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

171001 Ephesians 4:32-5:2

Text: Ephesians 4:32 - 5:2
Theme: Forgive Each Other!

In the sermon last weekend, I asked the question: "How do you know that you are forgiven?" And we heard once again the Good News that because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, you and I are able to take our loving Father in heaven at his word when he says, "I forgive you!" Rejoicing in our own forgiveness, today you and I hear the encouragement to FORGIVE EACH OTHER! I invite you to listen as I read once again a portion of the Second Lesson that was read earlier. From Paul's inspired letter to the Ephesians, in the final verse of chapter 4 and the first two verses of chapter 5, we read this:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Read more: 171001 Ephesians 4:32-5:2

170924 Galatians 2:11-21

Text: Galatians 2:11-21
Theme: How Do You Know That God Forgives You?

Has this ever happened to you? A friend and you are talking. Then your friend says something that hurts you very badly. Because you are so hurt by what your friend says, the two of you don't speak for a long time. Finally, your friend comes to you and apologizes for what he or she said. To which you respond, "I forgive you." But inside you are still angry and hurt. The words, "I forgive you" are easy enough for us to say. However, there are times when we say those words, but deep down we don't truly forgive the person for what they had done to us or said to us.

Because you and I far too often fail to have a truly forgiving attitude, we may be tempted to think that our God deals with us in the same way. We may be tempted to think, "God says he forgives me. But how could he forgive me time after time after time." All three readings from God's Word before us this weekend give us the opportunity to talk about forgiveness. Specifically, here in Galatians chapter 2, we consider the answer to the question, "How do you know that God forgives you?"

Read more: 170924 Galatians 2:11-21

170917 Romans 11:33-36

Text: Romans 11:33-36
Theme: A Doxology Rooted In Theology

Since you are worshipping in a Lutheran church today, I am guessing that most of you know who Martin Luther is. Most famously, Luther was the monk who posted ninety-five theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. But unless you are a church history buff, you probably don't know a whole lot about the history of the Lutheran Church beyond Martin Luther.

After Luther's death a number of his followers championed his cause. They clarified and codified Lutheran biblical teaching. They wrote hymns that allowed the people to praise God in their own language. They preached sermons that pointed out error and proclaimed the truth.

Sometimes called the Age of Orthodoxy, the century after Luther's death in 1546 was critical for the survival and spread of the truth Luther had rediscovered. But there was a downside. Over time this quest for the truth became (at least for some) an obsession with "being right." Sermons were aimed at the head, not the heart. Faith was reduced to a system of proof passages and dogmatic formulas.

Pietism was a religious movement that sprang up in the 1700s as a reaction to this heavy emphasis on doctrine. Pietism elevated subjective feelings over objective truth. Pietism can be summarized by the simple phrase: "Deeds, not creeds." In other words, how you live is just as important as (and maybe even more important than) what you believe.

So who was right, the people who stressed the importance of believing the right things or the people who stressed the importance of doing the right things? The correct answer, and Paul's answer, is both.

The first eleven chapters of Romans read more like a dogmatics text book than a personal letter. Paul tackles heavy subjects like justification and sanctification and election. And so it might come as a surprise that this part of the book ends the way it does. Instead of summarizing his argument, instead of drawing a logical conclusion, Paul bursts into a song of praise.

This doxology teaches us a valuable lesson, and the lesson is this. Christian teaching and Christian living are not incompatible. They are inseparable. Paul's words demonstrate that the Word of God naturally leads the people of God to respond. Simply put, Paul's song of praise is...


Theology is the study of God, and today we will focus our attention on three of his attributes...

I. God's wisdom
II. God's justice
III. God's mercy

Read more: 170917 Romans 11:33-36

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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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