“Finding Jesus: A Joyous Epiphany” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Sunday, January 6, 2019

“Finding Jesus: A Joyous Epiphany” (Matthew 2:1-12)

Today is January 6, and that means today is Epiphany. The Epiphany of Our Lord is a major festival in the church year, a big one, almost on a par with Christmas. And, like Christmas, Epiphany is a fixed-date festival, meaning it always falls on the same date, regardless of the day of the week. So most years we celebrate Epiphany with a special service on a day other than Sunday, and we have to make a special effort to get here. But this year January 6 happens to fall on a Sunday, when we’re here anyway. Most years we have our Epiphany service in the dark, and the weather might be bad. This year we’re here in the daylight, and the weather is no problem. All of which makes our Epiphany service this year very easy and convenient.

But that’s not the way it was for the first Epiphany service! It was by no means easy or convenient. The worshipers at the very first Epiphany service had to travel an extremely long way to get there. Plus, they didn’t even know exactly where the service would be until they got there! And to get there, they had to cross paths with a very dangerous and deceitful man. Then there was the offering they gave at the service–talk about costly! Well, even with all those obstacles, the first Epiphany worshipers still thought it was worth the effort. In fact, they were overjoyed! And so are we. Thus our theme today: “Finding Jesus: A Joyous Epiphany.”

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Published in: on January 5, 2019 at 10:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Where Is the Healing?” (Mark 1:29-39)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 4, 2018

“Where Is the Healing?” (Mark 1:29-39)

Every year during the Epiphany season, we get Gospel readings in which Jesus is doing the activities of his public ministry. We see Jesus busy with things like preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. For example, take the readings from Mark 1 we’ve had these last few weeks. Two weeks ago we heard Jesus preaching, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Last week Jesus was in the synagogue teaching, and “he taught them as one who had authority.” Now this week we see Jesus healing the sick, healing Simon’s mother-in-law–in fact, doing a whole lot of healing: “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases,” it says.

So in his ministry Jesus was very much engaged in these activities: preaching, teaching, and healing. But this raises the question: Is Jesus still doing these things today? Preaching? Yes, Jesus still today is preaching to us, proclaiming the gospel of God. To be sure, he does it now through his preachers, for he says, “He who hears you hears me.” Alright, so there’s the preaching. What about teaching? Yes, same thing. In Bible class, the Lord opens our minds to understand the Scriptures, so that we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So preaching and teaching–yes, Jesus still is doing these things today, through the ministry of his church.

But then that leaves healing. And now we’ve got to ask: Where is that going on today? Has Jesus given up on the healing part? Was that only for back then, and that’s it? Is there nothing for us today? And so our question this morning: “Where Is the Healing?”

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Published in: on February 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The War of the Worlds” (Mark 1:21-28)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 28, 2018

“The War of the Worlds” (Mark 1:21-28)

Have you ever heard of “The War of the Worlds”? No, I’m not talking about H. G. Wells’s classic novel about Martians invading Earth. Nor am I talking about Orson Welles’s radio version of “The War of the Worlds,” which had some people thinking it was an actual news broadcast. And I don’t mean the movie versions that have been made, either.

No, “The War of the Worlds” I’m talking about today is no piece of fiction. It is very real, and it has been going on for a very long time. It is the war we see exemplified in the Holy Gospel for today, from Mark chapter 1. It involves the attacks that Satan and his crew launch upon humanity, to inflict every evil of body and soul upon us–upon you. It is the devil’s domain vs. the kingdom of heaven, and guess which one will have the upper hand? Let’s find out now, as we witness “The War of the Worlds.”

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Published in: on January 27, 2018 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Hold Lightly to the Things of This World” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 21, 2018

“Hold Lightly to the Things of This World” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Are you married? Some of you are, some of you aren’t. OK, so let’s broaden the field. How about these questions: Are there times when you mourn? Are there times when you rejoice? Or how about these: Do you ever buy goods? Do you ever have dealings with the world? OK, now I think I’ve got everybody covered. Well, here’s what I want you to do today. Two words: Stop it. That’s it: Stop it. Stop doing those things! Live like you’re not married. Stop mourning. Stop rejoicing. Live like you have no goods. Live like you have no dealings with the world. Just: Stop it. Why? Because the time is short. This world is passing away.

Alright, lest you think I’ve gone off the deep end, let me explain. What I just told you is a somewhat simplified version of today’s Epistle reading, from 1 Corinthians 7. So if you’re going to send me to the funny farm, you’ll have to send St. Paul too. He’s the one who said it. But the reality is, this is God’s word we’re hearing today. And today God is encouraging us to “Hold Lightly to the Things of This World.”

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Published in: on January 20, 2018 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Philip and Nathanael: A Story of Witnessing” (John 1:43-51)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 14, 2018

“Philip and Nathanael: A Story of Witnessing” (John 1:43-51)

The Holy Gospel for today, from John 1, takes place very early in Jesus’ ministry, when he was first gathering his disciples. It’s the story of Philip and Nathanael, how they came to be disciples and follow our Lord. It’s the story of “Philip and Nathanael: A Story of Witnessing.” Now today let their story become your story also.

