C – Pentecost 18 – "A Miracle of Restoration" – Luke 17:11-19 – 10/13/19


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ten-lepers-iconThe text for our consideration is the gospel lesson just read. There is a dark side to this stop on the journey with our Lord as He makes His way to Jerusalem and the cross. In what would otherwise have been another beautiful movement in the symphony, there’s an ‘off-note’ here that causes us to wince. There’s something that is just ‘not right’ here.

But the truth of the matter is, this account cannot be ‘fixed’ simply by demanding more ‘thankfulness.’ “Gratitude” that is forced because the Law demands it is no “gratitude” at all. Aristotle had it wrong. Good and faithful habits to not make good and faithful hearts. Luther had it right. Good and faithful hearts produce good and faithful habits.

And so we dare not miss what is good, and so full of light and harmony and heart-breaking joy in this account. This stop on the journey to Jerusalem features a miracle of restoration that Jesus does, simply by the sound of His voice – that same voice that spoke all things into existence in the beginning – that voice that called to you and me in our wretched and pitiable condition – that voice that worked a ‘restoration’ in us and ‘restored’ the ‘wretched men and women that we are’ into the ‘beautiful’ and ‘very good’ people of God that He created us to be.

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’”

You’ve got to wonder what they expected Him to do. How many others had they lifted up their voices to who looked the other way as they walked right by them? Leprosy was a disfiguring disease that most civilized people don’t much like to see and they look away from.

I remember hearing the story about a Sunday School teacher who was trying to teach this story to her young class and after telling the story as best as she could, she asked the children, ‘so, what would you do if you saw 10 lepers along the road?’ One little boy raised his hand and answered, ‘teacher, if I saw 10 leopards along the road, I’d shoot them.’

Thankfully, that’s not how this encounter goes at all. Continue reading

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Pentecost 17 – "Uproot The Tree" – Luke 17:1-10


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imagesThe text for this sermon is the gospel reading that we just heard. Jesus is speaking to His 'disciples.’ They are His ‘followers’ who listen to Him in order to learn from Him. Whether they recognize that He is the Christ, the Son of God yet is doubtful. But they are deeply interested in what He is saying. He speaks about God and how God wants man to live in relation to Him and to their neighbor in a radically different way than anything they have heard. And they want to ‘follow’ Him. They want to fit the way that they think and live their lives into the pattern that He has been teaching them is the right way to think and live.

And He said to His disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come.”

Those of us who would be one of His disciples want to know what this means and how we are to live our lives before God knowing that, “temptations to sin are sure to come.”

The Scriptures speak about two kinds of temptation. There is actually a 'TEMPTATION TO GOOD.’ Temptations to good are tests that come from God for the purpose of strengthening our faith and trust in Him, and our walk and life with Him.

The Bible says that God 'tested’ Abraham. It’s the same word for ‘tempt.’ God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. And that ‘temptation to good’ had a dramatic effect on Abraham’s faith and life.

Jesus was 'tempting' the disciples when told them to get in the boat and set sail, knowing that a sudden storm would threaten to drown them. By this ‘temptation to good,’ they would learn to trust Him more. Continue reading

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St. Michael and All Angels – "Visible and Invisible" – Revelation 12:7-12 – 9/29/19


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Saint-Archangel-Michael-Hand-Painted-Orthodox-Icon-on-Wood-3You are surrounded by myriads upon myriads who would have you believe that “seeing is believing.” But by faith, you say, “no, we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” (2 Cor.4:18) “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”

You are surrounded by thousands upon thousands who would have you believe that “what you see is what you get.” But by faith, you say, “…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him…” (1 Cor. 2:9) “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of … all things visible and invisible.”

It is to the 'invisible' part of God's creation – those “myriad of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels” that our attention is directed on this Festival of St. Michael and All Angels.

Today we are reminded of what we mean when we confess – that the one, true God is the maker of heaven and earth – which includes the visible and the invisible.

