What are You Passionate About?

Readings for the day (5th Sunday in Lent, Sunday, March 18, 2018):

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 51:1-12

Hebrews 5:5-10

John 12:20-43


Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


Spring is coming, I can feel it.  And before you know it the pools and lakes will be filled once again with people of all ages taking a dip in the pool to stay cool during those hot summer days.  Now unless the pool is heated to about 95 degrees, no matter how hot it is outside, the water takes some getting used to.  When I’m at the lake, swimming with our children, I start with getting my feet wet.  And on a hot summer day, the cool water feels pretty good.  So I take my children by the hand and we walk a little bit further out into the lake.  As we walk, we get a little deeper and the water appears to be getting a little colder.  Before I know it, my children are standing on their tiptoes, trying not to have the cold water get any higher on their bodies.  And that’s when I completely submerge myself in the water.

What are you passionate about?  Do you have a passion?  Something that is a priority for you, something that is very important to you.  What’s your passion?  It is something that you feel very strongly about.  It excites you.  It energizes you.  It consumes you – taking a lot of your time.  For example, people who are really passionate about football, know the ins and outs of the game.  They know who the players are, what their stats are, who would be a good player for say the Vikings quarterback position.  People who are passionate about football spend as much time as they can researching everything they can find about the game, the players, and the coaches.  It is the people who are passionate about football who have been saying for weeks now that Kurt Cousins was going to be the new Vikings quarterback.

What is your passion?  What drives you out of bed in the morning to tackle the day?  Right now, one of my passions is basketball.  It’s not at the top of my priority list, but it’s pretty close.  For the next two weeks, any free time that I have (like this afternoon) will be spent watching the NCAA tournament.  Every year I look forward to this time, this time of countless hours of basketball.  What’s your passion?  Maybe it is basketball or football.  Maybe it is your family.  Maybe it is sewing or exercise.  Maybe it is your work.  Whatever your passion is, it will be at the top of your priority list.  And no matter what, you will find the time for what you are passionate about.

We are nearing the end of Lent; next Sunday is Palm Sunday.  In the Gospel reading today, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.  The text that we have before us is what Jesus says right after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  So after all of the pomp and circumstance of entering Jerusalem and being praised as the King of Israel, Jesus issues a call for discipleship, for faithful followers.  Jesus calls for us to be passionate about our faith.  He calls for us to be like the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies.  The thing about Jesus’ call for discipleship is that He doesn’t call us practice our faith only when it is convenient for us.  Nor does Jesus calls us to come and just get our feet wet.  No, He wants us all in.  He wants us to jump in and be completely submerged in this faith.  Jesus desires for us to make our faith and belief in God the main thing we are passionate about.  But in order to be passionate about this faith, you must be all in.  You can’t be wishy washy.  You must be like the grain of wheat.  In order for the single grain of wheat to produce much fruit, it first must be buried in the ground.  Actually in order for the single grain of wheat to produce any fruit, it first must be buried in the ground.  And what happens to the seed if it is not fully buried in the ground?  It won’t grow.  The only way for the seed to produce fruit is for the seed to be completely buried in the ground.  The seed must be all in.  It cannot be only partially covered by the soil.

Jesus call us to be His disciples, and He desires us to be like the grain of wheat by being all in with our faith.  We can’t be living this faith only part way.  It is either all or nothing.  Faith that is only in part way is like a seed that is not fully buried in the ground.  Neither a partially covered seed, nor a partially active faith will produce any fruit.  And faith that isn’t all is, not a passion.  And we aren’t fully passionate about our faith because we like the past.  We like holding on to the past.  The shallow water behind us is comforting because we know how it feels and we know what to expect.  Looking forward to the future brings up so much uncertainty.  We don’t know what it will be like or how it will feel.  We have no idea what to expect.  But in order to faithfully follow Jesus, the only way to go is all in for our Lord.

