Sermon 2/07/2021 "Healer of our every ill" By: Pastor Chris Boyd
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
“Healer of our every ill”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
By now many of you may have come to realize that this world we live in is full of pain, it is not an easy life. We walk about and witness or experience loss, fear, distress, betrayal, lies, despair. We walk around and witness or have experienced war, split families, destruction, loss of freedoms, unjust punishment. We walk around and witness or have experienced injury, loss of limb, sickness, memory loss, failing body parts, aches, and eventually death. In such a world, hope may seem fleeting, and others may warn you not to give in to hope because all that will do is lead to a much harsher fall into depression. Many have given up. Many have chosen to join the pain and contribute to it. Others try to find meaning in this world and are lead to false idols and false prophets.
Just the process of aging should be a clear indicator that life is not fair, and full of pain. As wisdom increase, the body starts to deteriorate and fall apart on you. Things stop working, strength fails, and the dust from which you came becomes visible as you start the process of returning to dust. With this age comes aches and pains, lots of medication, the increased need for medical experts, and a myriad of other things.
And if aging hasn’t opened your eyes to fact that this life is full of misery, maybe injury and sickness will. The permanent loss of a limb hits people really hard; falling ill to life threatening diseases opens to us the reality of true bodily pain; and let us not forget the mental conditions that makes life so much a struggle.
The world we live in is indeed filled with misery and pain. And in today’s readings, we hear from Job is no stranger to pain. He lost his family, his friends turned on him, he lost everything, and his body became the very visage of pain. The pain drove him mad and led him to proclaiming how he wished he was never born. He cried in turmoil and angrily shouted at God, “Why?” Job is no stranger to pain, and though what we face may be nothing compared to the pain Job felt, we know pain too.
Each and every one of us has witnessed some form of pain. Each and every one of us has asked, “why?” Each and every one of us has thought that something in this life, which happened to us, was not fair. And as we grow up, we come to acknowledge that Life is indeed not fair, it doesn’t give you a fair hand, it doesn’t go the way you planned, and no matter what there will always be struggles.
We all suffer our own ills, whether that is in mind, body, spirit. We all have our struggles, and thorns in our sides that remind us of this fallen world we live in. Some more so than others. Yet, despite all this pain we live in, despite the fact we live in a fallen world, are we truly alone in our struggle? Is not there a God who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, who gathers outcasts, who lifts up the humble, who provides for us?
I am reminded of a hymn found in our blue hymnal, WOV, called, “Healer of our every ill.” Some of it goes as such… Now this hymn is not about mere physical healing, but of all ills. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, doesn’t just heal the sick, he also casts out demons. But He doesn’t just cast out demons; he also gives us peace and hope that surpasses fear and sorrow. But he doesn’t just give us peace and hope; he also fills our hearts with his spirit which is the full of comfort. But he doesn’t just do any of this; but he does many more things for us such as opening our eyes beyond this world of pain to see the amazing fullness of God and His promise of Salvation, shifting our eyes away from seeing just the darkness of this world but also the light of God. He provides us with his grace and mercy, fills us with love and understanding, and leads us with strength and power to overcome this miserable existence and instead, March in the light of God, loving Him and passing on His love to each other.
Jesus may be the Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings, but he is also greatest of all Healers. His unconditional love towards us all, his overwhelming compassion, and his amazing miracles surpass all understanding.
