Based on: Judges 10:6-16
One of the main themes of Lent is repentance – the focus for today. Repentance has two parts. First, it is a sorrow over sin that shows itself in words and actions; then repentance is also a trust in God’s forgiveness. These verses from the book of Judges describe the repentance of the people of Israel and are a good way for us to look at repentance. We are so much like a them.
Based on: Deuteronomy 6:1-9
One of my seminary professors was talking about family devotions with a group of people. He showed them a picture of a family from the late 1800’s. The mother had died and the picture showed the father with his seven or eight children. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember the very compelling main point. This man had plenty to do to raise his children, but he consistently took time for devotions with his family and taught them the truths of God’s Word. The value this man placed on God’s Word showed throughout his life and his example made a huge impact on his children. Not only his children, but also on his grandchildren and great-grandchildren as his love for God’s Word was passed on from generation to generation. In fact, you can still see his love for God’s word in many of his descendants, one of whom was my seminary professor. From this one family has come two Synod presidents, dozens of pastors and teachers, and hundreds of faithful lay men and women. If you think about the many people that would have heard about Jesus through this one man’s descendants, you could say that he had and still has an impact on thousands of people because he shared his love for the Gospel with his children.
Based on: Luke 13:31-35
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, but you were not willing!” With this brief illustration our Savior opens his heart and allows us to see his heart breaking over those who refuse to accept his help. He came to them as their Messiah to rescue them, to save them the with his almighty power from an eternity of suffering. He loved them with such a love that he was willing to live a whole life of service to them. He drove out demons. He healed their sick. He told them the truth about God. He even died for them.
He came to give them the one thing they truly needed and in return they did to him what they did to so many others sent by God. They killed him. They would not listen to what he had to say and like a stubborn little baby chick who ignores its mother, they would not stand still under the protecting wings of the almighty God. They refused the protection he had to offer against our enemies in this world or against God’s wrath on judgment day.
Based on: Hebrews 4:14-16
Does the name F. Lee Bailey sound familiar? He was one of the lawyers hired by O.J. Simpson. Why did O.J. Simpson hire him? He is simply one of the best defense attorneys in the country. How about Leslie Abramson? She is another defense attorney. One of her clients even said, “Leslie was so good. For a while there she even had me believing I didn’t do it.” Percy Foreman is another famous defense attorney. Out of almost a thousand accused murderers that he defended, less than 100 were convicted. One of the few cases he lost was that of James Earl Ray who plead guilty to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Based on: 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
We value our sight, don’t we? If you have ever stubbed your toe in the dark you value the ability to see clearly. If you put a blindfold over your eyes it suddenly becomes more difficult to do all those things you do every day without thinking. What if you were born with a blindfold on and never knew it could be removed? You wouldn’t even know there was a thing called sight. You wouldn’t know about all of the wonderful things there are to see. You wouldn’t know that anything was wrong. But if someone takes the blindfold off, you can see and you would know how different things really are.
Based on: Ephesians 4:1-6
One of Aesop’s fables goes like this. A lion used to prowl around a field in which four oxen used to live. Many times he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way the lion tried to attack he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they started arguing among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four. What is the lesson? United we stand, divided we fall.
Today is Unity Sunday. Is this little story from Aesop’s fables a good illustration of the unity we have here at St. John’s? I think you find some similarities, but also some important differences.
Based on: Romans 10:18-11:6
Grace. You will hear that word often in this sermon so let’s first make it clear what grace is. The definition we use in catechism class is God’s undeserved love for sinners. If we think about grace in human terms, we could call it grace when you make a mistake at work that costs the company thousands of dollars, but your boss still gives you a raise. You didn’t deserve it, did you? Here is another example. If there is one person you hate most in this world or someone you always treat like dirt, grace is when that person saves your life by donating a kidney or by pushing you out of the way of an oncoming car. Grace is a love you don’t deserve and the result of grace is getting something good when you deserve just the opposite.
Based on: John 2:1-11
Last Monday when I came into the office I had an e-mail from someone asking me to perform their wedding. I also had a message on the answering machine from someone else asking about a different wedding, and then during the day I had a call from a third person asking about yet another wedding. I thought, "is God trying to tell me something?" Is he giving me a sign that I should preach on the only verses recorded in scripture where our Lord is an invited guest at a wedding, the wedding at Cana?
And here I am, preaching on those very verses from John Chapter 2. But, I have to admit, I had already made the decision to use these verses for my sermon today, even before those people contacted me. The interesting thing is that these verses are not primarily about a wedding. Certainly, Jesus gives his blessing upon marriage and even on the wedding celebration by attending this wedding at Cana, but the main reason John records what Jesus does here is that Jesus, by turning water into wine, is giving a sign, a miraculous sign.
Based on: Ephesians 3:2-12
Do you know what day of the year has the shortest period of daylight and the longest night? It is the day in which the winter solstice occurs. Last year it was December 22nd. In the past, many centuries ago, before certain changes were made to the calendar that we use today, the winter solstice would occur on December 25th. It is possible that Christians started celebrating Christmas on that day to take the place of pagan festivals that celebrated the winter solstice.
Based On: Hebrews 2:10-18
I just happened to see part of a TV show where family members were brought back together. For example, in the episode I saw a man and his wife were looking for the girl they had given up for adoption more than twenty years ago. They were young and unmarried at the time and believed that letting someone else raise their daughter would be best. Since then they had married and had other children and were raising their family, but they always wondered what happened to their first child. They tried to find her, but couldn’t. Then this TV show came along, found their daughter and reunited them.