“The Love Chapter: Way More than a Wedding Text” (1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 3, 2019

“The Love Chapter: Way More than a Wedding Text” (1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13)

It’s February! And you know what that means. Soon we will hear those most wonderful of words: “Pitchers and catchers report.” No, I’m just kidding. While the start of Spring Training is a beautiful thing, I’m referring to something else that happens in February. And that is Valentine’s Day. Now we hear and see everywhere the beautiful word, “love.” Love is in the air! Love is everywhere! Go into any greeting card store and you will see row upon row of cards with hearts on them and the word “love” on every one. February is the Love Month.

But then, so is June–or any month when a lot of weddings take place. Love is the theme in so many weddings. Soloists will sing about love. Preachers will preach about love. And if there’s one Bible passage the couple will invariably request as one of the readings, it is 1 Corinthians 13. Yes, 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter! Love is described, love is extolled. And most importantly, love just sounds nice at a wedding. These words in the Love Chapter are heard as kind of like soft and inoffensive Muzak in an elevator: pleasant background noise that you don’t have to pay too much attention to. The couple isn’t listening, the bridal party isn’t listening–after all, they haven’t been in church since they were kids, so a Bible reading is just something you put up with when you have a wedding. And the people in the pews are just thinking about how beautiful the bride looks, and how cute the flower girl is, and “How long is this service going to last so we can get to the reception?”.

I exaggerate of course. But the point I’m making is that lots of people have heard 1 Corinthians 13, especially at weddings, but maybe they haven’t thought too deeply about it. They haven’t understood that this chapter is not primarily about weddings or marriage. Now of course real, self-giving love is tremendously important in a marriage, but this chapter is not directly about that. What 1 Corinthians 13 is primarily about is our life within the church. That’s what we’re going to discover now, under the theme, “The Love Chapter: Way More than a Wedding Text.”

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Published in: on February 2, 2019 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Many Members, One Body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 27, 2019

“Many Members, One Body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)

I’m sure most of you have heard the children’s nursery song that goes like this:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!
And eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!

This is a cute little song that teaches the child the various parts of his or her body. But that’s the understood assumption, namely, that all these body parts go together and are meant to work together in that child’s body. It’s not like these various body parts have a life of their own and can function independently or even at odds with one another. It’s not like the head and shoulders should be working against the knees and toes. If they did, why, you’d be falling down a lot and not functioning up to your full potential. No, all these body parts are meant to work together, in harmony with one another, in that one body.

Well, in today’s Epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul is doing kind of a “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” song with the church at Corinth. As we will now see. And so our theme this morning: “Many Members, One Body.”

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Published in: on January 26, 2019 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018

“Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Every so often an organization called the American Religious Identification Survey conducts a national survey to find out how Americans are identifying themselves by their religion. And so we have data to compare from complete surveys taken in 1990, 2001, and 2008. In 1990, 86% of Americans identified themselves as some sort of Christian–Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, non-denom, you name it. By 2008, that number had dropped ten points, down to 76%. In 1990, the percentage of the population that said they had no religion was just 8%. By 2008, that number had gone up to 15%. And since 2008, the trend lines have only gone more in that direction. There was a survey of college students in 2013, and it found that 33% of that younger generation said they had no religion. 33%! These people are called the “Nones,” spelled “n-o-n-e-s,” meaning those with no religious self-identification. What we are seeing is an increasing secularization in American life. We’re witnessing the rise of the Nones.

Friends, there is a religious recession going on, an ecclesiastical downturn. What’s behind it? Well, it’s obvious that our society is not buying what the church has to offer. But compounding the problem is that many churches, in trying to attract more customers, have abandoned what they ought to be offering and instead have resorted to gimmicks and entertainment. In that way, the world is not even hearing the genuine Christian message. Large parts of the church seem to be embarrassed by genuine, historic, biblical Christianity. They have watered down the message, in order to cater to the world. And the world is impressed by things like power and wisdom. But the genuine Christian message, namely, the message of the cross, Christ crucified–this comes across as “Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom.”

