Rev. Michael Holmen's Sermons



Sermons preached at Peace Lutheran Church, Oelwein, IA and Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Independence, IA. This is a dual parish of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. We use the one year, historic lectionary.


  • 210502 Sermon on John 16:5-15 (Easter 5) May 2, 2021

    210502 Sermon on John 16:5-15 (Easter 5) May 2, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:The psalmist says, “For you, O Lord, are the most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.” Again, it says, “The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory is higher than the heavens.” In one of our songs in the liturgy we sing something similar: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of your glory!” God is glorious. The Christ is glorious. The apostles had thought on Holy Week that this glory had only just begun for Jesus, and therefore also for them, his friends. Holy week was a good week for Jesus until that terrible night when he was betrayed. He had ridden into Jerusalem with palms and praises. He had routed his enemies who tried to slip him up with trick questions. So when Jesus tells them on the night that he was betrayed how he was going away from them, sorrow filled their hearts. The believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the one God had promised from the beginning. This Christ is supposed to be king

  • 210425 Sermon on Lamentations 3, 1 John 3, John 16 (Easter 4) April 25, 2021

    210425 Sermon on Lamentations 3, 1 John 3, John 16 (Easter 4) April 25, 2021


    Audio recording Sermon manuscript:Marketers are always trying to get people to buy their products. Perhaps you remember a couple often used phrases by the inventor Ron Popeil. With his kitchen gadgets he would say, “Set it and forget it.” And when he was working on his pitch he would say, “But wait, there’s more!” Consumers want things that will make their life easier. They want to get as much as they possibly can for their money. Marketers try to make the consumer believe that their life will be better by buying their product. They’ll be happier, have more time, and save money. Church membership is something that can be marketed. A person can make a pitch that belonging to this church or that church will make a person happier. The folks of Ron Popeil’s generation seemed to understand this. That was the generation that tried to make church feel like movie theaters, sound like soft rock concerts. They added coffee bars and book stores. Coming to church was supposed to feel like going to the mall—a place t

  • 210418 Sermon on Ezekiel 34:11-16 (Easter 3) April 18, 2021

    210418 Sermon on Ezekiel 34:11-16 (Easter 3) April 18, 2021


    Audio recordingSermon manuscript:The relationship between shepherds and sheep is not a relationship of equality. Shepherds are one thing. Sheep are another. Their roles are not interchangeable. It is also not the case that sheep need to have their say in what is going on. They are not asked for input on where they should go or what they should do. All the decisions, or at least all the good decisions, are made by the shepherd. I say “good decisions” because the sheep are able to wander away, get lost, and manage to get eaten by wolves. but none of these things are in the sheep’s best interests. All the good decisions are made by the shepherd who leads the flock into good grazing land, who keeps them safe from predators, and so on. The Scriptures speak in several places about God being the Shepherd, and his people being sheep. For example, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters, he restoreth my soul.” Then we have the readin

  • 210411 Sermon on John 20:19-31 (Easter 2) April 11, 2021

    210411 Sermon on John 20:19-31 (Easter 2) April 11, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:On the evening of Easter Jesus appeared to his disciples. He said to them, “Peace to you.” We have a hard time grasping what Jesus says to us here. It is almost standard operating procedure for us to not think very highly of something when it does not seem to be needed. We don’t appreciate health until we are sick. We don’t appreciate good weather until we’ve had weeks of gray skies. So it is also with peace. There’s another problem with peace: we use the word too much. The same thing happens with the word “love.” Using words a lot seems to degrade the meaning of them. We want world peace. We want peace for our times. The hippies had a peace sign. So what is peace? Is it being cool? Is it the advance of modern civilization? Is it non-violence? Peace is a grand word, again, like the word “love.” Both of these words loom large in God’s plan. Heaven is a place of peace and love. Practically all the blessings that we use have the word “peace” in them. “Grace, mercy, and pea

  • 210404 Sermon for Easter, April 4, 2021

    210404 Sermon for Easter, April 4, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:There is a man named Elon Musk who is very busy. He owns and oversees several companies. Tesla and Space X are the most famous. For a brief time this year he surpassed Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, as the richest person in the world when his stock prices went way up. The reason why Elon Musk is so thoroughly believed in that people are prepared to throw their money at him is because he is so forward looking. He is looking for the next big thing. There is one project of his that seems to be more along the lines of science fiction than what is actually possible. He’d like to make a direct connection between our brains and computer systems by implanting wires into our skulls. This would mean that we could control computers just by thinking. We wouldn’t have to use our fingers (which Elon Musk likes to call “meat sticks.”) This would give human beings even more power than they already have with our current, slow, keystroke by keystroke communication with computer systems. It a

