Get Up and Get Moving
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
I want to commend you on being present.
I know that it took some effort to get up and get moving so that you might gather here in Christ and receive the benefits that come from hearing God’s Word and participating in the Lord’s Supper. It is the standard practice of a pastor to contact you if you have been absent for a while, to check and see how you are doing, but too rarely do I take a minute to tell you how happy I am to see you here in worship, and how I much I am encouraged by your faithfulness and diligence in persevering in the promise of your baptism.
This is My Story; This is My Song
Psalm 70 and Luke 10:25-37
In St Augustine’s teaching on the spiritual meaning of this parable, we hear how the man who is robbed and beaten and left half dead is the human being. We are that person. In every spiritual sense we have been robbed by sin and left to die apart from God, and religious functionaries of every kind are powerless to help us. Only Christ can save us by taking on our human nature and healing our wounds and dying for our sins. Only Christ by his death and resurrection can give us eternal life. And that is what he gives us. He comes and rescues us. That is the good news of the Gospel.
Can you hear in this parable how we may start to tell our story, but end up telling God’s story of mercy and love for us in Jesus Christ? Our stories have converged in Christ. And in the church ... where we have been placed by Christ for rest and rehabilitation ... to learn again to trust God and love God above all things and to understand that loving our neighbor means getting out of ourselves and being neighbor to all in our lives.
Part 1: This is God’s Story
One day someone asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)
That’s a very important question. In some ways that is the question that brings a lot of to worship each week. It literally is a question of death and life.
So what must we do to inherit eternal life? Jesus asks this person to remember what it says in the Bible (Luke 10:26), and he asks him to remember the story of ...
Patience is Faith in Action
Martin Luther famously said: "If I were God, I'd kick the world to pieces." There are days when I whole-heartedly agree with him. I feel that way because of the big injustices in the world -- hunger, poverty, hatred, greed and violence, but also I feel the anger and frustration that comes with daily living ... with ordinary meanness, pettiness, and the run-of-the-mill senseless, stupid suffering. I'm sure, though, that if you were God you'd be much more generous and gracious than I. Although, I also suspect that nothing would make us want to kick the world apart more than the experience of being God ... and I think this for one reason only ... you may disagree, that's OK ... but here's my reason: For anything and everything good in that happens in this world, there's always someone or something that ruins or spoils it.
This image from Daniel Erlanger's Baptized We Live: Lutheranism As A Way of Life illustrates perfectly what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of the Word of the Kingdom is like seed.
God Gives in Abundance
The Parable of the Sower. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
This week we sit at Jesus' feet as he teaches us about the kingdom of heaven using little stories to show us what it is like to live as a child of God. Parables are short, open-ended stories that invite us to discover the truth and wisdom of God's Word as we wrestle with what this means. In the parable today, Jesus guides the disciples so they can understand Jesus' Word of God's kingdom.
Yet, even with this guidance the open-ended nature of the story allows us God to speak in a variety of ways and on a variety of levels. Today, we're going to think about
Two ways of hearing this parable of the soils. We can hear it as a story about ...
1) My personal life in relation to God's Word, or about 2) Our community life in relation to the Word
Christ Chose You
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
When the boys were a little younger they loved Thomas the Tank Engine. If you're not familiar, Thomas is a small steam railroad engine who is part of a railway operation on the mythical island of Sodor. Each engine has a name and a distinctive character trait. Thomas prides himself on the praise of the railway superintendent who has declared Thomas to be "a very useful engine." And he is useful, able to do a variety of jobs and pull or push a whole array of loads, without usually complaining or questioning why.
An Enviable Position
At the start of his ministry, Jesus travels throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and healing people of every disease and infirmity. Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry powerfully demonstrates that the kingdom of heaven has come among to the people, and the sick and desperate come to Jesus from near and far seeking healing, wholeness and new life as God’s people.
It’s amazing. Something strange and remarkable happens when the good news of Jesus is proclaimed: all that’s sick and diseased, poor and broken, sad and miserable comes out of the shadows and into the light. Or when the light finally comes on, we revel in the light, but quickly notices that light exposes what had been hidden and gone unnoticed for so long.
Jesus Abides Here
Isaiah in a Spirit-inspired prophecy writes: "The people who sat in darnkness have seen a great light ..." As Jesus' ministry begins in Galilee this prophecy is fulfilled. The light of God's presence has once again risen on the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, a land once synonymous with God-forsakenness. The light of God's grace once more shines in this area that has been given over to the nations. Now, the nations themselves will be saved by the grace of the God who created and rules over all, and who once again is abiding, dwelling and residing in the land.
A Different Christmas Story
One of my favorite videos floating around Facebook this holiday season was of a group of adults acting out the Christmas story as it was told by children. The children tell the story of Jesus’ birth from the time when the angel appears to Mary with the good news that she is to be the mother of our Lord up until the time when the wise men from the East arrive. Even though details of this story are found in different books of Bible, when they tell the story from memory and in their own words, the story becomes one coherent narrative. Which is pretty cool when you think about it. In a time when a number of adults might be hard pressed to tell the Christmas story from heart in their own words … these children pull together to different stories from the Bible and they get it right, in their own way.
Christmas Points to Easter
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
We have just heard Jesus tell us some most comforting good news. Jesus is the good shepherd who knows his sheep, who lays down his life for the sheep, who guards and protects the sheep from all danger. The sheep know the voice of their shepherd, and they follow him to all the good that God has prepared and intended for them. In her baptism, Norma was welcomed into God’s household … God’s flock, a sheep of Christ’s fold. She was claimed by God and for God, as one of God’s children, even before she became the Norma you knew and loved. Norma’s salvation, hope of resurrection and the promise of heaven, were hers as a gift from the loving God who created her and redeemed her by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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