“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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“Happy Rebirthday!” (John 3:1-17)

Second Sunday in Lent
March 8, 2020

“Happy Rebirthday!” (John 3:1-17)

Yesterday, March 7, was my birthday. Or was it? Oh yeah, sure, March 7 was the day I was born–so many years ago now. But that’s not my only birthday. I’ve got another one, too, and it’s even more important. And that’s September 10. You see, that’s the day I was baptized–again, so many years ago, but that’s my re-birthday. For on that day I was born again, born from above, born of water and the Spirit. And all of you who have been baptized in the name of the triune God–the day of your baptism, likewise, is your “Happy Rebirthday!”

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Published in: on March 7, 2020 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find” (John 1:29-42a)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 19, 2020

“Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find” (John 1:29-42a)

The Epiphany season traditionally is a time for emphasizing the church’s work of evangelism and missions. Why is that? Well, think of what happened at the Epiphany itself: Wise men from the east were led by a star to find the Christ child. This was the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Or think of the word, “Epiphany.” It means “manifestation,” “appearing,” a “shining forth.” In the Gospel readings for the Epiphany season, we see Jesus shining forth into a sin-darkened world. And now Christ uses his church to do that shining forth into the world. What Isaiah prophesied about Christ applies also to his church: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Today we’ll see how Christ will use us to be that light shining forth. Only we’re not going to talk about bringing salvation to the end of the earth. We’ll talk about bringing it to places right nearby. Local evangelism, personal witnessing–that’s our focus today. In today’s reading from John, there are several examples of personal witnessing. Of course, we need to first receive the good news for ourselves. Then, with our faith and forgiveness firmly established in Christ, we can hear God’s word for what it says about witnessing to others. But the gospel is powerful enough to do both, to bring the good news to us and to help us bring the good news to others. Today, then, we’ll pick up “Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find.”

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Published in: on January 18, 2020 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Wednesday, December 25, 2019

“The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us” (John 1:1-18)

In the Holy Gospel for today, the apostle John tells us the unfathomable mystery and the joyous wonder of the baby born on Christmas Day. John writes: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

No greater words were ever written. John 1:14 is one of the most profound verses in the whole Bible, in one of the most profound passages, the prologue of John’s gospel. We could spend hours exploring the depths of this majestic prologue, there’s so much here. But even for a few minutes now, let’s ponder and treasure this great mystery known as the incarnation.

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Published in: on December 25, 2019 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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