This world may be a fallen one full of sin, enslaved by Satan himself, and because of that we, who are under original sin, are already condemned. Thus when Jesus came into the world he came not to condemn it, we are already condemned. No, He came to save it, to heal it, and he did so by dying on that cross. He healed and casted out demons along the way, but that was not his mission. He came to give up his life, to take on all of our pains, our suffering, our sins. He came to conquer death, conquer Hell, and to conquer the dominion of sin. He came to once and for all heal us from our every ill, and give to us the promise of everlasting bliss, everlasting peace, everlasting joy, everlasting happiness, and everlasting life void of suffering. This was the promise he made through the cross; that through Him, heaven can be yours, and though you walk through the valley of death, you fear no evil because He is with you, His rod and His staff they comfort you.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you gave us your Son as a willing sacrifice in order to save us from our sins and the tyranny of Satan. Your sacrifice was made not to condemn us, but to free us and provide us with peace. Guard us we pray, and use us so that others too may be able to experience your salvation. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
"Have You Come To Destroy Us?" Sermon 1/31/2021
Sermon by Pastor Chris Boyd
Deuteronomy 18: 18-20
1 Corinthians 8: 1-13
Mark 1: 21-28
“Have You Come To Destroy Us?”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
There is a song that is well made musically, that is incredibly catchy, and entertaining. The catchy part goes as such, “War, huh, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” Catchy, yes, but as a Soldier I find it completely horrible. Why? Whereas war is terrible and I wish it not to ever happen and would desire all means of addressing conflict to be utilized before such, once all means are exhausted what are you left with? The problem is, we live in a world full of evil, and sometimes you must go to war to combat evil. If you don’t, after exhausting all peaceful means of conquering said evil, then in the end evil flourishes. War, what is it good for? Conquering evil, obviously. So yes, as a Soldier, I disagree with the message being conveyed.
Now, every now and then, we will sing a hymn that portrays us as Christian Soldiers, with Christ the Lord as our Captain leading the charge against evil, but the war we fight is a different war. Here is the thing, did Christ come to condemn the world? Did He come to destroy the world? No, He came to save the world, but save it from what? He came to save us from the evil tyranny of Satan that has enslaved us in his domain of Sin. Jesus came, fighting a holy battle, a higher form of war, against Satan in order to set us free from the clutches of the Devil, his demons, and
death itself. And we as faithful followers, are led by Him in this most holy war as Christian Soldiers who strikes the hearts of men with the Sword, which is the Word. And as we wield the Word as our weapon, we wear the armor of God which protects us from the fire arrows of the Devil. We do all this so that, our fellow brothers and sisters are saved, rescued, and turn away from Satan and towards God.
Now we may be Soldiers of Christ in His ongoing war against Satan, but Christ has already won the War, and when we strike the hearts of men by proclaiming the good news, it is not us that saves, but the Word, which is Christ, that saves each and every individual, who breaks our chains, who welcomes us into the family of God, protects us from the influence of Satan, continues to forgives us, and at the last, when we meet Him in heaven, says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Though the imagery I used is of wars and battle, what are we really doing? We preach, baptize, teach, worship, and spread the good news. That is what we as Christians do. With regards to the holy mission given to us by our divine commander and chief, we are not commanded to conduct a much different war, not one where we strike down unbelievers for their sins, but one where we save unbelievers from their sins. The war we fight is not against each other, but against the Devil that torments the hearts and minds and twists many into committing horrific things. The true enemy is Satan, Sin, and, in the end, Death.
So when Jesus came, did he come to destroy us? No. We are not the enemy. But he did come to destroy demons, and that
is what the title of my sermon alludes to. For in today’s Gospel, while Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit, a demon, cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.”
It’s interesting, how demons know who Christ is, but we humans are incapable, by ourselves, of acknowledging Him as the Holy One of God. Demons know who he is, and will proclaim it, they believe He is Christ, but their belief is dead faith for they neither love nor trust nor desire Christ. Instead, they fear Jesus because they know what His presence means to them. A holy Crusade against Satan’s domain is about to commence, and they will lose. “Have you come to destroy us demons? Have pity on us, Jesus. Allow us to continue to treat your people in the way we deem fit. Ignore our crimes against humanity. Turn your eyes away from the demonic hold over the hearts of your creation.” I can imagine the many demons trying to find a way to survive the coming war and maintain some control over humanity. But God had had enough, and came to die on the cross to fulfill Scripture and save us all from Satan’s grasp. Jesus fought the War, and on the cross He won the war.
