Category Archives: Gospel of John

Feeding time

Feed us O God as you have called us to feed others with your Word.
Comfort us O God as you have called us to comfort others with the Good News.  Speak to us O God as you have called us to speak words of hope.
Heal us O God as you have called us to heal others with your amazing grace.

As we enter this time of worship may our praises be pleasing to your ears and may our hearts be filled to overflowing.  May we leave our worries behind and be strengthened with your promises.  We enter this place to praise you and may we leave this place doing the same.  All glory and honor to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

This whole thing about feeding others has been on my heart this week as I reflect on the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the massive fertilizer plant explosion in Texas.  So many questions but only one answer will suffice…God.  I don’t know many of the “whys” of this world but I do know the Good News of God through Jesus Christ.  And sometimes, like a newborn baby, we simply need something as simple as “milk” ~ that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that all who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life.”  So let’s not theologize (Yes…I know that is not a word but I like  it) too much but rather let’s remember the basics.

God loves you!

Have a great and blessed day :)

The pastor -|—

The Feast

This morning the preaching text is John 2:1-11; Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. This miracle is labeled the first of Jesus’ miraculous signs.  It also serves as a bookend to the Gospel of John.  In this miracle we see the promise and then at the end of John we see how Jesus is going to accomplish the promise.

The promise ~ The best is yet to come.
How? ~ The cross and the empty tomb.

The rest of the Gospel of John fills in the blanks with proclamations of forgiveness; more miracles (in case this one wasn’t enough to show you that Jesus is the one who is to come), awesome acts of mercy, instructions on how to carry on with this ministry and encouragement to endure to the end.  The Gospel of John is plump full of “good stuff” that carries us to the BEST of what is to come.  This life is not it so don’t cling to it as if it is.

Let’s pray together as we prepare to worship this morning:
Loving God, through Jesus you show us that you have prepared something much better for us.  Through Jesus you give us hope that this world is not our final reality.  Through Jesus you give us a foretaste of the feast to come; a great feast that will have no end.  May we not cling to this life as if it is the final course.  May we not try to build this life in such a way that it ends up being our final course.  But…may this life just be a teaser for the Great Banquet that has been prepared and where; through faith in Jesus, we have a seat reserved.  Tempt our “taste buds” to seek Jesus more and more. And may we also seek to share this feast with others.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen!

The table has been set, let us feast together :)

The pastor -|—

Christ the King

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
[John 18:36-37]

Today is Christ the King Sunday (according the the common lectionary).  This is considered the last Sunday of the Church year (with Advent beginning a new cycle next Sunday).  But whatever the so-called Church calendar says, I still want to get you thinking this morning what it means for Jesus to be the king of your life.

~ Does Jesus rule your whole life or only parts of it?
~ Do you go to Jesus with your hopes and dreams; joys and sorrows or do you look to worldly saviors?
~ Does Jesus get your complete worship or are there other “kings” you worship?
~ Do you seek Jesus for direction and guidance in your life or look to day-time talk shows or the self-help section?
~Do you celebrate and hold onto worldly kingdoms or seek the Kingdom of God?
~ Does Jesus sit on the throne in your heart or have you reserved that for something or someone else?

May this “Christ the King” Sunday shine a light on the defeated gods/lords/kings of this world that continue to seek your attention and alligence; and may your true KING, Jesus Christ, shine forth.  The gods/lords/kings of this world have lost but Jesus has won.  And because Jesus has won we also win through faith in him.

Jesus IS King!
Jesus IS Lord!

Alleluia and Amen!

edh -|—

Bread of Life

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (ESV, John 6:35)

There is so much theologically one can do with this text, but all I want to say is “Thank you, Jesus!

When I get hungry during the day I eat.  When I crave something more for my life, you, Jesus are there.  Even when I seek after other gods to satisfy my “hunger” you, Jesus, prove to be faithful.  You remind me, “Dear child, I am the bread of life“.  I then seek you and am filled…

…and I wonder why I even tried to find other “bread”.

Jesus…YOU are the bread of life.
Jesus…YOU are the one who truly satisfies.
Jesus…YOU are the one I truly need.

In you, Jesus, we have eternal life.  Thank you, Jesus, for “feeding” me.  And giving me what I need to be truly satisfied.  And what do I need?

FORGIVENESS!

Wow…it doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you, Jesus.

-edh-

God vs technology…and God won

Merry Christmas everyone!

I have to tell you about a God moment that I had yesterday right before I started preaching.

The text I was preaching on was John 1:19-28 (but I “warmed up” the congregation with John 1:1-18).  On Thursday I found what I thought to be a good opening illustration and copied it into the manuscript.  It wasn’t the best but it still worked.  I then wrote the opening part of the sermon before getting into the “meat”.  The main part was a biblical exposition of John which I did not write out word for word (that was the part I knew very well).  I saved the sermon on my computer and then transferred it to my Kindle (as I sometimes do).

Sunday morning ~ Everything went well at Belmont (8:30am worship), but when I got to the pulpit at Salem (10:15am worship) God decided to show me that he has a sense of humor ~ and more importantly that God is in control.

