The Baptism of Our Lord; Year B (1/7/2018)

Lessons:
Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
St. Mark 1:4-11

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters. Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

1.4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

St. Mark 1:4-11 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord; Year A (2/26/2017)

Texts:
Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2 (or 99)
2nd Peter 1:16-21
St. Matthew 17:1-9

Prayer of the Day:
O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah, and in the voice from the bright cloud you foreshadowed our adoption as your children. Make us  heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness, through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

17.1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

St. Matthew 17:1-9, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C) 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Listen to Him

In this week’s Gospel lesson, we get a glimpse of Jesus, accompanied by his inner circle. Jesus takes Peter and James and John and leads them up to the top of a high mountain. There, they receive what is perhaps their clearest glimpse of who Jesus truly is. Before their very eyes he is transformed. His clothes become dazzling white: whiter than any known bleach could ever make them. And as these three disciples look on in amazement, they see that Jesus is standing and talking with Elijah and Moses (two of the greatest figures in the Hebrew Bible). (more…)

The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany; Year 7 (2/19/2017)

Lessons:
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
Psalm 119:33-40 (33)
1st Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
St. Matthew 5:38-48

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace. Lead us to love our enemies, and transform our words and deeds to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

5:38 [Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

St. Matthew 5:38-48, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Towards Perfection

There are some teachings in the Bible which are harder to embrace than others. I like to tease our Catechism students, advising them to pray the Lord’s Prayer with a certain degree of fear and trembling. I’ve sometimes asked them to whisper “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” — inviting them to hope and trust with me that God’s inclination to forgive will not be limited by our capacity to forgive. So also in today’s Gospel. What sense can we make of our Lord’s command, to his disciples and to us, that we “be perfect, therefore, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect?”

Nobody, of course, can be perfect as God is perfect. We learn as early as the third chapter of Genesis that brokenness defines the human condition. The kings and prophets of Ancient Israel confirm this time and time again. (Just ask any of the StPLC members who are reading the Bible in 90 days what they have observed so far about faithfulness in the Old Testament…) The disciples and followers of Jesus prove this to be true over and over again. Martin Luther teaches us that, “by our own reason or strength we cannot believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called us through the Gospel, enlightened us with its gifts, and sanctified and preserved us in the true faith…”

So why does Jesus demand that we be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect? (more…)

The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (2/12/2017)

Texts:
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
or Sirach 15:15-20
Psalm 119:1-8 (1)
1st Corinthians 3:1-9
St. Matthew 5:21-37

Prayer of the Day
:
O God, strength of all who hope in you, because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing good without you. Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do, and give us grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

5:21 [Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

St. Matthew 5:21-37 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

But I say to you…

This weekend Saint Peter Lutheran Church, like many Lutheran Churches, will assemble for it’s “Annual Congregation Meeting.” Members and supporters will reflect on the ministry that God accomplished among us in the past year, and look forward to what lies ahead for us in the coming year. We’ll talk about congregational priorities, approve a spending plan for 2017, elect a leader or two, and give thanks to God for the privilege of living together as the body of Christ in Greenwood Village (and its surrounding neighborhoods).

Honestly: these kinds of meetings can be a little dry. This will be the 34th one I have attended, and some of them have been richer experiences than others. But I still look forward to participating each year, and imagining what sort of ministries God will make possible  through the vision we embrace, the decisions we make, and the commitments we take on. (more…)

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (2/5/2017)

Texts:
Isaiah 58:1-9a [9b-12]
Psalm 112:1-9 [10] (4)
1st Corinthians 2:1-12 [13-16]
St. Matthew 5:13-20

Prayer of the Day:
Lord God, with endless mercy you receive the prayers of all who call upon you.  By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do, and give us the grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

5:13 [Jesus said,] “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

St. Matthew 5:13-20, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

An Invitation to Shine

You are the light of the world; you are the light of the world.
So shine, shine, shine where you are.
You are the light of the world.
(Chris Tomlin, © 2000, ThankYou Music)

When Lutherans deal with matters of faith, we often like to speak in terms of “Law and Gospel.” Law, simply defined, has to do with those times when God’s word convicts us of sin. The Law helps us to see what it is that God asks of us, and points out to us how far short we have fallen of God’s expectations. Gospel, simply defined, has to do with those times when God’s word forgives us. The Gospel puts us at peace with God through this gift, offers us the possibility of a new beginning, and allows us to live with hope and joy. One of our commitments is to distinguish, as clearly as we can, between Law and Gospel, without ever disconnecting them from one another. The Law creates within us the desire to be forgiven, and the Gospel responds by assuring us that forgiveness is ours.

When we reflect on texts like this weekend’s Gospel, we occasionally ask ourselves whether this is an example of Law or Gospel. Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he declares to them: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world… You are a city on a hill.” Then, echoing the words we lift up after every baptism, Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (more…)

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (1/29/2017)

Lessons:
Micah 6:1-8
Psalm 15 (1)
1st Corinthians 1:18-31
St. Matthew 5:1-12

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.  Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace, that in our words and deeds the world may see the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

St. Matthew Matthew 5:1-12, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Blessed Are They; Blessed Are You

blessed (blĕsʹĭd) adj. From the Greek μακάριος (ma-kar’-ee-os), a prolonged form of the poetical μάκαρ (meaning the same). (1) supremely blest; (2) by extension, fortunate, well off: blessed, happy.

