"OUR EVER-PRESENT LAMB OF GOD"

Text - JOHN 1:29-31 and THE 23rd PSALM

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS - OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! 

The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!"

John and Andrew knew – as David had before them – that without a conscientious shepherd to lead them, Judean sheep would die of starvation or thirst or wander into eminent danger.

I have an article in my files I’ve shared in sermons and BIBLE studies for years about a group of Basque shepherds who left their flocks in the field as they went into town for supper. A sudden storm, a bolt of lightning, and a loud clap of thunder caused a panicky ram to run and 3,000 sheep followed that ram off the edge of a cliff to their death. I’ve seen less fatal but equally erratic behavior myself,

As if Israel’s barren terrain and the sheep's helpless nature aren't enough of a handicap, their anatomy adds to their problems.  

While cattle can graze the same pasture for long periods of time, sheep have such narrow lips that they eat the grass right down to the soil and their cloven hoofs tear up that soil and the roots just beneath it.  When it comes to water, sheep will only drink it if the water is truly clear and perfectly still.

In the animal kingdom, most of the species are wild - living by the basic instincts and abilities The Creator has given them. We've domesticated some like dogs, cats, birds, horses - but, even there, the key is we have domesticated them - they were wild – basically self-sufficient and we made them pets or beasts of burden.

Sheep – domesticated or not - would not survive without a conscientious shepherd.

The two future disciples knew how blessed are we human beings – more dependent than all other creatures  on a Divine Shepherd to nurture and guide us – to truly have our Divine Shepherd.

The Psalmist David – years before God came among us as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – knew that Divine Shepherd very well. Those nights – laying under the stars and writing his psalms - he must have thought here I am taking care of these helpless sheep who couldn't make it without their human shepherd - but where would I be without my own Divine Shepherd.  Thank God, The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  The pastures of food which God has blessed us human beings with come in such abundance that, having been well fed, we are able to find rest and solitude as we figuratively lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters - the clean, clear, unpolluted, still waters even the most finicky sheep would treasure. Our Creator cares for our physical needs in such abundance that even the most selfish hoarding cannot diminish the generosity of divine gifts.

My Divine Shepherd leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. In THE HOLY BIBLE, righteousness - whether referring to God Himself or to human beings or to other animals or even inanimate objects - always means living up to the definition God has given to describe Himself, or us, or something else. We are only righteousness when we live up to the definition of what God created us to be. To make us righteous in God’s sight, He leads using the paths of righteousness

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for God is with me; His rod and staff comfort me. 

For the Holy Land sheep following shepherds through narrow valleys surrounded by mounts, there are numerous shadowy areas where predatory animals and human thieves can hide to snatch a wandering lamb and abandoned cisterns into which careless lambs tumble - their valley of the shadow of death.

Terrorists who consider murder to be virtuous behavior - the prevalence today of the most erratic and dangerous weather patterns of our lifetime - new threats from new diseases and some ancient ones resurfacing in parts of our world - our modern world lives in the valley of the shadow of death - and in the end we will all die - but our Divine Shepherd is with us.

And with our Divine Shepherd and our human flock there is more – far more.  God – our Divine Shepherd – came among us to restore our souls and save us. Created in the Image of God for an eternal relationship of love and trust with God, we humans have a dimension to our lives that no other animals have or can even comprehend having. 

Human sinners that we are, we tarnish that Image and alienate ourselves from the relationship God has so loving established with us- but God restores our souls and renews His relationship with us.

How great is God’s love for us? God not loves and blesses us through the entirety of our lives as our Divine Shepherd, but God comes among us as one of the flock- as The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!". We can scientifically gauge the difference between a human being and a sheep. The difference between God and us is so great that we can not even begin to describe or gauge the difference – but God loves us so much He came among us as the vulnerable flesh and blood member of the human flock - the Lamb of God to redeem us and to restore that Relationship God created us to have and we and our sins destroyed.

Our Divine Shepherd Who came as The vulnerable flesh and blood Lamb of Goddid not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross. (PHILIPPIANS 2:6b—8)

God preparest a table before us in the presence of our enemies. 

In the presence of temptations, we all too easily succumb to - in the presence of those sins which alienate and separate us from God - in the presence of guilt and death - we come to the altar table as we will next Sunday to commune with Jesus in the meal The Lamb of God has prepared for us with His Own Body and Blood.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life ..." - because our Creator loves us that much.

