“Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 15, 2018

“Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Our Epistle reading today is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In fact, this is the first of eight straight Sundays when the Epistle comes from Ephesians. And during this time, we’re studying Ephesians for our Bible class. I encourage you to stay after service for that. So this is an opportunity for you to dive in to this epistle and really explore it in depth. You may also want to read through Ephesians, perhaps even in one sitting–it’s only six chapters long–perhaps several times over the coming weeks. You will be richly blessed, I guarantee it.

How can I be so confident you will be richly blessed? Because this is God’s Word! This is the gospel, set forth in all its richness and blessing! St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is a glorious gem, shining forth the beauties of God’s grace in Christ from every angle. Ephesians takes us from the grand cosmic sweep of God’s plan for the ages down to the practical realities of everyday life. It’s all here, in one midsize epistle. Christ, eternity, the cross, the church, grace, faith, good works, the new life in Christ, marriage, family, spiritual warfare–all these themes Paul deals with in this letter. The Epistle to the Ephesians is as helpful to the church in the twenty-first century as it was to the church in the first.

Our reading from Ephesians today is really the opening statement of this epistle. It comes right after a standard introduction, “Paul, an apostle of Christ, to the saints in Ephesus: Grace to you and peace,” etc. Then in verses 3-14, which is our text for today, Paul launches into a grand doxology, a great acclamation of God’s goodness, which sets the tone for the rest of the letter. It’s like he’s been thinking about all the rich blessings that God has showered upon us in Christ, and then he gushes forth with this torrent of praise for the triune God.

Paul’s mind surveys the whole sweep and scope of God’s eternal plan for the cosmos. It’s the big picture Paul is giving us here. He takes us from eternity to eternity, to see what God is doing in all of this, to reflect on the cosmic dimensions of God’s plan. It’s the big picture! But the picture has a purpose and a focus: God’s plan is centered in Christ. And the picture is not so big that it doesn’t include us. Because it does includes us, as we will see.

Now I think it will be helpful to look at our text today in three parts, according to the three persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And also in three parts according to the timing of God’s big plan and purpose: first reaching back before creation, then moving into history, and finally culminating in the life of the age to come. And so our theme this morning: “Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit.”

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Published in: on July 14, 2018 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Ascension: Past, Present, and Future” (Ephesians 1:15-23)

The Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, May 10, 2018

“The Ascension: Past, Present, and Future” (Ephesians 1:15-23)

Today we’re having church on a Thursday. That’s because we’re celebrating the Ascension of Our Lord, a major festival in the church year that always falls on a Thursday. And that’s because the event it celebrates came forty days after Easter. It was that marvelous occasion when our Lord Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, ascended into heaven. And tonight we will see that this great event connects, ties together, the past, the present, and the future work of Christ. Because it does, our Lord’s ascension has great importance for us, for our past, present, and our future. And so our theme tonight: “The Ascension: Past, Present, and Future.”

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Published in: on May 10, 2018 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Real Jesus Is All You Really Need” (John 1:1-18; Ephesians 1:3-14)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

“The Real Jesus Is All You Really Need” (John 1:1-18; Ephesians 1:3-14)

In Sunday morning Bible class, we’re doing a study based on the book, “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs.” And in these midweek Lenten services, we’ve been picking up on themes from the book, as well. “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs.” The premise of the book is that in our society people come up with false christs to fit their own presuppositions and desires. The real Jesus does not fit their idea of what he should be like, so they redefine him, stripping away the parts they don’t like, and adding to him things they do like. And so they come up with a false christ who is different from the real Jesus we meet in the Bible.

For example, so far in the book we’ve met Jillian, the ethical hedonist, who redefines Jesus to be merely a mascot, who will cheer her on in her pursuit of pleasure. We’ve met Tamar, the religious pluralist, who reduces Jesus to just one option among many in the smorgasbord of world religions. We’ve met Mr. Darby, the possible atheist, who pays lip-service to Jesus as a good teacher but nothing more than that. And this past Sunday we met Wendy, the life coach, who sees Jesus as a sort of therapist who will help you have a happier life and who, if you yield your life to him, will move you up from being an ordinary, carnal Christian, up to being a first-class, super-spiritual Christian. That’s so far, and in the weeks to come, we’ll meet other people who redefine Jesus into a false christ of their own making.

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Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“It’s a Gift!” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

“It’s a Gift!” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

You are a Christian. You are saved. You believe in Christ. You are heading for heaven. And in your Christian life, you do good works. Now the question arises: How did all this come about? To what extent does all of this, or any of this, depend on you? The salvation, the faith, the good works: Which parts are a gift, by grace, God’s doing? And which parts are up to us, our doing, our contribution to the equation? That’s what we’re going to explore today.

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Published in: on March 14, 2018 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Epiphany: Mystery Made Known” (Ephesians 3:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Wednesday, January 6, 2016

“Epiphany: Mystery Made Known” (Ephesians 3:1-12)

I love a good mystery. Whether it’s Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, it’s fun to track with the detective as he discovers the clues and uses his “little grey cells” and eventually comes to the solution of the mystery. What had long been hidden now is revealed, and we the readers finally know “whodunit.” I love a good mystery.

