Epiphany 3 – "The Universal Grace of God" – Jonah 3:1-10

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“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”

Of all of the prophets of the Old Testament, Jonah is definitely the bad boy in the group. Jeremiah may have complained that he wasn’t the right man for the job, but at least he didn’t try to skip town. When the call came to Jonah, Jonah hopped a boat headed in the exact opposite direction as the Lord told him to go.

But as Jonah would learn, it’s hard to hide from God. “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea and there was a mighty tempest on the sea so that the ship threatened to break up.” The old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes applies to sailors too. But for sailors, instead of foxholes, it’s sinking ships. The sailors call out to their gods for help. Call it religion, call it superstition, but they conclude that God is hopping mad as someone onboard. They cast lots to see who the problem passenger might be. And sure enough, the lot fell to Jonah, who was asleep in his cabin.

To his credit, Jonah admits his guilt. He tells them that their only hope is to throw him into the sea. Strangely, Jonah seems to have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of the sailors, offering up his own life that they might not die but live. It’s those Ninevites that Jonah hates.

So, overboard goes Jonah and suddenly the sea is calm. Just listen to what happens next. “Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly…” They were terrified that they were going to all drown in the stormy sea, and now they are even more terrified that the sea grew calm.

This, by the way, is the same reaction of the disciples who were in the boat on the stormy Sea of Galilee. While the storm threatened to sink them, Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat. They woke Him up and He commanded the waves and the wind to stand down, and immediately the sea was calm. And Mark writes, “they were exceedingly afraid.” Continue reading

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Funeral Sermon – Frank Holt – Isaiah 61:1-3 – Comfort For Those Who Mourn – 1/24/14

We first met Frank when Vesta brought him to church with her back in 2006. That’s when they began dating. Once things got ‘serious,’ Vesta made it perfectly clear that if this was going to go any further, he was going to come to church with her. That’s just the kind of gal Vesta is.

I suspect that initially, Frank came along just to please Vesta. He was a ‘regular’ in both Bible Study and Worship. Sometimes in Bible study, I had the feeling that I had lost him along the way. But then, after class, he’d ask a question, and it was like, ‘yea, he really gets it.’

It didn’t take very long at all before Frank became a member of the family here. Everyone liked him. Especially the children. It took me awhile to figure out why the children would come up to him after worship was over. Then one day I saw him slip a peace of candy to Callum, and I understood.

Frank was always ready for a game of Cribbage after worship during fellowship. He would always say that it was just a matter of the way the cards fell, but they seemed to consistently fall in his favor. Isn’t that right Don?

Many of you have known Frank much longer than we have, and after the service, downstairs in the Fellowship Hall, we’d love to hear your stories and share in your memories. Continue reading

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Epiphany 2 – "Jesus of Nazareth – Son of God" – John 1:43-51 – 1/18/15

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On Christmas, God came down from heaven and became man. Which doesn’t mean that He stopped being God. If there’s one thing that God CANNOT DO it’s to stop being God. There is no such thing as ‘retirement’ for God. He always was, is, and always will be God, ruling the universe down to the tiniest detail with His almighty power.

But on Christmas, God became man. “The Word became flesh.” And for 30 years, for all appearances, God was just like us, soiling his diapers, eating, drinking, playing with other children, going to school, learning a trade, going to work, and sometimes just hanging out with the guys.

And no one ever suspected that Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, was also the Son of God. No one would have ever thought to say what we just said about Him – He is “the only begotten Son of God, begotten by his Father before all worlds, God of God, light of light, true God of true God…” and so forth. He was just Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

For 30 years, God’s divine nature was hidden under the cover of His human nature. But when He turns 30, things begin to change. What had been carefully hidden for 30 years now begins to be revealed. Continue reading

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Epiphany 1 – "Jesus In The Water" – Mark 1:4-11

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“John appeared in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

John was the ‘Billy Graham’ of his day. Great crowds came to hear him preach. John invited everyone to come forward and pray the ‘sinners prayer’ as they were baptized in the Jordan River.

When we baptize someone today, we use the ‘Rite for Holy Baptism’ on page 268 of the hymnal. There’s a formula, made up of Admonition, Scripture readings, certain customs, a renouncing of the devil, a confession of faith in the Triune God and then, finally, the baptism – “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Unfortunately, no one knows the what “Rite for Holy Baptism” that John the Baptist used. What did John or his disciples say as they baptized “all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem” one by one in the water? We don’t know.

What we can be sure of however is what John did NOT say. He did not say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He couldn’t say that because the Triune God had not given His name to this sacred act – at least, not yet. Continue reading

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Epiphany – "The Feast Of Epiphany" – Matthew 2:1-12

In the beginning, while the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters, God said, 'Let there be light and there was light.” (Gen.1:1-5)

And God said, “I will make you as a light to the nations; that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

And God said, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you… And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…” (Isaiah 60:1,3)

And Magi from the east saw that light and came to worship the child on whom the light shone. (Mat.2:8)

And when the child became a man, He was baptized in the water, and the Spirit of God who hovers over the waters descended upon Him and the Father who said, “let there be light,” declared, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10-11)

And the beloved Son of the Father went to Cana for a wedding, and for the sake of the joy and gladness of the bride and the groom and all their guests turned water into the best wine and manifested His glory.” (John 2:11)

