Pentecost 11 – "Grumbling In The Wilderness" – Exodus 16:2-15/John 6:22-35


image“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel GRUMBLED against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.”

Which is a shame really, because Moses never really wanted to be a pastor to begin with. He didn't like public speaking and was content simply shepherding his father-in-law's sheep. But the Lord called him, even from a burning bush, and the Lord can be pretty persuasive when He wants to be. And Moses went from shepherding sheep to shepherding people.

And sadly, God called Moses to one of those 'problem' congregations. One of those congregations that are always griping and complaining about one thing or another and when things don't go exactly the way they think they should go, or when when they have to suffer a little hardship or even pain because of their faith, they blame their pastor, because that's what you do when you're mad at God.

And I suspect that Moses must have prayed more than once, 'Oh Lord, why did you send me to this congregation?' To which the Lord would have certainly replied, 'because it's the only one there is.'

It'd been 45 days since Moses led the congregation of Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea. And they'd run out of food. And they're in the wilderness. No Shaws or Hannafords. No McDonalds or Burger Kings. And their bellies started to growl. Continue reading

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Pentecost 10 – Traumatic Peace – Genesis 9:8-17


trauma2017“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” is a term that we’ve become familiar with as we learn more about the effects that ‘TRAUMA’ can have on a person. Those who serve or have served in the military are particularly vulnerable to PTSD because of the TRAUMATIC things they have seen and experienced – and ‘trauma’ has its effects.

But you don’t have to be in the military to experience TRAUMA. It happens in lots of ways – sexual abuse, emotional abuse, bullying, personal tragedies. I recently read a little bit about the post-traumatic effects that ‘burn victims’ typically deal with. Something as simple as being near when someone who strikes a match to light a candle can set off all kinds of bad thoughts and reactions.

Natural disasters are also packed with potential for creating post-traumatic stress. Just think of those who are trapped in collapsed building caused by an earthquake or swept away in a tsunami. I’ll quote from one web-site, “The emotional response to any trauma – is intense fear, horror, and helplessness to affect the outcome.” (

I don’t think that we think much about Noah and his family and what it must have been like for them to experience the worst natural disaster the world has ever known. In fact, it was a ‘super-natural’ disaster.

God tried to prepare Noah and his family for what was coming by telling Noah ahead of time about the totality of the death and destruction that he would witness. Before it began to rain however, God assured Noah that he and his family would survive. “I will establish my covenant with you…” (future tense) (Gen. 6:18).

But you know how it is. We never believe that it’ll really be as bad as God says it will. What actually happened was far beyond anyone’s worse nightmares. Continue reading

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Pentecost 9 – "He Had Compassion On Them" – Mark 6:30-34

A very good sermon from Rev. Fischer, oozing with comforting gospel.


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Pentecost 8 – "Who Are You?" – Ephesians 1:3-14


IMG_9425In Arthur Miller’s famous play, ‘Death of A Salesman,” Willie Lohman spends his whole adult life searching for status and recognition from others. For Willie, life is all about how many people admire and respect him, the measure of which is how many people will turn out for his funeral. “When I die,” he says to his son Biff, “there will be hundreds of people at my funeral.” “Dad,” Biff replies, “you don’t have to do this.”

The final scene of the play takes place in a funeral home. It’s Willie’s funeral and there’s only a handful of people present. The casket is open and Willie’s wife comes forward and places a few flowers in it. She says, “I made the last payment on the house today, Willie.” And then she turns to her son Biff and says, “You know, all he needed was just a little more salary.” To which Biff replies, “Nah, he never knew who he was.”

Now there’s a sad epitaph for a life. How’d you like that on your tombstone? “He never knew who he was.”

“Do you know who you are?” It’s a question of ‘identity.’ And it’s an issue that a lot of people seem to be struggling with these days. We’re confused about our ‘national identity,’ ‘political identity,’ ‘racial identity,’ ‘gender identity,’ ‘religious identity.’

Then, on top of all those ‘macro-identities’ to deal with, there’s countless ‘micro-identities’ to deal with. “I’m a parent, a single parent, a child, a spouse. I’m divorced, a sibling, a grandparent, a student, a friend, a neighbor, an accountant, a construction worker, a housewife. I’m a funny person, a shy person, a smart person, an athlete.” “Who am I? I’m a successful person. I’m a failure.”

Do you know who you are?