  • 210403 Sermon on 1 Peter 3:17-18 (Holy Saturday) April 3, 2021

    210403 Sermon on 1 Peter 3:17-18 (Holy Saturday) April 3, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:Tonight I’d like to consider something that Peter says in our epistle reading: “Indeed, it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil, because Christ also suffered once for sins in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” First, I’d like to speak a little bit about suffering. We know from the Bible that suffering is the consequence of the fall into sin. With sin came death and everything that leads up to death, including pain, sickness, and disease. Psychological and spiritual suffering came with the fall—the worst of which is the feeling of alienation from God. There is also emotional suffering. Right from the get-go human beings have tried to alleviate suffering to the greatest extent that they could. Right after Adam and Eve sinned they tried to alleviate their shame by making some clothes for themselves. From that time forward we have applied all the gifts and abilities that God has given to us to eliminat

  • 210402 Sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (Good Friday) April 2, 2021

    210402 Sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (Good Friday) April 2, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:I remember one of my seminary professors telling the classroom of future pastors that Good Friday is not a funeral for Jesus. That is to say, it is not an opportunity to open the vein of sentimentality and let it gush all over everything. There is a way of observing Good Friday where we feel good about feeling so bad about what happened to Jesus. In a way we hold up a mirror, while watching the sad scene with Jesus, to look at our own tears streaming down. The conclusions we draw is that we must be rather tenderhearted and good people—after all, just look how sad we are. Luke tells us in his Gospel about Jesus’s surprising response to some sentimental women who were following him while he was carrying his cross to Golgotha. It says, “A large crowd of people was following Jesus, including women who were mourning and wailing for him. Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. Be sure of this:

  • 210401 Sermon for Maundy Thursday, April 1, 2021

    210401 Sermon for Maundy Thursday, April 1, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:Calendars go together with culture. They help to reinforce the culture. For example, on July 4th, we could ask our neighbor, “Don’t you know what day it is?” And they could probably tell you. It’s Independence Day. What happened on this day? The Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was signed in 1776. It was the birth of our nation as an independent entity. Besides national events and national culture, there are also more personal calendars. We remember the days of births. We remember anniversaries. Remembering marks the person and event as something special. In our Old Testament reading today we learned about a festival that the Lord himself instituted for his people, the Israelites. The Lord told Moses and Aaron that they were getting a whole new calendar. That month was going to be the beginning of the year. On the tenth day they were to choose a yearling lamb. They were to keep it with them until the fourteenth day. Then they were all to slaughter the lambs

  • 210328 Sermon on John 12:12-33 (Palm Sunday) March 28, 2021

    210328 Sermon on John 12:12-33 (Palm Sunday) March 28, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:Our Gospel reading today has two parts. The first part deals with the events that we are familiar with concerning Palm Sunday. Jesus was entering into Jerusalem to celebrate the upcoming festival of Passover that was happening that week. There were more people than usual in Jerusalem because they were doing the same thing that Jesus and his disciples were doing. Interest in Jesus was quite keen because of what he had done just days before. He had raised Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, from the dead, even though he had been dead for four days. This is why the crowd is large, and why they are praying to Jesus: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” The second part of our reading tells us some other things that happened that day. These are lesser known happenings connected with Palm Sunday. It is this second part of the Gospel reading that I’d like to focus on today. The second part is different from the first part. In the f

  • 210324 Why infants should be baptized

    210324 Why infants should be baptized


    Audio recording Sermon manuscript:This Lent season we have considered baptism by answering the fundamental questions of our catechism: What is baptism? What benefits does baptism give? How can water do such great things? and What does such baptizing with water indicate? Here, at the end of our series, we will take up a topic that is important, especially where we live, because churches are divided on the question of whether infants should be baptized. Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and perhaps a couple other smaller confessions have their babies baptized. The great many church bodies that originated in Great Britain, such as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians; as well as others such as the Evangelicals, the Hutterites, the Amish, and many others, either do not baptize their babies at all, or they mean something different than we do when they baptize. Baptism is said to be a mere sign or a kind of dedication, or initiation into the community. It is not seen as the bestowal

