“The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 17, 2017

“The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Forgiveness doesn’t count. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I don’t mean that it doesn’t matter of that it’s not important. By no means. No, forgiveness counts for a lot in that respect. In fact, it’s everything. We’d be lost without forgiveness. But when I say, Forgiveness doesn’t count, I mean it in the way that Jesus teaches it, which is to say, forgiveness doesn’t keep score. Forgiveness doesn’t count. It doesn’t keep score or keep track of how many times it has to forgive or how much sin it has to have mercy on. That’s the way it is with God toward us, and that’s the way it is with us toward one another. God forgives us, freely, fully, completely. Therefore we are to forgive one another in the same way: freely, fully, completely, not counting or keeping score or keeping track. That’s the connection Jesus draws for us today in “The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.”

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Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Dealing Drastically with Sin” (Matthew 18:1-20)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 10, 2017

“Dealing Drastically with Sin” (Matthew 18:1-20)

How seriously do we take the matter of sin? Our own sin? The sin of others? I think that is the theme running through the teachings of Jesus today in the Holy Gospel from Matthew 18: the seriousness of sin and our need to treat it as such. And so our message this morning: “Dealing Drastically with Sin.”

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Published in: on September 8, 2017 at 9:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“How to Understand–and Do–Christian Exhortations” (Romans 12:9-21)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 3, 2017

“How to Understand–and Do–Christian Exhortations” (Romans 12:9-21)

Take a look again at the Epistle reading for today, as printed on your Scripture insert. It’s Romans 12:9-21, and it starts out as follows: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” What do you notice about all these verses? You’re right, it’s a series of commands, if you will, telling us what to do.

And the passage goes on from there with a whole bunch more of these instructions about how we are to live: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

And there’s even few more verses along those lines after that. So what do you make of this text? How do you understand it? What’s more, how do you do it–that is, how do you live out all these instructions for Christian living? Do we even try, or do we just throw up our hands and give up and hope that God will forgive us? Those are the questions we’re going to consider now, under the theme: “How to Understand–and Do–Christian Exhortations.”

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Published in: on September 1, 2017 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Who Is This Man?” (Matthew 16:13-20)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 27, 2017

“Who Is This Man?” (Matthew 16:13-20)

“Who is this man?” Who is this man Jesus? This is the most important question that has ever been asked. How will you answer it?

The question comes up in the Holy Gospel for today, from Matthew 16. Our text begins: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’”

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Published in: on August 26, 2017 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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“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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“The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-57)

Funeral Service
Monday, August 14, 2017

“The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-57)

Over 25 years as a pastor, I have had a number of World War II veterans as members of the congregations I have served. Homer Rouggly was one of them. In fact, Homer Rouggly might well be the last one that I will have the honor of laying to rest. That “Greatest Generation” is quickly passing away, and they were quite a crew.

By the way, for a number of years I had two World War II veterans sitting near each other in the pews at St. Matthew’s: Homer Rouggly and Albert Mertsch. The ironic thing was, they were both World War II veterans, but they had fought on opposite sides, Albert for his native Germany, and Homer for the United States. The fact that they were united as brothers in Christ and fellow members of his church is a testimony to the power of the gospel to reconcile people to God and to one another. Last year Albert died in the faith, and now it’s Homer’s turn.

And so it goes. One after another, the people we’ve known our whole lives slip away from us, and we feel the loss. For you in the Rouggly family, it’s been a double loss this year, first Dorothy in May and now Homer in August. Just three months apart. Married for 70 years, and then going home to the Lord within three months of one another. You who have known them your whole lives, as your father and mother, as your grandfather and grandmother, as great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents even, this is going to leave a void in your lives. But you will have all those wonderful memories to look back on, and that will help. And you will have one another to lean on for support.

Even more, though, you will have the comfort of the gospel of Christ to strengthen you and to give you hope. That is the rock you can rely on that will never let you down. Because of what Jesus Christ did for you and did for Homer, you can have the sure hope of a joyful and eternal future. For in Christ we know that the final outcome has already been decided. The victory has been won. And “The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Death.”

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Published in: on August 14, 2017 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word Is Near You, in Your Mouth and in Your Heart” (Romans 10:5-17)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 13, 2017

“The Word Is Near You, in Your Mouth and in Your Heart” (Romans 10:5-17)

There is a wealthy author and art dealer in New Mexico by the name of Forrest Fenn. A lover of adventure, Mr. Fenn decided to fill a chest with gold nuggets, rare coins, jewelry, and gemstones, and to hide this treasure somewhere in the American West. He gave out clues, so that other adventure-seekers could search for the treasure chest and hopefully find it. The hidden treasure is said to be worth about two million dollars.

Well, in the seven years since this began, dozens and dozens of treasure hunters have gone searching for this hidden treasure. They have covered hundreds of miles, traversed deserts, scaled mountains, forded rivers, and faced all kinds of obstacles and dangers. In fact, two, possibly three, searchers have died in their quest for Fenn’s treasure.

These treasure hunters have gone to great lengths, literally, trying to find this fortune. How far would you go? Now if I told you there was a treasure far richer than Mr. Fenn’s–millions of times richer, incalculable–and that this treasure was reachable, attainable, able to be found, how far would you go? What if I told you that this treasure was not far away, that you don’t have to go searching hundreds of miles in the wilderness to find it? Even more, that I will give you not just some obscure clues but the very message you need to find it? That’s what I’m talking about today when I say, “The Word Is Near You, in Your Mouth and in Your Heart.”

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Published in: on August 12, 2017 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Come and Be Satisfied!” (Isaiah 55:1-5)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 6, 2017

“Come and Be Satisfied!” (Isaiah 55:1-5)

Today the Lord is extending an invitation to you. He is saying to each one of us today: “Come and eat!” “Come and drink!” “Come and Be Satisfied!”

“Come and be satisfied!” This is the message God is speaking to us today through his prophet Isaiah. Our text is the Old Testament Reading from Isaiah 55. Listen again to the first part of this text: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”

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Published in: on August 5, 2017 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Inseparable!” (Romans 8:28-39)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 30, 2017

“Inseparable!” (Romans 8:28-39)

Do you ever worry that God has given up on you? That he’s finally had enough and is ready to kick you to the curb? It’s like God is thinking: “Oh, my goodness! There he goes again! Haven’t I told him often enough not to do those things? What am I going to do with this one?” Yeah, how could God put up with a supposed Christian as lousy as I am? So I wonder if I’m going to make it with God all the way to the end.

Or maybe you think God has forgotten about you. I mean, look at all the troubles you’re having. You don’t have enough money. Your income is going down. Your expenses are going up. Your health–well, it’s one thing after another. Your life is a mess. Some of the people closest to you have deserted you. And you think: “Maybe God has deserted me, too. He doesn’t seem to care. Nothing is changing for the better. I mean, come on!”

This is how we feel. We look at all the troubles in our life: “Where is God in all this? Why isn’t he doing something about it?” We feel the pangs of conscience in our heart: “What kind of a Christian am I? How can God accept me?” And we feel distant from God, separated from him. We wonder, and we worry. So it is to people like us that our Epistle reading today especially speaks. To Christians who are wondering and worrying whether God really still loves us, St. Paul today declares that God’s love for us is “Inseparable!”

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Published in: on July 29, 2017 at 8:12 pm  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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