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Epiphany 2 2020 - John 2:1-11

Epiphany 2 2020

John 2.1-11

January 19, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

Several years ago now there was big deal made out the possibility of a 13th astrological zodiac sign.  For some people, this was big news.  This is what sets the tone for the day, or week, or year. Now some people take these signs and their related horoscopes more seriously than others.  For some it is good for a laugh, but for others it will determine the moves they make throughout the day.  If your sign says that another person from another sign will bring you luck, good or bad, then you will be on the look out.  If your sign says that it is your day to find someone you love, then you will have your senses on the lookout for that love.  On the other hand, if your sign says that you will face heartbreak today, then you had better stay in bed. While not as popular today as they used to be, the same mentality exists within the “spiritual but not religious” crowd looking for signs in all the wrong places.

The first commandment tells us that all of this is nonsense. You shall have no other gods, which means, We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  Our future will not be determined by astrological signs or horoscope renderings; the thoughts and plans of the Lord are not always for us to know.  If good things happen or if bad; if it is your day to find love or heartache; simply trust in the Lord that His ways are not always our ways and our thoughts are not always His thoughts. 

We often ask Jesus, through our prayers, for what we need and what we want. But we end up twisting things around, wanting the signs to be about us, rather than about God for us.  Lord, give me a sign if I should take this job. Give me a sign that I am on the right track in life.  Give me a sign if I should marry this person.  A sign, the first of His signs, is what Jesus gives in our Gospel reading today.

Jesus changes water into wine. We see this in our Gospel reading today even, as Jesus is invited to a wedding feast.  His mother comes to Him with a problem.  The wedding feast typically lasted seven days, and in quite the social blunder, the groom runs out of wine for his guests. Jesus changes water into wine so the party could go on.  In this the first of His signs, He saves the best for last.

But it is so much more than this!  Jesus is revealed through His signs. These are more than miracles. These are signs that Jesus does to reveal to us the glory of God.  It is the perfect picture of God's grace; reckless and indiscriminate gift giving. Our Lord pours out His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation upon us who neither deserve them, nor are capable of appreciating them. This is the Gospel and it is music to the ears of those who feel lost and despondent and too evil to be favorably regarded by God. Looking at this sign at Cana, looking at his calling not the righteous but sinners, and even eating with them, looking at him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is left with one escapable conclusion. Jesus who gives good gifts to sinners. For the Lord delights in you!

Though He changes water in wine, declaring who He is and bringing people to faith in Him, this sign, all the signs of Jesus, all the works of God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament point to this one, greatest sign of all: the sign of the cross. For it is on the cross that a true miracle happened as the Son of God was crucified bearing the sins of the world.  It is on the cross when the hour of Christ comes as He saves the best for last. It is on the cross where He is filled to the brim with our sin and then He pours out His righteousness to those who don’t deserve it.  It is on the cross where we find God’s answer to suffering, to pain, to evil.  It is on the cross we find direction for our lives, direction that leads us to follow Christ into death and to the resurrection. 

What is so often lacking when one looks at their zodiac sign, or looking for the lightening bolt from heaven, the booming voice, or the still silent voice is the sign that truly matters: the sign of the cross that is made upon your forehead and upon your heart when we are baptized.  We are marked with the sign of the cross; marked as children for God, claimed by Him, redeemed by Him, given a new name from the mouth of the Lord Himself! 

The cross will not always be appealing; it will not always come in attractive packaging; it will not always some piece of fashion in jewelry or clothes; but the cross stands before our eyes, pointing us away from the things of this world and to the things of Jesus. The sign of the cross may not always bring good days, it may not bring worldly love, it may not even bring an answer to every question; but it does bring the forgiveness of sins that was won on it for our sake by Jesus our Savior.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.

