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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

What does it mean that Jesus is ‘the Christ?’ That is, arguably, the most important question ever uttered in human history. There were a lot of different suggestions floating around in Jesus’ day, there might be even more today. Most will toss out very respectable answers: a good teacher, a religion starter, a moral leader, a compassionate man with miraculous powers, etc. But this is the answer Jesus Himself gives that we must not miss: there is no Christ without the cross. To be the Christ means suffering and pain and death. As hard as it is to wrap our heads around Jesus’ answer, He doesn’t stop there: there is also no Christian without the cross. This week Jesus calls, equips, and encourages us to pick up our own crosses and follow Him. With our eyes on His cross, we carry ours close behind, never wearying of His promise: “First the cross, then the crown!”

 

 
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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus does everything well. Do you agree with that statement? Even as Christians we sometimes struggle to give our wholesale support. We all have had something happen in our lives where we thought the Lord should’ve intervened sooner or blessed longer or acted in a different way than we experienced. Does Jesus truly do everything well? The crowd who witnessed Jesus heal a deaf and mute man certainly thought so. But if you’re only looking for those show-stopping miracles to provide your answer, you’re missing out on the greatest proof that Jesus gives: the cross. Hidden in weakness and suffering—those places where we think God should intervene and eradicate altogether—is where you find Jesus doing His greatest work.

 

 
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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

In this sermon we look at some of the most beloved, well-known, and possibly misunderstood words in Scripture: St. Paul’s encouragement to “put on the full armor of God.” What is this armor? How do we put it on and what does God expect us to do once fully armed? We’ll digest this beautiful section of God’s Word and find in it an extremely comforting and easily overlooked message: Christ has done all the necessary fighting. The battle is done. The victory is secure. Your are victorious in and because of Jesus.

 

 
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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

“This is a hard teaching, Jesus.” That’s what the people told Jesus in response to His ‘Bread of Life’ discourse. Eat your flesh? Drink your blood? Is it hard for you to grasp as well? What do we do with the ‘hard’ teachings of Scripture? Do you wrestle with them and submit your reason to the Word of God? Or do you simply leave the hard teachings behind and with them the God who speaks them? Here’s the great paradox we learn from these words in John: the same words we call ‘hard’ are the very words which give us life. Thus, we pray that the Spirit would echo through our lips the confession of St. Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

 

 
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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Have you had your fill of all the political ads and commercials lately? Being an election year, there are a lot or promises flying around from hopeful candidates in an effort to illicit your vote. What if we told you that politicians aren’t the only ones vying for your attention? The world is full of things trying to soak up your time, affection, and resources. In the midst of all this chaos, Jesus comes to us in these words from John 6 and makes some pretty powerful promises, too. What are these promises and how do they affect your present and your future? Listen in…

 

 
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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

"What are you hungry for?" That's probably a pretty common question in your home around dinner time. But it's also a fitting question to ask ourselves as we reflect on the priorities of our lives. As we continue our series from John 6 on The Bread of Life Discourse, it became clear that the crowd Jesus miraculously fed was only hungry for more bread. Jesus, however, wants to feed us with so much more, because He knows in the depths of our souls, we're hungry for so much more. This is why Jesus, the Bread of Life, has come: to cure our greater hunger. 

 

 
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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Sufficient isn't typically used as a positive word. We tend to use it when we mean "the bare minimum." Sufficient implies you did just enough. Is this what Jesus means when He tells the Apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you"? Paul agonizes over a painful thorn the Lord allowed to come into his life and he prays earnestly for relief. Does the Lord simply promise him the bare minimum? Hardly. The fact that we assume this to be true only shows we don't understand grace or the purpose of our thorns. Strength actually comes through weakness. Jesus proved this on His cross and His love for us is proven again and again through our own suffering. With this in mind, Paul embraces his thorn and encourages us to do the same. Grace is never the bare minimum; grace is always what we need and more than we could ever deserve. 

 

 
"Jeremiah's Lamentations" by Marc Chagall

"Jeremiah's Lamentations" by Marc Chagall

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Three years after they were married, C.S. Lewis' wife, Joy, died of cancer. In the months following her death, Lewis kept a journal of his struggles, his questions, his wrestling to understand and cope with such a loss. This journal, which filled four notebooks, was collected and published under the title “A Grief Observed.” It would be one of the final books Lewis ever wrote. In it, he laid out his greatest fear in moments of mourning: “I do not fear I am in danger of losing my faith in God. The real danger is starting to believe such terrible things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not saying ‘So, there is no God after all’, no, what I fear most in the midst of my pain is saying, ‘So, this is what God is really like.’”  If you've ever shared Lewis' fears, then the words of the prophet Jeremiah, the words this sermon is based on, were recorded for you. Listen in to learn what God is really like. 

