Grace Northeast Sunday Sermons
Building Blocks of Faith — Who Will Be Saved?

Building Blocks of Faith — Who Will Be Saved?

August 26, 2019

Acts 17:16-31

Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him in Athens. He was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue, both with Jewish believers and with god-fearers, and also in the marketplace every day with any who happened to be there. Even some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What is he babbling on about?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign gods.” (This was because he was teaching about Jesus and his resurrection.) So they brought him to the Areopagus, where the city council gathered. They asked him, “May we know what this new teaching is? It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” (Remember, all the Athenians and the foreigners living there loved nothing better than to spend their time listening to or telling about new philosophies.)

Paul stood in front of them and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are. As I went through the city and looked carefully at your many shrines, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What you worship as unknown, I can now proclaim clearly to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is served by human hands, as though God would need anything - God gives to all mortals life and breath and all things, so what could be needed? From one ancestor, God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and set the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps reach out and find God—though you know God is not far from each one of us. For ‘In God we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are God’s offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that God is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has in the past overlooked the times of human ignorance, now all people everywhere are commanded to repent. God has chosen a day on which the world will be judged in righteousness by a man that God chose - assuring that choice to us by raising this man from the dead.”

John 10:11-16

Jesus said to those who did not believe in him, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

John 14:1-7

After Judas had left them, Jesus said to his disciples: “Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me, but where I am going, you cannot come. But do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you so? I am going to prepare a place for you. And then, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may also be. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know and have seen the Father.”

Building Blocks of Faith — Communion

Building Blocks of Faith — Communion

August 20, 2019



L: The first reading is from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.

I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

L: The Word of the Lord.
A: Thanks be to God.


The commentary is from Martin Luther’s Large Catechism, the fifth part, on the sacrament of the altar.

What is the sacrament of the altar? It is the true body and blood of the Lord Christ, in and under the bread and wine, which we Christians are commanded by Christ’s word to eat and drink. The sacrament is bread and wine, but not mere bread and wine as is served at the dinner table. Rather, it is bread and wine set within God’s word and bound to it. …

The Word by which it was made a sacrament is not made false because of an individual’s unworthiness or unbelief. Christ does not say “If you believe” or “if you are worthy,” but rather “Take, eat, and drink; this is my body and blood.” This is as much to say “No matter whether you are worthy or unworthy, you have here Jesus’ body and blood by the power of these words that are connected to the bread and wine.” ...

We go to the sacrament because there we receive a great treasure, in which we obtain the forgiveness of sins. This treasure is conveyed and communicated to us in no other way that in through the words “given and shed for you.” Here you have both -- that it is Christ’s body and blood, and that they are yours as a treasure and gift.


L: The good news of Jesus Christ, according to the gospel of Luke, the ninth chapter.
A: Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus withdrew with the disciples to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.

The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve disciples came to Jesus and said,

All: Send the crowd away. They can go to the nearby villages,
to eat and sleep; for this is a deserted place.

He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”
They said,

All: “We have nothing more than five loaves and two fish—
unless you want us to go and buy food for all these people?”

L: There were about five thousand men, plus women and children. Jesus said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

L: This is the good news of God’s work in the world.
A: Praise to you, O Christ.

Building Blocks of Faith — Baptism (Guest Preacher: Grace Alworth)

Building Blocks of Faith — Baptism (Guest Preacher: Grace Alworth)

August 12, 2019

L: So what are we going to say?
Should we continue sinning so grace will multiply?
A: Absolutely not! All of us died to sin.
How can we still live in it?

L: Don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life.
A: If we were united together in a death like his,
we will also be united together in a resurrection like his.

L: This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power.
A: But if we died with Christ,
we have faith that we will also live with him.

L: We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. So then, don’t let sin rule your body, so that you do what it wants. Don’t offer parts of your body to sin, to be used as weapons to do wrong. Instead, present yourselves to God as people who have been brought back to life from the dead, and offer all the parts of your body to God to be used as weapons to do right. Sin will have no power over you, because you aren’t under Law but under grace.

From the Large Catechism: Fourth Part: Concerning Baptism

In the first place, we must above all be familiar with the words upon which baptism is founded and to which everything is related that is to be said on the subject, namely, where the Lord Christ says in the last chapter of Matthew:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, ‘I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.’”

