"The Stumbling Block of the Cross" Matthew 16:21-28 The solid rock upon which the church will stand is the promise that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Peter got it right when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” But in the next conversation, Peter gets it wrong. So wrong that Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan!” God’s mission for the world to save us lost and condemned sinners will both be the solid rock upon which the church will stand and also become the stumbling block that we trip over. Jesus refuses to avoid the journey to the cross. Jesus turns toward the suffering caused by sin. Jesus turns toward the violence in this world. Jesus turns in love to this world even while we are yet sinners. In the name of love, we do not turn away from picking up the cross and following Jesus. Violence is not the ultimate power that we must hide from. We can turn toward this violent world and bring the love of God. We will suffer hate because of the love of Jesus. We will share the love of Christ anyways.
In times of distress, feelings of being lost and lonely can be overwhelming. God speaks words of comfort into our times of distress. God asks you to look at what He has done. The righteousness of God goes into this world like a light that will not be extinguished. Into the waste places, wilderness, and deserts of despair, God brings comfort, joy, and gladness. God brings the voice of song. So it is time to listen to God, look at what He promises, and trust His righteousness will not be dismayed.
Matthew 15:21-28 What keeps this Canaanite woman going? Jesus is ignoring her; the disciples are trying to get rid of her. Even when she finally gets Jesus to respond, what He says to her sounds like an insult. But she keeps going. And ultimately, Jesus was impressed, even inspired, by her faith. And He healed the woman’s daughter. What does it look like in our lives to pray with such passionate persistence? To demonstrate an unending faith in the face of difficult circumstances, where it seems God Himself has turned His back on us? Our Heavenly Father has given us the great gift of faith, and we can be confident that faith, made active by the Holy Spirit and strengthened by the Word of God, will allow us to stand firm to the end, no matter what the world throws at us.
Job 38:4-18 In times of suffering, we may question the wisdom of God’s ways. Job spends much of the book in conversations with his friends, and throughout this he has found no answers for suffering. He has been demanding the opportunity to question God. Near the end of the book, God answers Job. The answers don’t directly answer Job, but they do reveal God knows what He is doing. There is little answer in the book of Job beyond trusting that God is God. There are many moments when we feel like we have little answer to the sufferings we experience. The end of this mystery has been revealed in Jesus. Preacher: Rev. Dr. Evan Gaertner
Matthew 14:13-21 There are multiple times in the Gospels that Jesus shares a meal with people. In the feeding of the 5,000 we find echoes of how God provides for His people throughout the Scriptures and in the life of the church. God provided for His people in the wilderness during the Exodus. God continues to provide for His people in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, He spoke a blessing, broke the bread to share, and gave it to the disciples to share it to the people. This is not just a story about a hungry crowd being fed. The feeding of the 5,000 shows us how Jesus transforms our lives from a wilderness to abandon to a place of blessing that brings us together.
"Jesus Leads the Way. “How precious is Your steadfast love, O God!" Psalm 36:7 The sermon this weekend dives into the five stories shared during our Vacation Bible School. Sometimes it can be hard to go forward when you don’t know what is around the next turn. Rejoice! Jesus leads the way. Discover how Jesus leads the way through the stories of Noah, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, the call of the disciples, the healing of ten lepers, and Jesus visiting His Disciples. We do not wander aimlessly as we wonder what is going on in this world. We believe that Jesus leads the way.
The word “evil” is rarely used in conversation with family and friends. Yet since the Fall of mankind, evil has thrived in this broken world. Relationships, households, churches, communities…all are not what they could be, and evil is the culprit. Jesus speaks about evil in the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13. Evil exists, His parable makes clear, and God will ultimately judge. In this way, God gives us great freedom. Don’t worry, little children, He says. I’ve got this. So the calling of those who follow Jesus in this life is not to explain evil, but to acknowledge its existence. Not to solve the problems evil creates, but to bring relief to those who have become victims of evil, and to speak the truth of Christ into broken lives. The ultimate evil – death – has been defeated by Jesus, and so we can have confidence and peace; because of Jesus, we will endure to the end, and, as Jesus says, “shine like the sun in the kingdom of [our] Father.”
Why would the sower waste valuable seed by scattering it on the path, the rocky ground, and among thorns? Perhaps it’s because the Sower (that’s with a capital “S”) has enough seed – an eternal abundance. And as He scatters His grace, forgiveness, and mercy, the Sower sees the differences in each place where the seed lands. But He also sees each is worthy. Each is precious. Each type of soil, each heart, each soul, is enough... not because of the soil itself, but because of the work of Christ Jesus, our Savior, the One who continually works the soil so that the path is softened; the rocky soil deepened; the thorns removed. Because of Christ, we are enough. And He will never stop scattering His seeds of life.
It is a deadly thing to think one can be self-sufficient in spiritual and physical needs. We fall short of what God intends and expects us to be. If we could change the expectations of God and make it easier, we could at least hope to maintain a right relationship with God. But the human need is total. We need God. Our bodies and souls need hope and salvation. Jesus is the revelation of this way of salvation. Jesus invites you, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” You cannot earn your way into this saving relationship with God. Jesus invites you into this way of salvation by trading the heavy burden of sin and failure and believing in him. Believe in Jesus, and find rest for your soul.
Rev. Dr. Evan Gaertner On one hand, Jesus is the Prince of Peace promised in Isaiah 9. On the other hand, in Matthew 10:34, Jesus declares, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Jesus makes claims on the truth of who God is and what God is doing to bring us into the kingdom of heaven. Modern society struggles with these truth claims by Jesus. A relationship with Jesus will cut us away from our own vanities and our own desires for power. Leaving behind our sinful desires and ideas will seem painful, but healing arrives when we find in Jesus the freedom to live with purpose and meaning.