Church Pic 2
  • Palm Sunday: Easter Program and Sermon

    Our children had their Easter program on Palm Sunday! Please enjoy the video below:

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    Because of the program, we didn’t have a sermon in church. But Pastor David did speak at Bethesda on Matthew 21:1-1. The sermon wasn’t recorded, but you can read the text of it below:

    I was told that I absolutely had to preach one of these sermons for one of the Ministerial Association services, because I’m the “new guy.” Well, I’m not the new guy anymore, since Scott got hired up at the Church of God. I figured this meant I was off the hook for tonight, but alas, here I stand anyway.
    It feels kind of odd being here and still thinking of myself as “new.” I moved here along with my wife, Carissa, and our dog, Willie, on the 1st of July, so it feels like I’ve been here for a while now. I don’t feel like the new guy anymore. On the other hand, this is my first time here at Bethesda, and it’s my first time speaking before many of you, so I feel a bit obligated to introduce myself.
    Here’s the Cliff Notes version: I grew up in Milwaukee, WI. I am an only child. My parents, Bob and Cathy, were just here last week to visit me. After high school, I went to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, where I majored in English and religion. After graduation, I worked for a year as a reading tutor in a local public school. At the end of that school year, Carissa and I got married (just six days after she graduated), and then we went off to seminary in Chicago, where I lived for the last three years before moving here. That’s pretty much it. Oh! There is one more important thing. There’s one thing facing the world today that is an absolute black-and-white issue; you’re either on the right side, or the wrong side. So I’ll tell you where I stand: I love the Green Bay Packers; and if you don’t, you’re wrong. So, anyway, now that you know me, we can get on with this sermon business.
    When we were gathering together as a Ministerium to discuss the potential topics for these sermons, we landed on “The Kingdom of God Is at Hand.” I am actually extremely glad to have “drawn the short straw,” so to speak, to preach on Palm Sunday. Not because I think Palm Sunday sermons are particularly easy or anything; it’s just that, of all of the days of the church year when we could talk about how the Kingdom of God is at hand, this might be the best one. It certainly paints us, as believers, in the best light.
    Let me explain. I think the best way to see ourselves in the Scriptural texts, particularly in the life of Jesus, is if we imagine ourselves as part of the crowds for these momentous occasions. That means that, on Good Friday, we imagine ourselves as the ones shouting, “Crucify him!” and “Release Barabbas!” That’s not the most pleasant way to think of ourselves, but on a symbolic level, it’s definitely true. There are those moments in our lives when we struggle to do God’s will; we struggle to do the right thing; we struggle to pick up our own cross and follow Christ. At those moments, we turn our back on the Jesus that we come to know and love through Scripture. Instead of embracing him, we ignore Jesus; we turn our backs to him; at times, we wish that he (and the guilt our actions cause us when we think about him) would just GO AWAY. [pause]
    But that’s not until Friday. Sunday, Palm Sunday, we are optimists. We, like those people so long ago, see him riding in on a donkey. We wave our palms, shout our “Hosannas” and sing our songs of praise. We are proud of this Jesus and our association with him. But why are we proud, on a day like today? What makes us so glad and so joyful?
    Now this is the fun part where I get to tie things back to the theme chosen by us in the Ministerial Association: we’re proud because we know that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Palm Sunday is one of those bright, shining moments in our lives when the other cares and concerns that we have – our fears, our doubts, and our worries – can be tossed aside, and we can rejoice in the fact that we know that our Savior is here. Someone to comfort, guide, and protect us. Someone to care for us. And that someone is a king, ushering in a kingdom.
    Now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and spoil any Easter sermons. I don’t want to go on about the absolute centrality of Holy Week – the tension of Maundy Thursday, the conflict of Good Friday, and the dramatic reveal of Easter morning. Well, actually, I do want to talk about those things, but it’s not time yet. Instead, it’s time to talk about this remarkable moment when a remarkable man enters a town in a remarkable way, with a remarkable message. As Matthew continues building from this point onward, we see Jesus getting into arguments, Jesus teaching, Jesus talking to people. And it is all leading to the cross.
    But before we get to the cross, we have this moment. This Palm Sunday moment, in which we get to celebrate. It’s the day that we remember the good that comes with proclaiming Christ as Lord and King. It helps us remember those times when we’re glad to have a savior who will carry our burdens for us when we’re not able. The Savior who is such a magnetic personality that people all over the world are drawn to him – so much so that even though we may not agree about everything, we can still celebrate this connection together, and agree to follow his example.
    In some ways, that’s the perfect message for a sermon for one of these ecumenical services hosted tonight here at Bethesda, but with participants from many different churches. We may not all agree about specific points of theology. We will emphasize different parts of the Bible. We will disagree on worship styles and music and the look of the sanctuary and what it means to live a holy life and how we should conduct ourselves in public and what our lives should look like if we’re truly followers of Christ – but for this moment, right here, on Palm Sunday, that doesn’t matter. Because today is about celebrating the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and about clothing ourselves in the things we do agree on. We agree that Jesus, on earth, traveled around, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. Our ministerial association here has many points of theology on which we disagree. But we agree about the centrality of those missions.
    And that’s why, with the offering we receive here tonight, we go about trying to live out the call of Jesus. We try to put aside our differences when we meet, and try to share in the love and witness of Jesus Christ, by literally putting our money where our mouths are: we want to give of ourselves to further the Kingdom of God.
    So that’s the thing about proclaiming Christ as King – it’s the thing about acknowledging that the Kingdom of God is at hand. On the one hand, it’s this really freeing thing. It’s the acknowledgement that no political figure or position or nation or tribe or race or geography holds our ultimate allegiance; God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is the one to whom we belong. But the thing about the Kingdom of God is that kingdoms have a King. And this, my friends, is not an easy King to please. We are asked to give of ourselves for others. We’re asked to turn the other cheek when people hit us. We’re asked to offer the clothes off our back to those in need, the food in our hands to those who hunger, the love in our hearts to those in pain. This is not an easy message. And that’s why people turn their backs on it; because it’s just too hard.
    But even though we find it too difficult to live up to this Gospel, this Good News of Jesus Christ, there is still hope. That hope comes from a God who is willing to make us strong. A God who intercedes on our behalf, and makes us more than we can be. A God who asks more of us than we think we can give, and then gives us the strength to do it. Yes, brothers and sisters, we have a God who will help us to live out this Gospel, if we but ask. Even when we fail, God is there with a second attempt, a second chance, and infinite, abundant, overflowing Grace. We just hand ourselves and our lives over to Jesus Christ, and we are made whole.
    After any serious acknowledgement of our failure to live up to the Gospel always and everywhere, all this knowledge that the call of the Gospel is difficult, the knowledge that we will have our Good Fridays when we turn away from God – it’s awfully hard to be in the mood to shout “Hosannas” to the Lord, and to make a joyful noise; it can be tough, when thinking of these things, to be glad to hear that the Kingdom of God is at hand. But it shouldn’t be. And it shouldn’t be because of the Grace we receive from God, in whom all things are possible. May you be strengthened in your journey to the cross on Calvary, to the tomb, and up again in the Resurrection. Amen.

