Pentecost 23 – "the Day of the Lord" – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – 11/16/14

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Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “Concerning the times and the season, brothers and sisters, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

We've come to that time of year on to the Church’s calendar when our focus is directed to the Lord’s RETURN. Last Sunday, we made a point of saying that the focus of the Christian’s HOPE is the return of the Master to His servants.

Our HOPE is not in earthly governments, that they will finally get it right and establish “peace on earth and good will among men” – even though we carry out our daily vocation in life diligently working for exactly that.

The Christian HOPE is not in science, that scientists will finally the cure for every disease and starving body and we will live forever – even though we carry out or daily vocation in life diligently working for exactly that. Continue reading

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Pentecost 22 – "The Resurrection of the Body" – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – 11/9/14

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St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “We do not want you to be uniformed brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope…”

One of the members of the congregation in Thessalonica has died. He was a believer. He was baptized into Christ where he died with Christ while he was still alive, and was raised with Christ before he died. But now, the brother or sister in Christ has FALLEN ASLEEP.

To “fall asleep” is a good way to think about the death of the believer.

What is ‘SLEEP’ but a time of ‘REST.’ When our bodies are tired from a long day’s work, or as we get older, even a short day’s work, SLEEP is a needed and welcome relief. And if it’s a good sleep, we awake in the morning, refreshed and ready for a new day.

To all who have ears to hear, Jesus says, “come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you REST.” (Matthew 11:28). REST that awakens to a new day that never ends, fully refreshed and completely restored, never grow weary again.

Sleep is also the place where we find rest for the troubled mind and the anxious heart, troubled and anxious from the tensions and stresses and disappointments and sadness and grief that pile up and weigh heavy on me and that as hard as I try to ‘put them behind me,’ I can’t get them off my mind. Sometimes, it’s like a battle within me that I get so weary of fighting.

But in SLEEP, the battle suddenly stops. All of the mental clamor and commotion is switched off. It’s like a cease-fire is declared and everything is quite and there’s peace.

To all who have ears to hear, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

It’s as though, while we were sleeping, the whole world declared PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN. And every conflict is over, and every trouble is past, and every worry is gone.

“We do not want you to be uniformed brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope… Continue reading

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All Saints – "Victory's Spoils" – Revelation 7:9-17 – 11/2/14

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On this Sunday every year, were read the names of all those who were members of this congregation when they died. Some we never knew. Some we knew quite well. They were fathers and mothers, husbands and wives and even the sons of some among us here this morning. Time has passed and the anguish of the grave has faded. Death has lost the terrible sting that it once had. And we give thanks to God for that.

But why do we do this? Why do we name our dead before the Lord? Why do we place flowers at the foot of altar with the names of our loved ones on our lips and in our hearts?

We name our LIVING before the Lord every Sunday in our prayers asking for the Lord’s care for them. But we certainly don’t need to do that for the dead, as some do. We do not pray FOR THE DEAD, because simply put, they don’t need them. Their bodies are in the grave awaiting the resurrection of all flesh. And their souls are in heaven and they ‘with the Lord’ and every sickness and disease both of body and soul is over.

So then, why do we do this? What are we doing when we call out the names of those who have died in the faith as speak their names in our hearts as we do on this day? Continue reading

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Reformation – "Salvation Apart From The Law" – Romans 3:19-29 – 10/26/14

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As some of you know, I hit the big 6-0 this past week. And I’m starting to feel it. And I’m also starting to see it. Over the past several years I’ve been having a growing problem with mirrors. The older I get, the less I like them.

I don’t think I’m aging, but the mirror says otherwise. And mirrors don’t lie. They show you what YOU REALLY LOOK LIKE, not what YOU THINK YOU LOOK LIKE. Mirrors show me things I’d rather not see. A new wrinkle here, an age spot there, and the hair thing, when did that happen? The older I get the less I like mirrors.

The law of God is like a mirror. When we look into the law of God, we see ourselves for what we really are. And we never look as good as we think. One look into the mirror of God’s Law and we shriek, “Woe is me! For I am undone.”

