- About Us
- News & Events
Dec 3, 2017 Luke 1:1-25 - The foretold birth of John the Baptizer
Dec 10, 2017 Luke 1:57-80 - The birth of God's messenger
Dec 24, 2017 Luke 1:26-56 - (morning) The foretold birth of Jesus
Dec 24, 2017 Luke 2:1-20 - (candlelight) The birth of God's Savior
Dec 31, 2017 Luke 2:21-40 - (renewal) The hope of good things to come
Jan 7, 2018 Luke 3:1-22 - The baptismal ministry of John
Jan 14, 2018 Luke 4:14-30 - Jesus’s inaugural sermon at Nazareth
Jan 21, 2018 Luke 5:1-11 - Calling fishermen to catch men
Jan 28, 2018 Luke 6:1-16 - Lord of the Sabbath
Feb 4, 2018 Luke 7:1-17 - The centurion’s servant & the widow’s son
Feb 11, 2018 Luke 7:18-35 - The difference between Jesus & John
Weds, Feb 14, 2018 Luke 7:36-50 (Ash Weds) A Pharisee’s house & a sinful woman
Feb 18, 2018 Luke 8:1-15 - A sower, his seed, & four different kinds of soil
Feb 25, 2018 Luke 9:1-11 - The ministry of the Twelve
Mar 4, 2018 Luke 12:1-12 - Do not be afraid of those who kill the body
Mar 11, 2018 Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!
Mar 18, 2018 Luke 16:19-31 - A rich man & a beggar named Lazarus
Mar 25, 2018 Luke 19:28-48 - Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord
Thurs, Mar 29, 2018 Luke 22:1-27 - (Maundy Thursday) The Passover Seder
Fri, Mar 30, 2018 Luke 22:66-23:56 - (Good Friday) The Crucifixion of Jesus
Apr 1, 2018 Luke 24:1-12 - (Sunrise) The first witnesses to the resurrection
Apr 1, 2018 Luke 24:13-35 - (Traditional) The road to Emmaus
Apr 8, 2018 Luke 24:36-49 - The disciples as witnesses to the
In a strange way the early chapters of Genesis have set the stage for Advent. It was there we found God's design and desire for creation, humanity's responsibility, the effects of sin, and God's commitment to bless all people through a nation of his own. By the time we get to the New Testament, God's chosen nation had been through rebellion, exile, and return. Although they were living in the land of promise, they were under the rule of a foreign power, their king was appointed by that same foreign power, and their temple was more about party politics than actual worship of their God. Many of the people were assimilating into a Greco-Roman lifestyle, many were poor and suffering, and many were living in expectation that God would do something dramatic to free them.
For all that expectation no one seemed to be expecting God to do what he actually did, least of all Zechariah. But through a series of coincidences, Zechariah was chosen to burn incense in the temple, was visited by an angel, was promised a son (not unlike Abraham) even though his wife was barren, and was struck mute as a sign. This was not how people anticipated the good news to begin, but, again and again, we encounter a God in Scripture who works beyond our wildest imaginings.
Advent is all about human waiting and divine timing, and the strange way these two intersect. As we retell the familiar stories of old, may it encourage us in our own waiting and help us to look for God working in the most unlikely of places.
The other day I was out for a walk in the woods and I heard the sound of crunching leaves and branches snapping. When I slowed down to look around, I saw a very large, dark-colored creature about 25 yards ahead of me. Although it was only for a moment, I saw it! I saw the famed Big Foot! Right here in Sheboygan, WI! He looked right at me for a second, and then turned and ran off.
Do you believe my story? Probably not, and I wouldn't blame you, because I made it up. Have you ever doubted someone? Have you ever heard or seen something that you just didn't believe? Sometimes I think we can even doubt the stories and actions of those closest to us, because we know human nature. We know that people make things up, tell lies, and bend the truth. But what about God? Does he ever lie or fail to accomplish his promises? Have you ever doubted him?