Now whereas Christ did indeed won the war once and for all on the cross, from our perspective it appears as if we are still at war and struggle with sin. We are still born with original sin, and, though we are saved and sanctified through the blood of Christ, we are still sinners who continue to sin. We still sin, as Christians, against our fellow brothers and sisters, and cause strife within our church communities. We attack each other, bear false witness
against each other, envy each other, lust over others, act all puffed up, allow others to continue sinning against others in our presence, etc. Each and every one of us is still a sinner, and each and every one of us struggle with our own thorns. I for one am no exception, for I am an evil wretched rag who does not deserve heaven or an ounce of Christ’s Salvation. But regardless, Christ died on that Cross for me and provided for me the means of salvation.
And then there are false prophets, who, according to Deuteronomy, “presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” They will indeed die, like all other sinners, on account of their sins. I have seen and read of many of pastors and priests who blasphemed against Christ, preaching a false doctrine that goes against Scripture, all of whom committing heresy against the church. Some abused Scripture to proclaim that which clearly contradicts Scripture such as proclaiming that Jesus is not the Son of God, or that we should pray in the name of false Gods like Zeus or Allah or Brahma, or even teach that faith does not save you but only certain actions do. Such pastor’s may indeed be Christians, but what they do is just another example of sinning against fellow Christians.
Yes, from our perspective, the holy war seems on going, but I ask this. Did Christ die on that cross for all sins that was committed or did he die on the cross for all sins? When He died, did he die for all the sins that have already been committed, or did he die not only for that but also for all sin to include that which had yet to be committed? He died for the sins you committed before
you became a Christian, He died to free you from Original Sin, He died for the sins you did indeed commit after you entered the family of God all the way up to this point, and He died for the sins you will commit in the future. He died for all sin, therefore He won the war already on that cross.
The demons knew this was going to happen; they knew what it meant that the Holy One of God was on earth. This is why the unclean spirit asked if Jesus came to destroy them. For Jesus did not come to fight a war against the world or against sinners, but a war against sin itself to save the world and sinners. He came to save you. He came to protect you. And not just for each and every one of you, but also for all people. He did this all for your sake. And as Christian Soldiers, we are guided to assist Him in providing the much needed salvation for all others, so that through faith in Him, they too might be saved.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you gave us your Son as a willing sacrifice in order to save us from our sins and the tyranny of Satan. Your sacrifice was made not to condemn us, but to free us and protect us. Guard us we pray, and use us so that others too may be able to experience your salvation. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon: "Come & See" 1/17/21 Pastor Chris Boyd
1 Samuel 3:1-10
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
“Come & See”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
I was never good at remembering things audibly, you may speak to me and it’s not like it goes in one ear and out the other, it’s just that my mind was not wired to process audible information. I had trouble hearing growing up, this explains the problem, in that my mind had to wire itself so that it could better retain information through the not-so-compromised modes of information reception. I could see, touch, smell, taste, and I had muscle memory, it’s just hearing was difficult. So growing up, learning things through audible means was interesting, to say the least, but not impossible; for there was one teacher who was able to teach very effectively things of the Bible through audible means. My pastor used music to teach the books of the Bible, to teach about Martin Luther, and also to teach the Disciples. The song goes as such: “Peter, Andrew, James, and John, fishermen of Capernaum; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas the Doubter and Matthew too; James the least; Thaddeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas betrayed; Jesus called each disciple and you can be a disciple too.”
Remarkably enough, the musical teachings has kept with me. They are catchy and the addition of notes, ability to remember was not hindered but rather enhanced. Now let’s go over the names of the apostles again: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas. Notice a name missing? What about the guy mentioned in today’s Gospel?
