Sermon September 24, 2023

Merciful Lord, please inspire us to be a blessing as You are a blessing to us. We humbly ask that You wash away our guilt, so that we may forgive; that we might be healed, so that we may alleviate pain. Fill us with hope and courage, so that we may offer a despairing world the light of Your justice and love. Thru Christ our Lord Amen.

Many people these days live paycheck to paycheck. They have little savings, if any. So their income is not just a matter of having money or not - it is about having what they need to live.

That was the situation for most folks in biblical times. So it is with that in mind that we need to hear the parable that Jesus tells today. Workers were being hired at all hours of the day – even some just an hour before quitting time. But without work, there would be no pay-- no food for the table that night. Labor wasn’t just a job, it was life.

So when it was time to pay the workers, and each received a full day’s wage, it meant life for everyone in that household and that, Jesus says, is what the kingdom of heaven is all about. Life… for all. Which is always a gift.

Jesus came - to give life--it isn’t something that just happens.

Jesus wants us to have more than just a mere subsistence. He wants us to have an abundant life and He generously forgives. He frees us from the burden of guilt and shame. He is generous with His Spirit, that we might be joined to Christ and to one another. He is generous with His love, that we may live lives confident and secure. His gift is the same for life-long Christians and those who are new to the faith; those baptized as infants or just moments before death. wants to give life. Fully, generously, abundantly.

But such generosity is not always appreciated.

In the parable for today, those hired first wanted more; thinking they deserved more and when they didn’t get it, they grumbled-- against the owner of the vineyard. Their discontentment accused this generous owner of being unfair. Somehow, they thought they had been wronged. The day started with joy but ended with anger and bitterness... Because it became about the money.

But for the owner, it wasn’t about the money. If it was, he would never have done what he did. Paying people for work that’s not done is a quick way to go out of business! But he didn’t see it that way. He was providing life. Using all that he had, to help others.

But for those who are all about the money, life isn’t a gift but a competition. Then there are those who think that more money means more stuff, means more life. If that’s where you find yourself or if you are looking for life - in what you have, in the things of this world - you are looking in the wrong place. Then the things of this world have become your idols.

It’s easy to fall into that trap—which the devil sets for us. If only I had this or that I would be happier. If only I could travel here or there . . . But there’s always the temptation of something more and life becomes an endless chasing, and an endless grumbling. Sadly enough, while you’re striving for more stuff, you’re actually getting less life. Because your idols are stealing your life, not giving your life.

The owner of the vineyard, who is, of course, our Lord God, Who is generous to a fault, gives not just gifts… but life… to others. Was it wrong for the owner to be generous?

Do we begrudge others who receive more than us? Are we stingy with mercy and forgiveness? Do we see what we have as gifts of God and rejoice in His generosity to us?

Because rejoicing in the Giver means rejoicing in the one who gave His very life for you. The one who was first became last, so that you who are last might be first. The cross of Christ is the gift of God that gives life now and forever.

Every man, woman, and child receives the same forgiveness, the same Spirit, the same promises and when you receive those gifts, your Father in heaven is not just well-pleased, but overjoyed. There is nothing that gives the owner of the vineyard greater joy, than when you receive His gifts with a grateful heart and thankful that others are receiving the gift too.

We do not know what hour of that day it is for us in our lives- or how soon the Lord will return – but it is not yet the end of the day. He is still calling and bringing others into His vineyard, to give them life. To be generous with them and to give them joy. God the Father rejoices when sinners come and receive His gift of forgiveness and life.

As Christians, we come here each week - not to receive what we’ve earned or get what we deserve - but to receive Jesus and what He has provided for us-- gifts that we need to make it through another week of struggle, of sickness and pain, of hard feelings and hurt feelings, of grumbling and discontent. And we come here to be forgiven, renewed, and reassured that our sins are forgiven and that’s exactly what our kind and generous Father gives us—gifts of life we don’t deserve.

That, my friends, is what the kingdom of heaven is like. Thanks be to God! Amen

Sermon September 17, 2023

Merciful and loving God, it’s hard to comprehend that we are created in Your image, and not the other way around. We are inclined by our human nature to judge others; You by Your divine nature, delight in being gracious. Help us to remember who made us and to whom we belong. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Unforgiveness is the cancer of the soul. It’s a spiritual prison, enslaving the one who refuses to forgive. The stubborn blindness of our sin prevents us from listening to God as He teaches us to forgive. Instead, we see ourselves as losing out if we don’t get the last word.

That’s why Peter looked for loopholes, “How many times, Lord? How many times must I forgive? Seven times?” When is enough, enough? The rabbis of Jesus’ day said three times. Peter wanted to do one better, and so he moved up to seven.

Forgiveness that has limits is really not forgiveness at all. Forgiveness is lavish. Jesus says, “I tell you, not seven, but 70 times seven.”

So when you begin to lose count, you’re on your way to learning what it means to live under the Gospel instead of the Law.

To forgive means to leave behind the wounding words, to let go of how someone else has wronged you. Forgiveness isn’t a bargaining chip: “I’ll forgive you if you promise not to do it again.”

Forgiveness has no ifs, ands, or buts. To forgive is to go on as if the issue in question had never happened. To forgive is to step into freedom, the freedom that is yours as a baptized child of God, purchased with the very life of Christ.

Responding to Peter Jesus told the parable of the unforgiving servant, which is a commentary on the 5th petition of the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our debts, in the same way that we forgive our debtors.”

A king is settling accounts with his servants. A certain fellow has a multi-million-dollar debt hanging over his head, a debt he could only pay if he’d live for 160 years or more. The king demanded that the debtor sell all that he had, as a start to paying off the debt.

Falling on his face, the debtor—grasping at straws, begged, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you back.”

And the king forgave the entire debt and the servant walked away free and clear.

But the forgiven servant went out and finding a man who owed him a measly amount, grabbed him by the throat, “Pay me what you owe!” The man pleaded, using the same words the servant used with the king: “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.” “The man refused to be merciful as he had been shown mercy. He who had received extravagant mercy, had none to give others and had the man thrown into prison.

When the king heard what he had done, he called the scoundrel on the carpet: “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt simply because you asked, but you had no compassion on your fellow servant.”

In blazing anger, the king sent him to the torturers until he could pay all that was owed him. But he couldn’t pay what was owed! So the man by his own greed, had an eternity of torture. He was freed from his debt, until he started choking his debtors.

When we refuse to forgive as God has forgiven us, we put ourselves in prison; and the King isn’t happy. Nothing angers Jesus so much as when we refuse to forgive and in the process, we throw away our freedom in Jesus; we separate ourselves from God—and we are no longer in Christ!

