Pentecost 8 – "The Rich Fool" – Luke 12:13-21 – 8/4/19


rich-fool“When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Lk.9:51). The journey to the cross continues. And every stop along the way is like Confirmation Class. Each lesson purposely meant to build on the previous ones with the goal, that we would reach MATURITY – not physical but spiritual maturity. The goal is that we may interpret and evaluate things according to the mind of God, which is almost always contrary to the mind of man – as we’ll see here in just a minute.

Today's stop on the journey is a lesson on the subject of financial wealth and material possessions. I suspect that there may not be a clear-cut example in all the Scriptures of how the mind of God and the mind of Man are utterly opposed to each other than this one.

And so, I it is only fair to warn you that none of us is going to find this stop to be in the least bit pleasant or enjoyable. In fact, I will warn you right now that not one of us will survive this stop. It is going to be the death of us all.

We have come to the 12th chapter of Luke's gospel which opens by setting the stage for what follows. “As so many thousands of the people had gathered together that THEY WERE TRAMPLING ON ONE ANOTHER…” (12:1).

It's a dangerous and deadly mob that is TRAMPLING ON ONE ANOTHER and being TRAMPLED ON BY ONE ANOTHER. And we are all in that that mob – 'trampling’ and 'being trampled.'

Out of the mob one voice is raised above all the others. “Teacher, he shouts, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Here is a man who believes that he is being 'trampled on,' and by his own brother no less. And he wants 'justice' for himself. And he asks Jesus the Rabbi to get it for him, going so far as to actually command Jesus what He must do. “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

What happened is this. The father of these two brothers had died without a will. (Hint, hint!) According to middle-eastern law of the day, the inheritance could not be divided until the older brother agreed on how the estate is to be divided. And for some reason, the older brother was dragging his feet and the younger brother was anxious to get his hands on his rightful share. “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus said to him, 'MAN, who made me judge and arbitrator over you?” And what the man should have answered was, ‘You are the Son of God and You will come again to judge the living and the dead.’

It is not that Jesus refuses to take this man's case. In fact, He has the same 'compassion' for this man as He has for the blind and the leprous and for the sheep without a shepherd and for you and me. In fact, our Lord wants more for this 'man' than this ‘man’ wants for himself.

Jesus raises His voice above the trampling mob so that He can be heard by ALL WHO WILL HEAR HIM – even loud enough to be heard in this very Sanctuary. “And he said to THEM,” “Take care, and be on your guard against all COVETOUSNESS, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Continue reading

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Pentecost 6 – "What Is Necessary?" – Luke 10:38-42


“When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Lk. 9:51). The journey to Jerusalem continues.

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister named Mary who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching.”

Jesus had sent 72 disciples ahead of him with His message of “peace be to this house. The kingdom of God is at hand,” instructing them that when they came to a house that welcomed them, they were to stay in that house. No doubt, they had reached this village and knocked on this door and where welcomed into this house. Returning to Jesus, they would have told Him, “when you enter this village, go to the house of a woman named Martha. She will welcome you.”

Surely, as Jesus entered Martha’s house, he would have pronounced His blessing, “peace be to this house. The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

The only conversation that Luke lets us listen in on is that between Martha and Jesus. “Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord do you NOT CARE that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.”

Martha goes from welcoming Jesus into her house and serving him to accusing Him of NOT CARING about her and giving Him an order to tell her sister to get busy and do her share.

Which of us can’t identify with Martha? Haven’t we all been there? How often has our loving and sincere work of serving others, even those in our own home, gotten infected with a spirit of ‘resentment that others aren’t doing their share,’ or ‘angry that no one appreciates all the work we’re doing’? And it doesn’t take much more than a few drops of this deadly poison to kill what was a “right spirit” in us and turn it into an “evil spirit.”

Jesus’ gentle response to Martha is the key point on this stop on our journey with Jesus that we need to hear, mark, learn and inwardly digest. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”

Our Lord connects Martha’s anxious and troubled heart with the “one thing that is necessary.” Continue reading

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Pentecost 5 – "Love Your Neighbor" – Luke 10:25-37


images“When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke’s ‘travelogue’ of the journey of Jesus continues.

Last Sunday, we heard that Jesus sent 72 disciples, “like lambs among wolves,’ to prepare the way before Him by announcing His message of ‘peace.’ “When you enter a village, say ‘Peace be with this house.’”