In Luke chapter one, the angel Gabriel appears to a priest named Zachariah while he was on duty in the temple. He told him that his wife, Elizabeth, would be pregnant and that they would have a son. Zachariah did not believe God's word, despite his righteous and blameless life, because he and his wife were well advanced in years. Therefore Gabriel closed Zachariah's mouth and ears so he couldn't talk or hear. Zachariah let fear and doubt enter his mind. Had God ever given him reason to doubt his word and plan? No, but I can imagine it had felt like that at times.
We doubt God sometimes as well, even though none of God's promises have ever failed to come about. I think we can learn a lesson from this story, because once John was born, and after nine long months of waiting, Zachariah saw the fulfilled promise right in front of him, and be believed. He not only believed, but he went on to praise God, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to prophecy about all that God had done and was going to do through his son John, and the Savior of the world, Jesus. Next time you struggle with disbelief, go back to God's Word and remind yourself of all the promises God has made and then fulfilled.
The New Year is always a bitter-sweet occasion. It allows people an opportunity to reflect upon all that has happened to them—the good and the bad—and to hope for positive changes in the year to come. We talk differently at New Year, we are open to things we otherwise would likely be pessimistic about, we make New Year’s resolutions (even if we don’t keep them). This can be an excellent time to release those burdens we have carried with us for so long—with their imperfections and fears—and prepare ourselves for what comes next.
In the Gospel story this week, we find three sets of characters who also find themselves at a crossroads. There are the elderly faithful, Simeon and Anna, who have been waiting all their lives for the consolation of Israel. There are the righteous parents, Mary and Joseph, who are confronted with ominous prophecies about the days to come. And there is the child Jesus, who must mature beyond the manger and grow in his Jewish culture, along with God’s favor.
Each of these characters, just like us, must let go of the past in order to faithfully embrace the future to come. This might be a welcome relief, or it might cause some anxiety, but either way it is part of God’s plan and therefore can be trusted for our good.
John the Baptizer……was destined for great things. This was evident even before his birth, when an angelic messenger came to his priestly parents and declared to them God’s will—that their son would be “great in the sight of the Lord,” would be “filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth,” would bring many of the people of Israel “back to the Lord their God,” and he would “go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous” (Lk 1:14-17).
This would not come about through John’s gentle spirit or his crowd-pleasing behavior; he wouldn’t win accolades, approval, or financial success through his ministry. Instead, John was called to preach “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (3:3). In other words, John had to declare to people that they were sinners through their ancestry and personal lifestyles, they needed to turn away from their ways of unfaithfulness, they needed to seek forgiveness from the one true God, and they needed to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
This did not make John the most popular person in Judea, but it did get people to take a good, honest look at their lives and prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord.
The greatest thing John ever did……was to baptize the Lord Jesus. Amazingly, Jesus identified with this baptism of repentance, but even more with the people who were ready to meet their God. On this “Baptism of the Lord” Sunday, let us keep in accordance with John’s call. It is not enough to be “dipped” into water, or to make a profession of faith, we must learn and re-learn what it means to walk in the ways of Jesus.
Have you ever been rejected? It doesn't feel good does it? Maybe in your youth the kids at your school didn't accept you on their team or at their lunch table. Maybe you had family members who didn't approve of your decisions, or a job interview that didn’t go as planned. These can make you feel dejected and worthless. On the other hand, you feel good and important when you are accepted. Interestingly, we as humans have it in our power to both accept or reject others, and also, to accept or reject God. The questions is, how will we respond?
The Jewish people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth struggled with their response, and Luke’s Gospel brings this to light. Before Jesus started his public ministry, Luke 1:40 tells us that he “grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.” Then as an adult Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, sent into the desert where he resisted Satan’s temptations, and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, before he returned to the region of Galilee to teach in the Jewish Synagogues and heal those with diseases. So far this sounds like a pretty great story, right? Well, not for those who had grown up with Jesus.
The people seemed okay with most of Jesus’ teaching and miracles, but they soon turned on him and started to question the legitimacy of his story and claims. They snickered and sneered and doubted, and upon hearing this, Jesus got right to the heart of the issue. He gave them two Old Testament examples in which God’s judgment came upon his covenant people because of their unbelief, while God’s grace and mercy was extended to gentiles! Jesus’ hometown didn’t want to hear that they were rejecting God and that the Good News could be for outsiders. Therefore, they become irate and tried to throw him off a cliff. Quite a response!
