Today we see the heart of Jesus on display. We pause at his transfiguration where he reveals his glory and speaks with Moses and Elijah about what is about to take place. We see his love for his disciples so physically and emotionally exhausted they can't keep their eyes open. And we see Jesus' humanity, pleading for an alternative to what is coming, but humbly and willingly obedient to the Father's will. We journey to Gethsemane to learn of prayer and trust in God.
Betrayers: Just the word probably makes your stomach tighten. Nothing good can be said of betrayal, or of one who betrays. That’s why Jesus’ words to his disciples are hard to hear, but good to hear. A patient who is sick may not like an unhappy diagnosis, but without it he’ll never get the right treatment and get better. Jesus is the best doctor ever. He’s honest about our malady, but only so that he can heal. In the songs you’ll sing today and Word you’ll hear, listen for Jesus’ words of your malady, but keep listening for Jesus’ sweet words of your healing. Welcome to church!
Everything so far in the Gospel of Mark has been leading up to the death of Jesus. This weekend we come to the beginning of what many call the Passion of the Christ. Mark puts two people who knew Jesus in front of us, and we can learn from both. One shows us how it’s possible to know Jesus and not change. The other is totally changed and shows us how our greatest value is in Jesus. Let that make all the difference in the world to you. We’re glad you’re with us today and pray for the Spirit to bless your worship.
Have you become numb to the warnings that surround you? Do you panic when the gas light comes on, or do you see how far the fumes can really get you? How about weather warnings? Are you one who heeds the warning, shelters, and waits for the all clear, or do you dismiss the weather center's warnings as little more important than that gas light from before? We receive so many warnings that sometimes we become numb or apathetic, not realizing the severity of the situation. Today we learn from Jesus the importance of heeding his warning and to keep watch!
You only live once? How about twice? YOLO is catchier than YOLT, but it's not as accurate. According to Jesus, you only live twice. In Mark 13, Jesus gives his disciples some hard words about the future. It's worth putting up with the distress—not because living once is worthless, but because living twice is infinitely and eternally better. We’re glad you’ve joined us today because, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s this: when Jesus makes a promise it’s worth taking him up on it!
If you hang around students long enough, one of them will think they've come up with a fantastic question that will stump their teacher or parent. The goal is to waste time, distract the adult, and try to show that they are “smarter” than the adult. It usually doesn't go well, as the adult sees right through it and in most cases is able to answer the question with ease. Mark 12 is full of such conversations as one group after another tries their hand at challenging Jesus. While their questions come from unbelief and skepticism, the underlying truth they are challenging is something many still struggle with today. The question before us today really is, "What happens when we die?"
Someone has said, “We tend to hang very heavy weights on very thin threads.” But to do so is a set-up for failure. Jesus offers an alternative: himself. Hang on him what you will. He can bear it. How can you know? He already bore the weight of your sin. There is nothing heavier. In an encounter with people who chose an alternate thread, Jesus claimed something preposterous. It’s so counterintuitive we tend to dismiss it, even see it as a threat. But hear Jesus out. He has done something marvelous. Because of it you can trust his promise. We’re glad you’re with us today. This is what we do here: rehearse Jesus’ promise so we can hang the heaviest of weights on it. And live.
Sometimes it comes too early, that rising sun. Sometimes it can’t come soon enough! Ever since the days of Moses, the Lord has used the picture of a rising sun to help his people anticipate the fulfillment of his promise to save. An old man named Zechariah recalled that image and sang of it at the birth of his son, John the Baptist. John would be the one to announce, “The waiting is over! Salvation is here!” That’s the reality and meaning of Christmas, and we keep right on celebrating it today. Christmas carols might be gone from the airwaves and playlists, but we’re still singing ‘em!
Christmas lights, candlelight, and the warm glow of the fire all bring light to this time of year. But there is a Light that shines like no other. God has sent his Son to overcome every kind of darkness in our world . . . in your world. Jesus is Life and Light that shines in the darkness.
The cradle of Christianity was, literally, in Bethlehem. But within a couple hundred years, "The Way" as Christianity was called, had spread throughout the Roman Empire. By the 300’s AD, a tribe of people known as Celts retreated to the British Isles at the edge of the empire. There they developed their own liturgies, hymns, and prayers. A modern historian describes Celtic Christian theology as, "Trinitarian, incarnational, and cosmic.” You'll notice an emphasis on all three in the liturgy we participate in today. Watch for elements in which we acknowledge God as three in one, as God who took on flesh, and as God who created all things. Our thanks to the members of The Lutheran Ceili Orchestra and its director Joey Schumann for helping us worship this weekend.
Where do you find joy? Perhaps a better question—how do you define joy? Is it an action, an emotion, a feeling? How do we exude joy or experience it if we don't know how to define it? For many, determining a joyful Christmas will mean comparing our Christmas experiences to a Hallmark special, Thomas Kinkade paintings, or our social media accounts. Today we will be digging into what brings God joy and learning from him how to experience his joy this Christmas.
How do you define peace? It’s one of those things that might be easiest to describe by what it isn’t. It isn’t conflict, doubt, turmoil, worry, etc. It’s . . . well, it’s peace. Let your God help. He’s in the peace business. At great cost, he made peace with you. And now, sometimes at cost to us, we can make peace with even our enemies. Welcome to the second week of the Christian church’s season of Advent. We light the second candle of our Advent wreath today—the candle of peace. It is our prayer that as you encounter Jesus today through his Word and sacrament you enjoy peace.