Upon their return, they were all excited that “even the demons are subject us in your name,” only to hear Jesus respond with, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

To “have your name written in heaven” is just another way of saying that you have your name written in the will. The children, and the nieces and nephews no matter how distant they may be, strive to do all that they can to get their name written into the will of a wealthy relative. There are some great stories out there about someone who died and left everything to a lover no one ever knew about.

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test. This is the kind of thing that lawyers do. Lawyers love to put others to the ‘test.’ Winning the case involves proving that the other is wrong or that his claims are false.

‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” That’s a question you don’t hear very often outside of church – maybe because not many people believe in such a thing as ‘eternal life’ anymore – ‘when you die you’re dead and that’s all there is.’

In the Book of Job, Job asks the question, “if a man shall die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). If ancient man was concerned with the question of life after death, the question today is more often, ‘is my cholesterol under 200 and is my blood pressure and weight where it ought to be. How do I ‘live my best life now.’ Continue reading

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Pentecost 4 – Luke 10:1-20 – "Like Sheep among Wolves" – 7/6/19


lamb+among+wolvesI want to begin by establishing the ‘lay of the land’ as we set out on this journey through the season of Pentecost. Since the Church Year began on the 1st Sunday of Advent, St. Luke’s gospel has been our guide as we follow Jesus. Next year it’ll be St. Matthew’s gospel and after that, St. Mark’s gospel. And in each year of the three year cycle, St. John’s influence is also present.

Each of the four gospels presents the same story of Jesus Christ but each in its own way. Luke has structured and organized his gospel as you would a ‘travelogue.’ Reading Luke’s gospel is like listening to someone tell us about a trip that they took and the various places that stood out as particularly memorable. “First we went here and this is what happened. Then we went there and this is what happened.” (And aren’t we glad that Luke doesn’t make us look at 500 pictures and watch hours of video.)

Luke begins his gospel by recounting the ‘travels’ of Mary to see her cousin Elizabeth, and then Mary ‘travels’ back home to Nazareth. Then there’s the travels of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus is born. Then the ‘travels’ of the shepherds from their fields to the manger. And then when He is 12 years old, the holy family travels to Jerusalem and the Temple where Jesus amazes the Rabbis with His wisdom, and then they ‘travel’ back home again.

Then there’s a big jump that leaps right over 18 years of His life to Jesus’ baptism by John and His Temptation in the Wilderness and the beginning of His ministry. And Luke tells us, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee…” (Luke 4:14). And for the next five chapters, Luke tells us about all of the particularly important things that Jesus does in the region of Galilee.
• He is rejected in Nazareth of Galilee.
• He heals a man of his demons and cures a centurion’s servant in Capernaum in Galilee.
• He preaches in the Synagogues in Galilee.
• He calls His disciples in Galilee.
• He raises a widow’s son in the village of Nain in Galilee.
• He feeds 5000 in Bethsaida which is in Galilee.
• He’s transfigured on a mountain in Galilee.
It’s quite a ‘slide-show’ that Luke is having us watch.
And then we come to the end of Chapter 9, verse 51, where Luke tells us, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” From that point, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem where He will be “taken up” – which is another way of saying that He will be crucified, resurrected and ascend into heaven – which is where His journey began.

For the remainder of this church year, we will be listening to Luke’s ‘travelogue’ on the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. Along the way, Luke will pepper his report with phrases like,
• “he went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem” (13:22); and
• “on the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee” (17:11); and
• “as they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near to Jerusalem…” (19:11).

Since we have already celebrated Palm Sunday, we already know that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. And since we have already celebrated Good Friday and Easter Sunday and the Day of Ascension, we already know that He has been ‘taken up.’

So, for the rest of this church year, except for the Last Sunday of the church year,’ we’re going to be on this journey to Jerusalem with Jesus – already knowing the outcome of the journey. And every stop along the way is meant to prepare our hearts and our minds so that we will know WHY He must go to Jerusalem, and so that we may rightly rejoice and worship Him when He is “taken up.” Continue reading

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Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul – 6/30/19


You may not have realized that yesterday was a very significant day in the life of the Christian Church. But if you were in Rome yesterday, where the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is a civil holiday, you would have known that something was going on because all of the shops and businesses were closed for the day. If June 29th had fallen on a week day, schools would have been closed as well.

As early as 258 AD, the church marked June 29th as the day for the Christian church to give thanks to God for the apostles Peter and Paul, who stand as the two pillars of the New Testament Church.

