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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

The 6th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10A (7/16/2017)

Lessons
Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13 (11)
Romans 8:1-11
St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 25:19-34
Psalm 119:105-112 (105)

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

13:18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

It Doesn’t Look Very Likely

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a favorite of mine. It descries this son who wastes his father’s wealth — his own inheritance — in ways that are prodigious. My dictionary defines prodigal as, “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant” and “having or giving something on a lavish scale.” Understanding the word “prodigal” helps me to remember that the father is as prodigious in forgiving and welcoming as the son is in wasting and squandering.

So is the Sower in this week’s Gospel lesson.

These days successful farmers use computer driven algorithms to determine the most effective way to plant, nurture and harvest crops. With GPS enabled laptops strapped to the consoles of planters, grain drills, combines and corn heads, it is possible to place almost every seed in a specific spot, giving it the best shot at producing the wanted harvest. Effective, efficient and impressive… but not prodigious. (more…)

The 5th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9A (7/9/2017)

Lessons
Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-14 (8)
Romans 7:15-25a
St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45:10-17 (7)
or Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Prayer of the Day
You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Pastor Dave is out of the office this week. Please enjoy this reprise of his 2014 devotional message for Proper 9A.

Can There Possibly Be Rest for Our Souls?

We live in busy times. Distracted driving is a problem in our society. Automobile operators imagine there is so much to do, that it makes no sense to carve out time to focus, exclusively, on driving. During the morning commute it is not unusual to observe drivers talking on their phones, sending texts, eating breakfast, and combing their hair or applying their makeup. Google “distracted driving” and you’ll get more than 3.7 million results in 0.30 seconds. Googling “distracted driving pledge” will produce more than 1.5 million results — maybe we all ought to follow one of those links, and challenge ourselves to become safer drivers. (more…)

The 5th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9A (7/9/2017)

Lessons
Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-14 (8)
Romans 7:15-25a
St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45:10-17 (7)
or Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Prayer of the Day
You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. New Revised Version Bible ©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 4th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 8A (7/2/2017)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1)
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
St. Luke 1:68-79 (69)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:40 [Jesus said,] “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”


St. Matthew 10:40-42 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Pastor Dave is out of the office this week. Please enjoy this reprise of his 2014 devotional message for Proper 8A

A Cup of Cold Water

I was having coffee with a friend the other day. As we visited, we watched a man in a wheelchair struggle with a fairly large package. It was balanced on one arm of the chair, while he used the other arm to propel himself across the parking lot. He was rounding a row of cars, presumably heading towards his own car, when the package caught the rear end of another vehicle, and crashed to the ground. He repositioned his wheelchair, leveraged himself against a curb, and tried to get the package back up on the arm of the chair, but just wasn’t able.

As we sat there, wondering if we should get up and help, someone beat us to the punch. An elderly lady, with packages of her own, walked over to him and struck up a conversation. After a few moments, she placed her packages in his lap, helped him ease his own back onto the arm of the wheelchair. The two of them then continued around the corner, out of our sight. (more…)

The 4th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 8A (7/2/2017)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1)
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
St. Luke 1:68-79 (69)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:40 [Jesus said,] “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”


St. Matthew 10:40-42 New Revised Version Bible ©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 3rd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 7A (6/25/2017)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 69:7-10 [11-15] 16-18 (16)
Romans 6:1b-11
St. Matthew 10:24-39

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 (16)

Prayer of the Day:
Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, except that of knowing that we do your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10.24 “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

St. Matthew 10:24-39 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Pastor Dave is out of the office this week. Please enjoy this reprise of his 2008 devotional message for Proper 7A.

Disciples of Jesus

Saint Peter Lutheran Church is a “discipleship congregation.” We have chosen Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel for our mission statement: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We have articulated “Five Habits of Discipleship” that we seek to practice in our individual and corporate lives. We have even revamped our congregation’s structure to include as one of our central Ministry Teams a Discipleship Team – charged with teaching us about discipleship, and encouraging our efforts to practice these habits in our daily lives. Saint Peter Lutheran Church is a “discipleship congregation.” (more…)