The Lord Sends Us To Speak (Epiphany 4)

Holy Spirit

The Lord Sends Us To Speak

It’s your turn to speak. When I was a child we had “show and tell” in school. Just like you would expect, we would take something that was very important to us and precious to school. Then, one by one, each of us would show what we liked. Then we would tell our classmates what we liked. And the teacher would says those words, “It’s your turn to speak.’” And when the teacher said those words, there was nothing holding us back. But then what happened? We got a little older and, sadly, we realized that not everyone likes the same toys we like. And they aren’t afraid to let us know. For us as Christians, our Lord has invited us to show and tell this great gift, this great treasure of God’s word with those in our lives. But we soon learn the powerful lesson that that invitation is easier said than done. There is nothing new under the sun. In God’s word this morning we see that it was the same in Jeremiah’s time. In Jeremiah 1, we read: 4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”” (Jeremiah 1:4–5 NIV11-GKE)

In these words the Lord approaches Jeremiah and gives him an amazing invitation. He invites him to speak God’s word. But even more than that, he invites him to speak God’s word as a full-time work and calling as a prophet. But, instead of the pure joy we might expect, we find a different reaction in Jeremiah: ““Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”” (Jeremiah 1:6 NIV11-GKE)

Jeremiah responds to this joyous invitation with an objection. He says that he is too young.1(Jeremiah 1:6 BHS-T)}} It’s easy to look at Jeremiah and say, “what’s wrong with you? Don’t you see the great calling the Lord is offering you?” But my friends in Christ, there’s a little more that you need to learn. Jeremiah would be sent to share God’s word with God’s people. The problem was that some of God’s people hated God’s word and the messengers who shared God’s word. Later on in this book Jeremiah is thrown into a muddy cistern with slimy walls so that they get rid of him and put him to death.2(Jeremiah 38:6 BHS-T)}} The sort of opposition we face today is not the same. But yet we still throw up objections for not speaking God’s word, don’t we? Who will listen to me? I am too young. Who will listen to me? I am too old. Who will listen to me? I don’t know enough of God’s word. Or, if you’re in my shoes: Who will listen to me? I know too much. How many times have I had to answer the question, “why do bad things happen to good people? Will my answer come across as something more than memorized, treating the person as a person? And, if given more time, we could come up with even more objections, couldn’t we? But what does the Lord do with these excuses? We read: “But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Jeremiah 1:7 NIV11-GKE)

Notice how there were no excuses for Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a teenager when he was sent to be a prophet. Yet the Lord still sent him. And today the Lord has sent us too, as a congregation, and also individually, as Christians to speak God’s word. Your situation is a little different than Jeremiah’s. He was sent officially as a prophet of God. Your situation is more personal and private. You and Jeremiah each have different calls. But both you and Jeremiah have the same invitation to speak and share God’s word. So the Lord speaks law to Jeremiah, letting him know that his excuses don’t hold any weight. And he does the same with us. But then where does the Lord go? We read: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8 NIV11-GKE)

The Lord sends Jeremiah out to speak with real promises. And what are these real promises? He gives Jeremiah a real promise of real protection. Now, step back and think about this a moment. Our promises of protection are always conditional and temporary. For there are elements of this world that are out of our control. But this is not the case with our Lord. He can protect us from harm. And whatever harm he does allow to come to us, he allows to come into our lives for our good. So the Lord gives him a real promise of real protection. But the Lord has even more promises to give: “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9 NIV11-GKE)

After a real promise of real protection, the Lord gives Jeremiah a real promise of his real presence. The Lord reaches out and physically and actually touches Jeremiah’s mouth. It would have been enough to say, “you have my word.” But the Lord goes the extra step. He reaches out and actually touches Jeremiah’s mouth. Why does he do this? He does this because Jeremiah is flesh and blood with real doubts and real temptations to despair. And aren’t we the same? Aren’t we flesh and blood with real doubts and real temptations to despair? So the Lord reaches out to us with his own body and blood, along with that bread and wine, and touches us too. He forgives our sins. He covers up and atones for our excuses and objections. He covers up all our objections to speaking God’s word with all the perfect examples of Jesus going out and reaching out so that he could tirelessly speak the gospel. So the Lord sends us out to speak. He sends us out to speak with real promises: Real protection and Real presence. But he sends us out with one more gift. We read: “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”” (Jeremiah 1:10 NIV11-GKE)

