GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR - JESUS THE CHRIST.
In Galilee, God had blessed His people with a lake boasting some of the best fishing in the world. Not only were those fish a food staple in Galilee itself, but the fish were salted and shipped to Jerusalem and to places as far away as Damascus and Egypt - and even to Rome.
Profitable as the fishing was, the licenses Rome required were very expensive and always had to be accompanied by an expensive bribe for the tax collector. In our Gospel text, we meet two of the families with those licenses to fish.
Each day - as the sun was setting - Zebedee and his sons James and John and Jonas and his sons Simon and Andrew headed out onto the lake. Throughout the night they would cast their weighted nets into the sea and then slowly draw them back to the boat - hopefully filled with fish - and there they would remain until the hold was filled with fish or the sun was beginning to rise. The hours were long and the work was hard - but each morning the fisherman's wage was one third of his catch.
Along with the holders of those precious fishing licenses, one of the more prosperous industries by the lake involved the boat owners who took care of the boats and rented them each night to the fishermen for one-third of the night's catch. The remains of this First Century fishing boat recovered from the Sea of Galilee gives us some idea of how large these boats were.
The final third went to the net people. Every morning, they cleaned and stitched the nets and did everything necessary to get them ready for the next night’s rental.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee, with people crowding around Him and listening to The Word of God, Jesus saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. Luke goes on to report that the fishermen who were washing their nets by their boats were Peter and Andrew. Zebedee and his sons James and John were in their boat with the hired men – people they were employing in the fishing business.
Peter and Andrew with their father Jonas and James and John with their father Zebedee had those very expensive fishing licenses and they had earned enough from their fishing to own their own boats and nets meaning every night’s catch belonged totally to them. And you no doubt recall when Peter and John followed Jesus to His Judean trial, they were admitted to the high priest’s house because the gatekeeper recognized John as the man who sold fish to the high priests’cooks.
Zebedee and Jonas and their sons were not only fishermen, boat people, and net people, but they were also involved in sales which meant they were involved in preparing their fish in Magdala and Taricheae where the day’s catch was brought and prepared for shipping.
Their fishing business was indeed a very successfull First Century corporation – but they still felt something was missing in their lives.
Getting into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon to put out a little from the land. And Jesus sat down and taught the people from the boat. One of the central characteristics of our Lord and Savior is His constant willingness to do whatever is necessary to communicate with us. When He had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
Everyone knew Simon to be a proud man who would never want people to laugh at him for following advice everyone knew was contrary to all their fishing experience. The fishermen waited for a verbal explosion from Simon. Instead he calmly replied, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets."
And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and, as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw the miraculous catch of fish, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
Simon Peter caught a wonderful vision that went far beyond a miraculous catch of fish. Simon Peter discovered himself to be in the visible Presence of The Lord -- and that is not a comfortable place for a sinful man to be.
Simon Peter knew himself to be an overly-proud, boastful, hot-tempered man with many a sinful failing in his character. How could he possibly feel comfortable in the Presence of The Lord? The Presence of The Lord drove him to his knees and caused him to feel a sinful man's fear and discomfort in the Presence of The Lord Who can command the very forces of nature to do His bidding.
We have all been there. We all recognize the Divine Truth God proclaimed through St. Paul in his EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS (3:22b-23). "There is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God …" St. Paul and each of us truly understand Simon Peter's feelings in the Presence of The Lord.
"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." was Simon’s plea, but Jesus did not depart from Simon Peter.
Jesus said, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men."
That day, in one miracle, Jesus filled the fishermen's nets with fish. In the second and greater miracle, Jesus filled their lives with forgiveness, grace, and temporal and eternal meaning -- filled their lives with those blessings in such quantity that the blessings truly spilled over into the lives of others.
Jesus said, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." The word here translated "catching" is actually the Greek word, "??????", which means “to catch alive” — an obvious contrast to “catching fish” which are removed from the water to die and be eaten. The blessings of The Gospel catch people alive and keep us truly alive now and eternally.
