“For Your Progress and Joy in the Faith” (Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 20, 2020

“For Your Progress and Joy in the Faith” (Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30)

Today we begin four weeks in a row of readings from Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.  Four chapters over four weeks, starting with much of chapter 1 today.  The epistle as a whole is not very long–you can read it in less than 15 minutes–so you might want to consider reading Philippians a number of times over the coming weeks.  You won’t regret it.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians:  What do we know about Philippi and Paul’s relationship with the congregation there?  A little background is in order.  Philippi was a city in Macedonia, the northern part of Greece.  Paul had gone there on his second missionary journey, when he crossed over from Asia Minor into Europe.  And Philippi was one of the first places he went.  You can read about it in Acts 16, where there are accounts of the conversion of Lydia, Paul and Silas in jail, and the conversion of the Philippian jailer.  That was the start.  And from that beginning, the church at Philippi had grown and had a good relationship with the apostle Paul.

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Published in: on September 19, 2020 at 8:19 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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“Governing Authorities: God’s Servants for Your Good” (Romans 13:1-10)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 6, 2020

“Governing Authorities: God’s Servants for Your Good” (Romans 13:1-10)

Our text today is the Epistle reading from Romans 13. And as soon as I say “Romans 13,” most people who know the Bible will instantly say, “Oh, that’s the chapter about government.” And that’s right. Romans 13 is the classic passage in the Bible about the role of government, about how God instituted governmental authority, and about our relationship to the governing authorities, especially as Christians. So those are the things we’re going to explore now, under the theme: “Governing Authorities: God’s Servants for Your Good.”

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Published in: on September 5, 2020 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Genuine Love in Our Church Family” (Romans 12:9-21)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 30, 2020

“Genuine Love in Our Church Family” (Romans 12:9-21)

Our church is called to be a loving family. I know this is so, because that’s who God says we are. God has made us a loving family. He calls us to live and act as his loving family. And he enables us to do so. This is why I as your pastor can call on you to be who you are in Christ: brothers and sisters who love one another with a genuine love that shows itself in actions.

That is kind of a summary of today’s Epistle reading, from Romans 12. Listen to some of the things that St. Paul says to the church in Rome: “Let love be genuine.” “Love one another with brotherly affection.” “Contribute to the needs of the saints.” “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another.” And so on. This is how the apostle Paul wanted, and expected, the Christians in Rome to think and to act and to live with one another. And these same exhortations and instructions apply to us, too. And so our theme this morning: “Genuine Love in Our Church Family.”

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Published in: on August 29, 2020 at 11:56 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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“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.

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

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

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Published in: on August 1, 2020 at 9:56 am  Comments (1)  
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“If God Is for Us” (Romans 8:28-39)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 26, 2020

“If God Is for Us” (Romans 8:28-39)

In our Epistle reading for today, St. Paul writes, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer, of course, is no one. If God is for us, it doesn’t matter who might be against us, because they are not God. Oh, they may indeed be against us, but that is far, far outweighed by the fact that God is for us. I mean, who could be greater and more powerful than God? No one. By definition, no one or no thing can be more powerful than God; otherwise, that person or thing would be God. And they’re not.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” But notice that little word “if.” There’s a lot riding on that “if.” “If God is for us”: That “if” raises the question: Is God for us? How can we know whether he is or is not? Is God for us? Is God for me? How can I be sure that he is?

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Published in: on July 26, 2020 at 12:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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“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.

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