“The Gracious Father–and the Two Lost Sons” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 31, 2019

“The Gracious Father–and the Two Lost Sons” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

“This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling against Jesus. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus was welcoming tax collectors and other bad, disreputable people when they came to hear what he was saying. “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” “Such a disgraceful thing this Jesus fellow is doing! We certainly wouldn’t do such a thing! We’re better than that!”

The Pharisees and the scribes didn’t approve of what Jesus was doing. So Jesus proceeds to tell them a series of parables in which they ought to see that, instead of grumbling, they really should be rejoicing with him! If heaven is rejoicing over these lost sinners being found and brought back home, then how come you guys are grumbling? That’s the message of the three parables in Luke 15, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son–that last one more commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is our text this morning.

The Prodigal Son, or the Lost Son: But, as we’re about to see, perhaps a better title for this story would be “The Gracious Father–and the Two Lost Sons.” Because, really, the point of the parable is the amazing grace of the father in dealing with both of his lost sons.

(more…)

Advertisements
Published in: on March 30, 2019 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“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, massacred, 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?

(more…)

Published in: on March 23, 2019 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“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.”

(more…)

Published in: on March 16, 2019 at 8:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“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?”

(more…)

Published in: on March 9, 2019 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Here’s the Catch” (Luke 5:1-11)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 10, 2019

“Here’s the Catch” (Luke 5:1-11)

In 2001 the baptized membership of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was a little over 2.5 million members. In 2017 the baptized membership of the LCMS was slightly under 2 million members. That’s a loss of a half-million members in sixteen years, a 20% decline.

Here in our little congregation, our membership likewise has experienced some decline. This is not surprising. It’s a similar story all across the synod. As the older members have died off, there haven’t been the younger members to replace them. In churches all across America, there’s been a long slow decline over several decades, since the end of the Baby Boom, really.

On top of that, we’re fighting the culture. We’re swimming against the stream. Whereas church membership and church attendance used to be commonplace back in the Fifties and early Sixties, that ship has sailed long ago.

So now everybody is concerned about numbers. Everybody wants the church to grow. Churches tend to be obsessed these days about increasing their numbers and avoiding decline. And sometimes it seems they’ll try anything to stop the bleeding and boost their numbers.

Yes, everybody wants the church to grow, there’s no dispute about that. But “Here’s the Catch”: How? How should the church grow? Well, today Jesus–who, after all, is the Lord of the church–today our Lord gives us direction on how he wants his church to grow.

(more…)

Published in: on February 8, 2019 at 7:01 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

“What Child Is This?” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Monday, December 24, 2018

“What Child Is This?” (Luke 2:1-20)

When a child is born, there are questions that people typically ask. Parents wonder, “Is he healthy?” “How much does he weigh?” Grandparents ask, “What did you name her?” “Who does she look like?” Nurses and doctors closely examine the child and want to know, “Is he alert?” “Are her lungs clear?” We expect those kinds of questions.

But there are other questions we never expect to hear at the birth of a child. No one would ever think to ask, “Who will handle his funeral arrangements someday?” Or, “What cemetery do you think he’ll be buried in?” Or, “What will cause his death?” The Scriptures say, “For everything there is a season.” And the season for asking about a person’s death is usually not at his or her birth.

The hymn we just sang asks a very unusual question about a child born in Bethlehem: “What Child Is This?” However, it is a fitting question, because this child is born in a most unusual way. His mother is a virgin. His birth is announced by a heavenly host of angels praising God. So, what child is this? The wonderful answer is proclaimed by the angel: “I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

(more…)

Published in: on December 22, 2018 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

“The Meeting of the Moms” (Luke 1:39-45)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 19, 2018

“The Meeting of the Moms” (Luke 1:39-45)

Over these three midweek Advent services, we’ve been looking at readings from Luke chapter one, which is the lead-up to the Christmas Gospel itself in chapter two. Back in our first midweek service, we heard the angel Gabriel announce to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child named John, John the Baptist. Then last week we heard Gabriel announce to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Now today these two storylines intersect. Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth. It’s the account of “The Visitation,” that is, the visit of Mary to Elizabeth, while both women were expecting their very special children. I’m calling this story “The Meeting of the Moms.”

(more…)

Published in: on December 19, 2018 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope” (Luke 7:18-28)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 16, 2018

“The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope” (Luke 7:18-28)

What happens when something you’ve been hoping for, something you’ve been waiting for eagerly and expectantly, what happens when it finally arrives, and your life still doesn’t get any better? In fact, it may even get worse. What then? Well, it can be rather perplexing. You may ask yourself: “Is there any hope for me to hold on to? Has God forgotten about me? Why is he letting this happen?” If you’ve ever felt like that, then our message today is just for you. And so our theme: “The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope.”

(more…)

Published in: on December 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance” (Judges 13:2-7; Luke 1:26-38)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

“An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance” (Judges 13:2-7; Luke 1:26-38)

It was an impossible situation. For forty years, Israel had been suffering under the oppression of the Philistines. The Philistines were looting their cities and ravaging their countryside. It was a period of great distress. Israel was in a dark and hopeless time. Often, though, in God’s way of doing things, dark and hopeless times give birth to new hope and renewed faith. So the Lord heard the Israelites’ cries of distress and did for them what was humanly impossible: He delivered them from the hand of the Philistines.

But God’s rescue plan did not involve gathering an army or amassing the weapons you would expect. God’s plan in this case centered on one man. An army of one, you might say. One man who singlehandedly would rescue Israel without touching a conventional weapon of war.

What’s more, God’s rescue plan began in circumstances that also seemed impossible: A barren woman would give birth. The angel of the Lord spoke to the wife of Manoah. “Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son,” the angel said. Earlier in Israel’s history, the Lord had done great things through the barren wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. Sarah gave birth to the patriarch Isaac. Rebekah gave birth to the patriarch Jacob. Rachel, to Joseph and Benjamin. Later on, the Lord again would do great things through the womb of Hannah. She would give birth to the prophet Samuel. And much later, it would be the aged Elizabeth who gave birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. But now in the Book of Judges, the Lord will do the impossible through the barren wife of Manoah. She will give birth to Samson, a mighty deliverer who, in some ways, is a type of an even greater Deliverer to come. And so our theme tonight: “An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance.”

(more…)

Published in: on December 12, 2018 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

“The Way of Repentance” (Luke 3:1-14)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 9, 2018

“The Way of Repentance” (Luke 3:1-14)

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness. And every year, in the month of December, during the season of Advent, the word of God comes to us through John here in church. Yes, every year at this time, on the second Sunday in Advent, we always have a Gospel reading in which John the Baptist preaches God’s word to us.

And what is he preaching? Our text tells us: John went about “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And this applies to us, as well. For God’s word tells us that we have been baptized into a life of repentance. We too have been baptized for the forgiveness of sins. John is preaching that message to us today. And so our theme this morning: “The Way of Repentance.”

(more…)

Published in: on December 8, 2018 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,