“A Real Eye-Opener” (John 9:1-41)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 26, 2017

“A Real Eye-Opener” (John 9:1-41)

Our text today is a real eye-opener. It’s the story of Jesus healing the man born blind, from John chapter 9. It’s an eye-opener in several senses. Just the fact that Jesus can heal the eyes of a man born blind–that in itself is an eye-opener, in the sense of it being something startling or surprising. As the guy who was healed says, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” But then it’s a literal eye-opener for the man born blind. He receives his sight. But more than that physical healing, he will also have his eyes opened spiritually, and that’s the even greater blessing. And the good news is, Jesus does these healings for you also, both the physical healing and the spiritual sight. As we will see in this story, Jesus is “A Real Eye-Opener.”

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Published in: on March 25, 2017 at 6:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Lord’s Prayer”

Midweek Lenten Service
March 22, 2017

“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Lord’s Prayer”

So far in our series on the Catechism we’ve had the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed. The Commandments show us God’s good will for our lives, but the problem is, we don’t do it as we should, and so the Commandments show us our sin and our need for a righteousness we don’t have. Then the Creed comes along and shows us the answer to our problem, in the triune God who loves us and saves us and forgives our sins. Now that we are saved and are God’s children, the question then becomes how we find God’s help for our daily living. That’s where the next part of the Catechism comes in, namely, in the Lord’s Prayer.

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Published in: on March 23, 2017 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Samaritan Woman: A Well-Known Story” (John 4:5-26, 27-30, 39-42)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 19, 2017

“The Samaritan Woman: A Well-Known Story” (John 4:5-26, 27-30, 39-42)

Does God really accept me? I mean, I’m able to hide my faults and shortcomings from people–well, most of my faults from most people, at least. And I’m able to do it well enough so that there are people who do accept me–well, sorta, or at least they put up with me. But what about God? There’s no hiding things from him. He knows the real me. He knows my inner thoughts and my secret sins. Will God accept me? And if so, why? And what difference does that make? That’s what we’ll find out this morning as we consider the case of “The Samaritan Woman: A Well-Known Story.”

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Published in: on March 19, 2017 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Creed”

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Creed”

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, in a big national survey a few years ago–the Pew Survey found that 92% of Americans say they “believe in God or a universal spirit.” 92%! Well, whoop-de-do. Big deal. That doesn’t really say much. Who is this God you believe in? Allah, the false god of the Muslims? Sorry, I bear witness that there is no god called Allah, and Mohammed is his false prophet. Is this “god” you believe in some depersonalized “universal spirit” or “higher power”? That won’t do you any good, either. Is it “God” as you have created him in your own image? A god who winks at sin and suits your personal opinions and is impressed by your “spirituality” and essential goodness? Sorry, Oprah, that is not the God revealed in Holy Scripture.

Just the fact that you believe that one true God exists, that by itself will do you no good. On that point, you are no better than the demons. St. James says as much: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!” You see, the devil and all the demons know who God is. They even know who Jesus is, “the Holy One of God.” They believe that God exists. But that is not the same as knowing and believing in God in the way that we have just confessed in the Creed.

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Published in: on March 8, 2017 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“When the Tempter Comes Calling” (Matthew 4:1-11)

First Sunday in Lent
March 5, 2017

“When the Tempter Comes Calling” (Matthew 4:1-11)

What are you going to do when the tempter comes calling? Oh, be assured, he will come. The tempter came for Adam and Eve. The tempter came for ancient Israel. He even came for Jesus. So what are you going to do “When the Tempter Comes Calling”?

Who is this tempter? It is the devil, of course. Satan, the accuser, the adversary, the evil one, the enemy of our souls. His goal is to destroy you, to do you evil, to tear you away from your faith in God, to doubt God’s word and God’s goodness. That is what the tempter does. And he will come calling on you, just like he came calling on Adam and Israel and Jesus. What will you do when he starts whispering in your ear?

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Published in: on March 4, 2017 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Ten Commandments”

Ash Wednesday
March 1, 2017

“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Ten Commandments”

Tonight we start a Lenten series on “The Catechism in Six Parts.” We’ll be following the six chief parts as Luther lays them out in the Small Catechism: The Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar.

We begin tonight with the Ten Commandments. It’s fitting that today, on Ash Wednesday, we hear the Ten Commandments. For on this solemn and somber day of repentance, the Ten Commandments, God’s Law, will show us our sins and our need for God’s forgiveness, which we will then find in the blessed Gospel that God gives us here in Word and Sacrament.

