“All Saints: Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (Revelation 7:2-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Sunday, November 6, 2022

“All Saints: Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (Revelation 7:2-17)

“Behold a host, arrayed in white.” So we just sang. Our reading from Revelation tells us who they are: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

But before they came out of the great tribulation, first they were in it. That’s where we are. In the midst of tribulation. Trial and tribulation. Struggle, sorrow, sadness. Grief and loss. This is our lot in life here in this vale of tears. But the vision of that white-robed multitude, the church triumphant–this brings us comfort, this gives us hope, knowing that this is what awaits us and our loved ones who die in the Lord. We can be confident of this, because all of God’s saints have been signed and sealed and thus will be delivered also. “All Saints: Signed, Sealed, Delivered”–this is our theme today on All Saints’ Day.


Published in: on November 4, 2022 at 3:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

“A Reformation in Liturgy and Hymnody” (John 8:31-36)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 30, 2022

“A Reformation in Liturgy and Hymnody” (John 8:31-36)

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Friends, this is really what the Reformation was all about: that people would abide in the living, life-giving word of Christ; that they would know the truth of the gospel, which had been obscured by the errors that had crept into the church; and that this truth would set people free from the slavery they had been laboring under. Luther himself had labored under that slavery, and when he discovered the freeing truth of the gospel, he bent every effort toward wanting others to know the freedom that is theirs in Christ. The whole Reformation was geared toward that end. And it meant reforming every area of church life that had been infected by those enslaving errors. It meant bringing the truth to light in every aspect where it had been clouded over.

Today we are the recipients and beneficiaries of that great Reformation program. And one of the prime ways in which we enjoy that rich heritage is in what we are doing right here in this church service. For today, on this Reformation Sunday, we will see what benefits are ours, precisely because the Lutheran Reformation included, very prominently, “A Reformation in Liturgy and Hymnody.”


Published in: on October 29, 2022 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

“God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!” (Luke 18:9-17)

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 23, 2022

“God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!” (Luke 18:9-17)

“So this Pharisee and a tax collector walk into a temple. . . .” No, this isn’t the start of some kind of a joke. Rather, it’s the start of a parable that Jesus tells. And this story makes a very important point. So we will be wise to listen up and take it to heart.

Our text is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, from Luke 18. And we’re told why Jesus proceeds to tell this story. It’s because there were people “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” Now I don’t suppose there are any people today who have that kind of attitude, are there? Oh, you and I both know there are. And in fact, sometimes we ourselves–that could describe you and me, that we think we’re pretty good in ourselves, and we look down upon others. So the parable that Jesus is about to tell is very relevant to our day and to our own lives.


Published in: on October 22, 2022 at 8:45 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“But the Word of God Is Not Bound!” (2 Timothy 2:1-13)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 9, 2022

“But the Word of God Is Not Bound!” (2 Timothy 2:1-13)

Do you ever feel constrained or held back, like you’re the prisoner of things that are too powerful for you to overcome? Maybe it’s age. You feel the advancing years taking their toll on you. Maybe it’s sickness. You get over one thing, and then it’s something else. More pills, more trips to the doctor. You feel like a prisoner in your own body. Or maybe it’s a guilty conscience weighing you down. You sense your own failings. Your past sins keep on dogging you. Then there’s the approach of death. We don’t know when that will come, regardless of our age. It’s like how Scrooge saw Marley’s ghost, shackled with chains, rattling and haunting him in the night. The inevitability of death can haunt us like that. All these things–the sadnesses and sorrows of life; the lack of connectedness with people we know we ought to be closer to; the sense of alienation from God, tucked in the back of our head–all these things are like chains wrapped around us, holding us back, weighing us down, binding us up.

“But the Word of God Is Not Bound!” And it is through this word that God frees you from your chains and makes you alive in his love. Today I want you to hear this freeing word that God has for you. And you can hear it in all of our Scripture readings today.


Published in: on October 7, 2022 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Timothy and the Women Who Raised Him in the Faith” (2 Timothy 1:1-14)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 2, 2022

“Timothy and the Women Who Raised Him in the Faith” (2 Timothy 1:1-14)

In today’s Epistle, Paul writes to Timothy to encourage him in his faith. Paul also reminds Timothy of the ladies who passed on the faith to him. Their names were Lois and Eunice. One was Timothy’s mother; the other, Timothy’s grandmother. Let’s see, now which one was which? Here’s the way I have of keeping them straight: “Lois” sounds like “oldest,” so she was the grandma. “Eunice” sounds like “youngest,” so she was Timothy’s mom. So now let’s hear more about “Timothy and the Women Who Raised Him in the Faith.” Let’s hear what that faith is, and what it means for us today.


