All Saints Sunday 2022

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All Saints Sunday 2022

This past week I had a graveside service at Roselawn Cemetery here in Williams Bay.

The service was for someone who was a previous member here but had since moved away from this area many years ago.

But even through the years and the distance she still felt a connection with our church.

I am grateful that people feel that way – connected to the church even though time passes and distance separates.

Whenever I officiate for a graveside service or a funeral service, I am reminded that we do not have a permanent place here on earth.

Sometimes it seems as if our lives will continue forever but that is not the case.

As wonderful as life can be the time we have is set.

There is a Scripture verse that says:  “People are appointed once to die.”

That is from Hebrews chapter nine verse twenty-seven.

We will not live forever.

We will, one day, die.

Today on this All Saints Sunday we remember this truth just like we remember this on Ash Wednesday.

Every year on Ash Wednesday, as we begin the forty-day journey of Lent, we hear the words:  Remember we are dust and to dust we shall return.

We believe by faith that our spirits will continue but our bodies will go back into the earth.

“We commit her body to the ground earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Those were the words that I said at the graveside service this week.

The words that we hear at the beginning of the book of Genesis will come true for all of us.

In Genesis chapter three we hear:  “We will return to the ground, since from it we were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”  Genesis chapter three verse nineteen.

On this All Saints Sunday we also remember that we are connected to the whole company of the communion of saints.

All of God’s people in heaven and on earth are a part of the company of saints.

There is a never a moment in life where we are not a part of the communion of saints.

Again in Hebrews chapter twelve it says that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.

The writer of Hebrews wanted us to imagine that we are all in an arena and there at that arena are previous generations.

They are present for us.

These people witness and see our faith in action and from their seats they cheer us on.

Think about your favorite sports team.

If you follow your team regularly you will notice a pattern.

Your team always plays better at home.

Your team feeds off the energy, the excitement, and the positive energy of the home crowd.

This is true for us as well.

Knowing that we are a part of the communion of saints gives us encouragement and hope especially during the struggles and challenges of life.

We have people right here in this place who will encourage and support us but we also have those who have gone ahead of us who now rest with God who wait for us and who cheer us on.

And they do cheer us on in life and at the hour of our death.

When I first became a pastor, I thought that I would have many difficult conversations with members about dying and in addressing people’s fears around death.

Now over the years I have had some of those hard talks and these talks are very important as I try to give these people hope but overwhelmingly, I have seen such peace and faith in those who are near death.

Overwhelmingly, those who are at the end of their life, talk to me about their love for God, their faith in Jesus, they talk about their loved ones who have passed away and how they are ready to be with them again, and they talk to me about their readiness to be with God.

I have seen such faith over the years.

Surely these men and women that I have seen with my own eyes were already surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.

In fact, I can recall one conversation in particular, this conversation happened when I was serving a church in Iowa, that especially moved me.

I met with this person for our visit at the nearby town’s favorite diner in Toledo, Iowa.

Big-T, which was a Maid-Rite restaurant, was our stop.

Not only was the restaurant a town favorite but the owner, a very kind man and humble man, was a member of the church that I was serving at the time.

So, over a Maid-Rite and a cup of coffee, we talked about faith and about dying.

From my memory he did most of the talking, which was fine with me, and I remember him telling me this:

Pastor, I have learned that we don’t need to be afraid of dying.

It is going to be beautiful.

When my time comes, I am ready to go to heaven.

The conversation that day really impacted me.

His faith was so strong.

When his time was up, he was ready.

He had made peace with his life and he made peace with God.

We do not have a permanent place here on earth but we do have a permanent place, a permanent home in heaven where we will be with the whole company of God’s saints.

On this All Saints Sunday we give thanks for our faith in God’s gift of eternal life and we give thanks for all the saints.

If I could leave you with one more thing this morning it would be this:  Eternal life is our inheritance.

It is God’s gift to us.

There is nothing you can do to receive an inheritance.

You receive an inheritance as a gift from the owner.

This is Christ’s gift for us.

For Jesus was faithful to us and Jesus was faithful to God even to death on a cross.

Now n Christ our lives will continue even in death.

Jesus said in the Gospel of John:  “I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

May God give to each one of us here the faith to believe this promise from our Lord and may the peace and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.

Amen.

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Reformation Sunday 2022

Today is Reformation Sunday.

On this day we remember the good work that was done, 500 years ago, by Martin Luther and the other early church reformers like Philip Melanchthon and John Hus.

These church reformers taught us to always be about the work of reforming and renewing the church.

There is never a point where we can say – I think that the church is perfect.

As much as I would like to say this

– there is never I point where I can say – I think Williams Bay Lutheran Church is perfect.

