“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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“Ascension Joy” (Luke 24:44-53)

The Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, May 30, 2019

“Ascension Joy” (Luke 24:44-53)

How did you feel about going to church this evening? Were you happy and excited? If you were happy, were you more excited about the service or the ice cream social afterward? C’mon, admit it! No, seriously, did coming to an Ascension service tonight spark joy for you? Or were you instead a little grumpy about having to go to church on a Thursday night? Did you focus on the joy of being able to be in the presence of God, to hear his Word and receive the blessed Sacrament? Or did you complain about one more thing being added to your schedule? You see, you can take the same event, and people can have different reactions to it.

Likewise, when people experience an event that’s similar to one they had just experienced a short time before, those same people can have two entirely different responses. Take, for example, the response of the disciples at the time of the Ascension and compare that to how they responded just a few weeks earlier. At the Ascension, when Jesus “parted from them and was carried up into heaven,” the disciples “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”

But then contrast that with how they reacted just a few weeks earlier. Go back six weeks to Maundy Thursday. How did the disciples respond then? That was when Jesus told them he was about to leave, that he was going away. At that time, their hearts were filled with grief. They were sad. And then when Jesus was taken from them–in the arrest and trial, in the crucifixion and his death–they were completely downcast and crushed. And frightened, too. “If that’s what happened to Jesus, then what’s going to happen to us, we who are known to have been his followers?” Right after Jesus’ death, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem at that time, too. But there was no worship then, no great joy. They were not at the temple, praising God. No, they had locked themselves behind closed doors, for fear of the Jews.

Two similar situations, just six weeks apart. In both cases, Jesus was leaving them and going away. But these same disciples reacted totally differently. The one time, with fear and sadness. The next time, with great joy and praise. What made the difference? And what will make the difference for us, to move us from our ordinary grumpiness into “Ascension Joy”?

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Published in: on May 30, 2019 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“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.

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Published in: on March 30, 2019 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“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?

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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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“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.

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