This Sunday we remember another covenant. We are connected to a wide family of faith, as numerous as the stars, through Abraham and Sarah. In the gospel reading, Jesus poses this famous invitation to the crowd and disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” What does it look like today to hold onto our crosses and follow?
In this first week of Lent, we hear the familiar story of promise with a rainbow and of wilderness. No matter what messiness we find ourselves in, this story reminds us we are not alone. While Satan may show up, there also promises to be wild beasts, angels and Jesus in the midst of it all.
On Transfiguration Sunday, we get a glimpse of Jesus divine and it is both comforting and terrifying. In worship, we show up to encounter God in the water, in the word, at the table and in one another. May we wake up to God’s liberating light which shimmers in all people, places and beings.
In Isaiah God is the one who sits above the earth with its inhabitants as small as grasshoppers and also strengthens the powerless. So in Jesus’ healing work we see the hand of the creator God, lifting up the sick woman to health and service (diakonia). Like Simon’s mother-in-law, we are lifted up and healed to serve. Following Jesus, we strengthen the powerless; like Jesus, we seek to renew our own strength in quiet times of prayer.
In Deuteronomy God promises to raise up a prophet like Moses, who will speak for God; in Psalm 111 God shows the people the power of God’s works. For the church these are ways of pointing to the unique authority people sensed in Jesus’ actions and words. We encounter that authority in God’s word, around which we gather, the word that prevails over any lesser spirit that would claim power over us, freeing us to follow Jesus.
As we continue through the time after Epiphany, stories of the call to discipleship show us our collective calling to show Christ to the world. Jesus begins proclaiming the good news and calling people to repentance right after John the Baptist is arrested for preaching in a similar way. Knowing that John was later executed, we see at the very outset the cost of discipleship. Still, the two sets of brothers leave everything they have known and worked for all their lives to follow Jesus and fish for people.
In John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry begins with a simple call of disciples- “Follow me.” We are invited to do the same, following Jesus day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment trusting we do now do this work alone.
In the beginning of the gospel of Mark, Jesus is baptized by John the baptist in the River Jordan and this jumpstarts his ministry. For us, baptism reminds us that we too begin as children of God and are proclaimed beloved. Through water and holy spirit, God celebrates not for what we do but who we are.
Listen as Pastor CJ explores the familiar story of our Lord’s nativity in the context of today’s reality, as war rages in Jesus’ birthplace. In the midst of war and the daily stresses of our modern lives, Jesus comes.