Archive for December, 2014

What is Advent?

December 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Our friends at Concordia Publishing House have put together a short little video that highlights the themes of the Advent season.  I urge you to have a look even if you are certain of what Advent is.

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Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, 30 Nov 2014

December 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Note: this sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below.

Isaiah 64:1-9


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Sermon for Thanksgiving 2014

December 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Note:  This sermon was actually delivered as three mini sermons after each of the readings for Thanksgiving.  A reader might want to read the text and then read the sermon for each section.

Deuteronomy 8:1-10

We give God thanks for the Land

I grew up as a city kid. Even though my dad grew up on a farm and my mom spent summers on her uncle’s farm in Wisconsin, I grew up in Cincinnati and Chicago before we moved to Kentucky and I was most certainly a city kid. Milk and eggs came from the store. Meat came plastic wrapped in a Styrofoam tray. I was the stereotypical city kid, at least until a visit to my Uncle Les’ and Aunt Evelyn’s one Sunday afternoon when I was about 8 or 9 years-old. We were supposed to be having chicken. Little did I know, they were still running around when we drove up. I remember being horrified to the point of disbelief and I remember everyone around me having a good laugh at my expense. “Where did you think chicken comes from?” I thought it came from the store like everything else. Little did I realize it came from the Land and from the provision of the Lord. I was quite young and I hadn’t completely worked out my theology of God’s gracious providence yet.

The Lord told Israel, “For the Lord is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”

I’m struck that the Lord begins His description of the promised land by describing how much water is flowing through it. On my first trip through the Suez Canal in Egypt, I was particularly struck by the difference between the land on the west side of the canal which was irrigated and therefore verdant and full of fruit tree groves and vegetable farms, and the land on the east side of the canal which was the Sinai peninsula, an arid and harsh land separated only from the verdant land next to it by the channel cut through the sand and earth. The difference was water. Water brings life to the land. Without water there is no life. I noticed this within minutes. The Israelites were well aware of this face after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. I imagine that a land with brooks and springs and fountains must have sounded like heaven itself to them.

Fast forward in time to this land, history now tells us, rediscovered by European explorers in the 1600s. What an endless amount of land this must have seemed to them and good for farming too. And then the westward expansion into the fertile lands of Iowa and Illinois and Wisconsin where the dirt is so rich it’s black with nutrients. Talk about a land of wheat and barley and corn and soybeans. Oh, what potential! Oh, what blessing! And we eat bread without scarcity, so much so it’s becoming a problem for us. But in this great land we do not starve. We have so much fertility in our land, only a few need to farm. The rest of us can turn our hands to other work, to science and medicine and engineering and chemistry and business and technology and the work of the Gospel. All because we have such fertility and we aren’t worried about the scarcity of our daily bread. God’s provision is truly magnificent.

And so today we give God thanks for His great provision, for the gift of the land and it’s abundance. We give God thanks for our daily bread that has not failed this past year. And we recognize the incredible economic system that thrives just to bring us our daily bread and all the people who are able to make a living by being a part of that system from the farmers and those who support them in agronomy, chemistry, genetic science, and land use to the retail distributors that have that bread on the shelf to everyone in between. Try to think of them all, it’s dizzying. Managers and economists and marketers and truck drivers and food scientists and factory workers and human resource workers. And how many whole sectors did we just leave out? And we eat and are full. Let us bless the Lord our God for the good land He has given us. Amen.



1 Timothy 2:1-4

We give God thanks for government

That was a big sector we left out last time wasn’t it? The government and those who make administer and judge our laws. Even apart from any discussion about the Department of Agriculture and the food safety programs in the United States, we have a government that has laws that protect honest people from being stolen from.

