“Lazarus: The One Whom God Helps” (Luke 16:19-31)

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 25, 2016

“Lazarus: The One Whom God Helps” (Luke 16:19-31)

This is the tale of two men. Which one would you rather be? It’s in a story that Jesus tells. It begins like this: “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.”

Well, this is quite a contrast between these two guys. Which one would you rather be? I think we’d all agree, we’d rather be the rich guy in this story. He’s got it all going for him, doesn’t he? He’s got all the food and clothing you could want, and a nice place to live. He’s got it made in the shade.

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Published in: on September 25, 2016 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Faithful Stewards” (Luke 16:1-15)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 18, 2016

“Faithful Stewards” (Luke 16:1-15)

In the Gospel for today, Jesus tells the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. This story is also known as the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward. The terms are interchangeable: dishonest or unrighteous; manager or steward. But keeping the titles straight is the least of the problems with this parable. This text from Luke 16, on its surface, is a difficult one to understand. It seems that Jesus is commending the dishonest manager, the unrighteous steward, for his unrighteousness! And what does Jesus mean by, “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth”? What’s that all about? This Parable of the Unrighteous Steward presents us with some difficulties. But since Jesus is the one who tells it, it must be important. And it is. For in this text Jesus is teaching his people what it means to be “Faithful Stewards.”

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Published in: on September 17, 2016 at 11:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Receives, Rejoices over, and Restores Sinners” (Luke 15:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:5-17)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 11, 2016

“Jesus Receives, Rejoices over, and Restores Sinners” (Luke 15:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:5-17)

Jesus receives sinners. Do you qualify? If so, great, I’ve got good news for you today. Or do you think you’re not that bad of a sinner? Well, in that case, you’re on your own. Good luck with that.

Jesus receives sinners. That’s the message that comes through loud and clear in our Gospel reading today, from Luke chapter 15. And when Jesus receives sinners, he rejoices over them, he rejoices that they’ve been found and brought back. And not only does Jesus receive sinners, and not only does he rejoice over them, he does one more thing. He restores these sinners to his service. That comes through in the Epistle reading for today, from 1 Timothy 1. And so our theme this morning: “Jesus Receives, Rejoices over, and Restores Sinners.”

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Published in: on September 10, 2016 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“When You Walk through Fire You Shall Not Be Burned” (Isaiah 43:1-7)

Funeral Service
Wednesday, September 7, 2016

“When You Walk through Fire You Shall Not Be Burned” (Isaiah 43:1-7)

“When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” This is the Lord’s promise to his people. You heard it in the reading from Isaiah 43: “When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

“But, but, Pastor,” you say. “There it says that if we go through fire we will not be burned. But here we are at Doris’s funeral, and she went through a fire, that terrible house fire of a month ago, and she was burned. Burned very badly, airlifted to the hospital, and she was there for a whole month, and she ended up dying. So how can you say, how can God say, ‘When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you’? That didn’t seem to work for Doris.”

Well, yeah, you’re right. That fire did end up killing Doris. The flame did seem to consume her. So did God’s promise fail? Did God somehow forget about Doris? The Lord remembered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when they were kept safe in the fiery furnace, but I guess the Lord loved them more than he loved Doris. Is that it?

No. I’m here to tell you today that the Lord did not forget about Doris. The Lord did not love Doris any less. The Lord did not make a promise that he failed to keep. That has never happened, and will never happen, that the Lord fails to keep his promises. And so this promise of God in Isaiah 43 was absolutely true for Doris, and, dear friends, his promise is absolutely true for you as well: “When You Walk through Fire You Shall Not Be Burned.”

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Published in: on September 7, 2016 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Like a Tree Planted by Streams of Water” (Psalm 1)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 4, 2016

“Like a Tree Planted by Streams of Water” (Psalm 1)

One of the delights of late summer is all the delicious fruit that we get to enjoy, fruit that the fruit trees have produced: peaches, apples, cherries. Juicy, ripe, sweet–the fruit is so delicious. I think the peaches are my favorite. But those fruit trees could not have yielded all that good fruit unless they had a plentiful supply of water. They need the water to produce the fruit.

In a way, that is a picture of our lives as Christians. We need the “water” of God’s word in order for our lives to be fruitful. Today I want to commend to you the word of God–the study of it, the reading of it, the receiving of God’s word and your living from it. The word of God preached and sacramented and taught here at church. The word of God read and devoted on in your home. If your Christian life has dried out, this is the way to be refreshed and get growing once again. This is the way for you to be “Like a Tree Planted by Streams of Water.”

