Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | January 31, 2019

Moving to a New Address … sort of

I’ve decided to move my blogging to a new address: The first post on the new site explains my rationale, but one of the key reasons is that it is easier for me to update and revamp my blog by starting fresh rather than by revamping Eventually this site will be erased, but much of the content about worship will be reposted on the new site.

Thanks for following this blog, and I hope I’ll see you over at the new address!


Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | December 17, 2018

Sermon on Zephaniah 3:14-17


  1. Look at what God has done for you
  2. Listen to what God says to you

Based on Zephaniah 3:14-17


If you think about it carefully, Santa Claus is a creepy character. “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows if you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake!” In a world where you can be digitally tracked just about everywhere you go, in a world where your adversaries will dig up a decade-old tweet on your Twitter feed to show what a horrible person you are, in a world where people who respect your privacy seem to be few and far between, I don’t know if I like the idea of someone who knows if I’m awake or asleep, and who is fully aware of every good and bad things I’ve ever done!

Of course, jolly ole’ Saint Nick is fictional. He may have come onto our secular Christmas scene through the real St. Nicholas, a man who is said to have loved children and hated heresy. But the Santa Claus we see this time of year isn’t spying on us so that he can be about his business of “making a list [and] checking it twice.” If someone actually had the ability to see us in every moment and know everything there is to be known about our life’s story, that would be more than creepy. That would be downright frightening!

That’s where the fiction stops. There is someone who can track your every move more effectively than GPS. There is someone omniscient and Almighty, who knows not only what you’ve done that’s bad or good, but even what you’ve thought that’s bad or good. That someone is the Lord God Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. And the result of sinful and evil actions before God is not merely having potential presents crossed off your Christmas wish list. The result of any and all sin and evil before God is to have our names crossed off the list of those who will live and reign with him forever in heaven. That’s not just creepy. That’s eternally frightening! That’s eternally condemning!

Ask the people of ancient Judah about an all-knowing God who saw their sins and the repeated rebellion and wayward hearts of one generation after another. The prophet Zephaniah wrote a short book with harsh warnings to the nation of Judah in the second half of the sixth century B.C. Zephaniah’s words of warning likely came around the time that King Josiah began to reign and enact religious reforms that brought a wicked and wandering nation back to God. The first two and a half chapters of Zephaniah’s book were frightening to anyone who took his message seriously. But to those who took his message seriously, he transitions to soothing words of comfort in today’s First Reading. In the face of God’s just judgment and punishment over sin, Zephaniah gives us real reasons to rejoice! He says: Look at what God has done for you! Listen to what God says to you!  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | November 17, 2018

Stewardship Presentation and Resources

Church Name Stained Glass WindowLast Sunday, November 11, Crown of Life held a “Stewardship Sunday” in worship. This weekend, our Sunday Bible Class offers a follow-up presentation connected to last Sunday’s service and sermon. This blog post contains links to resources that relate to the November 18 stewardship presentation.

First, here is the stewardship presentation that was given between the morning services on November 18.

The presentation gave four suggestions for personal devotional materials. Here are links to those materials:

These and many other excellent devotional resources can be purchased from Northwestern Publishing House, the official publisher of Crown of Life’s national church body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

The WELS website offers daily devotions delivered to your email address. Sign up to receive these daily devotional messages.

Finally, for those who would like to follow a formal plan for Bible reading, here is a three-year Bible reading schedule. This schedule, developed several years ago by the WELS Commission on Adult Discipleship, moves around to different sections of the Bible throughout the course of the three years (rather than reading the entire Bible in sequence). Use the suggested questions on the bottom of page 4 of the stewardship presentation’s outline (linked above) as you study each day’s section.

God bless your faithful stewardship of his means of grace!


Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | November 11, 2018

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 8:1-9

To Grow in Giving, We Must Grow in Grace

Based on 2 Corinthians 8:1-9


VoiceLessonIf you want to be a better singer, you need good breath support. When I lead choir rehearsals, we begin with a few warm-up exercises. Most warm-ups change from one rehearsal to the next, but I always include breathing exercises in warm-ups. Singers need to fill up their lungs over four seconds and then release that air over a period of time—first four seconds, then six, eight, and so on. At the beginning of a rehearsal season, that can be a difficult exercise for our singers. They run out of air quickly! But after they’ve been rehearsing for a while, they can release that air over a longer period of time, which helps them to support their singing in a variety of ways. To become a better singer, you must do more than sing the right notes. To become a better singer, you need to learn how to fill your lungs properly.

