The Third Sunday after Epiphany

January 24, 2021

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom and to teach with authority.  Anoint us with the power of your Spirit that we, too, may bring Good News to the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captive; we ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Jonah 3:1-5, 10

The LORD calls Jonah to preach the message of repentance to the people of Nineveh.  Jonah’s message touches their hearts and moves them to repentance.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”  Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.  Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days.  On the first day, Jonah started into the city.  He proclaimed:  “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  The Ninevites believed God.  They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.  (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 62

My soul finds rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from Him.

He alone is my Rock and my Salvation;

He is my Fortress, I will never be shaken.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

my hope comes from Him.

Though your riches increase,

do not set your heart on them.

My salvation and my honor depend on God;

He is my Mighty Rock, my Refuge.

Trust in Him at all times, O people;

pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our Refuge.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

                        and to the Holy Spirit,

            As it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

SECOND LESSON – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (Sermon Text)

God calls on believers to realize that this world is temporary and to live their lives accordingly.  Christians use the things of this world without losing sight of their heavenly goal.

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.  From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.  For this world in its present form is passing away.   (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease.  Alleluia. (Matthew 4:23)

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 

GOSPEL LESSON – Mark 1:14-20

Jesus proclaims the Gospel loud and clear, “Repent and believe the good news!”

 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.  When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  The Time is Short!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Have any of you ever struggled with procrastination?  Your teacher tells you that you have a big test coming up in two weeks.  You may think to yourself, “I have plenty of time to study!”  A week and a half later when your teacher once again reminds you of the test, you start to sweat.  You get the notification that the tabs on your car are due.  You quickly send in the check.  But when the tabs come in the mail, you set them aside and say to yourself, “I’ll put them on later.”  It completely falls off your radar— until you get pulled over for having expired tags.  You just get your first “real job.”  Your parents and your grandparents encourage you to open up a 401K and start preparing for your retirement.  You say to yourself, “I’m not even thirty years old!  I have better things to do with my money!”  Twenty years later you lament that you did not listen to them.

Putting off to tomorrow what we could or should do today does not always have serious consequences— in earthly matters.  In spiritual matter, however, procrastinating can have very serious if not eternal consequences!  In our Old Testament lesson for today (Jonah 3:1-5, 10), Jonah reminded the people of Nineveh of that truth when he called them to repentance by proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  In our Gospel lesson for today (Mark 1:14-20), Jesus reminded the people of Galilee of that truth by proclaiming to them, “The time has come.  The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  And, in our  Epistle lesson for today, the apostle Paul reminds God’s people of that truth when he proclaims, “The time is short.”

The Time is Short!  That’s the truth that we want to take to heart this morning as we study Paul’s inspired words to God’s people in Corinth.  The Time is Short!  Our goal this morning is to see what that truth means for our marriage; what that truth means for our emotional life; and, what that truth means when it comes to the things of this world.

Our text opens with Paul saying, “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.”  In order for us to properly understand our text for today, we need to look at the larger context in which we find these inspired words.  In 1 Corinthians 7:1 Paul defines the context for us when he writes, “Now for the matters you wrote about.”  God’s people in Corinth had written to the apostle Paul because they had questions they wanted him to answer.  To be more specific, they had questions about marriage.  In the first seven verses of this chapter Paul outlines some general principles concerning a Christian marriage.  In verses 8-24 Paul addresses some of the challenges God’s people might face no matter whether they are married, unmarried, or widowed.  And, in verses 25-28 Paul says that due to the “present circumstances” his advice is this:  While it is not “wrong” for a child of God to get married, they need to remember that because of the “present circumstances,” “Those who marry will face many troubles in their life, and I want to spare you this.”  It is in that context that Paul says to God’s people, “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.”

We don’t know if Paul’s reference to the “present circumstances” is referring to a specific persecution that God’s people were experiencing or if he is referring to the difficulty that God’s people faced as they tried to live a moral, God-pleasing life in a city where sexual immorality and temple prostitutes were considered “normal.”  Either way, Paul encourages God’s people to remember, “The time is short.”  In other words, Paul encourages God’s people to remember that just as certainly as Jesus came into this world to suffer and die to pay for the sins of all mankind (Pointing to the cross), so also Jesus will most certainly return to this earth as the Judge of the living and the dead.  The certainty that Jesus could return at any time meant that God’s people not only had to live their life in the light of the fact that “The time is short,” but God’s people also needed to remember that when it came to sharing the message of the cross of Jesus Christ with others (Pointing to the cross), “The time is short.”  Paul then goes on to highlight three specific ways in which that truth applied in the lives of God’s people.

