Sermon February 5

O God our Father, through the grace of Your Holy Spirit You plant the gifts of Your love into the hearts of Your faithful people. Please grant to us a clear understanding of what we are to be about giving us the strength and heart to do that which is pleasing in Your sight. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen

There was a father teaching his son what a Christian should be like. He talked about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world and a few other teachings. When the lesson was over, the little boy asked, “Dad, have I ever met one of these Christians?”

Jesus challenges us with two very vivid images of what it means to be a Christian. He uses Salt and Light.

Salt is something so common to us that we hardly notice it unless you’re on a reduced salt diet. We use salt because it enhances the flavor of food.

Salt is also a preservative. Meat packed in salt, can last for years.

Salt also has medicinal qualities when used as an antiseptic. It burned like the dickens but salt was often times poured into an open wound to clean it of any impurities so the wound would heal faster.

We're called to be the “salt of the earth.” In other words, we’re called to be a seasoning that enhances life through the living out of our faith. We’re called to be preservatives that help preserve the Biblical standards of morality. and we are called to be a curative. We have a message of hope and forgiveness from a Savior that can bring healing to all of the hurts in this world. But there’s one more aspect of salt. Salt creates thirst.

We’re called to be the salt of the earth. We’re called to season the world with the flavor of Grace. We’re called to help preserve the world preserves from decay. We’re called to help bring healing. and we’re called to make people thirsty for Jesus.

Jesus also said, “You are the light of the world.” Most folks today don’t have a clue what darkness really is. We have streetlights and lighted signs, porch lights and decorative lights all over. Ever since Edison discovered the light bulb, we have been physically trying to push back the darkness, because light exposes the true nature of things.

Have you ever looked at something in an artificial light, only to find that in natural light it looks quite different? In the full natural light of day we can see the flaws and the true color. Light exposes our frailties as well.

Light exposes but light also reveals. We’ve all experienced having the lights go out. All of a sudden, your plunged into darkness and the things and their location, you know so very well, become dangerous. Even the light from a flash of lightning is helpful, for it lets you see where possible dangers lie. It’s the same with life. The light of Christ exposes our need for salvation; it reveals where the dangers are and it reveals where safety, direction and new life can be found.

Jesus calls us and challenges us to be the same kind of light in the world today. He calls us not only to be light but to point to the ultimate source of light, Him.

Salt and light are the language of God; the language of Grace; the language of hope and love. and when this language is translated into action it becomes the most beautiful language ever spoken. We’re called to be salt and light and to speak the language of God as we live our faith. We’re called to live the Word.

Three students were discussing various versions of the Bible. One said, “I like the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. It is easier to read than the older versions.” A second student said, “I like the Jerusalem Bible. It has a poetic style.” The third student surprised them all and said, “I like my mother’s version the best. She put the Bible into action and I can use in my daily life.”

That’s what we’re called to do. We’re called to be salt and light and translate the Word of God into action so others can taste and see how good God is through Christ Jesus.

As you let your light shine, think especially of doing those things which will lead others to praise God the Father in heaven.

A life that trusts Jesus more than the promises of money, medicine, or technology, shines vibrantly in the darkness.

A life that loves God above all else, shines radiantly in the darkness.

A life that tells others of the great things he's done to save us, shines cheerfully in the darkness.

A life that places God’s word and worship at the top of our priorities, shines joyfully in the darkness.

And a life that supports the spreading of His word because Jesus is the only Savior for sinners, shines brightly in the darkness.

Your acts of kindness and love reflect the light of Jesus. Amen


Sermon 1-29-23

Let us pray: Gracious God, pour out Your blessings upon us, not that we may be rich and famous, but that we may experience new life in Your kingdom and be faithful to the purposes You have set before us. Amen

How would You finish this sentence: “I will be happy when….”

There must be a million possible endings for that sentence. How long lasting will that happiness be? 1 year? 5 years? A month? A week?

Jesus wants us to consider a different approach. Listen to what He says… don’t dismiss Him too quickly.

The first thing Jesus does is to change the terminology. He doesn’t talk about happiness, instead He uses the term “blessed.” “Blessed” is a better word, because “happiness is temporary and has no eternal implications. Jesus says:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit….

