January 15th, 2017: "Our Cause With the Lord"

Text: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11;              2nd Sunday after Epiphany                           Sandra Nuernberg

1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42                2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time                       Pastor

Title: “Our Cause With the Lord”                  Race Relations Sunday

1st Presbyterian Church                             Sunday, January 15th, 2017                         Pardeeville, WI


Please pray with me, Lord, we ask that your Word to us be a part of our ‘food for thought’ this day. Bring your Spirit and let it fall upon us like Jesus received your Holy Spirit in the River Jordan when being baptized. Let us know that for each of us, in our baptism, the Holy Spirit connected us as one.    AMEN.

            This is a kind of ‘Come and See” Sunday where our texts take us to contemplate our own discipleship, being chosen, given spiritual strength in service to God’s Name, to God’s church. I have to ask, have any of you ever been in a situation, a gathering in church (committee meeting or other), in our community, at some thing or another, with friends or family members together where someone asked you the question, “For you, personally, do you know and experience Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” Or more pointed, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”

             Granted, in our church, and soon we will have a similar question in ordaining/installing our new church Elders, Deacons; we ask new Pastors the same question. For me, I used to flippantly answer, “Oh, yeah, unknowingly!” I think I was looking for a response of some kind. In time, I say now, “Fortunately, yes I do!” For most of us, it is not so easy of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. Reflection and experience are of concern here—I used to think answering was a ‘testimony’ of why/what I believe about my faith; I had to express it according to my denominational background/learning, our Book of Order ‘language.’ Over the years I’ve found my response to be personal, purposeful, inclusive of life’s practices. I ask, ‘how is my life, unknowingly in Christ?’

             After reading our text in John’s Gospel this morning, we find John the Baptist coming, seeing, and testifying in Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’ or Son of God in a sincere, profound manner. Really, isn’t that what we are fed with God’s Word to us today? Jesus is revealed to John! Let’s consider: What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Did not John come to the River Jordan, see and connect the Holy Spirit of God with that of Jesus’ own Spirit, that descended upon Jesus like a dove---as One?

            At first it doesn’t seem so; in fact, we hear John tell us not once, but twice, “I (myself) did not know him…” meaning John was oblivious to ‘God’s voice’ in this Gospel. Then, in his unknowing-ness, we realize it was the Spirit descending from heaven, whereby in the other gospels indeed ‘a voice (came) from heaven’ meaning God’s voice comes in the Spirit (from God) to Jesus. I love the gospel of John because it is so personal---the closeness of Father and Son; it is pleasantly filled with connections, personalities, and relationships of God the Father, and Christ Jesus the Son of God. It is especially inclusive of the Holy Spirit from heaven in God’s will, Christ’ Word, and work of the Holy Spirit as the connected Three in One (yes, the Trinity comes to mind)!         

           This is also where there comes a challenge for us, a tricky-ness in our own testimony of the truth of God in Christ for us—it’s none other than sticky! In our response of more than yes or no, do we turn people away rather than encouraging them to come and see more of that personable-ness of God in Christ. I don’t believe there is a ‘panned’ or common answer; I need time to reflect/re-define that answer in my life, do you? Testimony is a process ((There’s that Presbyterian word again!) of how we got to where we are, not a one-word answer. And for many of us, personal ‘testimony’ can be clearly an adventure in itself! (Again, I think of my own experiences in school tutoring and prison ministry).

            We are kind of in awe at John the Baptist’ testimony as he encounters the Christ, “Look, or Behold”(depending on translation). He sees, is being revealed the ‘Lamb of God’ who ‘takes the sins of the world away!’ First, the ‘Lamb’ means there are no more sacrifices for sin---in bringing their animals (sacrificial lambs, The Torah—Exodus 29, Numbers 28, or free-will, burnt or peace offering) to the altar in atonement for their sins. Second, the sacrifice for them is God’s work of the Word (or logos) made Flesh in Christ as the Lamb of God (John 1:17). In other words, or finally, God, creation, and Christ are all in unity (One—personally), through Christ as One, ‘this is he of whom I said,’ says John.

            Now if you are like me, your next question as a Presbyterian is this, “ …if John the Baptist ‘didn’t know’ all of what Jesus was about, howcome he came to know and testify to him as the ‘Lamb of God’ in baptism at the River?” Sometimes that ‘voice’ we hear is not all that familiar to us. Sometimes we, like John, do not crave the knowledge in how to interpret that voice as the Spirit, or we feel ignorant in finding a way to listen carefully to God’s ‘voice (coming) from heaven’ that speaks to us. For others, it’s a gradual learning ‘curve’ of God’s ways of the Spirit of Christ coming to us.

            There are many ways, indeed, to encounter the Spirit of God in our lives. Could it be trust over knowledge? Or testimony we share with others who ask. Isn’t the reason for John’s testimony about Jesus, isn’t it to bring others to Jesus? Isn’t our reasoning to explain to others about our faith in life and its importance to us, isn’t it that we feel comfortable in our own skin and committed enough to want to bring others to Christ?

            Let’s hope so; yet, as we move along in our active lives with others in our community, we recognize we don’t have all the answers. There are no absolute responses, no straight ‘road’ or simple ‘path’ to the ‘promised’ perfect life in/of Christ in our world. Like the prophet Isaiah though, we are promised a strength, a ‘cause’ that is with the Lord; our reward is with our God (Isaiah 49:4).

            So, we ask, what do we do? Well, it seems to me, we can examine our own truths/views, our values in all of life’s joys and complications; we can ask ourselves often, ‘Is Jesus in plain sight or ‘hidden?’ and ‘What is God calling me to do next?’ or How do we point to Jesus in our words and actions?’ Then, in asking ourselves, ‘what are we looking for?’ in our humbleness, we can admit our unknowing, we can submit ourselves to the trust, faith, hope of coming and seeing for ourselves the connectedness, the personality of Christ’ life, the teachings of Christ to us. We can form relationships through and with our limited, yet constantly growing knowledge of Christ Jesus. We can be unknowing and testify this is the Son of God, and then too, be honored in the sight of the Lord (Isaiah 49:5).

            You and I are here today to witness to each others faith, to share our beliefs, to learn more for ourselves about the truth and life of Jesus, in hearing God’s Word. Just as Andrew and Simon Peter (Cephas) heard John the Baptist speak and witness in his following Christ, it was an adventure to hear, indeed. Isn’t it an adventure to come, then see, and follow Christ in our faithful journey---where God’s path leads us together?


                                                     Thanks be to God.           AMEN

  August 2018  
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