“That’s a Good Sign!” (John 2:1-11)

Holy Matrimony
Saturday, December 26, 2020

“That’s a Good Sign!” (John 2:1-11)

Today on this joyous occasion, Nick and Danielle, I want to tell you about several things I see in you and in your wedding here today–things that I think bode well for your future, things where I can say, “That’s a Good Sign!”

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Published in: on December 26, 2020 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word: Tabernacled and Received” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Friday, December 25, 2020

“The Word: Tabernacled and Received” (John 1:1-18)

On this great festival of the Nativity of Our Lord, Christmas Day, the Holy Gospel every year is St. John’s profound prologue that opens his gospel. And today, as we look at this text, I want to zero in on three portions of this prologue, under the theme, “The Word: Tabernacled and Received.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2020 at 2:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Inculcating the Reformation through Catechesis” (Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36)

“Inculcating the Reformation through Catechesis” (Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36)

First, let me tell you my title for this message. It’s “Inculcating the Reformation through Catechesis.” Now the next thing I want to tell you is this: Don’t let that title scare you off! Don’t worry, I’ll explain each of those terms: “Inculcating the Reformation through Catechesis.” So here we go.

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Published in: on October 24, 2020 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Out of His Heart Will Flow Rivers of Living Water” (John 7:37-39)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, May 31, 2020

“Out of His Heart Will Flow Rivers of Living Water” (John 7:37-39)

Please take a look at the front of your bulletin for today. There you will see a photograph of water flowing out in a river. And written over the picture are these words from John 7:38, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Those are the words of Jesus from today’s Holy Gospel. There Jesus says exactly that: “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But the question is: Who is it that Jesus is talking about? Out of whose heart will flow those rivers of living water? Today I want to explore with you two possible answers, either one of which will come out as good news for us. We’re going to take two different routes to get there now, but hopefully we’ll end up at the same place.

Let’s look at the Gospel reading again, John 7:37-39: “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

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Published in: on May 30, 2020 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“I Will Not Leave You as Orphans” (John 14:1-6, 18-19)

Funeral Service
Friday, May 22, 2020

“I Will Not Leave You as Orphans” (John 14:1-6, 18-19)

It was a day in May of 1996. And on that day my mother, Marjorie Henrickson, died. My father had died some years earlier, and now my mother died. I realized on that day that now I was truly an orphan. The next morning was a Sunday, and the Holy Gospel for that day, which I had prepared to preach on, was the passage from John 14 in which Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Suddenly that text became extra meaningful for me.

Fast forward to a day in May of 2020. On that day your mother, Mary Heineman, died. Your father had died some years earlier. And now your mother has died. Now you her children are truly orphans. And it just so happens that the Holy Gospel from this past Sunday is that same passage from John 14 where Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Today I pray that this text becomes extra meaningful for you as well. “I Will Not Leave You as Orphans.”

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Published in: on May 22, 2020 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“What You Don’t See Is What You Get” (John 20:19-31)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2020

“What You Don’t See Is What You Get” (John 20:19-31)

The doors were locked. They were in lockdown mode. They had quarantined themselves. They were self-isolating. Why? Because they were afraid.

Who is it that I’m talking about? Americans in 2020? No, I’m talking about Jesus’ disciples, around the year 30. Those disciples had locked themselves in. They were in self-quarantine. They were isolating and keeping their social distance. And the reason was, they were afraid. They were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had just had their master killed a couple of days earlier. Now, since they were known to be Jesus’ disciples, if it became known where they were, the authorities might come after them, too. So the disciples were afraid. They self-isolated, and they were keeping their distance, behind closed doors.

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Published in: on April 19, 2020 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Washed and Clean, We Have Life Together with Christ” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

Holy Thursday
April 9, 2020

“Washed and Clean, We Have Life Together with Christ” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

Right now, everybody is concerned about washing their hands, washing their face, and keeping clean. Yesterday I went to the grocery store, and at the entrance they had some Purell wipes. So I wiped my hands and the grocery cart handle, and afterwards, when I had loaded the groceries in my car, I wiped my hands again. Then when I got home, I made sure to wash my hands and my face and so on. Earlier today I saw this comment on the internet: “I just Clorox-wiped a bottle of Purell and Purelled my hands cuz I touched the Clorox canister.” Everybody, it seems, wants to have their hands washed, their face washed—all their body parts washed–so they can be clean.

