“Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find” (John 1:29-42a)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 15, 2017

[Note: The Divine Service at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre, Missouri, for January 15, 2017, has been iced out. So I am posting the sermon for the equivalent Sunday, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Series A, from January 20, 2008. CH]

“Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find” (John 1:29-42a)

The Epiphany season traditionally is a time for emphasizing the church’s work of evangelism and missions. Why is that? Well, think of the event celebrated on the Epiphany festival: Wise men from the east, being led by a star to find the Christ child–in other words, the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Or think of the word, “Epiphany”; it means “manifestation,” “appearing,” literally, a “shining forth.” In the Gospel readings during the Epiphany season, we see Jesus shining forth into a sin-darkened world. And now, in our day, the church is the beacon Christ uses for that shining forth. What we heard earlier in the reading from Isaiah applies not only to Christ but also to his church: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Today, then, we’re going to see how Christ will use us to be that light shining forth. Only we’re not going to talk about bringing salvation to the end of the earth as much as we’ll talk about bringing it to the places right nearby. Local evangelism, personal witnessing–that is our focus today. In today’s Gospel reading, we see several good examples of personal witnessing. Of course, the first priority is that this text would witness to us, bringing us the good news of salvation. Only then, with faith and forgiveness in Christ, and alive in his Spirit–only then can we hear it also for what it tells us about our witnessing to others. But the gospel is powerful enough to do both, bring good news to us and help us bring good news to others. In that light, then, today we will pick up “Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find.”

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Published in: on January 14, 2017 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold My Servant” (Isaiah 42:1-9)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 8, 2017

“Behold My Servant” (Isaiah 42:1-9)

“Behold my servant,” the Lord says to us today. Who is this servant, you ask? It’s Jesus, of course. The Christ, the Anointed One, baptized as the Lord’s servant, to do the will of the one who sent him. Jesus, the Christ, anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. And Isaiah is here to tell us about him. Through the prophet Isaiah now, the Lord invites us to look upon Christ, saying, “Behold My Servant.”

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Published in: on January 7, 2017 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Arise, Shine, for Your Light Has Come” (Isaiah 60:1-6)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Friday, January 6, 2017

“Arise, Shine, for Your Light Has Come” (Isaiah 60:1-6)

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”

“Arise and shine”? Are you kidding me? On a Friday night? In January? On a dark and cold night, with snow on the ground? “Arise and shine”? Heck, it was hard enough to arrive on time, much less “arise and shine”! “Arise and shine.” After the week I’ve had? Yeah, Pastor, why are you dragging us out here on a Friday night in January anyway? I don’t know of many other churches that are having services today.

And that’s unfortunate. Because having church on Epiphany used to be more common than it is today. Many churches have dropped having Epiphany services on Epiphany, which is always January 6, regardless of the day of the week. Instead, these churches transfer Epiphany to the Sunday before or the Sunday after, or they even ignore it altogether. If they transfer it to a Sunday, then whatever was on that Sunday gets bumped from the church year. And if they ignore Epiphany altogether, then they’re ignoring a major festival in the church year, one that has been celebrated in the Christian church for many, many centuries–in fact, one of the earliest festivals to be observed. And that’s a shame. Because the themes of the Epiphany festival are so important and so joy-giving. And they’re summed up in that opening verse from Isaiah 60: “Arise, Shine, for Your Light Has Come.”

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Published in: on January 5, 2017 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“On the Eighth Day of Christmas: The Circumcision and Name of Jesus” (Luke 2:21)

Circumcision and Name of Jesus
Sunday, January 1, 2017

“On the Eighth Day of Christmas: The Circumcision and Name of Jesus” (Luke 2:21)

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . the circumcision and name of Jesus? Huh? What? Yeah, well, that’s what happened on this day. On the eighth day of Christmas, God’s true love gave to me–and to you, to us–the circumcision and name of Jesus.

That’s what our text says, the Holy Gospel for this day, Luke 2:21, which reads again as follows, “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” Just one verse, the shortest reading for any Sunday or festival in the church year. Just one verse, but this text speaks volumes about God’s true and profound love for us in Christ. And so our theme for this New Year’s Day, “On the Eighth Day of Christmas: The Circumcision and Name of Jesus.”

