Monthly Archives: January 2016

God’s Not Going Away

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Biblical Text: Luke 4:31-44
Full Sermon Draft

An honest appraisal first. This I think is one of those sermons that is rich content wise, but attempting to put a title on it and looking at the word cloud makes me think it was probably too full. I can’t tell you exactly what the “sparkler” that one would take away from it was. There are several potentials, but none of them sparkle enough, and there are too many. Looking at it with hindsight, I think I would re-focus it on that title I picked.

The emphasis I believe in the story is on Jesus’ definition of himself. What is this Son of God going to be like and do? The demons and the people are challenging him to smaller definitions. The demons want him to just go away. Go back to heaven and leave creation to its just reward. But Jesus silences them and gives mercy through healing and exorcism. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. The demons aren’t wrong. Being sinners we deserve them. But Jesus in the incarnation takes on our flesh. God’s not going away. He is bringing mercy. The second challenge is to leave it right there, just mercy. But again God does not go away. He proclaims grace. Grace is when we receive what we do not deserve. We do not deserve the Kingdom, but that is what Jesus is here to give us. In the incarnation God gives us grace, and through the sending of the Spirit to indwell in us we are partakers of divine grace. That is the fullness of the mission of Jesus. Jesus defeats the temptation to sell himself short.

We also struggle with self identity, but our struggle is really the opposite of Jesus. As the sinless one, Jesus is self-actualizing. As those full of the sinful nature, self-actualization in this world is a bad goal. We will know everything we can be in the resurrection. In this world our call is more humble. Learn to love. Instead of holding on and hoarding the good things for ourselves, our end is to learn to serve others. To love our neighbor as ourselves which means giving away ourselves in faith that God will fill us back up. Simon’s Mother-in-law in the text is our example, or at least the more reachable example.

This sermon works through those thoughts I think in a meaningful way, but it is full. It requires your meditation.

On such day’s I’m always glad when the surrounding liturgy and hymns are great supports. I’ve left in a little more than usual. It was a 5th Sunday, so we pull out the bells and whistles of the liturgy including having the choir sing/chant the introit, gradual and alleluia/verse. The introit in particular was gorgeous this morning. I also left in the Hymn of the Day “Son of God, Eternal Savior” Lutheran Service Book 842. It takes the congregation a verse to get going, but they pick up. And I have to say as we sang the song my smile got bigger. You pick hymns in worship planning sometimes weeks in advance. You think the service holds together as a whole. It usually isn’t terrible, but today, I felt the Spirit while singing that hymn. When it so clearly reflects or in this case prepares for the sermon, you know someone else is there working with your terrible material.

Passing Through the World

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Biblical Text: Luke 4:16-30
Full Sermon Draft

One way of talking about our three great enemies is as the devil, the world and our sinful nature. (The alternate three are sin, death and the power of Satan. The difference is a question of time. Those second three are what own us prior to Christ and justification. The first three are what tempt us back into slavery.) What this sermon does is concentrate on the middle one – the world. It does so based upon the appeal of the Nazareth crowd, which is the argument of the world. You are one of us, right? All things in the world come from selling our freedom in Christ to that desire to be one with the world. The sequence looks at how Christ has freed us and the nature of Christ’s prophetic office. Then it looks at how we can fight the world in our lives. And it grounds the necessity of this in the eschatological reality that this world is passing away, while the word and promises of God stand forever.

The First of the Signs

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Biblical Text: John 2:1-11
Full Sermon Draft

John intentionally uses and structures half his gospel around a different word than Matthew, Mark and Luke. Those synoptics describe what we call miracles as works of power. John calls them signs and the first twelve chapters of John are structured around seven signs. And I think John tells us the difference at the end of Cana. To John the signs due two things: 1) they manifest glory and 2) they inspire belief. What this sermon attempts to do is three things: a) ponder that difference between works of power, both natural and supernatural, and signs, b) flesh out what specifically Cana as the first of the signs encourages us to believe and c) apply those encouraged beliefs to our lives.

