Archives: Epiphany

Mercy Wins: The Hardest Teaching

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I don’t know about you, but those words strike fear into my heart every time I read them.

Be perfect? And not just perfect, but as perfect as God the Father? Has Jesus met us? How could he ask this of us?

It’s an incredibly high standard, at the end of a long list of standards, one more difficult to achieve than the next.

Do not resist an evildoer. Turn the other cheek. If someone sues you for your coat, give them your cloak as well. Go the extra mile. Give to everyone who begs or borrows. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

And last and seemingly least attainable, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus always seems so loving and gentle, but here he seems to morph into the strictest taskmaster possible, demanding something of us we can never achieve.

It is very easy to go wrong with this passage and get ourselves tied up in knots. Continue reading

Salt and Light

Salt and light.

That is what Jesus calls us today, what Jesus calls us to be today, so we want to spend some time exploring what he’s asking of us.

Being called the light of the world is suitably flattering and the symbolism makes immediate sense.

Being called the salt of the earth, well, that one takes some doing to figure out what Jesus might have been talking about.

We notice that Jesus seems to be teaching in this passage about our role in society, how we as Christians impact the larger human family.

He calls us not just salt and light for ourselves, or salt and light of the church, but “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”

He’s teaching us that our commitment to discipleship is important for way more than just our own personal spirituality. Continue reading

Zebedee Gets a Bad Rap

I am a responsible person.

No, really, I am.

I pay my bills on time.  I respect and care for my neighbor.  This community knows me as a sober, law-abiding citizen.

I have my own business, small but respectable, with which I provide for my family.

I have two boys, and they are the pride of my life.

I have a quick temper when provoked, but I have always walked upright before God and man.

I don’t put up with anything untested, untried, or fly-by-night.

My name is Zebedee, and I am a responsible person. Continue reading

Have You Ever Been Harrowed?

 

The Son of God, the Son of Man, the Ancient of Days, Emmanuel, the Good Shepherd, the Holy One of Israel, the Light of the World, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Living Water, the Root of Jesse, the Lion of Judah, the Rock of our Salvation.

These are just a few of the names by which we know Jesus, our Savior. We could spend every week in our sermon time talking about the names of Jesus and stay busy for a year.

But today we’re going to spend some time talking about another particular name of Jesus: the Lamb of God.

This term is one of the very oldest for Jesus.  It comes straight from our gospel lesson today.

In John 1:29, John the Baptist cries out when he first sees Jesus coming up to town, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

Now consider this for a moment.

John the Baptist is not a gentle person and it seems odd that he would choose such a gentle sounding name to proclaim the Messiah’s arrival.

John eats locusts and tells the people if they do not repent they will be burned with unquenchable fire.

He gets everyone all worked up and excited and then Jesus arrives and John announces, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

I just would have expected something with a little more punch to it. Continue reading

Stage Fright and Jordan Wading: When Jesus Needs a Hand

What a strange and humble way for Jesus to start his ministry.

Rather than beginning with lights and fireworks, descending from on high, or even with a simple miracle like walking on water or healing a sick person, Jesus quietly joins the crowd being baptized by John.

We can learn so much from Jesus in this moment, the first thing being that ministry takes preparation.

Jesus didn’t just plunge in full blast.

He took part in a ceremony, a marking of a profound change in his life.

Jesus didn’t need to be cleansed of sin in his baptism, he lived without sin. But he did need to mark this pivotal moment with a spiritual sign. His baptism clearly separates the first thirty years of his life, his private life, if you will, from the start of his public life and ministry.

It’s also a signal within a family. Continue reading

I Never Appreciated Being a Three King

So. The Feast of the Epiphany. What about it?

Every year we celebrate the season of Epiphany, but most of the time the actual day of Epiphany falls on a weekday.

Big deal, anyway, right?

It’s a strange little holiday that we don’t celebrate very much.

We don’t get each other Epiphany presents. We don’t hang up Epiphany lights or set up an Epiphany tree. There are no Epiphany turkey dinners or Epiphany fireworks.

At least in this country. Continue reading