First Lesson: Micah 6: 1-8
Responsive Reading: Psalm 15
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 5: 1-12
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 5: 1-12
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin with a story. One time there were two identical twins that I’ll call Fritz and Frank. Fritz and Frank were the types of twins that were nearly impossible to tell apart just by looking at them. Fritz and Frank’s one great difference was found in their attitude. Fritz was a hope-filled optimist tending always to see the best in every given situation. When Fritz’s baseball team would lose 10-0, Fritz would comment on what an exciting play the second out of the sixth inning was. Frank was a real downer, always believing the earth was about to cave in around him. On a nice day, Frank would comment on how it’ll probably rain tomorrow. We all know people like Fritz and Frank!
Fritz and Frank’s parents were worried that the boys were so extreme when it came to viewing life. They decide to take Fritz and Frank to see a psychologist. The Psychologist was blown away by both Fritz’s rare optimism along with Frank’s extreme pessimism. The Psychologist suggests the following seemingly radical solution: Both boys birthdays are coming soon: Why don’t give pessimism Frank a new bike, and give the optimism Fritz a box full of manure. The parents were hesitant, having always making a point to raise the boys equally. But they decide to follow the psychologist’s suggestion, hoping it would help both boys.
On the day of Fritz and Frank’s birthday, Frank sees his bicycle. The bike is a beauty a top of the line racing bike costing his parents hundreds of dollars. Frank doesn’t crack a smile. All Frank can mutter is “I’ll probably crash it and break my leg.” Fritz then receives his present. Fritz opens the box, sees the manure. A huge smile comes over Fritz’s face. Fritz starts chanting “yes, yes, yes.” Fritz then runs outside with as much joy as they’ve ever seen a child run. Fritz’s parents are confused at the boy’s joy at the sight of receiving a box of manure. So they ask Fritz why he’s so happy? To which Fritz says “With all this manure, there’s gotta be a pony around here somewhere?”
Now picture Fritz and Frank cause we’ll get back to their story in a bit. Today’s Gospel lesson comes to us from Matthew 5. Jesus is early in his ministry. Jesus is starting to attract crowds that hung on his every word. Jesus decides that he needs to give a big, important sermon in response to the growing crowds. Where Jesus chooses to go is interesting.
Now one of the most scenic spots around Silver Bay is the Twin Lakes (Bear and Bean), what makes Bear and Bean so scenic is the giant cliffs that surround them so you can get a beautiful view of both at the same time, but to get this view you need to climb. Now picture Bear and Bean Lake, now picture the Lake of Galilee. So what Jesus does is take his disciples from the ground level of the Lake of Galilee to the Mount or Plain at its top. Jesus does this so they can get the “inside scoop” of his ministry. Jesus begins preaching to his disciples in his famous Sermon on the Mount.
Now I was listening to Andy Stanley preach on the Sermon on the Mount this week when he summed it up well: “The Sermon on the Mount is Extreme!” People who claim to love the Sermon on the Mount, haven’t read the whole thing.”
Jesus gives the Disciples the Sermon on the Mount to give them the insight on all of life’s manure.
Now I remember one time, I was riding in the car with my dad when he gets a call on his cell phone. The call was promising my dad the ability to purchase an unlimited warranty on his car. Dad kept an old trailblazer that probably had 200,000 miles on it that he would drive four blocks to work. So now most people would hang up on these calls but not Dad. Dad immediately knew that such a promise was way too good to be true. Dad starts asking the Telemarketer all sorts of pointed questions. You could tell the Telemarketer knew the gig was up. I believe the Telemarketer finally hangs up on Dad.
Now picture the Telemarketer, now imagine Jesus doing the exact opposite. Jesus paints a picture of his upcoming ministry for the Disciples. The picture Jesus paints is harsh containing no false promises: “You will lose those close to you, you will not gain great material possessions, you very well might even be persecuted. Rest assured in these times God is preparing you to receive great blessings even as life seemingly throws at you nothing but boxes full of manure.”
Jesus words are meant to proclaim to the Disciples that this life will bring rock bottom, mourning, and even death.
Carol Howard Merritt tells the story of having a father in hospice care. Her dad falls and breaks his hip. Her dad is already disabled before the fall and his body is certainly in no position to undergo such a procedure. Only her dad is in so much pain that they need to do the surgery, regardless of the risks. Merrit comes to realize that it is in times such as these of great pain, sorrow, anger, and powerless is when Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount might begin to make sense.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”-Matthew 5:4.
Here’s the point that Jesus is making that we often don’t understand the nature of God’s blessing. We will all have those moments in life where it seems that God might not be at work in our circumstances, but rest assured God’s blessings will probably take place only in unexpected ways.
Let me tell a story, Months before I came up to Silver Bay to interview. A pastoral colleague of mine received a call from a church in Kentucky wanting to know a young pastor with high energy to come down and interview. So I get out my best suit, best sermon, and set out on a long drive to Kentucky. I was the only candidate they were planning to interview. The interview is Saturday evening, with preaching on Sunday morning. The interview was interesting in that nearly every member of the congregation shows up. I get a call from the Call Committee Chairman a few weeks after this, saying they discussed me with the whole congregation and that I wasn’t what they were looking.
