Happenings

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





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

Audio: 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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11 September 2016

Pentecost 17 Sermon: I’ll Do It Myself

Preached on Ezekiel 34:11-24
The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 19C
11 September AD 2016

Title: I’ll Do It Myself (MP3 Audio)

Ezekiel 34:14 Summary: Since those He calls to lead His people continually let Him down and follow their own inclinations, the Lord promises to come and set things right. Unlike the threatening billboards from a few years ago that read “Don’t Make Me Come Down There —God,” His goal is not to spread wrath and destruction but rather to gather the lost and hurting. Only those secure in their own sense of righteousness will fall under His judgment.

The Lord strongly hinted how this would happen. He first claimed to be His people’s true Shepherd, then said, “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David.” God and David both as one true shepherd? Of course, the Lord must be speaking of His Son. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic kingship. David’s Lord is the shepherd king’s final and greatest heir to the throne. He is God come down from His throne. Likewise, He is Immanuel — God with us. He is the Word made flesh, God incarnate, one of us.

God also declared that the rescue would take place “on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” And so we read that at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, as He died hanging on the cross, “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. (Matthew 27:45)”

This sermon was delivered to residents and staff of Riverview Heights Health and Rehabilitation Center in Lexington, Missouri.

Ezekiel 34:23 Text: “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

“And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.

“I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

“As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep.

“And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.” Ezekiel 34:11-24

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’ll Do It Myself.

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 119:169-176; 1 Timothy 1:(5-11) 12-17; Luke 15:1-10

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Pentecost 17 Sermon: Seeking the Sheep

Preached on Luke 15:1-10
The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 19C
11 September AD 2016

Title: Seeking the Sheep (MP3 Audio)

Luke 15:10 Summary: Physicians are surrounded by sick people but we don’t call them disease-ridden. Attorneys meet regularly with criminals but that doesn’t automatically make them felons. Morticians deal daily with the dead but that doesn’t mean that they are corpses. But let Jesus sit down with low-life sinners and watch the judging begin.

In response, Jesus told His parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son. Today, we hear Him speak of the joy that a shepherd knows when he finds his lost sheep or that a woman has in recovering her missing coin.

He tried to show the Pharisees and scribes that these “sinners” were every bit as dear to the Lord as were the most righteous of Israelites. As much as any of these paragons of virtue who challenged Jesus’ choice in dining companions, so the “tax collectors and sinners” were also among those the Psalmist called “the people of [God’s] pasture, and the sheep of his hand. (Psalm 95:7)”

When we’re feeling the weight of our own transgressions, we need to know that we’re the same sort of sinners whom Jesus chooses to receive. And when we start standing in judgment over others, we need His reminder that we are no holier than the most wicked of sinners. Our Shepherd loves each of us dearly — but He doesn’t appreciate our acting as if were any less in need of rescue than are any other sinners.

Luke 15:5 Text: Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:1-10

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 Seeking the Sheep.

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 119:169-176; Ezekiel 34:11-24; 1 Timothy 1:(5-11) 12-17

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04 September 2016

Pentecost 16 Sermon: Life and Good, Death and Evil

Preached on Deuteronomy 30:15-20
The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 18C
4 September AD 2016

Title: Life and Good, Death and Evil (MP3 Audio)

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Summary: “I’d like ‘Death and Evil’ for One Thousand, Alex,” said what Jeopardy! contestant ever? Yet from the Fall of Adam until now, mankind continually puts itself in jeopardy, making choices ranging from less good to horrifyingly wicked.

Only those who know that Christ chose to die for them and believe that because of Jesus, the Father chooses to forgive them have any chance of truly choosing life and good. Those who choose to reject salvation in Jesus Christ make the decision of their first parents, attempting to set themselves as gods over the one true God.

When Christians hear the Lord say, “Choose life and good,” we know that He is simply inviting us to continue living in faith toward Him and in fervent love for others. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we answer with the “Amen” of body, mind, and soul in thought, word, and deed.

Text: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

“But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.

“Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:15-20

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 Life and Good, Death and Evil.

