The 11th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 15A (8/20/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Psalm 67 (3)
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
St. Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133 (1)

Prayer of the Day:
God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you. Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy, that your name may be known throughout the earth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

15:21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

St. Matthew 15:21-28. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Disturbing, Confusing Grace

This weekend’s Gospel lesson is arguably one of the most confusing stories we have about Jesus. At the same time, it makes one of the most profound affirmations of God’s grace that we find in the New Testament. It features a conversation between Jesus and a Canaanite woman. A strange aspect of this story is that by the first century there really are not people commonly referred to as Canaanites; they ceased to exist about 1,150 years before the birth of Jesus. They were indigenous people in the land once conquered by ancient Israel, who never had a presence in the lands were Jesus taught, preached and healed. Matthew seems to use this word, and the image of that long extinct people, as a depiction of one who has no place within the people of God. (more…)

In God We Trust

Date: August 13, 2017
Liturgical Day: The 10th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14A

trusting in our God
with neither fear nor hatred
living faithfully

Saint Pierre Attempting to Walk on Water by Francois Boucher; Versailles, 1766

Summary:
Faith is a word that can have a variety of meanings. Some think of it as “correct belief.” Others think of it as “trust.” In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus encourages Peter to have faith in a difficult and dangerous situation: to trust. How might we, in these divided and dangerous days, learn how to trust in God, and in God’s ability to lead us forward to a better and more faithful future?

Some discussion Questions:
1. What led to Peter’s success (and failure) in his attempt to walk on water with Jesus?
2. In Romans 10, how is the righteousness that comes from the law different from the righteousness that comes from faith?
3. In 1st Kings 19, what does it mean that Elijah heard God’s voice coming from “a sound of sheer silence?”

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-08-13 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-08-13 TIH

The 10th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14A (August 13, 2017)

Lessons:
1st Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13 (8)
Romans 10:5-15
St. Matthew 14:22-33

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1, 45)

Prayer of the Day:
O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

14:22 Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.

St. Matthew 14:22-33. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Connection, Compassion, Kindness and Power

This week’s Gospel lesson tells a remarkable story. It features, as its most enduring image, the figure of Jesus, walking across the Sea of Galilee towards a distressed group of seafaring disciples. Battered by the waves, far from shore, fighting the wind, they have come to fear for their lives. To make matters worse, they suddenly glimpse what appears to be a ghost, making its way towards them. Terrified, they cry out in fear. (more…)

It Is Christ Who Feeds

August 6, 2017
Liturgical Day: The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13A

thousands of people
hungry in the wilderness
fed by Jesus’ hand

The Feeding of the Five Thousand by Hendrick de Clerck (1590)

Summary:
In the wilderness, the compassion of God is evident when Jesus feeds a great crowd of men, women and children. He continues to feed us today, through bread and wine, word and presence, community and solitude…

Some discussion Questions:
1. In what ways does Jesus satisfy the hunger of those who believe in him?
2. Using the image of food that is rich and good, what does Isaiah (in Isaiah 55:1-5) want his listeners to experience about God?
3. For whom would we love enough to be willing to be excluded from Gods family, if it led to their inclusion?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-08-06 sermon

Download Discussion Questions:  2017-08-06 TIH

The 9th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13A (8/6/2017)

Lessons
Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (16)
Romans 9:1-5
St. Matthew 14:13-21

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17:1-7, 15 (15)

Prayer of the Day
Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance. Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

St. Matthew 14:13-21. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Scarcity and Abundance

An old saw contends that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide people into two groups and those who don’t. This week I find myself among those who do, because of my conviction that there are some people who live out of an ethic of scarcity, and others who live out of an ethic of abundance. Both are found in this weekend’s Gospel lesson. (more…)

Rules, Rules and More Rules

Date: July 30, 2017
Liturgical Day: The 8th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12A

Jesus’ parables
new insights to faithfulness
living lives of love

Summary:
With four puzzling parables, Jesus calls us to reimagine what it means to be God’s faithful people. Pastor Dave reflects on how campers are stirred to faithfulness at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, and how we can be too.

