A sermon preached at Trinity-Mount Rainier on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 18, 2018.

Semper Fidelis
Jeremiah 31:31-34
(Other Readings Appointed: Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45)

Even if you don’t know much Latin, thanks to the United States Marines, most of us know that “Semper Fidelis” means “Always Faithful”. For the Marine, their motto is a recognition of the enduring dedication and loyalty they have to “Corps and Country”. And this dedication stretches long past the end of active service, as some are reminded that one always speaks of a Marine and never a “former” Marine.

The dedication to faithfulness is something which both commands and receives respect. How often do we seem amazed when we hear of people being recognized for the many years they have committed themselves to some sort of labor or endeavor? We hear of the teacher who has taught generations of students. Or we think of the religious leader who dedicated their life to the preaching of the Gospel. We think of someone who has worked almost their entire adult life to the vocation they applied themselves. And we have to applaud the couple who celebrates 50, 60, or even sometimes 70 years of married life. Whatever the long time endeavor was, we can’t but help wonder how they were able to do it and why it was that they did it.

These ideas of dedication and faithfulness came to my mind as I once again read the words of the Prophet Jeremiah in today’s Old Testament Reading. Although we all have heard these words before, I was struck this time by how Jeremiah declares both who we are and who God is, as well as what God pledges to do for the people He has made and claimed as His own. Continue Reading »


A sermon preached at Trinity-Mount Rainier on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 11, 2018

The Sign of Healing
Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21
(Other Reading Appointed: Ephesians 2:1-10)

The Reading of the Texts:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:8-9)

[Jesus said:] “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)

Sermon Introduction: Word for Young Christians (which is the Children’s Sermon here at Trinity)
[What follows here are summary notes of the talk which took place.]

The “Star of Life” is the symbol that we often see on ambulances. And for a sick person or the people who care about them, seeing this symbol and the ambulance that it’s on means that help is there for the sick person to be taken care of and that they are going be helped and hopefully made well again. The main thing we see in this symbol is what is called the “Rod of Asclepius”, a staff with a snake wrapped on it, which was the sign used for the Greek god of healing.

Seeing this, we might also be reminded of what we heard of in today’s Old Testament Reading, where God told Moses to create a bronze serpent, put it on a pole, and the people who looked at it would be healed from the bite of the poisonous snakes that God had sent to punish the people for their grumbling and complaining against God. Later on, we heard in the Gospel that Jesus in a conversation He had with Nicodemus also talked about this same event and used it as a symbol for what would happen later to Him when He would be lifted up on the cross to bring eternal life to all who believe in Him.

When we look at the “Star of Life”, what we might be able to see are two letters: an “I” and a “X”. These two letters are an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ in Greek. This can be a reminder to us that Jesus came to heal us—to cure us from the sickness of sin which leads us to our death, and to give us this cure, Jesus would be lifted up on the cross, to suffer, die, and rise again, that by giving up His life for us He gives to us everlasting life. For us, Jesus’ cross is the symbol of our healing from sin and of the life that we have been given from Him and that we will live forever with Him.


In the terms used of speaking about Biblical interpretation, Jesus’ pointing back to an event during the wilderness wanderings of Israel to speak of what was to come to happen to Him is what is known as a type. Typology is a sort of prophesy where connections are made between people, places, and events found in the Old Testament which then point us to a fulfillment which occurs in the life, ministry, and saving work of Jesus. And this particular moment that we hear of today is one time in the Gospels where it is Jesus Himself who makes the clear connection between the Old Testament sign and who He is and what He has come to do. Continue Reading »

A sermon preached at Trinity-Mount Rainier on the Third Sunday in Lent, March 4, 2018.

The Wisdom of the Cross
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
(Other Readings Appointed: Exodus 20:1-17; John 2:13-22)

If you ask someone, “What is the symbol of Christianity?”, you will most likely receive the answer as “the cross”. What is interesting about this is to learn that this was not always the case. The earliest depiction of Christ’s crucifixion in Christian art is believed to be a carving found on a panel of the doors to the Church of Saint Sabina in Rome, and the creation of this artwork is dated to have been made in the first half of the 5th Century AD. But there is another even earlier image of the Crucified Christ, made not as an expression of faith, but as a mockery of faith.

In 1857 during an excavation of the Palatine Hill in Rome, a piece of graffiti which was dated to have been created around the year 200 AD was found among the ruins of a former boarding school for imperial page boys. Scrawled on the wall was a picture of a boy, apparently with his arm raised in an act of worship; the hand pointing towards what is believed to be a crucified man who has the head of a donkey. And to explain this picture, the “artist” provides his commentary written in Greek, saying: “Alexamenos worships his God.”

