WEEKLY MESSAGES


12/10/17

Sermon

Could It Be That You Are Called?

The lesson for this weekend comes from one of the Old Testament's most colorful books: Esther. Esther is a beautiful young woman who, through the most unusual of circumstances, finds herself as Queen of the Persian Empire. However, there was one biographical fact that Esther had failed to mention to her husband, King Xerxes; Esther was a Jew. During her reign as queen, unbeknownst to her, Xerxes signed a decree to have all the Jews of the empire annihilated. Esther was at a loss as to what to do. It was her cousin, Mordecai, who challenged her to stand up to the king. "Who knows?" he said, "Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this" (Esther 4:14b). I don't think I'm giving away the ending by saying that through her, God prevented the destruction of His people.

As I look back upon my life, I see a whole host of people whom God used in my life for my benefit: teachers, uncles, aunts, friends, coaches. Most of them probably didn't think about how God had placed them in my life when I needed that influence most. That is true for all of us. We have no idea how God is using us to influence someone's day (or even life). Maybe it is something dramatic like being a classroom teacher or a foster parent. Maybe it is something much more subtle, like opening a door or giving a few dollars to someone in need. Could it be that you are called for such a time as this? I think it is safe to assume, YES. 

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5. Sunday at 9 and 10:35


12/03/17

Sermon

The Church operates on a different kind of calendar than the rest of the world.  The world’s calendar revolves around the sun in the sky – always beginning on January 1 and ending on December 31.  The Church’s calendar revolves around the Son of God, Jesus. The Church year begins with a type of pregnancy (called Advent) before Jesus’ birth on Christmas. This year, Advent (and thus the Church calendar) begins on Sunday, December 3.  
 
For most of us, a new year brings a sense of hope. If we think about it, for most of us the weeks leading up to Christmas have always been related to hope. When I was a child, before there was such a thing as “online” shopping, we would receive the Sears and Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogs. I can still smell the fragrance of those pages as I would skip through the boring clothing and housewares sections and find the toys. I would dog-ear the pages of the toys that interested me most in the hope that my mother would take notice.  


About 600 years before Jesus was born, God's people were facing a seemingly hopeless time. The armies of the Babylonian Empire were swooping in from the north and the very existence of Judah was in doubt. Come and see how God used the prophet Habakkuk to share a message of hope in the midst of the hopelessness of the geo-political situation - a message we all need to hear.


Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5. Sunday at 9 and 10:35


About the year 700 B.C., King Hezekiah of the Southern Kingdom of Judah looked over the protective walls of Jerusalem and saw there the army from the great Assyrian Empire, more than 150,000 soldiers strong.  He had known that they were coming and what they would do. This army was like a great wrecking ball from the north destroying the cities in its path and enslaving their residents.  Humanly speaking, the future of Jerusalem looked bleak. The future of Jerusalem and, consequently, the future of the people of God looked out of control and hopeless.  Chapters 36 and 37 of the Old Testament book of Isaiah tell us the story of how King Hezekiah reacted and, more importantly, how God responded.  What do we do when we look over our protective walls and see chaos and hopelessness?  What can we learn from King Hezekiah? 

Come and see. Come and worship! Saturday at 5:00pm, Sunday at 9:00am & 10:35am


Regardless of where you attend Christian worship on a Sunday morning, you will see and hear variations of the same sorts of things. There will be prayer and the singing of hymns/songs/canticles. There will be the reading of scripture/Bible/God's word. There will be some sort of sermon/message/homily given by some sort of priest/preacher/minister. In the more historical churches (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal, etc.), you will probably share in Holy Communion/Lord's Supper/Eucharist. Each faith tradition has its own way of worshiping God, some more exuberant, some more serene.  

About 700 years before the birth of Jesus, God used a prophet named Micah to share a poignant message. The people of Jerusalem were under attack. The armies of Assyrian were at their front gate and they were terrified. Fear is a strong motivator for people to pray. What do you want from us, God? We are desperate! Do you want burnt offerings of 1000's of rams? Do you want rivers of oil?  Shall I sacrifice those things most dear to me (like my children)? Is that what you want?

God answers His people with something surprising. "I'm not interested in your animal sacrifices. I'm not interested in your rivers of oil. Good Heavens, NO! I'm certainly not interested in the sacrifice of your children." What does the LORD require of us? "God has told us what is good: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8) If our worship doesn't drive us to justice, kindness, and a humble walk with God - then we have more work to do.