Some discussion Questions:
1. As Lutherans we are fond both of what is old and what is new — how is this helpful for my faith?
2. When have I noticed the kind of faithfulness, righteousness or uprightness of heart toward God in someone that Solomon mentions in 1 Kings 3:5-12?
3. According to Romans 8:28, what does it mean that all things (even bad things) work together for good for those who love God?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-07-30 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-07-30 TIH

The 8th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12A (7/30/2017)

Lessons
1st Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 119:129-136 (130)
Romans 8:26-39
St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (1, 45)
or Psalm 128 (1)2

Prayer of the Day
Beloved and sovereign God, through the death and resurrection of your Son you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy. By your Spirit, give us your wisdom, that we may treasure the life that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:31 [Jesus] put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Heaven is a wonderful place
Filled with glory and grace
I want to see my Savior’s face
Heaven is a wonderful place
(Do you want to go there?)

An a cappella group in the 80s used to sing this little ditty. In it they imagined the beauty and majesty of heaven. A spiritual home for those faithful ones whose earthy lives have come to completion. A place wonderful beyond our capacity to imagine it. A place where we will see Jesus face-to-face. Who wouldn’t want to go there?

Many have wondered about heaven over the years. What might it be like? Will its residents recognize and enjoy those they knew in this life? (I’ve wondered if my dad will look to me like he did a few months before he died at the age of 74, or if he’ll look to his own father like he did when he was 15, just before my grandfather died.) Will God wander among crowds of believers, stopping to visit, or to field a few questions? Will heaven be inhabited only by Lutheran Christians? (I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that one…) Or would I be surprised to know who finds their way to an eternity with God? The Bible doesn’t deliver us a set of blueprints or organizational charts, so we’re left to wonder and hope.

Jesus doesn’t have much to say about it either. In the record we have of what he said and did, mentions of heaven as reward or afterlife are few and far between. (more…)

An Approach to Evil

Date: July 23, 2017
Liturgical Day: The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11A

weeds sown among wheat
let them be — plant seeds of faith
our call to service

Summary:
In today’s Gospel lesson Jesus uses a surprising image which encourages us to leave the eradication of evil to others, and spend our time being agents for good. Our church has a long tradition of encouraging this. How will we live it out in our day-to-day lives?

Some discussion Questions:
1. How will I focus less on the evil around me and more on the good I am called to do?
2. What encouragement does Paul provide  in Romans 8:12-25 for those of us who want to follow Christ with our lives?
3. Reflecting on Isaiah 44:6-8, why does following and trusting in God allow a believer to be less captivated by fear?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-07-23 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-07-23 TIH

The 7th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11A (7/23/2017)

Lessons
Isaiah 44:6-8 or Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm 86:11-17 (11)
Romans 8:12-25
St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 (1)

Prayer of the Day
Faithful God, most merciful judge, you care for your children with firmness and compassion. By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom, that we may be rooted in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

13:36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Of Wheat and Weeds

If only it was that simple!

Our hearts break when we consider the madness and violence in our world. Some of it is due to forces of nature: tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, forest fires, earth quakes, mud slides. In other instances it flows from the brokenness of the human condition: warfare, discrimination,  disease, refugees on the move, vulnerable people put at risk, horror stories in the daily news. It makes a person want to respond with a show of force, and destroy all that takes away from life as we know it — or life as we imagine it should be.

But the truth is, we live in a broken world. We live in a weeds-among-the-wheat world. And one sign of this brokenness is that it’s not always evident how to address it. The news has been constant from places like  Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria. The weeds are sown among the wheat, and bombs are just as deadly for unarmed civilians as they are for armed combatants. (more…)

A Sower Went Out to Sow

July 16, 2017
Liturgical Day: The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10A

parables of life
a sower sowing his seeds
extravagant grace

Sower with Setting Sun; Vincent Van Gogh (1888)

Summary:
Today’s parable speaks to us on multiple levels. The image of the Sower teaches us about God. The image of the seed teaches us about the power of God’s word. The image of the harvest teaches us about ourselves. How is God speaking to each of us today through this story?

Some discussion Questions:
1. When have I doubted that good could come… that sowing seed could lead to bearing fruit?
2. In Isaiah 55:10-13, what does it say about Isaiah’s faith that he imagines all of creation praising God’s work?
3. In Romans 8:1-11, how does the Apostle Paul describe the way life changes for those whose hearts are captured by God’s Spirit?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-07-16 TIH

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-07-16 sermon