We will never reach that point.

We will never be able to say that we will not need to change or make any improvements to our church because everything is already right.

Reforming / renewal is an on-going process in the church.

Somethings do stay the same in the church but other things change and through it all we look to God for guidance and direction.

We do not cast the vision – it is God who casts the vision – who gives us the mission.

We do not move the church forward it is God who moves the church forward and then we move into God’s future with trusting hearts.

It is easy to get caught in the temptation that we are the ones who direct and guide the church but that is wrong.

It is God who directs and guides the church.

For Luther he believed that the church was greatly misguided because the church was moving in a direction that was not led by God and by God’s Holy Spirit.

The church was corrupt.

Through Luther’s work, along with other early reformers, the church changed and became more faithful to the Gospel.

There was resurrection and new life in the church.

Even today we strive to seek God’s will and not our own.

How do we do this?

How do we hear God’s voice in the church?

In my personal devotional time, I am reading through the book of Proverbs.

The book of Proverbs is a book that gives advice and guidance on a wide range of issues.

In Proverbs chapter twenty verse eighteen we hear that we are to form our purpose by asking for counsel and advice.  Then and only then can we carry out the plan.

One of the things that I have really appreciated over the years as a pastor is being on church counsel.

I am grateful that I don’t have to cast the vision for the church on my own.

I listen carefully to the direction and the guidance that I receive from the leaders of our congregation as they carefully seek God’s will.

And then I lean on them for help in order to carry out the mission of our church.

Over the years some seasons in the church have gone very smoothly with very little concern but some seasons have been much more challenging and difficult but through it all we listen to the voice of God.

We trust in God’s future and God’s ability to draw us forward into God’s mission.

We catch ourselves when we are tempted to be visionary dreamers – this means times when we put our plans ahead of God’s plan.

These are times when we try to push our will forward instead of taking the time to carefully discern God’s will.

And the only way we can discern God’s plan is through prayer and listening.

There is no other way.

Prayer and listening.

We pray to God and then we listen.

During the first two years of the pandemic this was my constant work.

Prayer and listening.

Prayer and listening.

Praying to God.

Listening.

Listening to the church counsel.

Listening to others in the church.

Listening to the Spirit at work in our church.

Listening, listening to the voice of God.

In Proverbs chapter three verse five we hear that we are to listen for God’s voice in everything that we do, everywhere we go; for God is the one who keep us on track.

And Jesus said in today’s Gospel reading that if we continue in his word – meaning that we continue listening to him and seeking his will, then we are truly his disciples.

We will know the truth – we will know the way and his truth will set us free.

We will be free to live a grace-filled and life-giving life.

As the church continues listening to God’s voice the church will continue to reform and be shaped and pruned by God’s Spirit.

God will continue using the church for God’s purposes.

God has not given up on the church.

Even now I see God at work in our church.

Yes, here in this place.

As we gather together each week for worship

– God is at work.

In seeing the children and youth in church

– I see God at work.

In Stu’s stewardship talks where he speaks about the work and activity of this church

– I see God at work.

In the work that our church council does each month working together to help our church discern God’s ways

– I see God at work.

In the hymns that we sing that speak to our faith in a gracious and loving God

– I see God at work.

In the laughter and the joy that we share together over coffee and pie – I see God at work.

As God’s people in this place and time

– may the Lord bless our church and may we have the faith to continue moving forward into God’s future as God makes a new covenant with us.

A covenant where God writes on our hearts that we are God’s people and God is our God.

We ask for all this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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September 25, 2022 The Shrewd Manager

Today we hear another shocking teaching from Jesus.

It appears that Jesus is praising an act of dishonesty.

The manager who acts shrewdly is the hero of the story.

I can remember hearing this story as a child and thinking what a weird parable.

Even now I have to really think about this parable and what Jesus is trying to teach us.

Clearly there is an important lesson here if we just dig a little deeper.

What is Jesus trying to say to us in the parable of the rich man and the manager.

As with most of Jesus parables you can look at them through many different angles.

Today I would like for us to think about the quick and smart behavior of the manager.

He showed composure – he did not act compulsively – he made a plan and then he executed it.

Now I don’t believe that in the end Jesus was praising his dishonest behavior but Jesus was trying to make a larger point here.

Jesus is praising the man’s resourcefulness, his wits about himself, his smart intuitive thinking.

That is what Jesus is lifting up.

Jesus wants us to be just as bold for his kingdom work.

He wants us to use all the gifts that we have to move his kingdom and his mission forward.

Can we be just as creative and smart and yes, shrewd as the dishonest manager but and, here is the twist here, can we be that for what is right – for what is just, and for what is honest.

