Sermons

February 18, 2024 Sermon

Almighty and eternal God, we implore You to direct, sanctify, and govern our hearts, minds and bodies thru Your laws and holy word, so we might be preserved in body and soul, thru Jesus Christ our Lord amen.

Mark’s Gospel is the familiar story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. Mark leaves out many of the details which Luke and Matthew have in their gospels. But Mark gives us a chance to dwell on a key concept of this text: The very idea that Jesus was tempted.

"To tempt" means to try and convince someone to do something.” A temptation is also like a test, to see if the one being tempted can make the right choice. I believe that God can use temptation to clarify our trust in Him. At the same time in this text, Satan has his own purpose – that is to turn Jesus away from God.

Jesus had been Baptized by John. He had come out of the water and heard the wonderful proclamation from God the Father. Then, immediately the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. There is major shift in the emotion of this scripture. was basking in the ecstasy of His Baptism and then immediately he experienced the brokenness of this world. The three specific acts of temptation are not mentioned in Mark’s gospel. All we know is that was tempted, period.

So what was the purpose that very Son of God had to go through this period of temptation?

Interestingly enough, people are not only tempted by other people, but by the situations in which we find ourselves. The temptations for Jesus are much the same kind of temptations we are faced with—temptations of the flesh, of wealth, and control/power. So Jesus sets us the example of how to resist the world, the evil one, and our sinful self.

Lent is the time when we follow the journey of Jesus to the cross. We watch as Jesus is tempted, as the devil tries to convince Him to turn away from undeserved suffering and death. Jesus came through these 40 days of temptation with His trust in God the Father strengthened, allowing him to set his face toward the cross of Calvary.

And that brings us to another question: Does God put temptations in our path to see if we will remain faithful to Him? As we pray in the Lord’s prayer God does not tempt anyone to sin. But he knows the sinfulness of this world will tempt us—from the fall of Adam and Eve to the very present. Temptations never go away. If the evil one has ever had you in his grasp, he will stop at nothing to get you back.

The temptations of this world are all around us. We are as Luther says, "Saint and sinner at the same time." Saint because of the saving power of Christ, and sinner, because we don’t always do what is required of us by God.

We are living in a world that will not be fully redeemed until Christ’s return. All around us are things that would lead us away from believing in God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as our selves.

There’s a bumper sticker that reads: "Lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself."

In all honesty, our batting average for resisting temptation isn’t very impressive.

Our experiences are a lot like the seat belts in motorized vehicles.

If we do not fasten them, that infernal dinging keeps annoying us. Seat belts are not made to unnecessarily restrict us. They are there to keep us safe, and the dinging is our friend. But instead of doing what we know is best for us, we can disarm the dinging which is meant to remind us to do the safe thing.

As Christians we know we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. God has even given us the Holy Spirit, to resist temptation. But like Adam and Eve we ignore God’s warnings to follow our own desires.

Think of all the times we have chosen to worship other things. Money, control, leisure… having an entitlement kind of attitude.

Here’s a story that illustrates this point quite well:

A king had one beautiful daughter and she had many offers of marriage, but she wanted a man who would love her more than anything else.

Finally, she devised a contest to determine who she would marry. There would be a race. The winner of the race would marry the princess. The race was open to every man in the kingdom. The only requirement was that the man had to love the princess more than he loved anything else.

Men rich and poor showed up for the race. Each professed wholehearted love for the princess. The men were told that the princess waited at the finish line. Whoever reached her first could take her as his bride.

Well the king, being a wealthy man, had generously scattered treasures along the course. Each runner could take as many as he liked.

The race began. Almost immediately, the runners came across great gems and bags of gold. There were necklaces and pendants and jewel encrusted cups and swords and knives. One by one, the runners, filled their pockets and carried off what treasures they could. Blinded by the immediate promise of wealth, they forgot all about the princess and their professions of love.

All except one. He pressed on, ignoring what to him were trinkets compared to the beauty of the princess and the prospect of gaining her hand in marriage, finally he crossed the finish line.

That is the way temptation works. The evil one tempts us with things meant to blind our eyes to the kind of life God wants us to live. In the back of our minds we have the thought well God will forgive me…forgetting that our God is not only loving he is also just.

Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we learn to resist temptation—to walk away from those things that would replace God in our lives.

Only by God’s grace, we can remain focused on Him.

With God’s grace, we can learn to love someone else instead of loving ourselves.

The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness where He was tempted by satan for 40 days...