I’d add here, something that the sermon doesn’t, that works of power can also inspire belief. They are just as much signs as the ones John picks out like Cana. The big difference is the emphasis between the two aspects. Is the primary purpose a manifestation of glory, or has that manifestation worked itself into our understanding of ourselves and our actions. Does seeing the glory change us in deeper ways.

I’d also add here a second note about this sermon. A better preacher could make this much better, but my reflection after delivery is that I rendered a very deep text in a meaningful way. It is one of the rare times preaching on John that I don’t feel defeated.

He Preached the Good News…

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Biblical Text: Luke 3:15-22
Full Sermon Draft

The day on the Church calendar was the Baptism of Christ and the text recognizes that. I think in the sermon there is recognition of baptism. If not, all the hymns of the day picked up on it as their connecting theme. But as I was preparing the sermon verse 18 (“So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people”) combined with a comment by Origin (2nd Century Teacher quoted in the sermon) made me look at John the Baptist himself. What was the gospel, the good news, that John preached?

As he would say, “Christ must increase, I must decrease”, so as a preacher the core of that Good News was simply the bridegroom has come – Jesus. That is the core of any preaching. But John’s good news, just from this brief snippet (Luke 3:1-22), is expansive. And Luke’s version of John has a striking and touching emphasis. After pointing out the bridegroom – the kinsman redeemer of Israel, John preaches against a false in everyway redeemer, Herod. Jesus & Israel are the bridegroom and sanctified bride. Herod and Herodias are the mocking of that redemption. John calls him out, and pays with his freedom and life. John’s preaching of good news, includes the role of suffering.

I didn’t make the connection in the sermon because the sermon itself is more breadth than depth. Pulling together all the threads of levirate marriage that this text relies on would have been explaining too much for a sermon. Better suited for a study. But marriage as the symbol of what God does for his people, and the mocking of marriage made by the state, and John’s suffering caused by that confrontation, seems applicable.

Recording Note: I have left in our opening hymn Lutheran Service Book 405 To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord. The congregation sounded great, and that hymn really captures the core message of the festival – “This man is Christ our substitute!” Also, they sang it post the OT reading, but I’ve moved it after the sermon here. These recordings can’t really capture the full service. We don’t really have the recording equipment for that, so the focus is really on the spoken parts (i.e. texts and sermon). But, I included our Choir singing a wonderful Epiphany piece. I included such things as markers to the full live experience. Worship really is about being there.

Epiphany

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Biblical Text: Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6
Epiphany 2016

The picture should be the King’s Cake, a galette de rois, which is a French Almond pastry with a feve or baby hidden inside. The person who finds the baby gets luck for the year (and has to bake the cake next year). Although here we don’t so much hold to that second part. The cake was the after Vespers treat for Epiphany.

I don’t have a recording. Things like Vespers tend to be, how do I say it, more intimate. So I typically move the pulpit down to the main floor. But the sermon as roughly given is in the file. For me, if there is a correct time to give that altar call, it is Epiphany. Epiphany is when you’ve seen “it”. “It” in this case is God. And of course having seen “it” is not the same thing and opening your treasures (or your heart) as the magi do. Epiphany is all about the odd roads we take first to seeing, and also to opening our treasures to the Christ child. Epiphanies are dangerous times of choice. You’ve seen, now what are you going to do?

You’ve seen the incarnation (Christmas), now what are you going to do?

Silent Growing

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Biblical Text: Luke 2:40-52
Full Sermon Draft

The text is our only glimpse of Jesus from the infancy narratives until his baptism. This time is traditionally called the silent years. Because this is the only text of that time, it bears a lot of weight. What was important in the silent years? That is what this sermon looks at largely from a devotional perspective. By devotional perspective I mean how can we apply it directly to our Christian life.

And no, I didn’t have a challenge to work Pride, Prejudice and Zombies into a sermon. It just seemed like a good example of a difference between this text and the “childhood Jesus” apocryphal stories. One you can ponder for devotional purposes, the other is just good clean fun.