“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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“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 5, 2020

“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

When Jesus was an infant, he was presented in the temple at 40 days old. From that point on, we know nothing of the life of Jesus, until he began his public ministry at the age of 30–except for two incidents: One is the visit of the wise men and the flight to Egypt, when Jesus was less than two. The only other incident we have from Jesus’ childhood is when he was twelve. It’s the Gospel reading you just heard, the story usually called “The Boy Jesus in the Temple.”

It’s the story of when Joseph and Mary took twelve-year-old Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, and then they couldn’t find him, because he stayed behind after they left. When they come back and do find him, his mother says, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And Jesus answers, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And, it says, “they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” Others since then have not understood his response, either. They think he’s talking back to his parents. They would call this story “Jesus the Sassy Tween” or “Jesus the Little Wiseacre,” talking back to his parents like that.

But Jesus was not being a wiseacre! Far from it! Indeed, he was being truly wise, displaying divine wisdom both in his time at the temple and in his reply to his parents. Jesus did nothing wrong by staying behind in what he rightly called “my Father’s house.” That was where he belonged at that time. And Jesus did nothing wrong, either, in his reply to Mary and Joseph. In God’s wisdom, Jesus was where he had to be at that particular time, as part of his mission.

And that was what Mary and Joseph needed to learn: that their son had a higher calling, a divine, heaven-sent mission. Jesus was “theirs” only on loan. He first of all had to be about his heavenly Father’s business, a business that would eventually take him away from them. That Jesus had to be about his Father’s business ultimately would be for their eternal good. For by doing so he would be with them in a much greater way–forever, just as he is with us. Twelve-year-old Jesus was not being a wiseacre. No, he was displaying true wisdom. And as Mary and Joseph learned more about him, they increased in their understanding, as will we. And so our theme this morning: “Increasing in Wisdom.”

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Published in: on January 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The One That Got Away” (Matthew 2:13-23)

First Sunday after Christmas
December 29, 2019

“The One That Got Away” (Matthew 2:13-23)

Christmas is a joyous, happy holiday. At this time of year, we celebrate the “good news of great joy,” that to us is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. With the angels who give glory to God in the highest, with the shepherds who return glorifying and praising God, with the wise men who rejoice exceedingly with great joy, we too join in the joy of Christmas.

Yes, Christmas is a joyous, happy holiday. That is true within the church. But perhaps even more so, it’s true in the culture around us. In our society, Christmas is expected to be a time of happiness and laughter, a time for merriment and good cheer, a time for blocking out–at least temporarily–all the unpleasant and painful aspects of life.

And so, to the extent that we have been influenced by the culture, today’s Gospel reading can come as a bit of a shock. It seems to run counter to the mood of the season. For it’s the account of what’s called “The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.” Now if there is any event in the Bible that could be further removed from an upbeat, cheerful holiday mood, I don’t know what it is. Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem is a singularly horrifying and tragic story. Yet it comes hard on the heels of Christmas, this story of the brutal murder of innocent children. What saves the story for us, though, is “The One That Got Away.”

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Published in: on December 28, 2019 at 5:25 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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“Dreaming of a Savior” (Matthew 1:18-25)

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 22, 2019

“Dreaming of a Savior” (Matthew 1:18-25)

The ancient Romans had a saying, “Nomen est omen.” “Nomen est omen,” which means, “The name,” nomen, “is a sign,” an omen. In other words, a person’s name will sometimes, mysteriously, be a sign of what’s to come for that person. For example, if a baby’s name is George, which means, “one who works the ground,” and that child grows up to be a farmer, well, that’s a case of “Nomen est omen.” The name is a sign of the future for that person.

That saying holds true in our text today, in a way far more important than whether someone named George becomes a farmer. When the angel tells Joseph that his wife is going to have a son and “you shall call his name Jesus,” here too the name is a sign. In fact, you could say that “the name as a sign” thing happens twice in this story. Two names, for two people, bear significance. Their names tell us something about who they are, as God arranges it.

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Published in: on December 21, 2019 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Once He Came in Blessing” (LSB 333)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 18, 2019

“Once He Came in Blessing” (LSB 333)

Today we’re going to take a look at an Advent hymn, one that delivers the goods as far as conveying the message of Advent. It’s the hymn, “Once He Came in Blessing,” hymn 333 in Lutheran Service Book. So please turn there.

Before we get to the various stanzas, let me tell you first a little about the hymn’s history and its author. And there’s only a little to tell. The author was a man by the name of Johann Horn, and he lived around the same time as Luther. He was a supporter of Luther during the Reformation. Johann Horn was part of a community called the Bohemian Brethren, in what is now the Czech Republic. As bishop, he prepared a large hymnal full of hymns for his church. Our hymn today is the only one we have in our book for which he wrote the text; we do have another one for which he wrote the tune.

