Holy Cross Day – John 12:20-33 – 9/14/14 –

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“Holy Cross Day” is one of the oldest, annual celebrations on the Church’s calendar, dating back to the early part of the 4th century. Legend has it, and there are several witnesses that claim the legend has a lot of truth to it, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, whose name was Helena, was a devout Christian. And her passion was to uncover as many places where Jesus carried out His ministry in Palestine as possible. And as the mother of the Roman Emperor, who was the Christian Emperor, she had all the backing and support she needed.

Under her direction, several archeological digs uncovered the supposed sites of our Lord’s crucifixion and burial. As the legend has it, on September 14, 320 AD, three crosses were discovered in the process, and one of these was presumed to be the cross on which Christ Himself had been crucified.

15 years later, a basilica was built on this site that is called the “Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher” and the remnants of the cross of Christ were kept in it. The building was dedicated on September 14, 335 by the Emperor Constantine who declared that September 14th was to be remembered as “Holy Cross Day.” Continue reading

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Pentecost 13 – "The Christian and Government" – Romans 13:1-10 – 9/7/14

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One of the big words that we learn in Confirmation Class is “omnipresent.” It’s one of the attributes of God that means, ‘everywhere present.’ Jeremiah 23:24 says, “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.”

That’s either good news or bad news depending on whether you’d like to hide from God or go someplace where you could escape God’s presence. For instance, if you were hoping that once you left here that you wouldn’t have to worry about bumping into God for the rest of the week wherever else you go, ‘omnipresent’ is not a good word. That there is no where that you can go where you don’t bump into God, is not welcome news if that’s what you are trying to do.

But God’s ‘omnipresence’ is good news if you’re someone who is anxious to worship God wherever you happen to be and everything you do.

This morning we hear St. Paul tell us that we bump into God Himself even in the government and in that messy business we call ‘politics.’ God is present in the ‘governing authorities,’ and that therefore we are to “submit to them,” “obey them,” “respect,” and “honor them.” Continue reading

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Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist – Mark 5:14-29 – 8/31/14

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It was just two fast months ago that we celebrated the “Nativity of John the Baptist” on June 24th. Now today we celebrate his death.

One of the things that we said at that time was that the only other person besides Jesus whose birthday recorded in the gospels is John the Baptist. Like his Savior, John was one of those 'miracle babies.' A real surprise to his parents. And like Joseph and Mary, John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, are instructed by an angel what they are to name their child. “And you shall name him John.” (Luke 1:13)

Now today we note that John the Baptist is also the only person besides Jesus Christ whose birth AND DEATH is recorded in the gospels.
 And like his Savior, John's death is also an injustice and a bloody death, carried out in envy and anger and bitter resentment.
 Like his Savior, John's death comes at the hands of a civil ruler who is pressured into executing an innocent man against his will.

All of this of course is ordered by God. John pointed to Jesus Christ, not just by the sermons that he preached, but also by his life. His preaching testified to Jesus and his death testified to Jesus. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

But in John the Baptist, we can also see how sinful man twists God's good intentions and turns them around in such a way that they work for bad instead of good. Maybe it’s just because John's life looked so much like what the prophets had warned we should expect to see when the Messiah comes, but the people think that John the Baptist is the Messiah. Continue reading

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Festival of St. Bartholomew – "The Lord Is My Keeper" – Psalm 121- 8/24/14

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The text for our consideration this morning is the Psalm appointed for the Festival of St. Bartholomew, Psalm 121.

A very brief bit of background on Bartholomew before we begin however. Bartholomew is listed as one of the 12 disciples in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels. Luke again includes Bartholomew in the list of Apostles in his book of Acts. That however are the only times that Bartholomew’s name is mentioned in the bible.

One of the names that’s missing from all of the lists of disciples is Nathanael, the friend of Phillip who is known for blurting out those memorable words, “can anything good come out of Nazareth.” And then he met Jesus OF NAZARETH.

