Happenings

Sermons by Pastor Walter Snyder plus announcements, articles, videos, and anything else that doesn’t fit Ask the Pastor or the Luther Library.





29 May 2016

Pentecost 2 Sermon: Absolutely Astonished

Preached on Galatians 1:1-12
The Second Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 4C
29 May AD 2016

Title: Absolutely Astonished (MP3 Audio)

Broken Chains Summary: Astonishing! Someone gives you something beyond value for absolutely no cost — and you’re looking for ways to pay for it! And so, after an introduction filled with sweetness and light, Paul immediately lowers the boom on the Galatians — and on us.

Even secular wisdom tells us, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.” In other words, accept your gift thankfully and use it as intended. If this is true for even second-rate human gifts, how much more should it be for a priceless gift of love from God Himself?

Yet the Galatians were starting to listen to those who were telling them that Christ alone wasn’t enough. They were being told that to be “good Christians,” they needed to become good Jews. Freed by the Gospel, the Galatians were beginning to subject themselves to the Law.

Enemies of the Gospel were using it as a gateway, making Christ’s sacrifice a step on the way to holiness rather than the source and the completion of our righteousness. The freedom from sin’s bondage that these Judaizers” proclaimed was illusory — they were only “freeing” their listeners to step into a new bondage.

While the details change to fit times and circumstances, Satan and fallen human nature remain the same. We still face those who would turn us away from the full liberation of the Gospel and direct us back to works of the Law.

Listen to Christ. When He says, “It it finished,” He means that He has completed everything necessary for salvation. Our debt is paid, we are reconciled with the Father, and we can do nothing to add to God’s infinite love. What is more astonishing than our efforts to add human works to the Gospel? God continuing to love us, forgive us, and receive us into His presence.

Crucifixion Text: Paul, an apostle — not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. John 8:48-59

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Absolutely Astonished.

NB: A few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio with Windows Media Player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 96:1-9; 1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43; Luke 7:1-10

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22 May 2016

Trinity Sunday Sermon: Divine Grammar

Preached on John 8:48-59
The First Sunday after Pentecost (Series C)
22 May AD 2016

Title: Divine Grammar (MP3 Audio)

John 8:58 Summary: “Before Abraham was, I am.” It doesn’t take much schooling for most people to recognize that Jesus seemed to mix up the verb tenses. Looking back hundreds of years into the past, He spoke of Himself in the present.

Yet is wasn’t a grammar error that led His Jewish antagonists to grab rocks “to throw at him.” No, they understood what Jesus was truly saying. He wasn’t merely trying to say that He’d been around longer than Abraham. Instead, He as continued speaking about His relationship to the Father, He was telling them that He thought that He was God.

When Jesus said, “I am,” He wasn’t only stating the fact of His existence. He was claiming to be the One who called to Moses from the burning bush: “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.”’ (Exodus 3:14)”

Jesus therefore identified Himself as “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” (see Exodus 3:16). He was — He is — the Holy One of Israel who brought His people out of bondage in Egypt and led them to the Promised land. He is the God and Lord of King David (see Acts 2:25-31).” He is “the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)” (Visit Preaching Symbols for information on the related symbolism in this accompanying picture of Christ.)

He is also your great I am, your God and Lord, your Rescuer and Redeemer. He is the source of your life and your only hope of life everlasting. He wants you to know this and believe it and through faith be saved from sin, death, and Devil.

Exodus 3:14 Text: The Jews answered [Jesus], “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. John 8:48-59

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Divine Grammar.

NB: A few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio with Windows Media Player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 8; Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Acts 2:14a, 22-36

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14 May 2016

Funeral Sermon: At Home in the Lord

Preached on Psalm 28:7-8
The Funeral of Catherine Marie “Cathy” Potter
14 May AD 2016

Title: At Home in the Lord (MP3 Audio)

Psalm 46:11 Summary: Since Adam’s fall, humankind hasn’t been where it’s supposed to be — spiritually, mentally, and physically, we come into the world at odds with ourselves, each other, and the Lord.. God wants to bring us back into His presence. He works through the Holy Spirit to call us to Him. He employs His Word, Baptism, Communion, Absolution — the fulness of the Gospel — to make us His and to keep us safe.

Yet we still live in a fallen Creation, full of storms and struggle, of disaster and death. Even more than we need shelter from the elements, we need protection from the evil within and the evildoers without. And we certainly must be shielded from the assaults of Satan.

