11/25/2020 Thanksgiving Eve Service of the Word

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saint Mark's Lutheran Church

 

11/15/2020 “Don’t Bury Your Talent”

St. Mark’s is a church with many talented and committed members and friends. It is simply
astounding to me how many different and gifted people call this church home. I am grateful to the
many helping hands of St. Mark’s members and friends who share their talents and gifts for God
and neighbor. As we suffer together, we will be a stronger church after the pandemic.

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11/8/2020 “Time Is Running Out”

The pandemic has changed many things in our lives. Our work life, school life, family life,
community and national life have all been remarkably changed by the pandemic. Though I am very
happy to see members of St. Mark’s in attendance today, our still mostly empty church is a sign of
how changed our normal daily patterns still are. This pandemic is serious. People continue to die
each day, and over 236,000 people have perished from this disease in this country alone. Most of us
have never had such massive and ongoing disruption in our lives, and it is probably safe to say that
most of us wish we could wave a magic wand and just make the pandemic go away.

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11/1/2020 “Who Are The Saints?”

Do you know someone in your life whom you would call “a saint?” Is there someone in your life
who has embodied the love, forgiveness and grace of God to you? If we take time to think about it
each of us have been blessed through many different people in our lives – people who have been
“saints” to us. People who have listened to us, prayed for us, forgiven us, been a peacemakers
among us, and even suffered with and for us. Saints look like everyone else, but saints always move
and walk in the direction that Jesus walks.

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10/25/2020 “The Work of Christian Love”

I never imagined that 503 years after I wrote the 95 Theses, that people would be celebrating
something called “The Reformation.” It was my great hope that the church of the 16th century
could reform itself through a great church council, but Pope Leo X made this impossible. Before the
Reformation many others had tried to reform the church. In 1379 Catherine of Siena wrote to Pope
Urban VI encouraging him to be the shepherd of the church. Jan Hus had also worked toward
reforms, but the church was resistant to hearing the good news of the gospel, and Hus was
condemned at the Council of Constance in 1415. I was very aware that Hus had been burned at the
stake just 102 years before I wrote the 95 Theses. So your celebration today is a reminder of the
continued power of the freedom that the grace of God gives to all who believe.

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10/18/2020 “Giving Back To God”

It is pretty remarkable that Christianity flourished during the Roman Empire. Everything was
against its survival. Christianity was a small minority religious group, Christians were persecuted,
and yet the church grew. The Bible, doctrine and theology as we know them did not yet fully exist;
rather, the church grew because of the witness of its members.

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10/11/2020 “Responding To God’s Call”

St. Mark’s is a church blessed with many faithful members and friends who respond to God’s call
by sharing their gifts in God’s mission to the world. Thank you to today’s musicians, Les, Riley and
Byron, for sharing your musical gifts. Thank you Kay, for reading the lessons. Thank you Tom,
Jacob and Ron for operating our internet live-stream. Thank you John for ushering, and thank you,
Jay, for your temple talk about how our hands do God’s work over a lifetime. With our hands
working together, we are the body of Christ in mission for the world!

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10/4/2020 “To Know Christ”

Anyone familiar with electronic devices and computers today knows what it’s like on occasion to
have a computer, device, or phone freeze or start doing strange things. Today it has almost become
second nature for us to restart the computer, device, or phone because we know that restarting,
rebooting, or even restoring the computer to its factory settings, will usually solve the problem. It’s
not foolproof, but it often does work.

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9/27/2020 “Be Of One Mind With Christ”

Today’s readings are all concerned with one basic truth: God never leaves us. God always calls
us, and when we return to God we receive life and unity with God and one another. This morning,
Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus describe the life-giving and life-changing grace that happens when we are
of the same mind – with God and one another.

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9/20/2020 “Grace Enough For The Day”

Today’s readings are about God’s steadfast love and grace that come to us every day, sometimes
even at the 11th hour. Perhaps you have called upon someone saying, “I apologize for calling you at
the 11th hour, but I really need your help.” This is sort of the scenario in today’s parable of the
laborers in the vineyard. The landowner went out early in the morning at about 6 am, and then later
at 9 am, Noon, 3 pm, and at 5 pm – the 11th hour. This parable presupposes a 12 hour workday, from
6 am until 6 pm. So 5 o’clock in the afternoon was called the 11th hour. In fact, older English
translations of the Bible, like the KJV, translated this as the “11th hour,” rather than 5 o’clock.