… Observe, first, that these words contain God’s commandment and institution, so that no one may doubt that baptism is of divine origin, not something devised or invented by human beings… Baptism is no human plaything but is instituted by Godself… It is of the greatest importance that we regard baptism as excellent, glorious, and exalted. It is the chief cause of our contentions and battles because the world is now full of sects who scream that baptism is an external thing and that external things are of no use. But no matter how external it may be, here stand God’s Word and command that have instituted, established, and confirmed baptism. What God institutes and commands cannot be useless. Rather, it is a most precious thing, even though to all appearances it may not be worth a straw… What is more, it is performed in his name. So the words read, “Go, baptize,” not in your name but in God’s name.

To be baptized in God’s name is to be baptized not by human beings but by God himself. Although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God’s own act. From this fact everyone can easily conclude that it is of much greater value than the work of any human being or saint. For what human work can possibly be greater than God’s work?

… Note the distinction, then: Baptism is a very different thing from all other water, not by virtue of the natural substance but because here something nobler is added, for God stakes God’s honor, God’s power, and God’s might on it. Therefore it is not simply a natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water… by all virtue of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word that no one can sufficiently extol, for it contains and conveys all that is God’s… When the Word is added to the element or the natural substance, it becomes a sacrament, that is a holy, divine thing and sign.”

Building Blocks of Faith — Confession

Building Blocks of Faith — Confession

August 8, 2019

Reading from the Hebrew Bible - Psalm 32

 L:  The reading from the Hebrew Bible is from the book of Psalms and is read responsively.

L:   Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sin is put away!

A:   Happy is the one whom God accuses of nothing wrong,

and who is free from all deceit and lies.

L:  When I did not confess my sins,

my bones withered within me;

A:   I was worn out with weeping all day long.

For the hand of guilt was heavy on me day and night;

my strength was drained, like water dried up in summer heat.

L:  Then I confessed my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

A:   I said, “I will confess my transgressions to God,”

and you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

L:  So all the faithful will pray to you in times of trouble;

when a flood of trouble rises, it will not reach them.

A:  You, O Lord, are my rock and hiding-place;

you deliver me from trouble;

you surround me with cries of deliverance and freedom.

L:  The Lord says, “I will teach you the way you should go;
I will instruct you and advise you.
A:  The wicked will suffer, 

but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.

L:  Be glad, you righteous ones, and rejoice in the Lord;

shout for joy, all you who are true of heart!

L: The Word of the Lord. 
A: Thanks be to God.



✠ The Good News Luke 19:1-10


L:  The good news of Jesus Christ, according to the gospel of Luke,

the nineteenth chapter. 
A:  Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus entered the town of Jericho, and planned to pass through without staying. A man there was named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but because the crowd he could not, because he was short.  

So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree, because Jesus was walking in that direction. When Jesus passed under the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; I must stay at your house today.” He hurried down and was happy to welcome him.  

But everyone who saw it grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 

Zacchaeus stood still and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I pay back four times as much.” 

Then Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

L:  This is the good news of God’s work in the world.
A:  Praise to you, O Christ.

Building Blocks of Faith — What Do We Do With the Bible?
Building Blocks of Faith - The Holy Spirit & the Creed

Building Blocks of Faith - The Holy Spirit & the Creed

July 21, 2019

Romans 12:1-21

I ask you, beloved family in Christ, by the mercy of God: do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed. God will renew your minds, so that you may understand the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

By God’s grace I say to everyone among you: do not think of yourself more highly than you should, but think with clear judgment, and recognize that everyone has been given a measure of faith by God. One body has many parts, and not all the parts have the same purpose. In the same way, we are many, but we are one body in Christ, and also members of each other. We have different gifts according to the grace God gives us: if truth-telling, in proportion to faith; if service, in serving; if a teacher, in teaching; if prayer, in praying; if a giver, in generosity; if a leader, in diligence; the merciful, in cheerfulness.

So among you: let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another; honor each other. Do not give up easily, be earnest in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the community, and show hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be proud, but be among the humble; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; live in peace with those around you. As the proverb goes: “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

John 14:16-17,26-27,16:12-14

After he had washed their feet, Jesus said to his disciples, “I will ask the Father, and God will give you another advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive; it cannot see or understand the Spirit. But you can, for the Spirit dwells with you, and will be within you. The Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, in my name. The Advocate will teach you everything, and remind you of everything I said to you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, you will be led into all truth. This Spirit will speak what the Father longs to say, and will tell you what is to come. The Spirit will glorify me; the Spirit will take what I have and declare it to all of you.

