Good Soil

Biblical Text: Mathew 13:1-23

Parables are strange little things. Everyone loves a good parable. If there is a part of the bible that remains common knowledge it is probably some of the parables, like the Sower and the Soils. But what makes them strange is that while the crowds might remember them, they don’t really hear them. If you are hearing the parables alone, it is because your ears aren’t working. The understanding, the explanation, only comes by faith. And that understanding is often at great odds with the surface friendliness.

In the case of the Sower and the soils, them point is not really to identify soils which is what we so often do. The point is to recognize the overwhelming grace of the sower. And to understand that you are good soil. You who have heard and accepted the Word, you are good soil and will be made fruitful. Because the Word of God does what it intends.

Virtual Bulletin – 7/12

July 12, 2020 – 6th Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP

Everything remains on our current schedule.  10AM, Lord’s Supper for those present.

Bulletin/Worship Link Here – July 12th, 2020

Zoom (same as before): https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

Devotion & Prayer Thought

Part of the package of building our house was one tree in the front yard.  Ours got planted and for a year or two seemed okay, but it never seemed to grow.  And then it started simply to die. It leafed late and shed early.  Then all the branches on one side died.  I cut them off and pitched them and fed around it, hoping that maybe it would figure out ways around.  Meanwhile most of the neighbor’s tress were flourishing.  Finally, as I stared at the pathetic blighted and mangled tree in my front yard, I decided it was time.  We dug it out, cut it up and sent it on its way.  We replaced it with a cherry tree that promises pink flowers in the spring and bright orange leaves in the fall.  No word about the cherries which I assume will be for the birds.

How much of life feels like that poor first tree?  Why did this one fail to thrive while all the others were fine?  Why did everything done to help it do nothing?  Why did it take ten years to do something?  In some ways that is a good metaphor for our life with sin.  We are planted sick.  And all the goodness of the earth can’t change our direction. And our wills are completely tapped.  Why bother if the ground is so bad?  But Isaiah urges another view.  God’s Word goes out and it accomplishes what it intends, it succeeds for what it was sent.  And the Word of God certainly goes out to proclaim the wages of sin which are death.  But the Word of God also goes out  “giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.”  It goes out to change the ground “making it bring forth and sprout…Instead of thorn shall come up the cypress, instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle…it shall make an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

I pray that my little cherry tree will thrive where the prior ground proved unfruitful, that it may not be cut off.  Likewise we pray for the Lord to send the rain and snow of the Word that changes hearts.  “That we might go out in joy and be led forth in peace…and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  July 13th – July 19th

Mon., Wed., Fri.: ……… 8:00am     Summer Camp (Preschool)

Thursday: …………….. 10:00am     Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….  9:00am     Bible Study and Sunday School

                                           10:00am    Worship

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: : We are reading the book of Zechariah, the OT Revelation and the most quoted from book in the passion accounts in the NT.  We are up to Chapter 9, both live in person and on zoom.  Same link as the service.  The start time is 10, but we probably talk 15 mins or so first.  Everyone is invited!
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Keep a look out here and in your email for future plans for LAF.
  • Confirmation: Will return in the fall – September
  • Sunday Morning: We’ve taken a little break, which I’ve needed to make sure things are set up prior to service. This will return, but it might be September as well.  Pending the pandemic course, there are some things with our Sunday schedule that we might have to address.
  • Catechism Moment: We finished the Creed this past week.  We will be moving on the the Lord’s Prayer.  It is slow work, but I am also moving over prior “Catechism Moment” emails to the church website.  It takes about a year to pray through the catechism weekly.  Eventually I hope to have a current (within the last year) gloss on the entire catechism that we will be updated on that rolling basis.  If you missed an email, or just lost it in the all the rest, it will be on the church website as well. 

SAVERS DELIVERY … July 31st

Savers delivery is scheduled for Friday, July 31st at 10am in Webster.  Please contact Mindy or Ellen if you have a large vehicle and are available to drive a load of stuff to Webster.  (Of course, afterwards you are free to ‘Second-hand shop”)  We are also still accepting donations of clothes (accessories and shoes) and household fabrics.

WOMEN’S GROUP MEETING … July 20th

Several women have expressed an interest in having an in-person meeting, so, with this in mind we will be having a meeting at church on Monday, July 20th for those wishing to join us in person.  Supper will be served at 6pm with social distancing being practiced.  The meeting will commence at 6:30 on Zoom for those who prefer to not to attend in person.  Please contact Mindy if you plan to attend the dinner so we can plan accordingly.

MEN’S CLUB MEETING … July 20th

Jerry Gardner is hosting the Men’s Club at his home on Monday, July 20th at the usual time of 6pm.  The sign-up is posted on the bulletin board or you may call Jerry if you would like to attend.

