Sermon for January 17, 2016

Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 17, 2016, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  John 2:1-11

Sermon Theme:  “You Weren’t Baptized in Vinegar!”

(Sources:  Anderson’s Cycle C Preacher’s Workbook; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 26, Part 1, Series C; original ideas; Emphasis Online Illustrations; Online puns by Jesus; Nelson’s Three-in-One)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Weddings take an awful amount of money and an awful amount of time and work to put on, especially for the Bride’s family.  I know, because I have two daughters and we had wedding feasts for both.  For my oldest daughter, we had champagne for the fun-lovers and “fake” champagne (sparkling fruit juice without alcohol) for the non-drinkers like me.

Fortunately for my pocket book, the consumption of sparkling wine lasted only for one evening, quite unlike the wedding at Cana in our sermon text.  In Jesus’ day, Jewish weddings were elaborate affairs which lasted for nearly a week, during which time the guests were provided with food and drink.  Our text says, “On the third day,” which we take to mean the third day of the marriage celebration.

Our text also says that the wine Jesus created out of water consisted of six stone jars, holding 20 or 30 gallons each.  At most, we’re talking about 180 gallons of wine.  If the guests, made up of the entire community, drank 180 gallons of wine the first three days, and 180 gallons the last three days, that would have been a total of 360 gallons of alcoholic fruit juice for the week.  I got off cheap compared to that.

There are really two levels of this story of the miracle of changing water into wine, — the actual, literal level and the symbolic level, and they were both intended.  Often, however, readers don’t discern the symbolic level.

In the actual level of the story, Mary, Jesus, and His disciples are invited to a marriage at Cana, not far from Nazareth.  During the third day of the feast, the wine played out and Mary went to Jesus with this problem, no doubt believing that her Son was capable of performing miracles.  Yet, Jesus reacted by saying something strange, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.”  His mother then tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.

Although Jesus seemed to have refused His mother’s request, He goes on to tell the servants to fill the jars with water, and He turns the water into wine.  Later, the Master of the Feast tastes the transformed water and declares it the best wine ever!

The literal level of the story suggests that Jesus approves of joy and fun and celebration in the daily lives of His people, and this fact is especially important considering it was the very first miracle our Savior performed.  The Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of joy in the life of a Christian in Philippians 4:4.

I am reminded of a story told by a pastor about a member of his church whose name was Herb.  The pastor never doubted Herb’s faith, but he never saw the joy of the Lord in Herb’s words or in his demeanor.  Folks in his church said Herb could bring gloom and doom to a room more quickly than anyone else they knew.  The pastor remarked that Herb always acted as though he had been baptized in vinegar; if you look like you were baptized in vinegar, Jesus may not claim you! Continue reading

Sermon for January 24, 2016

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Epiphany

January 24, 2016, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Luke 4:16-30

Sermon Theme:  “Word of God:  Incarnate or Incorrect?”

(Sources:  Anderson’s Cycle C Preaching Workbook; Brokhoff’s Series C Preaching Workbook; original ideas; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 26, Part 1, Series C, 2016; online jokes; Messianic Prophecies,; Harper’s Bible Dictionary; Believer’s Commentary)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

While there was only one Temple in Jerusalem, there were many synagogues located in towns throughout Judah, just as there is only one Vatican in Rome, but many Catholic churches in towns everywhere.  In the synagogues, the learned Rabbis would read a passage from Holy Scripture (which in Jesus’ day was the Old Testament), and then they would interpret the passage and explain it to the people.  That’s kind of what we pastors do every Sunday, isn’t it?

Naturally folks expect their pastor to know the Bible well enough to interpret and explain the lection chosen for each Sunday.

I love the story told about a newly ordained pastor, seeking a call to a church.  One church was interested in him, and they asked him to come and be interviewed by their Call Committee.

When he appeared before them, the Chairman of the Call Committee said to the young, inexperienced pastor, “Son, we expect our pastor to know the Bible from top to bottom, — so, do you know the Bible pretty good?”

He said he thought he did, and then the Chairman asked, “Which part do you know best?,” to which the young man replied, “The New Testament.”

“Well, why don’t you tell us the story of the Prodigal Son,” said the Chairman.  “Fine,” said the young pastor, and he started telling the story:

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, who went down to Jericho by night and fell upon stony ground and the thorns choked him half to death.

“The next morning, Solomon and his wife Gomorrah came by and carried him down to the Ark for Moses to take care of.  But, as he was going through the Eastern Gate into the Ark, he caught his hair in a limb and he hung thee for forty days and forty nights.  The next day, the three Wise Men came and carried him down to the boat dock and he caught a ship to Ninevah.  And when he got there he found Delilah sitting on the wall.

“He said, ‘Chunk her down, boys, chunk her down.’  And they said, ‘How many times shall we chunk her down,’ and he said, ‘Not seventy times seven, but four hundred and ninety times. . .’”

