“Faithful Stewards of Our Master’s Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30)

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
November 19, 2017

“Faithful Stewards of Our Master’s Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30)

Our text is the Holy Gospel for today, from Matthew 25. It’s the story known as the Parable of the Talents. A master gives his servants talents, varying amounts of money, to manage on his behalf. When he comes back, we see what they have done with those talents and what the master says to them about their stewardship.

This parable has real application to us, for you and I have been gifted by God with varying talents and abilities, as well as money, to be used faithfully for God’s purposes. You and I are stewards, entrusted with what our master has given us. Talents on loan from God, we might say. So how are we using what we’ve been given? Faithfully, or not so much? And so our theme this morning: “Faithful Stewards of Our Master’s Talents.”

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Published in: on November 18, 2017 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 12, 2017

“Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

You may notice that we still have the white paraments up from last week, when we observed All Saints’ Day. That’s because today we’re doing a kind of “All Saints’ Day, Part Two.” Last week we remembered those from our midst who entered the Church Triumphant over the past twelve months: Homer and Dorothy Rouggly, Bob and Dottie Worsham. This week, today, we’re remembering other departed saints from our midst, whom we commemorated at the start of the service with a plaque at the entrance to our church. The plaque is in memory of Elaine Hadler, Ralph Duncan, Lee Hoffman, Jan Burr, and Doris Benear. Why those names? Because their memorial funds were used to build the entryway to our church, and so it’s appropriate that there be a memorial to that effect.

And how fitting it is that the verse inscribed on the plaque is something all of these dear saints would heartily agree on: Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” For Elaine and Ralph and Lee and Jan and Doris–they were very glad to come to this house of the Lord, St. Matthew’s. They loved coming here over the years. And now they, by means of this entryway and this plaque—now they are saying to us and to future generations: “Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!”

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Published in: on November 12, 2017 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Are These, Clothed in White Robes?” (Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Sunday, November 5, 2017

“Who Are These, Clothed in White Robes?” (Revelation 7:9-17)

Today, on this first Sunday in November, we observe All Saints’ Day. On All Saints’ Day, we rejoice that we are part of that great communion of saints that is the church of Christ, both the church on earth and the church in heaven. All the saints, all those made holy by the blood of Christ. Saints, holy ones, set apart to belong to God alone. All saints, all of us who have been baptized into Christ and clothed with his righteousness.

On All Saints’ Day we commemorate the faithful departed, those saints who have fallen asleep in the Lord and joined the Church Triumphant. In particular, we remember the faithful departed from our own midst who have died in the last twelve months. This year we remember our dear friends Homer and Dorothy Rouggly and Bob and Dottie Worsham. What a thing it is with each of these two long-married couples that the wife should go first and then the husband just a few months later: Dorothy in May and then Homer in August, Dottie in June and then Bob in October. I think maybe the Lord was being merciful to those poor husbands who were left without their dear partner in life.

This is a special All Saints’ Day for me personally, as this year the first Sunday in November falls on November 5. For it was on November 5, 1995, All Saints’ Day 22 years ago, that my daughter Anna was baptized on the eighth day of her life, one week after she was born, and it just so happened to be my mother’s 80th birthday, what turned out to be her last birthday on earth. What a memorable All Saints’ Day that was!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today I want to tell you that there is a strong connection between a person’s baptism into the new life in Christ and the sure hope of the resurrection unto the eternal life we have in Christ. We see this connection reflected in the white gown of a child’s baptism and the white funeral pall that often is placed on a Christian’s casket. We see it in the white liturgical color of the paraments for All Saints’ Day.

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Published in: on November 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Reformation 500: By Grace Alone” (Romans 3:19-28)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 29, 2017

“Reformation 500: By Grace Alone” (Romans 3:19-28)

Happy Reformation Day! Now I could say that every year on the last Sunday in October, which is when we observe Reformation Day. But this year it is something special. Because this year, 2017, and this week, October 31–this is the 500th anniversary of that day in 1517 when the Reformation really began.

And you and I are here as a result. We are in a church, this congregation, and a church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, that hold to the teachings that came out of that great Reformation. We are partnered with many other confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world that believe, teach, and confess likewise. All around the world, today and this week and this year, we and our fellow Lutherans are celebrating and giving thanks to God for 500 years of Reformation blessings. 500 years! All by God’s grace, for we surely do not deserve it. The Reformation that Luther started brought the great and glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ into clear focus, uncluttered by the errors in doctrine and practice that had crept into the church. And, by God’s grace, we still are being blessed by the pure teaching of the gospel of Christ. It’s still all about Jesus! For this, we give God our most hearty thanks and praise! Thus our theme this morning: “Reformation 500: By Grace Alone.”

