Fifth Sunday After The Epiphany
February 9, 2020
“Something To Say”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Earlier this week I received a phone call from my granddaughter, Joy. She is 9 years-old, fourth grade, I believe. She wanted to interview me with this question, “Grandpa, do you have a hero?” “Yes, I do.” “Who are they?”
I have a number of folks who have become a hero to me, folks that I respect, admire and I have tried to copy. The one that came to my mind was the pastor that I had when I grew up near Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Pastor Fred Kowert.
I don’t remember a single sermon that Pastor Kowert gave, even though I listened to him for about 10 years of my life. But I watched him. I saw how he treasured his wife, Lucille, and how he involved himself with his three kids. I saw him play ball in the church parking lot with the kids in the neighborhood.
And it did it with one hand. When he was a child polio took his right arm. So he had to catch the ball in the glove, remove the glove, and throw the ball. And he did it well.
His love for God and his family and his church was something that I will always see when I remember Fred Kowert. He had something to say.
Today in this continuing sermon from I Corinthians we look especially at chapter 2, the first five verses. (Read that text) I want to tell you that Paul had something to say. I, as a preacher of the truth that comes in Jesus Christ, have something to say. And you, in every aspect of your life have something quite amazing to say.
Somewhere along this thing we call life I ran into the name and the life of Walt Criswell. In 1944 Criswell became the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. When he arrived it was huge, it had more than 5,000 members. 50 years later, when he retired at 85, and got the title of “Pastor Emeritus”, the church had 26,000 members and a Sunday School of 5,000.
I remember an article that asked him about retirement when he was 80. He said that he wasn’t ready to get out of the pulpit yet because he still had more to say. In those 50 years at First Baptist he had preached over 4,000 sermons. And he still had something to say!!
I remember attending the funeral for Jim Riebling’s father in December of 2005, just a few weeks into my first 4,000 sermons here. Pastor Voigt, who preceded me, and had filled the pulpit for 30 years was also at the funeral over at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Littleton. I came up to Arnie, shook his hand, and he asked how things were going. I told him that things were going all right, but I had used up my best three sermons and I didn’t know what I was going to say the next Sunday. With some pastoral wisdom he said to me, “John, you’ve only got one sermon.” He was right. I’ve only got one sermon. And so did Kowert and Criswell and Voigt and Paul. And still we’ve got something, in fact, more than just something, to say.
What is the something that we preachers have to say? What is the something that you have to say and shout and live? “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2) That’s the one sermon!!
Have you ever been in a situation when you didn’t know what to say in response to someone? Or, you say something but then you realized that you didn’t say it right? Maybe you were asked a question, or invited to give a response, but you had nothing to say.
Paul would understand us. Paul speaks about his inadequacies with his manner of speaking. “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God…I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words…” (I Corinthians 2:1,3-4a) When he wrote II Corinthians this is what he said others were saying about him, “For some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive, and his speaking amounts to nothing.” (II Corinthians 10:10)
Paul had something to say, I have something to say and you have something to say but it isn’t about us. It is about Him. It is about God. It is about Jesus. Paul knew that the ability to change the lives of others and to give them faith in Jesus wasn’t going to come from himself but it was going to come from God’s Spirit. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (I Corinthians 2:4-5)
Your life right now and lived out until the day you die has something to say. But you won’t speak anything that will bless the lives of others now and even after you die if your life and words are all about you. God’s Spirit has to be the foundation of how you live and what you say. The witness you have is empowered by the Spirit. Remember? “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:3b) I, too, have something to say. I hope I can speak God’s truth by the power of God’s Spirit until the moment when I have no more birthday’s. I read that Criswell, 91 at that time, preached just two months before he died!! I guess he still had something to say.
Here’s what we have to say: I have a God who loves me and He has no limit to His kindness. In just a few days we will be talking about this beautiful thing called love. People are going to go out of their way to tell others that they are treasured. They’ll buy them gifts and send them cards, take them out to dinner and spend some romantic time together for Valentine’s Day. How good. What a blessing human love is.
Believers in Jesus have a deep and abiding love that comes from God daily. How do I know? I see the cross. Jesus Christ and Him crucified tells me that I have a God who loves me and he has no limit to His kindness. Last week I told you that some see the cross of Jesus as foolishness and weakness but we see it as strength and wisdom. Like God says in Isaiah’s writing, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Here’s what we have to say: “I am forgiven, washed, pure and whole.” Why did He die? Why was He forsaken on that cross? Why did He go though such hell? Jesus did it for us and for the world. He wants all people to be cleansed from their sins. He wants all people to know that they don’t have to bear their sins. They can let them go. He will receive all sin and make us pure. Every sin. Every wrong choice. Every embarrassing foolishness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21)
When Paul tells this congregation, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”, he was telling them that we have something to say to ourselves and everyone who would listen.
Here’s what we have to say: “I am a person who knows that I don’t have all the answers for life, but my God does.” We don’t have all the answers. Sometimes we have only questions to tragedies that don’t make sense. Paul didn’t hide his failings and inadequacies. In II Corinthians he asked God to take away his thorn in the flesh but God didn’t do it. The response of the Lord was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9) To questions that persist, God’s grace, unmerited love, is more persistent.
Here’s what we have to say: “I want others to know this God who can change life.” I don’t want to be the only one saying how great our God is. I don’t want you to be the only ones who are just overwhelmed by the hope and joy that Jesus brings to the world. I want others to know it. Paul, in the last chapter of Roman’s reveals his goal of life, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not known.” (Romans 15:20a)
I’ve had this nightmare a few times in my life – I stand in front of my congregation, in the pulpit and I have nothing to say. No written sermon in front of me. No words to share. I’m totally unprepared. I begin to sweat profusely. I’ve had that dream a few times in my life. I hope it doesn’t happen again!!
We have something to say. Our God loves us. Our God heals our soul. Our God guides by His Wisdom and Spirit. Our God uses us to bring others life.
It doesn’t matter how old we get we still have something to say. Amen!!