“Why Have a Special Epiphany Service?” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Wednesday, January 6, 2021

“Why Have a Special Epiphany Service?” (Matthew 2:1-12)

So here it is on a Wednesday. And we’re having the Divine Service. How come? It’s not Sunday. “Pastor, why are you dragging us out here in the middle of the week, in January, to have church? What’s the big deal about Epiphany that we should come out on a non-Sunday?” In other words, “Why Have a Special Epiphany Service?”

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Published in: on January 6, 2021 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From the Deportation to the Christ” (Matthew 1:1, 12-17)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 16, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From the Deportation to the Christ” (Matthew 1:1, 12-17)

During this Advent season, we are preparing to meet and greet our coming king. The king is coming–to us, for us–coming at Christmas, coming at the end of time, coming now into our midst through Word and Sacrament. So we prepare to meet him–in repentance, in faith, in holy joy. That’s what Advent is all about.

But this king we are preparing to meet–this king who comes to us–this is a lowly king. Lowly, not high. Lowly, humble, coming in a way you might not expect. Our lowly king comes to us in a very surprising way. Surprising, yet faithful to God’s promises. While we may forget God’s promises–when we think God may have forgotten his promises–here comes this surprise. It is a lowly surprise that brings salvation and hope and joy to our hearts. We realize that God does remember. God does keep his promises–even when things are looking their worst.

Lowly, surprising, and faithful–that’s how God works. That’s the message we can take from our text today. At first glance, though, it looks like just a bunch of names–most of which you have never heard of. But when we take a closer look, we see how God deals with us by the gospel. And we gain strength, courage, and confidence in God’s promises.

Our text is “The Genealogy of Jesus Christ,” as recorded in the opening verses of Matthew. More specifically, today we focus on the last third of the genealogy, the part that takes us “From the Deportation to the Christ.”

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Published in: on December 16, 2020 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From David to the Deportation” (Matthew 1:1, 6b-11)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 9, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From David to the Deportation” (Matthew 1:1, 6b-11)

Last week we began looking at how Matthew begins his gospel. He begins with a genealogy, a genealogy that takes in much of Old Testament history. It is the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. But Jesus was, first of all, the Savior of Israel. He is the promised Messiah, who fulfilled the promises given to Israel’s forefathers. Jesus came into the world as the culmination, the climax, of Israel’s history. And so Matthew writes: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. . . .”

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Published in: on December 10, 2020 at 12:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From Abraham to David” (Matthew 1:1-6a)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 2, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From Abraham to David” (Matthew 1:1-6a)

I am interested in family histories and genealogies. My own, for example. I am a direct descendant of Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, one of the first Swedish settlers in America back in 1640 and one of the founders of the colony New Sweden along the east coast. Peter Rambo’s name, by the way, was the inspiration for the movie character Rambo. My maternal grandmother was Grace Rambo Clark, and, through that Clark connection, I am related to William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and governor of Missouri. So some of my family heritage is pretty noble and famous.

On the other hand, some of it is shaded in scandal. My father was put up for adoption in an orphanage in Chicago, probably because he was born out of wedlock. So I joined up with Ancestry.com, and I’m trying to find out who I’m related to by way of my father’s birth name.

Fame and scandal, historical standouts and skeletons in the closet–this is what you find in any person’s family history. And Jesus is no different. The Bible tells us about Jesus’ ancestry. And this Advent we’re going to explore his family history, under the theme, “The Genealogy of Jesus Christ.” We begin today with the section that goes “From Abraham to David.”

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Published in: on December 2, 2020 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The End Is Coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)

Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 22, 2020

“The End Is Coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)

The end is coming. The end of the church year, I mean. In fact, today is the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Next week we’ll begin a brand-new church year with the First Sunday in Advent. But the thing is, the church year mirrors the life of Christ and the course of history. That’s why, in these darkening days of November, our readings and hymns deal with the last things, the end times, and the return of Christ on the Last Day. Think of the hymns we’ve been singing this month: “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying”; “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near”: or the one we just sang, “The Clouds of Judgment Gather.” The point is, the end of the church year serves to focus our attention on the very biblical teaching that “The End Is Coming.”

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Published in: on November 21, 2020 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Living as Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Zephaniah 1:7-16)

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
November 15, 2020

“Living as Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Zephaniah 1:7-16)

“Christ has brought us out of darkness, made us children of the day.” The hymn we just sang was written to go with the three Scripture readings assigned for this day. Each stanza corresponds to one of the readings. The point of the lessons and of the hymn is this: The day of the Lord–that is, the return of Christ–the day of the Lord is drawing near, a day of both judgment and salvation. For us it will be a day of joy, because of what Christ has done for us. And our waiting for that day will not be a slothful, dreary time of inactivity. No, it will be an active waiting, using the talents God has given us, faithfully serving our Master. And we have a hope to sustain us as we look forward to that day. And so our theme this morning: “Living as Children of the Day.”

