1/10/21 – The Baptism of Our Lord – “Identity in the Story of Jesus” – Mark 1:9-11

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

Our text this morning is from the Gospel Reading from Mark chapter 1. We’ll specifically be focusing on verses 9-11. Let me read those verses one more time:

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And when he come up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Continue reading

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1/3/21 – Epiphany – “Enlightening the Ignorant” – Matthew 2:1-12

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

1. The “wise men”, as we’ve come to call them, have become such an integral part of the Christmas story in our world, but I wonder how well we actually know the biblical story which records the visit of these Magi in Matthew 2. There are a number of assumptions we’ve made in 21st century Christianity about this story that the biblical text just doesn’t say. For example, did you know that “Magi” actually doesn’t mean “wise man”? In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, a distinction is actually made between “wise men” and “magi” in Daniel chapter 2. Magi certainly possessed worldly wisdom in a sense, but if Matthew wanted his readers to focus on the wisdom of these men, he could have used a different title for them. Continue reading

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12/27/20 – Christmas 1 – “No Longer a Slave” – Galatians 4:4-7

Introduction
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
By the First Sunday after Christmas, by and large, our culture has completely finished with its observance of the holidays. As Christians, though, we realize that the celebration of our Savior’s birth goes on and on, and we remember that with a traditional celebration of a full twelve days of Christmas, a celebration that only ends by transitioning to Epiphany, a further celebration of the incarnation. Continue reading

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12/25/20 – Christmas Day – “Putting Together the Pieces” – Hebrews 1:1-4

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

1. Several weeks ago, my family got out one of our puzzles and decided to do it together. This particular puzzle is a Star Wars puzzle, and the trouble with it is almost 80% of the puzzle is some shade of black. (Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slightly!) Anyway, I never knew that there were so many shades of black! Luke’s robe is one shade of black, which is a different shade of black than Palpatine’s robe. And of course, both of those are different than Vader’s black helmet, which is entirely different than the black night sky in the background. Continue reading

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12/24/20 – Christmas Eve – Fear Not” – Luke 2:1-20

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

1. You can kind of understand why the shepherds might have been a little freaked out by the appearance of the angel to them, can’t you? They were just minding their own business, doing whatever it is that shepherds do at night when they’re out in the fields tending the sheep. Maybe they were sitting around a small campfire telling stories while the sheep grazed around them. Maybe they were up, walking around and taking a bit more of an active role in watching over the sheep. Or maybe they were taking turns keeping watch—some might have been dozing, while others watched over the sheep. Continue reading

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12/20/20 – Advent 4 – “The God-Bearer” – Luke 1:26-38

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

1. The year was A.D. 431 and there was a strong disagreement within the church regarding the Virgin Mary. There were essentially two positions in this disagreement: those who sided with Cyril of Alexandria, and those who sided with Nestorius. Cyril and the Alexandrians had a long tradition of referring to the Virgin Mary as Theotokos, or the “God-Bearer.” Nestorius, on the other hand, insisted that the Virgin Mary should not be called “God-Bearer”, but rather “Christ-Bearer”, or Christotokos. Nestorius was on record saying, Never will I call a two or three year old child “God” and that is all I will have to do with you, Cyril. And so, Cyril, wanting nothing to do with this heretical position, proceeded to arrange for a church-wide council—the Third Ecumenical Council—to meet in Ephesus. And so, on June 7th—Pentecost—the council was called to order. It was a fairly miserable council…partially because of the attitudes of the bishops present who were dead set on excommunicating one another (because that’s how their conflict resolution process worked in the early church!), but it was a miserable council also because of the weather—Ephesus is a hot, humid place in summertime. Continue reading

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12/13/20 – Advent 3 – “The Essence of the Gospel” – Isaiah 61:1-3

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

1. Our text for the morning is the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 61, we’ll specifically be focusing on verses 1-3. And I have to be honest, every time this Scripture reading comes up, whether in the lectionary or as a suggestion for a special service, I circle it. I actually preached my very first sermon on this text (which, unfortunately, probably exists somewhere on the internet—I wouldn’t go try to find it if I were you). But also, if you participated in the live stream of my ordination service back in May, you might recall that these first three verses of Isaiah 61 were the Old Testament reading that I selected for that day… Continue reading

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12/6/20 – Advent 2 – “The Lord Prepares His People” – Mark 1:1-8

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

1. Our text for this morning is the Gospel Reading from Mark 1. In our meditation on this text today, we take some time to focus on the role of John the Baptist as the Lord’s instrument to prepare his people for his coming—both his first coming and his second coming. And the way that Mark begins our text for today (and consequently his Gospel) gives us an indication of the significance that John’s story plays in the grand narrative of salvation. Continue reading

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11/29/20 – Advent 1 – “Our Father…” Isaiah 64:1-9

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

1. When I was middle school aged (probably 12 or 13), my family got a new cat—an orange tabby named Tomba. (You can ask me about the meaning of his name later if you’re interested… it’s a long story.) Tomba was the most easy-going, trusting cat that I have ever met. Any chance that he got, he would come near you, rub his head against your leg or arm (or whatever part of your body was accessible) and then proceed to roll over on his back and practically beg you to rub his tummy. Now, most of the time he did this on the floor where it was nice and safe, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. When he was feeling particularly deprived of his tummy rubs, he would be a little less subtle about his desire for attention. Continue reading

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11/22/20 – Last Sunday – “The Shepherd’s Peace” – Ezekiel 34:20-24

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is the second half of our Old Testament Reading, Ezekiel 34:20-24.

1. But first, think for a moment about the more peaceful places or times in your life. For me personally, one of the most peaceful places I have ever been is a little place inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border—a campground called Big Creek Campground. It’s a super remote place with towering pine, oak, and tulip poplar trees that are bigger, taller, and greener than any trees you’ve ever seen. And there’s a confluence of two creeks which roars in the background. Continue reading

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