Now I knew that I wasn’t the right fit for this congregation. The Kentuckians were looking for and needed a different type of leader. But still, rejection in whatever walk of life stings whether it be professional or personal.
Here’s a point that Jesus is making within the Sermon on the Mount best summed up by Kent Crockett:
“Man’s rejection can be God’s direction. God sometimes uses the rejection of hateful people to move us to a new place or assignment where we wouldn’t have thought of going on our own. He must slam the door in our face through rejection to get us to look in another direction. Then when we get to that new place, we thank God for the rejection rather than being bitter about it.”
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”-Romans 8:28
There are going to be many moments in our life when these words will not be easy to here. These words might not bring immediate comfort on the loneliest nights of our existence.
I came across the following saying this week that I thought was really good “God often takes the trash out of our life and recycles it into something good.”
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”- Matthew 5:11-12
I want to close with the following story this morning about a man who was able to embrace these promises from the Sermon on the Mount in even the darkest of one’s circumstances.
The following story was told by Chuck Colson, Maximilian Kolbe (Kol-bay) was a Polish Priest working in Warsaw at the start of World War II. In February 1941, Kolbe was arrested by the Nazi Regime for publishing unapproved literature. Kolbe is sent off to Auschwitz. Kolbe arrives at Auschwitz and starts acting like Fritz the Optimist, he ministers and finds comfort for his fellow prisoners on every day of his stay.
Kolbe’s ministry facing a crisis though on one July day, an inmate escaped, the Nazi Soldiers were furious. Nazi policy was to take ten prisoners and place them to die in a starvation bunker. One of the ten men to be sent to death was a Polish farmer named Franciszek Gajowniczek (Fran-She-Cek) (Guy-o-nick-chek). Franciszek who you can call Frank cries out “My poor wife! “My poor children! What will they do.”
Maximilian Kolbe was not going to sit idly by in the face of this injustice. Kolbe breaks out of his line to address one of the Nazi officers. Such a bold act would normally be a death sentence, but Kolbe had to do something. Kolbe tells the Nazi commander “I would like to die in place of one of the men you condemned.” The Commander was stumped, so he merely asks “Why?”
Kolbe knew he needed a good reason, so he played on the Nazi’s normal methods of destroying the weak and elderly first.
Kolbe responded ““I am an old man, sir, and good for nothing. My life will serve no purpose.”
The officer responded: “In whose place do you want to die.”
At this moment Maximilian Kolbe points at the weeping Franciszek Gajowniczek (Fran-She-Cek) (Guy-o-nick-chek). Everyone in the camp is stunned. The officer gives in because Frank looks to be a lot stronger, more valuable worker than Maximillian Kolbe.
Kolbe is taken to a dark chamber: stripped of his clothes, left without food or water. Inside the death chamber, something extraordinary happened because of Maximilian Kolbe. In days past, prisoners would wail and weep in agony. Prisoners alongside Maximillian Kolbe in the death chamber were singing songs of praise and songs of hope even as they prepared to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
August 14, 1941, needing a place to house more prisoners. A German Doctor walks into Kolbe’s bunker, where he sees a barely breathing Kolbe smiling, right until the moment where the Doctor placed the needle in Maximilian Kolbe’s arm.
Franciszek Gajowniczek (Fran-She-Cek) (Guy-o-nick-chek) died 53 years after Maximilian Kolbe in Poland. Maximilian Kolbe was able to find hope in even the foulest smelling of manure.
My point for this morning is this. The Sermon on the Mount is tough to hear. We would rather not have to the endure terrible circumstances of our life to receive God’s blessing. Andy Stanley sums it up best: “The Sermon on the Mount is your life if your faith was perfect.” If you had the courage to look at the grave as fearlessly as Maximilian Kolbe. Perfect faith like if you were able to ask “Where’s the Pony?” upon receiving a box of manure. We might not believe quite like these men, but what Jesus is saying is that’s o.k. The truth of the Christian’s life is it will contain nasty things in Sin and Death. Jesus in the Beatitudes today is also making the following point that as times when life seems the darkest it is then when God’s blessings are getting ready to appear. Whereas we will always mourn death, soon we will be comforted when we come face to face with the awesome power of Resurrection. Amen
 The author of this analogy is unknown. The analogy comes from the Stories for Preaching website retrieved on January, 23rd 2017. I took creative liscense inserting names of Fritz and Frank.
 The following analogy comes from the Attitude section.
 Matthew 5:1-12
 The following lines come from a You Tube clip posted by Shawn Nelson on May, 23rd 2014. The following clip comes from Stanley’s 2011 “Shocking Statements of Jesus: Sermon Series- Part 5”.
 Merritt, Carol Howard. “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn”. Day 1 found on Text Week. Jan.30.2011. Web. 23.Jan.2017.