"And I shall dwell in the house of The Lord forever” because our Creator has created us for that eternal relationship and our Savior suffered and died on the cross and rose from the dead to spend eternity with us.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! 

The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!"  Behold Jesus!

The Son of God throughout all eternity and The Son of Man born of the virgin Mary – God becoming one of us to truly relate to us, to perfectly communicate His Word and His Will to us, and to give His Perfect Life for us on the cross to lead us out of death itself. 

"Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!"

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world !

Amen.

+________________________+

3rd Sunday After The Epiphany Of Our Lord January 27, 2019 -week late due to snow level 4

Dr. Kurt Borows

Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio

“God’s Response In The Water”

Text – LUKE 3:15—17 & 21-22

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST – TRUE GOD FROM ETERNITY AND TRUE MAN BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY.

In most of the gravestones in the Holy Land carved into the stone of Christian, Jewish and Moslem graves is a dew catcher to retain that universal symbol of life.

It is a truly appropriate symbol for life as water is absolutely necessary for all forms of living things and covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. The human body requires from 55% to 78% of that 

water to avoid fatal dehydration depending on body size. In   some 

developing countries a full 90% of the fresh water is required for agricultural irrigation.  (We need 30% in the United States.)  In a word, without water there would be no life on earth.

Most interesting about the use of those dew catchers as a symbol for life is what happens to that symbolic water.  In the morning – at the dawning of the day – there is the dew – but as the day goes on it evaporates and disappears.  God created all life and only God can resurrect it when it ends.

And that brings us to the second universal symbol water has become. Water is the major component in washing processes – most prominently in personal body hygiene

It is sin and guilt that tarnishes us and brings about our alienation from God and our death – it is our sin and guilt that must be washed away – a cleansing only God can accomplish. As God warns us through St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans  “there is no distinction. For all have sinned – become unclean and therefore unworthy to live eternally with God.

I remember visiting the ruins of a synagogue that existed in the Holy Land before the birth of Christ.  There in the midst of that Old Testament synagogue was a baptismal font – but it was not there for the Judeans who considered themselves worthy of relationship with God because they were descendants of Abraham. There were Gentiles in the land who wanted the relationship the Israelites had with God.  The Israelites considered the Gentiles to be unworthy of that relationship and so before they entered the community of faith through circumcision, marriage or adoption, the Gentiles had to symbolically show how unworthy they were.  They did this through an ancient Rite of Proselyte Baptism.

ερημοσ

Then there came that voice crying in the wilderness between Bethany of  Judea by Jerusalem and Bethany of Perea across the Jordan - “Prepare The Way of The Lord.  John said God was coming as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ to answer the Gentiles’ cry for divine help in their proselyte Baptism.  And John said it was not only the Gentiles who needed such help. Being a descendant of Abraham or a member of any denomination was not enough. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. There is no path into eternal life with God other than the one God provides in Christ Jesus.

How appropriate that God spoke through John in that vast, barren, lifeless wilderness. Σρημοσ on the map offers such a powerful symbol of what temporal life is like when we ignore God. There was one short segment of the Jordan close by – but even it was too polluted to drink or use.

God called everyone – Judean and Gentile alike – to confess that belief and that cry for divine help in the Rite of Baptism of Repentance in that wilderness water where God lead the people – Judean and Gentile alike.

As we might expect, as the people were in expectation, all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he himself might be The Christ”. Was John the one coming in response to their universal cry for that cleansing and eternal life only God can provide.

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but He Who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

During our studies in Israel, one day we were enjoying a rest and some lemonade with a friend of Dr. Schein’s in Beit Jawa. One of our group was sitting with his right ankle on his knee – leaving the bottom of his shoe exposed to our host sitting opposite him.  When our host went to get some more lemonade, Dr. Shine admonished Oscar, “My friend graduated from college in the United States so he understands our culture and is not offended – but here in the Middle East the most offensive thing one person can do to another is to sit with your foot exposed – whether barefoot or shod.

Actually, in Biblical times when slavery was practiced, the one thing a master could not have a slave do was anything regarding a human foot.

