Don’t Turn Away. This is the Reign of God…Now.

Biblical Text: Matthew 13:24-43
Full Sermon Draft

Parables and the purpose of the parables have in the last couple of generations of interpreters have had two dramatically different purposes. In the hippy era, the parables were these nice earthy stories that allowed the interpreter to say whatever odd but nice things popped into their heads. Think Godspell, parable edition. Almost as a reaction to that, some interpreters latched on the evangelists’ quotes of Isaiah on the purpose of the parables. Parables were not meant to be understood except by disciples. Parables became an exercise not in creation homey communication, but in esoteric teaching. Both of these, at least in my reading, are horrible over-shoots. (I think the hippy version itself was a reaction to an overly stiff German “there is no allegory, there is only one meaning” parable dogma.) Part of what this sermon does is attempt to avoid both inviting the listener to imagine how the parables could have been a natural development from the actual ministry of Jesus.

I lean quite heavily on Jeff Gibbs for this, but I think he nails it. The parables themselves are preached to the crowds, and they are invitations to not turn away. Yes, this Reign of God doesn’t look like what is expected – a messy field, small, scandalous – but this is God working. In this they are a statement of the now. The sermon comes in two part though. Jesus moves into the house, and his explanations are to the disciples. To those who are following however haltingly, the emphasis isn’t so much on the now. They know the now. Jesus’s emphasis is on the not yet, the eschatological promise.

Worship note: with two “seed” type parables in a row, you really burn through those hymns. One of them, which we sang today is a little tricky. Not a surprise because LSB 654 (Your Kingdom, O God, Is My Glorious Treasure) is a hymn from 2003. Modern hymns so often have tunes or metrical phrasing that is just harder for congregations. So, I didn’t include that one, but instead left in our closing hymn, which is a classic. LSB 921, On What Has Now Been Sown.

Some 100, some 60, some 30…

Biblical Text: Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
Draft 1.0 (Vacation Sermon)

I was on vacation, so I didn’t deliver this sermon, one of our members gave it. I hope I didn’t throw him off too much writing in my own voice. As I say at the start, this is a favorite text to preach on and to worship with the hymnody associated with it.

I must apologize, I don’t have a recording. I could record it I suppose, but that wouldn’t be the sermon delivered. So, I’d invite you to read and ponder. The main hymn that is echoes through the sermon is Lutheran Service Book 584, Faith and Truth and Life Bestowing.

At That Very Time…

Biblical Text: Matthew 11:25-30
Full Sermon Draft

Ever felt that everything was going to crap? That something you had invested all your hopes in was coming up snake-eyes? That moment in the ministry of Jesus is what this sermon is about. That moment is the Word of the Cross. That is what I hoped this preaches.

Swords and Due Rewards

Biblical Text: Matthew 10:34-42
Full Sermon Draft

This is the completion of the reading of the Jesus’ missionary discourse or sermon on mission. The sermon is full of striking images, but this section has one of the most striking. “Don’t think I have come to bring peace, but a sword.” If the first part was about the inception of mission, the middle portion was about encouragement during mission, this last portion is about the results that can be expected. One of those expectation is the division of the cross. But the other expectation is the ultimate success of the mission. The preaching, teaching and ministry of the cross may bring a sword, but it also ensures due rewards through the work of the Body of Christ.

Worship note: I left in a song that we sang as a congregation for the first time. LSB 661, The Son of God Goes Forth to War. I’m have not in the past been a big fan of they hymns with martial images. That is not because the church militant is not a worthy theme, but I think even the hymnody that uses it often abuses it. Instead of aiming the martial spirit at what Jesus would – sin, the life of holiness – it become a triumphal “yea, us.” But in the context of the missionary discourse and the body of Christ this hymn sets it right. The invasion that started and was won by Jesus on the cross, continues from age to age in the church. Who will follow in their train the hymns asks? Those gathered singing – the prophets, the righteous and the little ones.

Stop Fearing – Here’s Why

Biblical Text: Matthew 10:21-33
Full Sermon Draft

As we start the long green season the readings have dropped us into the Missionary Discourse. That is a fancy way of saying Jesus’ sermon on sharing the faith. We read the start of it last week. This week in the middle we have Jesus both telling us what to expect, but also his encouragement. The expectation is various levels of persecution. But we are still disciples. We are call to follow the crucified. The core of the argument is encouragement. In the face of persecution the natural response is fear. Jesus three times says stop fearing. And with each tells us a bit of why we should have no fear.

