5th Sunday after Pentecost
Take Up the Cross
Text: Luke 9:18-24
Who is Jesus? You could make the argument that’s the most important question of all time. This last week I saw a video of random people being interviewed on the streets of Richmond, VA. The people were asked a number of questions including that all-important one—“Who is Jesus?” The answers were all over the place. “Jesus was a great teacher who lived a long time ago.” “Jesus is a wonderful example of how to live that people can follow.” One college-aged woman said, “I believe that Jesus was a real person who lived and taught and claimed to be the Son of God. But I don’t believe that part because I’m an atheist and I don’t believe there is a god.”
If you polled other people I’m sure you would find other interesting answers, like, “Jesus is the founder of Christianity.” “Jesus was a prophet like many of the other religions have.” “Jesus was powerful figure that was looking to overthrow the upperclass regime of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” “Jesus is the ultimate example of love.”
This is not a new phenomenon. Even when Jesus was walking this earth the same thing was happening. All kinds of people had all kinds of opinions about Jesus. Listen to the beginning of the Gospel today: “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’” Read the rest of this entry
4th Sunday after Pentecost
How Big Is Your Debt
Text: Luke 7:36-50
Let’s say that you are the average American. As the average American, you have debt. Most people agree there are “good” kinds of debt and “bad” kinds of debt. Good debt would be your home or land mortgages, school loans, and possibly vehicle debt. “Bad” debt would be other kinds of loans and especially credit card.
Now, since you are the average American, let’s say you have $10,000 in credit card debt (which is about the American average these days). Some of you may gasp in horror at $10,000, others of you might say, “I wish!” But you are hypothetically an average person right now, so you have $10,000 of debt.
Most wouldn’t fret too much about that debt. Sure it’s debt and all, but it’s not too bad. It’s about 50 days of work, maybe a fourth of a year’s wages. Not too bad. You make some payments. Yeah, there’s interest, but you chip away. You know you’ll probably pay it off eventually (assuming you don’t spend more). As long as you make regular payments, the only penalties you suffer are a little lower credit score and lots of wasted dollars in interest. Read the rest of this entry
The Wonder of Easter
Text: Luke 24:1-12
I wonder. I wonder if you have ever seen anything so amazing before. It would have taken a forklift to pick my jaw back off the ground. I was so filled with wonder and awe that I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to go. I just stood there, filled with wonder.
Have you had that feeling before? Maybe you stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon looking at the bottom a mile and a half below and at the other edge 15 miles away. Wow! Maybe you stood at the foot of the Rocky Mountains looking at a peak 14,000 feet above you. Wow! Maybe you get that feeling every time you stand on the beach and watch the mighty waves come crashing down on your feet. Wow! Maybe it was watching the miracle of childbirth. Wow! I’m sure that at some point in your life you have been filled with jaw-dropping wonder and amazement.
Yet I’m not sure you could comprehend the wonder I saw. In fact, when I was first told about it I didn’t even believe it. It sounded too good to be true. Some friends told me that they had seen it with their own eyes. That still didn’t convince me it was possible. After all, it was a group of ladies that told me what they had seen. And you know how women can be. Once they start talking, then they start getting excited, then they start exaggerating a little bit. My ears heard what they were saying, but my mind didn’t understand it and my heart didn’t believe it. I had to see it with my own eyes. Read the rest of this entry
The King Comes! Praise God!
Text: Luke 19:28-40
The hour had come. It was now time to go to Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples approached the city from the East crossing over a little mountain that rose 2,500 feet above sea level. It was called the Mount of Olives. That coming week Jesus would spend a lot of time at that Mount on the western side in a little garden called the Garden of Gethsemane. On this day, as Jesus ascended the Mount of Olives he came upon two villages, Bethphage and Bethany.
Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead to go and get a young colt that had never been ridden. Possibly this had been prearranged with the owner. When they returned with the young donkey they put their cloaks on it as a makeshift saddle and spread their cloaks on the ground as a makeshift royal red carpet.
As Jesus road along on the Mount of Olives and came to the point where the road begins to go down the other side, surely many had in mind the words of Zechariah 9 that you heard earlier today. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” As Jesus, who had done so many wonderful miracles, rode on toward Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey, how could those words of prophecy not come to mind? Read the rest of this entry
4th Sunday in Lent
The Prodigal God
Text: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
I don’t know how many times I heard the story growing up. Between church, Sunday School, and my Lutheran elementary school it had to be dozens and dozens of times. But over all those years, I never understood the title given to it. Over time this story became known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I always assumed that prodigal meant lost. After all, its the last of three parables in a row about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and here the lost son.
But prodigal doesn’t mean lost or runaway or wayward. The word prodigal, which was given to this parable later on in time, means extravagant, reckless, liberal.
It surely fits the younger son. He was prodigal in every sense of the word. The story begins with the son approaching his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” That was certainly an extravagant, reckless, and liberal request. In those days the male children would receive their inheritance from their father, and the first son would always receive a double portion. In this case, the older son would receive two-thirds and this younger son one-third. Read the rest of this entry