In the Gospel, right after Jesus called the fishermen of Capernaum, He goes out and calls Philip, but before Philip goes he brings with him the man called Nathanael. Now what was Nathanael’s response to Philip’s enthusiastic invitation? Skepticism. A reasonable response, I must admit, but his skepticism is rooted in more so in a lack of faith in the city that Jesus came from. For this is what Philip said, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Oh well, I was following until you said the name Nazareth, now I’m not so sure this man of whom we have been waiting for is Jesus, because, well, Nazareth. Thus Nathanael says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” That is like me, a Bengals fan, saying can any good come out of Pittsburg… Well of course, the NALC’s Seminary is in Pittsburg, as long as we ignore those pesky Steelers… I’m kidding, the Browns is a good team too…
Now maybe Nathanael is just using Nazareth as a convenient excuse and he is just naturally skeptical that the one of whom Moses and the prophets forewarned has truly arrived. I mean, Nazareth is just a small itsy town that isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament. Not much is known about it. What is known is that there will always be those who are skeptical with regards to things of the Divine. The Jews all knew that a Messiah would come. Just not when, thus I would understand those who aren’t willing to fully get on board immediately. It’s one of the reasons why I believe Thomas gets too much of a bad rap. I understand where Thomas comes from, and, likewise, I understand where Nathanael is coming from.
But back to my original question, who is this Nathanael? In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts there is one person who was a disciple of Jesus and was regularly with Philip, and was a close friend of Philip, but his name was not Nathanael. His name was actually, Bartholomew. In fact the two are one and the same. Bartholomew is Nathanael, thus when I sing the names of the twelve disciples, when I sing Bartholomew, I am also singing Nathanael, “Peter, Andrew, James, and John, fishermen of Capernaum; Philip and Nathanael; Thomas the Doubter and Matthew too; James the least; Thaddeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas betrayed; Jesus called each disciple and you can be a disciple too.”
Nathanael isn’t just some guy who was called by Jesus and whom we don’t hear from again, Nathanael is one of the twelve disciples, and between Philip and Nathanael, the more interestingly vocal ones. For the two represents two pictures. The first is the disciple who believes and goes out trying to pull others to Christ; the latter is the reluctant one who is pulled towards Christ and eventually believes. Both proclaim their faith, but differently. The first quietly believes and is loud so others believe; the latter openly and loudly expresses their faith upon seeing the truth. Here is the thing, Philip believed, but before he followed he went to drag Nathanael with him. Philip didn’t say wait Jesus, I need to say good bye, He more like said wait Jesus, let me bring a friend. This is the stark difference between Philip and the fishermen of Capernaum. For the fishermen’s response to Jesus was to immediately abandon their family and follow Jesus. Jesus gave a command and they immediately followed. Philip on the other hand did not merely follow but he brought others with Him. Jesus told the Capernaum fishers that he would make them fishers of men; Philip acted like a fisher of men and all Jesus had to say was, “Follow me.” Philip followed, but he also brought with him other followers, to include Jesus’ next disciple, Bartholomew Nathanael.
It’s interesting, because Jesus didn’t come to Nathanael like he did the others. Philip invited Nathanael, and Nathanael came to Jesus, who accepted Nathanael as a disciple. Let me say that again. Jesus did not go to Nathanael. Philip invited Nathanael to Jesus.
Now Nathanael was a doubter, he didn’t believe, but he was a dear friend of Philip, so upon hearing Philip say, “Come and See,” he followed to give this Jesus of Nazareth a chance. And here is the thing, Nathanael may never of followed Jesus had not Philip invited him that fateful day. But because of his friendship, he was willing to try. And well Jesus is Jesus, all Nathanael had to do was interact and hear Jesus say, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” That was all Nathanael had to hear to proclaim that Jesus was the Son of God! Wait, that’s what caused him to believe? That was all. It did not take much for Nathanael to believe, which is what sparked Jesus to response. Wait, that was all? You believe because I said I saw you under a fig tree? Ok, umm, well, get ready to be surprised because greater things are about to happen.
Now Jesus cannot be surprised, but I can imagine the oh-so knowing smirk on his face as he witnessed the lack of evidence needed to completely flip this mere skeptic into a disciple.
