Pentecost 5 – "Great Is Your Faithfulness" – Lamentations 3:22-33 – 6/28/15

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“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Sounds like someone is having a GOOD DAY. No, sounds like someone is having a GREAT DAY. Words like these come easily when everything is coming up roses. “The steadfast love of the Lord never cease; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

So, would you be surprised if I were to tell you that these words were written in a time of terrible upheaval and great loss, when things were going from bad to worse? The book of Lamentations is just that, a ‘lament.’ The prophet Jeremiah ‘laments’ the situation that Israel, the people of God, are in. A foreign nation named Babylon has captured the city of Jerusalem and ransacked the buildings and the Temple of the Lord, torn down its wall and taken its citizens into exile.

Think of it like this. The ‘Taliban’ or ‘Isis’ has invaded the U.S. and conquered it. And it is forcing everyone to either live under Shire law or be executed. The White House has been totally destroyed along with the Pentagon. And all U.S. citizens have been declared to be ‘slaves’ of the new government. As appalling as that sounds to our ears, this is a pretty good comparison to what things were actually like for Israel. They never thought that such a thing could ever actually happen to them. After all, they were the ‘people’ of God and the one, true God was the God of Israel. Continue reading

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Pentecost 4 – "Two Questions For Jesus" – Mark 4:35-41 – 6/21/15

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“On that day, when evening had come, he said to [His disciples], ‘Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.”

It had been another long day for Jesus, as so many of them were. And if they were long days for Jesus, they were also long for His disciples who traveled with Him. Two weeks ago at the District Convention, Synod President Harrison was present but just for Thursday evening. He had to leave at 4:30 Friday morning to catch a flight to the Nebraska District Convention. And it was the job of the ‘Assistant to the President,’ Rev. Jon Vieker to get him there. A long day for the Synod President is also a long day for those who travel with him.

“Let us go across to the other side.” There were people on the ‘other side’ of the Sea of Galilee that He needed to see; a man possessed by demons, Jairus’ 12 year old daughter who had died, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Their prayers to God were heard. And God was about to give His answer.

Oh, and there was a storm just over the horizon moving this way. He saw it. Today, we have a weather app that tells us about an approaching storm and predicted wind speed and wave heights. Experienced sailors would have refused to set sail. But this is before ‘weather.com.’ Continue reading

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Pentecost 3 – "The Mysteries of God in a Seed" – Mark 4:26-34 – 6/14/15

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“With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.”

Parables are incredible things.
• Parables take something that is earthly and teach us something heavenly.

For example, take a very familiar parable, the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son.’ Jesus takes a very earthly example – a father’s love for his son and his broken heart at his son’s rebellion and his overwhelming joy at his son’s return home. That’s something earthly that every father can understand.

Then Jesus says, ‘okay, if you can understand that, if you know how that feels, then you can understand something about how your heavenly Father feels about you when you rebel against Him and repent and return.’ There’s a connection between the earthly and the heavenly.

• Parables take something that is earthly and teach us something heavenly. Continue reading

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Pentecost 2 – "Where Are You" – Genesis 3:8-15 – 6/7/15

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“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

They wanted to hide from God. They wanted to be invisible to God. They wanted to live their life without the ‘all-seeing’ eye of God watching them.

Why?

Why would they suddenly want their ‘privacy’ when everything had always been ‘communion’ and ‘fellowship’ and ‘intimacy,’ and ‘you know everything about me and I am free to be myself with you’?

Why would they suddenly decide that they no longer wanted things to be so ‘open and ‘honest’ as they had been, both with God and with each other?

Why would they want to chuck all of that ‘nakedness without shame,’ for a life of ‘hiding’ like fugitives on the run, always moving from one tree another for fear that they might be recognized and found and exposed?

Why? Continue reading

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Trinity Sunday – "God-Talk" – 5/31/15

We are here this morning to talk about God. Not sure I really needed to say that, because after all, we are at church. And when we’re at church, we talk about God.

But of course, ‘church’ is not the only place where ‘God-talk’ happens, nor should it be. In fact, if you listen carefully, you’ll realize that there’s a lot of God-talk that happens not in church.

Here’s what I mean. You weren’t in church when you heard someone say:
• For God’s sake, for the love of God, God forbid, God only knows.
• Honest to God, thank God, O God.
• God willing and the creek don’t rise…
• An ‘act of God that put the fear of God in him.
• He thinks he’s God’s gift to women.
• As sure as God made green apples.
• There but for the grace of God go I.
• And the always popular ‘GD’ and ‘OMG.’

If you listen for it, you’ll hear God-talk happening all over God’s-green earth.

So here’s a challenge. This week, listen for the ‘God-talk’ that you hear. Become aware of how much God-talk you yourself engage in. And when you hear it, ask yourself, ‘what do they mean when they talk about God?” ‘What did I mean when I just used the word ‘God’?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you try to engage the “God-talker” in a discussion about the nature of God. Or that when someone says, “O my God,” you recite the Athanasian Creed and say, ‘is that the God that you were referring to when you said, “O my God”? Continue reading

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Pentecost – "Dry Faith Made Alive" – Ezekiel 7:1-14 – 5/24/15

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“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them. And behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.”

So what was this that the Spirit of the Lord swept His prophet off to see? Was it a graveyard? Strange graveyard. Cemeteries don’t leave the bodies on the surface. They bury them.

