Category Archives: Sermons

Jan 10, 2016 – I, Too, Sent My Son To Israel

Jan 10, 2016 – I, Too, Sent My Son To Israel

A Jewish father was concerned about his son who was about a year away from his Bar Mitzvah but was sorely lacking in his knowledge of the Jewish faith. To remedy this he sent his son to Israel. A year later the young man returned home. “Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers,” the son said. “It was wonderful and enlightening, however, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity.”

Oi vey,” replied the father, “what have I done?” So in the tradition of the patriarchs he went to his best friend and sought his advice and solace. “It’s amazing that you should come to me,” his friend stated, “I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian.” So in the tradition of the Patriarchs they went to the Rabbi.

It’s amazing that you should come to me,” stated the Rabbi, “I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What’s happening to our sons? Brothers, we must take this to God,” said the Rabbi. So they fell to their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts to the Almighty. As they prayed the clouds above opened and a mighty voice stated, “Amazing that you should come to Me. I, too, sent My Son to Israel.”

Now I started this sermon with this story because of Who said what’s on the front of the bulletin cover. How do we know that God, too, sent His Son to Israel?

Because, God the Father spoke from the heavens in the gospel lesson today when Jesus was baptized. And when God spoke all those gathered around Jesus knew that God had sent His son to Israel. There was no denying that God spoke from heaven and made it clear that this, His own son, was the one He’d promised to send to the people of Israel.

Look at verse 15 what does it say there about the people? Right, the people were waiting expectantly; they were looking for the Christ, the promised one of God! The people had the expectation that God would fulfill His promise. They were seeking God to keep His word to them. That word of promise is echoed in the Old Testament lesson today. In verses 5 -7 it says in part,

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will…bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

And the people in the gospel lesson today were wondering if John the Baptist was bringing the fulfillment of God’s promise. They wanted God to ‘gather them’ and keep them separated so they could glorify God. Of course some just wanted the hated Romans to be gone, but still, such a desire was rooted in God’s promise to be called together in the name of God.

They were looking for the certainty of who John was and they were seeking certainty from God that He was keeping His word to them. This wasn’t something they did only on the Sabbath, this wasn’t just some religious observance they occasionally thought about or practiced, this was in the people’s hearts and minds. This was something they talked about among themselves.

That’s significant for us. In our coming together to worship we’re doing the same thing, we’re talking about God keeping His word and His promises. We come here to receive His gifts of word and sacrament that deliver the promise of God to us. We come and hear God’s call that we are His sons and daughters that He has created. We gather to talk, not about the hope of God’s promises but of His fulfillment of His promises.

We’re not that different than those people who were wondering if John was the Christ. Notice that here, in the baptism of Jesus, is found and revealed the answer that the people were looking for. Jesus, not John the Baptist is the One in whom the longing of the people is fulfilled. Jesus is the One who relieves all the wondering (and wandering) of the hearts of the people that Luke mentions in verse 15.

Also note verse 21. Read that out loud with me, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened.” Jesus was baptized along with ‘all the people’ but at His baptism and prayer, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove, it says in verse 22. It also says that the voice of God from heaven spoke of Jesus and made clear to all the people there that this One, not John the Baptist, but that Jesus, was the fulfillment of God’s promise. This was God’s own Son whom ‘He too, sent to Israel’ as we said in the opening.

In His baptism Jesus has been revealed as the Christ as the promised one; and not only by His baptism but also by His birth and the events surrounding His birth. God used Gabriel and the angels and the shepherds and the wise men to demonstrate that this ‘ordinary birth’ was for an Extraordinary Child.

The wise men are significant because this week was Epiphany, the day we celebrate the coming of the wise men. Christmas is our celebration of the appearance of Jesus Christ in human flesh – His appearance as true man. Epiphany is the celebration of the revelation of Jesus Christ as true God, the eternal and almighty Son of God in heaven. Again in the Old Testament lesson God says of Jesus, I have summoned you by name, you are mine. During our Christmas celebration, we marvel that Jesus was truly human. During our Epiphany celebration, we marvel that Jesus was truly the Son of God.

The Wise Men presented to Jesus special gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These special gifts pointed out Jesus’ kingship, in the gold; His divine nature, in the incense; and His necessary death, in the myrrh. If you could have joined those Wise Men to visit the Christ Child, what gift would you have brought for this King?