Which DOESN'T mean that if we had a stronger microscope or a more powerful telescope we COULD see it, but DOES mean that there is a realm of God's creation which is altogether 'other,' and would be entirely ‘invisible’ and ‘unknown’ to us unless God revealed it to us and let it be ‘seen’ by us as He deems prudent.

“God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth,” is working out His plan for the “new heavens and the new earth” and the redemption of His “new Israel” in BOTH of these realms – “in all things, visible and the invisible.”

From his exile on the island of “Patmos” where, in this ‘visible’ realm, he has been sentenced to live, “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” John is given a glimpse into the 'invisible' realm. And what an incredible 'revelation' it is. What John sees is nothing less than the entire history of God's saving and redeeming work as it is seen from the ‘invisible realm.’ What John sees, 'no eye has ever seen, nor ear has heard, nor the mind of man imagined,' at least as long as we are in this ‘visible realm.’

“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Rev. 12:7-9) Continue reading

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Pentecost 15 – "Commended for Shrewdness" – Luke 16:1-15


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ShrewdnessThe text for our consideration today is the gospel reading from Luke 16 – “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager.” In this story, Jesus introduces us to a fictitious man who is caught red handed in ‘mismanagement’ of what was entrusted to him. The story has three scenes.

Scene one opens, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.”

We’re not told any of the details of just what the charges against the manager were, only that he was being ‘wasteful’ of the what the rich man had entrusted to him to manage on his behalf. Maybe he was squandering the rich man’s possessions on things that the rich man would never have approved of. Or maybe he was hoarding the rich man’s possessions, putting them into a ‘rainy day fund’ which was never actually used.

Whatever the charges happened to be, “[the rich man] called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you?”

It was one of those meetings with the boss in which he tells you to ‘close the door behind you,’ which is usually not good. The rich man order his ‘manager,’ “turn in the account of your management.” The “account of your management” is the ‘books’ that show the various transactions. There’s going to be an audit of the books.

And with that comes those dreaded words – “For you can no longer be manager.’” “You’re fired!” And with that, scene one ends.

Scene two opens with the ‘manager’ thinking about his situation. “And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do…” He looks inside himself and must feel pretty confident that an ‘audit’ of the books is not going to justify him. Rather than “saying to himself,” “once he examines the books he’ll see that those charges that were brought against me were false and give me my job right back,” – the manager begins to make plans for how he is going to survive unemployed.
His first move is look inside himself. And when he does, he concludes that there’s not much there. “I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.”

So he turns from looking inside himself to looking outside himself. “I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.”

He then “summons” those who are in debt to the rich man. They were buying on credit and paying their bills with ‘oil’ and ‘wheat.’ And the manager is determined to win their favor by slashing their bill, so that in their gratitude, they will “receive me into their homes.”

But the ‘manager’ has a problem. His problem is, he doesn’t have the ‘books.’ And so he has to ask each one what he owes. Continue reading

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Pentecost 14 – "Jesus, Sinners Doth Receive" – Luke 15:1-10


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Jesus-The-Good-Shepherd-Large-Hand-Painted-Byzantine-Orthodox-Icon-1-00The prophet Isaiah and the apostle John both have their visions of God seated on His throne. And in both visions, the angels are hovering over the throne, and in unending worship, they sing the ‘Sanctus,’ “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts…” “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, almighty.” (Is.6:3; Rev. 4:8)

The meaning of that word ‘holy’ is “to be set apart.” To be ‘holy’ is “to be set apart” from SIN. “Holiness” by its very nature cannot have anything to do with ‘sin.’

And so the prophet Habakkuk declares of God, “You are of purer eyes than to see evil. [You] cannot look at wrong.” (Hab.1:13).

The Psalmist sings, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” (Ps.5:4-5).

The Law that is written on our hearts is that the Holy God is available and accepting and loving of those who are devout and obey His commandments, but evildoers who do not keep His commandments are rejected and cannot come near Him.

