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Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sermon: "Are You Alive?" - 1 Corinthians 15:21-28
“Are you alive?” It was a tongue-in-cheek comment I made to my youngest, because she forgot to text me when she got home. But since that day, I get a message, “I am home, and I’m alive.” Good to know! I’m thinking about those texts in connection with what Paul writes about the Resurrection. “He must reign...”, meaning Christ is alive not only in the Resurrection, but in the world. Are we alive? We are when 1) the Old Adam is defeated; 2) all power is given to Christ and 3) death is destroyed, forever!

Good Friday, April 19, 2019

Sermon: "Were You There?"
On Good Friday, we’ll hear the seven words that Jesus spoke while on the cross. Those words take us to the scene where the Innocent one was punished for our sin. We were not there, but we’ll hear words directed to the crowd, to another who was crucified and to John and Mary. They were there, and with the words of Jesus, we are there spiritually so that we may know the great love God has for us.

Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sermon: "What is This Bread?"
On the night He was betrayed, the disciples of Jesus had a lot of questions. They asked, “Is it I?” when Jesus revealed that one of them was a traitor. In response to what Jesus told them was going to happen, they asked, “What is this?” In the midst of those questions, Jesus takes bread and blesses it and says, “This is My Body.” So, we ask today, “What is this bread?” and “What does this mean for us?”

Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sermon: "Is THIS our King?"

Four Spiritual Growth Sermon Series
INVITE! Series Three: “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"

Jesus is invited to the house of a Pharisee in Luke 14:1 and the next two chapters of the Gospel of Luke give us a series of stories about banquets and feasts. Then Jesus responds to people who criticize him for eating with sinners with a few more stories that teach us how amazing God's grace is. It all centers around a table. Why is that important? Because it reminds us not only of our invitation, but our work of inviting others to God's great Resurrection feast. As we prepare for Easter through the season of Lent, we are INVITED to sit at the table with Jesus and ponder our work for His Kingdom.
See the sermons in this series below (Invite! Series 1 was September - November 2018; Series 2 was January - March 2018):

Sunday, April 7, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 3.6

Sermon: “Invited by Amazing Grace” - Luke 15:11-32
Jesus is telling parables to a group of Pharisees who criticize Him for eating with sinners. In response, Jesus reminds them that God put us on earth to seek and to save the lost. But then comes the most profound illustration of just how far God would go to rescue each and every one of us. How amazing is grace? Let me tell you a story about a father who lost a son...
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 3.5

Sermon: “Invited to Seek the Lost” - Luke 15:1-10
This will probably be the strangest invitation you will ever receive! The call to be a disciple of Jesus comes with a command to denounce everything else in this world. What does Jesus mean by that? To understand, we may have to call in an expert Jesus follower who considered all things “rubbish” that he may share in Christ’s sufferings and also share in the resurrection (Philippians 3:7-8).

Sunday, March 24, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 3.4

Sermon: “Invited to Be A Disciple” - Luke 14:25-35
This will probably be the strangest invitation you will ever receive! The call to be a disciple of Jesus comes with a command to denounce everything else in this world. What does Jesus mean by that? To understand, we may have to call in an expert Jesus follower who considered all things “rubbish” that he may share in Christ’s sufferings and also share in the resurrection (Philippians 3:7-8).

Sunday, March 17, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 3.3

Sermon: “Invited to the Great Banquet” - Luke 14: 15-24
Excuses, excuses! That is the story Jesus tells while He is at the table with religious teachers. When people refuse the invitation of a king, the servants are sent to the “highways and the hedges” to fill the banquet hall. Of course, since it is the day to honor him, we may share some stories of how St. Patrick did that in his day.

Sunday, March 10, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 3.2

Sermon: “Invited to the Wedding Feast" - Luke 14:7-14
Teaching by parable and proverb, Jesus challenges the Pharisees who liked to be noticed and to sit in the important seats around the table. His words also remind us of how we are to humble ourselves before others. On the one hand, it’s not about you. On the other hand, it’s all about God’s love for you!

Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 3.1

Sermon: “Invited to Dinner" - Luke 14:1-6
When Jesus is invited to dinner on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are watching Him. What is the conflict between these two? Why are the Pharisees concerned with healing on the Sabbath day? And what does Jesus teach them about the right way to obey God? As we begin the season of Lent, we learn from Jesus that obedience goes deeper than just our actions. We cannot do God's will on earth without love.

Four Spiritual Growth Sermon Series
INVITE: Series Two

For the second series in a special campaign to INVITE! people in and around Bethany to work together in ministry, we'll look at 1 Corinthians 12-15. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church at a time when there was a lot of conflict in that community. His words help us understand the way we were called, gathered and inspired by the Holy Spirit for a purpose in God's Kingdom. During this series, the sermons and Sunday School lessons will match each other so we learn each Sunday as a family.
See the other sermons in this series below (Invite Series One was September - November 2018):

Transfiguration Sunday
March 3, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 2.7

Sermon: “Together in Christ” - 1 Corinthians 15:50-58
Listen again as Paul tells us a mystery that we will not sleep, but we will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet! Our life together as a church flows from our redemption and resurrection in Christ, and because of Christ, it is a fellowship that continues even after this life is over.
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
February 24, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 2.7

Sermon: “Alive Together” - 1 Corinthians 15:21-28
“Are you alive?” It was a tongue-in-cheek question I asked my youngest, because she forgot to text me when she got home. But since that day, I get a message, “I am home, and I'm alive.” Good to know! I'm thinking about those texts in connection with what Paul writes about the Resurrection. “He must reign...”, meaning Christ is alive not only in the Resurrection, but in the world. And part of our Life Together as a church is to be alive in Christ. Are we alive? We are when 1) the Old Adam is defeated, 2) all power is given to Christ, and 3) death is destroyed.

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
February 17, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 2.6

Sermon: “Witness Together” - 1 Corinthians 15:1-20
We get to the end of 1 Corinthians, today, and wind up Paul's masterful teaching to the church in Corinth with some Easter joy breaking into the Epiphany season! Here Paul writes, “...what I received I passed on to you as of first importance....”! What is of “first importance” is the testimony of Christ's resurrection that lives in our community and must keep on living by being passed down and shared until the day when Jesus comes again.

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 10, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 2.5

Sermon: “Worship Together” - 1 Corinthians 14
Building his argument from the previous chapter, Paul begins 1 Corinthians 14 with the words “pursue love” and then describes this pursuit in the use of a church's spiritual gifts (which are described in chapter 12) in worship. The service he describes which involves tongues and prophecy seems strange and alien compared to our worship today. But maybe that is because the Christian Church has had centuries to employ the basic principals that Paul outlines in this chapter, that worship should be 1) understandable and in 2) good order. And let's add one more thing to the list based on Psalm 150, which is that worship to God is also filled with joy because of the gifts we receive in this time.

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
February 3, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 2.4

Sermon: “Holding Together” - 1 Corinthians 13
It is not yet St. Valentine’s Day, but this Sunday, we’ll encounter the familiar words “Love is patient, love is kind...." Paul continues to describe how life together works for God’s people with some very important, practical words on how the whole church holds together. The bond is none other than the self-sacrificing love of Jesus that 1) gives the church life; 2) gives the church meaning and 3) keeps the church working.

Third Sunday after Epiphany
January 27, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 2.3

Sermon: “Working Together” - 1 Corinthians 12:12-33
In the Body of Christ, the eye cannot say to the foot, “I don’t need you.” Paul’s point is that in order for the church to even begin to function, we need each other. That point is illustrated in a masterful way by looking at how God created each of us. God created the church in the same way – with a number of parts that are all different, but work together. Following the Apostle’s teaching, we’ll see how the church lives and moves in this world as the Body of Christ.

Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 20, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 2.2

Sermon: “Gifted Together” - 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The first part of 1 Corinthians chapter 12 is all about receiving gifts from God. In the first chapters of this letter and all the way throughout, Paul is addressing the divisions in the congregation. They are gifted in a number of ways, but selfish, it seems. Their hearts need to be turned toward God and toward each other. So, Paul is choosing his words carefully when he defines what their gifts are and what they are to be used for. The gifts in any church are 1) from the Spirit; 2) given by grace; and 3) intended for the common good.

First Sunday after Epiphany
The Baptism of Our Lord
January 13, 2019
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series: INVITE!
Series 2.1

Sermon: “Together in Baptism”
Romans 6:4 - We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
This Sunday, we'll be looking at the Small Catechism we use to instruct families in the faith. In particular, we'll discuss just how people become part of the family by way of baptism. It seems a good starting point to begin another spiritual growth series that INVITES people to serve the Lord in and around Bethany. Life together begins with water and The Word and continues when we remember our Baptism every day.

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas

The story of Christmas was told long before the shepherds of Bethlehem were watching their flocks by night. Centuries earlier, God reveals the plan for our salvation at times of extraordinary change and challenge for His people. The message God sends through His prophets gives us ways to meet the challenges of our day while keeping the hope and joy of Christmas alive in our hearts.
Join us at Bethany Lutheran Church beginning Sunday, December 2 and continuing through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Epiphany Sunday (January 6) as we celebrate how God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, and how He now speaks to us by the Son those prophets foretold (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Read about the sermons in this series below:

Epiphany Sunday
January 13, 2019

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas - Isaiah 60:1-6
"Light for The Nations" - “Arise! Shine! For your light has come,” says Isaiah. The promised child in Isaiah 60 brings the light of the Gospel into the world and on Epiphany Sunday, we celebrate the light that shines for all nations to find it. Wise men still seek him today when we shine the light!
Read more about this sermon series below.

First Sunday after Christmas
December 30, 2018

On the one hand, you might say that I am taking a break from preaching this Sunday. But, on the other hand, I've actually been working on this meditation off and on over the past year! At this special service, you will be asked to pick out your favorite Christmas carol from the hymnal. I've been gathering some information on each of those carols throughout the year, so each year we do this special service, we'll likely end up with a different set of meditations. God's Holy Spirit will lead us to the songs we most need at this time, I am sure. Come and prepare for the New Year with a special service of worship and praise in the middle of the Christmas season!

