Monday, September 29, 2014

Sermon: What's Next?

Back-to-back sermon posts here. As Woodbury Lutheran moves into the fall, we have started a sermon series entitled, "Follow." We are taking time to simply look at what it means for us to follow Jesus as his disciples. The sermon series has been fantastic! I encourage you to follow along with the sermons by going to woodburylutheran.org and clicking on the media tab. There you will find audio recordings of all of the sermons in this series. For now, below is a link to a sermon I preached last weekend. It is the second sermon in the series and is entitled, "What's Next?"

"What's Next?"

Sermon: The Descent into Egypt

A few weeks ago, my vicarage congregation, Woodbury Lutheran Church, finished our summer sermon series on the book of Genesis. The series was entitled, "Genesis - Covenant People." I had the opportunity to preach the final sermon in the series. Below is a link to the sermon.

"The Descent into Egypt"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sermon: "Trusting YHWH"

I have started life as a vicar (or pastor intern) at Woodbury Lutheran Church in Woodbury, Minnesota. Below is a copy of my first sermon there entitled, "Trusting YHWH." It is part of a larger series entitled "Genesis - Covenant People." To learn more about Woodbury Lutheran or to hear more sermons in this series, go to woodburylutheran.org.

Sermon - Trusting YHWH

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sermon: The Story Chapter 18

Below is the link from a sermon I preached this morning at my home congregation in Fort Collins, CO. I pray you enjoy listening. God is good!

Sermon - July 27

Friday, January 17, 2014

Baptism of 21 Nepalese at Ascension

Hello all! For a little bit more than a year now, I have been leading and helping lead a bi-lingual Bible study for Nepali refugees in the Saint Louis area. Over the past year, the ministry has exploded. This has been largely due to the tremendous blessing of having a former evangelist, Gagan Gurung, come into the Saint Louis area. Gagan's presence has allowed for clearer translations and straighter teaching. Gagan is also familiar with cultural norms of which I am not familiar. Therefore, he has been able to reach people with the Gospel who we have not been able to connect with. Just this last Sunday, 21 of these Nepalese people were baptized at Ascension, my fieldwork congregation here in Saint Louis. A photographer from the LCMS was present at the baptisms and took pictures. Below is the link to photos he took from the service. Enjoy! Praise God that he continues to work across cultures!

Nepali Baptisms at Ascension Lutheran Church

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sermon: Part of the Family



The link below is to my most recent sermon. The sermon is titled "Part of the Family." I preached this sermon on December 28th and 29th at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Collins, Colorado. This sermon came with a slide presentation. As you see from the logo above, most of the presentation is fairly basic...except for one part. I mention a specific image of a house in this sermon that I have posted below to help you understand what people saw during the sermon. To God be the glory!

Sermon - Part of the Family



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Real Meaning of Christmas?: Christmas from Luke's Point of View