As the lector was reading the lessons I turned on my Kindle and pulled up the sermon.  I then placed my Kindle in “sleep mode” until I would “wake it up” in the pulpit.  So far so good.  Nothing unusual.

Then…well…God happened :)

I got into the pulpit and read the Gospel text and then proceeded to open the cover of my Kindle.

It was locked up.

Nothing worked.  It just stared at me as if to say “Hey buddy…you’re on your own.”  A moment of panic set in as I tried to determine what I was going to do without letting the congregation know there was a problem.  I knew I couldn’t go on with my opening part of the sermon since I didn’t know it well enough but I did know the main part of the sermon (“the meat”) like the back of my hand.

And then I got it…God didn’t like my sermon opening.

So…on the fly (and by the power of the Holy Spirit)…I began preaching…and the words just came out.  As I got going more, I got into the sermon and before long my Kindle problems were a distance memory.  After worship I got more good comments about that sermon than I have received in a long time…and from people who normally don’t comment.  Praise be to God!!!

I told this story to someone and they suggested I have a backup copy of the sermon on hand next time.  Sounds like a logical suggestion but part of me is not too sure I want to do that…

You see…on Sunday, God was in control…and I like that.  Isn’t that the way it should be?

edh -|—

P.S. Following worship my Kindle started working perfectly :)

Not that bad…really?

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
(1 John 1:8-10)

Maybe you have never said that you are without sin.
Maybe you have never claimed to be perfect.

But…

Have you ever said or thought:
At least I am not as bad as that person sitting over there
At least I am not living in sin like that couple.
At least I attend worship more than that person.
At least I don’t________” (Fill in the blank).

Sin can be a tough thing to talk about or listen to because many people don’t want to hear that they are sinful, they want to hear how to make their lives better.  Our society today has been so inundated with the prosperity gospel that any talk of personal sinfulness has become very offensive to people.

“Don’t tell me I am sinful, tell me how to be successful.”
“Tell me how to have a better marriage.”
“Tell me how to be blessed by God.”
“Tell me how to be happy in this life.”
“Tell me that, deep down inside, I am a good person.”

Go to the self-help section of any bookstore and you will see book after book after book that uses scripture to “teach” you how to be successful, to be happy, to get ahead in this world.  These authors claim that God wants to bless you and this is how you can make that happen.

Really?

The Good News is not that God wants to bless you, but the Good News is that because we are SINFUL God has blessed us with his Son, Jesus Christ.  There are no steps or actions we must take, but…

Jesus has already died on the cross for you.
Jesus has already risen from the grave for you.
Jesus has already made the offer for forgiveness.
Jesus has already gone ahead to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-7)

And Jesus has done all of this because we really are that bad.  We are sinful, evil people.

[Sorry if I just burst your bubble.  Well...actually...I am not sorry.]

Being happy and successful in this life is something Jesus never promised.  But what Jesus has promised is that we can have a PEACE that surpasses all understanding and HOPE in this life of eternal life.  And it is this PEACE and HOPE that sustains me in this life…even when things are not going my way because I know that there is more than just THIS life.

Admit your sinfulness and know that God is faithful and just and will forgive your sins through Jesus Christ.  For in the end, that is all we truly need.

Dear sinner…have a great day basking in the love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord :)

-edh-

The gate (key)

The Gospel text for this Sunday (May 15) is from John 10:1-10.  This is the account of Jesus saying “I am the gate…“.  Call me goofy but this great scene from the Princess Bride came to mind.  There has got to be a way to use this in the sermon ;)

Enjoy

-edh-

Overcome

I was asked a question about God yesterday:  “Why does God allow little children to suffer terrible illnesses?”  It is the age-old issue of God, evil and suffer.  How do they coexist if indeed God is a loving God.  I don’t like watching little children suffer.  I don’t like watching footage of earthquake and tsunami damage.  But suffering is part of life…but why?

My first response was that God created this world perfect but sin messed it up…and God was grieved (to put it mildly).  But the suffering we experience in this world is not the end for God has overcome the world.  God overcame the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  As I sat and pondered this issue some more I was drawn to John 16 where Jesus is comforting his disciples.  Jesus closes that chapter by saying I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world. Praise be to God!

I still don’t like suffering.  I still grieve when little children suffer terrible illnesses and when I see reports of natural disasters.  And…I still ask that age-old question from time to time:  Why God, why?  But each time God comes through with words of reassurance and hope; strengthening my faith through reminding me of his love. And through this faith strengthening I am reminded that this is not the end.  My faith tells me that when I am going through hard times that God is right there with me.  My faith tells me that in the midst of suffering God is right there whispering those words of Jesus in my ear and in my heart.  My faith tells me that when Satan takes his best shot to drive me to despair I can respond by saying, “You have already lost!  My God has defeated you and has given me the victory through Jesus Christ so go away!

Evil and suffering are here to stay…for the time being…but take heart…Jesus has overcome the world FOR YOU and FOR ME.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

What now?