That’s true of so many other skills we learn in music, or sports, or life. There are fundamental skills that we need to learn in order to carry out the intended task more effectively.

What about stewardship? When it comes to stewardship—the way we manage the money and time and abilities with which God has blessed us—how can we improve? How can we be better stewards? How can we learn to give more generously to support the ministry? Something else needs to precede our stewardship for us to improve our giving. That’s what St. Paul teaches us in today’s Second Reading. In words that speak directly about stewardship, Paul teaches us that to grow in our giving, we must first grow in grace. Read More…

Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | September 24, 2018

Sermon on Mark 9:33-37


 Based on Mark 9:33-37


Who is the GOAT? GOAT is an acronym for “Greatest of all time.” It’s a term that’s especially used in sports. Who is the GOAT of NFL quarterbacks? Joe Montana? Dan Marino? Tom Brady? Aaron Rodgers? But that GOAT question can easily be asked beyond sports. Who was the greatest musician of all time? Mozart? Beethoven? Brahms? Bach? Who was the greatest president of all time? Washington? Lincoln? FDR? Reagan? Someone else?

A different but related question would be, “How do you define greatness?” Do you define the greatest quarterback by the number of touchdown passes, Super Bowl victories, MVP awards, or passer rating? Is the establishment of a new nation, or the preservation of a union while overcoming slavery, or winning the Cold War the greatest accomplishment among U.S. presidents?

Who is the greatest Christian of all time? How do you answer that question? How do you define Christian greatness? Is it defined by years of service in the church, or the size of offerings in the church, or the number of people to whom a person witnesses his faith?

Our Lord Jesus chimes in on the matter of Christian “greatness” in the Gospel for today’s service. And as is so often the case, Jesus complete turns our ideas of greatness upside down. Jesus doesn’t define greatness by accomplishments, fame, or fortune. Jesus defines greatness by service. That’s what we’ll learn as we look at the Gospel for today from Mark chapter nine. Jesus turns service into greatness.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | September 10, 2018

Sermon on Acts 3:1-10


  1. The world looks to the Church for something
  2. In Christ, we can give them far more than they expect

 Based on Acts 3:1-10


Should a church offer something secular such as a soccer camp or a young mother’s club to connect to its community? You could probably generate a pretty lively discussion among a group of pastors if you asked that question. The whole matter of a church connecting to its community with a secular event raises some very practical thoughts:

  • On the one hand, what is the purpose of the church? Soccer won’t get you into heaven. While young mothers need socialization with other moms, the mothers’ club is not a ticket into paradise.
  • On the other hand, unbelievers have no reason to connect to a church. People who are by nature spiritually dead cannot by definition see their need for God. So if a church looks for unique ways to connect with people in their unique community, and then turns those connections into springboards for sharing the gospel, isn’t that a good thing?

In today’s Second Reading, the apostles Peter and John encounter a lame man placed at an entrance of the temple in Jerusalem. He was hoping for something from the apostles—not a sports camp or a social club for people with disabilities, but a literal donation. They didn’t ignore him, nor did they directly give him what he asked for. This beautiful, unique, miraculous story has a practical lesson for us when it comes to reaching out and meeting the needs of people all around us. Peter’s words sum it up nicely: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have, I give you.” And the incident that follows helps us understand that the people of our world will often look to the Church for something, but in Christ, we can give them something far more and far better than what they expect.


When I served as a vicar (intern) in North Hollywood, California, we often had people coming to the door asking for money. Sometimes those people had a sincere and genuine need. We might go to the store with them and purchase their groceries, or we might provide them a meal. Sometimes people just wanted free money. The young man with the blaring portable radio who said he was hungry turned down my offer to make him a healthy lunch flat out because he said he hoped for money to buy something tastier. I told him: Sorry, no!