But here is the thing, Nathanael wanted to believe, he just, by himself, couldn’t do it. He needed a push. He needed someone to invite him. He needed someone to come to him and say, “Come and See.” Philip was that man.
Are we not surrounded by Nathanaels? There are many out there who would be more than willing to come to church and hear the Good News, be baptized, and to join the community of believers, but wait for an invitation. They might grumble a bit, but secretly inside they want to come. They might be putting up a façade, a false face in order to appear tough, but in all reality, they are all giddy inside. I for one would love to go to events left and right, and go to people houses, but if I am not invited I will never go. On top of that, usually I would not ask to be invited, I would just not say anything and wait to be invited. In college that got me in trouble quite a bit because the Army boys would go out dancing and I would never go with them. Why? Because they never invited me, I didn’t ask to go, and it was an open invitation, but I wasn’t personally invited.
Same goes for the Nathanaels in our lives. Is not Resurrection Lutheran Church open to all? Do we not have an open invitation? So why won’t the Nathanaels in our lives come and see? Maybe instead of thinking that they may come of their own free will, maybe instead of thinking that they may already be a member at a different church and thus wouldn’t come to our church, maybe instead of assuming that they wouldn’t want to come and may became offended and we wouldn’t want to hear their grumbling, maybe instead of all this we just have the gall to be a Philip and ask these Nathanaels to come to Resurrection Lutheran Church. What’s the worst thing they could do? Say No? And even if they say no, do you end there or do you keep on asking them every now and then? Because who knows, maybe all they want is an invitation. So during this season of Epiphany, let us have the gall to ask our friends, our neighbors, or family, will you come to church with me? I’ll drive; I’ll pick you up; let us go together. It doesn’t hurt to try. Let’s do just that, try.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, through your servants many have come to see the glory of your Son Jesus Christ who lived, died, rose again, and lives for all eternity for our sake. Make us your willing instruments to reach out into the world so that others may come and see just as we have come and seen your righteousness, grace, mercy, and love. In your most Precious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Fishermen of Eire” Sermon 1/24/21 by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Jonah 3:1-5; 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
“Fishermen of Eire”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
When I began formulating how I was going to address this sermon, most especially what title I should give it, I was attempting to be unique and not bland. Now this is my first time in memory living near a large body of water, thus upon seeing this Gospel I thought, “You know what, Fishermen of Erie sounds unique.” Now, after thinking of this title, which too a good amount of time and effort, I got all giddy over my perceived accomplishment. I was excited over this hurdle I conquered, for “Fishermen of Erie”, from my perspective, was incredibly unique.
Of course it is not unique, I would wager every pastor who lives on or near the lake have thought of this title or something similar once in their life time. In fact, maybe a bland title would have been unique, because who uses bland titles for this Gospel these days? Why not call it, “Fishermen” or simply “Fisher of Men” or “The first Disciples”? This is one of those special cases where uniqueness and blandness has swapped places; when the unique become so common that they inevitably become bland and the bland become so sparse that they become the unique.
And to top it all off, after creating this title, and figuring that my sermon would tie the Gospel and Erie together, I present my sermon title to our lovely secretary Linda, almost like a child that caught a frog, or a pet that is presenting for you it’s prize kill. I was so excited, and that’s when she told me that John already gave a similar sermon fairly recently. And it dawned on me, what I thought was unique, up here was utterly common. Now is that going to stop me? No, because here is the thing, whereas I feel like a sad balloon that has lost half its air and is now rolling on the floor, this connection in of itself should be used frequently. Why? Because it is a means of tying our daily lives and things we commonly understand, the mundane, to concepts of the divine. And if we frequently bring up these ties that binds us, then it becomes easier for us to understand and appreciate the fullness of God’s amazing grace and glory and mercy.
