“Walking in the Light Together” (Matthew 4:12-25)

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 26, 2020

“Walking in the Light Together” (Matthew 4:12-25)

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” So Isaiah prophesied, some seven hundred years before Christ. Then when Christ came on the scene and began his ministry, that prophecy was fulfilled, as Matthew records: “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

Who were those people on whom the light dawned? Certainly, it was those people in Galilee who witnessed Christ’s ministry, his healings and his preaching and his teaching. With Christ shining forth in his words and his works, the light was surely shining on them. But they’re not the only ones. For the light of Christ is surely shining on us, as well. Now today we want to find out what that means for us in our lives as Christians and in our life together as church. And so our theme this morning: “Walking in the Light Together.”

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Published in: on January 25, 2020 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find” (John 1:29-42a)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 19, 2020

“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 what happened at the Epiphany itself: Wise men from the east were led by a star to find the Christ child. This was the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Or think of the word, “Epiphany.” It means “manifestation,” “appearing,” a “shining forth.” In the Gospel readings for the Epiphany season, we see Jesus shining forth into a sin-darkened world. And now Christ uses his church to do that shining forth into the world. What Isaiah prophesied about Christ applies 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 we’ll 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. We’ll talk about bringing it to places right nearby. Local evangelism, personal witnessing–that’s our focus today. In today’s reading from John, there are several examples of personal witnessing. Of course, we need to first receive the good news for ourselves. Then, with our faith and forgiveness firmly established in Christ, we can hear God’s word for what it says about witnessing to others. But the gospel is powerful enough to do both, to bring the good news to us and to help us bring the good news to others. Today, then, we’ll pick up “Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find.”

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Published in: on January 18, 2020 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Baptized with Sinners, Anointed for Service, Manifested as God’s Son” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Th Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 12, 2020

“Baptized with Sinners, Anointed for Service, Manifested as God’s Son” (Matthew 3:13-17)

On this first Sunday after the Epiphany, the Gospel reading every year is the account of the Baptism of Our Lord. That was the great event when our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The heavens were opened. The Spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove. And the Father’s voice came from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Today I want to say three things about this event, three things on which your very salvation depends: 1) In his baptism, Jesus was baptized with sinners. 2) In his baptism, Jesus was anointed for service. And 3) In his baptism, Jesus was manifested as God’s Son. “Baptized with Sinners, Anointed for Service, Manifested as God’s Son.”

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Published in: on January 10, 2020 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Worship of the Wise Men” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Monday, January 6, 2020

“The Worship of the Wise Men” (Matthew 2:1-12)

Today is the Epiphany of Our Lord. It is a major festival of the church year, and it always falls on January 6–much like Christmas always falls on December 25, regardless of the day of the week. Epiphany likewise is a fixed-date festival, and that’s why we’re here today. Actually, we’re here today not merely out of strict adherence to an ancient tradition–although there’s something to be said for sticking to ancient traditions unless and until you have a good reason not to. No, we are here today because God wants to bless us today with his gifts of Word and Sacrament. We are here today because Jesus is here, and we have come to worship him.

“We have come to worship him.” That’s what the wise men said when went in search of the one who was born king of the Jews. “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Well, we heard that Jesus would be here today at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, and so we too have come to worship him. You know, there’s a lot that our worship has in common with the worship of the wise men, so let’s explore that now, under the theme: “The Worship of the Wise Men.”

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Published in: on January 5, 2020 at 11:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 5, 2020

“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

When Jesus was an infant, he was presented in the temple at 40 days old. From that point on, we know nothing of the life of Jesus, until he began his public ministry at the age of 30–except for two incidents: One is the visit of the wise men and the flight to Egypt, when Jesus was less than two. The only other incident we have from Jesus’ childhood is when he was twelve. It’s the Gospel reading you just heard, the story usually called “The Boy Jesus in the Temple.”

It’s the story of when Joseph and Mary took twelve-year-old Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, and then they couldn’t find him, because he stayed behind after they left. When they come back and do find him, his mother says, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And Jesus answers, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And, it says, “they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” Others since then have not understood his response, either. They think he’s talking back to his parents. They would call this story “Jesus the Sassy Tween” or “Jesus the Little Wiseacre,” talking back to his parents like that.

But Jesus was not being a wiseacre! Far from it! Indeed, he was being truly wise, displaying divine wisdom both in his time at the temple and in his reply to his parents. Jesus did nothing wrong by staying behind in what he rightly called “my Father’s house.” That was where he belonged at that time. And Jesus did nothing wrong, either, in his reply to Mary and Joseph. In God’s wisdom, Jesus was where he had to be at that particular time, as part of his mission.

And that was what Mary and Joseph needed to learn: that their son had a higher calling, a divine, heaven-sent mission. Jesus was “theirs” only on loan. He first of all had to be about his heavenly Father’s business, a business that would eventually take him away from them. That Jesus had to be about his Father’s business ultimately would be for their eternal good. For by doing so he would be with them in a much greater way–forever, just as he is with us. Twelve-year-old Jesus was not being a wiseacre. No, he was displaying true wisdom. And as Mary and Joseph learned more about him, they increased in their understanding, as will we. And so our theme this morning: “Increasing in Wisdom.”

