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Children – Our Mission and Our Model

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

Be a Hero of Faith

1st Sunday in Lent

Be a Hero of Faith

Text:  Genesis 22:1-18

The drama is so intense it could be a Hollywood blockbuster.  I hope they don’t make it into a movie because they would probably blow it like the Noah and Exodus movies.  The pages of Scripture are enough.  Every word leaves us hanging with suspense.

First the Lord comes to Abram out of the blue and tells him to pack up and move to a foreign land, a land he does not know and which the Lord would finally show to him.  The Lord told Abram he would bless him and that though his wife wasn’t able to have children, one day he would have more than the stars in the sky.  Abram simply believed and obeyed.  He packed up and left.  Incredible!

By the time he was 86 though, Abram and Sarai became a little impatient.  Their age and Sarai being barren were too much.  So they doubted and concocted their own plan.  Abram had a son named Ishmael with a servant named Hagar.

But God was still gracious.  Thirteen years later God reaffirmed his promises to Abram and Sarai and changed their names to Abraham and Sarah reflecting that they would be the parents of many.  One of those many descendants would even by the Savior of the world.  In a year’s time, when Abraham was 100, he and Sarah would have their own child.  Incredible!

Sure enough, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90, they had a son and named him Isaac.  God had kept his promise for a son, and this miracle child would be the one to carry forth God’s promises of salvation.  Incredible. Read the rest of this entry

What Makes a Great Faith?

13th Sunday after Pentecost

What Makes a Great Faith?

Text:  Matthew 15:21-28

What Makes a Great Faith?  Have you wondered that before?  What is it that makes someone’s faith great?  You probably know it when you see it.  Maybe you’ve said things like, “That guy is a man of faith,” or “Wow!  She really has faith.”  We might be able to identify great faith when we see it.  But  bigger questions are What Makes a Great Faith?  and, How do I get it?

Maybe who you are and what you do makes your faith great.  The Pharisees thought so.  They weren’t content with simply obeying God’s laws, they had to add several hundred of their own so they could look more holy.  They proudly paraded around town like their sandals didn’t stink.  Jesus even told the story of a Pharisee praying out loud, “I thank you Lord that I am not like that tax collector.”  The Pharisees certainly thought they had great faith because of who they were and what they did.

The disciples weren’t quite like that.  The knew they weren’t a special breed of Jews.  Some of them were simple fishermen.  Matthew was a tax collector—not exactly the most respected profession among the Jews.  They seemed to always be caught by Jesus in fear or doubt.  Like two weeks ago when they were dumbfounded when Jesus asked them to feed the 5,000.  Or like last week when they thought Jesus was a ghost walking on water.  It’s hard to think you have great faith when Jesus himself tells you, You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Read the rest of this entry

Take Courage. It is Jesus.

12th Sunday after Pentecost

Take Courage.  It is Jesus.

Text:  Matthew 14:22-33


It was a special day, about 15 months ago.  We knew it was coming, but the kids didn’t.  They had been asking and asking.  Now was finally the time.  We surprised them and went to Disney World.  The looks on their faces were priceless.  They were so excited and all day long they were acting like, well, like kids at Disney World.

They had been asking for more than a year.  They would even find pennies on the ground and give them to us telling us to save up for Disney.  Finally we went and it was a blast.  By the time we went home though, they were passed out and asleep.  Within a few days the Buzz Lightyear and Minnie talk had died down.  Now, 15 months later, we hardly ever hear anything about it.  It’s almost like it never happened.

How could that be?  They had wanted to do this for the longest time.  They finally got to see one of the coolest, most amazing things they could ever imagine.  But now it’s like it never happened.  They don’t thank us for taking them to Disney anymore (that stopped pretty much the next day).  They don’t talk about Disney anymore.  I know they were there.  Did they forget it happened?  How could that be? Read the rest of this entry

By Grace Alone through Faith Alone

2nd Sunday in Lent

By Grace Alone through Faith Alone

Text: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17


I was 15 years old.  It was the summer after my freshman year of high school.  My parents told me, “You need to get a job.”  I thought I might as well apply at Subway.  It was two blocks from my house and I loved the food at this newer restaurant.  At the time, competition was a little fierce for jobs though.  I remember bringing in my application and the owner was conducting a number of formal interviews.  I was one of a bunch of applicants.  But I was hired.

I started at the very bottom of the fast food chain that year.  Just another employee.  But over time they realized it wasn’t such a bad deal to have a pastor’s son who goes to a Christian high school working for you.  So they trained me to work on the cash register.  Then to take deposits to the bank.  Then to work by myself at times opening the store and closing the store, which meant I had keys to the building.  Then I became an assistant manager.  Then I ran the entire Subway booth at the Wisconsin State Fair.  At one point when I was in college, the owner, who owned nine Subways and three Taco Bells, asked me to be his regional manager with a full salary and a company car.  But I told him I was studying to be a pastor and couldn’t.

Finally after 10 years of work I had to quit to go off to my vicar year at the Seminary.  By that point I was a lead manager, I worked any time I wanted, and I made some pretty decent money for a fast food employee.

A lot of you have very similar stories.  You started at the bottom and worked your way to the top.  You started doing grunt work or hard labor at first but worked your way up the ladder.  Some of you were in the military and worked your way up the rankings through the years.  Some of you had nothing for many years but worked and saved and wound up able to have a nice retirement. Read the rest of this entry