How do we respond to him? Do we ever reject God or the people he loves, even when things get hard? Do we accept and believe that the Good News is for everyone? May we strive to obey him, love those he loves, and be conformed to his image!
Put Out a Little from Shore
Life can be a little scary at firs we strive to understand a big, complicated world and how it works. Even more, we have to learn how to understand ourselves and where we fit in (no wonder we need night lights and security blankets when we’re little). Over time though, we begin to learn, we begin to blend in, and we begin to gain some level of control and confidence. That’s when life starts to make sense and we believe we have things figured out.
Imagine what it was like for the early disciples to first encounter Jesus. They were adults, they were settled into their jobs and their routines, they probably thought they had life all figured out. Then they met this upstart rabbi who was making quite a stir in their region. As if that weren’t enough, this Jesus eventually entered one of their boats and asked them to put out a little from shore so he could teach a crowd. Finally, after all that, he even had the audacity to ask Simon, one of the fishermen, to put out into deep water. This Jesus just never knew when to quit, even though Simon reminded him they were professionals who already knew what they were doing. But when Simon listened to Jesus, his entire world was blown out of the water; life was much more complex and mysterious than he’d ever realized.
This is still kind of what it’s like for us today. We grow up, develop our routines, think we have life figured out. Then we meet Jesus. He seems safe from a distance, but all of a sudden he interrupts us, asks us to move a little out of our comfort zones, to put out a little from shore. Next thing we know, we’re in deep water and life is very different than we imagined. But if you’re with Jesus, you’re with the Master, and wherever he takes you, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem, he equips you to serve him there. The only question then is, “Are you willing to follow?”
The Son of Man Is Lord of the Sabbath
As Jesus was beginning his ministry…
…he had different kinds of people following him. Most of the crowd just wanted to hear what he had to say and see what he was going to do, but a few deeply wanted to learn from him and be his disciples. But to truly follow Jesus was not an easy thing; those in power were often offended by him. And many of his controversies revolved around the Sabbath, the “holy day” of the week for the Jewish people.
One Sabbath, as they were walking through a field, Jesus’s followers picked some grain to eat. This violated a divine command from the days of Moses that the community was not to do any work on the day dedicated to the Lord. Jesus, however, took this to be a misunderstanding of divine intent and a misapplication of human authority. As he saw it, those in power did not allow the people to experience God’s blessing. Instead, they were using their power to actually do “evil” (6:9). So Jesus made it very clear to them where the final authority lies. He said, “The Son of Man”—ultimately meaning himself—is the actual “Lord of the Sabbath.”
If we want to follow Jesus…
…we need to be careful not to make the Lord’s day—our “Sabbath”—just what we want it to be. It’s not enough to call ourselves a church, or to worship however we like, or to conduct business as if we get to make the final decisions. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, not us. So some better questions to ask might be, “How do we do good?,” “How do we promote life?,” and, “Where is Jesus actually leading us in the year ahead?”
God Has Come to Help His People
Who do you love and what do they need most? Each of us has people in our life whom we care deeply about, and the more you know someone the better sensitivity you have to what their actual needs are. So what would you do to help someone you love? Would you give money? Would you donate your time and labor? Would you pray for them? Would you seek out Jesus? Today’s narrative is comprised of two different people, each of whom loves someone, and each time their loved one is in need.
A Roman Centurion (vv. 1-10)
This man was not a Jew, but he did support the Jewish nation and the Jewish God. He had a servant who was very dear to him and was about to die, so he sent some of the Jewish elders to beseech Jesus to heal his servant. Not only was this centurion moved on behalf of his servant, but he also trusted Jesus’s authority enough to know whatever Jesus said would come to pass, even if Jesus never stepped foot in the centurion’s house. This is a story of great faith.
