“Jesus and the Canaanite Woman” (Matthew 15:21-28)

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 20, 2017

“Jesus and the Canaanite Woman” (Matthew 15:21-28)

What kind of faith do you have, in what kind of God? That is the question that our text today will help us to answer. For what we will see in our text is this: What kind of faith? A persevering faith. In what kind of God? In a merciful Lord. Persevering faith in a merciful Lord–that is the story of “Jesus and the Canaanite Woman.”

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Published in: on August 20, 2017 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest” (Matthew 11:25-30; Romans 7:14-25a)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 9, 2017

“Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest” (Matthew 11:25-30; Romans 7:14-25a)

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Here in this verse from today’s Gospel, Matthew 11:28, Jesus issues a gracious invitation and makes a wonderful promise. “Come to me” is the invitation, and “I will give you rest” is the promise. And to whom does he address this invitation and promise? To “all who labor and are heavy laden.”

What is it, then, to labor and be heavy laden, to be weary and burdened? What does Jesus mean by that? Jesus speaks to those who are weary of trying to please God by their own efforts. He speaks to those who labor under the law. Those who are burdened with their weight of guilt. Loaded down with the weariness and burdens that life in this vale of tears lays upon them. Jesus speaks to those who are heavy laden with loads they are unable to carry. To those who realize their weariness and burdened state, Jesus says today, “Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest.”

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Published in: on July 8, 2017 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Sword, a Cross, and a Life” (Matthew 10:34-42)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
July 2, 2017

“A Sword, a Cross, and a Life” (Matthew 10:34-42)

Today Jesus tells us that he came to bring us three things: “A Sword, a Cross, and a Life.” Are you sure you want these things? Let’s find out.

Our text is the Holy Gospel for today, from Matthew chapter 10. Jesus has been instructing his disciples in this chapter, preparing them for what they’re getting themselves in for. And it’s not going to be a bed of roses. Because some of these roses are going to have thorns. Are you ready for this?

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Published in: on July 1, 2017 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Holy Week: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb” (Matthew 21:1-11; 27:11-66)

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion
April 9, 2017

“Holy Week: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb” (Matthew 21:1-11; 27:11-66)

“In like a lion, out like a lamb.” Have you heard that saying before? It refers to the month of March. The idea is that March usually comes in “like a lion”–the weather is harsh and cold–but at the end of the month, March often goes out “like a lamb”: the weather is fair and mild. “In like a lion, out like a lamb”: strong at the beginning of the month, gentle at the end.

That may be true for the month of March, but you can also say it’s true for this week that we’re entering today. “Holy Week: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb.” You see, that’s how it went for our Lord Jesus Christ and his “march” in and out of the city of Jerusalem. Christ came into the city like a lion–at least in the minds of many–but he went out, he was marched out, like a lamb, a lamb led to the slaughter. What does that mean for you? That’s what we will find out.

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Published in: on April 8, 2017 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“When the Tempter Comes Calling” (Matthew 4:1-11)

First Sunday in Lent
March 5, 2017

“When the Tempter Comes Calling” (Matthew 4:1-11)

What are you going to do when the tempter comes calling? Oh, be assured, he will come. The tempter came for Adam and Eve. The tempter came for ancient Israel. He even came for Jesus. So what are you going to do “When the Tempter Comes Calling”?

Who is this tempter? It is the devil, of course. Satan, the accuser, the adversary, the evil one, the enemy of our souls. His goal is to destroy you, to do you evil, to tear you away from your faith in God, to doubt God’s word and God’s goodness. That is what the tempter does. And he will come calling on you, just like he came calling on Adam and Israel and Jesus. What will you do when he starts whispering in your ear?

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Published in: on March 4, 2017 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Best Picture: The Transfiguration of Our Lord” (Matthew 17:1-9)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sunday, February 26, 2017

“Best Picture: The Transfiguration of Our Lord” (Matthew 17:1-9)

Tonight will be the Academy Awards ceremony coming from Los Angeles. Tonight they’ll give out the award for, among other things, Best Picture of the year. I don’t know which one will win, but I want to tell you, this morning here in the church, we get to see a far better “Best Picture,” and it is none other than “The Transfiguration of Our Lord.”

The picture we see at the Transfiguration had its share of special effects–lighting, sound, and so on. And there were a couple of guest stars making a cameo appearance–Moses and Elijah. But clearly the leading man in this story is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. He is the star shining most brightly. Who Jesus is revealed to be and what he’s about to do for us from this point on–that is why Jesus is the one who makes the Transfiguration the Best Picture you’ll see today.

