This is my sermon manuscript for December 31. The lesson is John 1:19-34.
A recording may be posted after this auto-posts.
Over this extended weekend, many people will begin an annual ritual. You take down the Christmas decorations, and bring out your workout gear, or make the exercise bike, or treadmill accessible. We end one season, and begin the season of resolutions.
However, like Christmas, the season of resolutions lasts about 12 days. By mid-January, the exercise bike has resumed its role as secondary coat rack.
But the end of a year, and the beginning of a new one provides us with the opportunity to reflect on what we have been doing, and look at, and maybe even pursue, a new way of doing things.
That is what is going on in our Gospel lesson. God is doing a new thing, and the leaders of Israel’s Jewish community don’t like it.
John the Baptizer has created a great deal of controversy. He is baptizing people in the Jordan River. He is quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah, that he is “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, to make straight the way of the Lord.” He is warning the people of Israel that God’s promised Messiah is coming, and they need to get their act together.
Which upsets the leaders of Israel, and so the Temple leaders send priests and Levites to John to find out what he is up to. “Who are you?” “Who sent you?” “Who gave you the authority to do this?”
They are trying to frame what he is doing in Old Testament language. First, they ask if he is the Messiah, the Promised Anointed One? Then, is he Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up into heaven? If not Elijah, is he one of the other great prophets? If John is one of these, they know how to act and what to do. But if not, they don’t know how to proceed.
John tells them that he isn't the one they should be concerned about. He is simply preparing the way for another. One who is greater than he is, one of whom John is unworthy to tie his sandal.
The next day, John describes this person, and uses Old Testament language to describe him. “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
This is a different form of leadership, one of self-sacrifice. If John, or the One for whom he was preparing the way was a prophet, the priests and Levites would be asking them “What is the will of God?” Then the challenge would be if they would do it? Israel didn’t have a great track record of listening and following what prophets told them to do.
But the Lamb of God is different. With the Lamb of God, there is nothing for you to do but understand and accept.
In the sacrificial system, in the language of Passover, sins are cast onto the lamb, and it is in their death that the sins are taken away. Things are about to get different.
Here, we get into proper names, titles with capital letters. God has sent the capital L Lamb of God who will take away the capital S Sin (singular) of the world. This is a gift from God. Capital S singular Sin is not the things you have done wrong. Those are sins. Capital S singular Sin is the broken relationship you have, or don’t have, with God. The Capital L Lamb of God is here to take away the damaged, estranged relationship and to restore that connection to God.
The Capital W Word of God that has become a person has come to Earth to remove any barriers between people and God. By taking on our nature, by becoming a person, Jesus Christ has come to demonstrate and live out a life in perfect relationship to God, a life of loving others, a life of giving to and for others, a life of self-sacrifice. The life of the Capital L Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
This is something BRAND NEW for the priests and Levites, for the people of Israel and for the world. This is God redefining our relationship. This is God saying, “All of that stuff that keeps you from me; your sins, your guilt, your shame, your unworthiness – all of that I am taking away. Be with me.”
That is an unbreakable resolution. On God’s end.
How do we react? Do we realize that the Son of God has become a person to show us that God wants us to feel free to turn to God whenever and wherever we need to? That while we are sinners, and while we are unworthy, God doesn’t care.
And if, somehow, we can accept that God accepts our unacceptability, can we accept others knowing that they are accepted in their unacceptability as well?
God, through Jesus Christ, the Capital L Lamb who comes to take away the capital S Sin (singular) of the world, has resolved to have a new relationship with the world. Can we be resolved to accept this gift of grace, and share the love God gives us with others? Or will this fade like other resolutions of the New Year?
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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