So, what then does it mean, when we hear in our gospel reading today that Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God, “welcomes sinners and eats with them,” and that “tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Him”?

• What it means is that the holy God so loves this world that He sent His holy Son to save sinners, like you and like me.
• It means that God intends to turn His command, “you shall be holy as I the Lord your God am holy,” into His promise, “you shall be holy as I the Lord your God am holy.”
• It means that God intends to satisfy His own holy desire that, “you shall be my people and I shall be your God.” (Ez. 34:28)

It means:
“Jesus sinners doth receive; Oh, may all this saying ponder,
who in sin’s delusions live, and from God and heaven wander!”
“Here is hope for all who grieve;
Jesus sinners doth receive.” (LSB #609:1) Continue reading

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Pentecost 13 – "Unless You Hate…" – Luke 14:25-35 – 9/8/19


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I must confess to you that on this Sunday when we want to promote and encourage the ‘mission and outreach work’ that we are all called to do as disciples of our Lord, my first reaction when I saw that the Gospel text appointed for today was this one was, ‘oh boy. Not exactly the text that I would have chosen for Mission Sunday.’

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple… Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple… Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” See what I mean?

Just before this, Luke reported that Jesus told a “Parable about a Great Banquet” where everyone was invited to come. And after several refusals, the Master sent His servants saying, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” Now that would have made a good reading for Mission Sunday.

Jesus turns to the ‘great crowds that accompanied him,” who presumably, are those responded positively to those servants who went out into the streets and lanes and the highways and the hedges with their gracious invitation to come to the banquet.

And wouldn’t we have expected Jesus to be so pleased with the response and welcomed them and made ‘accepted’ and ‘affirmed’ them? That would have made a good reading for a Mission Sunday. Continue reading

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Labor Day – "The Spirituality of Our Labor" – Colossians 3:23-24


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labor-dayIt has been a while since we have used the national holiday of “Labor Day” as the occasion to preach on the doctrine of ‘vocation.’ But that is what we intend to do and so the text for our consideration today is from Colossians 3:23-24. Would you take out your bible and turn to Colossians 3:23-24, page 985 in your pew bible.

I. Our Labor is Spiritual Work
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Keep your bible open please. We’ll recite this together a couple of times again.

The national holiday of “Labor Day” was established in 1882 by an organization called “The Knights of Labor” which later became “The American Federation of Labor,” or the “AFL” which later merged with the “Congress of Industrial Organizations,” or the “CIO” which is known today as the “AFL-CIO.”

I highly doubt that there was any thought in the minds of those who first instituted “Labor Day,” to the Scriptural connection between the Christian life of faith and the labor that we do. But just because they didn’t see the connection doesn’t mean there isn’t one. In fact the Scriptures have a lot to say about the work that God’s people are given to do and the way God’s people are to do it.

In fact, God’s interest in our ‘LABOR’ is one of the very first things that we are faced with in the Scriptures. The very first thing that God does after He creates the world and the plants and the animals and the man, is “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to WORK IT AND KEEP IT.” (Gen.2:15).

It is as Adam does the LABOR that the Lord God has given him to do, that Adam carries out his life in faith. We need to be sure to hear that. Adam responds in faith and obedience to God by going to work and doing the job that God has given him to do, which happens to be ‘gardener.’

That may surprise us. Maybe we would have expected that the first thing that God would tell Adam is where church is and what time worship begins. But instead, God says to Adam, “I’ve got a job for you.” And the job is gardening. That doesn’t seem like very ‘spiritual’ work does it? But in fact, this is very spiritual. Continue reading

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Pentecost 11 – "How Many Will Be Saved" – Luke 13:22-30

The text for the sermon is the gospel reading that we just heard. It’s the record of one of the many questions that are posed to Jesus while He is on His journey to Jerusalem.

