The Baptism of Our Lord
He Saved Us
Text: Titus 3:4-7
There was a father once who had a number of children, and ooh I tell you, those children were something. They sure had a mind of their own. The father loved them though. He protected them tirelessly, even when they didn’t realize he was doing it. He provided for them graciously, even though they weren’t always thankful for it. In addition to all of that love, he also taught them what was right and good for them to do.
For example, there was a local cliff in town. All the other children loved to go near it. But it was so dangerous. The children didn’t realize it, but even though there was water below, the fall off the cliff could result in death. The father knew this, so he told his children exactly what to do and what not to do. He told them to stay away from the cliff, to not even flirt with the thought of the cliff but rather to stay on the straight and narrow and veer away from disaster and death.
But did the children listen? Of course not. The thought of the cliff was so exciting and exhilarating—so tempting. All the other kids were doing it. Why couldn’t they? So day by day they began to disobey their father more and more. They veered off the road toward the cliff more and more as they daringly dabbled with danger. The father knew it and repeatedly warned them about what he wanted and the danger of disobeying. But they didn’t listen. Finally it got to the point where they were pretty much doing the exact opposite of what their loving father wanted and they were at the cliff every day. Read the rest of this entry
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Children: Our Mission and Our Model
Text: Mark 10:13-16
I’m sure most have a picture in their minds of this story. It’s one of those feel good, warm your heart kinds of stories. You picture Jesus, perhaps sitting on a big rock. You envision young kids maybe around the age of kindergarten to third or fourth grade. They’re gleefully running up to Jesus, nearly piling on him like they would a fun uncle who came to visit. In your mind you see Jesus with a great big smile warmly welcoming these kids.
That’s the picture most have in their minds. That’s what we see in paintings and portraits. That’s even the scene that my father’s church has in a 40 foot tall stained glass window that was built over 100 years ago. But that’s not exactly what happened.
We’re told in the story that people were bringing little children to Jesus. While you and I have an idea for what constitutes a little child, in the Greek culture they used that word specifically for children ages zero to four. When it says they were bringing little children, it means really little children. Perhaps there were others kids, but these were mostly babies, toddlers, and preschoolers being brought to Jesus. Read the rest of this entry
The Baptism of Our Lord
The Father is So Pleased
Text: Mark 1:9-11
What does it take to make someone happy? It depends on the person I suppose. It used to be that you could give almost anyone on our staff a Big Mac and a Large Fry and a Diet Coke, and we would all be pleased as Punch. A new year and a few resolutions later, now most of us would be pleased with something that A) we are allowed to eat that B) actually tastes good, too.
Ladies, what does it take to make a husband happy? Probably not much. Fill his belly and let him be a scrubby bum on the couch watching the NFL playoffs maybe? Then he would be pleased.
Guys, what does it take to make a wife happy? Oh boy, where do we start? (No, we won’t say that!) This is a little more challenging though. Don’t forget her birthday . . . or an anniversary . . . or Valentine’s Day . . . or any other possible day you could give flowers and a card. Help with the wash and the dishes. Listen without watching TV at the same time. Let her hold the remote control. Communicate. Maybe (hopefully!) then she would be pleased.
But what would it take to make God happy? How could you please God? Jesus had a conversation with a man about this one time. A suitable answer was given: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Read the rest of this entry
1st Sunday after Epiphany
The Lord’s Chosen Servant
Text: Isaiah 42:1-7
(A long silent pause) You don’t always need to be loud to get people’s attention. That’s not what most people think. Ever watch a clip of stock trading on Wall Street when the bell goes off? They aren’t whispering. Who gets the most TV time? The boisterous and mouthy people—like the cast of a TV show called Jersey Shore. Political campaigns are filled with impassioned speeches. Ever been to a football game before? 70,000 fans are all trying to tell a team or a player exactly what they think—good, bad, or ugly. Even our own K-1st grade CTK basketball league championship had the court lined with parents shouting to tell Johnny and Susie what to do.
Sometimes God was more than loud to get people’s attention. How did he tell the world he was disgusted with its sin? He ripped open the ground and burst rain from the clouds to create a flood that covered the entire earth. How did he show his holiness and power to Moses and the Israelites? Lightning struck, thunder cracked, and all of Mt. Sinai quaked and quivered. How did God call the prophet Isaiah into service? Isaiah saw the Lord seated on his throne. The temple shook and was filled with smoke. And countless angels called out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.”
But there are many other times that the Lord spoke and acted with quietness and gentleness. Today we have one such example in the first lesson, Isaiah 42. In a time of great sin and wickedness, and a time of foretelling his judgment against sin, the Lord paused to share a tender message of mercy. Read the rest of this entry
3rd Sunday after Easter
The Risen Savior Reassures with a Personal Touch of Power
Text: John 21:1-14
A lot of planning and preparation goes into Easter. For our church we have 20,000 postcards to design and mail out. We have a rummage sale and school open house to get ready. There are Easter eggs to stuff and hide. There’s a brunch to host. We have multiple services to prepare for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. The choir starts rehearsing Holy Week music already in January. A lot of planning and preparation goes into Easter.
The same is true personally too. Who are you having over for Easter dinner? When are they arriving? When are they leaving? What are you going to eat? What nice outfit are you going to wear for Easter Sunday? Can you roll out of bed in time for the sunrise service or will it have to be the late service? How early do you let your kids start eating their Easter candy? How long can you put up with a sugar rush?
All that planning and preparation, energy and effort for only one day. And what a day it was! Easter was awesome! The services were festive and uplifting. The music was powerful and lively. The food was terrific. Everyone was smiling and happy. Our joy was about as high as could be!
Then just like that, Easter was over. It was done and gone. Then what? Well I followed my tradition of every year and went golfing on Easter Monday. Then I went to the beach with my family. What did you do? With Easter over, now what? Time to sit back and relax? Back to life as usual? Time to go fishing? Read the rest of this entry