Come and see. Come and worship. Then do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35.


This week's Bible reading (2 Kings 5:1-14) tells the story of a man named Naaman who is the head of the Syrian army.  Naaman may be powerful politically and militarily, but he has a problem; he suffers from leprosy. He hears of a powerful prophet in Israel named Elisha who might be able to help. When Naaman finally finds Elisha, he is surprised at his reception. Elisha barely even acknowledges him, let alone perform any dramatic act of healing. All he says to Naaman is, "Go and bathe seven times in the River Jordan." Naaman is incensed and begins to walk away. How dare he be dismissed so rudely. I'm an important man. Besides, the River Jordan is a mud hole compared to the great rivers of Syria. Why would I want to bathe there? This is ridiculous! How can a bath cure leprosy? A servant changed Naaman's mind. "What do you have to lose? Take the bath." Long story short, he was cured.

We live in an age that keeps on telling us the same story - "You aren't working hard enough. You are not involved in enough activities. Your kids are going to fail in life if they are not busy every day of the week." God comes to us with a ridiculous notion; relax - rest - remember. Instead of working harder, do as God does and rest one day a week. What? That is crazy! How can rest and remembering make my life better? Well - in the words of Naaman's servant, "What do you have to lose?" 

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00.  Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35


I would guess that when the majority of people hear the word "saint" their minds immediately fly to those who supposedly lived perfect (or nearly perfect) lives: St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa, St. Paul, or St. Peter. That is NOT what the Bible means when it uses the word, saint. In the Bible, the word, saint, refers to someone who is in relationship with God through Christ Jesus. 

This weekend we mark two special occasions. Sunday is All Saints Day - a day when we remember and toll the bell for those brothers and sisters of the faith who have gone before us. Were they perfect? Of course not, but neither were St. Paul or St. Peter. It is a day when we remember that God's Church encompasses more than what we can see, more than just the here and now. The other special occasion is Confirmation Sunday. At the 9:00 service, eight very special young people will affirm their faith in God before the entire congregation. 

As I think about it, Confirmation Sunday and All Saints Day belong together. As our confirmands confess their faith, the bonds are strengthened between them and the entire Church (of all times and places). They, too, will be reminded that they are part of something much bigger than they can see, the Body of Christ. 

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00.  Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35


My wife, Sonya, and I have a morning ritual. We get up, make coffee, get the newspaper, and then sit down to pray with each other. In our worship services in church, we end each petition with the words “Lord, in your mercy” and the congregation responds, “Hear our prayer.” At home, when Sonya and I are praying, we are just as likely to end each petition with a slurp of coffee (which, for those of us who grew up Lutheran, seems kind of appropriate).
 
If I were to ask you what it means to be Lutheran, how would you answer? For many of us who come from many generations of being Lutheran, it is a cultural thing, like coffee, Swedish meatballs if you are Swedish or brats and beer if you are German. For others, we think of a particular type of worship or music, belting out the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  But, of course, being Lutheran is more than just being part of a particular culture; it is more than just singing beautiful music written hundreds of years ago. Being Lutheran is being in relationship with God in and through a particular set of understandings about God and God’s love for us.  

As we culminate our month-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, join us as we celebrate what the reformation teaches us about God's grace-filled love for us through Jesus Christ.

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00.  Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35


In 1 Kings 3:3, Scripture says that Solomon loved the Lord. In this week’s sermon, Tom Redig will explore the ways we, too, can love the Lord. He will explore where this love comes from and the results of loving God. As children of God, we are all in this together, not only improving our love for God but also helping others to improve their love for God. It will be helpful to bring your smartphone to worship this weekend.

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00.  Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35


We often think that most of the characters of the Bible are somehow more righteous, somehow less broken than we are. It doesn’t take a very deep study to find out how wrong that idea really is. The Bible is very honest about the “human nature” of its characters. Abraham hears the call of God and screws up enough faith to follow it – but within a chapter or two, he loses that faith and tries to pass off his wife as his sister to save his own neck. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, tricks his meathead of a brother out of his birthright for a bowl of soup. And then there is Jacob’s sons, who grab their arrogant and snotty little brother Joseph and sell him into slavery, just to be rid of him.  

