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Monday, January 11, 2016

Sermon for January 10, 2016, by Pastor Ronnie Koch

The Baptism of our Lord
Jan. 10, 2016
  
                      The Father is Pleased
                                           Luke 3:22b

            Our text for this morning's sermon is taken from today's Gospel lesson, Luke 3:22:  And a voice came from heaven: ``You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.''

            God loves you, you know. He has told you so, often and in many different ways. When you were baptized, God adopted you to be His child, whom He loves. When you learn Bible verses by heart, God uses those verses, your whole life long, to speak to you and to reassure you of His love. John 3:16, “God loved the world” . . . That means you, you know. When you receive Holy Communion, God reassures of you His love for you as His Son says to you this is my body given for you, this is my blood shed for you. No greater love has anyone than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. And Jesus told His friends, His apostles, this, “Whoever hears you, hears me.” That’s a powerful promise for you to keep in mind. When you hear your pastor tell you, God loves you, you can be sure that my words are as true as if you were hearing a voice come from heaven.
            When you read the Bible on your own, or hear it read in Church, you’ll get this same happy message again and again, God loves you. Today we heard from Isaiah, God’s preacher of the Gospel for the people of the Old Testament times. God gave Isaiah these words to preach in Isaiah 43:1 &4a
    But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
        he who formed you, O Israel:
    "Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
        I have called you by name, you are mine.
    Because you are precious in my eyes,
        and honored, and I love you,
 We’re hearing here, how God speaks His love to the Old Testament people.  And it needed to be said, because God also had quite a bit of stern words for the Old Testament people – words of warning and words of judgment. God was often upset with His people, angry and justifiably so because they rebelled against Him, chose false gods instead of him; they acted as if He were not real.
            At one point it got so bad that God regretted having created people. He let it rain and rain in a worldwide flood. He destroyed the whole civilization and started over fresh and new.
            So the people of the Old Testament who believed in God, might have been left wondering, is God upset with us still? They needed to hear from Him the clear words, “I love you.” So God spoke it, out loud, through Isaiah His prophet.
            And what about us, now? How do we know what mood God is in? Humanity seems to be becoming more and more depraved, running farther and farther away from God and from God’s good ways. Is God again going to reach that point where He regrets having made us? Will He give up on us all? What’s God’s disposition toward me, you, or anyone?
            We might wonder if God loves us, because we do hear other things from God as well. We hear His law, written in our hearts and spelled out in the Bible. We realize -- we admit -- that we don’t measure up against that law. We don’t meet the requirements.
            No sinner should be so arrogant as to assume God is happy with them, as though saying to themselves, “God must like me, everyone likes me.” It is foolishness to think, “Ach, God doesn’t mind my little sins.”
            Listen to how John the Baptist describes God’s attitude toward those who sin, those who aren’t good, who don’t deserve God’s approval:
Luke 3:17
    His 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 harvest is brought in, the wheat or barley is laid on the threshing floor. The harvester takes his long fork, sticks it in the pile of grain and scoops up some, tosses it up in the air. As the grain falls back down, the warm breeze blows away the loosened husks, the chaff. The wind blows this junk off to the side and it settles to the ground, in piles of very combustible fibers. Thus the harvester has made two piles, one for keeps, grain to make bread, and one pile of refuse to be burned.
            That, John says, is the judgment that is about to come. Which pile will you land in?  
If we are honest with each other and with ourselves and with God, we will admit that our sins of thought, word and deed have made us, according to God’s judgment, fit for the fire.
            But can we find a word from God, beyond judgment?
            We must find our answer in Jesus. We must believe that in Jesus we have God’s love.
Luke 3:21-22
    Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, [22] 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."
From heaven we hear what is on God’s mind and what is in God’s heart. God loves His Son, Jesus Christ. He is pleased with Jesus.
            At least God is happy with one man. He hasn’t given up on all creation.
            That’s like the bit of good news at Noah’s time. When God looked around at the world and saw that the people’s thoughts and actions were only evil, all the time, He resolved to destroy them all, and then there’s this one line: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
            God was pleased with Noah. At least there was one man, whom God could still love. He chose to save Noah. He told Noah to build an ark in which to ride out the storm. And Noah brought two of every kind of animals into the ark and the members of His family and they were saved in that ark.
    Now Jesus has the Father’s love. God is pleased with Jesus, and Jesus builds His church, and draws people into it and they are saved in the safety of the church from the wrath of God. By baptism you have been brought into the holy ark of the church. You are with Jesus and so will be saved from the winnowing of judgment that is to come.
            In the church you hear the Word of God that says a kinder, gentler word than His judgment of displeasure. You hear Him say, “I love you.”
            Outside the church, the Lord speaks, but it is His word against sin. He says, “The soul that sins shall die”. Death is how God expresses His attitude toward sin and the rebellion of humanity. Outside the church is sin, death, and the burning of the chaff.
            In the church there is the Gospel of Jesus and baptism of Jesus.
Romans 6:
    Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
   We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
            In Jesus we have God’s love. We hear what God says to Jesus and we can apply it to ourselves because we are baptized into Jesus. ``You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.''
            What a great blessing it is to hear God speak His love to us. There is no reason to doubt His eternal love. He has put away our sin, having given it to Jesus who paid for it at the cross. Without sin and guilt, we are safe from God’s displeasure and we can rejoice to hear of His good pleasure.
            God is so good to us as to lavish upon us His doting words of love, like a Father who is just happy to have His children in His home, around His table. You who believe and are baptized, it is you He is talking to when He says, you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you,
            In the same way, don’t give your loved ones reason to doubt your love. Show them your love with kindness and going out of your way to make their day. Tell them your love. Take a moment to put down what you’re obsessed with and express your care and appreciation to those God has given you to love. Listen to what is important to them, so you can find even new ways of loving them the way your heavenly Father loves you.
Amen.