“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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“Christ Has Been Raised from the Dead” (1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 30-42)

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
February 24, 2019

“Christ Has Been Raised from the Dead” (1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 30-42)

Happy Easter! “What?” you say. “Pastor Henrickson, I know you must be a little antsy for spring to get here–we all are–but look, this is still February!” And I say to you, “Nuts! This is Easter!” Why? Because this is Sunday. And every Sunday is a little Easter. Or, you could put it the other way around: Easter is a great big Sunday. Why do I say that? Because our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and that’s why we have Divine Service on Sunday every week. Every Sunday we get to celebrate Easter, our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. And today is a Sunday. So, happy Easter!

And, in point of fact, every day, no matter what day of the week, we live in the light of our Lord’s resurrection. Jesus’ rising from the dead on Easter Day makes all the difference in every day of our life. It’s of that much importance. And so our theme this Sunday morning: “Christ Has Been Raised from the Dead.”

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Published in: on February 23, 2019 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord” (Psalm 1)

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 17, 2019

“Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord” (Psalm 1)

This morning I want us to look at the psalm appointed for this day, Psalm 1. And we’ll do so under the theme: “Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord.” If you have an ESV Bible or a Lutheran Service Book, turn now to Psalm 1 and follow along as I read:

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Published in: on February 17, 2019 at 3:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Here’s the Catch” (Luke 5:1-11)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 10, 2019

“Here’s the Catch” (Luke 5:1-11)

In 2001 the baptized membership of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was a little over 2.5 million members. In 2017 the baptized membership of the LCMS was slightly under 2 million members. That’s a loss of a half-million members in sixteen years, a 20% decline.

Here in our little congregation, our membership likewise has experienced some decline. This is not surprising. It’s a similar story all across the synod. As the older members have died off, there haven’t been the younger members to replace them. In churches all across America, there’s been a long slow decline over several decades, since the end of the Baby Boom, really.

On top of that, we’re fighting the culture. We’re swimming against the stream. Whereas church membership and church attendance used to be commonplace back in the Fifties and early Sixties, that ship has sailed long ago.

So now everybody is concerned about numbers. Everybody wants the church to grow. Churches tend to be obsessed these days about increasing their numbers and avoiding decline. And sometimes it seems they’ll try anything to stop the bleeding and boost their numbers.

Yes, everybody wants the church to grow, there’s no dispute about that. But “Here’s the Catch”: How? How should the church grow? Well, today Jesus–who, after all, is the Lord of the church–today our Lord gives us direction on how he wants his church to grow.

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Published in: on February 8, 2019 at 7:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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“The Love Chapter: Way More than a Wedding Text” (1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 3, 2019

“The Love Chapter: Way More than a Wedding Text” (1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13)

It’s February! And you know what that means. Soon we will hear those most wonderful of words: “Pitchers and catchers report.” No, I’m just kidding. While the start of Spring Training is a beautiful thing, I’m referring to something else that happens in February. And that is Valentine’s Day. Now we hear and see everywhere the beautiful word, “love.” Love is in the air! Love is everywhere! Go into any greeting card store and you will see row upon row of cards with hearts on them and the word “love” on every one. February is the Love Month.

But then, so is June–or any month when a lot of weddings take place. Love is the theme in so many weddings. Soloists will sing about love. Preachers will preach about love. And if there’s one Bible passage the couple will invariably request as one of the readings, it is 1 Corinthians 13. Yes, 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter! Love is described, love is extolled. And most importantly, love just sounds nice at a wedding. These words in the Love Chapter are heard as kind of like soft and inoffensive Muzak in an elevator: pleasant background noise that you don’t have to pay too much attention to. The couple isn’t listening, the bridal party isn’t listening–after all, they haven’t been in church since they were kids, so a Bible reading is just something you put up with when you have a wedding. And the people in the pews are just thinking about how beautiful the bride looks, and how cute the flower girl is, and “How long is this service going to last so we can get to the reception?”.

I exaggerate of course. But the point I’m making is that lots of people have heard 1 Corinthians 13, especially at weddings, but maybe they haven’t thought too deeply about it. They haven’t understood that this chapter is not primarily about weddings or marriage. Now of course real, self-giving love is tremendously important in a marriage, but this chapter is not directly about that. What 1 Corinthians 13 is primarily about is our life within the church. That’s what we’re going to discover now, under the theme, “The Love Chapter: Way More than a Wedding Text.”

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Published in: on February 2, 2019 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Many Members, One Body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 27, 2019

“Many Members, One Body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)

I’m sure most of you have heard the children’s nursery song that goes like this:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!
And eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!

This is a cute little song that teaches the child the various parts of his or her body. But that’s the understood assumption, namely, that all these body parts go together and are meant to work together in that child’s body. It’s not like these various body parts have a life of their own and can function independently or even at odds with one another. It’s not like the head and shoulders should be working against the knees and toes. If they did, why, you’d be falling down a lot and not functioning up to your full potential. No, all these body parts are meant to work together, in harmony with one another, in that one body.

Well, in today’s Epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul is doing kind of a “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” song with the church at Corinth. As we will now see. And so our theme this morning: “Many Members, One Body.”

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Published in: on January 26, 2019 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“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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