We need to resist temptation the very same way Jesus did--with the word of God.

 

Sermon February 11, 2024

…and suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

What happened? Moses and Elijah…where did they go? No more cloud. No more voice. No more chance that maybe, they could stay there. Back to plain old Jesus.

But this scene, the Transfiguration, shows us that Jesus never was or ever will be plain old Jesus. We have heard this Epiphany season how He, unlike the other teachers, spoke with authority. This ordinary looking man cast out demons and healed diseases. Peter, James, and John knew all that before. But now they got to see it and the sight of it terrified them.

So maybe it was a relief when they looked up and no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus. But this scene, they would never forget.

They many have wished for it back, from time to time. Like, when the Scribes and Pharisees plotted against Jesus. Or when in the Garden of Gethsemane the soldiers and guards came out to arrest Him. When Pilate scourged Him so brutally, and then when He was hanging on the cross. . . .Show ‘em, Jesus! Show them who You really are. God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. Terrify them with Your glory.

In Gethsemane when Peter drew His sword and Jesus said to him: Peter, don’t You remember? Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than 12 legions of angels?

So why don’t You, Jesus? Why are You letting them treat You like this?

Seeing Jesus in His glory and majesty, had to have been awesome! But what difference does it really make? Peter, James, and John, were terrified, because we are sinners who had no business being in the presence of a holy and sinless God.

But if You’re such an awesome and powerful God, how come You did prevent the accident? Why am I having all these troubles? Suffering? Or the troubles in the world, which seems more and more everyday to be going to hell in a handbasket? Why don’t You do something, Jesus? Show Your glory! Make things right.

But we look up and look around . . . no glory, no intervention, no transfigurations today . . .or are we just not seeing them?

Scripture tells us those with ears to hear, let them hear. God the Father says: this is my beloved Son; listen to Him. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 1:17). Hearing the Word of God. This God. The crucified God.

The transfiguration shows us the awesome glory and power of God, but it is the crucifixion that shows us the awesome love of God. His love for each one of us individually. It shows us what Jesus really came to do for us.

So Moses and Elijah don’t stick around. They had their day. The Law and the prophets were fulfilled. The Old Testament points to the Savior. The Law shows us our sin and our need for a Savior - but the one greater than the Law, greater than our sin, was Jesus and he’s here to stay. Just Jesus. So listen to what He’s tells us. Because the one arrested, the one scourged, the one trading places with sinners, the one being crucified, the one dead in the tomb is the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world and only by listening to Him will You see a holy and sinless God serving a sinful humanity in humility and love.

That’s the glory He has left here for us. The glory not of His power but of His forgiveness. The glory not of His awesomeness but of His humility. The glory that does not terrify, but that comforts us and gives us hope. The kind of glory that we need.

But the speed of light is faster than the speed of sound. So it is with our thoughts and desires more quickly allowing us to see, rather than what we hear. Signs and wonders, please; glory and miracles please; evidence, please; not just words.

Jesus shakes His head saying, no. He wants greater glory than that for us. Not what the world thinks is glorious. Not what our sinful self believes and wants. But the glory of Jesus.

So we need to be changed. Like Peter, Jame, and John, our hearts and minds need a transfiguration and we have it, according to Paul in the reading from 2 Cor. We all are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. We are being transfigured into the image of Christ. That His glory might shine through us. The love, the forgiveness, the serving. The Spirit working in You, Paul says.

To which our old sinful nature-objects! We think we want the impressive stuff. Loving, forgiving, serving, especially to people who don’t appreciate it or take advantage of us—why bother.

But as new creations adopted as children of God, raised with Christ, by dying and rising with Him in Holy Baptism, we are empowered to hear Jesus, to forgive, and expect nothing in return.

When we look to the Altar, we should see only Jesus—in His Body and Blood, here for us….to save us…to transform us…to forgive us of all our sins.

But we got even more. For the Spirit of the Lord is being poured out in the Word—and the word is Jesus. Set Your eyes on the cross to transform You from sinner to saint, because then no matter what happens in the world or in Your life, You will always have hope. Because You have Jesus.

The disciples were about to experience such hatred against Jesus that it would shake them to their core. Peter buckled in fear and denied his Lord. Then seeing the once-transfigured-Jesus hanging, dying, on a cross, he heard: Father, forgive them.