How sad it is that we face the temptation to be not just afraid of people, but also of God’s word itself. The Lord sends us out to speak with power. There is power in God’s word. Our role is not to apologize for it or protect it. Our role is to speak it. C. H. Spurgeon, the famous revivalist preacher once said that you don’t need to treat the gospel like it’s a pet in a cage, as if you need to protect it. No, instead, the gospel is like a lion. It can defend itself just fine. You just let it out of the cage.3 And yet, what do we do? We apologize for the gospel and guard it. When our friend at work our child riding with us in the car asks us a theological question, what do we say. We say, “I think…” We say, “I feel that…” Instead, let us say what the bible says. Let us say, “God’s word says.’” The lion needs no defender. The Holy Spirit needs no nanny. Such power the Holy Spirit gives his word. God’s word alone can create life. God’s word alone can create faith. God’s word alone can deliver forgiveness. God’s word alone can strengthen our faith and give us freedom from our fears of other people and fear of God’s word itself.

So my friends in Christ, the Lord sends you out to speak. Do just that. But speak with the entire context and encouragement found here in these words. Speak God’s word with God’s promises of real protection and real presence. Speak God’s word with all the power contained in it. And after that, leave all the results in God’s lap. Amen.

1 ”כִּי־נַ֖עַר אָנֹֽכִי“

2 ”יְשַׁלְּח֥וּ אֶֽת־יִרְמְיָ֖הוּ בַּחֲבָלִ֑ים וּבַבּ֤וֹר“

3 Spurgeon said this at the British and Foreign Bible Society meeting, 5 May 1875.

That’s not what I ordered (Epiphany 3)


That’s not what I ordered

This is not what I ordered. Years ago, I went to a restaurant. And there was table next to mine. And at that table one by one, the waiter took each person’s order. Minutes passed by and the food came. And the waiter put in front of one of the women at that table a big steak. And as soon as she saw it, those were the words she spoke: “You need to take this back. That’s not what I ordered.” There is this frustrating offense each of us goes through when we order and ask for one thing, but get another. That’s what we have in front of us this morning. In Luke’s gospel, we read these words: 16 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As usual, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written: 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”” (Luke 4:16–21 CSB17)

Here, in these words, Jesus shares with the people of own town and his own people good news. About 800 years before this the prophet Isaiah was writing to the Jewish people. The Jewish people had rebelled against the Lord so powerfully and persistently that he allowed the Babylonians to come down, conquer them, and then lead them away as captive slaves. But the Lord had good news for them. First, their captivity under the Babylonians would one day come to an end. But, second, there was even better news. The captivity they had to death would be conquered. The spiritual darkness inside of them would be forgiven. And they would be brought into the light. Their slavery to sin would not exist anymore because they would be set free. That is what Jesus said to them. And it was a good message. But what he said right after that was even more good news. Jesus doesn’t just tell them that the Lord would free them. Jesus also tells them when. Right then, in their hearing, these words are fulfilled. There can be no greater or more joyous message than what Jesus shared with them. But what happened next was definitely not what Jesus ordered. We read: “They were all testifying against him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”” (Luke 4:22 CSB17)

Jesus shares this amazing message of forgiveness with them. And we would expect “amens” and invitations to preach some more to flow from their lips. Instead, they begin to testify against Jesus.1. Instead, they were shocked at his words of grace.2 These precious words of undeserved love towards them that Jesus was sharing with them—that’s what they were offended at. They were offended at Jesus’ words of gracious love towards them because in their own hearts they had concluded that they had no need for God’s grace or mercy. Jesus didn’t order this. Jesus did not ask for or plan for them to reject such amazing good news. But, in what follows, we can be sure that they did not order what Jesus spoke next: 23 Then he said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. What we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in your hometown also.’” 24 He also said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them except a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had leprosy, and yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”” (Luke 4:23–27 CSB17)

