Category Archives: Matthew

From the Days of John Until Now

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Biblical Text: Matthew 11:12-19
Full Sermon Draft

There are two lectionary gospel texts for Reformation Sunday. This is the alternate text. It is actually my favorite because I think it reminds us of something necessary. The nature of the Kingdom here is not one of apparent power and victory. The Kingdom is comes in weakness. It is often veiled. It is violated, and violent men seize her. Yet the victory is won. Christ is risen, and there is always an angel with that eternal gospel. You might have to go to the wilderness to hear it, but the Word remains.

Recording note: I’ve left in the Hymn of the Day which was Lutheran Service Book #555 – Salvation Unto Us Has Come. A Mighty Fortress is often considered The Reformation hymn, but my money is on this one. We sang the odd verse which tell the full story of grace. I also left in the concluding short Hymn, God’s Word is Our Great Heritage, LSB 582. I think if Luther was around to say what the purpose of the Reformation was, 500 years later removed from the arguments of the day he would say what this hymn does. We have been given and entrusted with the Word. We betray the Kingdom if we forget this.

Epiphany Sermon

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Text: Matthew 2:1-12
Full Sermon Draft

Here is out Epiphany Vespers sermon which meditates on how coming to see God entails playing the fool. I didn’t record this one, sorry. But it is a short read…

Text: Matt 2:1-12
Matthew and Luke play tag-team in telling Jesus’ infancy. Luke narrates from the annunciation to the presentation in the temple roughly 30 days after Christmas and tells us they go back to Nazareth. Matthew tells us of How Joseph took Mary in, but if it weren’t for verse 1, Bethlehem might not enter his gospel. So Luke tags Matthew in to tell about the Magi. Probably a year or so later. We have an upper bound, Herod killed the children two and younger. So if we are trying to understand the story in good western linear fashion, I think that is how you harmonize the gospel. But that harmonizing might actually miss some of the tag team.

Trouble in the World

Just last Sunday I hoped to show how in one of the most amazing sentences of the Bible, “he was submissive to them” we see a picture of how God works on our wills. I said He abides. The love of God in action is that he abides with sinners who don’t get it. He abides until their hearts are open. That was from Luke and the Boy Jesus in the temple. The Epiphany reading is from Matthew and I think you have a tag-team presentation of how God abides.
The Magi, the wise men from the east, were sorcerers, astrologers or diviners. And in the OT these guys are “the emperor without clothes”. There are two comic routines with Magi. Moses beats them with the plagues as they can duplicate gnats. The great wisdom of these men can’t find gnats. The foolishness of Moses produces swarms. Daniel also gets in on making fun of Magi. They can’t tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream, and they fall all over trying to get out of the way. Likewise when Darius is presented with the “Handwriting on the wall” they can’t read it, but Daniel can. The foolish Daniel makes fools of the wise men who can’t read anything. There is a third minor episode when Balaam’s ass tells the Magi Balaam what he couldn’t see. When a Jew such as Matthew would say look, behold, Magi – everybody is ready for a joke.

Gospel in the Text

But Matthew doesn’t tell a joke. Matthew tells us God abides with them. If he had sent them an angel – like with Mary and Joseph – they would have worshipped it. So God used what they could know – star charts. The chief priests and scribes of the people know, but aren’t willing to go. These foolish Magi will get up and bring Kingly gifts at the word of the stars. So God abides.

And even with the treacherous Herod he abides. Something changes here in these Magi, because now the star is not a fixed one. They leave Herod’s place and the star comes back and it leads probably not to Bethlehem, but to Nazareth. The start becomes a morning star – an angel. And they – these Magi – after worshipping are warned in a dream. Now warned just like Joseph.