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 1; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-35

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28 August 2016

Pentecost 15 Sermon: True Humility

Preached on Luke 14:1-14
The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 17C
28 August AD 2016

Title: True Humility (MP3 Audio)

Luke 14:10 Summary: To be truly humble is not to go about feeling worthless. It isn’t a life of emotionally abasing and berating yourself. It is, however, learning to see ourselves and others the way God does — as hurting sinners and as forgiven people for whom Christ died.

Living in a nursing home, as do most of those in attendance for this sermon, is humbling on a earthly level. Yet even there, residents need to be reminded that the God who loves them equally loves each of their fellow residents and all who are entrusted with their care. Their low estate doesn’t give them license to take advantage of, bully, or ignore the needs of others.

They — as do we — also need constant reminder that all sins are forgiven. Christ humbled Himself, taking on our flesh and claiming ownership of our sins so that we might be raised up and exalted by Him. Remembering His atoning sacrifice leads believers to joyfully respond and lovingly look out for their neighbor’s best interests.

True Christian humility isn’t a self-started work designed to please or appease God. Instead, it is generated as faith’s response to the Gospel’s freedom. Humility is our acceptance that we are truly no better, holier, or more worthy than anyone else and the God-given desire and ability to act on this knowledge in true love for others.

Humility, then, is the Christian’s “sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 116:17).” It’s the ongoing action of confessing to God and to others that we lowly sinners who deserve God’s wrath are nevertheless also forgiven saints and worthy of eternal glory for the sake of Christ Jesus.

Luke 14:13 Text: One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent.

Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.

“But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:1-14

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 True Humility.

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 131; Proverbs 25:2-10; Hebrews 13:1-17

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Pentecost 15 Sermon: Preach You the Word

Preached on Hebrews 13:1-17
The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 17C
28 August AD 2016

Title: Preach You the Word (MP3 Audio)

Wash Summary: “Remember your (church) leaders” — that seems easy. Merely thinking about current and former pastors is no problem. We may remember a series of spiritual leaders or we might have had only one pastor so far in our lives. Some we might recall with fondness, others, less so.

Yet biblical remembering is more than just replaying memories. To remember is to occupy your entire being, body, mind, and soul in engaging the object of your memory. Therefore, when the epistle writer continues by saying, “Obey your leaders and submit to them,” he doesn’t mean blind, unquestioning obedience to their every utterance but rather carefully considering their proclamation of God’s commands and promises, then thinking acting upon these words.

A faithful congregation echoes God in speaking to its pastors: “Preach the Word.” And a faithful congregation likewise joyfully submits to what is proclaimed.

So when our leaders lay down the Law — the damning, destroying message of God’s wrath and judgment — we’d better pay attention. And when they speak the sweet consolation of the Gospel — Christ’s suffering and death for sinners bringing full forgiveness — well, if we don’t focus on this, then we’ve forgotten what it means to belong to Him.

Relationship between pastors and parishes are never perfect — all too often, they’re a fair distance from even being really good. However, just as Christ’s ministers bear with much among the flocks where He places them, so Christian congregations are encouraged to put up with and overlook those things that are mere matters of opinion and preference. This brings joy to pastors as they wash, teach, and feed the flocks entrusted to their care.

Teach Text: Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.

Feed So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:1-17

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 Preach You the Word.

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 131; Proverbs 25:2-10; Luke 14:1-14

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21 August 2016

Pentecost 14 Sermon: Our Home the Untouchable Mountain

Preached on Hebrews 12:4-29
The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 16C
21 August AD 2016

Title: Our Home the Untouchable Mountain (MP3 Audio)

Hebrews 12:18-21 Summary: In the history of Israel, Sinai was an important — even essential — mountain, but it wasn’t part of the Promised Land. For although He also proclaimed grace and blessing from its heights, the Lord primarily used Sinai to declare His Law, to instruct and discipline — even to terrify — His people.

Zion was the mountain of blessing. After the Ark of the Covenant entered Jerusalem, it was the place where God established His rule. Zion was the mountain where the Lord invited His people to come to receive forgiveness of sins.