And when we go all in, it often is terrifying because not only is the future unknown, but we are also giving up control.  When the grain of wheat goes all in and is completely buried in the ground, it dies.  It needs to die.  For that’s the only way to produce fruit abundantly.  And this is the reason why we struggle with going all in with our faith.  Going all in means giving up the past.  If the grain of wheat never goes all in, it will remain a single grain.  But if the grain of wheat goes all in and dies, then it will no longer be a single grain.  Rather it will be a plant with roots and produce it’s own fruit.  I know we don’t like to see things die.  We like to hold on to the past.  We like things just the way they are; even if we aren’t producing much fruit.  But death is necessary for resurrection.  You can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.  There can be no resurrection without first experiencing death.  So the only way to get to new life, producing fruits of the spirit, is for us to go all in, letting go of the past, and be completely submerged by God’s love.  And there you will find your passion.  Faith that excites you.  Faith that energizes you.  Faith that consumes you.

And for Jesus, you are His passion.  You are what He is passionate about.  Jesus didn’t just get His feet wet.  He went all in for you.  He went all in to die in order to rise to new life and to bear much fruit.  And He did all of this; going all in for you.  Amen.



© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.


Silently Listening

Readings for the day (Transfiguration Sunday, February 11, 2018):

2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9


Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


Yesterday, we were at a mall and the kids were playing in one of those indoor playgrounds.  And I couldn’t help but notice a grandmother playing with her grandkids.  From 15 feet away, the mother of the kids was trying to get her mom’s attention and was struggling to do just that.  She said her name a handful of times; progressively getting louder each time she said her name.  Finally the grandmother heard her daughter and they were able to have a conversation about where they were going for lunch.

When the grandmother finally acknowledged her daughter, was it because she finally heard her?  Or was it because she finally listened to her daughter?  There is a difference between hearing and listening.  Hearing is just a subconscious thing that we do.  We hear sounds.  We hear noises.  But just because we hear a sound doesn’t mean that we know exactly what it is that we are hearing.  Listening is different.  Listening takes effort.  Listening takes a conscious effort to not only hear, but to hear and concentration on what was heard so that our brains can process the meaning of what we just heard.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday.  The last Sunday in the season after Epiphany and the final Sunday before the beginning of Lent.  The transfiguration is a turning point.  From Christmas through the season after Epiphany, our focus has been on who Jesus is (the Messiah, God’s chosen One) and what He is capable of (healing people and casting out demons).  Now as we go through the season of Lent, our focus turns to what Jesus has come to do; specifically heading to the cross for the final sacrifice to fulfill the law and the prophets.

In Mark’s Gospel, we hear three times that Jesus is the “Son of God.”  First, at the beginning of the Gospel account, when Jesus comes out of the water after being baptized by John in the Jordan River, from heaven God proclaims to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”[1]  A second time we hear someone proclaim Jesus as the “Son of God” is at the end of Mark’s Gospel, at the foot of the cross, where a Roman centurion, seeing Jesus breathe His last, says, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”[2]  And third, in the reading for today, as Jesus is on the mountaintop with His disciples, Peter, James, and John, a cloud overshadows them and from that same cloud, the voice of God says, “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him!”[3]

This is my Son, listen to Him.  Listen to Him.  Notice God doesn’t say hear Him.  We aren’t supposed to just hear Jesus speaking and teaching; we are supposed to listen to Him.  But many of us struggle with listening, at least right away.  Why?  Take that grandmother in the mall, for example.  The reason why she didn’t hear her daughter calling her name was because she wasn’t listening to her.  And she wasn’t listening to her because her grandkids were distracting her.  Her focus was on her grandkids, not listening for her daughter.

We all get distracted.  And I think that the level of distraction is getting worse.  With the overwhelming use of smartphones today, our ability to remain idle for any lengthen of time in order to listen seems almost obsolete.  People can’t even go to the bathroom, brush their teeth, or drive their car or ride a bicycle without grabbing their phone and doing something on it.  These little devices have done some wonderful things for business, for socializing, for staying connected with friends across the world.  But these little devices have created a monster.  They have made us more into multi-taskers, causing us to be more distracted the more we use them.  And more importantly, we have become less comfortable with silence and idle time.  We don’t like sitting around and not doing anything.  And when you do find yourself in a situation where you aren’t doing anything, how long do you spend in that idle time before reaching for your phone?

