Second Sunday after the Epiphany—Sermon
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In our gospel lessons so far this calendar year we really haven’t heard anything from Jesus. Until today, we have watched and listened to what has happened to Jesus rather than listening to him speak. Two weeks ago it was the wise men from the east who knelt before the little child, unable to speak, and offered him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. There in that act Jesus is worshipped and by the gifts of the gentiles he is proclaimed as the King of kings, the divine Son of God, and the one who will die for all. Last week, we heard about the baptism of Jesus Christ in the river Jordan and apart from a passing comment to John about being baptized by him the true focus of passage is the word spoken by the Father. It is there that Jesus is overshadowed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, while the word from heaven reveals that Jesus is the beloved Son of God with whom the Father is well-pleased. And this morning, we hear another revealing word about Jesus, again the Spirit rests upon Jesus and John the Baptist proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” In three short weeks, all and everything that the Church could say about who Jesus is has been said by three separate witnesses, the Magi, the Father, and John the Baptist. Jesus is the King to whom all nations will be gathered. He is the eternal Son of God in the flesh, the one sent from the Father and in whom the Spirit abides. He is the Lamb of God, who like the lamb of the old covenant will save by the shedding of His blood, but now for the forgiveness of sin. There He will fulfill the meaning of His name given to Him on January 1st, eight days after His birth, and save His people from their sins.
These three testimonies to the nature and identity of Jesus Christ are met this morning by His first three sentences. These are the first words uttered by Jesus in John’s gospel, and except that one comment to John from last week, they also are really the first words that Jesus’ addresses to us in our lessons this new year. What are you seeking?….Come and You will see….You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas. Observing the construction of John’s gospel and the structure of the lectionary so far these past weeks, the statements from Jesus take on a new and deeper meaning. We, through the lessons have heard the proclamation about Jesus are now by His own word we are confronted by the King, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus’ very presence and the objective truth that Church proclaims about Him now confronts in a perfectly trinitarian three-fold way; with a question, an invitation, and a declaration.
What do you seek? As you have driven in your cars here this morning or as you open the bible to read, this question from our Lord this morning cuts to the depth of our hearts. It is the question that we as a congregation and as people need to ask ourselves in this coming new year and a question which if we are honest with ourselves should be at the forefront of our minds. When we come here what is it that we truly seek? When we open our bibles, what do we seek? When we go to God in prayer, what is it that we are truly seeking?
If we come seeking to be entertained for an hour, I am sorry to say you will not find it, as my soft-shoe and comedy routine undoubtedly needs much work. If you come seeking a perfect church with perfect church members, let me invite you to the Methodist church just down the road. I hear perfection is one of their goals. If you seek a perfect church with a pastor practically perfect in ever way, I am not him. Close, right Alicia?, but not quite. If you are seeking to come and be comfortable and to have everything you say, do, and believe affirmed and accepted by God and the Church, again I am sorry to say you will not find it here. Sin is not tolerated here, it is forgiven. Therefore, if you seek Jesus Christ who the Church proclaims, I have such good news to tell you. He is here! If you seek the King of kings, here you will find Him. If you seek the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, He is waiting for you to take away your sin as well. If you seek fellow sinners to gather and encounter this Lord and savior, then this is the place for you! For here he is present just as He has promised to us and here we are! Where ever two or more are gathered in my name there I am. This is my body and this is my blood. I am with you always even to the end of the age.
Come and you will see. To those seeking, Jesus invites them to come and promises them that they will see. That they will see Him. It is this same invitation and promise that He gives to us, this Sunday and every Sunday. Come seeking forgiveness and you will hear it, see it and taste it. Come seek me and you will find that I am already here waiting. Not just in some intangible way, but in concrete places; the external Word proclaimed and the tangible elements of bread and wine. In absolution we hear the Word straight from the voice of Jesus Christ, spoken through a broken and flawed vessel, I forgive you all of your sins. In Him your sins forgiven. The sins which lead to nothing but death and destruction are washed away, removed from you as far as the east is from the west. They are blotted out and covered over by the broken body and shed blood of the Lamb. That same body and blood which you will see lifted up in bread and wine and given to eat and drink. Here not only will you hear about Jesus, but you will encounter and experience the Living and eternal God. Here you will see the mercy and love of God. Heaven is opened to you and eternal life given and promised in the invitation of our Lord. How awesome it is that on this day we see that same invitation given to Sawyer, promised to her as an everlasting inheritance, through the holy and sacred water of baptism.
You shall be called Cephas. Rather abruptly in John’s Gospel, as we read this morning, Jesus gives Simon a new identity. There is no dialogue, no back and forth between He and Simon just a direct Word from the Lord. You shall be called Cephas, Peter in the Greek, Rocky in an over literal English definition of His name. Encountering the presence of Jesus, Simon is changed by Him. He is given a new identity and one that he will fulfill in every facet of the word. He will first confess the foundational rock of our Christian faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Unfortunately though he will also be rock-hard headed trying to rebuke Jesus and he will also sink, like a rock, as he ventures out upon the water. He will even crumble like a rock by the taunts of a little girl as he denies the Lord three times. Yet healed forgiven and restored again by the living presence of Jesus Christ he will become again a foundational pillar upon which the Church will grow and be built.
Seeking Christ, seeing Jesus present before us in Word and Sacrament, changes us and it changes our identity. Here through baptism we have been given a new name. It is why we traditionally don’t use the last name, because in the death and resurrection of Jesus met in the water of the font we are all given a new last name, Christian. Ian Jacob Christian. Sawyer Lynn Christian. Jesus gives us a new identity and a new name which is to be the everyday reality of our lives. Jesus calls us to be His disciples and gives us the gifts of faith and the Holy Spirit to fulfill that calling. To be sinners forgiven and saints in the world bearing Jesus Christ in our lives. As the apostle Paul writes, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” It is Christ who now lives in you by faith. In Him you are transformed, changed, and called to bear witness to His presence and carry His invitation and promise into the world, come and you will see. Come and you will be changed.
The rest of this season of Epiphany we will spend the remainder of our weeks in Matthew’s gospel hearing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. That great teaching of our Lord which first lays out who and what those who bear His name are to be. The coming weeks will be spent with Jesus teaching us about discipleship. Which is rather nicely what we as a congregation need to continue and focus on as well this new year. As we are claimed by God, forgiven by Christ and made his disciples, we look to fulfill that calling by the strength of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore we are striving this year to focus on discipleship, mission, and ministry. A new men’s bible study has begun and some women who can’t make it to the Wednesday morning study, said they weren't going to be out done by the men and are looking to start one of their own. The new council is going to be setting a vision for our congregation to carry out mission and help form our identity as a parish. All of this because we as a congregation seek Jesus Christ alone, receive His salvation, are eternally changed by Him, and want others to come and see the goodness of God with us.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.