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas

The story of Christmas was told long before the shepherds of Bethlehem were watching their flocks by night. Centuries earlier, God reveals the plan for our salvation at times of extraordinary change and challenge for His people. The message God sends through His prophets gives us ways to meet the challenges of our day while keeping the hope and joy of Christmas alive in our hearts.
Join us at Bethany Lutheran Church beginning Sunday, December 2 and continuing through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Epiphany Sunday (January 6) as we celebrate how God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, and how He now speaks to us by the Son those prophets foretold (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Read about the sermons in this series below:

Epiphany Sunday
January 6, 2019

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas - Isaiah 60:1-6
"Light for The Nations" - “Arise! Shine! For your light has come,” says Isaiah. The promised child in Isaiah 60 brings the light of the Gospel into the world and on Epiphany Sunday, we celebrate the light that shines for all nations to find it. Wise men still seek him today when we shine the light!
Read more about this sermon series below.

Christmas Day
December 25, 2018

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas - Ezekiel 43:1-5
"Glory of the Lord" - A prophet in exile away from his homeland saw a vision as he dwelt with his fellow exiles. The glory had departed from the Temple in the city that was his home, and now he... wait a minute! This isn't a Christmas story, is it? Where are the cute animals and lovable, goofy shepherds? An Old Testament prophecy doesn't quite have that “Christmas” thing, does it? Well, it does have one thing – the glory of the Lord returning to His people. That connects to what we hear in John's Gospel on Christmas Day, that God came down to dwell (or “tabernacle”) with His people. John's response is “we have seen His glory!” And now at Christmas and all through the year, we too see His glory and dwell on the mystery of how our God can so humbly come to His people in our worship.

Christmas Eve
December 24, 2018

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas - Isaiah 9:2-7
"Prince of Peace" - Do you hear what I hear? In Isaiah's day, the prophet brought news to the king. Because of his stubbornness and hard heart, God would give a sign so that he would know God is for real. A wondrous child will be born, and a son would be given! Even centuries before there was Christmas, there was anxiety and fear all around, just as there has been every year since. But on a silent, still night, God gives to us the peace that the world cannot give. The greatest gift of all! Do you hear what I hear? The animals, the angels and the shepherds have all seen this wondrous child who gives us heavenly peace.

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 23, 2018

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas - Micah 5:2-5a
"City of the King" - What does it mean when you are from the smallest clan in a large nation? Who will notice you if you live in a small “city,” like Bethlehem? Just ask a shepherd boy, the youngest and least noticeable of all his many brothers. Being the least only worked in his favor when God selected him as king. Centuries later, a prophet sees that God's plan will once again involve Bethlehem, hinting that the people you will most want to pay attention to may be easily overlooked.

Third Sunday in Advent
December 16, 2018

"This Sunday (December 16), our Sunday School will share with us the first of several opportunities to meditate on the manger scene. This year, they will do so with the simple program, "Christ the Savior is Born!". Students of Bethany Lutheran Preschool are welcome to come and even participate, this Sunday. A special breakfast will be prepared at 8:45 a.m. for all families in our Sunday School and Preschool to fellowship with one another. Then, the following Wednesday (December 19), we will have a special early midweek worship led by the Preschool children who will again tell us about the Christ Child in their own way. Don't forget the cookies and treats after the service, which is bound to attract a certain special visitor.

Second Sunday in Advent
December 9, 2018

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas - Malachi 3:1-7b
"A Refining Fire" - Fire can mean devastation and destruction, but it can also bring purity and life. God’s Messenger who appears at the end of one testimony, looking to the time that was to come, tells us about a purifying fire. What needs to be destroyed? What will emerge from the flames? Will those who receive the message be the people who are ready to receive their God?

First Sunday in Advent
December 2, 2018

Sermon Series: The Prophets of Christmas - Jeremiah 33:14-16
“A Growing Hope” - Jeremiah is sometimes known as the “weeping prophet” because in the city of Jerusalem, he is given visions of death and destruction that he will one day witness. The people in the city put the prophet in prison, but that did not stop the Word of God. In the oracle we will hear the first Sunday in Advent, the prophet sees further and God gives His people hope that no matter what happens, His ancient promises will not be broken. Even though the tree of Jesse’s line is dying along with the Davidic kingdom, there will be a king who restores righteousness. Jeremiah may have wept for his day, but his hope was growing with the branch who is "The Lord, our Righteousness."

Thanksgiving Day
November 22, 2018

Each year, after the President of the United States issues a proclamation calling on American citizens at home and abroad to set aside the fourth Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving, we respond at Bethany Lutheran Church by doing this the best way we know how. When we gather together for worship, each year, I like to ask the congregation what they are thankful for as part of the sermon. This year, I'd like to frame that testimony with words of Psalm 147. I was inspired to use this Psalm after reading a little known sermon from Charles Spurgeon from a sermon book called "Talks to Farmers." I intend to follow the Rev. Spurgeon's outline and meditate first on God's gracious work by nature and then use the same words from the Psalm to talk about God's gracious work by the Holy Spirit. In between, the congregation will be invited to testify about God's work in our lives and give thanks for the blessings we enjoy from His Almighty hand.

26th Sunday after Pentecost
November 18, 2018
“Pray for The Harvest: Good Stewardship in Busy Times” Matthew 9:37-38, Daniel 12:3

Jesus says to “pray to the Lord of the Harvest” because the “workers are few.” Who are the laborers in the field? Daniel sees a vision of stars and those that “lead many to righteousness.” The work to bring many to righteousness involves a lot of what we are called to do in the church. While there are times when the labor and work feels hard and intense, the rewards of that work find their way from heaven to earth and back again when people are touched with the love of Jesus. Knowing that, how do we find the time for this labor in the midst of everything else God would have us do?

25th Sunday after Pentecost
Veterans' Day
November 11, 2018
“Faith during Famine: Good Stewardship in Challenging Times” 1 Kings 17

After preaching in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus encounters resistance and doubts. So He hints that the scope of his coming work goes beyond Israel’s borders when he says, “though there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the heavens were shut up three years and six months and a great famine came over the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but on to Zaraphath in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” What is the story of this widow? She had struggles and doubts too, but through God’s power she finds faith that sees her through a famine. Through her witness, we may also find ways to be faithful when God calls on us to give of ourselves in challenging times.

This Sunday is also Veteran's Day - a national observance to pause, reflect, and thank those who have served our nation. This year is also the centennial remembrance of "the war to end all wars", World War I, and that is reflected in this year's VA poster.

Four Spiritual Growth Sermon Series
Series One, September-November 2018: INVITE!

The word “Invite” was one of four words our leaders chose when we were led through a process called “Congregational Renewal” at Bethany Lutheran Church. We were asked what were our “non-negotiables” were, meaning what are the characteristics of our congregation. After many affirmations and challenges, we came up with four words that became the short version of our mission statement. They are: Invite, Celebrate, Serve and Grow.
In a special campaign, this year, we hope to study the word “Invite” as we look at God’s Word and all our ministries at Bethany. As we do so, please pray about how we can INVITE everyone in and around Bethany to serve the Lord with us.
See other sermons in this series below:

24th Sunday after Pentecost
All Saints' Day Sunday
November 4, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.9

There are lots of reasons to celebrate this Sunday! On the Sunday following All Saints Day we praise God for the way He has connected together the mystical body of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. We give thanks for the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting! What a blessing to be a part of the communion of saints, and this Sunday we'll read the first part of Matthew 5 and count those blessings!

23rd Sunday after Pentecost
Reformation Sunday
October 28, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.8

“Have mercy!” It is the cry of a blind man, but it could be anyone in this world. We need God’s mercy in our families, in our country, in our church and in our community. How does our Lord respond when His people cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”? We see an example in the Gospel of Mark that may inspire us to invite others to experience the same mercy we receive.

This Sunday we also celebrate the anniversary of the Reformation and the date when a monk named Martin nailed 95 points for debate on the castle church door. It does not sound like an exciting event, but it led to a lot of social change in Europe, not to mention the formation of a certain church that today invites everyone to know our salvation is a free gift given out of God's mercy.

22nd Sunday after Pentecost
October 21, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.7

After predicting His coming death and resurrection for the third time, Jesus is confronted with yet another argument among the disciples about who will be first in the coming kingdom. There is a mission critical element that they are missing from all of the instruction Jesus has been giving in the last two chapters of Mark. So once again Jesus uses the dispute among the disciples as a teachable moment to say, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

21st Sunday after Pentecost
October 14, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.6

Ah, to be described with the two adjectives that are attached to the person in today’s text. Those adjectives are “rich” and “young.” This person would seem to have the things needed to enjoy life to the fullest. But there is something lacking and it makes this person sad when he walks away from the Teacher. What was it that Jesus was trying to teach? We are invited to draw near to the Master’s wisdom to perhaps find the happiness that eluded this rich, young person.

20th Sunday after Pentecost
October 7, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.5

It seems no accident that immediately after Jesus is confronted with a hard question about divorce, He makes a scene when the disciples turn away children from their master. The Gospels record Jesus being “indignant.” Our Lord confronts both situations with the clear Word of God to show that marriage and children are a part of God’s good creation for the good of us all. The design of creation echoes God’s love, which we also see in His ultimate plan to claim us for His family.

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 30, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.4

We are invited to see God’s protection of His “little ones” throughout these chapters of Mark. As we conclude Mark 9, we learn some hard teachings Jesus gave about stumbling blocks, but we are encouraged as we remember that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Remembering Jesus, we can invite others to draw near to His grace and mercy.

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 23, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.3

“What were you arguing about?” Jesus asks His disciples. Ashamed, they do not answer, but Jesus knows that they were arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the new kingdom. Through our Lord's teaching, we are invited to see how God works through the small and humble, and through any of us who have a humble heart by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 16, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.2

After we start with God’s glory, we are invited to see God’s power at work in Jesus. When they come down from the mountain, Jesus sees His disciples struggling with a problem that He says can only be resolved by prayer. In the midst of this conflict, a father utters a prayer that many of us may relate to: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” Only Jesus has the power to increase our faith. May the Lord teach us to believe and pray by the power of His Holy Spirit!

