Sermon: A Tale of Two Men

Text: Luke 16:19-31
Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
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 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Last week we heard Jesus say, “No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and money.” We also heard that everything we have was given to us by God. This week we get the well-known story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This morning, Jesus is holding a mirror before our eyes and asking us, “Which of these two men are you?” Are you the rich man, or are you, Lazarus? This story tells us how we live our lives today, not only reflects what we believe but echoes into eternity.

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Sermon: Risking It All On God’s Generosity

Text: Luke 16:1-15
Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Series C
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 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The parable of the unjust steward has always been a little bit troubling. Preachers, writers, and teachers of the Bible often avoid it. Why have people struggled with this parable? On the surface, you may get the impression that it’s a story about a manager who cheats his master and is commended by Jesus for being a liar and a thief.  A bit odd, isn’t it? Making a crook the hero of a parable? One Roman Emperor used this parable to claim that Jesus taught his followers to be liars and thieves and that they should be treated as such. But, there is an essential point to this parable that this Roman Emperor missed. And, since Jesus is the one who tells the parable, it must be important. The critical questions that will help us understand this parable are: What does the Parable of the Unjust Steward tell us about Rich Man? And what does this parable tell us about God?

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Sermon: Are You Going to be Saved?

Text: Luke 13:22-30
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I was recently at an airport awaiting a flight. As I sat at my gate awaiting the call to board the aeroplane, I heard an announcement over the PA system. “This is the final boarding call for the flight with service to Milwaukee. Will the following persons please report to Gate 24. The plane is full and is ready to depart. Once the doors are closed, they will not be opened again.” Then, a few moments later, their names were announced again. “If you want to go to Milwaukee, you must come to Gate 24 now. The door is about to close, and you will not be allowed to board.” A confirmed seat is no good if you don’t board the plane on time.

 As I read through the Gospel reading for this morning, I was reminded of that situation at the airport. Jesus offers a similar story while he is on his way toward Jerusalem. Jesus wants to remind us that the door of salvation will not remain open forever. If we think about what Jesus is saying, we’ll recognize that this warning is just as vital for us today as it was for those who first heard it.

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Sermon: God’s Word Divides

Texts: Jeremiah 23:16-29 & Luke 12:49-56
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you ever been talking with someone and suddenly realised they were not listening to you? It can be frustrating when you’re trying to speak with someone, but you know that what you’re saying is “going in one ear and out the other.” You might be offering advice or giving instructions on completing a task. Still, the other person has made up his mind already, or he thinks his way is the best and won’t entertain any other points of view. When that happens, you can either throw your hands up in the air and walk away or be patient and make an effort to ensure he does eventually take your message to heart.

 More often than not, when God speaks to us, we’re the ones with selective hearing. We enjoy hearing the comfort of the Gospel: that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. But we don’t really like hearing the call to repent.   Old Testament prophets such as Jeremiah faced the daunting task of speaking God’s Word even though they knew in advance that people wouldn’t listen. There’s a lesson here for us today.

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Sermon: Are You Ready?

Text: Luke 12:32-40
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Going on a trip forces you to think carefully about what to take and how to get ready. It doesn’t help you to suddenly think, when the plane is a hundred miles out and five miles high, that you’d like that other pair of shoes rather than the one you’ve brought! Or, if you’re going to have a guest spend the night at your house, there are certain things you’ll have to do to get ready. The house will need to be cleaned, and the guest bedroom made up. There may even be an extra trip to the grocery store. What’s true in both cases is that if you are going to get ready, it requires you to do something. Being ready can be a matter of life and death in many circumstances. Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, soldiers, and physicians must be ready with the right tools when the time for action arises. Every minute counts in a crisis. A firefighter who’s delayed five minutes might find that the fire has spread out of control. The physician who is delayed five minutes might discover that the patient has died. People in crisis-oriented professions regularly train so that they can respond as soon as the crisis comes.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus warns us, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Lk 12:40). We’ll first see that we are to be ready like servants. Then we’ll see that we are to be ready without fear.

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Sermon: Are You Cursed by Greed?