 The following analogy was found on Kent Crockett(kentcrockett.com)’s website under “Rejection” on January 23rd, 2017.
 The following analogy comes from Charles Colson’s book The Body and was found on the Creative Youth Ideas website on January 23rd, 2017.
 Maximillian Kolbe was canonized as a Saint in the Catholic Church on October 10, 1982.
First Lesson: Isaiah 9: 1-4
Responsive Reading: Psalm 27: 1, 4-9
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1: 10-18
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 4: 12-23
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When I was visiting Grandma on New Year’s Eve, we were playing cards when we come across two ladies that I’ll call Phyllis and Eunice. 7 O Clock at night in the nursing home, Phyllis wants to go to bed. Eunice was going to stay awake for a while, so she has the lights on in her side of the room. Phyllis was going to have none of this. So Phyllis storms out of the room in a tizzy, complaining to the nurses about how she can’t live with Eunice because of how inconsiderate that she is. Phyllis goes back to bed and turns off all the lights. Grandma and I keep playing cards.
7:30 comes around Eunice wheels into the room once again, turning the lights back on. Phyllis is really mad at this point since the nurses aren’t going to listen to her. She decides that Grandma and I would be a captive audience to her problems. Now Grandma is no stranger to roommate problems at the nursing home. The nursing home has since decided that Grandma is better off with a private room. Grandma has one way to resolve conflict: yell then yell some more, then hope the other person gives in.
So when Phyllis is complaining about Eunice, Grandma declares that she is going to fix everything between Phyllis and Eunice. My hand is on my head, dreading what I’m going to see next. Grandma rides her scooter into Eunice’s room and tells her it’s time for bed.
Eunice just ignores Grandma’s demands that she goes to bed. Grandma then decides that things need to get physical. So Grandma proceeds to push Eunice’s wheelchair towards the bed. Grandma though quickly gets tired, and Eunice’s wheelchair probably moves one foot forward at her efforts. Now did Grandma accomplish anything mediating Phyllis and Eunice’s conflict? Not really. Did the Nurses find a way to bring Phyllis and Eunice together? No, based on what I saw I doubt Eunice could hear either Grandma or Phyllis’s yelling.
But our question for this morning is this: Do we have similar cycles of seemingly continual conflict in our life? That as in the case of Phyllis and Eunice these conflicts are not easy to resolve.
Today’s lesson comes to us from 1st Corinthians 1. Corinthians tells the tale of a church in conflict. The Corinthian Church is founded by the Apostle Paul, people in the Corinthian Church were always going to have a special place for Paul because of this history. Paul was a good organizer, but he had his weaknesses. Paul was self-admittedly not a very dynamic speaker. Paul wasn’t a rah-rah people person. Paul wasn’t all that much to see. I picture him as an older gentleman with a bit of a pot belly. Paul eventually moves on, and the Corinthians get a new preacher named Apollos. Apollos seemingly had it all. Apollos was probably tall, muscular with long, wavy hair. Apollos was energetic. Apollos made people laugh during his sermons. People would hang on every word during Apollos’ preaching. People were flocking to the Corinthian church seemingly because of Apollos.
Everyone should have been happy except they weren’t. Some of the original members of the Corinthian Church were seeing things change way too fast before their very eyes. Some of the people joining the Corinthian Church would seem more acceptable at a Monster Truck Rally rather than a Church. People often lash out at change, so Paul’s followers (The Church’s founders) began lashing out at Apollos. They accused Apollos of being “soft on sin.” They started clamoring for Paul to come back to fix their church. What was going on in Corinth can apply to all sorts of conflict, Insiders vs. outsiders, change vs. stability, with all sorts of dueling personality types in the mix.
So what does Paul say to his former followers?
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”-1st Corinthians 1:10.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to focus on a much more important question than who was a better preacher between Paul and Apollos but rather why does the Corinthian Church exist? Paul wanted the Corinthians to unite around a common purpose within this relationship. Now here’s the thing about Paul. Paul knew that sometimes finding common purposes can be hard.
I have a friend that I’ll call Heather. Heather’s a good employee responding to work requests nearly 24/7. Heather’s department recently came up for contract negotiations. Heather had been long time friends with her manager. They would frequently get together socially. Heather considered her manager a good friend. The problem with contract negotiations or wills or many other things in life is there a fixed amount of money to spend. So Heather was feeling disrespected by the contract offers. The manager recently invited Heather to a Christmas party at her house. Heather didn’t want to go because her feelings were hurt. So Heather asked me what she should do?
I said to Heather it depends on our goal for the relationship? Do you want to throw away the friendship? What in your mind is the best scenario for this relationship? Three months from now, Three years from now, or thirty years from now.
People can certainly tell of their seemingly former friends or feuding families members, but probably in all likelihood, the short term feeling of satisfaction can distract from one’s ultimate long term goals.
I was listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley where he said: “Conflict might take years to sort out, but harsh judgment will inevitability boomerang.”
So where do we find common purpose with those with whom we are in conflict? Back to Paul and Apollos.
