First Sunday in Lent
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Pastor Del Strecker
Dear fellow baptized in Christ. When we began the Epiphany season right after Christmas our text was the baptism of our Lord. In the Epiphany season we took a look at what it’s like to be led by our baptismal promises. We start the Lenten season now. And once again we started with the baptism of Jesus. Same text that we had a few weeks ago. But I am here to tell you that today’s text has an addition to it … more verses than the one we had back then, and the reason being is that this text shows us what life was like after baptism. What life is like after baptism.
Jesus’s baptism is important to us because what it does - it shows us again that he was baptized and says immediately he was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. When we are baptized, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit and that Holy Spirit leads us out into the wilderness as well. Baptism is not a “get out of pain and sorrow” card. It is also not a “get into heaven” free card. But what it is that baptism is where God comes to us.
Notice also that God comes to Noah to make the covenant. God comes to Peter and gives him a revelation as to the importance of ministry and baptism. And God comes to Jesus and does the same thing – you are my beloved. God makes the promise that he is going to be faithful and love us and comes to us through that promise in baptism. But as I said, it does not say that it is a “get out of anything” card.
Jesus says while he is there in the wilderness – he is tempted by Satan – he is among wild beasts and it says he gets hungry and thirsty. Life after baptism is not easy. For we have the promise that through baptism God has called us as his special children. That God will walk with us through the wilderness, through the pain, through the sorrow, and that his hand, his blessing is shown in many different ways. It is through the gift of the Spirit. It is that Spirit that gives us the courage to live out our lives. But notice also he gives us the gift of his angels. Those of you who did the angel Bible study with me know that we talked about how God ministers to us through the angels.
But it is also that there is a reality that our baptism points out to us and that there is a Satan – there is a devil out there to tempt us and it is through baptism, through the gift of the Spirit, that we are able to resist the temptation of Satan. We cannot do it on our own. That’s our human frailties. For we are given this wonderful gift of baptism, but you see Luther says we need to remember our baptism every day. That’s not just a one-time, two-time, or once-a-year we renew our baptismal vows on the Baptism of Our Lord. Baptism should be every day.
Well I mentioned Pastor Adam Hamilton and I am borrowing one of his ideas for us during Lent. In a basket in the back of the church are these little slips. I gave some out on Ash Wednesday and so these are different. Adam says, “We should remember our baptism every day,” also by putting this in your shower or close to your bathtub. And I am going to read what it says: “Lord as I enter the water to bathe, I remember my baptism. Wash me by your grace, fill me with your spirit and renew my soul and I pray that I might live as your child today and honor you in all that I do.” Put this where you can see it as you get ready in the morning to remind you of this wonderful gift of Baptism. You’re welcome to continue on through Lent but I am asking you to do this as a part of your Lenten journey.
At Ash Wednesday we talked about prayer and I gave out another slip that I asked you to put in your closet to pray every day. But guess what? Prayer is not just enough. Notice it says … that I may do, that I may live. The call of baptism is that we live that baptism out in the way that we act, in the way that we treat others, in the way that we look out for others. Prayer and action go hand-in-hand. Again, action doesn’t carry much meaning unless we pray about it first. So, the two together.
So, we call the promises of God through baptism, through the rainbow, through many different covenants that God has made: the 10 Commandments. But above all, we give thanks to God that he continues to walk with us and to give us the blessings of baptism.
Notice that in the last phrase of the Psalm that we had this morning it says: “All your paths O Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness to those who keep your covenant and testimonies.” We have the wonderful father that through our baptism, through our faith in Jesus is what gets us in heaven’s door, without the gift of baptism to remind us of that every day, it sometimes goes by the wayside.
So, the call of Lent is: “remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return, but before you return to dust there’s this life to live as the beloved children of God.” Living out the baptismal promises. Amen.
The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Saturday, February 13, 2021
Pastor Del Strecker
Dear fellow Transfigured people. In our reading especially in our first one, we have this strange story of Elijah and Elisha, we have a whirlwind of fire with a chariot and horses of fire. We talked about in our second lesson with Paul about this being able to recognize the face of Jesus. And in our Gospel lesson we have this story of Peter and James and John being on the mountain and Elijah and Moses coming to this place. So, what does this all have to do with us?
