Grace and Faithfulness

Date: October 15, 2017
Liturgical Day: The 19th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23A

welcomed to the feast
called by Christ to faithfulness
robed to do God’s will

Summary:
The Parable of the Wedding Feast speaks of God’s grace in welcoming outsiders to the table. It also reminds us that guests at the table are responsible to behave in ways that honor the one who has invited them. So the question becomes: how do we honor God with our lives?

Some discussion Questions:
1. What does Jesus mean by disparaging the invited guest who doesn’t wear a wedding robe?
2. When has God been a source of deliverance for me?
3. In considering Philippians 4:1-9, on what would St. Paul have us meditate, to help us continue living as God wishes us to live?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-10-15 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-10-15 TIH

The 19th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23A (10/15/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
St. Matthew 22:1-14

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 32:1-14
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Prayer of the Day:
Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples and poured out your life with abundance. Call us again to your banquet. Strengthen us by what is honorable, just and pure, and transform us into a people of righteousness and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

22.1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

St. Matthew 22:1-14, 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.

What About That Guy?

This weekend the lectionary features the last in a string of five parables from Jesus. Together, we have reflected on the parables of: the Unforgiving Servant, The Vineyard, The Two Sons, The Wicked Tenants, and now The Wedding Banquet. Of all of them, this weekend’s story is perhaps the most difficult. Much could be said about the parable itself: the rejection of those first invited (which reminds us of an important line from last week’s Gospel, “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.”); the extraordinary setting of this regal banquet (does anyone remember 1981?); the mistreatment of the king’s slaves; the punishment of those who harmed the slaves; the extension of the invitation to the unworthy; the notion that both “good and bad” were ultimately invited; the full wedding hall. Each of these elements of the parable is important, and could give rise to a sermon all of its own.

Regardless what we say about these matters, though, the primary response to this parable is almost universal: “What about that guy?” I don’t even have to point out which guy I’m talking about here, do I? It’s the guy without a wedding robe. He shows up with the wrong outfit on, and is treated nearly as badly as the king’s slaves. Bound hand and foot. Thrown into the darkness. Weeping and gnashing of teeth…

(more…)

Christ, the Cornerstone

Date: October 8, 2017
Liturgical Day: The 18th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 22A

the presence of God
a cornerstone for our lives
reflecting the Christ

Summary:
In the first century, some experienced Christ as a stumbling block and some as a cornerstone. The same is true today. May we open our hearts to the life God invites us to know, and may our faith in Christ become a cornerstone for our living.

Some discussion Questions:
1. When have I experienced Jesus as a stumbling block, and when has he been a cornerstone for my living?
2. According to Isaiah 5:1-7, how does God respond, when Israel is not “producing the fruit” they are expected to produceQ?
3. In Philippians 3:4-6, how does Paul compare what he has accomplished to what Christ has accomplished (vs. 7-9)?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-10-08 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-10-08 TIH

The 18th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 22A (10/8/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:7-15
Philippians 3:4b-14
Saint Matthew 21:33-46

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 20:1-4
Psalm 19

Prayer of the Day:
Beloved God, from you come all things that are good. Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right, and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

21:33  [Jesus said,] “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?

43 “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

St. Matthew 21:23-32, 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.

Cornerstone or Stumbling Block?

This week’s Gospel lesson contains another compelling parable from the teaching of Jesus. This time it is “The Parable of the Wicked Tenants.” Here Jesus expands on the ancient imagery of Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), and makes a compelling case for faithfulness. A vineyard has been let out to tenants, who benefit from being able to raise and harvest a crop in it, but who refuse to reimburse the owner for the use of the vineyard. Multiple representatives are sent to the tenants and demand what the owner deserves, but each in turn is mistreated or murdered. Finally, the owner sends his very son, and they kill him too. (more…)

On Faith, and Changing One’s Mind

Date: October 1, 2017
Liturgical Day: The 17th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21A

an invitation
change your minds and believe him
faithfulness to God

The Parable of the Two Sons; Andrei Moronov (2012)

Summary:
For many people, their embraced faith allows them to believe what they wanted to believe in the first place. But for followers of Jesus, we experience new life when Jesus changes our mind, and sends us in new directions.

Some discussion Questions:
1.Why were the chief priests and the elders of the people reluctant to embrace John and Jesus?
2. According to Philippians 2:1-13, in what ways are my attitudes similar to how Jesus lived in this world?
3. Reflecting on Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32, what does the life of a righteous person look like in my time and place?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-10-01 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-10-01 TIH

The 17th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21A (10/1/2017)

Lessons:
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalm 25:1-9
Philippians 2:1-13
St. Matthew 21:23-32

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Prayer of the Day:
God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

21:23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

St. Matthew 21:23-32, 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.

The Will of the Father

I used to wonder why these two paragraphs were paired by our lectionary. It seemed to me that the first paragraph, with its narration of this dispute between Jesus and the chief priests & elders, had little to do with the second paragraph, with Jesus’ reflections on how these two sons responded to their father’s instructions. The first paragraph seemed to be about Jesus besting his adversaries in an intellectual dispute, proving his superiority. The second paragraph seemed to be about the importance of keeping promises made.

There is little doubt that Jesus and the religious officials of his day squared off time and time again. But the message of Jesus — the message that so angered his opponents, making them cry out for his death — can’t be boiled down to “it’s better to not promise and come through than to promise and not come though.” These two paragraphs are connected in a much more central way. (more…)

The 16th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 20A (9/24/2017)

Lessons:
Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
St. Matthew 20:1-16

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

20.1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

St. Matthew 20:1-16, 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.

Pastor Dave is out of town this week, and won’t be posting a new devotional message this week. But please enjoy this encore edition of his message from September of 2014.

Grace in the Vineyard

What will the kingdom of heaven be like? I am thinking of images from a wide range of sources. Songs (especially some of the old spirituals), movies, stories, and pieces of art have all contributed to my personal vision of what the kingdom of heaven will be like. But as I try to form a picture in my mind, I can’t say that it is based on anything I have read in the Bible, because the Bible teaches us about heaven in a different way than that. (more…)

“God’s Work. Our Hands.” Sunday

Date: September 17, 2017
Liturgical Day: The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 19A

serving our neighbor
Christ’s church, better together
reflection of Christ

Summary:
From the beginning, Lutherans have had a strong commitment to being caring neighbors to those in need. We will live this out today by serving throughout the community. It is what it means to be Christ’s Church! Better Together!

Some discussion Questions:
1. Why does Jesus direct Peter to forgive for what seems an impossible amount of times?
2. In Romans 14:1-12, what advice does Paul give to Christians who disagree over maters of practice and belief?
3. Reflecting on Genesis 50:15-21, when has something distressing in my life happened, through which God was able to do good?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-09-17 TIH

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-09-17 sermon

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

Lessons:
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.

Lesson:

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.

(more…)

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

Summary:
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