Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sermon -- 1st Sunday after the Epiphany (January 11, 2015)

LUKE 3:15-17,21-22

In the name + of Jesus.

     We have entered the Epiphany season.  The word “Epiphany” means appearing, or revealing.  The only way you can ever get to know about someone is if that person reveals information about himself to you.  A boy will ask a girl out on a date so that he can get to know what she is like, what she likes, and what she hates.  By what the girl reveals about herself, the boy finds out if he is compatible with her.  Likewise, the girl will only learn if she really likes the boy by what he reveals about himself.  Of course, people are usually on their best behavior on their first dates, so the couple will end up dating for quite a while before they really get to know one another.  If the boy tries to project on his girlfriend qualities or interests that she does not have, she will become agitated and he will become disappointed.  And if the girl tries to make her boyfriend what he is not, they will break up.  Through good times and bad times, each will reveal their interests, their personalities, and their quirks.  That is how a boy and girl will learn if they can commit to being husband and wife.
     In the same way, we do not get to project onto God what he is like.  When we tell people, “I think what God wants is….”, we are treading into idolatrous territory, presuming to speak for God and presuming to know what God thinks.  If we want to know who God is, what he wants, and what he hates, then God has to be the one to reveal that to us.
     John the Baptist came preaching fiery sermons and baptizing.  For that reason, the people were wondering if John might be the Lord’s Christ.  John confessed, “I am not the Lord’s Christ.  He who is mightier than I is coming.” (Luke 3:16)  No man can create his own Christ.  The Lord would reveal and identify his Anointed.
     When Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)  Here, Jesus was identified as the Lord’s Christ.  God the Father declared three significant things about Jesus.  “You are my Son.  You are my beloved.  And with you I am well-pleased.”  Here we have word from the Father himself.  This man is God’s Son.  The Father loves him because he is his Son.  And the Father is well-pleased with Jesus because he is an obedient Son.
     Jesus was identified as the Lord’s Christ.  He was anointed by the Holy Spirit.  Whenever someone or something was anointed in the Old Testament, it was set apart for God’s holy purpose.  David, for example, was anointed by Samuel to be the king of Israel.  David did not take this position upon himself.  He did not even campaign for it.  God chose David and had him anointed to serve God and to serve God’s people as their king.  
     Jesus was identified as the Lord’s Christ at his baptism.  Not even Jesus demanded to be known as the Christ.  He was content to let his Father identify him as such.  Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and, thus, entered his office as the Lord’s Christ.  This is where Jesus began his public work to serve as our Savior.  Jesus was anointed to deliver us from our sins.
     Jesus was identified as the Lord’s Anointed, and Jesus has given you a new identity, too.  Through Jesus, you have become children of God.  Through your baptism, you were anointed, set apart for God and for service to him.  St. Paul wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope…” (Titus 2:11-13)  You are children of the Lord by faith in God and his promises.  You have been set apart for living chaste, honest, and holy lives in a world that is still ruled by sin.  But here is where you come into an identity crisis.
     Listen again to what St. Paul says you have been set apart for: “…to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope…” (Titus 2:12-13)  But what have you revealed about yourself in the way you live?  You can be just as petty, bitter, sarcastic, and corrupt as anyone else on earth.  You have felt the hatred for others bubble up in your heart.  You have uttered perverted and provocative words to friend and foe alike.  Even if your friends excuses you for your sins, others take great pride in noting that you, a Christian, look and sound like anything but a Christian. 
     Denying that this is true does not change it or fix it.  Confessing your sins and repenting of them is how you are honest in dealing with your sins.  When you confess your sins, you are acknowledging that God’s assessment of you and of all the world is right: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  All are sinners.  All are guilty.  Whether you deny it or confess it, it is true.
     But God was pleased to grant us a new identity.  Jesus was identified as the Lord’s Anointed at his baptism.  Jesus was baptized in order to unite himself with us.  He has taken up our cause.  He has taken up our sins.  He has taken on our curse, and he has paid the price for us.  If you want to see the judgment for your sins, then look to Jesus Christ who has suffered and died for you.  There is where the curse has been put.
     You, then, have been baptized into Jesus Christ.  Through baptism, you were united to Jesus.  All that is his has become yours.  In your baptism, Jesus has washed away all of your sins.  In turn, Jesus has clothed you with his righteous obedience.  The words which were spoken over Jesus now the Father speaks over you.  You are his beloved children.  God reveals his love for you in the Christ who was sent for you.  The Father loves you, and therefore has made you his children. 
     Jesus was identified as the Lord’s Anointed.  And through Jesus, you have received a new identity: You are children of God.  This is not something you chose.  You did not even campaign for it.  God chose you.  Jesus saved you.  Through your baptism, God gave you a new birth into his family.  Therefore, you are his beloved children.  With you he is well pleased. 
     Jesus was identified as the Lord’s Anointed.  Jesus was anointed to give you comfort, consolation, and confidence regarding your place in his kingdom.  Jesus’ promises remain strong even when you are weak, or even when you are disgusted or disappointed in yourself.  Jesus identifies you as a baptized child of God.  Jesus’ words and washing give you an unshakable confidence; for they rest upon Jesus’ words and works, not on yours.  Your baptism, therefore, wipes away all doubt and staves off even despair.  Through your baptism, Jesus has cleansed you of all sin, and therefore God is well pleased with you.  Through your baptism, Jesus has marked you as a child of God, and therefore, you are an heir of his everlasting kingdom.  Through your baptism, Jesus has made you a new creation, which is eager to turn from evil and to devote yourself to what is good. 
     Jesus was identified as the Lord’s Anointed.  Jesus was revealed to you as your Savior, and he reveals to you your true identity:  Jesus has made you children of the heavenly Father.  Since you are God’s children, the Father in heaven loves you.  Since you are God’s children, He is well-pleased with you.  Since you are God’s children, you are heirs of his heavenly kingdom.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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