law. Together we call them the three uses or functions of the law, and each use serves a valuable purpose. And so our theme today: “The Ten Commandments: Curb, Mirror, and Guide.” We’ll explain each one of these terms and see how they apply to us.

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Published in: on February 22, 2023 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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