“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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“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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“The Peace of Pentecost” (John 14:23-31)

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, June 9, 2019

“The Peace of Pentecost” (John 14:23-31)

Jesus tells his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

How can you say that, Jesus? How can you tell your disciples to be at peace? You’ve just told them that you’re going away! And now they’re supposed to be OK with that? They’re just supposed to take it easy? Come on, Jesus, get real!

And how about us? Yeah, we here today. How are we supposed to be at peace? “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Yeah, right. You don’t know what I’m going through. And I’m supposed to have peace in all of this?

Well, yes. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Even when Jesus tells his disciples that he’s going away, and even in the midst of all our troubles, Jesus promises us the peace we need to sustain us and carry us through. And so this morning, on this day full of grace, we will be blessed to hear how we have “The Peace of Pentecost.”

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Published in: on June 8, 2019 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“My Sheep Hear My Voice” (John 10:22-30)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2019

“My Sheep Hear My Voice” (John 10:22-30)

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus says to us: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This is our text.

“My Sheep Hear My Voice.” I should certainly hope so! But how closely are we listening? And when we hear the voice of our Shepherd, do we follow where he is leading? Today we will hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us, and by God’s grace we will follow where he leads.

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Published in: on May 11, 2019 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Is in the Restoration Business” (John 21:1-19)

Third Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2019

“Jesus Is in the Restoration Business” (John 21:1-19)

So far this Easter season we’ve heard about Jesus appearing to his disciples two times, on Easter Day and then a week later. Today we hear about a third appearance to a group of his disciples. Why does Jesus do this? Why does he manifest himself to his disciples repeatedly during these forty days from his resurrection to his ascension? The most obvious answer is to show that he is indeed alive, risen from the dead, physically, bodily. Christ’s resurrection shows that he who died on the cross now is risen from the dead. These resurrection appearances demonstrate that the sacrifice for sin Jesus made on the cross was sufficient to remove the curse of death. Showing himself to his disciples, with the marks of his wounds in his risen body, makes the connection that the crucifixion was not a defeat but rather a victory. Christ’s death was God’s plan for solving the sin-and-death problem. These resurrection appearances underline the centrality of the death and resurrection of Christ in the good news the apostles are being sent out to preach.

So far, so good. But there’s also another dynamic at work in these resurrection appearances. And that is, in a word, restoration. Jesus has some restoration work to do, and it has to do with these disciples. But why? What had they done that they need restoring? All the disciples, really, needed to be restored. They all had deserted Jesus in his hour of need. They all had fled, fearing for their safety. Then they all failed to believe in Jesus’ promise that he would be raised on the third day. So they all were in need of restoration, forgiveness, absolution. And the good news is, for them and for us: “Jesus Is in the Restoration Business.”

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Published in: on May 4, 2019 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Rises” (John 20:1-18)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 21, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Rises” (John 20:1-18)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Behold the man who is risen, who died and now lives. His heart was stopped, but now it pulses with renewed rhythm and vigor. His blood was spilled on Golgotha, but now his veins course with a fresh supply. His lungs were stilled after that loud cry with which he breathed his last, but now the breath of life has returned. His eyes were shut in death, but now they are open and see the light of life. His hands had been nailed to the cross, but now they pick up the grave cloths and fold them neatly in place. His legs were limp as his body was placed in the tomb, but now he stands upright. His body was cold and lifeless, but now he lives. He still bears the marks of the nails and the spear: those are Christ’s holy wounds by which he always wishes to be known. Behold the man, Jesus Christ, true God and true man–he lives. He rises triumphant from the dead and strolls out of the tomb into his green creation.

And Mary Magdalene mistakes him for the gardener. It’s an honest mistake, really. She was understandably confused. She showed up first, while it was still dark and the disciples were asleep. And she probably hadn’t gotten much sleep these last couple of days, so distraught she must have been. As soon as day began to break after the Sabbath, she went to the tomb. When she saw that the stone had been rolled away, dislodged from its fixed location, she ran and told the disciples. She found Peter and John, and her words came crashing out so quickly, it’s a wonder they understood her at all: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

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Published in: on April 20, 2019 at 9:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Bleeds, a God Who Dies” (John 18:1 – 19:42)

Good Friday
April 19, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Bleeds, a God Who Dies” (John 18:1 – 19:42)

“Behold the man!” So Pilate said as Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. “Behold the man!” “Ecce homo” in the Latin. “See, I find no guilt in him.” Nevertheless, Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified.

So now: Behold the man on the cross! This is his purpose. This is why God became man. This is why the eternal Second Person of the Trinity has taken human flesh. This is the reason. Behold the man on the cross, bleeding, gasping, suffering, dying.

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Published in: on April 19, 2019 at 7:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Loves” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

Holy (Maundy) Thursday
April 18, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Loves” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

If Jesus’ incarnation teaches us anything about love, it’s that love is not the stuff of mere sentimentality. Love is more than warm fuzzy feelings. On the night when he was betrayed, the one who had all the power of God, who, as the song goes, “has the whole world in his hands,” used his hands to pick up a bowl of water, wrap himself in a towel, and scrub the dirt from the feet of his disciples. And then he gives them–and us–a new commandment: Love like this. Love with hands. Love with actions. Love by dying. As I have loved you.

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

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Published in: on April 18, 2019 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.” Well, that must’ve been quite a sight. I wonder if the Israelites in the wilderness protested at the elaborate details and the exorbitant expense of making such vestments for Aaron. I wonder, did they have to scuttle these plans until the voters could approve the design and expense? Did they put it out for bids to see if someone had a source for pure gold or blue dye, so they could come in under budget and then put the rest in a CD? “I don’t know why one priest needs to be dressed in something way more elaborate and costly than anything we buy or make for ourselves. Does Aaron think he’s better than us?” “I don’t see why we have to use all this gold. Tin would look almost as nice for a tenth of the price!” I could just imagine the grumbling Israelites talking like this.

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Published in: on March 6, 2019 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Tuesday, December 25, 2018

“The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

“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.” This is the most wonderful good news we could ever receive! It is this central truth that makes Christmas Christmas. It’s not about toys or Santa Claus or mistletoe or even getting the family together. Those are all good things, but they’re not essential to Christmas being Christmas. Christ is–he, the Word made flesh. And that’s why we’re here this morning.

People like to think of Christmas as something soft and fluffy, full of warm and fuzzy feelings. Curled up on the couch, watching a Hallmark movie. Christmas as hot chocolate for the soul. But to reduce Christmas to that–well, that falls way short. Christmas is not cute and cuddly. Christmas is raw and real. Christ came into our world to deal with the root problem of humanity, which is sin. Christ came in the flesh, because that’s the only way it could happen. Christmas is earthy, not fluffy. It is flesh-and-blood reality that brings God to us, up close and personal. And that is what makes the real Christmas ultimately so offensive to the world.

But to us who know the truth of Christmas, its “fleshiness” is absolutely crucial and vital. Our very salvation depends on it! And so the church must always be vigilant about confessing “The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2018 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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