“Put off the Old, Put on the New” (Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 12, 2018

“Put off the Old, Put on the New” (Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2)

“Clothes make the man.” I’m sure many of you have heard that old saying. “Clothes make the man.” The idea is that how you dress will affect how people perceive you–and maybe also how you perceive yourself. If you dress shabbily, in dingy, dirty old clothes, you will be perceived one way. If you dress your best, you will convey a different impression. “Clothes make the man.” Likewise, it’s a good idea to dress appropriate to who you are. If you’re a pastor, a clerical shirt is appropriate attire. If you’re a soldier, you wear your uniform when you’re on duty. And so it goes. You want to dress appropriately for your particular calling.

Now if that’s true it’s in the secular realm, it’s even more true in the spiritual realm. Clothes make the man–or the woman who belongs to Christ, as the case may be. And here I’m not talking about cloth-and-fabric clothing. No, here I’m talking about how you have been clothed with Christ, how you have put on Christ’s righteousness and holiness and character. That’s how you have been dressed. So that’s what you should wear, on a daily basis. Don’t wear the dirty old dingy clothes of your previous life. Put on the new garment of righteousness that is yours in Christ. That’s our message today, under the theme, “Put off the Old, Put on the New.”

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Published in: on August 11, 2018 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 5, 2018

“Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Our text today is the Epistle, from Ephesians 4. We are now entering the second half of Ephesians. In the first half, St. Paul laid down the foundation of our life in Christ, that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing, according to the riches of his grace. Now in the second half, Paul moves into the practical implications of this for our life together as church and our life as individual Christians. Today’s text emphasizes the churchly dimension of our life together, that we walk together in unity and growth, in truth and love.

Unity and growth–these are great goals for the church, aren’t they? Everybody wants, or should want, the church to be united. Everybody wants the church to grow. This is true for our congregation, of course. But what kind of unity? What kind of growth? We’ll explore that today, how unity and growth come about and can be strengthened. And so let’s look at our life together as church now, under the theme, “Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ.”

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Published in: on August 4, 2018 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Windstorm on the Lake” (Mark 6:45-56)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
July 29, 2018

“A Windstorm on the Lake” (Mark 6:45-56)

It’s a peaceful evening, and you get into the boat, along with a bunch of other people. You start out across the lake, and everything is going fine. Then suddenly a strong wind whips up from out of nowhere, and everything changes. The windstorm is whipping up the waves, and the boat is really struggling to make any progress. In fact, the situation is becoming downright dangerous. The wind is against you. The boat is in serious danger of sinking and taking everyone down with it. Will you make it to shore? It doesn’t look like it.

What am I talking about? Of course this describes the terrible tragedy that happened to those poor folks in the duck boat down at Table Rock Lake in Branson a week and a half ago. But it also fits what was happening to the twelve disciples in the boat, as we heard in our text just a few moments ago. They too were facing the very real danger of “A Windstorm on the Lake.”

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Published in: on July 28, 2018 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From What We Were to What We Are” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
July 22, 2018

“From What We Were to What We Are” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

From rags to riches. From the outhouse to the penthouse. From worst to first. These are different sayings we have to express a big change, a big contrast, between the way somebody was and the way they are now. There’s some big contrast involved between the former miserable situation and the current excellent one. And, dear friends, that’s the way it is for us, because there has been a major change, a huge contrast, between our former status and our current one. And so our theme this morning: “From What We Were to What We Are.”

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Published in: on July 21, 2018 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 15, 2018

“Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Our Epistle reading today is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In fact, this is the first of eight straight Sundays when the Epistle comes from Ephesians. And during this time, we’re studying Ephesians for our Bible class. I encourage you to stay after service for that. So this is an opportunity for you to dive in to this epistle and really explore it in depth. You may also want to read through Ephesians, perhaps even in one sitting–it’s only six chapters long–perhaps several times over the coming weeks. You will be richly blessed, I guarantee it.

How can I be so confident you will be richly blessed? Because this is God’s Word! This is the gospel, set forth in all its richness and blessing! St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is a glorious gem, shining forth the beauties of God’s grace in Christ from every angle. Ephesians takes us from the grand cosmic sweep of God’s plan for the ages down to the practical realities of everyday life. It’s all here, in one midsize epistle. Christ, eternity, the cross, the church, grace, faith, good works, the new life in Christ, marriage, family, spiritual warfare–all these themes Paul deals with in this letter. The Epistle to the Ephesians is as helpful to the church in the twenty-first century as it was to the church in the first.

Our reading from Ephesians today is really the opening statement of this epistle. It comes right after a standard introduction, “Paul, an apostle of Christ, to the saints in Ephesus: Grace to you and peace,” etc. Then in verses 3-14, which is our text for today, Paul launches into a grand doxology, a great acclamation of God’s goodness, which sets the tone for the rest of the letter. It’s like he’s been thinking about all the rich blessings that God has showered upon us in Christ, and then he gushes forth with this torrent of praise for the triune God.

Paul’s mind surveys the whole sweep and scope of God’s eternal plan for the cosmos. It’s the big picture Paul is giving us here. He takes us from eternity to eternity, to see what God is doing in all of this, to reflect on the cosmic dimensions of God’s plan. It’s the big picture! But the picture has a purpose and a focus: God’s plan is centered in Christ. And the picture is not so big that it doesn’t include us. Because it does includes us, as we will see.