Over and over, the Psalms call us to enter into the Lord’s protection. Here, He tells us that He is our “strength” and our “shield.” The “saving refuge of his anointed” is the mighty “fortress (Psalm 46:11)” of all who believe in Him.

He will keep us safe through our deaths and into life everlasting. In the Resurrection, we will have no need for the protection of a fortress but the Lord will still be our dwelling place. Christ spoke of this when He told the disciples of the “many rooms (John 14:2)” and promised that He was going to prepare a place for them. He has also prepared a place for us and will raise us up to live in the eternal home of God’s presence.

In this life, He is our home away from home. Yet by faith, we are already home and will remain there forevermore.

Text: The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Psalm 28:7-8

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of At Home in the Lord

NB: A few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio with Windows Media Player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 28; Job 19:23-27a; Romans 8:28-39; John 14:1-6

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03 April 2016

Easter 2C Sermon: Baby Food

Preached on 1 Peter 2:2-3
The Second Sunday of Easter — Quasimodogeniti
3 April AD 2016

Title: Baby Food (MP3 Audio)

Picasso: Maternity (1905) Summary: The sermon is based on the antiphon from today’s introit.* The opening words from the ancient Latin text give the 2nd Sunday of Easter its traditional name, Quasimodogeniti, “Like newborn babes.”

But it’s not only addressed to believers new to the faith or new to life itself. This verse also benefits mature Christians who’ve been in the Church for many years.

Both Paul (1 Corinthians 3:2) and the author of Hebrews (5:12, 14) encourage Christians to be ready for the “solid food” of in-depth Scripture study and theology. Yet regardless of how much knowledge and wisdom we achieve in matters religious, we never outgrow our need for “pure spiritual milk.”

What is this “milk” that Peter encourages us to crave? Nothing other than the Gospel — God forgiving sins for the sake of Jesus Christ. Truly, we can say that Christ Himself is this nourishment as we receive Him in Word and Sacrament.

The fulness of true theology can be weighty and sometimes confusing. But God still moves us to nibble, chew on, or dig in to the meat of His Word. However, the most complex doctrines cannot be swallowed unless we wash them down with the pure milk of the Gospel. And in times of trial, doubt, and worry, sometimes the milk is all we can take in — yet it remains ever enough for our needs.

So even as you sink your teeth into the solid food of God’s Word, remember that a childlike faith still needs the same nourishment that sustained it in spiritual infancy. And whether chewing on the meat or sipping on the milk, you will continue tasting “that the Lord is good.”

Text: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Baby Food.

NB: A few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio with Windows Media Player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 148; Acts 5:12-20 (21-32); Revelation 1:4-18; John 20:19-31

Illustration: Detail of Maternity by Pablo Picasso (1905).

*The introit is a set of verses sung responsively at the beginning of the service. Normally, it is composed of portions of selected Psalms. The antiphon is sung at the beginning and end of the introit and — as happens today — may be from a Psalm or can be drawn from other parts of Scripture or from ancient liturgical texts.

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01 April 2016

Funeral Sermon: Knowing and Known

Preached on John 10:14-15
The Funeral of Melba Corinne Amos Strothmann
1 April AD 2016

Title: Knowing and Known (MP3 Audio)

John 10:1-18 Summary: Our Lord Jesus shepherds us throughout this life and into life eternal. He speaks forgiveness and new life. His voice never speaks falsehood; His directions never mislead us.

The Good Shepherd guides us every step of our pilgrimage through this life. He defends us against sin and Satan and calls us back when we follow the wrong voice and end up lost and alone.

Jesus knows us and we Him. He knows us throughout our lives and in our deaths. We know Him now in Word and Sacrament and trust that — even if dead and buried — we will hear His call to rise up and know Him face-to-face throughout life everlasting.

Text: [Jesus said,] “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Knowing and Known

NB: A few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio with Windows Media Player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 23; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 10:1-18

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27 March 2016

Easter Day Sermon: I Know

Preached on Job 19:23-27
The Resurrection of Our Lord
27 March AD 2016

Title: I Know (MP3 Audio)

Job's Faith Summary: “I know that my Redeemer lives!”

Job is convinced that even in the midst of crushing loss and excruciating pain, He rests secure in God’s hands. Furthermore, he is certain of his own resurrection, no longer how long or how completely his body decays.

