Sermon for January 29, 2017

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

January 29, 2017, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Matthew 5:1-12

Sermon Theme:  “How Blessed Are Your Attitudes?”

(Sources: Anderson’s Cycle A Preaching Workbook; Brokhoff, Series A, Preaching Workbook; original ideas; Emphasis Online Illustrations; Emphasis Online Commentary; Online Jokes about Humility and Meekness; The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible; footnotes, The Life Application Study Bible)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Beatitudes are not prescriptions for how to live a Godly life.  They are descriptions of how a Godly life should look, and rather radical descriptions at that.  A Godly life is humble and meek, merciful, pure, peace-making.  The main characteristic defining the “blessed attitudes,” as they are sometimes called, is humility.  The opposite of humility is pride, which the Bible judges to be the root of all sin.

The wrong kind of pride and a lack of humility seem to be natural human weaknesses, and are even found in the church, even among Christians with credentials.  Sometimes it takes the innocence of a child to put us all in our place.

There’s a story about a pastor who was never seen without his clerical collar, something he wore with the good kind of pride, but also with maybe a little bit of the bad kind of pride.  No one had ever seen this pastor without his collar, so they jokingly wondered if he even slept with it on.

After church, a child who came from an un-churched family and had never seen a pastor’s garb before, asked the Reverend, “Do you have a bo-bo?”

At first the pastor was a little taken aback, and then he realized the boy was looking intently at his white and black Roman collar.  So he pulled out the white plastic insert and showed it to the child, telling him that it was also part of a clergyman’s outfit.

On the backside of every plastic insert are embossed the words, “Wash with warm, soapy water.”  The pastor showed this to the little boy, and, knowing the kid was too young to read, asked him, “Do you know what these words say?”

The boy startled the pastor by saying, “I sure do!”

“You do?  Then tell me what they say,” said the Right Reverend Clergyman.

“It says, ‘kills fleas and ticks for up to six months.’”  Everybody laughed.

The Beatitudes in our sermon text are addressed to people we think we don’t want to be.  We don’t want to be meek or poor in spirit.  And, if being merciful means forgiving our enemies, we certainly want to think twice about that one.  To be pure in heart means we would have to give up all of our impurities, and most of us cling to them.  It’s the same for being a peacemaker; more often than not, we want to carry the grudge.  We certainly don’t want to be persecuted or reviled.  Continue reading

Sermon for January 22, 2017

Sermon for Third Sunday after the Epiphany

January 22, 2017, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Sermon Theme:  “God’s House Divided Cannot Stand”

(Sources:  Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 27, Part 1, Jan. 22, 2017, Series A; Emphasis Online Commentaries; Emphasis Online Illustrations; Brokhoff, Series A, Lectionary Preaching Workbook; original ideas; “Donald Trump Versus Hilary,” National Review; Online Trump/Clinton Polls; “Lincoln’s House Divided Speech,” Wikipedia)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s rather ironic that two days after the Inauguration of our new U. S. President, the Lectionary for today includes Paul’s admonition about divisions in the church.  Paul’s admonition for the Church reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s famous “House Divided Speech,” when Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”

President Trump was elected after a very bitter election battle between two candidates who were both unpopular.  There were many polls leading up to the election showing how divided our nation was.  One poll showed that 56 percent of Americans did not think Donald Trump was qualified to be President, and another poll indicated that 56 percent did not believe Hilary Clinton would make a good President.  Well, polls are polls.

Some movie stars and other celebrities said they would move to Canada if Trump were elected.  Sixty-nine congressmen did not attend the Inauguration held Friday, though all former Presidents except the senior Bush, did attend, and he and Barbara didn’t because they were in the hospital.  Bikers from all over the country showed up to “protect” Trump.  Recognizing the division in our country, President Trump said in his inauguration speech, “When America is united, America will be unstoppable.”

God’s Word does not speak directly to a nation divided, but it does speak directly and explicitly to a church divided.

There are two stories told about very serious divisions in the church, both so extreme, it’s hard to believe the claims that the stories are true. Continue reading

Sermon for January 15, 2017

Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 15, 2017, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  John 1:29-42a

Sermon Theme:  “Evangelists for the Lamb of God”

(Sources:  Anderson’s Cycle A Lectionary Preaching Workbook; Brokhoff, Series A, Preaching Workbook; original ideas; Online Evangelism Jokes; “Lamb of God,” Wikipedia; “Paschal Lamb,” Britannica; “Sacrifices and Offerings,”; “The Five Offerings,”; Emphasis online Commentary; Emphasis online Illustrations; Harper’s Bible Dictionary)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Since we are all called to be evangelists, many church members and some pastors go overboard in an attempt to obey this call.  Some pastors take the local telephone directory, divide it up, and give each member of the church several dozen names to call to try to get them to come to church.  Other pastors send the whole congregation out knocking on neighborhood doors.  That is not the Biblical method of evangelism, and it can backfire.

There’s the story about two church members going door to door, hoping to talk someone into following Jesus.  They knocked on the door of an un-churched woman who could not stand evangelists trying to convert her, whether they were Jehovah Witnesses or Lutherans.

She told these two men that she did not want to hear their message and slammed the door in their faces.

To her surprise, however, the door did not close, and, in fact, bounced back open.  Convinced these pushy evangelists were sticking their foot in the door, she reared back to give it a slam that would teach them a lesson, when one of them said, “Ma’am, before you do that again, you need to move your cat.”