Remember the scripture from the book of Micah – we are to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

Jesus is calling us to respond to him with the same kind of boldness that the manager had in the parable.

We are not to shy away from our faith but we are to lean more deeply into our faith with all the strength that God gives us.

It is a shocking parable but it is also a parable with a good message.

Each of us can find ways in our work, in our home life, within our families to really live from our hearts and not to just to complacently get by.

Life is too much of a gift to let it just slide by…

As I was working on this sermon this past week, I thought to myself if the shrewd manager were to write a book what kind of a book would it be??

And the first book that came to my mind was the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey.

This is a book on how to live from that deeper and more creative part of ourselves.

The book also is a very worldly book and it takes an almost mechanical approach to living.

In other words, the book feels at times a little distant from the day to day lives of real people.

But if you look at the book and take his ideas and apply them with your faith then suddenly it gives your faith new meaning.

For example, one of his ideas in his book is to create a personal mission statement.

Our congregation has a mission statement – our shared mission statement is to praise God, to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ, to reach out with this message to people of all backgrounds and cultures, and to create a community of Christian support, love, and forgiveness.

Maybe you work at a place that has a mission statement but do you personally have a mission statement?

Do you have a mission statement that you think about everyday that impacts your choices and decisions that you make each and every day of your lives?

I have a personal mission statement that I have been living from for the past twelve years.

In January of 2010 I received some strong inspiration and I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down my personal mission statement which I have been living from ever since.

During good days and seasons I remember my personal mission statement during difficult days and seasons I remember my personal mission statement.

My mission statement gives meaning and purpose to my life and the statement give me direction in living out my faith and in being a better steward of the gifts that God has given me.

I am not going to share my mission statement because it is between God and me but I want to share with you now how impactful my personal mission statement has been for me over the years.

During some of the dark days and seasons of my life my personal mission statement has been a light for me – almost as if the Holy Spirit is reminding me to keep moving forward and trusting in Jesus.

How about you – what is your mission statement between God and you?

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September 11, 2022 At Home With Jesus

Jesus offers two compelling parables this morning.
First, the parable of the lost sheep.
Then the parable of the lost coin.
And unlike last Sunday’s Bible reading, where it was very hard to understand Jesus’ teaching,
today’s Bible reading is quite clear.
The two parables point to the truth that God is gracious and that God pursues us even when we
turn away from him.
God is a loving father who wants to be in relationship with us.
God wants us to know him and to find joy in him.
God wants us to turn to him and to be found – to be found is to be, finally, at home with God.
To be at home with God happens in our death, yes, when we are raised from the dead to be
with Jesus and the whole company of God’s saints, but it can also happen in this life as we
come to know Christ and his grace and his peace.
We do not have a permanent place here on earth but that does not mean we cannot find a
place of belonging and a place that feels like home.
This past week in considering this text from Luke, I have been reflecting on the meaning of
home.
What does it mean to be at home?

To no longer be searching, to no longer be lost, to be found, to be at a place of rest, to be at a
place where you can be yourself, to be at home.
Home can refer to a house, it can refer to a place, it can refer to family but in the context of this
Scripture reading – home is being with Jesus.
This truth became very real to me as I was growing up.
By the time I reached eighteen I had already lived in five different towns, three different states,
and I had attended four different schools in four different communities.
To this day I still don’t know what school I should go to if I were to attend a school reunion.
Maybe some of you here have had a similar experience.
So, I realized as a child that being at home does not necessarily mean a place – it can mean that
to be sure but for Jesus – being at home means something else.
Being at home is something more spiritual, something we feel and know inside of us.
Being at home is an inner knowing and belief that Jesus is right there.
And that his peace and his grace is always there for us to receive.
Our weekly Eucharist meal both reminds us of this and our weekly Eucharist meal is a spiritual
means for us to receive his grace and his peace.
At the table we are at home.
We are at home with Jesus.

And then as we leave this place and go on – for the rest of the week Jesus goes with us and
ahead of us.
If you are like me, you may have some anxiety about the future.
The future is unknown, there is always uncertainty about the future.
And how comforting it is to know that Jesus is already there.
He goes ahead of us and then he meets us each step of our journey.
He does not let us to become lost on the way.
Suddenly then the mistakes that we make in life and the regrets that we hold to become
absolved in his presence.
And if we turn from him, Jesus is quick to help us to find the way back to him so that we can be
at home with him.
This is the hope that we share together as God’s people – it is an active kind of hope.
This means that our hope in God and in Jesus impacts us each day of our lives.
This coming week spend some time thinking about what home means to you.
We often have strong attachments to the places we call home.
My family and I recently visited a place that is very dear to us on our family vacation.
For me it is the place that feels most like home.
It’s Dubuque, Iowa.

