Showing posts from December, 2017

Reflections on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"--New Year's newsletter article

Firstly, I hope everyone had a great celebration of Christmas this year, and that you remembered to be thankful for God’s many gifts as the year 2017 draws to its conclusion, and 2018 is just beginning. This Christmas season I developed a special fascination for the story “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It’s a perennial classic, ever since 1843, when Dicken’s wrote it in a flurry of inspiration, just before Christmas—reviving his slumping writing career and inspiring new attitudes about Christmas even in himself. But I didn’t realize it has been adapted into cartoon or film well over 20 times. Vaguely remembering several versions I’d seen in childhood, and the iconic images of Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserliness and later transformation to hilarious generosity ( note—the Greek word for “cheerful giver” is hilarity), I decided to read the original work and watch several of the best rated versions. I haven’t managed to see the latest film, but presently in theaters is a different

Sermon on Matthew 1:18-25, for Christmas Day, "Follow God's Lead"

By God’s grace may I make the Word of God fully known to you, the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed to his saints…this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim! (Colossians 1:25b-26, 27b-28a). Today we focus on Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth. Luke’s gospel always gets all the attention with the shepherds, angels, the birth, and the baby Jesus in the manger. Luke’s gospel certainly inspired far more Christmas carols, with its beauty and poetry. But Matthew’s gospel is no less important, though perhaps it points a little more to the trouble and uncertainty of the time. Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father, comes into sharper focus. Under Jewish law at the time, Joseph was betrothed to Mary, which was the legally binding first step of marriage. A 1 year waiting period normally followed, and it was only after this that they entered the home together and consummated their marriage. During this time, Joseph discovered she was pregnant, and

Sermon on Luke 2:1-20 & Hebrews 1:1-6, for Christmas Eve, "Angels Help us to Adore Him"

The Savior is Born! He is born in a manger! As we celebrate Christmas, one of the parts of the story that most captures our attention is the angels. But it’s very important to point out that the angels have a serving role in the story—angels never point or draw attention to themselves, but only to Jesus. One of our hymns sings: “Angels, help us to adore Him; you behold Him face to face.” The word “angel” means “messenger”—and this is just what they do—bring the joyful message(s) of God to us, and help us to worship God—because they see and know God face to face. They know and see more than we do, but they still do not know everything, as only God does. Today, the angels will help us to adore, or worship Jesus, as we listen to them glorify the Son of the Most High, and join in with our songs and praises. Hebrews 1 was one of our readings today. It says Jesus was blessed by God with a name that is far superior to, and more excellent than the angels. God never said to any of the angel

Sermon on Psalm 96, for Advent 4 Midweek, "Disbanded Choir"

Sermon by Pastor Paul Roschke, 12-20-17 I.N.I. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Introduction Last Sunday Pastor Schneider’s sermon on Isaiah helped us to watch for ‘doublets’:  “comfort, comfort” and “double for all her sins”.  Tonight we had a triplet:  3 times we read Psalm 96.  The first reading was from 1st Chronicles which included much of Psalm 96.  The second time, a cantor and a pianist helped us sing parts of it, and we just now read it together for a 3 rd time.   But King David, who is believed to be the author of Psalm 96, had a choir of 4,000 Levites to help the Israelites sing.  The first occasion for singing Psalm 96 was reported in the 1 st Chronicles passage that we read earlier - when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into a tent in Jerusalem.  And then, after the temple was built by King Solomon, every morning and every evening, a portion of the Levitical choir gathered on the temple steps for the worship service.  T

Sermon on Isaiah 40:1-8, for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, "Double Comfort"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Although 2,700 years is quite a long shot from “forever”—it is still a respectable distance from which we can see and recognize the enduring power and comfort of God’s word, which stands forever. 2,700 years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote these words of comfort in Isaiah 40, which still “speak to our heart” today. They speak of a double comfort for all that God’s people have suffered for their sins. The passage also speaks of John the Baptist as the herald who would announce the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, the Lord who would traverse the wilderness and reveal His glory to us. The Word of the Lord stands forever, bringing a message of solid comfort and hope, across the centuries, despite all the changes and chances of life while several dozens of generations have flourished and then withered away like the flowers and grasses of the field. In human life, whenever we extend a gesture of comfort—it logically follo

Sermon on Psalm 24, for Advent Midweek 3, "The King of Glory"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. As we recited Psalm 24, we heard three questions asked, and the last one gets repeated. The first two questions appear together in vs. 3, “ Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place?” It’s asking who can approach God and come into His Temple. Not just anyone. Sin bars just anyone from approaching God’s holiness. Even the high priest of Israel was only able to enter the Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement, after sacrifices had first been made for his own sin. The answer to the Psalm’s question of whom may enter is given in the next verse, “ He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” So shall we ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place? Do we meet the test of clean hands, pure heart; not having any falseness in our soul or lies on our lips? And i

Sermon on Luke 21:25-36, for the 2nd Sunday in Advent, "Stand Before the Son"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. In today’s Gospel we hear the last words of Jesus’ public teaching, before He goes to celebrate His last Supper with the disciples, and to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified. The topic of Jesus’ last public teaching was the end of the world and His return as the judge of the living and the dead. Jesus says that He, the Son of Man, will return on “ a cloud with power and great glory.” It’s an interesting contrast. Jesus uses the title Son of Man to convey His role of suffering and death on the cross. But here, right before all that happens, He shifts to using this title to describe His coming glory from God, for all that He has done for us. The Son of Man turns from His suffering to His glory. Jesus teaches about His Second Coming and the end of the world so that we would be warned and ready. Jesus knows that people will respond differently—but He wants us to be ready. Today He tell

Sermon on Psalm 103, for Advent Midweek 2, "Bless the Lord O My Soul"

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name! Last week we spoke, sang, and meditated on a deeply personal Psalm—Psalm 42. It was the cry of a soul in distress, and pointed the soul to hope in God, our salvation. This week Psalm 103 begins with individual praise, the soul blessing God and recounting all His benefits—but then the psalm expands our vision to include the whole community praising God. What begins as a solo turns into a chorus of praise to God. This beloved psalm has been paraphrased several times into hymns, including both of the hymns we sing tonight. As the solo turns to a chorus, the singers of the psalm reflect on our human frailty and sin in comparison to God’s eternity and forgiveness; and finally the psalm soars in a closing doxology that calls all creation to praise God. The closing words bring it full circle: Bless the Lord, O my soul! The psalm begins and ends in praise, much like we often pray in church: It is truly good, right,