Well, we can bring gifts to our King and Savior. He’s with us even today. Our worship services are a gathering of Wise people; wise men, women and children, who come to worship our King and Savior. Every time we worship we can bow before him and offer Him the gift of our lives, of all that we are and all that we have, our precious time, talents, and worldly treasures.

The wise men came and gave to the Christ child gifts that have meaning for His life and death. What they brought spoke of their comprehension of who Jesus was and what His work would be.

And today, in His baptism, we see the beginning of His work on earth as an adult. In His baptism we see that the child born in Bethlehem is indeed the holy one of Israel. He is God’s own Son sent to Israel and to the world to bring the forgiveness of sin and restoration to God that God promised long ago. What gives our baptism its power is what God does with it, not what we do.

That certainty comes to us in our own baptism according to what St. Paul said in the epistle lesson today. 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

That promise of resurrection is ours. It’s what’s poured out on us in our baptism. God does that! We don’t! God has chosen to give us that certain hope, that assurance of life new and life eternal, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We’re united with Him in death and in life through our baptism!

Let me ask, what do you want to be doing this year so that others can have the hope you have in Jesus Christ?

If you had the ‘permission’ what would you do so that others could share in the gift of God that is yours through your baptism?  I’m not asking you what ‘committee’ or board you want to be on, though that’s a good thing to do, but what do you want to be doing to enable us all to reach out in some way to Bolivar through word, worship, outreach and service.

The wise men brought gifts with which to worship Christ, what gifts do you bring? I’ll tell what gifts you bring, you bring the gifts that God, by His grace has equipped you with. But how will you use them?

There are some things in life you can control and some things you can’t. But of those things you can control, you alone have the choice to use your gifts or not use them. I think that God has given us great gifts and wonderful abilities in the people in this place.

There was a man in New York City some years back they called the subway superman. This guy, Wesley Autrey, jumped on the tracks in a New York subway and held another man still who was having a seizure and in doing so saved his life. When asked about why he did it he said that he had a choice to let his two little daughters see a man die or he could try and do something about it. He chose to do something about it.

Christ chose to do something about our ‘certain death’ situation and His salvation of us does not depend on what we do or what we know. We thank God for that. That’s what Jesus coming to earth is all about. Because God, too, sent His Son to Israel we leave here today knowing we are Christians by His work. We know that our hope is in the work He has done. And we know that others need to hear that.

We are called to be faithful in telling the truth of Jesus, the Christ of God, for whom the world has waited. Jesus is the One who, by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave, delivers us from our guilt of sin and from the shame of our rebellion against God. Jesus is the promised deliverer who the people were looking for at His baptism as we read today. We leave here today refreshed and restored by His work and the gifts He gives us – His word and His very life.

In His name, amen.


Sermon #805 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO


Old Testament Reading                                                                                               Isaiah 43:1-7

43 But now, this is what the Lord says—     he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;     the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;     I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”Isaiah 42:1 : S Isa 20:3; S Mt 20:28

