“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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“Blood of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:3-11; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Mark 14:12-26)

Holy Thursday
April 2, 2015

“Blood of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:3-11; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Mark 14:12-26)

“Blood” and “covenant” go together in the Bible pretty much all the time. Whenever God establishes a covenant with people, generally it is sealed with blood. And tonight is no exception. In fact, tonight is the culmination of this connection between blood and covenant. It’s Holy Thursday, the night in which our Lord Jesus Christ establishes a covenant with us and says, “This is my ‘Blood of the Covenant.’”

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Published in: on April 1, 2015 at 9:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Cross of Christ, the Tree of Life” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 8, 2015

“The Cross of Christ, the Tree of Life” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

What a joy it is to be back here in the house of the Lord! Because of the snow and ice, we lost four out of the first five services we had scheduled this Lent: Ash Wednesday; the First Sunday in Lent; the Second Sunday in Lent; and then this past Wednesday, what was to be our second midweek service. But we were able to have the first midweek service, in our series called “The Tree of Life.” And since we didn’t get to do the second message in that series, we’ll pick it up today, and that will get us back on track for this coming week.

Now it is a happy coincidence that what would have been our message on Wednesday ties in perfectly with one of the readings appointed for today. I’m speaking of the Epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 1. This is St. Paul’s famous passage about the word of the cross, that the preaching of Christ crucified, while it may seem like folly and weakness to the world, in reality it is the power and wisdom of God to save sinners like you and me. And so this passage ties in very nicely with our “Tree of Life” series. Thus our theme this morning: “The Cross of Christ, the Tree of Life.”

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Published in: on March 8, 2015 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Glorify God in Your Body” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 18, 2015

“Glorify God in Your Body” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

“Flee from sexual immorality.” “Glorify God in your body.” Now those are two direct quotations from today’s Epistle reading, 1 Corinthians 6. “Flee from sexual immorality.” “Glorify God in your body.” Two imperatives, two commands, telling us what to do. Are they true? Yes, of course. This is what we should do, both things. One is stated in terms of what we should flee from. The other is stated in terms of what we should positively do.

But now suppose this was all that Paul had to say to us here. “Flee from sexual immorality.” “Glorify God in your body.” OK, you’ve got your orders. Now go out and do what I say. Would that be enough? Would that get the job done? No, I don’t think so. And Paul doesn’t do just that. There’s a whole lot more here than just giving orders. And that other stuff, surrounding the commands, will give us a clue as to how the Bible teaches and encourages us to live the new life as Christians, what we call “sanctification” or “holiness.” And so it is with that surrounding context that we too will be able to say, “Glorify God in Your Body.”

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Published in: on January 17, 2015 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“But We Preach Christ Crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

Holy Cross Day
Sunday, September 14, 2014

“But We Preach Christ Crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

You’ll notice that the color of our paraments today is red–in other words, something different from the ordinary green that we use in the non-festival half of the church year. This means that we’re observing a special festival today, one that happens to fall on a Sunday this year. And this festival is called Holy Cross Day. What is Holy Cross Day, you ask? Well, let me tell you the background of this observance.

Back in the early 300s, the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian. Then in the year 326, his mother, Helena, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and there she discovered what was believed to be the true cross of Christ. So they began to build a church on the site of that discovery, and, nine years later, it was dedicated–the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem. It’s still there, by the way; I’ve been there. So it came to be that on September 14, in the year 335, the holy cross itself was brought outside the church for the people to see. At least that’s how the story goes. And that seems to be the origin of Holy Cross Day. And this festival continues to be observed on this date among churches all around the world.

Now whether or not St. Helena discovered the actual cross of Christ is really beside the point. The main point of this festival, as it is observed among us now, is to emphasize the central importance of the cross of Jesus Christ for our salvation and in our preaching and teaching. That’s what we are doing here today on this Holy Cross Day. And so our theme this morning: “But We Preach Christ Crucified.”

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Published in: on September 13, 2014 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word of the Cross, the Power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:12)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 9, 2014

“The Word of the Cross, the Power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:12)

As many of you know, these past two weeks I was at our seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to take a continuing education course on the life and work of Bo Giertz. Who was Bo Giertz, you ask? Let me tell you. He was a very important churchman, theologian, and author who lived in Sweden during the 20th century. He was born in 1905, and he died in 1998 at the age of 92.