 You do not need to look in the paper or search the internet to find your sign and what your fortune will be for the day; just make the sign of the cross in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Look to the miraculous signs of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, where the Lord is present and working for you. “To us in the New Testament, baptism and the eucharist have been given as the visible signs of grace, so that we might firmly believe that sins have been forgiven through Christ's suffering and that we have been redeemed by his death. Thus the church has never been deprived to such an extent of outward signs that it became impossible to know where God could surely be found” (LW 1:248 on Gen. 4:3). Look to the Word, the Word of God who became flesh, the Word combined with water, bread, and wine, the Word written for you. Jesus is ever present with you through the dark and difficult days of your life; ever present with you on the bright and joyous days, ever present with you through the sign of the Word become flesh dwelling among you in His Word. So next time someone asks you, “What’s your sign?” You may respond: It is the sign of the cross, marking me as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

Epiphany 1 2020 - Luke 2:41-52

Epiphany 1 2020

Luke 2:41-52

January 12, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

The holidays are finally over and for most people they are back into the normal daily routine.  Memories and pictures of family trips.  One of my favorite childhood memories center around these sorts of trips. Time to celebrate the holiday, practically a family reunion, lots to eat and do, and worship together.

Jesus and His family were no different. Time had come to celebrate the Passover and a family trip was planned to head to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday.  This wasn’t just a trip with Joseph, Mary, and Jesus though.  A caravan from Nazareth, cousins, aunts and uncles, animals, all along for the about a 5 day trip covering approximately 65-70 miles. There could have been dozens of people travelling together, singing, playing, picnicking along the way. And so it really isn’t that strange that Jesus’ parents wander off without Him while He stayed in Jerusalem and don’t even notice.   

Frantic parents looking for a lost child. The panic they must have felt. You can the imagine the conversation between Mary and Joseph when the realize that Jesus isn’t with them.  You can practically imagine Mary’s motherly and stern’s wife voice, “Joseph, where’s Jesus? Why weren’t you watching him? You only had one thing do and now we can’t find our boy. Sorry honey, I thought he was with you.” 

And so they go back to Jerusalem to look for Him. After three days they finally found Him, in the temple, sitting among the teachers, the doctors of the law, listening to them and asking them questions. Our Gospel reading presents a striking epiphany to show us that the Youth, listening to the teachers of the faith and asking questions for three days, clearly realized who He was and willing assumed His duty as the Savior from sin.  It’s not that Jesus was asking all the right questions and seemed wise beyond His years. The people were amazed at His understanding and His answers. These Doctors of the Law, regardless of their scholarship and wisdom, can only marvel at the young Jesus. He is incomprehensible because He is God. 

The boy teaching the teachers in the temple is the one true Son. Christ reveals Himself through His teaching.  In a reversal of what we expect from a normal preteen adolescent, Jesus doesn’t seek autonomy.  His home is with His Father. Jesus knows Himself to be the Father’s Son.  And so when Mary and Joseph ask Him why He has treated them in this way, Jesus answers in a seemingly perplexed way, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house,” or maybe, “about My Father’s business?”  Where else would He be but in His Father’s house and going about His Father’s business?

Where do you go to look for Jesus?  Some try to find Him out in the wilderness, in nature, or even worse, within themselves. So many are looking for Jesus in all the wrong places.  To summarize something Martin Luther once said, “A God who is everywhere is as good as a God who is nowhere unless He is a God who is somewhere for me.” 

But you can only find Jesus in one place, and that is where He has promised to be found.  Where else would Jesus be?  The Psalmist says, “Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8). There is a reason we call our churches a house of the Lord.  Where else would Jesus be but going about the Father’s business in His house. It is here that Jesus teaches us according to His Word and He feeds us with His body and blood. The most learned to the most ignorant, the proud and the humble alike, He schools us in His ways, in His will. The Spirit of the holy and righteous Son of God calls, gathers, and enlightens people by the Word, and only by the Word of Christ. And it is only the Word of Christ that sanctifies a home, a building, a family, a life to be the place of His abode as He does the work of His Father. It is only where the Word is God is taught and the Sacraments are administered that God builds His house.  Where the Word is proclaimed and there are ears to hear, God builds His church out of sinners and dwells with them.