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9/13/2020 “Forgive From Your Heart”

Do you think of yourself as a forgiving person? All of us would certainly like to hope that we are
forgiving people. Yet how many times have we said, “I forgive you,” only to carry a grudge in our
hearts against that person for years. We say we forgive, but often we don’t forget. We say we
forgive, but often we never fully release others from their debt to us. We may even remind them, on
occasion, of our generosity to them and their debt to us. When we do so, we have not really
forgiven them at all, but have kept them and ourselves captive to anger, hurt, and judgment. We all
do this as human beings, and it is a reminder of how hard it is to truly forgive from the heart. Jesus
reminds us today that we are to forgive from our heart, and move to the new place God is creating
in our relationships with God and others.

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9/6/2020 “Being The Church”

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out that fault when the
two of you are alone.” Has this happened to you? Have you ever needed to have a
come to Jesus with someone, or perhaps worse, been on the receiving end of such a
meeting?

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9/6/2020 “Being The Church”

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out that fault when the
two of you are alone.” Has this happened to you? Have you ever needed to have a
come to Jesus with someone, or perhaps worse, been on the receiving end of such a
meeting?

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8/30/2020 “That Isn’t What I Thought You Meant”

I think he just knew…I think that Jesus just knew that if he were to live the way that God
would have him live…In fact, if he were to be the very embodiment//the incarnation of
God’s love (which we confess he is)…If Jesus were to live out his own Sermon on the
Mount being for and focusing on and lifting up those who are poor in spirit and those
who mourn and who are weak and who hunger and thirst for righteousness…If he were
to live out his own mandates “if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give them
your cloak as well” and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and
“do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” and “do not worry” and “do unto
others”…

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8/23/2020 “Who Do You Say That I Am?”

Has anyone ever told you that you are a “chip off the old block?” At some point, we’ve either
said it or heard it. In my experience, these are overwhelmingly positive words. They are meant to
say that the “stuff” of which we are made is strong and reliable. Yet it may seem sort of strange to
use this metaphor about people, after all, we are flesh and blood, living and breathing beings – not
made of stone.

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8/16/2020 “Jesus Crosses All Borders”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
What kind of borders have you crossed in your life? Borders are often difficult places to navigate,
and many are not easily crossed. Borders can be geographic, like mountains, rivers, and oceans.
Borders can be between geographic regions and between nations. Borders can exist between ethnic,
cultural, and religious groups. Borders exist to separate, and even exclude, people from contact with
one another. Borders can attempt to block the exchange of ideas, goods, and information. Borders
can be used to separate the perceived purity of a group from the perceived impurity of another
group.

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8/9/2020 “Take Heart, Be Not Aftaid”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church!
“Call me if you need me. I’m always available.” Perhaps you have heard these words from a
friend or co-worker. It’s very possible we have also said these words to someone. The only problem
is that we’re not always available. When someone calls, I may be on the phone, or may be unable to
answer because I am meeting with someone else. Or, perhaps you have tried to contact someone by
email, only to get an automated response, “I’m away for two weeks; please leave me a message, and
I’ll reply when I return.” The phrase “Call me if you need me” is a well-meaning phrase. The
problem is that we are not always available.

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8/2/2020 “You Give Them Something To Eat”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. The readings for today remind us that God is compassionate to all people, satisfying our needs and opening our hands to serve others. God feeds us with word and sacrament, so that we can feed others. God has set us in a creation teeming with life and enough food and produce for all people, and yet there is massive disparity, poverty, and hunger. Jesus’ words to his disciples, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” are also hard words that challenge us. As followers of Jesus, we have been given faith that is to be active in loving service to our neighbor. The way of the world is “take care of yourself,” and if you don’t have enough, “tough luck.” Jesus, the bread of life, feeds us so that we might feed the world.

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7/26/2020 “Work Together For Good”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. In today’s gospel, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure, a pearl of great value, and a net. A mustard seed grows, providing sanctuary and support for others. Yeast transforms simple flour into bread that satisfies hunger. Treasure hidden in a field causes the whole field to become treasured. A pearl of great value becomes the most valued possession. The net gathers all people, good and bad, into God’s kingdom.