“Blessed are those who mourn….

“Blessed are the gentle….

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness….

It’s hard for us to comprehend what Jesus is saying because we are told at a very young age:

• Blessed are the rich, because they get what they want.

• Blessed are the strong, because they can take what they want.

• Blessed are winners because no one wants to be a loser.

• Blessed are those who hunger and thirst at the best restaurants, because they will be pampered—and indulged—and filled. But Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….”

I believe the first beatitude is foundational to all of the beatitudes. If You are in synch with the first beatitude, You will be in synch with all of them and vise versa. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….”

The Greek word that is translated “poor” means abject poverty. True poverty is miserable—very cruel. People live in total helplessness. They watch for any gesture of mercy or a bit of kindness. They crave dignity.

Standing before God, the poor in spirit have nothing to bring, but cling to the cross of Jesus.

• The poor in spirit come in their poverty hoping for sustenance…

• in their brokenness hoping to be mended.

• in their sin hoping to be forgiven.

• in their grief hoping to be comforted.

• in their illness, hoping to be healed.

• The poor in spirit do not bargain with God, because they have nothing to offer.

• It is precisely their humility—their openness—that makes them fertile soil to receive God’s blessings.

Blessed are those who come to God on their knees. But we all have to admit, that’s not our preferred posture, because it is a position of complete submission. We prefer to be in control. We prefer to pay for what we get. We prefer not to be in anyone’s debt. We don’t want to be “beholding” to anyone.

But Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….”

We fight hard not to be poor in spirit. We try to get the best grades we can—so that we can get the best job that we can. We work as hard as we can—and do the best that we can. Our best efforts leave us exhausted. Everyone from the president of a large university—to single parents trying to juggle two jobs. All are EXHAUSTED!

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….”

We spend so much energy on trivial things. Some years back, Mary Mannes said: “American men are obsessed with money.American women are obsessed with weight.The men talk of gain; the women talk of loss; both of which are uninspiring.”

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….”

In his book, The Way to Go, Gilbert Bowen tells about a young boy admitted to the hospital with terrible injuries. When the boy’s father arrived, it was clear by his manner that he had money and was accustomed to giving orders. As the doctor tried to explain the extent of the boys’ injuries, the father began to yell, “Why aren’t You doing more? I want the best care that money can buy. Fly my son to the best specialists in the country!” Calmly, the Dr. said to the father, “Your money cannot buy anything more for your son. All You can do now is wait and pray.”

That father was facing the most terrible crisis of his life, and his lack of faith left him completely unprepared. That terrible moment brought the father face to face with his own inadequacy. In that moment, the father had to acknowledge that he had nothing to bring to the table—and he was too proud to beg for God’s mercy.

The meaning of the beatitudes—is that God blesses us when we come to Him on our knees with empty hands—to receive whatever God chooses to give us and to follow wherever God leads us.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” When our need is greatest, there we will find God—and then we will find blessing. Amen

1-15-23 Sermon

Dear Heavenly Father, in each generation You call people to follow You. You call people to tell the message of Your redeeming grace to those around us. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, please open our hearts and minds to Your call. Please teach us to listen and seek Your leading. Make us eager to respond, and gratefully carry on the work of Your church in our world. This we ask, in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

John the Baptist spoke some untimely remarkable words when Jesus was walking toward him: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” It would be three years later before Jesus would warn his disciples that he’d suffer and die as a lamb sacrificed for sin.

At this point, Jesus had not ruffled any pharisaic feathers.

The writer of John’s Gospel wants us to know the reason why Jesus came into the world. He uses tremendous imagery in this first chapter of his Gospel: “the Word became flesh,” meaning Jesus became flesh. Then John calls Jesus “the bread of life” and refers to Him as “the light shines in darkness.”

But of all the references to Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” it’s by far the most powerful because only this Lamb is “Worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.” (Rev. 5)

In this day and age, when nothing is holy, we need the one whose very essence was holiness.

Now more than ever, we need to desperately understand the majesty of Jesus in our own lives.

Peter is a good example when he tried to walk on the water. He started out—in great faith, to walk to Jesus but he took his eyes off Jesus just for a second—mind you—became terrified and began to sink.

