Sunday, January 27, 2008

Epiphany 3

Epiphany 3
January 27, 2008
Isaiah 9:1-4
Some Day You’ll Be Glad

Almighty God, You sent Your Son to proclaim Your kingdom and to teach with authority. Anoint us with the power of Your Spirit that we, too, may bring good news to the afflicted, bind upon the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captives.”

Introduction: When people are struggling, when they are in the midst of trouble, they cannot imagine things will so improve that the sorrow, pain, fear, and anxiety will change to joy. It’s almost as if they are babes lost in the woods. They can’t see the forest for the trees. All seems hopeless and so pointless.  

In the words of our Old Testament lesson a message of hope comes to a people who had lost everything and for whom there was little hope or promise. What was that promise? It was the promise of God to a people living in the oppression of darkness. The point of Isaiah’s message was designed to encourage and uplift those who may have had reason to despair. Where do people turn today when they contemplate their condition?  Our text for this day says to you who find yourselves to be in trouble —

1. God promises you’ll be glad some day.

2. There are good reasons for your hope.

3. Light will replace the darkness.

4. Liberation from oppression will come.

1.        God promises you’ll be glad some day – Vs. 3 “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” Isaiah 9:3                    

When we are in the midst of some trouble, we can’t imagine that things will so improve that the sorrow, pain, fears and anxiety will change to joy. Everything seems so overwhelming. Yet to this very situation of hopelessness a message of hope arrives…It comes in the form of a promise from God to a people living in the oppression of darkness.

What is the source of joy of being a Christian? It is the joy we have in knowing Christ. He is the Light of the world and the end of our darkness. To know Christ is to be free from the power and condemnation of the Law and from the consequences of sin, which, of course, is death. Scripture is quite clear on this matter. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) In Ezekiel 18:4 God said, "Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die". The soul that dies is the soul that sins. Therefore, in order for a soul to die, sin would have to occur by that soul. The apostle John states it much clearer - in 1John 3:4 he says, "Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law". Sin is something that you do. Says St. Paul; “By the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified.” (Romans 3:20)

God gave His Law to hunt us down, find us out, corner us, and kill us. The Law is powerful, but it is a deadly power because of our sin. In the end, the Law exposes us as the enemies of God we really are…In the end, the Law leaves the sinner utterly sinful, utterly condemned, - utterly dead. The Law leaves the sinner without hope in himself or the Law. There is no hope – except for one – our Lord Jesus Christ.[1] Again, Scripture is quite clear, “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)   Joy is a by-product of Jesus’ preaching the good news of salvation, His teaching the truth of both sin and salvation of Law and Gospel  helps us begin to understand such joy even in the midst of sadness. Jesus entered this world and began His mission to redeem me a lost and condemned creature. He came for only one purpose which was - to save me from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Transition:  God promises you will be glad some day.  Christ Jesus entered our world to deal with our sin and all which is broken in this world and in particular in our own lives. There is reason to hope.

2.        There are good reasons to hope.  Consider the historical background of our text for today. In 734 B.C. Assyria took into captivity Zebulon and Naphtali. It is a dark time of their history. But, the people see a light in the coming of a great king whose coming means great joy. He is their Messiah, their Savior. In the darkness of conquest, a light is seen bringing great joy.

Today’s Old Testament Lesson is in part a repeat of Christmas morning. Then it was used as a fulfilled prophecy of the birth of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth. Here it is used as fulfillment of the glorious time for the land, “Galilee of the nations.” St. Matthew, in today’s Gospel lesson, sees the start of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee as the fulfillment of this great promise.   

The Epiphany theme of light is evident in both Gospel and Old Testament lessons — the people, “have seen a great light.” Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of that light.  Christ is the Epiphany (or the manifestation) of light. Epiphany deals with the revelation of the glory of God in Jesus.

