Pentecost 10 – "Teach Us To Pray" – Luke 11:1-13 – 7/24/16



“And when the days drew near for him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Lk.9:51). We come now to the 5th stop on this journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and as we said last Sunday, as the journey continues we can’t help but notice how interconnected each stop is to the others.

Last Sunday we were in the village of Bethany in the home of Martha and her sister Mary and the whole visit was about the “one thing necessary,” which was to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His word to YOU just like Mary did.

Which for us means, that we need to establish the HOLY HABIT of setting aside the chores of the day to carve out some time for reading our bible in our home. Because the bible is the very word of Jesus speaking to you through His Prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament. When you read your bible, you are sitting at the feet of Jesus, LISTENING to Him speak to you IN YOUR HOME just as Mary did.

So, if you weren’t here last Sunday I’d really encourage you to go to our web site and listen to the sermon. And if you were here last Sunday but you’re not today… well you get the idea. These two stops on the journey really go together.

On this morning’s stop on the journey with Jesus, we learn that there is also another side to this incredible relationship that we have with God. He not only speaks to us as a DEAR FATHER SPEAKS TO HIS DEAR CHILDREN but we may also speak to Him, AS DEAR CHILDREN SPEAK TO THEIR DEAR FATHER.

“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place…” Continue reading

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Pentecost 9 – "Hospitality to Jesus" – Luke 10:38-42 – 7/17/16


“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Lk.9:51). The journey continues. As we make our scheduled stops along this journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, its becoming more and more obvious to me, and I hope for you too, that each stop is connected to the others.

For example, two weeks ago, we watched as Jesus sent out His 72 messengers to “go ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and village where he himself was about to go.” They went out like LAMBS AMONG WOLVES looking for HOSPITALITY. And when they came to a house that welcomed them and invited them to stay, they were to announce His blessing of PEACE BE TO THIS HOUSE and say, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

If they were invited to stay, they were not to jump around from house to house but eat the food that was offered them and use that home as their base of operation for their mission in that area.

So today, on the 4th stop on the journey, we come to one of those homes where 2 of those messengers had found a warm welcome. When they returned to Jesus, they must have reported that when you arrive at the village of Bethany, He should go to the home of a woman named Martha and her sister called Mary. He would find a welcome hospitality with them.

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary…”

Surely as Jesus entered this home, He pronounced His blessing, “Peace be to this house.” “The kingdom of God is at hand.”

This is the house that will be His home base for His mission in Jerusalem as it was just about two miles over the Mount of Olives to the city limits.

It was to this home that Jesus would typically retreat each evening when he was in Jerusalem if He didn’t spend the night praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, about half way between the two.

Here, He who did not have a foxhole or birds nest to lay his head, found a welcome place to stay and eat a meal with dear friends. Continue reading

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Pentecost 8 – "The Good Samaritan" – Luke 10:25-37 – 7/10/16


“When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” The journey continues and today marks the 3rd stop on the way to the cross.

goodsamaritanAlong the way so far we have witnessed the way people respond to Jesus Christ. Some receive Him gladly and some gladly reject Him. Some receive His messengers into their homes and hear His name and His word proclaimed, and some shut the door and say, ‘go away.’

We watched the 72 return from their first missionary adventure all excited that “even the demons are subject us in your name,” only to hear Jesus respond with, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Now on this 3rd stop on the journey, we meet a man who wants to know HOW he might be sure that HIS NAME will be one of those that are “written in heaven.”

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test…” This is the kind of thing that LAWYERS love to do. “Lawyers” are experts in the “LAW.” They know it inside and out and they know how to apply it to specific situations. So, what if you’re chopping wood and the head of your axe comes flying off the handle and strikes another person and kills them? Are you guilty of murder or not? Are you as guilty as if you used the same axe to INTENTIONALLY hit and kill the same person? What does the LAW say?

Why do you want to know? Is this a real dilemma or are you just ‘testing’ this lawyer to see if he’s any good? Maybe you’re looking for a good lawyer to handle your case and you want to know if this one will represent you well. Continue reading

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Pentecost 7 – "As Sheep Among Wolves" – Luke 10:1-20 – 7/3/16


Last Sunday we began the journey to Jerusalem behind our Lord, Jesus Christ. “And when the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set His face to go to Jerusalem.”

