Nothing But Christ Crucified

1 Corinthians 2: 1-5 (Farewell to Crown of Life)

“Nothing But Christ Crucified”

“There are times and texts when a preacher privately wishes he could simply read the text, say ‘Amen!’, and sit back down.” Years ago a dear friend and mentor of mine introduced sermon that way. The text said everything that needed to be said and the occasion was so clear that all could see the value in why the text was chosen. Today I identify with his thoughts. Paul’s thoughts on “Nothing but Christ Crucified” volumes as a farewell sermon. Of course, you expect a sermon of me as much as I expected of myself. So here it goes …

God Grows His Kingdom

Mark 4: 26-32 (Pentecost 4 - 2018)

“God Grows His Kingdom”

In our Bible Study Hour this summer we are currently working through several of the parables that Jesus taught using illustrations from the plant kingdom, especially in the area of growing seeds for food. Jesus seemed to never tire of gaining spiritual instruction from the plant kingdom. In the gospel lesson today he teaches two brief parables that draw from different elements of the plant kingdom. Both parables illustrate the the main point that God is the one who makes his kingdom grow.  

Remember the Sabbath Day

Deuteronomy 5: 12-15 (Pentecost 2 - 2018)

“Remember the Sabbath Day”

“ Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Rest? Rest from what? Are you tired? Tired from what and of what? What is this Sabbath we are to remember? What is this Rest that our Jesus promises? Are their moments of your week when the promises of Jesus seem intangible?  How seriously do we take God at his Word? Today we consider the value of God’s Word. Luther explained it this way: We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it. God’s children take God’s Word seriously. Believers in Christ, Remember the Sabbath!

This is God’s Command

A Breath of Fresh Air

Ezekiel 37: 1 – 14 (Confirmation & Pentecost Day -  2018)

“A Breath of Fresh Air”

Day Six. The Creator gathers the dust of the earth he formed. He breathes into it. Adam is brought to life. Four days after Lazarus died his lifeless body began to decay in a tomb. Jesus, the Son of God, called out to him. His cold, dead body was brought to life. When the Word of Christ speaks Life results. This is the message of Pentecost. The Spirit of God Gives Spiritual Life through the Word.

Ezekiel served as a prophet before and during the captivity of Israel. His contemporaries saw the destruction of the Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. God asked Ezekiel to live out several object lessons. One in particular involved the death of his own wife (Ezekiel 24: 15 – 27). The LORD had instructed Ezekiel to not openly grieve the loss of his wife. The lesson God was teaching? As Ezekiel was not to mourn for the “delight of his eyes” Israel was not to mourn for the destruction of the temple – the delight of their eyes (24: 21).

Living Vine; Living Branches

John 15: 1-8 (Easter 5 – 2018)

“Living Vine; Living Branches”

I used to have no clue how to find and see life in the early spring stage of a garden. The untouched garden after the snow melted seemed like a patch of dead useless muck: brown vines, moldy pumpkin shells, lifeless corn husks and stubs of plants. The plush fruits of September had long passed. But over the time I have learned from my father-in-law where to see life: seed pods, early buds, volunteer root plants, new vines and shoots. If you know what you are looking at there is life to be found.

A living vine has living branches, no matter how mature the fruit appears at the time. Jesus calls himself the true vine and says that you are a branch. Because he is alive, you are alive. Because he has grafted you into his life-giving Word, you produce the fruit he means to find.

Easter Keys from Christ

1 John 1:5 - 2:2 (Easter 3 - 2018)

“Easter Keys from Christ”

Keys are useful things. Who of us does not make certain we have that needed set with us: the car, the house, the office. Now we use key cards, key fobs,  number sequences, and ID cards with barcodes. Still you need the right key for the right thing. My cars keys don’t open my office and my office fob won’t start my car.