As familiar with these two men as we are, it’s always good to refresh our knowledge of such important people in our life.

We begin with Simon, a fisher of fish by trade, whom Jesus called saying, ‘Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” And he did. And over the course of about a year of following Jesus, listening to His preaching and teaching, seeing the miracles He did, and witnessing the compassion Jesus had for all people regardless of who or what they were, Peter slowly grew to understand and then confess with his lips that this Jesus is none other than the Christ, the Son of God, as we heard in our gospel reading. Continue reading

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Pentecost 2 – "What Have You To Do With Me, Jesus?" – Luke 8:26-39


207769.pI don’t know about you, but sometimes I think that “the world has gone crazy.” And I know that every generation since Noah has said the same thing – ‘how much worse can it get?’ And I know that every ‘next generation’ seems to take that as a challenge. And yesterday’s insanity becomes today’s normal at quicker and quicker rate and the typhoon seems to spin faster and sucks more poor souls into it and where will it end? And when will it end?

When will God finally say ‘ENOUGH’ and turn His back and walk away and leave us without hope? Because I were God, that’s what I'd do. But thankfully, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:8-9)

And so it is that today we find God, not washing His hands in disgust with our insanity, but chartering a boat to sail right into the insanity. “Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.”

The 'Garasenes' are 'opposite' Galilee geographically. But even more ‘opposite’ Galilee religiously. In Galilee, the people are “God’s people,” which doesn’t mean that they’re perfect or without sin, but at least they have God’s Word. And there’s a remnant there who, “hearing the Word of God, hold it fast in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience.” (Lk. 8:15). Which means that the devil has to dress in sheep’s clothing to do his dirty work.

But ‘OPPOSITE GALILEE’ such is not the case. God’s Word has either never been sowed or none fell on good soil. So the devil is free to work in the open without disguise and his demons possess whom they will and all the “guards and chains and shackles” are like a spider’s web to a freight train.

So, the “GERASENES” is the last place you’d expect Jesus to want to go. It’s not safe. “Why waste your time, Jesus?” But as I said, “'your ways are not my ways,’ says the Lord.” Continue reading

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Trinity – "Do You Believe In God?" – Athanasian Creed


In light of where we are and why we’re all here today, I presume that it would be safe for me to expect you to say ‘yes’ if I were to ask you if you believe in God. (If there are any atheists here, I apologize for lumping you in with the rest of us theists.)

For all who said, ‘yes, I believe in God,’ I say, ‘that’s great. But so does the devil. And so do the Muslims, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unitarians and the Jews. And so do your friends and neighbors and coworkers who are none of the above but who don’t hesitate to jump into religious discussions, because after all, they believe in God.

The Psalmist puts it this ways, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no god.” (Ps.14:1; 53:1) And no one wants to be a fool.

So, what I really should have asked you this morning is not, ‘do you believe in God,’ but, ‘what God do you believe in?’ And it’s at that point that all of the happy unity that we think we share with all believers quickly becomes an argument about ‘who’s got the REAL god' and why it really, really matters.

But then again, who’s to say? Maybe it really, really doesn’t matter. Maybe all gods are basically the same, and all religions are basically the same, just different roads that all lead to the same place. Different strokes for different folks, and for the sake of peace and harmony, we should all that agree we believe in god, however you choose to define ‘god,’ and not get carried away with the details.

That of course is a long way from saying what we just said, “Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.”

The “catholic faith” is then spelled out, not in GREAT GENERALITIES, but in GREAT DETAIL. “And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God, in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance…” etc. etc. etc.

And then we concluded by saying, “This is the catholic faith which, WHOEVER DOES NOT BELIEVE IT FAITHFULLY AND FIRMLY CANNOT BE SAVED.” (Athanasian Creed).

That word ‘whoever’ is important and it cuts two ways. Continue reading

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Pentecost – "The Work of the Holy Spirit" – Acts 2:2-21 – 6/9/19


mosaic-pentecost1-1024x623The Festival of Pentecost was originally one of the two ‘harvest festivals’ established by Moses to serve as a benchmark for the people of God to give thanks for His provision and care for their physical bodies with food.

The “Festival of the First Fruits” marked the beginning of the harvest. On the day that the first swing of the Sycle cut down the first bunch of wheat or barley, the people of God stopped to give thanks for the harvest.

