Epiphany 6 – "Blessed Are You" – Luke 6:17-26 – 2/17/19


The text is our gospel reading. Our Lord has just been on a mountain where He prayed through the night. In the morning, He called His disciples to gather around Him. Luke doesn’t tell us how many that was but from these disciples He chose 12 who are now referred to as ‘Apostles.’

“And He came down the mountain with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to HEAR him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to TOUCH him, for power came out from him and healed them all.”

Again, this is just what the church looks like and why you’ve come here today. We’ve come here to “hear Him” and to “touch him.” Just like we saw last Sunday in the Divine Service conducted on the beach by the sea of Gennessaret, now again the pattern is repeated here at this Divine Service on the “level place.” First we HEAR Him speak His Word that heals us. Then we come and TOUCH Him, for power comes out from him and heals us all.

“And He lifted up his eyes on his disciples…”
• “Disciples” are all those who desire to HEAR Him and TOUCH Him, because they know that His Word is true and power comes out from him to heal us of that disease that causes all of our diseases – our sin.
• “Disciples” are followers of Jesus. Which doesn’t necessarily mean they follow wherever He goes like the Apostles will do. But it does mean that Jesus goes with them wherever they go – and they know that.
• “Disciples” are those who strive to live their lives in such a way that pleases Jesus – but not because they hope that by doing so He will bless them. That would be selfish and loveless.
• “Disciples” strive to live their lives in such a way that pleases Jesus because He has already blessed them – and NOT because they have been so faithful, but solely because He loves them. And so “disciples” are those who strive to live their lives according to His will and His word, as their sacrifice of gratitude and thanksgiving to Him.

So when we hear that “Jesus lifted up his eyes on his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you…” we want to be sure to hear what He actually says. Because as we all know we can sometimes hear what we want to hear or what we expect to hear and maybe even hear what He never said at all. Continue reading

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Epiphany 5 – "A Crisis at Sea" – Luke 5:1-11 – 2/10/19


Let-Down-Your-NetsAs we come now to this 5th Sunday in the season of Epiphany, it might be good for us to recall what this season is all about. The season of Epiphany is all about revealing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. From the season of Christmas, which was all about God taking on human flesh and becoming fully man, we move to the season of Epiphany which is all about impressing on our hearts and minds that this man, Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary, is none other than God, “in whom the fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Col.2:9)

So we will do well to pay careful attention to the liturgy and the readings during this season of Epiphany, because from Epiphany we move into the season of Lent, where the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ will be hidden from our eyes, so covered over with our sin and our death that all we will be able to behold is a “despised and rejected man, whom we esteemed not and from whom we hide our face.” Now is the time to impress upon your heart and mind that this Jesus Christ, is the one, true God, so that you will know who it is who has taken your sin and your death upon Himself and suffered all, even death on a cross, so that you may one day behold His glory, face to face.

Our gospel text opens on a beach on the Sea of Gennesaret, which is also known as the Sea of Galilee. Luke writes, “… the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God.” A pretty good picture of the church, if you ask me. A packed church where everyone wants to sit in the front pew to get as close to the preacher as possible.

In this church there was no railing and no pulpit, so Jesus had to improvise. “He saw two boats by the lake, but the fisherman had gone out of them and were washing their nets.” Jesus went over to one of the boats which happened be Peter’s. He gets in and said something to the effect of, “I’d like to use your boat as my pulpit. How about pushing off just a bit?” “And He sat down and taught the people from the boat.” Continue reading

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Epiphany 4 – "A Prayer for the Afflicted" – Luke 4:31-44


Would you take out your worship folder and open to page 4 please. I’d like to begin this sermon by redirecting your attention to the Introit for the day. In know that we sing an ‘Entrance Hymn’ before the Divine Service begins, but the real ‘entrance hymn’ of the Divine Service is the “Introit,” which literally means, ‘entrance.’ It’s the prayer that the congregation sings together with the pastor as the pastor enters into the chancel to begin the work that he has been called by the congregation to do, which is… to speak to God on behalf of the congregation and then to turn and speak to the congregation on behalf of God.

Today’s Introit is taken from Psalm 10. It is A PRAYER OF THE AFFLICTED to God. Let’s speak it together again:

“Arise, O Lord; O God; lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.”

“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

This ‘prayer of the afflicted’ was written by David for all Israel to pray together. They were people who were ‘afflicted’ and who were well acquainted with ‘affliction.’ They were ‘afflicted’ by outside forces, particularly the Canaanites. And it’s the Canaanites in particular that Israel prays that God would cause to “perish from his land,” “so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

It is important to take notice of just how confident Israel is in God’s gracious answer to their prayer. They do not ASK God to strengthen their heart. Neither do they ASK God to incline His ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed. No, their prayer is a confession of faith. “YOU WILL strengthen their heart…” “YOU WILL incline your ear to do justice…”

In their ‘affliction,’ Israel’s hope is in their God. He WILL deliver them. Continue reading

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Epiphany 2 – "The 1st of His Signs" – John 2:1-11 – 1/27/19


“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples…”

29-05_A1There are aspects to life in a small town like Waterville that are very nice. It’s not unusual to see someone you know at the grocery store or the post-office, and the UPS driver knows that if no one is at the church he can deliver his package to the pastor’s house which he knows where it is located.

