Epiphany 4 – "The Wanted Him To Stay" – Luke 4:31-43 – 1/31/16

“And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee…” And He did incredible things. He set a man free from his demon and broke a woman’s high fever and “all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him and he laid his hands on everyone of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many…”

And when it was time for Him to go, “…the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them…”

They wanted Him to stay. And who wouldn’t? A new doctor had come to their town and what a doctor he was. You name it and He could fix it. And it was the way that He did it that was so amazing. All the other traveling medicine men wanted their patients to buy their special potions or come in for some tests or see another specialist. But this One just REBUKED the demons and REBUKED the fever and REBUKED the diseases and it was all better.

It incredible, awesome and every extreme adjective you can think of. And they were all ‘astonished,’ and ‘amazed’ and ‘blown away.’ But then, all too soon, He announced He was moving on. Continue reading

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Epiphany 3 – "The Holy Innocents, Martyrs" – Matthew 2:16-18

January 22nd is not a day of observance on the Church’s calendar unless it happens to fall on a Sunday. And yet it is a day that many churches in the U.S. have observed since 1973.

It is a day in this nation’s history that has scarred us in an even deeper way than April 12th which marks the beginning of the Civil War, July 28th which marks the beginning of WW1 or December 7th which is Pearl Harbor Day, if only because those terrible days are a part of our past, and we lament that they happened, while the practice of abortion is a present practice now for 43 years that continues to be carried out among us and that continues to be defended and funded as an inalienable right to end more lives than the Civil War and WWI along with the Revolutionary war, WW -2, the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined.

The transference of the observance of the Slaughter of the Innocents which appears on the Church’s calendar on December 28th, to the Sunday closest to January 22nd seems like the appropriate thing to do, since it takes us far beyond the recent history of our nation into the ancient history of Israel and the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old and under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah; ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” Continue reading

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Epiphany 2 – 'The Wedding At Cana' – John 2:1-11 – 1/17/16

There are aspects to life in a small town that are very nice. In a small town like Waterville, it’s not unusual to see someone you know at the grocery store or the post-office, and the UPS driver knows that if no one is at the church he can deliver his package to the pastor’s house which he happens to know where it is located. That’s the nice part about living in a small town.

But a typical, small, middle-eastern village like Cana is much tighter-knit community that anything we have here. Everyone knows everyone and there’s lots of family connections. When a baby is born in the village, the whole village celebrates. When someone dies the whole village mourns. When there’s a wedding, the whole village attends.

A typical middle-eastern wedding takes place in the cool of the evening. The bride and groom each wear a crown on their heads, identifying them as king and queen for the day.

After the ceremony is completed, the couple is led through the streets of the village with a canopy held over their heads, burning torches blazing, the band playing music that demands clapping and dancing and singing. The parade winds through every street in the village so everyone will know that bride had a new name and one new family had been created out of two.

The whole village looks forward to and eagerly anticipated an upcoming wedding day. A wedding is a significant event for the whole village that is filled with joy. Continue reading

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Epiphany 1 – "Baptism Is A Wonderful Thing" – Luke 3:21-22 – 1/10/16

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son; with you I am well pleased.”

I remember a story from a long time ago about a congregation that decided to remodel their sanctuary. And unlike our project, theirs included a new baptismal font. After the construction was completed, they were surprised when the building inspector would not approve the construction unless the baptismal font had its own septic tank to dispose of the water in it to prevent the polluting of the ground. One of the elders of the congregation said, “I guess it would pollute the ground what with all of those sins washed into it.”

“Now when all the people were baptized.” All the people went into the water and their sins were washed away. When they came out of the water they were not the same people who had gone into the water. They went in ‘sinner,’ they came out ‘saint.’ They went in ‘guilty,’ they came out ‘innocent.’ They went in ‘rejected by God,’ they came out ‘beloved by God.’ Transformed, renewed, born all over again, new beginning. BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL THING. Continue reading

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Christmas 2 – "The Disertion of Grace" – Luke 2:40-52 – 1/3/16

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“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.”

Luke asked Mary to tell him all that she had ‘treasured up in her heart’ about her son, Jesus. Mary told Luke about the surprising announcement of her pregnancy and her visit to see cousin Elizabeth and the birth of the baby and the visitation of the shepherds and the circumcision and meeting Simeon and Anna at the Temple and that time when He was 12 and they went to Jerusalem for the Passover. And maybe there were some other stories about Jesus’ childhood that Luke chose not to share. And I’m guessing that Mary may have wished Luke hadn’t shared that one about when she lost track of Him.

