Sermon: Bought by Blood, Called to Holiness

Text: 1 Peter 1:13-25
Epistle for the Second Sunday after Easter, Series A
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

A man in Japan went into a junk-shop, in a little town not far from his home. He was looking for something specific, and after wandering around for a while he thought he saw just the thing. It was a bowl, about twenty centimetres across. Someone had obviously used it for flowers at some stage, and it was still dirty with soil and the remains of a few leaves. It looked, too, like it was broken into several pieces. The owner of the store had probably not thought much about it, since it was fractured, stained, and likely no good to anyone anymore. The man carefully fished the bowl out and its pieces. He disguised his pleasure as he went and bought it at the till.

Then, taking it home, he set about cleaning it. He took care. He had spotted (as the store-owner obviously hadn’t) that it was in fact made of very expensive porcelain. He could gradually get the dirt and soil out of its pattern and make each piece as good as new. At that point, the man still has a broken bowl. But the man is an expert in the practice of kintsugi. Kintsugi is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery. Instead of trying to hide the cracks, the Kintsugi technique uses a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold. Once completed, beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks, giving a one-of-a-kind appearance to each “repaired” piece. In Japanese culture this celebrates each artefact’s unique history, and makes them a unique piece of art more valuable than if they had remained unbroken. So when the man finished with the bowl, he put it in a place of honour in his home, and showed off it’s priceless artwork to perfect effect. Just what he had wanted. The main point in our Epistle lesson which Peter wants to get across is that we are like that kintsugi bowl. Continue reading “Sermon: Bought by Blood, Called to Holiness”

Sermon: A Reason to Praise God, Even in Hard Times

Text: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Epistle Lesson, First Sunday After Easter (aka, the Second Sunday of Easter), Series A
Listen to the sermon here!

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter begins our Epistle by praising God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (v. 1). It certainly isn’t difficult to praise God when things are going well. When life is turning up daisies we will often bless, thank, and praise God readily enough. But, over the past several weeks things have not been going well for many people. Anxiety and fear are rampant because the world is changing before our very eyes in ways that we didn’t anticipate and don’t clearly understand and, for the most part, are out of our control. So, when things are not going so well, do we still praise God? If you or someone you love has a serious health issue, do you find yourself blessing God? If you are out of work or having a hard time on the job, do you still find it easy to give thanks to your Creator? Is God still being praised in your life when the money runs out? Often enough, life becomes hard, and that is when it can become much more difficult to thank and praise God.

St. Peter the Apostle wrote a letter of encouragement to Christians who were experiencing hard times. It would seem that their trials had not as yet taken the form of physical persecution. Instead, on top of the daily trails of life, they were experiencing social scorn, shaming, slander, and harassment. It is clear that their suffering was challenging their faith. Peter claims that despite our trials, we still have reason to praise God. Since God has shown mercy towards us in the past, have have hope for future, even during hard times in the present. Continue reading “Sermon: A Reason to Praise God, Even in Hard Times”

Sermon: What Really Happened on Easter?

Text: Matthew 28:1-10

Gospel for The Resurrection of our Lord
Listen to the Sermon Here!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

People today like to imagine that they are the very first people in history to notice that dead people stay dead. They like to mock and ridicule Christians by saying that the Resurrection of Jesus only makes sense in a pre-modern, pre-scientific world. Some really imagine that people back then didn’t know better, and were a very superstitious lot. But, on the contrary, ancient people knew just as well as we do that dead people stay dead. They did not think that people might occasionally rise from the dead, and that maybe this Jesus guy happened to be one of them. When Christianity burst upon the Roman world, the claim that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily after being dead for three days was just as crazy, just as nonsensical to first century pagans as it is to twenty-first century pagans. There’s nothing really new here.

Easter is not, as you sometimes hear, the “day Christians celebrate their belief that Jesus rose from the dead.” Jesus’ death by crucifixion, the empty tomb, the eyewitness appearances, are not matters of faith. They are not metaphors for how goodness can triumph through suffering. They are not about having a spiritualised experience of the Christ-figure rising in your heart. Christians have always claimed that something really did happen on that first Easter. What was it? Continue reading “Sermon: What Really Happened on Easter?”

Sermon: Why Do You Call This Day Good? (John 19:16-30)

Text: John 19:16-30
Gospel for Good Friday
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today is the Friday which we call “good.” Good Friday. An odd name, don’t you think, for the anniversary of the torture and execution of one man some 2000 years ago? By the evening of the first Good Friday, what was different in the world? What happened that makes this day so special, so good? The writers of the New Testament seem to think that something was drastically different after that one fateful afternoon. What makes this Friday Good, and how is that good for us? Continue reading “Sermon: Why Do You Call This Day Good? (John 19:16-30)”

Sermon: Jesus: The Lord who Served Others (John 13:1-15, 34-35)

Text: John 13:1-15, 34-35
Gospel for Maundy Thursday
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Those who find out about the origin of the word Maundy are often surprised. The word comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning command. When we speak of Maundy Thursday, we mean commandment Thursday. So you may be surprised to discover that Thursday of Holy Week was not named for Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” but for his beautiful words recorded in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

This is especially good to highlight in our present circumstance. The current crisis prevents us from celebrating the institution of the Lord’s Supper. But, despite the fact that we are not able to share together in Holy Communion, we can indeed hear about Christ’s great love for us, and show love for one another. In our Gospel lesson from John 13 we see how Jesus demonstrated his love for his disciples, and how he encouraged his disciples to love one another. Continue reading “Sermon: Jesus: The Lord who Served Others (John 13:1-15, 34-35)”

Sermon: Glory Hidden in Suffering

John 12:20-43

Gospel for Palm Sunday
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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s estimated that one of every four-hundred thousand babies will be born with a rare genetic disease called dysautonomia. Victims are unable to feel pain and usually die early. Some athletes have their careers altered because they take drugs to dull pain instead of discovering and treating the source of the problem. Or think about leprosy, otherwise known as Hansen’s Disease. Those afflicted with leprosy don’t feel pain due to their nerve endings being destroyed. The result is infection and death, all because they could not feel pain! In this broken world, pain sometimes serves a useful purpose. This morning’s Gospel reading is about the glory that is hidden in suffering. 

