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The Weekly Word for October 23, 206

Luke 18: 9-14
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Sermon for October 23, 2016: “The Gospel According to Larry the Cucumber”
When Paul gets home from school, and he gets his milk, crackers, and chocolate chip teddy bears:
These are the orders he gives me:
“I want Apple TV.
Put on songs
Put on Vegetables.”
Veggie Tales.
Paul really likes the show Veggie Tales.
Just about every day we either watch or listen to the songs from the show.
His favorite is a song by Larry The Cucumber called: “Cooperation”
“Cooperation gets the ship in shape
Cooperation makes everything great
Let’s all help to turn the tide
Put our differences aside
Here’s the plan
Lend a hand
And cooperate!”

I love hearing Paul sing along with Larry the Cucumber.
I really like this particular song because it’s catchy, funny, and very meaningful.
And I think it is a very timely song for our culture.

I believe that we as a society have forgotten the meaning of cooperation.
In too many walks of life, be it:
Cultural norms,
And especially in politics,
It’s become more and more a “my way is the only way” kind of world.

We have forgotten what it means to work together.
And we have become very comfortable with an “Us Vs. Them” ideology.

And God doesn’t like it when we don’t cooperate.
God does not like it when we have “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.”
If that last statement sounds familiar it’s because it is how our Gospel begins today.
And I believe in our time of un-cooperation, this parable can be and should be addressed to us.

Because we spend a lot of our time acting like the Pharisee and little time like the Tax Collector.

The Pharisee spends a lot of time in his prayer bragging.
Not bragging ABOUT God,
Bragging TO God.
If the Pharisee wore a t-shirt it would read “Man! I am good!” on the front and have a handprint on his shoulder where he has given himself pats on the back.

But before one starts to judge this Pharisee too quickly,
Let’s think about what he is actually saying.
Because what the Pharisee says is true.
He IS thankful he isn’t like the sad pathetic people that surround him.
The Pharisee believes there are two kinds of people in the world: the “haves” and the “have nots” and he believes he is one of the “haves.”

And if we were to be real honest with ourselves and God:
Haven’t we all said this?
Haven’t we looked at another person’s circumstances and under our breath said, “Man! Glad I am not that person!”
But where our “phew” might be a quiet relief, the Pharisee is making it loud and proud in a boastful way.
This is not really good form for anyone, especially for a noted “man of God” like a Pharisee.
Rather than being a model of discipleship,
The Pharisee comes off like a pompous and arrogant jerk to “those people” around him.

Now while the Pharisee is busy giving himself self-high fives and pats on his own back,
The Tax Collector comes to God from a different angle.
Rather than coming from a place of certainty and arrogance, the tax collector comes from a place of desperation.
He goes not come to God gloating,
He comes to God begging.
Begging for forgiveness and mercy.
We are not sure what this man has done wrong, but back in Jesus’ time tax collectors were not the some of the most popular people in society.
In fact, they were some of the most hated.
You see, the tax collectors were Jewish men who worked for the enemy Roman Empire.
They took money from their Jewish brothers and sisters and gave it to the enemy.
And many tax collectors took more money than they were legally bound to attain.
For an example in Luke 19:5-9 we have read about the tax collector Zacchaeus who, in the eyes of the people around him was a “sinner” who was rumored to have defrauded people.:
So maybe the issues and accusations Zacchaeus faced are the same ones for the tax collector in our parable.
And these are serious issues.
Issues that need to be resolved.
So the collector comes before God looking for mercy.
The one thing that the collector cannot give himself.
He CAN NOT find the solution within himself.
His hope, his only HOPE, comes from God.

So while the Pharisee comes off as a arrogant braggart.
The tax collector comes off as a desperate beggar.

So my question to you is which one have you been lately?
The bragger or the beggar?

If you have been the bragger, then today you need to hear what I say.
And I think many of us have been the bragger, considering what people have shared with me during this vicious campaign cycle.
I have seen, heard, and read some serious breaking of the Commandments from people of all sides of the political spectrum.
People who claim to be Christians first.
But we are not acting like Christans.
We are acting like the Pharisee.
We like to divide rather than unite.
We like power rather than sacrifice.
We love the “Us Vs. Them” game
And we love to believe we are right on every issue and everyone is wrong and are horrible people.

But listen to what Jesus is teaching in his story.
Jesus is teaching us that we really have no place to give ourselves credit for anything.
All we have comes from God.
Rather than having a t-shirt that reads “I am good” we need to be wearing shirts that say, “GOD is good”
And rather than having a place on our shoulder to pat ourselves on the back, we need to stick our hands out and help our neighbors.

And we need to learn how to cooperate again.
The attitude the Pharisee has towards other people is unacceptable to Jesus.
And it is still unacceptable.
Keep in mind that this parable takes place on the grounds of the Temple, where people always were aware of their status in society.
There were “insiders” and “outsiders” at the temple, and at first look there would be no question as to where the Pharisee and Tax Collector stood.