Published in: on October 1, 2022 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“The Poor Man and Rich Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 25, 2022

“The Poor Man and Rich Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31)

Our text today is the story commonly known as “The Rich Man and Poor Lazarus.” But I’m going to suggest to you today that we could just as well call this story “The Poor Man and Rich Lazarus.” As we shall see. So let’s go.


Published in: on September 24, 2022 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“God Desires All People to Be Saved” (1 Timothy 2:1-15)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 18, 2022

“God Desires All People to Be Saved” (1 Timothy 2:1-15)

From time to time the Pew Research Center, an organization that tracks religious trends in America, comes out with a new study. This past week they issued their latest report, called “Modeling the Future of Religion in America: How the U.S Religious Landscape Could Change over the Next 50 Years.” Based on findings from recent decades, they are projecting how things could look in the future if current trends continue. The main question in this study is what percentage of Americans will identify as Christians in the future. Going back to the 1970s and even into the early 1990s, 90% of Americans identified as Christians in 1992. That number started to drop in the mid-’90s. By 2002, the percentage had dropped to 78%. Now, in 2022, the percentage of Americans identifying as Christians is down to 63%. From 90% to 63% in just thirty years. Meanwhile, the percentage of “religiously unaffiliated,” the so-called “nones,” has risen to approximately 30%.

Now what if these trends continue? In this study, the Pew Research Center says the most likely scenario is that by the year 2050, Christians will lose their majority status in America and be down to only 47% of the population, barely outnumbering the 43% who will have no religious affiliation at all.

So how do we react and respond to these discouraging numbers? More important, what does God think about it? And the good news is that, in the words of our Epistle today, “God our Savior . . . desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And God has provided the way for that to happen. And so our theme this morning: “God Desires All People to Be Saved.”


Published in: on September 18, 2022 at 1:12 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Sound Doctrine: Applying Law and Gospel” (1 Timothy 1:5-17)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 11, 2022

“Sound Doctrine: Applying Law and Gospel” (1 Timothy 1:5-17)

Sound doctrine: When you hear that phrase, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of a proud, triumphalistic claim: “We in the Missouri Synod have the pure doctrine, not like those other churches!” Maybe you think of sound doctrine as having all your facts in order, in your head, in a sterile, intellectual way, unrelated to real life. Or you think of sound doctrine as unloving, not caring about people, only about guarding the truth. Well, I’m here to tell you that nothing, none of that, could be further from the truth.

This stereotype of a concern for sound doctrine as being cold and unloving, all head and no heart, impersonal, uncaring–this is a caricature that people use to excuse their lack of concern for right doctrine and practice. We are accused of being obsessed with “incessant internal purification,” at the cost of being “missional.” But that is not the case. In fact, in our Epistle today, from Paul’s letter to Timothy, we will see that concern for pure doctrine and caring for people–that these two go hand in hand. And so our theme this morning, “Sound Doctrine: Applying Law and Gospel.”


Published in: on September 10, 2022 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Delightful Meditation” (Psalm 1)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 4, 2022

“Delightful Meditation” (Psalm 1)

Our psalm today, Psalm 1, begins as follows: “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.” Today I want to tell you about the kind of meditation this psalm is talking about: what it is; why we delight in it; and how to do it. What, why, and how; so here we go. Our theme this morning: “Delightful Meditation.”


Published in: on September 3, 2022 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“God’s Open, Narrow Door” (Luke 13:22-30)

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 21, 2022

“God’s Open, Narrow Door” (Luke 13:22-30)

In our text today, someone asks Jesus a question: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Well, that seems like a reasonable question, something you might ask a visiting rabbi. An interesting academic question, to be sure: “Are only a few people going to be saved?”

But what was the question behind the question? Why did the guy ask this? Let’s consider the possibilities. Was it just idle curiosity, like, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” Could be. Or maybe this fellow thinks God is too loose, letting in all the riff-raff he sees hanging around Jesus. A righteous God shouldn’t be that soft in his justice.

On the other hand, perhaps he asks his question in order to put God on trial. Maybe he thinks God is too strict. If God were really a decent God, he would let everybody in. You know, there are lots of people who think that way today. “God wouldn’t dare to send anybody to hell! The God I believe in wouldn’t do that!” That’s how people think today.


Published in: on August 20, 2022 at 11:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,