Here’s what Paul proclaims to his followers in the Corinthian church.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God-1st Corinthians 1:18.
The Corinthian Church exists to save sinners. It exists to proclaim the Cross of Christ to broken people. The important thing is not Paul or Apollos, but rather why do they gather as Church.
We must never lose sight of our long-term purpose in the midst of any divided household. Let me tell you a story about another family member in my dad.
Dad grew up in Lindstrom, and other than his four years at the University of Minnesota has lived there all of his sixty-seven years. Dad since 1982 has been either on the City Council or serving as mayor for every year but two. About a decade ago, Dad faced a political controversy that could have brought him down.
Lindstrom had been having traffic problems for years. The traffic problems were two-fold. 1. The sheer volume of traffic passing through town from the Twin Cities to Wisconsin over 20,000 cars a day was more than the town could handle. There were weekend days when it would take 30-45 minutes to pass through a 2 mile stretch of town on Highway 8. 2. Highway 8 also had the nickname of being “The Highway of Death” due to the sheer number of pedestrian and traffic fatalities that had taken place in the last twenty years. A big part of the problem was a lack of stoplights and pedestrian crossings.
So the Minnesota Department of Transportation proposes a seemingly radical solution to Lindstrom’s City Council to divide the town in two. The proposal was for split pairs lanes to go through Lindstrom making Lindstrom a four-lane with the former main street as the divider. Residents were up in arms; I sat in public hearings where people would accuse Dad of trying to destroy the only town he had ever known.
Now, this issue was complicated on all sides as conflict often is. This project would require a good period of construction, along with the risk that businesses wouldn’t see as much traffic. Now my Dad can also have a quick fuse, like Grandma. But at every one of these hearings, he restrained himself and listened to person after person tell him how wrong that he was. What Dad did during the Highway 8 standoff was some of the most impressive leadership that I’ve ever witnessed precisely because his actions were so contrary to his nature. Dad ultimately voted what he thought would be best for the town. Years later, Dad has former opponents come up to him, commending him on how his convictions were what was best for Lindstrom.
Dad could have very easily done nothing. The Highway was the town’s difficult situation.
As pointed out again by Andy Stanley “Love will constantly require you to deal with difficult situations in life.”
Love will require as in the case of Heather and the contract negotiations ask what do want in the long run? Love will require as in the case of the members of the Corinthian Church often cause you to admit all sorts of people with different sins than you into your previously small, little church.
You see the simplest advice that Paul could have given the Corinthian Church is to start your own church, where you get to call all the shots. Paul believed that fighting to preserve one’s relationships is the most important struggle that we often endure as Christian people.
Now some of you might be, hearing all this and say this might sound good, but you don’t know my family. I’ve had people more than once say that their family is the most messed up family ever. They might yell no different than Grandma in the nursing home and make as much headway as pushing the wheelchair six inches towards the bed. We must never lose sight of God’s reasons for putting people in our lives.
Let me close with a story told in the book Crucial Conversations how even in the most heated of relationships in life there is hope.
Bobby was about to be deployed to serve in Iraq. Bobby was nervous about what he was about to see at war. Bobby’s father was against this idea. Bobby’s dad lets him know this and Bobby blew up. Pretty soon everyone in the family had taken sides: siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandchildren. Further communication between Bobby and his dad only led to more brokenness. They didn’t talk to each other for five years. Bobby’s dad wasn’t around for the birth of two of Bobby’s children. Finally, Bobby decided that the past was the past and wanted to attempt to rebuild the relationship he once had with his father. Both men agree to meet; the initial conversation was difficult threatening to boil over several times. Bobby and his dad never lost sight of their purpose: being in a relationship with each other even in the midst of their disagreements. Bobby like all people in the relationship came to see how much his brokenness had contributed to their prior split. Bobby’s mom had previously been so hurt by Bobby’s behavior that she wanted nothing to do with him, yet Bobby’s dad vouched that their relationship was worth saving. Slowly but slowly, Bobby’s family began to piece itself back together.
My point for this morning is this: We often need to ask ourselves what’s really important in this world? Do we believe that our God possesses the ability to raise even the most broken of relationships from the dead? Do we believe that God might possess plans for our church, our town, our life that go even beyond our imagination?
The great struggle that we face as Christian people is the finding the right balance between truth and grace in this world. Bobby could have let the truth of his politics destroy his relationship with his family, but he came to see the need for grace to sustain all human relationships. The Corinthians had all sorts of truth regarding how the church should look, but they lacked the grace to see that God might have different plans. We need to continually struggle with the question as Christian people in what do we really believe: “Do we believe in hope?” “Do we believe in healing?” “Do we believe in resurrection even from the most broken of relationships?” Amen
 Lesson is 1st Corinthians 1:10-18. The subplot between Paul and Apollos along with conflict within the Corinthian Church is the theme of the book.