It's easy to look at the downward spiral of marginalized people, violence, immorality, and disinterest in God and become cynical. In more honest moments we look in the mirror and don't see much improvement. We aren't pillars of virtue either. But Christ Jesus gives us hope. The hope he gives isn't wishful thinking that things will get better or even that we'll get better. The hope he gives is rooted in what he came to do on the very first Christmas: to forgive every sin. He kept his promise to come to earth in Bethlehem, and he will keep his promise to come again and destroy everything that is wrong with his creation. That day will bring nothing but terror for those who look for hope only in this world. But for us who find our hope in being wrapped in Christ's righteousness, that day will bring nothing but joy. Welcome to Advent. We’re glad you’re here to worship with us the One who gives us the light of hope.
Money is almost always a topic of conversation that will reveal some challenging differences between people. Just try bringing up taxes, budgets, or the economy during your next family gathering. Jesus wasn’t afraid to bring up the subject. By some counts he referenced money more than he did heaven and hell combined. Why? In today’s section of Mark’s Gospel, it’s because he loved the man he was talking to. That’s why he talks to you, too, about anything in his Word. We’re glad you’re here to listen to Jesus’ words of love. May you see his love all the more clearly as you learn the challenging differences between him and you.
I love Thanksgiving worship. Maybe it's because although everyone is thankful, we Christians don't just feel a sentiment of gratitude. We privately and very publicly thank the God who has blessed us with everything we need for this life and the next. Jesus really is always enough.
It is perhaps one of our favorite images of Jesus—children sitting on his lap while he talks with them and shows them a father's love. There, at that moment, the God of the universe pauses his critical work to be present with babies and toddlers. He makes time to be with them and to bless them. He then uses them to teach us a powerful lesson on faith. This weekend we see Jesus with the little children and learn the importance of having a childlike faith.
The Bible says we are heading for a grand wedding: the day Jesus returns for his bride the Church. Until then Jesus gets ready, keeps us ready, and makes our lives a testimony to our confidence in that future day. That means your marriage, your future marriage and the marriages of other Christians is a picture of our marriage to Jesus. Married or not, we all want our lives to show the world what we’re waiting for: the ultimate wedding. Welcome to St. Andrew; we’re all about the message of Jesus that gets us to that grand wedding day.
Images like the one above are troubling, living here in Wisconsin. It is an image that says something terrible is likely about to happen. Following the tornados and floods in August, a picture like this can bring up fears. Fears that more destruction may come. For some it isn't a physical storm that arouses the fear, it is the tone of someone's voice, reception of a bill you know you can't pay, the sinking feeling you get when you feel you are drowning at work or failing as a parent or spouse. Today we hear God speak words of comfort, strength, and hope to our wearied heart.
We all have them, people we learn from whether or not we call them mentors. Mentors teach you and you end up, in some ways, acting like them. If Jesus is your mentor, your teacher and the one you follow, you are his disciple. Welcome to Jesus’ discipleship program: hearing his Word, receiving his sacrament, and living a changed life. It’s why we’re church: to be Jesus’ instrument to make disciples. And it starts with us learning from and following Jesus. May the Spirit bless your encounter with Jesus’ discipleship program today.
Who’s the greatest singer of all time? The greatest pitcher? Quarterback? It’s not enough to be great. We want to know who is the greatest. Sometimes, that becomes personal. We, like Jesus’ disciples, evaluate our merits against others. So, Jesus takes a seat and invites us, like he invited his disciples, to have a seat and listen to what he has to say. He told them he was going to a cross. Listen, he’ll tell you, too, what he’s done on his cross. What he did and what he has to say will shape you. We’re all here to be shaped by Jesus’ cross. We’re glad you’re with us to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.
In Mark’s Gospel (9:1-13) we have a record of what it was like for the disciples to experience Jesus’ glory: the clear and obvious evidence that he is God. And we have a record of what happened to them next: a time of testing (Mark 9:14-29). Expect the same. Enjoy coming into the presence of God today. Experience him in Word and Sacrament. Be filled with his glory. That’s worship. You’ll need it for the week ahead. When you come off the mountain you’ll be tested. But because of your worship today, you’ll be ready. That’s why we’re here. May the Spirit convince you of that.
Have you heard of the phrase “mountaintop experience”? Typically, mountaintop experiences are events so incredible that they change our perspectives and impact our lives in profound ways. Can you remember the last mountaintop experience you had? Perhaps it was a vacation to some new and exciting place, or maybe for a few of you it was being at Wrigley Field or Miller Park in the past few days. Today, we are taken to a mountain top in northern Israel where Jesus momentarily reveals his divine glory to Peter, James, John, and us.
Who do people say Jesus is? You could rattle off a few answers, I'm sure. Watch TV, listen to the radio, surf the net, go to Thanksgiving dinner, talk to some friends in the coffee house or brew pub, and you'll get answers. Some will be baseless and some blasphemous, some true to one degree or another, but few will hit on the heart and center of who Jesus is and what he's done. We’re glad you’re here today to get God's own answer from the lips of Peter. You're already guessing that Jesus’ identity has something to do with his cross. Just a warning, your identity has something to do with your cross, too.