Tribal Counsels

Biblical Text: Mark 9:38-50

The text for the day feels like one of those collections of aphorisms. The sermon attempts to place them within the larger gospel narrative. But then spends the majority of time meditating on how the aphorisms “those who are not against us are for us”, “if hand/foot/eye cause you to sin cut them off” and “have salt in yourself” provide a surprisingly robust practical guidance on the problems of division or tribalism. I don’t say easy to live, but understandable with some spine. They are not just a collapse into a limp toleration. Neither are they a simplistic dualism. They are a call to the sanctified life.

Virtual Bulletin – 9/26

September 26th, 2021 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost


Wednesday…………..               St. Michael and All Angels

                                                 5:30pm             Confirmation

Thursday: ………………           Jerome, Translator

                                                 10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study


Our Service Book in the front under “The Church Year” has a three-fold division: Sunday’s and Seasons, Feast and Festivals and Commemorations.  The Sundays and Seasons are big things like Lent or Epiphany, things we change the altar colors for.  The Feast and Festivals are the major events of the life of Christ and the “saint days” of the apostles or other major early figures plus Reformation Day.  The commemorations are people and events of later years that the Synod at large thought deserve notice.  The Augsburg Confession (AC 22) states “Our Churches teach that the history of saints may be set before us so that we may follow the example of their faith and good works.”  Individual parishes might add their own commemorations of a local “saint” who is set before us.  You might have noticed a week or two ago I added “Holy Cross Day” in the list.  Above you see St. Michael and All Angels and Jerome.  St. Michael is a Feast Day, although not one we observe on the nearest Sunday.  Jerome was the translator of Scripture into Latin – the bible of Western Church from his work until the Reformation.  As these days roll through, I’m going to start noting them in Upcoming Activities and occasionally comment on them.


What is the most common religious practice or instinct? Come up with an answer before reading on….Ok, you probably came up with prayer.  At least that would be my answer.  I can’t think of a religious tradition that doesn’t have some form of prayer.  Now there are wildly different types of prayer, from simple petitions (I need this God) to what we call mediation, a vacating of our mind in search of the divine will.  Paul’s four-fold request in 1 Timothy 2 still covers the general Christian use: supplications (requests for ourselves), prayers (talking things out with God), intercessions (requests for others), and thanksgiving (returning praise to God for his providence).  But all of this prayer can often run into a mental or even doctrinal roadblock. Doesn’t God know all this stuff already?  Can my prayers really influence the Almighty God?  Are the prayers of someone “more worthy” more likely to be heard?  That seems to be what James implies this week. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).”  All of those questions can silence our prayers. Let me offer a quick answer to those in case your prayers have been blocked.

“Doesn’t God know all this already?” Yes.  But get out your bibles and turn to Matthew 6:8-13.  Jesus tells us The Father knows, and then immediately says “pray this way” giving us the Lord’s Prayer.  The Father knows and he wants us to know.  He wants us to know both that He does provide and that He listens.  Jesus’ “pray this way” is about how we talk.  Prayer is not a magical incantation that seeks to move God.  It is not about exactly the right sequence of words.  The Kingdom of God certain comes without our prayer.  But in our prayers we pray that the Kingdom will come to us also.  Our prayers are about moving our hearts within the kingdom.

What about the effectiveness of prayer?  Does God actually change?  Whole books have been written on this arguing both sides.  But this is the difference between the God of the Philosophers and The Revealed God.  The Revealed God does respond.  James says to the sick, “call the elders and let them pray over him…and the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick (James 5:15).”  The God revealed in Jesus desires prayer to be effective.  And whatever logical problems that causes with the philosophers, you can take those up with God in prayer also. God listens to his own.

But what about the tough question?  Are some prayers heard more than others?  Who is the righteous person of James 5:16? Read the full verse.  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power.” The righteous person is the forgiven person.  The righteous person in the one who believes that Jesus has taken away our sin and the sin of our brothers and sisters.  The righteous person is the one who forgives.  The Lutheran teaching on saints is not that they are closer to God and so can get us the good stuff.  The Lutheran teaching on saints is that they are our examples.  They believed and it was credited to them as righteousness. Their prayers were heard in Christ.  Likewise in faith our prayers are heard in Christ.  We are all the communion of saints, those made righteous by the blood of Jesus.  So ask boldly, ask in faith, knowing that the Lord provides everything his people need.