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost - Rally Day
September 9, 2018
Spiritual Growth Sermon Series INVITE!
Series 1.1

In this first series of “Invite,” we will spend time in the Gospel of Mark chapters 9 and 10, where Jesus teaches about discipleship in astonishing ways. In week one, we are invited to see God’s glory on the mountaintop. A view of this glory helps the disciples of Jesus to prepare to travel a road filled with sacrifice.
This Sunday, we celebrate the beginning of Bethany’s Sunday School on Rally Day. Our Sunday School for all ages will be covering the same lessons as the sermon, each week, so that we can learn together as a family how to INVITE everyone to serve Jesus with our Bethany family.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2018

Before we begin the first leg of our spiritual growth series, how do we get ready? On Labor Day weekend, the assigned Epistle reading is Ephesians 6 where Paul teaches us how to put on the whole armor of God. Get ready to INVITE everyone to grow with Bethany Lutheran this fall as we put on our armor and sing, “Onward, then, ye faithful, Join our happy throng. Blend with ours your voices In the triumph song...Onward Christian soldiers...”!

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Blessing of the Backpacks
August 26, 2018

First Thoughts: In our corner of Virginia, it is time for children to head back to school. It is also time for us to welcome parents and children to our Preschool at Bethany Lutheran. Whether this change is met with cheers or groans, this time of year provides a moment to think of the responsibilities God gives to all of us to treasure and teach diligently His Word. The words of Moses give us a nice outline to consider just where and when to do that. We are to be diligent when we are in our homes, walking by the way, laying down and rising up (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 19, 2018

Sermon: “Words of Life” - John 6:51-69
First Thoughts: "Do you take offense at this?" asks the Master. After the feeding of the 5,000, and a series of difficult teachings about "The Bread of Life", many of the disciples leave. "Do you want to go away as well?" The Twelve stay by their Master's side as Peter confesses that Jesus has the words that bring life. Let's take a close look at these words and know better the ways the Holy Spirit helps us through doubts and difficult times in our lives.

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
July 29, 2018

Sermon: “Words of Promise” - Genesis 9:15
First Thoughts: The pinky swear, the crossed heart, and the reassuring word like “you can count on me” are ways we feebly try to give our word. Oftentimes we fail, so what do those words really mean? However, when the God of all creation gives His Word, there is power! In Genesis 9, when that word is given with the sign of the rainbow, we learn so much about God’s character. So powerful is this rainbow promise that it was made not just with people, but with every living thing; not only for a short time, but for all time; and it was not dependent on any condition, but only on God’s unconditional love. The rainbow conveys this promise with truth and light. The truth is seen in the physical sign of God’s grace, and the light of that grace gives our existence color and life. God keeps this and every promise in Christ Jesus, so that every time we look at a rainbow, we see God’s love for us. The sermon this Sunday will be preached at both the 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. worship services.

Three-Part Sermon Series:
"The Prophets of Renewal"
July 1 to 15, 2018

Life can take unexpected turns and leave us questioning our hope, our calling and our direction. Fortunately, God never abandons us to be without hope, or without direction, or even without a calling to serve Him. This July, we will hear from three prophets who preached renewal in times of extreme challenge. May God grant we "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" their words and find refreshment in the power of God's Holy Spirit.
The sermons in this series are below:

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 15, 2018
Sermon Series: "The Prophets of Renewal" - Part Three

Sermon: “Renewed Commitment” - Amos 7
A plumb line is a straight measure. If a wall is built without it, it will probably be crooked and it may easily collapse. God gives us a straight measure to build our lives in His Word. The trouble is, we often fail to live according to God’s plan for our lives, and we easily collapse. God sent His prophets to bring people back to holy living, and we have their words today to better our lives, our families, and even our communities. Not only that, but God sent us a Master Builder to coach us along the way.

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 8, 2018
Sermon Series: "The Prophets of Renewal" - Part Two

Sermon: “Renewed Calling” - Ezekiel 2
Ezekiel’s first calling was to be a priest serving in the Temple of Jerusalem. But everything changed when the armies of Babylon invaded and he was taken captive. Sitting in a foreign land, Ezekiel gets a new calling to prophecy to the captives in a time away from the Temple and the worship that they all knew. There was no guarantee of success, but God gives Ezekiel the two things he needs so that people are aware a prophet is among them: the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Can God’s Word and the Holy Spirit also renew our various callings to serve in the church and in the world?

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 1, 2018
Sermon Series: "The Prophets of Renewal" - Part One

Sermon: “Renewed Mercies” - Lamentations 3
The prophet Jeremiah is the likely author of Lamentations – a book collecting the lament of a heavy soul grieving the loss of his city and his people. Even in the midst of utter loss, the prophet refuses to give up all hope. The reason? Love is in the very character of God, so there must be a time when God’s mercies are renewed.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2018

Sermon: “God's Answer”
In the first lesson appointed for the day, God answers Job out of the whirlwind. Which should make one wonder, what was the question or complaint that led to God’s response? I will warn you ahead of time, it is an age old quandary and God does not answer it in the way that most people want Him to. Nonetheless, exploring both the challenge of Job and the answer of God can lead us to better understand the nature of faith.

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Father's Day
June 17, 2018

Since he will be in town, I have asked my dad, Pastor Wayne Jagow, to be our guest preacher for this day. In his retirement, he has spent some more time growing things in his garden and tending his fruit trees. I mention that because the Gospel lesson of the day has two of the “kingdom” parables of Jesus that connect to growing things. And, as I suspected, Dad's sermon is “A Lesson in Planting From the Promised Land”, based on Mark 4:26-34.

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 3, 2018

Sermon: “Rest and Re-Create”
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you - Deuteronomy 5:12
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. – Hebrews 4:9-10
First Thoughts: On this day, a longtime member of the Bethany staff will be retiring, and it so happens that the lectionary readings focus on the “Sabbath rest.” Some people would call that a coincidence, but I see the work of the Holy Spirit. It also helps us to consider and give thanks for the ability to work and the gift of rest God designed into His creation. We know that “there is a time for everything,” so it is important to take the time God gives us to rest in His presence.

Ascention of Our Lord (Observed)
May 13, 2018

Sermon: “What Happened at BETHANY?”
First Thoughts: It is not often we see our church’s name in the Bible, so when it comes up in one of the regular readings, I think we should take note in order to get a better look at our namesake. We’ll read both Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1: 3-5 and maybe get a better idea of why our church has taken the name of a little village outside Jerusalem.
Sermon Text (from Acts & Luke): He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Confirmation Sunday
May 6, 2018

The main message for the day will be heard and seen in the presentations by the three Confirmads who will all confess their faith in Jesus in words and visuals. On Confirmation Sunday, we celebrate their faith even as we recommit ourselves to work in God's Kingdom.
For “Pastor’s Last Words” I will offer a meditation on 1 John 5:4-5: For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Four-Part Sermon Series:
"Thinking Outside the Box Church"
April 8 to 29, 2018

I can think of a lot of ways the title of this sermon series can be misunderstood. I certainly do not mean that what we do inside the church is irrelevant or of no importance. Actually, it is the exact opposite. If inside the church there is life and salvation and strength for living given to us each week, then it is extremely important. We confess in the Nicene Creed that the church is one, holy and apostolic. Apostolic means that we preserve the faith of the apostles, but also their mission as people sent into the world with the Gospel. If we are sent into the world, then we cannot keep the faith just inside the church. Somehow, that faith has to get out. As God would have it, the Gospel lessons in the first part of the Easter season have these wonderful encounters with people who are welcomed into the faith. We start the season with Thomas (skeptics welcome!), the other disciples who will be sent into the world (witnesses welcome!), those who are identified by Jesus as not in the sheep pen (lost sheep welcome!) and then a look at all the branches that keep growing (all are welcome!). In this journey through the Gospels of Easter, I think we’ll find that what we do inside the church is not only important, but eternally significant. So, may the Holy Spirit help us think of ways we can welcome all people with the Good News of our Risen Christ.
Previous sermons in this series are below:

Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 29, 2018

Sermon Series: "Thinking Outside the Box Church"
Sermon: "All are Welcome" - John 15:1-8
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus spoke to His disciples about “remaining” in Him. If they remain, they will receive strength and be productive as branches of the vine. Disciples today cannot hope to bear much fruit on the vine if we do not “remain” in Christ. What does this mean and how can producing fruit bring more branches to the vine?

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2018

Sermon Series: "Thinking Outside the Box Church"
Sermon: "Lost Sheep Welcome" - John 10:11-18
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and the Good Shepherd says, “I have other sheep who are not in this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” What is a lost sheep? Some may look at the church and say, “I don't think I belong there.” Now there is an assumption that needs to be challenged! Why do some people feel that they belong and others feel they do not? There is so much our Good Shepherd provides for us, and hopefully those of us gathered today know that we shall find peace and joy in His presence. How can those outside the pen hear His voice as well?

Third Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2018

Sermon Series: "Thinking Outside the Box Church"
Sermon: "Witnesses Welcome" - Luke 24:36-49
The disciples gathered Easter night, and tried to lock out the world. The Gospel of Luke then records how frightened they were when Jesus appeared among them. They could not lock Jesus out, much to their joy. Soon, they would be ready to go out into the world, again. In two short paragraphs, the Gospel of Luke shows us how the disciples went from being afraid to being witnesses. They needed the presence of Jesus, His Word in their hearts and minds, and one final ingredient that they were to get, later – “the Promise of My Father,” Jesus says.

Second Sunday of Easter
April 8, 2018

Sermon Series: "Thinking Outside the Box Church"
Sermon: "Skeptics Welcome" - John 20:19-31
Thomas is proof that even those who count themselves among the faithful sometimes have difficulty taking things just on faith. Thomas did not believe those who said they saw Jesus, but remained skeptical until he saw Jesus for himself. We are told by John, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” Who are the skeptical today and how do we guide them so that they can be led to see the wounds of Christ and believe? For that matter, where do the faithful go to have their faith strengthened? That is a lot of questions to ask, but one of the points I hope people leave with is that our church is a safe place to ask questions.

Sermon Series for Holy Week 2018
The Doxology that we say in The Lord's Prayer has been used in Christian worship since at least the second century. The words, "For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours forever and ever" are taken from a prayer of King David's in 1 Chronicles 29. The doxology gives a threefold reason to say "Amen" in any of our prayers. Only God reigns as King over all creation to hear our prayers, only God has the power to grant our requests, and when prayers are answered, all glory goes to God alone. Because the kingdom, the power and the glory belong to our God, we say "Amen!" - "Let it be so!" - with confidence and faith.