Why you might ask?
Well, it’s the place where Kalen and I met and where we went to seminary together.
It is a life-giving place for me.
I still keep in touch with many of my professors, teachers, and classmates that I first me in
Dubuque.
One of whom you met and welcomed this past spring, in our guest organist, Dr. Roy Carrol who
was one of my worship professors and the seminary worship organist.
There are so many wonderful memories from that place and it always feels like home when I go
back to Dubuque even though I only lived there for short four years.
Places do that.
We associate a lot of meaning to a place and the people we meet there.
This is good and the places that we call home provide the foundation and the stability that we
need in life.
Now think about that and the places that are dear to you.
And then think about your relationship with God and how God calls us to himself to be found in
him and to be spiritually at home with him.
Even during the times that we feel distant from God and the times that we feel lost in our faith
God is there speaking to us and reaching out to us.

Like the man who looks for his lost sheep and the woman who searches for her lost coin – God
continues, always to pursue us until we are found in him.
When we are found there is rejoicing indeed – for we are home.
Amen.

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September 4, 2022 Jesus and the Cross

I always have a hard time reading and preaching this text from Luke.

It is hard to know what to say.

Jesus gives us a difficult teaching here.

Sometimes when we are reading Scripture and we get stuck with what we are reading it is helpful to look at a different translation to see if we get any additional insight into the text or possibly a new perspective.

With this reading from Luke, I decided this past week to look at it from the translation, The Message.

The Message is a translation of the Bible through the lens of our modern language.

It is not a perfect translation as no translations are.

All translations of the Bible are filtered through the lens of the people who are translating it but still The Message is a fairly good translation that I enjoy reading from.

It’s also a translation that I like to use with my confirmation students because of the modern language.

The Message reads almost like a novel.

Now with the NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version in mind, which is what we have in the bulletin, I would like to read that text again but this time from the Bible, The Message:

A reading from the Gospel of Luke chapter fourteen:

One day when large crowds of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, 

“Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters- yes, even, one’s own self! – can’t be my disciple.  Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?  If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish.  Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: “He started something he couldn’t finish.’

“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other?  And if he decides he can’t won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?  

“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple”

There is certainly a different feel here with a different translation.

The same message from Jesus but given in a different light.

What Jesus is getting at here, I believe, in this particular teaching is that he is pointing out our very human tendency towards idolatry.

Idolatry is extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.

Jesus is teaching us here that God is to be source of our admiration, love, and reverence.

We are to place Jesus and his cross central in our lives.

Our sanctuary points to this truth as the cross is at the center of our worship space.

The cross is the point of our focus and worship.

I love that verse in The Message:  “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.”

Probably here the use of the word, hate in the NRSV translation, which again is in your bulletin, was not meant to mean the definition of hate that we have today in our context.

A more accurate translation for us would be what The Message uses, which is letting go, meaning that we hold on to Jesus in a way that we do not hold on to other people or possessions.

For example, I love my family but I do not worship my family or look to my family as the source of my life.

I receive help from my family and love from my family but I know that the gift of my family comes from God and the love that I receive from my family comes from God.

I am grateful for the possessions in my life but I know that possessions can be here one day and gone the next.

My savings in the bank can look good one day and then be gone the next but God’s provisions continue and God continues to provide even during times of scarcity.

We worship God and God is the source of our lives.

Through the cross of Christ, we look forward to the resurrection and we trust in God’s ability to give life and to make things new.

When we lift up the cross and follow after Jesus, we are given by him a new direction and a new path for our lives.

In Christ we lay a foundation for our lives that he helps us to finish.

We will be like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither.

Last month I came down with Covid and I was knocked out for about a week.

So, I had a lot of time to think and also to pray.

And one thought that continued to stay with me during that time is this… that if everything was taken away from me the one thing that remains is my faith.

My faith grounds me and keeps me close to Jesus and his cross.

Fortunately, I did recover well, and I certainly pray for the families that have lost loved ones because of Covid, but for me, the blessing that lingered after my recovery from Covid is that my illness gave me a different perspective on my life and on my faith – just like how a different translation of Scripture gives you a different perspective on the text or texts that you are reading.

And so may we, walk more closely with Christ and cling to his life-giving and healing power.

It is a power that sustains us in this life and it is a power that can even bring life in death.

With God’s help may we let go of those things that prevent us from following him and from picking up the cross.

May we lift high the cross of Christ.  Amen.

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August 21, 2022 Healing on the Sabbath

What a miracle it is to be healed.

To suffer for so long and then to instantly be cured.

