“Born Again, Born from Above, Born of Water and the Spirit” (John 3:1-17)

Second Sunday in Lent
March 5, 2023

“Born Again, Born from Above, Born of Water and the Spirit” (John 3:1-17)

As most of you know, I’ve got a big birthday coming up this week, a milestone birthday, on March 7. But I have an even more important birthday coming up later this year, on September 10. Because it was on that date that I was “Born Again, Born from Above, Born of Water and the Spirit.”


Published in: on March 4, 2023 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Creed: ‘I Believe in God'”

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 1, 2023

“The Creed: ‘I Believe in God’”

In a survey taken by the Pew Research Center in September of 2021, 91% of Americans say that they believe in God or a higher power. Well, whoop-de-do. That doesn’t say much. Which God or higher power do they believe in? And what do they mean by “believe”?

Maybe they believe that there is only one God, not many gods. OK, but that does not say much. In James, it says: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!” In other words, even the demons know that much, that there is only one God. But just knowing that doesn’t help them. Instead, they tremble with fear! That kind of “believing” is not the same as believing in God in the way we confess in the Creed.


Published in: on March 1, 2023 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“To Be Tempted by the Devil” (Matthew 4:1-11)

First Sunday in Lent
February 26, 2023

“To Be Tempted by the Devil” (Matthew 4:1-11)

The Holy Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent is always an account of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. This year it’s the account from Matthew chapter 4. Today we will see how the devil operates, and we’ll see how Jesus overcomes his schemes. This has relevance for our lives, because the devil comes at us with the same sorts of temptation. And so now let’s see what it’s like “To Be Tempted by the Devil.”


Published in: on February 25, 2023 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Ten Commandments: Curb, Mirror, and Guide”

Ash Wednesday
February 22, 2023

“The Ten Commandments: Curb, Mirror, and Guide”

Today we begin a series called “A Catechetical Lent.” In our six Wednesday services we will be looking at the six chief parts of the Small Catechism: the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar. These are the basics of Christian faith and life. Whether you’re learning the catechism to become a communicant member–and we have catechumens right now at both congregations, St. Matthew and Grace–or whether you are a lifelong Lutheran, it’s always good to come back to the basics. The words never change, but you do. So it’s always good to apply the unchangeable truth of God’s word to the changing circumstances of your life.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It’s appropriate then that we begin with the first part of the catechism, the Ten Commandments. Why so? Because Ash Wednesday is a very solemn and somber day, when we remember our mortality and repent of our sins. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” we heard as the ashes were placed on our forehead. The wages of sin is death, and we are all guilty under God’s law.

That’s one of the main purposes of the law, to tell us that we are sinners. And we need to know that. But there are also a couple of other purposes for which God has given us his law. Together we call them the three uses or functions of the law, and each use serves a valuable purpose. And so our theme today: “The Ten Commandments: Curb, Mirror, and Guide.” We’ll explain each one of these terms and see how they apply to us.


Published in: on February 22, 2023 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday” (Luke 23:44-56)

Good Friday
April 15, 2022

“Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday” (Luke 23:44-56)

The theme for our Lenten journey this year has been “You Meant It for Evil, But God Meant It for Good.” We have seen how God can just plain grab something evil and use it for good, in his larger plan. No one could see it at the time, but that’s how God works.

We see God working this way in our reading tonight from Luke 23. Something evil was happening on the day our Lord Jesus was crucified. But God used it for good–for incredible, tremendous good–which is why call this day “Good Friday.” And so our message tonight: “Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday.”


Published in: on April 15, 2022 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat” (Luke 22:14-20)

Holy (Maundy) Thursday
April 14, 2022

“The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat” (Luke 22:14-20)

During this season of Lent, we’ve tried to be realistic as we learn again to trust our God. The realism has to do with evil–the evil that betrayed, condemned, and crucified Jesus long ago, and the evil in our world and in our lives also today. In the face of that evil, we trust our God and the plan he carried out in Christ. We can say to Satan, to the world, and even to ourselves, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

This evening’s service is a break in the action in a way. It’s because of the gift that the Lord Jesus created that night long ago in the upper room. This is a night to be quietly joyful. It’s a night to marvel at what happened when Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples and to marvel at the gift that has come down also to us.

