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.
It takes courage to be honest, especially when admitting weakness or insufficiency. You’d only be that honest with someone you trust. Welcome to the presence of One you can trust. The Lord God promises to meet you through the gospel, the message of what Jesus has done for you. As you receive that message today, may God convince you to trust him. We call that spiritual sight and pray the Lord blesses you with a rich measure of it today.
Have you ever been asked a tough question? I'm not talking about the daily tough decision of what to have for dinner or the occasional question of, “Where should we go out to eat?” I'm talking about a simple yet deeply probing question that forces you to examine your perspective on life. Today, Jesus asks a few of these questions designed to focus our hearts and lives on his true identity.
How do you complete this sentence: The more things change, the more…”? We all know what we want to say, but there is a contrary view. The more things change, the more things change! Wise King Solomon said by inspiration of the Spirit, "to everything there is a season." God's plan is to keep you close to him by feeding your faith every season. So that's what we do at St. Andrew. We feed and nurture Christian faith with his Word and sacrament whether you're a child or long in the tooth. We’re glad you’re with us today. Learn five stages of life, determine which stage(s) you're in, and plan how you'll feed your faith no matter what season you're in.
Today’s Bible account may seem like déjà vu. Many would assume that because there are two similar accounts of a miracle of Jesus in the Scriptures, they must be the same event just with different details. This is possible, but more likely Jesus did a similar miracle for a similar reason in a different location. Mark's Gospel is all about showing us Jesus as the Christ, our Savior. Today we see Jesus provide food yet again, but he will also explain that faith isn't about the miracles, it's about his identity as our Savior.
If you've watched children eat, you know it's an adventure. Food ends up in many places besides their mouths. If there's a puppy in the house, it knows where to sit. What we view as crumbs and scraps are treasures for a pup. In Mark 7:24-30 Jesus met a woman who viewed any gift from God the same way. His crumbs were more than she deserved and beyond anything the world could give. So, she positioned herself next to Jesus to receive them. That’s why we’re here today. Jesus distributes coveted morsels through the gospel in the Word and in the sacrament. We’re glad you’ve gathered with us to receive them.
Jesus disagreed with the religious leaders of his day about many things including how to be cleansed of sin and how he would provide that cleansing. But Jesus agreed with the religious leaders on one thing: we all need cleansing. Oddly, that's the thing about which we're most likely to disagree with Jesus. We look for things on the outside that can change our hearts, lives, and world. Jesus, however, works from the inside out. It's a key theme in the Old and New Testament, and it's as relevant as today. We’re glad you’re in God’s house with us today. May the Spirit fill you with gratitude for the cleansing only Jesus can accomplish.
When it comes to what you believe and how you make decisions, are you more inclined to listen to your head, your heart, or the experts? Jesus' answer was something else. Today, discover the basis of Jesus' way of thinking, his emotions, and his actions. It might change what you listen to. This is what we do each week: open the Bible and let God speak to us through it. He does the rest. We’re glad you’re here and hope we can serve you in the future, too. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever experienced emotional and physical exhaustion? Have you been pushed to the brink, overwhelmed with stress, questioning so much of your life, and wondering if the struggle is worth it? This weekend we see the disciples emotionally and physically exhausted as they're at the end of a long day and stuck in the middle of the Sea of Galilee surrounded by strong winds. There amid the struggle, Jesus walks up bringing peace and rescue as only he can provide. Who do you know that could use this encouragement? Be sure to share today's message with them via iTunes or our website.