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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:

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: "...faith 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
    Body
    Property
    Time
    Mercy
- 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.
- RECONCILED
    A slow fuse 5:21-24
    A quick resolution vs. 25-26
- FAITHFUL
    Pure heart vs. 27-30
    Pure commitment vs. 31-32
- TRUTHFUL
    Yes and No vs. 33-37
- SELF HELP or GOD'S HELP?

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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