Life in a typical, small, middle-eastern village like Cana is an even tighter-knit community that anything we have here. Everyone knows everyone and is connected with everyone else. So, when a baby is born in the village, the whole village celebrates. When someone dies the whole village mourns. When there’s a wedding, the whole village attends and celebrates. A wedding is a significant event, not just for the couple but for the whole village.

Our text today opens after the wedding itself has taken place. The wedding reception is in full swing.

It was the custom of the day that the reception was hosted by the newlyweds. The husband was responsible for making the preparations and making sure that everything was ready. The celebration was for the whole village and would last for up to seven days.

Every time I hear this text, I can’t help but recall a wedding of one of Deb’s college classmates years ago. The couple was from a small town in up-state Pennsylvania where almost everyone was of Middle-eastern descent and attended one of the several Eastern Orthodox churches in the town.

After the wedding, everyone headed over to Luanne’s parent’s home for the reception. There was a polka band and lots of people dancing in big circles with their arms linked together. Lot’s of laughing and talking and singing and great food and lots to drink. I remember asking someone how long the reception lasted. And the reply was, “till the booze runs out.” Deb and I lasted a day and a half and were accused of being party poopers for leaving so early. We later learned that we only made it half way through. Continue reading

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Baptism of Our Lord – "Into" – Luke 3:21-22; Romans 6:1-11 – 1/13/19


BAPTISM_copy__47500.1376701376.1000.1200_large“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

If I were to ask you to list the most significant events in the life of Jesus Christ, you would probably say Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and His Ascension. If you were broadminded enough, you’d include His coming again on the Last Day to separate the living from the dead, even though it hasn’t happened yet.

You would probably not have included His baptism on that list, unless of course it happened to be the 1st Sunday after Epiphany which is always “The Baptism of Our Lord” and you knew that this is where the preacher is headed. But the Baptism of Jesus deserves as much of our attention as all these other ‘landmark’ events in the life of our Lord. And here’s why.

On Christmas morning, Christ came into THE WORLD. On Good Friday, Christ died for the sins of THE WORLD. On Easter Sunday, Christ justified and reconciled God to THE WORLD. 40 days after Easter, He ascended into heaven to intercede with the Father for the life of THE WORLD.

You notice that in all of this, we haven’t once said, “FOR YOU.” It’s all very general and non-specific. And so we rightly wonder, ‘how does this apply TO ME?’ How does this connect TO ME, individually, personally?

When our children were getting ready for college, we wanted to get them connected to all of that scholarship and grant money that we heard was out there. We went to seminars and read books on how to tap into these resources. They had to fill out the applications, write the essays. And we had to learn how to fill out FAFSA forms.

What we learned was that there are all kinds of programs in place to help people in all kinds of situations and needs. But none of it actually benefits me in my situation until I fill out the forms and write the essays and do the interviews. Only then does the general become specific and FOR ME.
And what we discovered was that for all of the scholarships that are out there, there wasn’t too much that was actually available to MY son and MY daughter.

We hear about all of the benefits that are available through Jesus Christ – the forgiveness of sins, peace which this world cannot give, life and salvation. All these, Christ has won for THE WORLD by His birth, death, resurrection and ascension. But how do these actually get to ME? Are there forms I must fill out and essays I must write that will be reviewed by some celestial committee of angels who have this big stamp – ‘APPROVED’ / ‘DENIED’?

No, it is through this strange thing called ‘baptism’ that all of these benefits won by Christ for THE WORLD, are connected TO YOU and given to YOU.

This is what Paul wants to understand when, in our epistle reading today, he said, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? We were buried with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom. 6:3-4) Continue reading

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Epiphany – "God Appeared" – Matthew 2:1-12 – 1/6/19


I don’t know about you, but to me, the season of Christmas was like that Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner that required how many hours of planning and the whole day to prepare and that smelled so good and looked so nice on the table and once grace was said, took what, 30 minutes to consume and it was all over.

The Church’s season of Christmas is like that. After four full weeks of Advent preparation for Christmas, it doesn’t last very long. Just 12 days and three services. Our hymnal has 35 Christmas hymns in it. How are you supposed to squeeze all of those into three services? And “Pastor, don’t you know that you didn’t let us sing our favorites. AGAIN!”

So, today we begin the season of Epiphany. And you’re never are sure how long Epiphany is going to last because it all depends on when Easter is, which determines when the season of Lent begins. And since Easter comes fairly late this year, we’re in for a fairly long Epiphany – nine weeks. And our hymnal only has 24 Epiphany hymns in it. So, we’re going to sing them all.

January 6th is always the 1st Day of Epiphany which has a one in seven chance of falling on a Sunday. And I promise you, that is all of the counting that we’re going to do for the rest of this sermon.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose, and have come to worship him.” Let the season of Epiphany begin.