Then there is King David – arguably the Old Testament's most venerated character. Even he was far, far from perfect. David's coveting of another man's wife led to adultery, cover-up, and murder. David's arrogance hardened his heart and blinded him to his own behavior. God, through Nathan the prophet, broke through David's lies and pointed out the truth. In the end, David recognized his sins, confessed them, and received forgiveness. (2 Samuel 11-12) That forgiveness did not free him from the consequences of his actions. However, God did create a new heart within him, empowering him to endure those consequences. There is a reason why we begin our worship with confession. Confession allows God to create a new heart within us.

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.

 

Audio


Moses had led God’s people to the very front door of the Promised Land. But, in one of the sadder moments of the Old Testament, Moses died before they could enter. Upon Moses’ death, the mantel of leadership passed to one of his most trusted lieutenants; it would be up to Joshua to lead God's people in their conquest. There was a problem, however. The land that God had promised to Abraham and his descendants was not empty; the Promised Land already had inhabitants. To take possession of the Promised Land, Abraham’s descendants would have to fight and fight they did. With God’s help and Joshua's leadership, the Israelites took possession of what would come to be known as Israel.  


This week's Bible reading takes place a few years later. Joshua is an old man and knows that he is about to die. He gathers the tribes around him for one final word. He begins with a recounting of their history. He reminds them of the story of  Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Egypt, Moses, the Red Sea, and the crossing of the Jordan. Joshua reminds the people that their victory was the LORD's doing and  “not by your sword or by your bow.” Joshua needs to retell the story so they will not forget. And before he dies he finishes with some of the Old Testament’s most famous words, "Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ (Joshua 24:15)


In our baptisms, we have been included into the story of God. That story of God's love, grace, power, forgiveness, and inclusion shapes our lives. We need to hear it over and over and - more importantly - we need to be like Joshua and tell it to those who have never heard. 


Come and hear. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


Audio


The word 'holy' often gets a bad rap. When we hear about a person being referred to as 'holy', the first thing that many of us think is negative. He is 'holier than Thou.' She thinks she is better than me. In the Bible, that is not what 'holy' means. When the word 'holy' is applied to a person or thing, it means that that person or thing has been set aside for a particular task or responsibility. 


My mother once told me about an epidemic that went through her neighborhood when she was a little girl. The sickness hit the homes of her neighbors and killed a couple of children that she new. She remembered her father going over to the neighbors to help prepare their little bodies for burial. He would then come home and change his clothes in the barn so to not run the risk of infecting his own family. Those clothes that he wore were made holy - they were set aside to help the family in need.

In the Bible reading for this week (Exodus 19:3-7 & 20:1-17), God tells His people that He has made them a 'priestly kingdom and a holy nation.' It is not that they are better than anyone else, it is that they are given a special purpose, a special responsibility. They are to be a blessing for the rest of the families of the earth. We, as part of God's people, have also been set aside. We, too, are given that purpose and responsibility: to be a blessing for the world. Come and see how we can learn to live that purpose and responsibility.

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


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When I was a kid, we could always count on watching the movie, The Ten Commandments, on the night of Easter. Now it seems kind of cheesy, but then it was grand cinema - in Technicolor, no less. My favorite part of the movie was always at the edge of the Red Sea. God's people had been liberated from slavery; Pharaoh (Yul Brynner) had allowed them to leave but, out of spite and anger, he changed his mind and sent out his chariots to kill them all. Pinned against the Red Sea, Moses (Charleston Heston), in his flowing robes and grey mane of hair and beard, yells out to the frightened Hebrews, "The LORD of Hosts will do battle for us. Behold His mighty hand." He lifts his staff and God parts the sea, leaving a path of escape for the Hebrews and a trap for the Egyptian charioteers. The actual words from Exodus 14 would have been better, "Do not fear, stand firm and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish."  

For many of us, there are times in our lives when we feel the fear and stress of the Hebrews. We feel that our backs are to the sea and the army of hopelessness is drawing near. But, just as the Hebrews were called, so we have been called to be part of God's great plan to restore and redeem creation. Part of that call is the healing and liberation that God offers. It is then when we are called to hear that Exodus 14 message, "Do not fear, stand firm, and see." 

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00, Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35.


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