“What Do You Expect?” (Luke 7:18-28)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 12, 2021

“What Do You Expect?” (Luke 7:18-28)

What you expect and when you expect it will make you either satisfied or disappointed. For example, suppose that for Christmas your true love has promised to give you twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a’leaping, all the way down to three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. But at the end of the day on December 25 all you’ve received is the partridge. You’re disappointed. You ask yourself, “Did my true love forget about the other stuff? Where are the geese and the maids and so on? Maybe my true love doesn’t love me, after all.”

But then, over December 26, 27, and 28, you start getting FedEx shipments of various calling and non-calling birds. By December 31 you’re up to seven swans a-swimming. Now you’re starting to catch on. Your true love’s word is good. Your true love does truly love you. The promise will be kept, in full. You remember that there are twelve days of Christmas, and you can expect that the rest of the stuff is on the way. It will arrive on time. Even though you have not yet seen any dancing ladies, you’re satisfied that you will. In this case, you really can count your chickens before they’re dispatched.

What you expect and when you expect it will determine whether you’re satisfied or disappointed. That’s true of Christmas presents, and it’s true of Christ himself. What do you expect of Christ? And when do you expect it? This is the question that comes to us, just as it came to John the Baptist: “What Do You Expect?”

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Published in: on December 11, 2021 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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“What Sort of Greeting This Might Be” (Luke 1:26-38)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 8, 2021

“What Sort of Greeting This Might Be” (Luke 1:26-38)

During this Advent season, we’re looking at how Luke tells us of the events leading up to Christmas. Luke does this in chapter 1 of his gospel. Christmas will come in chapter 2. And in this infancy narrative, Luke goes back and forth between two storylines: the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus Christ. Last week we heard the angel Gabriel announce to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son in their old age. They are to name him John, and he will go before the Lord to make ready a people prepared.

Now it’s six months later, and today the angel Gabriel comes to a virgin named Mary. He’s got some special news for her, too. He starts by saying: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” Well, I suppose if an angel suddenly appears in your house and starts speaking to you, you too would wonder “What Sort of Greeting This Might Be.”

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Published in: on December 8, 2021 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word of God Came to John” (Luke 3:1-20)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 5, 2021

“The Word of God Came to John” (Luke 3:1-20)

Every year during Advent, we get Gospel readings about John the Baptist. Why is that? Well, John’s whole purpose in life was to prepare the way of our Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, the purpose of Advent is to prepare for the coming of Christ. So it’s a natural fit: John the Baptist prepares the way during this season of preparation called Advent.

In today’s Gospel reading, Luke begins by setting the stage for John the Baptist’s ministry. He writes: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” And so our theme this morning: “The Word of God Came to John.”

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Published in: on December 4, 2021 at 6:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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“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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