Think about our society now.
Over my lifetime, more specifically as a pastor, I have heard:
“That politician is evil.”
“That church is CRAZY.”
“That pastor is judgmental.”
“That guy is a loser!”
“That religion is all about death and destruction.”
I know for a fact I have heard these things,
Because, sadly, in the past the one who has said these things is me
But thanks be to God Jesus open my mind and heart to a new way of thinking found in this text.
And this lesson reminds me that I am called…not as a pastor…but as a Christian to walk humbly before God, and not shout hate and disrespect to God’s children.
This is not just my calling.
It’s our calling.
And we need to be better.

We are quick to judge
We are quick to separate
We are quick to judge another person’s sins.
Even though some guy named Jesus teaches us to:
“first take the log out of (our) own eye, and then (we) will see clearly to take the speck out of (our) neighbor’s eye.”
Notice what comes first.
Because according to God there is not top 10 list of sins…a sin is a sin. No matter how big or how small.

In God’s eyes, we all fall short.

And yet, in God’s eyes we all are worth saving.
That includes the tax collectors and the Pharisees.

When Jesus dies on the cross, everything changes.
The divisions that humanity makes are gone.
The boundaries we place in our hearts.
The closed doors we create in our minds.
Those are all gone.

We are made anew.
And our lives and purpose are renewed.

This is why it is important for us to confess our sins each and every week.
Some might ask, “Why do you have weekly confession?”
And my answer is, “because we don’t meet every day.”
But we confess because we need to.
We need to take time and admit our failures and our sins.
We need the time to be reminded that we all have unknown sins.
And we need to be reminded that we CAN NOT save ourselves.
But God can and does.

And we confess this, we admit this every week because we too quickly forget that important fact.

As Martin Luther says, “Repentance is nothing else than a return and approach to baptism, to resume and practice what has earlier been begun and abandoned (Large Cat 4:77-79).”
When we don’t work together, we abandon our calling.
And we abandon God.
But God gives us another chance to make things right.

God’s act of grace, the act of baptism, has made us one people in Christ,
Brought together to proclaim GOD’s saving deeds.
And then we are to witness this saving act in service and love…NOT to ourselves…but to OUR neighbors.

Right here.
Right now.
Let us become better people.
Let us be what this world needs.
Beter Christians.
Loving Christians.
Christians who do not use terms like:
“Those people”

But use terms like:

Let us be grateful for what we have been given
Let us be gracious to those who have been placed around us.

“Instead of criticizing
Let’s agree to more high-fiving
Let’s say amen to being friends
Let’s cooperate
Say amen to being friends
And cooperate!”

The Weekly Word for October 16, 2016


Luke 18:1-8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”[ And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”


Sermon for October 16, 2016: “The Give-Up Gospel”


Every morning I have to tell myself, “I am not giving in.”

The Weekly Word for October 9, 2016

Reading: Luke 17: 11-19


11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”


Sermon for October 9, 2016: “Mr. Fix-It”


One of my proudest moments as a father came about two months ago.

As he woke from a nap, Paul started crying.

His toy, a flashlight, wasn’t working.

And he wasn’t taking it very well.

The Grace October 2016 Newsletter is here!

Please enjoy our latest newsletter. october-2016

Open Arms October 2016 Newsletter

OA October 2016


The Weekly Word for October 2, 2016

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
2 I will stand at my watchpost,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he[d] will answer concerning my complaint.
2 Then the LORD answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
4 Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.[e]

2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Sermon for October 2, 2016: “What The Habakkuk?!”

Lemme tell ya…

When I began to look at our bible readings for today, I was really happy to see this passage from Habakkuk. (more…)

The Weekly Word for September 25, 2016

Luke 16:19-31
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.[a] The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.[b] 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Sermon for September 25, 2016: “The Travis and Bo Gospel”

This past Tuesday we welcomed Madelyn Grace Conrad to the world.
She is doing well.
We have had a lot of family come into town to visit us.
We have had a lot of friends call and write us.
And we think even Paul likes her!

So It’s been a series of good days.

Someone who is not having a good day is the rich man in our Gospel lesson today.

Our story today is the 2nd parable we find in Chapter 16 that deals with wealth.
Specifically, the love and worship of wealth.
It is also the second WARNING parable that we find in Chapter 16.
Let me remind you what Jesus says in chapter 16 verse 13:
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Now in the Greek language “Wealth” is “Mammon.”
And by definition “Mammon” is “Wealth, property”
The word “Mammon” is only used twice in the NT, 16:13 and Matthew 6:24
And last week Jesus was talking about the prudent use of money and discipleship.
This week, he tells the story of two men who are true opposites.

One man is covered in purple.
Another man is covered in sores.
One eats sumptuously.
Another longs for the scraps.
One is inside the gate.
Another is out.

Let me share with you some insight on these two characters.
First, The Rich Man:
He has money.
He wore purple and fine linen.
Fine linen was very expensive.
Purple was a color reserved for people of wealth, royalty, or connections to the Roman Empire.
So he dressed the part.
He eats sumptuously every day.
This man is living the high life.

Next we have Lazarus.
Lazarus was a poor man.
A hungry man.
A very sick man.
Our translation says Lazarus laid at the gate but in the Greek it reads he had been placed or “thrown at the rich man’s” gate.
The gate would have been in earshot of the room where the rich man’s dinners were held.