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Published in: on November 14, 2020 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13)

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 8, 2020

“The Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13)

Today we are entering the last three Sundays of the church year. And, appropriately enough, the readings these weeks all have to do with the end times and the second coming of Christ. You see, the church year mirrors the life of our Lord, culminating in his return on the Last Day. And so the last things of this age are emphasized in the last days of the church’s calendar. But while we know exactly when the church year will end, we do not know when our Lord Jesus Christ will return. “You know neither the day nor the hour,” Jesus says. Thus the need for the church, for us, to be ready for his coming. He may return tonight or tomorrow or next year or a hundred years from now. We don’t know when. But we do know that–that he is coming back to take his church home to himself. So we want to be ready whenever he comes. And that’s what our Gospel reading today is about: being ready, whenever Jesus comes again. Jesus urges this upon us, this need for readiness, in the story that he tells us today, “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.”

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Published in: on November 6, 2020 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Answers a Gotcha Question” (Matthew 22:15-22)

“Jesus Answers a Gotcha Question” (Matthew 22:15-22)

If you’ve been following the news lately, and you watched the presidential debate, the vice-presidential debate, the Judiciary Committee hearings, or the dueling town halls, you heard a lot of “gotcha” questions. I’m guessing most of you have heard that term before, a “gotcha” question. But in case you haven’t, let me explain. A “gotcha” question is one in which the questioner asks someone a question designed to trap or embarrass the person being questioned. It’s designed to cast that person in a negative light, no matter how he might answer the question. The classic example of a gotcha question is this: “Have you stopped beating your wife? A yes or no answer, please.” You see, no matter how the guy answers, it sounds bad. If he says yes, it sounds like he was beating her before. If he says no, it sounds like he still is.

So you heard a bunch of gotcha questions over the past few weeks. The questions were constructed in such a way as to make the person look bad, no matter how he or she answered. “When will you denounce white supremacy?” As though he hasn’t already. “Why haven’t you denounced Q-Anon?” As though he even knows what Q-Anon is. “Judge, have you ever sexually assaulted anyone?” As though she might be likely to have done that. These are examples of gotcha questions. They’re designed to get the person in trouble, any way they answer.

But then this is nothing new. People have been asking people they don’t like gotcha questions for many centuries. We see it in the Gospel reading for today from Matthew 22. There the enemies of Jesus, the Pharisees and the Herodians, try to come up with a question that will get Jesus in trouble, no matter how he answers. But today we’ll see how he turns the tables on them, when “Jesus Answers a Gotcha Question.”

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Published in: on October 17, 2020 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Living by Forgiveness” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 13, 2020

“Living by Forgiveness” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Living by forgiveness: That’s the message God has for each one of us here today. Living by forgiveness is the way life goes in God’s kingdom. There’s no other way. You and I live on the basis of God forgiving us when we have sinned against him. And you and I are called to live the same way toward our brothers and sisters who sin against us. We receive forgiveness from God, and we extend forgiveness toward others. That’s “Living by Forgiveness.”

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Published in: on September 12, 2020 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“On This Rock I Will Build My Church” (Matthew 16:13-20)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 23, 2020

“On This Rock I Will Build My Church” (Matthew 16:13-20)

Everyone is interested in building the church, growing the church. Uh, let me rephrase that. Everyone who is already in the church, who is active and involved in the church, is interested in building and growing the church. People on the outside, as well as those with only a loose connection to the church–they don’t give a rip. They couldn’t care less. But those of us at least who are here regularly in church, we care about the church being built up and growing. Nobody wants to see the church fail or decline or decrease in numbers.

However, that’s what’s been happening. The church, at least in America, is in decline. The numbers have been decreasing. And for a long time. Actually, going back to about 1965, that’s when the numbers started to decline. That’s the year after the Baby Boom ended, when Americans stopped having kids at the same rate as they did from 1946 through 1964. But especially in the last ten years or so, the drop has been dramatic. There has been a plunge, a plummeting downward, in church membership and church attendance. And I’m not talking about just this congregation or just in small towns. No, it’s been pretty much across the board, all across America. Church numbers are down. And now this Covid thing is not helping, either. It has only aggravated the situation, the decline in attendance.

And the culture has changed, too. America has become increasingly secularized. Religion is no longer respected. There is even widespread antipathy toward Christianity, outright hostility. The culture has changed, and we are definitely swimming against the tide.

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Published in: on August 22, 2020 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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