God’s glory is seen in the ministry of Jesus — He brings the kingdom to people through His threefold ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing, a ministry to the whole person: soul, mind, and body. Paul sees the glory of God revealed in the cross — the means of deliverance from the oppression of sin, Satan, and death.

Transition: God promises you will be glad some day.  Christ Jesus entered our world to deal with our sin and all which is broken in this world and in particular in our own lives. There is reason to hope for in this Epiphany season we discover that Jesus is God’s manifestation of light. You are given a reason to hope as you are drawn to Christ’s light.

3.        Light will replace darkness – Vs. 2   “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2 When Isaiah wrote these words, there was much darkness in the land. Assyria had conquered Zebulon and Naphtali and carried off the people to bondage. There was the darkness of oppression, homelessness, and forced labor. In today’s world there is also much darkness: and therefore very little light. There are many experiencing loneliness, pain, bereavement, poverty, and addiction to drugs or alcohol. We rejoice that in Christ the light has begun to shine as Jesus begins his ministry.

Transition: God promises you with a glad future. Christ entered this world to deal with you misery and sin. Christ the Son of light came to disperse the darkness of sin as He took your sin to Himself. As He carried those burdens and cares He frees you –

4.        There will be liberation from oppression – Vs. 4 “For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor.” Isaiah 9:4  In today’s society we often hear the word, “broken,” to describe the human condition: families are broken up by divorce; parents’ hearts are broken when rebellious children misbehave badly; nations are in turmoil because of broken relations — embassies are closed, ambassadors are called home and soon war is declared. In this verse, “broken” is a good word. Because of Christ the power of sin is broken. The broken relationship between God and humanity is healed.

Conclusion: Epiphany’s light will be short this year – next Sunday – already is the Transfiguration of our Lord. That light already is directing us to the cross on which we witness that great exchange – God’s mercy and forgiveness purchased at the cost of His own Son!  “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE.” (John 3:16)  AMEN.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

[1] Issues, Etc. Journal Vol. 6, No. 1 “The Law’s Accusations: God’s Perfect, Specific and Unavoidable Demands” by Todd Wilken pp. 9-10

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Epiphany 2

Epiphany 2
January 20, 2008
John 2:29-41
Called to Witness

Introduction:  What is our calling as Christians? We are to bear witness to the things of God. Today’s theme: “Called to witness” simply expresses what you, as a redeemed child of God, have been placed into this world to do. Yet, sharing our faith can be one of the most distressing things we could do. What do I say? Might I say the wrong thing? What if someone asks me a question of which I can not answer?  In our gospel lesson John teaches us how we can witness in a winsome way.

I.        From the example of John – who pointed to Christ. Vs. 29

II.     From the example of John - who told of His experience. Vv. 32-33

III.   From the example of Andrew - who invited a friend. Vv. 40-41

I.        From the example of John the Baptist – who pointed to Christ. Vs. 29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

A.     He spoke little of Himself.

B.     Why should he? He knew he was a sinner “I should not be baptizing you, rather you should be baptizing me!”

C.     Why should he? Jesus was more important, “I am not worthy even to untie His sandals…He must increase I must decrease.”

D.     His focus was fixed firmly on Jesus.

1.      “Behold the Lamb of God…” Jesus is meek, mild, innocent, and spotless.

2.      “…who takes away the sin of the world” Only He can bear the sins of the earth in His body. Only He can exchange His perfect life for your tainted life. Watch! As He takes each sin to Himself.

Transition: We take the example of John the Baptist who pointed to Christ and who told of his experience.

II.     Take an example John the Baptist who told of His experience. Vv. 32-33 “And John bore  witness saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and He remained upon Him. I did no t know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “upon who, you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him., this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”

A.     John only told the crowd what the Father had told Him.

1.      He would see the Holy Spirit descend and remain on a man.

2.      He would be the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

B.     We too simply share what the Father has spoken to us.

C.     Of course we don’t hear voices, have visions, look for signs etc. We don’t need to!

D.     We go to that source where the Father has clearly spoken – we share and tell what the Father has clearly spoken.  

Transition: We take the example of John the Baptist who pointed to Christ and who told of his experience. We also take the example of Andrew who brought his brother to meet Jesus Christ.

