Change is Good News?



Inspired by Mark 1:9-15

Welcome to Lent. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter which began on Ash Wednesday a few days ago, but it is also so much more than that. Early in Christian history, the ancients of our faith recognized the importance of our Easter celebration, so much so that they quickly instituted a time of preparation for it, 40 days to be exact. Why 40? Well for a few reasons. The number 40 is an important number in scripture, and so it conjures up many stories to help set the mood of Lent:

the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after escaping Egyptian slavery, reclaiming their identity along the way; Noah and his family were in the ark while it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, giving them lots of time for contemplation; Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights receiving the Ten Commandments which would change the course of history as they knew it; and from today’s Gospel story, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, emerging from the wilderness with a very particular message, which we will get to in a minute.

But I’m not done with the number 40 yet. So, I’ve given you just a few of the many uses of the number 40 found throughout scripture. But it still begs the question, why 40? Why was 40 such an important number for Biblical authors? Many reasons have been given over the years as why that number keeps popping up in scripture. One of the most compelling reasons that I have come across, is the connection to how many weeks we are in our mother’s womb. And I find that compelling for two reasons: one, because of the incredible changes that we go through while we are in our mother’s womb beginning from fertilized egg to chubby little baby, and two, at the end of that 40, the ending result is a new birth.

Now, what does that have to do with Lent? Well, earlier I mentioned how Lent is so much more than just the 40 days that lead up to Easter, because of all that happens during these 40 days, or all that is supposed to be happening during these 40 days in our hearts. The idea is that we don’t come out of Lent the same people, but rather we come out on the other side as renewed, refreshed, recommitted Easter people! And that should be a reflection of our entire lives right? Are we not called to come out of our baptismal waters a different people—a renewed, rebirthed, reformed people? And Lent gives us this reminder year in and year out.

So with all of that in mind, let us now return to our Gospel story that we heard today form Mark. Now, we began our year in the Gospel of Mark back at the beginning of December and we are still in the first chapter. We have skipped ahead a couple times but we are essentially still in the first chapter. Today we heard the story of Jesus baptism, which we did read back in January, but this time we went further to include Jesus’ temptation.

The first Sunday in Lent should be called Temptation Sunday because we always read this story on this day, whether it’s from Matthew, Mark, or Luke. And it’s fitting isn’t it, after everything we’ve gone over about what Lent is. So, Jesus is baptized and immediately is thrown into the wilderness, immediately is thrown into a 40 day womb, immediately is thrown into a time of gestation, coming out on the other side ready to tackle the world as Christ our savior!

And tackle the world he does! Jesus comes out of his 40 days and utters his first words in the Gospel of Mark, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news! Now if you wrote a book, about one of the most famous people in the world, the first quote from that person that you used in your book would be a significant one. Right? Same goes for Biblical authors. The firsts are always important: the first story, the first lesson, the first miracle, the first words of Jesus. So, these words that comes out of his 40 days are significant and some have said that they sum up his entire ministry in the Gospel of Mark. He begins with “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom!” and let me just pause and share how I hear those words as your pastor.

I truly believe with all my heart that now is the time, that God’s kingdom is coming here. I truly believe with all my heart that amazing things can happen here, that there is potential, beyond our wildest dreams, for the new life of the kingdom to come here! Otherwise, I wouldn’t have accepted the call to be your pastor, nor would I continue to challenge you to be more than you are. And my annual reports would be bland and filled with meaningless platitudes.

Now if that’s the kind of pastor you want, you best let me know now, before we waste any more of eachother’s time. Because let me tell you, there are plenty of pastors out there that can deliver that to you, there are plenty of pastors out there that would be happy to just collect their paycheck, and not rock the boat, and just keep things status quo—but that’s not me, that’s not who I am. Otherwise, now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! And how do we prepare for that? Well, let me step out of the way and allow Jesus to continue with his first directive, “Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” Let that sink in for a minute.

The one that we call Lord and savior, just used the word “change” and “good news” in the same sentence! How in the world do you explain that! And you think changing our carpet or paint or coffee is challenging? Jesus goes right for the jugular and says change your hearts! Change your very lives! And then has the audacity to call that good news! And just so we’re clear, the phrase “good news” is also translated “gospel.” For all of you looking for the gospel every Sunday, well there it is, in all it’s glory! The directive to change your hearts and lives is what Jesus calls the gospel. How can that be?