It is the journey of Isaac, who willingly, obediently followed his father, Abraham to the place of sacrifice only to be spared because a ram got its head caught in a thicket of thorns and was laid on the wood and sacrificed in Isaac’s stead.

Now Jesus, led by His Father, willingly, obediently, “sets his face” to go to the place of sacrifice where He will be caught in a thicket of thorns and be laid out on the wood and sacrificed in YOUR STEAD.

If you’ll remember from last Sunday, the journey to Jerusalem passed through the region of Samaria and the Samaritans didn’t receive Him very well at all and the disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven on them and Jesus said, ‘calm down boys.’ Because the only fire that is going to burn anyone is the fire of the Father’s wrath for your sin that is going to come down on Him.

So this morning on this 2nd stop on the journey, we’re still in the region of Samaria. And instead of sending down fire on the stubborn Samaritans, Jesus sends out more messengers. “After this the Lord appointed seventy two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” Continue reading

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Pentecost 6 – "Dealing With Rejection" – Luke 9:51-62 – 6/26/16


“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

rejection1This is the great turning point in Luke’s gospel. Luke has organized his gospel of Jesus Christ geographically. Everything up to this point in Jesus’ adult ministry has taken place in the region of Galilee.

But now Jesus begins to make His way from Galilee to Jerusalem. He’s on a JOURNEY. It’s a JOURNEY that began in heaven and proceeded through the virgin’s womb and through His baptism in the Jordan River. He spent a good deal of time in the region of Galilee in villages such as Capernaum and Chorazin and His hometown of Nazareth.

But the destination had always been Jerusalem. And the timetable was the Festival of Passover. It had been scheduled before there was evening and morning the first day. He was to be the Passover Lamb that was slain for the sin of the world.

The plan is for us to follow Jesus on this JOURNEY to Jerusalem. Actually, as much as it’s possible, we want to JOURNEY along with Him, not as a spectator but as a participant. St. Luke is our tour guide and although he includes more than this, we’re going to make 22 stops along the way including today. The journey ends at the cross, just outside the city of Jerusalem.

Along the way Jesus will encounter lots of interesting people, some with physical issues, some with spiritual issues. He’ll meet some who are jealous, some who are afraid of change, especially the change that He seems to want to bring. He’ll meet some who are weak and some who are strong and some who are caught somewhere in between. And hopefully, at several places along the way, He’ll meet you and me.

So, enough of the introduction. The journey begins. “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

The first stop along the way is Samaria. Continue reading

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Pentecost 5 – "What Have You To Do With Me?" – Luke 8:26-39 – 6/19/16


I think that you probably feel the same way that I do, the world is going crazy. It’s insane. And I know that every generation since Noah has said the same thing – ‘how much worse can it get?’ And every ‘next generation’ seems to take that as a challenge. And yesterday’s insanity becomes today’s normal at quicker and quicker rate and the spiral spins faster and sucks more poor souls into it and where will it end? And when will it end?

And will God finally say ‘ENOUGH’ and turn His back and walk away and leave us without hope? Because if we were God, that’s what we’d do. But thankfully, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:8-9)

And so it is that we find our Lord, Jesus Christ, not fleeing but sailing right into the insanity. “Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.” Continue reading

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Pentecost 4 – "Forgiven Much to Love Much" – Luke 7:36-50 – 6/12/16


It was common practice for the Pharisees of a local synagogue to invite the visiting Rabbi to dinner the night before worship. A good chance for them to get a preview of what Scriptures the Rabbi would be preaching on and formulate some clever questions or additional insights to add that would make them look real “smaht” in front of all the people.

“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took a place at the table.”

Law as MirrorAt these pre-Sabbath dinners, the Rabbi was always the special guest and was treated with a special courtesy. But not here. This Pharisee didn’t even extend his guest the common courtesy of a bowl of water for him to wash his feet. Nor greet him with the customary kiss on the cheek. Nor anoint him with some perfumed oil to refresh him and cover the smell of sweat.