What Jesus says here in these words are some of the harshest words that Jesus ever spoke. But, my dear friends in Christ, he spoke them in love. And, as we begin to look at them, what amazes us is how Jesus lets us know what we would not have learned if we read these parts of the Old Testament by themselves. There were many widows in Elijah’s day in Israel. But the Lord did not send Elijah to perform a miracle for any of those widows. Instead, he sent Elijah to the Gentile widow. And there were many people with leprosy in Israel in Elisha’s day. But the Lord did not send Elisha there. Instead, he sent him to the enemy of the Israelites, to Naaman the Syrian. Why did the Lord do this? Why did he send Elijah and Elisha outside of Israel to perform miracles. The answer is this: in order to appreciate the good news, you first need to see that it is good news. And in our final words for this section, we ask the question: How did the fellow members of Jesus’ church receive his message? 28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. 30 But he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:28–30 CSB17)

They excommunicated Jesus. Then they tried to execute Jesus. Now, for us here this morning, what do we do with all of this? Here in these words your Savior invites you Embrace what Jesus orders for you so that this good message has meaning. Jesus came to his own congregation in his day preaching such amazing good news, asking, ordering, expecting that they would embrace this message with joy. Instead, he got the opposite. We too face the same temptation. When we hear these words of forgiveness there should be joy in our hearts, but instead we face this real temptation to say, “I didn’t order this.’” We have this real temptation towards apathy. Apathy is where you should feel something—either good or bad. But instead, you feel nothing. Or, instead of apathy, you feel antipathy. Antipathy is intense and immense hatred. What does this look like? It looks like this: A pastor prepares a solid sermon, exposing sin and expressing God’s love for them in Christ. And the person says, “yeah, that just didn’t speak to me.’” It’s looks like this: Making the melody of the hymn more important than the content of the hymn. It’s when Jesus becomes our mentor instead of our Messiah, our cheerleader instead of our life-bringer.

And so, out of love for us, just has he had love for those in his own congregation, he exposes our apathy and antipathy. And we say, “I didn’t order this.’” But what follows is even more amazing. After he has prepared our hearts, he takes us back to the good news. He sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts. And our new person inside of us says, “I didn’t order that gospel message.’” Just as the gentile widow and Naaman the Syrian could not have every said, “I ordered and asked for salvation,” we too can say the same. The widow told Elijah that he could eat with her one last meal before they all died. And then they had many months of mini-miracles with food that did not run out. Naaman was looking for a cure to the disease in his body—that’s what he ordered. But instead, he received a miracle for both his body and his soul. He found the true God, the Lord. And the Lord does the same for us. None of us asked Jesus to be our Savior. None of us were able to save ourselves. None of us ordered this. But what we did not order, Jesus gave us. Jesus gave us a new heart to appreciate this good news. Then he shows us that he is our Savior.

And so, my friends in Christ. None of us can say, “I ordered this.” But let us all praise God for it. Let us praise and thank him for this good news that he gives to us. And let us praise him that he prepares us for this good news. Amen.

1 “Ⲕⲁⲓⲡⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥⲉⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲩⲛⲁⲩⲧⲱ” (Luke 4:22 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲉⲑⲁⲩⲙⲁⲍⲟⲛⲉⲡⲓⲧⲟⲓⲥⲗⲟⲅⲟⲓⲥⲧⲏⲥⲭⲁⲣⲓⲧⲟⲥ” (Luke 4:22 GNT-ALEX)

Jesus Reveals His Glory (Epiphany 2)


Jesus Reveals His Glory

Ihate the wait. When I was a kid, right about this time of the year the Superbowl would be finished. And they would interview the players on the winning team, “So, now that you won the Superbowl, where are you going to go?” And what would they say? “I’m going to Disneyland.'” Even as a child I knew that was not the answer I would have given. I didn’t want to go to Disneyland because I hated the wait. So you got to go to Space Mountain. But my older brother and sister told me the story of how long the wait was on a hot and sticky day just to get to the front of the line. And still to this day, I have no desire to be out on Black Friday. I hate the wait. But, as we look at these words this morning, I see that I’m not alone. In John 2, we read: 1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”” (John 2:1–3 NIV11-GKE)