 Continue reading “Sermon: Glory Hidden in Suffering”

Sermon: Entrusting Ourselves to the Life-Giving God

Text: Romans 8:1-11
Epistle for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Series A
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Unprecedented,” that’s the word we are continuing to hear on the news and media these days. With covid-19 now running through our communities we keep hearing that these are unprecedented times with unprecedented measures being put in place. Physical distancing, self isolation, and quarantine are the norm and we have no idea for how long. As this pandemic continues on, the government and health officials continue to put measures into effect with the specific purpose of keeping us safe. So, how safe do you feel? Have these measures calmed all your fears? If you’re anything like me, they’ve maybe taken the edge off. But, as we are forced to venture out to grocery stores and pharmacies, we come back home, disinfect, and hope and pray we haven’t caught it. What are we afraid of? Have you thought about that? What is it exactly that we are afraid of? We’re afraid of suffering. We’re afraid of dying. We’re afraid of our friends and family suffering and dying.

But, how safe do you feel living under the care of God? God in his grace has put measures into effect with the specific purpose of your salvation. How sure are you of the future which God has promised? Is it safe to entrust ourselves entirely to the God of grace? We can see just how much we trust God when we’re afflicted by suffering which is outside our control. Look at your reaction to this covid-19 crisis. How you responded to these experiences shows a lot about your confidence in God’s grace. You may have responded to this crisis with self-reliance and self-confidence. You may have trusted in your own ability to keep yourself safe or maybe your strong immune system. You may trust in your own judgement and think that the whole thing is blown out of proportion. Or, you may have felt the pains of despair. You may be confused as why God would allow such a thing. Either way, your response to this crisis shows just how much you trust in the grace of God. The point at issue here is the trustworthiness of God. The question before us is why should we entrust “ourselves, one another, and our hole life to Christ, our Lord?” (Litany, LSB p. 251). Continue reading “Sermon: Entrusting Ourselves to the Life-Giving God”

Sermon: Responding to the Word

Text: Luke 1:26-38
Gospel for the Annunciation of Our Lord
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have you ever been so excited about something that all you wanted to do is tell everybody? Maybe you had some piece of news or some major announcement. Did you notice the wide variety of responses you received from people? I remember when Laurin and I made the announcement that we were going to have a second child. Some people were so overjoyed and excited for us that it brought us closer together as friends. However, quite a few people gave us mixed reactions. “Really?! Another one? Didn’t you just have one? It’s only been 14 months!” It can be quite difficult to tell how people are going to react sometimes.

Every day announcements and news items elicit a wide variety of responses; God’s Word is no different. Start talking to people about God and the Jesus and you’ll receive a wide variety of reactions. Some people will even respond with bitterness and hatred. Canadians tend to have a different response: apathy. Most people today simply don’t care. God’s Word holds no place of value in their lives. Few today respond to the Gospel with joy, and even fewer with reverence and awe. So, how about you? When God’s Word of salvation and life comes to you, how do you respond? Today we will see how the Virgin Mary provides a perfect example of how we also ought to respond to God’s Word, even when its confusing. Continue reading “Sermon: Responding to the Word”

Sermon: Jesus – Our Spiritual Optometrist

Text: John 9:1-41
Gospel Lesson for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Series A
Listen to the Sermon here.

Grace to you and grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our physical eyesight is one of the greatest gifts God has given to us. Those of us who have always had good eyesight can take for granted this wonderful gift from God. Now, if you had a problem with your eyesight, where would you go? Of course you would book an appointment with an optometrist. Once, there was a devoted Christian woman who suffered from dimming sight. One day, her optometrist was examining her eyes. He did not find much encouragement in his examination, and expressed his sympathy that there was nothing he could do to help her. She was not disturbed, but told him, how good the Lord had been to her and her husband. The optometrist replied, “You have no eyesight,” he said, “but you can truly see.” And he spoke the truth. Spiritual sight is something better than physical eyesight. Continue reading “Sermon: Jesus – Our Spiritual Optometrist”

Sermon: Reconciled to the God of Love

Text: Romans 5:1-11
Epistle Lesson for the Third Sunday of Lent, Series A
Listen to the sermon here  

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

A group of academics and historians have compiled this startling information: Since 3600 B.C., the world has known only 292 years of peace! During this period there have been 14,351 wars large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. The value of the property destroyed is equal to a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick. Since 650 B.C., there have also been 1,656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war. The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved. War and conflict are things we humans seem to be pretty good at as a species. And our desire to fight one another doesn’t limit itself to war. We will fight about anything. We fight about religion. We fight about politics. We fight over the colour of the carpet. We even fight with our loved ones. This is perhaps best illustrated by a cartoon I once saw. A man was sitting and a computer typing furiously. Next to him, a clock reads: 3:00 AM. His wife comes in the room and asks why her husband hasn’t come to bed yet. He responds, “I can’t honey, someone on the internet is wrong!”

Continue reading “Sermon: Reconciled to the God of Love”