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Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Ephesians)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (Psalm 119 deep dive)
                    Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM

Ash Wednesday:

Imposition of Ashes 11:00 AM
Divine Service with Imposition of Ashes 7:00 PM

                

 

New Creation

January 6, 2024 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

JB

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
January 7, 2024
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Baptism of our Lord

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. And when he arose from the water he saw the heavens torn open, and the Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him. And there was a voice from heaven, "You are my beloved Son, in you I am well-pleased." (Mark 1:9-11)

Today’s lessons work together to show us that what happened at the first creation, happens again at the New creation wherein Jesus is anointed to redeem us. And as we will soon learn happens again for each of us at our baptism! We become New Creatures, and New Creations in Christ. The Old has passed away and behold all things are become New! (2 Cor 5:17)

Now you may not always feel like a New Creation but the Heavenly Father, who washes away your sins in Christ says, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” This is not dependent on your feelings or your righteousness, but on the grace of God, received faith alone!

In today’s Old Testament reading we find the Holy Trinity working together to make a home for us, and what a home it was! “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Note how earth gets special mention. How it is set apart from the vast worlds his hands have made!

Though it drives unbelievers to drink earth, and man whom God created to populate it, and to glorify him, is of the highest importance! And though unbelievers want there to be life on other planets in the worst kind of way – to prove, they think, that human beings are nothing special after all – that is not what we learn in Sacred Scripture! “In the beginning God created the heavens and THE EARTH.” (Gen. 1:1)

But what can we make of the glorious creation? The seemingly endless heavens referred to in Genesis Chapter One, that men have gazed upon with wonder since the beginning of time? That humankind has always longed to comprehend but never will no matter how sophisticated their telescopes? What of these “heavens?”

For one thing they teach us about the majesty and power of our God! They silently instruct their admirers to “ascribe to the LORD glory and strength; to ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; and to worship the LORD dressed in garments of holiness” (Psalm 29:2-3) as we are doing, in Christ, at this very hour.

What they do not teach us, however, is the love of God that we hear of in today’s gospel. Or about the New Creation that Jesus brought about by taking on human flesh, and “becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8).

But they do prepare us for it!

They do wordlessly declare to us that we must give our best efforts to search, study, seek and learn who this God is; and willingly humble ourselves before him. And that anyone who does not will be “without excuse” in the final judgment. (Rom. 1:20)

What could our God possibly have had in mind to create as extensively as he did? We don’t know for sure. But we might speculate that all the starry hosts are given to beautify the home that he made for us – a type of divine landscaping for the earth. Or possibly heaven’s back forty, so that where the universe “ends,” the home of God “begins,” making God’s home and our home neighbors, with only a universe between us.

But no matter how breathtaking the First Creation, the New Creation that we praise in today’s gospel is ever more magnificent. As the Father Son and Holy Spirit collaborated in the First Creation; even so in the New Creation wherein our Lord Jesus Christ is formally and publicly anointed to save humanity from itself!

In the First Creation God the Father, the first Person of the Holy Trinity, spoke the heavens and earth into existence. And the Spirit of God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, hovered over the primordial chaos. Then our Lord Jesus Christ is injected into the darkness in Genesis 1:3 when God says, “Let there be Light and there was Light.” The Light here referred to is not the sun, moon and stars those come later – but Jesus himself who is the Light of the World, (John 8:12) and who enlightens every man coming into the world. (John 1:9)

But in today’s gospel we see creation redux, only more marvelous. Here we find our Lord Jesus Christ standing in the primordial waters of the Jordan river, the Spirit of God now in the form of a dove hovering over Him in whom there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) And who is factually among us today in the Word and Sacrament, filling each worshiper today with “the Light of Life” (John 1:4)

As we hear today’s gospel let us be sure to know that Jesus’ baptism was different than the others that John performed: in two ways.

Those who came earlier came to confess their sins to find remission, but Jesus had no sins to remit! Secondly John could not confer the Holy Spirit, but Jesus can and does. He was the One on whom the Spirit of God descended and remained (John 1:33) which signaled that Jesus is the One who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit, by whom we are freed from sin, death and devil. (2 Cor. 3:17)

But the key word in today’s gospel is the Father’s word to the Son, “You are my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

Adam was not that! Nor are Adam’s sons! Our sins have ruined us all. We have all become prodigal sons who take the marvelous gifts that God gives only to squander them, and to use them against him, and against one another. We are rebels who shudder at the Ten Commandments. Who will not hear the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. Mutineers who want nothing to do with the fruits of the Spirit listed by Saint Paul in Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, patience and self-control etc. But who love the works of the flesh – sexual immorality, sensuality, drunkenness, orgies, dissension and so on.

But praise God that by virtue of our baptism, which makes us New Creations in Christ,” all this changes, as Saint Paul teaches us in Romans Chapter Six. This primary sacrament so highly praised in Scripture, and prized by all the faithful, is not a symbolic ritual. But by it we are factually made one with Christ, with his death, burial and resurrection by which we are raised to newness of life!

And so we learn of three Creations today. The First Creation that God declared “Good,” but that Adam & Woman ruined. The New Creation wherein Jesus “makes all things new” (Rev. 21:5) for us by his watery baptism in the Jordan, and his bloody baptism on the cross. (Mark 10:38-39). And our own baptism in which the Father says to us, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

Remember these wonderful words at all times beloved: You are God’s beloved sons in whom he is well pleased. May they give you great comfort! Amen.