It was the third day. But it was the third day from what? A few short days before this Jesus was baptized. And there in the river Jordan the Holy Spirit rested on him and gave him power—true power. And all those who were there knew what this meant. There were hundreds of prophecies and promises spoken of in the Old Testament. And one day God would anoint someone to fulfill those prophecies and promises with such great power. And there, in the Jordan river those prophecies pointed to and were fulfilled in Jesus. And so Jesus was anointed as our Prophet, Priest, and King. They saw it. And then what happened? Nothing. Hour after hour, day after day, nothing happened. That’s the context we need to understand as we begin to walk through these words. I hated waiting in lines. But Mary and Jesus’ disciples—they hated waiting for the signs and wonders to begin like having to watch too many previews before the movie starts.

So, in these words, there’s a wedding. Jesus and his disciples are invited. But Mary shows up. And when the wine runs out Mary lets her son know that they are out of wine. It’s hard to know what to do with her comment. Is it a good comment? Is she letting Jesus know of a problem and leaving the result in his hands? After all, one of the dilemmas we can face is to pray to our Lord to fix a real problem in our lives. And then, just as soon as we’ve told Jesus to fix the problem, we then step into his domain, telling Jesus when and how, if we were God, we would fix the problem. So this could be a good example. She tells him the problem, leaving the solution in his hands. On the other hand, it could be a bad example. It could be like when the husband and wife are sitting together on the couch and she says to him, “The garbage is full.” Every husband knows that those words make it appear as if that’s a simple statement of fact. But, in reality, it’s a command. The statement “the garbage is full” really means, “take the trash out.”

We don’t know which direction to take with her comment. But what we do know is that she too was waiting to see her Son’s glory. But he responds to her in a very unique way. We read: ““Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”” (John 2:4 NIV11-GKE)

The wording here is a little stronger than one would conclude by reading our english version here.1 Jesus is asking her what she and he had in common. Most of the time when we run into this phrase in the bible it’s harsh and confrontational. Here it is simply Jesus setting the record straight. He is her son—and a humble son at that. But he is also the son of God. And now is when, as a grown up, he begins his public ministry. This is the moment when their relationship changes. But how does Mary respond to this? 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”” (John 2:5–8 NIV11-GKE)

Mary receives correction from her Son and her Savior. And what does she do? She lets the servants know that if the right time does come, they should be ready. So the right time does arrive. They fill up the big water basins with about 200 gallons of water. They take the water to the master of the banquet. And then the master of the banquet responds: 8 They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”” (John 2:8–10 NIV11-GKE)

When there’s an open bar, nobody brings out the bottom shelf liquor first. First, you bring out the name brand, top shelf alcohol. Then, when the people begin to leave and the people have already had too much to drink and aren’t as picky—then you bring out the bottom shelf liquor. The master of the banquet commends the groom for saving the best till last. But mary knows, and the servants know, and the disciples know, and we too know what the truth it. This was a miracle. The glory they had been waiting for they finally saw. In the closing words we read: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory;” (John 2:11 NIV11-GKE)

Here in Cana, at this wedding, Jesus reveals his glory. But that brings us to the huge question we need to ask this morning: why. Why does Jesus perform this miracle? How does this reveal his glory? Here John tells us that this is the first of Jesus’ miracles.2 But why is it the first? This miracle gave his disciples a framework and a context for them to understand all the signs, wonders, and miracles to follow. Jesus did this first to let them know that he would be performing his miracles to show not his wrath and judgment, but instead, his mercy. Our prayer of the day, at the beginning of the service speaks about that. We prayed these words: O God, you reveal your mighty power chiefly in showing mercy and kindness. If Jesus did not perform this miracle, what was the worst that could happen? The worst that might happen is that they would suffer shame and embarrassment. There’s no disease here to heal. There’s no demon to drive out. There’s no one here to raise from the dead. Jesus performs these miracles not so that we would say, “wow, look at his power.” No, instead, he performs these miracles so that would say, “wow, look at his mercy.” But that’s the sort of Savior we have. He not only rescued this married couple from their sin by suffering all the shame and embarrassment that the world deserved by dying on the cross. But he did so much more. He rescued them from shame and embarrassment too.