Even though Mary and Joseph didn’t understand what Jesus was saying, He still responded to them as an obedient child. Although He was a know it all goodie goodie as the omniscient and perfectly righteous Son of God, He didn’t treat them with disrespect or look down upon them. He obeyed the divine Law and was submissive to them, honoring them perfectly according to the Commandment.  As He did so, and as He grew up, He increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Until upon the cross, where we see Jesus being the perfectly submissive Son to the will of His Father, of doing the work His Father had laid out for Him to do. It was on the cross that Christ’s humanity and humility is shown most clearly, and it was upon the cross that His divinity and His glory is revealed. Always the human Christ’s deity is epiphanied. 

The mystery of this salvation lies in the perfect Son of God who comes down to earth that we might become sons of God through faith in Him, and that we too might increase in wisdom and stature in favor with God and man as we are conformed into the image of Christ.  This growth and increase doesn’t come by going our way or with wandering away from Jesus. Rather, it comes from sitting at the feet of the Lord in amazement and awe at His Word, as He teaches.

We need to remember that our Lord expects of all His disciples this same devotion to the Father’s work and His house. As He gave His life, so we are to dedicate our time and strength and abilities, and even our life, to the advancement of God’s causes. We are so prone to forget the real purpose of our existence, to consider the making of a living and the accumulation of wealth and stuff instead or merely a means to the end of serving the Lord and our neighbors.

We have some important things to discuss today after church in our Voters’ Assembly Meeting. We are going to consider some direction and leadership at our school. We are going to discuss the stewardship of our church property and building and the use of its space for the glory of God and to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. For as Christians, our guidance, and direction and goal and motivation all lie in Jesus. We prayed today in the Collect of the Day for an epiphany of knowledge and power. We need the knowledge that we may perceive what we ought to do with regard to our spiritual interests, our responsibilities in everyday life, and the life of this congregation. But we also need power in order to do this, willingly, thoroughly, correctly, and faithfully. The source of this power is grace. For God is not only our teacher in regard to His will done among us, but also our helper as He works through us to accomplish His will.

Stay close to Jesus. Don’t go wandering off from Him, and seek Him where He wishes to be found: in His Father’s house going about His Father’s business, the business of your salvation and eternal life.

Christmas 2 2020 - Matthew 2

Christmas 2 2020

Matthew 2

January 5, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Christmas Day 2019

Christmas Day 2019

Behold the Child: All the World with His Free Grace Supplying

John 1:1–14

December 25, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Christmas Eve 2019

Christmas Eve 2019

Luke 2

December 24, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Tonight, we heard from several Scripture passages concerning the promise and prophecy of Christ. Promised to mankind from the Garden of Eden. He would crush the head of the Satan. He would be of the lineage of Abraham and through Him all people of the world would be blessed. To us a child is born, to us a Son is given.  He would sit upon the throne of David. He would be born of a virgin. He would He would be born in Bethlehem. While the shepherds certainly had heard of the promised Messiah, they were doing their normal daily work while He was born.  It took the heavenly choir of angels to tell them of the good news of great joy, that on that very night, the promised Christ child was born. Since so much was at stake that the shepherds not fail to recognize the person of the Savior, the angels gave them a sign by which they might recognize Him: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Rather than the pomp and glory that many expected in the Christ, they hear about diapers and a makeshift crib. Without a doubt, this rang wonderfully in their ears, for they went with haste to see thing that had happened. 

