“Faith to Run the Race” (Hebrews 11:17-31; 12:1-3)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 18, 2019

“Faith to Run the Race” (Hebrews 11:17-31; 12:1-3)

I read recently that Rosie Ruiz died. Who was Rosie Ruiz, you ask? She was the woman who cheated in order to win the Boston Marathon in 1980. She had jumped out of the crowd about a half-mile from the finish line and just ran that little distance. But at the award ceremony, when they put the laurel wreath on her head and she raised her arms in victory, it appeared strange that she had no sweat under her armpits. She was not breathing hard, either. After an investigation, she was stripped of her title. And it turned out she had cheated in the New York City Marathon the year before, in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In New York, she rode the subway to a point near the finish, and did the same thing there, only running the last little bit. Rosie Ruiz did not have the endurance to go the distance, so she cheated instead.

Dear friends, the Christian life is like running a marathon. Only, you’ve actually got to run the race. You can’t ride the subway for the hard part. And most of life is the hard part. So how are you going to make it to the finish line? Brothers and sisters, you will need endurance.

Our reading today from the Book of Hebrews is about finding the endurance you need to run the race and cross the finish line. The race is not easy. It will be arduous. There will be obstacles in the way, things to slow you down. You will break a sweat. The race will require your sweat, your tears, and maybe even your blood. But God will provide you with the endurance necessary to finish the course. And here is what you need: “Faith to Run the Race.”

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Published in: on August 17, 2019 at 6:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Fear Not, Little Flock” (Luke 12:22-34)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 11, 2019

“Fear Not, Little Flock” (Luke 12:22-34)

“Fear not,” the Lord tells Abram in our Old Testament Reading for today. “Fear not,” Jesus tells his disciples in the Holy Gospel. “Fear not.” “Fear not.” Do these “fear nots” have you tied up in knots? Are you worried that you’re not good enough of a Christian, because you do have fears, you do have worries? Well, instead of being tied up in knots, realize today that these “fear nots” come with promises attached. And that makes all the difference. And so our theme this morning: “Fear Not, Little Flock.”

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Published in: on August 10, 2019 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“In What Does Your Life Consist?” (Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
August 4, 2019

“In What Does Your Life Consist?” (Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

In the Holy Gospel for today, Jesus says these words: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Well, if your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions, then what does your life consist in? That’s what we’re going to explore this morning: “In What Does Your Life Consist?”

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Published in: on August 3, 2019 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer” (Luke 10:25-37)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 14, 2019

“Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer” (Luke 10:25-37)

Our text today is one of the most well-known parables in the Bible. It’s the story of the Good Samaritan. And Jesus’ parable is prompted by a couple of questions that someone asks him. Law questions, questions about what we have to do to keep God’s Law. And so our theme this morning: “Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer.”

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Published in: on July 13, 2019 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” (Luke 14:15-24; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
July 7, 2019

“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” (Luke 14:15-24; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Recently I read this quote from an observer of the American church scene: “15 years ago, 40% of church members attended four times a month. In 2018, only 10% attended four times a month, a 37% drop in worship attendance. So you could have the exact same membership church, and on Sunday mornings it looks like you’ve lost over a third of your members.”

Now a certain amount of this can be attributed to aging. There are people still on membership rosters, but now they are homebound and no longer able to make it to church. And others who were in the pew fifteen years ago who since have graduated to the church triumphant. But at the same time, this big drop in attendance shows that we haven’t replaced those people. In our own congregation, attendance is down compared to what it was when I arrived here 13 years ago. And if you look across our synod–indeed, all across the American landscape–church attendance is down pretty much everywhere. Lots of empty pews, everywhere you look.

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Published in: on July 6, 2019 at 6:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 30, 2019

“God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

Last week we called our message “God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons.” We picked up on that phrase, “Green New Deal,” which has been buzzing around in political circles this year. Only God’s Green New Deal won’t cost trillions and trillions of dollars. Actually, it’s much costlier than that, for it cost the precious blood of Christ, God’s own Son, which is of absolutely infinite value. But for you, God’s new deal is absolutely free. A free gift, the new covenant in Christ’s blood.

And that is what has brought us into God’s new covenant, his new deal, so to speak, which changes our status radically. In Christ, we have gone from slaves to sons. We’ve gone from being slaves under the law, imprisoned, held captive under the law, thinking that we could work our way into God’s favor, which we cannot. Oh, we would be condemned to eternal death and hell under that arrangement. But now, in Christ, we have been redeemed from our imprisonment, set free from our slavery. We have been adopted as sons, brought into God’s household and family, because of Christ our brother. We have been joined to Jesus in Holy Baptism, and so now we are God’s sons also. All of us are sons and heirs, in line to receive a most marvelous inheritance: You and I will share in Christ’s resurrection and his eternal life. It doesn’t get any better than that!