And yet, it is only during those idle times, those quiet times, those times when we aren’t doing anything else, that we have the opportunity to hear God.  These are precisely the times when God does speak to us.  If only we weren’t so distracted, maybe we would not only hear Him, we might actually listen to Him too!  And that is what we are called to do, to listen to Jesus.  So when Jesus says, “Follow me,” we follow Him, not following after our own desires.  When Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, only believe,” we put our faith and trust in Him, and Him alone.  When Jesus says, “Deny [yourself] and take up [your cross] and follow me,” we put aside all of those things that hinder and distract us from having a close, healthy relationship with our creator.

As we begin the season of Lent this week, take some time and think about your relationship with God and what it is that you would like to focus on over the next 40 days.  Maybe it is removing something from your diet that is unhealthy or removing something from your routine that is a distraction.  Maybe it is adding something to your life that will draw you closer to God or making time to simply be with God more.  To have some idle time to listen for God and listen to God.

When we are distracted by things around us, we aren’t able to hear and listen clearly to what people are trying to tell us.  The same is true in our relationship with God.  When we are distracted by many things, it becomes easy for us to push our relationship with God to the side and allow work, school, sports, extra-curriculars, and smartphones, get in the way.  Rather, when God tells Peter, James, and John that the man standing in their midst is the Son of the Living God and that they should listen to Him, they really should heed that advice and listen to Him.  For Jesus is trying to tell all of his disciples, then and now, that the Son of God has come to make all things new.  We follow Him because the only way to our salvation and eternal life is through the Son of God.  We walk by faith and are not afraid because God has always kept His promises and the Son of God has promised that He will come again to shine so brilliantly bright as He did on the mountain when He was transfigured, that His light will be brighter than the sun and push the darkness of this world completely away.  Once and for all.  So that one day we will no longer need to walk by faith or follow Him because then we will be with our Savior face to face.  And then there truly will be no distractions.  Until that day, how willing are you to listen to God?  Or are you too distracted to listen to Him?  Amen.



© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

[1] Mark 1:11, NRSV

[2] Mark 15:39, NRSV

[3] Mark 9:7, NRSV

‘Patiently’ Waiting

Readings for the day (Sunday, November 12, 2017):

Amos 5:18-24

Psalm 70

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13


Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


Are you a patient person?  A patient person, someone who is able to accept or tolerate delays.  Patience would not be how I would describe my children or my wife.  This impatience certainly comes out during harvest time.  As we’re going down the road and we come up behind a tractor, combine, or other slow moving vehicles, I’ll hear from the back seat of the car, “Why you slowing down, Daddy?  Go faster!”  Or when I’m sitting at a red light, I’ll hear from the back seat, “Go daddy!”  And then the second the light turns green, I’ll hear from the passenger seat, “It’s green.”

We are not always the most patient people, are we?  I wonder, is our impatience a result of the advancement of technology that keeps getting faster and more connected?  Or is our impatience self-inflicted by how busy we have become?  We can certainly blame technology for making us impatient.  My boys get frustrated when a Netflix show takes a little longer to load because of slow internet.  But what we would consider slow internet today is nothing like what dial up internet was just 15 plus years ago.  So yes, technology can be blamed.  But we also need to look at ourselves.  If we are impatient and unable to accept or tolerate delays because we have too much going on at once, then maybe our busyness has created our impatience.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of the ten bridesmaids.  These bridesmaids are eager to meet the bridegroom.  They head out to wait for his arrival.  They all take oil burning lamps with them, but only five of the ten take a flask of extra oil.  And their eagerness begins to dwindle as the bridegroom’s arrival is delayed.  He is delayed so much that all ten became drowsy and fell asleep.  The wise and the foolish fall asleep.  No one is able to stay ready and awake for the bridegroom; especially with the bridegroom’s delay.

This parable is one of the many reasons why I like the lectionary and the flow of the church year; because without this structure, we wouldn’t study this parable much.  Who really wants to hear about the foolish ones who were not properly prepared for when Jesus returned and who inevitably were late to the party and were locked out of the wedding banquet?  But as we near the season of Advent, which is next month, we hear and study places in scripture where Jesus talks about His second coming – His coming in glory to judge the quick and the dead.  This parable being one of those texts.

In many parables, including this one, the main point of the teaching is to show the relationship between the Father, and the Son, and the church.  At the end of all things, when Jesus returns, there is going to be a wedding and more specifically a wedding banquet or what today we call a wedding reception.  And our Heavenly Father is throwing this party because his Son, Jesus, the bridegroom, is getting married.  He is getting married to the church, the whole church, the Body of Christ.