That's truly what happens to us—maybe even on a daily basis. When we focus on our problems, our frustrations, our limitations, our wealth, we take Jesus out of the equation. We have the power and resources to achieve amazing things if we include Jesus the Lamb of God.

When we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus rather than our immediate circumstances, our God can handle any problem we encounter.

We need Christ to endure the physical illness and emotional pain of our lives.

We need a Christ who can make us think in terms of being victors rather than victims. “Behold the Lamb” John says and we need to do just that. need to look to the One who can deliver us, but we need to behold the majesty of Christ.

But there is still more. We are also challenged to consider his mercy. In all of creation God shows us his powerful hand, but at Golgotha God gives us his heart. The love of God was shown to the world on the cross. The cross bridged the gap between a holy God and unholy humanity.

There is one thing more to be said. We have considered Christ’s majesty and his mercy but we also need to consider His ministry for our lives.

Notice that John says, “Behold the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.” He does not say the sins of the church or the sins of middle-class Americans, he says the sins of the world. The saving power in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is for everyone… if only the world knew. If only our next-door neighbor knew. If only our families knew.

The world needs to know--our friends and neighbors need to know--that they have been given something far bigger than a winning lottery ticket.

They need to know that they can have an eternal victory over sin and death. An eternal love relationship with God through Jesus Christ is theirs--and ours--simply for the asking.

We--like John the Baptist are those who are called to tell about the Lamb of God. We are not sent out to condemn the world, but to tell the saving message of the great love God has for His people.

We are those who are called to help others to see beyond the size of their problems to One who is big enough to overcome any problem. We have been called to partner with Christ Jesus, to reconcile the world with God the Father.

When we look at the Lamb of God in all his divine majesty, we should also see his unconditional mercy.

All of us, everyone of us, have been called to the all-encompassing ministry of Jesus, so that every person might come to the knowledge of salvation.

We have the example of Jesus to inspire us. We have his presence to empower us until the entire world knows that victory is possible only through Jesus. Amen


Sermon January 8, 2023

Dear Heavenly Father, at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him to be Your beloved Son. Please grant that all who are baptized in His name will faithfully keep the covenant into which they have been called. Please empower us to boldly profess Jesus as Savior that others might come to the knowledge of salvation. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen

Our Christmas celebration ended on Friday, January 6--Epiphany, and today’s Gospel is when Jesus was 30 years old. We skip Jesus’ childhood, adolescence, and the host of other life experiences He had before He was baptized by John in the Jordan River. But Jesus’ baptism wasn’t just a spur of the moment event. He purposely went to the Jordan to be baptized even though He did need the benefits of baptism’s like we do—namely the forgiveness of sin. But it’s important for us to remember, Baptism is not a ritual dreamed up by human beings. Baptism is something that God Himself designed and commanded.

Baptism is not what we do for God; it’s what God does for us. is a vehicle through which God blesses us. So what did Jesus mean when He said that His baptism would “fulfill all righteousness”? Jesus was/is the only person free from guilt or sin of any kind.

Picture in your mind hundreds of people waiting for their turn to be baptized by John---and Jesus, the sinless Son of God who had no need for baptism, was one of them.

When Jesus stepped into the Jordan River, He made His declaration of intent-- His intention was to take our place under God’s judgment.

Hundreds of sinners had been baptized in the river Jordan before Jesus. We might say that the water was filled with the sins off those who had been baptized sin that would stick to Jesus, the Son of God.

The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River meant He identified with sinners. For it was this very reason the Father had sent His Son into this world.

Obedience always delights a parent and we know God the Father was delighted by the obedience of Jesus. Jesus would bring mankind back to Himself.

How do you identify with Jesus? Or maybe you don’t?

Are you always pleased with Jesus?

Do you delight in Jesus?

We grumble that we “have to” go to church because at times, God’s word can make us feel guilty when we know we’re not living our lives pleasing to Him.

Some people are even very angry with Jesus. When our prayers are not answered the way we want, we blow Him off and the church as well. don’t want to submit to anyone and yet that’s what Jesus demonstrated.