Maundy Thursday
March 29, 2018

Sermon: "Thine is the Kingdom"
When Jesus began His ministry, He said, "The kingdom of God has come near." And then on Palm Sunday, He was greeted with shouts and waving branches like a conquering king. But the kingdom people were looking for was not one that brought earthly power and gain. So there was a plot to betray and kill the humble King. Which is exactly how the Kingdom came! Today we live in the reign of Christ our King and still bring our King's humble service to the world as we have been commanded, "Love one another, as I have loved you."

Good Friday
March 30, 2018

Sermon: "The Power"
God is all-powerful. And we may think we know what that means. The ability to do anything anywhere anytime? But that is not how God displayed His power in Jesus. Our Lord demonstrated awesome power by laying it aside. The greatest power God could show this sad, sinful world is the power of His love.

Easter Sunday
April 1, 2018

Sermon: "The Glory, Forever"
In the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice musical, "Jesus Christ Superstar", Simon the Zealot leads a large crowd dancing around Jesus. He sings that when Jesus overthrows the Romans, then he'll "get the power and the glory, forever and ever and ever." After the frenzied dance is finished, Jesus responds: "Neither you Simon, nor the fifty thousand, nor the Romans, nor the Jews, nor the priests, nor the scribes, nor doomed Jerusalem itself: understand what power is, understand what glory is, understand at all, understand at all."
    It is too bad that the musical ends with Good Friday. The unending love of God was indeed shown in the way that our Lord went to the cross to take all of our shame and guilt. But then on Easter Sunday, we see the glory of God as the grave lies empty and the disciples testify that Christ is risen! We understand what true glory is because Jesus gives us the victory over death; Jesus prepares for us a place in His home, forever; Jesus shines in our lives, even now. May our prayers forever be filled with faith because with our Savior, all things are possible! To God be the glory, Amen!

Sermon Series: "The PRAYER Protocols"
February 14 to March 25, 2018

For by his Word, God testifies that our prayer is heartily pleasing to him and will assuredly be heard and granted, so that we may not despise it, cast it to the winds, or pray uncertainly. – Martin Luther, the Large Catechism.
The 40 day season of Lent was designed from ancient times around prayer. Originally, this would be a time for people to study the faith and practices of the church, prior to being baptized at Easter. Today, it is a time for the whole church to return to the Lord and reclaim the ways of faith, beginning with prayer.
See more below:

Palm Sunday
March 25, 2018

Sermon Series: "The PRAYER Protocols"
Part 7: "Deliverance"
“Deliver us from evil.” What does this mean? A fireman reaches out to grab your hand. You are lifted onto his back while the flames erupt all around, smoke fills your lungs and the wood beams above begin cracking. With strength and speed you are delivered out to the grass in front of your home, alive. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are acknowledging God as our rescuer. He has already stretched out His hand and delivered us out of the fires of hell, forever. But while the devil, the world and even our sinful flesh are still active in the world, we still need the strength of God’s everlasting arms to rescue us.
Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 18, 2018

Sermon Series: "The PRAYER Protocols"
Part 6: "Temptation"
"Lead us not into temptation." What does this mean? We can walk in some dark places in this world. In that darkness lies unrelenting anger, addictions that cling fiercely and shattered relationships on every side, among many other dangers. Yet, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God never leaves our side. His Holy Spirit fights for us and in all our struggles in the dark, God is there to light the way. The Lord is our light and our salvation, so instead of fear, we pray the prayer of our Lord and face the darkness with courage, ready for the fight. God will show us the way because He has already been to the deepest darkness and come back. That is the power that is always by our side.

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 11, 2018

Sermon Series: "The PRAYER Protocols"
Part 5: "Forgiveness"
“Forgive us our sins.” What does this mean? For that answer we zoom in on a word we say a lot, but seldom think deeply on its meaning – the word “sin.” Sin is a thought, word, or action, sure. It is also what we do and what fail to do. But what is the effect? Sin separates us from God and from each other. The cross of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can bridge that gap and reconcile us to God and to each other. Jesus has us pray for forgiveness to not only acknowledge our need to receive this gift, but also our need to forgive others. When we refuse to forgive, then we demonstrate how little we know about how deep the Father’s love for us is.

Third Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018

Sermon Series: "The PRAYER Protocols"
Part 4: "Daily Bread"
“Give us today, our daily bread.” What does this mean? The 1970s saw the Gospel of Matthew adapted for Broadway in the musical, “Godspell”. A little before my time, but the music still resonates with me, especially the scene where Jesus teaches about the “Lilies of the field” in the middle of the song, “All Good Gifts.” “All good gifts around us,” the people sing, “are sent from heaven above. So thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all His love.” Love is what opens the hand of our Heavenly Father to provide every good thing. Love is what sustains us from day to day. That same love is given human form in Jesus who is “the Bread of Life”. Praying the Lord’s Prayer is a way for us to acknowledge how God’s love surrounds us and helps us to expect these good gifts from heaven above.
See more below:

Second Sunday in Lent
February 25, 2018

Sermon Series: "The PRAYER Protocols"
Part 3: "Thy Kingdom Come"
What does this mean? Most of us look around at the world and know something is wrong. In our minds this may be confirmed when we hear news of school shootings, addiction, starvation and other horrors coloring the world in dark shades. What if there were no cruelty, but only kindness? What if we lived in a world where people did not have to be afraid of each other and everyone tried to look out for their neighbor? Such a world would exist if not for people rebelling against the will of God. It is God’s will that we live free of suffering and surrounded by His love. This is the kingdom. It is where we are heading. But, there is something else. In the prayer protocols Jesus gave to us, we pray for the kingdom to come to us.

First Sunday in Lent
February 18, 2018

Sermon Series: "The PRAYER Protocols"
Part 2: "Attitudes Toward Prayer"
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
Do we sometimes ask ourselves why our prayers are never answered? It is our attitudes that affect our prayers. Selfishness, pride, arrogance, and all forbidden behaviors affect our prayer life. Godly attitude or character leads you to pray prayers that please God. James tells us that we ask but do not receive because we ask with wrong motives so that we may spend it on our passion or pleasures (James 4:2-3). But Jabez’s integrity opens the door to God’s abundant blessings (1 Chron. 4:10). His earnest desire was to be used by God more than anything else. He was not thinking of himself but was thinking about the welfare of others.
Is that your prayer and desire? Is there a longing, a craving inside of you, to be used by God no matter what it takes? Are you living only for yourself at this time, or do you want God to use your life in this world? Do you want to be blessed by God to be a blessing? If so, then pray that God would grant you the right attitude towards prayer.

Ash Wednesday
February 14, 2018

Sermon Series: "The PRAYER Protocols"
Part 1: "Holy is Your Name"
First Thoughts: What does this mean? God’s name is holy without our prayer, as He dwells in heaven, inapproachable for sinful creatures. And yet, He lovingly gives us His holy name. The power this gives to our prayers is unimaginable, and yet how often do we neglect or misuse that same holy name of God? This Ash Wednesday, we hear the call to return to the Lord, our God and call on His holy name for forgiveness and a life dedicated to His love.

Transfiguration Sunday
February 11, 2018

Sermon: "Keep Going, Elijah" - 2 Kings 2:1-12
First Thoughts: This Sunday, we read the account in the Gospels of Moses and Elijah meeting the glorified Christ on a mountain top. The appointed Old Testament lesson helps us to zoom in on the person of Elijah and his last moments here on earth.
The Bible just says that Elijah was "taken up" as opposed to the prophet dying. What I find interesting here is that Elijah many years earlier prayed, "O Lord, take my life..." (1 Kings 19:4). God's answer was to feed the prophet at the hand of an angel and then speak to him in a still, small voice to tell him how the powers that were pursuing Elijah would be overthrown and how God would call a successor who would receive Elijah's mantel. Eventually, the Lord would "take" Elijah - just not in the way he (or any reader of 2 Kings) expected.
This week's sermon will look at how God encouraged Elijah to keep going through the pain of His life until the day he saw the "chariots and horsemen of Israel." God assured the prophet through:
1) the real presence
2) the chosen successor and
3) the company of believers.

Sermon Series: "Prophecy in A Minor Key"
Reading the Prophets of the 8th Century B.C. in Five Parts
January 7 to February 4, 2018

Two years ago, when Bethany Lutheran read through the Bible in a series called “The Story”, we covered the 8th Century B.C. in about two weeks. It is a time in the Bible that is well worth revisiting. The 8th century sees a lot of political upheaval and change in the world, but through it all, God is at work through the prophets to lead His people back to Him. In the season of Epiphany, we consider how God sends light into a dark world to show His truth, love and grace. It is in this season we'll consider how the prophets shone the light of truth in their world and how that truth applies to us, today.
Throughout this series, the focus will remain on the so-called minor prophets, whose work happens around the major prophet of the century, the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah's prophecy comes up throughout the church year fairly often, but we do not often get the chance to explore the worlds of Amos, Micah and Hosea. While all these minor prophets strike a chord to signal oncoming disaster, there is also a strain of hope that God will not abandon His people, and will continue to work in this world for the day of His appearing that will lead all nations to His grace. That hope comes into greater focus at the end of the 8th century, when God turns back the major world power of that day from the city of Jerusalem. For that story, we'll shift the key from minor to major and hear the words of Isaiah during the reign of King Hezekiah.
See more below:

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 4, 2018

Sermon: Prophecy in A Minor Key, Part 5 - "Isaiah"
First Thoughts: The 8th Century B.C. brought a hundred years of upheaval and change around the ancient world. The nation of Assyria rose to a major power and swept like a plague of locusts across the nation of Israel, destroying the capital city of Samaria and sweeping down upon the coastal cities of the Philistines. Next they march on Judah and surround the holy city of Jerusalem. The same prophet Isaiah who had warned against alliances with Assyria before is there by the side of the king. Years before, King Ahaz turned a deaf ear to God’s prophet. What would King Hezekiah do with the enemy at the gates? We’ll look at Isaiah 36-37 as we shift from minor key to major and celebrate that the same God who rescued His people then, reveals His love by giving us the victory through Jesus Christ, today.

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
January 28, 2018

Sermon: Prophecy in A Minor Key, Part 4 - "Hosea"
First Thoughts: A man of God comes to the public place where business is done. Another man meets him and in front of witnesses a transaction takes place. The prophet counts out pieces of silver while bushels of barley are brought forward. When the price is agreed to, the man of God holds out his hand and those standing by stare, point and whisper, astonished at what has taken place. It may not have been unusual for someone to sell themselves into servitude because of a debt, or for someone to redeem that person for a price. What was astonishing is that the woman who took the hand of Hosea the prophet was his wife who had abandoned him. Ah, but now that everyone's attention is focused on him, it is time for the prophet to bring the message that God called him to bring.
There is no other story in the Bible like Hosea, except for one. Centuries later, God does something astonishing and scandalous to purchase His people from slavery. The price will not be paid with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of another prophet - the very Son of God.