So we have these bridesmaids, or we could call them, the church.  The Body of Christ, some wise, some foolish, went to meet the bridegroom, Jesus.  But Jesus was delayed in coming for the wedding.  So the church must wait for Christ to return.  Waiting takes patience and preparation.  How good are you at waiting?  And what do you do while you wait?  The five foolish bridesmaids went out to meet the bridegroom, but they were not prepared for the delay.  And when Jesus did finally come, they had to run to get oil and ended up being late to the party.  What do you do while you wait?  Do you just wait?  Or do you use this time to prepare yourself for the bridegroom’s delay?

Some ways in which we prepare ourselves for the bridegroom’s delay and eventual arrival, are two simple things: Word and Sacrament.  Hear and study God’s Word and receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  The wise bridesmaids were prepared.  With extra oil, they were prepared for the future.  They were looking to the day of the resurrection and judgment when Jesus would return.  The foolish bridesmaids were not prepared.  With no extra oil, they were only prepared and focused on the present.  In order to prepare ourselves for the bridegroom’s arrival, and delay, we must not get caught up in the here and now.  Rather than placing your hope in things of this world (which cannot save you nor can they prepare you for Christ’s return), instead place your hope in God (who can and does save you).  So continue to hear and study the Word of God throughout the week.  For it is through scripture that we fill our flasks with oil and thus preparing us for whenever the bridegroom returns.  And continue to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  Through Christ’s Body and Blood, we are given the strength and the stamina to await the unknown arrival of the bridegroom.

The bridegroom might be delayed, but He is still coming.  Many in the church have been too impatient for the bridegroom.  So they have given up on waiting and have returned to living their lives focused on the present, here and now without any hope of the future resurrection and wedding banquet to come.  And they are the ones who will be sorry, for they will be the foolish bridesmaids who troubled themselves only with present matters, and forgot about God.  They are the ones who will scramble at the last minute to get oil, but by the time they return, they will be too late.  The wedding banquet between Christ and His church will have already begun.  And there the wise bridesmaids will be enjoying communion with all of the saints for all of eternity.

Until the day of Resurrection and of judgment, we gather around our Lord’s Table and feast on the Body and Blood of Christ.  For it is this simple meal of bread and wine that gives us a foretaste of that heavenly feast to come.  Can you patiently wait for that?  Amen.


© 2017 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

Shaped by Saints

Readings for the day (Sunday, November 5, 2017):

Micah 3:5-12

Psalm 43

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Matthew 23:1-12


Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


Throughout our lives, various people influence and shape who we are today.  Most of the time these influences have positively shaped our values and our faith.  Sometimes though we are negatively shaped by people around us.  And no matter what your age, whether you’re 90, 50, 20, 10, or even 5, you are constantly being shaped by the people around you.  Think of some of those people who have helped shape you.  Your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles.  Maybe a teacher, coach, or co-worker.  Or how about a neighbor, either when you were younger, or even now.

And each person contributes differently to how we are shaped.  I’ve learned many things from my parents and grandparents.  They have especially been great role models for marriage and parenting.  But from a basketball coach, I received great wisdom, not only about the game of basketball, but also life.  And I learned what being a neighbor to someone else really means and looks like from one of my childhood neighbors.

So you see, we have many different people that impact our lives.  And for Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, he is reminding them to rely on those people who have positively impacted and shaped their lives; not the negative ones.  Specifically he is talking about himself, Timothy and the other apostles.  Paul is not saying this in an arrogant sort of way, saying, “Look at how awesome I am.”  Rather, in matters of faith, we need people who encourage us, who model faithful living, and who will hold us accountable.  And Paul tells the Thessalonians, I can be that for you.  Paul knows all too well how difficult it is to continually live our lives for God, putting Him first and trusting in His saving grace.  So Paul tells them, I have been and will continue to help you through your walk with Christ by urging, encouraging, and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God.

You know, we all need these at different times in our lives.  When things are going well, we aren’t necessarily thinking about God and how to use our day to glorify Him.  These are the times when we think we’ve got a pretty good control of things.  So we end up not thinking about God as often.  It is times like these that we need some urging, some reminding, to stay the course.  Then there are times when we are doing it – we’re living our lives for God, faithfully walking with Him, putting our trust in Him.  Those are the times when we need that encouraging word to keep it up – you’re doing a great job.  And then there are times when we turn away, when we hit a patch of ice and go sliding off course.  And that’s when we need the saints to plead to have us come back.

