Sermon: Tempted Yet Victorious

Text: Matthew 4:1-11
First Sunday in Lent
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christians worldwide pray, “Lead us not into temptation”, several times daily. Jesus taught us to pray that God would “We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice” (SC III.16). And there is a reason why Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” Because even in the best of times, we have a poor track record of resisting temptation. But did you notice this morning’s Gospel reading? “Jesus was led … to be tempted by the devil” (Mt 4:1). Jesus was led into temptation. John had just baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and then He was filled with the Holy Spirit. And what does the Holy Spirit do? Leads Him into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. The Temptation of Jesus allows us to ask, why was Jesus tempted? But first we will see that we are tempted in precisely the same ways.

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Sermon: Remember That You Are Dust

Text: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Ash Wednesday
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s so easy to forget things. We’re good at forgetting things, aren’t we? Sometimes, we don’t just forget things but intentionally put them out of our minds. If something is particularly unpleasant, we try not to think about it. We don’t want to remember it. We like to avoid things because we don’t want to deal with them. And then comes something which reminds us of that very thing we were trying to forget. That’s why we have ashes on Ash Wednesday.

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Sermon: The Voice from the Cloud

Text: Matthew 17:1-9 & 1 Peter 1:16-21
Transfiguration of Our Lord
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many voices clamour for our attention: the voices of the news media, government leaders, bloggers, politicians, and even celebrities. These voices want us to think, feel, behave, and believe in specific ways. Yet remember, it was because Adam and Eve listened to a strange voice we find ourselves in this broken world. With so many different voices speaking do we consider who it is we’re listening to? This morning, consider the scene of Peter, James and John with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. There is much to see: Jesus’ face shone like the sun, his clothes were white as light, and with him were Moses and Elijah. But this morning, we’re going to listen. God the Father speaks during one of the most dazzling visual spectacles that has ever taken place on this planet. This morning we’ll see that the voice identifies the beloved Son, and instructs us to listen to him.

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Sermon: Who Grows the Church?

Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you think about growth in the Church, it’s easy to become depressed. Christianity in North America has been in catastrophic decline for decades. We can feel it in our own congregation. What if I told you that the Lutheran Church is growing and growing dramatically? Would you believe me? It is growing in other parts of the world. The largest Lutheran church body in the world is in Ethiopia. When it was founded in 1959, it had only 20,000 members. When the country fell to communism, the Church suffered brutal persecution. But the Church not only survived; it grew. By 2007, the Lutheran Church in Ethiopia had nearly 2.3 million members. In 2013, that number had grown to more than 6.1 million. As of 2019, the Church reported a membership of 10.4 million members. The story is similar elsewhere in Africa.

When you hear this, you might be tempted to ask, “What are they doing that we are not?” In fact, when we see thriving churches here in North America, we tend to ask the same question. “What is that Church doing? How can we emulate that and grow also?” Have you ever thought that? Surprisingly, our Epistle reading highlights how wrong this line of thinking is. We’re asking a simple question this morning: Who grows the Church? We’ll let St. Paul, the apostle, answer for us.

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Sermon: What the Law Says and What Jesus Does

Text: Matthew 5:13-20
Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany
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In the name of Jesus. Amen.

We live in a society where people don’t like to be told what to do. People want the freedom to do what they want and to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. The people around us increasingly think, “What’s good for you is not necessarily good for me. It might be fine for you, but I can do what I want. You can’t tell me what to do. I can live my life how I see fit. I believe each person has to decide what’s right for themselves.” People think that a one-size-fits-all morality that is true for everyone takes away our individual freedom. They think that true freedom needs to be unrestrained, not restricted by rules. They want to be in a world free of restrains which dictate how they should live. 

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Sermon: The Holy Family at the Temple

Text: Luke 2:22-24
The Presentation of Our Lord
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today marks 40 days after Christmas. Why do we find the Holy Family in the temple? St. Luke tells us that two things took place in the temple: first, the sacrifice offered for Mary’s purification, and second, they presented six-week-old Jesus to God in the temple. With each of these events, Luke says it happened “according to the law of the Lord.” (Lk 2:22-24, 39).

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Sermon: Who is blessed?

Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be blessed? What is someone talking about if they say they are “blessed”? Generally, when someone says they are blessed, they think of specific blessings they might have. What would that list look like if you were to make a mental list of the various things that would make up a blessed life? Our lists will be different from each other, but I think some things will appear regularly. We refer to sound health, a loving family, safety from danger, and financial security when we talk about our blessings. Maybe you would include a thriving congregation, a strong nation, and plenty of vacation time. These are the things which make life “blessed,” right? In our Gospel reading, Jesus challenges the conventional understanding of what it means to be blessed.   Jesus’ statements about blessedness seem upside down, inside out. We all think a blessed life is one of ease, security, a life that never wants, never cries, never worries, and never hurts. No, says Jesus. That is not blessed. So, who is blessed, then? That’s what we are going to look at this morning.

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Sermon: Two Simple Words

Text: Matthew 4:12-25
Third Sunday After the Epiphany
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Last Sunday, we saw Andrew bring Peter to Jesus. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls four fishermen with two simple words. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were partners in a fishing business with Zebedee. Jesus calls them away from the nets and their boat. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The astonishing part of this story is that they dropped everything, put their lives on hold, left their dad in the boat, and followed Jesus. They followed Jesus without any idea where it would lead or what it would cost. This morning we are going to look at these two simple words. We’re going to see that the command to “follow me” means we must be willing to renounce everything except him and know who we’re following.

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Sermon: We have found the Messiah

Text: John 1:29-42
Second Sunday After the Epiphany
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we hear preachers or evangelists ask, “Have you found Jesus?” It’s not a terrible question, but it can be misleading. Some people think that they found Jesus on their own. However, you did not come to Christ on your own. No one ever does. Neither did Andrew or Peter. Yet, Andrew could answer the question. “We have found the Messiah,” exclaimed Andrew to his brother Peter. An although separated by time and space, how Andrew and Peter found Jesus is the same way you can find Jesus today. The question we’re going to look at this morning is: where do you find Jesus?

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Sermon: Why was Jesus Baptized?

Text: Matthew 3:13-17
The Baptism of Our Lord
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Does the Baptism of Jesus surprise you? It certainly surprised John the Baptist. “I baptize you with water for repentance,” said John (Mt 3:11). Sinners of all sorts from every walk of life came to John to be baptized. That’s why John was shocked when Jesus came and stood humbly before John, asking for baptism. Jesus deliberately chose to accept a baptism of repentance. But it might never have happened if John had been running the show. He knew that Jesus was no ordinary man. John knows that Jesus is not a sinner in need of repentance. Jesus is the sinless Son of God. He is the greater one, great David’s greater Son. Instead, John recognizes that Jesus was far beneath Jesus. John confesses his sinfulness and places himself right alongside the multitudes he baptized. John is willing to take his own medicine. It would be fitting for John to be baptized by him. The Sinless One should baptize the sinner. The question before us this morning is this: Why did John baptize Jesus? Why does he accept a sinner’s baptism? How does that apply to you?

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