“The Apostolic Witness and the Prophetic Word” (2 Peter 1:16-21)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sunday, February 23, 2020

“The Apostolic Witness and the Prophetic Word” (2 Peter 1:16-21)

“Cleverly devised myths.” That’s what we Christians are accused of believing. All that stuff about Jesus Christ being the Son of God and the only Savior of the world? “Just a bunch of fables, fairy tales, myths.”

But then this is nothing new. Even back in the first century, Christians were ridiculed for believing the same thing. People said they were falling for a bunch of poppycock, fables and fairy tales. St. Peter refers to this in our epistle for today when he writes, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And to counter that false accusation, Peter then cites two testimonies that support the message about Christ. They are the eyewitness testimony of the apostles and the Spirit-inspired testimony of the prophets in Holy Scripture. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles–these give us a firm foundation for our faith. They assure us that we are not following just some “cleverly devised myths.” And so our theme this morning: “The Apostolic Witness and the Prophetic Word.”

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Published in: on February 22, 2020 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Better Righteousness” (Matthew 5:21-37)

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 16, 2020

“A Better Righteousness” (Matthew 5:21-37)

Every week at the end of the Holy Gospel reading, I say, “This is the Gospel of the Lord.” Well, today at the end of the Holy Gospel reading, when I said, “This is the Gospel of the Lord,” I wanted to answer back and shout out, “No, it isn’t! This is not the Gospel of the Lord! This is all Law!” And indeed it is. Jesus is laying on the Law mighty thick. But he’s doing it for a good reason. He wants to strip away our self-righteousness, so that we will be ready to hear the good news of a better kind of righteousness than we can come up with on our own. And so our theme this morning: “A Better Righteousness.”

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Published in: on February 16, 2020 at 1:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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“See the Light, Be the Light” (Matthew 5:13-20)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 9, 2020

“See the Light, Be the Light” (Matthew 5:13-20)

Two weeks ago, during this Epiphany season, the Gospel reading was from Matthew 4, and it included this verse: “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.” The great light that they saw, the light that had dawned on them, was Jesus, as he began his ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, and gathering disciples. Jesus Christ is the light that shines in the darkness. As he himself would later say, “I am the light of the world.”

Now today we move from Matthew 4 to Matthew 5. And in our Gospel reading today, Jesus says to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” So, which is it? Is Jesus the light of the world or are we, his disciples, the light of the world? The answer of course is “Yes. Both.” Jesus is the light of the world. And we, his followers, are the light of the world, also. But each in the proper order. First and foremost, Jesus himself is the light. And then secondarily, we are the light of the world. And so our theme this morning: “See the Light, Be the Light.”

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Published in: on February 8, 2020 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“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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“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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