“Filling the Office” (Acts 1:12-26)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 16, 2021

“Filling the Office” (Acts 1:12-26)

Let’s see, where are we on the calendar? On the church-year calendar, I mean. This past Thursday was Ascension Day, forty days after Easter. Fifty days after Easter–that’s next Sunday–will be the Day of Pentecost. So now we’re in the ten-day period between Ascension and Pentecost. Our reading for today from Acts puts us into that time frame. We’re with the apostles and other believers in Jerusalem in the days immediately following Christ’s ascension. And we’re waiting for the ascended Lord to pour out the Holy Spirit, which he promised would happen soon. So we’re in that in-between time.

But during this in-between time, there is some important business to conduct. Because a vacancy has occurred in the pastoral office. One of the twelve apostles has fallen by the wayside, and his spot needs to be filled. Our text, from Acts 1, is the story of the filling of that office. And so our theme this morning: “Filling the Office.”

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Published in: on May 15, 2021 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Love Commanded, Love Connected” (John 15:9-17)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 9, 2021

“Love Commanded, Love Connected” (John 15:9-17)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another.” So says the Lord Jesus today in the reading from John 15. “But, but, Jesus, how come you’re giving us a commandment? Like we’re supposed to obey this? But I thought you were not about commanding people, just forgiving them. This sounds like Law to me, and I thought you were only Gospel!”

Yeah, how can you command us to do this, Jesus, to “love one another”? That’s too hard. I mean, there are some people I like to love. I love my children; I love my spouse. Well, most of the time, at least. When they’re being nice to me and sweet. It’s a little harder, though, when they’re being ornery or getting on my nerves.

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Published in: on May 8, 2021 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Branches, Abiding in the Vine, Bearing Fruit” (John 15:1-8)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 2, 2021

“Branches, Abiding in the Vine, Bearing Fruit” (John 15:1-8)

In the Holy Gospel for today, in John 15:5, our Lord Jesus says to us: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” And so our theme this morning: “Branches, Abiding in the Vine, Bearing Fruit.”

And those will be the three parts of our message today. First, branches: How do we become branches? Second, abiding in the vine: How does that happen? And third, bearing fruit: What does that look like? So let’s go.

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Published in: on May 1, 2021 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep” (John 10:11-18)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 25, 2021

“The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep” (John 10:11-18)

Are you feeling a little sheepish today? Well, if you are, that’s good! Because it’s good to be a sheep when Jesus is your shepherd. Today the message is that Jesus is our good shepherd, and “The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep.”

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Published in: on April 24, 2021 at 11:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Witnesses: From Jerusalem to Worms to America” (Luke 24:36-49)

Third Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2021

“Witnesses: From Jerusalem to Worms to America” (Luke 24:36-49)

The disciples were in Jerusalem. They think that Jesus, their master, is dead and buried. Then suddenly Jesus is standing there in the room, and they don’t know what to think: “Is that really him? Are we imagining this? Is that his ghost? What’s going on here?” Then Jesus speaks: “Why are you confused? Didn’t I tell you I would rise on the third day? Well, here I am. So you think I’m a ghost, do you? Look, see my hands and my feet. See the nail marks there. Yes, it really is me. You can touch me and see that I’m no ghost. I’ve got flesh and bone, just like you do.”

Yes, Jesus really is risen from the dead. Physically, bodily, risen. No ghost. No hallucination. The disciples are a little slow on the uptake, but if this is true–man, what a marvelous thing this is!

Jesus has more to say to them. He says that everything he had told them during his ministry–even predicting his passion and his resurrection–that this fulfills everything written about him in the Scriptures. They hadn’t gotten it up to this point, but now they will. Jesus opens their minds to understand the Scriptures. And here’s what he tells them to sum it all up: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

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Published in: on April 17, 2021 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Believing Is Better Than Seeing” (John 20:19-31)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 11, 2021

“Believing Is Better Than Seeing” (John 20:19-31)

The doors were locked. The disciples had locked themselves in, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had just had Jesus killed a couple of days earlier. And since they were Jesus’ disciples, if it became known where they were, the authorities might come after them, too. So the disciples were afraid and were staying behind closed doors.

But if a sealed tomb couldn’t keep Jesus in, a locked door couldn’t keep Jesus out. He passes right through and stands in their midst. “Shalom aleichem,” he says, “Peace be with you,” a standard Hebraic greeting. But when Jesus says it, it’s a little more than standard! Jesus really does convey peace when he speaks it! This is a blood-bought peace, peace purchased by the blood that God’s Son shed on the cross. Peace between heaven and earth. Peace between a righteous God and sinful man. Jesus made that peace for us on the cross, where he died for the sins of the world. Jesus packs real peace into his words, when he greets us with “Peace be with you.”

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Published in: on April 10, 2021 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Will Roll Away the Stone for Us?” (Mark 16:1-8)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 4, 2021

“Who Will Roll Away the Stone for Us?” (Mark 16:1-8)

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

That is our joyful shout on this glorious Easter morning. But that was certainly not the thought of the women on the first Easter morning, as they were heading out to the tomb. No, what they were thinking was this: “Who Will Roll Away the Stone for Us?”

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Published in: on April 3, 2021 at 7:44 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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“Making Known the Unknown God” (Acts 17:16-31)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2020

“Making Known the Unknown God” (Acts 17:16-31)

The reading today from the Book of Acts is the story of Paul preaching at the Areopagus in Athens. There Paul was preaching not in a Jewish synagogue where he could assume some biblical literacy. Rather, he was speaking in a Gentile, pluralistic marketplace of ideas. And so this text has great relevance for us today, for this is the world we live in. Thus our theme this morning: “Making Known the Unknown God.”

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Published in: on May 16, 2020 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“But Joy Comes with the Morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020

“But Joy Comes with the Morning” (Psalm 30:5)

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

This is our traditional Easter greeting. But this year has been anything but traditional. When last we met here, eight weeks ago today, it was still Lent. Easter Day was four weeks ago, so we didn’t get to say it then. But today we are still in the Easter season, and this is our first opportunity to say it together, so let’s do it again with gusto:

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

Amen! And this reality is what gives us hope and joy, in the midst of any sadness. The resurrection of Christ on Easter morning tells us that what Jesus did on the cross for us really works! His sacrifice for our sins has been accepted by God, and the resurrection is the big “Amen!” affirming our forgiveness. The resurrection of our Lord gives us the sure hope that we who have been baptized into Christ will likewise share in his resurrection. What hope, what joy, this gives us!

This joy is greater than, and overcomes, any sadness we experience. Think of the sadness, the overwhelming sadness and gloom that gripped Jesus’ disciples after his crucifixion. The Emmaus disciples, for instance. Their faces were downcast, it says. Their hopes were crushed. Everything they were hoping for with Jesus–gone, thinking that the death of their master meant it was all over. But Jesus surprised them, didn’t he? Or the women at the tomb that Easter morning. They went there sorrowful, expecting to find a dead body. But God had a surprise in store for them. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” That’s the verse that sets the tone for us this morning. It’s Psalm 30:5, a verse from the Introit we sang earlier. And I just love this verse. It tells me that whatever bad stuff I’m going through at the moment, God has something beautiful in store for me to follow. This promise from God’s word gives me hope for the future and joy in the here and now. And today I pray it does the same for you also. Weeping may tarry for the night, “But Joy Comes with the Morning.”

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Published in: on May 9, 2020 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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