Remember Your Training: Be Still! (Mark 4:35-41)

Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost (6/28/15)

Theme: Remember Your Training: Be Still!

Text: Mark 4:35-41 

          A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to be taught about leadership from a man who knows what he is talking about. Col. Johnny Davis, current commander of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard, the unit responsible for guarding Arlington National Cemetery (and many other placed just down the road), came and spoke to a group of pastors about leading people in challenging circumstances. He shared some fascinating stories about his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and leading young men in combat.

One of the points he made jumped into my head as I looked at the reading from Mark I just read. Col. Davis made a point most of us have probably heard before, but he’s seen it first hand: you don’t know what a man is made of until the bullets start flying. He told a couple stories about combat and looking at this 18-year-old kid next to him, and the guy was just frozen, his eyes fixin’ to pop out his skull… just standing there with bullets flying and RPG’s exploding. At times like that he said he would take them by the shoulders, look them in the eye, and say, “Remember your training.” They had been trained for this, now they needed to make the jump to applying their training to a real life situation. It was hard to do, but they had been trained to do it.

That’s essentially what’s happening in Mark 4.

For days Jesus had been training his disciples. He had been standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee teaching people about God, about the kingdom of God, how to live in this world, how the word of God worked, how to get to heaven. Jesus had been backing up his teaching with amazing miracles, healing anyone and everyone who came into contact with him.

For days Jesus had been teaching his disciples, but now it was time to start making that connection between training and real life situations. So Jesus told the disciples he wanted to go across the sea to the other side… they had no idea what was coming. Continue reading

Consumed with Zeal for God (John 2:13-22)

Sermon for the 3rd Sunday in Lent (3/8/15)

Text: John 2:13-22

Theme: Consumed with Zeal for God

A little word association: What picture flashes through your mind when I say… Jesus?

Maybe it is that picture you saw hanging in a church basement somewhere – that picture of Jesus sitting on top of a hill with little kids all around and one lucky kid on his lap. Maybe the image you see is the kind, welcoming, calming Jesus carrying a lamb on his shoulder. Maybe you picture the cross and your Savior on that cross. Or maybe you picture an empty tomb.

Whatever image you thought of when I first said the name Jesus, I’m willing to bet none of you pictured the Jesus we read about in John 2:13-22…

Imagine, if you can, the rage, the wrath, and the violence it would take for one man to drive away a small herd of animals and dozens of people who didn’t want to be moved. Jesus didn’t walk into the temple and say, “Please guys, can you get out of here?” He made a whip and started screaming, and yelling, and beating.

It’s not a side of Jesus we are used to seeing. Today we see Jesus red-faced in wrath, spittle flying from his mouth as he screams on the top of his lungs, a whip cracking in his hand over the heads of, and on the backs of men and beast as he drives them from the Temple courts. Today we see a Jesus consumed with zeal for his Father.

And it’s not a side of Jesus we are used to seeing… but can you blame him? Continue reading

Jesus – The Buyer of Souls (Mark 8:31-38)

Sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Lent (3/1/15)

Text: Mark 8:31-38

Theme: Jesus – the Buyer of Souls

The Devil went down to Georgia, he was lookin’ for a soul to steal. He was in a bind ‘cause he was way behind, he was willin’ to make a deal. He came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot. And the Devil jumped up on a hickory stump and said, “Boy, let me tell you what. “I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m a fiddle player too. And if you’d care to take a dare I’ll make a bet with you. Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy, but give the Devil his due. I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul ‘cause I think I’m better than you.”

– Charlie Daniels Band

Making a deal with the devil for your soul – it’s a popular cultural image. The characters, situations, and outcomes differ, but the general story is the same, you get some earthly gift or treasure, the Devil gets your soul. It makes for good stories, good movies, good fiddle proficiency proving songs. And it would just be good entertainment if it weren’t so stinkin’ true.

This world is full of people making very real deals with the Devil for their souls. Exchanging temporary earthly gifts or treasures for their eternal souls. Unfortunately, all too often (unlike the stories) they are not even aware that it is happening.

In our Gospel for today from Mark 8 we see another one of those moments that seemed to happened so often in the life of Peter, a moment when he takes his foot out of his mouth just long enough to stick the other one in. Pet has the nerve to take Jesus aside and rebuke Jesus. Think about that! Think about the nerve it would take to say, “No, no, Jesus. You have it all wrong. Let me tell you how it really should be.”