  • Thurs 10am: 1 John, Darkness and Light, The Antichrist, Children of God, Love one another, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Back to Work!
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  October 7th, Fruits of the Spirit
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: I apologize for this.  When I run out of time this is the last thing added and the first skipped. I will get back to it this week.


October 24th will be the budget presentation and officer nominations.  November 7th will be voting.


We are going to attempt a Beef on Weck on November 6.  You might be asked to help, please do help.  Ellen and Lisa and Abel Acuña are the contact points.

Sanctified Ambition?

Biblical Text: Mark 9:30-37

The text is probably a familiar one, at least it contains a couple of Jesus’ aphorisms that still have public purchase. “The one who wants to be first must be the servant of all” and “who ever welcomes the little child, welcomes me and the one who sent me.” These two sayings form Jesus’ teaching on ambition, although as I’m always saying the context of Jesus’ aphorisms is important. This sermon ponders the struggle of the divine and human ambition with Jesus himself. And this struggle (think about the Garden of Gethsemane) is the frame for a Christian teaching on ambition. Crucifying our ambition toward domination (“Who is the greatest”) and raising our ambition for service toward those whose only recompense is from God.

Virtual Bulletin – 9/19

September 19th, 2021 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost


Mon – Wed:………….              Pastor at Doxology (Mon Afternoon – Wed Morning)

Monday: ………………             6:00pm             Women’s Group

Wednesday…………..               5:30pm             Confirmation

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study


The creeds that we say every week have their three-article structure with each article confessing a person of the Trinity.  But also when confessing that person they confess a particular action most associated with the person.  The Father is the Creator.  The Son is the Savior.  The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.  Out of that basic structure grew the classic outline of theology.  The first locus would be The Doctrine of God.  In many individual theologies that doctrine starts out with the god of classical theism, the god of the Philosophers.  If you have met this god it is probably in the list of divine attributes: unity, simplicity, immutability, omnipresent, eternal and so on.  But that god never revealed himself.  Much of that is confirmed in revelation, but it remains largely speculation of an unknown god.  The Father revealed himself.  He revealed himself in the work of creation.  He eventually reveals himself most fully in Jesus.  The God we can know and love is the revealed God.

The second doctrine is typically the doctrine of Man.  What is man?  What does it mean that God has become man or a man? With what type of nature did God create us? Small questions. Eventually the theology has to answer and not just pose questions.  If you are Descartes you say that man is two-fold – a mind and the body.  I think, therefore I am.  And that is how most of our world continues to thing about man leading to such things a the “mind-body” problem or the problem of consciousness. How does the mind interact with the body?  How does the material body produce the mind?  Why do separate minds appear to share the same material universe? (That’s The Matrix problem.  How do you know that the entire world is not just a projection fed your individual mind?)  Not that Christian Theology has never delved into those things, but Christian Theology has tended to see man not as dual but in three parts.  The emotions and base desires with the seat of the gut.  The rational mind with its seat of the head.  And joining these is the will with its seat of the heart.  Ignoring, or maybe I should just say accepting naïve reality, Christian Theology, especially Reformation Theology, has stressed that it is our will, our hearts, that are wrong.  It is not just that we desire, gut level, the wrong things, but that we then tend to translate that desire into active will.  And we turn our reason into self-justification.  I have taken x, because I wanted x, so brain explain why this is good, right and salutary when it is not.

This is what James picks up this in this week’s Epistle reading (James 3:13-4:10).  “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” Our reason would do exactly that.  It will deny the truth and boast about other reasons, to cover actions of jealousy and ambition. The world is status market full of pushing and grabbing, and if you don’t promote yourself, nobody else will.  But James insists that wisdom is in works of meekness.  We will the wrong things.  “Is it not your passion at war within you? (James 4:1)” that produce our quarrels.  Our envy of things we think should be ours and yet aren’t leads to murder or simply hatred of the one who has.  Why don’t we have?  God wishes to give us the bounty of his providence.  “We ask wrongly, to spend it on our passions.” We take God’s good and perfect gifts and use them to further our quarrels.  We take the gifts of God to make peace with the world or to buy our way in it.  “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4)?”  And so God, if he is merciful, spares us this by not giving us what we ask.  James is pointing why we do not have and all the ways our hearts – our wills – have gone wrong.

