From the Days of John Until Now


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.

Loaded Camels


Biblical Text: Mark 10:23-31
Full Sermon Draft

This sermon is the continuation of last week’s gospel lesson (Mark 10:17-22). The focus in the text is on the difference, the astonishing reversal of the values of the Kingdom of God. That reversal gets everyone’s attention, but that reversal is put to sharp use. The full weight of the law is brought to bear in the saying “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom.” What wealth really does, as the lesson for the day from Ecclesiastes knows, is increase our responsibilities. The weight of the law becomes greater. The camel gets its full load. At the same time we become convinced that we are good at this, after all look at all we have. Jesus call out the huge mistake in that thinking. But he then tells us what the eye of the needle is. It is his promise. All things are possible for God. You will have treasure in heaven. You will be paid back 100-fold. Not in a prosperity gospel way. In this appointed time that comes with persecutions, but in the age to come eternal life. We enter life because God is good, and he has made salvation available by faith. Trusting in the work of Jesus and not our work. He is so good that he has extended to us the change to participate in that gospel. And that participation is part of our proof, part of the return.

Program Note: This is a re-recording. I messed up the original. So you don’t get any of the great hymns we sang. My guess is that you wouldn’t hear these at most American congregations. They are gems of the faith, but supposedly not what is “relevant”. Although given the text the are spot on. We opened with Lutheran Service Book 730 – What is the World to Me. The hymn of the day, was Lutheran Service Book 753 – All for Christ I have Forsaken. That link is not a informative because it is a newer hymn. But here is another congregation singing this haunting hymn from you tube.

McLean-DeWitt Wedding Homily

Text: Colossians 3:14 (1 Corinthians 13:1-8, Colossians 3:12-17, 1 John 4:16-19)
I’m sure that people who live there get tired of it, but living in Orlando, FL you are ground zero of magic. And magic is something that we are very attracted to, it is whimsical and surprising. But more than that it is immediate. It is like our cell phones. It offers the idea of instant attainment. Especially when it comes to love. Swipe left/swipe right.

But if we listen to the Apostles in the texts you chose, they don’t describe love as a state, but as a virtue. More than that, the highest or the unity of the virtues. And virtues are not things instantly attained. Virtues are acquired by practice and living. How does one become patient? By being patient. How does one become kind, by practicing kindness, especially in hard cases. Now there might be some natural capacity or attraction that starts us on the path to virtue. Love might start out as chemistry and romance. But to have love, we practice it – hourly and yearly.

And marriage is the primary vocation where we practice it. It is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking. It is clothed with compassion and humility and gentleness. It doesn’t fear. The things life throws at us, more true in married life, bring those temptations daily. We practice living love.

We practice not strictly by ourselves, because the perfect love of Jesus Christ has already triumphed. We have been loved perfectly first, so we are enabled to live and practice love to our spouse and our neighbor.

Today, you stand here in faith saying I believe in that love. We will mutually live and practice that love. We will develop that virtue. And we do that, so that 50 years hence, on that golden anniversary, you can look at each other, no longer in faith that love never fails, but in knowledge, deep in your bones, that love never fails. Because you lived it. Your lives have become a witness to the love that never fails. Amen.

The Deceitfulness of Wealth/Jesus Loved Him


Biblical Text: Mark 10:17-22
Full Sermon Draft

This sermon explores two items wrapped by a question. The two items are: 1) the biblical view or warnings about wealth and 2) What it means that Jesus looked at the rich young man and loved him. Neither of these two things are as popular sentiment would have. This sermon attempts to instruct or correct that sentiment. What those two subjects are wrapped in is the question of the good. Not really what actions are good, because that is known defined by the law. The question is one of recognition, do we see Jesus as good? And do we recognize that God alone is good. The offer to the man to sell everything might sound like a law, but it is pure gospel. It is the offer of joining Jesus on his walk. Yes, the walk right now is toward the cross, but it is also heavenward, toward treasure in heaven. Our use of wealth is one way we are invited to participate in the kingdom now.

This text is also only half of a full section. The gospel assigned for next week continues in a similar vein but focusing less on our call and more on God’s action.

Musical notes: 1) The recording includes our choir’s first piece of the Season. 2) I’ve included the hymn after the sermon Lutheran Service Book 694 – Thee Will I Love My Strength My Tower.

Grace was Never Practical


Biblical Text: Mark 10:2-26
Full Sermon Draft

This sermon is a little longer than my typical one. The subject from the gospel text is marriage and divorce. Because the contextual density of the topic and because of its high profile in our general culture this sermon takes its time and spells out all the steps. I believe I arrive at the proclamation of the gospel, but it might not be the gospel we always want to hear.