  • 210321 Sermon on Genesis 22:1-14 (Lent 5) March 21, 2021

    210321 Sermon on Genesis 22:1-14 (Lent 5) March 21, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:I’d like to consider our Old Testament reading today about Abraham and Isaac from two perspectives. First, I’d like to consider how an unbeliever might regard what is going on. Then I’d like to consider how a believer understands what is going on. By looking at this event from these two different perspectives, I hope that you can see the radical difference faith makes for how a person understands God and his actions. So let’s begin with the unbeliever’s perspective of Genesis 22. In a way, Genesis 22 is one of the unbeliever’s favorite parts of the Bible. The unbeliever wants to believe that the bible is irrational, unreliable, full of tales and myths, and even those tales and myths are often more disturbing than edifying. Thus it is below the dignity of any sane, rational person to believe what the Bible says. Genesis 22 seems to offer support for such a view. After all, what kind of a God says to anyone, much less to one of his faithful followers, that he should sacrif

  • 210317 What does such baptizing with water indicate? (Lent 4 Midweek) March 17, 2021

    210317 What does such baptizing with water indicate? (Lent 4 Midweek) March 17, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:The second reading that we heard tonight, from Matthew’s Gospel, is very valuable because it answers a very basic question: “What does it mean to be a Christian?” First and foremost is the confession of faith. Jesus asked the disciples who people were saying that he was. They gave the answers that they were hearing. These were very flattering answers. They thought Jesus was one of the mighty prophets from of old, or that faithful-unto-death-greatest-man-born-of-women contemporary, John the Baptizer. Then Jesus asked the disciples what they thought. Was their answer any different than the crowds? Yes, it was. No matter how flattering other answers might be, they are nothing compared to Peter’s confession: “You are the Christ.” There is only one Christ. Peter is identifying this man, named Jesus, from the town of Nazareth, as that Christ. He is saying that Jesus is the rightful son and heir and king, descended from King David. He is saying that Jesus is the one through who

  • 210314 Sermon on Exodus 16:2-21 (Lent 4) March 14, 2021

    210314 Sermon on Exodus 16:2-21 (Lent 4) March 14, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:The apostle Peter has an interesting phrase in his second epistle. He is writing to Christians about how they have to live in the midst of people who are like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He says that these people “have hearts that have been trained in covetousness.” The word that is used for training is “gumnazdo” in the Greek. Perhaps you can pick up the English cognate if I say gumnazium, that is, gymnasium. What do people do at a gym? People have hearts that have been trained, like someone working out at a gym, in covetousness, in the desire to get more and more. This covetous heart has been implanted in us by the fall into sin. It is apparent already in toddlers or even younger. As soon as we can manage it we say “mine.” In order that we wouldn’t grow up to be totally antisocial, our parents had to teach us to share. But this might be debatable. Were we really taught to share or were we taught that we couldn’t snatch things out of another person’s hands? Those

  • 210310 How can water do such great things (Lent III Midweek)

    210310 How can water do such great things (Lent III Midweek)


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:For the question from the catechism that we will be considering tonight it is helpful to know the question that comes before it: “What benefits does baptism give?” Answer: “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare.” Think about what is being claimed here about baptism. It forgives sins. It rescues from death and the devil. It gives eternal salvation. These are not small things.So our question tonight naturally flows from that: “How can water do such great things?” Baptism is such a simple thing that it appears that it is not even very good at washing the body, much less being capable of forgiving sin, rescuing from death and the devil, or giving eternal salvation. Such grand things seem like they should require grand efforts on our part, or at least a grand ritual. Baptism doesn’t seem to fit the bill. So how can water do such great things?The answer is ext

  • 210307 Sermon on Luke 11:14-28 (Lent 3) March 7, 2021

    210307 Sermon on Luke 11:14-28 (Lent 3) March 7, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:The bible presents us with a tremendous either/or. Either we are a child of God or we are a child of the devil. Either we are on God’s side or we are on the devil’s side. Either we are obedient to God or we are obedient to the devil. Either we are receiving the Holy Spirit or we are possessed by one or more evil spirits. We’ve never liked this either/or very much. In our modern times we seem to have been given a powerful argument against it. There is a widespread belief that somebody somewhere discovered that there are no such things as evil spirits, nor is there a devil. These are just relics from a previous time in human development when people were too stupid to know any better. There is a variation of the same argument that is used with God’s existence. Supposedly somebody somewhere discovered that God doesn’t exist. It is believed that ancient people had to make up the existence of God because they were too stupid to explain the world in any other way. This mindset

