Category Archives: Epiphany

The First Sign – Sermon for Epiphany 2C on John 2:1-11

January 16, 2022
Video

We are in the season after the Epiphany, when Jesus is revealed to the world as God’s Son. The themes that weave through this season include revelation, glory, baptism, and Christ as the Light of the World. There is a sense of celebration in this season, a sense of joy being released into the world as we recognize who Jesus is.

I don’t know about you, but these days I could use some joy. We wear ourselves out struggling with issues of greed and poverty, power and powerlessness, fear and anger, and an overwhelming sense of futility and weariness. People 2000 years ago had to deal with these same things. And yet, in the midst of it all, there was room for celebration. There was room for joy. And Jesus was right in the middle of it.

Remember you are baptized! Reflection on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

January 9, 2022
Video

Look! The wise men have arrived at the manger. It just so happens that this service is being recorded on the Day of Epiphany! (practice saying it) An epiphany is a moment when something is revealed to you. It’s an “Aha!” moment when you recognize something that didn’t make sense before. We celebrate the day of Epiphany on January 6th, as an “Aha!” moment when people realized Jesus was God’s own Son. Specifically, Jesus was revealed to people who weren’t Jews – Gentiles like us. But today, we are celebrating TWO things – not only Jesus giving the wise men their “Aha!” moment, but also Jesus being baptized, and revealed as God’s Son by the Holy Spirit.

Do you know your purpose in life? Do you have a clear idea of why God made you, and what you are supposed to do with this one precious life you’ve been given?

Jesus did. He understood that his primary purpose was to bring us humans into right relationship with God. That was the whole reason he came into the world – God With Us, Emmanuel – not to condemn the world (John 3:17), but to save it. To accomplish that, he had to become one of us.

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all,
“I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

The first thing Luke wants us to know is that John the Baptist isn’t Jesus. That may seem like a no-brainer to us, but at the time these events take place, people weren’t so sure. People think maybe he IS Messiah. But John compares what he is doing to what Messiah will do in terms of the elements. “I can get you wet,” he says, “But Messiah will do much more than that.”

John’s emphasis is on action – what Messiah will do. John may bathe you with water to symbolize the washing away of your sins, but the One who is coming will breathe Holy Spirit into you and burn away all the chaff.

Jesus is not only immersed in water,  he is immersed in the light of God’s presence, and the breath of Holy Spirit. His baptism is not for the forgiveness of sins, like all those other people coming to be baptized. Jesus is baptized into his mission, the mission the Father has given him – to redeem the world, to save us from our sins.

And God is pleased with him. “This is my son, whom I love, and with whom I am well pleased.”

When we allow ourselves to become fully immersed in God’s mission to make right what is wrong, to heal what is hurt, to save what is headed for destruction, we can know God’s pleasure just as surely as Jesus did there on the banks of the Jordan river.

When we commit ourselves completely to following Jesus – not only in baptism, but in every aspect of living, we can experience the full depth of God’s love for us.

See what love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God – and that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

Let’s pray.

Almighty and loving Father, we want to dive in, but we aren’t sure how deep the water is. We want to submerge ourselves in your life-giving floods, but we are afraid of drowning, Lord. Help us to know the peace that comes with trusting in you. Give us the courage to dive into your promises and help us submit our wills to your will. Make us your own. Fill us with the life-giving breath of your Holy Spirit. Let your fire burn in our hearts, we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

I invite you, if you have some water at home with you – a bowl, a pitcher or a glass of water – to dip your fingers in it and remember your own baptism. And be thankful!

Now, on this Baptism of our Lord Sunday, I am going to try to get you wet… because I want everyone to feel the water, and to know that God loves us so much, he washes away our sins in the act of baptism, and makes us his very own. So, remember that you are baptized! And be thankful! (asperges).

“Anything Good?” – Sermon on John 1:43-51 for Epiphany 2B

This is the second Sunday after the Epiphany, and even though our focus for this church year will be in Mark’s gospel, the second Sunday after the Epiphany always brings us to John. We’re still in the first chapter, and our reading today will bring us to “what happens next” after Jesus is baptized.

Continue reading

Above and Beyond – Sermon for Epiphany 6A on Matthew 5:21-37

February 16 2020

Last week, we heard Jesus preaching about being Salt and Light, as part of his Sermon on the Mount. Those Beatitudes we heard two weeks ago sounded sweet, and being the salt and light that shows Jesus to the world around us sounds encouraging, doesn’t it? And if you missed last week’s message, here’s the short version: Continue reading

Worship At Home Today! 2/9/2020

February 9, 2020

Dear Church,

Because a foot of snow has fallen overnight, and it hasn’t stopped yet, getting to church would be a treacherous endeavor this morning. The guy who plows our church parking lot told me that drivers are getting stuck even on the main streets that have been plowed. So we aren’t worshipping together at Center and Broadway in New Ulm this morning. But that doesn’t mean we can’t worship together virtually!

So here’s the script I would have used if we’d been together.

2020.02.09 Epiphany 5A SCRIPT

You may notice some links embedded in the script – they go to the recorded accompaniments for the hymns we would have been singing. If you click on them, and you happen to know the words, you can sing along!

As for the announcements, the Pie Auction is rescheduled for Wednesday evening after supper (about 6 PM). We will install newly elected leaders next Sunday.  May your Sunday at home be restful and worshipful!

Blessings,

Pastor Jo Anne

God’s Foolishness – Sermon for Epiphany 4A on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

02.02.2020

I got a message this week from someone complaining about our church sign – she thought it was blasphemy to call God foolish, and she wanted us to take down the sermon title. I wrote back to her that I was glad it caught her attention but I was sorry the sign offended her, and she would be welcome here this morning to hear more from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, about the foolishness of God. Continue reading

Identity Crisis – Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 for Epiphany 3A

January 26, 2020

What does the cross mean to you? We wear beautiful crosses around our necks, and we have a simple cross with clean lines hanging over our altar. This isn’t the kind of cross Jesus was thinking about when he said, ‘take up your cross and follow me’ (Matthew 16:34). Continue reading

Epiphany 2A in 2020 – Sermon on John 1:29-42

January 19, 2020

This week’s text from John gives us a look into what happened the day after Jesus was baptized, and I’ve updated (okay, completely rewritten) an earlier sermon on the passage for this second Sunday after the Epiphany, to reflect both my own growing understanding of this text and my congregation’s need to hear it in a fresh way. You can find it here. May you better see Jesus, show Jesus in your own life, and share Jesus with others through the reading and hearing of God’s Word.

Up from the Water – Sermon on Matthew 3:1-12 for Baptism of Our Lord

January 12, 2020

Today we celebrate the baptism of Our Lord, and we remember that in baptism, we are each given a new name. In baptism, we are called, “Child of God.” We are called, “Beloved.” And it’s all because Jesus came up from the water. Continue reading

Seeing Jesus – Sermon for Epiphany Sunday on Matthew 2:1-12

Watch a video of this sermon here. 

The gospel lesson for Epiphany is always the same, year after year. We always get the story of the wise men seeking out the infant King. It only comes to us through one author so, no matter which gospel we are following in a given year, Epiphany always brings us to the second chapter of Matthew.

Since we hear it every year, we might be lulled into ignoring this story. It’s easy to let it drift in one ear and out the other, because it’s so familiar. Each year, I try to hear this story in a new way, in an effort to make it fresh and meaningful. Some years, I’ve compared and contrasted Herod’s actions with the magi who come from the East. In other years, I’ve looked at what was missing from Matthew’s story, or examined what the word “epiphany” means.

But I wonder if the power of this story actually lies in its familiarity. Continue reading