“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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“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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“Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018

“Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Every so often an organization called the American Religious Identification Survey conducts a national survey to find out how Americans are identifying themselves by their religion. And so we have data to compare from complete surveys taken in 1990, 2001, and 2008. In 1990, 86% of Americans identified themselves as some sort of Christian–Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, non-denom, you name it. By 2008, that number had dropped ten points, down to 76%. In 1990, the percentage of the population that said they had no religion was just 8%. By 2008, that number had gone up to 15%. And since 2008, the trend lines have only gone more in that direction. There was a survey of college students in 2013, and it found that 33% of that younger generation said they had no religion. 33%! These people are called the “Nones,” spelled “n-o-n-e-s,” meaning those with no religious self-identification. What we are seeing is an increasing secularization in American life. We’re witnessing the rise of the Nones.

Friends, there is a religious recession going on, an ecclesiastical downturn. What’s behind it? Well, it’s obvious that our society is not buying what the church has to offer. But compounding the problem is that many churches, in trying to attract more customers, have abandoned what they ought to be offering and instead have resorted to gimmicks and entertainment. In that way, the world is not even hearing the genuine Christian message. Large parts of the church seem to be embarrassed by genuine, historic, biblical Christianity. They have watered down the message, in order to cater to the world. And the world is impressed by things like power and wisdom. But the genuine Christian message, namely, the message of the cross, Christ crucified–this comes across as “Weak Power and Foolish Wisdom.”

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Published in: on March 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Is the Real Jesus?” (Matthew 16:13-23)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

“Who Is the Real Jesus?” (Matthew 16:13-23)

In Bible class on Sunday mornings, we just started a study based on the book, “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?” In this book, the author discusses twelve false christs that are popular in our culture today, but all of which miss the mark. These twelve redefinings of Christ are Jesus as: The Mascot; One Option among Many; The Good Teacher; The Therapist; The Giver of Bling; The National Patriot; The Social Justice Warrior; The Moral Example; The New Moses; The Mystical Friend; The Feminized Jesus; and The Teddy Bear. I encourage you to come to this Bible class, because I guarantee you, you are going to meet people in your circle of relationships who hold one or more of these false views. In fact, you may have held some of these views yourself. So a study like this can help you to be a better witness for Christ in your personal life and may help straighten out your own thinking about who the real Jesus is.

“Who Is the Real Jesus?” This is the theme for our midweek Lenten services this year, as we pick up on some of the ideas from the book. We want to ask: How does the real Jesus contrast with some of the false christs current in our culture? And so we begin tonight with that fundamental question: “Who Is the Real Jesus?”

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Published in: on February 28, 2018 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Passion Prediction, Passion Production” (Mark 8:27-38; Romans 5:1-11)

Second Sunday in Lent
February 25, 2018

“Passion Prediction, Passion Production” (Mark 8:27-38; Romans 5:1-11)

Most of you probably remember a movie a few years back called “The Passion of the Christ.” It was about Jesus’ suffering and death. That’s what the word “Passion’ means in that sense, the things that were done to Jesus, his being betrayed, arrested, beaten, crucified, and killed. Well, our Gospel reading today is about the Passion of the Christ, his suffering. To be more precise, it is a prediction of it–the first prediction of his Passion that Jesus makes. In the gospel narrative, the early ministry of Jesus in Galilee leads up to the point of Peter’s great confession, “You are the Christ.” Then, right after that, Jesus tells the disciples what his being the Christ will entail, that he, the Christ, must suffer and die. Our Gospel today records it as follows: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

This kind of a passage, where Jesus speaks ahead of time of his suffering and death–and he does this three times in the gospels–this is referred to as a “Passion Prediction.” And this is the first one. In this “Passion Prediction,” Jesus tells us what will happen to him–suffering, rejection, being killed. That’s the “what.” But we also want to know the so what.” So what difference does this make in our lives? What is the result, the outcome, of his suffering? What good will it produce? And so our theme for today: “Passion Prediction, Passion Production.”

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Published in: on February 24, 2018 at 5:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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