And so we enter the season of Lent to listen and hear Jesus. At the end of Lent or at the end of our life, there is the promised resurrection…another Transfiguration. But there’ll be one important difference: we’ll see the holes in Jesus’ hands, His feet, and in His side. and we’ll know He did it all for me.

Mountain top experiences are great, but living, working, helping, loving in the valleys are where Christ asks us to be showing love and compassion, for our neighbor, as Christ has done for us. Amen

 

February 4, 2024 Sermon

Heavenly Father, we thank You for who You are and for the gift of Your Son. As Jesus was faithful to Your will, He showed us what it means to live in relationship with You, our creator and redeemer. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, may we prove to be worthy disciples of Jesus, following His example of trusting Your will for our lives. This we ask in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

In today’s Gospel Jesus was concerned about the people’s health and He is still concerned about our health. He wants us to experience healing, to whatever degree that is possible in this life; then, to know complete in eternal life. and He wants us to become His agents to bring healing and hope which happens when we serve one another.

Consider today’s Gospel. It opens with the two brothers, Simon and Andrew, welcoming Jesus into their home, along with other disciples. The brothers told Jesus that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a high fever.

Without a word, Jesus took her by the hand, helped her up from her sickbed, and her fever disappeared. The woman was healthy again! She asked no questions, engaged in no speculations. She expressed her gratitude through service. She put lunch on the table for her family and her guests.

This account is remarkable in several respects. Jesus cured this woman and did so in a way that allowed her to return to normal immediately. But what’s also remarkable is that Jesus touched this woman. He was, a rabbi, and rabbis in that time did not do that. The woman’s response is truly remarkable. Rabbis were not allowed to be served at table by women. But Simon’s mother-in-law did just that. Jesus had set her free, not just from physical illness, but also from social constraint.

The news of her recovery spread like wildfire. People from all over the town brought their sick relatives to be healed. The house was surrounded by a moving mass of humanity. Jesus healed each sick person. But in time, Jesus became weary. Once the crowd dispersed, he went off to sleep. Then He was up again before dawn, to spend time alone in prayer.

Jesus’ prayer time was interrupted by the arrival of Simon and several others with him. What is interesting is that Mark did not call these men disciples because they are not behaving as disciples. They were a part of the crowd. We do that too, don’t we? We haven’t always acted like disciples? Like believers? Like Christians?

Another interesting fact is that the towns people wanted Jesus to remain. There were still many in their town who needed healing. In Luke’s Gospel we’re told that they “held on to him, so that he wouldn’t go away from them.” But we can’t really blame them, can we? They were pleading on behalf of someone they loved. Wouldn’t we do the same?

Jesus responded to the crowd by saying, “I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other cities as well.

This decision was in line with what Jesus came to do. It was never his aim simply to cure people of their diseases, wonderful though that is. He honors physical health as God’s gift but recognizes that God gives even greater gifts.

Jesus wants to heal not just the body, but the whole person. He wants not only to help individuals, but to transform the world.

Jesus does not want patients who become well and then return to business as usual. But isn’t that usually what happens? Jesus wants disciples who accept a new life and extend His ministry to all people in every place, establishing the reign of God. That’s what we are all called to do.

Peter’s mother-in-law learned from her encounter with Jesus that God did not will suffering. She also learned that she served as an instrument of God’s purpose. From Jesus she gained a new power in her life. That power made her bold enough to overcome societies constraints. It made her willing to meet the needs of others.

When Jesus healed her, she responded by serving others. She was empowered to help others because Christ had helped her. She was born again to an abundant life. She was a blessing to those around her. Christ still heals as He did on that day. He not only heals our bodies, but our souls, our minds, our hearts, our memories, our relationships, our families, our social structures.

All true healing is the work of Christ. Where is Christ at work healing you? In what aspect of your life do you need to feel His touch? How is Christ now at work in your life to change you to wholeheartedly become the person God wills for you to be?

Each of us would do well to spend some time with this question both today and in days to come: “Where is Christ at work healing you?”

As the answer to that question comes into focus, an answer unique to each one of us, we will experience transformation, change, redemption because we become more fully aware of the part we have in the kingdom of God.

Jesus wants all of us to express our gratitude by responding to the needs of the people around us. Then the reality of His compassion will extend, like ripples in still water.

Folks, there is nothing more important than developing a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. May God’s Spirit inspire every one of us to engage in conversation with the Lord God, that we might come to know His will for our lives.

