Sermons

Celebrating Sukkot - December 16, 2018

Pastor Eric Schroeder

Text: Nehemiah 8:9-18

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How many of you have ever celebrated Thanksgiving by camping out in your backyard? Anyone? Seems like an awfully strange idea, doesn’t it? Especially in this part of the world, the end of November isn’t the ideal time for spending a night outside. Not to mention the fact that some of us might not like the idea of camping . . . no matter what time of year. We like our homes, and our beds, and our HVAC systems that keep the temperature inside right where we set it. So we have other ways of enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, with food and drink and family gatherings that accompany our thanksgiving to God.



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Prophecy Fulfilled - December 12, 2018

Pastor Joel Leyrer

Text: Luke 3:1-6

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Dear Friends in Christ, there is nothing subtle or difficult to understand about the connection between our first reading from Isaiah and the Gospel reading we just heard. What Isaiah prophesied approximately 750 years earlier was fulfilled in the person and message of John the Baptist. Without a doubt, John is one of the more interesting and compelling figures in the Bible, and we are given a lot of information about him in the Gospels. Every Wednesday morning we hold Children’s Chapel for our St. John’s school children. Today John the Baptist was the subject. We talked about the miraculous events surrounding his birth and the impression John must have made on those who came to the wilderness to see and hear him. We said he was probably one of those people you find yourself staring at when you think he isn’t looking.



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Different than Expected - December 9, 2018

Pastor Kyle Bitter

Text: Malachi 3:1-4  

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The first time I saw one of the newer Christmas traditions was just a few years ago, at my grandma’s house. There was a strange little red-clad doll sitting high up on the shelf above the window – seemingly at odds with the rest of the Christmas décor. No matter where you went in the room, it seemed like it was staring at you. Kind of a stern expression on its face rather than the blissful happiness characteristic of most Christmas decorations. Some of you might recognize one of the newer Christmas traditions in American culture – the “elf on the shelf.” Based on a book released around Christmas time in 2004, this addition to the Santa Clause tradition features one of Santa’s little minions sent to your home to watch you and see if you are behaving well enough to deserve Christmas gifts from good old St. Nick. Some people say it’s harmless and cute. Others find it kind of disturbing. No matter what you think, like the Santa Clause tradition, the elf on the shelf is indicative of a general mindset that permeates American culture – and not just at Christmastime. We have an expectation of rewards earned based on good or bad behavior.



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Signs of Deliverance - December 5, 2018

Pastor Schroeder

Text: Luke 21:25-36 

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Signs of deliverance can look quite different from one another, depending on the circumstances. For a child who is struggling to swim, the splash of a lifeguard diving into the pool is a good sign. It means help is on the way. For an individual suffering from pain or infection, a small pill bottle is a sign that medicine is available that can bring some measure of relief. For a shipwrecked crew, hearing the sound of helicopter blades in the distance gets everyone scanning the horizon as they await their rescue. In each case, the first sign of deliverance is exactly what we might expect. We’ve all lived long enough to know that different problems have wildly different solutions.



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A Precursor to Advent - December 2, 2018

Pastor Joel Leyrer

Text: Genesis 19:15-17, 23-29

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Dear Friends in Christ, while we don’t customarily greet each other with “happy new year” today, we could make the case that such a greeting would be appropriate this morning – at least in a religious way – because this Sunday is the beginning of a brand new “Church Year.” We have entered another Advent season – that four-week period of preparation, repentance and anticipation that leads us into Christmas. During Advent, which literally means “coming,” we focus our thoughts on the arrival of Jesus Christ, first as the meek and mild Babe of Bethlehem; next as the glorious and powerful King of Kings and Lord of Lords.



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Jesus Is Our Eternal King - November 25, 2018

Pastor Eric Schroeder

Text: Revelation 1:4b-8 

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By the time his career was over, they called him “the King.” Never before or since has one man dominated his competition the way Ronnie Coleman did. Through a combination of intense workouts, strict dieting, and surely some additional substances added into the mix, Ronnie Coleman packed on muscle and shredded fat the way no one else ever had before. The end result was that when Ronnie showed up for bodybuilding competitions, no one else really had a chance. He won 8 consecutive world championships in the Mr. Olympia contest, a record that seemed impossible to reach, and now seems unbreakable. No wonder they call him the king. And yet . . . all the fame, fortune, and muscle mass he accumulated couldn’t keep time from catching up to Ronnie Coleman. These days he can’t walk without the help of crutches, because his hips, knees, and back are so damaged. He needs painkillers in order to get through the day. Seeing his physical decline is a sad reminder of the way things work in this world. Kings don’t last forever. Neither do their kingdoms.



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Give Glory to God! - November 22, 2018

Pastor Kyle Bitter

Text: Deuteronomy 8:10-18

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Give Glory to God! Leprosy. That dreaded disease of bible times. Leprosy. A word probably worse in its day than cancer today. The shouts of “Unclean, Unclean,” the outward disfigurement, the certainty of an early and painful death. Leprosy. An affliction that probably described a number of similar but not identical skin conditions with a wide variety of symptoms. Highly contagious, a leper was isolated from family and friends and had to shout “unclean, unclean” whenever a healthy person came within range. Not only isolation, but outward disfigurement, doomed to die a slow and painful death, accompanied only by the misery of others who shared the same fate. That was the plight of the ten men Jesus and his disciples met as they traveled, described in today’s gospel. At this point in Jesus’ ministry, he was taking a slow, meandering path toward Jerusalem for the last time, pausing along the way to train his disciples and do some final teaching. “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into the village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:11-12 – NIV84).



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An End-Time Equation - November 18, 2018

Pastor Joel Leyrer

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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Dear Friends in Christ, the flow of today’s service and Scripture readings once again remind us that we are in the season of “End Times.” It is during these final weeks before the old church year ends and the new one begins with Advent that God’s people customarily turn their thoughts to the “last things.” The Thessalonian Christians whom Paul addresses in our text predated any kind of structured “church year,” yet it is apparent they also had their thoughts on the “last things.” In fact, they had lots of questions along these lines, and perhaps had even received some rather troubling misinformation about the end times.



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Whose Judgment Matters? - November 11, 2018

Pastor Kyle Bitter

Text: Hebrews 9:24-28

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Whose Judgement Matters? On Tuesday, the headline on a major news aggregator website featured a gigantic picture of President Trump. The caption in enormous letters read JUDGMENT DAY. With the context of writing a sermon for Last Judgment Sunday on my mind, calling a round of midterm elections “judgment day” seemed a bit overly dramatic and it made me laugh to myself, but with further thought I can see the point, even if the presentation was a bit much. In an election, voters render their judgment on the activities of elected officials. Does the incumbent stay in power, or is it time for someone new? If so, who? Voters have the chance to render their judgment on the policies and behavior of elected officials. 



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A Beautiful and Beatific Vision - November 4, 2018

Pastor Joel Leyrer

Text: Revelation 7:9-17 

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Dear Friends in Christ, in the final verses of the great love chapter of the Bible, 1Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul makes this statement: Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror (some may recall KJV’s more memorable rendering: ‘through a glass darkly’); then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  In the third chapter of his first letter, the Apostle John has this to say: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! . . . Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  Both passages remind us that as Christians ours is a now and then existence. Now we are God’s redeemed people living out our life under his grace and guidance and protection. We understand the exclamations of John. We’re right there with him in his grateful amazement over the fact that we can actually call ourselves “children of God!” followed up by the declaration: “And that is what we are!”  We get all that.



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