It all happened on the sabbath day.

Jesus was teaching the people and then there appeared a woman.

This woman was crippled and bent over.

For eighteen long years she suffered in this way.

But Jesus sees her.

He notices the woman – he does not ignore her.

And most importantly he sees her pain.

He calls the woman over to him.

“Woman,” he says, “you are set free.”

Jesus then lays his hands upon her and immediately, without delay, she stands up and praises God.

Now you would think that the healing story would end there.

And there would be this great celebration of the miracle that Jesus preformed.

A woman who was crippled is now set free from her ailment.

But, as we see from the text, this is not the case.

The leader of the synagogue instead of joining in the celebration and the joy of the healing miracle he is instead indignant.

He is upset that Jesus would heal on the sabbath.

Here in this Bible reading we see division on how one should treat the sabbath.

Now remember from last Sunday – Jesus said his words and his actions would cause division.

Today we see this happening in the healing story.

The synagogue leader is upset that Jesus would do such a thing as to heal on the sabbath.

By doing so he believes Jesus is breaking God’s commandment of working on the sabbath.

He is blinded to God’s ways and he cannot see the miracle that just happened.

At that time healing a person was seen as work.

To the synagogue leader Jesus is not following the law.

But wisely, Jesus will have none of it.

Jesus can see through this man’s intentions here.

The man is not concerned about God or on the woman in need of healing rather his intentions are focused on casting judgment on Jesus.

And so, Jesus says to that man and to those who are listening that this woman, who Jesus just healed, is a daughter of Abraham, in others words, Jesus is saying that this woman is a child of God.

And that she was in bondage for eighteen years.

Jesus sees the situation for what it is and he makes it right.

What is more important not working on the sabbath or in helping someone who is suffering.

Of course, we know the answer.

This is not a trick question.

God’s will is always to relieve suffering.

In this case it is to relieve the suffering that the woman is enduring.

Jesus wants to heal her.

In the end Jesus puts his opponents to shame and the crowd rejoices.

In hearing this Bible story right now, I wonder what comes to your mind?

How do you understand the sabbath?

What meaning does that day hold for you?

And what are your thoughts around healing and being cured?

As with every gospel reading that we hear on Sunday mornings there is always a lot to unpack.

So much is happening in this particular text.

We have the woman who is crippled.

We have Jesus who is teaching on the sabbath day.

We have Jesus breaking the sabbath law and healing the woman.

We have the synagogue leader who is indignant that Jesus would heal on the sabbath.

And finally, we have the crowd who witness everything that happens.

Now if I had to pull one key takeaway from this Scripture reading it would be this… that Jesus loves the woman who is suffering.

This text is really not about the sabbath or the synagogue ruler and his feelings about Jesus or the crowd or even about Jesus’ teachings.

This reading is about Jesus’ great love for a child of God who needs help.

What we learn from this reading from the Gospel of Luke, is that Jesus loves us and wants to heal and save us from our pain and suffering and then to bring us back to God and to others.

By healing on the sabbath Jesus shows us that he does not want us to suffer for even one day more – he wants us to be healed now.

In our world today there is great suffering and pain all around us.

Even God’s earth cries in pain from the ways in which we have harmed God’s creation and have not acted as faithful stewards of God’s world.

There is much healing that is needed.

Healing for the world, healing for our communities, healing for families, healing for those who are crippled.

To be healed is to be relieved from suffering and to be brought back to wholeness and oneness with God and others.

As we place our hope and trust in a God that desires wholeness and wellness for us, we too will rejoice with the woman who was healed.

Even on the sabbath Jesus wants to heal and to restore and to forgive.

For that – may we praise God for Jesus’ power over the spirits that cripple us and for Jesus’ great love for each one of us.

Amen.

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August 14, 2022 Division & Awareness

When I have a text like this to work with for my sermon I often wonder where the best place to start is…

There is a lot here in this morning’s Bible reading from Luke.

It is an extremely provocative text.

Jesus’ words here are meant to cause a strong reaction.

It should make us feel something and to awaken something within us.

Maybe a good place to start in unpacking today’s Gospel reading is to break it up into two texts.

We have verses 49 to 53 which is largely about division and then we have verses 54 to 56 which is largely about interpreting the present time.

First, the part on division.

Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Not peace but division.

When we think about Jesus we think about peace – we do not think about division.

But in this teaching from Jesus, he is talking about division.

Jesus said that a household will be divided.

Family ties will be cut.

Separation will occur.

And how painful it will be.

Whenever division happens there is great pain.

Whether it be in a family or in some kind of a group whenever there is division there is loss and pain and anger.

