Sermon: How Can Pastors Forgive Sins?

Text: John 20:19-31
Second Sunday of Easter, Series C
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Imagine that you have applied for a job at a pharmaceutical company. You’ve already been interviewed, but now management wants to have a meeting with you. Now, imagine that instead of offering you the job you applied for, management offered you the one above it—a senior position in the whole company. You would be running an entire department. A huge budget. Lots of benefits. You would be overseeing much of the company’s operations. You may think that you’re simply not up to it. ‘I couldn’t possibly do that!’ You may say. ‘Well,’ says the owner, ‘we think you can. Of course, there’s going to be a lot of responsibility. But we think you’re right for the job, and we’re going to change some things around, so you get the right assistance. You’ll have everything you need to succeed.’  An unexpected job offer!

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Sermon: The Resurrection – An Idle Tale?

Text: Luke 24:1-12
Easter Sunday, Year C
Listen to the sermon here.

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

If you were to visit Jerusalem today, you’d find a stunning garden on the north side of the Old City near the Damascus Gate. This garden contains an ancient tomb dating to around six hundred years before Christ. This tomb was discovered in the late 1800s by General Charles Gordon. Today, the Garden Tomb is one of Jerusalem’s best-known sites, even though this isn’t the exact location of Jesus’ tomb. It is visited by over a hundred thousand tourists and pilgrims a year. The Garden Tomb was reconstructed to emulate what it would have looked like in the first century, and visitors come to drink in its peaceful and sacred atmosphere. One thing that you would notice is that there is no longer a stone to close the tomb. Instead, the doorway has been enlarged. For security reasons, a wooden door now closes the tomb at night. On this door, there is a plaque with the words, “He is not here — For He is risen.”

He isn’t there— For He is risen. Jesus has burst the bonds of death and the grave, yet we continue to focus on the unexplainably empty tomb. In two thousand years, we have not stopped looking for Jesus among the dead. Luke’s resurrection account keeps us focused on the startling, confounding mystery of an empty tomb.

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Sermon: Why is this Friday “Good”?

Text John 18:1-19:42
Good Friday
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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? What was different in the world by the evening of the first Good Friday? What happened that makes this day so unique, 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?

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Sermon: What the Lord Gives on Maundy Thursday

Text: John 12:1-7, 31-35; 1 Cor. 11:23-26
Maundy Thursday
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread.” Did you notice that? “On the night when he was betrayed.” That’s tonight. Today is Thursday in Holy Week, which means it’s the night when our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed. Tonight, we remember the institution of the Lord’s Supper and his betrayal.

We call it Maundy Thursday. 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.” Maundy Thursday is named from his beautiful words, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” So why is the gospel reading for tonight about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet? What’s the connection between washing the disciples’ feet and the Lord’s Supper?

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Sermon: Two Criminals See The King (Luke 23:35-43)

Text: Luke 23:35-43
Palm / Passion Sunday, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome to Holy Week. The texts today highlight the reactions people have when they see Jesus. The King makes His grand entrance riding atop a borrowed donkey, and the people greet their Messiah with joy. Yet, a bloodthirsty crowd will cry for his brutal torture and death before the week is out. From palms to passion, from shouts of Hosanna to cries for crucifixion, everything that happened to Jesus pointed out that he is the true King, the Christ, the Chosen One. This morning I want us to pause and look at the scene atop Calvary.

The people on the road to Golgotha, the place of the skull, mocked Jesus. No more Hosannas! No longer “save us” only “save yourself, if you are the Christ.” Where our Lord was crucified, there were three crosses.  Two thieves, two sinners, separated by the crucified Sinless One, one on his right, the other on his left. It’s a picture of judgment day. The two thieves separated by Jesus are the sheep and the goats, the wise and foolish, the believing and the unbelieving.  They represent the world for whom Jesus died. They are you and me in our sin and unbelief. This morning we’re going to look at the reaction of these two criminals, who both see the crucified king.

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Sermon: Balancing your Spiritual Ledger (Phil. 3:4-14)

Text: Philippians 3:4-14
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This morning’s epistle lesson holds a special place in my heart. This text from Philippians was the text where the lights went on for me. As many of you may know, I was not always a Christian. In fact, I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In my early 20s, I had been questioning much of what I thought was true. That’s when I came across this passage. What St. Paul the Apostle wrote here was like being hit in the head with a 2×4. The lights went on, and I saw what I had never seen before. What was it about this text that was vitally important to bring me out of one religion and into the Church? We’re going to look at that this morning. 