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Published in: on December 30, 2016 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“And the Government Shall Be upon His Shoulder” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Sunday, December 25, 2016

“And the Government Shall Be upon His Shoulder” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

About 26 days from now, we’re going to have a change in our government. A new president will take the oath of office, and a new administration will take over. For some people this will be a welcome change; for others, it will mean weeping and gnashing of teeth. But in any case, there will be a new president, and the weight of the White House will rest upon his shoulders.

Well, I’m here to tell you today, the most important change in administrations has already taken place, and it happened about 2,016 years ago. That’s when a new king was born, a king whose reign surpasses all others. And the good news is, you belong to his kingdom. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” “And the Government Shall Be upon His Shoulder.”

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Published in: on December 23, 2016 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Isaiah Foretold It, Jesus Fulfilled It” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

[Note: Isaiah 7 is a reading both for the Fourth Sunday in Advent and for Christmas Eve. Since the congregation did not get to hear Sunday’s sermon due to weather, and since I’ve been doing a series on the Isaiah texts, I reworked that sermon for Christmas Eve. Pastor Henrickson]

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Saturday, December 24, 2016

“Isaiah Foretold It, Jesus Fulfilled It” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

In the hymn we just sang, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” there’s this line, “Isaiah ’twas foretold it.” And yes, it was Isaiah who did foretell it. But what was it that Isaiah foretold? Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus Christ. The gospel writer Matthew tells us as much, that this is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He writes: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” So clearly the birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy. Jesus is “God with us” in the profoundest way. And thus our theme for this evening: “Isaiah Foretold It, Jesus Fulfilled It.”

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Published in: on December 23, 2016 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 18, 2016

“Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

There’s that word “Emmanuel.” And we sing that hymn every Advent. But what’s it mean? Who is this “Emmanuel”? Why are we praying to Emmanuel to “come and ransom captive Israel”? And this “mourning in lonely exile” business–what’s that all about? Today we’ll find out, and we’ll find out how it applies to us, as we listen to “Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy.”

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Published in: on December 17, 2016 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“He Comes, We Come” (Isaiah 35:1-10)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

“He Comes, We Come” (Isaiah 35:1-10)

“You go, we go.” That’s what the Chicago Cubs told their centerfielder and leadoff man Dexter Fowler the last couple of years. “You go, we go.” In other words, “As you go, Dexter, so we will go. You are the guy who makes this team go. When you get on base and play well, our team will do well.” And that is what happened. Fowler played very well, and the Cubs won the World Series. “You go, we go.” And now that Dexter Fowler has signed with St. Louis, the Cardinals are hoping for the same result.

“You go, we go.” Today I want to modify that saying a bit to reflect our reading from Isaiah 35. And what I’ll change it to is this: “He Comes, We Come.” He comes, we come. And the result will be something far greater than even a World Series championship.

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Published in: on December 14, 2016 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Be Patient until the Coming of the Lord” (James 5:7-11)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 11, 2016

“Be Patient until the Coming of the Lord” (James 5:7-11)

Advent is a season of waiting. We’re waiting for Christmas. This is a time of penitential preparation awaiting that festive celebration. The season of Advent always begins on the Sunday closest to November 30, which can be as early as November 27, and that’s what it was this year. So this year we’re having the longest possible Advent, a full total of 28 days.

But we get kind of antsy about waiting and letting Advent be Advent: “We gotta get the Christmas tree up!” “We gotta have the Christmas party in early December.” God forbid we wait until the actual twelve days of Christmas and have the party then. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s anything sinful about having the Christmas tree up already or having the Christmas party during Advent. These are just a couple of examples to show how hard it is for us to be patient and not to rush things.

Advent is a season of waiting. And if it’s hard enough for us in the church to wait for Christmas, it’s well-nigh impossible out there in the world. Think about how our culture wants to rush Christmas. The catalogs arrive in the mail right after Labor Day. The radio stations start playing Christmas music in early November. The store decorations and gift items come out earlier and earlier every year. Christmas TV commercials and TV specials have been playing for weeks. So when Christmas finally does get here, it’s over in a day and everybody’s kind of tired of it. People have a hard time waiting. We have a hard time being patient.

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Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 6:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Shoot and the Root of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

“The Shoot and the Root of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Today we continue our series on “Isaiah’s Advent Prophecies.” Today’s prophecy comes from Isaiah 11, and it begins, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” And then our text closes, “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” Notice that this one who is coming is first called “a shoot from the stump of Jesse,” and then he is called “the root of Jesse.” Both “shoot” and “root.” And so our theme: “The Shoot and the Root of Jesse.”

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Published in: on December 7, 2016 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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