Who has been that faithful saint in your life?  Who has positively shaped your faith formation?  Who has urged you at times, encouraged you at other times, and even pleaded with you that you would continue to lead a life worthy of God?  Today is All-Saints Sunday.  Every day, every week, we give thanks for these faithful saints who are no longer with us.  But today, on All-Saints Sunday, we especially give thanks for those saints in our lives who helped shape who we have become.  We lit candles to remember them, and we give thanks and praise to God for the life that they lived.

And at least for me, in thinking about these saints that have shaped and helped form my faith in God, Paul’s words describe their faith well.  Paul writes, “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”[1]  For Paul, faith is not just an idea or set of beliefs.  Faith is a practice.  Faith is a way of life.  Faith guides us.  Faith leads us.  Faith defines us.  For Paul, this faith in God is not just a badge that he wears or a card that he carries.  No, this faith fully defines who he is and how he lives his life.  And the saints that I lit my candle for this morning, lived their lives like the gospel mattered.  For them, faith wasn’t just an idea, the creed wasn’t just a set of beliefs.  Rather, it was a way of life.  For them, God was their ultimate influencer and shaper.

And in the gospel reading today, this is exactly what Jesus was getting at when He told the crowd and His disciples to be careful of modeling after the scribes and the Pharisees.  Jesus said, “Do whatever they teach you and follow it, but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.”[2]  Jesus didn’t have a problem with their teachings because they were teaching the Old Testament.  He had nothing wrong with that.  What Jesus did have a problem with was that they would teach the crowds one way and then act in a completely different way.  Certainly not someone who you want to be following and learning good faith practices from.  This is why I strongly encourage parents to pick not their best friends to be God-parents of their child.  Instead I suggest picking people who model good faith practices that their child will be able to learn from.

So as we remember those saints who urged us, encouraged us, and sometimes even pleaded with us, we give thanks to God for the life they had, for the memories that we have of them, and the faith in God that they modeled for us in their daily living.  May our faith in Jesus be ever strengthened by their witness and service to God.  And may your witness and service to God for His kingdom be an example to others of what faithful living looks like.  For one day we all will be remembered by others.  How do you want to be remembered?

Praise God we have been blessed with the saints in our lives and we look forward to the day when we will gather together with those saints around God’s wedding banquet for all of eternity.  Amen.


© 2017 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

[1] 1 Thessalonians 2:13, NRSV

[2] Matthew 23:3, NRSV

A Hymn of Comfort

Readings for the day (Sunday, October 29, 2017):

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 46

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36


Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


This Tuesday will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the doors of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany.  For Luther, he never intended on separating from the Catholic Church.  He saw abuses within the church and he wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of these abuses, so that something would be done about it.  Have you ever seen something that needed to be changed or done differently?  Did you say something?  Or did you just complain about it to yourself?  By nailing his 95 theses (or issues/abuses) that he saw within the church, Luther was publicly saying something.  He chose to do this specifically on October 31st, not because it is Halloween (something that we celebrate in this century), but because of November 1st; All-Saints day.  As the priest, Luther knew that people would be coming for mass on November 1st to commemorate All-Saints day.  So posting this publicly on the bulletin board the day before worship made sense.

What Luther did with a pen and some paper, along with a hammer and a nail, was he started a movement.  A movement that is still happening today.  Reformation is not something that just happened on one day and then everyone went home.  Through his preaching and more so his writings, Luther reformed or changed the way the church preached, taught, read, and sang.  He translated the New Testament into the language of the people.  So that they could actually read the Word of God.  He also created resources for parents to teach the faith to their children at home.  That resource is called the Small Catechism.  And he wrote numerous hymns.

Now Luther was a troubled man.  He certainly did not have everything all put together.  He struggled with finding God as one who is forgiving and merciful.  All he felt was wrath and anger.  He didn’t feel grace and peace.  And it wasn’t until he started studying the Word of God that he was able to find God not as angry and wrathful, but rather full of grace.

