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Showing posts from December, 2018

Sermon on Luke 2:22-40, for the 1st Sunday after Christmas, "Sustained in the Faith for Life"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Eight days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph did according to the law, and brought Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised and named Jesus. As this young family embarks on a new journey of parenthood and unexpected wonder, with the baby Jesus, they meet two elderly believers in the Temple—Simeon, and Anna. If we step back from these people in the reading today, we can see that they are examples to us of how faith in God is a lifetime commitment. It’s not like renewing your driver’s license or passport every 10 years, or receiving a marriage certificate once upon a time. Faith is about a living commitment and relationship, a daily walk of trust in the Lord. And as much as it is a lifelong commitment, it is also a commitment that is renewed day by day. Simeon and Anna show a beautiful picture of faith enduring to life’s natural end. Too often in society, the elderly are neglected or forgotten. But Scrip…

Sermon on Matthew 1:12-25, Christmas Eve, "The Gift of Two Names"

Who is Jesus? That’s the most important question that we can ever ask, and should be asking this Christmas. We’ll find the answer in reflecting on God’s Christmas gift to us tonight: the Gift of Two Names—Jesus and Immanuel. Those two names will help tell us Who is Jesus? Matthew 1 is Jesus’ genealogy. His earthly family tree. A genealogy has a rather monotonous rhythm: “so and so the father of so and so the father of so and so…” and so on, down through all the names. But there are a couple of key places where the cadence is broken, like this one: “Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.The cadence doesn’t end with the predictable “Joseph, the father of Jesus”—because Jesus is not the son of Joseph, but as the angel told them, He would be the Son of God. The Virgin birth! Jesus the Son of God, the Son of Mary. Joseph, her betrothed (legal) husband is only Jesus’ adoptive father, not his natural father; the relationship had not ye…

Sermon on Matthew 11:25-30, for Christmas Day, "Father-Revealer"

P: The Savior is Born! C: He is born in a manger! Several weeks ago, my children and I had a very interesting conversation, about how confusing it is that God reveals Himself as the Trinity—3 in 1. Their little minds were grappling with the cosmic mystery of how 1 God can be 3 persons, and not 3 gods. How Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to each other, and are One God. How Jesus can pray to the Father—isn’t that God praying to Himself? God made a mathematical universe, but Math cannot explain it. God has ordered His creation according to relentlessly predictable laws; but the laws of nature cannot explain it either. God has created us with our reason and all our senses—but even these cannot explain the eternal, unfathomable mystery of the Godhead—the Three in One. I related to my children the analogy of trying to empty out the ocean, or to scoop up the whole ocean in our beach buckets. Impossible! The ocean seems infinite compared to our buckets. And many have compared God’s infinit…

Sermon on Micah 5:2-5a, for the 4th Sunday in Advent, "Shepherd-King"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Last week we listened to the words of the prophet Zephaniah, who spoke about God’s joy and how He sings over His redeemed. Today, we rewind the clock even further, another 100-150 years at least, to the words of the prophet Micah, who anticipates the birth of the promised Savior. All the prophets “sang in harmony,” pointing to the Messiah or Christ, along with their various individual concerns. For most of them, the threat of surrounding superpowers like Assyria and Babylon, and the invasion of Israel loomed large. No less for Micah. Micah lived alongside Isaiah, the greatest of the writing prophets. Together, Micah and Isaiah gave great witness to the coming birth of the Savior. Some of Isaiah’s most famous prophecies are of the Virgin Birth (7:14), and the child born to be the Prince of Peace (9:6). This passage in Micah 5, echoes many words of Isaiah. God’s Old Testament people longed for a Savior, a Deliverer…

Sermon on Zephaniah 3:14-20, for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, "The John 3:16 of the Old Testament"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The book of Zephaniah is not the most frequently read book of the Bible. You might not know anything about Zephaniah; he’s obscure enough to slip under the radar. But our reading today is one of the most remarkable verses in the Old Testament, if not in the whole Bible: vs. 17, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” Before prepping this sermon, I didn’t know of any other verse in the Bible that directly describes God Himself singing. Turns out there are more in the Psalms that speak prophetically about Jesus singing and leading our song to God—and Jesus sang hymns with His disciples on the night of His betrayal, and no doubt all through His life in the worship at God’s Temple and synagogues. Still, this verse stands apart, because song and music usually flow to God, not from …

Sermon on Luke 3:1-14, for the 2nd Sunday in Advent (3 YR lectionary), "Picture the Kingdom, See His Salvation"

** a little side note for those who pay attention to these things...I've moved back to the 3 year lectionary of readings. **
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. John the Baptist is our familiar Advent messenger, hailing the coming of Jesus. John preached a fiery message in the wilderness, calling people to repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Crowds of people turned out to hear him, but he rebuked them as a “brood of vipers…fleeing the wrath to come.” If John the Baptist were a visiting preacher at ELC, how would we respond to his sharp call to repentance? Pride or defensiveness? Close our ears or turn away? Alternatively, we could respond like some did to John, with the question, “Teacher, what shall we do?” A very good question. How do we respond to the call of repentance? What is repentance, and how do we bear fruits in keeping with repentance? Metanoia is the Greek word for repentance here. It means to “…