And my dear friends, hasn’t he done the same with you? How many sins have you done when you were five that those around you when you were ten? How many sins have you committed when you were ten that people still remember when you were twenty. True, there might be some. But your Savior not only forgives those sins by suffering your shame in your place. But for so many of them, he makes them go away. And what’s amazing to think of is not how many sins you remember from your past, but instead, how many, many more have you forgotten—and everyone else too.

That’s why Jesus reveals his glory. Jesus reveals his glory chiefly in acts of mercy. But from that flows a wonderful result. We read: “and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11 NIV11-GKE) When his disciples saw that this was the sort of Shepherd and Savior they had, they gladly and zealously said in their hearts, “I will follow a Savior like that.” And we too say the same. We too follow Jesus just as they did. For he shows his mercy not just by forgiving our sins. But he also shows his mercy by so often erasing even the memory of that sin. What an amazing Savior to follow.

And so, Jesus reveals his glory. He reveals his glory in acts of mercy. He reveals his glory so that we would believe in him. Amen.

1 “ⲕⲁⲓⲗⲉⲅⲉⲓⲁⲩⲧⲏⲟⲓ̅ⲥ̅ⲧⲓⲉⲙⲟⲓⲕⲁⲓⲥⲟⲓⲅⲩⲛⲁⲓ” (John 2:4 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲁⲣⲭⲏⲛ” (John 2:11 GNT-ALEX)

Remember Your Humility (Epiphany 1)

Baptism of Jesus

Remember Your Humility

It’s hard to be humble. As Christians, we know there are these traits we are supposed to have and these actions we are supposed to take. But it’s hard, isn’t it? In our words from Paul’s letter to Titus. Paul tells Titus: 1 Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” (Titus 3:1–2 CSB17)

Isn’t it fascinating that our situation as humans never changes. It’s hard to submit to the authorities. Our leaders in our nation sometimes make shortsighted laws that only seem to exist to get them elected two years down the road, not to make our nation better 2o years down the road. It’s hard to be humble. We try to get to church on time, but, especially at night, people wont’ let us turn left onto Minnewashta, or they cut us off. It’s hard to not be angry. But notice what Paul tells us here. He reminds us to be humble. And then, after Paul does this. He follows with two important reasons why we are to remember our humility: “For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.” (Titus 3:3 CSB17)

Paul starts out by reminding us to be humble. And he gives us a real reason to remember this by remembering what we were. It is so easy to say, “look at them—how wrong they are.” But Paul does not direct our focus outward. Instead, he focuses our focus inward. In the congregation that Titus served most of the People could remember a time when they were not Christians. For many of us here this morning, we cannot remember that because we were brought into God’s family at a very early age. But for those who can, this would have been piercing, paralyzing words. For life outside of Christ is a terrifying existence. But even for us who cannot remember our life before, we do know what it is like right now to be a Christian and at the same time have a sinful nature. And in that context we need to say the same as Paul, “We—also we used to be them.”1 And all throughout our lives we see reminders of this. Last week Priscilla’s school went on a school trip to go downhill skiing. And I got to be a chaperone. And at the bottom of the ski lift there was a boy who took a short cut. There was a line that was for the ski patrol. But the kid shuffled his way through that empty line to the front. A bunch of his friends told him he was in the wrong line. And he ignored them. When I saw all this I got really angry. Finally, when the boy realized he couldn’t ignore his friends, he looked up. And one of his friends say, “you cannot use that line.” And with such arrogance and pride, he said, “Looks like I just did.” And you would think that that statement would make me angry. But instead it filled me with sadness and fear. Why? I remembered times, when I was his age, that I cut in line. And when I did, those are the exact words that I said. And I felt so sorry for something I did 30+ years ago.

