Jonah and Fishers of Men

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fishers_6295-300x132Jonah was a court prophet, with a nice cushy job advising the king. God had other plans. He wanted Jonah to go and preach to the Ninevites, the avowed enemies of Israel who were known for such cruelties as skinning their enemies alive. You can understand why Jonah decided that a little trip to Spain might be more to his liking. And then came a storm, stirred up by the hand of God, and Jonah gets pitched overboard by the sailors as a kind of sacrifice to the gods of the Deep, and the storm quiets and Jonah gets “rescued” by being swallowed whole by a very large fish who subsequently unceremoniously barfs Jonah on the beach. And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. “Nineveh is that way, Jonah. Go and preach there.”

When the Lord calls, you had better listen, and don’t plan any cruises to go another way. So Jonah scrapes the seaweed out of his hair and heads off to those awful Ninevites and gets only about a third of the way through the city when lo and behold the whole bunch hear the Word of the Lord and repent, which really gets Jonah mad because he was hoping to see a major whooping from heaven. And all he gets is repentance and God’s turning away His anger from His enemies and the perennial persecutors of His people. Continue reading

Posted in Epiphany, Old Testament, sermon

Depart In Peace: Christmas 1

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Today is the seventh day of Christmas, and I hope you’re still going strong with the holy days now that the holidays are behind us. It makes me sad to see the Christmas trees already curbed for the trash man. It’s like baseball fans who go home in the sixth inning to beat the traffic and miss the best part of the ball game. There’s plenty more left to Christmas, so don’t give up yet. We’ve even kept the candles burning to keep you in the mood. Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Liturgy, sermon

Christmas 2017

Linked are the three sermons for Christmas Eve and Day at St. Peter’s.

Christmas Eve 6:30pm, Children’s Christmas Program, with the theme of Light a Candle. Light of the World: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love

Christmas Eve Candlelight

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Christmas, sermon

Hosanna! Advent, He comes!

Happy new year!

With the preparations for the birth of Christ, this season of Advent, the new year begins. The King is coming! Are you prepared? While this season of Advent involves preparation for family and friends, it also involves the preparations of the King. We often hear how we are to be prepared for the coming Savior. How can we be prepared, particularly in a time of abundant activity? The relationships with friends and family are important. They are a part of Advent preparations. Yet Advent is primarily about preparing for the coming King who took on flesh to bear it to the cross. He took on flesh never to leave it behind, but by His flesh to bear our iniquity. We prepare in Advent for Christ. Yet, once again, how do we prepare for Him?

That preparation is made today, the first day of the Church’s Year, through meditation on His ride into Jerusalem to die. It has not been arranged sequentially, chronologically, but theologically. Continue reading

Posted in Advent, Divine Service, sermon

Thanksgiving That The Lord Gives

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Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever! Psa. 118:29

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psa. 100:4

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;

the upright shall dwell in your presence. Psa. 140:13

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,

and all your saints shall bless you! Psa. 145:10

“Give thanks to the LORD,

call upon his name,

make known his deeds among the peoples,

proclaim that his name is exalted. Is. 12:4

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever! Psa. 118:29

We hardly need an act of Congress, much less a presidential proclamation or even a national day to know to give thanks. It’s all over the psalms, all over the Scriptures. To give thanks is what faith does. In fact, you might say that to be Christian is to be thankful. We are a “eucharistic people.” The word “eucharist,” referring to the Lord’s Supper and its great thanksgiving, means to give thanks. It is truly good, right, and salutary, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. It simply goes with faith. Like the one faithful leper who returned to give thanks at the feet of Jesus.

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Posted in Uncategorized

All Saints

all-saints-mosaicWhen we are bereft of dear ones, it is a tremendous shock. For a time we are stunned. Not everyone, can feel at once their continuing companionship. We should not for that reason despair. An adjustment must take place in our lives, reaching deep into our habits, emotions and thoughts. Some souls may make this adjustment quickly. For most of us it comes slowly and hard; many an hour is filled with loneliness and agonizing doubt.

By ourselves we can never make this adjustment. We must come to a sense of the continuing presence of our loved ones, and we can do this if we realize the presence of our living Lord. As we seek and find our Risen Lord, we shall find our dear departed. They are with Him, and we find the reality of their continued life through Him. The saints are a part of the Church. We worship with them. They worship the Risen Christ face to face, while we worship the same Risen Christ under the veil of bread and wine at the Altar. At the Communion we are linked with heaven, with the Communion of Saints, with our loved ones. Here at the Altar, focused to a point, we find our communion with the dead; for the Altar is the closest meeting place between us and our Lord. That place must be the place of closest meeting with our dead who are in His keeping; The Altar is the trysting place where we meet our beloved Lord. It must, therefore, also be the trysting place where we meet our loved ones, for they are with the Lord.

It is a pity to see men and women going out to the cemetery, kneeling at the mound, placing little sprays’ of flowers and wiping their tears from their eyes, and knowing nothing else. How hopeless they look!

I recall when my Grandpa Jack had died. Continue reading

Posted in Church, Liturgy, Lord's Supper, resurrection, Saints, sermon

Reformation 500

ReformationFive hundred years ago, on October 31—the “Eve of all Hallows” or “Halloween,” the eve of All Saints’ Day—Martin Luther, a thirty-four-year-old Augustinian friar, preacher, university lecturer, and professor of Old Testament, took an eight-minute walk from his monastery home on one end of the little town of Wittenberg to the Castle Church on the other end of town, and there he posted his protestation against indulgences. He had absolutely no inkling of the firestorm he would start, nor that within weeks he would become the most famous person in the Western world. And he certainly had no inkling that the storm would still be raging some five hundred years later.

