“Epiphany, Baptism, and a Tale of Two Herods” (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 3:15-22)

The Epiphany of Our Lord/ The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 9, 2022

“Epiphany, Baptism, and a Tale of Two Herods” (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 3:15-22)

Every year, the Epiphany of Our Lord always falls on January 6, which was this past Thursday. The Gospel reading for Epiphany is the visit of the wise men, from Matthew 2. On the first Sunday after the Epiphany, which is today, we always observe the Baptism of Our Lord. And this year the Gospel reading is the account from Luke. This past Thursday, we had to cancel our Epiphany service. So now today, I decided to combine the readings for the two services, the Epiphany of Our Lord and the Baptism of Our Lord, into one message around a common theme: “Epiphany, Baptism, and a Tale of Two Herods.”

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Published in: on January 7, 2022 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The January 6 Epiphany Insurrection” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Thursday, January 6, 2022

“The January 6 Epiphany Insurrection” (Matthew 2:1-12)

It’s January 6. A group of visitors travel to the nation’s capital. They are there to raise questions about who the nation’s real leader is. This does not sit well with some in positions of power. They consider people raising such questions in a bad light. They think of those who challenge their authority as “insurrectionists” who need to be put down.

No, I’m not talking about what happened on January 6 one year ago today. That was when a group of protestors went to Washington, D.C., to raise questions about who really won the election. And for the majority of people who were there, it truly was a peaceful protest. But a few malcontents did misbehave and got arrested, and since then, the people in power have used that occasion to put anyone who raises such questions in a bad light. They are eager to use the label, “The January 6 Insurrection.” “Insurrection” is a scarier word than “protest,” or even “riot,” and that’s why they use it.

But that’s not the January 6 insurrection I’m talking about. No, I’m talking about the Epiphany of Our Lord. Epiphany always falls on January 6 every year, right after the twelve days of Christmas. And it is sort of an insurrection, in a way. Epiphany does challenge the power of the rulers of this world. Epiphany does tell us who the real king is. And so our theme for this day, “The January 6 Epiphany Insurrection.”

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Published in: on January 5, 2022 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints” (Matthew 5:1-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7:9-17)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
November 7, 2021

“The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints” (Matthew 5:1-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today, as we do every year on the first Sunday in November, we observe the historic Christian festival known as All Saints’ Day. On this day we thank God for making us all his saints, his holy ones, set apart by God’s grace to belong to God alone. We thank God for the saints of the past, those who have preceded us in the faith, who by the witness of their lives inspire us and encourage us to carry on. And we remember the faithful departed from our own midst, from this congregation, who over the past twelve months have fallen asleep in Jesus and now rest from their labors. This is All Saints’ Day, a time to reflect upon and ponder “The Now and Not Yet of All God’s Saints.”

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Published in: on November 6, 2021 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Why Have a Special Epiphany Service?” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Wednesday, January 6, 2021

“Why Have a Special Epiphany Service?” (Matthew 2:1-12)

So here it is on a Wednesday. And we’re having the Divine Service. How come? It’s not Sunday. “Pastor, why are you dragging us out here in the middle of the week, in January, to have church? What’s the big deal about Epiphany that we should come out on a non-Sunday?” In other words, “Why Have a Special Epiphany Service?”

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Published in: on January 6, 2021 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From the Deportation to the Christ” (Matthew 1:1, 12-17)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 16, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From the Deportation to the Christ” (Matthew 1:1, 12-17)

During this Advent season, we are preparing to meet and greet our coming king. The king is coming–to us, for us–coming at Christmas, coming at the end of time, coming now into our midst through Word and Sacrament. So we prepare to meet him–in repentance, in faith, in holy joy. That’s what Advent is all about.

But this king we are preparing to meet–this king who comes to us–this is a lowly king. Lowly, not high. Lowly, humble, coming in a way you might not expect. Our lowly king comes to us in a very surprising way. Surprising, yet faithful to God’s promises. While we may forget God’s promises–when we think God may have forgotten his promises–here comes this surprise. It is a lowly surprise that brings salvation and hope and joy to our hearts. We realize that God does remember. God does keep his promises–even when things are looking their worst.

Lowly, surprising, and faithful–that’s how God works. That’s the message we can take from our text today. At first glance, though, it looks like just a bunch of names–most of which you have never heard of. But when we take a closer look, we see how God deals with us by the gospel. And we gain strength, courage, and confidence in God’s promises.