 2 Corinthians 10:10.
 2 Corinthians 10:10.
 The inspiration for this week’s sermon comes from Carey Nieuwhof’s article titled “5 Stupid Things The Church Needs to Stop Doing to Make Progress.” Published on his blog on July 13, 2015.
 Stanley, Andy. “The N Commandments: Judge Not”. North Point Church. Atlanta. May.9.2015. Web. 16.Jan.2017.
 1st Corinthians 1:18.
 Stanley, Andy. “The N Commandments: Judge Not”.
 Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler. Crucial Conversations. McGraw Hill Publishing. New York. 2012. Print. P.29-30.
 The continual struggle between grace and truth can be found in Stanley’s book: Deep &Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.on pages 72-83. Nieuwhof’s article also touches on this theme.
First Lesson: Isaiah 49: 1-7
Responsive Reading: Psalm 40: 1-11
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9
Gospel Lesson: John 1: 29-42
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The 1998 Minnesota Vikings appeared to be the definition of a middling football team in the last four seasons they had gone 8-8, 9-7, 9-7, whereas their biggest rivals the Green Bay Packers had gone 11-5, 13-3, and 13-3 with a Super Bowl win in the middle. When the NFL was having its annual selection of college players that spring, there was a wide receiver available named Randy Moss. Top College Football coaches Lou Holtz and Bobby Bowden described Randy Moss as one of the best athletes they had ever seen. In College, Randy Moss scored 55 touchdowns in two seasons, as the most dynamic playmaker in College Football.
Randy Moss had baggage, he had gotten into a fight in high school and charged with battery. In college, he tested positive for Marijuana. Randy Moss failed to show up to the NFL’s equivalent of a job fair in the combine. Draft day comes, Moss is expected to be one of the top 5 players taken, and no one takes Randy Moss even though he looked to be one of the clear-cut best players available. Finally, the Minnesota Vikings take him with the 21st pick. Why did the Vikings take him? Randy Moss is one of the most famous football players ever, but you might not know that Randy Moss had a half-brother named Eric Moss.
Eric Moss seemed to be Randy’s opposite in a lot of ways. Whereas Randy was one of the fastest players in the league, Eric Moss weighed 315 lbs. Whereas Randy Moss was one of the best players in College Football, Eric Moss was not one of the 240 drafted players the previous year. In 1997, The Minnesota Vikings signed Eric Moss as one of their practice players who was unlikely ever to get in a game. Here’s the thing about Randy Moss his mother Maxine was a single mom who worked long hours as a nurse’s aide. So the person who watched out for Randy Moss as a child was Eric Moss. So even as every other team was shying away from Randy Moss during the 1998 NFL Draft, the Vikings figured they had a good influence to keep Randy Moss on the relatively straight and narrow in Eric Moss. 1998- The Vikings have their best season ever 15-1. Randy Moss quickly becomes one of the best players in football. Everyone knows Randy Moss, but they might not consider the role Eric Moss played in his story unfolding.
Jackie Robinson is one of the most famous Baseball players ever. Robinson broke Baseball’s color barrier in 1947. People regard Jackie Robinson as having some of the greatest character in American history for his ability not to lash out in the presence of continual racial hostility. Every Major League Baseball team has permanently retired Robinson’s number #42 for what he meant to the game of baseball. What you might not know about Jackie Robinson is that he like Randy Moss also had a brother named Matthew “Mack” Robinson. Jackie Robinson like Randy Moss was the son of a single mother. So Mack would be one of Jackie’s biggest influences growing up. Mack Robinson was a great athlete himself. Robinson came in second the 200 meters to Jesse Owens in 1936 Berlin Olympics, in the presence of hostility of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. Jackie Robinson arguably does not change American Baseball apart from the witness of Mack Robinson in the face of hostility.
Final story: Later this week, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States. What you might not know about Donald Trump is that he refuses to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Donald Trump had a brother named Freddy Trump Jr. Freddy was the best man at Donald’s first wedding. Freddy seemed to have it all: good looks, outgoing, yet an extreme lack of self-discipline. By his mid-twenties, Freddy Trump’s drinking and eventually his life spiraled out of control. In 1981, at the age of 43, Freddy Trump was dead. In the case of Donald Trump, he continually speaks of how Freddy’s witness impacted his life every day moving forward after he left this world.
Now what I want you to do is picture Randy Moss, Jackie Robinson, and Donald Trump now picture their seemingly anonymous brothers and the huge impact that they played in their lives. Now picture: Randy Moss, Jackie Robinson, and Donald Trump the impact that their lives have had or will have on the lives of others. How none of this happens apart from their brothers. Now let’s talk about Today’s Gospel Lesson.
Saint Peter along with Apostle Paul were the two most influential leaders in the Early Church. Jesus declared Peter to be the rock upon whom he would build his church. The big events of Jesus’ ministry: The Transfiguration, The Garden of Gethsemane. Peter was right there. Saint Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost led to the eventual conversion of 3000 people.
Peter is the definition of a big deal, but we know less about his brother Andrew.
Like Eric Moss, Mack Robinson, and Freddy Trump. Jr, Andrew plays a very integral role in Peter’s story and the eventual birth of the Christian church.