The Lord’s forgiveness is powerful! It releases us from our own sinful trappings. But God’s powerful Word can also cut the other way.

We are commissioned to share the living Word with everyone-- our neighbors, our friends, and especially in our family. God’s word is to go out from us, with the same strong compassion and heartfelt mercy that spoke its way into the core of our being. That’s the way of Christ. Jesus hung on a cross to win the life of forgiveness for you. He did this by dying for our sin, atoning for every sin for all time.

When you look at a person who “owes you,” do you see that person as one for whom Jesus died? And does that person know that? Like love, forgiveness and mercy are traits of a Christian.

You have heard Jesus say, “I forgive you all your sins.” How can one who is forgiven refuse to forgive?

You leave here this morning debt-free. Your sins are as far from as the east is from the west. The debt is paid. The slate is clean. All thanks to Jesus who paid the price, “not with silver or gold, but with His holy and precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death”. are forgiven; you are free.

To live as a disciple of Jesus is to be disciplined in showing forgiveness. It means confessing your sins and taking responsibility for your words and actions.

So when we ask that the Holy Spirit would empower us to forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us, it is just as Christ has done for us.

That is our true thanks for His everlasting mercy!

To forgive someone who has sinned against you, is to be a visible picture of Jesus. When you hear yourself forgiving someone else, you’re hearing God speaking to you from your own mouth His own words of absolution!

Yes, indeed, the forgiveness you speak isn’t yours to begin with; it belongs to Jesus. You are simply the conduit, serving where and how God has called you to serve. Jesus is the Source of forgiveness received and given. Amen.


Sermon - September 10, 2023

Lord of all power and might, author and giver of all good things, graft in our hearts the love of Your name, increase in us true faith, nourish us with all goodness that we might bring forth fruit in the name of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen


Public Service Announcements most often relate to health and safety. One of the earliest PSA came from Smokey the Bear….only you….. More recently PSA was to teach the public that wearing a mask would help prevent the spread of Covid. Please put others first. Wear a mask. Do it for your neighbor.


Now you may agree or disagree with wearing a mask. That’s not really my point. The mindset being taught, is to put the needs of my neighbor ahead of my own, which conflicts with the mindset of our culture. Our world is competitive focused on self: my rights, my getting ahead, greed is good a good thing. We’re indoctrinated from a young age in me first mentality. It’s exceedingly more difficult for us to wrap our minds around thinking less about me and more about my neighbor’s needs— and then add to that our sinful nature which creates a powerful one-two punch—which is exactly what the devil had in mind. Influence people who say they’re Christians but look and live just like the world—that keeps them from being saved and prevents them from helping others.


Now certainly, the true church is different than the world. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world are complete opposites. In the world there are different levels of powers and status. There must be bosses and workers, government and the governed, parents and children. If all that gets stripped away, there will be bedlam. As Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, the worldly orders have been established by God for our good.


The problem is this kind of power and status leeches into God’s kingdom, where it does not belong. In the Church, there is one baptism, one faith, and one Lord. All are equally sinners, all are equal and fully forgiven, all are equally fed, and all equally saved. Whatever you are in the world, there is no difference in the body of Christ. All receive God’s grace and mercy.


So when the disciples ask Jesus, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? It’s the wrong question. It is a worldly question that has no place in the kingdom of God. Yet, we wonder about our place in heaven? What size will my mansion be? That’s really who-will-I-be-greater-than thinking.


So Jesus places a little child--who was not really thinking about the “adult” conversation that was going on, and He puts the child in the midst of the 12 - and says, here. You want to be great? Be like this child. Stop worrying about who’s the greatest and be like a child, completely trusting in God’s provision.


This greatness issue was really difficult for the disciples because it comes up two more times after this. Jesus keeps telling them and us: You’re already great in my eyes! I came for you and to serve you. I died on the cross for you. How much greater can you be? Become a child of your heavenly Father, with complete trust in Him.


We know that Jesus did all that needs to be done to give us eternal life. He gave His very life for us on the cross. He finds us when we lose our way. He liberated us from every sin that was dragging us into hell and put them around His own neck and died with them. and then He rose. Sin, hell, and death no longer have claim on us. Jesus claims you as His child, not theirs.


Each of you come here each week to hear this good news! The world isn’t going to tell you about freedom in Christ Jesus. And while the average amount of time spent awake -- about 112 hours a week, Christians spend roughly 4 hours in God’s word –which includes being in worship, less than 4% of our time awake, each week. Jesus knew we were going to need help—which is where the Holy Spirit comes in. The Spirit working through the word to keep us in Christ Jesus. But the Spirit doesn’t just give information or try to convince you of something, but actually gives you Jesus and His life and His forgiveness. That we may set our minds on the things that are right and, by His mercy, accomplish them.


Accomplish the things that are right in God’s eyes, because you are a child of God. That means as a baptized child of God, I’m going to use my hands and feet to serve others, and not just ignore them. I’m going to use my eyes to read more of God’s word. I’m going to use my tongue to pray more than I already do.


God wants to use you for the benefit of your neighbor; to use you as His blessing to others. So what you do isn’t just to save yourself - what you do, is to love others because Jesus first loved you.


That's the marinating in the love of Jesus we need. Absorbing it with our eyes and ears and mouths. Having Him and His Spirit permeate all our thoughts and desires. Basking in His forgiveness and life. Then we are enabled to set our minds on the things that are right and, by God‘s merciful guiding, accomplish them. Then we are able to model for our children what’s really important—a life in Christ. Amen



9-3-23 Sermon

Almighty God, please help each of us to know with certainty that Your Son Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Please help us to follow in His footsteps that we may faithfully walk in the way that leads to eternal life thru Jesus Christ our Lord amen.

We get the news that a loved one has cancer. A friend loses their job. The doctor says there’s no more that can be done . . . Our natural reaction is: NO! That cannot be.

But our denials don’t change anything. These things do happen—no matter how hard we try to ignore it. So Peter’s reaction in today’s Gospel reading isn’t new to us.

There’s an interesting contrast in the Gospel reading. Jesus sees death as something He MUST do. Peter sees death as something that should NEVER happen. Both are right.

Death should not happen. It was never meant to happen. is the result of sin we have imposed on ourselves.

If there’s going to be any help -- any hope for us at all, Jesus had to die to destroy the power death has over us. We must understand that sin isn’t just doing wrong things. It separates us from God and robs us of life. And this vicious cycle repeats itself as long as we live.

The only hope we have is that the Son of the living God, had to die. For me—for you. He had to break the power of sin and death or it would never have been broken and Jesus did just that. But like Peter many of us are still struggling to make it personal.

Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone—if you would come after me, let him deny himself—you deny yourself and take up his cross—you take up your cross and follow me—you follow me.