First, Paul reveals what the truth, “The time is short” means in the context of a Christian marriage.  He says, “From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none.”  If we were to take these words out of context it might sound as though Paul did not have a very positive view of marriage!  That misunderstanding of these words is instantly cleared up when we remember how positively Paul speaks of Christian marriage in Ephesians chapter five.  Not only does Paul tell Christian husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), but he also compares the relationship between a Christian husband a Christian wife to the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church.  (See Ephesians 5:28-33)

In the context of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is reminding God’s people to see all things— even the estate of marriage— from an eternal point of view.  Marriage is indeed a blessed gift from God, but it is temporary.  “As long as you both shall live,” or as some of you may have vowed, “Till death us do part.”  Our life in Christ, however, our relationship with our heavenly Bridegroom is eternal!  While God Himself calls on husbands and wives to love and honor each other, He does not want us to become so focused on our spouse that we forget or neglect our “first love”— our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  (See Revelation 2:4)  In other words, husbands and wives are to live in holy, life-long love toward each other while at the same time remembering that “The time is short.”

“The time is short.”  What does that truth mean for our emotional life?  Paul answers that question when he says here in our text, “From now on…those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not.”  In this context Paul is warning us against getting so wrapped up in the ups and downs of this life that we lose sight of the life that is waiting for us on the other side of the grave.  All of the earthly sorrows and all of the earthly joys that we experience as we journey through this world are temporary.  Don’t allow either one to take your eyes off of the promises that our dear Lord gives to us— promises such as Isaiah 35:10, “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away”; promises such as Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Is Paul saying that we should live a cold, stoic— almost emotionless— life?  Not at all!  God Himself created us to be emotional beings!  There are events in our life that make us happy and there are events in our life that make us sad.  Even Jesus cried!  (See Luke 19:41; John 11:35)  We need to remember, however, that all the events of this life are fleeting and transitory.  “The time is short.”

 “The time is short.”  There is one last question for us to address.  What does that truth mean when it comes to the things of this world?  Paul says, “From now on…those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.  For this world in its present form is passing away.”

It’s certainly no secret that we live in a very materialistic society.  We see ample evidence of people who give the outward impression that money and material possessions are the most important things in their life.  But that does not automatically mean that being “rich” or having a lot of “things” is inherently “wrong”!  If the good Lord grants us the resources to gather and enjoy the material blessings of this world, we give thanks and praise to Him!  But we always remember that we don’t “own” anything!  Great King David reminds us, ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).  Job reminds us of this sobering truth, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart” (Job 1:20).  I have known a number of very faithful Christians whom most people would consider to be very well off.  But by the grace of God they generously use their material blessings to support God’s Kingdom work here on this earth and by God’s grace they humbly take to heart the words of 1 Timothy 6:17-19, “Command those who are rich in this world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Did you notice how Paul once again encourages God’s people to look forward and upward?  Allowing ourselves to become “engrossed” in the things of this world is not only spiritually dangerous, but it is futile!  Why?  Because as Paul reminds us, “This world in its present form is passing away”!  Our dear Lord and Savior has told us that when He returns to this earth at the end of the age this world and everything in it— including all of our “stuff”— is going to be destroyed by fire.

Procrastination— putting off until tomorrow what you could or should get done today— is something that many people (perhaps even many of us) have to battle against, especially when we are young.  As we age and mature, as we gain a little more experience and hopefully a little more wisdom, we realize how risky it is to procrastinate.  As much as that is true on an earthly level, it is even more true on a spiritual level.  While we don’t know how much time we have left on our personal journey through this world and while we don’t know how much time is left for this world, we do know this:  “The time is short.”  May God grant that we will always remember what that truth means when it comes to our marriage, what that truth means when it comes to our emotional life, and what that truth means when it comes to how we view and how we use the things of this world.  “The time is short!”

To God be the glory!

Amen

 

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 

OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

O Holy Spirit, in your power and in your grace you have created the gift of saving faith in our hearts.  That gift faith enables us to believe and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and the eternal salvation offered to us in His name.  We now ask that you would continue to use your power to make us diligent students of our Savior’s Word, so that we read it faithfully in our daily devotions and gather regularly to hear it preached.  Help us understand and remember the Scriptures so that our faith may be nurtured and so that we enjoy steady growth as disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Enable us to apply the spiritual lessons we learn from the Word to our daily lives.  Foil the schemes of Satan and all false teachers who seek to rob us of a clear understanding and right interpretation of the Word and help us stand firm in the truth.

Dear Holy Spirit, in your power and in your grace you also inspired your servant Paul to remind us “The time is short.”  We don’t know how much time we have left here on this earth.  We don’t know how much time is left until our Savior returns to this earth in all of His power, majesty and glory.  Let that truth lead us to not only live every aspect of our life in a way that shows that we are focused on the glorious life that is waiting for us, but that we are also prepared to see our Savior face-to-face at any moment.  We also ask that you use the truth that “The time is short” to motivate us to share the glorious message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others so that they too will be prepared to stand before Jesus and give an account of their life to Him.

All of this we ask in the Name of Jesus our Lord, who taught us to pray:

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

C:        Amen.

 M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.