At this point, the Chairman of the Call committee stopped the young pastor abruptly, turned to the other members of the Call Committee, and exclaimed, “We’ve heard enough!  This young man really knows his Bible good!  Let’s issue him a call right away!  They all agreed. Continue reading

Sermon for January 10, 2016

Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord, January 10, 2016

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Texts:  Romans 6:1-11 and Luke 3:15-22

Sermon Theme:  “Baptized into His What?”

(Sources:  Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 26, Part 1, Series C; Anderson’s Cycle C Preaching Workbook; original ideas; Emphasis Online Commentary; Emphasis Online Illustrations; Online Baptism Jokes,; Believer’s Bible Commentary; Footnotes, Concordia Self-Study Bible.)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

On this Festival Day of our Lord’s Baptism, the Gospel text from Luke gives a brief account of Jesus’ Baptism, and the Epistle from Romans explains to us what Baptism is all about.  The doctrinal issues regarding Baptism have been a major separating point among various denominations.  Thus many jokes about Baptism center on these differences, like the exchange of words between a Baptist minister and a Lutheran Pastor; here’s their conversation:

Lutheran Pastor:  So, let me get this straight – you believe a person isn’t baptized unless he has been fully immersed in water – is that correct?

Baptist Minister:  Correct.  We believe in full immersion – not pouring or sprinkling.

Lutheran:  So if you walked a person into a stream up to his ankles, that wouldn’t consist in an actual baptism?

Baptist:  No sir.  No Baptism.

Lutheran:  What if you got him up past his knees?

Baptist:  Still not good enough.

Lutheran:  What about if he waded in to his waist?  Would you pronounce him baptized?

Baptist:  No, no, no, — what about immersion do you not understand?

Lutheran:  Please forgive me, I am slow sometimes – I really do want to understand you, and I thank you for your patience.  Just a couple more questions and I’ll move onto other edifying topics.  What if he were immersed up to his chest?

Baptist:  No.

Lutheran:  What if he walked all the way in, held his breath, and was up to his eyeballs in water?

Baptist:  No, he has to be immersed.

Lutheran:  I think I understand now – you and I agree after all!

Baptist:  What?  What do you mean?  Did I convince you that immersion is the only way for baptism to be properly administered?

Lutheran:  On the contrary – you gave me great evidence against it!

Baptist:  I did!?!?

Lutheran:  You sure did.  You convinced me that getting your feet wet doesn’t make one baptized.  You convinced me that getting wet up to your knees or waist doesn’t make one baptized.  You convinced me that that being up to your chest or neck in water doesn’t make one baptized.  You even convinced me that being up to your eyeballs in water doesn’t cut it.

Baptist:  So?!?

Lutheran:  So what that tells me is that both of us deem water being administered to the head as sufficient to consider one baptized.

While that is a humorous response to an age-old doctrinal issue, it is an attempt to get to the true essence and significance of baptism.  The fact that Jesus  allowed Himself to be baptized underscores the importance of the Sacrament, as well as the statement made by Jesus in the last chapter of Mark:  “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Continue reading

Sermon for January 03, 2016

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas,

The Sunday before the Epiphany, January 3, 2016

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Luke 2:40-52

Sermon Theme:  “Question or Obey?  It Depends . . .”

(Sources:  Anderson’s Cycle C Preaching Workbook; Emphasis Online Illustrations; original ideas; Harper’s Bible Dictionary)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Seated among the learned rabbis in the Temple, the twelve-year-old Jesus shows a remarkable awareness of who He is.  His parents should know who He is, considering what the angel said to them before His birth, and what Simeon and Anna and the Wise Men said after His birth, but obviously they didn’t, or maybe they just didn’t know how to act as parents of the Savior of the world.

In “The Prayer of the Frog,” Anthony de Mello tells a story of a grown woman who in a coma, near death, and lost the awareness of who she was.  In the coma, she dreamed she was being taken up to heaven and standing before the Judgment Seat of God.

“Who are you?”  a Voice says to her.

“I’m the wife of the mayor,” she replies.

“I did not ask you whose wife you are, but who you are.”

“I’m the mother of four children,” she replied.

“I did not ask whose mother you are, but who you are.”

“I’m a schoolteacher.”

“I did not ask you what your profession is, but who you are.”

And so it goes.  No matter what she replies, she doesn’t seem to give a satisfactory answer to the question, “Who are you?”

“I’m a Christian.”

“I did not ask what your religion is, but who you are.”

“I’m the one who went to church every day and always helped the poor and needy.”

“I did not ask you what you did, but who you are.”

She evidently fails the examination, for she is sent back to earth.  When she comes out of the coma and recovers from her illness, she is determined to find out who she is.

I think all human beings are a little like that.  During our lifetime, we are always asking, “Who am I?  Why am I here?”

Being both God and human, Jesus did not have that problem.  He knew who He was.  He was the Savior of the World come to rescue fallen humankind from sin and restore them to a right relationship with the Heavenly Father. Continue reading