New Testament Illustrations 074The poor, lame man at the temple entrance was no farce. He had a genuine need. Luke tells us what happened when this man encountered the apostles: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.” Peter and John walked into the temple for the “evening sacrifice” that was offered daily at 3:00 p.m. This poor beggar encounters them and many others at the highest and most ornate entrance to the temple, which was appropriately called, “Beautiful.” His friends and family must have placed him here each day at this ideal location for seeking help from people who were coming to worship God and would likely be moved to help this lame man in his need.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | August 13, 2018

Sermon on John 6:24-35


  1. This is food that won’t poison your soul
  2. This is the only food that will sustain your soul

Sermon based on John 6:24-35


Just last month, Chiyo Miyako, the person who held the title, “oldest living person in the world,” died. She was born in 1901, lived her life in Japan, and died on July 22 at the age of 117. According to her family, she loved to eat sushi and eel (to which I respond, “Not a fan” and “Ewwww!”). The person who has since taken the title of world’s oldest person is also a woman from Japan. The world’s oldest man, Masazo Nonaka, also from Japan, recently celebrated his 113th birthday. He claims that the mineral-rich hot springs near his home and his love of sweets are what has kept him going well into his second century.

It’s probably not a coincidence that no one from Wisconsin has been able to claim to be the world’s oldest person. No one is likely to live an exceptionally long life subsisting on Wisconsin’s well-established “3B” diet of brats, burgers, and beer.

Americans generally seem to more health conscious now than a generation ago. But even the most health-conscious person, even the individual who strives to only the most nutritious foods, cannot live forever. There is not a single item you can buy at the grocery store or a single nutritional supplement you can purchase that will keep you alive forever—at least, not physically, in this world. But there is something that will cause you to live forever after this world. The special food Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel will keep you alive after this life and forever. In John chapter six, Jesus talks about a special kind of food, something you can’t pick up at Piggly Wiggly or Pick ‘n’ Save, but something that is guaranteed to make you live beyond this life. Let’s revisit Jesus’ words, where he encourages us to eat the “Bread of Life.” This special spiritual food from our Lord Jesus is the only food that won’t poison your souls, and it’s the only food that can sustain your soul.


This Sunday’s Gospel account continues the sequence of events we have heard over the past several weeks. We have heard about Jesus miraculously feeding the crowd of five thousand, and how the crowds followed him after he and his disciples traveled by night across the Sea of Galilee. It’s now the next morning. The crowd has followed Jesus and his disciples to their destination with hopes of further interactions with this miracle-working prophet who was the Messiah their people had long awaited.

But why? Why were they so determined to follow Jesus? Quite honestly, they were following him for the wrong reasons. Listen to what happened after the crowd caught up with Jesus. “When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’”  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | August 5, 2018

Sermon on 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18


  1. There are difficult challenges along the way
  2. There is a glorious crown at the finish line


Based on 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” That Bible verse uses the picture of deep waters as a metaphor for the difficult times we face in life. The metaphor of waters as a symbol for difficulties was even more than a metaphor in today’s Gospel (Mark 6:45-56), when Jesus’ disciples found themselves on the choppy nighttime waters of the Sea of Galilee. But those metaphorical deep waters were also what Elisha faced in our First Reading (2 Kings 6:8-17) as the King of Aram tried to capture him, and what Paul faced in our Second Reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18) as he knew his martyrdom was just around the corner.

Today we’re going to take a closer look at the “deep waters” lessons that the apostle Paul teaches in our Second Reading. Paul used a different metaphor to talk about the challenges we face in this life. He compares his life and ministry to a grueling race like a marathon. We will use Paul’s words and images to explore the Holy Spirit’s comforting truths that will help us deal with the troubles and trials of life’s difficult marathon. Today we will learn from Paul, as one who has “run the race.” Paul’s words teach us that there are going to be difficult challenges along the way in this race called life, but that there is a glorious crown waiting for us at the finish line.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | May 14, 2018