We aren’t told how Peter responded to this statement of Jesus, but the natural reaction is –NO, I don’t want to do that. There must be some other way . . .

We’ve come to think that in life, there will always be options. If one way doesn’t work, try something else. If one tactic or strategy isn’t working, google it. Or we simply buckle down and try harder.

But for eternal life, there are no other strategies or tactics. There’s only Jesus.

Now, I hope all of you are sitting there thinking: Ja, I already know all this. But here’s the question: you know these words in your mind and even believe them in your heart…but are you actually living them?

I don’t expect you to answer, because I already know the answer from looking in my own mirror. There’s a disconnectinconsistency…lack of desire…

We talk about eternal life, but live as if this life is all there is. We talk about God’s kingdom and keep building our own. We talk self-denial but we look for that pat on the back. say we follow Jesus, but we want following him as easy as it is to follow someone on social media.

Somehow, we need to connect our hearts and minds with our hands and feet. That’s what Paul says in today’s Epistle.

Outdo one another in showing honor. Be constant in prayer. Never be conceited. Never avenge yourself. Feed your hungry enemy. Give your enemy something to drink. Repay no one evil for evil but overcome evil with good. Bless those who persecute you. Paul is talking about a heavy cross to bear.

Bearing the cross is often thought of as suffering and that’s true. But it’s even more. Paul is talking about death—that our old, sinful, self must die, and a new person arise. It’s about focusing on God and others. Simply put, It’s all starts with Jesus, and ends with Jesus!

In Holy Baptism Jesus’ cross was first applied to you. There your sins were forgiven and you rose to live a new life. Only your sinful nature got the best of you. Satan’s temptations sounded reasonable to you. The ways of the world looked too good to pass up. and you followed them, not Christ.

So Jesus called out to you:Come back. Repent and live. You’re renewed and forgiven.” But this life isn’t easy and by ourselves, His cross is too heavy to bear.

The evil one offers the whole world if you forfeit your soul. PT Barnum wasn’t the only one to realize there’s a sucker born every minute. Satan is the biggest con man of all time. But there is no fooling Jesus. He is the truth, straight up, no sugar-coating Savior. We need the strength of Jesus. Without it, the alternative isn’t pretty.

But let me tell you this, if you follow Jesus, satan will hound you, bite at your heels, set traps for you and try to bring you down. Only with Jesus will he not succeed. He might win a battle here or there, but he’s already lost the war. Don’t be one of his casualties.

We live in a world where evil seems to prosper and the righteous suffer. As true as that might seem, the words and promises of God are a must. This world will let you down. But the Word of God will not. The empty tomb, where the stone was rolled away is your proof. What Jesus said, He did.

And then finally, Jesus says,Truly, there are some who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.“

For many physical death will be the gateway to eternal life. When someone we love dies, it is bitter.

But for those baptized into Christ Jesus and fed by Him and forgiven by Him, death is the entrance into eternal life. Jesus transformed it from the end of life to the beginning of life. So when the disciples died-- often in horrible ways- death was not bitter for them. In fact they often rejoiced because the Lord Jesus, was with them. Taking them with Him through death to life.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and in Him you can face life and death with confidence, which enables you to live - not in fear, but in faith. Not worrying about your little kingdom, but looking forward to the kingdom of God. Knowing that the crosses you bear are giving your life real meaning as a child of God. God the Father wants you to live - now - and with Him forever.

That’s the mind of God, and the words of Jesus. To which we - and Peter, say:Yes, Lord! Your will be done! I live my life in you now and forever.” AMEN!



8-27-23 Sermon - Matthew 16:13-20

Gracious God, You have called us together in this place. Please open our hearts and lives to receive Your life-giving Word. Please open our very souls to receive Your challenge. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing to You our Rock and Redeemer. Amen


What’s in a name?


Well, apparently, a lot more than we might think. School districts, counties, and states are willing to spend millions of dollars to change the names of buildings, roads, and holidays which bear a name now thought to be unworthy of such an honor. Those names that were seemingly good, apparently, are no longer and must be removed.


You might argue that money could be better spent other ways. But it does point out the reality that your good name today may not be a good name tomorrow. Sometimes the bad is forgotten and the good lives on. But sometimes it’s the other way around.


That’s the question Jesus is asking: Who do you say that I am?


Jesus’ concern is not for Himself that His name might live on, but for each one of us, because there is salvation in no one else--there is no other name by which we can be saved.


Simon Peter replies: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.


Just 3 weeks ago, we considered the miracle of feeding the 5,000+ people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. 2 weeks ago Jesus and Simon Peter walked on the Sea of Galilee. And last week, Jesus answered the prayer of a Canaanite mother and freed her daughter from demon oppression. Powerful stuff.


But the words of Simon Peter are even greater than all the previous miracles. We’re not talking about an empty heart filled, or a struggling heart strengthened, we’re talking about a hardened heart turned into a believing heart.


And that’s a far greater miracle, because faith determines where You spend eternity. God’s Word and Spirit worked in Simon Peter’s heart and it is upon his faith in Jesus’ that the church was and is built.


That’s why it should be very concerning for all of us, when the name of Jesus is removed or stripped of its power.

  • One example is when churches change their name to something trendy which does not reflect Christianity at all.
  • Jesus name is stripped of its power every time it is used as an expression of shock--OMG. Have you noticed that the names of other gods are never taken in vain?


That’s because the name of Jesus is the only name that saves. So it is the only name satan wants to rob of its power. Satan uses every means possible to destroy our life saving relationship with Jesus.


But we all have to admit, we’re good with the name of Jesus as long as I agree with what He is teaching.


We all tend to ignore take out of context those parts of Scripture we don’t like, because we’re comfortable in our sin.


And that makes us all guilty of trying to make Jesus into what WE want Him to be.


So today, what we declare with Simon Peter, really is a miracle. It is the work of God in you, as Jesus builds His Church one soul at a time.


Jesus said to Simon Peter… You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


Then Jesus tells him: I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.


That simple means how we live out our faith here on earth, will determine where we spend eternity.


We have been washed clean and fed by Jesus. He has worked in our hearts to give us faith and it is because of the name of Jesus that the gates of hell will have no hold on you.


The reason Jesus told the 12 disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Christ, because he didn’t want anything to hinder His way to the cross.


It is at the cross that Jesus needs to be seen as the Christ - not in His miracles - but on the cross. Only the one who said “Father, forgive them” can do that. Only Jesus who died and rose again can grant eternal life. Only Jesus and all who believe on his name he gives the power to become the children of God.


Jesus is the name that we confess, not just verbally, but as we live out our faith by forgiving others.


We can live every day in the knowledge that the name we bear is greater than anything this world can give us. That’s how precious believers are in the sight of God.