One of the challenges about being a Christian is that, the longer we are Christians, and the more we study God’s word, the more we see our sin. And the more it hurts. And so, one of the ways we are moved to remember our humility is to remember that we—even we sin. And in many ways, we have less of an excuse than unbelievers have because we have read God’s word and we should know better. And so, Paul reminds us of our humility by reminding us what we were before. But from there he goes in a different direction: 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 5 he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7 CSB17)

Paul tells us to remember what we were. But then Paul reminds us to remember what we are now in our baptisms. The kindness of our Savior and God appeared. And what follows then is a what, why, how pattern. What did Jesus do? He saved us from our sins. By having and using the humility we did not have as we came into this world he covers us our lack of humility. By dying on the cross he pay for our lack of humility. What did Jesus do about our sin? He saved us by paying for it. What follows then is the why question. Jesus saved us “in line with his mercy.” There have been countless times we should have been kind, but we were selfish, or showed self-control, and instead lived for our passions and pleasures. And so, God saved us not because he saw anything good in us. Instead, he saved us “in line with his mercy.” And finally there’s the how question. Jesus dies there on the cross. But that’s where his salvation stays unless it is delivered to us. So God reaches out with his word and delivers that forgiveness to us. And in these words what Paul specifically emphasizes is the washing of Baptism. In Baptism we are given renewal and rebirth. In baptism the forgiveness won there travels to here—in my heart, mind, and soul. In baptism I become an heir of eternal life. In baptism I am renewed, revitalized, and reborn to lead a godly life.

And so it is good and right for us to remember and speak about baptism as this great gift that delivers salvation to us. For that’s what these words say. But it is also good for us to remember the other promise here. In baptism we are reborn and revitalized to lead a godly life. The humility we didn’t have before, we now have in baptism. The result of this is that, alongside this old-self inside of us that lives for passions and pleasures, self-seeking and self-worshipping—alongside that old self is a new self born of this washing in baptism. And this new self is humble. All of this is a gift of baptism.

Paul reminds us to remember to be humble. This happens first of all when we remember what we were—and in our old sinful self, still are. But this also happens when we remember what we are. In our God and Savior Jesus Christ we are given a baptism of water and word. And in that baptism salvation isn’t just won. It is also given to us. And in that baptism we are given a new birth to lead a godly life.

So then, with all of this in mind, remember your humility. Those living in darkness do not have your light. Those living selfish lives need your humility. The ones that hate you need to see your humility. And even more, they need to see the reason for your humility, both your reminders of what you were and also what you are now in your baptisms. Remember your humility. In Christ and in those waters of baptism you have this humility. Now use it.

1 “ⲏⲙⲉⲛⲅⲁⲣⲡⲟⲧⲉ Ⲕⲁⲓⲏⲙⲉⲓⲥ·” (Titus 3:3 GNT-ALEX)

The Light Shines Out (Epiphany)


The Light Shines Out

We saw his star. What would cause and drive these learnéd men to travel hundreds of miles to find the toddler Jesus? There answer is simple: “We saw his star.” But what they say teaches us a very important fact. Our good and gracious Triune God is not afraid to surprise and shock us. He is not afraid to capture our hearts and challenge our minds. The wisemen saw the start and it drove them into God’s word. And then, out of pure joy, it drove them to act. In the words we look at this morning we see the same pattern. Through the apostle Paul, Jesus was capturing the imagination of his people and challenging their minds. In Acts 13, we read: 26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “ ‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’ 36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” (Acts 13:26, 35–37 NIV11-GKE)

In the words we are reading here in the book of Acts, Paul is a guest preacher in a congregation where there are Jewish people and Gentiles. And by God’s Holy Spirit he says something that should have captured their imagination and challenged their minds. He gives to them this dilemma: People thought that King David was the “Holy One.” But how can he be the Holy One if God’s word promised that the Holy One would live on and not see decay? They knew that David had both died and was buried. But yet, in front of them, for centuries was this shocking oddity—like a star in the sky that does not move. The Holy One would not see decay.

The Lord did this to capture their imagination and challenge their minds. But instead, it had the opposite effect. Some of the Jewish people ignored the words because they had no use for them. But there were godly, believing, faithful believers who failed simply because they ran out of energy. There are lots of words in the bible. And it takes real work to read them, ponder them, and process through them. And after a long work day or week, there was little energy left.