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Published in: on September 3, 2016 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Friend, Move Up Higher” (Luke 14:1-14)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 28, 2016

“Friend, Move Up Higher” (Luke 14:1-14)

Suppose you’re invited to a banquet–a wedding banquet, for instance–so you get dressed up in your best clothes, and you get there, and you see some seats that are open at the various tables. You figure you’re a pretty important person, or you’d like to be seen as such, so you go up and take a seat up front, maybe even at the head table. But then some other guy comes in, and he doesn’t look all that impressive, and the host or the waiter comes over and tells you that you need to move down so that this guy can sit up front. Well, you wouldn’t like that very much, would you? You would feel put out and embarrassed. “Why don’t I get one of the top spots? And who is this guy that he should get more attention and a better place than I do?”

Well, that’s kind of the situation Jesus describes in today’s Gospel reading from Luke 14. But what Jesus has in mind is more important than mere dinner etiquette or table manners. What Christ has to say to us has to do with our place before God, our place in God’s kingdom, our place for eternity at the heavenly wedding banquet. Better to be called to move up higher than to be told to move down. Thus our theme this morning: “Friend, Move Up Higher.”

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Published in: on August 27, 2016 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Strive to Enter through the Narrow Door” (Luke 13:22-30)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 21, 2016

“Strive to Enter through the Narrow Door” (Luke 13:22-30)

Suppose there’s a big party, a grand banquet that you’ve heard about, and you really want to go and be there for this great event. So you go to the banquet hall, and you see a door there, and you walk up to it and try the handle. It doesn’t budge. The door seems to be locked. “Okay, no problem, I’ll try another door.” Which you do. You pull on the handle, it doesn’t move, same thing. Hmm. What’s the problem? “Oh, wait! Let me see if there’s another door around the corner of this wall. Ah, there is!” Oh, no. It’s locked, too. This is getting frustrating. “OK, I’ll go around to the next side of the building. Oh, there is a door on this side. Just one door, and not a very big one, but I’ll give it a try.”

It doesn’t open, but you hear some voices inside. So you say: “Hello! Anybody in there? Hey, I’m here for the banquet. Can you let me in?” “What’s your name?” You tell the guy inside your name. “Sorry! You’re not on the list. I can’t let you in.” “But, but, this is supposed to be the biggest event of the year! I really want to get in there.” “Sorry, you’re not on the list. I can’t let you in unless your name is on the list.” “Really?” “Really.” Disappointed and disheartened at not being able to get in, you trudge off with a profound sense of being left out. What a bummer!

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Published in: on August 20, 2016 at 11:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Fire, Distress, and Division: This Is the Gospel of the Lord?” (Luke 12:49-53)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 14, 2016

“Fire, Distress, and Division: This Is the Gospel of the Lord?” (Luke 12:49-53)

“‘I came to cast fire on the earth. How great is my distress! I have come to bring division on earth. From now on households will be divided.’ This is the Gospel of the Lord.” Huh? Am I missing something here? “Fire, Distress, and Division: This Is the Gospel of the Lord?” How is this “gospel”? How is this good news?

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Published in: on August 13, 2016 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Do Not Be Anxious: Faith Overcomes Fear” (Luke 12:22-34)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 7, 2016

“Do Not Be Anxious: Faith Overcomes Fear” (Luke 12:22-34)

“Do not be anxious. Do not be worried. Fear not.” That’s what Jesus says to his disciples in our Gospel reading for today. He says we shouldn’t be so worried about our stuff, to not seek after more and more, like we’re obsessed about it. “Do not be anxious. Do not be worried. Fear not.” Well, OK, Jesus, I guess I’ll try. I’ll try not to be anxious. I’ll try not to be worried. I’ll try not to be afraid. And maybe I can do it. I mean, after all, I’ve got a nice place to live. I’ve got food in the fridge and the freezer and in the pantry. I’ve got clothes in the closet–well, actually, in two closets and in the dresser and some downstairs. I probably should go through those things one of these days. “Do not be anxious. Do not be worried. Fear not.” Yeah, I suppose I can manage that.

Well, we’ll see. But now suppose you didn’t have all those things we just mentioned. Suppose they all got taken away from you, just like that. Imagine you don’t have that nice place to live. You don’t have that food in the fridge–no, imagine you don’t even have a fridge or a freezer or a pantry. You don’t have clothes or a closet or any of your stuff anymore. They’re all gone. Just like that. Now how easy is it to not be anxious, to not be worried, to not be at least a little bit afraid?

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Published in: on August 7, 2016 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-26; Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 31, 2016

“Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-26; Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

We all want to live the good life, don’t we? I mean, we want to have the best life now that we can have. Financial security, good health, no worries about our future, a nice place to live, happy family life, good friends and neighbors–who doesn’t want all that? Your best life now. Ah, wouldn’t that be sweet! A steak on the grill, a margarita in your hand, relaxing on the patio in the shade. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry!

And is there anything wrong with that? I mean, after all, our reading from Ecclesiastes today says as much, that this is about as good as it gets. The writer says: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.” Well, there you have it: “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry,” in so many words.

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Published in: on July 30, 2016 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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