Pentecost 10 – "Do You Know What You Have?" – Matthew 14:22-33 – 8/13/17


antiqueEvery once in a while I’ll turn the TV to the “Antiques Roadshow.” It’s fun to watch folks bring in something wondering if it might just be something valuable. “It’s been sitting in their basement for years,” “It was passed down from my great, great grandparents.” They were going to throw it away but wondered if it might not be worth something. And then the expert will either say something like, ‘it’s really not worth anything,’ or ‘you don’t know what you have here.’

It’s like that with us and Jesus. “You don’t know what you have.” “You don’t know what you’ve been given in your baptism.” “You don’t know what you’ve boxed up and stored away for years – and you thought of throwing it all away how many times now?”

The primary goal of Matthew’s entire gospel – like if you get nothing else out of it you need to get this – you need to know who this Jesus is. You need to know what you’ve have when you’ve have Jesus. You need to know what you have when Jesus has you.

TO THAT END, Matthew has bracketed the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with this question from the devil – “If you are the Son of God…” to the end of Jesus’ ministry with this confession of faith from the Centurion at the cross, “truly this was the Son of God.” (Matt.27:54).

Everything in between these two points in his gospel is purposed to move us, teaching by teaching, parable by parable, miracle by miracle – the mystery rolled back further and further until we too confess – “truly this is the Son of God.”

This is the goal of our gospel reading for this morning.

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Pentecost 9 – "The Feeding God" – Matthew 14:13-21 – 8/6/17


I. God Satisfies Our Physical Hunger / Thirst
A. God Feeds His Children
Product_OFE10147_Image_1If there’s one thing that becomes obvious the more you read the Scriptures, it is that God loves to feed His people. He hates to see dear children go hungry. He’s like a mother whose always checking to see if we have enough to eat and always putting more on the table that we could possibly stuff into our mouth.

It’s been like this from the very beginning. The first thing He shows His Adam in the Garden of Eden is the food pantry. “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Gen. 1:29).

And in the background, you can almost here the angels chanting, “mange, mange.” (Well, the Italian angels anyway).

B. Jacob to Egypt.
When Jacob couldn’t feed his family because of a famine, God put Joseph in charge of the food supply in Egypt and Joseph stockpiled enough food to feed his family and the whole world all that they could eat.

C. Manna in the Desert
As the children get bigger they get harder to feed. 70 people went down to Egypt with Jacob to eat. 2 million people left Egypt to return to the land God had promised through Abraham which is described in ‘edible’ terms as “A land flowing with milk and honey.”

Along the way, they get hungry. It takes a lot of food to satisfy 2 million people with an appetite –especially the teenagers. The land can’t support that kind of demand and the locals get stingy about sharing their bread with 2 million travelers. Continue reading

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Pentecost 8 – "Do You Understand?" – Matthew 13:44-52 – 7/30/17


Our Pentecost journey continues today with a series of three parables from Matthew’s 13th chapter. Today marks the 7th Sunday we’ve been on this journey. Which means there are only 17 more Sundays to go and only 21 more weeks till Christmas.

We’re taking this journey together as those for whom Matthew wrote his gospel – NEWBIES TO THE FAITH. This is instruction for those who want to know more about this Jesus Christ – and what this thing called ‘Christianity’ all about – and what does it mean that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”?

This is the POINT OF PERSPECTIVE that is critical to remember as we travel. We’re NOT on this journey as ‘PROSPECTS’ whom Matthew is trying to recruit or persuade to make our decision for Jesus. We are NEWBEES who have been baptized, in whom the Holy Spirit has planted His Word, in whom the Word/Seed has fallen on GOOD SOIL and has taken root. The ‘journey’ is all about nurturing and watering and cultivating that seed so that it bears its crop of saving faith.

The key word that Jesus uses to describe this ‘cultivation’ of the seed sown in us is the word, “UNDERSTANDING.” The 13th chapter of Matthew’s gospel is a collection of Jesus’ parables that are all about UNDERSTANDING.

Parables are effective ways of teaching someone who is ALREADY A BELIEVER – already in the mansion – what life in the Kingdom of Heaven is all about. To those on the outside they are just silly little stories – and ‘what’s your point?’

It will be helpful if you have your bible out and opened to Matthew 13 this morning – page 818 in the pew bible.