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Published in: on March 1, 2017 at 11:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Best Picture: The Transfiguration of Our Lord” (Matthew 17:1-9)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sunday, February 26, 2017

“Best Picture: The Transfiguration of Our Lord” (Matthew 17:1-9)

Tonight will be the Academy Awards ceremony coming from Los Angeles. Tonight they’ll give out the award for, among other things, Best Picture of the year. I don’t know which one will win, but I want to tell you, this morning here in the church, we get to see a far better “Best Picture,” and it is none other than “The Transfiguration of Our Lord.”

The picture we see at the Transfiguration had its share of special effects–lighting, sound, and so on. And there were a couple of guest stars making a cameo appearance–Moses and Elijah. But clearly the leading man in this story is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. He is the star shining most brightly. Who Jesus is revealed to be and what he’s about to do for us from this point on–that is why Jesus is the one who makes the Transfiguration the Best Picture you’ll see today.

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Published in: on February 25, 2017 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:38-48)

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
February 19, 2017

“Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:38-48)

The Holy Gospel for today can be a hard one to understand, much less a hard one to actually do. In it Jesus says things like “Turn the other cheek,” “Give somebody the shirt off your back,” and “Go the extra mile.” Oh, Jesus, really? Those things sound hard! Maybe you don’t really mean that. Is there a way we can explain those things away? But then Jesus goes further. He not only says we should love our neighbor–that can be hard enough–he even says we are to love our enemies. Yikes! Are you kidding me, Jesus? Surely this must be some kind of hyperbole or figure of speech. You don’t really mean this, do you?

What’s more, Jesus says that you are to love your enemies, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Is that what it takes to become God’s children, to love our enemies? If so, I think most of us will be in a heap of trouble and end up on the outside looking in. Again, is Jesus really being serious here?

Then Jesus wraps things up with this whopper of a statement: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Oh boy. Now I know I’m in trouble. “Be perfect”? I’m having trouble even reaching 90%. But be perfect? Ouch! What do I do with that?

Well, there’s a couple of things that people do with these teachings of Jesus. But I think they miss the mark, they miss the point of what Jesus is saying. I want to show how that happens. I also want to show how we can take Jesus seriously in what he says and still be OK. So that’s where we’re heading, under the theme, “Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father.”

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Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Salt of the Earth, Light of the World” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 5, 2017

“Salt of the Earth, Light of the World” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Our text today is a portion of the Holy Gospel, reading again from verses 13-16 of Matthew 5: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This is our text. And so our theme this morning: “Salt of the Earth, Light of the World.”

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Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Your Blest Life Now” (Matthew 5:1-12)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 29, 2017

“Your Blest Life Now” (Matthew 5:1-12)

You’ve probably heard of a TV preacher by the name of Joel Osteen. He’s got a huge megachurch down in Houston, and he’s got a massive audience on television. He’s also written a number of best-selling books, the most famous of which is called “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.” What Mr. Osteen does that has made him so successful is to dish out some warmed-over self-help pabulum, and people are lapping it up. He says things like this: “Your best days are not behind you, they’re still out in front of you.” Or “Faith activates God.” Or “You have to learn to follow your heart.” Ooh, deep thoughts! This is kind of a “Power of Positive Thinking” for the 21st century. Osteen is always directing his followers to think positively about themselves, to look inward, and to expect good things to happen as a result. Well, I’m sure Mr. Osteen is living his best life now. He’s got a $10.5 million-dollar, 17,000 square-foot mansion in the Houston suburbs.

Now this motivational self-help stuff wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t masquerading as Christianity. But it is, and that’s the problem. Osteen’s religion is not the Christian faith, not even close. St. Paul says “we preach Christ crucified.” Joel Osteen preaches you glorified. St. Paul says “the word of the cross” is the power of God and the wisdom of God. In Mr. Osteen’s church you will not even find a cross, and he won’t preach about it, either. Quite a difference. But people fall for this spiritual junk food, they can’t get enough of it, and they think this is what Christianity is.

The Osteen religion stands in stark contrast to what Jesus teaches in the Holy Gospel for today, the Beatitudes, in Matthew chapter 5. Jesus offers a much greater treasure than just “your best life now.” Jesus bestows life that is much greater than your circumstances, whether rich or poor, whether living high on the hog or beat up and broken down. Whether you’re prospering by the world’s standards or you’re being persecuted by the world, the life Jesus gives cannot be taken away from you. So rather than seeking after “your best life now,” instead follow Jesus and discover “Your Blest Life Now.”

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Published in: on January 28, 2017 at 5:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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