This act of mockery of a Christian believer rose out of both what was known and what was rumored about Christians within the pagan society of Rome. There was a common belief among Romans that Christians, as well as Jews, practiced donkey worship, based upon claims made about these faiths by ancient writers. What is more is that the donkey has often been seen as a symbol for the foolish and unwise, and what could be seen as more foolish as worshipping a god who allows himself to be crucified—a form of death reserved for non-Roman criminals and slaves. It is for this reason that the cross does not really become a Christian symbol for Christ and for the faith until after the faith is legalized by the Emperor Constantine and becomes established as the principal faith of the Roman Empire.

This is the backdrop we find behind the words we heard from Paul in today’s Epistle:
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For Paul to point to a cross, and to speak of the one crucified on it, was indeed an act of foolishness and a point of scandal to everyone who heard about it. To the Jew that Paul shared this message with, it was to hear of a man who had been cursed and abandoned by God and cast out from the fellowship of Israel, just as the Law of Moses said: “Cursed is the one who is hanged on a tree” (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). How could it make sense that God would now choose to call such a man blessed, and even more than that, cause this same man to be the Source of blessing, life, and salvation for all who would believe in this One who was hung on a cross outside of Jerusalem as both an enemy of Rome and of the Jewish faith? It seems as if God is contradicting Himself and confusing us rather than making clear what we need to believe. What God needs to give us is a better sign, something easier to understand.

When Paul then turned to the Gentiles to tell them about this Jesus who was crucified, it all just seemed unwise and foolish. Who follows a convicted criminal? There had to be something wrong with Him and what He had to say if He wound up on a Roman cross. He sounds more like a wise guy who got what was coming to Him rather than a wise man who had something to say that is worth following and believing. No, there seems to be more that is wrong with this Christ that Paul preaches about than anything good to have a reason to take any of it seriously enough to believe in it.

Signs and wisdom. Both of these are calls for proof. Show me why I should believe what you say when everything I see and hear screams, “It’s all a lie!” Help me make sense of it all, and I’ll believe what you’re selling.

But to this, Paul says, “I can’t do that.” God doesn’t want to be understood as much as He wants to be believed. And to move us to believe, He actually chooses to be misunderstood. He wants to be found in the unbelievable. He wants us to see a condemned criminal on the cross as the Savior of the world. He wants us to see that in this One “despised and rejected by men” is the One He had promised to send to free and redeem His people. He wants those whom He calls to believe in the Crucified One that here in shame, disgrace, and death is the strong and mighty and powerful arm of God at work bringing forth life and everlasting salvation for the people He has come to save.

And this is where we discover the wisdom of the cross. And that wisdom is found in “getting over ourselves”. How God chooses to save and redeem us is not about that happening in a way where we feel better about ourselves. The cross confronts us with the very real and ugly reality of our sin. For a God who declares that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, here is blood a plenty pouring from the sacrificial death of Christ so that sin may be forgiven to the one who believes in Him. Here is the price that was called for to pay for sin, and God realized we could never pay it, so He paid it to Himself through the offering up of His Son. It defies logic, reason, and even human sensibilities, but God did it anyway.

In God’s actions completed in and through Christ, God’s wisdom is revealed in one very mysterious word—love. It is the love of God for sinners which turns the Cross of His Son from a sign of shame, rejection, and condemnation into the very sign of forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation. It is the Cross which reveals that God is love and His love is so great and powerful that it can indeed free us who believe in the One whom God sent from our sins, from the power of the evil one, and even from death.

And God does all of this for us, never needing us to accomplish anything to receive what He wishes to give. Our life and salvation that come to us from God depend not one bit on who we are, what we can do or are able to do, or even what we know or don’t know. Our salvation and life only depend on faith in the Christ who reveals to us God’s wisdom, God’s power to save, God’s will to make us holy, and God’s love that makes us right with Him—not because of who we are but solely on account of who He is and who He makes us once more: the children of His creating and redeeming.

On the outside looking in, it may seem that the believer in Christ holds on to some “strange and crazy” ideas. But as we believe, what we put our trust and hope in is not in ourselves, or things we can see, touch, and handle, or even in what the world says “make sense”. Our hope and trust is founded on our God, who reveals His wisdom in what many would say is foolishness and folly. Yes, our faith may well seem that way, but as we put our trust in the God whom we know has saved us, we know that in Him we have everything, including the wisdom and knowledge which gives and leads us to everlasting life. In the Crucified Christ is our hope, our strength, our wisdom and life. To the world, it may all seem foolish. Let the world have its say, but knowing what in Christ is ours and belongs to us, we will forever boast of our hope that is in the Lord and in His cross, now and forever. Thanks be to Christ! Amen!