In terms of need, Jesus’ baptism is different from ours, but its effect is the same. In Holy Baptism you were declared to be a child of God. God put His name on you as His child and said I am well pleased with you. It was at that moment when you too received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit strengthened Jesus for His God-given mission, the Holy Spirit will strengthen, lead and guide you to live a righteous life too. It will empower you to say no to sin and temptation when you submit your life to Jesus.

It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit begun in baptism— that we are able to fulfill all righteousness—that we can be patient, forgiving, and remain steadfast in faith.

Unfortunately, not every baptized person remains steadfast in faith. Many people walk away from the blessings God gives to us—including the gift of eternal life. But our heavenly Father never stops loving us. Holy Baptism is an open invitation into a deeper relationship with the One who brings us life. Sadly those who continue to spurn God’s grace determines their eternal reward.

But for every person who repents of their sins, God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness wash us clean just as it did on the day we were baptized. Baptism is God’s mark of approval that the Holy Spirit which equips us to fight through every temptation that we encounter.

Jesus is a role model for us as He is baptized.

He’s also a role model for us when He ministers to the least and the last. He’s a role model for us as we show God’s unconditional love to others-- a love we do not deserve.

Luther said we should begin every day remembering that we are baptized. When we feel the water on our faces in the morning, it should remind us of the waters of baptism. To do so is to enter each day with a renewed sense of ministry.

How will your words and deeds minister to others? How are you using the talents and abilities God has given to you as a person commanded to make disciples? Amen

Christmas Day, 2022

O God, You make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of Your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive Him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold Him when He comes to Judge the living and the dead, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

If you hear something that seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. We hear about all the scams or even identity theft, so being cautious is prudent.

Each Christmas we hear the account of Jesus’ birth. Are you able to believe that which seems impossible?

God blessed Mary and Joseph to believe what seemed impossible. Their blessings can also become our blessings as we lay hold of the amazing claims and impossible promises of God.

Joseph and Mary were engaged. Now in that culture, engagement meant more than it does today. Back then, to be engage, meant you were legally bound as if you were married. You still would have to go through the ceremony before you start living together – but once you were engaged, it was legally binding.

But it was a bit concerning to Joseph when Mary, took off to visit a relative, Elizabeth, who was going to have John the Baptist. Six months Mary stayed away before she returned. and when she did, Joseph saw Mary was pregnant.

Mary told Joseph about how the angel had visited her, how God the Holy Spirit had caused her to conceive, how the child was going to be a boy, how he was supposed to be named “Jesus,” and how he was going to be the Messiah. Mary was due in three months. How would you have reacted if you had been Joseph?

Well, the Bible tells us Joseph didn’t believe Mary’s story. He couldn’t believe the impossible. But an angel from God appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said to him, the child Mary carried was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, her story was true. She hadn’t been unfaithful.

There was no such thing as an ultrasound back then, but Mary and Joseph both knew that the baby would be a boy and Jesus would be His name. Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua – Jesus and Joshua have the same meaning: “the Lord saves” which is what the angel told Joseph: Jesus would save his people from their sins.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet Isaiah, 700 years earlier, when he wrote “the virgin will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us.’”

Is it hard for you to believe that the Christmas story is true? Are you a believer or a skeptic?

Joseph needed an angel to confirm Mary’s story. He wasn’t about to believe there could be a virgin birth. It took the visit of an angel of God to convince him. But Joseph believed. He did what the angel told him to do.

And Joseph became the earthly father of Jesus. Joseph was a believer in God’s impossible promises. and, in many ways, we’re in the same position as he was in.

Every Christmas, we are put into a position and asked to believe impossible promises. “I promise you,” God says, “that because of my Son, born on Christmas –that I will forgive you for all the sins you have ever committed in your life.”

That’s an amazing promise!

“I promise you,” God says, “that the moment you die, I’m going to take your soul to be with me forever.” Do you believe that?

“I promise you,” God says, that this is my body, this is my blood, and these were given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of all of your sins.” How can that be possible?

But that’s Christianity. The essence of Christianity is believing the impossible, believing that the virgin gives birth to a child, believing that this helpless infant is God, believing that this child takes away the sin of the world. That’s Christianity – believing the impossible. Do you believe?