Third Sunday after Epiphany
January 21, 2018

Sermon: Prophecy in A Minor Key, Part 3 - "Micah"
First Thoughts: When there is no love for God or for each other, then it is time for God to act. God sends prophet Micah to bring about a revival so that they may once again be a people who do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the Lord. When God sends Micah, will there be destruction or revival in the land? The journey of God's people at this time can show us a path of revival today when our love grows cold.

Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 14, 2018

Sermon: Prophecy in A Minor Key, Part 2 - "Amos"
First Thoughts: At the beginning of the 8th Century B.C., Amos of Tekoa, who tended sheep and sycamore trees, is sent out to the prosperous nation of Israel during a time when they were happy and at peace. Yet, they forgot the Lord’s ways and the prophet points out that their prosperity came at the expense of the poor. The rituals and sacrifices to God had no meaning in a society where people were selfish and forgot to care for one another. Amos reminds us that God wants our heart and our lives to match our worship.

The Baptism of Our Lord – First Sunday after Epiphany
January 7, 2018

Sermon: Prophecy in A Minor Key, Part 1 - "Jonah"
First Thoughts: Our look at the 8th century prophets begins with Jonah and an unusual mission to a foreign city, Nineveh. At the time, the Assyrians of Nineveh were comparatively weak to other nations around them after they had asserted themselves as a power the century before. The message God sends with Jonah is simple… repent! We are not told why the offer of God's forgiveness is given to this foreign power, but we do know that Jonah did not want to extend that offer to the people of Nineveh. In a dramatic series of events, Jonah attempts to go the opposite way and even after he does what God wants, he is miserable. Through the water, Jonah is redirected and through the Word of God, a city is saved. What is the lesson here when God's saving action is contrasted with Jonah's belligerence?

Christmas Day
December 25, 2017

Sermon: "Mary's Song"
First Thoughts: Who sings the praises of the Christ child when he comes to the earth? Out on Bethlehem's fields are the angels, and after them the song is picked up by the shepherds. Perhaps the residents of Bethlehem who hear them and even the animals who are standing by, as some have fancied? One of our hymn writers takes us to Psalm 98 where the entire earth is employed to sing God's praise. We follow that praise over "rocks, hills and plains" to a gathering of people on a place called Beacon Hill. "Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!"

Christmas Eve
December 24, 2017

Sermon: "Mary's Song"
First Thoughts: As we approach Bethlehem at Christmas, this year, let us take a look back to the first song that was sung about Jesus coming into the world. That song was sung by the young girl who contemplated what it means to be the mother of the Most High God. Her song helps us to frame a Christmas meditation that ponders God coming to us on this sinful and imperfect world that we may be filled with perfect praise as we celebrate His coming.

Sermon Series: "Angel Announcements"
December 3 to 24, 2017

In the month of December, we have a short season of preparation in the church called “Advent” to get us ready to celebrate Christmas. Typically, this season is very busy with all the external preparations of decorating, buying gifts and planning holiday meals. But this season is really about the internal preparations we make both to worship at Christmas and to receive Jesus when He comes again. This relates not only to Christmas, but also to the second coming when we are gathered to our heavenly home.
This Advent season, we invite you to join us at Bethany Lutheran Church as we look at the ministry of angels and their role in the Christmas celebration.
See more below:

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 24, 2017

Sermon: Angel Announcements, Part 3 - "Highly Favored"
First Thoughts: The last Sunday in Advent falls right on Christmas Eve. As we approach this holy night, we hear how Mary first received the news of the angel Gabriel. We learn from Gabriel the nature of this great event that happened here on earth. We learn from Mary how to receive this joyous news in all our celebrations.

Second Sunday in Advent
December 10, 2017

Sermon: Angel Announcements, Part 2 - "I am Gabriel"
First Thoughts: Offering the appointed prayers and surrounded by the smoke of incense, a priest stands at his place in the Temple. Suddenly, a figure of light announces something extraordinary and unbelievable. But when the priest has questions, we find out the name of this being who says, “I am Gabriel!” It is the task of this angel to announce the birth of a special child, and then that child will also have a special task of announcing an even greater One who will come after. May we receive the messages of God’s grace and power with a humble heart and be ready to share the wonder of this season with everyone around us!

First Sunday in Advent
December 3, 2017

And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. – Mark 13:27
And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe. - Revelation 14:15
Sermon: Angel Announcements, Part 1 - "Harvest Angels"
First Thoughts: In the Gospel lesson for the First Sunday in Advent, Jesus tells His disciples to watch and wait for His return. That day will come unexpected and it will be the task of the angels to gather a great harvest of souls. Will we be ready for that day? A harvest is gathered after the seeds are planted and then they are full grown. While we wait for our Lord to come again, we pray that that His love would be growing in our lives. Love that grows in our lives will yield not just one soul, but a mighty harvest when the angels come.

Wednesday December 6, 7:30 p.m.
Holden Evening Prayer

Sermon Series: "The Blessings of the Reformation"
November 5 to 26, 2017

This sermon series will look at the impact of the Reformation movement on our ministry, today. Join us each Sunday in November at 10 a.m. for "The Blessings of The Reformation"
See more below:

25th Sunday after Pentecost
Christ the King Sunday
November 26, 2017

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! – Psalm 95:1
"Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world." - Martin Luther Sermon: "God's Glory"

First Thoughts: For our last sermon in the "Blessings of The Reformation" series, we'll highlight the blessing of music and the role that it played in the movement. In addition to spreading the writings of Martin Luther and the other Reformers in the 16th century, the printing press also gave music a far greater reach. Not only were Lutherans publishing booklets and papers, but they were also printing their hymns as a way to get the Bible's truths into churches and homes.
So, this Sunday, we'll sing the sermon together in a special hymn sing designed around the Seven Marks of the Church. The "seven marks" are what identify a Christian church on earth. Luther's thoughts on the church were collected in his treatise, "On Councils and The Church" (printed today in Luther's Works volume 41). We'll read parts of that treatise, connect to the Word of God, and then you will select some hymns for us to sing these Biblical truths together.

Thanksgiving Day
November 23, 2017

O give thanks to the LORD; for He is good; for his mercy endureth forever.

1 Chronicles 16:1-3, 7-8, 34-35
Each year, the members of Bethany Lutheran heed the national proclamation that citizens of the United States should gather together to give thanks. That is why we open our doors Thanksgiving Day for a special service of Eucharist (Greek for “give thanks” and a traditional name for Holy Communion). In place of the usual sermon, those who attend the service are welcome to offer testimony to some of the many blessings God has given us through the year.
To frame that testimony, this year, I’ll offer up some selected verses from 1 Chronicles 16 – the time when King David appointed regular worship in front of the Ark of the Covenant. The first thing on the worship agenda was “Thanksgiving”. A portion of this will be read in between testimonies as we ask the people to offer:
- Thanksgiving for God’s provision at our tables;
- Thanksgiving for God’s work in our homes and our country;
- Thanksgiving for God’s everlasting mercy and love.

24th Sunday after Pentecost
November 19, 2017

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12

His Master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ – Matthew 25:21

Sermon: "God's Work"
First Thoughts: In both the appointed Psalm and the Gospel for the day, we hear the importance of "numbering our days" and being faithful with what God has given us in the time we have. This is a good place for us to consider our calling by God, and how we can faithfully serve the Lord, so as part of the "Blessings of the Reformation" series, we'll connect to some of Luther's teaching on Christian vocation.

23rd Sunday after Pentecost
November 12, 2017

...the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. – Matthew 25:4

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path – Psalm 119:105

Sermon: "God's Word"
First Thoughts: Without the Word of God, we are stumbling in the darkness. I have not seen the show "Naked and Afraid" but I did see commercials for the latest season of this reality show where they put two people in a cave completely surrounded by darkness for days on end. I don't think I need to see it to know that it probably was not pretty. Thinking of that image spiritually, I believe one of the biggest blessings of the Reformation came when Martin Luther was driven to get the Word of God into the hearing of the people. Other Reformers had done this in the past, but Luther was the most successful. The end result today is a thriving network of schools, universities, Catechism classes and pulpits that bear the name "Lutheran" and give "free course" to the Word of God around the world.

22nd Sunday after Pentecost
All Saints Day Sunday (Observed)
The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
November 5, 2017

Sermon: "God's Church"
First Thoughts: This year, a lot of folks have made a pilgrimage to a certain church in Wittenberg, Germany where Martin Luther is said to have first posted the 95 Theses and sparked a Reformation in the Christian Church. People were there for some kind of anniversary or another, I think.
One of the reforms that challenged the church 500 years ago had to do with where the church is to be found and what the nature of a church is. The Epistle lesson assigned for this Sunday puts it in a simple way, "we are God's children." What we are to be has not been revealed yet, and that makes us a work in progress here on earth. It also may mean that the movement of reforming the church is not yet done, and may not be done until our Lord returns.
Based on the Epistle lesson for All Saints Sunday from 1 John 3:1-3, Bethany Lutheran will look at how the church is 1) God's children, 2) waiting, and 3) purified.
Join us as we celebrate one of the many "Blessings of The Reformation" this Sunday at 10AM. Come early to watch part two of the video "A Man Named Martin 3 - The Movement" and join the discussion all about the legacy of the Reformation.

21st Sunday after Pentecost
Reformation Sunday
Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
October 29, 2017

Sermon: "Renewed by Reformation"
First Thoughts: This weekend we are celebrating REFORMATION - a movement in history that brought about changes to the Christian Church worldwide. 500 years later, where do we see the legacy of this movement taking us?
The sermon for this occasion will focus on some key terms we find in Revelation 14:6. What is the role of "another angel?" What makes an "eternal Gospel" eternal? How is that Gospel going to "every nation?"
It seems like a lot of questions for a day of celebration,doesn't it? But since asking questions is what lit the fuse of the Reformation, it may also be a good way to keep the fire burning.