In a time when it was not uncommon for someone to be known by more than one name, there’s a good chance that Bartholomew and Nathanael are one and the same.

But it is always dangerous to preach a sermon based on assumption. Continue reading

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Pentecost 8 – "Mange, Mange" – Matthew 14:13-21 – 8/3/14

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In Genesis chapter 2, we read, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Gen.2:7). A ‘living creature’ with an appetite. The ‘living creature’ is an ‘eating creature.’

That’s why God created things in the order that He did. First He created everything necessary to feed this ‘living creature.’ Then He created the ‘living creature’ and showed him everything there is to eat. And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the faced of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Gen.1:29). “And out of the ground the Lord made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” (Gen.2:9).

And in the background you can almost hear the angels singing, “mange, mange.” (At least the Italian angels.) Continue reading

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Pentecost 10 – "The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…" – Matthew 13:44-52 – 7/27/14

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“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Occasionally while channel surfing, I’ll come to the “Antiques Roadshow.” People bring their ‘stuff’ to the experts to have it appraised to see if it’s worth anything. Usually it’s something either been passed down to them or something they picked up at a yard-sale for less than $20 bucks. And the appraiser gives a brief history of the item and then tells what its worth. And the owner of the treasure is always shocked. “I had no idea it was worth that much.”

The record find so far was set in 2011. A man had five, Chinese cups carved out of rhinoceros horn that he picked up somewhere because they looked interesting. When he was told that they were valued at between 1 and 1.5 million dollars, he responded, “Seriously? Wow. I guess I won’t have to depend on Social Security anymore.”

And I’m like, ‘yea, if you can actually find someone willing to actually pay that for rhinoceros horns.’

That’s NOT WHAT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE. But that is what THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS LIKE. We don’t know what we have. We have Jesus Christ, and He is the Son of God. “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Col.2:9) In Him, you have the forgiveness of all of your sins and power of almighty God on your side and the only cure for death that there is, and the second by second guidance and care of the Holy Spirit.

And that’s only a spec of it. That’s only a fraction of a fraction of the value of this treasure that you possess. Because that’s only what you have in this time and this world. You have Jesus Christ, and He is eternal life.

We have been given this treasure, this precious pearl in our baptism. And we carry this treasure around with us and we don’t realize what we’ve got. Continue reading

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Festival of St. Mary Magdalene – John 20:1-2, 10-18 – 7/20/14

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Mary Magdalene seems to be one of those persons about whom people love to gossip. Throughout the church’s history, people have tried to connect her to the woman caught in adultery whom Jesus told to “go and sin no more.” But there’s nothing in the Scriptures that actually connects Mary to whoever this woman was.

In our own day, Dan Brown claims that the secret DaVinci Code identifies Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ wife by whom she had a child whose descendants are still among us today. It’s ridiculous, of course. But a little gossip sells a lot of books and makes a lot of money.

I’m not sure why she attracts so much gossip. There’s enough in the Scriptures to develop a fairly complete picture of Mary without having to make stuff up. In fact, other than Mary the mother of our Lord, no other woman in the New Testament has as much written about her in the gospels as Mary Magdalene does.

And not all that is written about her is pretty. If there’s one thing that the gospel writers seem to want us to know about Mary it is that she was someone who was possessed by demons. And not just one or two, but seven.

St. Luke writes that those who traveled with Jesus were ‘the 12’ “and also several women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out….” (Luke 8:2).