Is the same true for us? All throughout God’s word there are these parts of God’s word that capture our imagination and challenge our minds—like a bright light shining in the sky that doesn’t move. And, if we are honest, we have to confess, that, when it comes to reading and studying the bible, there have been times we had a lack of interest. But, more often than that, would it be better to say that what we face is a lack of energy? Years ago, I remember a guy who was became a leader in my church. He worked long hours during the day and he took an instruction class to join our church at night. And every time we met it was the same pattern: about a half an hour into the class, he’d begin to nod off. So, he’d get up and walk from one side of the room to the other to stay awake. As Jesus says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Mark 14:38 NIV11-GKE)

My friends in Christ, the solution to our weakness is not ignoring it. instead, it’s confessing it. It’s hearing words like Paul is just about to say to these people and cherishing them. Paul told them: 38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38–39 NIV11-GKE)

How many sins have we been set free from? Jesus is the Holy One who died and yet never saw decay. He rose from the dead. So what Paul says is true for you: every one of our sins is forgiven—even the ones we commit when we lack the energy to study God’s word to find the light that is there in it. We are forgiven. We are justified, declared, “not guilty.”

But with that forgiveness also comes energy and zeal. The wisemen didn’t travel all that way to Israel and Paul didn’t travel all that way to Psidian Antioch on their own. No, they are just as weak, frail, and drained of energy as we are. The Holy Spirit gave them strength to study God’s word and find light, true light there in those words. And he does the same for you. So, in your life, what will that growth in God’s word look like? Will it be getting up earlier in the morning and pouring yourself some coffee and reading the bible in the morning? Will it be getting an audio bible and putting it on your phone so that you can listen during your daily commute? And when you find those parts that capture your heart and challenge your mind, will you email me or meet me at a coffee shop so that together we can an answer to these challenges? Will you set aside the time to walk through our bible study in Mark? So set aside time to plan our your year. But my dear friends, do so remembering why you did so to begin with. We study God’s word not out of a motivation of crushing guilt. No, instead, we study God’s word because there we find parts that capture our imagination and challenge our minds.

And so, as we read in these words. The light shines out. It shines out so that we would study it. But there’s more in these words: 46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:46–48 NIV11-GKE)

The light shines out so that we would study it. But the light also shines out so that we would share it. Where is the time? Where is the energy? No doubt, that was a question Old Testament believers asked. And we too ask the same question. And if it was true when it came to studying God’s word, it was even more true when it came to sharing God’s word. As a congregation, God has called on us to reach out and stretch out with this gracious gospel of Jesus, the Light of the World. But it’s so easy to run out of steam and run out of energy. And the result then is that, instead of sharing the gospel, we sit on it. And when we ponder this fact it fills us with panic and sadness. But my friends listen to what the Lord says to us from our Old Testament reading: ““It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”” (Isaiah 49:6 NIV11-GKE)

We run out of energy and say, “ok, that’s enough” when it is not enough. But look what our Father says to Jesus. He tells Jesus that it’s not enough to shine out to the Jewish people. Instead, Jesus had to shine out to us, Gentiles. How amazing and precious it is for us that where we, with tired hands and hearts, say, “it is enough”, our Father said, “not enough.” And he sent Jesus into this world to take on our humanity. He sent Jesus to die for us. He sent Jesus to rise for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to create faith in us and preserve us. All this is the work that our Triune God did for us.

And where that leaves us this morning is with another truth that captures our hearts and challenges our minds. Jesus can do so much with so little. Think of what the Lord did with our own church. Someone else put in work, trying to establish a ministry in a prison down in Shakopee. And now I get to go down and share this light of Christ with them. Think of our Jesus Cares ministry. I and a few others in our church put in some work, and the Lord, purely out of his undeserved love towards us, blessed that work. And now, every month we have the privilege of sharing this gospel light with a group of people outside of our church. But, my dear friends there is more we can do. I’m quickly running out of time in my sermon and there’s so much more to say. But, in the days that follow, I’m asking you to remember two truths: First, remember your motivation. As a church we share the gospel out of thanks and appreciation that God chose us and forgave us. Second, pray for our church, that what we have so little energy to do, God will nevertheless accomplish through us. Amen.