“The Year of the Lord’s Favor” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 13, 2020

“The Year of the Lord’s Favor” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

We’re coming to the end of this year, and what a year it has been! 2020–a year that will live in infamy! Our country has had a very tough year: Covid-19, economic shutdowns and lockdowns, people losing their jobs, people losing their businesses, people losing their lives. We had rioting in the streets, looting and burning, and governors and mayors letting it happen. We had a tense election season, with the results very much in dispute. What a year it has been! Those “year in review” retrospectives you’ll see at the end of the month–they will not be a happy trip down memory lane.

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Published in: on December 12, 2020 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From David to the Deportation” (Matthew 1:1, 6b-11)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 9, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From David to the Deportation” (Matthew 1:1, 6b-11)

Last week we began looking at how Matthew begins his gospel. He begins with a genealogy, a genealogy that takes in much of Old Testament history. It is the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. But Jesus was, first of all, the Savior of Israel. He is the promised Messiah, who fulfilled the promises given to Israel’s forefathers. Jesus came into the world as the culmination, the climax, of Israel’s history. And so Matthew writes: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. . . .”

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Published in: on December 10, 2020 at 12:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Messengers Marking Out the Messiah” (Mark 1:1-8)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 6, 2020

“Messengers Marking Out the Messiah” (Mark 1:1-8)

In centuries past, in lands where there were kings, when the king was about to go visit various parts of his realm, messengers would be sent out, heralds, to go ahead to each town and announce the soon arrival of that mighty monarch. “The king is coming! Everybody get ready! The king is on his way!” And the people would know what to do. They would clean up any trash littering their town. If there were potholes in the roads, those would get filled in. Got to have everything in order for the arrival of the king! So those messengers, the heralds, had an important job to do in preparing the way, so the people would be ready for their coming king.

Well, in the Holy Gospel for today, from Mark chapter 1, we meet such a messenger preparing the way for the arrival of a king. In fact, there may be even more than one. And so our theme this morning: “Messengers Marking Out the Messiah.”

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Published in: on December 5, 2020 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From Abraham to David” (Matthew 1:1-6a)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 2, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From Abraham to David” (Matthew 1:1-6a)

I am interested in family histories and genealogies. My own, for example. I am a direct descendant of Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, one of the first Swedish settlers in America back in 1640 and one of the founders of the colony New Sweden along the east coast. Peter Rambo’s name, by the way, was the inspiration for the movie character Rambo. My maternal grandmother was Grace Rambo Clark, and, through that Clark connection, I am related to William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and governor of Missouri. So some of my family heritage is pretty noble and famous.

On the other hand, some of it is shaded in scandal. My father was put up for adoption in an orphanage in Chicago, probably because he was born out of wedlock. So I joined up with Ancestry.com, and I’m trying to find out who I’m related to by way of my father’s birth name.

Fame and scandal, historical standouts and skeletons in the closet–this is what you find in any person’s family history. And Jesus is no different. The Bible tells us about Jesus’ ancestry. And this Advent we’re going to explore his family history, under the theme, “The Genealogy of Jesus Christ.” We begin today with the section that goes “From Abraham to David.”

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Published in: on December 2, 2020 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Reserved for a King” (Mark 11:1-10)

First Sunday in Advent
November 29, 2020

“Reserved for a King” (Mark 11:1-10)

Happy New Year! No, I’m not time-traveling ahead to January 1. But it is a new year today. A new church year, that is. Because today is the First Sunday in Advent, and thus the start of a new church year. And every year on the First Sunday in Advent, we have as the Gospel reading an account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Which seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Here we are in Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, and we get a reading for the start of Holy Week, which leads into Good Friday and Easter. But that’s the point. It’s a way of saying that the whole church year is focused on our Lord Jesus Christ going to the cross to die for our salvation and rising from the dead in victory over sin and death. So, this reading today to kick off the church year directs our attention to those central events of the Christian faith.

What’s more, the reading today is a good way to start the season of Advent. The word “Advent” means “coming,” and this is the season in which we anticipate the coming of our King. We are preparing for Christ’s coming at Christmas, and beyond that, we’re preparing for his coming again at the Last Day. Advent prepares us for both, as well as for how our Lord comes to us even now in Word and Sacrament.

