“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 5, 2020

“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

When Jesus was an infant, he was presented in the temple at 40 days old. From that point on, we know nothing of the life of Jesus, until he began his public ministry at the age of 30–except for two incidents: One is the visit of the wise men and the flight to Egypt, when Jesus was less than two. The only other incident we have from Jesus’ childhood is when he was twelve. It’s the Gospel reading you just heard, the story usually called “The Boy Jesus in the Temple.”

It’s the story of when Joseph and Mary took twelve-year-old Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, and then they couldn’t find him, because he stayed behind after they left. When they come back and do find him, his mother says, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And Jesus answers, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And, it says, “they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” Others since then have not understood his response, either. They think he’s talking back to his parents. They would call this story “Jesus the Sassy Tween” or “Jesus the Little Wiseacre,” talking back to his parents like that.

But Jesus was not being a wiseacre! Far from it! Indeed, he was being truly wise, displaying divine wisdom both in his time at the temple and in his reply to his parents. Jesus did nothing wrong by staying behind in what he rightly called “my Father’s house.” That was where he belonged at that time. And Jesus did nothing wrong, either, in his reply to Mary and Joseph. In God’s wisdom, Jesus was where he had to be at that particular time, as part of his mission.

And that was what Mary and Joseph needed to learn: that their son had a higher calling, a divine, heaven-sent mission. Jesus was “theirs” only on loan. He first of all had to be about his heavenly Father’s business, a business that would eventually take him away from them. That Jesus had to be about his Father’s business ultimately would be for their eternal good. For by doing so he would be with them in a much greater way–forever, just as he is with us. Twelve-year-old Jesus was not being a wiseacre. No, he was displaying true wisdom. And as Mary and Joseph learned more about him, they increased in their understanding, as will we. And so our theme this morning: “Increasing in Wisdom.”

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Published in: on January 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Christmas Carols Come Alive!” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 24, 2019

“Christmas Carols Come Alive!” (Luke 2:1-20)

Christmas carols are, obviously, very popular at this time of year. You hear them all over the radio these days–although that will probably stop after tomorrow. These secular radio stations start playing Christmas music back around November 1, and they stop right when the church begins the twelve days of the real Christmas season. But these stations wouldn’t be playing Christmas music unless lots of people liked to tune in and listen. The joy and warmth of the holiday season comes through when Christmas carols are played. What’s even greater, though, is when Christmas carols come alive. That’s our theme tonight, on this joyous Christmas Eve: “Christmas Carols Come Alive!”

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Published in: on December 24, 2019 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Day Is Surely Drawing Near” (Luke 21:5-28)

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 17, 2019

“The Day Is Surely Drawing Near” (Luke 21:5-28)

“The Day Is Surely Drawing Near,” we just sang. Which day? The day “when Jesus, God’s anointed, in all His power shall appear as judge whom God appointed.” It’s the day when, as we confess in the Creed, Christ “will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.” This is a common theme in November. We’re approaching the end of the church year, and so our readings and our hymns emphasize the end times.

“The Day Is Surely Drawing Near.” Friends, we are living in the end times, the last days leading up to the Last Day, the great and glorious day of our Lord’s return. What will things be like as that day draws near? How should we react, knowing that the end is approaching?

Jesus forewarns us and forearms us for life in these end times. He does that in today’s Gospel reading. He forewarns us and forearms us for our life as his church, living in a hostile world full of conflict and distress. Jesus tells us what things will characterize this age. He wants us to know what we’re in for, so we can go forward with our eyes open. Jesus tells us how his church should live, knowing that the end is approaching. “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near.”

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Published in: on November 16, 2019 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“This Man Receives Sinners” (Luke 15:1-10)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 15, 2019

“This Man Receives Sinners” (Luke 15:1-10)

“This Man Receives Sinners.” So said the Pharisees and the scribes about Jesus. They meant it as an insult: “This man receives sinners.” We hear those same words, and we take them as the most wonderful good news: “This man receives sinners!” I guess it depends on what you think about “this man,” Jesus, and whether or not you put yourself in the category of “sinners.”