Luther included in his small catechism an entire section on understanding the Ministry of Keys and Confession. He includes oodles of passages, most from Christ Jesus himself on the subject of confession, repentance, forgiveness and the ministry of the church. In this Easter season it makes sense that the preaching of repentance and forgiveness gets a highlight. It is the topic of Jesus’s first conversation with his disciples in the locked room after his resurrection. It is the theme of his commissioning them to be his witnesses. It is the point of the Church in view of a resurrected Christ.   

The Miraculous Sacrament

1 Corinthians 10: 16 – 17; 11; 23-26

(Maundy Thursday  2018)

“The Miraculous Sacrament”

There are times in life when Christians on this side of heaven part ways. People’s lives change. Our children grow up, get married, move away. Vocations take close friends to other places of the world.  We are ultimately parted from those who leave this earth and enter heaven. What impressions do we hope to leave on the people meet in this world? What marks do we leave behind? If we could say one final, most important thing, what would it be?

A Humble Procession for the King

Mark 11: 1-10 (Palm Sunday - 2018)

“A Humble Procession for the King”

Wagons and floats; music and beverage; flags and colors of cultural pride, presented by many of whom are not even Irish. I have never been to the St. Pattie’s Day Parade in Erin, but I have seen drone videos. Usually processions and parades are reserved for celebrations, for honoring heroes, for exalting special things. Processions for kings are anything but humble ... normally.  

God Means What He Says

Numbers 21: 4-9 (Lent 4 - 2018)

“God Means What He Says”

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul addresses the concept that Israel’s history, including their sinful mistakes, are recorded for our benefit. It is in that section that he records familiar words: “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (10:12). We are constantly hearing and learning of wonderful people who have fallen into sins. When it is people we have placed on a pedestal we tend to think, “if they can fall, is there any hope for me?”

Passion for the Cross

Mark 8: 27-35  (Lent 2 - 2018)

“Passion for the Cross”

The time was drawing closer for Jesus to leave Galilee for one last Passover. He had much to teach his students in northern towns. They had tasted the ministry of Jesus after he sent them out among the villages north of the sea. It was time now for preparation. Jesus took them further north into area called Caesarea in Philippi. Jesus continued to teach them, again, about the cross that he must face and the personal crosses that they will endure. He prepared them for the Passion. He revealed his passion for his mission to face the cross on our behalf. He explained the passion he had for them, and us, in taking up our crosses to follow him. The cross is the only way!

Strong in Christ

1 Peter 5: 6-11 (Epiphany 5 - 2018)

Strong in Christ!

I wish I were stronger! Is this an ageless, universal lament of human beings? The commercial world is laced with machines, gym plans, diets, and pills to make us better, healthier, more vibrant … stronger. Is this an ageless, universal lament of Christians? I wish my faith were stronger. I wish had more courage to stand up for my faith; I wish I had a better grasp on the Bible; I wish finding joy in a sad world wasn’t so heavy a task; I wish my relationship with God was … stronger! Take a closer look at the verses for today. Perhaps you have heard them before. See Christ giving strength six times.

Epiphany Light

John 1: 43-51 (Epiphany 2 - 2018)

“Epiphany Light Connects People to Jesus”

 In Advent we heard the phrase: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2). The Israelite types who took the promises and prophecies seriously were watching for that light that would shine on their shadowy images of the Messiah. They knew to be looking and waiting while studying the Scriptures. Like a dimly lit room they could distinguish certain things. The people walking in darkness were about to see the Light.

Gifts that Belong

Matthew 2: 1-12 (Epiphany - 2018)

“Gifts that Belong”

It has happened already. The island of misfit things has been compiled around your homes; things that need to be returned because they were the wrong color, size, shape; electronic things incompatible with other electronic things; wrong things that were thoughtlessly given as last ditch efforts. On top of that, other things suddenly seem out-of-place: drooping decorations; overdone candles; picked through cookie tins and stockings; leftovers in the fridge that are already science experiments. Some things just no longer belong!