The agony of this righteous man foreshadows the greater agony of the completely righteous Man who would bear Job’s sorrows and sins — along with those of all mankind. Job’s confidence is ours. Jesus suffered every one of our pains, knew all of our losses, bore all of our infirmities, and carried all of our sins. Christ’s loss is our restoration, His pain our pleasure, His death our forgiveness, and His resurrection our life everlasting.

Text: “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

“My heart faints within me!” Job 19:23-27

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of I Know.

NB: A few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio with Windows Media Player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 118:15-29; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 or 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Mark 16:1-8

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25 March 2016

Good Friday Sermon: More Than a Feeling

Preached on Luke 23:26-49
The Passion of Our Lord
25 March AD 2016

Title: More Than a Feeling (MP3 Audio)

The Crucifixion Summary: Now that Daylight Saving Time begins so early in the year, many people complain that Good Friday evening services or the Easter Vigil don’t feel right because the skies are too light. While for some, it’s a minor complaint, it seems that others truly believe that they’re not getting the full effect of these services.

However, whatever our feelings, we must return to the facts. Regardless of the time of year — and in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s already autumn — and whatever our preferences, all that truly matters is what today proclaims. Good Friday is all about the crucifixion of the Christ.

No matter how light or dark the evening nor how bright or dark our mood, no matter our feelings and preferences, the day counts for naught without the simple, objective truth of God’s love for sinners. It’s more than a feeling — it’s a cold, hard, bright, beautiful fact: Jesus suffered and died to forgive our sins and win for us life everlasting.

Text: And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Good Friday Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. Luke 23:26-49

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of More Than a Feeling.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 22 or Psalm 31; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42 or John 19:17-30

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24 March 2016

Holy Thursday Sermon: Dining with the Lord

Preached on Exodus 24:3-11
Maundy Thursday, One Year Lectionary
24 March AD 2016

Title: Dining with the Lord (MP3 Audio)

Moses and Aaron Summary: Imagine their surprise. After the warnings, the rumblings, and the flashings, the Lord now invited the elders of Israel to join Moses and Aaron in His holy presence. First, they heard God’s unequivocal command to stay off of His mountain. Now they hear His invitation to come up to dinner.

He who cannot tolerate any sin or corruption in His presence invites sinners to eat and drink and while they are there, He doesn’t “lay his hand” on any of “the chief men of the people of Israel.” Instead, covered by the blood of the Covenant and trusting in the Word of the Lord, they come to Him in trust.

Now we, sinners all, are also invited to eat and drink in the presence of the Lord, trusting that we are not only covered in the blood of the New Covenant but that we will actually consume this holy blood, along with the body of the sacrificial Lamb, in Christ’s Supper. We come to the altar knowing that God will not only withhold His hand of judgment but will extend His hand of mercy, not ending our miserable lives but transforming them.

Maundy Thursday Text: Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord.

He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. Exodus 24:3-11

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Dining with the Lord, preached to the saints of God at Faith Lutheran Church, Knob Noster, Missouri.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 116:12-19; Exodus 12:1-141 Corinthians 11:23-32; JOhn 13:1-15 (34-35)

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20 March 2016

Palm Sunday C Sermon: Hosanna, Jesus!

Preached on John 12:12-19
Sunday of the Passion, Series C
20 March AD 2016

Title: Hosanna, Jesus! (MP3 Audio)

Palm Sunday Summary: The people of Jerusalem understood the word play as they called out to Jesus during His triumphal entry — yet they remained unaware of what they were asking for. Hosanna and Jesus stem from the same Hebrew word, meaning “to save.” They point to the same fact: The Word became flesh to save us from our sin. That’s why the angel told Joseph to name Mary’s Child “Jesus” (Matthew 1:21).

The crowd called upon the Savior to save them from Roman occupation, to restore the Davidic Kingdom in the Promised Land, and to restore Israel to its long-lost glory. What they got was a Savior who came to save them from satanic oppression, their own sinful natures, and God’s wrath.

Often, we are similarly unaware of our own full need for a Savior. Our cries of hosanna too often address the effects of being sinners living in a sinful world rather than the root cause of all our troubles. While we may not be looking for a new king to be crowned, we can certainly invent our own theologies of glory.

Yet even when we aren’t completely mindful of the extent of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, He remains mindful of us. The fulness of His victory is ours in Word and Sacrament, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He saves us in Baptism, in the Absolution, in His Supper. He saves us by bringing us into the community of the Church. He saves us by giving the angels charge over us. He saves us by holding fast to us, even though our grip on Him often fails.

