Sermon: The Parable of the Pharisee & The Tax Collector – Rev. Wolfgang

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This morning, speaking from the Luke 18:9-14 – Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Rev. Wolfgang, drew our attention to the stark differences between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

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(Leigh chose this as the key image for his worship slide deck today – to much reaction from the congregation! He said he chose it because it elicited the right emotional reaction towards the attitude of the Pharisee… and the congregation certainly proved him right!)

The Pharisee was someone who truly was leading a pious, “God-pleasing” life (despite how the words now connotes many negative things, they were truly people who were trying to pursue holiness in their day). The Tax Collector, on the other hand, was someone who was despised as the scum of the earth in their day.

The difference was that the Pharisee was someone who came and presented his own piousness and righteousness to God – compared to the Tax Collector who had nothing else to present other than himself. Here, we could say that the Pharisee could live without God – whereas the Tax Collector could not live but for God.

It’s important to note that Jesus never discounts the good works the Pharisee does, but rather the attitude of the Pharisee – who exalts and justify himself, and judges the Tax Collector. Anyone who decides who can call on the name of God and disallow others from doing so usurps the position of God as the judge of mankind.

A self-righteous person cannot trust God’s judgment because he has already judged and evaluated himself. This leads him to compare himself others. This is the standard by which he will be judged.

Compare that to God’s grace – where He decides who is righteous because of Christ. We need to rely on His grace, because it thus means we also trust His judgment – and righteousness thus becomes God’s gift to us through Christ. Our response then is one of thanksgiving and humility.

What Happens During BLC Worship(The four-part movement of a Lutheran worship service)

This is why, in Lutheran worship services, the Confession plays an important part of the liturgy/flow of the worship service.

So why do the confession every week? The world is hard. To survive, we can become merciless. We certainly fall short of God’s glory in many ways throughout the week. The confession is also a time for us to also bring our burdens to God. Hence, you will also notice that the Confession is ALWAYS paired up with the declaration of forgiveness – you can’t have one without the other. Once we’ve confessed, we are also relieved – and are therefore free to worship.

Therefore, the weekly confession reminds us of the truth of ourselves to God. In telling the truth of ourselves to God, we commend ourselves to Him – and thus, He tells us the truth about ourselves: “You are a beloved child of God.”

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Sermon: The Cannon Parable: Jesus’ story about Income Inequality – Rama Ramanathan

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Speaking from this morning’s Gospel lesson in Luke 16:19-31 this morning, Rama walked us through the Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus.

Rama has very kindly shared the details of his sermon this morning in his blog, which you can read here.

The parable doesn’t commend poor Lazarus for not organizing against the rich

The parable doesn’t teach that the poor automatically go to heaven. We know this because of other teachings of the Messiah, e.g. his command to love our neighbours; his teaching that we should observe all the Ten Commandments, etc.

The parable doesn’t teach us details of the next life, e.g. those in heaven and hell can see and can communicate with each other, the temperature in heaven is high, etc.

The lessons are many:

  • The once-rich man continued thinking of Lazarus as a man to be ordered around.
  • Being wealthy doesn’t always mean “blessed by God.”
  • Being poor and sick doesn’t mean “not blessed by God.”
  • What we do on earth with our wealth determines how we spend eternity.
  • Some will always find reasons not to hear: but others will hear and will change.

Earlier Luke told us that when a prominent man asked “who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:25-37), the Messiah responded by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. The answer was “everyone in need is your neighbour.”

The video that he wanted to share this morning is available for viewing here:

Sermon: Humility, Hospitality And The People I’d Rather Not Invite To Dinner – Leigh

This morning, Leigh spoke from this week’s lectionary readings.

He started off by talking about how there were certain kinds of people that he would never invite to dinner – but somehow, as Jesus is wont to, He would flip the dinner guest list upside down. That way, these “undesirables” would be given places of honor at the dinner party.

Jesus does this because, ultimately, He is inviting that part of each of us to dinner! Otherwise, if Jesus were to apply our standards to our own dinner parties – we might end up not being invited ourselves!

Leigh has posted his slides here:

Ready or not, here He comes! – Rev. Augustin

Today is Doom Sunday, also known as Christ The King Sunday. This is the last day of the year, according to the liturgical calendar, before we begin the year anew with Advent, beginning next Sunday. Doom Sunday is traditionally focused on the Second Coming of Christ and the judgement that awaits.

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This morning, Pastor Augustin preached a very sobering message based on the Scripture Readings today (Isaiah 35:3-102 Peter 3:8-14Matthew 24:31–51; 25:1-13)

In the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, the wedding guests were waiting for the Bridegroom’s arrival. Unfortunately, he took longer than expected and didn’t show up when they expected him. So, they all grew tired and, as it was late in the night, they all fell asleep.

The thing is, this was all the Bridegroom’s “fault” as it were – he was the one who was really late in coming. So, you couldn’t really fault the wedding guests for being tired and falling asleep while waiting. They were all tired and they all nodded off.

But this is not about that. This is not about who managed to wait up the longest – it was about who was prepared to meet with the Bridegroom when he finally did arrive.

The term “foolishness” or “ignorance” in the Bible regarding sin is seldom an “accidental symptom” bur rather, it more often refers to a choice… an unwillingness. In this case, foolishness was ascribed to unwillingness to be prepared – just as ignorance would be a choice to not want to know.

It wasn’t the fault of the wedding guests to fall asleep. But they were faulted because they chose to be unprepared for his coming.

So how do we then prepare ourselves and be ready for Christ’s coming?

Drawing from the rest of Matthew 25, Rev. Augustin hearkened back to Emily’s message on using our talents last week and also from the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Rev. Augustin pointed that the difference in the sheep and goats lay primarily in their willingness to be kind and gracious to the least of God’s kingdom, because in so doing, they did it to Christ Himself.

Yet, even so at the end of the day, the Second Coming is good news. In the Isaiah reading today (Isaiah 35:3-10), we hear that He will come and save us!

With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
and unplug the ears of the deaf.
The lame will leap like a deer,
and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,
and streams will water the wasteland.
The parched ground will become a pool,
and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.
Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish
where desert jackals once lived.

So, are we ready?

Let us all keep watch and be prepared, because we know neither the day nor the hour.