Epiphany 2 A: A Question, Invitation, and Promise

John 1:29-42 Dear Partner in Preaching, It all starts with a question and an invitation. Jesus’ ministry and mission in the Gospel of John, that is. And I find that both interesting and instructive. First the question. Jesus’ first words in John’s Gospel are not a sermon or an exorcism or the proclamation of the coming kingdom, as in other accounts, but rather a question. When disciples of John the Baptist come looking for him, he asks them, “What are you looking for?” The richness of this question in the original Greek bears notice, as the question could also have been translated, “What are you seeking?” or “What do you hope...

A Little More on Voc...

God’s people please God even in the least and most trifling matters. For God will be working all things through you; God will milk the cow through you and perform the most servile duties through you, and all the greatest and least duties alike will be pleasing to God. ~From Luther’s...

Baptism of our Lord A: Family Name

Matthew 3:13-17 Dear Partner in Preaching, In the summer of 1906, my great-grandfather, a pastor and professor of theology at Wittenberg Seminary, ventured east to look for a summer cottage. The cottage he bought, on Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, New York, has been in our family ever since and has served as a wonderful retreat for several generations of pastors and their families who otherwise would have had a hard time affording a summer getaway. The last name of my great-grandfather, and the majority of my aunts and uncles and cousins descended from him, is Gotwald, and as a kid I would go by that name, rather than my own, while at...

Vocation in the New ...

“The Christian shoemaker does his or her duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”  I love this oft-quoted saying of Luther because it gets to the heart of his understanding of vocation. And that is, quite...

Christmas 1 A: Just in Time

Matthew 2:13-23 Dear Partner in Preaching, Too soon. This reading, I mean. It comes too soon. We have, after all, just celebrated Christmas. If your Christmas Eve was anything like mine, it was filled with songs about the “holy infant so tender and mild” and the “little town of Bethlehem” that sheltered him. The story you heard was most likely Luke’s depiction of a young mother giving birth to her firstborn child and angels greeting shepherd with words of peace on earth and good will to all. It was, I’m sure, a beautiful and hope-filled evening and celebration. Which is what makes the transition to this harrowing reading from...