“You shall have no other gods besides me,” says the Law of God. But we’ve got a legion of other gods besides the one, true God. Money especially. But there’s also my carrier and my hobbies and my friends. And the truth is, when push comes to shove, I put them all before God. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” says the Law of God. I thought looked okay because I’m not one of those people who use foul language and I don’t like it when I hear others use that GD talk. But neither do I use God’s name the way I should, “to call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks,” to witness to my neighbor who doesn’t know Christ. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD. Continue reading

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Pentecost 19 – "I Am The Lord Who Does All These Things" – Isaiah 45:1-7 – 10/19/14

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The text for our consideration this morning is the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 45 that begins like this:
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him that gates may not be closed:
“I will go before you and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron,
I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.” (Isaiah 45:1-3)

It is said that politics and religion make for strange bedfellows, but here you have it. God is directing the course of human history, not through His Church and its theologians, but through Cyrus, the King of Assyria.

Cyrus is still the FUTURE king of Assyria. Isaiah writes what the Lord spoke to him, 200 years before Cyrus is born.

A lot of people have a problem with this. Predicting world events and the rise and fall of nations is something that political scientists and economists are trained for. And with a lot of skill and little luck, their predictions may be amazingly accurate.

But to identify the name of a king 200 years before he’s born? And to spell out in such detail what will happen during his reign? That’s too much. God may be OMNISCIENT, but He’s not that ALL-KNOWING.

And if you don’t believe that the Scriptures are really the INSPIRED, INERRENT Word of God, but are only the speeches and stories of wise and clever men passed down from generation to generation, added to and subtracted from along the way, then its easy enough to assume that some clever scribe added Cyrus’ name into the record after it all happened.

Which defeats the whole purpose of PROPHESY. God broadcasts His FOREKNOWLEDGE so that when things actually happens the way He said they would, we might say, ‘aha, His Word really is true and worthy of my trust.’ Continue reading

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Pentecost 18 – "The Banquet Is Ready!" – Matthew 22:1-14 – 10/12/14

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I don’t know about you but sometimes it gets to me. The never ending war, the disease upon disease, the natural disasters that turn lives upside down in a moment, the suffering, the faithlessness of many, and my own faithlessness. And the people with cancer on our prayer list keeps getting longer.

I know that Jesus warned us that as time goes on, things will go from bad to worse. “Nation against nation, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, a father against his own children and brother against brother…” And false Christs and many led astray…” (Mark 13)

But sometimes it gets to me. What's it all coming to? Where it’s all headed?

But then today, we hear a word that tells us what it’s all coming to. And, I tell you, it’s like a lightening bolt from heaven that shatters the darkness. The shutters are suddenly raised and the curtain is torn open, and the view is clear, and we see our destiny. And we ‘LIFT UP OUR HEARTS.’ Continue reading

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Pentecost 17 – "The Ridiculous Love of God" – Matthew 21:33-46 – 10/5/14

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Preaching on parables about vineyards and vineyard management is much easier done from California or up state New York than from central Maine. California preachers will have loads of analogies and illustrations to use in their sermon this morning that their congregations will easily understand.

But we live in central Maine where vineyards are about as scarce as snow blowers in San Diego. And unfortunately for you, you have a pastor who knows nothing about vineyards except that it’s where grapes come from and grapes are what wine comes from and I like the red stuff better than the white stuff.

Whether we know much about vineyards or not, the thing that strikes us right off the bat is just how similar the Jesus’ parable is to Isaiah’s.

Isaiah describes a vineyard has been planted on a fertile hill. Rather than contracting it out, the owner himself has done the digging and cleared the ground. He worked the soil and planted choice vines, healthy, good stock, only the best. He built a wall around the vineyard for protection and a watchtower in the middle of it to keep an eye on everything.

He hollowed out a rock to hold the wine and age it. And then, after everything was in place, He reflected on all that he had done and concluded with great satisfaction and confidence, “what more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?”

Sounds a little like the Creation account doesn’t it? Creating each little part and piece and setting each one in it’s proper place, “the Lord saw all that He had made and it was very good.” (Gen.2:1). Continue reading

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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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