When Jesus came to Peter and Andrew, Fishermen, did he call them to be Sowers of Faith? No, they were not gardeners. That would be like me, who just came from farmland, preaching about tractors to all of you. No, Jesus came to these fishermen and used a very interesting play on words, you who are fishermen, “follow me and I would make you become fishers of men.” Fishermen, Fishers of Men, get it? Jesus loved his puns and his play on words, and this is no different. In fact, I would believe, had Jesus had a following at that time, that many would have groaned at his pun. Most would have been fascinated by his wisdom and the connection he made, but I would still believe that there would have been some who would have groaned, fishermen, fisher of men, [groan].
But here is the thing, should we expect Jesus to be the only one who calls disciples to come and follow Him? Should we just sit idly by and wait for the Holy Spirit to enter into our neighbors and then act all surprised when they suddenly show up to our places of worship? Do we go about our peaceable lives, not trying to shake the boat, so as not to offend our non-Christian or supposedly-Christian neighbors? Is it better to keep a friend and wait for the Holy Spirit to enter into their live on account of nothing we do, rather than the potential to lose a friend but gain a brother or sister in with and through Christ?
I ask you this, what is the most loving thing you can do for your neighbor. Christ did tell us that the second greatest commandment is to love they neighbor, so what is the greatest way you can express such love? Why, preaching the Gospel. That is the highest form of love. For we know that through Christ, who died on the cross for our sake, was buried, took on our sins, went to Hell so we wouldn’t go to Hell, but rose most gloriously on the third day and will be with use now and forever – we know that we are indeed saved and will be in Heaven and will live eternally and will experience this joy alongside all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We know this to be true, as oppose to the horror of experiencing eternal damnation and pain and terror in the fire pits of Hell. Should we not, out of the kindness of our hearts, proclaim the Good News and serve as a testimony of what Christ has did for us for those who may not know Him yet so that they too, through the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Gospel we speak, may obtain faith in Christ and experience this joy and realize the truth which is revealed to us in Christ, that is that the Love of God which surpasses all understanding?
There is a reason why the first thing Jesus tells Peter, Simon bar-Zebedee, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men,” and one of the last things he tells Peter being the Great Commission, to preach, baptize, and teach in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is what it means to be a fisher of men, it is to be one who has been given the human responsibility, as disciples of Christ, of going out into the world so that others may have faith in Him. We are to go out into the open seas, which sometimes is calm and other times raging a fierce storm. We are to go out and brave whatever comes our way, cast our nets and our lines, with the Word being the bait and the hook, and wait.
Here is the thing; no amount of reason will convince anyone of believing. No crafty arguments, no models, no logical charts or rational processes, no nothing crafted and molded by human intellect will ever lead a non-believer towards faith in God. Now all these are important to teach to Christians not as tools to convince non-believers but as armor and a shield to protect your faith from the counterarguments of the world. Yet no amount, of reason will convince anyone of believing; No, not anything, but the Holy Spirit. For it is impossible for anyone to believe in Jesus Christ, thus it takes a miracle for such a realization to happen, and that miracle does indeed happen when the Holy Spirit enters into you. But how will the Holy Spirit enter into you if no one proclaims the Good News to you or baptizes you? This is how you convince anyone of believing, by proclaiming that Christ died for them. This is our human responsibility, this is what it means to be a fisher of men.
Now we are of Erie, not Capernaum, like the first of the disciples, but of all the disciples, the easiest to understand may just be Peter and Andrew due to our close proximity to the lake and the high likelihood that we either fish or are familiar to fishing. This includes gentle fishing, ice fishing, and the more extreme fishing during stormy winds. Fishing can be relaxing, sometimes it is outright boring; other times it is refreshing, other times, depending on how crazy you are, it is bizarrely cold; sometimes it is gentle, and other times you are traversing through rain and waves that would flip much smaller vessels; sometimes the catch is small, and other times you may need another fisher to help you reel in your big catch. Fishing comes with it its own fair share of variations. But there are several things that tie them all together. First, you go to a location where there are things to catch. Next you use the proper equipment necessary for catching. Then you wait. And last, you get your catch.