The GRAND OPENING to this collection of parables is the one about the Sower who sows His seed. Some grows and some doesn’t – and Jesus makes it clear why some live by faith and some fall away.
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St. Mary Magdalene – "The Captive Set Free" – 7/23/17 – John 20:1-18


Last Sunday we heard our Lord’s parable about the Sower who sowed seed in the hope that it would all take root and grow and produce an abundant harvest. Some did and some didn’t. On this ‘feast day’ of St. Mary Magdalene, we give thanks to the Sower for the rich harvest of saving faith that His seed/word produced in this humble and beautiful woman.

196975Between the four gospels, there’s enough written about Mary Magdalene for us to put together a rather complete sketch of this woman.

Let’s begin with her name. For the most part, the women that we meet in the Scriptures are typically identified by the name of their relationship to another person – typically a man. There’s “Mary – the mother of Jesus,” and “Mary the wife of Clopas,” “Joanna, the wife of Chuza,” and “Mary the sister of Martha” and certainly after the resurrection, “Mary the sister of Lazarus.”

But “MARY MAGDALENE is NOT known by her relationship to another person, only by her hometown – ‘Magdala’ – which probably means that there was no husband or brother or sister or certainly child in her life. And maybe the reason for that has to do with THE CONDITION OF HER LIFE before Jesus.

In the 8th chapter of his gospel, Luke tells us that “[Jesus] went on through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities… And then from all of these women, Luke singles out one in particular – Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out.” (Lk. 8:1-2)

SO, WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT JESUS CAST OUT SEVEN DEMONS FROM MARY? These days, we’re not too sure what to make of this whole business of ‘demons’ and ‘demon possession.’ So, it might be helpful to think of it like this. Without denying the existence of ‘demons’ and ‘demon possession,’ I think we can also say that with the help of modern science, we may understand some of the things differently than people used to. For instance, some of the ways that the bible describe the way that ‘demon-possessed’ people behaved, looks an awful lot like what we might today attribute to ‘seizures’ due to ‘neurological’ or ‘chemical’ disorders.

What’s true NO MATTER HOW YOU DEFINE IT is the fact that the person who suffers from these things is like a ‘CAPTIVE’ who is unable to escape. They neither choose to act like this, nor can they simply ‘SNAP OUT OF IT.’ Mary was a CAPTIVE to these terrible forces. They CONTROLLED her. Continue reading

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Pentecost 5 – "Soul Rest" – Matthew 11:25-30


Our Pentecost season journey began a month ago at Matthew’s 10th chapter. And after leading us on a methodical, three-week tour of Matthew 10, our lectionary suddenly jumps clear over a big chunk of the 11th chapter and lands us on the last five verses.

little childrenBut context is everything. And so I want to ask you to take out your bible and turn to Matthew 10 – page 815. Matthew has organized his gospel in such a way that it’s a steady progression of teaching about this thing we call the life of faith in Jesus Christ. Matthew is like ‘confirmation class’ for beginners and newbies to the faith. And no matter how long you’ve been a Christian, it’s always best to come to the holy scriptures and let the holy scriptures come to you like a ‘newbie.’ Or as Matthew records Jesus, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

So, let’s take a quick look again at Matthew 10:5: “then Jesus sent them out instructing them…” He sends them out first of all to PROCLAIM that the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand…” And to back that up, He gives them His authority to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons.”

And He INSTRUCTS them that not everyone will receive them like LITTLE CHILDREN. In fact, most will not. Continue reading

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Pentecost 4 – "A Sword and Real Peace" – Matthew 10:34-42


“These 12 Jesus sent out, instructing them…” We come now to the third Sunday of our three Sunday tour through the 10th chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel – Jesus’ ‘Missionary Discourse’ where He sends His 12 apostles out into the community to “proclaim as you go, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Fable-blades-exampleAnd then to back up this amazing and shocking proclamation with some authority that should make people realize they’re not just talking out their hat, He gives them His power to, “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

As He sends them out, He warns them that they are not to expect a warm welcome. He sends them out “like sheep in the midst of wolves…” He tells them, “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake…” They’ll be like innocent refuges on the run. “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next…”

So, conspicuously absent from Jesus’ instructions to “these 12” are words like, ‘safe,’ ‘fun,’ ‘enjoyable,’ ‘comfortable,’ ‘good time.’ And also as we DID NOT just hear, ‘peaceful.’

