Showing posts from 2007

The Word of the Lord Increased

In at least three places in the book of Acts, chapter 6:7, 12:24, and 19:20, the author, Luke, describes how the “word of the Lord increased.” The book of Acts describes the early decades of the first Christians, as they strove to bring the message of the Gospel in ever-expanding circles to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Along the way they faced much opposition and persecution. Sometimes the opposition was merely verbal, and at other times it took the form of imprisonment, flogging, or even death by stoning (see the example of Stephen, Acts 7). But the fascinating part about the three passages that I mentioned above, along with many other passages in the book of Acts, is how the church continued to grow and abound in the face of such opposition. In Acts chapter 6, the apostles had been arrested and put in prison, beaten and then told not to speak in the name of Jesus. In Acts chapter 12, the apostle James was killed by Herod, and then Pete

Sermon on Matthew 1:18-25, 4th Sunday in Advent

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text for this Fourth Sunday in Advent is Matthew 1:18-25. On this final Sunday of the Advent season, Advent’s muted celebration of the coming kingdom of God gives way to the full-fledged joyfulness of Christmas, as we move from the calls of repentance to the birth of the Savior from sin. Today we learn how the fear, doubt, and uncertainty of our lives is dispersed with the glorious light of Christ Jesus’ coming. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. After the sermon today, we will join in speaking words that have echoed through Christian churches for at least 17 centuries. Words that we cannot allow to become commonplace simply because we have repeated them so often. Words that were made possible 20 centuries or 2,000 years ago, when Christ was born of a virgin. The words I speak of are the Christmas Words of the Apostle’s Creed,

The Golden Compass

In theaters this December 7th, there will be a new film titled The Golden Compass, marketed as a children’s fantasy story. The movie is the first of a planned trilogy of films based on the trilogy of books titled His Dark Materials by English author Philip Pullman. Previews of the movie are reminiscent of the Christian allegory The Chronicles of Narnia—recently converted to film. The storyline involves a young boy and girl, Lyra and Will, who come from parallel universes, and engage in a series of adventures involving a “battle to decide who rules heaven.” Some have raised concerns about the movie(s) and the potential interest they might drive in the book trilogy His Dark Materials. Why the concern? According to an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Pullman is a self-described atheist or agnostic, and he does not deny that his beliefs are integral to the storyline of his trilogy. Concerning the early lack of reaction by Christians against his book, he remarked that, I’ve been s

Sermon on Jeremiah 8:4-7, 2nd Last Sunday of the Church Year, "Rise Up and Be Judged!"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. If you have noticed the days of the church year that are printed on your bulletin inserts, you will notice that today is the 2nd to Last Sunday in the Church year. That’s correct, the Church year doesn’t end on New Year’s Eve, but rather the church calendar ends just before the season of Advent in December. And as we draw to the close of another church year, the readings for these last few Sunday’s focus particularly on the End Times and the coming of the Final Judgment. They are at the same time joyful in expectation, and filled with sober warnings to be ready. Themes of judgment and repentance may sometimes seem to be “downers” for us—yet I hope you will see today that this is not necessarily the case. And I also hope that you will see why the Holy Spirit saw fit to make judgment and repentance such common and widespread themes throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testament, and how God calls us to repentance,

No Longer Disappointed By Hope

Some things aren’t the way that they were meant to be. A colossal understatement, no doubt. One such “thing” is the way that promises are meant to go hand in hand with hope. If all were right in the world, then hope would always have certainty in promises that were made. Every promise would be fulfilled. But that’s not the world in which we live. It’s evident all around us that we live in a world of broken promises. Children grow up in a world of broken promises, broken families. Many children and adults also have grown accustomed to having promises broken. Few relationships can escape this pattern of broken promises and disappointment. Sometimes it’s our own failing for not keeping a promise made; sometimes it’s not intentional. None of us are superhuman, after all—none of us could keep every promise we make. With so many broken promises, there are so many people who have grown accustomed to being disappointed by hope. Hope often becomes a letdown. Sadly many lives have been jaded by

Not a Tame God

In C.S. Lewis’ Christian allegory, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a scene occurs where four children who are exploring the magical land of Narnia have a conversation with some talking beavers. These beavers are explaining to the children about the lion Aslan, who represents God and Jesus Christ. In asking about what Aslan is like, the children ask, “Is he dangerous, or is he safe?” Surprised at the question, the beavers answer that “He’s not a Tame Lion!” and something to the effect that a lion isn’t safe, but he is good. I think that is a good insight into how we think about God. The way that many people seem to approach God, is that we are trying to tame God. Or really, we are trying to create an image or understanding of God that fits with what we want God to be. Something manageable yet benevolent, sort of like the kindly old grandfather who winks at your faults. Or an absentee landlord who only checks in on us on rare occasions. A God that would never send any

