Life in the Lamb

2020-01-19 – Year A – Epiphany 2 – The Rev. Steven Edwards
Exodus 12:21-28; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

Our Gospel Lesson began today, with John’s (the Baptist) recognition and exclamation of Jesus, as the Son of God, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And this is a most significant marker in the Ministry of the Word, Christ on earth, in the midst of men; and its blessing unto the sanctity of our lives, and He is rightly our focus this day; yet first, let me share a little about John; (for) our Lord Jesus himself, later in the Gospel, spoke of John to His disciples teaching: (Mt 11:9-11a) among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than he. Yet, the impact of John the Baptist, in our mind (Mt 3:3-4) may be reduced by the image of a seemly “wild and crazy guy” dressed in a hair skin coat, eating locusts and honey crying out in the wilderness. But let’s recognize that his words were anointed with power (Luke 1:15a &c), for the calling of mankind unto God, to prepare them & refine their focus toward hope in action, for the coming Messiah. For this is a fulfillment of the prophetic word of God toward (in/for) salvation of the world (1 Luke 1:5-17) ; and thus people came from all around to witness and to become a part of his power filled words and actions, which served to bring hope of a future, in God, for mankind, a people lost in their own way, separated by sin, from a true relationship with Him, from Him who had called them into being. The the promise of angels and prophets, of God Himself, was coming into our presence. I suggest as well, out that a journey out into this wilderness, would not have been taken up as a lark or for mere a curiosity. It wasn’t like, hey let’s go jump in the car and ride over to hear that crazy guy out by the river and maybe grab something to eat while we’re out that way. This was an anointed calling of God’s people and people responded from Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan.  (Mt3:5-6) Mark 1

Now history has taught us that John was the son born to the Priest Zechariah & His wife Elizabeth, in their advanced years.  Luke1:6 both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances blamelessly. The birth of John was foretold to Zechariah, by the angel Gabriel; who said to him (Luke 1:13) Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb! Do you remember an instance in the fulfillment of that prophesy to Zechariah?  6 months later, Mary, the virgin mother of God, who was with child through the over shadowing of the Holy Spirit, (as foretold to Mary by the angel Gabriel), (Mary) visited Elizabeth, and the child, John, in Elizabeth’s womb jumped for joy! Luke 1:39-45                      Praise be to God!

So now, let’s move forward to recognize the majesty and power of our Lord Jesus, who has come into the world He created, and now proclaimed thru God’s revelation thru John the Baptist.  Jesus has the power of salvation and blessing in His hand. He is the procurer and sustainer of redemption and eternal life. He who is the hope of the world; God in man, of whom was prophesized and to the splendor of His revelation unto those who are ready, with hearts opened to receive Him. He has come into our midst, to restore the kingdom of God on earth! To all who believe, in His word, He grants the right to become children of God

(Jn 1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God             

And in a revelation of Himself and of His majesty, God who is, who was & who shall forever be, before all things, created the Heavens and the earth

(Gn 1:2) (for) the earth was without form and (was) void; and darkness was over the face of the deep

(Gn 1:3) And God said let there be light; and there was light

(Jn 1:3) All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made

(Jn 1:4) In Him was life, and the life was the light of men

And God formed the body of a man, from the dust of earth, He had made;  and God breathed life into that body; and man was created and had life in him. And man & woman and all God’s creation lived and were at in peace, in all that God had created, in the fullness and presence of God’s blessing.

But in time, the serpent (who) was more crafty than any other beast of the field, spoke to the woman, distorting, twisting God’s word; and so deceived the woman; that the man & the woman ate from the tree of which the Lord had forbidden them. And mankind was separated by their desires from the presence and glory of God. Mankind with limited exception continued to turn from God’s way of true holiness and righteousness; and was lost in the need for a Savior, of one is God’s love and hope for the restoration of man unto the image & likeness of God.  

And now as all creation groaned in hope and need of the One & only true God….. the Word became flesh; and dwelt among us.   And as John, who came preaching and baptizing for the repentance of sins, to turn the hearts of men to the Savior, He saw Jesus, who is before all things and creator of all things created, now coming toward them, and John proclaimed, as God had granted Him to see, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (Jn1:30-34)

Consider for a moment, what (the thoughts/images) come(s) to your mind when you hear (the words): Lamb of God? I find myself/I lean toward the idea of gentle, peaceful, innocent, endearing.  I am in part, preconditioned with that notion that we could count/ picture sheep to comfort and sooth us into falling asleep. And yes, these attributes of gentleness, peace and innocence are certainly recognized in the nature of Jesus. Yet, those words, Lamb of God foretell of much much more. It alludes to His sacrifice, which lie ahead. A sacrifice of purity & holiness worthy to atone for the sin of man.

