Monthly Archives: February 2016

Give Him Another Year

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Biblical Text: Luke 13:1-9
Full Sermon Draft

Today is one of those days that stuff happening in the service is real important. We had a baptism this morning, and when you have a baptism you have an invaluable object lesson. That is absent from the recording, but you will hear it used a couple of times in the sermon.

From the text there is an overriding theme in the spirit of Lent – repentance. But the gospel text itself is abrupt. A report of a happening, a strong reaction to that report by Jesus and then a parable. This is one of the places where we as readers and hearers of the gospel really have to puzzle it out. Why would they bring this report to Jesus? What was their point? Jesus’ response gives us some clues, but the larger context of Luke which last week’s sermon look at as gives us a good idea of what was being asserted.

The crux of the issue is line drawing. Where is the line drawn that creates the division Jesus claims to have brought? Jesus’ answer is grace. The sermon examines the difference between mercy and grace and attempts to show why grace is that line of division. But the people of that day, just like the people of our day, like drawn their own lines. We draw lines that place us on the deserving side. Whether those are lines of race, or class or language or people or behavior. It can’t be grace, because we are on the right side.

Jesus answer is a clear nobody is on the right side. “Unless you all repent, you likewise will perish.”

The application of this is my attempt at encouragement and example of a proper repentance.

Worship Note: I have left in two of the hymns sung today. Lutheran Service Book 611 Chief of Sinners Though I Be, and LSB 610 Lord Jesus, Think on Me. It was a day of rich hymns because I loved our opening hymn and the baptismal hymn as well which all spoke the same gospel, but I left these two in the recording in their places as hymns of the life of repentance.

Every Division is a Gathering

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Biblical Text: Luke 13:31-35
Full Sermon Draft

The gospel text for the day by some commentators is the exact center of Luke’s gospel, or the center of what is called the travel narrative. The commentators that mention this find in this central text the key to interpretation. While not 100% buying that exegetical move or reading method, this sermon tip its hand in that direction. In five short verses there are a couple of gospel deep contrasts. The first is the fears of the Pharisees and Jesus. The second is the love of God in gathering vs. the rejection of that love that divides.

This sermon explores that contrast between the Pharisees and Jesus as the basis of our salvation and freedom. It then moves on to understand the moral choice that difference places on us. Do we accept the love of God in Christ, or do we demand our house be left to us? Finally it explores a frightening implication of that moral choice and how the doctrine of election in a Lutheran understanding should be pure gospel.

On a personal note, I am rarely happy with the outcome of the sermon when election is a doctrine explored, but I still like this one. I think it makes the actual connection between the eternal reality of that election, and the temporal means. The eternal reality is a mystery held by God, but the temporal means are the sacraments.

Lenten Valentine

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Text: Luke 4:1-13
Full Sermon Draft

Easter is so early this year we have an odd confluence. The first Sunday in Lent happens to be Valentines Day. So this sermon attempts to reclaim a bit of St. Valentine for the church.

The traditional text for the first Sunday in Lent is the temptation of Jesus. We read the rest of Luke chapter 4 just a couple of weeks ago. The entire chapter in my reading is an interesting study on our three great enemies: the devil, the world and our sinful natures. What today’s text does, much like a couple of old testament texts (Adam and Eve & Job), is give us a view of that first enemy, Satan. It lifts the veil to the reality behind those temptations.

On a literal level of the story, this temptation is the reversal of that one in Eden. But the devil withdraws until the appointed time. That appointed time is a temptation not like Adam and Eve, but like Job. The devil’s two forms of trial – enticement and suffering. But both forms are based on the lie that God does not love us. The cross is Jesus demonstration once for all that He does. The cross stands as God’s complete gift of love, a complete giving of himself.

And that is where we start to move from lent to Valentine. Love is a giving of ourselves. In this world that love might not come back. But love is never lost, because it all finds its fulfillment in Christ. St. Valentine is an example of such love. The reason Valentine is a saint is because he was a martyr. He loved God and the people he was bishop too enough to witness, in red blood. Valentine gave himself away. in such love. But it is only in so losing our life, a life expended in self-giving love, that we actual find it. We find that all that love have been made full in Christ.

Worship note. The hymn of the day in the recording is Lutheran Service Book 424, O Christ You Walked the Road. Unfortunately the text is again copyrighted, but here is a source that has the words. I always find this tune a haunting introduction to lent and an invitation to live the love that Christ has shown us.

Repentance Walk

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Ash Wednesday

I like the church year because along with Christmas and Easter and the days that you naturally blow the trumpet it has days like Ash Wednesday. Days that force us to think about things we don’t want to think about.