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Published in: on September 14, 2019 at 11:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?” (Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-35)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 8, 2019

“‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?” (Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-35)

Please turn with me once again to Psalm 1, in the front of your hymnal. We sang this psalm earlier in the service, but now I’d like us to speak together the first three verses. Psalm 1, verses 1 through 3:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Well, this sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Delight in God’s word, meditate on it every day, and you will be blessed! In all you do, you will prosper! Hey, sign me up! This is a pretty sweet deal.

So, I am a Christian. I believe in the Lord. I like reading the Bible. I think about it a lot. Now all my life should be hunky-dory, shouldn’t it? I should be prospering like nobody’s business. No more problems. Smooth sailing all the way.

But maybe, just maybe, my life doesn’t exactly look like that. Maybe yours doesn’t either. All this fruit I’m supposed to be bearing, where is it? Why does it feel like I’m withering sometimes? Instead of prospering, I end up perspiring. Instead of my life being fruitful, it feels like it’s futile. This is being blessed? “‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?”

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Published in: on September 7, 2019 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Was Jesus Making the Sabbath Day a Labor Day?” (Luke 14:1-14)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
September 1, 2019

“Was Jesus Making the Sabbath Day a Labor Day?” (Luke 14:1-14)

Many of you know that I grew up in the most Jewish neighborhood in the city of Chicago. Lots of Jewish families on every block. The family next door to us were Orthodox Jews, meaning that they tried to keep the laws of Judaism, literally, very religiously. I remember one time they hired my sister to come over next door to their place on Saturdays, so that she could turn on the air conditioner for them, since that was considered work, and they were not supposed to do any work on the Sabbath.

Well, what about that? I suppose they were following the laws of Judaism as they had been taught, I’ll give them that. But were they understanding the prohibition of work on the Sabbath aright? Did God really say, “Thou shalt not turn on an air conditioner on the Sabbath day,” or else you’re working and thus violating his commandment?

What prompted my memory of this is an incident recorded in the Holy Gospel for today. There Jesus is being watched closely by the Pharisees, to see if he will violate God’s commandment by doing work on the Sabbath day. Well, did he? “Was Jesus Making the Sabbath Day a Labor Day?”

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Published in: on August 31, 2019 at 11:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Fear Not, Little Flock” (Luke 12:22-34)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 11, 2019

“Fear Not, Little Flock” (Luke 12:22-34)

“Fear not,” the Lord tells Abram in our Old Testament Reading for today. “Fear not,” Jesus tells his disciples in the Holy Gospel. “Fear not.” “Fear not.” Do these “fear nots” have you tied up in knots? Are you worried that you’re not good enough of a Christian, because you do have fears, you do have worries? Well, instead of being tied up in knots, realize today that these “fear nots” come with promises attached. And that makes all the difference. And so our theme this morning: “Fear Not, Little Flock.”

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Published in: on August 10, 2019 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“In What Does Your Life Consist?” (Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
August 4, 2019

“In What Does Your Life Consist?” (Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

In the Holy Gospel for today, Jesus says these words: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Well, if your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions, then what does your life consist in? That’s what we’re going to explore this morning: “In What Does Your Life Consist?”

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Published in: on August 3, 2019 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer” (Luke 10:25-37)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 14, 2019

“Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer” (Luke 10:25-37)

Our text today is one of the most well-known parables in the Bible. It’s the story of the Good Samaritan. And Jesus’ parable is prompted by a couple of questions that someone asks him. Law questions, questions about what we have to do to keep God’s Law. And so our theme this morning: “Law Questions and the Good Samaritan Answer.”

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Published in: on July 13, 2019 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” (Luke 14:15-24; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
July 7, 2019

“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” (Luke 14:15-24; Isaiah 66:10-14)

Recently I read this quote from an observer of the American church scene: “15 years ago, 40% of church members attended four times a month. In 2018, only 10% attended four times a month, a 37% drop in worship attendance. So you could have the exact same membership church, and on Sunday mornings it looks like you’ve lost over a third of your members.”

Now a certain amount of this can be attributed to aging. There are people still on membership rosters, but now they are homebound and no longer able to make it to church. And others who were in the pew fifteen years ago who since have graduated to the church triumphant. But at the same time, this big drop in attendance shows that we haven’t replaced those people. In our own congregation, attendance is down compared to what it was when I arrived here 13 years ago. And if you look across our synod–indeed, all across the American landscape–church attendance is down pretty much everywhere. Lots of empty pews, everywhere you look.

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Published in: on July 6, 2019 at 6:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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