Fertilized Human Egg
Let’s return to that number 40. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be walking around looking like that! Nor would I still want to be a baby, or a teenager! Dear Lord, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to high school! Yuk! But transformation and change isn’t supposed to stop when we become an adult. The transformations and changes that we go through throughout our lives, are necessary and also what make us who we are today. And change can be uncomfortable at best—painful, hurtful at worse.

For you see, good news doesn’t always sound like good news. Gospel doesn’t always feel like gospel. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t. If the gospel doesn’t sound like good news to you then that might just mean it’s striking a chord in you. And I’m begging you to not turn away from it, but listen even closer to it. Because our temptation is this, to believe that if something is uncomfortable, then is must be wrong. Our temptation is to believe that if something doesn’t sound nice, then it must be wrong.

Our temptation is to believe that if something doesn’t feel good, then it must be wrong—and that we should stay away from such things. And when we fall to those temptations, the enemy wins. Because we stay right where we are, no change, no movement, but feeling very safe and secure. However, when we open ourselves up to the good news of change, to the gospel of change, we come out on the other end of our 40, renewed, reinvigorated, reborn, transformed, changed, and ready to tackle the world with Christ our savior. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Terrifying Mountains



Inspired by Mark 9:2-9, and Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain...


So Jesus and his squad hike up a mountain. Peter, James, and John make up this funny little inner circle from among his followers. Now, whether Jesus picked these three himself, or if they were just those kinds of friends that follow you everywhere you go and just can’t take a hint is up for debate. But they are with him at the healing of Jairus’ daughter, at the garden of Gethsemane, as well as here at the Transfiguration.

We don’t know exactly what was special about these three, but they got to witness some things that no one else did, and be at Jesus’ side at some pivotal moments in his life here on Earth. So they go up a mountain, a high mountain, where they were alone, just the four of them. And it’s a safe assumption, that the reason they went up that high mountain, was to be alone. This was not the first time that Jesus has done this by this point in the Gospel of Mark. It’s kind of a pattern of Jesus’, to find a place of solitude, particularly to escape the crowds.

But then when they get to the top of the mountain, they get the surprise of their lives when Jesus is transfigured, transformed right before their eyes, accompanied by Elijah and Moses no less! Now, I’ve preached on this story quite a few times. And I have preached about mountain top experiences, and how, like Peter, we want our mountain top experiences to last forever. I’ve preached on the seemingly profound words of Peter in this story.

But something different stuck out to me this time around. The fear that they experienced on that mountain top, which led me to wonder how that may have affected them in the future but we’ll get to that in a minute. Mark reports that Peter’s words come from a place of fear. According to Mark, Peter didn’t know what to say, because the three of them were terrified. Peter was also one of those people who had no filter. He had a habit of just blurting out whatever came to mind. I’m sure you’ve known a few people like that over the years.

They were terrified. Jesus takes them on a hike up a high mountain, seemingly for some peace and quiet, and they end up having this terrifying experience. God reveals God’s self to them and they are terrified! And I don’t think we have focused on that nearly enough. We like to think of mountain top experiences as these wonderful, positive experiences, not terrifying, negative experiences. But if you think about it, when God calls you, to some place, to some one, to some thing, it can be terrifying!

Even when that person, place, or thing that God is calling you to, is something positive. Like, the call to be a parent, the call to be a spouse, the call to take that promotion at work, the call to volunteer for something at church that you’ve never done before, the call to communicate a hard truth that needs to be said, the call to increase your giving at church. All these things are positive things, positive decisions, wonderful, beautiful things that God calls you to, but they can also be terrifying!

And when we humans are scared, the typical fear response is fight or flight—get yourself out of the scary situation as quickly as possible or, get ready to fight. And the reason I mention fight or flight is because I was thinking about the lasting effect that this may have had on Peter, James, and John. Imagine how they responded the next time Jesus said, “Let’s go for a hike.” Like some sort of spiritual PTSD, they may have said, “Uh uh Jesus, no way. I remember what happened last time we went for a hike, and I didn’t bring a change of underwear!” Here’s some good news for you, some gospel in all of this.

