“Lord, Save Me!” (Matthew 14:22-33)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 9, 2020

“Lord, Save Me!” (Matthew 14:22-33)

Who is this Jesus fellow? That is the central question in all four of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Who is this Jesus? As we read the gospels, we are discovering the same thing the disciples were learning: that there is something very special about this man named Jesus. And so it is, again today, in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew. The disciples are learning more about Jesus, and so are we. And knowing who Jesus is, knowing who he is for us–not only that he is God’s Son, with all divine power and authority, but also that he uses his authority to save us–knowing Jesus in this way, so that you will trust in him for your salvation, this is the most important thing in the whole world that you need to know.

We pick it up today in Matthew 14 right where we left off last week. Jesus has just done the feeding of the five thousand, not far from the Sea of Galilee. It’s been a long day, exhausting, and now Jesus wants some alone time, when he can pray in private. So he sends the disciples on ahead in the boat, while he stays behind. He’ll catch up with them later. And boy, howdy, will he!

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Published in: on August 8, 2020 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Masks of God” (Matthew 14:13-21)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2020

“Masks of God” (Matthew 14:13-21)

The other day I went to the grocery store, and of course when I went in, I put on a mask. The other shoppers were wearing masks, the store’s workers were wearing masks, the cashiers–everybody was wearing a mask. Well, I had just paid for my groceries and was finishing loading my cart, when I heard the cashier greet the lady behind me. It was obvious he knew who she was, but at first she did not know who he was. She said, “Oh, I didn’t recognize you behind your mask.” And I thought to myself, “Thank you! You have just given me the introduction for my sermon this Sunday!”

“Oh, I didn’t recognize you behind your mask.” You know, I think that’s often what we ought to be saying to God: “I didn’t recognize you behind your mask.” Because that’s how God operates to provide for us and care for us, and we don’t recognize that he is the one blessing us. Behind a mask, so to speak. In other words, God blesses us through other people he puts in our lives. God uses those people to be the channels of his blessings toward us, but he ultimately is the source of those blessings.

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Published in: on August 1, 2020 at 9:56 am  Comments (1)  
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“If God Is for Us” (Romans 8:28-39)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 26, 2020

“If God Is for Us” (Romans 8:28-39)

In our Epistle reading for today, St. Paul writes, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer, of course, is no one. If God is for us, it doesn’t matter who might be against us, because they are not God. Oh, they may indeed be against us, but that is far, far outweighed by the fact that God is for us. I mean, who could be greater and more powerful than God? No one. By definition, no one or no thing can be more powerful than God; otherwise, that person or thing would be God. And they’re not.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” But notice that little word “if.” There’s a lot riding on that “if.” “If God is for us”: That “if” raises the question: Is God for us? How can we know whether he is or is not? Is God for us? Is God for me? How can I be sure that he is?

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Published in: on July 26, 2020 at 12:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Not Peace, but a Sword” (Matthew 10:34-42)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 28, 2020

“Not Peace, but a Sword” (Matthew 10:34-42)

You are in a battle. It is a battle every Christian is called upon to fight, from the time we are baptized till the day we die. There is no opting out. You are engaged in this battle whether you realize it or not. So the thing to do is to fight it well. And that means we need help. For on our own we would not be strong enough to prevail.

What is this battle? The one I’m referring to today is a battle from without, that is, from the world attacking us Christians. Oh, there is also a battle from within, namely, our own sinful flesh fighting against the new persons we are in Christ. Both of these battles, the conflict from without and the conflict from within, are inescapable for every single Christian.

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Published in: on June 28, 2020 at 1:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Fear Not, for Your Father Cares for You” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2020

“Fear Not, for Your Father Cares for You” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

In many of the Gospel readings during this time of the church year–as is the case in today’s reading–Jesus teaches his followers about the life of discipleship that we Christians are called to live. And this is not an easy life, this life of following Christ. For one thing, the world will be against us. And so, many of the Gospel readings this summer will describe the opposition we will get from the unbelieving world. And that opposition can be brutal, even deadly. But the amazing thing is, even though Jesus knows that people will treat us this way–indeed, he tells us they will treat us this way–even so, he tells us to fear not.