Jesus doesn't merely say to Simon Peter and the others, "I forgive you all your past and present sins; go and try to do better." No, Jesus actually invites the sinful Simon Peter and the others to be so filled with Jesus’ love that they themselves become agents of Jesus' forgiveness and reconciliation -- helping to bring others to a loving and faithful relationship with God as Simon Peter and the other original disciples have received those gifts.
So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him. So enlightened and empowered were they by all they saw Jesus do and heard Him say that those prosperous fishing industry people left everything and followed Him.
Therein lies the real miracle on the lake -- in the lives of those imperfect fishermen who, by the Grace of God, became evangelical fishers of human beings – in the lives of imperfect human beings like us who, by the Grace of God, are committed to answering Jesus’ call to lovingly and faithfully proclaim The Word of God as revealed incarnately in Jesus Christ and inerrantly in The Holy Bible.
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 WHO GIVES US TRUE EVANGELICAL LIFE ON THE SEA OF LIFE NOW AND ETERNALLY. AMEN.
5th Sunday After The Epiphany
February 17, 2019
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio
The Story We Love To Tell
“THE STORY WE LOVE TO TELL”
Text – LUKE 10:01-12
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
Smitty Weaver is the shyest of all the workers at the GM plant – until someone mentions those Cleveland Indians. Then Smitty comes to life drawing vivid sketches with his animated and lively speech – he has a story to tell and loves telling it.
Mildred Gunderson is that way about garage sales. She always knows where the best ones are and is ready to tell the story.
The Thorntons are really quiet until they bring out the pictures of their grandchildren and then, they too, have stories to tell – lots of stories.
I guess we each have our own stories to tell - some subject or subjects which interest us more than anything else in life and which become our story to tell – the story we love to tell.
A century ago, a young Anglican churchwoman named Arabella Katherine Hankey wrote “I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and His Glory, of Jesus and His Love. I love to tell the story, because I know its true; it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.” Katherine Hankey had her story – the story she loved to tell.
Is there any other story that can bring the gifts of the forgiveness of sins, the cleansing of the soul, eternal relationship with God? Is there any greater News to share?
Ask anyone – ask yourself – what does God’s Presence in your life mean? What does God’s Gospel Story really mean to us in the daily living of our lives?
All of us would usually answer both of those questions by speaking about the strength and comfort God and The Gospel Story brought to us at some difficult or helpless time in our lives – and certainly there is a lot of truth in that response – and yet, when we are truly sensitive to God’s Presence and Story, we know and feel The Divine Presence in our good and happy times as well.
This morning we see Jesus teaching His students how to share The Gospel. The Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come.
These seventy others were some of Jesus’ disciples. When we Christians hear the word “disciple”, we immediately think of those twelve men who were constantly with Jesus during His three years of preaching, teaching and doing signs throughout the Holy Land. Actually, there were many people who – though not constantly with Him like the twelve we know – nevertheless spent a lot of time seeing and hearing Him – learning from Him – and then going to carry the good news about Him to their neighbors and friends. Today we meet seventy of them as Jesus sends them to proclaim The Gospel.
First Jesus identifies the need – “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” The harvest was plentiful then with so many hungering for The Good News of Jesus. The seventy were no doubt aware of how valuable it was and of the fact that the laborers working to proclaim and share it were few. Just as the harvest is plentiful now with so many needing The Good News Jesus has given us – and, still today as then, the laborers are few. There are never enough people proclaiming The Gospel – telling the old, old story.
Then Jesus speaks to identify the means for meeting the need - “pray The Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” What is Jesus really asking the seventy – and us – to do about this plentiful harvest with too few laborers? Prayer is our most basic form of communication with God. Prayer is the way we talk with God – the way we verbalize our feelings and desires to God – the way we express our faith and trust in God to Whom we make our petitions – the way we express our commitment to the goals for which we pray to God.
Obviously, it would be foolish to pray for something we really don’t want - or would not truly support – so with our prayers must go our active support.
When we accept The Lord’s call to “pray The Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest”, we are joining Jesus in supporting and committing ourselves to that harvest. Notice how Jesus says “pray The Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way.” Pray and go – the two go together like a single thought.
Pray that God will do something about this need and then go offer yourself as one of the divine vehicles through whom God’s harvest is done. That is prayer in its purest form.