Choosing fight or flight is not going to stop God from working for your good, or for the good of the world. If we choose to flee the situation that God has called us to, because it’s just too scary for us to handle right now, you think God can’t work through a plan b, or a plan c, or an infinite number of plans to get what God wants? And what does God want, but healing, and wholeness, and transformation for you and the world. And I truly believe, with all my heart, that ultimately God gets what God wants. And if we choose to fight? You think God can’t take a few cuts and bruises? You think God can’t handle your sticks and stones? I’m pretty sure God has seen worse than whatever we can throw down. So, choosing fight or flight is not going to stop God, and that is good news for us, because God knows we choose these often.

Bet there’s another option. Fight or flight is not the only two options for us to choose from. When God chooses to reveal God’s self to us, when God chooses to reveal a plan for us, a path for us, when God chooses to call us into something that terrifies us down to our very soul, when God says, let’s go for a hike up a mountain, we can just go. In spite of how terrifying it may be, in spite of the spiritual PTSD that we may suffer from because of that last time we took a hike with God, we can just grab Jesus’ outstretched hand and go. And here’s some more good news for you, here’s some more gospel for you, Jesus never, ever, asks you to go up that mountain alone. Jesus will be by your side all the way up and all the way back down, and will even be terrified with you if that’s what you need because that’s just how much God loves you.

So, here’s the bottom line, don’t let your fear of the top of that mountain, your fear of the unknown, keep you from taking that hike with God. Because even though it may be terrifying, even though you may be having flashbacks of the last time you climbed that mountain, it’s also guaranteed to be amazing, to be spectacular, like nothing you’ve ever seen before, as God reveals God’s power, as God reveals God’s very self to you, at the top of that mountain. My prayer for you, is that you can find the courage and fortitude, to grab Jesus’ outstretched hand, and climb that scary mountain when God calls to you, both individually and as a congregation, knowing most assuredly, that you don’t climb alone, and it’ll be one hell of a show! Thanks be to God. Amen.

This Second Life



Inspired by Mark 1:29-39

Today’s Gospel reading brought to mind many historical figures who, in spite of adversity, made positive contributions to society: Helen Keller, Maya Angelou, Anne Frank, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Harriet Tubman, just to name a few.  Two figures stood out among the crowd, Florence Nightingale and Malala Yousafzai. Florence Nightingale was born in 1820, raised in London, and may have been on my mind because she is a character in a video game I’m currently playing but that’s beside the point.

She is credited as the founder of modern nursing, ushering in many practices that we take for granted when we are in the hospital like: washing hands, laundering sheets regularly, good nutrition, well-circulated air, and using sterile bandages. Though she came from a well-to-do and quite progressive family, they did not want her to become a nurse, and urged her to marry and settle down. One thing that I didn’t know about her was what finally cemented her decision to become a nurse, it was visiting a Lutheran teaching hospital in Germany. She was so impressed with the pastor and nurses there, she enrolled immediately.

She was a hard worker, worked herself to death, almost literally. At one point she became so gravely ill they didn’t think she’d make it. But she did. And she had just barely recovered when the Crimean War broke out. Now, at this point in her life she had a choice. She had just recovered from a near death illness, and could have easily hung up her nursing hat, went home, got married, and settled down to a very comfortable life back in London.

However, she believed that her work as a nurse was a calling from God. She wrote to her sister, “God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him alone without reputation.” In other words, she saw her work as simply the right thing to do, not for money or fame, just the right thing to do, and her faith is what compelled her to continue. The British military then called on her to help wounded soldiers who were dying of infection and poor nutrition rather than their wounds. And she ended up saving countless lives throughout the rest of her life.

Fast forward about 150 years, and Malala Yousafzai is born in 1997 in Pakistan. At the ripe old age of 11, she began her activist work toward the education of young girls in her country. Something we take for granted here in the states but was not something that is valued in her homeland. She began writing a blog to raise awareness for this effort but had to do so under a pseudonym for safety reasons. However, it was not enough to keep her safe.

At the age of 15, the Taliban found her, on her school bus, and shot her in the head. Against the odds, she recovered, and found herself with a choice. She was already recognized as a leader for girl’s rights to an education, had done great work and raised a ton of awareness for the cause. No one would have blamed her for hanging up her activist hat after being shot in the head for it. But as she puts it, the Taliban failed, because it only “made my voice louder.”