Was it a battlefield? Maybe. What a disastrous battle it must have been.

But this is neither graveyard nor battlefield. “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.” These are the people of God. This is the holy, Christian Church all gathered together in one place.

Now that’s a surprise. I would have guessed that these were the bones of pagans who dance around idols, worship trees and sacrificed their children, whom the Lord stuck down.

But no, these are the people of God. And if you ran the DNA of those bones, it would be a perfect match to ours.

If we’re going to understand what’s going on here we’ve got to understand that this is a ‘VISION.’ That’s what Ezekiel means when he says, “the Lord brought me out in the SPIRIT OF THE LORD.” It’s the same language as we hear with John’s REVELATION. John writes, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day…”

When a prophet has a VISION, he is given to see things the way God sees things. He sees things from the heavenly perspective rather than the earthly perspective. Continue reading

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Funeral Sermon – John Hilton – "Thou Wilt Keep Him In Perfect Peace" – Isaiah 26:3 – 5/14/15

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“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3).

Karen says that over the last several years, this had become John’s favorite scripture verse. It was his ‘theme’ verse if you will; one, concise verse described the goal of his life, and hopefully, after he was gone, the summary of his life.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3). Not a bad goal and theme for one’s life.

Everyone has a ‘theme verse’ for their life, whether they realize it or not, whether we can recite it or not. All of us have a ‘favorite verse’ that describes the goal that we have for our life, and that the thing that, after we die, we hope that others will say, ‘that pretty well sums up who he was.’

‘Theme verses’ don’t always come from the holy scriptures. They come from a wide range of sources.

“Whoever dies with the most toys wins” is a pretty common one that describes a lot of people. “My only desire in life is to be happy,” is another. That one has lots of variations. Substitute “My only desire is to be wealthy” or “successful” or “comfortable” or “loved.” That’s the theme of their life and looking back, everyone concludes, ‘Yup, that describes him to a tee.’ Continue reading

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Ascension – "3 Misunderstandings About The Ascension" – Ephesians 1:15-23

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The Christian life revolves around its Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Or at least it should. Jesus Christ is the center of our life, or at least He should be.

As we make the annual revolution around the life of our Lord, we notice that there are several events that we stop and make a big deal out of – just like we do with our own life when we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. These are particularly DEFINING EVENTS.

Some of the defining events in the life of Christ are Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. Yet, what we sometimes fail to realize, is that among the significant events in the life of our Lord, there are not just 3 but 5. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, His ASCENSION into heaven, and then there’s one that hasn’t happened yet, His 2nd coming.

The first three we wouldn’t think of missing and the fifth one sells lots of books. But it’s easy for the Ascension of our Lord to slip by hardly noticed. The attendance at the Ascension Day service on Thursday is all I need to say about that.

The result of our lack of attention to the Ascension of our Lord is a heavy dose of misunderstanding about it. I have a hunch that we think that Christ’s work began on Christmas and ended on Easter, and now that He’s got the mess on aisle 5 cleaned up there’s no more need for Him to hang around any longer, so away He goes.

So this morning I’d like to point the finger at three, common MISUNDERSTANDINGS of the Ascension of our Lord to see if we can’t clear them up and better appreciate the significance of this DEFINING EVENT in the life of our Lord. Continue reading

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Easter 6 – "Love Needs Instruction" – 1 John 5:1-4 – 5/10/15

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“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”

Talk about ‘talking in circles.’ If you love the Father then you love the Father’s children. And if you love the Father’s children you love the Father.

Actually, John is not talking in circles but in crosses. Loving God cannot be separated from loving one another. And loving one another cannot be separated from loving God.

But separating the two from each other is just what we keep trying to do. Take Cain for example. Cain said, “I love God” even while he hated his brother, Abel. Cain said, “I love God,” even while he murdered his brother. He didn’t see any connection between love for God and love for his brother.

How many of us are like Cain? We say that we LOVE GOD but have no love for our neighbor. We say that we LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR but have no love for God.

Earlier in this letter, John talked about Cain saying, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1Jn.4:20-21)

It’s not that God stops loving us. God NEVER STOPS LOVING US. GOD LOVED CAIN, even after his crime. But Cain did not love God, because he didn’t love the one BORN OF GOD. Continue reading

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Easter 5 – "Test The Spirits" – 1 John 4:1-3 – 5/3/15

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“Beloved, do to believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Anytime you’re reading your bible and you come to words that say, “DO NOT BELIEVE,” it always gets your attention. It’s like, ‘what? Did I read that right? The bible is telling me that I should NOT believe…?”

The Bible is filled with one admonition TO BELIEVE after another. In fact, John concludes his gospel by saying that the whole purpose of the bible is that we might BELIEVE. “These things are written that you may BELIEVE… and that by believing have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

But here, like a cymbal crash in the middle of a lullaby, John writes, “DO NOT BELIEVE.”

Sometimes our problem is not that we BELIEVE TOO LITTLE but that we BELIEVE TOO MUCH. GULLIBLE is what we are. We lack DISCERNMENT.

Since the season of Lent has concluded, I’ve had a little time tie a few flies in anticipation of fishing season. It’s been my experience, that no matter how well I tie these things, most trout seem to be able to discern that they’re not the real thing and they have nothing to do with it. Sometimes you and I are not as smart as a trout. Continue reading

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