As fisher of men, we understand, how could you reach out to the people if you do not go out to where the people are? You don’t just wait for them to go to you, but you too must go out to them. And when you fish for men, you must always fish with the Word of God on your tongue. This is your proper equipment, for the Word whether through Scripture, vocal, or baptism is the bait and hook and net that ultimately catches the men you are fishing for. It is not acts of humanity or crafty arguments, though you may use them, but the Word which in the end makes believers. If I may, I have heard of so many supposed “mission trips” organized by other church bodies and I would ask them, “What did you do?” They would say things such as, “We dug a well.” “Uh-hung, and pray tell me, did you preach the Word?” “Well, no.” If you don’t
preach the Word, you did not conduct a mission trip. That is the only requirement. I’m reminded of those funny jokes which say, “you only had one job!”
And the last thing, as fisher of men, before we make our catch, is to wait. We may preach all we like, but in the end, it is up to them to receive. Now they cannot receive that which is not given to them, therefore we must preach, but just because we preach to them does not mean they will definitively become a Christian. Therefore we much have patience. Now this does not mean we stop preaching, and then wait, that is like casting or lines and after a couple seconds reeling in our hooks, placing our rods on the floor of our boats, waiting for several minutes, and wondering why we aren’t catching anything. The hook and the bait is the Word, therefore you, a fisher of men, needs to keep on preaching the Word so that eventually someone gets caught up by the Word. And once they do, it’s time to reel in the catch. And as the catch is being reeled in there will be much cheering and excitement.
That is what it means to be Fishermen of Erie.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, through your disciples many have come to see the glory of your Son Jesus Christ who lived, died, rose again, and lives for all eternity for our sake. Make us your willing fishermen so that through us many may be caught up by the Word. In your most Precious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon "Baptismal Epiphany" 1/10/2021 Pastor Chris Boyd
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Today marks the first Sunday of a season that is curiously named, Epiphany. Now why is this season we now celebrate, which follows the season of the Lord’s coming, called Epiphany of all things? Well what does Epiphany mean? I would describe an epiphany as an Aha moment or a moment of realization when the fullness of all that has or will happen has hit home. An example would be say during pregnancy. You and your spouse are about to be parents and you are prepping for the coming child. You know that you will be a parent, and you are mentally preparing yourself, but as soon as you hold your first child in your arms it is like everything changes. A fullness in this realization hits you like a wrecking ball; you are a Father; you are a Mother. Many of fathers have broken down in tears upon finally laying eyes on their first child, and the emotions that you vaguely knew were inside wells up and gushes out. You just had an epiphany.
The season of Epiphany is all about people, touched by the Holy Spirit, coming to realize that God did come down to Earth in the form of a virgin born baby, who grew up like all humans, died on the cross, went to Hell on our behalf, and then rose from the
grave sitting at the Father’s right hand side, sanctifying all who believe in Him. The season of Epiphany is all about celebrating
how the light of the world has opened our eyes to the Truth, how the Word has opened our ears to all that God has done for us, and how the Holy Spirit has opened our hearts towards the acceptance of Christ in our lives. This is what Epiphany is all about.
I am reminded of Peter’s epiphany, Matthew 16, after Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” What did Peter say? “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus’ response was, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” What happened to Peter was a miracle, for there is absolutely no way Peter could have had this epiphany and truly recognize Jesus as Christ had not the Father revealed this to him. The Miracle of Peter’s epiphany, was not of flesh, but because of the Holy Spirit, send by the Father, opened his eyes and ears and heart to the Truth.
I am also reminded of the Wise Men of whom this season also recognizes. We know not how they came to the realization, but somehow they realized that the King of the Jews was to be born, so they journeyed so that they may lay eyes upon this Christ Child. They had an epiphany, and I know with sheer certainty that this epiphany came from the Holy Spirit, for without the Holy Spirit there is no fathomable way that anyone, let alone these Wise Men, could have come to the realization about Christ. They had an epiphany and journeyed to see this Christ child and that is why we celebrate Epiphany after Christmas.
