First Sunday after Epiphany January 9, 2022 St. John, New Orleans
I’ve been blessed to have a good relationship with my entire family
No big scandals, fights or disagreements
No black sheep that we don’t talk to
Even those who are difficult to love are kept in the fold and encouraged
Now, I know many don’t have this same experience
some of you are not close to your families at all,
or, maybe just part of the family
even in your own house, things might be rather chilly between you
Simply put, love and relationships are not a given in any family
And that can make you feel very alone, deserted, overwhelmed
And all of this dysfunction is not normal
I would seem that, at times, love isn’t enough
But that was never God’s intention for you or me.
From the beginning of time all people were made and intended to be in relationships, loved by one another
God formed Adam with his loving hands and breathed his own life into him
God made Eve to be Adam’s beloved companion and helpmate
He made them to have someone to love besides himself
And the Bible tells us that they walked with God in peace and love in Eden
Until they didn’t…
Satan entered the serpent and tricked Adam and Eve into thinking they were missing something
That God was withholding something from them
Perhaps even sowing seeds of doubt concerning his love for them
And, yet, after they sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, God lovingly made a covenant with them
When he promised them a Savior
Throughout the O.T. God renewed that covenant with Israel, Adam and Eve’s descendants
Often after Israel had broken its half of the covenant
And especially when Israel was starting a new journey or chapter of its existence
And even when it was low, as we hear in Isaiah today
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. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
If that’s not a love letter, I don’t know what is?
But after hundreds of years of “do-overs”(where God would forgive Israel and renew the covenant) something finally changed.
From the moment sin entered the world God knew he would have to be patient
He knew that only he could keep the covenant
And, eventually, the time came for him to release Israel from the covenant
To do so, he sent an Israelite who could keep the covenant
He sent Jesus, his beloved, with whom he was pleased.
The monkey was off Israel’s back because God allowed Jesus to represent the whole nation in covenant with God
If Jesus could keep the Laws of God, the covenant would be kept and he would live forever
But, in order for ISRAEL to be brought into the covenant, some part of their life had to intersect with Jesus’ life
And because it was sin that separated Israel from God’s love,
It would be their sin that would be placed upon Jesus
And it would be his love for Israel which would take him and their sin to the Cross.
That’s why the father made his declaration at Jesus’ baptism and why the Holy Spirit was a witness as well
To declare that the love the Father had for Israel was being repeated through his son.
And it demonstrated to God that Jesus would not shun his sacred duty.
That, starting from his baptism, he signaled his willingness to save all sinners, stating with Israel
Jesus didn’t need to be baptized in the Jordan by John—he hadn’t sinned
His baptism was to make himself equal to us mere mortals in every way
To do what he would later ask us to do
All so that he could be our Savior
All so that God’s beloved Creatures could be united to him again forever.
Everything Jesus did on earth he did for his beloved—those who would follow and trust him
From his humble birth and formative years
To the three years he spent teaching, preaching, and getting the apostles ready for his departure from this world
To the pain, suffering and death which he endured
So that his holiness would cancel out our sinfulness
And so that our sin could be put to death once, for all (Rom 6:1-11)
To the resurrection which gives us hope
To the ascension which gave us proof of ETERNAL life
And it was because of Jesus’ love for us by which God declared his love for Jesus
So, what does that have to do with your family or my family and our ability to get along?
As we read the Bible we read about many families
Some get along great, but most have lots of problems
Sound familiar? Yet God still loved them all.
Moreover, God speaks in familial terms,
calling himself our Father,
we his children,
Jesus the bridegroom, and the church His bride.
In other-words, family is the natural order of relationships
And the only way those relationships held together over the millennia was by God’s love, grace, and mercy
What do you think would happen if we modeled our families after God’s vision of family?
Forgiving often and much
Confessing our sins so that we might be forgiven
Striving to serve others over ourselves
Selflessly sacrificing all so that others might have some
Dedicating our lives to our families, simply because we love them.
This doesn’t mean it will be easy—far from it!
When we suppose to emulate God’s love for us as we love our families, we will, certainly fall short
But, if we are focused on how he loved Jesus, and in return us, surely, our love for others will at least resemble his love?
And that love is a beautiful thing that does not go unnoticed, even if it isn’t always appreciated.
And when that love of Christ is shared in a family, it can be a very powerful thing.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that Christians have bulletproof marriages or have fewer problems than non-Christians
But I will tell you that that families who are disciples of Jesus,
Knowing him, trusting him, and honoring him in their homes
Worshiping him and studying his Word and following his commands
Confessing to one another before him and absolving each other by the power of his name
Well, these families are not usually self-centered
They are usually not drowning in guilt and shame
Not mired in sins they cannot escape from
They are, usually, traveling the road of faith together
And when brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, are following Jesus, they know they are loved
Not only by familial blood
But by the blood of Jesus
And that, by that blood, they are beloved of the Father in heaven.
That same beloved relationship is extended to and through each of us here at the church as well.
Because we are God’s beloved, and because we love each other in Christ,
We work harder at getting along, working together, accomplishing goals together which were given us by our loving Father in heaven
We forgive one another and spur one another on toward good works
All because of the love God has shown us and so that we can share that love with others.
At Jesus’ baptism, God made a big scene in demonstrating his love for Jesus
And Jesus did the same for you and me
On the cross
At the Resurrection
And when he ascended into heaven
And I can’t wait to see how he will show his love when he returns on the last day
And I hope each of you
Buoyed by his love for you
And by the love of your brothers and sisters in Christ
Know that love you have now
And are just as excited for Christ’s eternal expressions of love for you on the last day
But until then, let us continue together in his love, and continue sharing his love to others, that his loving family may ever grow. Amen.