The word on the street was that this Rabbi was a “friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Lk. 7:34) And that great crowds were calling Him a ‘great prophet.’ (Lk. 7:16)

But “FRIEND OF TAX COLLECTORS AND SINNERS” and “GREAT PROPHET” were contradictory terms. There was something wrong about this Rabbi. What seminary did he graduate from anyway?

And yet, this Pharisee invites this Rabbi to come to house for dinner. And as we’ll see, there are others there too. Other Pharisees. Witnesses that will testify to what they hear and see.

Luke gives us none of the chit-chat between host and guest before dinner. He just says that He entered and “he took his place at the table.” Literally, He ‘reclined’ at table. It’s a strange position that you and I probably couldn’t hold for as long as it takes to say, ‘please pass the peas.’ Seated on a cushion, leaning on one elbow, feet extended behind you. (We should appreciate chairs more than we do.)

And then, at some point during the meal, “Behold!” “Idu.”

Whenever you hear the word, “Behold” it always means something shocking and unexpected is about to happen, as in, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call his name, Jesus…” (Luke 1:31) Or “Behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel and said, ‘why do look for the living among the dead, he is not here, he is risen!” (Lk.23:14) Or “behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)

“Behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house…”

“She brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”

Who is this woman and what moved her to behave like this? Luke doesn’t tell us who she is or what happened that moved to do the daring thing and her barge in on this dinner just to see Jesus and spend this precious bottle of ointment on Him. We can only imagine.

Whatever it was, it must have been deeply personal and meaningful to her that on seeing him she’s overcome with emotion. She’s bawling her eyes out as she gets down on her hands and knees behind him. Her head is hanging over his dirty feet and her tears are splashing down on them. She has forfeited all sense of pride and self-dignity, and begins to wipe his dirty, wet feet with her hair. And then she opens the alabaster flask of perfume and pours it onto his feet.

“How beautiful the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation…” (Isaiah 52:7)

Jesus has brought her some GOOD NEWS – some Gospel. He has proclaimed peace and brought good tidings and announced salvation TO HER. We don’t know any of the details but we do know that it must have been something very special, very life changing. And we say that only because of the way she is acting here. She’s not acting this way SO THAT Jesus might give her some GOOD NEWS. This is the FRUIT that the gospel bears.

Simon however sees it much differently. “Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw who was touching him, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

There are plenty of cases in the Gospels where Jesus blasts the Pharisees for their arrogance and self-righteousness – ‘white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness,’ for example. But that’s not the way He responds to this Pharisee on this night. He tells Simon a parable in the hope that Simon might turn and respond differently.

“Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, ‘say it Rabbi.’ “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denari, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’

It’s a very short parable. Very simple and straightforward. Not a lot of details to keep track of. Two debtors. One has racked up the equivalent of 100 weeks wages, the other 10 weeks.

100 weeks wages in debt. It’s not too hard to imagine how that might happen. A business failure. A medical emergency with no health insurance. Your house burns down or is destroyed in a flood and no home owners insurance. Just like that, you’re 100 weeks wages in debt. And how will you ever pay that off?

As for the other, I’ll be the average American has at least 10 weeks wages racked up on his credit cards.

But the lender decided to cancel the debts of both.

Simon certainly understands that Jesus is making a comparison between this woman and himself. She is the 500 denari debtor and he is the 50 denari debtor. And although Simon may disagree with Jesus’ assessment of his own debt, he at least appreciates the fact that Jesus is perceptive enough to see that Simon is only 1/10th the sinner as this woman. Or as he would probably prefer to put it, ten times better than her.

But Jesus turns that completely around. He doesn’t disagree that this woman is the 500 denari debtor in His little story. She is. And Simon is clearly the 50 denari debtor in the story. But He turns this Pharisee’s world upside-down by saying that it’s the 500 denari debtor who is in a better position before God than the 50. “Now which of them will love him more?”

“The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” Jesus has caught his host in his own words. “Isn’t this why you showed me such little common courtesy compared to the great love this woman has showered on me, Simon? You’re ‘little sin’ renders you incapable of ‘much love’ because all that you know is ‘little forgiveness.’

“But this woman ‘loves much’ because her sins were GREAT. “Forgiveness” of all her debt means release from the dungeon, HOPE FROM HOPELESSNESS, and a new life, “God loves even ME.” That’s why she treats me as she does and why treat me as you do.”