St. Mark writes that when Jesus “rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.” (Mark 16:9)

That nasty little part of Mary’s life is certainly not covered up or hidden by the gospel writers. Everyone knew it and they seem to want to be sure that we know it too. Continue reading

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Funeral – Kathleen Marie Pryor – "Like A Little Child" – Mark 10:13-16 – 7/19/14

Kathleen Marie Pryor, 58, passed away on July 6, 2014. She was born in Waterville, Maine on September 18, 1955. Kathy is survived by her parents, Don and Marlene Pryor of Benton; her brother, James, of Waterville; her sisters, Debra Haske and her husband, John, of West Virginia, and Donna Wilson and her husband, Greg, of Benton. She is also survived by her nephews, Justin Pryor and his wife, Abbie, of Maryland, Luc Poulin and his wife, Emily of Virginia and Daniel Wilson, of Benton; and her nieces, Amanda Poulin, of Virginia, Danielle Poulin of Ohio and Juli Bearce and her husband, Jayson, of Waterville… She will be missed by Jaimi and Paula Cole, Mikayla and Breanna and her KFI friends who so lovingly watched over her.

As obituary’s go, this one is brief and quite modest. It says nothing about Kathy’s hobbies or accomplishments in life as many obituaries do. It says nothing about the people whom she loved. It mentions only her date of birth and date of death and the family and friends who loved her and took care of her.

There are people who are remembered for what they have achieved and accomplished during their life. Some are remembered for their passion for certain hobbies or interests. Some are remembered by their love for their parents or their spouse or their children or their neighbors or a favorite pet.

But Kathy is remembered primarily by those who loved her and took care of her. Kathy was a person who required a lot from others. She was not one of those ‘independent’ people that we tend to admire and strive to become like. She was ‘dependant’ on others to take care of her and provide for her all her needs.

Would it be safe to say that for Kathy’s entire 58 years of life, she was a little child? And if it is safe to say that, then I think it is also safe to say that Kathy leads us right to the Gospel reading we just heard? Continue reading

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Pentecost 5 – "The Parable of the Sower – It's a Miracle" – Matthew 13:1-23 – 7/13/14

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Miracles are the demonstration of the power of God before our eyes. Water turned to wine, a stormy sea instantly calmed, a catch of fish that is way beyond luck, the blind receive their sight, the leprous are cleansed, and the dead child and the dead man are raised from the dead.

Those are miracles. Demonstrations of the power of God before your eyes – so that you may believe. Believe what? That Jesus Christ is who He says He is – the Son of God in the flesh dwelling among us, full of power to do what He has come into this world to do, which is, to make everything right.

Parables on the other hand are just stories. They are stories about the Kingdom of God. “A sower went out to sow.” “A shepherd goes after one of his sheep.” “A woman lost one of her coins.” “A son disowns his father and is later sorry that he did and comes home and the father welcomes him.”

Nothing miraculous in that. Pretty common, everyday stuff really. But hidden within the story is a revelation of how things work in the Kingdom of God. Hidden within every one of those stories is a window into the heart of man and the heart of God.

Why? So that you may believe? Believe what? That Jesus Christ is who He says He is – the Son of God in the flesh dwelling among us, full of power to do everything that He has come into this world to do, which is, to make everything right.

The gospel text that is appointed for this morning is the PARABLE of the SOWER. But I tell you that it is really a MIRACLE. Continue reading

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Pentecost 4 – Rest For The Soul – Romans 7:14-25 – 7/6/14

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I get it. I really do. I’ve been baptized, and I am a child of God. I’ve been instructed in the faith. I believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible TRUTH. I know the difference between right and wrong. I know what I should do and shouldn’t do and I want to do what is right before God.

But I don’t get it. I really don’t. Why am I such a failure? It’s pathetic.
 When I know I should keep quite I open my big mouth and when I know I should speak up I don’t say a thing.
 I know what I should do but it’s like an all out war with myself to actually do it. And I know what I shouldn’t do, but its like, ‘yea, why not?’
 I know that I should read my bible to get to know God’s Word and I should pray, but man, I’m busy, gotta run. But it amazes me how easily I make time for lots of other things not nearly so important.
 I know I should tithe on my income and believe me, I want to, but when the time comes I just can’t let go of it. But when I see something I want, I can’t believe how easily I fork it out.

It’s ridiculous. It’s disgusting really. What’s wrong with me? Continue reading

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