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Showing posts from September, 2014

Sermon on Ezekiel 18:1-32, for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, "Personal Responsibility and God's Justice"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our OT text from Ezekiel 18 strikes on an issue that we often wrestle with today—our personal responsibility for sin, and the temptation to question God’s justice or fairness in how sin is punished. God spoke through Ezekiel during one of the darkest times for the Jews—when the kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were facing God’s judgment for their sin, and war and destruction from the armies of Babylon was pressing down on them. A popular saying was going around the nation: “The fathers have eating eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” It meant that the children were suffering for the sins of their parents, not their own sins. In essence, it said God was being unjust because “you’ve got the wrong guy!” It was a victimization mentality that passed off the blame of guilt to someone else, and/or accused God of taking pleasure in punishing those who didn’t…

50th Wedding Anniversary Litany

Note: It was my great honor and privilege to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my parents and aunt and uncle this summer, at a special worship service and renewal of wedding vows. In putting together the service, I followed the Lutheran Service Book Agenda order  for Anniversary or Affirmation of Holy Matrimony. This volume is available at CPH.org

The following is a Scriptural Litany (responsive reading) that I assembled, to celebrate the gift of marriage and the blessings that God has given through their marriages. Since this was a gathering of three generations, I wanted to help us to think about passing that legacy of longevity and faithfulness in marriage down to the next generation. The Litany therefore has the following teaching elements from the Bible: God's purposes in creating marriage and the blessings He intended it to give; the importance of faith in house and home, and the blessing of godly children; God's call to the older generations to pass on the faith to futur…

Sermon on Matthew 20:1-16, for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, Children's Sunday, "God's Generosity"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. One of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach was through parables, which are little stories about ordinary life that He used to teach us about God and His ways. Parables show the surprising differences between God’s kingdom, values and priorities, and those of the world. The parables often are unexpected, and they move us to reevaluate and change the way we think. Today’s parable about a master who goes out to hire workers for his vineyard, is no different.
The story begins at an “unemployment line” of the ancient world—day laborers waiting at the market to be hired for the day. Some of you may have actually been on the unemployment lines before—worried and stressed about how you would provide for your family or pay your bills. No matter how many mouths you have to feed—the unemployment line is a picture of basic human needs. So out goes the master, personally, to hire workers early in the mor…

Sermon on Romans 13:11-14:12, 14th Sunday after Pentecost, "Living in Light of Christ's Eternal Rule", Part 13

The 13th and final sermon in a series on Romans 6-14, "God's Greater Story".

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today is our 13th and final week in the book of Romans—and we’ve been slowly digesting a considerable portion of the book: chapters 6-14. Like any “meal” from God’s Word, the food is rich and filling—filling us with God’s truth, with the knowledge of His love and mercy for us in Christ Jesus, and with His Holy Spirit. And yet the “table” is always far from empty, as there is much more that we could return to. God’s Word is a never-ending feast for the hungry soul—a banquet which never runs out of the well-aged wine of wisdom, nor the nourishing bread of life. And hopefully you’ve gained an appetite to return and dig deeper into Romans yourself. This would be a great opportunity for you to read through the entire book of Romans again on your own, and review its message to you. If you can do it all in on…

Sermon on Romans 13:1-10, for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, "Dual Citizenship and Debts of Love", Part 12

Part 12 of a 13 part series, "God's Greater Story" on the Book of Romans. 
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Like many other chapters in Romans, chapter 13 is so full of content and application, it will be impossible to explore it all in one sermon. Paul sets before us the reality, also taught elsewhere, that Christians maintain a “dual citizenship” of sorts. On the one hand, like all people, we are citizens of a “kingdom” or nation here on earth. There are nearly 200 independent nations in our world today. On the other hand, Christians also hold citizenship in the one kingdom of heaven, and as the book of Hebrews says, (13:14) “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Therefore, I am a Christian first, and an American second. And hopefully you understand that means if ever the two come into conflict, I must obey God, rather than men. As soon as the presence of Christians was felt by the Roman empire, …

Sermon on Romans 12:9-21, for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, "Living in Love," Part 11

Part 11 of a sermon series based on Romans 6-14, "God's Greater Story". 
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Last week in the first half of Romans 12, we reflected on how Paul is looking at the church through the lens of Christ Jesus—that is, conscious of our sins and guilt that put Jesus on the cross, but also conscious of the new life that Jesus gives us by faith. Not surprisingly, the verses you heard today, Romans 12:9-21, are a perfect description of Jesus—sincere in love, blessing and not cursing those who persecuted Him, living peaceably, and not overcoming evil by evil, but by good. My Bible has the heading “Marks of the True Christian” over the section. So let’s check off which marks fit you—right? If we have any honesty about ourselves, we’ll find that checklist embarrassingly incomplete, when we measure ourselves by it. But instead of reading this as further proof of our unworthiness and failures (of which there’s more than …