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 22, 2017

Sermon: "Things that are God's"
First Thoughts: It so happens on this next Sunday, we've asked our members at Bethany to return a form with next year's financial pledge as well as a "time and talent" survey so we can best plan our ministry for the next year. As God would have it, the appointed Gospel is Matthew 22:15-22, where Jesus answers a trick question with a coin. Like a coin, his answer has two sides. "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" means we pay what we owe to the country we live in. But, "Render unto God what is God's" means we give back what we owe to God. Wait a minute! Don't we owe God ...well, everything? So, why don't we put that on our pledge form?
This Sunday, we'll start with that question as we explore together how we give "the things that are God's."

Sermon Series September 24 to October 15:
"Going All In" - Reading through Paul's letter to the Philippians

Koinonia is a great word. The most common meanings in the Greek New Testament are “fellowship” or “partnership” or “participation in.” The Apostle Paul uses the word in all four chapters of his letter to the church in Philippi. These phrases that pop up help to anchor the whole letter on the kinds of fellowship we have as the Christian church. We have fellowship in The gospel that is bold to share the Good News about Jesus. Also fellowship in the Spirit when we come to worship Jesus and serve each other in His love. Not to mention fellowship in the suffering of Christ in our struggle to cling to the cross of Christ. Finally, our fellowship in giving and receiving the gifts of God is what makes up most of our life as the church. Join me for four Sundays reading through the book of Philippians in our Adult Sunday School at 8:45 and the sermon at our 10AM worship. Remember to BYOB – Bring Your Own Bible to mark and take notes as we read together.

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 15, 2017

Chapter four Sermon: "In Giving and Receiving"
A partnership in the Gospel, in the Holy Spirit and in the sufferings of Christ defines the relationship of the Philippian church with the Apostle Paul, but it is also the relationship that we all share in the church, today. From our partnership in Christ, the work of spreading the Gospel is done. It is a constant cycle of giving and receiving. For Paul and the Philippians, that cycle continued long after Paul left the area of Macedonia. The Philippians gave gifts to support his ministry and they received the encouragement Paul sent through messengers who relayed what God was doing and how the Gospel was spreading. When the church today sends missionaries out into the field, we receive encouragement and sometimes so much more as the Body of Christ grows. Our work locally is also a cycle of blessing where the more we spread Gospel seeds, the more inspiration and strength we receive in return. It is no wonder, then, that the word “JOY” comes out repeatedly as Paul celebrates this fellowship we have as the Christian Church.

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 8, 2017

Chapter Three Sermon: "In the sufferings of Christ"
Paul is writing the letter of Philippians from prison. He was quite used to prisons, as the people of Philippi knew. When Paul first came to them, he was arrested for expelling a spirit from some girl who had supernatural perception. The end result of that time was God freeing Paul and Silas by a miracle which resulted in the jailer and his whole family receiving the Gospel and the waters of baptism the following morning. Like Paul, when we participate in the sufferings of Christ, we are not afraid to leave things behind and strain ahead. Neither the good things we have done, nor the sinful baggage we had are what will power us through to be with the Lord. Only the blood of Jesus and the power of His resurrection can accomplish that.

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 1, 2017

Chapter Two Sermon: "In The Spirit"
The Holy Spirit played a direct role in Paul’s first coming to Philippi by preventing his continued travel in Asia and opening the way for him to cross the Aegean Sea. Paul later writes to that church that if there is any fellowship in the spirit or comfort from love or encouragement from Christ (which we receive in the Gospel), then we are to be of one mind. We can do that by considering others before ourselves, which gets to the heart of what our ministry is all about – Christ humbling Himself and coming to us as a servant. When people know Christ through His humble service and the humble service of the church, then they will also know Him on the great Day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess the Lord of all.

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 24, 2017

Chapter One Sermon: "In The Gospel"
Paul has a special relationship with the church in Philippi. Not only were they the firstfruits of his first journey into Macedonia (modern day Greece), but the church established here maintains a connection with Paul throughout the rest of his work as a missionary. From the beginning of this letter, Paul writes that they are partners IN THE GOSPEL. What does this mean? We’ll dive into the word “Gospel” and then read how important it was for Paul to have that fellowship while he was in prison “for the defense of the gospel” (1:16) while he prays for the Philippian church to keep striving for the “faith of the gospel” (1:27). Before we leave the first chapter, we’ll also be challenged on how to make the Gospel central to our fellowship at Bethany.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 17, 2017

Sermon: For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:7-8
First Thoughts: In context, Romans 14 is all about how to live together in Christian community. But, when verses 7 and 8 are read at the graveside (as they often are), they connect to our whole lives. Every moment we have is a gift from God, and all that we are belongs to Him.
This Sunday, we'll look at some of the practical implications of that understanding. How do we respond to the blessings God gives us in life and connect those blessings to our worship and the people around us? The best response is a commitment to the Lord and to each other that is intentional, giving God back the first of what He has given us. When that happens, we may worry that there will not be enough, but the blessings of God continue to come back to us because we belong to Him.

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 10, 2017

Sermon: "The Lord Made Me a Watchman" - Ezekiel 33
First Thoughts: Ezekiel chapter 33 is a turning point in this prophetic book. The chapters before are predominantly law, while the chapters after are predominantly Gospel. In the middle of this chapter, (verses 21 and 22), the news comes to the exiles who were with Ezekiel that the city of Jerusalem had fallen. Just before the news hits, Ezekiel is recommissioned as God's watchman to the people. In the chapters before, the prophet would warn people of their sin, but after Jerusalem's fall, he will comfort the people with God's love so they do not fall into despair.
God says to Ezekiel: "I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me."
During the sermon, we'll work through the following questions, together:
- How was Ezekiel a watchman to the people?
- What did God tell him to do?
- What was the purpose of being a watchman?
- Is every Christian called to be a watchman?
- In our vocations, how are we to speak out against evil?
- How are we called to share the comfort of God's promises?

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Labor Day Weekend
September 3, 2017

Sermon: "Work in Progress" - Romans 12
Paul writes in Romans 12, “serve the Lord.” And we ask, “well, what does that look like, Paul?” And in verse 12 he gives a threefold description of that service. We are to be JOYFUL in hope, PATIENT in tribulation and CONSTANT in prayer. That is what the Christian life looks like, and if any of that seems intimidating, then we need to understand that we are a WORK IN PROGRESS. Because even when we are resting, God is at work in us to give us joy, patience and endurance.

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Rally Day
Aug 27, 2017

Sermon: "Do not hinder them" - Luke 18:15-17
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Bethany Lutheran celebrates Christian Education in our worship with a blessing of the backpacks, and the installation of our Sunday School teachers. Remember, BRING YOUR BACKPACKS for a blessing!

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Aug 20, 2017

Sermon: "Is Your Faith Great?" - Matthew 15:21-28
The Gospel for the day presents a woman whose faith is challenged three times. First, her requests are met with silence, and then twice it would seem that Jesus is turning her away. Her responses cause Jesus to say to her, “great is your faith!”. I’m not sure I am even supposed to ask this question, but it did not stop me from uneasily thinking, “Is my faith great?” Like I said, I’m not even sure it is a helpful thing to ask, but the question did drive me to a deeper understanding of what faith is.

New Sermon Series in July - Lutheran Confidential
Wittenberg, Germany. Summer, 1515. Two years before the infamous 95 Theses are posted on the castle church door, a young monk and professor begins his lectures on the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. Martin Luther had wrestled with his inner demons and this opened his eyes to see the Christian life in a new way. Before there was a Reformation in the world, there was a re-formation of the heart!
Each week in July, we will look at Romans chapters 7 and 8 through Luther’s eyes, find a connection to Reformation history and then some connection to our own life in Christ on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 30, 2017

Sermon: "More than Conquerors" - Romans 8:28-39
Lutheran Confidential - File 5: Certainty. Assurance. Rock solid faith with Jesus Christ as the sure foundation. This is what we discover here at the end of Romans chapter eight.
In his lecture notes, Martin Luther writes:
For if it were not the purpose of God, and if our salvation depended upon our will and works, it would depend on chance, a chance which - I do not say all of these evils together - but one of them might easily hinder or overturn! But now when he says: "Who will bring a charge? Who will condemn? Who will separate? (vv. 33-35), he is showing that the elect are not saved by chance but by necessity.
The Apostle asks a bold question. What will ever separate us from the love of God? "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?" The sweet answer to that question is that nothing will separate us. Nothing in this world or the next. Nothing in the past or in the future. Nothing. We belong to God now and forever because nothing can change God's love for us in Jesus Christ.
This is reassurance that everyone needs at all times, from the least to the greatest, the most experienced Christian to the newly baptized, from the missionary to the Sunday School student. We are all more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 23, 2017

Sermon: "In This Hope" - Romans 8:18-27
Lutheran Confidential - File 4: The Apostle Paul writes, "In this hope we were saved." This hope he identifies is what gets us through "the sufferings of this present time." This hope comes to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, who gives us faith and helps us to pray.
As we open a new "Lutheran Confidential" file, we'll take a look at the prayer life of Luther as a monk and as a busy professor and pastor. At Bethany Lutheran, this gives us an opportunity to review what we know about prayer as we continue to be "Renewed by Reformation."

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 16, 2017

Sermon: "Children of God" - Romans 8:12-17
Lutheran Confidential - File 3: In his Romans lectures, Luther writes: " expands the heart, the emotions, and the voice, but fear tightens up all these things and restricts them, as our own experience amply testifies. Fear does not say Abba, but rather it hates and flees from the Father as from an enemy and mutters against Him as a tyrant."
What truth did Luther uncover about the Holy Spirit and how did it help him when people were pushing his reforms too far? The answer helps us to live courageously and freely as children of God, today.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 9, 2017

Sermon: "Body of Death" - Romans 7:14-25
Lutheran Confidential - File 2: "Who will save me?", Paul asks. In Romans 7, we read of a struggle that happens in every believer. It is likely that Luther related a lot to Paul's words when he was preparing to lecture his students on Paul's question. In fact, Luther wrote that "it is a comfort to hear that such a great apostle was involved in the same sorrows and afflictions as we are when we try to be obedient to God." In Romans, we go from trial, to comfort to doxology as we celebrate with Paul and say, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!"