In her book, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, she writes “I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don't be afraid — if you are afraid, you can't move forward.” And she believes that her second life, comes from God. And therefore, her work as an activist is a calling from God, and ceasing that work just doesn’t seem like an option for her. Since her recovery she has traveled with world, speaking, teaching, writing books, and oh yeah, became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Today’s Gospel reading always catches me off guard whenever I read it. Jesus heals Simon’s mother in law who was on the brink of death. Mark may say that she only had a fever but keep two things in mind: one, your body gets a fever because of an infection, bacterial or viral; and two, this was two thousand years ago, if your body couldn’t fight the infection on its own, you died. So Jesus heals her, in probably one of the most tenderest healings in all of scripture.

Jesus comes to her bedside, takes her by the hand, and raises her up. It has been called the first resurrection story in the Gospels. In fact, Mark uses this same verb to describe Jesus’ resurrection at the end of this Gospel. And then Simon’s mother in law has a choice. What to do with this new life she has been given. After being on the brink of death and raised by Jesus himself, how would she spend the rest of her life?

Mark reports that as soon as the fever left her, she began her new life in service to others. Now at first glance many have dismissed her service as being the place of a woman in the first century; that she was just returning to her previous role in the male dominated society that she found herself in. But upon closer inspection we find that’s not the case at all. This was not yet another example of sexism in the Bible. This was her call story. The fact that we don’t know her name is an example of sexism but not her service. And here’s how we know that. The verb used here that we translate as serve, is the same verb that Mark uses to describe Jesus ministry throughout his Gospel, and on top of that, the same verb that he just used, in this same chapter, describing the angels serving Jesus in the desert after his forty day temptation.

Now the problem with taking a look at these bigger than life historical figures like Simon’s mother in law, Florence Nightingale, and Malala Yousafzai, is that it can make our work look very small. Many of us don’t have a dramatic story like these people did. Many of us haven’t had adversity to the degree of these courageous people. But do we have to? Do we need a dramatic story? No. Because the truth is, we all have a story. And not just any story, we all have a resurrection story. We all have a call story. We all have been given a new life in Christ, a second life, represented by those baptismal waters that we pass to and from this holy place each week.

This week, I invite you to ponder, on your story of resurrection, on your call story. Who did God use to raise you up? Did it happen all at once or was it a slow process over a lifetime? How have you changed? What have you done with the second life that God has given you? Has God placed you in someone else’s resurrection and call story? How has God called you out of your baptismal waters and into this new life? Big questions, I know. But they are questions that need answered, because it is through those stories that we witness to the power of God in this church. It is those stories that will catch the eyes and ears of others. Practice sharing them with each other—so that we can share them with the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Surprise!



Inspired by Mark 1:21-28

Surprises can be both wonderful and terrifying! I love being surprised with a gift, whether it’s something I get to unwrap, or an unexpected hug, or that text sent at just the right time. My wonderful wife and oldest daughter got me this summer with a surprise visit from her all the way from Pennsylvania! I don’t think I’ve ever been so surprised in my life. Many of you saw the video of it on Facebook as she recorded me opening the door to discover Jonah standing outside. The look on my face is one of complete bewilderment and confusion. It took me a few moments to process what was happening! It was a wonderful surprise that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Not all surprises are wonderful though, are they?: losing a job, the unexpected death of a loved one, a natural disaster, a national tragedy. I find myself these days approaching the news by bracing myself because I just never know what I’m going to be faced with. And I’ve had my share of personal surprises that were less than pleasant. Probably because of my recent illness, my family and I have been talking a lot about another time that I was ill.

I was in my early thirties and I had been sick with pneumonia which had led to a lung abscess. I’m lying in bed, can’t breath, coughing, congested, sweating, so my wife calls the doctor and they say, you should take him to the emergency room, like right now. So we go and they take one look at me and rushed me to a room. They told me that it was a good thing I came in when I did because, I had suffered a mild heart attack! Surprise! Those kinds of surprises we could do without!

There are a lot of surprises in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus goes to a synagogue, on the Sabbath, which will be important in a minute, and there he begins teaching. Nothing real surprising there. It was customary to be at synagogue on the Sabbath, and in those days they didn’t have strict rules about who could read the scriptures or teach on them. But they were surprised by the way that he taught, because he taught with authority. Now what does that mean?

