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Sermon on Matthew 10:34-42, for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost 2020 (A), "Divided; United"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. There’s a hard lesson about division and judgment in today’s Gospel: Jesus talks about how He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Divisions in the world, the family, and ultimately divisions from ourselves. Divisions are a tragic symptom of our sinful condition. Selfishness, rivalry, divided loyalties, and much more come from our sinful refusal to put God and His ways first. By contrast, God’s peace comes to those who trust and follow Jesus, even while they are divided from those who won’t follow Jesus. Ultimately Jesus must divide from sin, error and unbelief. There must be a parting of ways between God’s way and the world’s way—between the devil’s lies and God’s truth. Thank Jesus for rescuing us from lies and bringing us into truth. So where does Jesus divide and where does He unite? Jesus must divide us from lies and unify us with the truth. Lies are incompatible with the trut…

Sermon on Matthew 10:5a, 21-33, for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost 2020 (A), "Turning Fear into Courage in the Kingdom"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Matthew 10 Jesus sends out His apostles on the mission of His kingdom. Life in His kingdom is not an easy mission—quite the opposite—He promises it will be hard. Expect it. Thinking of quitting or surrendering? Jesus speaks courage to your heart! He transforms fear into courage in His kingdom. Let’s see how. In verses 26-33, Jesus uses the word “fear” four times. Three times it’s: “Don’t fear”; and once it’s to “fear God.” What’s there to be afraid of? When you stand up and live for Jesus, you will be misunderstood and rejected, like Him. You can potentially face mockery, hatred, persecution, and in the worst cases, death. Many fears in life are exaggerated and blown out of proportion. But some are perfectly real. But whatever the fear, Jesus calls: “Fear not.” Virtually no one is trying to kill us because we are Christian. We live in a free country. But that kind of extreme persecution is…

Sermon on Matthew 9:35-10:8 (with frequent reference to Ezekiel 34), for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost 2020 (A), "Christ's Compassion"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. God sure loves sheep. All over the Bible He calls His people “sheep”, from “the Lord is my Shepherd” to the Good Shepherd searching and finding His lost sheep—God loves sheep. And Matthew 9:36 observes that when Jesus taught the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Clearly the sheep were in danger. There is a lot going on in those words. Harassed and helpless means that the sheep are being abused, exploited, or otherwise harmed, and are unable to defend themselves or rescue themselves out of the situation. “Like sheep without a shepherd” indicates they are leaderless or that their leaders have failed them.These words echo back to God’s care for His people the sheep, described in Ezekiel 34. Ezekiel 34 describes another group of harassed and helpless sheep. God rails against the “shepherds of Israel”, which means the …

Sermon on Matthew 28:16-20, for Holy Trinity Sunday 2020 (A), "Theology of the Trinity"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today is Holy Trinity Sunday, a Sunday uniquely devoted to a particular doctrine or theology—not an event in Jesus’ life, or a person, or one of God’s saving acts. But many people have no time for theology. “Abstract philosophical stuff for the libraries and ivory tower! Sounds too much like textbooks and information!” And if theology is cut off from the Living Word of God and turned into an empty pursuit, it can become sterile. But I will strive to show today how the theology of the Trinity flows from the Living Word of God and has direct relevance for our daily Christian life. So what does an average Christian need theology for? Isn’t that just for pastors and professors? Let me ask the question differently. Does the Bible speak to our everyday life and how we live? Does it have anything to teach us about life? Does God intend for the average Christian to study the Bible? And if so, aren’t …

Sermon on John 7:37-39, for Pentecost 2020 (A), "Living Water"

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!” (Isaiah 55:1a). Come to Jesus Christ, the Living Water! Amen! Today is Pentecost, one of the three great Jewish festivals of the Old Testament, and the day full of grace when Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit on the disciples. But I want to talk to you about one of the other of the three great Jewish festivals—the one mentioned in our Gospel reading, John 7! Because at the Feast of Tabernacles (which means tents or booths) Jesus prophesied about sending His Holy Spirit on the disciples.  So, in John 7:37, it says, “on the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out…”  So, if you look earlier in the chapter, you find out that this last day of the feast is referring to the Feast of Tabernacles. It was a joyful, annual holiday, rich with reminders of how they lived in tents in the wilderness as God lead them to the Promised Land. There was lots of beautiful imagery—God dwelling among His people in His own Tabernacle—t…

Sermon on 1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11, for the 7th Sunday of Easter 2020 A, "Christ changes our suffering"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. 1 Peter 4 & 5 tells us that Christians are to expect fiery trials and suffering for the name of Christ, and that Christ endured the same. Jesus Christ, being God’s own Son, and suffering in the flesh Himself, changes everything for us. That God would not remain aloof and distant from our sufferings but come down under it and in the midst of it, and feel the pain, the loneliness, and the struggle of it all, is amazing. No other god has wounds. It’s hard in the midst of suffering not to be overwhelmed by a sense of the meaninglessness or injustice of it all. On the one hand, if a person believes in God, they are troubled by the question of evil, and wonder how God could allow it. On the other hand, if a person doesn’t believe in God, it must amplify the meaninglessness of it all. A cold, impersonal universe with no Creator can have no thought of you or intention or purpose for you in mind. This …

Sermon on Acts 17:16-31, for the 6th Sunday of Easter 2020 (A), "From the unknown to the Kon

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. The Apostle Paul was engaging in what we might call “street evangelism” in our reading from Acts 17. Paul was in Athens, Greece, the famous ancient city known in part for its great philosophers Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. Paul found opportunities to speak to Jews, people at the local markets, God-fearing Gentiles, and here he goes to the Areopagus or “Mars Hill”, and found the debaters and local armchair philosophers. Everywhere he talked about faith in the True God. 
Paul had to choose a different starting point with this crowd because they didn’t share the common background of the Old Testament, as the Jews and God-fearers did. Paul was provoked in his spirit--he was passionately upset--by all the idols he saw there. Worshipping false gods lowers our human dignity, because it’s a sham, and God’s first commandment is that we shall have no other gods before Him. It should stir up our emotions…