Are you able to believe the impossible?

Do you need God to send an angel to help you believe?

God has already sent his Word. It’s here where God speaks to us today. He’s given us the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, to receive Him and remove any skepticism. Here is where God gives us the same assurance He gave to Joseph. It is the mystery we call faith. God gives us the ability to trust in the impossible promises of Christmas.

May each one of you experience God’s very presence with you this Christmas. May God give you the same heart that he gave to Joseph – a heart that believes things that seem too good to be true, and yet, they are. Then you are ready for Christmas. Then you are ready to welcome the Christ child, God’s gift to you, to Joseph, and to all. Amen.



December 18, 2022 Sermon - Fourth Sunday of Advent 

O God of Joseph and Mary, You visited Your servants with news of the world's redemption in the coming of the Savior. Please make our hearts leap with joy, and fill our mouths with songs of praise, that we may announce to all the glad tidings of peace, as we welcome Christ in our midst. Amen.

We can have the best laid plans, but God has the last word. Life comes along and KABOOM! We’re taken in an entirely different direction!

That’s what happened to Joseph. Joseph had been engaged to Mary and then found out she was pregnant and he knew he wasn’t the father.

According to the law of Moses, when a woman was caught in adultery, she should be stoned to death.

That’s the position young Mary was in. Joseph was not the father of her baby. In essence, Joseph held Mary’s fate in his hands. He could have accused her publicly, and it would have been curtains for Mary.

But Joseph was a righteous man. To some people, being righteous meant right is right, but when it comes to wrong, it must be pointed out—corrected--and punished. Mary should have been held accountable. But that’s not the kind of righteous man Joseph was.

Righteousness is a major biblical theme in the Old Testament.

Righteousness comes from God because He is righteous and the people of God are called to live righteous lives, which can often lead to the Pharisee syndrome. But with God, righteousness isn’t hard-nosed and cold. God’s righteousness is restorative and healing. God does not break a bruised reed.

Isaiah puts it this way: I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind…

God’s righteousness brings freedom and healing. It makes whole that which is broken. God calls us to act and live out His righteousness. We are called to be instruments of God’s love.

This is what Matthew means when he says that Joseph is a righteous man. Joseph never wished Mary any harm. He just wanted to quietly break off their intended marriage. He never called her out or humiliated her in any way.

On the night when Joseph resolves what he’d do, an angel appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. Her child has been conceived by God’s Holy Spirit.”

“We make our plans, but God has the last word.”

Joseph had his plans, but God had something else in mind! God offered Joseph an opportunity to play a central role in bringing divine righteousness into the world.

Joseph woke up, and all of his plans had changed. His future had been redirected and Joseph went along with God’s plan, agreeing to be the father to a child who wasn’t his.

Both Joseph and Mary had profound experiences. Both of them encountered a heavenly messenger and they were deeply touched.

Joseph took Mary for his wife and then he faced all that would follow. When he had to go to Bethlehem because of the Roman taxation, he took his very pregnant wife with him. When Jesus was born, he claimed the little boy as his own. Joseph protected his young family and even fled with them to safety in Egypt. When at last they could return from exile, he settled into the family life in Nazareth.

Joseph, this righteous man, became the role model for his little boy. He was Jesus’ example of faithful living and devotion to God.

Some of you know I like holding babies—actually I really like holding babies. I can just imagine Joseph holding the baby Jesus in his arms and the loving affection that developed between them.

When Joseph said yes to God’s plan for him, he signed up to accept Jesus as his very own, to protect him, and to love him.

But Joseph wasn’t the only person whose plans changed. When we come to love Jesus as our very own, our lives change too. God’s Spirit is alive and breathing among us to direct our pathways. Unfortunately, most of us think we know better than God and stubbornly resist His leading.

But God is persistent. Always inviting us to return to Him—to live our lives in relationship with Him. Joseph, the righteous man that he was, remained open to God’s leading. He was receptive to an unfolding pathway and he was blessed.

The Holy Spirit urges us into ways we have not considered. As a people of faith, we are always called to new possibilities as we witness to all that God has done for us. “We make our plans, but God has the last word.” Thank God! Amen