Happenings

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





09 July 2017

Trinity 4 Sermon: God Meant It for Good

Preached on Genesis 50:15-21
Fourth Sunday After Trinity
9 July AD 2017

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of God Meant It for Good.

Genesis 50:15-21 Summary: “You meant evil ... but God meant it for good.” As Joseph calmed his fearful brothers, so Christ calms our fears. Sinful mankind, hatefully condemning and slaying the sinless Son of God, found forgiveness and life in the very death that it brought about.

Text: When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”

So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:15-21

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 God Meant It for Good.

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 138; Romans 12:14-21 or Romans 8:18-23; Luke 6:36-42

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25 June 2017

Pentecost 3 Sermon: Sheltered

Preached on Psalm 91:1-10
3rd Sunday After Pentecost— Proper 7A
25 June AD 2017

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Sheltered.

Psalm 91:4 Summary: We live in an often violent world. We live under the threat of accident, disease, dementia, and death. And this is simply how we live as citizens of this planet.

Special wrath is often directed at the Church and its members. Believers— even if not targeted for discrimination, torture, or death by unbelievers— still face Satan’s wrath and wiles. On our own, we face certain doom and damnation.

Thanks be to God! He invites us to take refuge in Him. The psalmist paints the Lord as shade in the desert, battle armor proof against savage foes, a powerful eagle protecting its young. He who came to us in human flesh as Immanuel, God with Us, invites and empowers us to come into Him, our dwelling place and impregnable fortress.

Text: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. Psalm 91:1-10

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 Sheltered.

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 91:1-16; Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

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10 June 2017

Wedding Sermon: Strength and Song, Salvation and Confession

Preached on 1 Timothy 6:12 and Isaiah 12:2
The Marriage of Laura M. Snyder and Kyle L. Molitor
10 June AD 2017

Title: Strength and Song, Salvation and Confession (MP3 Audio)

The Wedding at Cana Summary: Besides the Scriptures included in the wedding rite, a pastor has many options when choosing a sermon text. When Laura and Kyle asked me to preach, I looked through the “usual suspects” and had an idea: The union of this man and this woman would include a joining of all they carried with them, including their confirmation verses.

With that in mind, I asked Laura to find out Kyle’s verse to see if it would work in unity with hers as a joint text. I was quite pleased when I discovered that his from 1 Timothy nicely complemented hers from Isaiah 12. Both confess that we have salvation and eternal life only through God in Christ Jesus.

Kyle and Laura completely agree that the most important love isn’t that between people but the love God has for fallen humanity. As I wove the themes of the two verses together, the Father’s boundless love and unconditional forgiveness through Jesus remained the unifying strand.

They will best live together and love together as they live in faith. They will forgive each other most completely as they realize how completely God forgives them. And they will most wholeheartedly sacrifice their own desires for each other as they embrace the sacrifice Christ made for them.

Note that the bulletin cover art I reference in the sermon is this Coptic illustration to the right. This vision of the Marriage at Cana beautifully shows our Savior sheltering husband and wife “under his wings.”

Snyder-Molitor Wedding Texts: Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12

“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.” Isaiah 12:2

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 Strength and Song, Salvation and Confession.

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: Genesis 2:7, 18-24; Colossians 3:1-4, 12-17; Matthew 19:4-6

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06 May 2017

Easter 4A Sermon: The Sheep Hear His Voice

Preached on John 10:1-10
The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Series A
Good Shepherd Sunday
6 May AD 2017

Title: The Sheep Hear His Voice (MP3 Audio)

Good Shepherd Sunday Summary: Clear communication isn’t always easy. Hearing difficulties, speaking troubles, background noises, and various distractions stand in the way. And in the case of hearing Jesus, Satan and false teachers pretend to be using our Lord’s voice when actually speaking lies.

However, Jesus says that His sheep will hear and follow. Amidst this world’s distractions, and even though He has ascended into heaven, we hear our Good Shepherd’s voice through the voices of faithful pastors who preach, teach, absolve, baptize, and commune us according to His Word.

It matters not the language, the dialect, or the accent, for His voice speaks throughout the world. He tells us that He loves us, that He died and rose for us, that He forgives all of our sins, and that He calls pastors to continue as His voice across the earth. Through them, Christ speaks His absolution, names and claims new sheep through Baptism, and calls them to eat and drink His body and blood in Holy Communion.