MOWING CALENDAR

It is mowing season again (it beats shoveling season!) and at St. Mark we ask the men of the congregation to donate a few hours to cut the grass.  The good news is that we have a riding lawn mower for the majority of the work.  This summer’s mowing calendar is now posted on the bulletin board (across from the Conference Room windows); please take a moment to look at it and enter your assigned date on your personal calendar.  Friday or Saturday mowing is the preferred timeframe.  We ask that you make arrangements with someone else on the schedule if you have a previous commitment on the date you are assigned.  There is a white tin in the News Nest that contains a key for the church and the padlock combination as well as Jerry’s cell number for an emergency.  If you have any questions please contact Jerry Gardner.

Leadership Boards Summer Break

Elders are taking off July & August from formal meeting. Council will be taking off July.

Bulletin Note

This goes out to everybody’s email that I have. That email version also contains birthdays, anniversaries, contact info, financial stuff, etc – anything that might contain personal info. I cut out all that stuff for the web version. So, if you want all that stuff, and you aren’t getting it right now, contact me or Mindy and we will make sure your email is on the list.

A God Who Chooses

Biblical Text: Matthew 11:25-30

This is my attempt to preach the doctrine of election which is way outside of the American Overton Window. Which is deeply odd and might explain our historical moment better than anything. For most of American history, the doctrine of election was born in the morrow of Americans. From the Shot heard round the world, through manifest destiny to the early progressive movement, Americans knew in their bones what being chosen was about. As Lincoln himself said “an almost chosen people”. But today, we insist not on a God who chooses, but we are free will maximalists. Which is how we’ve arrived at this deeply troubled day. Because it just ain’t so. The most important things in life aren’t our choices. This sermon, reflecting on Jesus’ words both about the Father’s good pleasure and the easy yoke, is my best attempt to proclaim election, and how it works itself out in time. The biggest step being that God chooses you in this hearing. You can’t choose Him, but he has chosen you. All you can do is opt-out of his grace.

Swords and Rewards

Biblical Text: Matthew 10:34-42

The gospel text today is the end of Jesus’ missionary sermon, and it contains one of the hardest sayings of Jesus. “I have have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” That is actually understandable from Matthew’s Gospel, which I hope the sermon brings to life. It is just that we are more used to Luke’s Christmas story. Understanding peace and swords is the first part.

The second part is about why anyone would take up the call and what that means. It is an expansion on what should be the greater phrase, but we go ho hum to “the one who received you receives me, and the one who receives me receives the one who sent me”. What that phrase tells us is that we get God. We get the Father. Our reward? God. That should be stunning.

Virtual Bulletin – 6/28

June 28, 2020 – 4th Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP

Everything remains on our current schedule.  10AM, Lord’s Supper for those present.

Bulletin/Worship Link Here – June 28, 2020

Zoom (same as before): https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

Devotion & Prayer Thought

“The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike”.  That is grace is action.  Strictly speaking no one is just, no not one.  So the Loving Father who continues to sustain our existence is giving us good things which we in no way deserve.  Grace.  But I was contemplating the opposite of that recently. While reading along in Romans.  What happens when the Lord’s wrath is expressed?  You know, when war, famine, plague and death ride the land? God’s grace is often expressed in overlooking the many for the sake of the few, for example remember Abraham’s pleading for Sodom.  More often God’s grace is expressed in a remnant.  Eight souls saved through the flood on the Ark.  7000 have not bowed the knee to Baal which Paul quotes from Elijah.  But those 8 souls and those 7000 experienced the calamity right along with everyone else.  Jeremiah went into exile when Jerusalem fell.  In this world, being a Christian is not a get out of trouble free card.

When we talk about fairness the ultimate fairness in this world is that everyone dies.  We have all sinned and fallen short and so labor under the same burden.  The Christian Hope is not in this world.  It does not come from princes, or laws or regulations or money or fairness.  The Christian Hope is the coming Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That does not mean we cannot seek address of grievances.  We can by orderly lawful means.  That does not mean we give up working here.  We don’t because the Lord has given us a task to live as residents of the Kingdom now.  But it does mean that we can never lose sight of the true Hope.  It is not fairness or justice here, it is eternal grace.   This world is both the good creation of our Loving Father and yet a veil of tears.  The wheat and the weeds grow together.  But the Reign of God is near.  When you aim for the kingdom, God often throws in the world although not always.  When you aim for the world, you get nothing. Lord increase and multiply upon us thy mercy, that you being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  June 29th – July 5th

Mon., Wed., Fri.: ……… 8:00am     NO Preschool

Thursday: …………….. 10:00am     Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….  9:00am     Bible Study and Sunday School

