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“Reform & Renewal, in Luther’s Day and Ours” – Rev. Dr. Troy Troftgruben – 10/29/17


Rev. Dr. Troy M. Troftgruben, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque.  Prior to Wartburg Troy served five years as a congregational pastor.  His Ph.D. (New Testament) is from Princeton Theological Seminary.  He has written a facilitator's guide for a  resource on Luther's Small Catechism (By Heart, Augsburg, 2017), a Bible study on Matthew (Augsburg Fortress, 2016), and is working on a book introduction to early church community in the New Testament (Church Roots, Fortress Press).

Second Scripture Lesson:  John 8:31-36 (NRSV)

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ 33They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

34 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

“A Spirit Transplant” – Rev. Hal Murry – 10/22/17

Sermon Outline: 

  1. Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome -- how hard could it be?!
  2. Today's Scripture: Romans 5:1-5
  3. God's universal offer: a "spirit transplant"
  4. Medications against rejection
  5. A life of gratitude, not guilt

Scripture:  Romans 5:1-5 (NRSV)                                                                   

5Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

“Holy Waste” – Pastor Hal Murry – 10/8/17

Sermon Outline: 

  1. A stunning moment at a dinner party
  2. Judas' response: "What a waste!"
  3. Today's Scripture: John 12:1-8
  4. Abundance of the heart
  5. It's personal

Gospel:  John 12:1-8 (CEB)                             

                12 Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters hosted a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was among those who joined him at the table. Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, “This perfume was worth a year’s wages! Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.)

                        7 Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.”

“Invited Guests” – Dr. Rev. Marsha Wilfong – 10/1/17


THANKS TO OUR GUEST PREACHER Rev. Dr. Marsha Wilfong, a retired Presbyterian Minister whom we all know as a friend of our congregation.  Marsha has agreed to respond to requests for pastoral care while Hal is on vacation.

Isaiah 11:1-9 (NRSV)

11 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,

    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Matthew 22:1-14 (NRSV)

22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘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.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Pastor’s Blog – Westminster’s “Stewardship Month” Begins October 8th

“Love, not utility, is the heart of stewardship.  Without deep and profound love for the world for which God offered up his only begotten Son, no amount of beating the drum for God and for money will make the least difference.”  — from The Steward:  A Biblical Symbol Come of Age by Douglas John Hall.

     Dr. Hall is one of my favorite theologians.  And even though I agree that the foundation of good stewardship is love for God and love for the world, we’re still going to “beat the drum” a little for God and for money at Westminster during    October, because that’s what we do and because it’s fun!

     Our Stewardship leader this year is Cameron Fast, and the themes he has selected are “It’s Giving that Matters” and “Great Things Are Happening Here.”   Cameron leads Westminster’s “digital ministries” so this year’s campaign will be different from the recent past:

  • Estimate of Giving Cards for 2018 will be distributed by postal service mail early in the month. They may be mailed back to the church or placed in the offering plate any Sunday, and preferably by October 29.  Plenty of cards will also be available in the Sanctuary and Church Office, should you need an extra.

  • Beginning with worship on October 8, each Sunday will feature one of Westminster’s ministries so that you can see that YOUR’S is “giving that matters” and that “great things are happening here.” Sunday-by-Sunday themes;  October 8 – Digital Ministries; October 15 – Youth Formation;   October 22 – Mandarin Ministries; October 29 – Caring Ministries.

  • Each Sunday will feature brief video presentations projected on a portable screen in the Sanctuary along with short statements by members and friends of Westminster.  Even though it violates a core principle of being Presbyterian, sitting closer to the front will make it easier to recognize faces in the videos!

  • There will be NO all-church Stewardship Brunch this year, but there will be refreshments served and ministry stories shared after worship on October 15 and October 22.

     Four years of faithful and increasing financial support has been critical in     halting Westminster’s long decline and even making possible new missional initiatives during this transitional time.  Please prayerfully consider your estimate of giving for 2018.  “It’s giving that matters and great things are happening here!”

                                                                                                  — Hal Murry


“God is Able” – Dr. Bonnie Sue Lewis – 9/24/17


OUR GUEST PREACHER , is Dr. Bonnie Sue Lewis. Bonnie Sue has been a professor of mission at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary for 20 years, and a member of Westminster for nearly as long. She has served on the Session, as a Deacon, on the Westminster Foundation, and most recently on the Strategic Planning Task Force. She is a member of the hospitality team, care team, has taught adult education, and was Moderator of John Knox Presbytery in 2012.

Acts 11:1-18 (NLT)

                11 Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.

                    4 Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of tame and wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’

                    8 “‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’

                    9 “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ 10 This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven.

                    11 “Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. 12 The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. 13 He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. 14 He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’

                    15 “As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. 16 Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

                    18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”