1/8 - Pastor's Post

Red_Door_all

No church today. There's just too much snow around our beloved city and we don't want to have people take the risk on the many side streets that haven't been cleared yet nor on the infamous Lombardy Place, as the alley behind the church is called.
 
So since you can't hear the sermon in real time I have condensed and printed below the sermon I was going to preach on this Sunday, January 8, 2017. Let's begin with the text, the last two verses of the Gospel for the day, Matthew 3:13-17 (you might want to read the whole gospel for yourself at home):
 
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
 
This text fits right in with the name of the Sunday we observe today: the Baptism of our Lord. Note how short the actual story is; not many details are provided. What is important is the voice Jesus hears. Luke's version of the same story makes the message even more personal:  You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
 
How wonderful these words are! Naturally they were heard by Jesus. But they can be applied to us as well. God claims or claimed us in baptism as his own and his love will not let us go. It is said that whenever Martin Luther felt assaulted by the devil he would write "baptizatus sum: I am baptized" on a piece of paper to remind himself that the wicked one really had no power over him.
 
I hope all of us take a moment at the beginning of this new year to thank God that we can say, "I have been baptized. I'm not immune from momentary harm, but .nothing can ultimately destroy me, because I belong to God: I am his child and heir to his kingdom; he has called me by name!" Of course at every baptism, no matter at what age, the name of the person to be baptised is used. It is very personal.
 
All of us who work with children know how important it is to get names right or to pronounce them correctly. And one of the first thing a new pastor learns is the importance of knowing his or her parishioners' names. How comforting, then, to know that the creator of this vast starry universe with its millions of galaxies knows us by name, knows everything about us! We are reminded of the verse in Psalm 139: Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. No wonder it is important to use a person's name at his or her baptism, as a reminder that God knows us by our unique, individual name among the billions of children God has here on our planet.
 
- Therefore let us live in light of the blessings that come to us in our baptism. Let us listen closely to the words used during whenever we have a baptism during the Sunday morning service. Remember that the Apostles' Creed which we recite almost every Sunday was originally a baptismal confession which new Christians repeated when asked right before the act of baptism what they believed.
 
A hymn sung often in our church is "How Firm a Foundation." (ELW 796) It begins with the words: "How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in Christ Jesus, the Word!" Baptism can be understood as this firm foundation laid for our faith in Jesus. The third verse of the hymn is especially moving: "When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply. The flames shall not hurt you; I only design Your dross to consume and your gold to refine." Those words serve to assure us that God, who has claimed us as his own at our baptism, is with me and knows us and guides me. True, there's a lot of dross to consume in this earthen vessel and that will continue throughout our lives (as Luther reminds us, we are both saints and sinners at the same time: simul Justus et pecattor). We are children of a fallen humanity. But God see the gold in each of us and with our baptisms begins a life-long process of refining, of calling us by name again and again back to the straight and narrow pathway. I'm reminded of some words my namesake Albert Schweitzer wrote into the autograph book of a godchild of his: "And remember, above all, you belong to God. No matter how far you stray, the way back to God is never closed."
 
- Yes, he calls us by name. He knows each one of us. So we need not live in fear, but rather with the blessed assurance that his love surrounds us always. Let us seize hold of the promise made to us at baptism, "child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever." And let us live in the light of that grace every day of our lives. For he knows us; he knows our names.  We are his beloved sons and daughters, with us he is well pleased.
 
Faithfully yours,
Pastor John Schweitzer
Last Published: January 7, 2017 11:13 PM
Empowered by Extend, a church software solution from