Before Jesus arrived for Baptism, when John the Baptist was asked if he was The Christ, John said The Christ was so much greater than John that he was not even worthy to serve The Christ by doing a task that everyone considered too offensive to do.

John answered, “I baptize with water.”  It was a baptism of repentance every human being needed to enter as a symbolic confession of our sinfulness and unworthiness – our alienation from God.

John promised The Christ will not only baptize with water – but He “will baptize you with The Holy Spirit and with fire.” The Christ - true Son of God -was the only One Who could respond to our need with forgiveness and reconciliation.  The Christ – True Man - was The Only One Who could respond as The Perfect High Priest offering Himself as The Perfect Human Sacrifice of Atonement.  The Christ’s Baptism is with The Holy Spirit Who enlightens and empowers us with Faith and the ability to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and His gift of Holy Baptism.  The Christ’s Baptism is with fire – the greatest of all cleansing agents burning away the sin and the guilt.

In Holy Baptism, The Christ offers us the freedom of religion to accept or reject the greatest of Divine Gifts. John said The Christ’s “winnowing fork is in His Hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”

When the wheat is harvested in the Holy Land, the stalks are laid on the ground and run over by a threshing sled.  The sled is a long board with holes bored in it – the holes are filled with volcanic rock and when the sled is pulled over the stalks, the stalks are crushed – separating the wheat from the chaff.

On a rise, the farmer uses a winnowing fork to throw the piles in the air.  The wheat falls to the ground and is carried to the barn – the chaff floats on the breeze where it is picked up with no purpose but to be burned.

The Savior’s “winnowing fork is in His Hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”  We are all free to continue to be like the chaff – or in Holy Baptism we can all be gathered by Christ into the temporal and eternal safety of His barn.

Now when all the people were baptized, God fulfilled His Promise and entered the waters – entered our struggle for redemption – redemption only God Himself could provide.  But to fulfill that redemption there must not only be forgiveness and reconciliation but also sacrifice – and so True God from all eternity entered those waters and our struggles as True Man born of the virgin Mary – on His Father’s Side True God from all eternity – on His Mother’s side True Man born of the virgin Mary.

When Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opening, 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.”

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS – TRUE GOD FROM ETERNITY – TRUE MAN BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY – OUR ONLY SAVIOR.

+________________________+

THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD - First Sunday of The Epiphany Season January 13, 2019

Dr. Kurt Borows

Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio

"WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM"

Text -- MATTHEW 2:1--12

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.

January 6th is one of the most important and most overlooked dates on the church year calendar.  Coming at the end of the church’s Christmas Season, it is recognized as a more important day than Christmas itself in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.  In the Western Churches – rarely coming on a Sunday – January 6th - The Epiphany of our Lord – is rarely even recognized unless it replaces the equally important Baptism of our Lord on the Sunday following the 6th.  This year is that rare exception when we get to celebrate both.

An epiphany is “a showing forth” or “a revealing” and there has been no greater or more important epiphany in all of human history than The Epiphany of our Lord - God as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ being revealed to Gentiles like us.

At the time of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, as Israel walked about in a time of spiritual darkness, an even greater spiritual darkness permeated the pagan world of our ancestors where each nation or group of nations had its own god or gods and feared leaving their own territory without their own god. In Old Testament times, the rulers of Assyria and later Babylon and most pagan countries were seeking to create a one world order paradise produced by people without help from any god.

The historian Rousas J. Rushdoony writes that “When Christ was born in Bethlehem, the world had reached a dead end. …. The ‘wise’ men of Babylon had failed; so, had the ‘wise’ men of Persia, Macedonia, and now Rome.  All sense of meaning was departing from life.  In the Roman Empire, life was increasingly reduced to one dimension alone, and the life of that day had a familiar ring: the people saw no meaning in life except pleasure.” (WISE MEN STILL ADORE HIM by Rousas j. Rushdoony. NEW WINE MAGAZINE. December, 1981) Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

210 years after the prophet Daniel was a member of an original brain trust known as the magi, God, speaking through Isaiah the prophet, warned that the world’s darkness would get worse - "...behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples” but God promised that “The Lord will arise upon you, and His Glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your Light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

750 years later, those nations God promised would flock to the Light God shined on Israel would be Gentile magi– traveling miles to see Baby Jesus.

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