Building Blocks of Faith — Why Did Jesus Die?

Building Blocks of Faith — Why Did Jesus Die?

July 18, 2019

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

L: See, says the Lord, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up.

A: There were many who were astonished at him—
his appearance so disfigured that he looked less than human--

L: but even more will the nations be amazed at him.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
they will witness things they never saw before,
and consider things they had never heard.

A: Who has believed what we have witnessed?
See how the strength of the Lord has been revealed!

L: For the servant grew up before God like a young seed,
like a root out of dry ground;

A: he had no majesty to make us admire him,
nothing in his appearance to make us honor him.

L: He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and familiar with sin;

A: like someone from whom others turn away their faces,
he was despised, and we thought him of no worth.

L: Surely he has borne our sins and carried our sicknesses;

A: yet we accounted him unwanted,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

L: But he was wounded for our sins,
crushed for our own wrongs;

A: upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

L: All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

A: and the Lord has laid on him the sin of us all.

L: He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;

A: like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

L: By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?

A: For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the sins of my people.

L: They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there were no lies in his mouth.

A: When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see the fruits of his work, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

L: Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction in his own wisdom.

A: The righteous one, the servant of God,
shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their sins.

L: Therefore God will give him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide treasures with the strong;

A: because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the sinners;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made a way for the broken.


Hebrews 9:24-28

Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands -- a mere copy of the true sanctuary of God -- but he entered into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. And he did not enter that sanctuary to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then Jesus would have had to suffer again and again since the beginning of the world. No - he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by sacrificing himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

John 11:45-53

Many of the Judeans saw how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and believed in him. But some of them went to the religious leaders and told them what he had done. So the priests and religious elite called a council meeting, and said, “What do we do? This man is performing miracle after miracle. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy temple and our whole nation of people.” But the high priest said, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest he was prophesying: Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but to gather into one all the scattered children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Building Blocks of Faith — Who Was Jesus?

Building Blocks of Faith — Who Was Jesus?

July 8, 2019

First Reading: Mark 1:1-15

This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Remember how the prophet Isaiah wrote: “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way for you; he will be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths smooth.’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a washing of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him, and were washed by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. John proclaimed, “There is one more powerful than I, and he is coming after me; I am not worthy even to stoop down and untie his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

At that time the man named Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee. He was washed by John in the Jordan. And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn open and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” That same Spirit then drove him out into the wilderness, where he stayed for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was with wild beasts, and angels waited on him.

After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Gospel Reading: Luke 4:16-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, returned to his home country of Galilee. Stories about him spread through all the surrounding area. He began teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him and what he had to say.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the sabbath day, as usual, he went to the synagogue. He stood up to read the scripture, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.

He unrolled the scroll and found the verse that began:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
The Lord has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture is being fulfilled in your hearing.”

Building Blocks of Faith: Who is God?

Building Blocks of Faith: Who is God?

July 1, 2019

The first reading was a children's Bible version of the first creation story.

Second reading: 1 John 4:7-13,16b-21

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; 
everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. 
Whoever does not love does not know God, 
because God is love. 
God’s love was revealed among us in this way:
God sent the only Son into the world 
so that we might live through him. 
This is love, not that we loved God, 
but that God loved us and sent the Son 
to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 
Beloved, since God loved us so much, 
we also ought to love one another. 
No one has ever seen God; 
but if we love one another, God lives in us, 
and God’s love is perfected in us.

God is love.
Those who dwell in love dwell in God, 
and God dwells in them. 
Love has been perfected among us like this,
so that we can be confident when we stand before God,
because just as God is love, so are we in the world.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
Fear has to do with punishment,
and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 
We love because God first loved us.
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their fellow people, are liars;
for those who do not love another person whom they have seen, 
cannot love God whom they have not seen. 

The commandment we have from God is this: 
those who love God must also love their fellow people.

John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. The Father removes any branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit. Every branch that bears fruit is pruned to make it bear even more fruit. You have already been pruned by the word that I have spoken to you. Now, dwell in me as I dwell in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it dwells in and stays connected to the vine, neither can you unless you dwell in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who dwell in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not dwell in me is thrown away, like a branch, and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you dwell in me, and my words dwell in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Building Blocks of Faith: Theology of the Cross - June 23, 2019

Building Blocks of Faith: Theology of the Cross - June 23, 2019

June 23, 2019
Romans 6:1-11

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Luke 9:18-25

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the ancient prophets risen from the dead.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”

He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?"