  1. Isaiah 42:1 : S Isa 14:1; Lk 9:35; 23:35; 1Pe 2:4, 6
  2. Isaiah 42:1 : Mt 3:17
  3. Isaiah 42:1 : S Isa 11:2; S 44:3; Mt 3:16-17; S Jn 3:34
  4. Isaiah 42:1 : S Isa 9:7
  5. Isaiah 42:1 : S Ge 49:10
  6. Isaiah 42:2 : Pr 8:1-4
  7. Isaiah 42:3 : S Isa 36:6
  8. Isaiah 42:3 : S Job 30:24
  9. Isaiah 42:3 : S Job 13:25
  10. Isaiah 42:3 : Ps 72:2; 96:13
  11. Isaiah 42:4 : S Isa 2:4
  12. Isaiah 42:4 : ver 21; Ex 34:29; Isa 51:4
  13. Isaiah 42:4 : S Isa 11:11
  14. Isaiah 42:4 : S Ge 49:10; Mt 12:18-21*
  15. Isaiah 42:5 : S Ge 1:6; Ps 102:25; Isa 48:13
  16. Isaiah 42:5 : S Ge 1:1
  17. Isaiah 42:5 : Ps 24:2; Ac 17:24
  18. Isaiah 42:5 : S Ge 2:7; Ac 17:25
  19. Isaiah 42:6 : Ex 31:2; S Jdg 4:10; Isa 41:9-10; 43:1
  20. Isaiah 42:6 : Isa 45:24; Jer 23:6; Da 9:7
  21. Isaiah 42:6 : Isa 41:13; 45:1
  22. Isaiah 42:6 : Isa 26:3; 27:3
  23. Isaiah 42:6 : Isa 49:8; 54:10; 59:21; 61:8; Jer 31:31; 32:40; Mal 3:1; S Lk 22:20
  24. Isaiah 42:6 : S Isa 9:2
  25. Isaiah 42:6 : S Isa 26:18; S Lk 2:32
  26. Isaiah 42:7 : S Ps 146:8; S Isa 32:3; Mt 11:5
  27. Isaiah 42:7 : Isa 49:9; 51:14; 52:2; Zec 2:7
  28. Isaiah 42:7 : S Ps 66:11; S Isa 24:22; 48:20; Zec 9:11; S Lk 4:19; 2Ti 2:26; Heb 2:14-15
  29. Isaiah 42:7 : S Ps 107:10, 14; Ac 26:18
  30. Isaiah 42:8 : Ps 81:10; Isa 43:3, 11, 15; 46:9; 49:23
  31. Isaiah 42:8 : S Ex 3:15; S 6:3
  32. Isaiah 42:8 : Isa 48:11
  33. Isaiah 42:8 : S Ex 8:10; S 20:4
  34. Isaiah 42:9 : S Isa 41:22
  35. Isaiah 42:9 : S Isa 40:21; Eze 2:4



Epistle Reading                                                                                                           Romans 6:1-11

6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.



Holy Gospel                                                                                                                   Luke 3:15-22


15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 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. 17 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.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 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.”