It’s not our job here today to try to sort out and answer all the questions about our identity that we may have. But what is our job today is to point to Jesus Christ and to say as clearly as we can – that it is only as we know ‘WHO JESUS CHRIST’ is, and that we are ‘IN CHRIST,’ that we can know who GOD SAYS WE ARE. And it is only when we know who GOD SAYS WE ARE – IN CHRIST – that our IDENTITY CRISIS can ever be resolved. Continue reading

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Pentecost 7 – "Praying for Thorns" – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10


30064-ThornFlesh.1200w.tnAfter a bit of modest bragging about his exclusive, backstage tour of heaven, Paul writes, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [thorn in the flesh], that it should leave me. But he said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

Here is the scene. You’re on a plane flying across the country and suddenly the engines of the plane burst into flames and the co-pilot rushes out of the cockpit and announces that the plane is going to crash. It’s necessary to abandon the plane. But not to worry, there are plenty of parachutes for every passenger. The stewardesses begin to distribute parachutes to everyone with instructions on how to wear it and operate it, saying, “I know this is scary for you, but be assured, the parachute will deliver you safely.”

As that the door of the plane is opened, the first passenger steps up and shouts over the wind, “Could I make a request? Could I have a green parachute? It’s my lucky color.” The pilot shakes his head in disbelief and says, “No, it’s enough that you have a parachute.”

A second asks, “I’m afraid of heights. Can you remove my fears before I jump?” “No,” comes the reply, “but despite your fears, you’ll land safely.”

A third argues that he would like to wait until the plane gets lower before jumping to which the pilot says, “No. Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve got a parachute. Trust it.”

A fourth with knocking knees shouts, “I have a better idea. Let’s crash with the plane. Maybe we’ll survive
And the pilot shouts, “You people don’t understand. I’ve given you a parachute. That’s enough.”

To Paul’s prayer for THORN REMOVAL SURGERY, Jesus answers, “my grace is sufficient for you. My power is made known in weakness.”

We always want Jesus to fix one more thing for us so that we can finally get on with the business of trusting in Him. “Just this one thing, Lord.” Fix this, change that, give me this, take that away …” “Then I’ll be ready to trust you. Then I’ll be ready to jump into this life of faith.” Continue reading

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Pentecost 6 – "Helper of the Helpless" – Mark 5:21-43


HelplessnessHe was at his wits end. He and his wife had done everything they knew to do for their daughter. She was only twelve years old, and as soon as it became obvious that there was something wrong, they took her to see every doctor and tried every remedy and exhausted every avenue no matter how remote it seemed. Or was it that she was born with certain complications that, for twelve years now had progressed to this point. Whichever it was, nothing helped. Nothing worked. And the doctors had spoken those dreaded words – those words that admit they’ve come to the end of the line, those words finally admit defeat – “There’s nothing more we can do.”

They were utterly helpless. Can you imagine it?

At first the bleeding was the monthly bleeding that’s normal. But she quickly realized that this was not normal because it never stopped. It was as though her life-blood was draining out of her. For twelve years, as old as the couple’s daughter, she had been under the treatment of every available physician. But rather than saying, “there’s nothing more we can do,” the kept treating her until “she spent all that she had.” And not only was she no better, it was getting worse.

She was utterly helpless. Can you imagine it?

Jesus had been on the other side of the Sea of Galilee – that is, the Gentile side. There was a man there, who was some mother and father’s son. The man was so possessed by demons that there was nothing that anyone could do for him. Either for safety’s sake or because no one could bear to watch this man whom they had known, whom they loved, become someone else and try to destroy himself, they sent him to the cemetery to live in the tombs until he died.

He was utterly helpless. Can you imagine it?

But Jesus sailed to the other side of the sea to help this man. “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit,” He commanded. And just like that, the demons possessed a herd of pigs and jumped into the sea, the entrance to the abyss, and were all drown. And the UTTERLY HELPLESS man was back again – sound in body, sound in mind. And Jesus sent him back to his friends and family to tell them, “how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mk. 5:19).

Jesus is the helper of the helplessly demon possessed.
Continue reading

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Nativity of John the Baptist – Luke 1:57-80 – 6/24/18

For a church that wants to be nothing else but “Christ centered” and “Cross focused,” it may seem a bit out of place to set aside a day on the church’s calendar to point our finger at one who adamantly insists that “he is not the Christ.” (John 1:20).

I have a feeling that John the Baptist would have blushed at getting this much attention and insisted, “NO, NO. HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE.” (John 3:30)

But which of us haven’t ever taken the time to THINK ABOUT AND GIVE THANKS FOR those who pointed us to “the Christ”? Maybe it was a father and mother who brought you to ‘the Christ’ when they brought you to the baptismal font as an infant or a toddler or a teenager and who raised you in the Word of the Lord? Maybe it was a spouse or a relative or a friend or a neighbor who said something to the effect of, ‘How about come to church with me or Sunday School with me. I want you to meet ‘the Christ’?