Text: Luke 12:13-21
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit has become a classic of fantasy books. The Hobbit’s plot couldn’t be more straightforward: A dragon dispossessed some dwarves of their mountain home and vast treasure hoard. Over the mountains and through the woods to Smaug’s house, we go. Kill the dragon, get the gold. It is the very essence of an adventure story. But it is how Tolkien describes reactions to the gold which is of interest. Bilbo the Hobbit “had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment … and he gazed motionless at the gold beyond price and count.” After the dragon has been slain, Thorin the dwarf prince barricades himself and his men into the mountain, fearing others will seek some portion of his gold. Tolkien describes that Thorin “did not reckon with the power that gold has upon” people’s hearts. “The lust of it was heavy on him,” Tolkien writes. He gives a name to this kind of insatiable lust for gold – this selfish greed – Dragon-sickness. It’s not just about the gold one craves to possess, but gold one believes he is owed. Nothing else occupies that person’s mind. And when that treasure has been acquired, it will be protected, and not one penny will be parted with. 

Tolkien is a master storyteller and can show in story form how subtly greed can overpower our own hearts. And he isn’t the first to use the story format to talk about the dangers of greed. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus also uses a story to talk about the curse of greed.

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Sermon: “Suppose There Was One Man?”

Text: Genesis 18:17-33
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

A parishioner, last week after Church, made an interesting comment. “Pastor, if I sat at the feet of Jesus, I would have a lot of questions for him.” Isn’t that the truth? What question would you ask God, given a chance? USA Today once had an interesting survey that asked, “If you could get in contact with God directly, ask a question, and get an immediate reply—what would you ask?” The highest percentage (34%) wants to know: “What is my purpose here?” The next group (19%) is anxious to inquire: “Will I have life after death?” Another segment (16%) wants to know: “Why do bad things happen?” A few (7%) would like to know if there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Finally, six per cent would like to know exactly how long they will live.

This morning’s Old Testament reading shows us that Abraham could contact God directly since he was standing right before him! And Abraham has the nerve to question the Creator himself. He first questions God’s justice and then pleads for the Lord’s pardon.

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Sermon: Are You Too Busy for God?

Text: Luke 10:38-42
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

How busy are you? Sometimes we find that life has become a dizzying, exhausting rush. Do you find time every day to do everything that you want to? Or are you, like most people I know, barely able to make time for the important things? There are errands to run, deadlines to be met, appointments to keep, cleaning to do, repairs to make, and little ones to be taken to and fro on time.  Do you often have to drop things off your schedule because there isn’t enough time? Our lives are hectic. But, sometimes being too busy can cost you. This morning our Gospel reading comes to us with a very relevant question in our busy world: do I have my priorities in order?

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Sermon: Jesus is Your Good Samaritan

Text: Luke 10:25-37
The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The parable of the Good Samaritan has passed into folklore. It has changed the meaning of the word ‘Samaritan’ in modern English. Today the phrase ‘Good Samaritan’ describes a stranger who compassionately helps those in need. For example, you might say, “A good Samaritan came along and helped me change my flat tire.” There is now a well-known organization called ‘The Samaritans’, whose task is to help people in dire need. This parable is often taken in a general moral sense: if you see someone in the ditch, go and help them. Sometimes, when people remember that in Jesus’ day, the Samaritans and the Jews hated each other like poison, this is expanded into a second moral lesson about the wickedness of racism and prejudice. Those are two excellent applications of this parable. But if we want to understand what Jesus himself meant, we need to go deeper. This parable was not given to us in a vacuum. No, there was an occasion and reason for Jesus speaking this parable. So, this morning I want to look at what the lawyer’s questions tell us about this parable.

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Sermon: Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two

Text: Luke 10:1-20
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 9C.
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone had to say to you, “Don’t blame the messenger?” Imagine for a moment that you have to go to Service Ontario. Perhaps when you went, there were already a ton of people there. You sat there waiting for over an hour in a hot office. When your number was finally called, it took the agent 30 seconds to tell you that you didn’t bring the correct documentation. You’ll have to go home through rush-hour traffic, grab the proper papers from home, fill them out, and pay an obscene amount of money. How might you react? Some of us would not be happy campers. Sometimes, we get angry at the agent sitting behind the desk. Did you think afterwards, why on earth did I get mad at them? It wasn’t their fault! “Don’t shoot the messenger,” they might have said back to you. It isn’t their fault, is it? They are simply an agent, a provincial government representative, just doing their job. In our Gospel reading, Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples. This morning I want you to see that Jesus sent them out as his representatives, and send them with a message of peace.

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