Memory verse for this week: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44
  • 1/26 – Isaiah 55:11
  • 1/27 – Psalm 119:105
  • 1/28 – 2 Peter 1:20-21
  • 1/29 – Psalm 138:2
  • 1/30 – 1 Thessalonians 2:13
  • 1/31 – John 14:26
  • 2/1 – Matthew 24:35

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I might hear Your word and respond to Your revelation in ways mighty and powerful.

The
realization.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is the Fifth Sunday after Christmas. As we’ve been studying, Christmas is a season focused on Jesus’ revelation. 

Jesus’ revelation came first to the shepherds – the poor, lowly, and outcasts of that territory. At the arrival of the Maji, Jesus was revealed to the nations of the world. As Jesus rose up from the waters of the Jordan at His baptism the nation of Israel came to know Him as the Son of God by the descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the Father saying: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” The Baptizer finally saw clearly who Jesus is, recognizing Him as the Lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world, and he declared it.

Recalling all this, we see the many and varied ways Jesus was revealed. As we hear today, at Capernaum, there was no heavenly choir to announce Jesus’ arrival. There were no scientists from the east with precious gifts and a mighty star to follow. There was no opening of heaven, descent of a dove, or voice of the Father as at the Jordan. All Jesus had in Capernaum was His voice, His call. 

In a season focused on revelation, Jesus comes among us saying: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus delivers His message, His gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Jesus invites us to allow Him to be revealed within us. He invites us to realize Who He is. He invites us to get up and get out into the world in response as disciples carrying His message.

Today, the Gospel recalls Jesus’ arrival in Capernaum by the sea. In Capernaum, Jesus calls the first of His disciples, Andrew, the first called, followed by Simon, aka Peter, aka Cephas, James, and John. They respond fully to the awakening in their hearts. Jesus is revealed, not by signs and wonders, but by their response to interior awakening and revelation.

At Capernaum we find a new and ever permanent call to revelation. This revelation is in Jesus’ words and our call to respond. Like all those called before us, let us allow Jesus’ life to be awakened in us in ever new and great ways. Jesus is calling! Allow His revelation to take hold. Leave the old self behind and go out as His revelation to a searching world. Today, here in Schenectady, as in Capernaum, we hear Jesus. Allow Him to be revealed in us and by our response.

but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me.

Jeremiah 9:24
  • 1/19 – Philippians 3:10
  • 1/20 – John 17:3
  • 1/21 – 1 John 4:6-7
  • 1/22 – Proverbs 8:17
  • 1/23 – Psalm 119:10
  • 1/24 – Psalm 46:10
  • 1/25 – Colossians 1:9

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I might see You and know You fully and clearly. Help me to see You in each person I meet and to speak of the fulness of knowledge.

The
knowing.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

On this Fourth Sunday after Christmas we hear the testimony of John. In the gospel, John twice says: “I did not know him.

It seems odd for John to say such a thing. Afterall, John and Jesus were cousins. It is true that they lived in different towns, and transportation was hard on foot. Based on Church Tradition, John lived with his family in Ein Kerem, an eighty-mile, three-day journey on foot from Nazareth. Yet, it is highly likely they did know each other. It was common for larger Jewish family gatherings to occur, especially during festivals, as well as in pilgrimages to Jerusalem. So why would John say: “I did not know him?

Remember, that this Epiphany season is about revelation, Jesus becoming known. What John experienced following Jesus’ baptism was a deeper knowing of Who Jesus is. He was no longer the cousin I knew back when. Actually, I probably knew Him better in my mother’s womb when I leapt for joy. Now, I really get it. The Holy Spirit has helped me to see; I see Jesus in fulness according to the Spirit.

Like John, seeing and experiencing the Lord in the fullness of His being and then acting upon that knowledge is the grace of God working in us. It is the Holy Spirit inspiring us. It is also a call to look beyond mere appearance and to see each and yes, every person, as the image of Emmanuel, the image of God among and with us.

John acted on his knowledge and spoke of it to the crowd. He pointed to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He spoke of what happened in his life. He is literally saying that his work, there by the river, was about making Jesus known.

As the faithful, we are called to make Jesus known. I would ask that we think about this work in a slightly different way. Christians often approach those who do not know as those who do not know, in other words, uninformed. What we might miss is in the saying of: “I did not know him,” they like John already do know. They exhibit the traits of one who knows Jesus, in their goodness and love. They are created in His image. We, in our work, just need to help them see the fulness of what they already know.

This week’s memory verse: The mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

Colossians 1:26
  • 1/12 – 1 Corinthians 2:10
  • 1/13 – Proverbs 1:5
  • 1/14 – Luke 8:17
  • 1/15 – John 14:21
  • 1/16 – Hebrews 1:2
  • 1/17 – Romans 16:25-27
  • 1/18 – Psalm 25:14

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that my rising from the waters of baptism might be fruitful in revealing You and in walking in Your way.

Bruised and
smoldering.

a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench

On this Third Sunday after Christmas we celebrate, recall. and honor the Baptism of the Lord.

As we honored the Lord’s revelation to the Shepherds, as we honored the Epiphany of the Lord, His revelation to the nations, so today we see the next step – His revelation to His own people at the River Jordan.

Reluctantly, John baptizes Jesus. As He comes up, out of the water: the heavens were opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Who Jesus is is revealed by the Father and the Holy Spirit.

In the next several weeks, as we continue the forty-day celebration of Christmas, we will see Jesus revealed in other ways. The totality of Christmas is about opportunity, it is about the opportunity to see Jesus for Who and What He is and the opportunity to reveal that.

We, Jesus’ Church here locally and throughout the world, are charged to do what Peter finally figured out in Cornelius’ house – make Jesus known to everyone! 