Our typical response is “Who? Me, Lord?” We are not real comfortable hearing a Divine “yes, you” – hearing Jesus say “pray” and then “go and do.”
And listen to the job description Jesus gave to those first seventy evangelists – “Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals, and salute no one on the road.” Not a very inviting job description!
The basic human response to Jesus’ commission is “Lord, I’m not prepared. I’m not good at this.”
Jesus responds, “I know. I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Those who are most in need of what I am offering through you are probably most likely to reject it – at least at first.”
“Well, carry no purse with you – leave the cash, the checkbook, and the Visa and MasterCard home. Carry no bag – forget about the basic provisions most travelers carry with them. Carry no sandals – take only the clothes on your back and feet, nothing extra.” Jesus sends the seventy out on an evangelistic assignment which has something of a “mini-wilderness experience” about it. They are to rely on no human or material resources – only on God – to complete the task God has given them. “Salute no one on the road - do not allow yourself to be sidetracked by meaningless passing of time when you are on so urgent a mission as sharing The Word of God.”
As we said, the equipment for this assignment is truly basic – focus on the need everyone has for those things which only The Gospel of Jesus Christ can give – pray to God that His Message will be heard – and agree to proclaim that Word yourself with your faith totally in God to get the job done.
The seventy went and experienced doing what Jesus had sent them to do – they experienced the power of that Faith in God and in the proclaiming of His Word. What wonderful and dramatic things they saw take place in Jesus’ Name! They truly had a story to tell – and God gave them His Presence and Power to tell it.
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Later on, Jesus sent the 70 out again – as He sends us - this time totally equipped with all their human or material resources - but still remembering the only essential they needed was Jesus Himself and the story we need to tell.
There is no truer story to tell – no story more capable of satisfying the deepest of human longing in this world – no other story able to carry us into eternity. What a privilege to be given the story by our Savor Who calls us to share it with the world – in our homes, in our churches, in our nation and beyond.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS – THE LORD AND SAVIOR WE BELIEVE IN AND SHARE.
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
February 10, 2019
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio
Our Ever-Present Lamb of God
"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 !
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
The Sermon They Didn't Want God to Preach
“The Sermon They Didn’t Want Jesus To Preach”
Text – ISAIAH 61:1—3 and LUKE 4:16-21
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
Who is this Jesus Christ God reveals so powerfully to us in this Epiphany Season of revealing and showing forth?
The synagogue in Nazareth was crowded that Saturday 21 centuries ago. They all wanted to hear the visiting rabbi. You see there was a new teacher in town. Well, maybe not completely new. As a teacher, He certainly was new to them -- but, as a person, they knew Him well -- or at least thought they did. After-all, He had grown up just a stone's throw from the synagogue.
From toddler to age 30, Jesus had been the nice kid down the street -- the carpenter's son learning Joseph's trade and being rather good at it … the devout boy turned devout teenager turned devout man who brought a pride-filled gleam to the local rabbi's eye. Everybody loved Jesus. They hated to see Him go when the 30 year old Jesus moved to Capernaum.
He had been gone a year now and there had been a steady stream of news. They heard He turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana … healed the deathly ill son of an official at Capernaum … healed a leper somewhere else … and cured a demon-possessed man in still another place.
They had also heard of people coming from miles around to question Him and to hear Him discuss The Word of God -- and now, He was back in His Old hometown on a Sabbath Day. Surely He would come to the synagogue.
At the beginning of the service, the elder got the scroll which contained the main Scripture reading for the day. It was always taken from one of the first 5 books of THE HOLY BIBLE – The Torah – The Books of The Law. As the elder brought the scroll forward, one of the men would volunteer to read the selected passage and then would lecture on it or lead a discussion about it.
Imagine their disappointment when Jesus neither read nor entered into the discussion. This was the most important part of the service and Jesus wasn't even participating.
Jesus remained silent until the service was almost over -- until the time of the second reading … the reading that was always taken from one of the prophetic books of THE HOLY BIBLE. This reading was considered less important than the first one -- but involved the same time for reading and discussion as the first.
