Sermon for April 23, 2017

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter

April 23, 2017, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  1 Peter 1:3-9

Sermon Theme: “Facing Trials and Pain with Faith and Hope”

(Sources:  Emphasis Online Commentary; Emphasis Online Illustrations: original ideas and examples; Anderson’s Cycle A Preaching Workbook; Life Application Study Bible)

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

I was a teacher for 30 years, both in high school and college, before I became a pastor, and now, I have been a pastor for almost 30 years; as a consequence, I have been compared to the Energizer Bunny.  About ten years ago, one of my former high school students, now a retired Lutheran Pastor, told another former student that he had visited with me, — to which the other replied, “You mean that old codger is still living?!”

Not too long ago, our LCMS District President asked my Circuit Counselor if I were still preaching, and he seemed awe-stricken that I still was.

However, I must say emphatically that I am no Energizer Bunny compared to Rev. Wayne Brouwer’s old friend, who was older than I and still going strong in the pulpit.  The old pastor had reached a good age and was mostly ready to go.  In fact, he jokingly said he had more lives than the proverbial cat with nine lives.  On too many occasions, because of cancer and accidents and blood diseases, doctors had written him off.  Yet, like the Energizer bunny, he kept going and going and going.

At a Circuit Pastors’ meeting, all the pastors present got to talking about how they hoped their congregation would remember them when they passed away.  One pastor said he hoped people would say nice things about him at his funeral, especially that he was a Godly man.  Another said he hoped folks would remember him for loving his family and being a pastor they could count on.

Having a great sense of humor, Wayne Brouwer’s old friend said, “When people come by my casket, I hope they look at me and say, “Oh, my!  He just moved!”

None of us wants to die, yet all of us face that prospect with a one-hundred percent certainty.  Except that after Easter, you can’t count on death any more.  Jesus reversed the natural course of events and shattered our pre-conceived notions about terminations.  Jesus came back to life.  Now everything changes. Continue reading

Sermon for April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday

Sermon for Easter Day, April 16, 2017

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Colossians 3:1-4

Sermon Theme:  “So What IS the Meaning of Easter?”

(Sources:  Brokhoff, Series A, Lectionary Preaching Workbook; Emphasis Online Commentary; Emphasis Online Illustrations; original ideas; Online Funny Easter Quotes and Jokes; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 27, Part 2, Series A; A Little Book of Joy by Matthew C. Harrison)

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

Advent.  Christmas.  Lent.  Easter.  Everything leads to Easter.  So what is the meaning of Easter?

A Sunday School teacher once asked her pre-school class about the meaning of Easter.  “Children,” she said, “Do you know why we celebrate Easter?”

A little girl raised her hand.  “Yes, Jenny,” said the teacher.

Jenny said, “Is Easter when we put on costumes and go trick-or-treating?”

“No, Jenny, that’s Halloween.  Does anyone else know?”

A little boy yelled, “It’s when we set off fireworks!”

“No, Danny, that’s Independence Day?  Anyone else?”

A shy little girl in the back said, “Easter is when Jesus died.”

“You’re on the right track, Shawndy,” said the teacher.  “Jesus died on Good Friday, and then what happened next on Easter Sunday?”

“Well,” said the little girl, “He died and got buried, and every Easter he comes out.  And if he sees his shadow, there’s six more weeks of winter.”

Such an outlandish answer makes us chuckle, but, you know, there are many adults who really can’t give you a good answer to that question either.  “What does Easter really mean?” Well, that little, 4-sentence sermon text from Paul’s letter to the Colossians answers the question quite well!  What better time to answer the question than on Easter Sunday!

In general, it means salvation completed, it means reconciliation completed, it means complete joy!  But it’s also important to know what it means to each one of us individually.  Continue reading

Sermon for April 09, 2017

Sermon for Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Composite of Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; and John 12:12-18

Sermon Theme:  “So Why Is Palm Sunday So Important?”

(Sources:  Brokhoff, Series A, Preaching Workbook; “All Hail King Jesus,”; Online “Palms for the Lord”; “The Significance of Palm Sunday,; original ideas; Lutheran Cyclopedia; Harper’s Bible Dictionary; online China’s End of World War II 2015 Anniversary Parade)

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

Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, and others use a Lectionary for preaching during the Church Year; there is even a Common Lectionary, as well as a Catholic and Lutheran Lectionary, and they are all somewhat similar.  In the 1980’s, the Lectionaries changed, no doubt because many of those denominations were no longer holding Holy Week services, not even on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  And most of them, long ago, seemed to have stopped having Wednesday night services throughout Lent.