These are strange stories we can tell, they kind of catch our interest. But do they really appeal to us? Do they really have something to say to us? Here? Today? In this world? And I say, yes it does.
It is no accident that Mark includes the story of the Transfiguration. Because you see Malachi, in the Old Testament, talked about the fact that when the Savior was to come would be preceded by Moses and Elijah. Mark wants us and all of the readers to realize that Jesus is the same as the God that had been all there the whole while. He wanted us to know that this was not new, Jesus was not a new god. Jesus was the revelation of the God that had appeared to Moses and the God that appeared to Elijah and the God who appears to us today. That’s what this story is all about. It is that we are still worshiping a God who has been here since the beginning of creation, taking care of us, loving us and wanting us to know Him.
If we take a look at Moses what does he have to tell us? Well, God gave Moses on the mountaintop the 10 Commandments. Well, guess what? Everyone of those commandments, you’ve heard me say it before – I’m a broken record, but everyone of the com-mandments can be summed up in one word … and that word is “love.”
The first table tells us this is how you love God. The second table of the commandments says this is how you love each other; this is how you live with each other. So, this is the God who says I want to be in relationship with you, but I also want you to be in relationship with each other. That’s the kind of God I am. This is the God who reveals himself in Jesus.
So, again, what does then Elijah have to tell us? This story again Elijah was a great prophet. But remember Elijah had some problems too and he went to the mountain and there God told him this is what you are going to do, this is your job and that’s to tell the people they have slipped away from worshiping me, that they need to come back to me, that they need to repent. That same message comes to us today, too. We, too, need to hear the message that at times we slip away.
That’s what this message on the mountain is all about is that even though we love each other, even though we love God, we tend to still slip away. So therefore, God is calling us to come back to him.
That’s what the Transfiguration is about – it’s that God wanted to see that the disciples see that this Jesus who’ve they been was yes, a great guy, he was a great teacher, he was a great leader and he had healing power, but he was God and he still is God.
The term transfigure means to expose something that is hidden. You see that’s what happened there on that mountain, all of a sudden, the veil of Jesus’ humanity was lifted and they saw God. It wasn’t just this good guy that they had been walking around with. He truly was God. And it was the God that they had known their whole lives.
You see, that’s the transfiguring and then what happens after that folks are what we call folks transforming. Jesus didn’t transform, he didn’t change who he was, he was transfigured in that he released to all of us the knowledge of who he was. We are the ones who are transformed when we hear that message. We are the ones who do make a change, who come back from our sinful ways, who transform ourselves through the gift of Christ, through the message of the Gospel, and that’s what that second lesson is for all of us tonight.
Paul keeps saying folks the only reason we exist is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said the only reason that we love God or how we show our love to God is by proclaiming the gospel. This is how we also show our love for each other is that we proclaim the Gospel. The good news that Jesus Christ has died for us, has risen and our sins are now forgiven.
So, my final point this evening is that there is a voice that comes in the cloud and that voice was for the disciples and for us the church. In the other gospels when Jesus was baptized some of them said that other people heard God speaking and others said, no only Jesus heard. We don’t know. But guess what? This one is very clear – the disciples heard God talking. And what did God say to them – Listen to him.
Folks that’s the message also from the cloud to us. How do we listen? We listen for him in many different ways. The first is with obedience, the second way is that we as Lutherans believe that God works through pastors to bring the message of the gospel to you, and another way that the message from the cloud comes to listen to him is through the sacraments – through holy communion and baptism.
It is through all of that that we heard that message of God’s love, God’s willingness to be in relationship with us, God’s willingness for us to be saved by our faith in Christ, and also that God offers forgiveness to us through the confession we have at the beginning of worship. Through the sacraments and through our own private confession.
We, folks, we have this message coming to us all the time. And hopefully what will happen – this is the time we are transfigured. What does that mean? That we will truly by hearing the word and celebrating the sacraments, we will openly show who we are. That’s when the transfiguration happens, not the transformation, but the transfiguration. We are transfigured when we heard the Word and we show who we are, heart and soul.
The Transfiguration is called a feast because we do it lifts us up, it gives us a reason to celebrate. So, this evening as we celebrate the revealing of Christ to the world, to us, may we listen to him and who show the world light and love and also the confession of sin. Amen.