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Published in: on October 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Render to Caesar, Render to God” (Matthew 22:15-22)

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 22, 2017

“Render to Caesar, Render to God” (Matthew 22:15-22)

Our text today is the Holy Gospel from Matthew 22, the passage that includes the famous saying, “Render unto Caesar.” But as we’ll find out, that is only half of the verse. The other half is about rendering unto God, and really that is the main point of the passage. So today our theme: “Render to Caesar, Render to God.”

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Published in: on October 22, 2017 at 12:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Rejoice in the Lord Always” (Philippians 4)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always” (Philippians 4)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always”: So says Paul in our Epistle reading today. Really? “Rejoice”? “Always”? Are you kidding me? “Rejoice always”? That’s easy for you to say, Paul. You don’t know what I’m going through. If you did, you wouldn’t be telling me to rejoice always.

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Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Invited to the Feast” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

Funeral Service
Friday, October 13, 2017

“Invited to the Feast” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

There’s a big feast coming, and Bob is invited! In fact, his seat is already guaranteed. There’s a big feast coming, and you are invited too. That’s what I want to tell you about today, that we have been “Invited to the Feast.”

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Published in: on October 13, 2017 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Joy of Knowing Christ” (Philippians 3)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 8, 2017

“The Joy of Knowing Christ” (Philippians 3)

I noticed in the news about a week ago–maybe you saw it too–that Monty Hall died. He was the longtime host of the television game show, Let’s Make a Deal. You remember how the show worked? Monty would pick out a member of the studio audience and offer that person, say, $200 for the tennis shoes she was wearing. Then Monty would suggest a deal. Do you want to keep the $200 you have in your hand, or do you want to trade it in for what’s behind the curtain, where Carol Merrill is standing? Of course, the catch was, the contestant did not know what was behind the curtain. It could be a zonk booby prize, like a bucket of sand. Or it could be some fabulous expensive prize, like a dream vacation to Cancun. That’s how the game worked. Do you think what you have in your hand is worth more than what’s behind the curtain? Or not? Which would you rather have? What you’re holding on to, or what you could have instead?

Well, we kind of get a version of that in our Epistle reading today, in Philippians chapter 3. There St. Paul is saying that what he had in his hand before, while it may have seemed rather valuable to him at the time–now he can see that, in comparison to what he has now, what he had in the past is not even worth comparing. Because now Paul has received as a gift what is of infinitely surpassing worth–and something you can be absolutely sure of, as well–and that is, “The Joy of Knowing Christ.”

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Published in: on October 7, 2017 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ” (Philippians 2)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 1, 2017

“The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ” (Philippians 2)

Today is the second in our four-week series on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. We’re going chapter by chapter through the four chapters of this letter. Last week we introduced the series by noting that Philippians is often called “The Epistle of Joy,” because of the recurring theme of joy running through the letter. We saw it last week in Philippians 1. There Paul describes his relationship with the Philippians in what we called a “Joyful Gospel Partnership.” Through the message that Paul had preached to them, the gospel of Jesus Christ, God had formed the Philippians into a church, a family of believers gathered around the gospel. And thereby God had established a partnership, a “koinonia,” a fellowship, between Paul and the Philippians, in the faith and in the church’s mission. This was a joyful gospel partnership, because the gospel of salvation in Christ brings such good news to gladden the heart, a joy that goes deeper than happiness, because that joy is there, whether our circumstances happen to be happy or sad. Paul, at the time he writes this letter–his circumstances were not that great. He was in prison, probably in Rome, and yet he had great joy, and he wants the Philippians to share in that joy. For the gospel unites pastor and people in a partnership, a partnership of prayer, a partnership even in prison, and a partnership of progress and joy in the faith.

So that was last week. Now we come to chapter 2. More joy in this chapter also! Look at what Paul says in verse 2: “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” And a little after that, in verses 5 and following, he explains what that one mind is: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who” etc. So today I’m calling the theme of chapter 2: “The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ.”

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Published in: on September 30, 2017 at 11:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Joyful Gospel Partnership” (Philippians 1)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 24, 2017

“A Joyful Gospel Partnership” (Philippians 1)

Today we start a four-week series of readings and sermons–and Bible classes, as well–on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. The official Epistle readings from the lectionary have big chunks of each of the four chapters over these four weeks, but since we’re diving in whole-hog, as it were, I decided I’d read the whole chapter each week, as you just heard.

So today we begin with Philippians chapter 1. In trying to come up with a theme for this message–and really, for the whole book–I thought back to a sermon I heard long ago at my home church in Chicago. We had just installed a new pastor, and his first sermon to us was based on this passage from Philippians 1, verses 3-5: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” And so the pastor’s sermon that day, almost forty years ago–and I still remember the sermon title–the message back then is the same as it is for us here today, that the church is “A Joyful Gospel Partnership.”

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Published in: on September 23, 2017 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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