And so we proclaim the name of Jesus as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, given and shed for you until He comes again.


Lots of people say lots of things about Jesus, but who do you say that He is? I pray that our declaration is as solid as the declaration Peter made.


August 6, 2023 - Sermon

Heavenly Father, though we do not deserve Your goodness, still You provide for all our needs of body and soul. Please grant us thankful hearts that we may acknowledge Your gifts and serve You in willing obedience. Thru Jesus Christ our Lord Amen

Jesus “Feeding the 5,000” as it has come to be known, is only counting the men who were present—not including women and children. The actual numbers were considerably higher. This account is found in all four Gospels, but Matthew’s account provides the fewest details.

Matthew omits Mark’s emphasis of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, who sees the crowds as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Mark has them sitting in a lush pasture, out in the wilderness.

Matthew also omits Luke’s emphasis on Jesus’ teaching the people and speaking to them of the kingdom of God before feeding them.

Matthew does not include the details that John gives about testing His disciples, because Jesus already knew what He was going to do. Passover was not mentioned. The young boy who provided the five loaves of bread and two fish is not mentioned.

All of those detail are stripped away. All we have left is the one clear focus: Jesus showing compassion. And compassion is seldom practical, which really makes it difficult for the disciples --who are practical. Some of them were businessmen before following Jesus. They knew the value of a denarii.

It would have been common sense for Jesus to send the crowds away. The day was almost over. was a desolate place. There wasn’t any food out in the middle of nowhere. I’m guessing even the disciples’ stomachs were rumbling and grumbling. So being realistic, Jesus should have sent them away.

But Jesus rarely did the practical thing. He always does the compassionate thing. Compassion interrupts what we were doing to minister to someone else. Compassion makes us go out of our way to help. Compassion means sacrificing time, or money, or energy, or sleep, or whatever else you were really hoping to get done. That’s why compassion is so rare in our world today. Our world of tight budgets, little time, and lots of demands. Compassion just isn’t practical.

So how does a compassionate Jesus respond to His practical disciples? He invites them to be compassionate with Him. They need not go away; you give them something to eat.

And their response: We are not able. We have only five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus says: Bring them here to me.

I’ve often wondered what tone of voice Jesus used when he said that…exasperated, disappointed—the disciples still didn’t get it. Or did He have a little smile on His face--showing compassion to His disciples too. Maybe Jesus was trying to teach them that with Him, you have everything. Enough to feed 10,000 people. Enough to feed a world with His Body and Blood. No place is desolate or empty when Jesus is there.

Maybe we all need to remember that with Jesus we have everything.

So Jesus takes the bread and fish and looking up to His Father, says thank you. Thank you for the people. Thank you for the food. Thank you for the opportunity to feed them all. Thank you for these disciples who need to learn that God isn’t practical - He’s compassionate. That’s what Jesus shows us: A God who cares about the needs of His people and provides.

And this has been true all along – we worship a compassionate, giving God.

Paul wrote about all that God gave to His people in the Old Testament. God chose them out of all the nations on the earth; lead them, fed them, protected them, gave them a land of their own. God was faithful to His people then as He is faithful to his people now.

So gave them so much & so much God has given to us! But how often are we blind to it, and blind to our Lord’s compassion. How quickly we forget His work and faithfulness. How quickly we trust only what I have in my hands or what I can do, instead of the fact that we are in His hands.

The evil one & our own sinfulness leads us to doubt the goodness of God. We are tempted to think that God hasn’t given us what we think we need. With Jesus we have more than enough. The hands that baptized you, now feed you. The hands that shield you were the hands nailed to the cross for you. The price we could not pay was paid for all our shortcomings, our rebellion, our doubts, our lack of compassion. We have far more than enough because we have Jesus.

Jesus invites each one of us to be compassionate. Like the disciples, He gives us the heart to do so. The Christian life calls on us to do a lot of impractical things, where we put our money, how we spend our time, all of which may not give us the biggest return on our investment—at least in the world’s eyes. We get interrupted, sidetracked & asked to sacrifice. And that’s not always easy--maybe it’s never easy! But maybe--just maybe the interruption will get our attention that we might show compassion right now!

In terms of practicality, it might have been better for Jesus to have chosen different disciples; or better Christians. But where would that leave us? Thanks be to God that He is not practical & has called each one of us a child of God. Amen


July 30, 2023 Sermon

O God, savior of all who trust in You, with You as our ruler and guide, may we so pass through this temporal world, that we will not lose things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pretend with me for a moment that Jesus has returned to judge the living and the dead….and now you stand before Him seeing Him with your own eyes.

For all those who have believed in Jesus as the only way of salvation, it’s a joyous moment. For those who have not believed in Him scripture tells us there will be separation and eternal suffering.

What is the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God like? Jesus tells us it’s like the hidden treasure, and the fine pearl.

We've all seen those Mastercard commercials, which list off the price of several things – gas for the car, – airline tickets, spending a tropical vacation with the family! “Some things in life are priceless, for everything else, there is Mastercard”. As far as commercials go, it does makes us think about what is truly valuable in life.

Take the man in this first parable, who found the hidden treasure in the field. We are not absolutely sure what that treasure might have been: A stash of gold…precious jewels…it doesn’t matter. The point is it was SO valuable, that he HAD to have it. He sold everything he had – his total net worth –in exchange for the field (and the treasure), and presumably, ended up a very wealthy man.

Likewise there was a merchant looking for pearls…the perfect shape, the right color and size. When he found that one pearl of great value, he liquidated everything for that one precious jewel.

Now, one interpretation of these two parables is that the kingdom of God is of ultimate value…being a follower of Jesus, having faith in Him, hearing His word – are more important than ANYTHING else. Our faith – which holds onto God’s grace in Christ – is our greatest treasure. God is #1 most important.

But if we take this meaning of the parable to heart, we must ask ourselves: Is God really the most important in my life? Why do I take God for granted?”

In other words, “how come I don’t pray more?

How come I don’t give more joyfully to support God’s work?

How come I can’t even love my neighbor as myself?

Am I dragging the gift God has given me through the mud?”

Well, to the “how come and why questions, the answer is simply, “because I am a sinner”. And to the, “Am I dragging God’s gift to me through the mud” the answer very likely would be, “yes”.

There is another way of looking at these 2 parables. Instead of thinking you’re hunting for the treasure, think of God seeking the treasure. Think of God as the merchant, seeking the pearl of great price. Now the treasure hidden in the field is – YOU and ME! Now the pearl of great price is – the sinner who becomes a child of God.

The purchase price for us is paid by Jesus—God’s greatest treasure, seeking to make us His treasured possessions.

Jesus gave all He had, to make us His own.

