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Showing posts from 2008

Ponder Anew What the Almighty Can Do

It strikes me that there is always the danger that the story of Jesus’ birth can become commonplace for people, especially adults. We remember dozens of Christmases past, perhaps quite fondly for some—associating it with good memories with family or friends, beloved traditions, moments of unexpected generosity. Or perhaps some don’t have such fond memories about Christmas. Maybe family were never very close, or quarrels broke out with the holiday stress, or maybe a loved one passed away, as often seems to happen around the holidays. For some Christmas means it’s time for the obligatory worship service, perhaps so as not to lose the sense of reminiscing that surrounds this holy day.

But regardless of how intensively or extensively we celebrate Christmas, and whatever our Christmas traditions may be, it is all too easy to overlook the significance of Jesus’ birth. All too easily does it become sentimentalized as a cozy, dreamlike story that serves merely to reawaken nostalgia and holida…

Sermon on Luke 1:26-38, for the 4th Sunday in Advent. "Jesus: the Forever-King"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. I want to draw your attention to a common theme between our Old Testament and Gospel readings today. The theme of God’s promise to establish a “house” for David. In order to make the connection more clear, I’m going to read the few verses that were left out, 2 Samuel 7:11-16:

“I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. A…

Podcasting Sermons Experiment Part Deux

Hello all,
I've switched to Podbean for my pocasting service, which was the one originally recommended to me. It seems to have a clean format and easy to use. I gave up on GCast after many failed attempts to get my files on the site. Feedback is always welcome!
-Josh

Sermon on Isaiah 40:1-11, 2nd Sunday in Advent, "The Word of the Lord Endures Forever"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text is Isaiah 40:1-11, beginning with the words: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” The prophet Isaiah carries this message to a people harassed by warfare with enemies, laboring in the darkness of uncertainty, mourning underneath their sorrows’ load. They were a people living with the guilt of their sin and disobedience to God, facing the punishment and penalty of their sin. Whether they lived before, during, or after the captivity in Babylon, or under the harsh rule of the Romans, many things conspired to quench the hope of God’s people. God’s people were waiting—they were waiting for the Advent, or coming of the Lord, who’d comfort them in their cheerless circumstances. This season of Advent, we wait with them, saints of the Old Testament. But now we’re waiting for the second Advent or coming of our Lord, and sharing in His same message of comfort, even as we’ve circumstances that would t…

The Truth is Not Changed...

We are the product of intelligent design.
- or -
We are not the product of intelligent design.
** ** ** **
One of the above statements must be true.
- and -
Truth is not changed by your theory or mine.

Re-read and consider these statements carefully. These brief deductive statements open the book I’m currently reading, titled The Cave Painting: A Parable of Science, by Roddy M. Bullock. The first part of the book is a dramatic novel about a scientist who discovers a remarkable underground cave painting, and promotes it as an example of how unguided natural processes can give rise to beautiful and complex features, in the absence of any human role. The book follows the story of a young girl who remains unconvinced that this “apparent painting” has no painter—and sets out to prove that it was no mere accident. Of course the story is a parable for the modern debate over evolution and intelligent design. The latter half of the book gives …

Sermon on Matthew 25:31-46, 2nd Last Sunday of the Church Year, "Merit or Inherit?"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text is Matthew 25, Jesus describing His return for the Final Judgment. Only a short time before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, He is prophesying about the end of time. Confident of His coming victory over sin and death on the cross, Jesus looks to the Final Judgment, where He will be exalted on His throne of glory, seated at the right hand of God the Father in power. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Drawing close to the end of the church year, themes of Jesus’ return and the judgment prevail. For some, these Scriptures are frightening, and put us in mind of our mortality. For others they raise fears about how we’ll face the Final Judgment and how we’ll come through it. For still others, ignorance means bliss, and we pretend not to think about these things, but carry on business…

Sermon on Revelation 21:5, 21:9-22:5, for All Saints Day

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text is from Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, St. John’s vision of the New Jerusalem. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In today’s reading, we experience the visual feast that God revealed to John. The vision of the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. We peer into the future in this text that is overflowing with vivid and colorful images that express the vibrancy of heaven. Heaven will not be dull or drab or boring, as so many wrongly assume, but will be a paradise greater than Adam and Eve knew in Eden. In Revelation we encounter a spectacular vision of the new heavens and new earth, and all the images of this paradise spill over each other like a sparkling, tumbling, rushing waterfall, pouring over the reader with cool, life-giving freshness. Much like a glimpse into a kaleidoscope provides a rush of colors and moving ima…

Sermon on Matthew 22:34-46 for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost. "All the Law and the Prophets hang on Love."

