The text for the Sunday after Epiphany is almost always the Baptism of Jesus. This episode in the bible has always caused me some wonder. It doesn’t immediately make sense for me. And there are multiple ways that I credit things in the Bible as making sense. There is always just historical sense. I have no problem that Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan. But the bare historical is always the least. What is the theological import, and why was it done this way? You might call these things poetical sense. Things in the bible make poetical sense. Or at least to me they usually do. It had to be that way because that is the only way the story makes sense. That is the only way it rhymes and keeps meter. But the Baptism of Jesus doesn’t immediately strike me that way. And being a pastor, especially a Lutheran pastor, where Baptism is such an important thing, understanding this episode felt necessary. This sermon is my attempt to wrestle with why this baptism is important.
It is the first Sunday of Advent. I typically use the traditional text for the Gospel lesson of the day, the Triumphal Entry or Palm Sunday. All the best Advent hymns for the day are keyed to that text. The story being told is the welcoming of the King. But I chose the Old Testament text to preach from today. This text is from the “third Isaiah” which I simple think of as the portion the prophet addresses to the those who have returned from exile yet find the experience not what was hoped for.
Isaiah’s plea feels like the plea of all those who believe they have the answers but are ignored. “Would that you would rend the heavens and come down.” It is not the lament of unbelief, nor is it the prayer of those persecuted. It is the cry of the dismissed. It is the ask of those more zealous for the Lord than maybe the Lord himself. Think Joshua running to Moses about Eldad and Medad. Or James and John seeking fire from heaven on a volunteer disciple. The plea is not in itself sinful, but we should examine our motivations. Do we desire God’s presence that we might be proved right over our enemies? Or do we desire it for the sake of His promises? This sermon meditates on faith, the promises of God and our desire to seem them in power.
Our final midweek for 2022 Advent. The passage from Micah recalls two big OT themes that will be brought to fulfillment or fruition at the advent of the messiah. The First is God’s choosing the least. The second the return or the ingathering of those who have been let go. This homily attempts to place those before us so that we might have faith in the claims of the eternal peace also brought by the messiah.
This sermon first examines what a blessing is. Elizabeth blesses Mary, and she blesses all those who believe the words of the LORD. A blessing is far more than fortune or well-wishes. A blessing is a form of promise. And it is that promise that is part of a cycle of the Christian life. Promise gives way to fulfillment which brings about praise. Promise, fulfillment and praise is something like vocal round in the Christian life. It starts with one, and the praise of one might become the promise of the next who hears. The great crescendo of that is the promise of the resurrection. This sermon attempts to place us in those blessings and that praise.
It’s the first Sunday in Advent. The Gospel text is traditionally Palm Sunday – the triumphal entry, which is Jesus the King coming to Jerusalem. This sermon is based off of the Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah. Jeremiah is traditionally the prophet of doom and lamentation. But here he tells of fulfillment. God fulfills his promises. He fulfilled them to the heirs of Jacob. There was a greater fulfillment for Israel, a fulfillment we receive by faith. But behold, the days are coming when they will be fulfilled again. This sermon retells the covenants God has promised to his people.
This sermon owes a bunch to Luther’s Postil sermon on this text for this 1st Sunday after Christmas. That published sermon of Luther’s is one of those great overstuffed things. There are about 6 different sermons attempting to break out. In some ways I imagine the great man might have been under some of the similar pressures. He’d probably preached three times in the week already and had a few other things due. And then the next Sunday is there. What do you say? There is always a lot in God’s word, the real work of preaching is picking and expressing one specific thing. But sometimes you just don’t have the bandwidth for that work. So you offer up a smorgasbord.
Solid potato dish – The faith of Simeon & Anna/Joseph & Mary.
Vegetables – The humility of Christ in this group
Fish – Typology, Anna as Old Testament Saints/Temple; Mary as New/Church
Desert (don’t take too much) – Some numbers, 7 & 84
The text is the third parable in a row that Jesus has told to the Chief Priests and the Elders in the temple. By this time the meaning at the time of telling is obvious, but the question is what does it mean on the other side of the parabola’s line of symmetry.
This sermon, with the help of Augustine and Gregory the Great, stakes out what it means for the church. In particular it looks at three things: 1) Where are we confronted with Jesus today?, 2) What do we take the wedding garment as? and 3) Do these things themselves point to something greater? Along the way we tackle a few other modern questions that cling to this parable.
The modern world is one full of distractions. I’m the geek that as a kid you could find reading an encyclopedia. My schoolmates were sure that “Encyclopedia Brown” was biographical. But today I find myself reading a few pages and flitting off to something else. And the Kindle doesn’t help with that. That approach to spirituality and religion goes no place good. Oh you can fool yourself into thinking that you are getting a broader view or are just sharing in the wisdom. The problem is that everything else out there is a shadow compared to the reality of Jesus Christ. That is the Father’s Epiphany to us. Things we saw glimpses of elsewhere we see the fullness of in Jesus. And it takes time to incorporate an Epiphany – sometimes an entire life. Not the least because it usually demands that we change something in ourselves. To accommodate what we have become comfortable with to what Jesus intends. That is ultimately the question of discipleship. Do you want to stick around, go deep, to see the greater things of Jesus? Or is the world’s buffet too tempting?