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7/19/2020 “Of Good and Evil in the World”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. In
today’s gospel, Jesus tells another parable about sowing good seed, seeds of grace, in the world.
This parable also gives us a way of understanding the ongoing reality of evil in the world.
In this parable, the field is the world into which Jesus sows good seed, and the evil enemy, the
devil, also sows seeds of evil. Jesus says the good seeds become children of the kingdom, while the
evil seeds become children of the evil one. This parable helps us understand the persistence of not
only evil within the world, but also evil within each of us. As today’s psalm suggests, we have
divided hearts, hearts with both good and evil.

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7/12/2020 “God’s Word Changes Us”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
Words, words, and more words: each day, all of us are bombarded with words. We are confronted
with many and competing words in newspapers, magazines, television, and the internet. We
restlessly change channels and websites searching for objective news – looking for good news.
Many of the words we hear are given political and ideological spin, and if you are at all like me,
there are times when I feel worse after watching the news. Words, words, and more words: who has
the words of eternal life?

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7/5/2020 “Rest for the Weary”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
Today Jesus promises rest for the weary, saying, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are
carrying heavy burdens.” These words are especially meaningful, because these past months we
have each been carrying heavy burdens. These past months have been physically, emotionally, and
spiritually draining. Jesus reminds us that when we return to him, we will find a deep inner rest that
frees us from our burdens.

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6/28/2020 “Prophets of Peace”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
Today, both Jeremiah and Jesus speak about prophets who announce God’s peace –“prophets of
peace.” This is timely because the world is always in need of prophetic and visionary leadership.
Jeremiah and Jesus both want to help us see that visionary leadership means pointing, in the midst
of the world, to God’s vision of compassion and peace. Both Jeremiah and Jesus remind us God’s
vision is always looking ahead through suffering and death, toward resurrection, wholeness, and
new life.

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6/21/2020 “The Difference”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Today, Jesus makes it clear that his disciples will experience division in this world. Jesus tells his disciples plainly that if they remember him before others, Jesus will remember them before the Father in heaven. Jesus is telling them that he will be “the difference” in their lives.

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6/14/2020 “Proclaim The Good News”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
Today we are reminded that Jesus sends his church into the world to proclaim the good news. The
world continues to be a place in need of healing; a place separated from God by unclean spirits –
spirits of hatred, racism, and injustice. The church is to proclaim in word and deed the
compassionate kingdom of heaven that is Christ Jesus.

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6/7/2020 “I Am With You Always”

St. Matthew writes, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus
had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” “But some
doubted.” All of us can perhaps understand these words. Like Jesus’ disciples, we also bring our
doubts and anxieties as we gather to worship. Some may doubt the miracle of the resurrection; some
may doubt the presence of God in the world; some may wonder if prayer makes any difference in
life; some may feel anxious about evil, hatred, prejudice, racism, and injustice in the world. Jesus’
disciples were no different from you and me. Jesus knows our human doubts, anxieties and
questions in our lives below the mountaintop. Jesus the Good Shepherd leads his church with love,
forgiveness, and justice for the transformation of the world.

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5/31/2020 “One Spirit, One Body, Many Gifts”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
Today is Pentecost, the third great festival in the Christian year. On Pentecost we give thanks for
gift of the Holy Spirit, who enlivens the church and every believer, in every language, and in every
culture. On Pentecost we celebrate and give thanks for one Spirit. There are not separate Holy
Spirits for different groups: one for North Americans, one for Africans, one for Asians, one for
Europeans. As Paul writes, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or
Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” There is one Spirit, one body,
and many gifts. The one Holy Spirit is given to everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord. The
one Holy Spirit empowers believers for Christ’s mission in the world.

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5/24/2020 “That They May Be One”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. In
today’s gospel, Jesus prays “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that
they may be one, as we are one.” In verse 23 Jesus repeats these words: “so that they may be one, as
we are one.” These words are part of what is often called Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” This prayer
is concerned with the unity of Jesus’ followers with Jesus and the Father and the promised Holy
Spirit. Jesus’ prayer anticipates Pentecost

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5/17/2020 “Hope for Living”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
Wherever you are I am glad you are worshiping with us. The good news that Jesus speaks to us
today is that he will not leave his people orphaned. This means Christ Jesus will not abandon us in
our isolation, in our suffering, in our distance from one another; rather, Christ comes to us wherever
we are. Because Christ lives, we shall live also. This may sound simple, but it is perhaps the most
profound message we will ever hear. Jesus’ real presence gives us hope for living each and every
day wherever we are.