Gospel in the World

Epiphany is a celebration of seeing. So in that sense it is always a day of fools. To proclaim that now I see, now I get it is to say what an idiot I was. While Christmas is a season with White altar cloths and it is only 12 weeks long, Epiphany marks the change back to green and gives us 8 weeks. Epiphany is the Christian experience. We are always growing in what we see of God. If we are not willing to be the fool, we can’t follow the Christ. But Christ is willing to abide, with magi and with all who are willing to worship, who want to see. In Matthew, as Jesus is heading back to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday he meets two blind men. They are calling out and the crowd tries to get them to shut up. But Jesus asks them, “what do you want me to do for you?” And they reply, “we want to see”. And he touches them and immediately they are healed. God abides with those who want to see even if it means the crowds think you are fools. Amen.

Judgement By Works?

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

The last judgement text can give a Lutheran heartburn, primarily because it inspires the question in the title.

What this sermon does is attempt to put the last judgement within its context in Matthew. It seeks to stay within two guard rails in interpretation: being willing to say ‘I don’t know’ and letting the text tell us what it means. There are two important questions that this is applied to. 1) Who are all the nations? 2) Who are the brothers Jesus references? These two questions form two halves of an answer. They also help I think to answer that title question, or at least lessen its force. The sermon ends with three short applications for our life together.

If we are willing to narrow the scope of the what those phrases mean – which I believe is correct based on the Gospel text itself – we get both a more humble eschatology, a text that is encouragement instead of judgement, and a greater emphasis on faith and church life.

A Hard Man or the Icon of Love?

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

The response of the slave who was given 1 talent is remarkably relevant. He ends up saying three things.
1) He knows his master to be a hard man
2) The master will reap where he doesn’t sow
3) The master will gather where he doesn’t scatter

This sermon hazards an interpretation of those three things for our day. The first is a claim to know God. The second and third involve the claims of universalism, not my job and not enough given to accomplish.

The gospel response to all of these is “You know this, do you?” Jesus is the revealed God that we do know and instead of being a hard man he is the icon of love. He does sow abundantly through Word and Sacrament. And part of how He does that is scattering his people in the midst of the world.

Instead of the false beliefs that so much of today’s church is involved in, we would be better to recognize the gifts that have been given to us and get about the job we have been invited to join. That job isn’t always easy. It is a call to the cross. But Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. Likewise we have the joy set before us.

Paragraph to Ponder

…the foolish bridesmaids failed to understand that in a time when you are unsure of the time you are in it is all the more important to do what you have been taught to do. In the dark you must keep the lamps ready even if they are not able to overcome the darkness.

Some may think Jesus’s parable to be quite unfair to the bridesmaids who had not prepared ahead. Those who stress compassion as the hallmark of what makes Christians Christian cannot help but think that the bridesmaids with the oil should have shared with those without. But if they had shared their oil when the bridegroom had come, there would have been no light. Those who follow Jesus will be expected to lead lives that make it possible for the hungry to be fed and the stranger welcomed, but the practice of charity required a community prepared to welcome Christ as the bridegroom, for he alone makes possible hospitality to the stranger in a world where there will always be another stranger needing hospitality.

From the Brazos Commentary on Matthew by Hauerwas

The Kingdom Bill of Rights – All Saints Celebration

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Biblical Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Full Sermon Draft

Nurse Kaci Hickox is a fascinating sign, an almost perfect illustration of this age. What looks like heroic compassion combined with staggering amounts of narcissism and selfishness.

Keying off of her invocation of her rights, this sermon puts forward the beatitudes as a “Kingdom Bill of Rights”. Unlike our typical invocation of rights, which are always about justice for us, the Kingdom rights point always toward God or toward our neighbor. They are costly. They are love. And they are what Christ has done for us.

Being All Saints celebration, this sermon then meditates on how the saints serve the people of God as lights in dark places and tells the story of a couple such lights.

Note: the choir between the First and Second readings of the day is our Children’s Choir.

Most in Need of Reform

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Biblical Text: Matthew 11:12-19
Full Sermon Draft

Reformation Day has had a number of modes of celebration through the years. This sermon mentions some of them, but maybe surprising for a Lutheran preacher, I’ve just never had much connection with the day. I guess part of that is my general distaste for the common forms of hagiography. If Luther is a hero (and he is) he can only be a hero in one form. Likewise, if he is a heretic who destroyed the church (and he did destroy a form of it), he can only be damned. Neither of those flavors ever appealed to me. We humans are way to complex for that. And it doesn’t give a good report on Luther’s key insight. In this life we are sinners and saints simultaneously.

