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Life is Very Different When You Have Christ

1st Sunday after Christmas

Life is Very Different When You Have Christ

Text: Luke 2:25-40

The Christmas picture.  A staple of the season.  We have a whole basket full of Christmas pictures and Christmas cards.  Tech savvy folks see Christmas pictures all over—Facebook, Instagram, Email.  Everyone wants to share their holiday cheer.

Here’s a picture of a family of four in matching Christmas sweaters and jeans.  There’s a picture of the retired couple with all their children and grandchildren.  Here’s a picture of the young kids surrounded by a mountain of presents.  There’s a picture of the family in front of the Christmas tree.  Every picture is the same, right?  A couple, a family smiling in some staged pose with the message, “Happy Holidays,” or “Merry Christmas.”

But the Christmas picture is deceiving.  It’s staged and posed in more ways than one.  The message might say, “Happy Holidays,” or “Merry Christmas,” but the people in the picture are anything but happy or merry. Read the rest of this entry


Lie Down and Sleep in Peace

Compline: Prayer at the Close of Day

Lie Down and Sleep in Peace

Text: Psalm 4

It sure is frustrating when your children make bad decisions.  It almost hurts worse than when you make bad choices yourself.  You spend so much time and effort teaching your children.  You try to raise them right.  You try to help them make good choices and be successful in life.  You try to train them in the ways of the Lord.  When they do something wrong, it hurts.

How could they cheat on that assignment?  Why would they say that to somebody else?  Where did they get that kind of language from?  I didn’t teach them that.

As they get older the potential sins get more ugly and the potential pains get more hurtful.  Why won’t they listen to me anymore?  How could they act like I’m unimportant, like they don’t care about me?  This isn’t the way I raised my child!  These are just more troubles in a life filled with pain.

Imagine this, though.  Imagine your child doing more than making a few bad choices.  Imagine your child doing more than mixing it up with the wrong crowd.  Imagine your child completely hating you.  He wants to disown you.  He tells people lies about you.  He works against you, trying to disrupt and discard everything you’ve ever worked for.  He steals your livelihood.  He overtakes your home.  He kicks you out out on the streets.  He even dishonors your marriage bed in disgusting ways and is not at all discreet about it.  You think your kid cheating on a test or breaking curfew is bad?  That would be a nightmare!

Yet that is a nightmare that became a reality for king David.  All of those things happened to him with his son Absalom.  Absalom stirred up the kingdom.  He told lies about his father.  He rallied a rebellion against him.  Eventually he kicked him out of his palace, took over the throne, and even had his way with his father’s women in plain sight of everyone on the palace roof.   Read the rest of this entry

Rejoice in What God Will Do

The 3rd Sunday of End Times

Rejoice in What God Will Do

Text:  Isaiah 65:17-25

Three years ago on this day of the church year I told you the story of a friend pastor of mine whose young child tragically stopped breathing and died.  I’ve shared other sad stories.  A friend pastor whose baby was born with a hole in the heart and parts of the brain missing.  Former members of our church whose daughter was born a few months ago with hydrocephalus.  She’s currently receiving ground breaking treatment at Duke University.  We have a student in our Preschool that is fighting cancer and a tumor fused to the top of his spinal chord.  On Thursday a man with a gun was shot by police in the newborn wing of the Children’s hospital just down the road from my parents’ home in Milwaukee.  I know other stories.  You know other stories.

A few months ago we included in our prayers our former vicar or intern Jacob Hoff and his family when his mother-in-law passed away after fighting brain cancer for about six months.  A few weeks ago I told you about the pastor in his 60s that died from lung cancer, making a cross over his heart as he took his last breath.  I know other stories.  You know other stories.

Some of you have experienced these sad stories very recently.  A lost grandfather.  Or mother.  Or friend.  A new person with cancer.  A new life-threatening illness.  Another life expected to be too short.  Another life cut short.  Some of you have such stories right now. Read the rest of this entry

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

The Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

1. You have God’s pleasure
2. You have God’s presence
3. You have God’s peace

Text: John 14:21-27


Something wasn’t quite right.  The tension was nearly tangible.  It was as if something big was about to happen.

That whole week Jesus had been talking more and more about suffering and dying.  He had been saying he had to leave.  His preaching had been fiery—even turning over money tables in the temple.

Only hours before this, they began what was supposed to be just another ordinary Passover meal together.  But the tension only increased.  Jesus said that one of the Twelve was going to betray him.  Everyone was completely confused.  Judas ran out of the room.  What was that all about?  Then Jesus instituted a new meal with a new covenant for forgiveness.  Why was that necessary?  Then they sang a hymn and went out toward a favorite place of prayer—the Garden of Gethsemane.

As they were walking now, Jesus started back up with the “gloom and doom” talk.  He said Peter was going to deny him.  He said again that he was going to be leaving.  Where was he going?  What was going on here?  Peter was hurt that Jesus would think he would deny him.  Thomas asked where Jesus was going.  Philip asked to see God the Father because maybe that would help them believe.  We heard today how Judas asked why Jesus seemed to be revealing himself only to the disciples.

What was going on here!  The disciples were confused and concerned.  They were troubled and afraid. Read the rest of this entry

The Keys to a Fruitful School Year and a Fruitful Life

12th Sunday after Pentecost

The Keys to a Fruitful School Year and a Fruitful Life

Text:  Galatians 5:22-25


Hours and hours of preparation.  We cleaned and cleaned, and then cleaned some more.  Hundreds of phone calls and Emails.  Thousands of pages printed for enrollment packets and parent handbooks.  Hours of training on rules and regulations.  First Aid and CPR training.  Almost one ton of boxes of new textbooks.  Curriculum plans.  Block plans.  Lesson plans.  Technology plans.  Parent orientation.  Classroom orientation.  All of that time, effort, and energy and now tomorrow a new school year is about to begin.

Obviously, this is something important.  Parents depend on this school for the care and education of their children.  Students depend on this school for the shaping of their futures.  Teachers depend on this school for a place to do something they are passionate about and love.   Our church depends on this school as a critical outreach arm of its ministry.  Obviously, this is something important.

So with so much preparation, so many plans, and so much money spent, one question rises to the forefront:  How are we going to make this a fruitful year?  And if we’re going to answer that question and make this school year fruitful, maybe this more important question comes to mind:  How are we going to make this a fruitful life? Read the rest of this entry