Text: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:1-10

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 The Sheep Hear His Voice.

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 23; Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:19-25

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26 February 2017

Transfiguration Sermon: Rise, and Fear Not

Preached on Matthew 17:1-9
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Series A
26 February AD 2017

Title: Rise, and Fear Not (MP3 Audio)

Transfiguration Summary: In common vernacular, a “mountain-top experience” is generally considered to be both positive and life-changing. We can scarcely imagine the fear of meeting God in His glory atop a mountain. To our sinful senses, it would probably appear more life-threatening than life-changing.

So with Peter, James, and John — after the initial thrill, the Father’s voice from the cloud struck terror in their hearts. Only after Jesus comforted them were they able to rise without fear and go on their way. Likewise, the only way that we can listen to the Son and follow in His ways is when He removes our sins and raises us up from our guilt and fears.

Text: And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” Matthew 17:1-9

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 Rise, and Fear Not.

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 2:6-12; Exodus 24:8-18; 2 Peter 1:16-21

Illustration: Transfiguration of Christ (c. 1550) by an unknown Cretan icon painter at Web Gallery of Art.

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18 February 2017

Epiphany 7A Sermon: Hearsay

Preached on Matthew 5:38-48
The Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany
18 February AD 2017

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Hearsay.

Sermon on the Mount Summary: Do good works save? Throughout Scripture, God commands them and often attaches promises to our doing them. Some will say that this is possible, but Jesus says differently: Without Him the promise is never realized, for none of us can attain the perfection of our heavenly Father though our deeds.

Yet we know that good works do save — that is, Jesus’ good works done on our behalf. The Father credits us with the Son’s keeping of the Law and counts us holy through them. We have, in Christ, already fulfilled the Law.

Now, the Holy Spirit leads us “sons of [our] Father who is in heaven” to live in love in thankful response for our salvation. And when our hearts and minds grow weary or we choose to do less than all we can, the Lord still loves us and forgives us once again ... and again ... and again.

Text: [Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:38-48

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 Hearsay.

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 119:33-40; Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-23

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12 February 2017

Septuagesima Sermon: Tested and True

Preached on Exodus 17:1-7
Pre-Lent
12 February AD 2017

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Tested and True.

Massah and Meribah Summary: “Massah and Meribah” — “Quarreling and Testing” — define much of the human condition. Bickering and backbiting, pushing boundaries and defying limits — these extend beyond our misbehavior toward one another: They’ve been part of man’s relationship with God since the Fall.

As we wander about in our own “wilderness of sin,” we find excuses to quarrel with each other and test God whenever anything doesn’t go exactly as we desire. And if God held our rebellions against us, we would dread His presence. Already inclined to turn away from Word and Sacrament God’s wrath against sinners could drive us completely away. Even the testings He sends to guide, instruct, purify, or strengthen His people would be misinterpreted.

Yet try as we might to push against God, He works even harder to pull back. He sent Jesus to face the most severe testing any sinner could ever face, even though His Son was sinless. Rather than quarrel with His Father, Jesus came to end our sinful, selfish quarrels with God and humanity. Jesus brings peace and reconciliation to all who believe on Him.

He sends the Holy Spirit to lead us back to the promises of our baptism, to create a desire for pure Gospel proclamation and a hunger and thirst for the blessed communion of His Son’s body and blood. He pardons us and works His good through us. He will never abandon us in this wilderness into which we are born but instead shepherds us onward, leading us toward the eternal green pastures and still waters that await His beloved sheep.

Massah and Meribah Text: All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”

But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”

And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:1-7

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 Tested and True.

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 95:1-9; 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5; Matthew 20:1-16

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05 February 2017

Epiphany 5A Sermon: Excessive Righteousness

Preached on Matthew 5:13-20
The Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany
5 February AD 2017

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Excessive Righteousness.

Christ Crucified Summary: How do you enter the kingdom of heaven? All you need to do is be more righteous than the most righteous people walking the earth. That’s all. Just exceed the holy behavior of the holiest of humankind and you might get close.

Of course, this is impossible. All too often, we are flavorless salt and unlit lamps, vastly removed from the absolute righteousness of thought, word, and deed the Law demands.

