“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.”

(more…)

Published in: on October 17, 2020 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“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.”

(more…)

Published in: on September 12, 2020 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“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.

(more…)

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

“The Great Faith of the Canaanite Woman” (Matthew 15:21-28)

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, 2020

“The Great Faith of the Canaanite Woman” (Matthew 15:21-28)

How would you rate your faith? Is it a strong faith or a weak faith? If you think your faith is weak, that it’s in need of some strengthening, well, you’ve come to the right place. For today we’re going to hear about “The Great Faith of the Canaanite Woman.” But now here’s a little secret, right from the outset: If you want a great faith, don’t focus on your faith. Rather, focus on the object of your faith, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ and his great mercy.

(more…)

Published in: on August 15, 2020 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Lord, Save Me!” (Matthew 14:22-33)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 9, 2020

“Lord, Save Me!” (Matthew 14:22-33)

Who is this Jesus fellow? That is the central question in all four of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Who is this Jesus? As we read the gospels, we are discovering the same thing the disciples were learning: that there is something very special about this man named Jesus. And so it is, again today, in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew. The disciples are learning more about Jesus, and so are we. And knowing who Jesus is, knowing who he is for us–not only that he is God’s Son, with all divine power and authority, but also that he uses his authority to save us–knowing Jesus in this way, so that you will trust in him for your salvation, this is the most important thing in the whole world that you need to know.

We pick it up today in Matthew 14 right where we left off last week. Jesus has just done the feeding of the five thousand, not far from the Sea of Galilee. It’s been a long day, exhausting, and now Jesus wants some alone time, when he can pray in private. So he sends the disciples on ahead in the boat, while he stays behind. He’ll catch up with them later. And boy, howdy, will he!

(more…)

Published in: on August 8, 2020 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Masks of God” (Matthew 14:13-21)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2020

“Masks of God” (Matthew 14:13-21)

The other day I went to the grocery store, and of course when I went in, I put on a mask. The other shoppers were wearing masks, the store’s workers were wearing masks, the cashiers–everybody was wearing a mask. Well, I had just paid for my groceries and was finishing loading my cart, when I heard the cashier greet the lady behind me. It was obvious he knew who she was, but at first she did not know who he was. She said, “Oh, I didn’t recognize you behind your mask.” And I thought to myself, “Thank you! You have just given me the introduction for my sermon this Sunday!”

“Oh, I didn’t recognize you behind your mask.” You know, I think that’s often what we ought to be saying to God: “I didn’t recognize you behind your mask.” Because that’s how God operates to provide for us and care for us, and we don’t recognize that he is the one blessing us. Behind a mask, so to speak. In other words, God blesses us through other people he puts in our lives. God uses those people to be the channels of his blessings toward us, but he ultimately is the source of those blessings.

(more…)

Published in: on August 1, 2020 at 9:56 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

“Not Peace, but a Sword” (Matthew 10:34-42)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 28, 2020

“Not Peace, but a Sword” (Matthew 10:34-42)

You are in a battle. It is a battle every Christian is called upon to fight, from the time we are baptized till the day we die. There is no opting out. You are engaged in this battle whether you realize it or not. So the thing to do is to fight it well. And that means we need help. For on our own we would not be strong enough to prevail.

What is this battle? The one I’m referring to today is a battle from without, that is, from the world attacking us Christians. Oh, there is also a battle from within, namely, our own sinful flesh fighting against the new persons we are in Christ. Both of these battles, the conflict from without and the conflict from within, are inescapable for every single Christian.

(more…)

Published in: on June 28, 2020 at 1:33 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Fear Not, for Your Father Cares for You” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2020

“Fear Not, for Your Father Cares for You” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

In many of the Gospel readings during this time of the church year–as is the case in today’s reading–Jesus teaches his followers about the life of discipleship that we Christians are called to live. And this is not an easy life, this life of following Christ. For one thing, the world will be against us. And so, many of the Gospel readings this summer will describe the opposition we will get from the unbelieving world. And that opposition can be brutal, even deadly. But the amazing thing is, even though Jesus knows that people will treat us this way–indeed, he tells us they will treat us this way–even so, he tells us to fear not.

(more…)

Published in: on June 20, 2020 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Jesus Extends His Compassionate Authority” (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 14, 2020

“Jesus Extends His Compassionate Authority” (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” So we heard in the Holy Gospel for today from Matthew. And that particular verse, Matthew 9:35, sounds an awful lot like a verse from five chapters earlier, Matthew 4:23, where it says: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Those two verses are almost verbatim the same. What the writer, Matthew, is doing is framing this major section of his gospel, in which he recounts the early ministry of Jesus in Galilee. In this section, he shows Jesus doing these several activities: “teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”

(more…)

Published in: on June 13, 2020 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“The God of New Beginnings” (Genesis 1; Acts 2; Matthew 28)

The Holy Trinity
Sunday, June 7, 2020

“The God of New Beginnings” (Genesis 1; Acts 2; Matthew 28)

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is on this day every year that we call special attention to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This teaching is true every day of the year, of course, but on this particular Sunday, we call special attention to it. The Scripture readings for today bring out the nature of God as being triune, that is, one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The hymns we sing on this day are trinitarian in their content. And Trinity Sunday is the one day of the year when we read out loud the Athanasian Creed, the creed that goes into the most depth and detail on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Now when I say “doctrine,” maybe some of you, your eyes glaze over. You think of “doctrine” as “boring” or “academic” or “unrelated to life.” But no, that is not so! The word “doctrine” simply means “teaching,” and what the Bible teaches about God is anything but boring! And while Christian doctrine can be taught and studied in an academic manner–and there is great value in that–that does not mean it is “unrelated to life”! Indeed, doctrine is life! What God’s Word teaches us gives us life! God’s Word guides our life, and guides us all the way into eternal life, life with God, life forever.

And then when we talk about the doctrine of “the Holy Trinity,” again, our eyes may glaze over. How can we understand this great mystery, that there is only one God, yet there are three distinct persons in this one God? How can this be? We have trouble wrapping our heads around it. Our little brains can’t comprehend it. The circuits start to fry out.

Well, today you don’t have to figure everything out. Instead, I want you to relax and just take it in, who this God is whom we worship and adore, who God is, and especially, who he is for you. Today I want you to know God, more than just to know about God. Because today in his Word, God reveals himself to us. He shows himself to be “The God of New Beginnings.” And we could all use that.

(more…)

Published in: on June 6, 2020 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,