“The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope” (Luke 7:18-28)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 16, 2018

“The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope” (Luke 7:18-28)

What happens when something you’ve been hoping for, something you’ve been waiting for eagerly and expectantly, what happens when it finally arrives, and your life still doesn’t get any better? In fact, it may even get worse. What then? Well, it can be rather perplexing. You may ask yourself: “Is there any hope for me to hold on to? Has God forgotten about me? Why is he letting this happen?” If you’ve ever felt like that, then our message today is just for you. And so our theme: “The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope.”

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Published in: on December 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance” (Judges 13:2-7; Luke 1:26-38)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

“An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance” (Judges 13:2-7; Luke 1:26-38)

It was an impossible situation. For forty years, Israel had been suffering under the oppression of the Philistines. The Philistines were looting their cities and ravaging their countryside. It was a period of great distress. Israel was in a dark and hopeless time. Often, though, in God’s way of doing things, dark and hopeless times give birth to new hope and renewed faith. So the Lord heard the Israelites’ cries of distress and did for them what was humanly impossible: He delivered them from the hand of the Philistines.

But God’s rescue plan did not involve gathering an army or amassing the weapons you would expect. God’s plan in this case centered on one man. An army of one, you might say. One man who singlehandedly would rescue Israel without touching a conventional weapon of war.

What’s more, God’s rescue plan began in circumstances that also seemed impossible: A barren woman would give birth. The angel of the Lord spoke to the wife of Manoah. “Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son,” the angel said. Earlier in Israel’s history, the Lord had done great things through the barren wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. Sarah gave birth to the patriarch Isaac. Rebekah gave birth to the patriarch Jacob. Rachel, to Joseph and Benjamin. Later on, the Lord again would do great things through the womb of Hannah. She would give birth to the prophet Samuel. And much later, it would be the aged Elizabeth who gave birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. But now in the Book of Judges, the Lord will do the impossible through the barren wife of Manoah. She will give birth to Samson, a mighty deliverer who, in some ways, is a type of an even greater Deliverer to come. And so our theme tonight: “An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance.”

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Published in: on December 12, 2018 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Way of Repentance” (Luke 3:1-14)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 9, 2018

“The Way of Repentance” (Luke 3:1-14)

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness. And every year, in the month of December, during the season of Advent, the word of God comes to us through John here in church. Yes, every year at this time, on the second Sunday in Advent, we always have a Gospel reading in which John the Baptist preaches God’s word to us.

And what is he preaching? Our text tells us: John went about “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And this applies to us, as well. For God’s word tells us that we have been baptized into a life of repentance. We too have been baptized for the forgiveness of sins. John is preaching that message to us today. And so our theme this morning: “The Way of Repentance.”

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Published in: on December 8, 2018 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Child Who Is Zechariah’s Hope” (Luke 1:5-25)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

“The Child Who Is Zechariah’s Hope” (Luke 1:5-25)

“What Child Is This?” That’s the theme of our midweek Advent series this year, picking up on the title of the hymn we sang. “What Child Is This?” Of course, the child we sing about in that hymn is the Christ child, Jesus, the Savior sent from heaven. But there is another child we consider first, one who prepares the way for Jesus, both later on in his ministry, but also even here in his birth. And that child is John, John the Baptist. And because our text today is about John the Baptist, it is therefore about Jesus. Because John’s whole purpose in life was to point people to Jesus. And God arranged for John to do that, even in his birth.

Our text is the story of the angel Gabriel announcing to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son with that special purpose in life, to prepare the way of the Lord. Zechariah faltered at believing that message, and so the Lord struck him unable to speak for a time. But the Lord did not cast Zechariah aside or give up on him. For the child to be born after John, Jesus, would be the one who forgives Zechariah’s sins–and ours too–and restores us and gives us hope. So our message tonight is really about Jesus, “The Child Who Is Zechariah’s Hope.”

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Published in: on December 5, 2018 at 8:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Advent: Receiving the Coming King” (Luke 19:28-40)

First Sunday in Advent
December 2, 2018

“Advent: Receiving the Coming King” (Luke 19:28-40)

Well, it’s Advent. And you know what that means: We’re beginning the countdown to Christmas. Of course, the world has already been celebrating their Christmas for several weeks now, what with Hallmark Christmas movies, and Christmas TV specials and commercials, and radio stations playing songs about “Santa Baby” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” But that’s the world’s Christmas. In the church, though, we get to celebrate the real thing, the true Christmas. And Advent, which begins today, serves as the lead-up to it.

But that’s not all Advent does. Oh, we will be getting ready for Christmas. Our midweek services start this Wednesday, under the theme, “What Child Is This?” And after the service we’ll put up the tree here in church. The Ladies’ Guild is having their Christmas party on Thursday. And later this Advent we’ll be singing hymns like “Savior of the Nations, Come” and “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.”