Jan 6, 2016 – Epiphany – Iguanas Fall from Trees

Jan 6, 2016 – Epiphany – Iguanas Fall from Trees
I remember some years back, seeing unusual headlines one week in January that talked about snow falling on Daytona Beach. And the other headline said ‘Iguanas fall from trees with the cold snap in Florida’. Do you remember that? Those are the types of headline that makes you wonder what’s going on in the world. Snow on Daytona Beach isn’t usual is it? And ‘iguanas falling from trees’ sounds like something Rod Serling or Stephen King cooked up. It’s the sort of thing that makes you stop and think.
That’s sort of what epiphany is – something that makes you stop and think. Let me tell you, when someone says they’ve had an “epiphany”, sadly I think of the movie “Hook”…But that aside, when you talk about what having an epiphany means … it’s a revelation, a moment of clarity or some call it an ‘a-ha’ moment. That’s what we get in the gospel lesson today, an ‘a-ha’ moment.
This is a moment of revelation to the world, this moment when the magi come to Herod and ask about the place where “The King” was born. The king’s coming wasn’t some small private matter, as today’s gospel lesson makes clear. His coming as a baby to Judea, to the town of Bethlehem, this was something the whole world took note of. The universe responded to it. This Baby’s birth was no small matter.
Look at the nouns, the people, mentioned in this gospel passage. There’s Herod, magi from the east, all of Jerusalem, the chief priests and teachers of the law and Mary. This coming into the world by God in this infant Jesus was NOT an unknown event in some backwater town! In looking at the list of people involved the ones that stand out for us, this Epiphany evening, are the wise men or magi.
Looking into research on the Magi we find they belonged to a group of gifted sages, well known in the history of the Persian Empire, who specialized in everything from astronomy to religion. Magi living in Babylon doubtless came into contact with the descendants of the Jewish leaders and rabbis exiled by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
A large Jewish community stayed in Babylon for the next 1,000 years. So, these Magi would have been familiar both with Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament as well as the star as the symbol of the Messiah. Numbers 24:17 says “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob, so their famous question upon reaching Jerusalem; “Where is the newborn King of the Jews, for we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” was not asked out of a vacuum.
We actually know very little about these particular Wise Men. We don’t even know how many there were, the Bible doesn’t say. Though 3 is a good number, imagine having 40 Wise Men in your nativity scene. We say 3 because only 3 gifts are mentioned (gold, incense and myrrh). The early church spoke of 3 Wise Men, even coming up with names for them: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. One of the greatest scholars of the Early Middle Ages, The Venerable Bede, wrote this about the Wise Men of our lesson:
“The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long beard . . . who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second, named Caspar, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned . . . honored Him as God by his gift of incense, an offering worthy of divinity. The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded, called Balthasar . . . by his gift of myrrh testified that the Son of Man was to die.”
So God coming into the world was not a small thing. And take note that Jesus was marked for death from His very birth by both the gift of myrrh and the actions that took place after today’s gospel reading. Remember the story that Herod had all the babies in and around Bethlehem killed in an attempt to murder Jesus as a child. So death is what the world wanted for Jesus from the time it was known that He was born.
Again, Jesus’ birth was no small event. And now, with the coming of these non-Jewish wise men from the east, because of a star in the heavens, the whole world was aroused and / “a-ha” / was made aware that things were now different… because God has come to earth.
And in typically rebellious human fashion, we sought to destroy Him. Jesus came, and He came to bring us the gift of life. But it was death that greeted His arrival. The gift of life is Christ’s offering to us. We are changed and our view of our world is changed by this gift from Jesus.
But remember this applies only to Christians. We see the world as different because of what Jesus has done by coming and dying on the cross and rising again to give us eternal life. But most people in our world today don’t realize that’s the real truth about Jesus. And that truth is what we get to come alongside them to help them to see and hear. We get to share with them the gift of life we’ve been given, a gift most of them don’t even recognize they need. But we know and we are responsible to live in this world and share what we know so others too may have Life eternal in Jesus.
We need to spend ourselves, to spend our lives, as gifts to those around us, telling them what’s been told to us. Jesus spent His life for us; He did that so that we would know His gifts of freedom, peace, and love. We’re given this gospel so that we can be spent in giving that away to others. That’s the thing with gifts; they’re only gifts when they’re given away. Look again at the gifts given to Jesus in the gospel lesson today.
The gifts of the wise men, as we said, pointed out Jesus’ kingship, in gold; His divine nature, in incense; and His necessary death, in the myrrh. But it was through His singular death that His gift of life for us was accomplished. Knowing what gifts, the so-called, Caspar, Melchoir and Balthasar brought leads me to ask you to think about this, what gift would you like to have given the newborn king? Now, consider what gift do you bring to Him in your daily life? Give that some thought.
It is our faith to believe that this Child the magi bring their gifts to, is both fully God and fully man, at the same time. This isn’t just some kid who later was elevated to the status of being God because He earned by His good works. NO! He was from infancy, from within Mary’s womb, He was God; He was God in the clothing of human flesh and blood.
The magi coming and giving their gifts was putting the world on notice that God had now come to us. This epiphany, this revealing of who Jesus was, was bigger than merely a simple, ‘a-ha’ moment.
The magi, these men from the east, these were not Jews (!) just as we are not Jews. But their coming was evidence that the whole earth was being awakened to a new paradigm, a new way of seeing things, it was a new thing, a heavenly thing, and something such as had never had happened before, but… it will happen again, so we’re promised. It will happen when Jesus returns.
But today, in scripture we see the epiphany, the revealing of Jesus, as a shift in the world. It’s a sea change like we would never have understood before the coming of Christ. We’ve been granted through Jesus, the gift of God’s grace to know and understand that this Child comes to give us God’s grace and mercy through His own sacrifice. The result is eternal life for us, instead of eternal death. This change, this “a-ha” moment is not about snow falling on some beach or iguanas falling from trees. This is not about the changes that happen in a family, a school, a workplace or a congregation, no; this change moves us beyond this world and out of ourselves.
This change comes to us because this Baby has come to us. GOD HAS COME and has not left us alone. It is His gift of life to us that we take and share freely with others. We are who we are today because Jesus is who He is today and always; He is the revealed Holy Son of God in the flesh.
In His name we pray, amen.
Sermon #804 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading Isaiah 60:1-6
60 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.

Epistle Ephesians 13:1-12
3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Holy Gospel Matthew 1:1-12
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Jan 3, 2016 – the infinite God in a finite Child

Jan 3, 2016 – the infinite God in a finite Child

This first week of the New Year I’ve been filing away sermons from the last several weeks and as I did so it occurred to me just how many hundreds of sermons I’ve preached. And though my sermon style has changed over the years, the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ dying on the cross and rising again for our justification, hasn’t changed. And hopefully that message has gotten clearer and more sharply in focus as I’ve preached. Every day when I put on my seminary ring I’m reminded by the inscription on the inside, of the words of the Greeks to Philip in John 12: 21,“We would see Jesus”.