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Sermon: The Waiting Father (Luke 15:11-32)

Text: Luke 15:11-32
Fourth Sunday in Lent, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What sort of “father” do you have in mind when you think of your heavenly Father? A kindly father, perhaps. Or a stern father? A harsh disciplinarian? A lenient father? When you pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven” what  ideas run through your mind? I suppose a lot may depend on what sort of father you had while growing up. This morning’s Gospel reading is often called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” But, I think the parable needs a new name. And I think “The Parable of the Waiting Father” has a great sound.

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Sermon: A Virgin Conceives (Luke 1:26-38)

Text: Luke 1:26-38 & Romans 5:12-21
Annunciation of our Lord
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’ve heard that many people have had great difficulty remembering that the service this week was on Friday. We are so used to Wednesday vespers in Lent that it’s hard to remember the change to Friday. So, why do we have a service tonight? Before there’s a birth, there has to be a conception. Conception occurs nine months before birth, give or take a few weeks. Do you get it yet? Which other church festival always happens on the 25th of a month? That’s right, Christmas, which always falls on December 25. And since we celebrate our Lord’s birth on December 25, nine months before that, on March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation, the day Mary heard the message spoken by the angel and conceived the Son of God, our Savior Jesus. Today we have paused during this season of fasting and repentance and take a moment to celebrate.  “Conceived by the Holy Spirit” on March 25, “born of the virgin Mary” on December 25, nine months later. Today we hear again the angel Gabriel and his startling claim that Mary “will conceive in [her] womb and bear a son … and he will be great.”

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Sermon: Remember the Case of Israel (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)

Text: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Third Sunday in Lent, Series C
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you think the group of people that marched out of Egypt in the middle of the night, headed for the Promised Land, were privileged? They saw things that no one ever saw before or since. They were a part of things that no one had been a part of before or since. They witnessed the devastation of the Ten Plagues upon Egypt. Israel saw the Creator God blazing a trail for them through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud in the daytime and a pillar of fire at night. Who else but Israel had walked through the center of the Red Sea on dry ground with the water stacked up on both sides? They had heard the voice of God himself. He fed them miraculously in the desert. Were they privileged? You bet they were!

Like those Israelites of old, all of us Christians are privileged people. The grace of God has touched each one of us. We are people who have received a baptism in which God brought forgiveness and adoption into our lives. Like those Israelites, we have the privilege of eating and drinking spiritual food again and again—the very body and blood that Jesus Christ gave and shed for us. And as many of you would be quick to remind me, you were born, baptized, confirmed, and married in this very Church. Are we privileged? You bet we are!

Yet St. Paul the apostle has a warning for us. Those privileged Israelites sinned so grievously that God was furious with most of them. God killed every adult Israelite in the wilderness except Caleb and Joshua. What about us? How many of us will make it to the promised land of heaven?

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Sermon: Why is Christianity Rejected? (Jeremiah 26:8-15 & Luke 13:31-35)

Texts: Jeremiah 26:8-15 & Luke 13:31-35
Second Sunday in Lent, Series C
Listen to the Sermon here.

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

Have you heard the news? It’s spreading throughout the city! The officials have arrested the prophet, Jeremiah. That Jeremiah has been preaching his message of hate again. He has circulated his disinformation throughout the Temple, and his extremist language is simply unacceptable. His fringe views are divisive and do not represent the views of our respected religious experts. He dares to claim that God will destroy our Temple and City if we do not repent. Well, the officials of Jerusalem had him arrested and charged with treason. Our priests and prophets are calling for the death sentence. 

Throughout history, God has sent preachers and prophets to proclaim his Word to people and nations. Yet, by and large, God’s message has been greeted with rejection and violent anger. God’s prophets have often stood alone. They were routinely accused of promoting lies and misinformation by the establishment. Many were killed. The way of God has never been popular. Even when God himself became man to deliver his own message, even then, he was rejected by men and crucified. This morning our texts invite us to reflect upon Christianity’s unpopularity. Why is Christianity rejected by most, and how can that bring us comfort?

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