So Simon, who is in a better position before God? You or this woman?”

“The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” “You have judged rightly.” THE GREATER THE SIN THE GREATER THE FORGIVENESS. THE GREATER THE FORGIVENESS THE GREATER THE LOVE. That’s the way it works in the Kingdom of God.

The way to increase your love is to increase your sin which makes the forgiveness like a banquet to a starving man as opposed to desert after dinner and ‘it’s looks good but I’m pretty full right now.’

Which doesn’t mean that we should SIN ALL THE MORE so that GRACE MAY ABOUND ALL THE MORE and our LOVE INCREASE ALL THE MORE. It means that we should stop pretending and stop kidding ourselves. “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

While everyone else is trying to prove how much better they are compared to everyone else and they’re not really THAT BAD and at least their not like THAT SINNER, Jesus wants us to see that “there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23).

It does you no good to dull the razor sharp edge of the Law so that it won’t cut you so deeply. Let the Law INCREASE YOUR SIN. Let it MAGNIFY YOUR UGLINESS. Let it COMPOUND YOUR GUILT, that the FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS MAY BE SWEETER THAN HONEY, and that you may LOVE MUCH.

This is what St. Paul is getting at when he writes to the Romans, “The Law was added SO THAT THE TRESPASS MIGHT INCREASE.” How counter-intuitive to fallen man is that?

The Law is there, not as a LADDER TO CLIMB to get closer to God, or as a guide to separate the sinner from the saint. It’s the mirror of God that, if you will look into it HONESTLY, shows us what we really look like before God who is holy and says ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY.”


This is no CHEAP GRACE against which we have borrowed so heavily. God doesn’t just make an ‘ADJUSTING ENTRY’ in the books and use His divine erasure to rub out the debt that we owe and write in a zero balance due. The debt that we could never repay and that would send every one of us to prison forever was paid in full by God Himself in the life of His only begotten, dearly loved Son, Jesus Christ.

If you want to see YOURSELF BEFORE GOD, and how UGLY you are, just look at Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That is YOUR SIN THAT HE BEARS for you. That is YOUR HELL HE SUFFERS for you. That is YOUR DEATH HE DIES for you. This is YOUR DEBT HE PAYS for you.

“You see this woman, Simon? You want to know why she is acting this way? It’s because she has been FORGIVEN MUCH. But Simon, THE ONE WHO LOVES LITTLE, SHOWS HOW LITTLE THEY HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN.”

“And He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

“Those who were there said among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ Don’t expect much love from them.

But what about Simon? How did he respond? Luke doesn’t tell us. He leaves us hanging, wondering. How will this go?

And what about us? How will it go for us when He invites us to ‘eat with him’ and serves us His body and His blood, given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of your sins? Forgiven much or forgiven little?

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Pentecost 3 – "A Sermon on Abortion" – Matthew 5:21-22- 6/5/16


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ.

How to begin a sermon on “Abortion”? A ‘sermon’ on ‘abortion’ is neither a political speech on the laws of the land and how they should be changed. Nor is it the protest speech that is heard outside of an abortion clinic. Which is not to say that either doesn’t have their time and place. Just not here.

So, how to begin a ‘sermon’ on ‘abortion’? Let’s begin with Webster and a definition of abortion. “Abortion – the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.”

potentialAs it turns out, this is a pretty good place to begin a ‘sermon’ on ‘abortion. “The termination of a pregnancy…followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.” I suspect that that’s a definition that not everyone would agree with. By saying, ‘the death of the embryo or fetus,’ Webster is making an assumption that the ‘embryo or fetus’ was alive – a living being. Not everyone would agree with that.

There are several questions at the heart of the abortion issue, but one of the central questions is, ‘is the embryo or fetus’ that is aborted a ‘living being’ or not. Because if it is, then ‘abortion’ is the taking of a life. And we call that ‘murder.’ Webster defines ‘murder’ as, ‘the crime of deliberately killing a person.’

In all fairness, I highly doubt that vast majority of those who are ‘pro-abortion’ or ‘pro-choice’ are in favor of ‘murder.’ Nor are they arguing that it is a woman’s right to commit ‘murder.’ Let’s go so far as to say that if they actually believed that abortion was ‘murder,’ they would be firmly opposed to the practice.