Jesus said to them that night, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you.” That was a particular ritual at a particular moment in a particular place. But it was also an eternal Passover. By “eternal” I mean that it was not isolated, disconnected, alone, or even limited. For the Jews, Passover gathered up and brought to fruition so many things from the past, from the exodus, and the past gave meaning to the present. But that particular moment in the upper room, with Jesus, was part of the most significant event in the history of the world. History was turning a corner that night. And from that Passover came a new gift for the future, a gift that would last until tonight and until the Lord returns in glory. It happened the night that Jesus was betrayed–past, present, and future, all coming together in “The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat.”


Published in: on April 14, 2022 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Palm Sunday, Sunday of the Passion” (Luke 19:28-40; 22:1 – 23:56)

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion
April 10, 2022

“Palm Sunday, Sunday of the Passion” (Luke 19:28-40; 22:1 – 23:56)

Today is a day that goes by two names: “Palm Sunday” and the “Sunday of the Passion.” The title that we’re probably more familiar with is “Palm Sunday.” For it was on this day that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, greeted by the cheering crowds, and the people used palm branches to welcome him. Palms were used to indicate victory and triumph. Palms symbolized success and long life. And so on Palm Sunday, Jesus is hailed as the Messiah, the long-prophesied King of Israel, coming to Jerusalem to establish his reign: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

The people with the palm branches are correct. Jesus is coming to Jerusalem that day to bring in the messianic kingdom. But the question remains: How will he do it? How will this Messiah establish his kingdom? How will he win his victory? And the answer is, shockingly enough, by his suffering, dying, and being crucified. This king’s conquest will come with some strange signs: being mockingly arrayed with splendid clothing; having an inscription placed over him, “This is the King of the Jews,” but on a cross. From a procession of palms to a criminal’s crucifixion, this is how Jesus will triumph and bring in the kingdom of God.


Published in: on April 9, 2022 at 4:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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“That Day, and Today” (Luke 23:26-43)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, April 6, 2022

“That Day, and Today” (Luke 23:26-43)

Our theme for this Lenten series has been, “You Meant It for Evil, But God Meant It for Good.” And evil is often louder than good. In news reporting, for instance, it’s the horrific story that catches people’s attention. Or another example: Criticism, negative comments, tend to be more powerful, “louder” to us than compliments or positive comments. The complaint or criticism or insult sticks with us longer. We keep hearing it long after the kindness or the affirmation has faded. Evil is often louder than good.

Well, that’s true in the reading for this evening from Luke 23. It starts with the rulers, the members of the Sanhedrin. “They scoffed,” it says, or it could be translated, “They kept on scoffing.” When evil speaks, it’s loud and long. Without realizing it, the scoffers do say some true things about Jesus, as he’s hanging there on the cross. Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, God’s chosen one. But he’s not there to save himself. He’s there to save others, by dying for all sinners. The rulers don’t see this. All they can do is scoff and ridicule. Evil is louder than good.


Published in: on April 6, 2022 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Rejected Stone Is Our Cornerstone” (Luke 20:9-20)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
April 3, 2022

“The Rejected Stone Is Our Cornerstone” (Luke 20:9-20)

In our text today, from Luke chapter 20, Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem during Holy Week. Everybody is in town, Jesus, as well as his enemies, who are conspiring against him, plotting to get him arrested and put to death. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Jesus addresses that tension, with his enemies right there, listening to what he says. And what Jesus says in our text, he puts in two parts, using two different images. The first image is that of a vineyard, the second is that of a stone. The first part is the Parable of the Vineyard and the Wicked Tenants; the second part has to do with “the stone that the builders rejected.”


Published in: on April 1, 2022 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Faith for a Complicated World” (Luke 23:1-25)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 30, 2022

“Faith for a Complicated World” (Luke 23:1-25)

The world around us is a complicated place that can be hard to figure out. Life sometimes sends us a fair amount of pain and suffering. Whether you’ve come through a lot or been spared a bit, we all know this. And it can be perplexing. For instance, we can pray to God, but what about the prayers where he says, “no”? Or the prayers that seem to be met with silence? So it’s complicated, and we don’t know all that we’d like to know about how it all fits together. The world is complicate, life can be hard, including for us Christians.

And yet, even though God’s ways are often hidden from us, still we Christians believe that God is at work in the midst of suffering. God is at work, and so we pray with faith, because of the kind of God we know he is. Even with evil in the world around us, we trust that God is at work against the evil, in spite of the evil. And sometimes God even uses the evil for his purposes. How God does that, we’re often not sure, but we-believe that he does.


Published in: on March 30, 2022 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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