Whomever it may have been who pointed you to “the Christ,” it just seems good, right and even salutary that we should give thanks to God for them. Continue reading

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Pentecost 4 – "Let's Think About Death" – 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 – 6/17/18


Virgo-Cemetery-PhotoIt may not be the most pleasant and cheery topic to talk about, but today we’re going to talk about death. What are we to think about it? How are we to think about it? And maybe the most important thing to say here is simply that we should think about death, because it’s going to happen to all of us. Unless our Lord comes again before we die, none of us are going to escape the experience of death. And so, we should think it. We should think about what it is – and isn’t, what comes next – and doesn’t.

Of all people, the Christian ought to be able to think and speak about death without fear or avoidance or having to dance around the topic. Because the very heart and soul of the faith that we confess is based on death – the death of our Lord – who was not at all hesitant to speak about death, and who wants us to think deeply about our own dying and death IN THE LIGHT OF HIS.

We believe and confess that Jesus Christ died and was buried and on the 3rd day, rose from the dead. If we are willing to learn anything at all about death from Jesus Christ, we ought to learn at least these two things: first, death is not the end of life – which apart from Jesus Christ is about the only conclusion you could reasonably come to. And second, the life that comes after death is somehow mysteriously all wrapped up in the afterlife of Christ Himself.

In our epistle reading for today, we heard St. Paul speak hopefully and confidently about his death. And we want to draw from his hope and confidence to think and speak the same way about our own death. “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Paul compares his physical body to a tent. If anyone knows something about tents, Paul certainly does having been a tentmaker by trade. Tents are meant to be temporary living quarters, not permanent. As tents get older they start to sag in certain places and it doesn’t hang on the poles the way it used to, and sometimes it leaks. (It shouldn’t be too hard to see the connection.) Continue reading

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Pentecost 3 – "Remedy for Divisions" – Mark 3:20-35

This is a very good sermon, delivered by 2nd year seminarian, Grant Sorenson during his recent visit with the congregation.


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Pentecost 2 – "Keep the Sabbath Day Holy" – Mark 2:23-28


The theme that underlies our Old Testament and Gospel readings today has to do with “the proper observation of the Sabbath.” How do we ‘keep the Sabbath holy’? In our Old Testament reading, Moses preaches to the congregation, telling them that they MUST keep the Sabbath holy and HOW to keep it holy. In our Gospel reading, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of negligence for failing to teach His disciples how to keep the Sabbath holy.

SART-2015-07-19-1090x639 Let’s begin by listening to Moses once again.
“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.” (Deut. 5:12)

Moses is referring the time 40 years earlier when, reading from the two tablets of stone that he received from God on Mt. Sinai, he recited the 10 Commandments for the FIRST TIME. Israel was just beginning its journey to the Promised Land back then.

“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, he preached. Why? “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Ex. 20:11).

In his Exodus sermon on the 3rd Commandment, Moses took the congregation all the way back to the seventh day of CREATION when “God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Gen. 2:2-3)

It’s NOT that God got tired from all the WORK He had done that He needed to ‘REST.’ God never gets tired. No, it’s clear that God rests for the purpose of ‘enjoying’ what He has done. “And God SAW everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…” He stops His work to LOOK at all that He had made. And He’s ‘pleased’ with it.

Because really, what’s the use of doing all that ‘WORK,’ if you never stop working to ENJOY it, admire it, appreciate it?
So, when God commands MAN to stop working and rest, ‘Shabbat,’ every seven days, the purpose of this ‘rest’ is not physical – as much as is to appreciate and enjoy the work that GOD HAS DONE.

Which may certainly include the ‘grandeur’ and ‘beauty’ of God’s creation – BUT SHOULD ALSO most certainly include all those DAILY things we tend to take for granted, such as Luther lists in his 1st Article explanation – “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that he had given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me ‘clothing, and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals and all that I have.” “For all this, it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”

Of course we should mingle our thanks and praise into our serving and obeying every day of the week – as we pray, ‘at all times and in all places.’ But the Sabbath Day is a day set aside to intentionally do so without the mingling of work.

To STOP ‘WORKING’ for the purpose of appreciating all that God has done – just like God did – is at least a part of what it means to have been made in the image of God. Unlike the ants and the beavers who work, work, work and never stop to appreciate what they have made, man is to stop working and enjoy, not what he has created, but what God has created. What God has “finished.”

And isn’t it right here that we can see means that we have ‘LOST THE IMAGE OF GOD’ from another angle. To work, work, work, – or even – play, play, play, and never stopping to ‘KEEP THE SABBATH DAY HOLY,’ is a sign of our fall into sin and rebellion against God.

And I suspect this also at least contributes to why we get so WEARY not only in our WORK but also in our PLAYING. We fail to HONOR THE SABBATH DAY AND KEEP IT HOLY.