I. Vs. 22-23
“He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and JOURNEYING TOWARD JERUSALEM.”

And as He is “journeying,” “SOMEONE,” an anonymous “SOMEONE,” “SOMEONE” who seems as though he has at least some understanding of what Jesus was headed to Jerusalem to accomplish, “SOMEONE said to him, ‘Lord, will those who are being saved be few?’”

You’ve got to wonder what motivates a question like that one. “Why do you ask?”

If this “someone” was one of the Pharisees or any of the other ‘super-religious’ types who survey the crowds of people and who knows that there are not many who truly measure up to the high standards that are required to be saved – the standards that he himself strives to live by…

“The Pharisee prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

“Someone” wants to know if God is ‘FAIR.’ Will he reward with ‘salvation’ those who have diligently strived to live a ‘godly life’? And is he willin to exclude those from ‘salvation’ who have not?

“Will those who are being saved be few?”

Heard in this way, here is a question that is begging Jesus to say “YES, those who are being saved are FEW.”

But there are other motives for asking a question like this one aren't there?
Maybe this “someone” was thinking of a son or daughter who has wandered from the faith that was given them in their baptism and who now professes some other faith, or maybe none at all.

Maybe this “someone” has a dear friend in mind,
who is a part of that great majority of people with whom we live and work who have never been baptized into Christ and who don’t much care to be,
who never to give things like “salvation” and “eternal life” much of a thought at all,
who flatly refuse your best efforts to witness to them.

And it pains them to think that those who are being saved might be ‘few,’ and that these loved ones and friends will be lost, not only to themselves but to the eternal love and life of the God who created them, and atoned for their sin with His own body and blood, given and shed for them.

And so maybe “Someone” wants to know if God is ‘MERCIFUL.’ Will he really deny ‘salvation’ to all those who have do not confess “Jesus Christ as Lord”? Will He exclude those from ‘salvation’ who are not Christian? Is there another way to be saved?

“Will those who are being saved be few?”

Heard in this way, here is a question that is begging Jesus to say “NO, those who are being saved will be MANY.” Continue reading

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Pentecost 10 – "True and False Prophets" – Jeremiah 23:16-29 – 8/18/19


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A good sermon from Rev. Fischer with a very healthy dose of Law and Gospel.

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Pentecost 9 – "Do Not Be Anxious" – Luke 12:22-34 – 8/11/19


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“And Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

On last Sunday’s stop on the journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, “Someone in the crowd said, ‘teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” That prompted Jesus to lecture the crowd about the meaning of life. He told to a parable about a rich man whose farm produced a bumper crop, which to him meant, ‘early retirement’ with enough ‘social security’ to “relax, eat, drink and be merry” – in other words, a life with no worries. The great surprise however was the fact that this “rich fool” had less than 24 hours to live. “Fool, this night your soul is required of you…”

The moral of the story is, “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” but rather in “being rich towards God.”

It’s always first things first for the Christian. First you must know just how rich you are towards God, and how we got so “rich towards God,” and the price that was paid to make you so “rich towards God.” Then, and only then, will you be able to handle and “abundance of possessions” rightly and keep them in their proper place.

What follows today is NOT addressed to the “trampling crowd” who do not know how rich towards God and who do not have ears to hear. Rather, Jesus is speaking here solely to His disciples, to whom the Kingdom of God has come. It is through them and the Word that they will preach and teach that the “trampling crowd” will come to know how “rich towards God” Jesus Christ has made them.

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

If last Sunday’s gospel was a correction to the rich, that “life does not consist in the ABUNDANCE of possessions,” then this Sunday’s gospel is a correction to the poor, that life also does not consist in the LACK of possessions – even the basic necessities of ‘food’ and ‘clothing.’ “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

If the NEGATIVE example in last Sunday’s gospel was a ‘rich fool,’ then the POSITIVE example in this Sunday’s gospel are birds and flowers. Continue reading

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