Everybody, that is, except Peter. Yeah, Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. He objected to having his feet washed. Jesus wanted to wash his feet, but Peter objected. “Lord, do you wash my feet?” he asked Jesus. You see, Peter thought it was beneath Jesus’ dignity to stoop down and do such a menial task, a task normally reserved for a servant. But Jesus was his master, so Peter objected.

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Published in: on April 9, 2020 at 9:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!” (John 12:12-19)

Palm Sunday
April 5, 2020

“Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!” (John 12:12-19)

I don’t know about you, but these last couple of weeks I’ve been watching the daily briefings from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. I find these briefings fascinating. Not only do they provide information on the virus itself and how to slow the spread–I’ve become familiar with terms like “mitigation,” “models,” “flattening the curve,”; “granular” is the latest one–not only do I find that part fascinating, but it’s also interesting to see how the government responds to calls for help from around the country. “New York, you need 2,000 ventilators? Don’t worry; help is on the way.” “Los Angeles, we’re sending you a hospital ship to help with relieving the stress on your system.” Much-needed supplies are being sent out, like N95 masks for health-care workers. And then there’s the financial assistance. The Treasury Secretary reports on the emergency money that’s coming your way. The Small Business Administrator tells businesses how to apply for the Payroll Protection Program, so that they can keep paying their employees. So you’ve got the President, the Vice President, the Treasury Secretary, the SBA, an assortment of admirals and private-sector business leaders–they’re all delivering the same message: “Don’t worry; help is on the way.”

Well, in a way, this reminds me of what we find in today’s Palm Sunday Gospel reading. The main message is likewise, “Don’t worry; help is on the way.” Only in this case, it doesn’t take a whole White House task force to do the job. No, here the much-needed help comes in a task force of one, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so God is saying to us today, in the words of our text: “Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!”

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Published in: on April 4, 2020 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Words of Spirit and Life” (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:1-53)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 29, 2020

“Words of Spirit and Life” (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:1-53)

Have you been starting to feel like you’re Lazarus? I mean, you’ve been cooped up in your quarantine “tomb,” not just for four days, but now going on fourteen days. You’ve been stuck inside so long, maybe skipping showers, maybe skipping laundry–“Lord, by this time there will be an odor!” You’re stuck inside, and you’re waiting for someone to speak the word, “Lazarus, come out!” But for now, it looks like you’re going to have to wait a little longer. The President’s hope that we will be able to go back to church on Easter–well, we’ll have to wait and see if that can come to pass.

And so we wait. Inside. Virtual reality. But what is very real, and what is very powerful–indeed, what is creative and life-living–is the word of God. The word of God gives us hope and joy, in the midst of economic uncertainty and social isolation, even in the midst of disease and death. The words that God speaks to us–even today, now as you hear them–these are “Words of Spirit and Life.”

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Published in: on March 28, 2020 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Quarantine of Lent” (John 9:1-3; Hebrews 12:2; Psalm 27:5)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2020

“The Quarantine of Lent” (John 9:1-3; Hebrews 12:2; Psalm 27:5)

“Quarantine”: That’s a word we’re hearing a lot of these days. It means “a period of forced isolation,” and it is done in the interest of the public health. But do you know the origin of the term “quarantine”? It comes from the practice in medieval Italy of keeping ships suspected of carrying disease–of keeping those ships in isolation for a period of forty days. You see, the term “quarantina” literally means “forty days.”

Well, the church has its own period of forty days, during which we are to self-isolate, in a way, in the interest of our spiritual health. This time, this season of the church year, is called Lent, and we’re in it right now. Lent is a penitential season, in which we are to inspect ourselves, to see the symptoms of the underlying deadly disease we all are carrying–namely, sin–to repent of our sins, and to turn to God for forgiveness and renewed life.

It just so happens that this year the forty days of Lent coincide almost exactly with our national health crisis. Lent began at the end of February, which is just about the time concern over the coronavirus began to grow. We’re in the midst of the pandemic panic right now. Businesses are shutting down. Churches are canceling services. Governors are issuing “shelter in place” orders. People are “self-isolating” and doing “social distancing.” People are scared, both of the virus itself and of the impact it’s having on the economy–and your own personal economy.

Dear friends, while this pandemic is real, and people’s fears over it are real, today I want to invite you to use these forty days of Lent to good purpose. See this time as a quarantine, a time in which you come to grips with your sins and your fears, a time to trust in God to forgive and sustain you, and a time to look with hope to your long-range–yea, eternal–future. And so our theme this morning: “The Quarantine of Lent.”

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Published in: on March 22, 2020 at 2:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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