The morning after…

…actually it’s the first day of the week following the historic vote at the ELCA CWA09 last week in Minneapolis; a vote that changed ministry policies allowing homosexuality clergy in committed, life-long, monogamous same sex relationship to serve ELCA congregations.  The vote also opened the door for ELCA congregations to bless same sex unions if they so choose.  But also recognizing that fact that people across the church have “bound consciences” and that we are to respect that.

With this vote I knew I would get lots of questions (as I did as I walked into the coffee shop this morning) so I decided to address this right away on Sunday morning in the sermon.  Below is the newsletter article I wrote that is a very brief summary of what I preached on Sunday.  I used the text from Joshua 24:14-15 about choosing whom we will serve.  Here’s my newsletter article:

—–

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14-15)

By the time this newsletter reaches your mail box and is in your hands, the ELCA will be forever changed.  ELCA Church wide assembly met Aug. 17 – 23 in Minneapolis.  The big agenda item (and one that garnered the most passionate discussion/debate) had to do with lifting the ban on homosexual clergy, who are in life-long, monogamous, committed relationships, from serving on the ELCA roster and allowing congregations to bless same sex unions. Many of you are no doubt experiencing a number of emotions surrounding this that include but not limited to:  anger, confusion, disappointment, sadness, etc.  Some of you no doubt believe that scripture is clear when it comes to homosexuality.  Some of you no doubt are not even willing to discuss/debate this because you believe there is no discussion/debate.  But I also recognize that some of you may be very excited and happy about this change.  Wherever you fall and however you feel the reality is still the same:  We live and serve in a Church that has been forever changed.  In a way we now live in a foreign land.  So what now…

…As with everything there are decisions to be made, but in our case there is only one faithful option:  We will continue serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in advancing the Gospel with all our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ…who are all as equally sinful as you and me.

This may be hard to accept for some, but when you consider how Jesus treated the outcast, it makes a lot of sense.  In the sermon on Sunday, Aug. 23 (one that many of you were not in attendance to hear) I reminded people of the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8:  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.

Jesus taught us to separate the sin from the sinner; to hate the sin NOT the sinner.  So what does all this mean?  Simply this:  In light of the change in ministry policies here in the ELCA concerning homosexuality I echo Joshua’s words, “As for me and my household we will serve the Lord”.  Basically…nothing is going to change.  The ELCA vote will not change what I preach or how I preach; I will continue announcing forgiveness and presiding at the table; I will continue to baptize, marry and bury people; I will continue teach and love people.  And (as I expect everyone here to do) I will continue to welcome ALL people.  I may not approve of their lifestyle but I will continue to separate the sin from the sinner and serve the Lord through loving my neighbor.  That is what Jesus commands us to do.  Loving people and accepting ALL people is serving the Lord.

The ELCA has been forever changed (there is no question about that), but Salem Lutheran Church has not been changed.  We will continue to serve the Lord; we will continue to welcome ALL people; we will continue to advance the Gospel.  But as we do this I urge you to dive even deeper into scripture and explore the Good News that God has for us.  Know what the Bible commands us to do AND know what God promises to do for us.  Get to know God better through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So join me, as we travel through this uncertain time, and continue to serve the Lord…all the while praising God always and forever.

—–

I know that more and more questions are going to come.  There is going to be much spirited discussion and debate through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and coffee shops.  But through it all we need to remember that we are all children of God.  And my hope and prayer is that we can somehow move forward in mission.  We need to get out there and announce to people this awesome love we have from God through Jesus Christ.  Forgiveness needs to be proclaimed; people need to experience love; the stranger still needs to be welcomed.  Let’s not lose focus.

We serve an awesome God…let’s continue to do so…praising God always and forever.

-edh-

The Bread of Life

We are continuing in John 6 this week with verses 24 – 35.  This scene picks up where we left off last week; Jesus feeds the 5000 and then goes for a walk on the water; scaring the disciples half to death.  After calming the disciples down and climbing into their boat they head to the other side of the lake.  Once over there the people that were fed by Jesus realize Jesus and the crew are gone, so they climb into their boats in search of Jesus (looking for breakfast).  Once again, the people still have no clue who Jesus really is and what he really did for them.

Now we get some talk about Jesus being the “Bread of Life“.  The people are looking for real bread; talking about how Moses gave the Israelites manna from heaven.  But Jesus fires back and says that it’s not Moses that gives bread from heaven but God who gives the TRUE bread.  And this bread means life.

I am the Bread of Life” Jesus says.

The quote that jumps out to me (besides, of course, the Bread of Life comment) is the one Jesus says to the people when they come looking for him.  Jesus tells them that they are only there because he gave them something to eat.  Jesus then goes on to say “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”  This statement may not have shocked the people too much then, but what about today…a society that is based on “working for food that spoils“?  This verse is reminiscent of the verses that talks about storing up treasures in heaven where moth and rust can not destroy.  This is an intriguing connection.

So maybe I will “play” with this connection some more…Hmmm…

What do you think of this connection; not working for food that spoils and storing up treasures in heaven?

-edh-