Those words remind me that, like those Greeks asked of Phillip, it’s important that I remember that it’s Jesus that needs to be heard from through what I say, and not me. It wasn’t Phillip that the Greeks wanted to hear from, and it’s not me that you need to hear from. It’s Jesus. It’s Jesus and His words are what we all need to hear and learn from. “We would see Jesus” are words that help us all to remember to ‘get out of the way’ so that Jesus can be seen through us by how we all speak and live. We want to point others to Him and not to ourselves. We want His light to shine, not our own.

On the Irish Sea coast I understand there’re twin lighthouses, set about 500 feet apart on opposite sides of an estuary. There’s a powerful light in one of the lighthouses, but the other only has prisms and mirrors that reflect the light from the first lighthouse. Yet from a distance, both seem to shine the same. In a similar way, God’s great love in Jesus Christ can be reflected through our lives, to others because His great love has first been poured into us.

And in the coming year our pointing to Jesus, our reflecting His light and love, is going to be important for those that we meet in our day-to-day lives. In the year to come, others need to see in us, by how we live, act and speak; they need to understand the hope that God gives to them through Jesus and His love for them. They’ll only be able to see that light of Christ through the hope in Jesus that you express through the words and actions of your life.

Also in the coming year there are some words from the gospel reading today and from the Christmas Eve gospel lesson to bear in mind. I’ve got a friend who’s said that today’s gospel reading is like a soap opera in one way. Just a few days ago we were seeing Jesus as the newborn infant and now we’re talking about Him as a 12 year old boy. That kind of time compression is something we see in stories and tv shows.

But the words about Mary from today’s lesson are ‘and His mother treasured up all these things in her heart’ and from Christmas Eve we were told, ‘Mary pondered all these things in her heart.’ How those words are important for the coming year for us is, that we will be spending much time in the gospel of Luke and such words as these have led many understand that Mary herself was the source of much of Luke’s information in writing portions of his gospel account. And his gospel account is written from the perspective of someone speaking to a Greek thinking audience. That’s you and I; we’re Greek type thinkers, not so much Hebrew. So our time in this gospel account can only help to aid us as we seek to, as we said before, to reflect the light of Christ into the lives of our fellow Greek thinking friends, neighbors and families much like Phillip and his Greek friends.

Like I said, my sermons have changed; but the word of God has not changed. God’s word will change you, but It never changes! I bring this up today because, in the gospel lesson, we hear the boy Jesus speaking the word of God in the temple. We hear Jesus, at 12 years old, confounding the elders, the wise, grey heads sitting there with Him. His words, even at that age, carried with them the authority and truth that was recognized by those old heads, as words that reflected the true light of scripture.

Again, though my sermons have changed – Jesus’ word has never changed. And the world around you and I needs to hear His word today as clearly as they did in the temple on that day. This Boy that they see is the infinite God in the form of this finite Child. And His word alone is what purifies, renews and makes whole that which was broken down and rotted through thoroughly by sin. In other words, His word alone cleanses us.

Michael W. Smith, a Christian musician has a song with these lyrics: is there a way to unlearn, that carnal knowledge that keeps chipping away at my soul. That “carnal knowledge” that Smitty speaks of is what works to break us, to soil and dirty us; from the day we’re born. We have carnal knowledge, knowledge that tries to limit us to only what our bodies desire or need; to confine us to the sensual, which chips away and grinds us down, and pummels us under its unrelenting attack. But in our spirits, made alive through the new birth in our baptisms, in our spirits, we desire for there to be purity where we’ve not had it before.

We want think that we were once so innocent. We want to think that we were like Jesus as we see Him standing there before the wise men of the temple in the gospel lesson today. But we were never that pure, innocent or clean. Unlike Him, we’ve always had the sinful nature of defiled carnality within us. Even from birth. We’ve just grown more sophisticated in how we use it, hide it and adapt to it. We’re lost in sin.