Now once again, Moses preaches on the 10 Commandments. “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.” This sermon comes 40 years after the first one – at the end of Israel’s journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

But this one is a different sermon. Here in Deuteronomy, Moses connects the SABBATH COMMANDMENT – NOT to the Lord’s Creation in the beginning, BUT to the Lord’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. ““‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. THEREFORE the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

Here Moses says that the Sabbath day is for ‘REMEMBERING’ THE LORD’S DELIVERANCE. It’s a day for ‘REMINISCING,’ for telling and retelling the stories about their “slavery in Egypt,” and how hard life was, and for all of their ‘working, working, working,’ old Pharaoh was never satisfied.

The Sabbath is a time set aside by God Himself for His people to ‘remember,’ to ‘REMINISE,’ to tell and retell the story of God’s rescue and deliverance. Telling and retelling the story of God’s “mighty hand and outstretched arm.”

This practice of a keeping a “Sabbath day” where all work stops and all attention is directed to God –is something that is utterly unique to Israel among all the other nations. No other nation has anything like a biblical “SABBATH DAY.”

And over time, the Sabbath Day becomes a point of NATIONAL IDENTITY for Israel. They’re known as the people who stop working every seven days for the sole purpose of sitting back and ‘reminiscing about God’s creation and deliverance by His “mighty hand” and His ‘outstretched arm.’

So the keeping of the weekly Sabbath day literally ‘made them holy.’ That word ‘holy’ literally means, ‘to set apart.’ The keeping of the weekly Sabbath “set them apart” from all the other nations.

There’s lots of ‘reminiscing’ throughout the Old Testament about how when Israel got so caught up in their working and playing that they forgot to STOP and KEEP THE SABBATH DAY, they lost their identity as the ‘people of God’ and became just like all the other nations. They were no longer ‘holy.’

And we should have no trouble seeing the connections to our own day.

So, in order to try to protect its identity, it’s holiness, the religious leadership of Israel developed a body of laws to enforce the ‘PROPER’ keeping of the Sabbath.

For example, if keeping the Sabbath Day means that you shall do no ‘work,’ it might be important to clarify what actually constitutes ‘work.’ How far can you travel for a ‘Sabbath day’s journey,’ and how does that vary depending on how much weight you are carrying? How much work can you do to prepare food for your family on the Sabbath Day? How much work can you do if someone gets injured on a Sabbath Day?

A body of over 400 of these ‘laws’ about THE SABBATH DAY evolve and become the focus of the Pharisees and Scribes who become Israel’s ‘SABBATH POLICE.’ And this is what gets Jesus into trouble with the Scribes and Pharisees. He pays almost no attention TO these laws.

And when they challenge Him, He rebukes them.

“One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.” (Luke 14:1-6)

“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him…4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” (Mark 3:1-6)

So, when we hear in today Gospel reading that as Jesus was walking with His disciples, ‘through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain,” the ‘Sabbath police’ turn pull Jesus over. They say, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” (You’ve got to wonder if they were hiding in the field or what.)

25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God…and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

If they’re going to arrest Jesus for violating the Sabbath, then they needed to arrest David too. Jesus was doing no more for those with him who were hungry than David did for those with him.

And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

When Jesus says, “the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath,” He means that the true Sabbath is not a day – but a person. Some argue that “the Sabbath day” should be Saturday. Others say Sunday. That’s an argument the Scribes and Pharisees would love to engage in but that misses the point entirely.

Jesus Christ IS our Sabbath rest. When Jesus cried from the cross, “It is finished,” it’s the same “FINISHED” that He announced at Creation – but now it is a NEW CREATION. By His mighty hand and outstretched arm, nailed to the cross, He has DELIVERED HIS PEOPLE from their bondage to sin and death.

Jesus Christ IS the “mighty hand and outstretched arm” of God by which God has delivered you.

In Jesus Christ, there is NO MORE WORK TO BE DONE – either for your life or your salvation. In fact, now that the Son of Man has FINISHED HIS WORK, to keep working for yourself, for your life, for your salvation, is burdensome and makes us weary – because you will never be able to satisfy the demands of the one, true God who is already completely satisfied with the work that His Son has FINIHSED for us. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, He says, and you will have SHABBAT for your soul.”

Truly, “the Sabbath was made for man.” God created the Sabbath Day for our good. It’s good for us to set the rhythm of our life to the weekly rest from our work and our play, to gather together to ‘reminisce’- to tell and retell the story of God’s creation and how He delivered us – to come together at this railing to ‘take and eat, and take and drink, “in remembrance” of the Lord of the Sabbath. May God help us to keep the Sabbath day holy.

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