Good Friday Text: The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” John 12:12-19 (Palm Sunday Processional Gospel)

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear MP3 of Hosanna, Jesus!.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 118:19-29 or 31:9-16; Deuteronomy 32:36-39; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 23:1-56 or Luke 22:1-23:56 or John 12:20-43

See Aardvark Alley for more on Palm Sunday.

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06 March 2016

Lent 4C Sermon: Strength, Song, Salvation

Preached on Isaiah 12:1-6
The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Series C
6 March AD 2016

Title: Strength, Song, Salvation (MP3 Audio)

Isaiah 12:2
Summary: God cannot ignore sin nor neglect imposing its consequences. To do so would be counter to His nature and to His Word. We know that “the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)” and that “the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)” Yet instead of fleeing Him in terror, we joyfully greet Him, thanking Him for finding us.

Is this because we’ve found some marvelous way to make amends for our sins? Not hardly! Have we somehow tricked Him into believing that we’re holier that we are? Nope! Have we discovered how to distract Him from noticing our many and most vile iniquities? Not in the least!

We joyfully and fearlessly accept and embrace God’s claim on us because we don’t fear His anger. We know that His righteous wrath was poured out on His only begotten Son. Our death became Christ’s death so His life might be ours. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” not only did it mean that His work was complete; it also testified that the Father’s wrath was spent.

Now we trust and are not afraid. Now we thank and praise God, who not only grants salvation but is our salvation. Now we embrace the Lord, who not only gives us strength and empowers our song, but who is our strength and our song.

Cranach the Younger: Weimar Alterpiece Text: You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

“Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 12:1-6

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear MP3 of Strength, Song, Salvation, preached to the saints of God at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Fayette, Missouri.

Other Readings: Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

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27 February 2016

Lent 3C Sermon: Restored by the Lord

Preached on Psalm 85
The Third Sunday in Lent, Series C
28 February AD 2016

Title: Restored by the Lord (MP3 Audio)

Psalm 85 Summary: The Lord has a long history of taking care of His Church. However, when troubles from without increase or when our own sins and guilt oppress us, we sometimes relegate His salvation to the past. Or we think that it’s still happening, just not for us.

Yet even before we ask for forgiveness or favor, God answers. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, divine wrath is already turned aside. We’re restored before we realize that we’ve done something to jeopardize our standing with Him.

Of course, our restoration isn’t always what we want or think we need. The Lord may not take away all our trials, our pains, our losses. But even then, we know that we are precious to Him and that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

We will receive complete restoration in the Resurrection, not to whatever we were on our best days of this life. No, our restoration is to the sinlessness of Eden, to the everlasting holiness that belongs to all the saints through life everlasting.

Text: Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.

Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way. Psalm 85

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear MP3 of Restored by the Lord

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-20; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9

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20 February 2016

Lent 2C Sermon: The Lord Will Relent

Preached on Jeremiah 26:8-15
The Second Sunday in Lent, Series C
21 February AD 2016

Title: The Lord Will Relent (MP3 Audio)

Luke 13:34 Summary: Unfortunately, God’s Word finds some of its strongest resistance in His Church, among His people. In today’s Gospel, Jesus pointed out Jerusalem’s sorry record of murdering the Lord’s messengers. Yet neither He nor His Father had given up on Israel and soon He would join the Holy City’s martyred prophets, shedding His blood to pay for Israel’s sins and the sins of all mankind.

Jeremiah clearly show that ignoring the Word and assaulting its proclaimers wasn’t a problem new to Jesus. The prophet came to rebuke and chastise the city and the nation, directly accusing Judah’s inhabitants of all manner of wickedness. From the greatest to the least, none escaped the Law’s condemnations.

Yet Jeremiah wasn’t there only to condemn but also to proclaim full forgiveness from a gracious Lord — a Lord who was eager to “repent of the disaster” at hand. He longed to relent of His judgment. He desired a vibrant, active Church. He wanted a population of forgiven, joyous children filling the nation.

To this day, sinners — both within and without Christendom — resist the Word. They reject God’s judgments and scorn His mercy. Individuals, congregations, and entire church bodies find ways to substitute their own thoughts and wishes for the will of the Lord. Even pew-sitting, offering-giving, congregation-serving Christians — even you and I — may find ourselves at odds with God’s Word and in conflict with His messengers.