No, He says, “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.” These are hard words to hear from our Lord – Whom Isaiah once called, “the Prince of Peace,” and the angels at His birth, sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace…” (Lk. 2:14). (How would you guys who were on the Missions Trip to Boston reacted if Nick told you he was sending you out into the community not to bring peace but a sword? Sorting rotten yams doesn’t sound so bad does it?)

“Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.” This is just the kind of verse that folks like to use against us. “See, your Jesus says right here that He advocates violence” – which of course is not at all what He means – as in, “Peter, put your sword in its place. For all who take the sword will die by the sword.” (Mat. 26:52) But it’s a ‘hostile world’ that Jesus enters into – and all who enter it in the name of Jesus are bound to face the same hostility.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.” Let’s take a moment to explore this. The word for “peace” in the Greek of the New Testament is “eireyney,” which comes from the root word, “eirow,” which means, ‘to join’ as in ‘to join two things together into one.’ You are at ‘peace’ with something or someone when you are joined to it and are one with it and it/he/she becomes one with you.

“Swords” on the other hand, do just the opposite. The work of a sword is to separate – as in Peter swung his sword and separated the soldier’s ear from his head.

So Jesus instructs ‘these 12’ that He has not come to JOIN men and women to this world so that they may be at PEACE with it. That would be a ‘false peace’ because this is a sinful and fallen world that is dying and is destined for destruction. Rather, He has come to SEPARATE them from this world. The Greek word for ‘church’ is “ekleysia.” Which literally means, ‘those who have been CALLED OUT.’

At the end of this Pentecost season journey, Jesus will INSTRUCT THESE 12, saying, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then He will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will SEPARATE people one from another as a shepherd SEPARATES sheep from the goats…” (Matt.25:31-32) When He comes again in glory, He will come with a SWORD.

This ‘separation’ from the world that Jesus comes like a ‘sword’ to carry out is PAINFUL and GUT-WRENCHING and oftentimes, HEART-BREAKING. And that’s because the places where Jesus targets His sword are terribly CLOSE TO HOME. We’d be totally on-board if He pointed His sword to the drug dealers and human traffickers and porn merchants and cruel dictators and radical terrorists, and the like.

But He points His sword at those who are NEAREST AND DEAREST to us. “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

These are the ones to whom Jesus sends ‘these 12’ into the community to “proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come.” They are to be the ‘sword of Jesus’ as they proclaim His Word to their own families. And as they themselves hold to God’s Word for their own lives, there are times when it will cause a painful SEPARATION between themselves and family members.

There are times when they will have to ‘separate themselves’ from family members who want them to be at peace with their sin. There are times when they will have to be the sword of Jesus to their own family members to ‘separate’ them from the ‘false peace’ that they have made with this sinful world.

But this is the very nature of God’s Word. Listen to how the writer to the Hebrews puts it. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

And then Jesus directs ‘these 12’ to the toughest, most resistant people that they will encounter – and the ones who will oppose their message the most vehemently – themselves. “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

If “peace” is your BOTTOM LINE and if “peace” and “harmony” is ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS, it’s not such a hard thing to accomplish really. Just ‘join’ yourself to this world and make your ‘peace’ with it – even if it is a ‘false peace.’ And the temptation to settle for a ‘false peace’ is incredibly strong. Because really, which would you rather be, a ‘peace maker’ or a ‘sword swinger’? Didn’t Matthew record Jesus’ earlier as saying, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called ‘sons of God’”? (Matthew 5:9)

But, says Jesus, “do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth…” At least, not this kind of ‘peace’ that is a ‘fake-peace.’

This is the back-story to our Old Testament reading where we heard a bit of the exchange between God’s prophet, Jeremiah and the court-appointed prophet, Hananiah. The court-appointed prophets have been preaching that ‘everything is just fine’ and there is no real need for a ‘sword.’ No need for ‘repentance.’

But Jeremiah accuses them of preaching a ‘false peace.’ He repeats this refrain, “they have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.’” (Jer.6:14; 8:11).

