171029 Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23

Text: Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23
Theme: Here I Stand!

Today is a wonderful day, a beautiful day, a day to celebrate. This week Lutheran Christians around the world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. And I am honored that you have invited me to be a part of the festivities. This morning I want to tell you about the defining moment in my life, about how I was willing to risk everything, even my life, for what I believed in. When I was forced to decide between obeying my government and obeying my God, the choice was clear.

Before I get into the details of my story, I should introduce myself. I am NOT Martin Luther, although Luther and I have quite a bit in common. My name is Belteshazzar, but you might know me better by my Hebrew name, Daniel. My journey began (literally and figuratively) when I was a teenager, when the Babylonian armies devastated our land and deported our people. I was one of the lucky ones who was chosen to enter the service of King Nebuchadnezzar, but luck really didn't have anything to do with it.

I ascended to a high government position because the Lord was with me. He gave me wisdom, so much wisdom that the king declared that I was ten times wiser than all the wise men in the land (1:20). My superior intelligence was a great asset, but it wasn't my greatest gift. The Lord also gave me the ability to understand visions, and when the rest of the king's royal advisors failed God gave me the opportunity to use my gift to interpret the king's dream.

When I was finished King Nebuchadnezzar, arguably the most powerful man in the world, the man who commanded others to bow before him, bowed down before me. He lavished me with praise and gifts and appointed me to rule over the entire province of Babylon.

I would have been content to live out my days serving my God and my king, but that's not what happened. When I was an old man mighty Babylon came crashing down, and a new king and a new kingdom took its place. Darius the Mede not only spared my life. He made me one of his most trusted advisors. Unfortunately some of the other royal advisors were not worthy of his trust.

A group of wicked men tricked the king into trapping me. They forced me to make a choice: obey the royal edict (and forsake God) or obey God (and die). With my faith and my life hanging in the balance, I made my decision. I didn't use the same words Martin Luther used when he found himself in a similar situation, but by my actions I made this bold declaration...


Read more: 171029 Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23

171022 Matthews 21:33-43

Text: Matthew 21:33-43
Theme: By God's Grace We Produce Fruit!

In our Gospel lessons for the past few Sundays, we have read some of the parables Jesus used during his three year earthly ministry. The definition we give is that a parable is "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning". Parables were a teaching tool used quite often by the Savior to teach about such topics as the Last Day and his return, what it means to live as a child of God, who will be included in the kingdom of heaven and so on. In God's Word before us this morning, we have a parable of Jesus which he uses to teach about God's grace and that BY GOD'S GRACE WE PRODUCE FRUIT. I invite you to listen now as I read the Gospel Lesson assigned for our worship today. We read from Matthew 21:33-43:

"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? " Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

Read more: 171022 Matthews 21:33-43

171015 Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Text: Ezekiel 18:1-14, 25-32
Theme: The Way Of The Lord Is Just

Does the name Mike Rowe ring a bell? For about a decade Rowe was the face of a Discovery Channel program called Dirty Jobs. The show aired footage in which the host performed difficult, strange, and sometimes messy occupational duties alongside the regular employees.

Here are just a few of the dirty jobs Mike Rowe did over the years: beekeeper, stump grinder, coal miner, hot tar roofer, sewer inspector, reptile handler, chimney sweeper, and my personal favorite, shark suit tester.

Some of these jobs are dirtier than others. Some of these jobs are more dangerous than others. But they all have one thing in common. They aren't easy. And if the difficulty of the job is what qualifies something as a "dirty job," I have one more to add to the list: Old Testament prophet.

Ezekiel was a prophet of God. He had a direct line of communication with God. But that didn't make his job easy. The Lord had given Ezekiel the difficult task of warning the people that God's wrath was about to be unleashed on the nation of Judah.

When Ezekiel wrote the words of our text, Judah was already under the control of the Babylonians. King Nebuchadnezzar had invaded the land from the north and carried some of the people (including Ezekiel) into exile, but the worst was yet to come.

The Lord instructed Ezekiel to predict the fall of Jerusalem. He prophesied that the city would be destroyed and that the temple would be burned to the ground, all because God's people had turned away from God.

When the people heard what Ezekiel had to say, they got defensive. They complained that God wasn't being fair. They claimed that they were being punished for the sins of their forefathers. They even went so far as to accuse God of being unjust.

The Lord listened, and then he responded. And what he said to and through Ezekiel applies to anyone who has ever entertained the thought that God wasn't being fair. In words inspired by God the prophet of God reaffirms this timeless truth...


I. The soul who sins is the one who will die
II. The sinner who repents is the one who will live

Read more: 171015 Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

171008 Jonah 4:5-11

Text: Jonah 4:5-11
Theme: When It Comes To God, Expect The Unexpected

When I re-read the last verse of Jonah, were you at all surprised by the cliff-hanger ending? At the conclusion of four chapters, the book ends with an open-ended question. As far as I can remember, Jonah is the only book of the Bible that ends with a question. And along with Jonah, we are left to come up with the answer. For the average reader this abrupt ending might seem somewhat unusual, but by this time in his ministry Jonah probably wasn't surprised at all. Jonah had learned the hard way that when it came to his relationship with God, he should expect the unexpected.

It began at the beginning of Jonah when the Lord gave his prophet this command: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me" (1:2). Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, and at the time Assyria was a world superpower located northeast of Israel. The Assyrians had a reputation for being as brutal as they were powerful. They annihilated their enemies and deported anyone who was left standing after the war was over, and Israel was on their short list of countries to be conquered.

And so we can understand why Jonah didn't expect the Lord to tell him to leave home and lay down the law in the backyard of his people's sworn enemy. We might even be able to understand why Jonah did what he did next. Instead of getting ready to make the journey into hostile territory to the east, he booked passage on the first ship he could find that was traveling to the west.

Jonah was aware that the Lord was watching his attempt to flee. And so he might have expected that a violent storm would come up out of nowhere. And Jonah might have expected that when the sailors decided to cast lots to see who was responsible for the storm that the lot fell to him. And when the sailors finally took Jonah's advice and threw him overboard to still the storm, he probably resigned himself to the fact that he would die in that watery grave...and no one would ever hear from the prophet again.

Read more: 171008 Jonah 4:5-11

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  1. 171001 Ephesians 4:32-5:2

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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