Thanks be to God that Christ didn’t turn His back on going up to Jerusalem to be the next of the slain prophets. For the same forgiveness that He won for those who crucified Him belonged also to those who rejected and killed His prophets, who rebelled in the Wilderness, who sinned in the garden. And yes, Jesus’ forgiveness also belongs to us modern-day rebels. For the sake of His Son, the Lord relents of our judgment and gives us His pardon and His peace.

God grant that we unworthy outlaws continue to believe in Christ’s sacrifice, receive His forgiveness, and — by the power of the Holy Spirit — live lives of faith toward God and fervent love toward one another.

Jeremiah at the Temple Text: And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”

Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.

“But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” Jeremiah 26:8-15

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear MP3 of The Lord Will Relent

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 4; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

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13 February 2016

Lent 1C Sermon: Tempted for Us

Preached on Luke 4:1-13
The First Sunday in Lent, Series C
14 February AD 2016

Title: Tempted for Us (MP3 Audio)

Satan Tempts Christ Summary: That we might be prepared “for every good work,” God inspired “all Scripture,” making it “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)” Yet if we stop with this, we might as well never start studying the Scriptures.

The Word has a higher purpose than instruction and inspiration. Jesus said, “The Scriptures” are the source of “eternal life” because “they bear witness about me. (John 5:39)” And not only do they talk about Him — they deliver Him to us. We not only learn that the Christ lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial death to save us but the Word actually gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation.

in today’s Gospel, we learn about the devil’s wiles and resisting temptation through God’s Word. But we truly profit when we believe that Jesus fasted and faced testing from Satan so that He might credit us with His own spotless obedience to the Law.

Certainly, Christ’s temptation is a cautionary tale and His ability to overcome it brings us cheer. We learn to trust the truth of the Word in the face of the Devil’s lies and his twisting of Scripture. Yet we only overcome temptation and conquer Satan when we believe that Jesus already vanquished him on our behalf. The story of His suffering is the story of our salvation.

Christ Tempted by the Devil Text: And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:1-13

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear MP3 of Tempted for Us

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-13; Romans 10:8b-13

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06 February 2016

Transfiguration Sermon: Exodus

Preached on Luke 9:28-36
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Series C
7 February AD 2016

Title: Exodus (MP3 Audio)

Chagall's Exodus Summary: In earlier days, the Lord revealed His glory to Moses — and later to Elijah — on Mount Sinai. In the fulness of time, Jesus revealed His glory to Peter, James, and John as He conversed with His prophets on the Mount of Transfiguration.

He spoke with His forerunners about His impending departure — His exodus (v. 31). Unlike Moses, who led Israel from death at the hands of Pharaoh, or Elijah, who fled death at the hands of Ahab and Jezebel, Jesus was preparing to offer Himself up into death’s hands.

On the mountaintop, Christ manifested Himself as the Completion of the work of Moses and Elijah, the Fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and the final and greatest Redeemer. He would soon transfigure His own exodus from life into humanity’s exodus from death.

We often join with Moses and Elijah, with Peter, James, and John in confusing or abusing God’s commands and promises. Jesus, however, stayed true to His path. He kept the commands, bestowed the promises, and now credits us with His righteousness.

We participate in Christ’s exodus through Baptism. In it, we pass through watery death and are given new life in Him (see Romans 6:3-4). By water and the Word, we receive new citizenship, not in a land flowing with milk and honey but in the Lord’s eternal kingdom — the new heavens and new earth that will be ours in the Resurrection (see Philippians 3:20).

The Transfiguration Text: Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.

And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.

As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:28-36

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Exodus.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 99; Deuteronomy 34 or Exodus 34:29-35; Hebrews 3:1-6

Illustrations: The painting Exodus by Marc Chagall was begun in 1952 and completed in 1966. Line drawing from Art of the Church Year by Ed Riojas, available through Higher Things Store.

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31 January 2016

Epiphany 4C Sermon: Hope and Trust from Womb to Tomb

Preached on Psalm 71:1-11
The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
31 January AD 2016

Title: Hope and Trust from Womb to Tomb (MP3 Audio)

Psalm 71:6 Summary: Whether plagued by demonic forces, physical distress, foes of God and His people, or personal enemies, troubles can fill our days. We find refuge, health, and healing only in the Lord. Even before we ask, He answers.

He knows us deeply and completely. We were in His thoughts prior to Creation. He cared for us before we were born. He took us in His hands from our mothers’ wombs. He holds fast to us through this life and will lay us to rest in our graves that we might awaken to life everlasting.