So Advent is the lead-up to Christmas. But it’s a lot more than that, too. It’s about how we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming. It’s about how we welcome him as he comes to us. As we just sang, “O Lord, how shall I meet you, how welcome you aright?” And it’s about the various ways and times our Lord does come to us, then and now and still to come.

The thread that connects all these themes is summed up in the word “Advent” itself. For “Advent” simply means “Coming.” This season is all about Christ coming to us and how we respond to that. Thus our message this morning: “Advent: Receiving the Coming King.”

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Published in: on December 1, 2018 at 10:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18; Revelation 7:2-17)

Funeral Service
Sunday, November 25, 2018

“From the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18; Revelation 7:2-17)

Today we remember our dear brother, Bill McBride. Some of you called him “Bucky.” I always called him “Bill.” Or maybe you called him “Dad” or “Grandpa,” because he was that, too. You could also call him “Soldier,” because he was proud of that part of his life, as well.

As you’ve seen in the obituaries, Bill McBride proudly served his country in the U.S. Army: 37th Field Artillery Unit, Second Indianhead Division, during the Korean War. Good work, soldier! And for decades after Korea, Bill was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Yes, if you got to know Bill, you knew that was a big part of his life, serving in the military. When I’d visit him in his home, I could see various memorabilia of his service to our country.

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Published in: on November 25, 2018 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Stay Awake!” (Mark 13:24-37)

Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 25, 2018

“Stay Awake!” (Mark 13:24-37)

“Stay awake!” No, this is not just the plea of a preacher for his parishioners to keep their eyes open for the next fifteen minutes, while they’re still recovering from their tryptophan food coma from turkey on Thursday. Well, actually, I do want you to stay awake and listen to this sermon, not because it’s Henrickson speaking, but because it’s Christ’s servant delivering God’s word to you, as he is charged to do. Therefore you ought to listen and take God’s word to heart.

“Stay awake!” And not just for the next fifteen minutes, but really for the rest of your life. For that’s how Jesus would have us live, awake and alert and looking eagerly and expectantly for his coming. For Christ is coming again, and we need to be ready, because we don’t know when that will be. We do know that it will be. We just don’t know when. So our Lord tells us today, “Stay Awake!”

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Published in: on November 23, 2018 at 7:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Though the Fig Tree Should Not Blossom” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 22, 2018

“Though the Fig Tree Should Not Blossom” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

A long time ago, as a young man, I decided to go backpacking in the Sierra Mountains of California. I had cousins who lived in Fresno, so I went out there and stayed with them for a couple days before heading up to the mountains. They had an above-ground swimming pool, and there were some fig trees right alongside the edge of the pool, within arm’s reach. So here I am, on a nice sunny California day, swimming around in a swimming pool, picking these delicious figs right off the tree and popping them into my mouth. Now for a city boy from Chicago, this was a rare treat! I tell you, it was easy to be thankful to God for his many blessings on a day like that, swimming around in a pool, picking figs off a fig tree.

But that raises the question: What about when there is no swimming pool and there are no figs to pick off a tree? What about when all the trees in California are burning to the ground, and the wildfires are taking a bunch of homes along with them? Can we still thank God on those days? Because, to be honest with you, there are a lot more days that are Midwest overcast than California sunny. There are more days now with achy knees than with young legs ready to go backpacking in the mountains. On days like these, can we still give thanks to God?

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Published in: on November 21, 2018 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Drawing Near” (Hebrews 10:11-25)

Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
November 18, 2018

“Drawing Near” (Hebrews 10:11-25)

“The day is surely drawing near,” we sang in our opening hymn. And our Epistle reading today, from Hebrews 10, closes with similar words: “as you see the Day drawing near.” “The Day”? What day? Notice, it’s “the” Day. Sounds important. So let’s find out what that “day” is. And let’s also consider what the implications are for us as we see that day approaching. For our text also tells us about another type of “drawing near.” It says that we should “draw near.” “Let us draw near,” it says. Thus our theme this morning: “Drawing Near.”

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Published in: on November 16, 2018 at 11:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Widow’s Might” (Mark 12:38-44)

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 11, 2018

“The Widow’s Might” (Mark 12:38-44)

Our text today is the story known as “The Widow’s Mite.” It’s the story of a poor widow who goes to the temple and puts into the offering box two “small copper coins,” as our translation has it. But the King James Version had as the equivalent for “small copper coins” the old English word “mites.” “She threw in two mites, which make a farthing,” the King James says. Thus the familiar title for this story, “The Widow’s Mite,” m-i-t-e.

But today I want to talk to you more about “The Widow’s Might,” m-i-g-h-t. For this story tells us much about the widow’s might, her strength, her source of power to do what she did. Where did she find such might, such courage, to sacrifice even her last two coins? And where will we find that kind of might in our day, in our lives? That’s what we want to find out.

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Published in: on November 10, 2018 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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