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text is from Matthew 22, an interchange between the Pharisees and Jesus, where they attempt to “stump” Him with a difficult question. He answers wisely and then turns the tables on them, asking a question that stumps them. In this dialogue, we will see how the two great commandments to love are fulfilled. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

At the start of today’s lesson, the Pharisees are impressed that Jesus had just silenced their theological adversaries the Sadducees. Jesus had just refuted them on the matter of the resurrection from the dead—something that they didn’t believe in, but He convincingly established. Now the Pharisees decide to test their luck in “stumping” Jesus, thinking that they’ve got a winner. An expert in the law, who would have been a well-studied scribe, throws this question at Jesus: “Teacher, which is the great …

Living a Life of Self-Examination

What ought the spiritual life of the Christian be like? Is this a question we ever consider? Perhaps this question isn’t even on our “radar map.” We might take for granted that the Christian life basically consists in attending church every Sunday and the occasional potluck . Yet you’ve doubtless heard in at least one Sunday sermon that we cannot be Christians just on Sunday morning, but 24 hours, 7 days a week. In other words, coming to church on Sunday isn’t about “putting on a face,” and then returning during the week to a life that is “not in step with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14). Practicing Christianity is not a “one hour a week exercise.” This would be the very definition of hypocrisy—to be hiding behind a pious mask, while our actions do not match our words (see the context of Galatians 2).

Perhaps we all should be struck cold by the thought that our lives rarely measure up to the standard of our own words or our own commitments—let alone the perfect and unchangeable …

Sermon on Matthew 21:33-43, for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost. "The Son's Inheritance"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon today is based on the Gospel reading, Matthew 21, the parable about the vineyard. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Old Testament reading and the Gospel reading for today are almost perfectly matched together, as you may have noticed both speak of a master who planted a vineyard. They talk about the care and attention the master gave in establishing and preparing His vineyard to bear good fruit. He cleared the land of stones, planted the vineyard in fertile soil, dug a winepress, built a watchtower to guard it, placed a hedge or wall around it to protect it, and entrusted it to the care of tenants to work it.

The Isaiah passage tells us what the vineyard is. “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of His delight” (Isa 5:7). So the vineyard represents God’s chosen people Israel, …

The Church, Truth, and Relevance

“The church, if she is to remain the church, must remain out of step with common culture and its morality…A church that alters the Christian message in order to attract people soon blends in with her surroundings and is no longer distinguishable from the world.”—Dr. David Scaer

A pressing question that faces the church of every generation since Christ is how to reach people around us with the Gospel, in an ever-changing world. While at different points in history the morality of culture has been either closer to or further from the Bible, the church can never really be “in step” with the culture around us. In other words, our morals cannot conform to the world, or else we would become indistinguishable from the world. Jesus declares the distinctiveness of the church in His prayer for believers: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you kee…

Sermon on Matthew 21:28-32 for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, "Which one did the Father's will?"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text is the Gospel reading, from Matthew 21. Today Jesus tells a simple parable to show who it is that does the will of His Father, and who doesn’t. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In this parable of two sons, one says “I will not!”, and the other says “I will, Lord!” to their father’s will. Yet the unwilling son later regretted it, and went back to do his father’s will. The second son, who politely agreed to do his father’s will, never ended up doing it. Both started by saying one thing, and ended up doing the opposite. Their first intentions didn’t match with their final actions. Which son will you prove to be?

Jesus’ parable aimed to upset the comfortable complacency of the religious people of His day. They were like the son that said “I will!”, but never did the father’s will. The Pharisees, the priests, scribes, teachers…