“To Make Ready a People Prepared” (Luke 1:1-25)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

“To Make Ready a People Prepared” (Luke 1:1-25)

This past Sunday we began a whole new church year. And in our lectionary system of readings, this is the Year of St. Luke. The vast majority of Gospel readings for this church year will be from the Gospel according to St. Luke. And we’ll be really taking a deep dive into Luke’s gospel this year, most often preaching on those texts. In addition, yesterday we began a new Bible class on Luke, going verse by verse through this book of the Bible. All of this makes for a great opportunity for you to get into Luke’s gospel, so that, as Luke himself writes, “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

Luke also is especially appropriate for us to dive into during this Advent season. Why? Well, Advent is a time for preparing for the coming of our Lord. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas. And Luke, more than any other gospel writer, has the most material on the events leading up to Christ’s birth. All of Luke chapter 1 is about just that. And that’s what we’re going to explore during these three midweek services and on the fourth Sunday in Advent. We’ll cover all of Luke 1, those events leading up to Christmas. And by the way, right after Advent, with Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the two Sundays after Christmas, we’ll cover all of Luke chapter 2.

Now an interesting feature of Luke’s infancy narrative is how Luke goes back and forth between two storylines: the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist prepares the way for Christ even in his birth. We’ll see that now in the first part of Luke chapter 1, where the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that he will have a son named John, whose purpose in life will be “To Make Ready a People Prepared.”

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Published in: on December 1, 2021 at 11:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Preparation and Praise for Our Coming King” (Luke 19:28-40)

First Sunday in Advent
November 28, 2021

“Preparation and Praise for Our Coming King” (Luke 19:28-40)

Today is the First Sunday in Advent. That means it’s also the first Sunday in a whole new church year. So I say to you today: Happy new year! And you say to me: “Happy” new year?? How can you say it’s “happy,” Pastor? Really?

Well, I suppose you have a point. There’s a lot going on that isn’t very happy. I mean, look at the news: Inflation is at its highest rate in thirty years. Gas prices are through the roof. On Friday, the stock market took a huge dive; it was the worst Black Friday session on record. There’s talk of yet another new virus variant going around. A week ago, somebody drove a car into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing six and injuring dozens. And closer to home, a young wife and mother, 25 years old, collapsed and died from a heart attack. That’s a lot of grief, a lot of stress, a lot of sadness. How can this be a “happy” new church year?

Here’s how: Because Christ is coming. And his coming to us, his coming for us, makes all the difference. He is our comfort in the midst of our grief. He is our peace in the midst of our stress. He is our hope and our joy in the midst of sadness. We still suffer under the load of our afflictions, but Jesus coming to us gives us reason to rejoice amid our sadness. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation.” And so our theme for this morning: “Preparation and Praise for Our Coming King.”

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Published in: on November 27, 2021 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Stay Awake, for You Do Not Know When” (Mark 13:24-37)

Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 21, 2021

“Stay Awake, for You Do Not Know When” (Mark 13:24-37)

On this Last Sunday of the Church Year, our service emphasizes, appropriately enough, the end times and the return of Christ. As the church year comes to an end, we look forward to the return of our Lord. We need to be ready for his coming at all times, because we don’t know when he will come. Jesus himself says that in our text from Mark 13: “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” And he goes on to say, “Therefore stay awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come.” Thus our theme today: “Stay Awake, for You Do Not Know When.”

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Published in: on November 20, 2021 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Day Is Drawing Near: Let Us Draw Near, Hold Fast, and Stir Up” (Hebrews 10:11-25)

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 14, 2021

“The Day Is Drawing Near: Let Us Draw Near, Hold Fast, and Stir Up” (Hebrews 10:11-25)

“The day is surely drawing near,” we just sang. And our reading from Hebrews 10 closes with similar words: “as you see the Day drawing near.” What day is that? Let’s find out. And let’s consider what the implications are for us as we see that day approaching. Our text will tell us: “The Day Is Drawing Near: Let Us Draw Near, Hold Fast, and Stir Up.”

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Published in: on November 13, 2021 at 6:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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“The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints” (Matthew 5:1-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
November 7, 2021

“The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints” (Matthew 5:1-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today, as we do every year on the first Sunday in November, we observe the historic Christian festival known as All Saints’ Day. On this day we thank God for making us all his saints, his holy ones, set apart by God’s grace to belong to God alone. We thank God for the saints of the past, those who have preceded us in the faith, who by the witness of their lives inspire us and encourage us to carry on. And we remember the faithful departed from our own midst, from this congregation, who over the past twelve months have fallen asleep in Jesus and now rest from their labors. This is All Saints’ Day, a time to reflect upon and ponder “The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints.”