          "We need to get back to the real meaning of Christmas!" I think this is a phrase we are hearing more and more throughout the church. Christians in general seem to be concerned that the real meaning of Christmas is getting lost in the decorations, shopping, parties, and other secular items surrounding the holiday. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Why is this event so special? We could probably answer this question in many ways, but let's look at what Luke says about Christmas...  
          When Luke sets the scene, he shows Israel, the people of God, under the oversight of Herod, king of Judea. There is no Israelite king. The people of God were waiting for what the prophets before them had proclaimed. They knew the prophets had called for a Day of the Lord, a time when God would send his Anointed One to usher in a Messianic age where the Messiah would be king. Israel was thinking the Messianic age would mean liberation from their Roman oppressors. Luke makes this known through Zechariah’s proclaiming in 1:68-79 that the Messiah was coming “that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” Even Simeon is shown as “waiting for the consolation of Israel” in 2:25. Israel was looking forward to a time when the Messiah would lead them, and they could practice the Torah freely. The Messiah did come, but not to do what they expected.
            Here, we must realize that Jesus does not come for us, Gentiles. The Messiah comes to his own people. He is for Israel. Luke writes concerning the Messiah in 1:32-33, “And the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever.” If we take the gospel of Luke for what it says, we must be careful not to jump immediately to the redemption of all people. If we stand with Luke, we start with Jesus coming to his own.
            It is not uncommon for us to view the death and resurrection of Christ as the final payment for all sin. Often we hear the approach that Jesus comes to die on the cross to appease God the Father. But Luke calls us from those thoughts to the Messiah who comes at Christmas. This Messiah, according to Luke, comes to bring the Kingdom of God. And the Kingdom of God does not come on the cross, but it comes with the arrival of Jesus. We do not have to wait until the cross for things like forgiveness. Jesus brings them in his ministry. Luke has Jesus quoting from Isaiah in 4:16-30: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has appointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is exactly what Jesus does in Luke. He does preach the good news. He does perform healings and miraculous signs among the people. He does offer the forgiveness of sins. He tells the paralytic: “Man, your sins are forgiven you” (5:20-24).
            Luke shows us that the Messiah’s coming meant the coming of the Kingdom of God. This would call for a restructuring of the whole Israelite system, not an overthrowing of the Roman government. The Messiah came to be the center of life. Therefore the center would no longer be the Torah. It would not be the temple. Jesus himself came to be the center of faith and life. This is completely backwards to the people of Israel. It may also come across as backwards to us. Jesus does not come to be an instrument for humanity to get to God. Jesus is God coming down to humanity to be the center of all things. This leads to some unsettling feelings among the Jewish leaders. They are angered that Jesus speaks by his own authority. They cannot take the upsetting of their religious system. As Jesus brings the Kingdom of God he does things against Jewish code. He eats with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. Jesus also claims to be the Son of God. This is exemplified in passages like Luke 10:21-22. The Jewish leaders finally respond to all of Jesus’s actions by having him arrested. They mock Jesus as if he were a king. They strike Jesus and put a crown of thorns on his head. Then, they crucify Jesus. Here we must realize that Luke does not mention a sacrifice for the sins of the world. He simply presents that Jesus died because the Jews hated Jesus for what he was doing.
            As Jesus is placed in the tomb, everything looks hopeless. The Messiah, according to Judaism, does not die. Instead, he reigns forever. Jesus was dead. But then Luke moves his account to two men on the road to Emmaus. Here, they meet a man who opens the Scriptures to them, telling them that God had planned for the rejection of the Messiah. God would counter this move by raising Jesus from the grave. At dinner, when the man breaks the bread, the disciples realize that it is Jesus. Jesus is alive! He was the Messiah that was to come!
            But where do we go from here? Does Luke actually help us confess Jesus as Lord? Moreover, does Luke ever present a way that Jesus is also for Gentiles? To both of these questions, the answer is yes. However, it might not be how we have previously understood them. In Luke, Jesus is Lord by his own authority. He proves this by forgiving sins by his own authority with the paralytic. He calms the wind and the waves with his own word. He calls demons out of people with his own commanded. Jesus teaches with his own authority, and after he raises from the dead, Jesus promises the disciples the Holy Spirit (also by his own authority) in the book of Acts. The Spirit comes at Pentecost where Peter stands up and proclaims to the people in Acts 2:36, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Therefore, it is by Jesus’s authority that we come to confess him as Lord.
But now we must deal with our second question. Where do we as Gentiles fit into this? Jesus tells the disciples in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Gentiles are included in the words, “all nations.” The Apostles receive authority from God and begin to preach and teach in the book of Acts after the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost. The Messianic age continues to spread and grow. It is at this time that the Holy Spirit falls even on the Gentiles in Acts 10:44-48. While he does not mention it, Luke simply confirms what was said in Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” God’s Spirit has come to us as well. We, like the disciples, partake in the coming of the Kingdom of God—the spreading of the Messianic age. We are the ongoing presence of Christ in the world.
Luke shows us that the story is not over. Jesus came bringing the Kingdom of God, but it has not fully come yet. Instead, it will fully come on the Last Day when Christ returns again. We see a foretaste of the resurrection when Jesus is raised from the dead. Jesus is raised in glory as the firstfruit of the resurrection. Luke points us toward the day when we all in Christ will be glorified in the resurrection at the end of this time.
So what makes Christmas so important or special? If we follow Luke, we see that Christmas begins the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus brings the Kingdom of God through his ministry and through his death and resurrection. God’s abundance of grace is outpoured upon Jews and Gentiles through the coming of the Kingdom of God. We continue to advance the Kingdom of God and spread the Messianic age here on earth as part of the Church. But Christmas is so special because it is the beginning of it all. At Christmas, Jesus came down to order things around himself. Today as the Church, we are participants of this reality.