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Published in: on March 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Hold Lightly to the Things of This World” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 21, 2018

“Hold Lightly to the Things of This World” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Are you married? Some of you are, some of you aren’t. OK, so let’s broaden the field. How about these questions: Are there times when you mourn? Are there times when you rejoice? Or how about these: Do you ever buy goods? Do you ever have dealings with the world? OK, now I think I’ve got everybody covered. Well, here’s what I want you to do today. Two words: Stop it. That’s it: Stop it. Stop doing those things! Live like you’re not married. Stop mourning. Stop rejoicing. Live like you have no goods. Live like you have no dealings with the world. Just: Stop it. Why? Because the time is short. This world is passing away.

Alright, lest you think I’ve gone off the deep end, let me explain. What I just told you is a somewhat simplified version of today’s Epistle reading, from 1 Corinthians 7. So if you’re going to send me to the funny farm, you’ll have to send St. Paul too. He’s the one who said it. But the reality is, this is God’s word we’re hearing today. And today God is encouraging us to “Hold Lightly to the Things of This World.”

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Published in: on January 20, 2018 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Day of Judgment and Salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)

Midweek Advent Evening Prayer
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

“A Day of Judgment and Salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)

In thinking about a theme for our three midweek Advent services this year, I decided to go with the Epistle readings for the first three Sundays in Advent. For there is a common theme that you can see in all three. There is a phrase, a connecting thread, that runs through these readings. See if you can notice what it is.

First, from the Epistle for the First Sunday in Advent, 1 Corinthians 1, the part where it says: “as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Then from the Epistle for the Second Sunday in Advent, from 2 Peter 3, phrases like these: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. . . . waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God. . . . we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth. . . .”

And from the Third Sunday in Advent, 1 Thessalonians 5: “may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Did you catch it? What is the thread running through these lessons? It is “the day of the Lord,” the coming and revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, his second coming, and how we are to wait for that day. Thus our theme for this Advent series: “Waiting for the Day of the Lord.”

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Published in: on December 6, 2017 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-57)

Funeral Service
Monday, August 14, 2017

“The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-57)

Over 25 years as a pastor, I have had a number of World War II veterans as members of the congregations I have served. Homer Rouggly was one of them. In fact, Homer Rouggly might well be the last one that I will have the honor of laying to rest. That “Greatest Generation” is quickly passing away, and they were quite a crew.

By the way, for a number of years I had two World War II veterans sitting near each other in the pews at St. Matthew’s: Homer Rouggly and Albert Mertsch. The ironic thing was, they were both World War II veterans, but they had fought on opposite sides, Albert for his native Germany, and Homer for the United States. The fact that they were united as brothers in Christ and fellow members of his church is a testimony to the power of the gospel to reconcile people to God and to one another. Last year Albert died in the faith, and now it’s Homer’s turn.

And so it goes. One after another, the people we’ve known our whole lives slip away from us, and we feel the loss. For you in the Rouggly family, it’s been a double loss this year, first Dorothy in May and now Homer in August. Just three months apart. Married for 70 years, and then going home to the Lord within three months of one another. You who have known them your whole lives, as your father and mother, as your grandfather and grandmother, as great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents even, this is going to leave a void in your lives. But you will have all those wonderful memories to look back on, and that will help. And you will have one another to lean on for support.

Even more, though, you will have the comfort of the gospel of Christ to strengthen you and to give you hope. That is the rock you can rely on that will never let you down. Because of what Jesus Christ did for you and did for Homer, you can have the sure hope of a joyful and eternal future. For in Christ we know that the final outcome has already been decided. The victory has been won. And “The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death.”

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Published in: on August 14, 2017 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Death Is Swallowed Up in Victory” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Funeral Service
Saturday, April 2, 2016

“Death Is Swallowed Up in Victory” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Chuck, and the friends and family of our sister Gwen: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First I want to say that you have our sympathy upon your loss. It is always tough to lose someone you have known and loved for many years. It is painful. It feels like we have a hole in our heart. And so we want to be with you at this time and give you our support. And certainly it is good to see the people here today, all the family and friends, who are here to do just that. And that includes many of your church family, Chuck, from St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre. We are a family, and so we are here for you and with you, Chuck.