Shortly after Jesus’ Baptism, he is hanging out in the Judean wilderness in the presence of John the Baptist. Andrew was a close follower of John the Baptist. Jesus walks by Andrew and John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Andrew and the other disciple proceed then to spend the afternoon with Jesus. What Jesus says we don’t know?
Here’s what we do know, Andrew is so moved by what Jesus says he immediately goes to find his brother Peter (the closest person to him in the whole wide world). Andrew then introduces Jesus to the man who would become the first head of the Christian church. Andrew is a great evangelist, but what makes Andrew a great evangelist is interesting.
As I’ve talked about before, when I was in college and seminary, I was overweight. My Dad was concerned for my long-term health as he should have been. So Dad signs him and I up to attend a nutrition class, I didn’t want to go. No one likes to be lectured about everything that they’re doing wrong especially if it’s true. The classes would always have snacks that I thought no sane person would ever in a million years. My Dad has made much better investments over the years then sending me to that class. Eventually, though a few years later, I came to a realization that I needed a change in my life. Ironically enough most of what that class taught: High-fat, low-carb is how I try to eat today.
Here’s the thing about Andrew, he realized that was never going to get anywhere telling his brother Peter that “He must listen “or scold him into change. Andrew rather just said to Peter “My life had changed and you can listen too!”
Tim Zingale recalls an attorney one time saying the following: “When I have a poor case, I prepare an eloquent speech, when I have a good case, I simply call the witnesses.”
I believe the Christian Church often gets Evangelism wrong because we misunderstand it.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point describes three types of people needed to make any social movement such as a church grow.
Gladwell talks about Mavens who are the information people. You ask a Religious Maven a question about what makes “Lutherans different then Methodists?” or “Why does the Bible have so many letters by the Paul fellow?” Mavens can give you an answer. Mavens would be seminary professors, seasoned pastors, and highly educated laymen. You will learn probably the most interesting things from a church maven. The thing about mavens though is you find a room full of them no one else will be able to say a word.
The second type of person, Gladwell talks about needed in any social movement is salespeople. Salespeople can persuade others of the worthiness of their cause. Salespeople are ready to respond to objections often without hesitation. Salespeople would great be preachers like Andrew’s brother Peter along with other seemingly larger than life personalities who help build communities.
You might hear these two descriptions and believe that you’re neither a theological maven nor a skilled preacher so therefore you’re not an evangelist. According to Gladwell though, you don’t have to be. Andrew was a connector. Andrew’s gifts were in extending invitations to others.
Phillip McLarty gives the following example. The Billy Graham Crusade had a program called Operation Andrew. Operation Andrew would seek to find normal, everyday believers within local churches and have them invite just one person to hear the great religious salesperson Billy Graham. Billy Graham didn’t become the country’s most famous preacher because of his Peter like preaching; Graham became the country’s most famous preacher because all sorts of Andrews were extending invitations for others to hear him.
Ed Markquart makes the following observation: “I would like to suggest to you that throughout the history of the church that there have been 10,000 Andrews for every one Peter”. Without Andrew, there is no Christian Church.
Andrew’s gifts of connecting people with the faith are on display throughout the course of his life.
In John 12, a couple of random Greeks are passing through Jerusalem. Jerusalem was like Minneapolis in that it was the hub of all activity. These Greeks hear Jesus preach and want to meet him. The following outreach would have been a huge deal as Greeks would have been way outside Jesus’ typical crowd. Phillip tells Andrew of the Greeks request, Phillip and Andrew both tell Jesus. Pretty soon, all sorts of unlikely Greek disciples are made.
John 6, Jesus is followed to the other side of the Sea of Tiberius by a large crowd of 5,000 people. Nightfall is coming soon; everyone is hungry and long ways from home. No one has any idea how to feed all these people. Andrew though had been walking through the crowd and came across a young boy with five loaves of bread and two fish. Andrew then introduced this boy to Jesus. Pretty soon, five thousand people were fed all because of Andrew, even though very few people think of Andrew when they think of the feeding of the 5000.
My point for this morning is this. You might not see yourself this morning as an evangelist. You might see yourself like Andrew. Andrew wasn’t a brilliant religious scholar or a charismatic public speaker. I picture Andrew as the type of guy who works at the mine; walk around Zup’s with taconite-stained clothes, Andrew would be the type of guy who likes hunting, fishing, football, and Nascar. The Church always needs people like Andrew. People whose lives are so changed by Jesus’ presence that they invite others to also follow. To some Andrew might have only been the other brother, yet too many others more, Andrew might have been the one to help introduce them to Jesus. Amen
 Guest. “Randy Moss, From Beginning to End.” Pro Player Insiders. Feb. 2.2013. Web. 10.Jan. 2017.
 “Mack Robinson”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.Aug.12.2016. Web. Jan.10.2017.
 Horowitz, Jason. “For Donald Trump, Lessons from a Brother’s Suffering.” New York Times. Jan.2.2016. Web. 10. Jan.2016.