At the end he returns to the thought, or maybe question at this point, if God wants to give us the gifts of his grace, how does grace work?  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).”  God’s greatest gifts are not things we strive after, but things he gives away.  The way of the Kingdom is not the way of the world.  Yes, if you are in the world, you better run your own PR.  If you are of the Kingdom, “humble yourselves before the LORD, and he will exalt you (James 4:10).” The doctrine of man?  Fallen, but redeemed. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, but restore unto me the joy of Your salvation. Seek first the Kingdom, and all these things shall be given unto you.  Lord so move our hearts toward your good fruits (James 3:17) and friendship with your Son.


  • Thurs 10am: 1 John, Darkness and Light, The Antichrist, Children of God, Love one another, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Covered the Intro, be prepared for the First Commandment
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  This Thursday, Fruits of the Spirit: Gentleness
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Baptism continues in your inbox


6 PM Monday here at church.  Dinner and fellowship. All invited. (They might have an actual agenda also.)


An internet friend is gathering a survey of LCMS Lutherans for a Grad School project.  It takes about 15 mins and asks some questions about your religious upbringing and the current LCMS.  If you would like to take his survey it can be found at

Coming Down the Mountain

Biblical Text: Mark 9:14-29

The Gospel text assigned for today is the second half of a pair that occurs in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark and Luke). The first part is the transfiguration, when Peter, James and John are taken up the mountain and see Jesus transfigured in glory. The second part is this story of arguments, crowds, fathers, sons and evil. It is a story of the confusion that reigns here on the plain, here at the bottom of the mount. And since they are always juxtaposed the text invites us to ponder, what is the difference between the mountaintop experience and life down below. The big difference is the role of faith. The mountaintop is not about faith, because you see. You might have trouble comprehending what you see. Integrating what you see might be tough. But you don’t have to have faith in it. Life on the plain is about faith. This sermon ponders that difference and the meaning of a prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief”, and prayer in general (“This kind only comes out by prayer”) in the life of faith lived here on the plain.

Virtual Bulletin – 9/12

September 12th, 2021 – 16th Sunday after Pentecost


Monday: ………………             6:00pm             Men’s Group

Tuesday………………              Holy Cross Day

Wednesday…………..               5:00pm             Confirmation

                                                 7:30pm             Church Council

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study


We are back to recording weekly attendance.    Please help with this. Record your presence in the pew books!


In Sunday morning bible study we recently were reading Mark 13, which is the Markan apocalypse. Jesus is leaving the temple grounds for the last time and the disciples are marveling over “such large stones”.  Jesus tells them “not one stone will be left on top of another.”  At least a world is ending, if not the world.  And such a prediction spurs the disciples to two questions: 1) When will these things be, and 2) What will be the signs?  Jesus’ answer contains a little of AD 70 when that temple was destroyed and not one stone was left on top of another, and a little of a much larger apocalypse.  If the first had some signs, like “when you see the abomination of desolation”, the second does not.  No one knows the time, not even the Son (Mark 13:32).  Which supports one of Jesus’ mantras – “keep awake (Mark 13:37).”

The concern within Christian circles always seems to be with the second part – the end of the world.  But as a preacher, if I am being true to the scriptures, I find that part boring.  The only message one can preach is “watch.” Which is important, but eventually you become the boy who cried wolf if you bring it to the foreground all the time.  “Watch” to me is more that salutary reminder that “today your soul might be required of you.”  Or as the hymn puts it “for the foe, well we know, is a harvest reaping, while the saints are sleeping.” These days I find myself thinking about the first part.  If everything in scripture is given to us to learn from, what happens to Israel happens to all, what does AD 70, the end of a world, tell us?  And what signs will be given that our world is ending, not the world but the big stones of our temple coming down? And if you think God is not involved in the nations intimately start with Acts 17:26, Deuteronomy 32:8, Job 12:23 and Isaiah 41:2.  I think Jesus even points a bit at this when he says “from the fig tree learn its lesson (Mark 13:28).” One day, on the way into Jerusalem, Jesus spies a fig tree in full leaf, but it has no fruit, so he curses it.  And by evening on the trip back, the cursed fig tree is dead.