Some pastors prefer going door to door themselves rather than sending church members out to evangelize.  There was one such zealous pastor of a small village church in Kentucky.  He tried for years to convert one particularly vicious old mountaineer name Jim, who was notorious for his godlessness and his hatred of the church.  Jim was hard-headed and stubborn, and seemed to enjoy his evil attitude and resisted all efforts to be converted. Continue reading

Sermon for January 08, 2017

Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord

January 8, 2017, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Romans 6:1-11

Sermon Theme:  “So Why Is Baptism Such a Big Deal?”

(Sources: Luther’s Large Catechism; Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation; Emphasis Online Commentary; Footnotes, Life Application Study Bible; Footnotes, Concordia Self-Study Bible; Beverly Beyer, Online “Which Religions Practice Baptism, Which Do Not?”; Online Baptism Jokes; Online “What Does It Mean to Be in Christ?”; “Baptism into Jesus Christ and into His Death,” online logoapostolic. Org; Online “The Reformers Defense of Infant Baptism”)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Once, when an adult man asked to be baptized, the pastor wanted him to understand how important the Sacrament was, so he called the gentleman into his office and said solemnly, “Baptism is a serious step.  Are you prepared for it?”

“I think so,” the man replied, “my wife has made appetizers and we have a caterer coming to provide plenty of cookies and cakes for all of our guests.”

“I don’t mean that,” the pastor responded.  “I mean, are you prepared spiritually?”

“Oh, sure,” came the reply, “I’ve got a keg of beer and a case of whiskey.”

Although most Christians regard Baptism as a Sacred act, and take it very seriously, there is a tendency to be light-hearted about it, in the same way we joke about weddings, — perhaps because its preponderance overwhelms us.  In teaching Junior Confirmation, we pastors always begin the unit on Baptism by stressing how important it is to us.  And most of the time, the kids respond with a question like, “So why is Baptism such a big deal?”  And that’s a good question, because it’s what our sermon text is all about. Continue reading

Sermon for January 01, 2017

Sermon for the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, New Year’s Day,

January 1, 2017, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Luke 2:21

Sermon Theme:  “The Church Year Continues as the Secular Year Begins, and

We Have Jesus’ Name on Us”

(Sources:  Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 27, Part 1, Series A; Life Application Study Bible footnotes; Concordia Self-Study Bible footnotes; Harper’s Bible Dictionary; the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible; Online Peanuts Cartoon Strips; gospel; original ideas; The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware); my Images Column for December 29; my sermon for December 18, 2016).

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you get old, a year seems to go by in an eye blink.  Last year seems like last week.  Today is the first day of the secular New Year, yet the old year still seems new to me.

During his lifetime, Charles M. Schulz, through his Peanuts comic strip, left a legacy of New Year’s commentaries.  Through the mouths of the characters in his strip, he left us with much to think about.

While Lucy van Pelt was always cynical, Charlie Brown and Linus had a little better outlook on the New Year.  One year, Lucy and Charlie meet on the sidewalk on New Year’s morning, and they gaze at the snow-covered landscape.  Lucy says, “See?  What did I tell you?”  Charlie, looking at her perplexed, says, “What?”  She answers with disgust, “This year is no better than the last one!”

In another strip, Charlie Brown says to the world, “Life is like an ice cream cone, you have to lick it one day at a time.”  And in still another, Charlie says to the younger, impressionable Linus, “YEARS are like candy bars . . . we’re paying more, but they’re getting shorter.”  Without a spiritual life, I suppose people do tend to measure their days on earth in ice cream cones, or, as with the case of J. Alfred Prufrock, in coffee spoons.

In day to day living, most of us reckon time by the secular calendar, even though as Lutherans, we worship according to the ecclesiastical or church calendar.  The New Year, according to the Church calendar begins with Advent, — this year it began on November 27.  So, today, while it is the secular New Year, we celebrate the Circumcision and Name of Jesus according to the Church calendar.

Other religious communities also have a religious calendar as well as a secular calendar.  For the Jewish community, the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, begins in September or October.  The Muslim New Year, Muharram, begins in September.  The Chinese New Year, in the past, religious, now secular, begins on the new moon, between January 21 and February 20, this year falling on January 28.

The ecclesiastical calendar reminds us that life is more than just eating candy bars and drinking coffee.  This day matters, not because it starts the new,  secular year, but because God gives His blessings to us through, and only through, Jesus’ name.

On this day, one week after Christmas, or, by Hebrew counting, eight days after Jesus’ birth, the baby Jesus was circumcised, as all good Jewish boys were.  On that occasion, He was also given His name, also according to custom.

You know, I don’t like to be confused about anything, and when I was growing up, listening to the pastor preach every Sunday, I was confused about these things happening to Jesus in the Temple.  It was confusing enough because our pastor sometimes preached in German, but also because I didn’t know whether Baby Jesus was brought to the Temple once, and all these things were done at the same time, or whether His parents took Him multiple times.

In later years, I was able to straighten that up in my head.  Just in case you have experienced some of the same confusion as I did, let me lay this Temple stuff out for you.

Jewish Law required that a number of ceremonies in the Temple had to be observed not long after the birth of a baby.  When I discovered there were four ceremonies rather than all in one, as I had thought as a child, the confusion was cleared up.  Jewish families went to the Temple for these four rituals:  ONE, the Circumcision and Naming of a male child; TWO, the Redemption of the First Born; THREE, the Purification of the Mother; and FOUR, the Consecration  of the child to God. Continue reading