Our text is “The Genealogy of Jesus Christ,” as recorded in the opening verses of Matthew. More specifically, today we focus on the last third of the genealogy, the part that takes us “From the Deportation to the Christ.”

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Published in: on December 16, 2020 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From David to the Deportation” (Matthew 1:1, 6b-11)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 9, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From David to the Deportation” (Matthew 1:1, 6b-11)

Last week we began looking at how Matthew begins his gospel. He begins with a genealogy, a genealogy that takes in much of Old Testament history. It is the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. But Jesus was, first of all, the Savior of Israel. He is the promised Messiah, who fulfilled the promises given to Israel’s forefathers. Jesus came into the world as the culmination, the climax, of Israel’s history. And so Matthew writes: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. . . .”

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Published in: on December 10, 2020 at 12:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From Abraham to David” (Matthew 1:1-6a)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 2, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From Abraham to David” (Matthew 1:1-6a)

I am interested in family histories and genealogies. My own, for example. I am a direct descendant of Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, one of the first Swedish settlers in America back in 1640 and one of the founders of the colony New Sweden along the east coast. Peter Rambo’s name, by the way, was the inspiration for the movie character Rambo. My maternal grandmother was Grace Rambo Clark, and, through that Clark connection, I am related to William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and governor of Missouri. So some of my family heritage is pretty noble and famous.

On the other hand, some of it is shaded in scandal. My father was put up for adoption in an orphanage in Chicago, probably because he was born out of wedlock. So I joined up with Ancestry.com, and I’m trying to find out who I’m related to by way of my father’s birth name.

Fame and scandal, historical standouts and skeletons in the closet–this is what you find in any person’s family history. And Jesus is no different. The Bible tells us about Jesus’ ancestry. And this Advent we’re going to explore his family history, under the theme, “The Genealogy of Jesus Christ.” We begin today with the section that goes “From Abraham to David.”

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Published in: on December 2, 2020 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The End Is Coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)

Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 22, 2020

“The End Is Coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)

The end is coming. The end of the church year, I mean. In fact, today is the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Next week we’ll begin a brand-new church year with the First Sunday in Advent. But the thing is, the church year mirrors the life of Christ and the course of history. That’s why, in these darkening days of November, our readings and hymns deal with the last things, the end times, and the return of Christ on the Last Day. Think of the hymns we’ve been singing this month: “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying”; “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near”: or the one we just sang, “The Clouds of Judgment Gather.” The point is, the end of the church year serves to focus our attention on the very biblical teaching that “The End Is Coming.”

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Published in: on November 21, 2020 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Living as Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Zephaniah 1:7-16)

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
November 15, 2020

“Living as Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Zephaniah 1:7-16)

“Christ has brought us out of darkness, made us children of the day.” The hymn we just sang was written to go with the three Scripture readings assigned for this day. Each stanza corresponds to one of the readings. The point of the lessons and of the hymn is this: The day of the Lord–that is, the return of Christ–the day of the Lord is drawing near, a day of both judgment and salvation. For us it will be a day of joy, because of what Christ has done for us. And our waiting for that day will not be a slothful, dreary time of inactivity. No, it will be an active waiting, using the talents God has given us, faithfully serving our Master. And we have a hope to sustain us as we look forward to that day. And so our theme this morning: “Living as Children of the Day.”

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Published in: on November 14, 2020 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13)

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 8, 2020

“The Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13)

Today we are entering the last three Sundays of the church year. And, appropriately enough, the readings these weeks all have to do with the end times and the second coming of Christ. You see, the church year mirrors the life of our Lord, culminating in his return on the Last Day. And so the last things of this age are emphasized in the last days of the church’s calendar. But while we know exactly when the church year will end, we do not know when our Lord Jesus Christ will return. “You know neither the day nor the hour,” Jesus says. Thus the need for the church, for us, to be ready for his coming. He may return tonight or tomorrow or next year or a hundred years from now. We don’t know when. But we do know that–that he is coming back to take his church home to himself. So we want to be ready whenever he comes. And that’s what our Gospel reading today is about: being ready, whenever Jesus comes again. Jesus urges this upon us, this need for readiness, in the story that he tells us today, “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.”

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Published in: on November 6, 2020 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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