Sermons by “Pastor Ball”

Love Your Enemies

Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Joseph lives it in Egypt. Jesus preaches it in the gospel. The Spirit guides us into merciful lives with the power of forgiveness to reconcile what is fractured and divided. Such merciful living is the baptismal blessing of having put on Christ. It is the gift of the life-giving Spirit. It is a reflection of the glory of God revealed in the Christ.

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Blessed Are the Poor

“Blessings and curses abound on the sixth Sunday after Epiphany. We would do well to listen closely to whom the “blessed ares” and the “woe tos” are directed and to find our place in the crowd among those who desire to touch Jesus. The risen Christ stands among us in the mystery of the Holy Supper with an invitation to live in him and the power to heal us all.”

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The Widow’s Mite

Pastor Mark’s message this weekend was based on the Gospel of St. Mark, the twelfth chapter, with the story of the Widow and her Mite: “We should love God the way the widow does. As she drops her last two coins into the collection she knows her future is securely in His hands. She doesn’t look around for approval or for accolades. She isn’t paralyzed by the opinions of others. She also isn’t motivated by their evaluations of her. She chooses to give her all to God, to leave the rest to Him. What she is doing is very personal. It’s between her and God.

What happens next to this widow? Only God knows. But he does know, he does see and he does care.

And this is the jewel of this Gospel account. We have a God powerful enough to hold the world in His hands and personal enough to know us inside and out. God sees. God knows. God cares. Amen!”

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Postcards from Heaven

As we observed All Saints last weekend, Pastor Mark shares St. John’s glimmer of heaven in the Gospel.  “There may be many things about heaven that are unclear to us, things that we wish we knew, but God makes this much known – heaven is where we go to be with God the Father and to live together with all those who have died as children of God.  For all of us who have a close connection to the saints, heaven is the most beautiful realty.  A land of no more tears, and a home where once and for all death is defeated.  A place where we will never lose a loved one again.

All Saints reminds us that Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead and therefore we are truly never apart.  Jesus is Lord of all and we will see our loved ones face-to-face again in heaven.  And that’s all we need to know.”

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The Truth Will Set You Free

Pastor Mark tells us last weekend, “With Luther’s focus on the power of God, we explore today’s Gospel lesson of John 8:31-36. Jesus turns to the Jewish people who believed in him and says:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

John’s Gospel begins: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word was God.” Today, we have more access to Jesus’ word than even the disciples who followed Him on His earthly ministry. Are we drawing closer to him, or becoming numb and apathetic? Abiding in Jesus word is the key to freedom.

Jesus crucified and risen is the truth that sets all captives free. Abide in His word. Not as a rule, or just a healthy practice, but as a gift from God given daily. The truth that sets us free. Allow it to free you too.”

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This weekend’s Gospel starts with disciples obsessing over who’s number one, which leads Jesus to say something about God’s take on importance and power. Here Jesus makes it explicit that the reversal of values in God’s community is a direct challenge where the values of the dominant culture, where wielding power over others is what makes you great. When we pray “your kingdom come” we are praying for an end to tyranny and oppression. We pray this gathered around the cross, a sign of great shame transformed to be the sign of great honor and service.

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God Graciously Loves

All three readings this weekend ring out with the gift of humility. Jeremiah, deeply hurt by those who sought to destroy him, still humbly leaves vengeance to the Lord. James exhorts believers not to think of themselves as wiser than anyone else, especially when the evidence of their lives was full of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. James urges the wise to repent and to exhibit the humility Christ demonstrated by being “peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” When Jesus makes clear that He is on a path that leads to humiliation on the cross, the disciples haughtily argue about who among them is the greatest. By this they demonstrate that they did not understand what Jesus was saying. Jesus then teaches that the greatest thing in life is to be the servant of all. And to show them the simplicity of it, He picks up a child and exhorts them to receive him in humility. We live in a world still ruled much of the time by brashness, boasting, and exulting in lording over others. At times we are tempted to treat others who are not Christians in these sinful ways. Yet these readings work together to show us another way to live – humbly trusting God.

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Jesus Opens Our Ears and Tongues

Every election cycle, millions upon millions of dollars are poured into campaigns across our land. Yard signs are displayed with candidates’ names imprinted in patriotic colors. Political pundits make their case for why their candidate is good and the other side’s is bad. Perhaps these are all warning signs that we can be tempted to put our trust in elected officials to save us from our woes, rather than in the Lord. Today’s Psalm reminds us, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation (Psalm 146:3). Rather than putting our trust in princes, politicians, and presidents, we put our trust in the Prince of Peace. Jesus Christ is the one, the only one, in whom there is salvation. Praise God!

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Taste and See

As we live out each day, we reflect on our faith in our words and actions. Each of us is an example of the Christian life as we struggle to live in forgiving love toward one another, and also as we continue to trust in the forgiveness Christ won for us.

In this weekend’s Epistle, Paul provides a list of what our life in Christ should look like because of our new birth in Baptism. In the Gospel, Jesus spells out the connection between receiving His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper and living in hope each day. He is the bread of life from heaven, who enables each of us to discard our old ways, live in the new life of God’s forgiving love, and adorn ourselves with gladness. Praise God!

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Jesus Is Our Peace

The Old Testament Reading for today speaks of Israel’s failed shepherds. They scattered the flock and failed to care for their people, yet Jeremiah records God’s promise of a righteous branch who would reign as King. That righteous one is the Good Shepherd, Jesus. In the Gospel, He fulfills the words of Psalm 23 by making the crowds of five thousand sit down in the green grass to be fed with five loaves and two fish. Jesus is the promised righteous Shepherd.

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