III.   Take the example of Andrew who simply invited a friend Vv. 40-41 “One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah (which, is translated ‘the Christ’)”

A.     Having had such an experience he couldn’t keep it to himself.

1.      He had found Christ.

2.      What an impact Jesus had had on Andrew!

B.     Likewise, we impact others as Christ has had such an influence on us.

C.     You might be the only Bible another person reads.

D.     Impact your world, where you live, work, and go to school. Share Christ, draw others to Him.

Conclusion:  By these men’s examples we now have been given examples on how to impact our world for Jesus Christ. May the Lord direct you as you witness for Him!

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Epiphany 1

Epiphany 1
January 13, 2008
Acts 10:38
The Baptism of Our Lord

“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”

Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Introduction: Today in the calendar of the church – we remember this day as the 1st Sunday after the Lord’s Epiphany - the Baptism of our Lord. What is so important concerning this day? Why do we observe it? The Baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His public ministry.

Almost everybody wants to be a success in life, be it the college student slaving away at his studies, the independent truck driver hauling his load, a farmer marketing his crop, or the small business man finishing the deal. Each, in his own way, wants to be successful. 

How do we mark success? How do you know you have made it?

The one who has the greatest success in history was Jesus. He succeeded in living a perfect life, in overcoming sin and Satan, in accomplishing His mission on earth. What was His secret? Our text gives us the foolproof secret for every person. “Because God was with Him”

I.        God is with Jesus in Spirit – “anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit”

A.     Jesus succeeded in living a perfect life. In every respect was He perfect and obedient.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus was both God and man in one person. It was His will to fulfill the will of His Father. As a young boy He remained at the temple sitting at he feet of the elders listening to them and asking them questions. When His frantic parents at last found Him, He remarked, “Why were you searching for Me? Did you not know I must be about My Father’s business?” And yet, we are reminded that “He returned to Nazareth with them – and was obedient to them.”

B.     Yet, for you, He overcame the power of the Devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. “He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is God’s great exchange – our sin for His righteousness. Everything Jesus will do in His earthly ministry will be a singleness of purpose. He has only one mission, one goal – to win for you salvation.  Isaiah, the prophet, will remind us with “His stripes ye have been healed.”  

Thus, His miracles of healing are those deliberate acts He works to defeat the works of the devil. If it would take a miracle to work the Father’s will He performs a miracle. Yet, He can not be forced. When He knew that even a miracle would not persuade the people, He chooses not to perform any miracles. His ways are just – yet we can not press Him- or force our will upon Him.    

Transition: Jesus was successful because God as with Him, enabling Him to live a perfect life – enabling Him to die the perfect death. The Spirit is given to you for the same reason “Because God is with him…”

II.     Likewise the Holy Spirit gives you power – “and with power”

A.     This was promised to the 1st Century disciples. “And ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…but stay here in Jerusalem…And you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samarian, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” God worked in these 1st Century believers as witnesses of the resurrection. They were not super heroes. To the contrary; often time they were weak. Quite often they quarreled amongst themselves. They were persecuted and often martyred for their faith. Often, they were abandoned by friend and family alike. What made them so different? They were witnesses of the resurrected Christ. They had seen Jesus die. They had seen Him alive. Their message was simple, direct, and life changing. This Jesus whom God raised from the dead –has changed our life and will change your life too.

B.     The power of God has been made manifest in you – in your own baptism. St. Paul put it this way, “When we were baptized into Christ Jesus we were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him in our baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too should live a new life. For, if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” Your baptism into Christ Jesus is the power of God manifest in you. It is a birth certificate – it is a death certificate. In baptism you died to sin. In baptism you were raised to new life. In baptism we consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to God.  Every time we make mention of our baptism, every time we remember our baptism, every time we come to God confessing our sin, pleading for His forgiveness, it will be granted to us. This is the power of God’s Holy Spirit being made present in your life.  

