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.

The Bread of Life

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving Day | November 28, 2019

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and Psalm 100 • Philippians 4:4-9 • John 6:25-35

25 They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:25-35 New Living Translation (NLT)


Here in the United States it is a national holiday. Our family has put together our thanksgiving meal and soon it will be time to put it in the oven. For us, it will just be us and the kids who live at home. One of our Thanksgiving traditions is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. When we lived in Flint, MI the girls were so disappointed because the local channel broadcast the Santa Claus Parade from Detroit.

One things about thanksgiving dinner is that is is full of carbs and starches – at least ours is this year. It got me to thinking about the today’s scripture from the gospel of John. This story happens the day after Jesus has fed the 5,000 – and the day after Jesus walks on the water. The people are following Jesus because of his miracles – not necessarily for his teachings and not necessarily for the fact that He is the Word of God.

The people were following Jesus and he took time to teach them more about the Kingdom of God. While food is important in our lives – it is not what we should be pursuing. If we want to receive the approval of God, we should seek the Son of God. Most importantly we should believe in Jesus.

What’s crazy is that the people are looking for another miracle. They are looking for bread from heaven – in other words – manna. They want Jesus to do the same thing Moses did in the wilderness and Jesus reminds them that the manna didn’t come from Moses – the manna came from Father God. God is the one who offers true bread and gives life.

Today we need to be thankful for the bread that comes from the work of our hands, but also comes from our Father in heaven. If we receive the bread of life – we will never be spiritually hungry again. Whoever believes in Jesus will never be thirsty again.

Today we give thanks for all of God’s blessings…but we give thanks to God for sending us the Bread of Life – the bread from heaven. Thanks be to God, who gives us salvation through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Future

23rd Sunday after Pentecost | November 17

Isaiah 65:17-25 • Isaiah 12 • 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 • Luke 21:5-19

Some of his disciples began talking about the majestic stonework of the Temple and the memorial decorations on the walls. But Jesus said, “The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to take place?”

He replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and saying, ‘The time has come!’ But don’t believe them. And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.” 10 Then he added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! 16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. 17 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish! 19 By standing firm, you will win your souls.

Luke 21:5-19 New Living Translation (NLT)


Interesting that this passage comes up this week. At McCrae Brook, I have been preaching a series called Grown-up Faith. We have been looking at the big questions people have about Christianity. It’s been a great series. One of the last big questions we are going to ask is, How will it all end? I think all of us want to know what happens after we die – I think all of us want to know how the world as we know it will end.

The disciples are marveling at the architecture around them. If you’ve ever been to one of the great cathedrals of the world, I think you can understand the feeling. Several years ago, we attended Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Ontario. It is gorgeous.

The picture doesn’t really do it justice. There is a majesty and awe in entering the facility. I sense that is what was happening with the disciples. As they admire the architecture, Jesus starts teaching. He tells them that the temple and the decorations will be demolished.

The disciples are astonished and begin asking questions. “When will this happen? How will this happen? What are the signs?

Jesus then warns the disciples what to look for. He warns them of false Messiahs. We might even use the word anti-christ. He also gives them several signs that the end will be coming. In the midst of this, Jesus reminds them that when they are dragged into the courts and trials to use the opportunity to spread the gospel and tell people about Jesus.

But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.

Luke 21:13

While not mentioning the Holy Spirit, Jesus reminds his disciples that they will know what to say – giving them the words – and wisdom – so that their opponents will stop! How cool is that?

Jesus reminds his disciples that in the last days, people will betray us – even our family – they might even want to kill us – they will hate us simply for following the name of Jesus.

WHEN ALL OF THIS HAPPENS – STAND FIRM! – vs18

When you stand firm, you will win souls for Jesus. Two-thousand years have passed since Jesus admonished his disciples. The admonition still stands. We need to stand firm, so that our testimony will be heard and souls will be one to the Kingdom.

Who knows what will happen in the future, but God knows. We need to remember if the time was short then – the time is even shorter now. We need a sense of urgency to tell people about the saving work of Jesus!

