Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Moral Calculus

Text: John 9:1-41
Full Sermon Draft

The question of suffering is one of the constant ones of modernity. The curmudgeon in me wants to draw a graph showing interest is the problem of suffering going straight up over time and actual suffering has gone down over the same time, but a smart person once told me that “yes, suffering may be comparatively less, but it is still mine.”

The disciples ask a question that is full of assumptions about how God and the moral calculus works. Jesus’ answer bears directly on suffering, and gets to the heart of the gospel. The moral calculus doesn’t balance. At least not how we think. This sermon attempts to examine that fact in the light of Jesus who says “I am the light of the World”.

I’m not going to add more other than say give it a listen.
Worship note: I left out the hymns primarily because the sermon and Gospel lesson are longer than normal and I try to keep the total recording time around 25 mins or less.

Thirst

Biblical Text: John 4:5-26
Full Sermon Draft

The gospel lessons for Lent this year are coming from John and they are emphasizing some of his vibrant characters. Last week was Nicodemus. This week is the Samaritan woman. Next week is the man born blind. These are archetypal meditations. That doesn’t deny their reality has happenings, but in this March Madness season they are the “one shining moments”. We’ve all had them. Those moments that explain so much else. Our problem is we rarely realize it at the time or even close to it. It is only on reflection and meditation that they become clear. And even then it is a personal truth, not Truth. With John as sacred scripture we have Truth.

Thirst is a subject that John’s Jesus talks about three times. Here at the well. He will connect it to the bread of life in John 6:35. And then on the cross. When Jesus talks thirst, he is thirsty to find those the Father desires. He is thirsty to give the gift and reveal himself, to give the spirit and show himself the truth. Jesus slakes our thirst, but he remains thirsty until the Kingdom. He is always thirsty for the lost and lacking to find the well.

Worship Note: I’ve left in our opening hymn, LSB 602, The Gifts Christ Freely Gives. It perfectly sets the tone based on the text. Christ talks about the “gift of God”. Those gifts are revealed throughout his life and empower the life of the church. We sang vs. 1,2,4,5. Another thing that the song reminds me of is the importance of that flesh and blood congregation where those gifts are found. You are invited.

The Gifts Christ Freely Gives – Lutheran Service Book 602

1 The gifts Christ freely gives
He gives to you and me
To be His Church, His bride,
His chosen, saved and free!
Saints blest with these rich gifts
Are children who proclaim
That they were won by Christ
And cling to His strong name.

2 The gifts flow from the font
Where He calls us His own;
New life He gives that makes
Us His and His alone.
Here He forgives our sins
With water and His Word;
The triune God Himself
Gives pow’r to call Him Lord.

4 The gifts are there each day
The holy Word is read;
God’s children listen, hear,
Receive, and they are fed.
Christ fills them with Himself,
Blest words that give them life,
Restoring and refreshing
Them for this world’s strife.

5 The gifts are in the feast,
Gifts far more than we see;
Beneath the bread and wine
Is food from Calvary.
The body and the blood
Remove our ev’ry sin;
We leave His presence in
His peace, renewed again.

A Man of the Pharisees, A Ruler of the Jews

Biblical Text: John 3:1-17
Full Draft

This has been a strange 8 days with a Sunday in the middle. The church lost power for most of three days (Wed-Fri) due to a windstorm. Personally I was bedridden sick Friday night until I forced myself up Sunday morning. And then Tuesday and Wednesday we’ver have over 2 feet of snow and been snowed in. Wind, plague, snow and bitter cold, I asked our secretary this morning if Friday was scheduled for the earthquake.

So, buried literally under snow and figuratively under a week worth of work, including tracking and arranging a new date for the delivery of our new organ (did I tell you that was supposed to arrive last Wednesday), I am just getting to the sermon file. Of course the recording line gets real silent at the end of the gospel reading. So, no musical stuff. Also the sermon recording might be a little rough as occasionally not even amplifying brings the sound. (I’m thinking I moved a little far away from the mic at those moments and it got lower clipped.)

It is a shame, because it is one of the greatest texts of the bible. And being under the weather for final editing, I’m short. No hinting or sneaking up on the point. No padding or weak attempts at story telling or making relevant. Just expository. Christ for you. Fitting of John 3:16-17

Satanic Slander; Man’s Vindication

Biblical Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Full Sermon Draft

Welcome to lent. The season traditionally starts out with the Temptation of Jesus. As the sermon will highlight, the temptation is deeply connected with the story that comes before it, the baptism of Jesus. What both represent are how Jesus has fought the battles we could not win. The Baptism is the start of the defeat of sin. He takes ours, and we get his. The temptation is the defeat of Satan. The resurrection is the defeat of death. We couldn’t win against those great enemies. Jesus, true man and true God, defeated them for us. Then he invites us to follow.

A fun little part of this sermon is using the devil as a witness to the gospel. Imagining that great liar forced into telling the truth was a fun experiment. I don’t know how well it worked, but it was fun to try.

Worship note: I like the Lenten Hymn. The only season that I think has a higher overall quality is Advent which might be because of both the length (shorter) and subject (eschatology). I left in LSB 424, O Christ You Walked the Road, which was our concluding hymn. It borrows the well known tune Southwell, but the text captures the main points of the sermon. Christ has defeated Satan and invites us on the same (lenten) road.

Ash Wednesday Meditation


Text: Matthew 6:19-34

The assigned Ash Wednesday gospel would have included the lines on prayer, fasting and almsgiving that we read a couple of Sunday’s ago, and stopped with the aphorism “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

All of those items are a build-ups. The payoff comes after the “therefore”. “Therefore I tell you…” That is the introduction to a summary point based on what came before.

The piety practices aren’t because we need to eat our veggies. Just think for a second what each of those practices force us to do. Prayer forces our attention, our meditation, away from this world and toward the Kingdom of God. Fasting forces us to think about our hungers – physical and spiritual – and how they are satisfied. What is true food. Almsgiving forces us to give away what is probably our biggest rival idols, money and what we spend it on – ourselves. We give our own in support of someone else. The practices move us out of ourselves and toward God and others. Augustine would call sin the “incuvatus in se” the turning inward on ourselves. The practices, straighten us out.

Why? Why should we not care about old #1?

Jesus answer, listening to the ‘therefore’ is twofold. You are going to die, and your Father knows this.

Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Peter Theil thinks he can, or at least he’s throwing hundreds of millions at it, but Jesus didn’t expect and answer. Instead Jesus makes two comparisons to things whose lifespans are shorter than ours. The lilies of the field which are here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire. Not even Solomon could rival their dress. God showers a day or a short season with his finest – you think he doesn’t see you? Take the sparrow. It flits from here to there. It doesn’t have the flashy red of the cardinal. It doesn’t’ have song of the best songbird. It doesn’t have the size of the ostrich. It is a sparrow. Two a penny. Yet Matthew would say just a bit later that not a single one falls without your Father’s knowing. They neither sow nor reap, yet they eat. You think you Father doesn’t notice you?

Like Sparrows, like lilies, we are going to die. Instead of turning inward and attempting to horde what we can in an effort to avoid that, we should do what we were made to do.

Don’t lay up treasures in this world, but love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind and strength and spirit. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be. Don’t be devoted to ourselves, or money or our status. The gentiles do all these things. The gentiles love those that love them. Instead love your neighbor as yourself. Like the lilly was made to give beauty to all, we were made to Love God and our neighbor.

Ash Wednesday has the most direct memento mori – “dust you are and to dust you shall return”. Sometimes we are so sick it takes such a shock. But don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Your Father knows. Seek first the Kingdom, and all these things will be added. God work through death and resurrection. Amen.