As a consequence, the Lectionaries added Passion Sunday Scriptures to the traditional readings for Palm Sunday.  This raised the question, “Can both be celebrated on the same Sunday?”  If you do both, you will have a two-hour long service, so most take the option of observing EITHER Palm Sunday OR Passion Sunday.  Having them both on the same day kind of neutralizes both of them.

When I began preaching in 1988, like a lot of other preachers, I used a   Lectionary Preaching Workbook that was already offering both a Palm Sunday text and a Passion Sunday text (which is essentially a Good Friday text).  Then in 1993, when that Lectionary Workbook was replaced with a new one, Only the Passion Sunday texts were offered, almost as though they did away with Palm Sunday.  Although our insert recognizes both, it offers only the Passion Gospel.

To me, eliminating a Palm Sunday celebration is doing away with one of the most important Christian Festivals in the Church Year. Continue reading

Sermon for April 02, 2017

Sermon for Fifth Sunday in Lent, April 2, 2017

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Romans 8:1-11

Sermon Theme:  “But Does the Spirit of God Dwell within You?”

(Sources:  Anderson’s Cycle A Preaching Workbook; What Luther Says; Online Emphasis Commentary; Online Emphasis Illustrations; original ideas; “What Are the Names and Titles of the Holy Spirit?,”; Life Application Study Bible; Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia; Lutheran Cyclopedia)

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

The Lutheran Lectionary System we follow, which determines, among other things, which Bible texts we use every Sunday, seems strange sometimes.  The Epistle text for today, for instance, is Romans 8:1-11, which is about the Holy Spirit, and which more logically is a Pentecost text.  But here we are deep into Lent, and we have a text focusing on the Holy Spirit.  What has the Holy Spirit got to do with Lent?

The Church Calendar ties in with the Holy Spirit, but it has Festivals that seem odd for Lent.  March 20 is the Festival of St. Joseph (foster father of Jesus), and March 25 is the Festival of the Annunciation, celebrating the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she is with child by the Holy Spirit.  It makes you think you’re back in Advent.  So it goes with man-made Systems and Calendars!  And Church tradition tells us not to celebrate Festivals of any kind during Lent, whether they appear out-of-place chronologically or in-place.

I said all that just in case you were wondering why the sermon was about the Holy Spirit on the 5th Sunday in Lent.

To be sure, the Holy Spirit is ALWAYS a valid topic, as Martin Luther says in his Large Catechism, “The Holy Spirit carries on His work without ceasing until the Last Day, and for this He has appointed a congregation on earth through which He speaks and does everything.”

The work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely extraordinary.  How can you tell if a person is a Christian?  By the fact that he or she has the Spirit of Christ dwelling within them, and you can tell THAT by the difference it makes in the person’s life, — how he or she thinks, speaks, and acts.  If it doesn’t make a difference, is the person a truly regenerated, reborn follower of Christ?  There are Christians, and then there are “Christians.”  The Holy Spirit makes the difference.

Mohandas Gandhi spent some years studying in England, at that time considered a very Christian nation.  After returning home from England to India, he was asked if he had been exposed to Christianity while he was away.  “Yes,” he replied.  He was then asked, “Why didn’t you become a Christian?”  To this, Gandhi replied, “Because I knew too many Christians.”  We gotta remember, we Christians are the only Bible some people read.

A missionary was shipwrecked on a desert island and spent many miserable days waiting for rescue.  Fresh fruit, fish, and edible animals were plentiful, so he wasn’t hungry, but he became desperately lonely.  So he decided to explore deeper into the interior of the island, to see if there were any other human beings on it.

After fighting his way through underbrush, he saw the smoke of a camp fire.  At first he was excited, just at the thought of other humans being there on the island, but then he began to worry that they might be headhunters or cannibals.  So he carefully and quietly got close enough to the campsite to hear what the voices were saying.

“Deal the cards and pass the bottle,” he heard a voice say.  “Oh, thank God!” he gasped, “I’m among Christians!” Continue reading