Prayer for the Week

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The God of the Living

22nd Sunday after Pentecost | November 10, 2019

Haggai 1:15b-2:9 • Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 • Luke 20:27-38

27 Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. 28 They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife but no children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. 29 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. 30 So the second brother married the widow, but he also died. 31 Then the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them, who died without children. 32 Finally, the woman also died. 33 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her!”

34 Jesus replied, “Marriage is for people here on earth. 35 But in the age to come, those worthy of being raised from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. 36 And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection.

37 “But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 So he is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him.”

Luke 20:27-38 New Living Translation (NLT)


As we near the end of the church year, this week’s readings focus on the resurrection. The Sadducees – a group of religious leaders who were also in opposition to Jesus, but were different from the Pharisees in that they did not believe in any type of afterlife. These Sadducees come up with a question – a quite convoluted question – a ridiculous question to Jesus about the resurrection and marriage.

Jesus reminds the Saducees that marriage is for this life and not the resurrection. Those who are resurrected on the last day will not marry or be given in marriage. We are also reminded that those who are resurrection will never die again.

The Jewish people by the time of Jesus’ arrival had developed some sense that this life was not all there was. There was a hope of a life to come, as seen in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus that we looked at earlier this season. But Jesus reminds us that even as early as Moses and the burning bush, Moses referred to the Lord as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We are reminded that God is a God of the living and not of the dead.

Just this last week, we celebrated All Saints Day, which reminds us that those who have gone on before have a hope and they have a home in heaven. There is coming a day when those who are in Christ will rise again. We have that hope because Jesus himself rose again.

Zaccheaus

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 • Psalm 119:137-144 • 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12 • Luke 19:1-10

21st Sunday after Pentecost | November 3, 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

19 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:1-10 New Living Translation (NLT)


Today we have a familiar story (if you grew up in the church.) If you didn’t grow up in the church, that’s ok. That’s part of the reason this blog exists. As you can see by the story above, there was a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Tax collectors in First Century Judaism were no more liked by the locals than they are now. There is one notable difference. The local tax collectors were Jewish. The other Jewish people in the city, almost thought of them as traitors. The Jewish tax collectors like Zacchaeus were collecting taxes for the Roman government. The Jewish people were none to happy about giving their taxes to Rome. In addition, the Romans allowed the tax collectors a “royalty fee” of sorts, meaning they were to collect the required tax, plus they could “bill” for the service of collecting the tax. All of this made them not popular with the local crowd.

Into this story comes Zacchaeus – a Jewish tax collector for the Roman government – someone the Jews thought was a sinner. He knows that Jesus is coming to town. By this time, Jesus had quite the following. We learn that Zacchaeus was a man of short stature. In order to see Jesus, he climbs into a tree. While Jesus passes by, he calls up to Zacchaeus and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner.

I don’t know about you but that would make me nervous – having someone of Jesus reputation in my house. To some Jesus had a good reputation to others he was a malcontent. Zacchaeus, I think, would have seen Jesus to have a good reputation and also have compassion. After all, he had probably already seen Jesus’ compassion.

Zacchaeus and Jesus go home and this causes the Pharisee much angst. Again here is Jesus – the supposed Messiah – and he’s hanging out with people of ill repute (at least in their eyes.) While this is happening, Zaccheaus has a transforming moment with Jesus. The scripture doesn’t give us all the details, but Zaccheaus is intend on righting wrongs that were done while collecting taxes. He also plans to give away half of his wealth to the poor. Zaccheaus has repented of his sins. He may still be a tax collector, but from now on, it is only the required portion.

This is a life changing encounter, because Jesus declares, “Salvation has come to this home today!”

So what can we learn from this story? The Pharisees had written offs Zacchaeus, meaning that he was a sinner and there was nothing he could do to be saved. He was hopeless and not worthy of salvation. How many people in our sphere of influence to we feel are beyond salvation? I’m not talking about just friends and family, but those who we have daily encounters with. Let’s pray for them – no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The scriptures tell us that God desires that no one should go to eternal death. Let’s do our part to show them and tell them about the love of Jesus!

Prayer for the Week

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.