Luther has been held up as one of the most influential individuals of the past millennium, the emphasis is usually on the story of his impact upon the freedom of conscience, on the individual versus authority, on the rise of the nation-state, or on the decline of the control of the Catholic Church over individual and state. And these themes are in some sense true and very popular in our postmodern world. Today we are so far removed from any authority outside the individual that our culture now recognizes the autonomy of an individual to muster an identity completely at odds with the body he or she actually has been given by God. Luther would have had no part of that whatsoever. His supreme authority was always God’s written Word. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice…

forgive-mathsGrace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Seven times?

Seems quite generous quite honestly. He seems to recognize that the Lord loves mercy. But how many of us would even dare to be sinned against seven times. Peter’s question and suggested response is a great amount. Jewish tradition said that one should forgive up to three times for the same sin – with conditions placed on the forgiveness – “They better grovel sufficiently” – “They better make it up to me.” Peter perhaps thought he was proposing a praiseworthy, sacrificial, level of pardoning – above and beyond the call of duty – seven times!

We tend to laugh at Peter’s question, in part because we’ve been taught and know the parable. But before we laugh at Peter and look down on Peter we ought to consider just how generous and forgiving he was trying to be. Continue reading

Posted in sermon

Easter 3 and Confirmation: Acts 9, Blinded By Light

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

We live in a time when glowing personal testimonies are often regarded as God’s sure action.People may yawn at Scripture texts but get goose bumps over something that has no sure promise from God. Perhaps it’s an experience (near death/change of fortune/strange event in nature) or an inward feeling or a sign they imagine has occurred.

Consider the testimony of the young boy – poor of speech – who was sure he should be a pastor. When asked why he said it was because one day while in the field the clouds seemed to form the letters PC. He was sure that meant he should “Preach Christ.” A wise, older friend said – or perhaps “Plant Corn.” Another example is the person who said – I know God was with me today because a car ran a light and narrowly missed plowing into my car.  A wise friend quietly said – then I guess God was with me even more because nothing bad even came close to me and my car as I travelled today. You see, our hearts look for signs from God in this and that and the other thing, yet seemingly overlook the simplicity of His Word and presence in the Sacraments.

Like Saul, like we heard of Thomas and really the other disciples last week, we don’t want to fall trap into what we fear might be a fraud. That’s what Saul thought and believed of Jesus He was convinced the whole business was: one massive deadly, dangerous deception. It’s not that he denied the resurrection of the dead; oh, no. He’d go to the bat for that. But what he specifically denied was that this Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead and then glorified at God’s right hand. Nonsense and downright evil, that’s what he thought.

Saul’s star was on the rise, he was a mover and a shaker! He was advancing in the strict sect of the Pharisees. He rallied people and gathered crowds. He received orders directly from the Chief Priest and the council of the elders. He was busily at work pursuing and imprisoning Christians. He was energetic and fully committed to his cause. As we heard from Acts chapter nine, he was hot on the trail of Christians who had fled from Jerusalem to the city of Damascus. He had undertaken this lengthy trip (150 miles) for the very purpose of hunting them down like criminals.  He sincerely thought He was serving God with his actions.  He was so confident that he was right!  Continue reading

Posted in Baptism, Catechism, Confirmation, Lord's Supper, Luther, sermon

Easter 2: Where to Go

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Ever have your doubts? Of course you do. You’ve waited for personal revelation. You’ve hoped to have an experience, perhaps without the tragedy and hardship that comes in life. We’d like to have personal revelation of Jesus. If at any point you’ve bargained with God: Lord, show me this or do this and I will believe; act in this way and I’ll know this is true; provide this and I’ll be more faithful. We crave that personal revelation to strengthen our faith.

Emotional things have a way of changing our perception and feelings. Want to persuade someone, want to effect someone’s behavior or thoughts, just play with their emotions. It’s why we are quick to proclaim everything of God is good when things are going well and question the Lord’s goodness in times of difficulty and struggle. It’s why there is bargaining attempts with God.

We’re not the only ones to such bargaining. Luther did so. He famously bargained with God through St. Anne that he’d become a monk if spared from a lightning storm. Thomas bargained that he’d believe the resurrection if he could see and touch.

Think of the emotion and energy going around. In a matter of ten days Lazarus was raised from four days in the tomb, the Triumphal Entry happened, all the events in Temple, to the Lord’s Supper instituted, Judas’ betrayal, Gethsemane, the trial, and crucifixion, and these women come saying he is risen. In that span of time it was Thomas who proclaimed that the disciples ought to go with Jesus so that they may die with him (John 11:16). On Maundy Thursday when Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for them it was Thomas who boldly asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14).

While Thomas gets a bum rap for being the one who doubted, let’s be honest, the women went and told the disciples, Peter and John had run to the tomb and seen it empty, and they are still hiding in fear. Emotions are running high. They feared the Jews, they feared death, even though their Lord is risen. Truth be told, most of us would react just like Thomas. We’d want to see the evidence. Continue reading

Posted in Day of Resurrection, Holy Week, sermon, Weekly Communion