Now Gwen was not a member of St. Matthew’s. But because Chuck is, I had the opportunity to visit Gwen a number of times when she was in the hospital or in rehab these last few years. I was able to minister to her as a pastor, and I’m glad to say that Gwen was receptive to the word of God, and she was grateful for the times I prayed with her and for her. This is encouraging, to know that her heart was open to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And dear friends, this is where we will find hope, even in the face of death. Namely, in the saving gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And in that vein, I want to key in now on a message that will bring comfort to our sorrowing hearts and give hope that is greater than loss. And it is this word from the Lord: “Death Is Swallowed Up in Victory.”

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Published in: on April 2, 2016 at 10:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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“If Christ Has Not Been Raised” (1 Corinthians 15:1-26)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, March 27, 2016

“If Christ Has Not Been Raised” (1 Corinthians 15:1-26)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Yes, he is risen indeed! Risen from the dead! Risen bodily. And everything depends on this. Your faith, your forgiveness, your future. Your eternal future. The future of your loved ones who have died in the Lord. Everything hinges on this great and glorious fact: that Christ has indeed risen from the dead.

But what if Christ has not risen from the dead? What then? What would be the consequences? You know, not everyone believes that Christ has risen from the dead. And for us who do believe, what if our faith is misplaced? What if it never really happened? What if this is all a big made-up story? Or what if we’re just misunderstanding the idea of Christ “rising from the dead”? Maybe it just means that he kind of rose spiritually, but not bodily? Like, his memory lives on, the great moral example that he set, the nice teachings that he set forth about loving one another, and so on. But not that he rose bodily from the dead! Surely that is too much! Let’s not go that far! You know, that is what a lot of people think about Jesus. Good moral teacher, fine example, died unjustly, but that was it. His body must be somewhere. His followers must have taken it and hidden it and made up this story about Jesus rising from the dead. For surely there is no such thing as a real, physical resurrection of the dead!

But then this is nothing new, this way of thinking. It was around also way back in the first century. This idea had even infiltrated the early Christian church, that there’s no such thing as a bodily resurrection of the dead. It apparently was the thinking of some people in the church in Corinth, because the apostle Paul takes on this notion and contemplates the consequences of it, if that were the case. That’s what’s going on in our Epistle reading for today from 1 Corinthians 15. So let’s ponder that prospect now for a few moments, under the theme, “If Christ Has Not Been Raised.”

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Published in: on March 26, 2016 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Examples from the Exodus” (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)

Third Sunday in Lent
February 28, 2016

“Examples from the Exodus” (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)

Some good examples can be instructive for us on what to do. We learn from watching others. Children learn from their parents, about how to speak, how to tie their shoelaces, about how to treat other people. We also learn from reading about others and how they handled things in the past. The example of some outstanding figure from history can inspire and instruct us on how we should conduct ourselves. Good examples are important.

But then so are bad examples. We can learn from bad examples of what not to do, of how not to conduct ourselves. The mistakes–yes, even the sins–of people from the past can serve as warnings for us, so that we do not fall prey to the same things they did. And that is what we have in the examples St. Paul uses in the Epistle for today, from 1 Corinthians 10. Paul goes back to the history of Israel to warn the church–the church in Corinth and the church today–to warn us not to repeat the sins and disobedience of God’s Old Testament church now in the church of the New Testament. And so this is instructive for us, for each one of us here today. Let’s listen now and take heed to these “Examples from the Exodus.”

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Published in: on February 28, 2016 at 12:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Life and Love in the Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:1 – 13:13)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 31, 2016

“Life and Love in the Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:1 – 13:13)

I don’t know if you noticed it, but today and for the last two weeks our Epistle reading has come from 1 Corinthians. That’s One Corinthians, by the way, not Two Corinthians. I haven’t preached on these texts, having preached instead on the Holy Gospel readings from John and Luke, respectively. But today I think I will preach on these 1 Corinthians readings, taking all three of them together. I’ve been saving them up for today, because today we have our annual voters’ meeting to elect new officers, and these texts are a perfect fit for the occasion.

Why is that? Well, these readings come from two chapters of 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13, and chapter 12 has to do with using our gifts for the common good in the body of Christ. Chapter 13, of course, is the famous “love” chapter, about the need for love toward one another in our life together. And thus our theme for today: “Life and Love in the Body of Christ.”

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Published in: on January 30, 2016 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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