“This Man Receives Sinners” (Luke 15:1-10)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 15, 2019

“This Man Receives Sinners” (Luke 15:1-10)

“This Man Receives Sinners.” So said the Pharisees and the scribes about Jesus. They meant it as an insult: “This man receives sinners.” We hear those same words, and we take them as the most wonderful good news: “This man receives sinners!” I guess it depends on what you think about “this man,” Jesus, and whether or not you put yourself in the category of “sinners.”

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Published in: on September 14, 2019 at 11:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?” (Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-35)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 8, 2019

“‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?” (Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-35)

Please turn with me once again to Psalm 1, in the front of your hymnal. We sang this psalm earlier in the service, but now I’d like us to speak together the first three verses. Psalm 1, verses 1 through 3:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Well, this sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Delight in God’s word, meditate on it every day, and you will be blessed! In all you do, you will prosper! Hey, sign me up! This is a pretty sweet deal.

So, I am a Christian. I believe in the Lord. I like reading the Bible. I think about it a lot. Now all my life should be hunky-dory, shouldn’t it? I should be prospering like nobody’s business. No more problems. Smooth sailing all the way.

But maybe, just maybe, my life doesn’t exactly look like that. Maybe yours doesn’t either. All this fruit I’m supposed to be bearing, where is it? Why does it feel like I’m withering sometimes? Instead of prospering, I end up perspiring. Instead of my life being fruitful, it feels like it’s futile. This is being blessed? “‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?”

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Published in: on September 7, 2019 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Was Jesus Making the Sabbath Day a Labor Day?” (Luke 14:1-14)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
September 1, 2019

“Was Jesus Making the Sabbath Day a Labor Day?” (Luke 14:1-14)

Many of you know that I grew up in the most Jewish neighborhood in the city of Chicago. Lots of Jewish families on every block. The family next door to us were Orthodox Jews, meaning that they tried to keep the laws of Judaism, literally, very religiously. I remember one time they hired my sister to come over next door to their place on Saturdays, so that she could turn on the air conditioner for them, since that was considered work, and they were not supposed to do any work on the Sabbath.

Well, what about that? I suppose they were following the laws of Judaism as they had been taught, I’ll give them that. But were they understanding the prohibition of work on the Sabbath aright? Did God really say, “Thou shalt not turn on an air conditioner on the Sabbath day,” or else you’re working and thus violating his commandment?

What prompted my memory of this is an incident recorded in the Holy Gospel for today. There Jesus is being watched closely by the Pharisees, to see if he will violate God’s commandment by doing work on the Sabbath day. Well, did he? “Was Jesus Making the Sabbath Day a Labor Day?”

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Published in: on August 31, 2019 at 11:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Faith to Run the Race” (Hebrews 11:17-31; 12:1-3)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 18, 2019

“Faith to Run the Race” (Hebrews 11:17-31; 12:1-3)

I read recently that Rosie Ruiz died. Who was Rosie Ruiz, you ask? She was the woman who cheated in order to win the Boston Marathon in 1980. She had jumped out of the crowd about a half-mile from the finish line and just ran that little distance. But at the award ceremony, when they put the laurel wreath on her head and she raised her arms in victory, it appeared strange that she had no sweat under her armpits. She was not breathing hard, either. After an investigation, she was stripped of her title. And it turned out she had cheated in the New York City Marathon the year before, in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In New York, she rode the subway to a point near the finish, and did the same thing there, only running the last little bit. Rosie Ruiz did not have the endurance to go the distance, so she cheated instead.

Dear friends, the Christian life is like running a marathon. Only, you’ve actually got to run the race. You can’t ride the subway for the hard part. And most of life is the hard part. So how are you going to make it to the finish line? Brothers and sisters, you will need endurance.

Our reading today from the Book of Hebrews is about finding the endurance you need to run the race and cross the finish line. The race is not easy. It will be arduous. There will be obstacles in the way, things to slow you down. You will break a sweat. The race will require your sweat, your tears, and maybe even your blood. But God will provide you with the endurance necessary to finish the course. And here is what you need: “Faith to Run the Race.”

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Published in: on August 17, 2019 at 6:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Fear Not, Little Flock” (Luke 12:22-34)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 11, 2019

“Fear Not, Little Flock” (Luke 12:22-34)

“Fear not,” the Lord tells Abram in our Old Testament Reading for today. “Fear not,” Jesus tells his disciples in the Holy Gospel. “Fear not.” “Fear not.” Do these “fear nots” have you tied up in knots? Are you worried that you’re not good enough of a Christian, because you do have fears, you do have worries? Well, instead of being tied up in knots, realize today that these “fear nots” come with promises attached. And that makes all the difference. And so our theme this morning: “Fear Not, Little Flock.”