There seems to me to be a tension between that parable of the fig tree, which is about the immanent judgement of the LORD and another tree parable, the barren fig in Luke 13: 8ff.  In that one the man who planted the tree has given it three years and it is still fruitless, so he orders it taken out.  But the vinedresser argues with him, give it one more year, I will take some extraordinary steps.  The problem in both is fruitlessness.  Repent and bear fruit is always an answer.  But sometimes the sign is a call of extraordinary attention, and others the final pronouncement.  Some signs are “wars and rumors of wars…earthquakes and famines.” Some signs are towers falling.  Like the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4-5). They are extraordinary steps to say “do you think you are better than other sinners? No I tell you, repent or perish (Luke 13:4-5).” But some signs are the abomination of desolation, the cursing of the fruitless fig.  It is mildly disconcerting the other 20th century superpower left Afghanistan in defeat in February of 1989, and by November of 1989 the Berlin Wall had fallen and a world ended.

But even in the midst of these things Jesus tells us three things: 1) God is working for the sake of the elect.  There will be signs and wonders, but it is impossible to lead astray those God has chosen. 2) Be on your guard.  The five wise virgins brought oil with them. 3) I have told you these things beforehand.  Worlds end, even the world will end.  But they do so at the command of the LORD.  And as much as we might be formed by the big stones of the temples of this world, Our Rock is not in this world. Our temple is a heavenly one. We worship with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven. And nothing shall pull that Rock down.  The house built on the Rock stands.


  • Thurs 10am: 1 John, Darkness and Light, The Antichrist, Children of God, Love one another, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  New Class Starts this week
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Paused for now?
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Reading the catechism on Baptism directly to your inbox.


6 PM Monday here at church.  Dinner and fellowship. All invited.


An internet friend is gathering a survey of LCMS Lutherans for a Grad School project.  It takes about 15 mins and asks some questions about your religious upbringing and the current LCMS.  If you would like to take his survey it can be found at


If you could pick up a week, the sign-up sheet is on the first bulletin board.  Thanks!

Taking the Long Way

Biblical Text: Mark 7:31-37

Sometimes the smallest thing in the text can inspire a thought. Here it is the travel notice -“He returned from the region of Tyre through Sidon…”. Jesus goes north to return south. But the travel notice state or implies a much longer journey, something of a great circular route, a long way. But even when you take the long way, you eventually end up where you are going. And that is what confronts Jesus when he completes the circle. It is often what confronts us on our spiritual walk-abouts. When we’ve taken the long way, the spiritual question remains, and how we are going to answer it. That is what this sermon is about.

Virtual Bulletin – 9/5

September 5th, 2021 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost


Monday: ………………             Labor Day

Tuesday………………              First Day of Preschool

                                                 7:00pm             Elder’s Meeting

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study


James is an odd little book, but it might not be so odd if we categorized it right.  The Bible has a lot of genres in it.  There are historical narratives and biographies.  There are poems and hymns and prophetic oracles including apocalyptic ones.  There are letters and something called wisdom literature. And that is where I think some of the confusion sets in.  Most of the New Testament is apostolic letters.  James itself looks superficially like a letter.  But we try to read James as if he is doing the same things as Paul. Paul is preaching and correcting and encouraging people he usually knows.  Romans is the exception, but even in Romans, paul imagines a specific congregation and a specific purpose.  He wants their support for his missionary work and the letter is sharing what Paul preaches.  James is wisdom literature, like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. James is an apostle and relative of Jesus sharing his best advice.  He is the head apostle of the Jewish church in Jerusalem sharing sanctified wisdom won through long experience. As such, maybe it doesn’t always apply.  That is part of wisdom, discerning when things truly are different.  The race is normally to the swift and the battle to the strong, but occasionally the tortoise beats the hare.  James is about normally.

Normally we are desirous of status and money.  Money isn’t always status, but it is usually a floor.  Even the church is not immune to such things (surprise!). James’ sanctified wisdom is to fight against that normal pull.  “Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (James 2:1).”  And in this case James gives his reasoning.  The world of the gospel is topsy-turvy. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith (James 2:5)?” Is that always the case?  No.  Even Jesus would say “with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27)” in response to the same thought.  But there is something about the rich not needing Jesus quite as much.  Picture the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. So much so that even the thought of needing something outside himself, as the gospel is proclaimed to us from outside of ourselves, often invites persecution.  “Are the rich not the ones who oppress you, and drag you into court, and blaspheme the name (James 2:6-7).”