  • Palm Sunday: Easter Program and Sermon

    Our children had their Easter program on Palm Sunday! Please enjoy the video below:

    Because of the program, we didn’t have a sermon in church. But Pastor David did speak at Bethesda on Matthew 21:1-1. The sermon wasn’t recorded, but you can read the text of it below:

    I was told that I absolutely had to preach one of these sermons for one of the Ministerial Association services, because I’m the “new guy.” Well, I’m not the new guy anymore, since Scott got hired up at the Church of God. I figured this meant I was off the hook for tonight, but alas, here I stand anyway.
    It feels kind of odd being here and still thinking of myself as “new.” I moved here along with my wife, Carissa, and our dog, Willie, on the 1st of July, so it feels like I’ve been here for a while now. I don’t feel like the new guy anymore. On the other hand, this is my first time here at Bethesda, and it’s my first time speaking before many of you, so I feel a bit obligated to introduce myself.
    Here’s the Cliff Notes version: I grew up in Milwaukee, WI. I am an only child. My parents, Bob and Cathy, were just here last week to visit me. After high school, I went to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, where I majored in English and religion. After graduation, I worked for a year as a reading tutor in a local public school. At the end of that school year, Carissa and I got married (just six days after she graduated), and then we went off to seminary in Chicago, where I lived for the last three years before moving here. That’s pretty much it. Oh! There is one more important thing. There’s one thing facing the world today that is an absolute black-and-white issue; you’re either on the right side, or the wrong side. So I’ll tell you where I stand: I love the Green Bay Packers; and if you don’t, you’re wrong. So, anyway, now that you know me, we can get on with this sermon business.
    When we were gathering together as a Ministerium to discuss the potential topics for these sermons, we landed on “The Kingdom of God Is at Hand.” I am actually extremely glad to have “drawn the short straw,” so to speak, to preach on Palm Sunday. Not because I think Palm Sunday sermons are particularly easy or anything; it’s just that, of all of the days of the church year when we could talk about how the Kingdom of God is at hand, this might be the best one. It certainly paints us, as believers, in the best light.
    Let me explain. I think the best way to see ourselves in the Scriptural texts, particularly in the life of Jesus, is if we imagine ourselves as part of the crowds for these momentous occasions. That means that, on Good Friday, we imagine ourselves as the ones shouting, “Crucify him!” and “Release Barabbas!” That’s not the most pleasant way to think of ourselves, but on a symbolic level, it’s definitely true. There are those moments in our lives when we struggle to do God’s will; we struggle to do the right thing; we struggle to pick up our own cross and follow Christ. At those moments, we turn our back on the Jesus that we come to know and love through Scripture. Instead of embracing him, we ignore Jesus; we turn our backs to him; at times, we wish that he (and the guilt our actions cause us when we think about him) would just GO AWAY. [pause]
    But that’s not until Friday. Sunday, Palm Sunday, we are optimists. We, like those people so long ago, see him riding in on a donkey. We wave our palms, shout our “Hosannas” and sing our songs of praise. We are proud of this Jesus and our association with him. But why are we proud, on a day like today? What makes us so glad and so joyful?
    Now this is the fun part where I get to tie things back to the theme chosen by us in the Ministerial Association: we’re proud because we know that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Palm Sunday is one of those bright, shining moments in our lives when the other cares and concerns that we have – our fears, our doubts, and our worries – can be tossed aside, and we can rejoice in the fact that we know that our Savior is here. Someone to comfort, guide, and protect us. Someone to care for us. And that someone is a king, ushering in a kingdom.
    Now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and spoil any Easter sermons. I don’t want to go on about the absolute centrality of Holy Week – the tension of Maundy Thursday, the conflict of Good Friday, and the dramatic reveal of Easter morning. Well, actually, I do want to talk about those things, but it’s not time yet. Instead, it’s time to talk about this remarkable moment when a remarkable man enters a town in a remarkable way, with a remarkable message. As Matthew continues building from this point onward, we see Jesus getting into arguments, Jesus teaching, Jesus talking to people. And it is all leading to the cross.