 John 1:36.
 John 1:39.
 Zingale, Tim. “Concerning Your Calling.” Sermon Central. Jan.14.2008. Web. 10. Jan.2017.
 McLarty, Phillip. “Lamb of God.” Sermon Writer. 2010. Web. 10.Jan.2017
 Markquart’s semon served as my spark for this week.
 John 12:20-26.
 John 6:8-9
 Markquart. Edward. “Series A: Andrew”. Sermons from Seattle. Web. 10.Jan.2017.
First Lesson: Isaiah 42: 1-9
Responsive Reading: Psalm 29
Second Lesson: Acts 10: 34-43
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 3: 13-17
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
On New Year’s Eve, I went to see Grandma. Grandma and I were playing cards. Grandma proceeded to win nearly every game. Grandma would begin by explaining the rules to me. I would try to follow the rules as best I could. Grandma would still win! Then when I asked Grandma to clarify the rules, she replied: “The rules don’t really matter!”
So my continual frustration of losing card games with no rules, led to me wanting to take our time together in a different direction. I sit down with Grandma to discuss “New Year’s Resolutions.” Grandma every year growing up would give me a New Year’s resolution that she was going to follow. Grandma like most people would never follow through on her resolution.
So I asked Grandma if she had any “New Year’s Resolutions for 2017?”
To which she said, “I don’t intend to live here the rest of my life.”
The following proclamation is a bold claim for a 93-year-old living in a nursing home. While I continually admire Grandma’s optimism, the reality is most people’s New Year’s Resolutions don’t work out.
Research shows that 80 percent of New Year’s Resolutions tend to become forgotten visions by Valentine’s Day. The truth is lifestyle changes are hard.
Dr. Edward Miller, the dean of the medical faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said more than 70 percent of coronary bypass patients are back engaging in the same unhealthy behaviors of eating, drinking, and smoking that led them to the operating table within two years.
Additional studies will point out that two-thirds of dieters gain back any weight they’ve lost within one calendar year. Why do so many New Year’s Resolutions fail, we’ll get back to that question in a little bit?
Today’s Gospel lesson begins a new chapter in the life of Jesus as it tells us the tale of his baptism.
Why was Jesus baptized? John the Baptist was initially unclear as to why behind this question. Jesus was baptized though to “Fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was baptized because, within the Old Testament, priests would undergo a ritual of initiation of ceremonial washing. Priests’ whole job was to make amends for people’s sins, now Jesus was going to handle people’s sin, once and for all.
On the day of his baptism, the path ahead for Jesus was not going to be easy. The very next event in Jesus’ ministry was that he was going to struggle in the wilderness without food for forty days while being tempted by Satan every step of the way. Jesus’ Baptism took place so that he may know what we know. Most of our life is spent in the wilderness, trying to find answers that ultimately move us forward.
Why do New Year’s Resolutions always fail? I was reading a book last week by Scott Adams creator of the Dilbert comic strip. Adams’ book tells his life story in how he used all sorts of failures in the business world to develop into one of the most famous cartoonists in all the land. Adams said the greatest revelation that he had in his journey was to view life regarding systems rather than goals.
For example, running a marathon would be a goal, whereas exercising every day would be a system. Losing ten pounds would be a goal and eating better would be a system. Adams points out the following problem with goals such as New Year’s Resolutions is that they leave us in a continual state of failure until we can finally relax upon completion. Only to eventually end up backsliding like two-thirds of dieters before us.
Goals are tough to achieve because of the sheer amount of willpower behind them. Systems though are different than goals. Systems are different in that they position us to embrace continual challenges as people, even if we experience our share of setbacks along the way.
Why do systems matter more than goals?
I was reading a book by the Basketball Coach Phil Jackson this week describing his time coaching the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls had the best player in the world in the Michael Jordan. There was no higher individual goal for Jordan to achieve. Jordan had led the NBA in scoring for three previous seasons, yet in the playoffs kept encountering the same road block in the Detroit Pistons. Season after season ended at the hands of the nemesis Pistons.
Phil Jackson wanted to change the way that the Bulls played the game of Basketball, by installing the triangle offense. Jordan was skeptical. The triangle had two potential downsides: 1. Jordan wouldn’t get as many points. 2. Jordan would have to trust his teammates more. Jackson saw the triangle though as bringing the Bulls to a more cohesive whole by seeking to uplift the gifts of every team member beyond Michael Jordan. The rest of the story is Michael Jordan would change his ways, defeat the Detroit Pistons and win six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. Today, Jordan is considered to be the greatest basketball player ever, all because he was able to put a system above his individual goals.
So on this day, we gather for our first worship service together of 2017? We look ahead to 2017 as a Congregation. 2017 will be like the first days of Jesus’ ministry a wilderness experience for the people of Sychar Lutheran. People will come into our lives and people will ultimately leave our lives. 2017 also promises to bring meaning.