Yet because Christ lived the life we couldn’t and died the death we deserve, the Father credits us with His Son’s righteousness. We possess the excessive righteousness of Jesus Himself. Our citizenship in the kingdom is secure because we are, by grace, the sinless sons of God.

Does this mean that we ignore Jesus’ words about righteousness? Are we exempt from being salt and light? Of course not! As God’s redeemed children, we desire to do His will, to glorify Him by our public testimony. And as still fallen creatures, we also need the Law’s demands to chasten, rebuke, and slay our sinful natures. So we are driven back to the Gospel, whence we again receive forgiveness and the freedom to live in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another

Text: [Jesus said,] “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:13-20

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 Excessive Righteousness.

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 112:1-9; Isaiah 58:3-9a; 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)

Illustration: Christ Crucified by Carne Griffiths

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29 January 2017

Epiphany 4A Sermon: Blessed

Preached on Matthew 5:1-12
The Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
29 January AD 2017

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Blessed.

Beatitudes Summary: “Blessed are...” those who live up to Jesus’ expectations. But who are these people? We botch every one of these seeming qualifiers. Is any of us a meek, pure peacemaker?

Obviously, there’s no way we can accrue these blessings. We neither deserve nor can we earn an inheritance on earth or in eternity. Yet even though we fail miserably, we have One who fulfilled all these conditions and then credited them to us.

Leaving Heaven’s wealth, Jesus became poor in spirit. He mourned over fallen humanity, dying friends, and His own impending death. He was meek, craved constant and full communion with His Father, showed mercy to stricken sinners, remained pure and holy, came to bring peace between God and man, and was persecuted because of His righteousness.

The blessings He earned through His life and death became His gift to us. We inherit the kingdom, receive divine comfort in all our sorrows, and are citizens not only of this earth but of the new heavens and new earth. We “taste and see that the Lord is good” and dine on Word and Sacrament to our full satisfaction. Adopted in Baptism, we are the sons of God, receiving His mercy and are guaranteed to see the Father in the Resurrection.

Text: Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:1-12

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 Blessed.

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 15; Micah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

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27 November 2016

Advent 1A Sermon: Peace Within You

Preached on Psalm 122
The First Sunday in Advent
27 November AD 2016

Title: Peace Within You.

Zion Lutheran, Saint Louis Summary: Peace within the walls of Christ’s Church, the new Jerusalem, means peace within her inhabitants. Conflict from without should be expected since devil and world rebel against His rule. But woe to us who willfully stir up internal strife or who withhold this peace from those who need it.

Christians pray for the peace from above “which surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)” The Lord works among us, leading us to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)”

Text: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem — built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.

There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”

For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. Psalm 122

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 Peace Within You

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: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:(8-10) 11-14; Matthew 21:1-11 (alternate Gospel Matthew 24:36-44)

Illustration: Zion Lutheran Church, Saint Louis, Missouri.

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13 November 2016

Trinity 25 Sermon: Informed Encouragement

Mission Festival Sermon Preached on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity
13 November AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Informed Encouragement.

Resurrection of the Flesh Summary: I was invited to preach for mission festivals at two Missouri congregations, Bethlehem Lutheran, Mount Leonard and Zion Lutheran, Blackburn. I chose to use the appointed Epistle for the One Year Lectionary at each, but with slightly different emphases.

While I spoke on missions in general, I also emphasized the work of hospice chaplain. I noted also the partnership that exists between all Christians and those tending to the special needs of the dying and their families.

Text: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.

And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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 Informed Encouragement, preached at Zion Lutheran Church, Blackburn, Missouri

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 14; Exodus 32:1-20; Matthew 24:15-18

Illustration: Luca Signorelli; Resurrection of the Flesh (1499-1502); Web Gallery of Art.

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Trinity 25 Sermon: Resurrection Hope

Mission Festival Sermon Preached on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity
13 November AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Resurrection Hope.

Hospice Prayer Summary: I was invited to preach for mission festivals at two Missouri congregations, Bethlehem Lutheran, Mount Leonard and Zion Lutheran, Blackburn. I chose to use the appointed Epistle for the One Year Lectionary at each, but with slightly different emphases.

