The Beginning of the Gospel…

Biblical Text: Mark 1:1-8
Full Draft Sermon

All of the canonical gospels have their own spirit, a spirit expressed often at the very beginning. This is “year B” in our three year cycle of readings, so we are in the Gospel according the Mark. Mark’s spirit is one of immediacy, of now. It is a spirit of beginnings and ending. It relentlessly presses us with the oddness of the inbreaking kingdom. And with that very wonder and strangeness invites us to begin. To prepare the way. To make the paths straight. Now. Because you know not the time. The mighty one comes right behind, and all flesh will see the glory of the Lord. This sermon is a attempt to capture that strangeness, to experience the beginning of the gospel. To hear and fear the word to make straight the paths to our hearts.

Worship note: I have left in two hymns. The one before the sermon and the one after. Both share a word – Hark! It is the call of the herald, the Baptist, listen! Important information follows. LSB 349, Hark the Glad Sound, I believe reflect the pure Gospel content of that message. The greater one comes bringing a baptism of the Spirit. A baptism that bursts the gates of brass, and make the iron fetters yield. LSB 345, Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding, captures well the immediacy of the Hark and the pressure it puts on us. “Cast away the works of darkness, all you children of the day!” And that pressure it recognizes coming from its eschatology. “So when next he comes in glory, and the world is wrapped in fear…”. Two marvelous advent hymns that happen to have a couple of wonderful tunes as well.

Advent Inspirations

Biblical Text: Isaiah 63:15-64:10, Mark 11:1-10
Full Sermon Draft

Advent gets short shrift in modern America, and it shouldn’t. Of all the seasons of the church year, it is Advent that feels most like home to me. Christmas and Easter are holidays, by which I mean nice to visit but you can’t stay. Epiphany is an intellectual and meditative season which are not words to describe most Americans. The long season of Pentecost only takes meaning if we feel like we are living in the Pentecost. But for me I think most of us are “waiting of the consolation of Israel”. It feels like we are living in soccer’s “extra time”. That is advent. And that is what this sermon attempts to do, weaving around Isaiah’s desires for the Lord to “rend the heavens and come down” and Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, I have tried to invoke the feelings of separation and drawing near, of desiring repentance, the face of God being hidden, and yet the reign of God is present.

Worship Note: Our closing hymn LSB 348, The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns, captures many of these advent inspiration. It closes out the recording.

Not Fame, But Glory

Biblical Text: Matthew 25:31-46
Full Sermon Draft

Looking at the word cloud I hope I didn’t abuse the pulpit today. When a name is bigger than Christ or Jesus or even a generic God, I get worried. That and nobody knows the Iliad, and the Brad Pitt movie didn’t really help, although Brad Pitt was the absolute perfect Achilles. Anyway, this sermon is a little more reflective of the text which is the last judgment. The last judgment scene tells me two things: a) what Christ is looking for from his sheep and b) the reality of final causes or end goals. It is these two things that are almost 100% in opposition to what the world at the time held out as reality. It is these two things that are becoming increasingly at odds with out world. What Christ is looking for is love of God expressed in love of our neighbor. Seeing Christ is the least. And what we do here matters, because we are made to meet our maker. We are made for glory, not fame.

In our current environment that call feel disappointing or oppressive, but that is the nature of life under the cross. The excellence of the Kingdom has nothing to do with the excellence of the world. The weight of the Kingdom is eternal while fame blows away.

So, this sermon might have been a little too narcissistic. I might have needed to hear it more than anyone else. But I do think it preaches the text in an honest and deep way, if not a direct way.

Happy Thanksgiving

This was the Thanksgiving message. Hope you and your’s had a good day and continue having a good weekend with family and friends.

Text: Thanksgiving, 4Th Commandment, Psalm 104, Luke 19:1-10
Gospel in the World

That first Thanksgiving was definitely a celebration of material good, but it was also something larger than that. The pilgrims had arrived at Plymouth Rock in November of 1620. They spent that winter on the Mayflower. When they got off the ship in March 21st of 1621, less than half were alive. By November of 1621 that colony had had a good harvest, had seen its first marriage in May, and had established relations with the local tribes.

Luther’s long list of what is meant by daily bread – food, drink…house, home…husband, wife…good weather, peace, health…good friends. Could clearly be seen. Gov. Bradford’s Thanksgiving declaration is short, but has some of that same flavor.
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience…”

It is not as if the ravages of just a year prior were forgotten. What those pilgrims recognized was providence. They recognized exactly what Luther says in his first part. That God gives daily bread to everyone, even evil people. What we pray for when we ask for our daily bread is to recognize who it comes from, and to receive it with thanksgiving.
Trouble in the World

What I always find interesting is that is somehow seems to be easier to recognize providence after 7 skinny years instead of 7 fat ones.
Maybe there has been a time and place of greater material abundance than the United States, but I doubt it. I’ve read elsewhere that the number one health problem of the poor in America is obesity. Yet at the same time as our astounding material providence, it seems to give us nothing but trouble.

The bread to strengthen man’s heart, is turned into obesity, diabetes and drugs. The wine made to gladden the hearts of men, is tuned to abuse. The oil to make faces shine, seems to turn rancid.
We receive it all, and yet we don’t.

Trouble in the Text

And we don’t, not because God does not provide – because he does. We don’t because we often don’t recognize what we have. And when we don’t recognize what we have, we turn God’s good gifts into things that kill us.

