A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.



Confession & Forgiveness                                                                  p. 2

Gathering Song              “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”          red # 836

Greeting & Kyrie                                                                                p. 2-3

Now the Feast                                                                                    p. 4-5

Salutation and Prayer of the Day                                              p. 7 & insert


Readings, Psalm, Gospel (Gospel Verse   p. 8)                           insert

Sermon                                                                    Pastor Chris Halverson

On this third Sunday of Epiphany—this Sunday of the Superbowl—I wish to begin with a parable.

There once were two brothers. They were football coaches, one for the Baltimore Ravens and one for the San Francisco Giants. Their teams had just made it to the Superbowl.

They returned to their hometown—Toledo Ohio and held a joint press conference.

A party broke out—Browns and Bengal fans swarmed them. They shouted things like:

“The brothers are taking the Bengals to New Orleans!”

“The Browns are going to the Super Bowl on the backs of our own hometown heroes!”

Then it got awkward. The first brother said:

“Actually… I’m taking the Ravens to the Superbowl.”

The other brother itched the back of his neck, “And I’m bringing 49ers to New Orleans.”

You could hear a pin drop. They were all aghast—wasn’t the coaching brilliance Ohio fostered theirs? Could they share such greatness? Share Superbowl rings and MVP awards?

Are other people allowed to take what is theirs? Were these hometown boys … or rival coaches?

With these questions their joy turned to murmuring—one said, “They can’t be that good—look at their father, he never coached pro-ball.”

“If they were any good they’d be coaching a Ohio team.”

The brother’s responded, “Johney Unitus was born in Pittsburg ,but never played for the Steelers, and Elway in Washington, but played in Denver.”

When they heard this they rumbled and grumbled and chased them out of Toledo.


Let us pray.

Clearly there is more at stake in today’s gospel than a football game. Jesus’ relationship with Nazareth, and with us, matters more than an MVP awards.

After all, in today’s gospel the One who has come to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, is no accepted.

It’s a wild thing, and worrying, after all we so easily put ourselves in the same place as the crowd in Nazareth

our congregation so easily identified with that congregation so long ago.


Like them, we knowing so deeply that Jesus is our Jesus—that he is for us—we believe that so deeply, for it is true.

Yet, we can so easily assume, our Jesus, is our Jesus alone.

That he is for us, and not for others.

That we know exactly how he will act—because, you know, we know his Father.

We expect special treatment from him,

that he’ll stay with us when we go no further

that he won’t act in new ways in new places, because that’s just crazy talk and we know his father.

That he would rather stick with us, in our saved state, than go to the lost and the lonely.


That’s where our imagination so easily goes—we identify ourselves with the people of Nazareth.

And that’s not a bad thing

after all we can very easily take on the sin of exclusivism

we can easily try to tame Jesus

we can easily see Jesus and see the status quo

make him our excuse for doing nothing, or even denying God’s love of people different than ourselves.

And, when we do this—when we stick Jesus in Nazareth, or Germany, or North America—when we put God in a box—it’s necessary that Jesus says no to us—that Jesus reminds us of God’s unlikely, unexpected, and gracious story.

That Jesus reminds us of the Sidonese widow living in Zarephath, the pagan widow living in the land of Elijah’s persecutor—that Jesus reminds us that she was the only one blessed with Elijah’s presence and healing.

Likewise, it’s important that Jesus remind us that in the time of Elisha a Syrian general, Naaman, wished to be healed of his leprosy. A woman he had taken captive in one of his battles against Israel told him of an Israelite prophet, Elisha, and the healing power of her God.

In short—Jesus reminds us that God’s love is for every nation and people, that God acts outside boundaries we set—that God acts in ways we can’t imagine.

Remember I’d warned you Luke’s gospel was inside out and upside down.

But what if our close identification with the crowd in Nazareth—our reading St. Stephen into scripture—misses something?

What if, in using Jesus’ words spoken against his hometown, as a way to judge our own attempts to keep Jesus all to ourselves, we miss a liberating word for ourselves?

Yes—Jesus refuses to be pegged down in Nazareth.

Yes, he refuses to limit the length and breadth of God’s kingdom.

Yes, he does tell his friends and neighbors about an unexpected people—the Syrians to the east and the people of Sidon to the west.

But here’s the crazy part.


We’re the unexpected people too.

Yes—sisters and brothers—because Jesus didn’t stop at Nazareth, or Samaria, or Jerusalem—but continued on to the ends of the earth—we have the good news of God’s reconciling love through his son Jesus Christ right here in South Plainfield today. Right here in our messes and our pains, right here in our anxiety and brokenness.

Jesus was not accepted at Nazareth, because his ministry went beyond Nazareth.

We ourselves can fall into the same trap as the people of Nazareth did, and for that reason we need to be constantly renewed by God’s story of acting beyond borders and outside of expectations.

But not only that—we,

caught within a world which yearns for perfection and falls short—


bound to sin and unable to free ourselves—


We can thank God that Jesus continually comes to us—no matter where we are, no matter who we are.

Hymn of the Day    “Although I Speak with Angel’s Tongue”   red # 644

Apostles’ Creed                                                                                    p. 9                                 

Prayers of Intercession and Peace                                                  p. 10


Offering and Offertory Anthem            “I’d Rather Have Jesus”

“As the Grains of Wheat”                                                                 p. 10

Prayer (spoken in unison)                                                               p. 11

The Great Thanksgiving, Holy & Eucharistic Acclamations 2-3  p. 11-12

Concluding with Lord’s Prayer                                                        p. 13

Communion, with Lamb of God                                                      p. 14

Communion Songs     “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, red # 483 & 715

Prayer after Communion                                                                  p. 14

“Thanks Be To You”                                                                          p. 15


Post Communion Prayer and Blessing                                        p. 16


Dismissal                                                                                            p. 16