Showing posts from October, 2016

Sermon on John 8:31-36, for Reformation Day, "Heritage, Truth, and Freedom"

This month we have focused on themes of the Lutheran Reformation, leading up to today, the 499 th year anniversary of the Reformation of the Christian Church. We’ve touched on themes of repentance and forgiveness, Law and Gospel, the hiddenness of God, and being justified by faith. Luther and his colleagues, usually called the Reformers, made important contributions to all of these Biblical teachings, bringing clarity and returning the church to the fountain from which these teachings flow—the Bible—God’s Word. Having this rich spiritual heritage, with next years’ milestone of 500 years, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the truth is a powerful weapon against error and the enslavement of sin, as Jesus teaches in today’s reading. But on the other hand, it’s dangerously easy to fall into that same sense of special privilege that Jesus’ confronts in the reading. The Jews had a rich spiritual heritage, and they claimed their ancestry back to Abraham, and they took pride t

Sermon on Luke 18:9-17, for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, "The Pharisee and tax collector"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Of all the topics debated during the Reformation, and of all the teachings of the Christian faith that the Lutheran Reformers stood for, justification was the most important. Martin Luther and the Reformers called the teaching of justification the “ article on which the church stands or falls.” If the article of justification is destroyed, the church falls; so we have the highest duty to get this teaching right. The main question is whether justification includes our good works, or rests on faith alone. Our Gospel shows our salvation depends on this teaching! How does “justification” tie in with our reading today? The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, says it was that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who went home justified. Probably if we use the word “justify” in our daily conversation, it’s almost always to describe someone trying to excuse or defend their own beh

Sermon on Genesis 32:22-30, for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, "The Hiddenness and Nearness of God"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Psalm 10 opens with these cries out to God, “ Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” In times of trouble, don’t you feel like God is hiding? The Psalmist cries out, “Where are you God?” “Why aren’t you helping?” “Why are you so far away?” How often have you wondered the same? Is there anyone who hasn’t, at the lowest times in their life, felt like God was hiding His face, even when we were calling out to Him in prayer? In the midst of suffering? Or when evil seemed to be rising out of control? When earthly justice failed, and there seemed no help from heaven? In these trying times, we naturally think like the Psalmist, that God is hidden or distant. This is a favorite type of scene for moviemakers, because it strikes a chord with our experience. Often they show a person in ultimate despair or loneliness, and they are crying out, but