In ancient Greece, only the gods were thought to be “blessed.” Existing largely on Mt. Olympus, they lived a life of ease and joy. Human beings were never considered blessed in the same way as the gods, but Greeks came to believe that to the extent humans had the characteristics of the gods they could experience happiness. The word “blessed” came to describe this sort of happiness.

This reference to ancient history begs the question: what do the gods of contemporary society promote in terms of blessedness or happiness? We live in a world where prosperity, power, fame and independence are understood by many to be the keys that unlock happiness in this life. Thrive in these areas, and life becomes about as good as it can be. (more…)

The Third Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (1/22/2017)

Texts:
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 4-9 (1)
1st Corinthians 1:10-18
St. Matthew 4:12-23

Prayer of the Day
:
Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows after us. Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness that come through the cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15  “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately the y left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

St. Matthew 4:12-23, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Follow Me

A man had fallen away from his church. A friend of his decided to give him a call about a tennis match they were scheduling for later that week. The friend called from the phone at Christ the Lord Lutheran Church where he was attending a meeting. The phone rang, and the man glanced at his Caller I.D. It said, “Christ the Lord.” He thought Christ the Lord was on the phone waiting for him to answer. This turned out to be a wake-up call for him, and in its own way, it motivated him to become involved in his faith community once again.

In the Lutheran Church we have a strong tradition of considering what it means to be called by God. Not called on the telephone – God’s call usually comes in ways that are a bit more subtle than that. But our conviction is that everyone is called, by God, to a particular ministry, as we seek to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world. (more…)

The Second Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (1/15/2016)

Texts:
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11 (8)
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
St. John 1:29-42

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, our strength and our redeemer, by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may worship you and faithfully serve you, follow you and joyfully find you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:29 The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

St. John 1:29-42, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Come and See

The Toastmasters Club is famous for helping people become proficient at public speaking. A friend once spent some with them, and came away with one conviction: the most important parts of a speech are the first and the last things said. Setting aside the very last words Jesus speaks in St. John (a bizarre exchange with Peter — read it at John 21:20-23), his (almost) last words are “follow me” and his first words are located here in this week’s Gospel lesson.

John the Baptizer is with his disciples, carrying out his central responsibility. (“I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”) As they are standing together one day, John watches Jesus walk past them. He declares to his followers: “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” And it works! His two disciples hear John’s words, and begin following Jesus. (more…)

The First Sunday after Epiphany; The Baptism of Our Lord; Year A (1/8/2017)

Texts:
Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29 (3)
Acts 10:34-43
St. Matthew 3:13-17

Prayer of the Day:
O God our Father, at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful to their calling to be your daughters and sons, and empower us all with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3.13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

St. Matthew 3:13-17, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

”This Is My Son”

Those of us who worship regularly during Advent will find this (and next) Sunday’s Gospel lesson(s) to be somewhat familiar. The middle two Sundays, every Advent season, are given over to John the Baptist, and the baptism of Jesus. Now, as we begin this span of time between Christmas and Lent, we do the same. On Sunday we will once again turn to the account off Jesus’ baptism (St. Matthew 3:13-17), and next week we will focus on the teaching of John about Jesus (St. John 1:29-42).

We do so under the theme of epiphany. Our tradition used to be that a season called “Epiphany” was located between the seasons of Christmas and Easter. Now we have two times during the church year that technically are not seasons. There is the “Time after Epiphany” which begins on the first Sunday after January 6th (which is the “The Epiphany of Our Lord”) and continues until Ash Wednesday, and there is the “Time after Pentecost” which begins after the Day of Pentecost, and continues until Advent begins. During the Time after Epiphany, we focus our attention on what we can learn about God. Epiphany is a Greek word, which means “to shed light upon.” The question of the season is: “How do these passages from the Bible shed light upon who God is, and what God is seeking to accomplish for us and through us?”

(more…)

The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany (February 23, 2014)

Lessons:
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
Psalm 119:33-40 (33)
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
St. Matthew 5:38-48

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace. Lead us to love our enemies, and transform our words and deeds to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

5:38 [Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

St. Matthew 5:38-48, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

You Have Heard that It Was Said… But I Say to You

We’ve been working our way through the Sermon on the Mount for four weeks now, and we have another week to go before we’re done. This opening volley in the teaching ministry of Jesus is an important aspect of how St. Matthew begins his gospel account. It is also an important teaching section for those of us who are drawn to imagine that the only interest Jesus has is in sharing grace and mercy with his listeners. These verses are hard! Blessed are those whom the world considers to be cursed. Your light is to shine for all the world to see. Your righteousness is to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. If you become angry, you have committed murder. If you lust, you have committed adultery. And now today’s text: Do not resist an evildoer. Give to everyone who begs from you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. And the clincher: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Anything else we can do for you Jesus? (As a matter of fact, yes, we’ve only looked at the first third of this sermon so far.) (more…)

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