The hymn that we opened with, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, is also known as the “Hymn of Comfort.”  Luther wrote this hymn and the tune.  And he based the text of this hymn on Psalm 46.  For Luther, our God is great and powerful, like a mighty fortress who wins victoriously with a sword and shield.  With all of this might and power, we can feel as though God is out to get us.  The Psalmist says, “the mountains shake…the water roar and foam…the nations are in an uproar.”  Utter chaos is what that means.  The world is in chaos.  Our lives are in chaos.  Maybe for you, most days you seem to have a handle on things.  While others long to take hold of something, even if it is but for a moment.

Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t see that second group of people (those who don’t have it all together).  Because for some reason they believe that they have to have a really good handle of everything in their lives in order to walk through our doors.  And to top it all off, those whose lives are in chaos believe, as Luther did, that God is a vengeful God.  Someone who is out to get us.  Someone who finds joy in making us suffer.  Which leads people to believe that God is the cause of all this chaos.  So people believe that cancer, shootings, disasters, injuries are all because God wanted that to happen.  My friends, that God is a jerk!  And certainly not who I believe and put my trust in.

Luther realized that as well; especially as he studied the Word of God.  He realized things like verse 5 from Psalm 46, “God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; He will help it when the morning dawns.”  Which influenced Luther to write things like verse 3 of A Mighty Fortress, “Though hordes of devils fill the land all threat’ning to devour us, we tremble not, unmoved we stand; they cannot overpow’r us.”  “…for God himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.”  Our God is not a vengeful, angry, jerk who is out to get us and cause us harm.  Rather, He is love, He is grace, He is peace and comfort.

The Psalmist ends with, “Be still, and know that I am God!”  Be still.  That’s actually really hard for us to do.  Be still.  Meaning to let go of those things that we really don’t have control over but still strive with all of our might to control them.  Be still and be silent, so that you may witness God’s powerful ability to not only reform or change something, but to save.  And specifically to save us from the world, the devil, and our sinful selves.

Luther was trying to tell the church that salvation, the way in which we are saved, is not by any doing of our own, but only through the cross of Christ.  We cannot work for our salvation.  We cannot pay for our salvation.  We cannot earn our salvation.  We can’t do anything to get into heaven because that gift has already been given to us through the waters of baptism.  And our faith in this gift is sustained through the meal of bread and wine that Jesus provides for us.

So the Psalmist concludes with, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  In Hebrew, the phrase “to know” doesn’t mean simply to acknowledge something.  Such as, I know that God exists.  Or I know that there is pizza in that box.  Rather, “to know” means to internalize or to embody the truth fully.  So to know that there is pizza in that box means to actually eat the pizza, not just look at it.  “Be still, and know that I am God,” then means to be silent, witnessing God’s almighty power and to not only acknowledge God’s presence among us, but to actually live our lives like He actually is here.  Therefore everything that we say, think, and do would reflect this reality that our God is real, He is alive, and He is active in the world.  So God’s presence isn’t just some cute idea that is supposed to bring us comfort, but in fact I believe that God truly is present in our lives, working and moving through the chaos of our lives in order to bring us joy and peace, comfort and grace.  And this is why Luther wrote this “Hymn of Comfort.”  Because it embodies this knowledge that even in the midst of chaos, our God is here with us now.  Be still, and know that He is God!  Amen.


© 2017 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

A Good Reason to Party

Readings for the day (Sunday, October 15, 2017:

Isaiah 25:1-9

Psalm 23

Philippians 4:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14


Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


Well that went quick.  Nearly five years of partnered ministry together has already past.  We’ve tried different things, some have succeeded while others have failed.  We’ve had to make compromises, just like any good relationship has to.  And yet, there is still so much more that we can do, all for the sake of the Gospel.

We live in a different world, though, than we did when you were growing up; even when I was growing up.  Spirituality was different.  Religion was different.  Politics was different.  Parenting was different.  We live, work, play, and do ministry in a different world than what we grew up with.  And many times when everything else around us is changing so rapidly, we long to hang on to someone that remains constant, stable, and unchanging.

