Sermon on Mark 10:23-31, for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (B), "Uncommon Thinking"

  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today’s Gospel, Mark 10, follows from last week where Jesus met the rich young man, who wouldn’t part with his great possessions to come follow Jesus. Jesus sadly reflects on that situation and contrasts His own “uncommon thinking” with our common ways of thinking. With all the details to comment on here, I’m going to walk through this passage verse by verse, so you may want to have Mark 10:23-31 available in front of you. 23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. The disciples show continued astonishment at Jesus’ words. Like they’re saying, “Jesus, you’re too much! We just can’t believe all the things you say!” Isn’t that how we often react to Jesus’ words? Like an old satirical song says, we just want some “Easy Listening.” Or like Paul wrote to Timothy, we want easy, soothi

Sermon on Mark 10:17-22, for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (B), "Single-minded Obedience"

    Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today in Mark 10, a rich young man asks Jesus how he can enter eternal life. He focuses on what must I do and Jesus answers with obedience to the 10 Commandments. The rich young man confidently examines his life, and finds obedience everywhere he looks, and asks, “ what more?” Jesus then gives the most decisive call to obedience. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “ single-minded obedience.” That is, no questioning, no if’s, and’s, or but’s, nothing standing in your way—just give up everything, obey this one command: “ Come, follow me.” For all the details and nuances here, the bottom line was that the rich young man, thought he was an obedient follower of God’s commands, but proved he did not have single-minded obedience. He could not obey the simple command: “ Come, follow me.” His wealth. He couldn’t obey Jesus’ command to part with his wealth, give it to the poor, and come fo

Sermon on Mark 10:6-8, 19th Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (B), "Wonderfully Made: Male and Female"

  Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today, our readings from Genesis 2 and Mark 10, tell us about God creating man and woman. God made us as creatures with a body. We are not like the angels, spiritual beings with no body. God made Adam and Eve in flesh and blood, with bones, muscle, organs, skin, fingers, and toes. Today I want to talk about the special blessing that God gave you a human body that is wonderfully made, male or female. The focus of our consideration is Mark 10:6-8, “ But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh ”. We won’t focus primarily on marriage today, but rather the simpler fact that God blesses us with bodies as males and females. It’s too easy to take for granted. Like a fish taking the water for granted, or us taking

Sermon on Acts 2:21, for Children's Sunday, "Call Upon the Lord"

  Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The Bible verse for our focus today will be Acts 2:21, “ And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved .” When you are in trouble or need help, who helps you? Who can you trust? Who are your phone contacts? Your parents or older sibling for advice. Your trusted mechanic for when the car breaks down. Your plumber for leaks, your pastor for spiritual guidance, your doctor for your health. Or in a life-or-death emergency, or when a crime is underway, you call 9-1-1 because they respond 24/7 to emergencies. Anything beyond our own wisdom, expertise, ability to care for ourselves, or above our emotional threshold—we reach out to others for help. We call upon our “helpers.” We take cell phones for granted and calling anyone in the world. It’s astonishing, when you remember that just 200 years ago, there was no such thing as a telephone, and the

Sermon on Psalm 37:4-7, for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (B)

    Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. What do you think of when you hear the word delight? Where does delight happen? What do we take delight in? We could give many different answers. A toddler delights in the cool sensations of splashing or running water. An older child delights in the colors and booms of a firework display. Young lovers delight in the warm emotions and tingling excitement of finding a person that shows mutual interest. A cowboy delights in the strength and speed of a horse. A race enthusiast delights in the roar and muscle of a stock car. An artist delights in a natural scene of beauty they can translate to the canvas. We can delight in people, relationships, sensations, beauty, power, wisdom, and a host of other things. God’s creation is full of wonders, knowledge and mysteries that spark our curiosity with delights both forbidden and blessed. Delight happens in our heart and our eyes. We might describe i

Sermon on Mark 9:14-29, for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (B), "From Faltering to Faith"

    Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. Last week in Psalm 28 we prayed with King David and felt the emotional tug of war waiting for God’s answer to prayers. Today Mark 9 is a lesson on mature discipleship, faith and prayer. A nameless father has a boy who is suffering terribly with epileptic seizures caused by a demon. The father’s faith is faltering; this has happened since childhood. The disciples’ faith appears absent, as Jesus rebukes them and the rest as a “faithless generation,” when they fail to heal him by failing to pray. Jesus seems harsh, as in several places in Mark. But the nameless father persists and his prayer is answered! Jesus lifts the nameless father and us, from faltering to faith. How do we get from faltering to faith? God will always strengthen faith when we ask for it. When it came to the power of prayer, Jesus shows the disciples failed to even use it! Before the disciples had success in casting out demons a

Psalm 28, for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (B), "Does the Bible read you?"

  Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. These are ordinary questions: “Do you read the Bible?” “How do you interpret that passage?” Now flip them around. What if I asked you: “Do you let the Bible read you?” “Are you letting this passage interpret you?” God’s living and active Word reads and interprets our lives. Sharper than any two-edged sword, God’s Word searches our hearts and minds (Heb. 4:12). The real question is how God’s Word is reading and interpreting our lives. How is God’s Word at work in us? So instead of us acting on God’s Word, God’s Word is acting on us. Let’s try this with Psalm 28, our Introit. On the one hand we could read the Psalms like a Bible study of the prayers and hymns and laments of Old Testament believers. But that wouldn’t let God’s Word “read us.” It keeps God’s Word at arm’s length. For God’s Word to “read and interpret us”, we must find ourselves, our unnamed fears and emotions in the Psal