Wanting more kids here on Wednesday night is a goal, seeking to make our ministry reach people from birth to over 100 is a system. Wanting a better church is a goal, seeking to uplift the presence of everyone who walks through its door is a system. Like Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, the best of systems are not built alone.
Even Jesus himself did not undergo the call of his baptism alone. Jesus was joined on this day by both the “Father” and the “Holy Spirit.” As he embraced the new chapter of life before him, he heard those words of promise. “You are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
What will happen to us at Sychar Lutheran Church in the year ahead? We might look around and see all the ways that we don’t seemingly measure up. We don’t have many members compared to churches in Duluth or especially the Twin Cities, we don’t have endless youth coming through the door on Sunday morning, and Sychar has some dark days in its history.
But let me ask you this Today: “What if our weaknesses might actually be our strengths?”
In November when I was down in the cities for a Vikings game, I attended church at First Lutheran in White Bear Lake. First Lutheran has 1800 members, four services on Sunday, and a Christian school within its building. Sychar and First would be very different churches to all those walking in their doors for the first time.
On this day, I met their Visitation Pastor Al Valerius. Pastor Al before coming to First Lutheran was the long-time Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran in Stacy. You talk to the people at Saint John’s where I’ve been to church before Pastor Al can do no wrong. So Pastor Al was talking to me about his first years at Saint John’s when their membership was similar to Sychar’s Today. Pastor Al described how these years of his ministry were a gift in so many ways. How the experience at places like Saint John’s or Sychar is different than being at a place like First Lutheran. He says the gift of being in a church like this was the depth of the relationships; you can form with your fellow members. You will never have the intimacy that we have as a church ten-times the size.
For the reality is a visitor cannot easily attend services here without being noticed. If people’s goal is to blend into the crowd without being noticed, Sychar might not be the choice for them.
What if our strength as a church is that we know where we’ve been and what we want to be, sometimes being a little stubborn in life is a good thing. Stubbornness towards a system as in the case of Scott Adams can be a very good thing.
What if we shouldn’t abide merely by the goal of getting more members, but what if instead, we should be a system with two non-negotiables: 1. The Gospel for the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed every Sunday. 2. Continually seek to reach the people of the Bay Area in whatever ways God calls us in the year ahead.
We will fall short of being the ideal church in 2017. We are an imperfect church, made for imperfect people.” It is amongst these imperfect people that we encounter hope.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”-2 Corinthians 5:17
When I was a student at Chisago Lakes Middle School, every student’s goal was to look cool and talk cool. If rap music were popular, you would start listening to rap music. If all your friends were dressing like skateboarders, then you would dress like a skateboarder. If the cool kids started wearing clown noses to school, then you better go shopping for a clown nose. The term for kids like this would be “poser.” Posers would try to be something they’re not. Posing is the polar opposite of faith.
“We are an imperfect church, made for imperfect people.” God doesn’t love us as we appear, rather he loves as we are.
The reality of 2017 is this: We will fall short within our daily lives. Every day we will die, only to awaken every morning. In the words of Martin Luther, “Life is nothing but a daily baptism, once begun, and ever to be continued.”
New Year’s Resolutions might but probably won’t bring about the dramatic change of flying to California that we often seek. Most goals are unsustainable, but systems are sustainable. It is systems that can keep a person going on the darkest days of their existence. Our system centers on not only Jesus’ baptism but the promises of our own.
Jesus on the day of his Baptism stepped into the wilderness to begin his ministry. While this ministry brought its highs such as miracles and conversion, it also brought it lows of rejection and death. On the day of his baptism, Jesus began to shape God’s people long after he rose to be at the right hand of the father. Jesus’ baptism pointed to a day that is still to come when we encounter God’s promises to one day call us by name and claim us as his own. Amen
 Mockingbird. “Time For A Change? The Ineffectiveness of New Years Resolutions” MBIRD (Mockingbird Ministries). 05. Jan.2009. Web. Jan.3.2017.
 The Mockingbird Article is based on Alex Williams’ piece “New Year, New You? Nice Try”. Which was published in the New York Times on December 31st, 2008.
 Mockingbird. “Time For A Change? The Ineffectiveness of New Years Resolutions.”
 Matthew 3:15.
 Slick, Matt. “Why was Jesus baptized?” CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry). Web. Jan.7.2017
 Matthew 4:1-11
 Lewis, Karoline. “You Are All My Beloved.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 01.Jan.2017. Web. Jan.3.2017.
 Adams, Scott. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. Portfolio/Penguin Publishing. New York. 2013. Print. P.30-34.
 Adams, Scott. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. P.33.
 The book by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty was Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success originally published in 2013.
 I was in the process of reading Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants when putting the sermon together. Gladwell’s book helped my thought process about how the way that we tend to look at both strengths and weaknesses is often wrong.
 2 Corithians 5:17.
 Mockingbird. “Resolved to Fail: Honesty and Personal Transformation.” MBIRD (Mockingbird Ministries). 02.Jan.2014. Web. Jan.3.2017.
 This saying from The Large Catechism.
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.