For us Christians, God is that rock, that stability, that constant for us.  But often we struggle with allowing the approach of our ministry to change.  Our message of Christ crucified for the sins of all, doesn’t change.  But we can’t do ministry like we used to because the world that we live in now is not what it used to be like.  We live in a completely new world.  A world that questions everything.  A world that longs for proof of anything.  A world that is so fed up with the church’s extreme social justice left and the Bible thumping right that instead just gives up on the church all together.  Like I said, a whole new world.  You can’t assume that someone you meet is Christian or that they even know the story of Jesus.  You can’t even assume that they believe in God.

So what are we to do about all of this?  Talk to Pastor Eric, maybe he has the answer.  And when that doesn’t work, we turn to Scripture.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has been having a busy week with these Pharisees.  After His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus has been speaking in parables and the Pharisees just adore these parables.  No, just kidding.  They actually hate them.  And with each parable Jesus tells, they get increasingly angry.  They haven’t arrested Him yet, but they are getting close.  And with each parable that He tells, they get closer and closer to saying enough is enough.  And today’s text is no different; Jesus shares with them his third and final parable before the Pharisees will go off and plot to arrest Him.

In this parable, the king’s wedding banquet for his son is all ready to go.  The decorations are hung.  The tables are set.  The food is prepared.  The bridegroom is ready.  Now all that needs to be done is to fill the banquet hall with guests.  The king sends out the invitation, but all those who are invited ignore the kings invitation because they are “too busy” with other things.  Doesn’t that feel like doing ministry today?  People are “too busy” for church.  If only all those “busy” people knew what Jesus was actually talking about here.  Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven and the great never ending wedding banquet that we are looking forward to.  He’s talking about the celebration of the marriage between Himself, God’s Son and His bride, the church.  The bride and the bridegroom, coming together at last.  And at the joining of these two for all eternity, God is throwing a really big party.  The Prophet Isaiah describes this party as “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, a feast of the greatest’s, richest foods.”  And this is never ending; for all of eternity.  So amazing!  What a wonderful thing to look forward to!

And this isn’t just good news, its great news!  This is what has kept our churches doing ministry for 118, 122, and 143 years, not to mention 5 years of partnered ministry together.  This is why (I hope) that you keep coming back week after week, to be reminded of who and what we have hope in.  This is why Marilyn found that organ bench 50 years ago and has never left.  Because this is great news!  When the party is ready, we get to be included in the festivities.

So when we go through those dark valleys of life of seeing our world shaken by tragedies like the shooting massacre in Las Vegas, or the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.  Or when those dark valleys hit home and we have to say farewell to dearly beloved friends and family members.  Or we watch as loved ones battle depression, addiction, and mental illness.  Or we hear of a friend falling off of a grain bin with multiple traumatic injuries; all we can do is look towards the hope of the wedding banquet to come.  Because everything else just leads to despair.

With all of the unbelief out there, coupled with all of the tragedies of life around the world and directly effecting our lives, it can be hard to find the energy to continue doing ministry, doing the work that God has called us to do.  Because what’s the point in trying if people are “too busy” for church, or who have given up on the church?  In the parable Jesus says, “Then [the king] said to his slaves (that’s you and me!), ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’”  There’s your purpose.  There’s your mission.  It’s not going to be easy.  It’s a different world out there than what it used to be, but we keep trying different things.  We keep trying to reach those who desperately need to hear these words about Jesus and that there is a wedding banquet to come, and God desires their presence in the banquet hall with the rest of us.  Many of our attempts to reach the unchurched and those who have fallen away will fail, but hopefully by the grace of God, some of our attempts will succeed.  And we will certainly have to continue making compromises as a parish as we work on the next 5 years of our partnered ministry together.  And Marilyn is just gonna have to keep playing for another 50 years.

So let me end with a word of encouragement.  Notice in this parable, the wedding banquet was ready, but the guests were not.  So the king invites everyone to come; both good and bad.  So no matter how messed up you think your life is.  No matter how unfit you feel you are in carrying out the ministry of Christ’s Church.  Remember this…God loves you.  God cares for you.  God is obsessed with you and He wants you at His wedding banquet.  You will not be thrown out of the wedding hall, as mentioned in the second part of this parable.  For unlike the man who attended without a wedding robe on, you already have your wedding robe on.  You got it when you were baptized.  Being clothed with Christ through the waters of baptism is your wedding robe for the banquet.  You’re ready to feast.  You’re ready to drink.  You’re ready to dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.  Amen.