While I spoke on missions in general, I also emphasized the work of hospice chaplain. I noted also the partnership that exists between all Christians and those tending to the special needs of the dying and their families.

Text: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.

And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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 Resurrection Hope, preached at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Mount Leonard, Missouri

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 14; Exodus 32:1-20; Matthew 24:15-18

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23 October 2016

Trinity 22 Sermon: The Cup of Salvation

Preached on Psalm 116:12-19 and Matthew 18:35
The Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity
23 October AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of The Cup of Salvation.

Gill: Crucifix, Chalice & Host Summary: At the close of today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us of the consequences of not heartily forgiving those who sin against us. There’s no limit on how often: God calls us to forgive as we have been forgiven or risk forfeiting the forgiveness that is ours in Christ.

How, then, do we dare “lift up the cup of salvation”? What gives us the right to assemble “in the presence of all His people”? To do so in the “courts of the house of the Lord”?

We dare because Christ dared drink His cup of suffering and death. He drained the bitter dregs and refilled it with heaven’s most precious wine, His own blood shed for us. His cup, our salvation. In it comes full remission of our own sins.

On the cross, Jesus forgave the very people who were torturing Him to death. And not only them, He forgave everyone for whose sins He was dying—including us. As we truly grasp exactly how much He forgave, His spirit then leads us to respond by forgiving others.

Each of us stands as indebted as the servant who owed ten thousand talents, and when we realize this, the size of the debts owed to us by others appear tiny by comparison. Just as we owe God no restitution, so none of our debtors owes us.

Freed from the burdens of either paying (to God) or collecting (from others) any debts, we joyfully seek out His presence and the company of our fellow redeemed. We celebrate this freedom as we lift the cup of Christ's salvation in Christ’s Church among Christ’s people.

Italian Glass Chalice Texts: What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.

I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord! Psalm 116:12-19

[Jesus said,] “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:35

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 The Cup of Salvation

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: Micah 6:6-8; Philippians 1:3-11; Matthew 18:21-35

Illustrations: Unknown Italian Master; Chalice (c. 1550); Web Gallery of Art. Eric Gill; Crucifix, Chalice & Host (1915); © Tate 1979, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported).

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09 October 2016

Pentecost 21 Sermon: Unbent, Unbroken, Unbounded Love

Preached on Ruth 1:1-20
The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 23C
9 October AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Unbent, Unbroken, Unbounded Love.

Ruth 1:16-17 Summary: Aliens. Strangers. Foreigners. Outcasts. In the minds of most Israelites, Moabites were all of these and more. Israel’s cousins were familial fallout, along with the Ammonites heirs of the incest of Lot and his daughters. Worse, instead of welcoming their kin home hundreds of years later, Moab hired Balaam to curse the God’s people as Israel journeyed to the Promised Land.

In response to their treachery, the Lord cursed Moab, pronouncing them unable to rejoin full worship fellowship with their family. Even if they married into Israel and lived in their midst, their men were barred from the tabernacle “even to the tenth generation. (Deuteronomy 23:3; see also vv. 4-8)”

Yet the Lord loved these outcasts and wanted them back as His own. And when an Israelite widow and her Moabite daughter-in-law found themselves impoverished and alone, He acted. Through the love shared by Ruth and Naomi — a love flowing from His own boundless mercy and grace — He received rejected Moab into His chosen people. Ruth of Moab found herself fully accepted into the clan of Ephrathah of the tribe of Judah.

More than merely showing that He cared even for oft-despised Gentiles, the Lord included Moab in the line of the coming Davidic kingship and thus into the earthly family of the coming Savior. An heir to Adam’s rebellion, Lot’s incest, Jacob’s deceit, David’s adultery and murder — Jesus was the righteous fruit who grew from a dead and decaying family tree. He not only claimed kinship with them but He also claimed their sins as His own and took them to the cross.

However, as the Lord said of His promised Son, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)” Therefore, Jesus claimed the sins of all people throughout all time — even yours and mine. We, the once-rejected, join all of the rescued, ransomed, redeemed, and restored people of God in rejoicing forevermore.

Jesus' Family Tree Text: In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah.

They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.”

But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again.

And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?”