  • 210303 What benefits does Baptism give? Lent 2 Midweek

    210303 What benefits does Baptism give? Lent 2 Midweek


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:Last week we considered the question: “What is baptism?” The answer was very simple. It is the application of water together with God’s Words: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The whole process takes less than a minute. With such a simple ceremony we naturally tend to believe that it can’t do very much. This is why it is important that we do not just stick with the thoughts that come naturally to us, but that we be informed by what Jesus and his apostles teach concerning baptism. We can begin with what we have heard from the final chapters of Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels. The last chapters of all four of the Gospels are very important. When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples he did not talk to them about the weather or merely mundane things. He had just won the victory by his death and resurrection. Now his kingdom is to be extended into the whole world. How? This is what all the endings to the four Gosp

  • 210228 Sermon on Gen 32, Rom 5, Matt 15 (Lent 2) February 28, 2021

    210228 Sermon on Gen 32, Rom 5, Matt 15 (Lent 2) February 28, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:All three of our readings today deal with something that is important for us to understand. I have to warn you from the outset, though, that it is a hard thing to learn. Here is what we can learn: Although there is sadness in all three readings, that sadness was for the good. All the Christians involved ended up praising their God who laid these burdens on them. So first let’s look at the sadness in each of the readings. In our Old Testament reading Jacob is being put through the wringer. He’s so frightened of his brother Esau coming and slaughtering his family that he splits them into two groups. The thought is that while Esau and his men are slaughtering the one group the other group, would be given enough time to run away. Can you imagine the anguish involved with such a decision? He has already given up half his family as being as good as dead. Shouldn’t this be enough trouble for anyone? But we’re not done yet. Then this mysterious man shows up in the middle of the

  • 210224 What is Baptism? (Lent 1 Midweek) February 24, 2021

    210224 What is Baptism? (Lent 1 Midweek) February 24, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:Tonight we are considering the question: What is baptism? Let’s begin with the word itself. Baptism is not an English word, but a Greek word. It comes from the Greek word Baptizdo, which means “to wash.” So to baptize something means to wash it. Normally when we are washing something we use water, and so it is also with Christian baptism, but, as our catechism puts it, it is “not just plain water.” Something has been added to it. What has been added to it is God’s command and God’s word. Baptism was not something that was invented by the apostles. As we heard in our second reading from the end of Matthew’s Gospel, after Jesus rose from the dead but before he ascended into heaven he told his disciples to baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. These disciples were commanded by their Master what they were supposed to do. They were also told how to do it. While applying water they were to do this in the Name of the Father and of the Son an

  • 210221 Sermon on Matthew 4:1-11 (Lent 1) February 21, 2021

    210221 Sermon on Matthew 4:1-11 (Lent 1) February 21, 2021


     Audio recording (sorry about the quality)Sermon manuscript:In both our Old Testament reading and our Gospel reading this morning we heard about temptations. In the Old Testament reading we heard about Adam and Eve being tempted in the Garden. In the Gospel reading we heard about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. It is important to understand that with both of these temptations we are dealing with a different situation than what happens when we are tempted. The reason why the situation is different with both Adam and Eve as well as Christ is that we are dealing with people who were not “sold under sin,” as Paul puts it. Adam and Eve had not yet fallen. Christ was sinless and would remain sinless. But with both instances the people involved were free. This means that they were able to react differently to temptation than the way that we are able to react to temptation. After the fall into sin human beings couldn’t get back up on their own. The minds of Adam and Eve and all their children down to each

  • 210214 Sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 (Quinquagesima) February 14, 2021

    210214 Sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 (Quinquagesima) February 14, 2021


     Audio recordingSermon manuscript:The original temptation held out a promise to Adam and Eve. The serpent said, “You will be like God.” That promise achieved the serpent’s desired effect and has continued to be attractive up to the present day. Deeply seated within us is the desire to be recognized as the greatest. If it were possible we would all like to be the greatest in absolutely every aspect of life. We would all want to be the most charming, the prettiest, the smartest, the fastest, the strongest, the richest, the one with the most authority, so on and so forth. But most people are smart enough to realize that they cannot excel in every area of life. Some people will never be the prettiest. Others will never be the smartest. And so we all pick for ourselves certain areas of life where we have a better chance of being recognized as the greatest. I attribute this to that seed which was planted in our hearts in the Garden. We all want to be like God. We all, in a sense, want to be worshipped. That i

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