The elder picked up the scroll containing THE BOOK OF ISAIAH and Jesus volunteered to read from it. The text was ISAIAH, Chapter 61,verses 1 and 2 -- "The Spirit of The Lord is upon me, because He has chosen Me to preach The Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed, and announce the year when The Lord will save His people."
The passage was familiar to everyone. They knew it contained the description of The Christ God Himself had given to ISAIAH - God's description of The One God promised to send to save the people.
The Nazareth congregation had heard about Jesus' great ability to interpret God's Word and they anxiously anticipated His insights into Messianic Prophecy -- especially His interpretation of one of the best known of all Messianic Prophecy texts.
As Jesus laid down the scroll, walked over to the preaching-teaching chair, and sat down, everyone wondered what He would say.
No one was prepared for what Jesus did say. There was one unanimous gulp -- a whole room of worshipers sucking air in shock.
Had they heard Him right? Had Jesus really said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing"? Was Jesus really claiming to be the long-promised Messiah?
Jesus was taking the Words of Prophecy God spoke through ISAIAH describing The Messiah-Christ as a description of Himself. Jesus was taking those well-known Words of Prophecy as the text of His "State of the Kingdom" address … as His Own Words of Promise … as His modus operundi … as a description of His Messianic Mission and Ministry.
The sacred text says “He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives”.
It is a text that separates Jesus and His Holy Christian Church from all of the world’s false religions. Only through His true Holy Christian Church, Jesus offers true temporal and eternal liberty to the captives.- something only the true Messiah can offer.
Here in America – and throughout the world – we are living in an age when Christ’s teachings and followers are under constant attack and morality has been officially replaced by hedonism and selfish egotism and when The Truth has been replaced by political correctness – an age when successful movements have created a society in which no one is made to take responsibility for their actions and those attempting to live by Jesus’ Teachings are labeled prejudiced.
God only deals in Truth – All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God and the wages of sin is death. That means the entire human race is captive to the tempter, to temptation, sin, guilt, death, and all the human frailties with which death rules. And, as part of creating us in The Image of God, God gave us insight into our God and consciences to keep us aware of the merit or evil in all we do.
In Christ, we have the words of our text – the words of promise spoken by God through the prophet Isaiah - He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives.
What makes those words so powerful is the fact that only God could offer that Promise and fulfill it. No false god created by human beings can honestly make such a promise or fulfill it. The wages of sin is death, but The Gift of God – and only God - is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord Who came to proclaim liberty to the captives. God Himself came as a vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – came as the Ultimate High Priest to offer His Perfect Human Life as The Perfect Human Sacrifice to give liberty to the captives – to conquer the tempter, temptation, sin, guilt, death, and all the other human frailties with which death rules.
For the members of an increasingly politically correct- but morally and theologically false - society, there is opportunity in Christ for repentance, forgiveness and God’s Own Gift of eternal life and liberty. And yes, it is in Jesus Christ – and only in Jesus Christ – that there is truly Liberty for the captives, Jesus confessed that He and He alone is the Messiah-Christ God promised through Isaiah to send among us “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed, and announce the year when The Lord will save His people."Having read Isaiah’s prophetic words, Jesus left no doubt as He proclaimed "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing".
And they were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things. They all knew Who Jesus was claiming to be – what Promises He had come to fulfill.
An Epiphany in Jesus’ own words! And they rose up, and cast Him forth out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might throw Him headlong. 20th and 21st Century terrorists and atheistic hedonists were not the first to attack The Body of Christ and His True Church. Hedonistic and selfish human beings did not just invent their false claims in the 20th and 21st Centuries.
But Jesus, passing through the midst of them, went His Way - His Way to the cross to earn temporal and eternal liberty for all the captives held in bondage to the tempter, to temptation, sin, guilt, death, and all the human frailties with which death rules - His Way to the empty tomb where He proclaimed and offers that liberty to the captives and all those other gifts only God can give.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
AND HIS PROCLAMATION OF LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES.
Fourth Sunday of the Epiphany Season (actually texts for 3rd Sunday of Epiphany Season)
February 3, 2019
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island Port Clinton, Ohio
God's Response in the Water
“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.
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