© 2017 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

God’s Vineyard

Readings for the day (Sunday, October 8, 2017:

Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 80:7-15

Philippians 3:4b-14

Matthew 21:33-46


Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


Have you ever been to a vineyard before?  They are always so classy looking with their elaborate landscaping, their abundance of flowers, and their incredibly green grass.  Even the bad wineries look nice.  And why is that?  Probably because they want you to schedule a wedding or a reunion or some sort of party at their winery.  But they also just want you to come sample their different types of wine, buy a bottle or two, and spend some time relaxing and enjoying the music, the atmosphere, and the people.

Ever since entering Jerusalem on a donkey while having people lay tree branches and coats on the road, Jesus has been having issues with the religious leaders.  They have been questioning his authority.  They are wondering who he thinks he is, barging into their city, and not only over turning the tables of the money changers in the Temple, but he also welcomed those awful sinners into the temple and then healed them.  And since last week’s parable about the 2 sons went over so well with the religious leaders, Jesus says, “Listen to another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard.”  Most of the time, in the parables God is the landowner or master and the location or scene of the parable is the kingdom of heaven.  Often parables start off by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  Even though Jesus doesn’t preface this parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  I think it is safe to assume that the landowner is God and He has planted a vineyard.  The kingdom of heaven is like a vineyard.  Think about that.  The kingdom of heaven is like a vineyard.  A vineyard that produces fruit; specifically grapes.  Grapes for making wine.  The kingdom of heaven is like a vineyard that makes wine.

If you’ve ever been to a winery, can you think of a time when you noticed someone not having a good time?  Traditionally, wine is for celebrations: consuming at special occasions like a wedding, an anniversary, a retirement party.  For God, the vineyard is a sign of the joy and celebration the kingdom of heaven will be like when Jesus the bridegroom is finally united with His bride, the church.

Until that day comes for the eternal celebration, there is work to be done.  Now the text says that the landowner planted the vineyard, put a fence around the vineyard, dug a wine press, and built a watchtower.  Then after all of the prep work was done, he leased the vineyard out to tenants who were called to care for the vineyard and share in the harvest with the landowner when the harvest is ready.  And that’s where we find ourselves at today. We are tenants in God’s vineyard.  This world is not ours.  You might have a deed to your home or a title to your car, but really nothing in all of creation belongs to us.  Everything belongs to God.  We didn’t start with any of this; it was here before us.  For example, look at our church.  Our congregation has been around for 122/143 years.  No one here is that old.  Now what if we looked at this parable with the church as the vineyard.  The vineyard belongs to the landowner, not the tenants.  The landowner is God.  Therefore, the church belongs to God.  It isn’t ours.  It never has been.  It is God’s.  We simply are tenants, called through the waters of baptism to faithfully care for God’s vineyard, God’s church.

And the church, is much more than just this building and the contents inside.  Over the years, how much time has been spent on arguing over things regarding this building?  Probably more than anyone would care to admit.  No, the church is actually the body of Christ.  We are called to care for the body of Christ, all of God’s children.  Again, we are just tenants, called to care for and nurture the growth of those in the vineyard.  God has taken care of the hard part.  He is the one who planted the vineyard, put a fence around the vineyard to protect what is important to Him.  Then He dug a wine press and built a watchtower.  But even with all of the hard work done, we end up acting like those wicked tenants.  It was common practice in the 1st century that a landowner and his tenants would split the produce that was collected at harvest.  These tenants decided that they didn’t want to follow what was agreed upon in their lease and keep everything for themselves, rather than giving back what wasn’t even rightfully theirs in the first place.  We do act like these wicked tenants, don’t we?  We don’t always want to share God’s blessings with others.  We wonder why we need to help others who aren’t even willing to help themselves.  And when we do help, when we do share, we don’t always do it with a smile on our face.

And this is where we have to remember who we are and what our purpose is.  We are tenants; not the landowner.  None of this belongs us.  And we have been recruited to work in God’s vineyard.  We don’t always know why.  We don’t always know if the work that we are doing is even producing any fruit.  But we do know this, one day the harvest will come, and God will come to collect His harvest for it will be time for the marriage feast that has no end.  And there we will share in the joy of the celebration of Christ and His Church for all eternity in the vineyard.  Amen.



© 2017 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.