                                           10:00am    Worship

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: : We are reading the book of Zechariah, the OT Revelation and the most quoted from book in the passion accounts in the NT.  We are up to Chapter 6, both live in person and on zoom.  Same link as the service.  The start time is 10, but we probably talk 15 mins or so first.  Everyone is invited!
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Keep a look out here and in your email for future plans for LAF.
  • Confirmation: Will return in the fall – September
  • Sunday Morning: We’ve taken a little break, which I’ve needed to make sure things are set up prior to service. This will return, but it might be September as well.  Pending the pandemic course, there are some things with our Sunday schedule that we might have to address.
  • Catechism Moment: I hope you are all receiving these and find them meaningful or at least a good prod to the memory. 

MOWING CALENDAR

It is mowing season again (it beats shoveling season!) and at St. Mark we ask the men of the congregation to donate a few hours to cut the grass.  The good news is that we have a riding lawn mower for the majority of the work.  This summer’s mowing calendar is now posted on the bulletin board (across from the Conference Room windows); please take a moment to look at it and enter your assigned date on your personal calendar.  Friday or Saturday mowing is the preferred timeframe.  We ask that you make arrangements with someone else on the schedule if you have a previous commitment on the date you are assigned.  There is a white tin in the News Nest that contains a key for the church and the padlock combination as well as Jerry’s cell number for an emergency.  If you have any questions please contact Jerry Gardner.

Leadership Boards Summer Break

Elders are taking off July & August from formal meeting. Council will be taking off July.

Things May Not Be This Way

Biblical Text: Matthew 10:21-33

Sometimes you have one of those spooky encounters. This includes mine floating in a pool a few years ago. But the points is about the warning and the blessing of being a follower of Jesus. The warning could cause fear, a little like my story. But it shouldn’t, because the blessing is so much greater.

I also left in a great hymn at the end that captures everything. LSB 836

Virtual Bulletin – 6/21

June 21, 2020 – 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP

Everything remains on our current schedule.  10AM, Lord’s Supper for those present.

Bulletin/Worship Link Here – June 21, 2020

Zoom (same as before): https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

Devotion & Prayer Thought

I’m sorry for the somewhat personal reflection here. Something came across my reading material this week, that reminded me of another instance, which fed into the Jeremiah reading.  The Catholic chaplain at MIT was fired this week for his sermon. I read through his sermon.  My reflection was it was incredibly solid. It called out sin. It pointed to Christ.  It encouraged us to do better in our walk with Christ.  It reminded me of an instance in the news about two years ago of another minister getting removed over a funeral sermon.  I had read that too and was shocked.  He had preached the gospel exceedingly well.  It was an example of what I’d want at my funeral.  But it had fallen on deaf ears who took it up with his bishop.  The sermon was offensive they held because it didn’t celebrate the life of the deceased.  Instead it held out Christ as his and all of our only hope.  And bishops being what they so often are banished the gospel.

Jeremiah reflects a bit on what I’m sure both of those preachers thought after getting caught in the spotlight.  “O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived…I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name.”  But if it is the gospel in your bones Jeremiah continues, “there is in my heart a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot.”  I have been graced with a pulpit where the gospel is welcomed.  I remind myself that this is probably not the standard.  And we should be reminded that the gospel is a scandal – a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles.  Yet it remains mankind’s hope.  And while Jeremiah gives voice to what is surely felt “ O Lord…let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have I committed my cause”, Christ would remind us that the day of judgment comes soon enough.  Today, the day of grace, love your enemies, pray for them.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  June 22nd – June 28th

Mon., Wed., Fri.: ……… 8:00am     Preschool

Thursday: …………….. 10:00am     Bible Study

Saturday: ………………  9:00am    Rummage Sale

Sunday: ………………….   9:00am    Bible Study and Sunday School

                                           10:00am    Worship

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: : We are reading the book of Zechariah, the OT Revelation and the most quoted from book in the passion accounts in the NT.  We are up to Chapter 5, both live in person and on zoom.  Same link as the service.  The start time is 10, but we probably talk 15 mins or so first.  Everyone is invited!
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Keep a look out here and in your email for future plans for LAF.
  • Confirmation: Will return in the fall – September
  • Sunday Morning: We’ve taken a little break, which I’ve needed to make sure things are set up prior to service. This will return, but it might be September as well.  Pending the pandemic course, there are some things with our Sunday schedule that we might have to address.
  • Catechism Moment: I hope you are all receiving these and find them meaningful or at least a good prod to the memory. 

RUMMAGE SALE … June 27th

We are now accepting donations for the Rummage Sale; they can be dropped off in the Multipurpose Room.  This event will be held outside.  If you would like to help with this please contact Miss Kelly.