    But before we get to the cross, we have this moment. This Palm Sunday moment, in which we get to celebrate. It’s the day that we remember the good that comes with proclaiming Christ as Lord and King. It helps us remember those times when we’re glad to have a savior who will carry our burdens for us when we’re not able. The Savior who is such a magnetic personality that people all over the world are drawn to him – so much so that even though we may not agree about everything, we can still celebrate this connection together, and agree to follow his example.
    In some ways, that’s the perfect message for a sermon for one of these ecumenical services hosted tonight here at Bethesda, but with participants from many different churches. We may not all agree about specific points of theology. We will emphasize different parts of the Bible. We will disagree on worship styles and music and the look of the sanctuary and what it means to live a holy life and how we should conduct ourselves in public and what our lives should look like if we’re truly followers of Christ – but for this moment, right here, on Palm Sunday, that doesn’t matter. Because today is about celebrating the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and about clothing ourselves in the things we do agree on. We agree that Jesus, on earth, traveled around, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. Our ministerial association here has many points of theology on which we disagree. But we agree about the centrality of those missions.
    And that’s why, with the offering we receive here tonight, we go about trying to live out the call of Jesus. We try to put aside our differences when we meet, and try to share in the love and witness of Jesus Christ, by literally putting our money where our mouths are: we want to give of ourselves to further the Kingdom of God.
    So that’s the thing about proclaiming Christ as King – it’s the thing about acknowledging that the Kingdom of God is at hand. On the one hand, it’s this really freeing thing. It’s the acknowledgement that no political figure or position or nation or tribe or race or geography holds our ultimate allegiance; God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is the one to whom we belong. But the thing about the Kingdom of God is that kingdoms have a King. And this, my friends, is not an easy King to please. We are asked to give of ourselves for others. We’re asked to turn the other cheek when people hit us. We’re asked to offer the clothes off our back to those in need, the food in our hands to those who hunger, the love in our hearts to those in pain. This is not an easy message. And that’s why people turn their backs on it; because it’s just too hard.
    But even though we find it too difficult to live up to this Gospel, this Good News of Jesus Christ, there is still hope. That hope comes from a God who is willing to make us strong. A God who intercedes on our behalf, and makes us more than we can be. A God who asks more of us than we think we can give, and then gives us the strength to do it. Yes, brothers and sisters, we have a God who will help us to live out this Gospel, if we but ask. Even when we fail, God is there with a second attempt, a second chance, and infinite, abundant, overflowing Grace. We just hand ourselves and our lives over to Jesus Christ, and we are made whole.
    After any serious acknowledgement of our failure to live up to the Gospel always and everywhere, all this knowledge that the call of the Gospel is difficult, the knowledge that we will have our Good Fridays when we turn away from God – it’s awfully hard to be in the mood to shout “Hosannas” to the Lord, and to make a joyful noise; it can be tough, when thinking of these things, to be glad to hear that the Kingdom of God is at hand. But it shouldn’t be. And it shouldn’t be because of the Grace we receive from God, in whom all things are possible. May you be strengthened in your journey to the cross on Calvary, to the tomb, and up again in the Resurrection. Amen.

  • Come Join Us!

    Sunday Church Service: 9:30 am
    Adult Sunday School: 10:30am
    Wednesday Youth Service: 6:30 pm

    102 East 1st Street
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    Phone: (605) 648-3876
    Email: emmanuelpc@goldenwest.net
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