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Published in: on January 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The One That Got Away” (Matthew 2:13-23)

First Sunday after Christmas
December 29, 2019

“The One That Got Away” (Matthew 2:13-23)

Christmas is a joyous, happy holiday. At this time of year, we celebrate the “good news of great joy,” that to us is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. With the angels who give glory to God in the highest, with the shepherds who return glorifying and praising God, with the wise men who rejoice exceedingly with great joy, we too join in the joy of Christmas.

Yes, Christmas is a joyous, happy holiday. That is true within the church. But perhaps even more so, it’s true in the culture around us. In our society, Christmas is expected to be a time of happiness and laughter, a time for merriment and good cheer, a time for blocking out–at least temporarily–all the unpleasant and painful aspects of life.

And so, to the extent that we have been influenced by the culture, today’s Gospel reading can come as a bit of a shock. It seems to run counter to the mood of the season. For it’s the account of what’s called “The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.” Now if there is any event in the Bible that could be further removed from an upbeat, cheerful holiday mood, I don’t know what it is. Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem is a singularly horrifying and tragic story. Yet it comes hard on the heels of Christmas, this story of the brutal murder of innocent children. What saves the story for us, though, is “The One That Got Away.”

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Published in: on December 28, 2019 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Wednesday, December 25, 2019

“The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us” (John 1:1-18)

In the Holy Gospel for today, the apostle John tells us the unfathomable mystery and the joyous wonder of the baby born on Christmas Day. John writes: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

No greater words were ever written. John 1:14 is one of the most profound verses in the whole Bible, in one of the most profound passages, the prologue of John’s gospel. We could spend hours exploring the depths of this majestic prologue, there’s so much here. But even for a few minutes now, let’s ponder and treasure this great mystery known as the incarnation.

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Published in: on December 25, 2019 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Christmas Carols Come Alive!” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 24, 2019

“Christmas Carols Come Alive!” (Luke 2:1-20)

Christmas carols are, obviously, very popular at this time of year. You hear them all over the radio these days–although that will probably stop after tomorrow. These secular radio stations start playing Christmas music back around November 1, and they stop right when the church begins the twelve days of the real Christmas season. But these stations wouldn’t be playing Christmas music unless lots of people liked to tune in and listen. The joy and warmth of the holiday season comes through when Christmas carols are played. What’s even greater, though, is when Christmas carols come alive. That’s our theme tonight, on this joyous Christmas Eve: “Christmas Carols Come Alive!”

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Published in: on December 24, 2019 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Dreaming of a Savior” (Matthew 1:18-25)

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 22, 2019

“Dreaming of a Savior” (Matthew 1:18-25)

The ancient Romans had a saying, “Nomen est omen.” “Nomen est omen,” which means, “The name,” nomen, “is a sign,” an omen. In other words, a person’s name will sometimes, mysteriously, be a sign of what’s to come for that person. For example, if a baby’s name is George, which means, “one who works the ground,” and that child grows up to be a farmer, well, that’s a case of “Nomen est omen.” The name is a sign of the future for that person.

That saying holds true in our text today, in a way far more important than whether someone named George becomes a farmer. When the angel tells Joseph that his wife is going to have a son and “you shall call his name Jesus,” here too the name is a sign. In fact, you could say that “the name as a sign” thing happens twice in this story. Two names, for two people, bear significance. Their names tell us something about who they are, as God arranges it.

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Published in: on December 21, 2019 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Once He Came in Blessing” (LSB 333)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 18, 2019

“Once He Came in Blessing” (LSB 333)

Today we’re going to take a look at an Advent hymn, one that delivers the goods as far as conveying the message of Advent. It’s the hymn, “Once He Came in Blessing,” hymn 333 in Lutheran Service Book. So please turn there.

Before we get to the various stanzas, let me tell you first a little about the hymn’s history and its author. And there’s only a little to tell. The author was a man by the name of Johann Horn, and he lived around the same time as Luther. He was a supporter of Luther during the Reformation. Johann Horn was part of a community called the Bohemian Brethren, in what is now the Czech Republic. As bishop, he prepared a large hymnal full of hymns for his church. Our hymn today is the only one we have in our book for which he wrote the text; we do have another one for which he wrote the tune.

This hymn, “Once He Came in Blessing,” is a translation of the German text, Gottes Sohn ist kommen, literally, “God’s Son has come.” By the way, the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was a Lutheran church organist, later composed a work based on this hymn.

Why am I picking this hymn, “Once He Came in Blessing,” for our midweek Advent service today? Because this hymn does a good job in capturing the three aspects of Christ’s coming that we think about during the Advent season: how Christ came to us in the past; how he comes to us in the present; and how Christ will come to us in the future. In fact, these three “comings” of Christ form the first three stanzas of the hymn. That’s the distinctive thing about this hymn. You can even see it in the opening word of each stanza: “Once,” “Now,” “Soon,” past, present, and future. Let’s look at those stanzas now, one at a time.

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Published in: on December 18, 2019 at 11:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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