Now I think it will be helpful to look at our text today in three parts, according to the three persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And also in three parts according to the timing of God’s big plan and purpose: first reaching back before creation, then moving into history, and finally culminating in the life of the age to come. And so our theme this morning: “Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit.”

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Published in: on July 14, 2018 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Power Made Perfect in Weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 8, 2018

“Power Made Perfect in Weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

The words that engage our attention this morning and that will bring comfort to our souls are these verses from our Epistle reading, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, where St. Paul writes: “But he [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This is our text. And so our theme for this message: “Power Made Perfect in Weakness.”

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Published in: on July 7, 2018 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Daughters Delivered from Death and Disease” (Mark 5:21-43)

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 1, 2018

“Daughters Delivered from Death and Disease” (Mark 5:21-43)

Our text today is the Holy Gospel from Mark 5, the account of Jesus healing the woman with the flow of blood and raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead. Today we will look at this text under the theme, “Daughters Delivered from Death and Disease.”

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Published in: on June 30, 2018 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Nativity of St. John the Baptist: Born to Forerun” (Luke 1:57-80)

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Sunday, June 24, 2018

“The Nativity of St. John the Baptist: Born to Forerun” (Luke 1:57-80)

Last week I opened the sermon by saying that we are in the “long green meadow” of the church year, that is, the non-festival half of the church year, when the liturgical color is green. But then, here we are today, and the color of the paraments is white! What gives? Well, today is a little exception to that rule, because today, June 24, is one of the more important of the minor festivals, and it happens to fall on a Sunday this year. Today is the day the church celebrates the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. In other words, June 24 is the day for remembering the birth of John the Baptist.

Why June 24? Well, naturally, it’s because it’s six months before Christmas, and John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus. But you say: “Oh, wait, Pastor, if that’s the case, shouldn’t we be celebrating on June the 25th? After all, Christmas is on December 25.” Yes, but due to the way the Romans counted on the calendar, we celebrate John’s birthday on June 24. The Romans counted backward how many days from the start of the next month, and since June has only 30 days, we celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24.

OK, but why white? Why are the paraments white today? Because white is the color of the Christ festivals, and the birth of John was telling us that the birth of Christ would soon follow. You see, John’s whole life, even from his birth–even from before his birth–was defined by his relation to Christ. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ, in his message and his ministry, in his miraculous birth and his martyr’s death. John was literally “Born to Forerun.”

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Published in: on June 23, 2018 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“How Does Your Garden Grow?” (Mark 4:26-34)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 17, 2018

“How Does Your Garden Grow?” (Mark 4:26-34)

It’s June, and everything is green. We’re in the growing season, and everywhere you look, you see the signs of growth. It’s green all around.

Oh wait, you thought I was talking about outside! No, I’m talking about in here, in the church! It’s growing season now, and everything is green. Look at the green paraments on the altar, on the lectern and the pulpit, and the green banners on the wall. Green is the color of growth, and it’s the primary color for this “Season after Pentecost.” This non-festival half of the church year is called “The Time of the Church” or “ordinary time,” because it doesn’t have any big festivals in it, like Christmas or Easter or Pentecost. It’s just a time for long, steady growth–growth in Christian faith, growth in the life of discipleship, growth as individuals and growth as the church. That’s why this season is sometimes called the long “green meadow.”

The Gospel readings during this season often consist of Jesus teaching about life as his disciples, life in the kingdom of God. Today’s lesson is a good example. And appropriately enough, it’s a parable about how things grow. Jesus uses the imagery of a seed being sown and producing growth. This is a common theme in his teachings, because the imagery works so well. Everyone around the world understands the phenomenon of things growing, of life being produced and sustained. Well, I say we all “understand” it, but maybe I should say we all have seen it. I don’t know if anyone fully understands how the growth of plants takes place. We may have seen a big, beautiful plant coming from the sowing of a small, insignificant seed. But who actually understands how that miracle takes place? And that’s one of the points Jesus makes today in his parable. It’s about the mysterious, miraculous power of a seed to grow.

So today I want to ask you a question: How does your garden grow? How does your life as a disciple of Jesus grow? And how does our life together as Christ’s church grow? Thus our theme this morning: “How Does Your Garden Grow?”

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Published in: on June 16, 2018 at 6:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Gospel in the Garden” (Genesis 3:8-15)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 10, 2018

“The Gospel in the Garden” (Genesis 3:8-15)

Did you know you have an adversary out to get you? A very strong adversary, too strong for you to handle on your own? You do. He’s out to get you, to destroy you, body and soul. And you would be powerless to overcome him on your own. You need help–big help, the kind only God can provide. Or else you would be lost, damned and condemned forever. You need this help day by day, every day, for your enemy will never give up on trying to take you down.

But the good news is, you have this help, this big rescue, in the form of a Redeemer sent from God. He is stronger than the strong enemy who is out to get you. In fact, he has crushed him in the head. Lean on this strong Redeemer, day by day, and you will be safe from your enemy’s attacks, saved and safe now and for eternity.

This is the message of our lessons today. It started back in the garden. And it was fulfilled in the coming of God’s Son, born the seed of the woman. Our brother Jesus has won the victory over our enemy. The promise was given way back in the garden, when man and woman first fell into sin. But in the aftermath of that tragic fall, our gracious God gave a wonderful promise of a Savior to come. It is, as we’ll hear about now, “The Gospel in the Garden.”

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Published in: on June 10, 2018 at 12:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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