“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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“Confessing the Faith with the Augsburg Confessors” (Psalm 119:46)

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
Sunday, June 25, 2017

“Confessing the Faith with the Augsburg Confessors” (Psalm 119:46)

Today Lutheran churches around the world are celebrating the 487th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. On June 25, 1530, in the city of Augsburg, Germany, a group of Lutheran princes presented a confession of their faith, composed by the theologian Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s right-hand man–they presented their confession to Emperor Charles V. That document, called the Augsburg Confession, summarizes what our Lutheran churches believe, teach, and confess, on the basis of Holy Scripture. Today then we want to consider what it means for us to be “Confessing the Faith with the Augsburg Confessors.”

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Published in: on June 24, 2017 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Kingdom of Priests” (Exodus 19:2-8)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 18, 2017

“A Kingdom of Priests” (Exodus 19:2-8)

“You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” What did this mean for Old Testament Israel? What does it mean for the church today? What does it mean for you in your life? That’s what we’re going to explore now as we consider the Lord’s calling for us to be “A Kingdom of Priests.”

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Published in: on June 17, 2017 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified by the Triune God” (Apostles’ Creed)

Funeral Service
Friday, June 16, 2017

“Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified by the Triune God” (Apostles’ Creed)

Bob, Karen, Michele, friends and family of our dear sister Dottie: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Christian funeral service is both a time of sadness and a time of hope. It is a time of sadness, because we will miss our dear loved one. And so we grieve. However, as St. Paul tells the Thessalonians, we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We do have hope, the only hope that works. For the Christian, our hope is firmly anchored in the goodness and the promises of the triune God. The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as we just confessed in the Apostles’ Creed: This is where we find the hope to sustain us in the midst of our sadness. And so it is today at this Christian funeral service for our sister Dottie. We mourn her loss, but we also find hope. The basis for our hope is that Dottie was “Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified by the Triune God.”

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Published in: on June 16, 2017 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Athanasian Creed: Incomprehensible?”

The Holy Trinity
Sunday, June 11, 2017

“The Athanasian Creed: Incomprehensible?”

Today is Trinity Sunday–or, more properly called, the Feast of the Holy Trinity–and as such, this is the one day in the year when we confess the Athanasian Creed. Actually, we believe, teach, and confess the Athanasian Creed 365 days a year; it’s just this is the one day in the year when we speak it aloud in church during the service.

You see, the church confesses three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. They are called “ecumenical” creeds, because they are held all across Christendom.

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Published in: on June 10, 2017 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From Tabernacles to Pentecost” (John 7:37-39)

“From Tabernacles to Pentecost” (John 7:37-39)

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, a major festival in the Christian church year. Today we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit, whom our ascended Lord Jesus Christ poured out on his church, as we read about in the second chapter of Acts. That was the beginning of the worldwide spread of the gospel, and you and I are here today as Christians because of what began on that first Pentecost.

Actually, though, that was not the first Pentecost. For the Christian Feast of Pentecost has its roots in the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. That’s why all those people were there in Jerusalem in the first place. They had come to observe the Jewish feast.

You see, there were three main festivals in the Jewish year, in the Hebrew calendar, when all pious Jews from all over would travel to Jerusalem and go to the temple to fulfill their religious duty. They were these three: the Feast of Passover, in the early spring; the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost, which occurred seven weeks, or fifty days, later in the spring; and then in the fall, the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. These three are called the pilgrimage festivals, because they called for Jews to make that pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Now at this point you’re probably saying, “Who cares? That stuff’s ancient history, and besides which, I’m not even Jewish! What does all that have to do with me?” Well, the answer is, a lot! As we’re about to find out, when you see how these Old Testament feasts are fulfilled in Christ. When you see how the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Passover come to fruition now in the Feast of Pentecost, then you will rejoice in the good gifts that God gives.

Our text today is the Holy Gospel from John 7. It consists of words that Jesus spoke at the Feast of Tabernacles. So you might be wondering why this is selected as a text for Pentecost. Well, the reason is that in this text Jesus is predicting what will happen on the Feast of Pentecost. So this morning we’re going to go on a pilgrimage “From Tabernacles to Pentecost,” and we may make a stop at Passover on the way.

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Published in: on June 3, 2017 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Our Anxieties and God’s Care” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 28, 2017

“Our Anxieties and God’s Care” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11)

What are your anxieties? What are you worried about? Anxiety is really another way to say worry. They pretty much mean the same thing. To be anxious, to be worried, means that something is weighing on your mind that you’re thinking about, almost obsessing about. You’re worried about what might happen in the future. It’s the negative prospect of what might happen that keep hanging around in your head. That’s anxiety, that’s worry.

So what are your anxieties? We all have them. From time to time, some negative possibility causes us to worry. Today we’ll look at some anxieties that are common among men, and, I dare say, even common among Christians. You see, it’s when our trust in God’s care is weak or wavering–that’s when we begin to worry. So that leads us to our theme for this morning: “Our Anxieties and God’s Care.”

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Published in: on May 27, 2017 at 11:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Ascension Day, the Forgotten Festival” (Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11)

The Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, May 25, 2017

“Ascension Day, the Forgotten Festival” (Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11)

Welcome to the Forgotten Festival! Today is Ascension Day, or, as it’s more properly called, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. But there is reason to call it, as I say, the “Forgotten” Festival. Because even though Ascension Day is classed in the church year as a major festival, which means it’s a day for all churches to hold the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament, the sad fact is that in recent decades many congregations and many Christians have forgotten all about celebrating this important festival.

It used to be that you could go to any Lutheran church–or any liturgical church, for that matter, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran–and they would have Ascension service on this day. But with the decline of Christian culture in our country, it’s pretty hard to find churches that are having service today. And where you do, it’s usually only the hardy few who turn out. You see, by definition the Ascension of Our Lord always comes forty days after Easter, which means it always falls on a Thursday. And it’s hard enough these days to get people to come to church on a Sunday, let alone on a Thursday.

By the way, there is another major festival in the church year that likewise has fallen on hard times, and that is the Epiphany of Our Lord. Epiphany is twelve days after Christmas, thus it always falls on January 6, which means it almost always falls on a day other than Sunday. Besides which, early January is cold and dark, and that cuts down even further on attendance. So I guess we could say that Epiphany and Ascension are the two Forgotten Festivals.

But happily, we do not forget these festivals here at St. Matthew’s! And today, being Ascension Day, I want you to know why we do not forget this day. For the Ascension of Our Lord is a wonderful, marvelous event, deserving of a day all its own. My goodness, the fact that Christ “ascended into heaven” even rates a line in all three of the ecumenical creeds! Tonight, then, I want to tell you why we remember and rejoice in the Ascension of Our Lord.

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Published in: on May 25, 2017 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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“A Living, Loving Family” (John 14:15-21)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 21, 2017

“A Living, Loving Family” (John 14:15-21)

Christ establishes his church to be “A Living, Loving Family.” And you are a part of it. A living, loving family. Now how do you hear that? Do you hear it as heavy demand, something we cannot possibly do? Or do you hear it as gift, something that Christ has graciously made us part of? Does Christ’s call for us to be a living, loving family–do you hear this as burden or gift? As pressure or joy? And besides how we hear it, there is also the question of how we do it. How do we do it? How do we manage to live together as a living, loving family? These are the questions we will explore now this morning.

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Published in: on May 20, 2017 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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