This hymn, “Once He Came in Blessing,” is a translation of the German text, Gottes Sohn ist kommen, literally, “God’s Son has come.” By the way, the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was a Lutheran church organist, later composed a work based on this hymn.

Why am I picking this hymn, “Once He Came in Blessing,” for our midweek Advent service today? Because this hymn does a good job in capturing the three aspects of Christ’s coming that we think about during the Advent season: how Christ came to us in the past; how he comes to us in the present; and how Christ will come to us in the future. In fact, these three “comings” of Christ form the first three stanzas of the hymn. That’s the distinctive thing about this hymn. You can even see it in the opening word of each stanza: “Once,” “Now,” “Soon,” past, present, and future. Let’s look at those stanzas now, one at a time.

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Published in: on December 18, 2019 at 11:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“What Do You Expect?” (Matthew 11:2-15)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 15, 2019

“What Do You Expect?” (Matthew 11:2-15)

What you expect and when you expect it will determine, to a large extent, whether you are satisfied or disappointed. For example, suppose that for Christmas your true love promises to give to you twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, and so on, all the way down to three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. But now suppose that at the end of the day on December 25 all you’ve received is the partridge in the pear tree. You’re a little disappointed. Maybe you ask yourself: “Did my true love forget about the other stuff? Where are the laying geese and the milking maids and all the rest? Maybe my true love doesn’t truly love me, after all.”

But then, over the next few days, on December 26, 27, 28, you start getting Fed Ex shipments of various calling and non-calling birds. By December 31, you’re up to seven swans a-swimming. Now you’re starting to catch on. Your true love’s word is good. Your true love does truly love you. The promise will be kept in full. You remember now that there are twelve days of Christmas, and so you can expect the rest of the stuff is on the way. It will arrive on time, in due time. So even though you have not yet seen any dancing ladies, you’re satisfied you will see them. In this case, you really can count your chickens before they’re dispatched.

What you expect and when you expect it determine whether you’re satisfied or disappointed. That’s true of Christmas presents, and it’s true of Christ himself. What do you expect of Christ? When do you expect it? This is the question that comes to us this morning, just as it came to John the Baptist: “What Do You Expect?”

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Published in: on December 14, 2019 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold, Your King Is Coming to You” (Matthew 21:1-11)

First Sunday in Advent
December 1, 2019

“Behold, Your King Is Coming to You” (Matthew 21:1-11)

In the Holy Gospel for today, St. Matthew writes: “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”’” But this raises some questions: How does this event from Jesus’ life, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey–how does this “fulfill what was spoken by the prophet”? Or another question: What does this Palm Sunday account have to do with Advent? And the even more important question: What does all of this have to do with us? Let’s get some answers now, under the theme, “Behold, Your King Is Coming to You.”

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Published in: on November 30, 2019 at 5:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“America’s Day of National Thanksgiving” (Deuteronomy 8:1-10)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 28, 2019

“America’s Day of National Thanksgiving” (Deuteronomy 8:1-10)

Ah, Thanksgiving! Turkey, football, movies, and the start of the holiday shopping season. No, wait, the holiday shopping season started back around Labor Day, I think. But seriously, is that what Thanksgiving has come to? Turkey, football, movies, and shopping? An opportunity to eat 2,000 calories in one meal, then fall asleep on the couch from all the tryptophan in the turkey? Or is it so guys can watch three football games in a row, from morning till evening? Or for the ladies to watch three Hallmark Christmas movies in a row? Then get up the next morning at 5:00 a.m. to go buy presents for people you don’t like, with money you don’t have, for stuff they don’t need? Thanksgiving has become the Eve of Black Friday. Turkey, football, movies, and shopping: Is that what Thanksgiving is all about?

Thanksgiving Day has fallen on hard times. Even Halloween seems to have eclipsed it in popularity. And the Christmas decorations and Christmas music on the radio and Christmas TV specials all started the day after Halloween. So Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle.

Oh, but it’s not as though Americans don’t like their Thanksgiving. They do. They like having the day off from work or school. They like being able to see their family and friends–well, except maybe for Uncle Fred, who gets the gas from the turkey, or Cousin Verlene, whose dentures make that clacking sound, or your vegan niece with the nose ring, who wants to argue politics over the pumpkin pie. But, for the most part, we Americans like our Thanksgiving. It’s just, “Don’t bother me with the ‘giving thanks to God’ bit.”

Well, I’ve got news for you: That “giving thanks bit” is the reason Thanksgiving Day exists! The purpose of this day is for Americans to gather in their churches and give thanks to God for his blessings on our country. That’s why Thanksgiving Day was started in the first place. This is “America’s Day of National Thanksgiving.”

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Published in: on November 27, 2019 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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