Jesus makes clear in his response to Peter that what we see Peter doing here is more than just a gaff, more than just a slip-up. Peter was trying to make a very real and very dangerous deal with the Devil. Continue reading

God’s Greatest Gift For You (Luke 2:1-20)

Sermon for Christmas Eve 2014

Text: Luke 2:1-20

Theme: God’s Greatest Gift For You!

           How do you decide which present to open up first? – It’s a relevant question this time of year. You have a stack of presents sitting in front of you, which one do you open first?

How you answer partially depends on how patient you are – do you save the best for last, or do you open the best first? Either way, one of the fun parts about opening up presents is trying to judge a gift by its wrapping – to try and guess what’s inside.

In my family, my siblings and I had to take turns on Christmas. We couldn’t just tear into our presents willy-nilly – we got to open one present and then we had to wait for everyone else to open a present before we could go again, so the order mattered. For me that meant deciding which presents looked boring from the outside and which looked like they had potential – I’d open the boring ones first so my present opening could end with a bang.

One of the first things I’d look at is the size. If it’s a really big present, there’s some natural intrigue. What could be hiding behind all that wrapping paper? Sometimes the really small presents are the interesting ones – bigger doesn’t always mean better in the world of presents. If it was about 18”x12”x3” (in my present opening experience), it almost always means clothes – as a kid what I considered a pretty boring gift.

Sometimes the gift giver influenced the decision.

If it was from Mom and Dad, it was probably new socks or a new church outfit. But if that gift was from Grandma Eva, or from Santa, it stood a better chance of being one of those big ticket presents – the ones that made me bounce off the walls in anticipation – because you expect fun, big, exciting presents from people like Grandparents and Santa.

What if this year you found a present under the tree address “From: God?” What kind of size, wrapping, and content would you want in a present from God? Continue reading

Service of the Seven Words (Good Friday)

The Seven Words of Jesus for Good Friday (4/18/14)

Luke 23:33-34 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the other criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

It happens all the time. At some high profile murder case, the reporters will be swarming the victim’s family, trying to get a quote, trying to get the emotion grabbing shot of tears and anger, asking the leading questions like, “If you could say one thing to the man who murdered your son, what would it be?” The expectation is anger, right? That’s what we humans feel when someone hurts us, anger. The expectation is that when we are wronged we need to speak up for ourselves, let our voice be heard and make sure everyone knows we are hurt.

But every once in a while, if you watch the news enough, you will hear a victim say something like, “I would want him to know that I forgive him.”

Selflessness like that can only really be learned in one place, can’t it? Selflessness like that can only be found in Jesus who in the heat of the moment, with nails driven in, and insults ringing in his ears asked that his enemies be forgiven. This is where we see, and learn what selfless love looks like – a wronged God forgiving and loving those who wronged him. This cross is where we experience firsthand what selfless love feels like, because this Jesus is dying so that he can say the same thing to you – Father forgive them for my sake. And the Father does…

The first word from the cross. Continue reading

Article 3 of the Augsburg Confession

???????????????????????Article 3: The Son of God

“Our churches teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God (John 1:14), assumed the human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So there are two natures – the divine and the human – inseparably joined in one person. There is one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. He did this to reconcile the Father to us and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of mankind (John 1:29).

“He also descended into hell, and truly rose again on the third day. Afterward, he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. There he forever reigns and has dominion over all creatures. He sanctifies those who believe in him, by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts to rule, comfort, and make them alive. He defends them against the devil and the power of sin.

“The same Christ will openly come again to judge the living and the dead, and so forth, according to the Apostles’ Creed.”

 

Ok, this is a biggie. Article 3 and Article 4 (next week’s) are what distinguish a church from a cult (meaning, if a church does not teach this Article as truth, they are not a Christian church, because they don’t believe what Christ said about himself). If understood correctly, and believed, the doors of heaven are opened. If not understood, nor believed, hell is the only possible outcome. Either Jesus was God and Man, and he died for your sins, or you are still in your sins, and you are going to hell.

Maybe though, “understand” isn’t the best word to use with this Article. We can’t understand the God-Man Jesus in the same way I understand osmosis or how a combustion engine works. Continue reading