Today’s reading serves that Advent purpose well. For in our text from Mark 11, we join with the crowds welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem with their joyous cry: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” Truly, this is a welcome fit for a king.

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Published in: on November 28, 2020 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Giving Thanks in–and for–2020” (Philippians 4:6-20)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 26, 2020

“Giving Thanks in–and for–2020” (Philippians 4:6-20)

We have come together today to celebrate America’s Day of National Thanksgiving. This is the time every year when we gather in our churches to give thanks to God for his blessings on our country. However, this year is 2020. And if you listen to most folks, you would think there is nothing to be thankful for this year. But is that really the case? Today I want to tell you that it is possible to have a happy Thanksgiving this year, under the theme, “Giving Thanks in–and for–2020.”

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Published in: on November 25, 2020 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The End Is Coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)

Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 22, 2020

“The End Is Coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)

The end is coming. The end of the church year, I mean. In fact, today is the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Next week we’ll begin a brand-new church year with the First Sunday in Advent. But the thing is, the church year mirrors the life of Christ and the course of history. That’s why, in these darkening days of November, our readings and hymns deal with the last things, the end times, and the return of Christ on the Last Day. Think of the hymns we’ve been singing this month: “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying”; “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near”: or the one we just sang, “The Clouds of Judgment Gather.” The point is, the end of the church year serves to focus our attention on the very biblical teaching that “The End Is Coming.”

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Published in: on November 21, 2020 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Living as Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Zephaniah 1:7-16)

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
November 15, 2020

“Living as Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Zephaniah 1:7-16)

“Christ has brought us out of darkness, made us children of the day.” The hymn we just sang was written to go with the three Scripture readings assigned for this day. Each stanza corresponds to one of the readings. The point of the lessons and of the hymn is this: The day of the Lord–that is, the return of Christ–the day of the Lord is drawing near, a day of both judgment and salvation. For us it will be a day of joy, because of what Christ has done for us. And our waiting for that day will not be a slothful, dreary time of inactivity. No, it will be an active waiting, using the talents God has given us, faithfully serving our Master. And we have a hope to sustain us as we look forward to that day. And so our theme this morning: “Living as Children of the Day.”

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Published in: on November 14, 2020 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13)

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 8, 2020

“The Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13)

Today we are entering the last three Sundays of the church year. And, appropriately enough, the readings these weeks all have to do with the end times and the second coming of Christ. You see, the church year mirrors the life of our Lord, culminating in his return on the Last Day. And so the last things of this age are emphasized in the last days of the church’s calendar. But while we know exactly when the church year will end, we do not know when our Lord Jesus Christ will return. “You know neither the day nor the hour,” Jesus says. Thus the need for the church, for us, to be ready for his coming. He may return tonight or tomorrow or next year or a hundred years from now. We don’t know when. But we do know that–that he is coming back to take his church home to himself. So we want to be ready whenever he comes. And that’s what our Gospel reading today is about: being ready, whenever Jesus comes again. Jesus urges this upon us, this need for readiness, in the story that he tells us today, “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.”

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Published in: on November 6, 2020 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“For All the Saints, With All the Saints” (Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day
Sunday, November 1, 2020

“For All the Saints, With All the Saints” (Revelation 7:9-17)

Yesterday, October 31, was Reformation Day, when we remember how Martin Luther had to break with the Roman Catholic Church. Luther made it clear that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone and not in the slightest measure by our works. This teaching of justification is the central teaching of the Christian faith. It is the article by which the church stands or falls. And the Lutheran Church is still waiting for the Catholic Church to correct her errors, but she has yet to do so. So we Lutherans are certainly not about to go “home to Rome.”

Well, then, what do we do with a day like today? Because today, November 1, is All Saints’ Day. Today many churches around the world–including Catholic churches and Lutheran churches–are observing this ancient festival. Now what in the world is All Saints’ Day doing on the Lutheran church calendar? I thought “saints” were strictly for Catholics. What do we do with the saints? What we do with them is to thank God for them. What we do with them is to praise God with them. That’s what we do with the saints. And that’s what we’ll explore now this morning, under the theme, “For All the Saints, With All the Saints.”

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Published in: on November 1, 2020 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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