In our culture we are not accustomed to the offering of sacrifices, substitutes for ourselves, animal sacrifice is not a practice common to our experience, in our culture; but sacrifice was regularly performed for sins or penance or payment, an offering unto God, in hopes of abating the just penalty due of oneself. But the innocent Lamb of God, was prepared to offer himself that He might reclaim, sanctity of life for the sin of the world. And as in our lesson Exodus, His blood would be a sign of the Lord’s Passover sacrifice. As an aid to internalize the concept of substitutional sacrifice, let us agree that we may have a strong opinion/ belief regarding the death penalty; yet how many of us are ready to offer ourselves in the place / penalty of a convicted murderer?

An acceptable offering is something which would be deemed worthy and of value, counted a loss if  surrendered. (and)Of Jesus, John, who’s word and actions had become valued and powerful among the people, referenced himself to Jesus as one of whom I am not worthy that I could untie his sandals; and we ourselves pray, before receiving Christ in the Eucharist, ….acknowledge ourselves as unworthy to gather up  the crumbs under the Lord’s table. Yet, we humbly come before Him, for He has called unto us, and we have been granted  to know Him, Jesus, Savior, fully revealed, as the Light, the Word, the all-powerful and sinless Son of God, who asks us to dwells with Him.

Now I had said that sacrifice is not common in our time & culture; but I must amend those words, to acknowledge a daily sacrifice of innocent ones, prevalent in our world this day. Everyday unborn children are sacrificed to the unburdening or benefit of their parent(s) USA 2016 / 623,371/ CDC report.    And the sick, the injured, troubled, the infirmed & the elderly, all form of beings of God’s creation, are neglected as a casualty of the complexity of life in this world. Instances of heartbreaking fear, despair and suicide and murder are in the news.

Jesus did not suffer to gain our freedom, in an intention that we should abandon / neglect or violate His, God ordained, sanctity/reverence for life. Jesus came, that we would have life and live it abundantly, to the fullness and in the knowledge and blessing of God’s unsurpassable love and as a fulfillment of His mercy.

Jesus is the all sufficient sacrifice, that we might not be hopelessly be bound unto death, to a fruitless life of sin. He came that we may be brought into the presence and glory of God, who Himself, is Light & Life, He who the darkness cannot overcome. Glory to God, who leads us into a precious and sanctified life in Him. Life which the evil one cannot snatch from the Lord’s hand. For the has broken the evil one’s grip upon us.

We must humbly & prayerfully, temper our response for those who have regrettably taken a painfully and tragically wrong turn. Do you recall what happened when the religious leaders brought a sinner before Jesus? The woman caught in the act of adultery. Do we suppose that we are better off than those to whom Jesus said, you who are without sin cast the first stone? We have all fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus said, where are your accusers? None remain to condemn you; nor do I.

 Jesus came to save us from sin, not condemn us to it. Our righteousness is in Him, not of our ourselves. Did He not eat & drink with tax collectors & sinners? As Jesus saves sinners, we must help & encourage those who are at risk & those who victims of abortion? The unborn child, aborted, must be granted to / trusted to God’s grace & mercy); but the unborn is not the only victim. The mother, the father, the medical providers; all are in need of God’s healing love. The pressures which lead to abortion are often powerful & desperate; and will only be overcome by the love of God, poured out among us and thru us, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We must be a refuge to those who suffer and are lost, that their circumstance, their hope be brought into the Light of Christ.

Our hearts and minds and resources in Christ must be brought to bear upon the injustices of this world. Are we prepared to see loosened, the storehouse of God’s mercy, that his truth his righteousness may bring relief and blessing upon the souls of the lost & weary. What is it that we hope to offer others? What is it, that we have, of such great value that can save a dying world?

Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The Son of God given for us, restored to life, as the champion over our sin. Who is know seated at the right hand of the Father, offering grace & mercy to mankind.

Are we ready to offer a sign of His compassion and forgiveness? Are we ready to pray and to help those who have failed, to see that are not ostracized from grace, that they may be set free unto new life in Christ? Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Christ Jesus has come to set the sinner free and unto new life!

At the baptism of Jesus, by John, we recognize the coming of the one who is the basis, the only hope of our salvation and the true ministry of the Church. An event so crucial to our life in Christ, that it is recalled in the Sacraments of the Church. John made his humble and reverent confession unto Jesus, Lord, I am not worthy of you; yet Jesus received him and encouraged him to follow through, in the work that he was called to, that together they may fulfill all righteousness. And that in Christ’s Church, we receive acceptance in our confession, opening the way to forgiveness and the seal and anointing of God’s Holy Spirit, to enter in for the life of our soul in Him.

God is equipping us in the power of His mercy, through the present anointing of His Holy Spirit ; that His life and truth may enter in; and He shall not fail

 

Let me close with these encouraging & anointed words of the Apostle Paul found in 1 Cor. 4-9

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in  Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not          lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain    you to the end,  guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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