This is why even ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-abortion’ supporters become less and less ‘pro’ as the fetus reaches a certain age. Why? Because at some point it becomes a ‘living human being’ and to end it’s ‘life’ in such a ‘premeditated’ way would constitute ‘murder.’ And no one is ‘pro-murder.’

This is why ‘ultrasounds’ are so effective. When a woman and a man who may have been considering an abortion sees the baby and its development as a ‘living human being’ instead of just ‘fetal tissue’ it’s a game changer. Continue reading

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Trinity Sunday – "Do You Believe In God?" – 5/22/16


ibig--i-believe-in-god-77705146If I were to ask you this morning if you believe in God, I’m sure that you would all say, ‘yes.’ If there are any atheists in the congregation this morning, I apologize for lumping you in with the rest of us theists.

For all who said, ‘yes, I believe in God,’ I say, ‘that’s great. So does the devil. So do the Muslims, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unitarians and the Jews.’ And so do your boyfriends and girlfriends and friends and neighbors and coworkers who are none of the above but who don’t hesitate to jump into religious discussions, because after all, they believe in God.

As the Psalmist says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no god.” (Ps.14:1; 53:1) And no one wants to being a fool.

So, what I really should have asked you this morning is not, ‘do you believe in God,’ but, ‘what God do you believe in?’ And it’s at that point that all of the happy unity that we THINK WE SHARE with all BELIEVERS quickly becomes an argument about ‘who’s got the REAL god and why it really, really matters.

But then again, who’s to say? Maybe it really, really DOESN’T MATTER. Maybe all gods are basically the same, and all religions are basically the same, just different roads that all lead to the same place. Different strokes for different folks. For the sake of peace and harmony, let’s all ‘agree to disagree.’

That of course is a long way from saying what WE just said, “Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except everyone keeps WHOLE AND UNDEFILED, without doubt he will perish eternally.” The “catholic faith” is then spelled out in great detail. “And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God, in three persons and the three persons in one God, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance…” etc. etc. etc. And then we concluded by saying, “This is the catholic faith which, EXCEPT A MAN BELIEVE FAITHFULLY AND FIRMLY, HE CANNOT BE SAVED.” (Athanasian Creed). Continue reading

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Pentecost – "The Particular Work of the Holy Spirit" – Acts 2:1-21 – 5/15/16


PentecostHolySpiritOf all of the great holidays on the church’s calendar, the Day of Pentecost may well be the most mysterious of them all:
On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a baby. We know all about that. Happens all the time.
On Good Friday, we celebrate the death of that same baby now a man. Death is something that we’re very familiar with.
On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of that man from the dead. A bit more mysterious maybe but we see it all the time, particularly around this time of year as the flowers and grass and leaves that died in the winter come to life again in the spring.
On Ascension we celebrate the bodily ascension of our Lord out of sight. But we’ve gotten so used to flying by now.

But the day of Pentecost? What are we to make of that? The SOUND “like a might rushing wind” that’s all sound and no wind and comes from within the “house where they were sitting.” “Tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And a fisherman preaches and the crowds shouts, ‘SAVE US.’ And 3000 are drown and die while they’re still alive and are raised from the dead before they’re buried.

It’s all pretty mysterious. How do you explain it?

That was the question of those who were there. ‘And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, in good Lutheran style, “what does this mean?”

Some wanted to take the MYSTERY out of it by giving a perfectly rational explanation. “They are filled with new wine.” Ever notice how often we try to take the ‘mystery’ out of the ‘mystery.’ We’re always trying to EXPLAIN things and solve the MYSTERY. Because if it remains a MYSTERY, then we have to admit that it just might be bigger than we are, and we don’t like that. Explaining it gives us some sense of control over it.

Peter squashes their perfectly rational explanation by adding MYSTERY on top of MYSTERY. “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: And IN THE LAST DAYS it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…”

Did you catch that? Joel said that “God said I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh… IN THE LAST DAYS.” So, the Day of Pentecost is the big kick off to the ‘LAST DAYS…’ When you see the SPIRIT POURED OUT ON ALL FLESH, God is wrapping up the work that He completed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Continue reading

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