May 2, 2010
John 16:12-22

I’m going to start today’s message with a little experiment.  I’m going to take a poll.  I’ll ask you three questions.  I don’t want you to literally raise your hands, just in your heads, but be honest with yourself.  OK?

The first question: How many of you want to go to heaven when you die?  (PAUSE)

All right, I obviously don’t know for certain, but if I were a betting man, I’d wager that all of you raised your hand in your minds just now.  I’m pretty sure that most of you want to go to heaven when you die.  I know I do.

Second question – now be honest: How many of you want to go there today?  (PAUSE)

This informal poll was actually conducted by a Christian professor name Lewis Smedes on a number of different occasions only he did request his students to raise their hands.  He reports that while 100% of his students at a Christian college testified that they wanted to go to heaven, only a few of them would hesitantly assert that they wanted to go immediately.  Most of the students, answering honestly, said they’d rather take a rain check.

Now, let’s do one more.  Third question: How many of you would like to see the world set straight today?  No more cancer.  No more Alzheimer’s Disease.  No more need for sleeping pills or anti-depressant medications.  No more worrying about your kids getting into drugs or making bad choices.  A world where no one’s reputation ever gets dragged through the mud and no one lifts a finger to harm another; where everyone is at peace and everyone feels loved all the time.

April 25, 2010
Text: John 10:22-30

A man was telling his friend about this fabulous restaurant he and his wife had eaten at and all about their delicious food and excellent service and the decadent desserts.  The only trouble was that he couldn’t recall the name of the restaurant.  But his friend pleaded with him to try to remember.  So the man scratched his head and wondered, “Y’know that plant that has thorns all over it with a red flower on top?  What’s that called?” “A rose.” “Yeah.  Hey Rose, what was the name of that restaurant we went to last night?”

Now this man had trouble remembering names.  Isn’t it nice when someone remembers your name?

Today’s Gospel reading is from John chapter 10.  We started at verse 22.  But if you look back just a few verses earlier to verse 3, Jesus said: “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

Most of us have had the experience where you go to a social function and there are all these people there and you spot someone across the room whose face looks vaguely familiar, but try as you might, you simply can not come up with the person’s name.  And you hope the person doesn’t come over and talk to you because you don’t want to embarrass yourself.

April 11, 2010
Text: John 20:19-31

St. John tells us, "On the evening of that first day of the week, …the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews….”

Other than love, fear is probably the oldest human emotion.  In the Garden of Eden, after giving in to temptation, Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the bushes from God.  And Moses writes:  But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"  He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid… so I hid." The disciples of Jesus were afraid so they hid.  That seems to be the way things go.  People become afraid and so they hide.

So why were the disciples of Jesus afraid on the evening of that first Easter?  I know, it says they were afraid of the Jews.  But why were they afraid?  They were afraid because they had doubts.  Doubt and fear go together.  If you doubt the warnings and promises of God’s Word, then fear is a perfectly logical response.  If I tell you to lean backwards and I’ll catch you in my arms, you might doubt my promise.  And if you doubt my promise to catch you, you will be also be afraid of bonking your head on the floor.  It is only when we doubt the promises of God that fear takes over our lives.


April 18, 2010
John 21:1–14

Have you heard this old joke?  Two Lutheran pastors were having a conversation.  Both of them, it seems, were having trouble with bats living up in the bell tower.  One of the pastors tells the other that he finally figured out a way to get rid of the pesky rodents.  “Oh really,” said his partner, “what did you do?”  “Well,” said the first pastor, “I confirmed them and I never saw them again.”  It’s a sad joke that could be told in any Christian denomination.

An ailment of the modern church is that it has difficulty attracting and keeping new members.  It's strange that this would be the case, because attending church is easier today than ever before.  In this country you're not likely to be arrested and executed for attending church.  It most likely won't hurt your career—and could even help it in many cases.  Our churches are comfortable—the buildings are air-conditioned; we have P.A. systems so it is possible for everyone to hear without the preacher having to shout; our pews are cushioned, so you don't have to sit on hard wooden benches; the services don't last for hours like they did in the old days.  You would think with these changes that the church would be larger than it was 50 years ago.  But the fact is, when you compare percentages of church membership to general population, the church is smaller than it was 50 years ago.  And the current trend shows no sign of reversal.

April 4, 2010

During the last presidential election campaign, we heard a lot of speeches about change.  Don’t worry.  This is not going to be a political sermon.  Because regardless of which candidate you supported, I think all of us can agree that we could really use a change.  Of course, change can mean a lot of different things.  Not all change is good.  We don’t just want change for change sake.  That would be pointless.  If were going to have changes, they really ought to be changes for the better.  

All politicians talk about making changes.  I don’t know of any political party, left or right, which advertises as its platform: Let’s keep things the same! We are all in agreement about the need for change.  The disagreements come about once we start to decide what specific things we want to change and how to go about doing it.  The devil is in the details, as they say.

Let me ask this question: Do you think the world, as it exists today, operates the way God intended when He created it?

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