The 15th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 19A (9/17/2017)

Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103: [1-7) 8-13
Romans 14:1-12
St. Matthew 18:21-35

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we may delight in doing your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


18.21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

St. Matthew 18:21-35, 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 Exorbitant Amount

All things in moderation. That’s what I learned in my childhood years. Midwest culture, at least in the 1960s and 1970s, appreciated this humble, understated ethic. And it applied to everything from the bad (coveting, partying, swearing, cheating, gossiping…) to the good (frugality, entertainment, generosity, politics, religion…). The bad couldn’t hurt you all that much, as long as you kept in check. The good could become problematic if you became overly obsessed with it. All things in moderation.


You Have Regained That One

Date: September 11, 2017
Liturgical Day: The 14th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18A

the command of Christ
you will have regained that one
the heart of our faith

We live in a divided and divisive time. Yet our faith calls us to dignity, honesty, forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus calls us to lives of grace and forgiveness, and by his own example he shows us the way.

Some discussion Questions:
1. With whom am I currently estranged, and how might I work to “regain that one?”
2. According to Romans 13, what is the purpose of the law for those who believe?
3. In Ezekiel 33, what is Isaiah’s hope — God’s hope — for those who do not live in a way that is pleasing to God?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-09-10 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-09-10 TIH

The 14th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18A (9/10/2017)

Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
St. Matthew 18:15-20

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy. Without your help, we mortals will fail; remove far from us everything that is harmful, and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


18.15 [Jesus said,] If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

St. Matthew 18:15-20, 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.

You Have Regained That One

As long as God insists on populating the church with humans, there are going to be times of conflict. It’s a simple reality. Some need to be comforted and others need to be challenged. Some are ready to move forward, and others are inclined to recapture a piece of the past. Some are measured and cautious and others are impulsive and spontaneous. Some are inspired by ancient truths, and others are drawn to new ways of thinking and believing. God has gathered us all of us into this community, with all of our unique attributes and tendencies, and we’re not always going to have the same vision of what the future looks like. (more…)

The 13th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17A (9/3/2017)

Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Saint Matthew 16:21-28

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b

Prayer of the Day:
O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

16.21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

St. Matthew 16:21-28, 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.

Cross to Bear

Common wisdom asserts that we “all have crosses to bear.” Poor health. A cruel boss. Disobedient children. A snoring spouse. Bad luck. We claim these crosses as a way of deflecting the challenges in our lives. “I’m so sorry to hear that.” “Oh well, I guess that’s just my cross to bear.” The notion is that life can be unfair, some aspects of living are just plain miserable, and since there isn’t much we can do about it anyway we just suffer through it, trying not to complain too much.

Let’s be clear: this is not what Jesus is saying in this week’s Gospel lesson. (more…)

The 12th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 16A (8/27/2017)

Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138 (8)
Romans 12:1-8
St. Matthew 16:13-20

Semicontinuous Series
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124 (7)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, with all your faithful followers of every age, we praise you, the rock of our life. Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son, that we may gladly minister to all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

St. Matthew 16:13-20. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Who Do You Say that Jesus Is?

In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus quizzes his disciples. He first probes to see what they know. “What are people saying about me? What kind of a reputation do I have?” The disciples have a number of answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets… but nobody seems to have it right quite yet. That is, until Jesus asks his followers: “Who do you (plural in the Greek: ὑμει̂ς) say that I am?” (more…)

Faith and Mercy

August 20, 2017
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 15A

have mercy on me
the cry of deep faithfulness
a longing for grace

Christ and the Canaanite Woman by Germain-Jean Drouais

Shocking, surprising, disturbing, confusing… these have been responses to the treatment this woman receives from Jesus. Yet the story ends in a much different way than it begins: with grace and mercy; healing and new life. What does this mean for us, in times when we cry out for God’s mercy?

Some discussion Questions:
1. What does it mean for us that Jesus ultimately “has mercy” on this woman?
2. When has the mercy of God felt real — tangible — to me, in a way that makes a difference in my life?
3. How does Isiah envision the relationship between insiders (like the disciples) and foreigners (like this woman…)?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-08-20 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-08-20 TIH

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

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.


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…)

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

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.


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)

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.


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)

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.


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…)