Living Christmas is living the opportunity to reveal Jesus, to show Him forth in a world that is running in every direction, looking for – well something unknown, and of course, unable to find it. Revelation is our job opportunity. It is our call to provide the definition of that which people seek and to open the door to their finding what has been and will be eternally available – Jesus.

Confusion, uncertainty, conflict, answers that are empty and without life cannot bind up the bruised nor re-ignite the smoldering. Yet we can by taking the opportunity to reveal Jesus. What Isaiah tells us is so key, so very important. Jesus came, not to find the bruised and break them, to find the smoldering and quench them, but to bind and reignite. Jesus came to build the family of God. That, at its core, is what our baptism in His likeness is about. We too are to reveal, bind, build, and reignite like Jesus. 

In baptism we are commissioned in the mission of revelation, and in revealing to bind up and re-ignite. We are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, coming up out of the waters of baptism to show the way to a seeking humanity bruised and smoldering.

So that I may make it clear, as it is right for me to do.

Watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve at the turn of the year and our entry into a new decade was interesting. The team running the show kept playing Barbara Walters, the former cohost of the news show 20/20, saying over and over: “This is 2020.” 20/20 has been on ABC since 1978. It was meant to present in-depth reporting on human interest stories. The name of the program was meant to denote clearness of vision, a goal of providing clear information for the show’s audience’s thinking. The verse above is from the end of Paul letter to the Church at Colossae. Paul was in prison at the time and he was asking for the Church’s prayers so that he might “proclaim the mystery of Christ” clearly and that the door might be opened “for our message.” As we begin this new year and decade it is opportune for us to focus on a message that is 20/20, a clear speaking and teaching on the message of Jesus, the mystery of His coming to earth, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and imminent return. We people of faith have been given a clearer vision and understanding of these things, what they mean for us in our life journey. We also have a clear task in front of us – to make what we know known. The world is a place of confusion and distraction. It is a place of shadows and unclear thinking. That’s just in everyday life. Think how much more confusing the message of sacrificial love found in the Gospel of Jesus is to the world; how hard it is to love as we should. These things are mystery, or foolishness, or even stupidity to those who do not know the power of Jesus’ clear message. So we must set to work. We are called to present in-depth reporting on the greatest human interest story of all time. We are to call people, by our teaching, words, prayer, and way of life to a clear vision of what life is, providing clear information for all around us to hear and follow. Paul’s prayer of purpose must be our prayer too. Lord, open the door for me so I may proclaim Your mystery clearly, 20/20.

January and celebrating through the entire forty day season of Christmas. We are gathering funds for SouperBowl Sunday, completing our clothing collections for those in need in our local community, and working together to reveal Him who binds up and re-ignites us. Music Scholarship Sunday is January 26th and applications for scholarships are now available. Learn about this year’s discipleship initiatives. Our Valentine’s Raffle is coming up, get your tickets now. We are prepping for our annual meeting. Above all, we are thankful for you.

Read about all this and a reflection on generosity in our January 2020 Newsletter.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

Ephesians 3:14-15
  • 1/5 – Ephesians 6:1-3
  • 1/6 – 1 Timothy 5:8
  • 1/7 – Ephesians 5:25
  • 1/8 – Psalm 125:1-2
  • 1/9 – 1 Peter 4:8
  • 1/10 – Genesis 1:27
  • 1/11 – Jeremiah 1:5

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, strengthen my family in keeping true faith in You and in following Your word, which is life!

Bricks and
mortar.

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

On this Second Sunday after Christmas we reflect on and honor the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As I reflected on this Solemnity, I just kept coming back to the term “bricks.”

The Holy Family is of course the perfect model of family. It is built with a solid foundation and perfect bricks. It is a structure fully showing what God intends when He calls us into family. This is the way it is supposed to be: father, mother, child/children. God calls us to strive for that perfection and He provides ready grace to strengthen it and fulfill all its purposes – the mutual love and support of the couple which comes first and foremost, and if intended and appropriate, the blessing of children.

Jesus came into the world as a baby, and progressed through childhood, to point to the perfect and indeed the possible. Follow Me He said – and we make every effort to do so. But sometimes we have to work with broken bricks.

Scripture does not hide the fact that God has worked through and with a lot of broken bricks. He worked with families odd, sinful, and all-to-familiar.

Cain kills his brother, the fruit of parents who tried to escape responsibility for sin. Jacob lies to his father to steal his brother’s inheritance (with his mom’s help). Jacob’s uncle duped him and practically turned him into a slave. Joseph got sold into actual slavery by his brothers and they then lied to their father. David killed to take a wife. David’s children didn’t do any better. His son Amnom was a rapist, his son Absalom tried to take his dad’s job and slept with his wives, and his son Solomon simply married everyone he wanted to sleep with. The prophet Hosea marries a prostitute who keeps running back to prostitution, Jesus’ family tree contains two prostitutes. Lots of broken bricks.

In the early church and to this day we don’t just welcome the broken bricks – that’s arrogant. Rather, we look to the broken bricks among us as family. We see that way because we too are broken bricks.

Broken bricks make the family of Christ, the Church, beautiful. God builds and He knows that broken brick makes the structure stronger. He knows this because Jesus is the mortar holding us together and making us perfect in His Father’s eyes.

This week’s memory verse: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6
  • SUNDAY: 1 Timothy 3:1-5
  • MONDAY: 1 Peter 5:1-3
  • TUESDAY: Psalm 28:7
  • WEDNESDAY: Hebrews 13:17
  • THURSDAY: James 3:1
  • FRIDAY: 2 Timothy 1:13
  • SATURDAY: Revelation 1:5-6

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, You called me, set me apart for Your work. Grant that I may work with purpose and dedication in building Your kingdom.