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
July 2, 2017

Sermon: "The New Way" - Romans 7:1-13
Lutheran Confidential - File 1: As Martin Luther began to write out his class notes to present Paul's letter to the Romans at Wittenberg, only a few years had gone by since his own trip to Rome. Luther said he ran around Rome like a "mad saint", zealous for spiritual enlightenment. However, he found that a lot of the activities lacked any spirituality and were set up more as a business to get people's money.
Luther thought that by visiting every shrine and basilica in Rome, he would be earning favor with God. He may have been more than a little disappointed to find that people in Rome did not seem to take this as seriously as he did. Later, he opened up God's Word and saw the truth about good works. This started to change his heart and his thinking. He realized he was following a written code that led to death. Yet, according to Romans 7, he had already died in Christ Jesus and now was free to live a new life.
What does this discovery mean for us today? How can we enjoy the freedom we have in Christ and still follow the will of God for our lives? We'll open the first file of "Lutheran Confidential" this Sunday at our 10AM worship.

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 25, 2017

Sermon: "The Good Confession" - Download the written sermon text here
First Thoughts: They say, "confession is good for the soul." When we say, "confession" that can mean bringing out the sins we committed in order to be forgiven. Or, we could be confessing our faith. Jesus says, "whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father" (Matthew 10:32). Faithful confession of Jesus Christ is what we are celebrating this Sunday.
On June 25, 1530, the "protesting" princes and theologians led by Philip Melanchthon presented their confession before Emperor Charles V. It was time to take a stand for the teachings of Martin Luther that were inspiring reform in the church. At the beginning of the confession is the reason not only for reform, but the church's very existence:
Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our merit, work or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ's sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for His sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are give to us. - Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession.
What does this mean? Are there still reasons for making this confession today? How do we acknowledge Jesus in church practice and in the lives of our members? We'll explore that a bit when we gather to celebrate the anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.

Second Sunday after Pentecost - Father's Day
June 18, 2017

Sermon: "Going to the Father's House"
First Thoughts: This Sunday is Father's Day in the United States, and for whatever reason, I can't stop hearing a song I sang when I was in college and Audio Adrenaline was the big Christian band. Their song, Big House, came out then and it was instantly contagious. It's a bit silly - all about going to the house where there are lots of rooms, a big table with lots of food and a big yard where we can play football. Sounds like it was written by a Dad, right? The invitation in the song is "Come, and go with me to my Father's house."
In the Gospel lesson appointed for this Sunday, the ministry of Jesus shifts in the Gospel according to Matthew. In chapter 4, Jesus begins to go into the towns and villages to proclaim that the Kingdom has come near. At the end of chapter 9, He has deep compassion for those who are like a sheep without a shepherd. So, in chapter 10, his Twelve disciples hear that they will be "the ones sent" (Apostles) to those lost sheep.
What will they take with them? Only what they need, plus the message of the Kingdom. How will people know that the Kingdom is near? By the words, actions and attitudes of the ones who are sent. When did the mission end? It didn't end. It is still the mission of the church until our Lord comes again. And when He comes, He is taking us to His Father's house. Can that future joy inspire us for our present work? I think so, and I think that the song I can't get out of my head, this week, may provide a framework for this conversation.
There may even be a football. . . Because Father's Day.

Pentecost Sunday
June 4, 2017

Sermon: "All Thy Graces Now Outpoured"
First Thoughts: In an ancient antiphon, the church prayed to the Holy Spirit saying, "reple tuorum corda fidelium - fill the hearts of the faithful." Putting this into the verse of a new hymn for the church to sing, Martin Luther wrote:
Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!
Be all Thy graces now out poured
On each believer's mind and heart;
Thy fervent love to them impart.

The word "graces" got me thinking about gifts. The words "grace" and "gift" define so much of the Holy Spirit's work on earth, and there are long lists of such gifts in the New Testament, like certain offices and works done by people in the church (1 Corinthians 12 - 14 and Ephesians 4), and also different characteristics that are inspired by the Spirit's work in us (Galatians 5:23-24). In order to teach these gifts, some ancient church writers also put into a list the seven gifts that they felt were at the root of all the others. There have been different lists of "seven gifts", but the Biblical list is based on Isaiah 11:2-3. In today's sermon, we'll ask:
- What are the seven gifts (or "graces") of the Holy Spirit?
- How are they perfected in the Son of God?
- How are those gifts to be shared in the Church, today?

March 12 to May 14, 2017
Sermon Series: "Hold on for Dear Life!"
A Nine-Part Sermon Series about Wisdom

Starting Sunday, March 12, the adult Sunday School and the 10 a.m. worship sermon will begin a journey into the wisdom of Solomon. The wisdom collected can be a practical guide for us, sometimes. At other times, it points to the deeper mysteries of our faith. We are invited by the Spirit to "lay hold" of these timeless truths for our lives here and for life to come.
This series is inspired by the LifeLight Bible Study on the book of Proverbs, sold by Concordia Publishing House (CPH). Those who attend the adult Bible Study will receive the Bible Study and a special enrichment magazine.
- "The Search for Life" 3/12
- "Life and Death I" 3/19
- "Life and Death II" 3/26
- "Beginning of Life" 4/2
- "Path of Life" 4/9
- "Better Life" 4/23
- "Enlightened Life" 4/30
- "Contented Life" 5/7
- "Home Life" 5/14

Fifth Sunday of Easter - Confirmation Sunday
May 14, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part Nine
Sermon: "Home Life" (Proverbs 31:30)
First Thoughts: One of the things I love doing as a pastor is a house blessing. This is a special service of worship where the minister reads a scripture and says a prayer in all the different parts of the house. The last section of Proverbs we will consider tells us about some of the ways God blesses the home and the relationships of parents and children. Whether married or single, we all have a home base - first, on earth, and next with our heavenly Father who has prepared our heavenly home for us.

Fourth Sunday of Easter - Confirmation Sunday
May 7, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part Eight
Sermon: "Contented Life" (Proverbs 27:1)
First Thoughts: We have a double treat, this Sunday. Traditionally, the Fourth Sunday of the Easter season is "Good Shepherd" Sunday when we read and sing the 23rd Psalm. This Sunday also is the day when some of our youth will affirm the vows spoken at Baptism and pledge to be disciples of Jesus from that day forward. On this day, those who are receiving the Rite of Confirmation each prepare a short project as a testimony of what their faith means to them. While they get to have most of the sermon, I reserve the right to offer some final thoughts.
While these special events interrupt our sermon series, somewhat, we'll still touch on this week's Proverbs reading. We are near the end, and this week we are looking a section of Solomon's sayings that were collected after his reign as king. We'll find some wise words about our place in the Kingdom of God. For instance, "iron sharpens iron," "give me neither poverty nor riches," and "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." I think this will connect nicely to Confirmation Sunday because the process of Confirmation is meant to bring our students to consider what their calling may be as they continue to serve The Lord.

Third Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part Seven
Sermon: "Enlightened Life" (Proverbs 24:3-4)
First Thoughts: The next section of Proverbs is titled "Words of the Wise" in most Bibles. It is thought to be a collection of sayings that may have been compiled and edited by Solomon as he received them from various sources. We'll take a close look at one of those sayings as it relates to wisdom of receiving and sharing all the gifts God gives to us.

Second Sunday in Easter
April 23, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part Six
Sermon: "Better Life" (Proverbs 21:30-31)
First Thoughts: If we make a lot of plans, and want to do our best, then Proverbs 16:1 - 22:16 gives us a lot of practical advice for building a good, productive life. Underlying the wisdom that applies to work, is the submission to our God who created all these things for us. The true key to a better life is faith. In the Gospel lesson appointed for today, the Risen Christ appears to Thomas to proclaim just that - the real things in this life are more than what you can see.

Easter Sunday
April 16, 2017

Sermon: "Open Your Eyes" (John 20:1-18)
First Thoughts: Each year, Bethany Lutheran holds an Easter Sunrise service at Mt. Comfort Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia. It has been an annual tradition since the days our church was founded. This year, there is some construction at the site where we normally hold our service, so we are moving our worship to a place that most everyone notices when they enter the cemetery - a statue with the face of Jesus. People tend to notice and talk about this statue because it is carved in such a way that the eyes follow you as you walk past it. Etched in the stone is a reminder from Proverbs 15, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch upon the evil and the good."

Those words can be a comfort and a conviction. Yes, the Lord sees our pain and the times we show our love for Him. But, He also sees the times that we fall short in demonstrating that love. His eyes are still always on us. On the day of the resurrection, our Lord appeared to His followers so that they would know that whenever He looked on them, it would always be in love and grace. Our sins were left on the cross and death, the consequence of sin, is left in the tomb. Can we see that and take comfort? A woman named Mary meets Jesus face to face, but cannot recognize Him. However, at the end of their meeting, she is running with the message, "I have seen the Lord!"
I. The Eyes of The Lord Upon Us
    - Good and bad moments
    - Good Friday and Easter Sunday
II. Our Eyes Upon The Lord
    - Spiritual reality
    - Looking at our Lord
    - Looking at the world Palm Sunday
April 9, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part Five
Sermon: "Path of Life" (Proverbs 10:28)
First Thoughts: The opening chapters of the book of Proverbs lay out two ways to travel - wisdom or foolishness? Righteous or sinner? Life or death? What follows next is the first collection of Solomon's Proverbs in chapters 10 - 15. These are short and often show the same contrasts we were introduced to in the first chapters. As we read through these shorter Proverbs, some larger themes emerge. We may even see the great humility and hope that point the way to our Lord's journey to the cross and the path toward the empty tomb. Indeed, as one Proverb says, "the hope of the righteous brings joy."

Fifth Sunday in Lent
April 2, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part Four
Sermon: "Beginning of Life" (Proverbs 8:35, 1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
First Thoughts: the theme we get from reading Proverbs 8 and the appointed Gospel lesson from John 11 is the preeminence of Jesus Christ. St. Paul writes that Christ "is all and in all", which sounds almost like an Eastern mystic or a Native American talking about the "Great Spirit." The expansive description of creation in Proverbs 8 invites us to take what we know of the spiritual and natural world and to glorify in God's Wisdom, who has a face. That is because the God who created us did not want to stay distant. He wants and invites us to be with Him. Wisdom has set the table, who will join the feast?

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 26, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part Three
Sermon: "Life and Death - Part 2" (Proverbs 4:18)
First Thoughts: Solomon's wisdom in the beginning chapters of Proverbs gives several appeals to keep walking the right path, including this appeal from chapter four: "... the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day." That sounds great, but what if we get lost? How will we find our way back? In the appointed Gospel lesson, Jesus says, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." This Sunday, hear more about the light we need for the path of life as we continue our reading of Proverbs.