Well, it was customary in those days to cite references while you taught, so that your listeners knew you weren’t just making it all up. So most likely, Jesus was not doing that. Jesus was probably teaching from his own mind and heart. Something they had not seen before and so they were surprised. And I’m not entirely sure this was a pleasant surprise. The Greek word that is translated as amazed here, has more negative connotations than positive ones. In fact, the root of this word means to strike or to smite.

The Scream of Nature by Edvard Munch, 1893
But they’re not the only ones that were surprised. Those demons were in for a shock as well! And once again, it revolves around Jesus’ authority. The way Mark tells this story, Jesus was just minding his own business, teaching on the scriptures in the synagogue, when all of a sudden an evil spirit screamed, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?

Now Jesus didn’t seek out this demon. He didn’t confront it. There’s no indication here that Jesus would have even said anything to it. But the demon just exploded upon Jesus and it left me wondering why? Why such a strong unprovoked reaction? I think, it was because the demon was surprised. Not so much that Jesus was there, but because it realized what Jesus was capable of, the authority that Jesus held, and most importantly, it realized that Jesus wouldn’t hesitate to use it, even on the Sabbath!

Remember the Sabbath was a day of rest. Working on the Sabbath was illegal! Wouldn’t that be a nice law today! This is something that Jesus gets in trouble for later and depending on what Gospel you’re reading, it’s what finally leads to his arrest. So not only were those demons surprised because they knew what Jesus was capable of, but they thought they were safe! It was the Sabbath! What were they gonna do? They couldn’t fight them in any way, that’d be working on the Sabbath!

For a demon it was free for all. A Smorgasbord of sin and destruction. A veritable playground for them! And along comes Jesus and says, “Surprise! Sabbath or no Sabbath, you are not going to have your way with my people! Now shut up and get outta here!” And though it was an unpleasant surprise to that demon, it was a welcome surprise to that poor person suffering from that demon. Jesus came to the rescue when no one else would, all because of a misinterpreted law concerning the Sabbath.

But I don’t think that poor demon possessed person really cared that Jesus just broke the law that day, because that person was saved from a life of torment that many of us couldn’t even imagine. And you know, the scariest part in all of this, is not the demon itself, although if you watch as many horror movies as my family does, demons are scary enough by themselves. But the scariest part for me is where they were. They were in their synagogue. They were in their house of worship. They were in church!

Have you ever considered that many of these empty spots in these pews on Sunday, really aren’t empty? If that doesn’t put a shiver down your spine you may want to check your pulse. Now, I don’t want to get into what I believe or don’t believe about demons. That’s best left for Wednesday evening’s bible study which you are all invited to. But whatever you believe about demons this sermon applies just the same.

But let’s get back to surprises. All this got me thinking of the unique opportunity we have been given to surprise the world—to surprise the world with grace and love, when it’s least expected. You see, we no longer live in a world where the Church is thought of as a refuge, as a safe place. And of course when I say Church I mean us, not the building or location. Wherever we go we are the Church. But today, it’s risky to share with people that you’re a Christian, because you have no idea what kind of Christian they are going to assume you are!

Today, the Church throughout the world is too often seen as a place of judgement, a place of exclusion, a place of finger pointing and stone throwing. And it’s the Church’s own fault—after centuries of pointing out people’s sins, excluding certain groups of people, remaining silent when we should have spoke up, protecting our own interests instead of defending others. It’s no wonder so many today look upon the Church with skepticism, suspicion, and distrust. I can’t say I blame them.

Which is why we have this unique opportunity today to show the world that not all churches operate this way anymore, that not all Christians have remained in the dark ages. Today we have this opportunity to surprise the world with love where the Church has traditionally given hate; to surprise the world with welcoming arms where the Church has traditionally closed doors on people; to surprise the world with inclusion where the Church has traditionally excluded; to surprise the world by asking for their forgiveness, instead of demanding their repentance.

Those are just a few examples. What grace-filled ways can you come up with to surprise the world? And in so doing, surprise the demons among us with the unpleasant surprise of living out our baptismal callings wherever we are, whenever we can, however the Spirit moves us, with the authority of Christ by our side. Thanks be to God. Amen.