As he compares and contrasts these mountains, the author of Hebrews also compares and contrasts the Exodus with the Christian life of pilgrimage to our final resting place. We won’t reach the Promised Land by dwelling at the foot of Sinai, striving to fulfill a Law that is beyond our keeping. We look toward Zion and to the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city, the resting place of the saints.

Given earthly form in Christ’s Church, the fulness of Zion is yet to be revealed. We can only touch it in part but we still receive full forgiveness. Although we still await eternal residence, we already inhabit Mount Zion, living even now by faith as residents of “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Hebrews 12:22-24 Text: In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken — that is, things that have been made — in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:4-24 (25-29)

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 Our Home the Untouchable Mountain

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 50:1-15; Isaiah 66:18-23; Luke 12:22-30

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14 August 2016

Pentecost 13 Sermon: Knowing the Signs

Preached on Luke 12:49-56
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 15C
14 August AD 2016

Title: Knowing the Signs (MP3 Audio)

Luke 12:49-56 Summary: Full and free forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ isn’t a popular message. Some think they have no need to be saved while others believe that they can save themselves — or at least participate in their salvation. The discord stirred up by Jesus’ ministry has only increased through the years.

Yet for those who believe in Him, the very Word that divides sinful mankind unites sinners with their loving Father, giving them peace with God and the only possibility of true harmony with other people. But if we don’t recognize the sign of our own sinfulness, we are unable to see the need for forgiveness. And if we don’t know the sign of Christ crucified, we miss the only means by which we have true peace and eternal life.

While some of the specific trials and afflictions noted may belong especially to the nursing home residents to whom I was preaching, they generally pertain to all humanity, particularly when age, accident, illness, or isolation become part of everyday life.

Text: [Jesus said,] “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” Luke 12:49-56

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 the Signs

Illustration: Line drawing from Art of the Church Year by Ed Riojas, available through Higher Things Store.

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 119:81-88; Jeremiah 23:16-29; Hebrews 11:17-12:3

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Pentecost 13 Sermon: The Witnesses Testify

Preached on Hebrews 11:17-12:3
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 15C
14 August AD 2016

Title: The Witnesses Testify (MP3 Audio)

Hebrews 12:1 Summary: While the faithful in Hebrews certainly provide good examples for following generations, the primary reason that their names and deeds are recorded is to provide witnesses. For salvation comes not from emulating their works but through the Object of their faith. As we also are, so were they saved by believing in Christ, even hundreds or thousands of years before Jesus’ birth.

Text: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

Hebrews 12:2 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 11:17-12:3

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 The Witnesses Testify

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 119:81-88; Jeremiah 23:16-29; Luke 12:49-56

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07 August 2016

Pentecost 12 Sermon: The Evidence of Faith

Preached on Hebrews 11:1-16
The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 14C
7 August AD 2016

Title: The Evidence of Faith (MP3 Audio)

Hoet: Enoch Translated Summary: While Christians sometimes speak of childlike belief as “blind faith,” this gift of the Holy Spirit is anything but blind. Rather, faith is the believer’s clear-eyed, evidence-driven certainty. Faith is built on the Word of God in the testimony of the prophets and the apostles and the recorded deeds of our God as He worked to bring salvation to fallen mankind.

The world’s evidence is that everyone dies. God’s testimony is abundant, eternal life. The world gives evidence of decay. God says, “I am making all things new. (Revelation 21:5)” The world shows why you should despair. God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)”

God’s evidence clearly points out that our faith and hope come not because we earn them but as pure gift. We inherit eternal life through the righteousness of faith, knowing that we own no native righteousness. Faith leads us to confess that we are “poor, miserable sinners,” which is a pretty major handicap to earning any favor with God. Faith also leads us to believe and confess that we are saved by grace for the sake of Christ, who earned every blessing that we now possess and every one still promised.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Abraham and Sarah Promised a Son Text: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:1-16

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 Evidence of Faith

Illustrations: Translation of Enoch from Figures de la Bible (1728), illustrated by Gerard Hoet. Abraham and Sarah Promised a Son from Die Bibel in Bildern (1860), illustrated by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

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 33:12-22; Genesis 15:1-6; Luke 12:22-34 (35-40)

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31 July 2016

Pentecost 11 Sermon: True Treasure

Preached on Luke 12:13-21
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 13C
31 July AD 2016

Title: True Treasure (MP3 Audio)

Holbein: The Rich Fool Summary: There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the material blessings that we receive from our loving God. Today’s reading from Ecclesiastes clearly tells us that a person can “eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil,” knowing that these are “from the hand of God. (2:24)” It’s how and why we use these gifts that makes all the difference.