Sermon on John 17:11b-19


  1. Jesus prays that we are protected from the world
  2. Jesus prays that we are sanctified in the world

Sermon based on John 17:11b-19


She wondered how you were doing when you were ten years old and attended your first sleep over party at your best friend’s house. She hoped that you were having a good time at summer camp and that you wouldn’t be coming home early with an unexpected injury or because you were causing trouble. She was concerned about you as you departed for your week-long high school trip to a different part of the country, praying for your safety every night. She prayed even more for you as you drove off to attend college in another state. She cried bittersweet tears for you when you graduated, knowing that you were soon to find your own place and begin your career and life on your own. All these examples and many more could describe many mothers who have genuine love and concern for their children, especially when they were not physically with their children. We all know that just because we are away from mom does not mean that she has forgotten about us or is suddenly unconcerned about us. Mother’s Day makes us think about how much mom loves her children—both when they’re at home, and perhaps even more when her children are gone.

The phrase, “Gone, but not forgotten,” usually describes how we feel about a loved one who has passed away. But I suppose we could use that phrase in another sense to describe how a loving mother feels about her children: There comes a time when they are gone from her home and no longer under her care, but they are never forgotten from her heart.

“Gone, but not forgotten” could also describe Jesus’ thoughts in the Gospel for today. On Thursday night of Holy Week, Jesus spoke a prayer to his Father in heaven while he was with his disciples celebrating the Passover, prior to his betrayal, arrest, trials, and crucifixion. That prayer has been called Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” (That’s the reason we just sang the hymn, “Jesus, My Great High Priest”). Jesus’ prayer looks ahead in time after his Ascension when he would no longer be physically present with his disciples, and he prays to his Father for them with this post-Ascension time frame in mind. Today, on the Sunday after our celebration of Jesus’ Ascension, we take a look at Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in this same time frame. Jesus’ prayer for his disciples then is one that is just as applicable and meaningful to his disciples today. In this prayer, we see that even though Jesus is gone from us physically, he has certainly not forgotten us! He prays that we are protected from the world, and he prays that we are sanctified as we live in the world.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | May 6, 2018

Sermon on John 15:12-15


Sermon based on John 15:12-15


Everything seemed fine at first. It was just another commercial flight traveling from point A to point B. But not everything stayed fine. The left engine blew. The debris broke open a window. The plane immediately dropped in altitude. The oxygen masks fell down. The passengers knew that something had gone horribly wrong, and many assumed that they were going to die in a tragic crash.

SWA1380Apr172018pic2Now that a few weeks have passed since that fateful Southwest Airlines flight 1380 took place on April 17, I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the news story and the reasonably happy ending of a reasonably safe landing. One of the passengers on that flight was WELS Pastor Timothy Bourman, who serves Sure Foundation Lutheran Church in New York City. Pastor Bourman was interviewed on CNN shortly after this incident. During the interview, he said that he quickly sent a text message to his daughters, thinking that the plane was going to crash and this might be the last message he could ever communicate to them. What did he choose to make his presumed last words? Afraid that they might become bitter toward God if they would have lost their parents, he texted them that he loved them, that they should never lose their faith in God, and that Jesus loves them.

I hope none of us is ever in that situation. I hope if one of you are in a similar situation, you experience the same happy ending that Pastor Bourman and his wife did. But if you are in that situation, what would your last-minute message be to your loved ones?

In the Gospel for today, Jesus was in his equivalent situation. Knowing that his crucifixion and death would occur within 24 hours, Jesus celebrated his last Passover meal with his disciples and gave them a lengthy last message recorded in John 13-17. Perhaps this seems like an odd Bible reading choice for the end of the Easter season, but if we read the entire section, we discover how well Jesus’ words fit into worship this time of year. This Thursday, we will celebrate Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, and in two weeks from today, we will celebrate the day of Pentecost, when Jesus miraculously sent a special gift of his Holy Spirit on these same disciples. On the night before he died, Jesus looked ahead to his Ascension from this world and the day of Pentecost, and his words to his disciples prepared them for that day. That’s why we typically read from these words of Jesus during the end of the Easter season: Even though the words were spoken the night before he died, Jesus’ overall topic fits with his Ascension and the day of Pentecost. Jesus weaved several different topics into this discourse; the excerpt we will look at today focuses especially on living a life of genuine Christian love in light of the love that Jesus has shown us.

Read More…

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