 

 
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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

A lack of control lies at the root of all our fears. Dig a little deeper into something you fear and that's ultimately where you'll end up: you fear that which you can't control. That, in and of itself, is terrifying--so much is beyond our control. The disciples encountered a situation that was beyond their control and it paralyzed them with fear. It wasn't just the storm, though, Mark tells us they were even more terrified of Jesus' power than they were of the storm! How illogical. How can we fear the One who always only cares for us? For that matter, how can we fear anything at all? Do we still have no faith? Look to and listen to the One who says to both wind and wave: "Quiet! Be still!" and know that He speaks to your fears just the same. 

 

 
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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord? Those are the three options famed Christian apologist and author, C.S. Lewis, once gave regarding Jesus. In this account from Mark 3, we see all three options explored. Who is Jesus? His own family thought He was crazy. The religious leaders of His day thought Jesus was a liar. But what about you? What's your answer? Listen in as we wrestle with the single most important question that's ever been asked. 

 

 
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Second Sunday after Pentecost

"Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy." Some list this as the third commandment, others as the fourth. Either way, most would probably agree that it is the most difficult to apply to present-day Christians. Does it still apply to us since we no longer observe the Old Testament Sabbath Day? Was it only about God's people taking a break from their work or is there something else at the core of this commandment? As it is with all of Scripture, Jesus lies at the heart of these words too. In this sermon, we're reminded of the primary purpose of the Sabbath Day and how we're still living it and receiving its benefits even today!

 

 
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The Festival of the Holy Trinity

Have you ever met someone famous? How was that experience? Sometimes it can be a very memorable moment but other times it can be crushing. We build certain people up in our minds to be almost "larger than life" that once we meet them in real life, they could never live up to our impressions. What's your impression of God? Have you ever thought what it would be like to meet Him? It happened to a man once named Isaiah. His encounter with God gives us a good opportunity to reconsider our lowly impressions of God and our all-too-often high impressions of ourselves. On this Trinity Sunday, when we focus on the beautiful mystery of who our God is, we join our newly cleansed lips with the voices of angels and Isaiah himself who praise the Holy, Holy Holy God Almighty! 

 

 
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The Coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost

Have you ever seen one of those ridiculous stories on the internet that leaves you with the powerful cliff hanger: “Then this happened…”? It’s almost impossible to avoid clicking because we want to see what happens next! Would you click on a story with this title: A Man Started Talking to a Pile of Dead Bones…? It happened once. The man’s name was Ezekiel and he was God’s prophet to the people of Judah while they were in exile in Babylon. But the story actually has a lot to do with us, too. It’s the story of how God found each one us: dead. It’s what happened after Ezekiel started speaking that will leave you speechless. The dead bones come to life! This is what happens when people encounter the Word of God and the Holy Spirit who works through it. On the festival of Pentecost we focus on God’s Spirit and His special work of resurrecting dead bodies to spiritual and eternal life. It happened once in a valley of dead, dry bones. It happened on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Christ’s resurrection for 3,000 people. And, by God’s grace, it’s still happening today! Through the proclamation of the gospel, the Spirit is raising dead people to new life in Christ. Thanks be to God!

 

 
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The Festival of the Ascension of Our Lord

Good byes are never easy, especially when it’s someone we love. It would’ve been understandable then if that had been the reaction of the disciples as they watched Jesus ascend and disappear behind a cloud. But we’re told they were actually joyful! The disciples were happy because they understood what the Ascension means. Jesus goes home! And if He’s going home that could only mean that His saving work here on earth was complete. Our salvation is secure and our enemies of sin, death, and Satan are defeated! It also means that the life-giving Holy Spirit is coming and that Christ is preparing a home for us right now in heaven. Knowing all of this, how could the disciples not have been joyful?! How could we not be the same?!

 

 
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Unfortunately, no one comes right out and admits when they’re lying. The truth must be investigated. Nowhere is this more important that when it comes to those who teach the Word of God. There are those who teach it correctly and those who distort it for their own reasons. So how will we know who is telling the truth and who is lying? John says “test the spirits” to see whether they are from God. Our love for God's Word drives us to seek the truth. Once we find the truth, namely that we are so unconditionally loved by God that He gave His Son as a sacrifice for us, then that truth seeks to show itself in our lives as we love one another. 

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"I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Those are the words we heard Jesus speak in the Gospel. Being connected to Jesus the Vine, by faith, is what gives us life as Christians. But it is also the reason we have fruit, i.e. visible signs of that faith, in our lives. We show the fruit of our faith by giving and showing real love to those around us. But what happens when our restless hearts don't love, can't love, refuse to love? John invites us to reconsider the Vine and to see in Him, the One who is greater than our cold, convicting hearts. In Christ, our Vine, we have the greatest love known to mankind. Having received that love, our restless hearts are made at peace with our God and are ready to love everyone we encounter, not just with words but with actions.   

 

 
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On what is historically known as Good Shepherd Sunday, we also had the privilege of witnessing two of our young people publicly profess the faith of their baptisms in a rite called "Confirmation." In this sermon we continue our Easter series on 1 John as we hear some fitting words not only for our young confirmands but for all Christians: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1)