Do we come to church merely out of a sense of reluctant duty or is there a sense of purpose, devotion, enthusiasm, and passion? Unfortunately our attitude may be, at best, a combination of the two. The Word today takes our eyes off ourselves, our mixed motives, our shallow hopes and focuses them on the purpose, enthusiasm, passion, and zeal of God's saving love. If we are to be saved, God must take the initiative. And he has done so. As he gives us his heart in the Ten Commandments, so he gives us new hearts, baptizing us into the zeal of Christ's love by which alone he declares us righteous. Connected to Christ's resurrection our hope is firmly planted in him.
Each of us has our own ideas of what is fair. When we actually see the price of that new car on the sticker in the window, however, we may be shocked that it's much more than we imagined. That's why they call it "sticker shock." So the common, sinful idea regarding what God expects of us usually consists in "being good" or some other quality in ourselves. When God sent his Son to save us we may be shocked that it would take nothing less than his own suffering and cruel death on the cross. It is a price far beyond what we are able to pay. But it has been paid for us. In gratitude for the blessings that are ours in Jesus’ cross, we take up our own cross and follow the Savior’s will for us as we journey toward heaven.
Even as we take comfort in the fact that Jesus knows and endured our temptations and emerged victorious , we face the reality that temptation to sin is still a daily struggle for us. "Lead us not into temptation," Jesus taught us to pray daily. At times we may fear that we are losing the battle. Faith sees and holds on to the victory that has already been won for us by our Lord Jesus, who shares with us his crown of life. By our own weak powers we are bound to fail and crumble under temptation and the weight of sin. "But for us fights the valiant one, whom God himself elected" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God). In Christ's victory for us we can endure any temptation.
Jesus' disciples were confused. They had seen Jesus perform miracles that only God could do. They watched as he fulfilled the messianic signs promised in the Old Testament. Then he started talking about being glorified, and in the same breath predicted that he would suffer and die. That's not what they were expecting to hear. When Jesus was transfigured before three of them and they saw the fullness of his glory, the voice of the Father reminded them to "listen to him" even though he might say some unexpected and even puzzling things. God speaks to us today in our worship, and commands us to do the same: "Listen to him!"
Life in this world is often filled with disappointments and difficulties. But each and every one of the problems and hindrances is a blessing in disguise. Each one of them gives us a reason to despair of our own abilities and to seek in Jesus the compassionate and merciful Lord. Peter’s mother-in-law gets the point of Jesus’ help immediately: she has been saved to serve. In the midst of terrible pain, Job’s only recourse is prayer that trusts in the mercy of God and in the power of God to relieve and to rescue. Despite the troubles we face, our Lord Jesus uses his power and comfort to work blessings in our lives, even during trying times.
Christ is the central message of the Scriptures. He is the great prophet who was foretold in the Old Testament, and he is the Savior whom we continue to proclaim in the New Testament era. No other person and no other gospel can provide us the peace and comfort that Christ gives.
Sent by the Father into the world, Jesus came preaching the Gospel, saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Christ called and sent apostles like Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and pastors and teachers throughout the ages so that this gospel of the kingdom may be preached to the whole world. God also calls each individual Christian into his family, the Church, and makes us witnesses to others of the good news of salvation. There is urgency to the Lord's call. Simon and Andrew left their nets "immediately." Our message is the same, "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom is at hand, repent and believe," for, as St. Paul wrote, "Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Today, Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael to follow him. Jesus says, "Follow me!" and the Word creates the desire and ability to follow him. The boy Samuel heard the voice of the Lord calling to him in the temple and answered: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." God continues to speak to us today in his Word, and we respond as Samuel did, asking our Lord to speak to us, and listening with all our heart.
Today we recall an 'old' event in history, the Baptism of Our Lord. God's Word teaches us that it is also a 'current' event producing a new creation and new life for each person who is baptized into Jesus Christ. In the beginning God was pleased with his new creation—light (Genesis 1:4); at Jesus' baptism the Father was pleased with Jesus, his Son (Mark 1:11); and at our baptism into Christ, we are pleasing to God and therefore are able to "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).
At Christmas God gave his very best gift. Epiphany is the unwrapping of that gift to see what God has given, to thank him for his gift, and to put his gift to use. Jesus Christ is God's gift to all of humanity. As the Son of God he is ever "God of God, Light of Light." He is the light of the world who enlightens everyone. By faith in him we also become light. In him we are called to arise and shine forth the light of God's salvation, "so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.”