Jesus uses a great visual image against “this generation” in the text. It was a generation that didn’t dance to the flute or sing to the dirge. Beyond that when the good law was proclaimed it said “he has a demon”; when the joyous gospel revealed it said “a glutton and a drunkard”. It danced to the dirge and sang to the flute, without recognizing the truth in either. For quite a while I’ve been feeling the same thing about Reformation Day.

But this year something happened that made it click. Stripping away the saint-stories and focusing on the story – A group of people confessing, remaining faithful, calling to the face the powerful and refusing to recant. It is a common story in the church. The only place I know of that celebrates those killed for being conventionally stupid. It is so much easier to recognize which side your bread is buttered on. The reformers did and they didn’t. Like Paul speaking to the Apostles wondering if his preaching had been in vain (Galatians 2:2) and confronting Peter to his face. Like the OT prophets sent to the Kings of Israel and Judah. Institutions go off track and sometimes need to be called on it. Separating the schismatics from the prophets isn’t always easy. And there is usually a little of both intermixed, but wisdom is justified by her deeds.

There is one more stripping away though. Institutions are fine and necessary. But as the hymn the choir sings in the recording tells us, God does not dwell in temples made with hands. He dwells in living stones. What is always most in need of reform is not the church or the collective or the other, but our hearts. Hearts that are no longer desiring only the clean story, but that desire God’s story – grace alone, faith alone and Christ alone.

Parabolic Questions

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Biblical Text: Matthew 22:1-14
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the third parable in a row that Jesus has told to the Chief Priests and the Elders in the temple. By this time the meaning at the time of telling is obvious, but the question is what does it mean on the other side of the parabola’s line of symmetry.

This sermon, with the help of Augustine and Gregory the Great, stakes out what it means for the church. In particular it looks at three things: 1) Where are we confronted with Jesus today?, 2) What do we take the wedding garment as? and 3) Do these things themselves point to something greater? Along the way we tackle a few other modern questions that cling to this parable.

Turning a Chair – Parables of Election

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Biblical Text: Matthew 21:33-46
Full Sermon Draft

The gospel text today is the second “vineyard parable” in three weeks. Two weeks ago it was the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Today was the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. Vineyard parables to me are always, at least in the background, parables of election. I suppose I’m using a technical term there, election. The doctrine of election is the Christian phrase for being chosen or God’s choice. It often gets invoked in debate about free will and determinism. I’m also completely convinced that every person has deep within themselves as part of how they understand the world a doctrine of election. That is because election is about love. Who loves you and why and how and how long.

This sermon starts off with secular parable of election of sorts – the TV show The Voice. It then turns to the vineyard parables to think about election in the Kingdom of Heaven and how it differs. Along the way we look at cornerstone vs. head of the corner in building and how that relates to Christ, the alpha and omega, and how misperception of election causes us to reject the stone/son. It finishes with a reflection on living the sacraments, especially baptism, and how we live into the grace of election. I’d invite you along to think about election and how you view and receive the Kingdom.

Proper Authority

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Biblical Text: Matthew 21:23-27
Full Sermon Draft

Authority is one of those words that, depending upon your context, can be a dirty word today. That is truly a shame because it used to be something that was exercised with wisdom. Those with authority knew they also had accountability. Those with it respected where it came from and its proper use. They knew authority came in multiple forms – hierarchical and moral – and that you couldn’t last long with the first if you didn’t respect and preserve the second. Authority was always a grant, a gift, a grace. It was never something that you earned. If you took it you were a usurper.

This sermon has a simple movement:
1) Our current trouble with authority
2) Authority abused by the chief priests and elders of the people and proper authority in Jesus
3) Jesus’ grant of his authority to his people in discipleship

It traces a deep vein in the Gospel according to Matthew of the sources and uses of proper authority.