Tag Archives: Word and Sacrament

Great Expectations

Biblical Text: Luke 24:13-35
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the Road to Emmaus. Luke likes road trips. Chapters 10 through 19 are known as the road narrative as all the action is suppose to take place while Jesus is walking from Galilee to Jerusalem. The Emmaus Road I think is Luke’s poetic description of the Christian life. I don’t comment on in in the sermon, but imagine Luke himself for a moment. He interviewed all these people: Peter, John, James, Mary, Paul. All these people who knew the physical Jesus and testified to the resurrected Jesus. Luke knew him through them, and through the breaking of bread.

Life is full of expectations. The road to Emmaus present in the sermon is how we have wise expectations instead of foolish ones. The main part of that is recognizing Jesus. And we are given to recognize him in the Sacrament and the Scriptures – Word and Sacrament. Our life here, after that recognition is a walk toward the New Jerusalem. Now the walk and the witness, next year in Jerusalem. And as on of the metaphors has it in the sermon, next year happens. I’m a Cubs fan. It does.

All Found

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Biblical Text: Luke 15:1-32
Full Sermon Draft

The assigned lectionary text for today was the parable of the Prodigal Son, but one of the things that I found out in preparation is that the church fathers never really treated the prodigal separately from the two parables preceeding it. And when you do the translation, they do seem to roll together with specific roles for a point. So, this sermon attempts to address these parables as the church fathers did.

We’ve focused on the theme of division in Lent so far, but Luke 15 turns that focus around. It assumes the division, and starts portraying reunion. THe question these parables focus on to the church fathers was not evangelism or restoring a wandering brother. That is a valid moral lesson. We are the body of Christ and have those responsibilities. But instead, these parables were about God’s action on behalf of his elect. The perfect number will not be broken. There will not be 99 sheep, or 9 coins, or 1 brother. God will gather all of the elect no matter where they find themselves and through whatever troubles.

And how God does this is first through the good shepherd who has carried us on his shoulders on that cross. Then he calls, gathers and enlightens us through the church – the woman with a lamp looking for that coin with the image of the King. And the purpose of this is to reunite us with the Father. All that the Father has is ours. That doesn’t change regardless of our actions. He has chosen to give us the Kingdom. It is just necessary that we come in and rejoice.

Brotherhood of Man?

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Biblical Text: Mark 3:20-35
Full Sermon Draft

The biblical text has two stories turned in to one of Mark’s famous sandwiches. Jesus’ natural family are the outside and the Scribes from Jerusalem are the inside. What this structure invites us to do is compare and contrast. It invites us to learn the lesson at the core or in the meat of the sandwich and apply it to the outside. Part of that core is a three step argument with the somewhat shocking image of Jesus as a thief. The work and words of Jesus are Binding the Strong Man, Satan. His family may think he’s crazy putting them on the outside right now, but the Scribes are saying that Jesus’ work and words are the work and words of Satan. Jesus’ words to them are a judgment. The only unforgivable sin is calling the Spirit a liar. The deliberate rejection of the word of God and antagonism toward those who hold to it, is a dire place to be. All sins and blasphemies can be forgiven, except calling the Spirit a liar. Even thinking Jesus is nuts. The difference is the one who is far off or outside can still be called near and take their appointed place as brother or sister or mother, while the one who says God’s work is Satan’s has chosen the side which is being bound. And what is bound is thrown into the fire.

The sermon looks at these themes in the text and pulls out three applications to our lives. The hymn of the day included in the recording and reflected at places in the sermon is Luther’s A Mighty Fortress with its themes of spiritual warfare against the strong man and what Christ has already done to bring us near. The title here is the biggest challenge application and the one I leave to conscience. The world teaches the brotherhood of man, or attempts to, and it can be a tempting vision. But that is not what Christ teaches. The brotherhood of man would be under the bondage of Satan. The true brotherhood is in Christ alone.