There is nothing we can do to earn His favor. He loved us before we could or would love Him. When Christ called out, “It is finished, (John 19:30)” it was a sign that He had won salvation for all people throughout all time. As the sermon notes, Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness from the cross is “proactive, retroactive, completely active through all of time.”

Even before we are born, we can hear and be blessed by God’s living and active Word. And long after we die, we will hear and respond to His Word as He calls us forth into eternal glory. Truly, the Lord is the believer’s hope and trust from womb to tomb.

Psalm 71:3 Text: In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together and say, “God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him.” Psalm 71:1-11

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Hope and Trust from Womb to Tomb.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-10 (17-19); 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13; Luke 4:31-44

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25 January 2016

Chapel Sermon: Nothing but the Christ

Preached on Acts 26:22-23
The Conversion of Saint Paul
25 January AD 2016

Title: Nothing but the Christ (MP3 Audio)

Paul and Agrippa Summary: From his conversion until his death, Paul’s message remained unchanged: Jesus Christ came to earth to suffer, die, and rise that all sinners — that is, all mankind — would be saved. In person or in writing, he proclaimed the harsh, condemning Law and the sweet, redeeming Gospel.

Paul admitted that, in his own mind, he was the worst sinner imaginable. He had directly attacked Christ’s Church, wilfully ignoring the Scriptures and resisting the message of salvation in Christ Jesus. He also celebrated his complete forgiveness and restoration. This undeserved mercy focused his in-reach to Israel and his outreach to the Gentile nations.

We, too, are helpless and hopeless without Christ. We are born in sin’s darkness and would remain there without Christ’s light shining upon us. Yet shine it does. In Word and Sacrament, by the power of the Holy Spirit, sin is forgiven, darkness illuminated, hearts uplifted, and fears banished.

Text: [Paul said to Agrippa,] “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” Acts 26:22-23

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Nothing but the Christ.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

About the Service and the School: The theme for the 2015 – 16 academic year at St. Paul Lutheran High School is Arise and Shine, taken from Isaiah 60:1. Under this theme are monthly emphases and weekly foci. Today shows Paul’s bold proclamation of Christ’s light to Jews and Gentiles. Time is at a premium for the SPLHS chapels, so I always try to make a few quick, concise Law applications both to students and to teachers and to bring the Gospel’s forgiveness and Christ’s encouragement to each.

While certainly a Lutheran educational institution, St. Paul is also a mission field. Not only does it admit academically qualified Lutherans, the school also welcomes a number of other Christians as well as non-Christians — even some atheists. A high percentage of students come from other lands, so chapel speakers must tailor their messages age-appropriately while remaining mindful of those unskilled with English, uncomfortable with Christianity, or both. Along with Americans, current and recent students include some from Slovakia, Norway, China, Madagascar, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, and elsewhere.

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20 January 2016

Funeral Sermon: Forgotten and Remembered

Preached on Psalm 25
The Funeral of Hattie Mae Shelton
20 January AD 2016

Title: Forgotten and Remembered (MP3 Audio)

Sharp Mind Summary: Today, I preached the funeral of a woman who died deep in the clutches of Alzheimer’s Disease. The fear of developing such dementia makes many people nervous. Christians can be particularly concerned about themselves and their loved ones, since throughout Scripture, the Lord has called us to remember Him, His works, and His Word.

If we suffer from dementia, how will we remember our Savior when we can’t remember the names of wife, children, or even self? How will we recall and cling to His promises of salvation and eternal life when we can’t recall what we just said? When our world turns entirely into phantom memories and fractured thoughts, how will we lean upon Jesus Christ, the unshakable Rock?

It’s possible that we could forget all of the Church’s statements of faith, including the Ecumenical Creeds and the Catechisms. The day might come when we can no longer say with the Psalmist, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. (Psalm 77:11)” We might not be able to say or comprehend even the most simple confession, that “Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:11)”

However, none of the saints will be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus because of fading memory and dulled comprehension. Faithful to us, Jesus will keep us “faithful unto death” and, remembering to call us home, He will give us each “the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)”

Thus we celebrate God’s wonderful remembrance of us. Yet His Word reveals something else just as vital — His forgetfulness: God maintains total amnesia about our sinfulness. Not only does He graciously forgive us, He also refuses to recall any transgressions in thought, word, or deed. Through Jeremiah, He said of His people, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (31:34)”

Summary excerpted and adapted from the Ask the Pastor article Remembering and Forgetting: Christians with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dull Minded Text: To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land.

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.

Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. Psalm 25

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Forgotten and Remembered.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

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