Third Sunday in Lent
March 19, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part Two
Sermon: "Life and Death - Part 1" (Proverbs 3:5-6)
First Thoughts: In the beginning of Proverbs, we see this Biblical image of a path that we walk, representing the decisions we make in our lives. That reminds me that the early church did not call themselves "Christians," at first. They were called "Followers of the Way" (Acts 9:2). Part Two of our series is "Life and Death - Part 1," which looks at the different paths our lives can take. The theme verse is from Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

Second Sunday in Lent
March 12, 2017

"Hold on for Dear Life!" - Part One
Sermon: "The Search for Life" (2 Kings 3:9, Proverbs 1:7)
First Thoughts: On the week we start our Proverbs study, people will hear the appointed Gospel in church about a man who came to Jesus by night to ask some questions. Those questions led to some powerful words from our Savior, including the "Gospel in a nutshell:" "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son...." Our next journey in God's Word begins with another person who asked a lot of questions and requested that God give him wisdom. God's answer to that prayer gives us a portion of the Bible that provides us practical advice for life, and deeper insight into life eternal. How do we get that wisdom? The first few verses in the book of Proverbs give us a good place to start.

Wednesday, March 5, 2017

"Life on the Rock" - Part Eight
Sermon: "Living on the Rock" (Matthew 7:15-29)
First Thoughts: Common advice given to writers is to know the ending before you begin. That way the writing stays focused and the writer is less likely to take you on a lot of rabbit trails in the story. Some writers follow that axiom, and others will tell you that they let the characters they create guide what will happen.
In the case of this sermon series where I've had Bethany Lutheran Church read through the "Sermon on The Mount," I had a really clear idea of what I wanted to say at the end. This is mostly because when you get to Matthew chapter 7, Jesus gives a parable about a rock and that parable reminds me of a song I like to sing with our West Africans at Bethany.
I'm hearing that song in my head even now as I look at the admonition Jesus gives about avoiding false teachers. He gives clear instruction for how to avoid them. I can hear the song leader call out to the people, "Are you standing on the rock that never fails?" Then Jesus concludes with the parable and tells us that the one who not only hears His Word, but puts it into practice, will be the one who can stand up to the storms in life. The people respond, "Jesus is the Rock that never fails!"
- Standing on The Rock that Never Fails - Matthew 7:15-20
- Jesus is The Rock that Never Fails - verses 21-29

First Sunday in Lent
March 5, 2017

"Life on the Rock" - Part Seven
Sermon: "Kingdom Life" (Matthew 7:1-14)
First Thoughts: So let's say that you have taken up the challenge that Jesus gives in Matthew chapters 5 and 6, and you are living and practicing a deep faith that others can see in your life, fully committed to the Lord in thought, word, and deed. Now, stop your eye rolling, this is hypothetical! The fact is, even when we strive to get to that place of deeper faith, we see with more clarity how far this world has fallen into sin, and how far we are from the Divine. This next section of teaching in "The Sermon on The Mount" helps us to stay focused on the things that truly matter so that we can keep pressing on as God's children from day to day.
- Don't Judge - Matthew 7:1-5
- Pearls and Swine - verse 6
- Kingdom Alignment - verses 7-11
- Good Deeds and People - verse 12
- Don't Give Up - verses 13-14

Ash Wednesday
March 1, 2017

"Life on the Rock" - Part Six
Sermon: "Our Whole Lives" (Matthew 6:19-34)
First Thoughts: In the first part of Matthew chapter 6, the followers of Jesus are challenged to go deeper than just the religion that people see when we practice our faith. The reason for that comes in the second half of the chapter. The source of a deeper faith comes from knowing our Father whose love and care surrounds us, each day.
- Where Your Heart Is - vs.19-24
- Where Your Mind Is - vs. 25-34
    "Love the Lord with..."

Transfiguration Sunday
February 26, 2017

"Life on the Rock" - Part Five
Sermon: "Giving Life" (Matthew 6:1-18)
First Thoughts: This Sunday, we remember the mountaintop where Jesus showed certain disciples His glory. How does that glory stay with us through everyday kindness and prayer? That question connects to our continued reading of "The Sermon on The Mount." In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gives us both comfort and challenge with the way we live our lives, and in particular how we are to behave in the world. In chapter 6, our Lord goes deeper and we explore the inner, spiritual life.
- How to Give - Matthew 6:1-4
- How to Pray - vs. 5-15
- How to do both - vs. 16-18
    ~ God's Red Cross ~

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany
February 19, 2017

"Life on the Rock" - Part Four
Sermon: "Life Shield" (Matthew 5:38-48)
First Thoughts: Thus far, the hearers of this "Sermon on The Mount" have been challenged to live in God's Kingdom where the humble are blessed and God's children live free from being a slave to anger. Yet, we live in a world where people live in opposition to those teachings, and our kindness may be returned with evil and persecution. What then? What is our response? Jesus challenges us to respond with love and mercy, trusting that His own love and mercy will always shield us.
- Taking and Giving 5:38-42
- God's Eyes, Not Ours vs. 43-47
    The public and private self
    Love and pray
- A note on being perfect vs. 48

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany
February 12, 2017

"Life on the Rock" - Part Three
Sermon: "Living Free" (Matthew 5:21-37)
First Thoughts: Jesus says in the Gospel of John that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. As we go back to His teaching called "The Sermon on The Mount" we are confronted with the dangers of being a slave to anger, lust and falsehood. Through Jesus we are free to be reconciled, faithful and truthful as we gain our footing on the solid rock He provides.
    A slow fuse 5:21-24
    A quick resolution vs. 25-26
    Pure heart vs. 27-30
    Pure commitment vs. 31-32
    Yes and No vs. 33-37

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
February 5, 2017

"Life on the Rock" - Part Two
Sermon: "Living a Purposeful Life" (Matthew 5:13-20)
First Thoughts: Did you ever think that Jesus made a mistake with these words of verses 13-20? Of course, Jesus must have understood His disciples' weaknesses and cultural backgrounds. One of the greatest problems that we as the Christian church have today is, not realizing who we really are. As a result of that we have neglected to take our responsibilities seriously. This, I believe, is the heart of these verses.
Pastor Davis will be delivering the sermon.

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
January 29, 2017

"Life on the Rock" - Part One
Sermon: "The Blessed Life" (Matthew 5:1-12)
First Thoughts: The three chapters of Matthew that make up the "Sermon on The Mount" are full of important teachings. Yet, it all begins with a pronouncement of blessings. Who is going to best receive these teachings? How will these teachings do the most good in our lives? When we see our utter dependency on God's love and are moved to act from that love, we are living a blessed life.
I.   #thingsJesusDIDsay 5:1-2
II.  Blessings for the Soul vs. 3-6
III. Blessings for the World vs. 7-10
IV. Are you #blessed? vs. 11-12

January 8 to 22, 2017
A Three-Part Sermon Series for Epiphany 2017:
"The Glory of the Lord Shall be Revealed!"

Isaiah prophesied that the "glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together!" Epiphany is a word that means "revealed" and in this season we are to contemplate how God's divine nature was revealed while He was on earth. The Gospel lessons in these next Sundays remind us of ways that God is still revealed today in the church and in our lives, so that we may see His glory together.

Third Sunday After Epiphany
January 22, 2017

"The Glory of the Lord Shall be Revealed!" - Part Three
Sermon: "...In Fishing?" (Matthew 4:12-25)
First Thoughts: After two weeks refreshing ourselves with how God reveals His presence in Baptism and the Lord's Supper, it is time to go fishing! In the Gospel lesson for the day, Jesus calls the disciples to follow Him and help share the Good News. It is with Good News that Jesus continues to call and send fishermen out into the world, so that the Glory of The Lord can be revealed to all.
I.   Christians and Fishes
II.  Sharing the Faith
III. Trust and Follow

Second Sunday After Epiphany
January 15, 2017

"The Glory of the Lord Shall be Revealed!" - Part Two
Sermon: "...In Holy Communion"
First Thoughts: In today's Gospel lesson, John the Baptist looks to Jesus and proclaims, "Behold, the Lamb of God...!" Again, the divine nature and the divine work that Jesus was to do was revealed during His Ministry. The words of John remind us of another way God's divine presence is revealed today and how His divine work continues in our lives.
I.   Welcome to The Lord's Table
II.  Behold, the Lamb of God
III. Go in Peace, Serve the Lord!

First Sunday After Epiphany
The Baptism of Our Lord
January 8, 2017

Sermon: "...In Baptism"
First Thoughts: The divine nature of Jesus was revealed when He stood in the water and the Spirit came down and the Father's voice was heard. Baptism today is no less a revealing of God's presence in our lives.
I.   Water and The Word
II.  The Promise of God
III. Living a Baptismal Life

First Sunday After Christmas - New Year's Day
January 1, 2017

Sermon: "In the name of Jesus"
First Thoughts: Preaching on January 1, 1531, Martin Luther noted:
We call this day New Year's Day - in the old Roman fashion. As Christians we actually start our New Year on Christmas Day, as indicated by the way we count years, that is, in the year after Christ's birth, and so on. The Romans began the year on the first day of January, and that's the custom we Germans have followed. After all, we trace back to the Roman Empire, from which we have inherited a lot of other things also. For example: our whole justice system, a large part of the papacy, our time system, or the names of our weekdays: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and so on. Now, however, we are not concerned with New Year's Day in the Roman sense, nor with any other traditions from that time.
In Luther's Day, people were in church on January 1 to observe the eighth day after Christ's birth, which was not only the day He was circumcised, according to the law since the days of Abraham, but it was also the day He was officially named "Jesus." The significance of this wonderful name and how it means salvation for all who believe what it says it could take up all our sermon time, to be sure.
But, since Luther's day, there is a new custom that is associated with January 1, and that is the making of a New Year's resolution. People begin to dream and make plans for the new year, perhaps resolving to better something that did not go so well the previous year. So, in approaching this week's message, I would like to have it both ways. I would like to think about the current custom of resolution making and the significance of the name given to God's Son on earth.
I. Resolved to be well, and do good
II. Good work in the name of Jesus
III. Trusting in the name of Jesus
IV. Resolved to be His

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