God sends us out, to share love and mercy with those around us.
Jesus commands us to speak truth to those who walk in darkness.
May the Spirit fill us with compassion for those whose lives are broken. Amen

 

 

January 21, 2024 Sermon

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we have gathered here this morning to worship and praise You for Your love, mercy, and grace. We are here, because You have called us to do the work of Your kingdom. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, please inspire us to faithfully do just that, trusting that You will supply all we need, at the right time and the right place. To this end, we pray in Christ’s holy name. Amen

Each of us have been called by God to fulfill a purpose in this life as a part of God’s over-all plan. The question is: how seriously do we take that calling?

As we read in today’s Gospel, four men had an encounter with Jesus. Last Sunday, we looked at the call of Philip and Nathaniel. Jesus had called Philip and then Philip told Nathanael about his encounter with Jesus. Nathanael actually had some coarse words, but Philip didn’t back away. He simply said three simple words, come and see. Nathaniel did just that and clearly stated that Jesus was the Messiah.

Today, we have another encounter with Jesus as He begins his public ministry. Passing along by the Sea of Galilee he called fishermen to become fishers of men.

"Follow me,” and immediately they left their nets and followed him.

This is where it may be a bit difficult for us to understand. It says, they left their nets and immediately followed him.

When Jesus called these fishermen, they could’ve said we’ll think about it; we’ll talk it over with our families, what will we be paid, will this preaching be full time, what do you mean the kingdom of God is at hand?

But when Jesus called these fishermen, they didn’t ask any questions, they didn’t consult with their families. Their sense of calling was so strong they just followed Jesus.

When we encounter Jesus through the Holy Spirit-- to follow him…to let him be the Lord of our lives, our complete trust in Jesus outweighs all the uncertainty, outweighs thinking something better will come along, or procrastinate, hoping someone else will do it.

When Jesus calls us there is a sense of urgency that demands an immediate response--not tomorrow or the next day, but now. He wants us to feel that sense of His calling in our lives.

A group of people were standing outside a cathedral in Europe and admiring the fine craftsmanship, the detailed work-- the love that built such an impressive place to worship the Lord God. One of the men turned to another in the group and said, "Why can’t Americans build with such pride, and craftsmanship today? the other man replied, "They had convictions; we have opinions."

Isn’t that true? For many people-- over half in our country, God is like a hobby or an elective choice. He’s for Sunday, if I feel like it, not Monday. In today’s culture people resent anyone who tells them they need Jesus. Many Christians won’t speak about Christ because they don’t want risk being rejected.

For anyone to experience the fullness of God in Christ they must submitted to Him as their Lord of everything. and only then can they know the abundant life that transcends this world.

When Jesus encounters us, He doesn’t want our opinions about Him, He wants our conviction that He is the Lord of life, that we are His servants and He is the master, He is the leader. We are the followers, we are His children, He is the father provider.

When we encounter Jesus, He calls us with a sense of urgency, that requires conviction and commitment.

True fishermen have a sense of commitment. So when Jesus called them, they knew what He was talking about. They would go out and catch others for Jesus. They would catch others with the gospel message of repentance, and forgiveness that Jesus was proclaiming. They would share with others the good news that Jesus was sharing with them. Jesus calls us to give to others what he has 1st given to us, His love and forgiveness.

There was a girl who had a large collection of dolls heaped on her bed. One day a friend of her mother’s stopped by for a visit. The girl was always excited to show off her dolls. Seeing all of the dolls spread out the guest asked her, "Which doll do you love the most?" She reached over and picked a ragged doll whose hair was mostly gone, and one leg was missing. "This is the one." "Why is that?" the visitor asked. "Because if I didn’t love this one nobody else would."

Jesus calls us to love the ones in this world that nobody else will love. Jesus calls us to reach out to the lonely and needy, to the sick and forsaken, to all who need to hear that someone loves them and that someone is Jesus.

Jesus went into Galilee to preach the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus calls us to have the same conviction—with a sense of urgency, to reach out with his message of love and forgiveness.

There is an illustration that tells of Jesus’ ascension into heaven and being met by the angel Gabriel who asks him, "Now that Your work on earth is finished, what will insure that the Gospel You brought to earth will spread throughout the world?"

Jesus quickly answered, "I called some fishermen and tax-collectors to walk along with me as I did my Father’s will."

"Yes, I know about them," said Gabriel. "but what other plans have You made?"

Jesus replied, "I taught Peter, James, and John about the kingdom of God; I taught Thomas about faith; and all of them were with me as I healed the sick and preached to the multitudes."