Sermon on Luke 15:1-10, "For Sinners Only"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text is the Gospel reading, Luke 15:1-10. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. All of today’s lessons are about sinners. You’d be correct to say that it’s a frequent topic in the Bible. We all might wonder why the Bible, and the church for that matter, is so intently focused on the topic of sin? Every worship service we gather for, we make a full admission of our sinfulness. We began our service with a confession of our disobedience to God and neglect of His commandments and word. At worst, this is downright offensive to some, at best it might seem a little odd. But maybe a better question to ask ourselves is why are we so bothered about being identified as sinners? Two thousand years ago, in Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were a group of people unmatched for their moral behavior. They would be the citizens or employees of the month, if there

A Sermon on Proverbs 9:8-12 and Luke 14:25-33, "The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon is on both the Old Testament reading, Proverbs 9, which I will reread for you, and the Gospel reading Luke 14. Though they are not directly related, both share the theme of godly wisdom. My aim today is that you would gain godly wisdom, by the fear of the Lord. The passage from Proverbs 9:8-12, 8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. 9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. 10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.” Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. In Proverbs chapter 9 we have a contrast betwee

Sermon on Hebrews 12:1-13, “The Lord Disciplines Those Whom He Loves”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text is Hebrews 12, the Epistle reading. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Discipline. It’s a word that no longer strikes fear in the hearts of many children. It’s really an area where parents must admit that they have often failed their children. Perhaps it’s a word that more often strikes fear in the hearts of parents and those in authority! Discipline is such an unpopular idea, after all. As little as we enjoy receiving discipline, often we enjoy giving it even less. In my own stumbling way I am learning this lesson myself as a teacher. My own reluctance or hesitation to give out discipline at times, has opened the door for misbehaviors to persist. Under pressure from society and from our own changing attitudes about what it means to really “love” our children, discipline has become less practiced and seemingly less effect

Wedding Sermon on 1 Corinthians 13, "Marriage is the Embodiment of Love"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The basis for the message on this joyful wedding day is the great chapter of love, 1 Corinthians 13. Some might say that this chapter is too beautiful to describe real life. That it’s too idealistic. Well God is no mere idealist. God does not speak of love in abstractions or ideals or impossibilities. He does not speak of a love that does not or cannot exist, but God Himself gives love its concrete reality, its embodiment. God’s love took on flesh and human form. God gave love its embodiment in the person of Jesus Christ, coming down to earth to show God’s love embodied in His death on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection. In Christ’s life, death and resurrection, He showed that the love described here in 1 Corinthians is not abstract or idealistic. He lived it out, He embodied it to the fullest. And it is only through Him that you, Josh and Kristi, are now able to embody this same love toward

Private Confession and Absolution: An Outdated “Roman Catholic” Practice, or an Exercise in the Gospel?

Most Lutherans, and most Protestants in general probably think that the practice of private confession and absolution was done away with during the Reformation, as a burdensome and outdated practice. The idea of a minimum yearly required visit to the confessional booth, to enumerate all your sins to a priest strikes many as a bit legalistic, or at the very least somewhat odd. Turn your thoughts for a moment to the world around us. Television is filled afternoon talk shows where guests eager for 15 minutes of fame spill the private details of their life for public consumption and entertainment. As family members and lovers squabble and audiences laugh and gasp, we wonder what moves people to reveal their “dirty laundry.” I’ve heard callers on the radio, bragging about their wildest and most adventurous behaviors. Internet websites are cropping up where you can “confess your sins online”…essentially post your secret sins on a public forum to receive the therapeutic benefit of “letting i

What Do You Think About Jesus?

**This appears as an article in our current church newsletter** Today as much as ever, people always have an opinion about anything and everything. Maybe the only difference is that nowadays people are more unabashed about making their opinions known. And yet political correctness and a fear of causing offense often hangs in tension with this tendency. Perhaps we may find it difficult to enter the “marketplace of ideas” as Christians. Yet as Christians who seek to have meaningful interaction with the world around us, we may wonder how to engage those around us in conversation about The Faith. Here at Emmanuel Lutheran Church we desire to do evangelism—the spreading of the Good News about Jesus. Sunday mornings in adult Bible class we are trying to equip ourselves for this task. However, like many things, it is easier said than done. After all, the world is increasingly full of “opinions” and many which are hostile to the Christian Faith. We may be intimidated into silence. But I wou