“A Caravan of Pilgrims–with Homeland Security!” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
November 4, 2018

“A Caravan of Pilgrims–with Homeland Security!” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about “the caravan.” I’m referring of course to the migrant caravan working its way up through Mexico, heading for the border with the U.S.A. These are not U.S. citizens. Now many of them may be seeking a better life here in America and have good intentions. But there could also be MS-13 gang members, criminals, drug dealers, terrorists, and others who do not want to enter legally, mixed in the crowd. Therefore, immigration officials and Homeland Security would have to screen these people before they let them in. And with such a huge number of them, it may not be manageable.

So the question is: What will happen to the people in the caravan when they get there? Some think we should just let them in. Others say we cannot just let people waltz right in. If they want to enter, they will need to get in line, wait to be processed, and then, if they qualify, they can enter, legally. We’ll see what happens.

Now today, dear friends, I want to talk to you about another caravan. This too is a large group of people all traveling together, all heading in the same direction. And guess what? You are part of this caravan! Yes, you, if you are a believer in Christ and a member of his church. A great caravan–“a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” We are all moving together, heading for a better country. And when we get there, we will not be stopped. Rather, we will be gladly welcomed in. For you and I are already citizens of that homeland. We already have security clearance. Right now, we’re just passing through, heading on our way there. Thus our theme on this All Saints’ Day: “A Caravan of Pilgrims–with Homeland Security!”

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Published in: on November 3, 2018 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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“How Do We Get God’s Grace?” (Romans 3:19-28)

Reformation Day (Observed)
October 28, 2018

“How Do We Get God’s Grace?” (Romans 3:19-28)

On the last Sunday in October every year, we celebrate Reformation Day. For on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed Ninety-five Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, thus starting the great Reformation of the Christian church. Last year, 2017, was the 500th anniversary of that momentous event, and there were huge celebrations around the world. This year, 2018, is the 501st anniversary, so the occasion is toned down accordingly. But we still have something to celebrate. Indeed, 1517 was just the beginning of the Reformation. Every year now we will have the 500th anniversary of some significant event during that time period.

The biggest Reformation event that occurred in 1518, which we celebrate the 500th anniversary of this year, is the Heidelberg Disputation. Let me explain. After Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses in October 1517, the publication and spread of these theses caused a worldwide sensation. Luther was upsetting the applecart! He was challenging the practice of indulgences, and thus he was challenging the authority of the Pope and the Roman Church! This caught everyone’s attention. People wanted to know more. What was this little monk, a professor at a little university in Germany–what was this Luther fellow saying? Brother Martin was a member of the Augustinian order, and so his teaching would be the topic for discussion at the conference of the Augustinians, to be held in Heidelberg, Germany, in the spring of 1518.

Now why is this important for us today? Because the theses that Luther put forward at Heidelberg exposed the errors of the medieval Roman Catholic Church–even more so than did the Ninety-five Theses of six months earlier. In the Heidelberg Disputation, Luther powerfully takes apart the errors that were being taught, and he brings to light the truth of the gospel. And it is this gospel, this good news of God’s grace in Christ–the message of justification by faith apart from works of the law—that stands ever firm and trustworthy for us today. And it revolves around this question: “How Do We Get God’s Grace?”

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Published in: on October 27, 2018 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“An Idolatry of Works and Wealth, and the One Thing Lacking” (Mark 10:17-22)

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
October 14, 2018

“An Idolatry of Works and Wealth, and the One Thing Lacking” (Mark 10:17-22)

In today’s Gospel we meet a man who ran up to Jesus with great eagerness. At the end, though, he went away with great sadness. What happened in between? Our text today is the story of what this man had and what he didn’t have. What he had was an idol. Actually, it was a twofold idolatry. And what he didn’t have was one essential thing. So now let’s find out what his idolatry was and what the one thing he lacked was. And as we do, we may just recognize ourselves in this story and, by God’s grace, go away today not sorrowful but joyful. And so our theme this morning: “An Idolatry of Works and Wealth, and the One Thing Lacking.”

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Published in: on October 13, 2018 at 8:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas” (Hebrews 11:13-16; John 14:1-6; Philippians 3:20-21)

Funeral Service
Saturday, October 13, 2018

“A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas” (Hebrews 11:13-16; John 14:1-6; Philippians 3:20-21)

His name was “Emerick,” but everybody called him “Tex.” That was our brother Emerick “Tex” Labus. He went by “Tex” for as long as I’ve known him, and that’s been over ten years. Even though he lived here in Missouri for I don’t know how long, people still called him Tex. I guess you can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the boy.

I’ve observed over the years that people from Texas are very proud of being from Texas. And they’ll let you know it. Maybe you’ve noticed that too. They’ll talk about how Texas once was its own country, before it joined the United States. They’ll tell you about how Texas is #1 in this or #1 in that. About how everything is bigger in Texas.

And, well, maybe Texas does have a lot to be proud of, I don’t know. But we do know that for our brother Emerick, he was happy to be called “Tex.” He was always a Texan, even while he lived here in Missouri.