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Published in: on June 20, 2020 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Extends His Compassionate Authority” (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 14, 2020

“Jesus Extends His Compassionate Authority” (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” So we heard in the Holy Gospel for today from Matthew. And that particular verse, Matthew 9:35, sounds an awful lot like a verse from five chapters earlier, Matthew 4:23, where it says: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Those two verses are almost verbatim the same. What the writer, Matthew, is doing is framing this major section of his gospel, in which he recounts the early ministry of Jesus in Galilee. In this section, he shows Jesus doing these several activities: “teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”

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Published in: on June 13, 2020 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The God of New Beginnings” (Genesis 1; Acts 2; Matthew 28)

The Holy Trinity
Sunday, June 7, 2020

“The God of New Beginnings” (Genesis 1; Acts 2; Matthew 28)

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is on this day every year that we call special attention to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This teaching is true every day of the year, of course, but on this particular Sunday, we call special attention to it. The Scripture readings for today bring out the nature of God as being triune, that is, one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The hymns we sing on this day are trinitarian in their content. And Trinity Sunday is the one day of the year when we read out loud the Athanasian Creed, the creed that goes into the most depth and detail on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Now when I say “doctrine,” maybe some of you, your eyes glaze over. You think of “doctrine” as “boring” or “academic” or “unrelated to life.” But no, that is not so! The word “doctrine” simply means “teaching,” and what the Bible teaches about God is anything but boring! And while Christian doctrine can be taught and studied in an academic manner–and there is great value in that–that does not mean it is “unrelated to life”! Indeed, doctrine is life! What God’s Word teaches us gives us life! God’s Word guides our life, and guides us all the way into eternal life, life with God, life forever.

And then when we talk about the doctrine of “the Holy Trinity,” again, our eyes may glaze over. How can we understand this great mystery, that there is only one God, yet there are three distinct persons in this one God? How can this be? We have trouble wrapping our heads around it. Our little brains can’t comprehend it. The circuits start to fry out.

Well, today you don’t have to figure everything out. Instead, I want you to relax and just take it in, who this God is whom we worship and adore, who God is, and especially, who he is for you. Today I want you to know God, more than just to know about God. Because today in his Word, God reveals himself to us. He shows himself to be “The God of New Beginnings.” And we could all use that.

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Published in: on June 6, 2020 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Out of His Heart Will Flow Rivers of Living Water” (John 7:37-39)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, May 31, 2020

“Out of His Heart Will Flow Rivers of Living Water” (John 7:37-39)

Please take a look at the front of your bulletin for today. There you will see a photograph of water flowing out in a river. And written over the picture are these words from John 7:38, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Those are the words of Jesus from today’s Holy Gospel. There Jesus says exactly that: “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But the question is: Who is it that Jesus is talking about? Out of whose heart will flow those rivers of living water? Today I want to explore with you two possible answers, either one of which will come out as good news for us. We’re going to take two different routes to get there now, but hopefully we’ll end up at the same place.

Let’s look at the Gospel reading again, John 7:37-39: “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

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Published in: on May 30, 2020 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Casting All Your Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11)

“Casting All Your Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11)

It came as a shock this past Monday morning. I got an email telling me that the son of a pastor friend of mine–that over the weekend this pastor’s son had taken his own life. Fifteen years old. A good kid. A bright kid. A faithful, church-going young man. I had gotten to know this boy a little bit at various conferences over the years, when his parents had brought him along. So that made it all the more shocking and sad. Just fifteen years old. And in a sudden moment of what must have felt like hopelessness and despair, he took his own life.

And this came about two weeks after another pastor’s son also committed suicide. This young man was twenty-five. So tragic, these losses. And these are in good Christian households.

And then there’s the added stress of the shutdown. Yesterday I saw a headline, quoting a doctor in California about what they’ve been seeing there. It says: “A Year’s Worth of Suicide Attempts in the Last Four Weeks.”

Dear brothers and sisters, there but for the grace of God, go you and I. There but for the grace of God go our sons and daughters. Sudden despair, overwhelming anxiety and depression, can overtake any one of us. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Truly we do walk in danger all the way.

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Published in: on May 23, 2020 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“I Will Not Leave You as Orphans” (John 14:1-6, 18-19)

Funeral Service
Friday, May 22, 2020

“I Will Not Leave You as Orphans” (John 14:1-6, 18-19)

It was a day in May of 1996. And on that day my mother, Marjorie Henrickson, died. My father had died some years earlier, and now my mother died. I realized on that day that now I was truly an orphan. The next morning was a Sunday, and the Holy Gospel for that day, which I had prepared to preach on, was the passage from John 14 in which Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Suddenly that text became extra meaningful for me.

Fast forward to a day in May of 2020. On that day your mother, Mary Heineman, died. Your father had died some years earlier. And now your mother has died. Now you her children are truly orphans. And it just so happens that the Holy Gospel from this past Sunday is that same passage from John 14 where Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Today I pray that this text becomes extra meaningful for you as well. “I Will Not Leave You as Orphans.”

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Published in: on May 22, 2020 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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