Preparing the Way

Our call is to prepare the way for Jesus, much like this construction workers.

Second Sunday After Epiphany | January 19, 2020

Isaiah 49:1-7 • Psalm 40:1-11 • 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 • John 1:29-42

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”

35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.

38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.

They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).

John 1:29-42 New Living Translation (NLT)

Last week was The Baptism of our Lord. We looked at the scripture from the gospel of Matthew. This week’s scripture is the next day from John’s gospel. John, as usual, gives us a little different perspective than the synoptic (meaning “seeing together) gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John doesn’t describe the baptism directly, but through John the Baptist’s testimony we understand that he has recently baptized Jesus.

Last week I asked the question, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” John wanted to know and Jesus told them it was required because that’s what God required. John baptizes Jesus – and like the other accounts we know that Holy Spirit descends like a dove. John relays to the crowd that God the Father told him that “The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” John the Baptist now knows that Jesus is the Messiah – the Chosen One – the One written in the prophets. It is this Messiah that will save the people from their sins – it is this Messiah that is the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world.

John knows that his part in the gospel story is coming to a close. He is the forerunner to Jesus – he is the one who is designated to prepare the way for Jesus. He has been doing this and now reveals to the Jewish people that Jesus is the fulfillment of their prophecies.

The next day after the above day, John is standing with his disciples – perhaps they weren’t there the day before – but again he declares as Jesus approaches…”Look! There is the Lamb of God.” They immediately leave John the Baptist and go to follow Jesus. They are the first of the disciples. Did you ever think about how John the Baptist felt – losing his own disciples to another teacher? Apparently word spread quickly that Jesus was the promised Messiah – but they also recognized Him as a teacher – for they called him Rabbi. Two days after his baptism and Jesus has already started developing a following.

I find it interesting in all this that John the Baptist revealed to those around him that Jesus was the Messiah. He had been preparing the way for Jesus. He knew that he was simply the forerunner – the message bearer that the true light was coming into the world. Once he declares Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, John the Baptist fades from the limelight.

John the Baptist did a great job in testifying to the light. That is what we are supposed to do. We are now solidly in the season of Epiphany. This season’s theme is to follow the mission of Jesus. We learn that Jesus speaks much of building the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist knew that for Jesus to get the glory – to give glory to the Father in heaven, that he must decrease.

This conversation happens in chapter 3. Both John the Baptist and Jesus are baptizing and John’s disciples are upset because more people are going to Jesus. John knows his place – that he is simply preparing the way – that he is not the Messiah. John is not jealous of Jesus’ success – something that can’t be said of the Pharisees. John replies to his disciples:

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

John 3:30

And that’s how it should be with us. We are not the Messiah – even though there are times we get a Messiah complex. We are called to prepare the way for Jesus – make the highway straight – to call people to repentance – to call people toward God’s salvation – to call people toward Jesus – and then get out of the way. God calls us to be humble. I was going to say like Jesus, but in this case…we can learn something from John the Baptist. He must increase. I must decrease. Amen!

Picture of the Week

This past weekend, our family headed over to Jamestown, NY, the birthplace Lucille Ball. We visited a museum dedicated to her and Dezi. We also checked out places where she was born and lived and her final resting place. This was taken in a park in memory to her, while we were having some fun. I added some filters to give it a retro feel.

Sunday Night Thoughts

What a crazy week…at least in the weather department. We started the week with no snow on the ground. Wednesday came and we had lake effect most of the day. It was a miserable day to be a professional driver. I battled the snow on each one of my four trips. Because of the lousy weather, our Kid’s Club did not kick off this past week. We hope to kick off this Wednesday evening at a new time. We did have a warm up, but on Friday morning – it was snow, sleet, freezing rain, ice – what a mess. The local school district had a two-hours delay and we didn’t have to leave as early. By yesterday, the snow was disappearing and by this morning it was all gone. Like I said a pretty crazy week weather-wise.

On Monday, we met as local pastors for a prayer meeting. God met with us in a special way. He is moving in our community and we pray that the Holy Spirit continues to move. On Wednesday, we had our monthly business meeting for our clergy association. It is so cool to see pastors, of several different denominations work together to build the Kingdom of God. Following the meeting, we had almost white out conditions – like I said crazy.

Yesterday, we decided to enjoy the day, so we headed off to Jamestown to the Lucy/Desi Museum. After touring the museum, we visited the cemetery where she is buried and several other local landmarks dedicated to Lucille Ball’s memory. After that we went to Olive Garden. After all, if you’re there you’re family. It was a fun day off.

This morning we woke up to no internet, no phone, no cable, but fortunately heat and electricity. As we prepared for worship, I listened to some music on my computer that I had downloaded.

There was a wonderful Spirit of God in our worship service this morning. We had a Wesleyan Covenant Renewal Service. Pam taught a short devotional. Even though the service was more formal than our usual services – with responsive readings and prayers – it was well received. It was a reminder that confession is a regular part of the believer’s life – as is God’s grace.

This week, Pam and I are looking forward to heading to the Buffalo Southtowns for our Leadership Development Meeting. This is always a highlight of the month. We have board meeting Tuesday, Kid’s Club Wednesday, and prayer meeting on Thursday. I am really looking forward to what God has in store this week!

Prayer for the Week

The Baptism of our Lord

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Obedient to the Father

The Baptism of our Lord | January 12, 2020

Isaiah 42:1-9 • Psalm 29 • Acts 10:34-43 • Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Matthew 3:13-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

This coming Sunday is known as the Baptism of our Lord. The gospel reading for this Sunday tells the story of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. As you may remember from our readings during Advent, John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. The baptism of Jesus, signifies the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. For the next three years, Jesus’ ministry will be out in the public. We don’t have much record of Jesus previous thirty years of life, but the final three years are earth are well documented.

John the Baptist is a bit confused. He doesn’t understand why Jesus is coming to him for baptism. After all, Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is God in the flesh. There is no need to be baptized for the remission of sins, because Jesus is the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. John says, it needs to be the other way around – that Jesus should be baptizing him.

Jesus reminds John the Baptist that this is the way it needs to be because God requires it. Jesus is our example – Jesus is God in the flesh – Jesus came to identify with His creation. Baptism will be something the followers of Jesus will do to identify with Jesus. Even 2,000 years later, believers of Jesus are still baptized. As we go into the water, we bury our old self – signifying, Jesus’ death on the cross. We then rise out of the water, into Christ. Just as Jesus was risen on the third day to give us new life!

Jesus’ baptism is one of the first places in the New Testament that we see the Trinity together – the voice of God the Father, Jesus the Son being baptized, along with the Holy Spirit coming down like a dove. By being baptized, Jesus has been obedient to God the Father – and Jesus will continue to be obedient to God the Father. It is this call to obedience, that Jesus calls us. He was obedient to the Father to the point of death as we are reminded in Philippians 2.

As I mentioned earlier, Jesus’ baptism signifies the beginning of his earthly ministry. This season of Epiphany – or the Sundays after Epiphany emphasize the mission of Jesus. We hear how Jesus calls his disciples to build and grow the Kingdom of God. Many of Jesus’ parables are references to the Kingdom of God. 2,000 years later, Jesus still calls his disciples to grow and to build the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of heaven. We are not to build our own little kingdoms of fiefdoms, but the Kingdom of heaven. By our baptism, we identify that we are a disciple of Jesus and we desire to be obedient to God the Father.