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Message from Our Pastor

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Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman's January 13th homily.  Relevant text: Isaiah 43: 1-7 & Luke 3:15-22

The baptism of Jesus in the gospel of Luke is unique. In fact, Luke doesn’t really describe Jesus’ baptism does he? He just says that Jesus, like everyone else, was baptized. It is what happens after his baptism that is important in Luke.

The first and most important thing is that after he is baptized, Jesus prays. Jesus prays a lot in Luke. And when Jesus prays, amazing things happen. Just like today. When Jesus prays, the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends and a voice from heaven speaks, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

Now that, my friends is an Epiphany! Right?

I emphasized the place, power, and discipline of prayer, as it relates to being a leader with the church council during our devotion times last fall. For some, prayer was already a daily discipline, but no one said they prayed daily for the leaders and ministry of St. Mark. The staff, the council members, the committees, we are in as much need of prayer as are those we name each week in the prayers of the people.

Our ministry will only succeed by the grace of God and our leaders will only have the wisdom to make the best decision if God leads them. And, all of us together will only be faithful to God’s mission if God gives us the desire and strength to do so.

Either we believe in the power of prayer (in which case, we should never let an opportunity or reason to pray go by) or we don’t (in which case, we should ask why we pray at all).

My own belief: if we took prayer seriously, we would be awed by the amazing things God does in our midst.

But do not think that prayer is magical. Nor should you think that baptism is a charm incanted to protect us.

Today we are dazzled by Jesus’ baptism and subsequent majestic experience, but it won’t take us long to discover that none of these things will protect or spare him from some very bad things of life.

When we become God’s son or daughter, God does not promise to protect us from the trials and temptations of life, but rather, promises to be present with us when we find ourselves wading through life’s unplesantries.

The words from Isaiah make this quite clear: “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. Do not fear, I am with you.“

There will be waters. There will be rivers. There will be fires and flames. There will be storms.

Jesus was despised and rejected by his own people. Herod hunted him down as an infant. The people hung him up to die as an adult. Not even the Son of God, baptized by water and the Spirit, was spared the evils of life.

But he never took one step, went through one trial, shed one tear, had one doubt, suffered one loss, received one insult, or made one stumble alone. That same voice that came from heaven at his baptism; that same dove that descended upon him were always with him and in him.

The stuff of life happens to the baptized, just like it did to Jesus, who was born to an unmarried mother. Jesus was jobless, homeless, childless, and arrested. Yet, he was the Son of God, and his heavenly Father was with him every step of the way.

On this first Sunday after Epiphany, we are forewarned that it is not easy being a child of God, but we are also reminded that we are not orphans left to travel the journey of life alone. 

God hath not promised skies always blue,
flower strewn pathways all our lives through.
God hath not promised sun without rain,
joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
rest for the labor, light for the way,
grace for the trials, help from above
unfailing sympathy, undying love. 


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