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Published in: on November 6, 2021 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Eleutherios: Free Indeed!” (John 8:31-36)

Reformation Day
Sunday, October 31, 2021

“Eleutherios: Free Indeed!” (John 8:31-36)

Today, October 31, along with millions of other Christians around the world, we are celebrating Reformation Day. Why? What’s so special about this day? Well, 504 years ago, on October 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses against the sale of indulgences on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. And what Luther did that day started the movement known as the Reformation, which corrected many bad practices that had crept into the church. Ever since, we observe the last Sunday in October as Reformation Day, and we thank God for using Luther to bring the pure gospel back to light.

October 31, 1517, marked the beginning of a change for the better in the church. At the same time, Luther recognized that the gospel of Christ had made a change in him. And so, starting in November of 1517 and for a couple of years thereafter, in some of his letters to his friends, Luther would sign his letters with a change in his name. He signed them as “Martinos Eleutherios.” Why did he do that? Let’s find out now, under the theme, “Eleutherios: Free Indeed!”

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Published in: on October 30, 2021 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Christ, Our Great High Priest” (Hebrews 7:23-28)

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
October 24, 2021

“Christ, Our Great High Priest” (Hebrews 7:23-28)

For a number of weeks now, our Epistle readings have come from the Book of Hebrews. And throughout these readings, Hebrews has been making this major point: All the worship practices of Old Testament Israel, all its religious institutions, were pointing ahead to, and have been fulfilled by, Jesus Christ. The Sabbath rest, the tabernacle, the sacrifices, the priesthood–all these have been fulfilled in an even greater way by Christ.

Take the priesthood, for example, and the office of the high priest, in particular. Our recent readings from Hebrews have made the point that Jesus now is our great high priest. Hebrews 2 told us that Jesus came in order to be “a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 4 said that “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.” And so now today, when we come to Hebrews 7, we continue along those same lines, under the theme, “Christ, Our Great High Priest.”

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Published in: on October 23, 2021 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Wealth You Leave and the Wealth You Receive” (Mark 10:23-31)

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
October 17, 2021

“The Wealth You Leave and the Wealth You Receive” (Mark 10:23-31)

Today Jesus speaks to us about wealth. He speaks of the wealth you need to leave in order to enter the kingdom of God. And he speaks of the wealth you receive when you do enter. And so our theme this morning: “The Wealth You Leave and the Wealth You Receive.”

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Published in: on October 16, 2021 at 8:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Oh That We Had Meat to Eat!” (Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 26, 2021

“Oh That We Had Meat to Eat!” (Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29)

“Oh that we had meat to eat!” Oh that we had meat we could afford to buy! Have you looked at the price of meat lately? I have. I was at the grocery store the other day, and the prices for all kinds of meat are very high right now: steak, ground beef, pork, even chicken. It confirmed what I read in a news article recently. Prices for meat have skyrocketed this year. Across the nation, beef prices have surged a whopping 12% over the last year. Pork prices have jumped almost 10%. Chicken, 7%. Looking at those price increases might almost drive one to becoming a vegan. Well, almost. I wouldn’t go that far.

“Oh that we had meat to eat!” But we would not be the first ones to cry that. The ancient Israelites said the same thing back during their wilderness wanderings. And they said it as a complaint against God and against his servant Moses. We heard it in the Old Testament reading for today from Numbers 11. “Now the rabble that was among [the children of Israel] had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, ‘Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’”

“Oh That We Had Meat to Eat!” Was it just the ancient Israelites who complain like this? Or maybe we do too. Our text today serves as both a warning and an encouragement for us. It’s a warning against ingratitude and unbelief. But it’s also an encouragement for us to find our forgiveness in Christ and to give thanks to God for how he does provide for us.

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Published in: on September 25, 2021 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Wisdom from Above: Humble Yourself, Serve Others” (James 3:13 – 4:10; Mark 9:30-37)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 19, 2021

“Wisdom from Above: Humble Yourself, Serve Others” (James 3:13 – 4:10; Mark 9:30-37)

In the Epistle for today, St. James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Well, I suppose all of us would like to be considered wise and understanding. To have people compliment us on how smart we are and what good decisions we make. And in the Gospel reading for today, Jesus says, “If anyone would be first.” Well, I suppose all of us would like to be first. We like it when we’re in the top spot. To be wise, to be first, to be great–we like it when we achieve those things and are recognized for it.

The only problem is, that’s not the way it goes in God’s kingdom. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all. That’s counter-intuitive to the ways of this world, where people are pumped up with loads and loads of self-esteem. But in the kingdom of God, lowliness goes along with holiness. Humility and meekness are the virtues that are praised and prized. We’ll see that now from both James and Jesus, under the theme, “Wisdom from Above: Humble Yourself, Serve Others.”

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Published in: on September 18, 2021 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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