And tonight, on Epiphany, we have one. A good mystery, I mean. A very good mystery, full of good news for you and me. What was long hidden has now been revealed. It was there all along, the clues were there, but most people missed it. It was hidden in plain sight, so to speak. But now on Epiphany that mystery has been made known. We know “who done it” and what he has done. And so our theme tonight: “Epiphany: Mystery Made Known.”

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Published in: on January 6, 2016 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Born a Priest, Made a Pastor” (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16)

Circuit Pastors’ Conference
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

“Born a Priest, Made a Pastor” (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16)

Today is Martin Luther’s birthday. He’s 532 today, although I’d say he doesn’t look a day over 490. Yes, it was on this day, November 10, in the year 1483, that Hans and Margaretha Luther had a baby boy, in the town of Eisleben, Saxony. The next day, November 11, that little squirming baby was taken to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, there in Eisleben, and he was baptized. Since it was November 11, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the boy was given the name Martin. Martin Luther, born November 10, baptized November 11, 1483.

So maybe we should be celebrating his birthday tomorrow, on the day he was baptized. For that was the day he was born again, born from above, born of water and the Spirit. That was the day he was given a name, not just the name Martin, but more importantly, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The triune God placed his name on this child and claimed him as his own. On that day, his baptismal day, little Martin was called into the kingdom and became a priest.

“What?” you say. “I thought Martin Luther didn’t become a priest until much later.” Well, yes and no. Martin Luther was made a pastor, an ordained minister, many years later, as an adult. But he became a priest on the day he was baptized. And you know what? So did you. For every Christian is born a priest in Holy Baptism. And out of that priesthood of the baptized, some are later called to be pastors. So our theme this morning: “Born a Priest, Made a Pastor.”

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Published in: on November 10, 2015 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Marriage, God’s Way” (Ephesians 5:22-33)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 23, 2015

“Marriage, God’s Way” (Ephesians 5:22-33)

News story from this summer: Jared Fogle, former spokesman for Subway sandwiches, pleads guilty to criminal sexual charges, and now his wife is filing for divorce. News story from this summer: Josh Duggar, one of the stars of the reality program, “19 Kids and Counting,” is discovered to have an account with a web service designed for arranging extramarital affairs. News story from this summer: The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, strikes down state laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, thus allowing same-sex “marriage” in all fifty states.

What this sampling of news stories demonstrates is that marriage–and in particular, the disregard for marriage and even the redefining of marriage–that this is a controversial issue, and that marriage is in a severe state of distress and decline in our country. And if you think it’s bad in America, it’s even worse in Europe. But then this is nothing new. Mankind has always messed up marriage, even from the get-go, in various ways and forms. So what we want to hear today, what we need to have our ears open to this morning, is what we find in our Epistle reading from Ephesians 5, namely, “Marriage, God’s Way.”

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Published in: on August 22, 2015 at 5:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Wisdom for Your Walk” (Proverbs 9:1-10; Ephesians 5:6-21; John 6:51-69)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, 2015

“Wisdom for Your Walk” (Proverbs 9:1-10; Ephesians 5:6-21; John 6:51-69)

If I had to sum up a theme running through our lessons for today, and one that will be helpful for you, it is that here you will find “Wisdom for Your Walk.” You see, the Old Testament lesson from Proverbs is the call of wisdom to walk in the way of insight. The Epistle reading from Ephesians calls us to walk as children of the light and to look carefully how we walk, not as unwise but as wise. And in the Holy Gospel for today, from John 6, we learn where to go to find this wisdom for our walk, by coming to the one who has the words of eternal life. So here is wisdom. Let us attend.

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Published in: on August 16, 2015 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Receiving God’s Gifts: Grumbling or Grateful?” (Exodus 16:2-15; John 6:22-35; Ephesians 4:1-16)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2015

“Receiving God’s Gifts: Grumbling or Grateful?” (Exodus 16:2-15; John 6:22-35; Ephesians 4:1-16)

There is a theme that runs through all three of our lessons today. Did you spot it? It is the theme of God’s gifts. In the reading from Exodus, in the reading from Ephesians, and in the reading from John–in each of those readings, God is busy giving gifts to his people. Our God is a gracious and giving God, there is no doubt about that. But how God’s people receive his gifts–how we receive the gifts God gives to us–now that can be quite another question. Do we recognize the gifts God gives us? Do we grumble about them, that they’re not what we want, and really, God, we’d rather have some other things instead of what you’re giving us? Or do we recognize and receive God’s gifts for what they are, which is, the best that God has for us for now and for eternity, even if we don’t understand why we’re getting what we’re getting? And so our theme this morning: “Receiving God’s Gifts: Grumbling or Grateful?”

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Published in: on August 2, 2015 at 12:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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“God’s Building Project” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 19, 2015

“God’s Building Project” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

“Built on the Rock the Church shall stand.” “Christ is our cornerstone.” “The Church’s one foundation.” These hymns that we’re singing this morning–they’re all drawing on the imagery of our text today, the Epistle reading from Ephesians 2, specifically, from verses 19-22: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” In other words, the church is “God’s Building Project.”

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Published in: on July 18, 2015 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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