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Published in: on January 13, 2018 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Heavens Being Torn Open” (Mark 1:4-11)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 7, 2018

“The Heavens Being Torn Open” (Mark 1:4-11)

How many of you know when your baptismal birthday is? Mine is September 10. What’s yours? It’s good to take note of and remember the day of your baptism, that happy day when all your sins were washed away and you became a child of God. So if you don’t know your baptismal birthday, you might want to go ahead and find out when it is and then celebrate it.

But did you know there’s a baptismal birthday going on today? And that it’s one all of us can celebrate? Because today is the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the day in the church year when we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. This is the day we remember that event when our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. So today is, in effect, Jesus’ baptismal birthday.

The Baptism of Our Lord is an event recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and also referred to in the Gospel of John. The accounts are very similar, except here and there one writer may include a detail that another leaves out, or one writer may use slightly different wording to describe the same event. So it is in our text today from the Gospel of Mark. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention that when Jesus was baptized the heavens were opened, but only Mark uses the exact word choice that we find today. He says: “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening.” “The heavens opening,” but more literally it says: “The Heavens Being Torn Open.”

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Published in: on January 7, 2018 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“What Epiphany Tells Us about Worship” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Saturday, January 6, 2018

“What Epiphany Tells Us about Worship” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Festival of the Epiphany of Our Lord always falls on January 6, regardless of the day of the week. In that respect, it’s like Christmas, which always falls on December 25. Both are what are called “fixed-date festivals.” And so right after the twelve days of Christmas comes Epiphany. This year Epiphany, January 6, falls on a Saturday, and that’s why we’re here today.

Epiphany has long been part of the church’s worship. In the early church, Epiphany was observed perhaps even more than Christmas. This was because, while at Christmas Christ was revealed to the Jews, at Epiphany Christ was revealed to the Gentiles, and the church rapidly included more Gentiles than Jews. At Christmas, remember, the angels said to the shepherds, who were Jews, “I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people,” meaning, the Jewish people. But at Epiphany, that good news of great joy was extended to the Gentiles, to non-Jews–in this case, to the wise men, the Magi. And so Epiphany is often referred to as the “Gentile Christmas,” when Christ was first made known to the nations outside of Israel.

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Published in: on January 6, 2018 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Best Picture: The Transfiguration of Our Lord” (Matthew 17:1-9)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sunday, February 26, 2017

“Best Picture: The Transfiguration of Our Lord” (Matthew 17:1-9)

Tonight will be the Academy Awards ceremony coming from Los Angeles. Tonight they’ll give out the award for, among other things, Best Picture of the year. I don’t know which one will win, but I want to tell you, this morning here in the church, we get to see a far better “Best Picture,” and it is none other than “The Transfiguration of Our Lord.”

The picture we see at the Transfiguration had its share of special effects–lighting, sound, and so on. And there were a couple of guest stars making a cameo appearance–Moses and Elijah. But clearly the leading man in this story is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. He is the star shining most brightly. Who Jesus is revealed to be and what he’s about to do for us from this point on–that is why Jesus is the one who makes the Transfiguration the Best Picture you’ll see today.

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Published in: on February 25, 2017 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:38-48)

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
February 19, 2017

“Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:38-48)

The Holy Gospel for today can be a hard one to understand, much less a hard one to actually do. In it Jesus says things like “Turn the other cheek,” “Give somebody the shirt off your back,” and “Go the extra mile.” Oh, Jesus, really? Those things sound hard! Maybe you don’t really mean that. Is there a way we can explain those things away? But then Jesus goes further. He not only says we should love our neighbor–that can be hard enough–he even says we are to love our enemies. Yikes! Are you kidding me, Jesus? Surely this must be some kind of hyperbole or figure of speech. You don’t really mean this, do you?

What’s more, Jesus says that you are to love your enemies, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Is that what it takes to become God’s children, to love our enemies? If so, I think most of us will be in a heap of trouble and end up on the outside looking in. Again, is Jesus really being serious here?

Then Jesus wraps things up with this whopper of a statement: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Oh boy. Now I know I’m in trouble. “Be perfect”? I’m having trouble even reaching 90%. But be perfect? Ouch! What do I do with that?

Well, there’s a couple of things that people do with these teachings of Jesus. But I think they miss the mark, they miss the point of what Jesus is saying. I want to show how that happens. I also want to show how we can take Jesus seriously in what he says and still be OK. So that’s where we’re heading, under the theme, “Be Who You Are, Children of Your Heavenly Father.”

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Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Salt of the Earth, Light of the World” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 5, 2017

“Salt of the Earth, Light of the World” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Our text today is a portion of the Holy Gospel, reading again from verses 13-16 of Matthew 5: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This is our text. And so our theme this morning: “Salt of the Earth, Light of the World.”

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Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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