We’re like the village idiot who people kept stopping on the street and asking to pick between a nickel and dime to see which is worth more. He would always pick the larger coin, the nickel, and the people would walk away saying, see what an idiot, he took the nickel. But later in life the ‘idiot’ said that if he’d starting picking out the dimes, people would stop giving him money. He’d found a way to adapt, to hide. And that’s what we’ve done; we’ve found ways to hide our sin, to adapt our carnal knowledge to our surroundings so we think we can et away with what we think we want in this dark world we live in.

It’s only the purity of Jesus Christ that can cleanse us of that. We can never scrub away the rot and filth that our carnal knowledge has attached to us through its unrelenting attacks and our giving in to it. We can never bring ourselves to the light and the purity we long for. That purity is what we see in the gospel today, in Jesus giving His answers full of wisdom and understanding.

And notice that it isn’t only to the elders that he speaks. In fact Jesus’ first recorded words are found here in today’s lesson and those are to His parents. And notice that His questions to His parents make a reference to the God of heaven being His father.

These first words from Jesus’ lips are a testament to His being the Son of God! These words are an affirmation of Jesus as the incarnation, of His being fully man and fully God. Of the many false teachings and heresy’s surrounding Jesus from the earliest days down to today is that Jesus was a man who was somehow specially blessed by God. That heresy is defeated by these words from Jesus. Again Jesus is speaking words of purity and light to both His parents and to the elders and teachers.

And we long for that light and purity for ourselves. Again, it is not, nor has it ever been, within us to do or accomplish that on our own. And that’s what drives us to need what Jesus offers.

He gives us that purity, as a gift, through His willing and chosen sacrifice for us. I can’t imagine what it was like for Jesus to live in human flesh as He did. He gave up His divine prerogatives and His holy place in heaven to live among us who struggle in the dark with the carnal knowledge we live with. He was surrounded by us here on earth and yet He remained free of sin’s stain. Though He bore the weight of all our sin He did so without ever sinning Himself. He never succumbed to the temptation of sin and its power that chips away at our souls.

To live as He did, bound up in human flesh, and yet be pure God and wholly divine is not something we can fully grasp. He lived and was worshipped in heaven as the eternal Son of God and yet… He set all that aside to live with us inside time and space. He was the infinite God in a finite Child. He who created time and space now lived as this son of Joseph and Mary, within the confines of flesh and blood, the very flesh and blood He designed and brought into being. This Boy we see standing in the temple this morning was the God of the universe who had to live within the constraints of the day-by-day and moment-by-moment lives we all live. He was the limitless power that created and sustains the world Who now lived in the mundane and limited confines of time.

And so He patiently… patiently beyond our knowing, He patiently answered the elders’ questions. He who appeared as a child was in fact answering questions that to Him would have been childlike from these elders. These ‘wise sages’ were asking the God of the universe things that to them were profound. And yet Jesus in His divinely infinite patience answered them all and appeared to their old eyes, only as a precocious child. They couldn’t grasp that this Child standing before them was indeed older than all of them, infinitely more so because it was He that created the time in which we all live.

He created time, life and light. And as we said it’s His light that we desire to have shine through our lives in our time. God chose to confine Himself to live as we do in the child Jesus and to give us His new life won by the work of the man Jesus on the cross. Remember what it was the condemned Jesus to death before the religious leaders of His day.

It was very much like the words He speaks to His parents today. He makes it known; He makes it clear that He is the Son of God. His words, His first recorded words as well as the words that condemn Him form a sort of frame or bookends, if you will; for all that we’ll be reading about in the life and ministry of Jesus this year. The words today, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my father’s house” and the words later in Luke 22:70-71 “They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’ Then they said, ‘Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from His own lips.

Those lips that spoke both things, which condemned Him to death, are the lips that speak life and peace to us. They speak His holy light and life into our lives. Our baptismal life that we have is His new life in us by His word alone. And that’s what we long for others to know as well. His word never changes nor does He ever leave us in the dark.

We have, in His Word, the life and light living in us through His power poured out on us in our baptism. Let us live this New Year shining out His light to others so they too can stand in wonder with the elders at Jesus, the infinite God, in a finite child.

In His name Who is our Light, life and Peace, amen.


Sermon #803 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO


First Reading                                                                                                               1 Kings 3:4-15

4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.


Epistle                                                                                                                      Ephesians 1:3-14

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.


Holy Gospel                                                                                                                  Luke 2:40-52

40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.