Transcendent – Sign and Reality

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Biblical Text: Mark 9:2-9
Full Sermon Draft

One of the things I think is constant in our experience is a desire for the transcendent. I’ll use as a quick definition of the transcendent something that is larger that we are. Augustine recognized this in his phrase “we are restless until we find our rest in you”. The biblical text is the Transfiguration, a direct experience of the transcendent and the reaction of Peter. What the sermon attempts to do is first demonstrate that we aren’t any different. We long for transcendence and we cling desperately to its signs. It does this primarily by looking at pop music which in my head expresses openly our common longings. The second step is to point out what actually happens on the mountaintop. Jesus is left alone and the voice says listen to him. Instead of clinging to the fleeting signs of transcendence, we have the reality, Jesus Christ. And his words tells us where we can find him. We are restless until we find our rest in him.

The hymn of the day captured in the recording points at one of those places we see face to face: Lutheran Service Book 631 – Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face. All the words and some history of the hymn are here. Here is the LSB link which has an extra verse and is set to an interesting/different hymn tune compared to the most standard.

Spiritual and Religious

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Biblical Text: Luke 2:22-40
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary. It is a text deeply rooted in the religion of Israel. It is also with Simeon and Anna a text populated with the advent of the Holy Spirit. What the sermon does is look at what happens when we treat the Spirit and Religion as either/or instead of both/and. From Anderson Cooper and Gwenyth Paltrow to Anna/Simeon as models for the church.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Isaiah 28:14-29 and 1 John 5:1-21

Isaiah 28:14-29
1 John 5:1-21
Different tools for different peoples
Spirit, water & blood/Word, Baptism & Lord’s Supper

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.

Seeing the Risen Christ

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Biblical Text: Luke 24:13-35
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the Road to Emmaus. It is one of those stories that pop out. Other than Jesus, the main characters are all but anonymous. Cleopas and his unnamed companion and a road between two cities. You get the feeling that Luke heard Cleopas tell the story and said to himself, “I’ve got to include this one.” This is one of the serious faults of the three year lectionary as the story only gets read on a Sunday once every three years. It is too reactive and psychologically rich a story to only meditate on together once every three years.

Just off the top of my head I could think of four strands of biblical theology that Emmaus puts a capstone on: table fellowship (i.e. God eating with sinful men), the road or the journey, Seeing and not-seeing God, The City of God vs. the City of Man. In other words, in five minutes I could outline at least five good sermons from the text that each would have a different doctrinal point and gospel message. The one that I worked with here is the power and place of word and sacrament. No theme operates exclusive to the others. Seeing and not-seeing plays a key motif when you talk word and sacrament, but it is still a supporting roll.

When you strip the church to its core, when our personal and often misguided desires fall away from the church, what remains? Word and Sacrament. How do we see or recognize the risen Christ in our lives? Through Word and Sacrament. What is the correct order? What is the individual’s role in faith? How do these things function in the life of the believer? What is the tragedy and triumph of Word and Sacrament? These are some of the questions that this sermon contemplates as it attempts to apply both law and gospel.

(I wanted to make one stray comment. John, the man who does our recording, usually includes at least a couple of verses from the hymn of the day. Lutheran Service Book #476 – Who are You Who Walk in Sorrow was this service’s hymn. It is a modern text (copyright 2000) paired with a haunting american hymn tune (Jefferson). The text is a powerful one made more so combined with the minor key and lilting tone of the tune. Here is a link to someone who has typed it out. You can find a reflection on many of those biblical themes in the hymn as well as another one from the Easter Season of death and Resurrection. That is a powerful and meaty modern hymn.)

Wells, Brides and Bridegrooms

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Text: John 4:4-26
Full Sermon Draft

Of the images or metaphors of what Jesus has done for us I think husband or marriage is one the most different and compelling. And while it hovers over the entire biblical story, there just aren’t that many text that are most directly seen as a proclamation of the Bride and Bridegroom. In my reading this text is a biblical Romantic Comedy, and as such it is about the Bride and Bridegroom.

