“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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“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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“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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“Out of the Water, into the Wilderness” (Mark 1:9-15)

First Sunday in Lent
February 18, 2018

“Out of the Water, into the Wilderness” (Mark 1:9-15)

Today is the First Sunday in Lent, which means that the Holy Gospel is an account of the temptation of our Lord. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this episode that took place right after Jesus’ baptism. This year we hear from Mark, who tells it the most briefly. Just two verses, as follows: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”

Mark gets us right into the action, very direct, straight to it. Jesus is plunged right into the conflict and opposition that will mark his ministry and lead to his death. The word “immediately” stands out in Mark. When Jesus was baptized, “immediately” he saw the heavens opening. Then the Spirit “immediately” drove him out into the wilderness. Wham! Bam! Straight to it! “Immediately”!

Jesus goes “immediately” from his baptism in the Jordan to his temptation in the wilderness. And what I want you to see today, friends, is that this is how it is for us, too. We have been joined to Jesus in baptism, and so we also will be tempted. There is no escaping it. Like our Lord, we go immediately “Out of the Water, into the Wilderness.”

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Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Where Is the Healing?” (Mark 1:29-39)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 4, 2018

“Where Is the Healing?” (Mark 1:29-39)

Every year during the Epiphany season, we get Gospel readings in which Jesus is doing the activities of his public ministry. We see Jesus busy with things like preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. For example, take the readings from Mark 1 we’ve had these last few weeks. Two weeks ago we heard Jesus preaching, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Last week Jesus was in the synagogue teaching, and “he taught them as one who had authority.” Now this week we see Jesus healing the sick, healing Simon’s mother-in-law–in fact, doing a whole lot of healing: “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases,” it says.

So in his ministry Jesus was very much engaged in these activities: preaching, teaching, and healing. But this raises the question: Is Jesus still doing these things today? Preaching? Yes, Jesus still today is preaching to us, proclaiming the gospel of God. To be sure, he does it now through his preachers, for he says, “He who hears you hears me.” Alright, so there’s the preaching. What about teaching? Yes, same thing. In Bible class, the Lord opens our minds to understand the Scriptures, so that we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So preaching and teaching–yes, Jesus still is doing these things today, through the ministry of his church.

But then that leaves healing. And now we’ve got to ask: Where is that going on today? Has Jesus given up on the healing part? Was that only for back then, and that’s it? Is there nothing for us today? And so our question this morning: “Where Is the Healing?”

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Published in: on February 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The War of the Worlds” (Mark 1:21-28)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 28, 2018

“The War of the Worlds” (Mark 1:21-28)

Have you ever heard of “The War of the Worlds”? No, I’m not talking about H. G. Wells’s classic novel about Martians invading Earth. Nor am I talking about Orson Welles’s radio version of “The War of the Worlds,” which had some people thinking it was an actual news broadcast. And I don’t mean the movie versions that have been made, either.

No, “The War of the Worlds” I’m talking about today is no piece of fiction. It is very real, and it has been going on for a very long time. It is the war we see exemplified in the Holy Gospel for today, from Mark chapter 1. It involves the attacks that Satan and his crew launch upon humanity, to inflict every evil of body and soul upon us–upon you. It is the devil’s domain vs. the kingdom of heaven, and guess which one will have the upper hand? Let’s find out now, as we witness “The War of the Worlds.”

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Published in: on January 27, 2018 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Heavens Being Torn Open” (Mark 1:4-11)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 7, 2018

“The Heavens Being Torn Open” (Mark 1:4-11)

How many of you know when your baptismal birthday is? Mine is September 10. What’s yours? It’s good to take note of and remember the day of your baptism, that happy day when all your sins were washed away and you became a child of God. So if you don’t know your baptismal birthday, you might want to go ahead and find out when it is and then celebrate it.

But did you know there’s a baptismal birthday going on today? And that it’s one all of us can celebrate? Because today is the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the day in the church year when we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. This is the day we remember that event when our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. So today is, in effect, Jesus’ baptismal birthday.

The Baptism of Our Lord is an event recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and also referred to in the Gospel of John. The accounts are very similar, except here and there one writer may include a detail that another leaves out, or one writer may use slightly different wording to describe the same event. So it is in our text today from the Gospel of Mark. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention that when Jesus was baptized the heavens were opened, but only Mark uses the exact word choice that we find today. He says: “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening.” “The heavens opening,” but more literally it says: “The Heavens Being Torn Open.”

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Published in: on January 7, 2018 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins” (Mark 1:1-8)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 10, 2017

“A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins” (Mark 1:1-8)

Well, here comes John the Baptist again. He always shows up around this time of year. Always with kind of a depressing message: “Repent! Get your life straightened out!” John the Baptist is like the Denny Downer of December. Everybody else is having a good time getting ready for Christmas–going shopping, listening to Christmas music, watching specials on TV, having Christmas parties–and here comes John, telling us to repent. John, is that any way to get ready for Christmas?

I mean, listen to this part of our text today from Mark 1: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

A baptism of repentance. People confessing their sins. Kind of dreary, isn’t it? Not too cheery. But oh, wait! This was John’s baptism, right? Yeah, John’s baptism doesn’t apply to us, does it? So I guess we can go on and skip over this repentance stuff.

Hold on, not so fast. Yeah, John’s baptism was not exactly the same as our baptism. His was preparatory, provisional, for a limited time only. But is it totally irrelevant to us? I mean the repentance stuff. I don’t think so. Let’s find out more now, as we consider “A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins.”

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Published in: on December 10, 2017 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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“You Will Have Treasure in Heaven” (Mark 10:17-22)

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 11, 2015

“You Will Have Treasure in Heaven” (Mark 10:17-22)

Today we have the story of the rich young ruler. It’s a story of idolatry, repentance, and faith–the declining of repentance and faith, actually, even though Jesus lovingly calls this young man to it. And so this is a story about Jesus, ultimately, and how he calls each of us to give up on our idols and to follow him in faith. This is a story about the love of Jesus for sinners–it is a story for you, so that you will inherit eternal life, that “You Will Have Treasure in Heaven.”

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Published in: on October 10, 2015 at 5:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Receive the Kingdom of God like a Child” (Mark 10:2-16; Hebrews 2:1-18)

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 4, 2015

“Receive the Kingdom of God like a Child” (Mark 10:2-16; Hebrews 2:1-18)

How would you like to enter the kingdom of God? I know I would. After all–literally, after all–the kingdom of God will be the only thing going. It is an everlasting kingdom, filled with peace and joy and life and blessing, and it will last forever. So who would not want to enter it? You’d have to be a fool not to. No, the kingdom of God–it’s the best thing going, and there’s nothing else like it.

So the question arises: How do you get in? How do you enter the kingdom of God? Today Jesus tells us. Basically it comes down to this. To enter, you need to “Receive the Kingdom of God like a Child.”

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Published in: on October 4, 2015 at 4:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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