“They have healed the wound of my people LIGHTLY.” They’ve just ‘glossed over’ the sin and called it, ‘ACCEPTABLE,’ for the sake of ‘PEACE’ – ‘false peace’ that it is. Jeremiah tells Hananiah that the true prophet will be the one who both prophesies REAL PEACE and through Whom it actually “comes to pass.” (Jer. 28:9).

When you hear the prophet who proclaims a ‘peace that this world cannot give,’ then you will have ‘His peace’ and you will know that THAT prophet is truly from the Lord – and you should listen to HIM.

This is the ‘REAL PEACE’ that Jesus Christ has come to give and has sent ‘these 12’ out into the world to announce. It’s the peace that begins with the sword.

First He separates you from THE SIN OF THE WORLD by the ‘sword’ of His Word that exposes the sin that is in you and all around you. His Word opens your eyes and your mind to see how ‘deadly’ sin is and despite all attempts to justify it and accept it. And we long to be ‘separated’ from it.

And then He ‘joins’ you to Himself, who is the very peace of God come down from above in Whom there is NO SIN. He is truly good and sinless and holy – and ‘JOINED’ to Him we become one with Him and at peace with Him – and at peace with God – a PEACE WHICH THIS WORLD CANNOT GIVE. And that THIS WORLD cannot TAKE AWAY from you.

The hard truth is, REAL PEACE never comes without a REAL SWORD. That’s what the cross of Christ is all about. Our Lord could have avoided the SWORD and the nails and the pain if He was only willing to settle for a FALSE PEACE with this sinful world. But then that’s all that you and I could have hoped for from Him – mere acceptance of and accommodation with the sin of the world – no forgiveness or separation from it.

But the PRINCE OF PEACE is no ‘sham prince.’ When He walked through the doors into the room where these 11 were huddled in fear and announced – “peace be with you…” – He showed them the holes and the wounds that He suffered that His word to them might be the REAL THING – the peace which this world cannot give – that they would know that the TRUE PROPHET has come to them.

The PRINCE OF PEACE BOTH ‘separates’ us from sin – AND – ‘joins’ Himself to you and you to Him – in ONE, INSEPERABLE ACTION that is called, HOLY BAPTISM. Today, Charlotte Kathleen Klipp was ‘separated’ from sin and ‘joined’ to Christ. She has become a member of the “ekleysia.”

She has the only REAL PEACE there is – a true ‘SHALOM’ – ‘peace’ even in this world that is so hostile to the PEACE OF GOD IN JESUS CHRIST. Eric and Kimberly, you’re going to have to keep swinging the sword of Jesus at her – especially as she gets older and grows up and wants to make peace with this sinful world.

And you’re also going to have to keep reminding her that in her baptism on July 2, 2017, she was joined to Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace – and that in Him, she has a REAL PEACE that this world cannot give.

And you’ll know you’ve done your job as parents well when one day, Charlotte swings the SWORD OF JESUS at you and reminds you – or reminds you that you too have been baptized and joined to the PEACE OF GOD that surpasses all human understanding.

And of course, the same applies to all of us. And whether we’re on the receiving end of the SWORD OF JESUS, or the receiving end of the PEACE OF JESUS, let us be thankful – thankful that Jesus sent “these 12” out with instructions, and His Word has come to us through them, all the way into our own day – that we may have REAL PEACE.

“The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The true prophet is here. “The PEACE OF THE LORD, be with you always.” Amen.

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Pentecost 3 – "Wise and Innocent" – Matthew 10:21-33


“These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them…” (Matthew 10:5)

This is now the second Sunday that we’re stopping to smell the roses in the 10th chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel. Next Sunday will make the third and there’s bound to be some overlap from one Sunday to the next. Matthew’s 10th chapter is called Jesus’ ‘Missionary Discourse’ because it’s all about His sending His apostolic missionaries out into the “harvest that is plentiful.”

“When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-37)

And before they even have a chance to pray as they’ve been instructed, Jesus is already answering their prayer. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.”