We long for unity and peace and when that doesn’t happen the pain and the conflict can be so severe.

In the text Jesus is naming a true reality.

His teachings and his ways will bring division.

And, at that time, that is exactly what happened especially among families.

In the first century, Jesus’ teachings caused division within families.

And it did not stop there.

If you study church history you will find that in the last two thousand years the church has encountered division, conflict, and separation – again and again and again.

The hard truth here is that as much as we might like to preserve unity – Jesus’ words point to a greater truth.

In our sinfulness we turn from the peace of Jesus.

We cannot say that we believe in Jesus and his peace and then act in ways that are contrary to his peace.

We cannot pray to Jesus for peace and then act in our old sinful ways.

To know God’s peace, we must take steps towards peace.

To have peace in our families we must take steps towards peace.

It is like the old saying… “Hard work doesn’t guarantee success but without it you don’t have a chance.”

We cannot expect Jesus to do all the work of bringing peace and love and grace to the earth.

We need to join him in that cause.

We are to be part of the solution.

When division happens do we make it worse by our actions or do we make amends and find a way back to peace and harmony.

God wants to use us to bring about the kingdom of God – but we must not get discouraged when division happens, as Jesus warns us that it will happen – it is inevitable, but as Christ followers we are to stay with him on the path.

Then after saying these words on division Jesus turns his preaching to the interpretation of signs.

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’ and when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.”

In today’s time we know so much about the weather and about the earth and sky and even space.

We can know things about the natural world that brings incredible insight into the smallest details of creation.

But as Jesus warns us here can we interpret the present time?

Jesus is calling for awareness.

First, he warns us that division will happen as followers of Jesus and next he calls us to be aware of signs of God’s kingdom.

We are to be aware of the things of God and not blind to God’s ways.

If we can know so much about creation, can we also know so much about Jesus and his mission.

We are to put our hope in him – not wavering back and forth but staying true in our faith.

People of God, may we pray for unity in our families and in our church, may we pray to be aware of signs of God’s presence around us, may we pray for grace for when we fall short of God’s ways, and may we pray for understanding and for compassion.

We are to be peacemakers in a world that seeks to be divided, we are to be the people that point to God’s reign around us, we are to be the one’s that work to heal and to restore that which is broken.

We can do this because Jesus is with us.

Amen.

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July 31, 2022 The Parable of the Barns

Today’s parable of the barns is unique to Luke.

This teaching can only be found in this Gospel.

And even though this parable can only be found in one of the four gospels the message here is both convicting and instructive.

In the parable Jesus argues for extreme reliance on God.

Jesus also teaches us here to place our trust in God and not in wealth.

It seems simple enough until one tries to put this into practice.

Our world operates around money.

It is kind of like this…

Have you ever seen the 1947 movie:  “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart as George Bailey?

I can use the example of a Christmas movie in my sermon because my family and I just celebrated Christmas in July at home with some friends… so I have Christmas on my mind.

Anyway, at one point in the movie George Bailey is desperate for money since his Building and Loan business suddenly loses $8,000.

Today that would be like losing more than $100,000

Then in an answer to prayer George’s guardian angel, Clarence comes to visit him.

During a conversation that the two are having George asks his guardian angel, Clarence if he has any money.

Clarence responds with a laugh and he says, “No, where I come from, we don’t need any money,” to which George then says, “Well, it comes in handy down here.”

Yes, it does.

We simply cannot function in the world without money.

Jesus knows this and that is why he tells the kind of parable that he tells.

This parable is told by Jesus to teach us to direct our attention from money to God.

God is the source of all blessings and all good things.

Last week in my sermon I spoke about how we are to pray each day for our daily bread.

Daily bread being all that we need in life.

Martin Luther writes in his Large Catechism of instruction that the petition “daily bread” includes everything that belongs to our entire life in this world.

Luther went on to say in his Large Catechism that this would include not only our food, clothing, house, and health but also peace in our daily activities and peace with the people whom we live with and work with and interact with.

Luther is teaching us here that we are to ask God for all that we need and then to trust that God abundantly provides.

Jesus said in another Gospel in the Gospel of John that he came to bring abundant life.

Abundant life in this context means a life that exceeds one’s expectations.

In Christ one’s life is more meaningful and is richer, and fuller than one would even hope for.

This past week Evie and I both watched a movie together and after the movie was finished, we both said to each other that the movie was better than we thought it was going to be.

We had high hopes for the movie and we were hoping to see a good movie together and, in the end, the movie went even beyond our expectations of it.

This is how it is with Jesus.

The life he gives is of a higher level then what we can even imagine.

So, in going back to the parable, why would we place our hope and our trust in things of this world like building bigger barns when there is something much greater for us – which is a life of faith in Jesus.

