Pastor Sherry’s message for January 8, 2023

Scriptures: Isa 42:1-9; Ps 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matt 3:13-17

How many of you bothered to make New Year’s Resolutions this year? I made one. Normally, mine are on the order of pray more, read more Scripture, offer people more grace, and so on. But the one I made this year was to listen to Christian music—all types—more often. A clergy friend had asked me when I had felt closest to Jesus this Christmas. I told her that it was during our services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, due to Joy’s singing. You may remember she sang, “Jesu Bambino—O Holy Night” on Christmas Eve, and the soprano aria from Handel’s “Messiah” on Christmas Day, “Rejoice, O Daughters of Jerusalem.” As I sat listening, tears ran down my face. Her beautiful singing lifted my soul right into the throne room of Heaven! I felt like I was in the presence of the Lord.

So, I have resolved to make it a practice to listen to Christian music daily ever since. My new favorite CD is Casting Crown’s “Thrive” album from 2013 (Yikes, it’s 10 years old!) Nevertheless, the group consists of 7 members and their voices and harmonies are wonderful. Some of their songs have a blue-grass banjo accompaniment which I totally love.

I think their song entitled, “You are the Only One” is particularly relevant to our Scripture lessons today:

One more mother with a broken heart;

One more family is torn apart;

One more orphan out in the cold;

One more fear that takes control;

One more tangled in the same old lies;

One more shackled to the same old highs; [how’s that for a

description of addiction?]

One more scared of what tomorrow brings;

And one more chasing yesterday.

Lord, let your Kingdom come!

Who can right every wrong? You are the Only One.

Who can calm every storm? You are the Only One. You alone are Father, Savior, Spirit, Healer, Redeemer, Lord of All!

A. The prophet Isaiah (42:1-9) provides the 1st of four Servant Songs, all of which describe the coming Messiah—and all of which, as it turns out, match Jesus perfectly. In verse 1, God reveals that Messiah/Jesus is My Servant, Whom I uphold [support or back], My Chosen One in Whom I delight. Jesus had the Father’s complete confidence. He also has God’s complete approval. In our Gospel lesson today, Matthew (3:13-17) reports Jesus’ baptism. The Father speaks a blessing over Him from on high (v.17) This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. The Father announces He loves Jesus and that He is proud of Him. Jesus begins His public ministry with His heavenly Father’s blessing. God further asserts in Isaiah 42:1 that He wiil empower Jesus with His Holy Spirit. Matthew shares that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism (v.16). There it is—at His baptism, Jesus is given supernatural power and authority from the Father to perform signs and wonders. There are some false gospels that claim Jesus healed wounded birds and revived crushed butterflies as a child. These lack veracity because our Lord had not yet been empowered to heal. Now, at His baptism, Jesus is granted God’s power to help and deliver, to administer God’s justice, and to speak God’s truth.

Through Isaiah, God the Father goes on to reveal Jesus’ character and ministry: He will be a different kind of King. Rather than being a military warrior, fighting to vanquish the Romans and any other Israelite foes, He will minister kindly to bruised reeds and smoldering wicks…these are poetic metaphors for people like you and me, those of us who are broken and who need a healer. He will not run roughshod over those who grieve or who are denied justice. No, He will listen gently and will respond with mercy, compassion, and love. Additionally, while He may look and act like He is meek and mild, He will actually stand strong in His God-given, God-supported, God-empowered confidence. No one will be able to make Him do what He doesn’t choose to do.

Furthermore, He will not just rescue God’s Chosen, the Jews, but He will also be (v.6) a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness (shades of Isaiah 61:1, His job description to come). This is what Peter is referring to as he witnesses to the Gentile centurion, Cornelius, in Acts 10:34-43. Though Jesus’ originally came to the House of Israel, Peter realized Jesus’ message was for anyone who would believe—regardless of nationality. He says, (v.34) I know realized how ture it is that God does not show favoritism. What a great line! Thank God—in the all too familiar rhetoric of the day—our Lord is not a racial bigot! Peter goes on the present the Gospel message—Jesus Christ lived among us, died for our sins, and rose again demonstrating His power over both death and sin. He came to save all who believe in Him. Peter affirms this as he closes his sermon with these wonderful, reassuring words (v.43) All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes [Gentile, Jew, or whoever] receives forgiveness of sins through His name.

This is a great cue for Casting Crown’s chorus:

Lord, let Your Kingdom Come!

Who can right every wrong? You are the Only One.

Who can calm every storm? You are the Only One.

You alone are Father, Savior, Spirit, Healer, Redeemer, Lord of All!

B. Our Psalm (29) reminds us, through storm metaphors, of the power of God. King David wrote it and wants us to realize that God is mightier and more powerful than the greatest storm (hurricane, tornado, blizzard, typhoon, etc.). Emphasizing God, David cites His name, the LORD, 18 times in 11 verses; and describes the [formidable] voice of the LORD, 7 times. David wants us to know that the Lord is able to see us safely through all the storms of life! Additionally, we know from experience that the storms in our lives eventually come to an end. How often during a particularly trying time in my life have I reminded myself, This too shall pass away (1 John 2:17)? This depression will lift, this physical pain will ease, this financial hardship will lessen, this strained relationship will either improve or come to an end. How do we know this? Because we remember that our God is able to rescue us from–and to be present with us during—the trials and disappointments of life. Because we have Jesus!

We worship a God Who is not only powerful enough to rescue us but also is able to redeems our pain and transform our lives. As the song, “You are the Only One” testifies, due to Jesus…

One more skeptic to believe;

One more prisoner has been set free;

One more longs to be Your hands and feet;

One more standing for the least of these;

One more praying in the morning light;

One more shining in the darkest night;

One more life worth fighting for;

No greater love worth dying for.

Lord, let Your Kingdom come! Let Your will be done!

I want to know You more;

I want to make You known;

I want this world to see that You’re alive in me.

Jesus, You’re the Only One (Father , Savior, Spirit, Healer);

You are the Only One (Redeemer, Lord of all);

You are the Only One!

Thank you, Jesus—You are the Only One! Amen!

©️2023 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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