Martin Luther put it this way in the Small Catechism:
has purchased and won me from all sin death and the power of the devil, not with silver or gold, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death…That I may be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”

Now, certainly, we have no value of our own. We bring nothing to the table, no merit, no worth. Scripture says the best we can offer God is like filthy rags.

But God sees us, as treasures – great pearls – worth even the life of His own Son. And there at the cross of Jesus He makes us into the treasures that shine with heaven’s brightness forever. What are you worth to God? Everything. Eternal salvation: priceless!

In our first understanding of the parable, we could never have the kingdom. Nothing we can give up for the kingdom of God will buy our way into heaven. Only Jesus can pay the price, making Him the one and only way to eternal life. Even if we literally sell everything we have, give it to the poor, it still isn’t enough. We’d still be lost, w/o Jesus.

But Christ has paid the price and bought us back. Our value to God depends on HIM not on US. This is why we can rest assured knowing the treasure of God’s kingdom is ours forever.

Jesus paid the check. His grace will never be declined. His mercy will never go bankrupt. His love will never be repossessed. His promises are more than FDIC insured – they are eternally trustworthy and true.

These parables of Christ illustrate the great value of belonging to His kingdom, and I believe even more, the great value that God places on us by paying the ultimate price for us at the cross.

May we always treasure Him who has treasured us so very much. Amen


July 23, 2023 Sermon

Dear Heavenly Father, Jesus came into our world, to reveal Your will for our lives, and to redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, please open our hearts and minds to receive Your Word, that we might discern its truth. Please inspire us to live our lives according to Your word, that we might witness to Your grace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Many people believe Christianity is a delusion for weak people. In fact many will say the existence of evil is proof that God does not exist or that He is not powerful enough to remove evil from our world.

But Jesus is telling us today that there is evil in the world because God is patient, and merciful--that’s the meaning of the Parable of the Weeds of the Field that Jesus tells us today. The servants were eager to pull out the weeds. Their master, the planter, told them to leave the weeds for the sake of the good plants, lest they be pulled out too.

It’s easy for us to understand that concept when it comes to plants, but not so much when it comes to people. I’m guessing all of us have thought that this world would be a much better place if we could just get rid of the evil ones. Yet God says it’s better for the evil to remain.

As human beings we can never fully understand the ways of God because our hearts are infected and affected by sin.

None of us know all the ways God is able to use the believers and unbelievers, for His good. In every vocation in this world and life, there are those of good and bad seed, and yet in fulfilling their vocation, God is using them for good for you.

There certainly are struggles-- conflict and heartache in our world between right and wrong, between those who follow God’s Word and those who do not. We all know evil isn’t idle. Pontius Pilate was part of a government that provided peace in the world, yet also crucified Jesus.

Judging the weeds and the wheat too quickly could cause great harm.

Take the apostle Paul for instance - he definitely looked like a weed as he persecuted Christians. Should he have been pulled out?

Or what about Judas? As one of the 12, he looked like a good plant for three years. He helped to hand out food to the 5,000. Should he have been left?

What about anyone of us? When you hurt someone, when you held a grudge and refused to forgive, when you did what you knew was wrong. What if “the weed police” pulled you right then and there? But God didn’t allow it. God has been merciful to all of us!

As human beings, we know of the here and now, and maybe even a bit of history, but there’s a lot we don’t know. So how do we judge? How do we decide?

sculptor was once asked how he managed to take a block of stone and create a beautiful piece of art. He said: I just cut off all that doesn’t belong to the finished piece. In his mind he could see what others could not.

That’s how it is with God. We may want to rush in and start pulling the weeds, start doing what we think. But we can’t see as God sees.

So our Father in heaven says, be patient. Live with the weeds for a while. The time will come for the harvest, and then the separation will take place. Now is the time for mercy and patience.

The apostle Paul said: the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us. A new creation is coming, one that we cannot even begin to imagine!

I think it’s important for us to remember, God doesn’t conquer evil by destroying evildoers. He destroys evil with forgiveness. Conquering evil by destroying evildoers is like pulling weeds without getting the roots - they’re just going to grow back again. Forgiveness goes down to the roots, and even has the power to change weeds into wheat.

The goodness and mercy of a God came down into the midst of this evil world, that He might swallow it up …with the might of His atonement;with the power of His death and resurrection; …with the might of His forgiveness.

That’s the only reason why we’re still here. The blood of Jesus, shed on the cross and poured out for our sin and evil – that we might be forgiven--past, present, and future!

There is no question that you and I, deserve to be pulled. But a good and merciful God said wait…. be patient. Let me feed them, care for them, nurture them. And so you are who you are, because God is merciful, as He is to all. We must wait and be patient. God is at work in you, He is working for you, and He works through you. We have no way of knowing all that God is doing. So we trust His Word. We trust that He knows best.

Lord, please help us to see Your hand at work in us and around us. Please help us to live in faith and hope, with forgiveness, not just in our hearts, but on our lips, and in our deeds. Please help us to rejoice in You even now in the midst of evil, knowing that we will also rejoice with You in Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name Amen


7-16-23 Sermon

Lord, we humbly ask that You would mercifully receive the prayers of Your people, that we may both perceive and know what things we need to be about to faithfully proclaim salvation in Jesus’ name. Please empower us to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done so many will come to know Jesus as Savior, Lord and king. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen

Huge crowds came to see and hear the famous rabbi teach.

One day there were so many people that Jesus went out in a boat offshore to be heard. A great crowd had gathered for various reasons!

• Some were curiosity seekers and Jesus was definitely the best show around. They weren’t going to miss it!

• Some were skeptics who were there to make fun of Jesus and all the suckers lapping up this performance!

• Some were thrill seekers. They flitted from one sensation to the next like a honeybee grazing on flowers.

• But other people came to Jesus with an open heart. They genuinely wanted to hear his message and recognized the truth of his word.

Jesus knew about the nay sayers and thrill seekers. But that didn’t stop Him. Jesus only needed to be faithful to his purpose and his purpose was to announce that the Kingdom of God had come into their midst.

So Jesus tells this parable to the variegated crowd of people about a farmer. About planting and about the condition of his field. He took a handful of seed and threw the seed in a broad arc and watched as it fell to the ground.

The seed fell on the nearby pathway. Some landed in a rocky patch. Some in a weedy area. But other seed landed in good soil.

The farmer’s life involved a tremendous amount of risk. Farming is at the mercy of many unknowns. Crops can fail because of a late frost, flooding, hail, and drought. Swarms of locusts, beetle infestations. Nothing is certain until the harvest is in the barn.

But the farmer is not discouraged. Fear of disaster is the last thing a farmer is thinking about when he plants a crop.