What is true wealth is knowing God.

Neither wealth or poverty is a sign of our relationship with God rather what is a sign of our relationship with God is our trust in God and our faith in God’s ability to provide all that we need.

Although God gives and provides us with everything that we need even before we ask, God’s wish for us is that we would put our trust in him so that we would know that the gifts in life come from him.

And more than that… that we might come to know his great love for us.

In our lives we put Christ and his cross at the center of our daily living we do not put bigger barns at the center of our daily living.

This does not mean that we do not practice faithful stewardship with our finances and careful planning and saving but what it does mean is that our faith is more important than what we own.

A great depression can wipe out our savings, a flood can ruin our home, COVID can take away our ability to gather together but God’s gift of faith in Christ remains through it all.

As the Apostle Paul says in Romans:  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or sword… for nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

May this promise from Scripture go with you this coming week.

Amen.

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July 24, 2022 The Lord’s Prayer

When you pray, how do you pray?

What do you say to God?

What are your prayers like?

Do you pray these words that Jesus taught his disciples to say?

“Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.  And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Today we know this prayer as the Lord’s Prayer.

It is one of the first prayers that we learn to say and it is the prayer that we say before we receive Holy Communion.

Do you remember when you first learned this prayer.

I can remember as a small child, saying this prayer over and over until at last I memorized it.

I can recall how happy I was when I finally got it and could recite the prayer from memory.

Maybe you have a similar memory.

Hopefully, this is a prayer that you pray regularly.

And it does not matter if you prefer the traditional style or the contemporary style of this prayer.

The important thing is that we pray the prayer often and with heart.

Jesus teaches us that we are to pray this prayer over and over and over throughout our lives.

Praying this prayer without ceasing and faithfully praying each petition of this prayer.

We are to prayer this prayer with great persistence like the friend in the parable who continues asking for bread over and over and over again until the friend receives the bread.

In the same way we are to prayer the Lord’s prayer continually throughout our lives.

For if we ask it will be given to us, if we search, we will find, and if we knock the door to a life of faith will be opened to us.

In life it is easy to get caught up in praying for things that in the end do not matter at all.

Jesus teaches us today in the Gospel of Luke what we ought to be praying for.

First, we are to pray to God whose very name is holy.

We are not God, only God is God, and we are not alone.

God is above us, around us, and within us.  God is here.

We are not alone in life.  God is always with us.

That truth is something we talked about in VBS this week with the kids.

God is always with us.

And God’s kingdom is what we are to be seeking.

What is God’s kingdom?

God’s kingdom is where peace, joy, and love are found.

God’s kingdom is where God is.

There can be a heaven on earth and there can be a hell on earth too by the way in which we believe and by the way in which we treat others.

As followers of Jesus, we are to strive for a heaven on earth – that God’s kingdom in heaven is also found here on earth – that God’s kingdom will come in this world.

We are to ask each day for our daily bread.

Daily bread is not bread alone but everything that we need in life.

Each day we ask God to provide us with what we need and then we ask God for the generosity to share the rest with others.

We do not need to hoard God’s gifts and blessings but we are to share and to give as God shares and gives.

Next, we are to pray for forgiveness for all of our sins.

In asking for forgiveness, we then try to forgive others and to show grace to those who have hurt us.

This is a hard one and we certainly do not do this one perfectly.

It is only by God’s grace that are we able to show grace to others.

It is only in receiving God’s forgiveness that we are able to forgive.

Now this does not mean that we forget the harm that was done to us.

Sometimes the pain is so deep that the relationship can never be returned to what it once was.

This is especially true in the case of abuse and sometimes boundaries need to be put into place but even still by God’s grace we are to work to find a way to forgive and to let go trusting all the while in God and God’s ability to restore and to heal.

And lastly, we ask the Lord to save us from the time of trial.

We need God and without God we fall into temptation and without God there is no life.

God is our protector and our savior.

These things we pray for throughout our lives.

God is good and loving and God is ready to hear our prayers and to answer our prayers even before we say the words.

God provides for us all.

God provides for us even if we do not believe in him.

But O, how much greater it is to know that all that we have and all that makes us who we are comes from God.

Knowing this brings about a great inner feeling of gratitude and peace.

The gifts that we have in our lives comes from God.

Even life itself comes from God.

Each of us have the ability to experience peace, happiness, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, Jesus said in verse thirteen of today’s Gospel reading that the heavenly father is only too ready to give us the Holy Spirit when we ask him.

This means that right now we can know and feel the very presence of God in our lives.

This means that we can have faith in Jesus.

To live a life of faith is a tremendous blessing from God.