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Published in: on August 10, 2019 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“In What Does Your Life Consist?” (Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
August 4, 2019

“In What Does Your Life Consist?” (Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

In the Holy Gospel for today, Jesus says these words: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Well, if your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions, then what does your life consist in? That’s what we’re going to explore this morning: “In What Does Your Life Consist?”

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Published in: on August 3, 2019 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer” (Luke 10:25-37)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 14, 2019

“Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer” (Luke 10:25-37)

Our text today is one of the most well-known parables in the Bible. It’s the story of the Good Samaritan. And Jesus’ parable is prompted by a couple of questions that someone asks him. Law questions, questions about what we have to do to keep God’s Law. And so our theme this morning: “Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer.”

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Published in: on July 13, 2019 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” (Luke 14:15-24; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
July 7, 2019

“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” (Luke 14:15-24; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Recently I read this quote from an observer of the American church scene: “15 years ago, 40% of church members attended four times a month. In 2018, only 10% attended four times a month, a 37% drop in worship attendance. So you could have the exact same membership church, and on Sunday mornings it looks like you’ve lost over a third of your members.”

Now a certain amount of this can be attributed to aging. There are people still on membership rosters, but now they are homebound and no longer able to make it to church. And others who were in the pew fifteen years ago who since have graduated to the church triumphant. But at the same time, this big drop in attendance shows that we haven’t replaced those people. In our own congregation, attendance is down compared to what it was when I arrived here 13 years ago. And if you look across our synod–indeed, all across the American landscape–church attendance is down pretty much everywhere. Lots of empty pews, everywhere you look.

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Published in: on July 6, 2019 at 6:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 30, 2019

“God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

Last week we called our message “God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons.” We picked up on that phrase, “Green New Deal,” which has been buzzing around in political circles this year. Only God’s Green New Deal won’t cost trillions and trillions of dollars. Actually, it’s much costlier than that, for it cost the precious blood of Christ, God’s own Son, which is of absolutely infinite value. But for you, God’s new deal is absolutely free. A free gift, the new covenant in Christ’s blood.

And that is what has brought us into God’s new covenant, his new deal, so to speak, which changes our status radically. In Christ, we have gone from slaves to sons. We’ve gone from being slaves under the law, imprisoned, held captive under the law, thinking that we could work our way into God’s favor, which we cannot. Oh, we would be condemned to eternal death and hell under that arrangement. But now, in Christ, we have been redeemed from our imprisonment, set free from our slavery. We have been adopted as sons, brought into God’s household and family, because of Christ our brother. We have been joined to Jesus in Holy Baptism, and so now we are God’s sons also. All of us are sons and heirs, in line to receive a most marvelous inheritance: You and I will share in Christ’s resurrection and his eternal life. It doesn’t get any better than that!

So last week we emphasized the “new deal” aspect of God’s green new deal, that this is God’s new covenant, moving us from slaves to sons. Now today we’ll take up the “green” aspect of it, green signaling new life and growth for those in Christ. Being in Christ–this changes who we are. It changes the way we live. God has brought us out of darkness and into the light. Out of the darkness of this old world and into the light of God’s kingdom. Now we can see. Now we can walk in God’s good paths. No longer are we totally dominated by our old sinful nature–the “flesh,” as Paul calls it. Now we have new life in the Spirit, given to us in baptism. We are new people, and God will help us live this way. And so our theme this morning: “God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit.”

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Published in: on June 29, 2019 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons” (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 23, 2019

“God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons” (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7)

Earlier this year a certain congressperson from New York proposed what she called a “Green New Deal.” She was picking up on the term “New Deal,” thus indicating a massive expansion of government programs. And she combined it with the word “Green,” because she thought this new deal would help the environment. Well, in one sense, it would have been a green new deal, because it would have taken a lot of green, as in trillions and trillions of tax dollars. Well, her Green New Deal came up for a vote in the Senate, and the Senate said, “No deal!” It got exactly zero votes, none even from her own party.

Today, though, I want to tell you about another “new deal,” only this one is a whole lot better. And it won’t even cost you a cent. It’s already paid for. This new deal is also “green,” in the sense that green stands for new life and abundant growth. And what’s more, it’s a new deal that changes our status, from a very bad situation to a very good one instead. So now let’s hear about “God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons.”

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Published in: on June 22, 2019 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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