Planting is all about hope. Even as you put that seed in the soil you can already envision the harvest! You can see those cucumbers, taste those juicy, homegrown tomatoes, even before you put the seed into the earth.

Planting is future oriented. It’s an act of hope. Nothing is more optimistic, than planting seeds! Hope: is what keeps us going in January when the seed catalogues arrive while we’re still moving snow. Gardeners and farmers are optimists!

As Jesus gazes at the diverse crowd before him, He sees the future harvest. He remembers the words from the prophet Isaiah:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God’s word will not fail in its purpose. His mission will bear fruit in due season.

As present-day disciples of Christ, like Jesus, we are to sow the seed of God’s word with His blessing, always trusting that it will bear good fruit.

Jesus sowed his words and actions in the fervent belief of his harvest. His final days on this earth seemed to appear that he’d dumped his entire bag of grain directly onto the pathway. The angry birds of his hostile enemies swooped in and consumed him. His whole ministry was laid bare on the cross. His life gobbled up by death.

But the seed cannot grow unless it dies. Until the seed is buried, it cannot be born again. Jesus could not germinate the new Kingdom Life until he had been buried in the grave. On the cross, it looked like he’d just wasted his entire ministry. He’d cast all his seeds to the wind.

But that Word-of-God-made-flesh was going to accomplish that which it purposed! Instead of the thorn of death, the cypress tree of new life was going to arise! In the place of the brier of sin, up sprang the myrtle of grace! No, Jesus’ word was not sown in vain or despair. It was sown in hope, the hope and knowledge that God’s good grace has come to redeem the world unto God’s self.

That is the power of God’s love. That love is the seed Christ came to sow. May that seed, planted in our hearts, sprout, grow and bear the fruits of divine love – 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold!

Almighty God, You call Your church to witness that in Christ we are reconciled to You. Help us to proclaim the “Good News” of Your love, that all who hear it may turn to You and further spread the seed of Your Word. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Sermon - July 9, 2023

Dear Heavenly Father, You came among us in the person of Your Son, Jesus the Christ, to reveal Your will for our lives, and through Your grace, to redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, please open our hearts to embrace Your Son in faith, and grant us humility and strength, that we might learn to live as faithful disciples of Jesus. This we ask in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

Tension, financial stress, exhaustion, fatigue, sound familiar?

This may sound like your daily work routine or it may sound like your struggle searching for the truth and answers to unsolved questions.

Today’s Gospel is a message of relief that Jesus comes to give us when we rely on Him for our strength and peace. It’s a message about taking the yoke of Jesus willingly, walking through life side by side with Him and following the leadership that He gives us daily.

A farmer was plowing his field with a team of oxen. One of the animals was a little bigger than the other. When asked about it the farmer replied: “The big animal was older and well trained while the smaller one was young and new to the yoke. The older ox knew his way around the field and could teach him how to plow, otherwise the younger one would never learn. By himself the younger ox would pull himself to death, but together he learned to cooperate and rest in the strength of the older ox.

That's what Jesus means when he talks about carrying our burdens and giving us rest. He wants us to take His yoke and submit to His leading, that He might bear the weight of our burdens.

A yoke is not something that we see used much anymore. But it’s a piece of wood attached between two animals usually oxen or horses. The two animals can pool their strength-- pulling in the same direction-- to pull heavier loads than one animal could handle alone.

The yoke connects the two animals so that they work together toward a common goal. They can’t stray far from each other and they have to follow the same path. That’s what Jesus is talking about when He says we are to come to him to share in His yoke. We follow His lead submitting to Him as Lord and Savior.

A young man was wadding waist deep water in the shallow part of a lake. Unknowingly he stepped off an underwater ledge into 15 ft of water. A few seconds later he was flailing his arms and gasping for breath, struggling to stay on top of the water. The lifeguard attentively watched the situation.

A friend of the struggling young man cried out to the lifeguard, "He can’t swim, you’ve got to help him."

The lifeguard replied: "No one can help him yet. I’ll help him when he’s ready." The lifeguard slowly swam toward the struggling young man. When the young man stopped his struggles and the experienced lifeguard quickly brought him to shore for a successful rescue. Later the friend asked the lifeguard, "Why did you wait so long to help my friend." The lifeguard responded, "As long as he was struggling to save himself, I would have risked being pulled under with him. Only when he had given up was I able to save him."

It is our sinful human nature to fight against the will of God. The apostle Paul realized this about himself, as we heard in Romans 7: “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in my flesh.. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Paul knew that he was nowhere near good enough or strong enough to carry that load. And you and I can’t do it either.

If we continue to struggle thru life on our own, we’ll get nowhere. Jesus is waiting for us to take His invitation and submit to His leadership so He can bear the weight of our burdens.

Jesus has defeated every temptation to which we fall victim. He is stronger than any of us in every conceivable way. He’s powerful, and knowledgeable, and He has a compassionate, forgiving heart.

In those times when we feel like we don’t know where to turn, Jesus willingly takes the load off of our backs and bears it Himself. We can rest in the strength of Jesus as He carries through the burdens of our life if we but let him.

What burden are you carrying around right now? Ask Jesus to take it or give you the strength to bear it. Allow yourself to be yoked to Jesus and He will lead you.

Jesus says, "Come to be, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul."




July 2, 2023 - Sermon

O God of light, shine brightly, even through the gloom of our afflictions. Shine brightly, so that we can see the way to live a righteous life before You. Help us to be gracious, not rude; truthful, not dishonest; patient, not expedient; compassionate, not cruel; full of joy and not despairing. Through Christ our Lord Amen.

In Matthew 10:42, Jesus speaks of sharing a cup of water. What He means is to share ourselves; living a Christian life is a life of relationships, both with God and with other people. He’s talking about the humble act of giving ourselves to others. It’s called “servant evangelism”-- showing the love of God through our actions. Ordinary things can impact people in extraordinary ways if done in Jesus’ name.

There is a story of a humble hotel clerk living in Philadelphia working in a little third-class hotel. Late one night two tired elderly people were looking for a room. “Mister, please tell us you have a room. My wife and I have been all over the city looking for a place to stay. We didn’t know about the big convention that’s here. Every hotel is full. We’re dead tired. Please, tell us you have a place where we can sleep.”

The clerk politely answered, “I’m sorry but I don’t have a single room available. But you can have my room. I work at night and sleep in the daytime. It’s not as nice as the other rooms, but it’s clean, and I’d be happy for you to be my guests for tonight.”

The elderly couple didn’t hesitate to take the room. next morning, as they were checking out, they asked to see the night manager. He came to the front desk and recognized the couple, hoping they had had a good night’s sleep. y thanked him most sincerely. Then the elderly man said, “You’re a great manager. I am planning to build a big hotel in New York. Would you be my general manager?”