Matthew identifies each of the 12 by name and then tells us, “these twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them…” He gives them ‘instructions’ as to where they are to go and where they are not to go and He tells them what kind of response to expect and how they are to respond. Continue reading

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Pentecost 2 – "Teaching, Proclaiming," Healing" – Matthew 9:35-36


sheepToday, we begin a new season of our life together in the Church – the season of Pentecost. Today marks the beginning of the second half of the church year. During the first half of the church year, our attention was focused on all of the ‘famous’ events in the life of Christ – His birth, His Baptism and Transfiguration, His crucifixion and resurrection on the 3rd day, His ascension into heaven and the fulfillment of His promise to send the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

Last Sunday, Trinity Sunday, was the ‘grand finale’ to the first half of the church year – which is sometimes referred to as the FESTIVAL HALF of the church year because its filled with all of those BIG and FESTIVE events that deserve special services and celebrations and the colors are always changing from blue to purple to white and red – each with their special meaning and significance.

Now as we move into the second half of the church year, things settle down a bit. There aren’t any FESTIVALS to celebrate per se. Here in this half of the year we follow a path that leads us through the ministry of our Lord that takes place in between His Baptism by John in the Jordan and His crucifixion on the cross at Golgatha – lasting about three and a half years.

This half of the year is sometimes referred to as the GRAZING TIME of the year. It’s when the flock of Jesus graze on His Word and grow in their faith. And so, the color is green for grass and it stays green all season long.

This year we’re in the “A” cycle of readings, which means that St. Matthew’s will be our guide for the next 24 Sundays. And we begin at the end of the 9th chapter of Matthew’s gospel – which seems like an odd place to begin. Why there? Actually, where we begin is really determined by where we want the journey to end – which is always with Jesus’ preaching about the ‘end times,’ which is Matthew 25, right before Matthew’s account of our Lord’s passion begins. And so it’s simply a matter of counting back from there 24 stops along the way – which this year, that puts us at the end of chapter 9… Which, as it turns out, is an excellent place to begin this new season of Pentecost. Continue reading

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Trinity Sunday – "The Incomprehensible God" – Athanasian Creed


The Nature of Creeds
A. Creeds and Conflict

Creeds and conflict go together. When there is conflict over doctrine, you need a creed to set things straight. Some say God is like this – some and some say God is like that. Some say Jesus was good – some say Jesus is God. Some say it doesn’t really matter – some say it’s the only thing that does.

So why don’t we all just agree to agree on what the Bible says? Because some say the Bible is the Word of God and some say the Bible only contains Word of God and some say that Bible is the word of man. Some say its Scripture alone, some say it’s scripture plus reason, some say it’s scripture plus the pope.

When there’s conflict over doctrine, you need a Creed to set things straight. Creeds and conflict go together. Creeds say, “this is what the bible says about God and therefore what we can say about God – and what we cannot say about Him.” A big part of what Creeds do is they SEPARATE. And they separate the Christian from the non-Christian. Continue reading

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Pentecost – Acts 2 – "The Day of Pentecost"


In our opening hymn, we sang, “Come Holy Spirit, God and Lord. With all Your graces now outpoured on each believer’s mind and heart.” (LSB #497:1)

peter-preaching Martin Luther wrote those words to our Opening Hymn this morning for the Day of Pentecost. Luther wrote lots of hymns for the church because hymns are a good way to teach the faith and carry right teaching and right praying from one generation to another. I’ve never had anyone ask me to preach a favorite sermon again or give me a list of sermons that they’d like to hear preached again. But it’s not unusual for someone to give me a list of their favorite hymns (hint, hint).

Of all of the great holidays on the Church’s calendar, the day of Pentecost may be the most mysterious and the hardest to comprehend.
 Christmas is easy. A baby was born. We all know how that happens. Happens all the time.
 Good Friday is all about the death of that child. We all know more about death than we care to.
 Easter is all about the resurrection of that man from the dead, a little more mysterious than birth and death maybe but we see it all the time in nature – especially this time of year.
 The Ascension of our Lord may seem strange at first. We used to doubt that man actually fly to the moon. But now that he has, heaven doesn’t seem that much further away.

But Pentecost?
• How are we supposed to understand “a sound from heaven,” that sounds like a WINDSTORM that is going on in a particular house?
• And what looks like “fiery tongues” resting on the disciples and no one gets burned?
• And then those on whom these “fiery tongues” rest, speak in foreign languages than they had never learned how to speak.
How are we to make any sense of that?

As you can imagine, it was the kind of spectacle that attracted a lot of attention. It was the ‘sound’ that caused them to come. “At the sound, the multitude came together…” God was drawing people into His church by their ears. Continue reading

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