First Sunday in Lent Matthew 4:1-11

In Mark’s version of this story, a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”   The mission of Jesus began at that point.  Our baptism says who we are, and we have a mission, too.  I still think it is the most amazing thing that parents ask the church to give the one being baptized the totally new identity of being a child of God.  As Matthew tells his story, Jesus is now ready to carry out his mission.Continue Reading

Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017

This is the night of ashes. Whether last evening was a mini Mardi Gras here or a quiet time at home, or TV as usual, those times and opportunities are behind us.

Now comes the harsh truth. We are on the losing end of our talk with God on this night. Continue Reading

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 5:38-48

Several months ago, I took two daughters to my mother’s childhood home in Stanley county, about thirty miles east of Charlotte. About a mile south of Richfield, I turned in to somebody’s driveway as they asked, “Do you know where you’re going?”  I didn’t  answer because I was looking  for a hidden one-lane unpaved road downhill and then uphill for about a mile until we reached an old, old house.  “This is where your grandmother was born and lived until she married your grandfather.”   Then we had a really nice visit with my first cousin.  When I wonder who I am, I have to consider those roots.Continue Reading

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 5:21-37

My office at Roanoke College was next to Ray Brown, the director of alumni affairs. Frequently, as a fundraiser, he visited Lutheran pastors and congregations.  By pre-arrangement, the local pastor might take him to visit a wealthy prospective donor.  He was ordinarily unflappable. Nothing upset him.Continue Reading

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 5:13-20

I had wonderful Sunday School teachers. I learned that little song about that sweet story of old when Jesus was here, “how he called little children as lambs to his fold.  I should like to have been with him then.”  I wish all children could learn that song because I’ve known too many adults who argue with God.  We argue with God when he expects truth and we are not willing to be truthful about ourselves.Continue Reading

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 5:1-12

When I served a rather isolated congregation in Georgia, I sort of fell in with two pastors who were not Lutheran. We shared sorrows as well as the good times. Most pastors share burdens and sins with somebody. In one of our frank talks with each other, one of them said, “Brothers, I want to confess to you that I have broken the sixth commandment again and again – and the women are members of my congregation.  Can I be forgiven? Continue Reading

Third Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 4: 12 – 23

After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus was ready for a full disclosure of his message. He had one major theme: to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.

Human nature hasn’t changed over the centuries, and shortly after John spoke well of Jesus and approved his message, I’m sure many were asking, “Where is he from? What does his daddy do? And, “Who is his daddy?”  Matthew traced the ancestry of Jesus back to Abraham thru 42 generations of men with unpronounceable names.  You can’t do better than that even with Ancestry dot com.Continue Reading

Second Sunday after Epiphany John 1:29-42

When two disciples heard John declare Jesus to be the Lamb of God, something about him compelled them to go with Jesus. Do we also feel that compelling tug?  Let’s talk about individuals and congregations.   As you can imagine, other pastors and I regularly receive news from our synod headquarters in Salisbury. We have news about fellow pastors, about ordination for graduating seniors who have accepted calls, about health concerns for ailing pastors, deaths in our ranks. Continue Reading

Baptism of Our Lord Matthew 3:13-17

In my imagination, I visualize a young couple, married in 1926, who are bringing their three-month-old son to be baptized. The mother is three years younger than the father, who is 26.  Fast forward about 25 years and the mother is saying to her son, “I want you to have this certificate of your baptism by Pastor Miller at St. Johns.”Continue Reading

Name of Jesus Luke 2:15-21

 The instant I noticed that today’s “Celebrate” includes the option of the lesson from Philippians, I knew this sermon would preach itself because of my very special and personal involvement with a fellow pastor. It is rare, of course, when the first day of the New Year comes on Sunday.  And as soon as I saw the optional lesson from Philippians, I knew I wanted to tell you a true story about a certain man’s life and death and his funeral.Continue Reading