The clerk didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure if this man was delusional. He finally stammered, “It sounds great.” The agreement was made.

The elderly man was none other than John Astor--the builder of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The night clerk became the best-known hotel man in the world all because of a humble act of service.

The point is not that we are rewarded for doing good deeds, but that simple acts of kindness can produce much greater results. We all have opportunities every day to show love of God through our actions.

The acts of kindness Jesus showed were also labors of love and that’s what He expects from all of us. These acts don’t need to be complex or extraordinary.

God loves us in so many ways. He feeds us, clothes us, provides for our physical needs. He also gives us strength when times are tough and comforts us when we experience loss. He’s there when we succeed and when we fail. He shows his unprecedented love through the sacrifice of his Son for us. His grace is our reward.

I know only too well, there are times we find it difficult to smile, let alone serve. Sometimes, what we do might seem inadequate, especially when compared to the sacrifices He made for us.

To share Jesus in practical ways comes from the Holy Spirit within us. Paul knew this. Even when imprisoned, he knew and experienced the power of Christ at work.

Jesus’ service and sacrifice led to our salvation. With the power of God’s love at work in our hearts we become the hands and feet of Jesus. Jesus the night before he died prayed in John 17:21, that all might become one heart and mind—Just as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent me.

So what can we learn about sharing a cup of cold water? You are an important part of ministry and God showed just how important you are with this tremendous sacrifice. Jesus was a servant and we are to reflect that in our own actions.

Every act and every word are important because they should reflect the love of God that is in us.

Jesus was a carpenter. He faced the ordinary trials of life in the market, in the town, on the roads and in the temple. He tackled each of ordinary situations in extraordinary ways because all of his actions showed the love of God. He used the usual situations of daily living to show the unusual caring nature of our heavenly Father.

As you freely accept God’s grace and love that He has showered upon you then freely share it with those around you.

Dearest Lord Jesus, You lead us through lush, green pastures, and thorny briar patches of life. Please give us ears to listen for Your voice, eyes to see Your path, and faith to trust them both. Amen.


6-25-23 Sermon

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son, Jesus to reveal Your Word for our lives, and thru His death and resurrection, redeem us from sin and death. Thru the power of Your Holy Spirit, please open our hearts and minds, that we might receive His Word with thanksgiving, and strive to live our lives accordingly. This we ask in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

     Ever feel like you’re not appreciated or things are too hard?

     Or that it’s just not worth it anymore?

     I’m sure the disciples had days like that too. Jesus tells them in today’s Gospel reading, that they’d be hated—like all the prophets were hated. They’d be persecuted, because they were speaking and following God’s Word. Sin never likes to be uncovered or corrected. It wants to be hidden in darkness. So to expose it, or speak to the contrary, the wrath of sin will come down on you.

     I’m reasonable sure the disciples questioned what they’d gotten into. They may have even had a pity party or two. Plus, I’m guessing there was questioning that went thru their minds:

     This is the thanks we get for giving up everything!

     We left our jobs and families and homes only to go out and try to help a stubborn bunch of people?

     There are times when we’ve all had those feelings. As a parent, a child, a spouse, a friend, as a Christian in an anti-Christian world—we feel used and taken for granted. This gig’s nothing like I thought it would be . . .

     Or… maybe you’ve been the cause of someone else’s despair—because of your sinful attitude: stubbornness, pride.

     Well we all have been on both sides of this issue. If not showing it to others in the world, then certainly we’ve acted this way toward God. Not only do we continue to repeat the same sins but think nothing of it.

     It’s that attitude that Paul is describing in the Epistle reading: I can sin because I know Jesus will forgive me!

     Or--Jesus knows I’ll keep sinning so He’ll keep forgiving - what a deal!

     I know I shouldn’t do this, I know I shouldn’t say this, but . . . I’m going to anyway and God will forgive me!

     Paul calls that attitude being a slave to sin.

     The world will say it’s freedom - to do whatever you want—follow your desires and urges, whatever they may be… because freedom is good. The world has it wrong.

     That’s not freedom when you’re controlled by your lusts, temper and pride, and ever-changing moods… that’s not freedom. That’s slavery! You have been deceived!

      Humanity has a long history of the rebellion and stubbornness from Adam and Eve down to you and me today. Who could blame God if He threw His hands up and said, “Fine. I’m done.”

      But God didn’t leave us in our slavery. Instead He threw up His hands on the cross, to set us free for something much better. Anyone who continues down the road of bitterness and division will find that it leads to death and hell. Only the road of faith and love leads to eternal life.

     Jesus set us free when He became the slave in our place. He lived a perfect life and died a sacrificial death, to set you free.

     Who do you want to serve? Sin which leads to death or Jesus the Savior who leads to life?

     It's in Holy Baptism that this divine transformation begins. When you were baptized, Jesus threw off the yoke of sin that none of us are not strong enough to do ourselves, and re-yokes us to Himself. A Good Shepherd, forgives our sin, binds our wounds, and feeds us with His very Body and Blood. Jesus will search for the one who rebelled and wandered so not a single soul - should perish.

     He sent the disciples out, calling all people to repentance. We too, must confess that all of us have lived as if God did not matter. We’ve followed our own urges and desires.

      We may not know why things happen the way they do, and maybe it might seem like evil is winning--that is not so. It looked that way when Jesus hung on the cross too, but it was in reality the greatest good.

     So even while the trials and troubles still rage on, even while the burdens are heavy and sin seems so strong, even though you cannot see the victory now, it is yours in Christ.

     And it is only in Christ, that the influence of sin, satan, death, and hell can be removed. For He who has delivered the life of Jesus from the hand of evildoers, delivers all those who are believers too. Amen


June 18, 2023 Sermon

We praise You, O God of planting, growth, and harvest, giving thanks for all Your provisions. praise You, O God for the beauty of this world and the love that created it. May each one of us through our lives be a blessing to others now and in all the days to come. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jesus was going from town to town, preaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and affliction. When He saw the crowds, He did not avoid them because they were so sinful and so rebellious. Rather He saw the crowds and was filled with compassion.

Jesus saw people who were harassed and helpless; people who were anxious and disheartened. didn’t merely look at the sin but looked at the reason for their sin. They were like sheep without a shepherd. The solution to every person’s situation in life, is the gospel. It is the only answer that can provide help and give hope to the world.

In the gospel from Matthew 9, Jesus is sending out His disciples to tell others the kingdom of God is near. “Heal the sick” Jesus tells them. “Feed the hungry, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and seek the lost.”

But then Jesus told the twelve to only go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It was not the right time for the Gentiles. They were to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was near to the people of Israel.