When I arrived at my second duty station with the Marine Air Wing, there were several senior people who had been in or had supported operations in Somalia. Remember, the people of Somalia were ruled by various gangs headed up by warlords. You can’t grow crops in a country where there are no laws. At harvest, the thugs come and steal the harvest. What’s worse the international aid sent into the country couldn’t get to the people because there was no rule of law. The warlords seized the aid and the people starved. Our military had been sent in to protect those food deliveries and distribution points.

I know our government doesn’t work as well as it should and I know the talking heads on t.v. would hyperbolically suggest that it’s failed catastrophically, but it hasn’t. Not on the standard of Somalia in the 1990s. We’re not oppressed by overlapping gangs who keep us from being able to get to the store to get a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. Apart from a very few places, mostly in our cities called “food deserts” because of the crime and instability of the neighborhoods, we have freedom to eat and be full because we have good government that protects us so that we may lead peaceable and quiet lives.

When we pray for our leaders even when we don’t always agree with them, we are doing a godly and dignified Christian duty. More than one politician’s name has stuck in my throat on occasion depending on the week’s news but that never takes away the need to pray for them and for all in authority, not just the ones we like, at least that week.

I’m even more interested in this idea because Thanksgiving is really a public holiday, a secular holiday. We’re not celebrating any OT festival or New Testament event. First President Washington and then President Lincoln, by executive order, charged the country to pause and give God thanks. They knew that really all we have wasn’t so much because the government worked to make it so but because God worked to make this land to be so plentiful for us all.

It’s fitting then that we should take this time to give thanks for good government and pray that justice and righteousness would govern them in all they do for the sake of the common good. The Lord is favorable toward us, He has restored our fortunes. For that we give Him thanks. Amen.

Luke 17:11-19

We Give God thanks for His great blessings

About this time of year, it really begins to be apparent to me that I’m just not with it, that I don’t fit in. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas. I love Christmas. I just don’t love what Christmas has become and so I begin to feel like I don’t belong in this world that thinks Jingle Bell Rock is the best Christmas Song ever. I feel like an outsider in a land that I should feel at home in. Al of this of course is not new. This slide toward a general season of cheerfulness and light has been happening for generations. The pagans have been celebrating Christmas with us for years. Then people from other religions found something in Christmas they liked and so they started celebrating it too. But we should have known that any focusing on peace on earth and goodwill toward all people apart from the One who was born to bring it would end completely untethered from God and centered entirely in the “good hearts” of people. Just look at all the pagan extras that have either been tacked onto Christmas or that were always there and have transformed into their modern incarnations so that unbelievers and people of other religions can celebrate it too. Honestly, if they can put a Christmas tree up in the largest hotel in Dubai, Christmas is no longer Christmas. But say that out loud and people start treating you like you’re a leper, a Samaritan leper. In reality, I’m not the leper. I’m just one of those Christians who insist that Christmas is about the birth of Christ and not in the schmaltzy way, but rather about His coming into human flesh to save the world from sin, death, and the power of hell.

Notice, there was only one former leper in this story that came back to thank Jesus. The other nine went and carried on with their lives. And that’s about what we see today is it not? Where are the 90 percent who have been blessed as you have? Why are they not here to give thanks, to honor God specifically by setting aside the time honor the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy and thus give thanks for the land and the good government of it? Jesus praised the faith of the Samaritan leper who alone returned to Jesus to give Him thanks for his healing. And so, on His behalf, I’ll praise you. “You know what has made you well.” God the Father who began a good work in you many years ago is seeing to completion in you. You are blessed and you know it. You’re not just being thankful for your blessings, you’re giving God thanks from a thankful heart that acknowledges the He is the source of all your many blessings.

And so in a moment we’ll sing:

Lord, You have raised me up

To joy and exultation

And clearly shown the way

That leads me to salvation.

My sins are washed away;

For this I thank You, Lord. (LSB, 703:3)

Like the Samaritan leper, you know you have been raised by Christ. Like Israel, you know of the great land you have entered on account of God’s provision. You know where your blessings come from, God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks and praise. Amen.

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