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

Sermon on Mark 7:14-23, for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, "The Heart is the Matter!"

  Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today we’re in Mark 7, where last week we heard about the Pharisees trying to go “above and beyond” God’s Law, in a way that hurt instead of helped. Jesus showed them that God’s heart is not found in the regulations. God’s heart is found in the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus Himself went “above and beyond” the Law by doing all it required and far more, by dying on the cross for our sins. God’s heart comes to us in the Gospel. Jesus concludes the conversation today about clean and unclean. In this whole discussion, what is the matter? In effect, Jesus answers: “The Heart is the Matter.” Let’s open our hearts to God’s Word. Jesus gives a heavy diagnosis about our heart. But if you read carefully, Mark 7:1-23, last week and this week, Jesus never prescribes the solution. He only diagnoses what cannot make us clean, and what makes us unclean. He never says how we become clean or get a

Sermon on Mark 7:1-13, for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (B), "Above and Beyond"

  Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. No one I know argues against handwashing, especially nowadays. You’ve probably never been so conscious of hygiene as you have in the past year. But of all people, Jesus defends His disciple’s unwashed hands in our reading! But no, it wasn’t really about hygiene, and yes mom, I will still wash my hands before I eat; and yes kids, you still need to take a shower. Jesus shows the real issue at stake is the flood of extra traditions and manmade commandments that the Pharisees and scribes tacked on to obedience to God. It's not just that the disciples didn’t wash their hands, it’s that they didn’t follow the handy hand-washing procedure handed down by the elders. The word “tradition” used several times here, just means “handed down.” The hand-washing protocol was alongside other ceremonies for washing (baptizing) cups, pots, vessels, and dining couches. There was a “proper way” for w

Sermon on Luke 1:46-55, for the Festival of St. Mary, Mother of our Lord, "Magnifiers!"

  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today, August 15 th , we commemorate the Virgin Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus. Some Lutherans and other Protestants don’t know how to recognize St. Mary or are worried about seeming “too Catholic.” The Roman Catholic church encourages prayers to Mary (“Hail Mary’s), as an additional mediator between us and God. 1 Timothy 2:5 says there is only one Mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus Christ. So, we believe our prayers go direct to God through Jesus, with no other middleman or middle woman is between us. Pastors, priests, and even Mary, the mother of our Lord have no special “inside channel” to God. But every person may bow their heads in prayer and call upon the Name of the Lord. So, we don’t elevate Mary in that way, but Lutherans go a middle way to honor the saints, not by worshipping them or praying to them, but by remembering their example of faith, and imitating their trust in the Lord. St. M

Sermon on Ephesians 4:17-5:2, 11th Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (B), "New Clothes for our new walk"

    Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Last week in Ephesians 4 we talked about the worthy walk vs. the unworthy walk. God made us for new life in Christ Jesus. We walk together as the body of Christ, not isolated individuals. Today, Paul exposes the harm of the unworthy walk, the old walk, or the walk of the unbelieving Gentiles. It’s bad for your health. Paul urges us to shed the old self like a dirty old clothes and put on clean, new clothes in Christ Jesus. New clothes for our new walk! When a doctor sees a sick patient with a chronic but correctible health condition, they can’t accept the status quo and let the patient continue to suffer while they can help. If heavy drinking is destroying your liver, you’ve got to cut it out! If your diet is causing your diabetes, we’ve got to work on changing that! If you’re accustomed to old, unhealthy habits, we have to address that! Paul adds, if you’ve been a liar, you’ve g