In short, Jesus told them, don’t even go into the non-Jewish villages. Don’t you think that is out of character for Jesus? Why would the Son of God, who came to take away the sin of the world, instruct His followers to ignore and exclude a huge segment of the world’s population? That would be like saying, don’t talk to the Germans, Norwegians, or Swedes. other words all of us!

It was all because Jesus had a plan as to how his ministry would unfold on this planet. The Jews were God’s Chosen People – in fact, they are STILL God’s Chosen People – and God would not abandon them. Jesus actually commanded His disciples to pass over the Gentiles. But the last words spoken by Jesus before He ascended into heaven reiterated His strategy: “and you shall be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus’ plan was to start with the Jews and go out from there. This is why, whenever Jesus entered a new town, He stopped by the Temple to pray. He joined the worshippers on the Sabbath day in the synagogue. He celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples, just as faithful Jewish people had done for centuries. Does it mean that Gentiles were unimportant to Jesus? Not at all. It meant that first He would reach out to the Jews, and then the Gentiles would be grafted in later.

Here we are, two thousand years later, in Garfield, Minnesota, in a congregation comprised entirely of Gentile Christians. Jesus’ strategy worked! Much of the early church was Jewish Christian, today the church is made up of more Gentiles who love Jesus.

But who is the target market of the 21st century Christian Church? I’d be surprised if that question keeps any of us awake at night, but it is a question that should concern us. But you see there is a dilemma when a target market for ministry is the sole focus. If you focus on some, others will be excluded. If our target were the young families, we automatically exclude older people and people who are single. Any time we single out a certain group of people, we exclude many more people.

Our target market—our focus must be those people who need Jesus Christ in their lives. It includes everyone and excludes no one.

The purpose of ministry is not to fill the pews with people, but to give people hope and fill hearts with faith. Those who are actively involved in church spend a great deal of time talking to people who are like us; who think like us, and believe like us, and worship like us. We don’t venture outside our comfort zones to share our faith with those who have none. Statistically speaking, we tend not to invite unchurched people to join us. Which then becomes a rather unproductive activity.

80% of church-shopping is done in the summertime. When school’s out, when people move to new neighborhoods; that’s when they are also most likely looking for a new church and yet most churches cut back in the summertime. Think about that: “Hi, welcome to our church, but there’s no Sunday School in the summer, the evening Bible study is in recess, and our senior pastor will be gone most of August.

There may be less programing in the summer, but all of you demonstrate the ministry of St. Luke’s better than anyone or anything else. You are the best attraction this church has to offer. That’s the challenge that I put before you—before all of us. Intentionally invite folks to worship with us this summer.

There is a world around us that needs to know Jesus. Every one of us are God’s ambassadors! You have been called to speak and live God’s language of love. Tell someone—Jews or Gentiles in your world that there is a God who loves sinners, and we know it’s true, because He loves us. This is the message we have been sent to tell. Please take a moment right now and pray for someone you know who needs to be invited to worship with us…someone who needs to know Jesus. Amen.


Sermon June 11, 2023

Let us pray: O God of wisdom and justice, please deliver us from our foolishness of ignoring You. Please teach us Your wisdom that we may embody Your love to all Your people, as Jesus modeled for us, in whose name we pray theses and all prayers. Amen.

Jesus had been doing many miracles—healings, casting out demons, calming the raging sea, etc. The Pharisees had been hearing about all these things and were not happy with to say the least. Upon His arrival in Capernaum, Jesus forgave the sins of a crippled man and then healed the man’s physical problems. As was the case, the Pharisees really got upset with him and accused Jesus of cursing God. The crowd on the other hand, praised God for giving Jesus the power to do such great things.

The people of Jesus’ day believed sins and calamity went hand-in-hand. If you got sick or had an accident -- it was because you sinned. When a person was healed, they’d obviously been forgiven of their sins.

It was in Capernaum, where saw Matthew sitting in the tax booth collecting taxes. Tax collectors then were even more disliked than the IRS today. In the Jewish mind, the tax collector, was a dishonorable person. Even worse, Matthew was a Jewish tax collector working for the Roman government. People saw him as a traitor, making his living by overcharging, cheating the people from whom he was collecting taxes. His parents refused to see him and in fact declared him to be dead to them.

When Jesus encountered Matthew instead of ignoring him or making crude remarks, Jesus looked him in the eye and said, “Follow Me” and Matthew did and his life was changed forever because Jesus chose him to be a disciple. Now if someone said to anyone of us, “Follow me!” the most logical questions we might ask would be, “Where are we going?” Matthew didn’t ask any questions of Jesus, he just got up and followed him.

So what does this scripture have to do with us?

We do have several things in common with Matthew. He was a blatant sinner. He cheated people; his only concern was how much money he could pocket for himself. He obviously didn’t go to the temple regularly, or he wouldn’t have been doing what he was doing.

But we don’t purposely cheat people…or do we?

Who or what do we put first in our lives?

At least we don’t skip church…at least-- not too often.

If we are honest with ourselves, we have a lot more in common with the tax collector than we care to admit. We are all sinners.

We have failed to keep God’s commandments.

We have cheated people, maybe not obviously but we have taken what is not ours.

If it were not for God’s mercy, we would all share the fate of unbelievers. We’d be doomed to eternal punishment.

We also share with Matthew that we too are called by Jesus. Jesus calls us through His word. He calls through our worship. He calls us each time we take Holy Communion-- and we must answer, just as Matthew had to answer.

Jesus calls us into a relationship with Him, and He calls us to live a life of faithfulness. For Matthew to do what he did, he must have trusted Jesus. He got up and left his life of sin and followed him.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is: How much do I trust Jesus? Our attitudes, our actions, our lifestyle reflects our trust in Jesus and the fruit we bear for the kingdom of God is the proof of the pudding.

Jesus has called all of us to live a God- pleasing life. He has called you to tell others about Jesus just like He has me. He calls us to tell about His saving work in our lives.

When God calls you, if you respond like Matthew –you will be changed for the better: your attitude, your lifestyle, even the way you think about things will change.

The evil one will not go away, but as you learn to trust in God you will find that your struggles with your sinful self easier to overcome and you will leave your old life behind.

Jesus refused to live by the values of the Pharisees. He showed mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. and He continues to summon His church to do the same.

As we gather in Jesus’ name it means we want to be a merciful people, a caring church that offers friendship to the lonely, strength to the weak and love to those who are despised and rejected, because that’s what Jesus modeled for us.

God doesn’t tell us about where we are going on the road of life, but He promises to be with us. God doesn’t tell us how we will be taken care of, but He promises grace for the day. He doesn’t tell us what might happen to us along the way, but He promises to always be with us. He has given us Jesus, who has promised to be our guide, and it’s up to us to follow. Amen