First Words



Inspired by Mark 1:4-11

Picture it, the year is 1996, on the 7th day of June, or 2000, on the 23rd day of December, or 2004, on the 26th day of July. The scene is the same. One of my daughters had just been born in the same little hospital in Chambersburg Pennsylvania. Things have quieted down finally. Doctors and nurses are busy with other babies. Family members have dispersed. Mommy is asleep recuperating from childbirth. And I finally have my first moment alone with my new baby daughter.

I scoop her up into my arms, I can barely tell there’s anyone in this mass of blankets! She so light. The weight of the world has yet to settle on her. I gaze into her eyes, eyes that are just waiting to be filled, and the weight of the moment consumes me. What do I say? What words could possibly capture this moment? What words do I want her to hear first from me? Hello, I’m your dad, just doesn’t sound right! Though I know she can’t understand me in this moment, for some reason these first words were important for me and needed to be chosen wisely. And so, I looked back into her eyes, and opened my mouth, and sang.

Jesus loves you, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves you. The Bible tells me so.

Those were the first words, the first song, that each of my little girls heard on the day of their birth. Before the struggles and challenges of life hit them. Before pain and sorrow. Before hunger and want. Before the scrapes and scraps that they’re going to get into. Before life had its way with them. I needed them to have a proper starting point, a sturdy foundation.

Our story from Mark on the baptism of Jesus may not seem very relatable at first glance. It’s a short little story but with some very vivid imagery that has inspired many artists over the centuries. Because Jesus’ baptism included a few things that yours probably did not. I doubt the heaven’s split open when you were baptized. Or that a dove descended upon you, no matter what Grandma says! And if a voice from heaven was heard, well, we have doctors that can help with that. To be fair, Jesus’ life ultimately went down a path that none of us will have to endure. I doubt any of us will have to die on a cross to show how much God loves the world. And that’s why I love this story of Jesus’ baptism so much. Because God knew, as we do on this side of the cross, that Jesus' life was about to take a turn, a turn for the worse, a turn marked by his baptism.

The Baptism of the Christ #2 by Daniel Bonnell
God knew what was ahead for Jesus. God knew of the challenges and frustrations, of the betrayal and attacks that lie before him. And so, before Jesus took his first step down that path, there were a few words that God wanted Jesus to hear, right out of the gate. Words that would be foundational for Jesus. Words that Jesus could lean on during the darkest of times ahead. So God, gazing down through the heavens on his son, said, “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

God claims Jesus as God’s own, says I love you, and then for added measure says, you make me happy. What child, no matter the age, doesn’t want to hear that from their parent? And as wise parents know, their children’s lives will be full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows. And so, the foundation they lay for them is of utmost importance.

And so it is with us all. This is why we talk about baptism so much, especially in the Lutheran church. It is foundational to our faith walks. The words proclaimed at our baptisms are words for us to lean on in the darkest corners of our lives. Words like: love, grace, promise, life, and being called a child of God, by name. This is why we begin every Sunday worship service back there at that baptismal font, as a visual reminder that this is where your heart should return when you need it the most, on those promises, on those words. “Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” And when we say forever, we mean forever!

Because we know we’re going to make mistakes. We know we’re going to do things that God would rather us not do. We know we’re going to say things that God would rather us not say. And we are going to feel like utter failures at times, and be our hardest critic. And because of this we are going to lack courage, and strength. We are going to be fearful and skeptical. We are going to be pessimistic and on the edge of despair. And that’s when God says, "Shhhhhhhh, let us return to my first words to you." When words of promise and hope were proclaimed for you. When God’s love was proclaimed for you—a love that cannot falter, a love that will never diminish, no matter what. And that love, proclaimed at your baptism, has been there even before you knew what those words meant.

For baptism is not when God begins to love you. God has loved you since before time began. Rather, baptism is when that love is publicly proclaimed. And again, why it’s so important for us to return to again and again throughout our lives—Sunday in and Sunday out. Because let’s be honest, if we were doing ok all on our own, why would all be here today? But because we, nor our world is perfect, it is here that we return, those waters that remind us, of that age old promise spoken at our baptism. My prayer for you is that you may hear these words, as if they’ve been spoken to you by that voice from heaven: You are my child, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.” Return to these words as often as you need. Proclaim them to each other. Proclaim them to the world. Amen.