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Showing posts from April, 2014

Sermon on Acts 5:29-42, 2nd Sunday of Easter, "Obey God, not men"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! How far would that joy and knowledge carry you? Of Jesus’ resurrection? Does it strengthen you to face the day? Does it equip you to live unafraid of death? Would it fill you with the joy and courage to become a missionary for Jesus’ sake? Or as disciples or followers of Jesus, where in your own life can you proudly bear His name? In our reading from Acts 5, we get a glimpse of how that joy and knowledge carried the apostles, the ones “sent out”, to be witness of Jesus. It’s exciting because of the apostles’ infectious joy, even in the face of persecution, and the overpowering sense that nothing was going to stop the Gospel of Jesus Christ from radiating out from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the very ends of the earth. They had this commission from Jesus before He ascended into heaven, and they were following through on God’s command. But obeying this command to proc…

Sermon on Matthew 28:1-10, for the Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Sunday, "Delivery Confirmation"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Has it caught your attention how many times the words “tell” or “told” appear in the reading; or that someone is in the process of telling about the Resurrection of Jesus? The angel tells the women that Jesus has risen, after they’ve seen the empty tomb, and tells them to “go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.” Then the women go to tell the disciples, and they meet Jesus who again tells them to “tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” There’s a strong connection in the reading between seeing and telling—which is the very role of the first Christian eyewitnesses. Tell, tell, tell! But why does the angel, after telling his good news to the women, end by saying, “See, I have told you”? It’s like he was…

Sermon on Matthew 5:10-12, Beatitudes 8 & 9, for Good Friday, "Blessed are the persecuted and insulted..."

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Tonight we come to the final two beatitudes. Both deal with persecution. The 8th Beatitude, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” returns to the blessing given in the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The blessing is already a present reality, though hidden from earthly eyes. The 9th and last Beatitude expands on the 8th, and brings them all to a close: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” It’s not hard to see how these last Beatitudes relate to Christ, as our Passion reading from Luke 23 narrates the multiple sham trials that Jesus underwent before Pilate and Herod, the fa…

Sermon on Matthew 5:9, for Maundy Thursday, Beatitude 7, "Blessed are the peacemakers..."

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Peace is an important word in the Bible, appearing 375 times. Peace is something that seems self-explanatory to us, as the absence of warfare or fighting. I think almost every grade school child has at some point expressed prayers or longings for world peace. So when we read various passages in the Gospels that you heard tonight, we may be puzzled. In particular I mean that Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). Doesn’t He want peace? Is Jesus an advocate of war? But then what can He mean by saying “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God?” Or in the Gospel of John, where He says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you”? Which is it? Peace or no peace? To help sort things out, let’s briefly treat each of the various passag…

Sermon on Isaiah 50:4-9 and Matthew 27:38-54, for Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion, "Death with Dignity"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The heart and center of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, is the Passion of Jesus Christ. His trial, suffering, death, and resurrection. Yet each Gospel also sees the cross of Jesus from a slightly different camera angle, if you will. A unique perspective. At the cross, Matthew only records one of the seven last “words” or phrases that Jesus spoke: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” The rest of the account focuses largely on His silence and the actions of those around the cross. But the attention of the crowd is continually riveted on Jesus and the strangest way in which He dies. It wasn’t the type of death itself that was strange. Crucifixion was common, in a horrible sort of way, and nothing new to the Jewish crowds or Roman soldiers. But what was so remarkable was the manner in which Jesus died, and the events that surrounded His death. Crucifixion…

Sermon on Matthew 5:8, for Lent Midweek 6, Beatitude 6, "Blessed are the pure in heart"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. “You’d better clean your act up fast!” We’ve all heard similar words, and if they were directed at us we may either have felt that sinking feeling of failure, or a rising feeling of defiance. I wonder how often they actually produce a willingness in us to accept the correction, and obey. But this isn’t the way the beatitude speaks. It says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Not a command, like “Get out your soap and scrub brushes!”, but a statement of fact, or a description of those who blessed. In our whole series we’ve seen how the Beatitudes give us “Christ-colored glasses” by which we see the Christian life. In other words, our life before God is colored and shaped by the light of Christ. Christ’s life running in and through us, by His gracious working. But “blessed are the pure in heart” raises a standard that seems incomparably higher than the other beatitudes, which speak of mourning…

Sermon on Romans 8:1-11, for the 5th Sunday in Lent, "Public Defender"

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Courtroom dramas have been popular for decades, and it’s no surprise why—a person’s life hangs in the balance. Will they be declared guilty or innocent? Did they really commit the crime, or is the real culprit still out there? Will they serve a short sentence? A life sentence? Face the death penalty? For some it strikes painfully close to home. For others it’s a fascination with what it would be like, or the dread of whether it could happen to me. Everything builds toward the verdict—guilty or innocent. After that, the next great concern is the sentencing. What price will they pay for the crime, if they’re found guilty? Once the sentence is given, it must be carried out. Whatever the crime, whatever the penalty, it’s a grim reminder that the law is not merciful, and that law breakers runs into danger. “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad” Paul says (Romans 13:3). “He is God’s servant for your go…