Jesus warns against hoarding, of receiving divine gifts and clinging to them without a thankful response, of refusing to be “rich toward God.” Such shameful grasping is the spiritual equivalent of consistently overeating. For as gluttonous consumption gradually weighs us down and blocks easy blood flow throughout our bodies, so hoarded treasures drag us away from the Lord and impede the flow of His Word to our hearts.

God desires to be our Shepherd and lead us into the bliss of everlasting life. Meanwhile, as we sang in today’s Introit, those who engage in vain grasping have “foolish confidence.” They listen to a false leader and “death shall be their shepherd. (Psalm 49:13-14)”

Any earthly treasure is fool’s gold. God, however is rich toward us, granting the true and eternal wealth of forgiveness and life in Christ. We, in turn, are “rich toward God” when we respond in faith toward Him and in love toward our neighbor in need.

Luke 12:13-21 Text: Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”

“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21

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 True Treasure

Illustrations: Der Rych Man by Hans Holbein and lectionary art from Misioneros Del Sagrado Corazón en el Perú.

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 100; Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-26; Colossians 3:1-11

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24 July 2016

Pentecost 10 Sermon: How Much More!

Preached on Luke 11:1-13
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 12C
24 July AD 2016

Title: How Much More! (MP3 Audio)

Luke 11:13 Summary: Jesus is twice recorded teaching His Church to say, “Our Father.” Matthew 6:9-13 contains the text with which we are most familiar. The instance reported by Luke speaks not of the Father’s will nor of our delivery from evil, yet Jesus brought up both of these as He expounded on the text.

Note that it wasn’t the Romans, the Samaritans, the Pharisees, or the Sadducees whom Jesus called “evil” but rather the disciples who asked Him to teach them to pray. Peter, James, John, and the rest of the bunch are the ones who “give good gifts” to their children, even though they are “evil.” Jesus then taught that the Father — the embodiment of goodness — gives so much more.

The paltry good that we poor sinners can do for those whom we love pales before God’s love for those who hate Him and who rebel against His Word and His will. Our Father willed that His sinless Son die for the world’s sins so that we who are evil might own every good gift of body, mind, and spirit.

Jesus makes it clear that God’s will is to give us sinners the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, God creates and sustains faith in Christ’s forgiveness. Likewise, the Spirit intercedes for us when we know not what or how to pray (see Romans 8:26-27).

“How much more” good is this gift from God? So much that we cannot fathom its enormity! We who are conceived and born sinful receive full and free forgiveness of all our sins. For Christ’s sake, we who are inclined toward evil are received by a good and loving God who calls us His children. Our heavenly Father gives us our daily bread throughout our time on earth and desires that we join all the faithful in the eternal feast of the Lamb in His kingdom.

This sermon was preached for the 140th Anniversary of Zion Lutheran Church of Pittsburg, Kansas. I am a son of the congregation, living there through most of the 1960s while Dad was Zion’s pastor.

Luke 11:9 Text: Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

And he said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:1-13

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 the MP3 of How Much More!

Illustrations: Line drawing from Art of the Church Year by Ed Riojas, available through Higher Things Store.

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; Genesis 18:(17-19) 20-33; Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)

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17 July 2016

Pentecost 9 Sermon: One Thing Necessary

Preached on Luke 10:38-42
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 11C
17 July AD 2016

Title: One Thing Necessary (MP3 Audio)

Mary and Martha Summary: Care, concern, anxiety, worry, trouble — call it what you will, we all find ourselves distracted and sidetracked from the “good portion,” feasting on Christ, the food of everlasting life. Loving our neighbor in response to God’s love for us is never wrong but Jesus reminds us as He did Martha that, finally, only “one thing is necessary.”

