Today is Different (Easter)

Biblical Text: Isaiah 65:17-25

The inspirations for this sermon were the Isaiah text, Chrysostom’s Easter sermon and a common conversation we have in confirmation class on the distinction between mercy and grace. Easter is grace.

Only Sons

Biblical Text: Luke 15:1-32

The text is possibly the most famous biblical text of all time, Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. But there is a problem with that. There is also 2000 years of piety around the text. Sometimes piety is a great thing. Most times. It usually is a virtue and prevents us doing something really stupid. But occasionally piety gets in the way of an authentic meditation on a text. We can’t hear or imagine the text because of everything else around it. This sermon attempts that meditation. These texts are not about about repentance, not really. They aren’t about sorting into prodigal and elders. They aren’t about spurring us on to greater feats of piety. They are a picture of God. The God who does come for us. The God who does clean us. The God who welcomes us back to the household. The God who wants only sons. (Not excluding daughters here, but the God who wants only members of the household, not hired men. And households don’t operate on the law. Households live on grace.

Measure by Measure

Biblical Text: Luke 6:27-38

The text is part two of “The Sermon on the Plain”, Luke version of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. And what this sermon (and last week’s) encourage is what seems to be a specific audience shift in the way Luke presents it. The Sermon on the Plain is to the disciples, or this week specifically to “those who hear.” It may sound strange coming from a Lutheran, but the Law is Good. The Law does have a place in the Christian Life. The deeper question is how does one take that law? And that is what I think Jesus is getting at in Luke’s version. This is the 3rd Use of the Law version of the sermon. And that rule is the rule of grace. The golden rule is to act today, toward your enemies, toward those who won’t pay you back, as the Father and the Son have acted toward us. Do so understanding that you probably don’t get paid back in this world. Which is fine, because as a disciple of Jesus, you are living out of the eternal measure of God.

Scandalized by Me

Biblical Text: Luke 7:18-28

This is a stand alone sermon (most of mine are) but with John the Baptist at the center it is something of a pair with last week. It is a scene of taking stock. John’s in prison and going to lose his head. Has his work been at all meaningful? The one he said must increase doesn’t look exactly like what he was proclaiming the loudest. Jesus, are you sure what you are doing? Is the prophet and his prophetic words true? Does this grace that can be seen in this hour align with that word? How do grace and truth go together? They go together in the one Christ. Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me.

A Reformation of the Heart

Biblical Text: Romans 3:19-28, John 8:31-36

What exactly is Reformation Day? It has been a lot of things. This sermon mentions a couple of them. But almost of of the alternates are corruptions of what it really was. Which is a recovery of the Apostle Paul. Which is a new birth of freedom in hearing the law and the gospel. It is not just the gospel, although that is the happy best part. It is also the law. The Reformation recovered that 200 proof cask of grace that Paul preached. Christ died for sinners and God’s righteousness is given to you as a gift. You have been made a member of God’s house by God’s choice. And that free gift also frees us to see the law for what it is. It is not a method of saving ourselves. But it is also no longer our writ of condemnation. Yes, we are sinners. But the righteousness of God does not come by the law, but by grace through faith. So we can accept the law as God’s good gift to us for our good. Reformation Day is about the law and the gospel, and how they Reform our hard hearts into hearts of flesh.

Of Camels and Needles

Biblical Text: Mark 10:23-31

The text contains a couple of Jesus’ classic aphorisms, but this sermon really isn’t about those aphorisms. Those aphorisms are given to heighten the shock that the disciples are feeling. They can’t believe what has just happened between Jesus and the Rich Young Man. Even less can they believe what Jesus says about it. Their surprise is our entry to think about our attitude to wealth. How does wealth form the soul? What are the deep dangers that Jesus is warning about? The sermon ponders these. It then follows Peter’s blunt but natural question: who gets it right, the disciples or the rich young man? If you saw Elon Musk walking away, wouldn’t you have some questions about the deal? Jesus’ answer, just like all of Mark Chapter 10, is necessary for the modern church to hear. And it leaves us with stuff to ponder.

Restless Seekers Being Found

Biblical Text: John 6:22-35

The lectionary has us in John 6 for three weeks. It is one of those long watershed chapters. It all takes place in the aftermath of the feeding of the 5000. In the Gospel according to John the feeding and that crowd are a little more specific about their desires than in the other gospels. They wanted to make Jesus their King. But the type of King they wanted was not the King Jesus is. The crowds were seeking, but they were not willing to be found. God was offering the bread of life, but they wanted their bread. This sermon explores that dichotomy.

The Holy and the Common

Biblical Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 25:10, Acts 20:32

The day is Pentecost, which for us is also confirmation day. So the message today has three movements. The first is a mediation on what Pentecost means for us with the focus on the distinction between the Holy and the Common. The second and third movements are a pastoral final blessing to the confirmands in the form of a meditation on their assigned confirmation verses.

I’m sorry about the recording quality. I think my microphone cut out somewhere after the readings. The microphone that was capturing the sounds was the altar mic. I’ve tried to compensate. It is not terrible, but this is why I also post the draft.

Grace Upon Grace

Biblical Text: John 17: 9-19

The text is from Jesus prayer on Thursday of Holy Week in John. It is picked because this past Thursday was ascension day, the day 40 days after Easter when Christians mark Jesus’ return to the Father. 10 Days later, next Sunday, is Pentecost when the Spirit is poured out. This is promised is Jesus’ prayer. What this sermon does is first reflect on the foundation for the prayer. Jesus prefaces his petitions with some statements. 1) The World and the those he is praying for are at odds, 2) those he is praying for have been chosen by the Father (election) and 3) It is through the disciples he is praying for that he receives glory. Such is the foundation and purpose of the Christian life. In order to live it, because Jesus is leaving this world, he asks his Father to grant his disciples certain things. All these things Jesus considers that while he was in the World He gave them, and he knows that we need them. So he asks the Father.

I have heard many preachers talk about these things, in particular the first one, as stuff the church should be working on. But that would turn them into laws, not graces. Jesus is asking his father for grace for his people. Grace to be one in the name. Which is true not the least in our baptisms. Grace to be kept from the Evil One. Which is true in that the Satan has been bound and has no way to destroy the church in this world. And Grace to consecrated in truth. Which is granted in the abiding word. Jesus’ prayer has been answered.

A Prophetic Turn

Biblical Text: Jonah 3:1-10, really all of Jonah

The Jonah story is so much more than just a fish tale. It is a tale of repentance. It is a tale of what moves God. It is a tale of prophets going the wrong way while everyone around them goes the right way. It is a tale about learning to desire grace. It is a tale of seeing the signs and applying them to ourselves. It is about walking in joy even if the way is strange and hard. In short it is a tale of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. This sermon attempts to bring that stuff into the foreground, and put the whale in background.