I’ve been told that the word sin has no meaning in modern English. That what sin means to the vast majority of Americans is an understandable indulgence. The sinful chocolate. The scale says you don’t need it, but hey. The sinful car. Yes, the payment is a little more, but you’ve always wanted that badge and now can swing it. Biblically those really aren’t sins. They might be foolishness, or they might even be just enjoying God’s creation. Jesus was called a drunkard and a glutton by the Pharisees.

Sin biblically is dominated by two metaphors. There are the purity metaphors – clean and dirty. And there are the special metaphors – missing the mark, walking the wrong way, ever before me. A common division of the Jewish law is between the ceremonial and the moral. The ceremonial law is what governs what is kosher and non-kosher. The breaking of the ceremonial law was cleansed by the ceremonial washings and the sacrifices. Purity being the primary way to talk about it. And purity – clean and dirty – tends to be digital. You are clean or dirty, there is no space in between. Eat a bacon cheeseburger and you are ceremonially unclean. Offer the sacrifice and you are restored to cleanliness.

The sacrifice of Jesus fulfilled that ceremonial law for all time. That cross has made us clean. It has washed us, created in us a clean heart.

The other portion of the law is the moral. The 10 commandments are the shorthand for it. This is where those spacial words start to take over. Cast me not away from your presence. Uphold me with a willing Spirit. The word that becomes resurrection is literally stand up, be put aright.

When you read repent in the New Testament, there are couple of different words used. Metanoia, which focuses on the mental. The recognition that we by ourselves are unclean. And the first call of metanoia, repent, is believe. The other word is epistrepho, which is spacial and means turning around and walking in the other direction. We start walking in the ways God intends.

Luther said in the first of the 95 theses, When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. That is not a life of constantly changing our minds, but of constantly walking in the correct direction.

And here is where Ash Wednesday is unique. Our justification is immediate. We are made clean by the righteousness of Christ by faith. But because we went wrong, we wandered a far distance “east of Eden”. And the consequences of sin are death. Abraham never possessed the promised land. Moses never entered it. David’s kingdom fell apart. Dust we are and to dust we will return. However far we walk in the way God intends, this flesh is not going to make it.

But this flesh is not our hope. As the writer of Hebrews says in the chapter of the heroes of the faith.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. (Heb 11:13-14)

Our hope is not here and now, but then and there. Our repentance walk here and now, turns into a triumph then and there. When we are no longer clothed with this mortal flesh, but we receive the resurrection – are stood aright. There are plenty of days on the calendar to celebrate that. But Ash Wednesday is on the calendar to remember that it is not yet a full on triumph. We only share in that triumph to the extent that we seek a homeland. To the extent that we pick up our cross and follow him past Calvary. Amen.

Tick-Tock Time

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Biblical Text: Luke 9:28-36
Full Sermon Draft

Today was Transfiguration Sunday which is the last Sunday in the Season of Epiphany. Lent Begins mid-week with Ash Wednesday.

Transfiguration to me is a tough preaching assignment because it is fundamentally a visual experience. Parables are about words. Miracles are just as often about reactions to the happening. Both of those are easily pondered and preached in words. But with the transfiguration, it is an icon. What I mean by icon is that it is a picture that invites you to ponder fundamental reality, to contemplate and enter eternity. What this sermon chooses to ponder of that reality to time. We live, especially we moderns live, in a culture that at a minimum emphasizes tick-tock time. It sometimes goes as far as to deny there is anything but. But all icons are invitation to see beyond or underneath that press of the everyday. The transfiguration as the ultimate icon invites us to see all of eternity in one moment. The alpha and omega present on a mountaintop.

The sermon moves from the lessor to the greater. It posits hopefully a couple of more common icons in our lives that telescope time into an icon. Then it moves to the transfiguration. Finally it moves on to the demands and promises of knowing any icon. The what I put it here is that knowing eternity, we are freed to live in the moment. Not for the moment or obsessed with tick-tock time, but fully present in it. We are so freed to be truly present in good and ill because we are part of Jesus exodus. In Christ our time has been redeemed, reconnected to eternity. We have eternity, so we are free to enjoy time.

Worship note. Can I share a pet peeve? I understand the point of copyright. I believe that musicians and composers need to get paid. But copyright just kills the culture of hymns and sacred music. Here is what I mean. Today as a close we sang Lutheran Service Book number 416 – Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory. It is a very modern song. The text is copyrighted 1994; the tune (Love’s Light) in 2000. To me this hymn is one that I’d put in the list of all time greats that every Christian should know. Think Amazing Grace or A Mighty Fortress. The tune is gorgeous, contagious and singable. The words are deep, emotional and challenging. And part of the magic is that they fit together. That is a hymn that should be shared. I can’t. It’s copyrighted. Church music, like preaching, isn’t really a commercial endeavor. You do it for the good of the church.