“The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Tuesday, December 25, 2018

“The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

“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.” This is the most wonderful good news we could ever receive! It is this central truth that makes Christmas Christmas. It’s not about toys or Santa Claus or mistletoe or even getting the family together. Those are all good things, but they’re not essential to Christmas being Christmas. Christ is–he, the Word made flesh. And that’s why we’re here this morning.

People like to think of Christmas as something soft and fluffy, full of warm and fuzzy feelings. Curled up on the couch, watching a Hallmark movie. Christmas as hot chocolate for the soul. But to reduce Christmas to that–well, that falls way short. Christmas is not cute and cuddly. Christmas is raw and real. Christ came into our world to deal with the root problem of humanity, which is sin. Christ came in the flesh, because that’s the only way it could happen. Christmas is earthy, not fluffy. It is flesh-and-blood reality that brings God to us, up close and personal. And that is what makes the real Christmas ultimately so offensive to the world.

But to us who know the truth of Christmas, its “fleshiness” is absolutely crucial and vital. Our very salvation depends on it! And so the church must always be vigilant about confessing “The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2018 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas” (Hebrews 11:13-16; John 14:1-6; Philippians 3:20-21)

Funeral Service
Saturday, October 13, 2018

“A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas” (Hebrews 11:13-16; John 14:1-6; Philippians 3:20-21)

His name was “Emerick,” but everybody called him “Tex.” That was our brother Emerick “Tex” Labus. He went by “Tex” for as long as I’ve known him, and that’s been over ten years. Even though he lived here in Missouri for I don’t know how long, people still called him Tex. I guess you can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the boy.

I’ve observed over the years that people from Texas are very proud of being from Texas. And they’ll let you know it. Maybe you’ve noticed that too. They’ll talk about how Texas once was its own country, before it joined the United States. They’ll tell you about how Texas is #1 in this or #1 in that. About how everything is bigger in Texas.

And, well, maybe Texas does have a lot to be proud of, I don’t know. But we do know that for our brother Emerick, he was happy to be called “Tex.” He was always a Texan, even while he lived here in Missouri.

But today I want to tell you about another identity Tex had. Another citizenship. Another homeland. One far greater and better than even being from Texas. And now after Missouri, this will be his next stop. His eternal homeland. Because Tex had “A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas.”

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Published in: on October 13, 2018 at 8:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Abide in the Vine” (John 15:1-8)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 29, 2018

“Abide in the Vine” (John 15:1-8)

“Stay where you are!” “Don’t move!” These commands sound rather restrictive. These imperatives can sound oppressive and limiting, like we’re being told what to do, and it’s to not do anything. The idea of remaining where you are sounds kind of boring, like we’re stuck in a rut. But when it comes to the Christian life, nothing could be further from the truth. Far from being dull and lifeless, for the Christian, remaining where you are–that is, “abiding in the vine,” remaining connected to Christ–is dynamic, active, and very productive. And so our theme this morning: “Abide in the Vine.”

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Published in: on April 28, 2018 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“It Is Finished” (John 19:17-30)

Good Friday
March 30, 2018

“It Is Finished” (John 19:17-30)

“Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” This is our text.

“It is finished”: one of the last words of Jesus on the cross. But just what kind of a statement was it, this “It is finished”? What is it that is “finished”? What was Jesus talking about? How did he say, “It is finished”? What did he mean by that? Was it a statement of defeat and resignation? A statement of final relief? And whatever it was that was finished, and however Jesus may have been saying it, what in the world does it have to do with us? As we’ll see now, the answers to these questions are all wrapped up in this one little word: “It Is Finished.”

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Published in: on March 30, 2018 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Love Received, Love to Give” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

Holy Thursday
March 29, 2018

“Love Received, Love to Give” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Yes, Jesus did that. And he also tells his disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” And so our message tonight is all about love: The love with which Jesus loved us, and then the love he would have us give to one another. “Love Received, Love to Give.”

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Published in: on March 29, 2018 at 12:06 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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“The Gospel on a Pole” (John 3:14-21)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 11, 2018

“The Gospel on a Pole” (John 3:14-21)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That, of course, is John 3:16, a verse you all know. Because it sums up the good news of Christ so succinctly, John 3:16 is often called “the gospel in a nutshell.” But today, instead of the nutshell, this morning we’re going to be looking at the verses right before it, what I call, “The Gospel on a Pole.”

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Published in: on March 10, 2018 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“One Option or the Only Way?” (John 14:1-6)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

“One Option or the Only Way?” (John 14:1-6)

We live in an age of religious pluralism. Religious pluralism is the belief that there are a plurality of religions, many religions, that can work. No one religion has a corner on the truth. All religions are equally valid. What really matters is you being a good person, however that is defined. So whatever religion you choose, that is your choice, and that’s fine for you. Your religion is just one option among many equally valid options. All roads lead to heaven.

And going along with that idea, then, is this: You can’t tell me that my religion is wrong. You cannot say that one religion is right and all the rest are wrong. There can be no such thing as exclusive truth claims for any one religion. No, that would be intolerant, and that’s the worst thing you can be.

So this religious pluralism raises the question about Christianity: Is Jesus just one option among many? Or is he, instead, the only way to God, the only way to eternal salvation? To put it more briefly: Is Jesus just “One Option or the Only Way?”

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Published in: on March 7, 2018 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Philip and Nathanael: A Story of Witnessing” (John 1:43-51)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 14, 2018

“Philip and Nathanael: A Story of Witnessing” (John 1:43-51)

The Holy Gospel for today, from John 1, takes place very early in Jesus’ ministry, when he was first gathering his disciples. It’s the story of Philip and Nathanael, how they came to be disciples and follow our Lord. It’s the story of “Philip and Nathanael: A Story of Witnessing.” Now today let their story become your story also.

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Published in: on January 13, 2018 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“And the Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Monday, December 25, 2017

“And the Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

“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.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Christmas marks a dividing line between truth and error. The reality of what happened at Christmas–namely, that the Word became flesh–that reality is so shocking, so utterly unreasonable and offensive, that it drives people crazy. It causes them to deny the truth and to promote error in its place. Most all the classic heresies that have been around for 2,000 years now, in various forms, have this in common: They cannot handle the truth of Christmas. They cannot stand the idea that the Word, the eternal Son of God, had to become flesh, with all the implications that flow out of that.

Now we like to think of Christmas as kinda soft and fluffy and inoffensive. Cute and cuddly. But to reduce Christmas to that–well, nothing could be further from the truth. Christmas is not “cute.” Rather, it is raw reality that deals with the root problem of humanity. It is earthy, not fluffy. It is flesh-and-blood stuff that brings God to us up-close and personal. And that is why ultimately it is so shocking and controversial. But to us who know the truth of Christmas, its “fleshiness” is absolutely crucial. Your very salvation depends on it! And so the church must always be vigilant about confessing this truth: “And the Word Became Flesh.”

(more…)

Published in: on December 25, 2017 at 12:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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