MOWING CALENDAR

It is mowing season again (it beats shoveling season!) and at St. Mark we ask the men of the congregation to donate a few hours to cut the grass.  The good news is that we have a riding lawn mower for the majority of the work.  This summer’s mowing calendar is now posted on the bulletin board (across from the Conference Room windows); please take a moment to look at it and enter your assigned date on your personal calendar.  Friday or Saturday mowing is the preferred timeframe.  We ask that you make arrangements with someone else on the schedule if you have a previous commitment on the date you are assigned.  There is a white tin in the News Nest that contains a key for the church and the padlock combination as well as Jerry’s cell number for an emergency.  If you have any questions please contact Jerry Gardner.

Tools for the Work

Biblical Text: Matthew 9:35-10:8

The essence of the text is a list, a list of names. Sermonic suicide, right?

I think the list, when you add the stuff around it is more meaningful than that. And it goes right at our problems with evangelism. We grumble, we come up with all kinds of excuses why we can’t, why things are going good. We look at this text and say, “if you gave me those powers.” But that is simply a surface reading. Give is a good read. List out what the tools for the work of mission actually are. And then ask yourselves, are you willing to pick up these tools? That is what the sermon does.

Virtual Bulletin – 6/14

June 14, 2020 – 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP

Everything else remains the same.  10AM, Lord’s Supper for those present.

Bulletin/Worship Link Here – June 14, 2020

Zoom (same as before): https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

Devotion & Prayer Thought

Our opening hymn is one of my personal favorites. It is extremely easy to spend all our time focusing on what is not right.  Everything in this world seems to be tilted to encourage what in the OT would have been called grumbling.  And as Moses makes clear, you might think you are grumbling against whoever the figurehead is, but all grumbling is really against God. God wants our prayers, not our grumbling.  Grumbling assumes two things.  It assumes that God doesn’t really care and that he can’t do anything. So we grumble. Prayer can have the same agenda as the grumble – “I don’t like this”. But prayer makes the assumption that God is good and that he is Almighty i.e. he can do stuff.  He might not.  His answers might not be what we are after. But prayer removes us from envy and places us in hope.  Praise to the Lord, the Almighty for He is your health and salvation. Even in personal poor health, we have been promised eternal life. Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things is wondrously reigning. Even in the midst of strife, the Lord works good for his people. Praise to the Lord, ponder anew, what the almighty can do.  Do so; ponder. Has the Almighty befriended you with his love? Has he provided our daily bread? Has he ever abandoned his people?  No. Because he is good, and his mercy endures forever.  Let the Amen, sound from his people again.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  June 15th – June 21st

Mon., Wed., Fri.: ……… 8:00am     Preschool

Wednesday: …………… 7:30pm     St. Mark Council Mtg

Thursday: …………….. 10:00am     Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….   9:00am    Bible Study and Sunday School

                                           10:00am    Worship

CONTRIBUTION UPDATE

6/7:  $ 5,910       YTD: $ 69,548        Organ – $5,000/goal …$ 1,445/collected            Missionary Support:  $2,000/goal … $ 300/collected

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are reading the book of Zechariah, the OT Revelation and the most quoted from book in the passion accounts in the NT.  We are both live in person and on zoom.  Same link as the service.  The start time is 10, but we probably talk 15 mins or so first.  Everyone is invited!
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Thanks to Nick for all he did this past year! Keep a look out here and in your email for future plans for LAF.
  • Confirmation: 

Year 1: Ok, it’s June, you guys are really out of school, even though you aren’t.  I’m going to call it.  We will pick back up in year 2 in the fall.

Year 2: Congrats to our confirmands!

RUMMAGE SALE … June 27th

We are now accepting donations for the Rummage Sale; they can be dropped off in the Multipurpose Room.  This event will be held outside.  If you would like to help with this please contact Miss Kelly at 334-4130

Tell That Young Man

Biblical Texts: Zechariah 2:1-13 NLT, Lamentations 2

This was a sermon delivered for the pastors of the LCMS Rochester Circuits meeting. It is called occasional preaching. In the category with weddings, funerals, and some impromptu times people ask you to speak. What is special to me about these is the audience – preaching to preachers. So the measuring line is pulled a little tighter. But it is also a great occasion to “swing for the fences”. Things that don’t show up in the lectionary – like Lamentations. Things that are built on a deeper collective understanding of the text – like a solid biblical historical framework. Things that might make people mad. As one of the Lamentations verses has it: “You prophets have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes…”. It is an audience you don’t hold back with playing a longer game. (Note, I used selected verses from the Lamentations as a responsive reading introit. It didn’t come off well on the recording because the responses were mostly online and not mic’d.) So that is the background of this one.