“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.” Well, that must’ve been quite a sight. I wonder if the Israelites in the wilderness protested at the elaborate details and the exorbitant expense of making such vestments for Aaron. I wonder, did they have to scuttle these plans until the voters could approve the design and expense? Did they put it out for bids to see if someone had a source for pure gold or blue dye, so they could come in under budget and then put the rest in a CD? “I don’t know why one priest needs to be dressed in something way more elaborate and costly than anything we buy or make for ourselves. Does Aaron think he’s better than us?” “I don’t see why we have to use all this gold. Tin would look almost as nice for a tenth of the price!” I could just imagine the grumbling Israelites talking like this.

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Published in: on March 6, 2019 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Hearts and Ashes” (Joel 2:12-19)

Ash Wednesday
February 14, 2018

“Hearts and Ashes” (Joel 2:12-19)

Today is Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is a day for sending your love a box of candy and a Valentine’s card. Something like this:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.

Yes, it’s a day for hearts and flowers.

But by coincidence of calendar, today is also Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a day for recognizing our sinful heart, repenting of our sin, and remembering our mortality:

Roses are red,
Ashes are gray;
Remember you’re dust–
You’ll return there one day.

But Ash Wednesday is also a day for returning to the Lord and receiving his grace from his heart of love. So this is a day, as we’ll hear now, for “Hearts and Ashes.”

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Published in: on February 14, 2018 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Ten Commandments”

Ash Wednesday
March 1, 2017

“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Ten Commandments”

Tonight we start a Lenten series on “The Catechism in Six Parts.” We’ll be following the six chief parts as Luther lays them out in the Small Catechism: The Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar.

We begin tonight with the Ten Commandments. It’s fitting that today, on Ash Wednesday, we hear the Ten Commandments. For on this solemn and somber day of repentance, the Ten Commandments, God’s Law, will show us our sins and our need for God’s forgiveness, which we will then find in the blessed Gospel that God gives us here in Word and Sacrament.

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Published in: on March 1, 2017 at 11:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Our Father Who Art in Heaven” (Matthew 6:1-21; The Lord’s Prayer)

Ash Wednesday
March 5, 2014

“Our Father Who Art in Heaven” (Matthew 6:1-21; The Lord’s Prayer)

You know, during Lent there is a strong tradition to do a series on some part of the Catechism. And that’s what we’re going to do for this Lenten season. Today we begin a nine-part sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. I’m calling it “Lord, Teach Us to Pray,” which is what the disciples asked Jesus to teach them. And Jesus responded by giving them the Lord’s Prayer, as well as other teaching about prayer. Apparently, Jesus wants his Christians to pray. He thinks it’s important. He gives us instruction to guide us and many precious promises to move us to pray. Not just so that we will know about prayer. But more than that, so that we will actually pray. That we will put the teaching and the promises into practice. And so this will be our theme for these services: “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.”

Today on Ash Wednesday we’re going to take the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven.” Then on the next five Wednesdays, for our Midweek Lenten Services, we’ll take up the first five petitions, “Hallowed be thy name,” “Thy kigdom come,” and so on. During Holy Week, we’ll do “And lead us not into temptation” on Holy Thursday, and “But deliver us from evil,” on Good Friday. Then on Easter Day, appropriately enough, we’ll conclude with the big “Amen.” But tonight we begin with the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, namely, “Our Father Who Art in Heaven.”

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Published in: on March 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Joy of Repentance” (Luke 15:1-10)

Ash Wednesday
February 13, 2013

“The Joy of Repentance” (Luke 15:1-10)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. And today we begin a series of six midweek services under the theme, “A Little Lenten Lukan Joy.” Let me explain.

This year in the church’s three-year lectionary is “The Year of St. Luke.” That means for most of the services in this current church year the Holy Gospel will be one appointed from Luke’s gospel. And so we’re really focusing in on this particular book this year. In our Bible class, we’re doing an in-depth study of the Gospel of Luke. Most our sermons are based on readings from Luke. And so it goes.

Now one of the distinctive features of Luke’s gospel is its emphasis on joy. Not that joy is not present in Matthew, Mark, or John–it is–it’s just that the note of joy rings out especially clearly in Luke. So that’s one factor. The other factor is that for some time now I’ve wanted to have the members of our church read a little devotional book called “A Little Book on Joy,” written by our synod president, Matt Harrison. And in the back of the book there is a daily prayer guide that takes us through the seasons of Lent and Easter, and therefore the prayer guide starts today, on Ash Wednesday. So we’ve supplied every household of the congregation with a copy of the book, so we all can be reading it together. I hope you’re starting that today.

Thus the convergence that led to this Lenten series: Luke’s emphasis on joy, combined with “A Little Book on Joy,” led me to pick this theme, “A Little Lenten Lukan Joy.” I went through Luke’s gospel and found every passage where the word “rejoice” or “joy” occurs, and I discovered it could work very well for a series of six sermons. And so here we are.

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Published in: on February 13, 2013 at 10:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Baptized into Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:1-11)

Ash Wednesday
March 9, 2011

“Baptized into Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:1-11)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I have been “Baptized into Christ Jesus.” As such, we have received the bountiful grace and abundant forgiveness of God, washing away all our sins and assuring us of everlasting life, all of this free of charge. But this raises the question: Your baptismal certificate: Is it a license to sin? Or is it a death certificate?

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Published in: on March 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“What to Do with Your Sins” (Psalm 51:3-4; Joel 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2010

“What to Do with Your Sins” (Psalm 51:3-4; Joel 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. There are a number of things that people do when this season comes around. Some people give something up for Lent. They may give up soda pop or ice cream, for instance. Some people take something on for Lent, like a regular exercise routine. Whether by giving something up or taking something on, these folks may be using Lent as a second chance at the New Year’s resolutions they stopped doing, oh, sometime around January 8. Now don’t get me wrong, giving up soda pop or starting up an exercise routine–these can be good things, healthy things, and the idea of Lent as a time for renewed personal discipline can provide a helpful impetus to get you going. But this is not the essence of Lent.

Better is to connect personal disciplines to a spiritual purpose: for example, fasting as a way to subdue and master your appetites and pleasures, so that you are not mastered by them; giving up a meal or an activity, in order to use that time for additional prayer; taking on a new spiritual discipline, like reading that devotional book you’ve been meaning to get to. These are good ways to keep a Lenten discipline. But we’re not yet at the heart of what to do for Lent.

What to do for Lent? At the heart of it is “What to Do with Your Sins.” If that isn’t there, then you’re not really keeping a holy Lent. And so tonight, on this day of ashes at the start of this penitential season, I want to suggest three things that we should do with our sins: 1) Recognize them. 2) Repent of them. 3) Receive forgiveness for them.

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Published in: on February 17, 2010 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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