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Published in: on February 25, 2017 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:38-48)

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
February 19, 2017

“Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:38-48)

The Holy Gospel for today can be a hard one to understand, much less a hard one to actually do. In it Jesus says things like “Turn the other cheek,” “Give somebody the shirt off your back,” and “Go the extra mile.” Oh, Jesus, really? Those things sound hard! Maybe you don’t really mean that. Is there a way we can explain those things away? But then Jesus goes further. He not only says we should love our neighbor–that can be hard enough–he even says we are to love our enemies. Yikes! Are you kidding me, Jesus? Surely this must be some kind of hyperbole or figure of speech. You don’t really mean this, do you?

What’s more, Jesus says that you are to love your enemies, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Is that what it takes to become God’s children, to love our enemies? If so, I think most of us will be in a heap of trouble and end up on the outside looking in. Again, is Jesus really being serious here?

Then Jesus wraps things up with this whopper of a statement: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Oh boy. Now I know I’m in trouble. “Be perfect”? I’m having trouble even reaching 90%. But be perfect? Ouch! What do I do with that?

Well, there’s a couple of things that people do with these teachings of Jesus. But I think they miss the mark, they miss the point of what Jesus is saying. I want to show how that happens. I also want to show how we can take Jesus seriously in what he says and still be OK. So that’s where we’re heading, under the theme, “Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father.”

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Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Salt of the Earth, Light of the World” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 5, 2017

“Salt of the Earth, Light of the World” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Our text today is a portion of the Holy Gospel, reading again from verses 13-16 of Matthew 5: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This is our text. And so our theme this morning: “Salt of the Earth, Light of the World.”

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Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Your Blest Life Now” (Matthew 5:1-12)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 29, 2017

“Your Blest Life Now” (Matthew 5:1-12)

You’ve probably heard of a TV preacher by the name of Joel Osteen. He’s got a huge megachurch down in Houston, and he’s got a massive audience on television. He’s also written a number of best-selling books, the most famous of which is called “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.” What Mr. Osteen does that has made him so successful is to dish out some warmed-over self-help pabulum, and people are lapping it up. He says things like this: “Your best days are not behind you, they’re still out in front of you.” Or “Faith activates God.” Or “You have to learn to follow your heart.” Ooh, deep thoughts! This is kind of a “Power of Positive Thinking” for the 21st century. Osteen is always directing his followers to think positively about themselves, to look inward, and to expect good things to happen as a result. Well, I’m sure Mr. Osteen is living his best life now. He’s got a $10.5 million-dollar, 17,000 square-foot mansion in the Houston suburbs.

Now this motivational self-help stuff wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t masquerading as Christianity. But it is, and that’s the problem. Osteen’s religion is not the Christian faith, not even close. St. Paul says “we preach Christ crucified.” Joel Osteen preaches you glorified. St. Paul says “the word of the cross” is the power of God and the wisdom of God. In Mr. Osteen’s church you will not even find a cross, and he won’t preach about it, either. Quite a difference. But people fall for this spiritual junk food, they can’t get enough of it, and they think this is what Christianity is.

The Osteen religion stands in stark contrast to what Jesus teaches in the Holy Gospel for today, the Beatitudes, in Matthew chapter 5. Jesus offers a much greater treasure than just “your best life now.” Jesus bestows life that is much greater than your circumstances, whether rich or poor, whether living high on the hog or beat up and broken down. Whether you’re prospering by the world’s standards or you’re being persecuted by the world, the life Jesus gives cannot be taken away from you. So rather than seeking after “your best life now,” instead follow Jesus and discover “Your Blest Life Now.”

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Published in: on January 28, 2017 at 5:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand” (Matthew 3:1-12)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 4, 2016

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand” (Matthew 3:1-12)

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand”: That was the message of John the Baptist as he came preaching in the wilderness. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”: That is the message of John the Baptist as he comes preaching in our midst today. Let’s listen and take heed to what he is saying.

“Repent”: That’s the big word that comes through in our text today. What does this call to repentance mean for us and for our lives? What shape will it take? You see, this is not just a word for way back then. This is a word for right now, for us. It is the word of the Lord delivered through John that is meant to go in our ears and straight to our heart and affect what we do and think and how we live.

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Published in: on December 3, 2016 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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