“When Good Things Happen to Bad People” (Luke 13:1-9)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 24, 2019

“When Good Things Happen to Bad People” (Luke 13:1-9)

Did you see the pictures of the terrible flooding across Nebraska this past week? I used to live in Nebraska for several years. Lots of good people out that way, hard-working farmers and their families. Church-going people, too. Did you know that the state with the highest percentage of its population being Missouri Synod Lutherans is Nebraska? But now many Nebraskans are facing huge financial losses. Why did God let this happen?

Or consider an even worse tragedy befalling innocent people. In the last few weeks, hundreds and hundreds of Christians have been murdered, martyred, in Nigeria and elsewhere, by Muslim terrorists. Simply for being Christians. Such evil! Why did God let this happen?

Floods in Nebraska. Blood in Nigeria. Every week we hear reports of some disaster or terrible tragedy in which innocent men, women, and children are suffering badly–many swept away in sudden death through no fault of their own. We see these stories and we ask: Why? Why did these awful things happen to innocent people? With social media and non-stop news coverage these days, around the clock and around the world, we’re constantly being confronted with this question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

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Published in: on March 23, 2019 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Fox and the Hen” (Luke 13:31-35)

Second Sunday in Lent
March 17, 2019

“The Fox and the Hen” (Luke 13:31-35)

Have you ever noticed how we sometimes describe people by comparing them to animals? For example, if you call someone a “pig,” that word carries with it some associations that are not particularly flattering. On the other hand, when a father calls his little girl “kitten,” he’s using that word as a term of endearment. Animal imagery abounds in our language: “like a bull in a china shop”; “like an ostrich with its head in the sand”; “as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” These references to animals are effective, because they create pictures in your mind that bring with them the intended ideas.

Well, we run into animal imagery in our text for today, the Gospel from Luke 13. There Jesus makes not just one but two such references. So now let’s hear about “The Fox and the Hen.”

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Published in: on March 16, 2019 at 8:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“What Kind of Son Are You?” (Luke 4:1-13)

First Sunday in Lent
March 10, 2019

“What Kind of Son Are You?” (Luke 4:1-13)

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” So came the Father’s voice at Jesus’ baptism. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. And we know from the rest of the New Testament that Jesus is the Son of God in a unique sense, a one-of-a-kind sense, in his very being. As we said in the Nicene Creed, Jesus Christ is “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds.” He is the Second Person of the Trinity, true God, divine in his very nature. In this sense, there has never been, and never will be, anyone else who is “the” Son of God.

But in another sense, Jesus did come, he needed to come, as “son of God” like others who have borne that identity. I’m thinking here specifically of three examples of “sons of God”: Adam in the garden; Israel in the Old Testament; and we, the church–all “sons of God” in this respect.

Take Adam, for example. In the verses right before our text today in Luke, there is a genealogy of Jesus going back all the way to Adam. That genealogy concludes, “Adam, the son of God.” You see, Adam was created to bear the image and likeness of God. That’s what good sons do.

Then there was Old Testament Israel. In Exodus, Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’” So Israel had this status of being God’s son, and a good son should serve the will of his father.

Adam, Israel, and now us. We are God’s sons also, God’s baptized children, inheritors of his promise, joint heirs with Christ, privileged to call on God as our heavenly Father. We have been baptized to be God’s faithful, obedient sons, trusting in his goodness and reflecting his character. That’s what good sons do.

But when we look at Adam, when we look at Old Testament Israel, and when we look at ourselves, we have to ask, in each case, “What Kind of Son Are You?”

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Published in: on March 9, 2019 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.” Well, that must’ve been quite a sight. I wonder if the Israelites in the wilderness protested at the elaborate details and the exorbitant expense of making such vestments for Aaron. I wonder, did they have to scuttle these plans until the voters could approve the design and expense? Did they put it out for bids to see if someone had a source for pure gold or blue dye, so they could come in under budget and then put the rest in a CD? “I don’t know why one priest needs to be dressed in something way more elaborate and costly than anything we buy or make for ourselves. Does Aaron think he’s better than us?” “I don’t see why we have to use all this gold. Tin would look almost as nice for a tenth of the price!” I could just imagine the grumbling Israelites talking like this.

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Published in: on March 6, 2019 at 1:22 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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“Annunciation, Acclamation, Crucifixion” (Luke 1:30-33; Mark 11:1-10; 15:1-39)

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion
March 25, 2018

“Annunciation, Acclamation, Crucifixion” (Luke 1:30-33; Mark 11:1-10; 15:1-39)

Today is a day in the church year that goes by two names, “Palm Sunday” and the “Sunday of the Passion.” This is Palm Sunday, the day when our Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem, and the crowd spread palm branches before him and acclaimed him as their coming king. But today also serves as the Sunday of the Passion, the first day of Holy Week, looking ahead to Christ’s suffering, which will culminate in his crucifixion on Good Friday. The Scripture readings we have had so far in the service today have brought out both of these emphases: the Processional Gospel for Palm Sunday and the Holy Gospel for the Sunday of the Passion.

But did you know that today happens to go by another name also? It is the Annunciation of Our Lord. This one happens just by coincidence of calendar, since today is March 25. Think about it. What other church festival always happens on the 25th of a month? That’s right, Christmas, which always falls on December 25. And since we celebrate our Lord’s birth on December 25, nine months before that, on March 25, is the day we remember when the angel Gabriel announced to the virgin Mary that she would give birth to the Savior. “Conceived by the Holy Spirit” on March 25, “born of the virgin Mary” on December 25, nine months later.

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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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“Set Free to Serve” (Mark 10:32-45)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 18, 2018

“Set Free to Serve” (Mark 10:32-45)

I want to start out our message today with a little quiz. Multiple-choice. Which of these two statements is true: a) “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none,” or b) “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Which one is true? Well, this is a trick question. The correct answer is c) “both of the above.” A Christian is both a perfectly free lord of all and a perfectly dutiful servant of all. It was Martin Luther who set forth these two seemingly contradictory propositions in a treatise called “The Freedom of a Christian.”

And this idea was not new with Luther. Our Lord Jesus himself says as much in our text today from Mark 10. Here Jesus tells us two things: 1) that he came as a servant to set us free, and 2) that the way to live out that freedom is by being servants of one another. So today we want to deal with both aspects of the Christian life, both to celebrate our freedom and to grow in our servanthood. You see, because of Christ the Servant, you and I have been “Set Free to Serve.”

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Published in: on March 17, 2018 at 8:07 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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