But then things get turned upside down.
Both men die and one man is sent to Hades, the other is carried away by the angels and is placed beside Abraham.
Now in that society it would have made sense for the rich man to be the one partying with Abraham while Lazarus languishes in Hades.
But in the story, it is Lazarus who ends up at the big party while the rich man agonizes in Hades.

How did this happen?
How did the rich man end up the loser?
Was he being punished because he was rich?
Absolutely not.
I do not want to come off today saying that being rich is a sin.
It is not.

But here is where the rich man failed.
Over the last few months I have mentioned that in the Gospel of Luke, SEEING is a major theme.

Some examples:
Back in Luke 7 Jesus is invited to a dinner party at Simon the Pharisee’s house.
A woman interrupts the party to wash and kiss Jesus’ feet
The host of the party, a Pharisee, is appalled that this sinner has crashed his party.
But while Simon sees a sinner,
Jesus sees a person.
Jesus sees a child of God.

Another example can be found later in Luke 19.
Zacchaeus is a tax collector who climbs a tree to see Jesus.
While others see Zacchaeus as a hated tax collector,
Jesus SEES Zacchaeus as a person.
Jesus SEES a child of God.

When you get the chance, look and study what happens when someone SEES another person in the gospel.
Something good or bad happens.

When it is Jesus who sees someone, something good and amazing is going to happen.

But when that someone is the rich man, things don’t turn out as well.
Because what the rich man gets wrong is that he chooses not to see Lazarus.
We don’t know how long Lazarus lay at the rich man’s gate, but we can assume that the rich man could see Lazarus.
We can assume he could see Lazarus begging for scraps.
And the rich man did nothing to help Lazarus.
How many times did the rich man walk by Lazarus? Where was the hospitality?
Even the dogs had more compassion for Lazarus than did the rich man!

What has the rich man done wrong?
He is not punished because he is wealthy.
He is punished because he did not care for Lazarus.

The rich man SEES Lazarus and could not care less.

Even in the chasm scene, the rich man only addresses Abraham.
He doesn’t say anything to Lazarus.
But he DOES ask Abraham to send Lazarus to Hades, not to rescue the rich man but to SERVE the rich man.
Think how messed up that is!

One little but important side note, while the rich man doesn’t acknowledge Lazarus,
DID YOU KNOW that Lazarus is the only person given a NAME in any of Jesus’ parables?
I think that is pretty significant.

So what does this parable, this teaching, this warning, mean to us?

It goes back to the theme of “SEEING” but in the Gospels, the way that Jesus teaches, SEEING is not just the act of looking at someone or something.

SEEING leads to “ACTING”
It leads to “REACTING”
It leads to “INVITING”

When we SEE people in trouble,
In despair,
In need,
What do we do?

Do we make fun of them?
Do we get angry at them and yell “you deserve it!”
Do we ignore them?
Or do we SEE them?

Travis Rudolph is a wide receiver for the Florida State Seminoles.
on Tuesday, August 30th, Rudolph and several teammates were at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee,
It was around lunch time, and Rudolph was in the cafeteria.
He saw a student sitting by himself eating lunch, and Rudolph decided to pull up a chair next to him.
The child’s name is Bo Paske.
Bo has autism.
And sadly, sitting alone for lunch is something that happens quite often.
But not on that day. And when Rudolph pulled up a chair, someone in the school snapped a picture of the duo eating lunch together, and sent it to Bo’s mom Leah.
Leah then posted the picture on Facebook, and she wrote this incredible reply:
“(Bo) doesn’t seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone. It’s one of my daily questions for him. ‘Who did you eat lunch with today?’ Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody.
A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption ‘Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son’ I replied, ‘who is that?’ He said, ‘FSU football player,’, then I had tears streaming down my face.
I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”
Keep in mind what Travis Rudolph did:
And he ACTED.
He SAT with Bo.
He ATE with Bo.
He even said later, “He’s a cool person, I’ll hang out with him any day. And for the mom, if he needs my (cell) number, he can get it.”
So to me, this parable is not really about the wealth of the rich man or the reason he ends up in Hades.
The parable is really about Abraham and his care of Lazarus.

What does Abraham do in our parable?
He STANDS with Lazarus
He SPEAKS for Lazarus
He CALLS Lazarus by his name
He COMFORTS Lazarus.

Abraham SEES and ACTS.
Travis Rudolph SAW and ACTED.

When Jesus sees a woman, a tax collector, a child, a sinner,

He…shows us how we as his followers are to do the same thing.

The Grace September 2016 Newsletter Is Here!

Please read and enjoy our latest newsletter. September 2016

WELCA Bible Study Returns September 8th

The Monthly WELCA Bible Study returns on September 8th at 7:00 at Grace Lutheran. Please join us for a night of spiritual discussion and fellowship!

CCM Ministry Update

CCM appreciates the food donations our members have generously given in the past, however they are always in need of personal items such Shampoo, Bar Soap, Toilet Paper, Toothpaste, and Deodorant. By donating these items CCM can build a surplus to give to families in real need.