The account of the visitation of the Magi is rooted in Christmas and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem where, as incredible as this sounds, God appeared. That’s what the word ‘epiphany’ means. “Epiphaino” means ‘to appear.’ Continue reading

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Christmas 1 – "The Presentation of Our Lord" – Luke 2:22-38 – 12/30/18


On Christmas Eve, we beheld the infant born of Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes.
On Christmas morning, we beheld the One through whom all things were made, wrapped in human flesh.
Now today, we behold the one who is fully God and fully Man in the temple, wrapped in the arms of man named Simeon.

0976aec66ed724961a32a85ec5937ca5Joseph and Mary bring their 40 day old baby to the Temple because THIS IS WHAT BELIEVERS DO. If you want to live according to God’s Word and build your new family on God’s Word, there are a couple of things that you do 40 days after your baby is born.

1st, new parents bring themselves 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, through this ‘LITURGICAL ACT,’ God reminds and teaches His people about the doctrine of ‘original sin.’

And in the same ‘LITURGICAL ACT’, God reminds and teaches His people about the doctrine of ‘forgiveness.’ They’re coming for to the Temple for ‘forgiveness,’ because THIS IS WHAT BELIEVERS DO.

Doing this on the 40th day of the child’s life, connects them to the flood of Noah where God purified a sinful and guilty world in 40 days; and to the 40 years in the wilderness where Israel learned how to live their lives according to God’s Word – WHICH IS WHAT BELIEVERS DO.

The 2nd thing that is going on here has to do with Israel’s exodus out of Egypt. The night before the Exodus was the night of Passover, when a lot firstborn males in Egypt died, while the firstborn males of Israel lived.

And NOT BECAUSE the Israelites were any less sinful and more holy than the Egyptians. It was only because innocent blood was shed that ATONED for the sin of those so marked with that blood. In other words, if your firstborn son is alive, you owe his live to God’s grace and mercy. Continue reading

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Christmas Day – "The Cosmic Christmas Story" – John 1:1-18 – 12/25/18

The Christmas story that we are most familiar with is the one that we heard last night about a woman named Mary and a man named Joseph and shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night and the sudden appearance of a multitude of angels with their GOOD NEWS to announce. And of course, we almost forgot, the baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger who is Christ the Lord.

We usually throw in a donkey or two, and add our own little bit of adventure that every hotel in Bethlehem was sold out and poor Mary had to give birth in a cold, dark barn because the all the people in Bethlehem were very selfish and rude people. (Even though none of that is in the text and probably didn’t happen like that at all).

That’s the Christmas story that we’re most familiar with and the one that we could each recite to someone if they were from another planet and wanted know us what all the fuss is about.

But this morning, we hear the very same Christmas story, told very, very differently than the one we heard last night. No Mary and Joseph, no angels or shepherds, no little town of Bethlehem, no swaddling clothes or manger.

This morning, it’s Christmas with St. John who always sees things differently than the others. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without him was not anything made that has been made… 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.”

When was the last time you sat your children or grandchildren on your knee, cracked open a few chestnuts to roast on the open fire, and told them about Christmas like that? Continue reading

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Christmas Eve – "T'was The Night Before Christmas" – Luke 2:8-12 – 12/24/2018

"T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." So begins the account of the Christmas story that sadly, will be the only account that far too many children will hear tonight and will be the only Christmas story that far too many children will grow up knowing.

We, however, are here this evening to hear a much different Christmas story than that of ‘dancing sugar plums’ and ‘a right jolly old elf.’ The Christmas story that we have come to hear centers upon the birth of a baby, who is none other than the holy, holy, holy God. The baby, born of Mary and lying in the manger, is the very God who created the world and everything in it, and particularly that man that He made in His image and likeness. Now tonight, we hear the story of this man-making God who is made man – in our likeness.

Like Henry Livingston’s famous Christmas story, this story also opens on the ‘night before Christmas.’ ‘T’was the night before Christmas,’ and there were lots of creatures stirring.

Hungry wolves were prowling the fields outside Bethlehem just as they did every night, because nighttime is prime time for picking off a defenseless lamb that might wander astray from the flock.

Sheep were stirring on that night before Christmas too. Sheep are naturally very nervous creatures, but they are always more nervous at night than during the day because they know that there are predators stirring out there in the darkness.

Shepherds were stirring on that night before Christmas too. Faithful shepherds have to stay awake and keep a sharp eye out for both predators and wanderers.

But wolves, sheep, and shepherds weren't the only creatures stirring on the ‘night before Christmas.’ There were angels stirring too – a multitude of them, stirring in the sky as they took their places for the greatest Christmas concert the world has ever heard. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”

God was breaking into His creation. The light was coming into the darkness, which meant that the night would soon be over. The new day was about to dawn. Continue reading

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Advent 4 – "Magnificat" – Luke 1:46-55 – 12/23/18

A beautiful sermon on the Magnificat from Rev. Fischer.


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