And then that topic is put down and another picked up.  In our reading today (James 2:1-18) that topic is the connection between faith and works.  Paul and the entire Reformation is about preaching “grace alone through faith alone, so that no one can boast.”  Our salvation is never our work and James would agree with that.  But his wisdom is still that works are necessary.  The Reformers would agree.  From the Book of Concord, the Lutheran confessional documents, “Good works certainly and without a doubt follow truth faith, if it is not a dead but a living faith, just as fruit grows on a good tree. (Formula of Concord IV p. 6.).” And also, “We also believe, teach and confess that all people, but especially those who are born again and renewed by the Holy Spirit, are obligated to do good works (FC IVp8).”  James’ wisdom?  That faith which does not produce works willingly is a dead tree.  “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).”

Wisdom literature can serve as law.  Looking in the mirror of James, am I a dead tree?  This is probably how it normally is taken as we compare ourselves to “normally.”   Wisdom literature can also be gospel. “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it (James 2:10).” And we have all fallen short, yet God has not abandoned us.   


  • Thurs 10am: We are going to read the letters of John, new start, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Tentatively starting Sept 15th
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returning – Huddling after service today to talk?
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: We will continue the sacraments, sorry about this week.

Keep Your Soul Diligently

Biblical Text: Mark 7:14-23, Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

Both of these texts are holding up the law. Moses encouraging Israel about to cross the Jordan to remember it, to keep and do it. And the Jesus describing the natural state of our hearts in regard to the law. Out of the heart come all evil thing. But in each case the law serves a specific purpose. It isn’t salvific – it doesn’t have the power to save. Neither is the point purely to damn us. The point is to hold before us the love of God, to point us to the gospel. And it is that love of God held before our eyes that keeps it in the heart – that give us a clean heart and renewed spirit.

Virtual Bulletin – 8/29

August 29th, 2021 – 14th Sunday after Pentecost


Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study


This Sunday is our last reading in the book of Ephesians (Eph 6:10-20).  We first said that Paul’s letters are usually divided into two parts. The first part is the main argument which in Ephesians used financial (“in him we have the redemption”), familial (“we have obtained an inheritance”) and cosmic (“chosen before the foundation of the world”) language to proclaim the gospel – what Christ has done for us.  The second part of Paul’s letters turns to how we then live the Christian life.  In Ephesians the key is “walk in love as Christ first loved us.”  And Paul continued the financial language describing those who “have no inheritance” while also encouraging us to “not become partners with them” but with the wise.  He described how walking in love looks in the family – husband and wife, children and parents, and the larger household of the day.  He saves for his poetic ending the cosmic language.

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  Such a message is hard to hear for modern materialists like ourselves.  If one doesn’t believe in Satan, or if one’s conception of God is a very distant watchmaker who does not really participate in his creation, cosmic powers get reduced to things like bad government policy or systemic effects.  Utopia is just the right policy, some remediation and good education away.  And one goes off to battle without even recognizing the enemy, believing it is just flesh and blood, blind and naked against such cosmic powers.  Such leadership, such education, is quickly and easily routed. The best of intentions turned to partnership with this present darkness.

Paul’s encouragement is that God has given us what we need for this cosmic battle.  “Put on the whole armor of God.” He portrays the eternal things as the Legionnaires battle gear. Truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the word – these are how one stands on The Day. The solider on enemy ground – in the world of the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers – keeps communications live (“praying at all times”) and keeps guard (“keep alert with perseverance making supplication for all the saints.”)   Walking in love cosmically is being the outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven in enemy territory. But the call of duty is not kill them all and let God sort them out.  It is not the conquest of this world, for this world is passing away.  The call of duty is to hold onto those eternal things in the midst of the changeable world “that we might withstand in the evil day and stand firm.”  The specific call might be quite different person to person, hence the supplications for all the saints, including Paul’s request for himself “that I might open my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains.”

We walk in love in a loveless world.  The Kingdom of God is one of love.  The Kingdom’s of this world are ones that use love for other ends, to lead you, if possible, into darkness.  But cosmically, you have been chosen before the foundation of the world. You have a calling. Put on the armor and join the fight.


  • Thurs 10am: We are going to read the letters of John, new start, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Tentatively starting Sept 15th after school
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returns in September
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: We started the Sacraments this week.  If you didn’t receive, make sure I have your email


Thank you for all those who have already returned the contact information. For those who have not been present, we will be mailing out the info form.  We will also be moving on to getting updated photos for everyone.  If you have a photo that you like, and it is in digital form, you can email it to John Bayer who will also be taking photos at church.  He can also scan in physical photos.


Thank you to those who have contacted me.