And here in today’s Gospel a baptismal epiphany of sorts is happening. For it says, “And when Jesus came up out of the water, immediately He saw the Heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”
John was the voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for the coming King, preaching to all as he baptized many, cleansing them of their sins, that whereas his baptism is just of mere water, the Baptism from our Lord is more than water but also of the Holy Spirit. He was preaching this and telling all that compared to this coming King, he, John, is a nobody. Some may have heard, some may have vaguely understood, but without the Holy Spirit, no one could have fully grasped the depth of John’s words. He was talking about Christ!
And know Christ comes and is baptized, and upon being baptized a fantastic event for all to see unfolds. The heavens opens up, the Spirit descends not as a dove, but like a dove, and a mighty voice booms out of heaven, “You are my beloved Son.” To those listening, to those who witnessed this event, God is practically telling them, “Listen, this is my Son.”
I sure hope that upon that day many present had an Aha moment. God is literally telling all present that this Jesus person is His son.
Here is the thing about our Epiphanies. Because we are all fallen human beings it is impossible for us to know and love and have faith in God. We are all born with Original Sin, with Original
Guilt, that is we are all born lacking the ability to know and love and fear God, therefore we are all born doomed to Hell. On top of that, this sin acts as a veil that covers our eyes and prevents us from seeing the Truth; from seeing and acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God.
Luther writes in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
Because we are sinners, it is impossible for us to believe in Christ, but through the Miracle of God’s intercession we receive through the Holy Spirit the means of faith which compels us to have an epiphany. Peter’s epiphany was because the Father revealed to him that Jesus was Christ. The Wise Men received epiphanies through Scripture and dreams, which could have come only from God itself. And here in Scripture God the Father professes for all to hear that Jesus is His Son. Whether or not it is God the Father or God the Holy Spirit, God is pointing us towards God the Son and is providing for us our own epiphanies, for God knows we cannot do it ourselves.
Now do you remember last week’s sermon? I focused so much, throughout the service on “Mountain Proclamations”, ending Christmas with a bang, proclaiming that Christ is born and that we should face the world and as the song encourages, “Go Tell it on the Mountain, that Jesus Christ is Born.” As Christians, Jesus gave us one final command, to spread the good news, then
baptize, then teach. What naturally follows if we obey Christ’s commandment, proclaiming the Good News? People receive the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit may come to have faith in God, people may have epiphanies. For Paul said in Romans 10, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
The Season of Epiphany is a season of Aha Moments, when others finally see Christ and confess Him as their Savior, just like how we who were once lost received the Word and through the Word an Epiphany, confessing that Christ has indeed saved us. Yet how can others have epiphanies if they do not receive the Word? And how could they receive the Word if we do not preach and baptize? Therefore Epiphany is not only a season of Aha moments, but also a season of preaching and baptizing so that others may have these Epiphanies.
You receive the Holy Spirit when you hear the Word, but you also receive the Holy Spirit when you are Baptized, for baptism is not an act of Man, but an act of God when He places His seal upon you, gives you faith, and adopts you as heirs to the Kingdom. We don’t baptize because you have faith; that is called Confirmation. We baptize so that you may have faith. Therefore, I ask as we walk together in the light of God, thanking Him for providing us the Spirit which opened our eyes and receiving the Epiphany that Christ died so that we may be saved and He is Alive so that we may all be in union with, in, and under Him - I ask that we profess our faith to others, spread the Good News, encourage Baptisms, not waiting for someone to believe but to be
baptized so that they may believe, and to encourage the baptizing of infants, all for the sake that they too may receive an Epiphany through God and be saved through faith.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are the light of the World who shines in the darkness and reveals to us the Truth of the world, for without your revelations we who are sinners would be lost in the darkness. We thank you for being that light which not only came into the world to die for our sins but also for unveiling our eyes so that we may truly see our Savior and Lord. We ask that you help guide us as we go out to confess your salvation so that others may receive your Spirit and so too receive an epiphany. In your name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.