Gabriel began to lose patience. "All that is fine, well and good, but surely You must have other plans to make sure Your work was not in vain."

Jesus looked at Gabriel and said, "I have no other plans. I am depending on them!”Bottom of Form My friends, that’s us!

May the God of peace equip You with everything good that You may do His will, working in You that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

God sends us out, to share love and mercy with those around us.
Jesus commands us to speak truth to those who walk in darkness.
The Spirit fills us with compassion for those whose lives are broken.

 

January 14, 2024 Second Sunday after Epiphany

Let us pray: Dear Lord, in every generation You call people to follow You. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to Your call, and teach us to listen for Your leading. Make us expectant, eager, and grateful followers, to share the good news of Your love and redeeming grace to all who will listen. This we ask in Your Holy name. Amen.

A professor at a prominent law school said, "When I have a poor case, I prepare an eloquent speech, when I have a good case, I simply call the witnesses." The Gospel of Jesus Christ simply needs to call its witnesses.

Both of the scripture lessons for today are about people being called by Christ.

Peter was called to be an apostle, called to change his life, called to serve the Lord Jesus as a witness to God’s grace in his life. Paul’s greatest concern was to be sensitive to the voice of God who had called him.

As members of the body of Christ, we have been called by God to be His people; we have been called to be His church-- to be the ones who bring God’s grace into this world.

So to answer the question: Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”— John points to Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Jesus called His first disciples. Andrew followed Jesus, who found Peter, who in turn followed Jesus. A little later, Jesus called Philip to follow and Philip, in turn, brought Nathanael. Philip exclaimed: “We have found the Messiah! He is Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph.”

Nathanael’s response: “Nazareth? Can anything good come out Nazareth?”

Scholars have debated for centuries why Nathan made such a seemingly condescending response.

There is no theological significance assigned specifically to Nazareth. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament. No prophet came from Nazareth. It could have been an ethnic slur. Galilean Jews had been exposed to more Gentiles living in the area, which was not considered a good thing. Judeans considered Nazareth a morally inferior place, having a reputation for meanness, wickedness, disrespect for the levitic law, unbelief.

For whatever reason, Nazareth, in the mind of Nathanael, would have been considered the absolute last place that any one good, would come from!

But Nathanael isn’t the only one to ask that question. It’s a question we’ve all asked when we can’t see any good coming from doubtful circumstances.

Can any good come from a small, inferior town with nothing more than a post office, a gas station, and maybe a little church?

Or, can any good come from suffering?

Can anything good come out of a time of sickness?

Can anything good come out of a devastating loss, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job?

Can anything good come out of divorce?

Can anything good come out of a time of financial distress?

Paul said in Romans 8:28 … we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Do we really believe that? Christians should always be able to answer yes! ….because of Jesus.

Jesus is the example. Born in a stable. Raised by peasant parents. A fugitive from an “off the radar” town.

We often try to tell God what to do …but His ways are infinitely better than ours. He knows the outcome of every situation. He is already in the future. And lest we forget, only our God can pull the iron out of the fire and bring good out of bad!

Only our God can bring forth greatness from people and places and circumstances we’d never even imagine!

Only our God can bring blessing to people who have messed up their lives and have been written off as worthless!

Jesus of course, certainly had no sin. But by God’s plan Jesus came from the most humble of circumstances. and that alone for some was enough to disqualify Him. No way could He be the Messiah!

But what’s really cool--God in essence says: “Just watch me!”

Jesus was betrayed, rejected, persecuted, prosecuted, crucified on a cross between two thieves. What good could possibly have come out of those circumstances?

Two disciples, on the road to Emmaus on the evening of the first Easter Day, were discussing recent, tragic events. Their hopes and dreams had been crushed. Then a stranger appeared. They poured out their hearts to Him. They asked Him, not exactly in these words, but implied: “What good could come out of what had happened the last 3 days?”

But it wasn’t just “any stranger” who walked with them. It was Jesus! Having died a terrible death, under the worst of circumstances, He had risen from the dead! The good that came from those circumstances was our salvation.

Even in the most difficult of times, the answer for all believers is, Yes, something good can come from pain, and suffering and even death. The answer is always, and eternally, A resounding yes! But that implies we trust God’s work in our lives; we must be willing to listen for God’s voice; and we must be willing to go where God leads us!

The greatest good of Christ’s death and resurrection was unforeseen by those in positions of power. That’s still true today.