But today I want to tell you about another identity Tex had. Another citizenship. Another homeland. One far greater and better than even being from Texas. And now after Missouri, this will be his next stop. His eternal homeland. Because Tex had “A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas.”

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Published in: on October 13, 2018 at 8:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word Is Very Near You” (Deuteronomy 30:11-30; Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 10:2-16)

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 7, 2018

“The Word Is Very Near You” (Deuteronomy 30:11-30; Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 10:2-16)

In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses is having a review session with the people of Israel. They’re about to enter the promised land of Canaan, and Moses has some things he wants to go over with them. That’s the Book of Deuteronomy in a nutshell. Moses reviews all that the Lord has done to bring them to this point. How he had brought them out of Egypt, out of their bondage there. How he had provided for them during their wilderness journey, in spite of their grumbling and unfaithfulness. And Moses especially goes over how the Lord had made a covenant with them at Sinai, giving them the Torah, the Law, a way of life that would mark them out as being God’s holy people. The Lord gave them his law as a blessing. It truly is the best way for his people to live. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That pretty much sums it up.

The Lord gave Israel his law in the form of the Ten Commandments. Moses got them straight from the Lord on Mount Sinai and brought them down to the people. He had gone over these things with Israel time and again. And he told them to pass these words on to their children, to talk about them when they get up in morning and walk along the road and go to bed at night.

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Published in: on October 6, 2018 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Grumbling on the Way to the Promised Land” (Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29)

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 30, 2018

“Grumbling on the Way to the Promised Land” (Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29)

Our text this morning is the Old Testament Reading from Numbers 11. At the start of this text we hear the Israelites grumbling against God and against his servant Moses. It says: “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.’”

This text, my friends, is a picture of us. For we too grumble and complain–against God, and sometimes against his servants also. How we grumble and complain! Even though, like the Israelites, the Lord has brought us out of bondage. Even though the Lord is leading us to the land he has promised. Even though he is providing for us along the way. And so our theme this morning: “Grumbling on the Way to the Promised Land.”

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Published in: on September 29, 2018 at 11:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From Selfish Ambition to Humble Service” (James 3:13 – 4:10; Mark 9:30-37)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 23, 2018

“From Selfish Ambition to Humble Service” (James 3:13 – 4:10; Mark 9:30-37)

In this long green season of the church year, the non-festival half of the year, the Epistle reading is not chosen to go along with the theme of the Holy Gospel, as it is in the festival half of the year. Instead, it’s just a straight reading-through of a particular epistle. Thus any correlation between the Epistle and Gospel is merely a coincidence. Well, we have such a coincidence today. The Epistle reading from James and the Gospel reading from Mark do have a common theme. It’s the theme of Christians, disciples of Jesus, being called to move “From Selfish Ambition to Humble Service.”

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Published in: on September 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?” (James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4-10)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 16, 2018

“Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?” (James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4-10)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a boy who was deaf and mute. In last week’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute. The man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed. And the crowd said about Jesus, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Now not one of us here is either deaf or mute. Some of us may be a little hard of hearing, but at least we can hear. And none of us is mute. We all can speak. Our ears and our tongue are working. But the question is: What are we doing with them? What are we using our ears and our tongue for? How are we using them?

And besides having functional ears and tongues physically, we also have had our ears and our tongue opened spiritually. In our baptism, God has given us ears to hear his word and tongues to praise his name. How are we using these ears and this tongue? To God’s glory? For our neighbor’s good? Or for different purposes? And so our theme this morning: “Ears Opened, Tongue Loosed: Now What?”

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Published in: on September 15, 2018 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus’ Sign Language” (Mark 7:31-37)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 9, 2018

“Jesus’ Sign Language” (Mark 7:31-37)

How do you speak to a deaf man? With sign language, of course. You make the appropriate gestures and actions to communicate the message you want to convey. And that is what Jesus does to communicate with a deaf man who is brought to him. He uses sign language, of sorts, to get his message across. But in so doing, and then in actually healing the man, Jesus is also using sign language to send a message to us. And so now let’s read “Jesus’ Sign Language.”

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Published in: on September 8, 2018 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Life in the Combat Zone” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2018

“Life in the Combat Zone” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Have you ever been in a combat zone? I mean, a real, live, active combat zone. A place where bullets are whizzing past your head and explosive devices are ready to take your leg off. That’s a combat zone, and it’s a very dangerous place to be. You could be killed or wounded at any moment. Making it out of there alive is a very precarious proposition.

Well, guess what? You are in a combat zone, whether you realize it or not. Every Christian is. It comes with the territory. The battle is real, and the battle is on! The battle is raging, and there are no deferments, no going AWOL. You are in this battle, automatically, and it is a fight to the finish, a life-or-death conflict. So what to do? Be prepared for this battle. Because it’s going to come. There’s no avoiding it. Are you ready? Are you prepared? And so our theme this morning: “Life in the Combat Zone.”

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Published in: on September 1, 2018 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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