No money, no success, no power can compare to the joy of a simple, humble life of faith.

I have known people in my life who have died without a penny to their name but have died in peace because they had great faith.

The door will be opened.

Jesus waits, always waits for us at the door.

I have always loved that painting of Jesus knocking at the door.

Maybe some of you own that painting in your home.

In that famous painting Jesus becomes the friend in today’s parable, he is the one knocking and waiting.

He is the one who is ever persistent never giving up on us.

He comes not asking for bread.

He comes looking to give bread.

He comes as the bread of life – looking to give us what we need, looking to give us life and salvation.

Jesus will never force his way into our lives.

He gives us free will.

Jesus is at the door, he is waiting for us, and he will never stop believing in us.

He waits even now to hear our prayers.

Lord, teach us to pray.  Amen.

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July 17, 2022 – Martha and Mary

In Colossians chapter three we hear that we are to let the word of Christ to dwell richly in us.
We are now halfway through summer.
Each Sunday during the weeks of summer we hear teachings and parables from Jesus.
I hope that these stories from our Lord dwell richly in you during these summer days.
Each Sunday we are given the opportunity to ponder Jesus’ words for the new coming week.
Let these words work in you during the week.
Let these words from Jesus, dwell in your hearts and your minds.
Last week we heard the parable of the Good Samaritan and how Jesus taught us to redefine
who our neighbor is.
Maybe we took some time last week to truly consider what this teaching might mean for our
lives.
Today we hear a Bible story on the priority of hearing the Word of the Lord as Jesus visits the
home of Martha and Mary.
When I read this Bible reading now what came to your mind?
How might you apply this reading in your life?
In this story from Luke chapter ten we have two opposite responses to Jesus.
When Jesus comes – Martha decides to get busy with her many tasks.
Mary simply sits at Jesus feet.

Now it doesn’t say this in the text but I image here that Martha prepares a nice spread of food
for Jesus.
She was the one who welcomed Jesus into her home.
So probably she is also the one who is serving Jesus.
And, as far as we know, Jesus accepts her hospitality.
But Mary is not helping at all.
Mary is not helping her sister with any of the jobs that need to be done.
This is just not right!
She should be serving too and helping Martha.
I learned early in my marriage with Kalen that when we have company over,
I cannot let Kalen do all the work in preparing for and having company over,
and then for me to just sit on the couch while she is busy working.
Well, I actually I could do that but that would be a very bad idea.
No, I need to help and to serve with Kalen when we have company.
So, there is this feeling of: “Where is the fairness here?” – that Mary is not doing any of the
work and Martha is.
Where is the justice in that?

But as it is the case in many of the Bible stories and parables from Jesus – Jesus is making a
larger point here.
This Bible reading is not so much about Mary not working and Martha working as it is about
how we respond to Jesus.
Here Mary is giving her complete devotion to Jesus while Martha is distracted by other things.
The distractions are pulling Martha away from and not closer to Jesus.
Martha’s worries and her distractions are keeping her from Jesus.
In verse forty-one we hear:
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one
thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
When I first read this text earlier this week, Jesus’ answer to Martha about her worries and her
distractions jumped out of the text for me.
I said to myself, “That is me too.”
My worries and all the distractions in my life pull me away from Jesus and from my faith.
In this text there is a way in which Mary does something very beautiful here.
She simply sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to him.
At that time, to sit at the Rabbi’s feet meant that you were taking the role of a disciple ready to
learn from your teacher.
Here Mary takes on that role as disciple eager to listen to and to learn from her teacher, Jesus.

Martha is not doing anything wrong here.
If she is serving Jesus food, Jesus is probably eating the food that Martha gives him.
But what Martha needs to do is to let go of her worries, to let go of her concerns, and all of the
distractions and tasks at hand and then to go and to sit by Jesus.
There she will learn things about God and she will receive exactly what she needs to receive –
God’s love and God’s grace.
God’s love and God’s grace will never be taken from her.
Jesus loves her and Jesus wants her to be a follower as well.
This coming week let this Bible story dwell in you richly.
Consider the worries and distractions in your life and how they pull you from Jesus.
What is preventing you from sitting at Jesus’ feet in order to listen to him?
What is getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus?
Remember that Mary chose to sit and to listen to Jesus and by doing so she was given
something that will never be taken away from her.
How might you find time this week for purposeful silence to simply listen to Jesus?
No phone, no screen, no distractions, just time with Jesus.
This coming week may we take this teaching to heart…
May this word from Jesus dwell richly within us…

May we be ready to welcome and to serve Jesus as Martha did…
And may we especially be ready to sit and to listen to Jesus as Mary did.
Amen.

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