Telling our faith is an appropriate reading for the day. In the Lutheran Church- the Church of the Augsburg Confession – June 25th is celebrated as the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. This is what should be known as reformation day. If you get me going what I’d say is that out of the Reformation came four churches. The first is the church of the Augsburg Confession (1530). Then came what we know as the Roman Catholic Church formed at Trent (1545-1563), The Anglican church with the 39 Articles (1562), and the Reformed Church which had its earliest generally accepted confession in the 2nd Helvetic (1562). The Lutheran versions have always been at great pains to say this is the faith that has always been confessed. Yes, the Romans ran away with the most people, but Augsburg is more true and the first flag raised in the ruins of the old Western Church, caused in much the same way that the missionary discourse begins, with Jesus recognizing the shepherds of the people have abused and left the post.

Worship Note: I left in two of our hymns today. The congregation was in great form especially in the opening, LSB 913, O Holy Spirit Enter In. I also left in our closing hymn, a sentimental favorite that is a great capstone to the text and sermon, LSB 725, Children of the Heavenly Father.

Flayed and Cast Away

Biblical Text: Matthew 9:35-10:8
Full Sermon Draft

Did I ever tell you how wimpy I think our modern translators are? By wimpy I largely mean they are representatives of their class and training. If the choice is between a gritty word and a noble concept, they reach for the noble concept every time. The example today is Matthew 9:36 in the ESV – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” My pushing it translation that I think gets more at what is going on – “When he saw the crowds, his guts were churned for them, because the were flayed and cast away, like sheep without a shepherd.” The point is that the devil, the world and our own sinful nature bleed us dry and throw out the dead bones. We are helpless in the face of these enemies. But that is what Jesus came to change. That is what the Holy Spirit’s indwelling changes. That is what the Father’s compassion changes, sending workers into his fields.

The gospel always comes freely. The question is once we have been freed, are we willing to freely give? Do we accept that our names are written in that lamb’s book right along with those twelve apostles. That Jesus’ mission, their mission, has become our mission.

Worship Note: I left in our opening hymn which I think is one of the few hymns that an update has improved. We sing typically LSB 827, Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling, which is a Starke re-write of the last three verses. He replaces what could often be a moralistic scold toward missions with a moving meditation on some of the parables of our response to the call. It always gets me.

This is the Catholic Faith (A Meditation on the Immanent Trinity and its competitors)

Text: Matthew 28:16-20, Athanasian Creed
Full Sermon Draft

Trinity Sunday is the one Sunday a year that I feel free to talk a little pure theology. It is not that my sermons other Sundays are theology free, they couldn’t be if you were being faithful. It is that there are theological ideas that I think explain a lot in a compact form, but you end up explaining and lecturing instead of preaching, and the point is preaching. Trinity Sunday, with its spotlight on the Athanasian creed (which I left our congregational recitation in the recording), is a day given to deep foundational theology. What God is in Himself. Don’t worry, I connect the concepts of the economic and immanent Trinity to Pixar, Marvel and DC, so I hope I brought it down a little. It is a day to make clear the God we invoke, Three in One, and expose the idols of the age.

A New Camaro; An Endless House

Biblical Text: John 7:37-39, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 3:17-19
Full Sermon Draft

The picture above is our confirmation class. Today was both Pentecost and our Confirmation day. Both of those things are closely connected to baptism, so that makes an appearance. This sermon is roughly divided into two halves. The first half is the Pentecost and Confirmation as a day portion. Why do we observe these things? What do they do? How do they relate to the gospel? The second part is more specific to the confirmands. I went old school and instead of letting/demanding that the confirmands choose a verse, I assigned them one. That verse becomes both a charge and a blessing – the old duties of a bishop, to teach and to bless. That second part is where the title comes from in preaching those confirmation verses.

Memorial and Ascension

Biblical Text: 1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11
Full Sermon Draft

Memorial Day is always a tough one for the church. Everybody, including the preacher, wants to acknowledge the sacrifice of those slain in the nation’s wars. The problem with that is our memorials are not just about the individual, but they are judgements or statements about the cause. When the church simply baptizes the secular memorials, it does something that it doesn’t have the authority to do. What this sermon attempts to do is make a distinction between worldly glory and the glory of God. When we understand that distinction and their basis, we should be able to be in world, including giving proper recognition to patriots, but not be of the world, which would mean uncritically agreeing with a state’s declarations. Because there are times when the state’s demands are something the church cannot give. In those times we recognize we are Peter’s elect exiles, bearing the little while, for the exaltation to come.

Organ Dedication

Organ Dedication Program
Organ Dedication Homily Text

We dedicated our new organ this Sunday. The full program recording is below. It was wonderful having Mr. Loomer. You won’t get the stereo sound out of our recording, which is why you should have been there. It was a good day.