She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. Ruth 1:1-20

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 Unbent, Unbroken, Unbounded Love

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 111; 2 Timothy 2:1-13; Luke 17:11-19

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Pentecost 21 Sermon: The Saving Hand of the Lord

Preached on Luke 17:11-19
The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 23C
9 October AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of The Saving Hand of the Lord.

Luke 17:13 Summary: We cannot say with certainty that miracles of healing or heavenly protection from severe injury or death do not still occur — but we don’t seem to see much evidence. Lepers aren’t regularly sent to show themselves healed to the priests. Paralytics aren’t everywhere springing up, dancing for joy at their sudden healing.

A hymn tells us that, “in days of old,” the hand of the Lord was “strong to heal and save.” Scripture is replete with examples, including today’s Gospel, of miracles of deliverance and healing. The first stanza reminds us:

   Your hand, O Lord, in days of old
   Was strong to heal and save;
   It triumphed over ills and death,
   O’er darkness and the grave.
   To You they came, the blind, the mute,
   The palsied and the lame,
   The lepers in their misery,
   The sick with fevered frame.


But what about today? What has God done for us recently?

We easily forget the “everyday miracles” effected by our divinely created bodies as bones knit or as wounds close and heal. We tend to downplay advances in medical science and the amazing skills and training of those in the healing arts — even though these are also gifts from God.

Above all, we ignore the most splendid exercise of the Lord’s hand saving hand. In effecting our salvation, it is every bit as active as it was in Bible times. The hand of the Lord continues to forgive sinners, find the lost sheep, and shepherd His flock to the green pastures of eternal life. The healing hand of the Lord against sin’s cancerous sickness is evidenced as His pastors baptize, absolve, and commune. We see His loving hand in action as Christians reach out to comfort the hurting, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and otherwise love their neighbors as themselves.

Luke 17:17 Text: On the way to Jerusalem [Jesus] was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.

And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

And as they went they were cleansed.

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19

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 The Saving Hand of the Lord

Hymn Text: “Your Hand, O Lord, in Days of Old” is public domain. Stanza One quoted from Lutheran Service Book

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 111; Ruth 1:1-19a; 2 Timothy 2:1-13

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25 September 2016

Installation Sermon: Life for the Dead

Preached on Luke 16:19-31
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 21C
The Installation of Pastor Brian J. Thorson
25 September AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Life for the Dead.

Bronnikov's Lazarus Summary: If one were looking for a Scripture that shows what God desires in a pastor’s character, the appointed epistle for today is a wonderful fit. I certainly referenced it in this sermon. However, today’s Gospel sits at the heart of the message entrusted to pastors and their congregations: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”

Jesus told the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus sometime before His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. It would be years before the Evangelists and Apostles recorded His life and carried the Gospel forth into the world. Yet even then, the Scriptures we now know as the Old Testament were sufficient for salvation, for they already declared divine judgment against sin and proclaimed forgiveness by God’s grace through faith.

In telling this story, Jesus certainly has an eye on love for our neighbors, particularly the poor and helpless among us. Yet the emphasis finally isn’t on the Law’s demands to care for the poor and it certainly isn’t that the poor are righteous and the rich wicked.

Instead, Jesus shows how we are either trapped by or else escape from the consequences of our sinful natures. Poor Lazarus isn’t saved by his poverty any more than is the rich man damned because of his wealth. And the rich man’s brothers wouldn’t be saved by the miracle of a dead man coming back with the threats of the Law. Their salvation would depend upon believing the Scriptures, knowing the depth of their sins and trusting the greatness of God’s forgiveness.

Jesus fulfilled the promise of the Old Testament but He didn’t negate its content. People are still saved by hearing Moses and the Prophets — and the Evangelists and the Apostles — and by believing that God forgives their sins for Christ’s sake. The message remains the same: The harsh, absolute, unwavering condemnation of sin by the Law drives sinners to despair their own righteousness while the sweet, healing, absolute forgiveness of any and every sin through the Gospel brings peace, joy, and the promise of everlasting life with God for all who believe.

No sign, not even a dead man coming back to life, will create and sustain faith. We have a concrete example of this when Jesus called a dead man — one also named Lazarus — forth from the tomb. Those who already trusted God rejoiced while those who persisted in denying and resisting Jesus instead plotted to kill Him and the very man whose life He’d just restored (John 11:45-53).