Luke must have asked, ‘but Mary, how could that have happened?’ And Mary must have answered, ‘we just supposed him to be in the group of our relatives and acquaintances. But at the end of the day when it was time to get set up for the evening, it was odd that he didn’t come to help. ‘We began to search for him, and everyone we asked told us the same thing, they hadn’t seen him since we left Jerusalem. So we returned to ‘search for him.’ Continue reading

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Christmas 1 – "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation" – Luke 2:22-40 – 12/27/15

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Today is the 3rd day of Christmas and according to the carol, our true love is scheduled to send us three French hens to go along with those two turtle-doves and that partridge in a pear tree. Don’t be surprised however if, due to inflation and hard economic times, you get three domestic hens instead of the more expensive ones imported from France.

And don’t expect anything at all from St. Matthew. He skips the 12 days of Christmas completely and leaves you wanting until the Magi visit nearly two years after Christmas day.

St. Luke sends along a gift on the 8th day of Christmas. Luke writes, “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

It’s not that St. Luke is a scrooge, it’s just that he’s got the song all wrong. According to Luke, it’s not until the 40th day of Christmas that the two turtledoves arrive. Luke writes that ‘When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, two turtledoves or a two young pigeons.” The law of Moses said that this was to take place on the 40th day after the birth of a baby. Continue reading

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Christmas Eve – Luke 2:7 – "The Grand Announcement" – 12/24/15

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“She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

It’s become one of my ‘Christmas customs’ to read some of Luther’s Christmas sermons during the Christmas season. This morning, I read his n 1533 “House Sermon” on this text. He said that when Christ was born, the whole city of Jerusalem should have crawled on their hands and knees out to Bethlehem to see Him. And the Mayor of Bethlehem should have welcomed Joseph and Mary and given them the ‘key to the city.’

When God comes down from heaven to earth, the whole earth should stand at attention and salute it’s Lord.

When the Creator comes to His creation, every living creature should be ready to examine itself and ask, 'am I ready to meet my maker'? Continue reading

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Advent 4 – "Mary's Greeting to Elizabeth" – Luke 1:39-45 – 12/20/15

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Every year about this time I become particularly consumed with the sin of ‘envy.’ I ‘envy’ those who completed all of their Christmas shopping weeks or even months ago, and who are able to sit back and relax and enjoy the holiday, while I am in full panic mode, trying to find the perfect gifts and get them wrapped and delivered in time.

As unnecessary as it may be to say this, God ways are not my ways. God had the perfect gift in mind before the Creation of the world, and He delivered it nine months before Christmas, all beautifully wrapped in the womb of a young woman named Mary. “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Continue reading

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Advent 3 – "1st Communion Before Confirmation" – 12/13/15

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Today, we come to the three / quarter mark in our preparation for Christmas. The purpose for the Church’s four week season of Advent is to, in the words of one famous preacher, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Now certainly, the Lord comes to His people, not just at Christmas, but all year long. Where ever and when ever we come into contact with the Word of God, in our home, in bible study, here in worship, the Lord Himself comes to us through the wind that carries the sound of His voice into our ears, or the light that carries sight of His Word into our eyes.

But during the season of Advent we are preparing for the Lord to come to us not just by the sound of His voice or His Word written down, but in the flesh. Christmas is all about the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.

So, the goal of the season of Advent is to prepare us to meet our Lord who comes to us in His flesh which if you have caught my drift, is starting to sound a lot like the way that we meet the Lord every time He comes to us in the Lord’s Supper, where our Lord comes to us through the bread and wine that carries His body and blood into our mouth.

The very fact that there is a ‘season of Advent’ on the Church’s calendar tells us that the Church considers to be important that we would be PREPARED for the Lord’s coming to us in the flesh. Continue reading

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Advent 2 – "I The Lord Do Not Change" – Malachi 3:6 – 12/6/15

The text that we will consider this morning is our Old Testament reading from Malachi 3, but especially this verse, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Is it just me or do you also find that recurring theme of the season of Advent so far is that the ‘Lord is coming, and that’s NOT GOOD NEWS.

“Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” says the prophet Malachi. It’s a rhetorical question. NO ONE ‘can stand when he appears.’ EVERYONE will either fall to their knees or fall to their death. It’s more like a notice to evacuate in the face of an approaching hurricane than an invitation to come to a banquet.

“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways…” says the prophet Isaiah. Which makes the Lord’s coming sound more like a unstoppable bulldozer tearing things up than a good farmer who comes to sow seed on every kind of soil – rocky, thorny, hard-packed, as well as good.

“You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” How’s that for a Christmas greeting? I don’t think you’d find that one in the “how to be an inviting church” book. I thought about greeting you all this morning like that. Instead of “the Lord be with you,” I was going to say, “You brood of vipers.” But I knew you would have replied, “and also with you.” Continue reading

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