Sermon for Lent 2

A sermon preached at Trinity-Mount Rainier on the Second Sunday in Lent, February 25, 2018.

Life Out of Death
Readings Appointed
(Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38)

Lent is oftentimes seen as a journey which leads us from death to life, especially as that journey is accomplished by our Lord Jesus Himself as He goes through His passion and death to His resurrection from the dead. And we share spiritually in that journey with Him, especially as we are called to remember how through Baptism and faith we were called to life out from the death we had lived in our sins and sinfulness—a process which is still ongoing each day as we live lives of repentance until we reach the eternity which has been prepared for us to share with the Lord.

We know that God’s story is filled with moments where He brings life out of death, and one might even go as far as to say that this is a theme woven throughout the Scriptures, especially in the ones we have heard proclaimed to us today. Our God is always about bringing life to us, the children of His creating and His redeeming. How does He do this, and perhaps more importantly, why does He do it? Continue Reading »

Sermon for Lent 1

A sermon delivered at Trinity-Mount Rainier on the First Sunday in Lent, February 18, 2018.  The sermon was read by Trinity Member, Waymond Joynes, on behalf of Pastor Schiebel who prepared it, but was unable to preach owing to his having the flu.  Thank you, Waymond, for this kind service to the Lord and His people.

Why This Sacrifice?
Genesis 22:1-18
(Other Readings Appointed: James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15)

As we read through Holy Scripture, there are times when what we find there can be perplexing. Now, no one has ever said that the Bible is an “easy read” or even “easy to understand”. There come the times when what our God places before us to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” “for our learning” must confront and even provoke us so that our understanding of God might deepen and that our lives might also be shaped and formed by what we come to learn and know.

One such perplexing passage that we sometimes stumble over are the words we heard in today’s Old Testament Reading. The account of the (near) Sacrifice of Isaac can indeed be a troubling one. For some, when we hear of what God has asked Abraham to do to his son, we seem to react like we are watching a “slasher horror” movie, screaming to the person on the screen “Don’t open that door!”, because we know the killer is right on the other side. Hearing this scene in the Scriptures play out, we have our questions. We wonder why Abraham didn’t tell God no. We ask why didn’t Isaac try to stop his father from binding him and laying him on the altar to be sacrificed. We see a lot of obedience, but we wonder why there wasn’t more questioning going on. And chief among these questions is, why this sacrifice? Continue Reading »

A sermon preached at Trinity-Mount Rainier on Ash Wednesday, the first Day of the Sacred Season of Lent, February 14, 2018.

A Dusty Valentine
Romans 5: 6-11
(Readings Appointed: Joel 2:12-19; 2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, dear fellow redeemed.

When one mashes together the secular and Church calendars together this year, we end up with two interesting and unique conjunctions. The first comes from what the entire Church Year revolves around—the celebration of Easter. Based upon an ancient ecclesiastical computation, Easter Day falls this year on April 1st. And we’ll save all of the April Fools jokes that can be connected with that for then. It is from the date of Easter that we then count back the 40 days of Lent, excluding Sundays, and we reach today, February 14th.

Now as most of us know, this is indeed an unfortunate series of events. For today is Valentine’s Day—the day to show and give love to our significant others or those we hope and wish would become our significant other. So, on a day often given to fasting, self-denial, and prayer, what is one to do about the cards, the gifts, and the fancy dinners? And this is to say nothing of the unfortunate choice of some to give up chocolate for Lent on what is perhaps one of the biggest days of the year for the purchase and giving of this wonderful treat. Just leave it to the Church to be a kill joy this year and cancel Valentine’s Day by insisting that today must be Ash Wednesday. Continue Reading »

A sermon preached at Trinity-Mount Rainier at the Funeral Service of Victory for Betty K. Kruelle, on Shrove Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

Come to the Forever Feast
Readings Appointed
(Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 14:1-6, 18-19, 27)

Even as we come together today for this Funeral Service of Victory for Betty, our dear sister in Christ; there is the realization that the world and time continue to move on, whether we want it to or not. So for many, this is Tuesday, which for some is the day for the mad dash to be ready for Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and for others it is Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, or Carnival—the day, no matter what one calls it, which is the time to prepare for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

As I prepared for the celebration of today’s service, I thought of what this day is supposed to mean and what it is to be all about. Although popular culture has made this day about some “interesting and morally questionable” practices, the original intent of Shrove Tuesday was about “feasting before the fast”. The very word, “carnival”, comes from the Latin for farewell to meat or flesh. This was the moment when foods which would be prohibited to be eaten during Lent could be consumed in order that it would not be wasted. Although this sometimes could be seen as a license for gluttony, it served a purpose in giving a time of joy before the beginning of what often was seen as the somber season of Lent. Continue Reading »