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5/10/2020 “My times are in your hand”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. We
continue to live in extraordinary times. The global pandemic that has altered daily life and its
patterns may also be shaping us in ways that we cannot as yet fully appreciate. Wanting to return to
normal is a sign that we want life to continue in the patterns we are used to, but at the same time it
is perhaps also a sign that we are afraid of change. Daily change in our lives usually comes so
slowly that we don’t always notice it, allowing us to adapt easily and comfortably.

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5/3/2020 “An Abundant Life”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, and today is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” As the
Good Shepherd, Jesus reveals his care and love for his flock who are always in danger of being
killed by the one Jesus calls “the thief.” Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and
destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

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4/26/2020 “What Shall I Render To The Lord”

Good morning. A number of people have told me how hard it is for them not to be able to gather at
church during this time. Some people have talked about how much strength they receive at church.
Others have told me that during times of crisis and challenge, going to church really helps give
them perspective about life. These thoughts and feelings probably speak for many of us.

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4/19/2020 “The Gift Of Faith”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for worship on this second Sunday of Easter! During the Easter season we celebrate and give thanks for the gift of faith. It is through the gift of faith that we experience the Easter reality of Christ Jesus alive for us each and everyday.

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4/12/2020 Easter “Do Not Be Afraid”

Good morning. Thank you for joining us online for the festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord on this Easter Day! On Easter Day, the risen Christ comes to us in the midst of fear and uncertainty, and gives us true certainty of hope and peace. Just two months ago, none of us would have imagined that we would not be in church together on Easter, and we probably would not have imagined that we would be gathering online to celebrate Easter!

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4/10/2020 Good Friday “It Is Finished”

Good Evening. Thank you for joining us online for Good Friday worship this evening. During this fearful and anxious time we gather this evening to hear again that in the cross of Jesus Christ, God suffers with us, giving us peace. We are not alone in our fears and anxieties. The prophet Isaiah reminds us tonight that the Suffering Servant brings us peace through his suffering, pain, and death.

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4/9/2020 Maundy Thursday “Christ, the Sacrament”

Good Evening. Thank you for joining us online for Maundy Thursday worship. Our Music Director and organist Les, along with John on cello, are leading our music this evening. During this anxious and tragic period in our global, national, and local community life, we continue to stream worship live on Facebook from this empty sanctuary. Tomorrow evening we will stream a Good Friday service at 7 pm, and Easter morning, Sunday at 9:30 am. Please join me as we continue to journey to Jesus’ cross and resurrection.

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4/5/2020 Palm Sunday “The Suffering Servant”

Good morning. Thank you for joining me online for worship today. Our Music Director and
organist Les is accompanying us today, along with John on cello. Thank you both very much! Each
week as long as we need to, we plan to stream Sunday worship live on Facebook from this empty
sanctuary. This week we will also stream Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Holy Week services,
both at 7 pm.

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3/29/2020 Lent 5 “Lord, if you had been here”

Thank you for joining us this morning online for the Service of the Word. Our Music Director and organist Les Ackerman is accompanying us today, and we are thankful for the addition of music to our service. Each week as long as we need to, we plan to continue to stream Sunday worship live on Facebook from this empty sanctuary. It is a surreal and strange feeling to speak into a camera in St. Mark’s empty sanctuary. I look forward to the day when we can be together again in person as the body of Christ.

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3/22/2020 Lent 4 “Now I see”

Today, I bring you good news of Christ’s presence in a suffering world, yet I am speaking
from an empty sanctuary. Just two weeks ago this sanctuary was filled with people and today it is empty.
Just two weeks ago we gathered with music and prayer around God’s word and sacrament. Today, most churches in this community are also empty.

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3/15/2020 Lent 3 “Living Water”

All of us need water. Water is essential for all living things, but imagine if water was hard to
come by, or if one’s water source had become contaminated. Nothing can really take the place of
water. This simple but profound realization came to me a number of years ago when we were
missionaries in Japan during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant meltdown.

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