Then, they went about bringing in the sheaves until the barns were full and the harvest was complete. They counted 50 days from the “Festival of First Fruits” which was about the time it took to complete the harvest before John Deere. On the 50th day from ‘Firstfruits’ the people of God gave thanks to God for the harvest in festival called “Pentecost,” “Pente” meaning fifty.

God’s people are people who give thanks to God for their daily bread. The festival of “Pentecost” was one of several commemorations that ‘defined’ the people of God, so much so that Moses commanded that every able bodied male was required to celebrate Pentecost at the Temple.

So when we hear that “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men FROM EVERY NATION…” we know why they’re there.

But on this particular Day of Pentecost, it was a different kind of crop and a different kind of harvest that was to be celebrated in a celebration that continues to this very day and that continues to define the people of God.

On Good Friday, the crucified body of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was taken down from the cross and buried. And three days later, He arose. And Easter is the celebration of the ‘FIRST FRUITS.’ And then 50 days from Easter comes the Day of Pentecost when the people of God celebrate the harvest that follows the FIRST FRUITS, which is still in process, even has we have witnessed together here this morning in the baptism of William Seliga.

There are two important aspects about the New Testament, Day of Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit that I would like to hold up to you today. Both of these aspects of Pentecost have to do with ‘transformations.’ And both are absolutely critical to the harvest of men and women, boys and girls, who are continually brought into the holy barn of the church until the Last Day comes and the Lord announces that the harvest is complete.

Apart from both of these ‘transformations’ which the Holy Spirit works and there would be no harvest at all. There would be the death and burial of Christ and the resurrection of Christ, but even this would produce no harvest apart from the work of the Holy Spirit Continue reading

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Ascension – "Our Humanity In Heaven" – Luke 24:50-52 – 6/2/19

The biblical texts for our consideration today are those appointed for ‘The Ascension of Our Lord,’ and we’ll read them as we go.

It’s a circuitous route our Lord travels in His mission to redeem the world. He who, from eternity, sat at the right hand of God the Father, came down from heaven and became man, and died on the cross, and rose again on the third day, and 40 days later, He went up into heaven to resume the position that always was, always is, and always will, be His.

Or as our Lord He Himself put it, “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” (John 16:28).

All of this He has done out of perfect obedience to His Father, to glorify His Father, and to redeem you and me and His whole creation. It had to be an ‘inside job.’ No ‘waiving magic wands’ and ‘magical incantations’ would do. But there was clearly no ‘insider’ either able or worthy of getting the job done.

So God sent His only-begotten and dearly beloved Son to be the ‘consummate insider.’ He DID NOT come down to dwell among us like an angel or a spirit-being. He went much further than that. He became one of us. He took on our humanity. Our very vulnerable and so easily wounded and battered and bruised humanity.

And sure enough, He was vulnerable to the point of being susceptible to all of the wounding and battering and bruising that we endure. He was vulnerable to the point of death, even death on a cross.

But then, He showed us who He REALLY is. He rose from the dead. That is something that we humans cannot do. Only God can raise the dead and only God can raise Himself from the dead. He who became one of us turns out to have been God all along.

And now, he has ascended into heaven. The final piece of evidence that reveals His true identity. He is the 2nd Person of the Triune Godhead who is eternally the One True God. He came down from heaven and became man and then He ascended into heaven. Continue reading

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Easter 6 – "Praying to the Father" – John 16:23-33 – 5/26/19


“Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
We dare not forget that Easter has happened. We dare not forget that the victory has been won.
Easter is not a 50 day season and then it’s over. Easter is the beginning of a whole, new, permanent reality. For Christ has “reconciled all things to God, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col. 1:20)

As for you, He has “canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. Setting it aside by nailing it to the cross, in His own body.” (Col. 2:14)

As for this fallen world, He has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them.” (Col. 2:15)

As for Satan, He has “crushed the head of “Your adversary the devil, who prowls who around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:9)

We dare not forget that Easter has happened. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

But we do forget, don’t we? I KNOW that we forget that Easter happened because we worry and we’re afraid and we’re such cowards and we are so easily intimidated and we say, “what is this world coming to” AS IF we didn’t know, AS IF Easter had never happened, AS IF the victory had not already been won.

But if we only remembered that Easter has happened and that “even the gates of hell cannot prevail against us,” we would be so fearless and so courageous and so brave and so bold that nothing could shake us or cause us to worry or to doubt or despair. Continue reading

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