And just like long ago, Emmanuel – God with us – does not come in all the pomp and glory that so many expect.  To our eyes, the means through which Christ comes and meets the world is insignificant. Just as on that occasion, the worthy little child was met by the shepherds, so He still has a crib and swaddling cloths in which one should seek Him. The manger is the Christian Church, which feeds us God’s Word; in that very same Word is Christ; in that very same Word alone is salvation. His swaddling clothes are the Holy Scriptures, in which He wraps Himself, a sign so that we might see Him, for all the Scriptures testify about and point to Him. What is more modest than the water of Baptism and the bread and wine in the Holy Supper? At the same time, through such common signs, God brings forth the greatest of all gifts. So we look with eyes of faith to the promises of God, that He comes lowly and born of a virgin; that we are born from above through washing of Baptism, a rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit; that along with the bread and wine of the Supper is the true body and true blood of Christ Himself on which we nurse.

What this means is from the foundation of the world, God’s plan was not to rescue us up out of the sinful world, but rather that God would finally bring heaven and earth together in a great act of new creation, completing the original purpose by becoming a part of His creation.  This He does that so that He could truly be Emmanuel, God with us.  This He does so that His appearing is truly good news of great joy as heaven breaks out into earth. This He does so that He might take upon Himself the brokenness of the world upon the cross, and when stomping on the head of the ancient serpent, Satan, die in order to save, in order to give you eternal life. 

In this Christ Child and upon this holy night, then, Christ gives His life to us, received by faith in Him and faith alone. And like the shepherds, we wait for the consummation, for the fulfillment, of God’s promises as we go about our daily lives. 

Anticipation marked the season of Advent with the foci of hope, faith, joy, and peace. What was anticipated is now fulfilled in the incarnation. Likewise, as Advent bears a longing not only for Christ’s first coming but also for His coming again on the Last Day, so Christmas continues that longing. The hope and promise delivered by the prophets is realized in Bethlehem, yet some of what they prophesied awaits its fulfillment. The life and ministry of Christ will bring some of that fulfillment as Christ brings the grace of God into the lives of His people and especially as He suffers and dies for their salvation. The final consummation of the hope and promise of the prophets will arrive at Christ’s final advent. When He returns, all will be fulfilled. Thus, the Nativity of Our Lord keeps us focused not only upon God humbling Himself 2000 years ago to become man, but also upon the impending return of Christ.

His return promises the exaltation of His people. The great Christian hope is not for us for us to “go to heaven,” but that the life of heaven to arrive on earth. On Christmas, this has taken place. And yet we still wait for the complete fulfillment. The book of Revelation ends, not with souls going up to heaven, but with the New Jerusalem coming down to earth, so that “the dwelling of God is with humans.” The whole creation, declares St. Paul, will be set free from its slavery to corruption.  Our mortal bodies will put on immortality; the perishable will put on the imperishable; death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54). That we should be so exalted at Christ’s return, He enters the state of humiliation in His first advent. He humbles Himself to be born of a virgin that He might further humble Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

By His death, God will put the whole world right. He already puts people right, by the Gospel, with the good news that for Christ’s sake, God is pleased with men and shares His goodwill because of His Son.  So repent of your sins. Repent of your lack of attention and waiting well for Christ. Repent of wishing to be the Lord over your own life. And rejoice. There is good news for you tonight. No matter how your Christmas is going, no matter where the Lord has led you in life, Christ is born for you. Christ died for you. Christ lives for you. And Christ is coming again. So as with gladness men of old on this silent and holy Christmas night as all Christians sing, we hear angels from the realm of glory tell of this great and mighty wonder in the little town of Bethlehem, that we would come and adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Advent 4 2019 - Psalm 19:1, 4–6; Isaiah 45:8a

Advent 4 2019

Psalm 19:1, 4–6; antiphon: Isaiah 45:8a

December 22, 2019

Sunday School Christmas Program

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Advent Midweek 3 2019

Advent Midweek 3 2019

Isaiah 66:1–2; Psalm 113; James 4:6–10; Luke 1:46–55

Behold the Child: For You, to Bear Your Flesh In Weakness

December 18, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

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