So last week we emphasized the “new deal” aspect of God’s green new deal, that this is God’s new covenant, moving us from slaves to sons. Now today we’ll take up the “green” aspect of it, green signaling new life and growth for those in Christ. Being in Christ–this changes who we are. It changes the way we live. God has brought us out of darkness and into the light. Out of the darkness of this old world and into the light of God’s kingdom. Now we can see. Now we can walk in God’s good paths. No longer are we totally dominated by our old sinful nature–the “flesh,” as Paul calls it. Now we have new life in the Spirit, given to us in baptism. We are new people, and God will help us live this way. And so our theme this morning: “God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit.”

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Published in: on June 29, 2019 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons” (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 23, 2019

“God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons” (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7)

Earlier this year a certain congressperson from New York proposed what she called a “Green New Deal.” She was picking up on the term “New Deal,” thus indicating a massive expansion of government programs. And she combined it with the word “Green,” because she thought this new deal would help the environment. Well, in one sense, it would have been a green new deal, because it would have taken a lot of green, as in trillions and trillions of tax dollars. Well, her Green New Deal came up for a vote in the Senate, and the Senate said, “No deal!” It got exactly zero votes, none even from her own party.

Today, though, I want to tell you about another “new deal,” only this one is a whole lot better. And it won’t even cost you a cent. It’s already paid for. This new deal is also “green,” in the sense that green stands for new life and abundant growth. And what’s more, it’s a new deal that changes our status, from a very bad situation to a very good one instead. So now let’s hear about “God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons.”

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Published in: on June 22, 2019 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Peace of Pentecost” (John 14:23-31)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, June 9, 2019

“The Peace of Pentecost” (John 14:23-31)

Jesus tells his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

How can you say that, Jesus? How can you tell your disciples to be at peace? You’ve just told them that you’re going away! And now they’re supposed to be OK with that? They’re just supposed to take it easy? Come on, Jesus, get real!

And how about us? Yeah, we here today. How are we supposed to be at peace? “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Yeah, right. You don’t know what I’m going through. And I’m supposed to have peace in all of this?

Well, yes. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Even when Jesus tells his disciples that he’s going away, and even in the midst of all our troubles, Jesus promises us the peace we need to sustain us and carry us through. And so this morning, on this day full of grace, we will be blessed to hear how we have “The Peace of Pentecost.”

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Published in: on June 8, 2019 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold, I Am Coming Soon!” (Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 2, 2019

“Behold, I Am Coming Soon!” (Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

This is now the third in a three-part sermon series on the readings from Revelation 21 and 22. We began two weeks ago when St. John was given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and he saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. And a voice from the throne announced: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne declared, “Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” Then last week John described more of what he saw, what the holy city looked like: beautiful and glorious, full of life and light. “Behold, the New Jerusalem!”

Now today, we come to the last chapter in the Bible, Revelation 22. Again we are given a glimpse of life in the new Jerusalem. This vision creates an eagerness in us for when these things will take place! When will we be able to be there, O Lord? When will you come again to bring this all about? How long, O Lord, how long? Today our Lord assures us and says, “Behold, I Am Coming Soon!”

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Published in: on June 1, 2019 at 7:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Ascension Joy” (Luke 24:44-53)

The Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, May 30, 2019

“Ascension Joy” (Luke 24:44-53)

How did you feel about going to church this evening? Were you happy and excited? If you were happy, were you more excited about the service or the ice cream social afterward? C’mon, admit it! No, seriously, did coming to an Ascension service tonight spark joy for you? Or were you instead a little grumpy about having to go to church on a Thursday night? Did you focus on the joy of being able to be in the presence of God, to hear his Word and receive the blessed Sacrament? Or did you complain about one more thing being added to your schedule? You see, you can take the same event, and people can have different reactions to it.

Likewise, when people experience an event that’s similar to one they had just experienced a short time before, those same people can have two entirely different responses. Take, for example, the response of the disciples at the time of the Ascension and compare that to how they responded just a few weeks earlier. At the Ascension, when Jesus “parted from them and was carried up into heaven,” the disciples “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”

But then contrast that with how they reacted just a few weeks earlier. Go back six weeks to Maundy Thursday. How did the disciples respond then? That was when Jesus told them he was about to leave, that he was going away. At that time, their hearts were filled with grief. They were sad. And then when Jesus was taken from them–in the arrest and trial, in the crucifixion and his death–they were completely downcast and crushed. And frightened, too. “If that’s what happened to Jesus, then what’s going to happen to us, we who are known to have been his followers?” Right after Jesus’ death, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem at that time, too. But there was no worship then, no great joy. They were not at the temple, praising God. No, they had locked themselves behind closed doors, for fear of the Jews.

Two similar situations, just six weeks apart. In both cases, Jesus was leaving them and going away. But these same disciples reacted totally differently. The one time, with fear and sadness. The next time, with great joy and praise. What made the difference? And what will make the difference for us, to move us from our ordinary grumpiness into “Ascension Joy”?

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Published in: on May 30, 2019 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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