The structure used is something I’ve been playing around with occasionally, a limited use of the church father’s 4 level allegory. In my playing with this outline what I’ve found is that the literal level allows you establish the text and any connections to the modern day. In this case the text follows all of the Romantic Comedy beats. Knowing that it is such a genre, opens the door to the Typological level. Jesus is not just anyone but the bridegroom and the Samaritan woman is not just any woman but the type of the bride, the church. Following from the fourth beat of the Rom-Com script we find out what the protagonist (Jesus) wants to accomplish. In this case for the bride to know the gift of God and to know who offers it. That is the basis of the moral level, coming to know the Spirit and Word and Sacrament as the gifts of God or the living water, and knowing Jesus who offers them. The last level is the eschatological. In this case the end-times image is of the wedding feast of the bride and the lamb brought to its fulfillment in the New Jerusalem. At that time we won’t be arguing about the where’s and why’s of worship, because there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, because the bride and the bridegroom are together.

John has typically defeated me as a preacher. He’s too thick or maybe I should say not linear. This outline has helped me present texts from John. The other thing I’d add is that while allegory has a bad name because of some of the extreme uses of it, I don’t think it is wholly deserved. Most preacher’s outlines are just a collapsing of the four levels to usually two. Text-Application, often call puritan plain style or even just Wesley’s outline, is literal and moral levels typically. Hence it can often come across as all law or Jesus as our great example that we should follow. Law-Gospel usually ends up being literal and typological. You always get Christ, but also the problem with much of Lutheran preaching never actually having a moral point. True pentecostal preaching is usually literal and eschatological which gives it that on fire or otherworldly nature. If you respect the limits that you can’t say anything in the three upper levels not clearly established in the literal then I’ve found it to be a robust outline.

I’d invite you to take a look and give me any comments.

End of Christendom & The New Church

There is an infographic below that I want to spend a few words thinking through (Source: Barna).

The question at the top is the important/not important question. Is church attendance important or not. Roughly 20% of millenials say yes. What I would say is that the millenials, compared to previous generations currently, are being truthful. Previous generations say yes at higher rates, but about 20% act in accord with answers. And that comes out in the next graphs. When asked have you been to church (just once) in the past 6 months – 52% of millenials said no, while 47% of all American’s said no. In actual life there is not much difference between the millenials and older Americans.

But the really fascinating bit of the infographic is the answer to why did you attend and why didn’t you attend. Not fascinating as in surprising, but fascinating as the answers align with theological expectation.

Why attend said: To be closer to God, to learn more about God and the church is the hands and feet of God in the world. This is 100% the teaching of the church. God has promised to be present in that gathering, and he is present in the sacrament. You want to be closer to God? Attend to Word and Sacrament. One of the missions of the church is teaching everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:18-20), so learning more about God takes place in that community. That also makes sense because if you want to learn more about something, go to where it is at. And the last answer is exactly the purpose of the church. We are the body of Christ in a sin sick world. Those who attend get it.

The why not attend said: church is not personally relevant, find God elsewhere, and teach myself what I need to know. Again this is exactly what the church’s theology would expect. First is the degree of narcissism, not personally relevant and I am self-sufficient. If you are not a sinner or lost, you have no need of grace. You will not find the church relevant is you find yourself ok. Man has always found god elsewhere and has always longed to find god on their own terms. The problem is that God has decreed where he is to be found – in the proclamation of Jesus Christ – and rarely grants personal revelations. When you think you’ve found god outside of the church, you’ve probably found an idol. You’ve actually probably found yourself posing as an idol, but it could be something else.

Jesus came to find the lost, bind the broken and eat with sinners. As long as you think you are relatively healthy, you won’t need that. And huge sections – a majority of the American public – thinks they are just fine. Now the Christian knows they are lost. And as the body of Christ offer a hand and a roadmap – come join me brother. But we shouldn’t expect an immediate answer. In fact, since what is probably needed first is a stark confrontation with the law that shows our shortcomings, we should probably expect to be despised first. The old self-sufficient man must die for the new man to arise.

The list of what has made your faith grow is just the classic Christian life: prayer, study and trial (oratio, meditatio, and tentatio). God is faithful, even when we are not.

The title for this post, and the deeper question of this survey, I would think is aligning the church’s actions with the external context. In Christendom, that time when you could assume the everyone was “christian”, the church focused on gospel alone and the shepherding of culture. In exile, law and gospel are necessary and the church has no claim on culture but is purely counter-cultural. There are times for gathering stones, and times to cast away.

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