The Pharisees had it all. As Paul would say, “to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ (Rom 9:4-5).” They had the promise and presence of God. Yet that great providence had been reduced to checking off Sabbaths. “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”

They had received it all. But they didn’t know “that something greater than the temple was there.”

They wanted the sacrifice, and rebuffed the mercy.

Gospel

But the son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

When he hides his face, we are dismayed. When he takes away his breath, we die and return to dust.

When he sends forth his Spirit, we are created, and he renews the face of the ground.

The material is good, but the deep goodness of it rests upon knowing what we have – a Spiritual truth that those Pilgrims knew.
We have not just the providence of God, our daily bread. God surely provides this to everyone, even to all evil people. But we have the mercy of almighty God.

Christ has poured out his Spirit upon all flesh such that the presence of God is with us. We are renewed daily and hourly. We are renewed unto eternal life.

If we receive it. If we receive our daily bread – the manifold material gifts of the Father – with thanksgiving. If we just take it – it is never enough. But received with thanksgiving, we are filled with god things.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works. And I am sure of this, that he who began this good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Economics of the Reign

Biblical Text: Matthew 25:14-30
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the parable of the talents. We have trouble reading this today I think because the word talent itself has become on English word with a meaning. A specific gloss of this parable is part of our language just in the use of that word, talent. What this sermon attempts to do is hear the parable in parallel with last weeks, and not just accepting the embedded gloss. I did that because that embedded gloss skips the gospel. It delivers the moral punch without pondering the reason why. To me the talents is all about our big choice in this life. Who is God? Is God hard and capricious and untrustworthy, or his He full of steadfast love? Is the economics of the kingdom about scarcity or about love? The amount of talents, the returns, the numbers that catch our attention are so much yawn. What the Lord is interested in is the attitude of our hearts towards him. Do we trust him to do what he’s promised, or not? Are we fearful, or faithful?

Shoeboxes Packed

Our Women’s Group finished packing their boxes this morning. Had to wait for the last minute arrival of the playing cards and erasers. Although the big thing is the soccer balls and pumps. I hope the kids don’t mind playing with “USA” emblazoned “futballs”. 51 boxes plus the wider congregation has already dropped some others off plus some will come in Sunday. I’d like to thank everyone in the congregation who contributed to our box drive. I’d also like to thank everyone who has helped with being a collection site this year. Our hallway is filling up with boxes with the big days to go.

Operation Christmas Child – Shoebox Collection

We are a shoebox collection point this year. The hours we are open for collection are:
M-F Nov 13 – 17 4-7 PM
Sat Nov 18 9 AM – 12
Sun Nov 19 12 – 3 PM
Mon Nov 20 7 – 10AM

Then…And Now

Biblical Text: Matthew 25:1-13
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the wise and foolish virgins which is one of Jesus’ most enigmatic parables of the kingdom. The images are striking, but we often don’t know what to make of it. For Protestants and Lutherans especially the simple reading would seem to give too much play to good works. It doesn’t really fit neatly into any theological system. Which is probably part of its intention as the point is “watch”. What helps me is the word and tense it starts out with: then with a future tense. Then the reign of God will be compared to 10 virgins. Then things are simple – 5 are wise and 5 are foolish and you can tell them easily. The wise have brought oil. The “then” and the future time frame is the end of days. The parable invites a then and now comparison. It describes then and asks us what behaviors and what “watching” has lead to this immutable divide. What lead to the 5 wise having oil, and the 5 foolish not? All fell asleep, what lead to the difference? This sermon is a fleshing out of that.

Worship Note: The recording includes what is one of the top 5 hymns of all time: Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying. That is LSB 516. The hymn tune seems to capture the affect of rising from slumber to a happy tumult. The text is a poetic meditation on the words of scripture applied to the person or the collective Zion hearing the proclamation.

Revelation and Challenge

Biblical Text: 1 John 3:1-3 (Psalm 136)
Full Sermon Draft

Today was All Saints (observed) on the church calendar. In Lutheran circles All Saints is not a celebration of some spiritual elite but the celebration of the church in all its dimensions – the church militant, the church at rest, and the longed for church triumphant. Given special notice are those who have entered rest in the past year of the congregation’s life. Because of this juxtaposition of those of us still struggling and those at rest, as well as its position toward the end of the church year, it opens itself to a meditation on our now and not yet existence. Now we are children of God; not yet do we fully know what that means. That is John’s writing. We see the Love of God, but every time we see it, it is met with challenge. Satan challenges it, the world refuses to see it, and even our own weary flesh can challenge what has been revealed to us. God loves us. When Christ appears, we will be like him in glory, in that resurrection body. We know this because we’ve seen it, or have accepted the witness of the apostles. That is what we know by faith and by hope. And because we hope, we live into that not-yet reality now. “We purify ourselves as he is pure.” No, we will not always be successful. But blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Free Indeed

Biblical Text: John 8:31-36
Full Sermon Draft

It was a full service. Reformation Day, A Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Lots of Red. We did something a little different, the choir got the showpiece – “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”. That is a treat left in the recording. I went with reformation Baptismal hymns for the day. LSB 596, All Christians Who Have Been Baptized, is left in the recording.

Reformation Day is primarily about justification. That is the fancy term for what Christ did for us. The bible speaks of this work in many different language domains: New Life (like baptism), sacrifice (the lamb), legal (advocate) and some others that the sermon starts with. The domain of John 8, our text, is deliverance. The Son has made us free. We are often tempted to judge this freedom lightly, or to trade it away for next to nothing. This sermon attempts in the context of Reformation Day to proclaim the magnitude of the freedom on offer.