A Jewish Mother (vv. 11-17)
This woman was a widow who had also just lost her only son. In the ancient world, that meant she was about to become destitute, having lost all family support in a male-dominated society. She was not even looking for Jesus, he just happened to run into the funeral procession as he was on his journeys. But the text tells us “his heart went out to her” (v. 13). This is a story of great hope.
There are certainly times in this world where it can seem like God is distant and uncaring, as if he has no interest in our loves, hopes, dreams, or concerns. But what we find, even in Roman-occupied Israel, is that God came to help his people—and not just them, but any who put their faith in him. So the best thing we can do in this life, for ourselves and our loved ones, is to bring everything to Jesus. He loves. He cares. And he is the only one who can truly meet our needs.
If you are anything like me, you have expectations in life, both from people and from situations. For example, you expect certain things to happen when you get together with family on Thanksgiving, or when you show up for the first time for dance lessons. These expectations can be positive or negative, great or small, based on truth or a lie, and can also even be over-exaggerated. It is very hard to get rid of these expectations because it is part of our human nature. We want to plan for things and prepare ourselves for what might come next, but we often find that things do not go as expected – for better or worse.
The people in Jesus’ day were no different. The Jewish religious leaders, and even John the Baptist, struggled with their expectations of Jesus. They had different ideas of who the Messiah was going to be, but while John did not reject Jesus as the Messiah, he was getting depressed and worried, because he was languishing in a prison. He wanted to know if Jesus was really the Expected One, because he had not yet seen his miracles, and the Kingdom was not advancing in the way he thought it should. The religious leaders on the other hand, simply rejected both John and Jesus, because they were unwilling to repent and see the work that God was doing.
But what about the crowds? In Luke 7:18-35 it seems as if many of the normal folk embraced both of them and were accepting of a prophet and Messiah who would heal the sick, raise the dead, and preach the good news. Not all would follow through on this belief, but those who did, saw God’s Kingdom advancing in power.
So, what do you think about Jesus? Is what we read about him in Scripture what you would have expected? Even today, are you letting God’s Word, and the reality of his work in and through your life, shape your thinking? Or, are you letting your own expectations, based on your own thoughts, needs, wants, and desires, have control? Let us always seek how God has moved, and is moving, in history, in his Word, and in his Spirit, to re-shape all of our thinking. And may our expectations be in alignment with how his Kingdom really works.
The Secrets of the Kingdom of God
A secret is…
…only meant for a select few people; it’s insider information. While it may seem unusual that God keeps secrets, especially about his kingdom, we find this is exactly what Jesus taught. He once told his disciples, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables” (Lk 8:10). Parables reveal things to true followers, but they obscure things for others who are not committed. According to an ancient prophecy from Isaiah, this was so that, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand” (Isa 6:9). In Isaiah’s day, God’s people were disobedient to him, so he sent a prophet to speak truth to them, but to do so in a way they wouldn’t understand until after they went into exile. His purpose was not to destroy his people, but to refine them, like a tree which gets cut down only to have the stump sprout and grow again (Isa 6:13).
The same was true in Jesus’s day. There were large crowds that were constantly following him (e.g., Lk 8:4), but not all the people were willing to accept him (Lk 7:29, 30). So Jesus began speaking in parables, beginning with a parable about a farmer, his seed, and different kinds of soil which yielded different kinds of results (Lk 8:5-8). His purpose does not seem to be to shut certain people out of God’s kingdom, but to explain why some people will not immediately receive God’s word (Lk 8:11-15). Then, after Jesus was gone (like Isaiah), his disciples could further explain his teachings, like a lamp on a stand shining its light for all to see (8:16-18).
Today, God’s secrets…
…have been entrusted to the church, being handed down through the word of God as it was taught by Christ’s disciples. We are, as the apostle Paul said, “those entrusted with the secret things of God” (1 Cor 4:1). But the secret things aren’t for just us, nor are they meant to remain secret. According to the parable, we are to “hear the word, retain it, and, by persevering, produce a crop” (Lk 8:15). So keep learning. Keep sowing. Be generous. And may the Spirit of God produce fruit for his kingdom.
|9:45 am Blended Worship Service.||1125 North 6th Street
Sheboygan, WI 53081