Welcome to the Feast of Epiphany! Epiphany is far more than just the celebration of the visitation of the ‘wise men’ from the east. Epiphany is all about the appearance of the Light that God spoke in the beginning enfleshed in Jesus Christ, to whom the nations come to worship, and be united to Him in their own baptism into His death and His life, and to be filled with joy and gladness through faith in Him. Continue reading

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Christmas 2 – "Jesus – The Greater Than Solomon" – Luke 2:40-52 – 1/4/15

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Its not every year that we get two Sunday’s to revel in the celebration of Christmas. More often than not, we get Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the Sunday after Christmas, and then we’re off and running into the season of Epiphany. It’s like that Christmas dinner that took hours to prepare, that everyone was done with in under 20 minutes. Today we’re thankful for some time to savor and enjoy the season of Christmas.

We’re not given very many details about Jesus’ childhood in the gospels. We’re told about His conception by the Holy Spirit, the humble circumstances of His birth by the virgin Mary and the visitation of the shepherds.

We meet Him again at 8 days old, when He is circumcised and named. And again at 40 days old, they once again take Him to the Temple for Mary’s purification and His presentation.

Sometime after that, we’ve not sure how long, there’s the visitation of the Magi, which we’ll celebrate on Tuesday evening this week. And then the flight to Egypt and return to Nazareth. And now He’s 12 years old. Continue reading

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Christmas 1 – "Simeon Preaches Christ" – Luke 2:22-38 – 12/28/14

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On Christmas Eve, we beheld Him lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes.
On Christmas morning, we beheld dwelling among us, wrapped in human flesh.
Now today, we behold Him in the temple, wrapped in the arms of man named Simeon.

Our gospel reading takes place 40 days after Christmas. Joseph and Mary bring their 40 day old baby to the Temple. To make a long story short, they are doing what believers do. If you are new parents, the 40th day after your baby is born, there are two things that you are required to do, according to the Law of Moses.

1st, you bring yourself to the temple for purification. In a way, you have participated in Adam and Eve’s guilt by bringing a sinner into the world. So, God teaches and reminds His people about the doctrine of ‘original sin’ through this ‘liturgical form.’ Continue reading

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Christmas Morning – "The Word Is God" – John 1:1-14 – 12/25/14

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A. John 1:1-2
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

According to St. John, this is where the Christmas story properly begins. As we heard last night, St. Matthew begins with Abraham and traces the genealogy forward to Jesus. St. Luke begins with Jesus and traces His ancestry back to Adam. But John takes us back even further, to a time before Adam. “In the beginning…”

He might have gone back even further than that if he could have, but everything before that is beyond our reach. That which we have not witnessed with our own eyes, we can only know of by being told about it by one who was an eye-witness.

Only God was present “in the beginning.” And He gives us His eyewitness testimony about what happened and what it was like. And all who believe His testimony say, “Oh, now I see.”

But of what was before the beginning, we have no word from God, not because He was not present, but simply because He chooses not to tell us.

In the beginning, there was already God and the Spirit of God and the Word of God. The Triune God, three distinct persons in one divine essence – was already in the beginning before the beginning began. For a moment… or was it an eternity… there was only God.

But then, while the Holy Spirit was hovering over the deep, God spoke. “Let there be…” Continue reading

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Advent 4 – "Nothing Is Impossible With God" – Luke 1:28-36 – 12/21/14

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It was confirmation day at Faith Lutheran Church in Iowa. Each of the confirmands were to memorize Romans 8:38-39 as part of their oral exam before the congregation. One at a time, the pastor asked each confirmand, “What can separate you from God’s love in Jesus Christ?” And each one responded in his turn, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Then it came to Sarah. Sarah was a Down’s Syndrome child. As she stood before the congregation everyone worried if she would be able to recite the text. The pastor asked, “Sarah, what can separate you from God’s love in Jesus Christ?” Sarah smiled, and she said, “Nothin’!” It is said that the congregation remembered her “Nothin’!” for a very long time. Continue reading

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Mid-Week Advent 3 – "When All The World Was Cursed" – 12/17/14

I. The Hymn
Today we come to the 3rd Advent Hymn for our consideration – “When All The World Was Cursed.” It’s written by Johann Gottfried Olearius, of whom we have said enough already. The translator is Paul Kretzmann, a Lutheran pastor and teacher. There’s not a whole lot to say about him. He died in 1965 and so he’s pretty contemporary. He’s most known for a 4 volume ‘popular’ commentary on the whole Bible that is considered to be one of the best commentaries on the Bible.

II. Stanza 1
“When all the world was cursed by Moses’ condemnation,
Saint John the Baptist came with words of consolation.
With true forerunner’s zeal the greater One he named,
And Him, as yet unknown, as Savior he proclaimed.”

So, first of all let’s establish the direction of the text. In the 1st hymn, ‘Comfort, comfort, Ye My People,’ the direction was from God to His prophet and then the Prophet to the people. The direction of the 2nd hymn, ‘Come, Thou Precious Ransom, Come’ was from us up to God – a prayer. Now in this 3rd hymn, what we see is that the first 3 stanzas, the direction of the text is like a sermon – from preacher to congregation. It’s basically information about John the Baptist drawn from the Scriptures. Continue reading

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