When I was in seminary, I read a book by Bo Giertz called “The Hammer of God.” It’s a historical novel about several pastors who served in a certain parish, and this book made a deep impact on my life. It’s a terrific book. So I wanted to read more by this author, but at that point not much else had been translated from Swedish into English. As a result, I became part of a small team of translators who are working to bring more of Bo Giertz’s writings into English. And that’s why I was in Fort Wayne for this course about his life.

For 21 years, from 1949 to 1970, Bo Giertz served as the bishop of the Gothenburg Diocese, which happens to be where my family comes from and where many of my relatives still live. When he became bishop in 1949, there was a custom for the bishop to have his own coat of arms, with a motto that he would pick out. On your bulletin insert, you can see an image of Bishop Giertz’s coat of arms, including the motto. It’s in Latin, and it reads: VERBUM CRUCIS DEI VIRTUS. Translated, that means, “The word of the cross, the power of God.” This is what Giertz wanted to emphasize, this is what he was saying would mark his ministry as bishop. And so it was. Bishop Giertz was always preaching, teaching, and writing about the cross of Christ, the atonement that Christ accomplished there, for our salvation–indeed, for the salvation of the world.

“The word of the cross, the power of God.” Now Bo Giertz did not come up with this saying on his own. It was not original with him. No, it comes from one of our readings for today, the Epistle from 1 Corinthians. Actually, that particular phrase comes from last week’s Epistle, but since I wasn’t here last week, today I’ve woven together last week’s and this week’s readings for our text, since they work as a continuous unit. And in this section, St. Paul begins by saying, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Thus Bishop Giertz’s motto, and thus our theme for this morning’s message: “The Word of the Cross, the Power of God.”

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Published in: on February 8, 2014 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Gifted Speakers” (John 1:29-42a; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 19, 2014

“Gifted Speakers” (John 1:29-42a; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9)

Have you ever heard of the St. Louis Speakers Series? Every year there’s a series of lectures, held in St. Louis, given by famous speakers from around the country. Well-known authors, politicians, broadcasters, and the like are brought in, and they’ll give an hour or so talk, followed by questions and answers. The event is held at Powell Hall, and people buy tickets to hear these famous personalities speak. Often in the advertising for these events, the description will say something like, “So-and-so is a gifted speaker who has delighted audiences around the world.” Or, “Besides being a talented writer, she is a gifted speaker who will entertain and inspire you.”

“Gifted speakers”: What is meant by that is that these people are accomplished public speakers who are able to move an audience through their use of oratory and rhetoric. They’re good at public speaking.

Of course, for most of us, public speaking can be a rather daunting, even intimidating, challenge. Maybe we’re not used to it. Maybe we’re scared of it. In fact, in various surveys, quite often “public speaking” is listed at or near the top as one the biggest fears that people have. Therefore most of us would probably not think of ourselves as “gifted speakers.”

So it may surprise you now when I say that I know a whole bunch of gifted speakers, and I’m looking at them right now! Yes, that’s right. I’m here to tell you today that you–yes, all of you–are “Gifted Speakers.”

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Published in: on January 18, 2014 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Are the April Fools? How Do You View Jesus?” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion
April 1, 2012

“Who Are the April Fools? How Do You View Jesus?” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” “On the foal of a donkey”: I thought about that phrase, and then I thought about the fact that this is April 1, and so I considered doing a sermon on “April Foal’s Day” . . . and then I decided against it.

But this is April Fools’ Day, and it also is Palm Sunday, the Sunday of the Passion, and so I do want to talk to you today about “fools.” My question is, “Who Are the April Fools?” Are we? Are we fools for believing in, worshiping, and setting our hopes on, a man who rides into Jerusalem as a king but ends up dying on a cross? There are lots of folks who would say we are. They think we are absolute fools for falling for this old story about some crucified would-be king. So it comes back to the question, “How Do You View Jesus?”

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Published in: on March 31, 2012 at 7:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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