God often calls us to the greatest opportunity for ministry in the most dire and difficult circumstances. His mission is continually worked in us as we confess the Name of Jesus, not only here, but in our daily lives, and throughout the world.

“Can any good come out of it?” The answer is: Yes. Always and eternally: Yes!

May the God of peace equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

 

Sermon 1-7-24

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, as we celebrate the good news of Your saving grace in Jesus, open our hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Help us to hear with new ears what the Scriptures proclaim and empower us to respond with renewed faith in Your gift of redemption. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

If the Gospel reading sounds familiar, it’s because we heard part of the same reading on the 2nd Sunday of Advent—Dec. 10th. John the Baptist spoke about the coming of Jesus –the one the prophets spoke of so long ago.

We are one week into the year 2024. Many of us may feel that nothing has really changed. But last year is behind us. There is a sense of newness when we turn the calendar from December to January. I think it’s safe to say, we all look forward with hope and promise as to what this new year will bring.

Our text today is about newness. Jesus is baptized, and he begins a new chapter in his life. His baptism marked the beginning of his ministry, new adventures, and opportunities; new obstacles and opposition.

As Christians, we tend to clean up Jesus’ humanity. We agree that God became human and took on our identity in the person of Jesus. But it’s difficult to imagine Jesus struggling with the same issues with which we struggle. Jesus did not sin. He was never envious or jealous. Yet we know He got angry. He was never disappointed or discouraged. Yet, we know He was frustrated with the disciples more than once.

I don’t think Jesus had it as easy as we might think. He was born into a family of meager means. He was born out of wedlock—a curse He carried with Him His entire life. Certainly, Mary told Him about the visit by the angel, the shepherds, and the magi, but that doesn’t help much when you’re being shunned by members of the community in which you live.

God spoke directly to Jesus at the time of His baptism and identified Him as the beloved Son of God. From that moment on, His baptism onward, Jesus defined Himself as God’s chosen one; God’s anointed. Life was fresh and took on a new meaning.

In many ways our lives are similar to Jesus’. We look at ourselves in the mirror and we may not like what we see. We tell ourselves that we are average at best, or worse—total failures. The positive aspects of our lives are often overcome by the negative. It seems we can remember negative happenings in our lives far better than the positive things.

That’s when we must remember that because of our baptism into Christ Jesus, we are not just average, or failures. We are children of God. Like Jesus, God has claimed us as His own, filled us with His Holy Spirit. In other words -- He is well pleased with us. All things became new at our baptism.

It’s at His baptism that Jesus begins His mission. The Spirit descends upon Him and empowers Him for ministry. From this point on, Jesus is focused on proclaiming that the kingdom of God by healing the sick, casting out demons, and providing for the needs of the people.

There’s a story about a mother who was at home with her two daughters ages 3 and 5. The mother attentive to her children realized the house was quiet—which led her to believe the kids were up to something.

Then she heard the repeated flushing of the toilet. As she approached the bathroom she heard whispers, and then flush. Whispers, flush. Poking her head into the bathroom, she saw both of her daughters standing over the commode one of them holding a dripping Barbie doll by the ankles. This is what the mother heard: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and in the hole you go." Flush. All of the girls’ dolls had been baptized. (I don’t think that dolls were included when Lydia and her entire household were baptized in the book of Acts.)

There are times when it feels like life has grabbed us by the ankles and dangled us over the waters of chaos. And we know believers are not exempt from trials and struggles. We even know that, at times, it happens precisely because we are believers. But as baptized children of God, we have the strength needed to face life’s challenges.

Like Jesus, we too, have been given a mission, at our baptism. As the body of Christ; His eyes and ears, hands, and feet, we are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.” We have been given the privilege of sharing God’s love and grace. Whatever our situation in life might be, the call remains constant. Everything in our lives—our job, family, leisure time, etc.—becomes an expression of our mission.

Our baptism may have been many years ago, but it still brings newness in our lives. Every morning we should begin with thanksgiving that we are God’s people. Every day we can rejoice and give thanks for the challenges we face in life because they bring a new expression of God’s grace and love.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, He was on the move. Nothing deterred Him from His mission. That should be true for us as believers—as Christians as well. We are baptized for action and commanded to make disciples. We are baptized to go out into the world and be the hands, voice, and the presence of Christ. Our baptism is to be used to bring the love of God in Christ Jesus to all people.

May the God of peace equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen