“No Longer Aliens” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 18, 2021

“No Longer Aliens” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Aliens are not very popular. I’m not talking about aliens from outer space. I’m talking about aliens who are illegal immigrants, people who come in as outsiders. Often there is hostility between the aliens and the people who’ve been there their whole lives. They feel like their territory is being invaded. Foreigners, strangers, outsiders are seen as a threat. In whatever the culture, throughout history, aliens generally have been unwelcome.

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Published in: on July 17, 2021 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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“In Christ: Chosen, Redeemed, and Sealed” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 11, 2021

“In Christ: Chosen, Redeemed, and Sealed” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Picture in your mind a great treasure chest–a big, heavy box, with one of those curved lids on it, like you’d see in a pirate movie. The lid is closed, and there’s a large lock hanging on the front. Inside this treasure chest, so you’ve been told, are all sorts of wonderful things–gems, rubies, diamonds, gold and silver coins–a fortune beyond your wildest dreams. And all these valuable treasures are yours for the taking. The only thing is, you need the key. Without that key, the treasure chest will simply remain a locked box. But if you have the key, then all the wonderful contents inside are opened up for you.

Now with that picture in mind, we come to our text for today, the Epistle reading from Ephesians chapter 1. This grand passage is like a magnificent treasure chest. It contains within it all sorts of wonderful treasures that God has for us. St. Paul begins by saying that God has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” And then he goes on to tell us what those blessings are–things like grace, redemption, forgiveness, salvation. These are great treasures indeed, but unless we have the key, they would all remain inaccessible to us, locked away in a box.

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Published in: on July 10, 2021 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Grace of Giving” (2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 27, 2021

“The Grace of Giving” (2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15)

Today let’s talk about giving. Yes, that’s right, giving–like we do when we put offerings into the offering plate. Usually that’s a subject we like to avoid. People become defensive or uncomfortable if the subject of giving comes up. They’ll make excuses for why they can’t give more. They instinctively reach for their wallets and hold on tight, so that no one can get in there. And they close their ears as well. People don’t like to have someone put pressure on them to put more in the plate, like this is just some money grab and that’s all.

Well, not so. If we talk about giving from a biblical perspective, it does involve the giving of money, but it’s not just about money. There’s more to it than that. You see, Christian giving is a vital part of Christian living. The grace of God transforms us in every aspect of our lives, including our pocketbooks and what we put in those offering envelopes.

The grace of God: That’s where our talk of giving begins and ends–with God’s grace, his giving. It’s about what he gives to us. God’s gracious self-giving leads to our giving of what he has already given to us. We are simply channels for his further giving. The grace of God is such that he is rich in the blessings he gives us. And God’s grace in Christ is so rich that he would have us all excel in “The Grace of Giving.”

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Published in: on June 26, 2021 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Great Storm, a Great Calm, a Great Fear” (Mark 4:35-41)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 20, 2021

“A Great Storm, a Great Calm, a Great Fear” (Mark 4:35-41)

Our text is the Holy Gospel for today, from Mark 4, the story of Jesus stilling a storm. It’s only seven verses long, but this story will take us from a great storm to a great calm to–perhaps surprisingly–a great fear. So let’s get in the boat now with Jesus and his disciples, under the theme, “A Great Storm, a Great Calm, a Great Fear.”

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Published in: on June 19, 2021 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From Our Earthly Tent to Our Heavenly Home” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18; 5:1-10)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 13, 2021

“From Our Earthly Tent to Our Heavenly Home” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18; 5:1-10)

As some of you know, my older brother Jim recently was put on hospice with an inoperable brain tumor. He doesn’t have long to live–any day now, it looks like. So I wanted to talk with him while there was still time. He had retired to North Carolina, so we had to do this by video chat, and at a time when he was awake and alert enough to do it. Well, we talked a couple of days ago, on Thursday. His family was there with him to make it happen.

It was tough seeing Jim in the condition he was in. It was hard to hold back the tears, knowing this might be the last time I talk to him. Jim wasn’t able to talk much, but he could hear what I was saying. I shared some memories with him. I told him I loved him and have always looked up to him. And I shared a Bible verse with him. It was from last week’s Epistle reading, 2 Corinthians 4:16, where it says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

Now why could I say that? How could I say, “we do not lose heart,” when what I was seeing on the screen was so heart-breaking? Here’s why: Because I know, and I know Jim knows, we will be going “From Our Earthly Tent to Our Heavenly Home.”

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Published in: on June 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Binding the Strong Man, Plundering His House” (Mark 3:20-35)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 6, 2021

“Binding the Strong Man, Plundering His House” (Mark 3:20-35)

When you were baptized, what did you get? Yeah, you got wet, sure. You had water poured on your head. But I mean, when you were baptized, what did you get, in the sense of what did you acquire? I’ll tell you what you acquired: You got an enemy for life. Did you know that? That when you were baptized, you gained a strong and powerful enemy who’s out to get you! You did! And his name is Satan, the devil. He is the “old evil foe” who “now means deadly woe.” He is your arch-enemy. He wants to destroy your faith, destroy you, and take you down to hell with him. And he is very strong.

Satan. The devil. We minimize his threat at our peril. But the Bible certainly does not. And Jesus does not dismiss the reality of Satan and the damage that he does to people. Jesus compares Satan to a “strong man” who has a bunch of goods stored in his house that he doesn’t want to let go of. Satan is strong; he’s hard to overcome. But the good news is that there is someone stronger, someone able to overcome the strong man. And his name is Jesus. For Jesus came “Binding the Strong Man, Plundering His House.”

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Published in: on June 5, 2021 at 12:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Day of Pentecost: What Does This Mean?” (Acts 2:1-21)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, May 23, 2021

“The Day of Pentecost: What Does This Mean?” (Acts 2:1-21)

You know those people we heard about in Acts 2, the ones in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost? I think they must have been Lutheran. I mean, it says in our text, “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” That’s the Lutheran question, isn’t it? “What does this mean?” We’d almost expect the answer to begin, “We should fear and love God so that. . . .” Well, even if it isn’t right out of the catechism, this is still a good question to ask: “The Day of Pentecost: What Does This Mean?”

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Published in: on May 22, 2021 at 11:20 am  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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