Only the Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word, can crush sin-hardened hearts with the Law and restore shattered sinners with the Gospel. The content of saving faith remains simply and solely the forgiveness of sins we receive in the Gospel and Sacraments. And only God's grace received through faith will bring us to the joys of eternal life with Moses and the Prophets, with Evangelists and Apostles, with Abraham and Abraham's God.

Luke 16:19-31 Text: [Jesus said,] “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.

“The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers — so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

“And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31

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 Life for the Dead

Illustrations: Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Gate by Fyodor Bronnikov, 1886. Folio 78 recto from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, Lazarus and Dives.

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 146; Amos 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:1-13

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Saint Michael’s Day Sermon: Do Not Rejoice ... But Rejoice

Preached on Luke 10:17-20
Saint Michael and All Angels
25 September AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Do Not Rejoice ... But Rejoice.

St. Michael and All Angels Summary: The seventy-two disciples returned to Christ and the twelve, thrilled with the display of God’s glory they’d seen . They celebrated how they could cast out evil spirits in Jesus’ name. Yet He told them that their enthusiasm was misplaced.

Of course it’s good that Satan and his minions have no power over us. It’s wonderful when demons are driven out and tormented people given peace. Yet however good these are, they are only signs of our true source of joy: Jesus Christ died to save sinners and because of Him we are God’s children. The Lord’s true glory isn’t revealed in the demons’ submission to Jesus but in the Son’s submission to His Father’s will in His suffering and death. By His sacrifice, Jesus effected our salvation.

Yes, Jesus “saw Satan fall like lightning.” But Jesus also saw you raised up from the baptismal waters, named by God and recorded in the Book of Life. In Baptism, our names are “engraved on the palms of [God’s] hands. (Isaiah 49:16; see also the sermon Engraved on God’s Palms)” They are “written in heaven” and no matter what befalls us on earth, we know that we’ll be raised up as eternal citizens of the new heavens and the new earth. How can we not rejoice in this!

Luke 10:18 Text: The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

And [Jesus] said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20

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 Do Not Rejoice ... But Rejoice

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 91; Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3; Revelation 12:7-12; Matthew 18:1-10 (alternate Gospel)

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18 September 2016

Pentecost 18 Sermon: Deeds Unforgotten

Preached on Amos 8:4-7
The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 20C
18 September AD 2016

Title: Click to hear the MP3 of Deeds Unforgotten.

Amos 8:4-7 Summary: Amos said, “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: ‘Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.’” Are we such fools as to invite this remembrance? Are we innocent of taking advantage of those less fortunate?

Not likely! In one way or another, each of us shares culpability for the world’s social injustice — injustice that’s certainly sinful of itself but also a symptom of mankind’s fallen nature. The wicked practices that Amos decries testify against a people who judge themselves better than others — a people just like us.

We may not spend the Lord’s Day actively planning to cheat the poor, to achieve wrongful gain at the expense of the needy, or to create and use crooked measures in order to bilk the unwary. However, we often ignore the needs of the less fortunate even as we gather in the Lord’s house. Too often, we give only cursory attention to the preaching of His Word and the reception of the His Supper, preferring to zip in, get pepped up, and dash out in an hour or less.

By accusing us of using unjust measures, the Lord also points out our unbalanced natures, ever inclined toward sin. We are out of balance. And if we approach God’s judgment thinking that we will save ourselves, we’ll find the balance weighted more against us than we would have seen in Israel’s most dishonest scales, for the Lord “will never forget” our deeds.

John 5:1-9 Yet when Christians hear the Lord swear by “the pride of Jacob” to remember our deeds, we rejoice! Jacob’s ultimate pride resides in his greatest Heir, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. Israel’s Pride gives us true forgiveness and credits us with His own deeds. Now our deeds are kind, merciful, and done without counting the cost. Our hearts are holy, our motives pure.

We not only have Christ’s deeds credited to us but Jesus also continues working His deeds through us. He sends the Holy Spirit to move us to lives of mercy, serving our neighbor, loving our enemy, forsaking sinful gain, and seeking justice for all.

Text: Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” Amos 8:4-7

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 Deeds Unforgotten

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 113; 1 Timothy 2:1-15; Luke 16:1-15

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