Conclusion: Jesus Christ was the most successful person known to man. His secret? He followed the will of His Father. As you have been baptized into His Name you now have become children of God and heirs of His kingdom. Jesus was “successful” because God was with Him. What’s the secret to your success? It must be one and the same…because God is with you – in your baptism – calling you to repentance –calling you to be a part of His family the church.  

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Sunday, January 6, 2008


January 6, 2008
Matthew 2:1-12
Christ – Before and After

O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Introduction: What is man’s condition before and after Christ? Consider the Wise Men of our Gospel lesson for this morning. Their lives were changed. What has happened to you before and after you have considered this baby born for us on Christmas morning? For those touched by Christ, like these wise men there is a before and an after.

I.        Before…

A.     Before the Wise Men came to Bethlehem. “they went their way” (Vs. 9) Why are they called “wise”? As in the Gospel Lesson for today, the Wise Men were more than men who studied the stars. History has called them Wise Men because they made a quest for God. 

Today men are wise if they seek God in Christ. The foolish ones of this world seek other gods — power, prestige, possessions.

B.     Before we are confronted with Christ we too can be tempted to go our own way in life following our own agendas, plans and directions. We find ourselves in a New Year. What would you determine to do this year in 2008? Is Christ a part of your future? Wise Men follow guidance. They saw a result of humble acceptance of guidance; they reached the Christ-child. Moreover, Wise Men then and now worship the King.

Transition: There was life before these Wise Men confronted Christ – there was life after they met Him.

II.     After

A.     Then the Wise Men came to the child Jesus, worshiped, and gave gifts. In the Gospel for today we can see two kinds of worship. The one is a false worship based upon insincerity. Herod told the Wise Men to seek after the child, “that I too may come and worship him” (v. 8). Out of fear for his position, Herod wanted to know where the new King was born. Today worship can be a guise for evil intentions.

B.     They departed to their own country by another way. (Vs. 12)  On the other hand, there is true worship practiced by the Wise Men: “They fell down and worshiped him.”

Transition: The Wise Men’s lives were changed from before to after they had met the Christ child. How does this confrontation play out in your life today?

C.     For us today.

1.      When you bow down in worship before Christ, life is never the same again. No, the same challenges, failings and frustrations of the past year might still be ours today. But we have a relationship with a Savior who has borne our iniquities and carried our sorrows. We need not strive with Him for His desire is to carry us – and accompany us along this journey of life. Will you walk with Him this season?   

2.      Christ makes the difference in your life. These men had their lives changed – they had encountered the Christ – this is what made them wise – they were humbled in the presence of Christ and offered to Him their treasures gifts and praise.

Conclusion: Just what is the difference in your life? At Christmas we receive the gift of God in Jesus. Epiphany is the time for believers to give a return gift to God by presenting gifts to Christ, as the Wise Men did. It is noteworthy that the Wise Men gave their gifts as a part of their worship.

Giving something to God when we worship is a vital part of worship, an expression of faith and love. It should never be a collection we take in church but an offering, the offering of gifts to God in gratitude for the gift received.

Note the price of the gifts the Wise Men offered — nothing cheap: “Opening their treasures the offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (v. 11).

These gifts were meaningful, full of symbolism: gold because he was a king, frankincense because he was a priest offering the perfume of prayer, and myrrh because he was a redeemer who died to save the world. What can you offer to one who has everything?

What can humans give to God? For the affluent at Christmas, it is a problem what to give to one who has everything. The Wise Men had the answer. Their gifts were fit for a king. They offered to Him their very lives.

On mine heart imprint Your image
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be;
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation.[1]

+Soli Deo Gloria+