Martha wasn’t wrong as she prepared a meal for the Lord and His disciples. Quite likely, she was listening even as she worked to make ready and serve the food. Yet she seemed completely unaware that she was fixing a meal for the Host of the everlasting banquet.

What earthly provender compares to this “feast of rich food” and “well-aged wine” (Isaiah 25:6) that awaits us when we are raised from the dead? Martha was concerned with her guests’ daily bread. But more essentially, Mary wanted first to partake of the “good portion,” feasting on the Bread of Life (see John 6:48, 51) as He taught in their home.

Text: Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

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 One Thing Necessary.

Illustration: Tintoretto, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary from the Web Gallery of Art.

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 27:(1-6) 7-14; Genesis 18:1-10a (10b-14); Colossians 1:21-29

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10 July 2016

Pentecost 8 Sermon: Steadfast Love

Preached on Psalm 136:1, 23-26
The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 10C
10 July AD 2016

Title: Steadfast Love (MP3 Audio)

Psalm 136:1 Summary: Preaching on today’s Introit to a gathering of nursing home residents, I noted that it’s much easier to “give thanks to the Lord” when life is fairly easy. However, the Psalmist calls us to be thankful in all circumstances, reminding us that “the God of heaven” steadfastly loves us at all times.

He supports and defends us in our “low estate,” redeeming us from our lowest estate of sinful natures forever at enmity with Him. He cares for us body, mind, and spirit but, above all else, works to create and sustain faith that we might have life forever with Him.

Text: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever; he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1, 23-26

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 Steadfast 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 41; Leviticus 18:1-5, 19:9-18; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37

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Pentecost 8 Sermon: Unearned Inheritance

Preached on Luke 10:25-37
The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 10C
10 July AD 2016

Title: Unearned Inheritance (MP3 Audio)

Good Samaritan Summary: The teacher of the Law tested Jesus with a question that made sense to him but is nonsense to God. He confused Law and Gospel, asking how to earn a gift, specifically, the inheritance of eternal life. Jesus’s story of the Samaritan continued to point the man down the path of works, evidently because He judged the man unready to grasp salvation by grace through faith.

The lawyer couldn’t earn what was already God’s gift through the same Jesus whom he came to challenge. We inherit eternal life because Christ died and left everything to us in His “will” — His testament of body given and blood shed on the cross. We can do nothing to inherit because “it is finished (John 19:30)” and we possess our inheritance through God-given faith.

Text: And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37

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 Unearned Inheritance.

Illustration: Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890. Good Samaritan (1890), from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved July 12, 2016]. Click for original source.

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 41; Leviticus 18:1-5, 19:9-18; Colossians 1:1-14

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03 July 2016

Pentecost 7 Sermon: Safe in Mother’s Arms

Preached on Isaiah 66:10-14
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 9C
3 July AD 2016

Title: Safe in Mother’s Arms (MP3 Audio)

Isaiah 66:10-11 Summary: While awaiting the fulfillment of the new Jerusalem, we still live in Christ’s Church, the Jerusalem of faith. She is the mother who wraps herself around us — holding, comforting, and consoling. She bore us in the womb of the font and gathers us to her breast to hear God’s forgiving Word and to feed on Jesus’ body and blood.

As long as we live, we’ll never outgrow our need to nurse upon her pure spiritual milk, to rest in the lap of Christian worship. We must continue having our soiled garments cleansed, our hunger fed, our thirst slaked, and our fears calmed.

Whether held tightly to the Church’s breast or dandled joyfully on her lap, we receive the nurture we need throughout all our earthly days.

Isaiah 66:13 Text: “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.”

For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees.

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.” Isaiah 66:10-14

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 Safe in Mother’s Arms.

Illustrations: Detail of Maternity by Pablo Picasso (1905) and Mary Cassatt’s Mother Berthe Holding Her Baby (1900).

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 66:1-7; Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18; Luke 10:1-20

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