Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Promise is for You!

[Here you'll find, first, the video of the 7:00 PM traditional candlelight worship service for Christmas Eve from the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. Below it is posted the message shared that night. Have a blessed Christmas!]

Three decades after the first Christmas, the day when Jesus was born, and weeks after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, on the first Christian Pentecost, Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, told a crowd: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…” (Acts 2:39) 

Peter was urging that the men and women, boys and girls, and babies who had just heard the Word about Jesus should repent–that is, turn from sin–and be baptized, trusting in Jesus to be righteous enough and sinless enough to cover their sins and make them fit to stand before God and live under His favor, in this world and eternally.

Every year, in many countries across the world, families and friends gather to celebrate Christmas, the feast of Jesus’ birth. They do so in churches and nursing homes, office parties and private homes, in Christmas movies and Christmas specials. 

But only a fraction of these events, even the ones occurring in churches, have anything to do with Christmas, the day when Almighty God the Son, the second person of the Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, laid aside the glory that has been His for all eternity to also be a human being, one of us, in the Person we know as Jesus.

When people gather for Christmas dinners tomorrow, the subject they will most avoid–more than they'll avoid talking about politics or COVID-19, the causes of inflation or Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez–is Jesus, the Christ, or the meaning of Christmas for both today and eternity.

But once again tonight, God’s Christmas Word comes to us in the first Christmas sermon ever preached, this one by an angel. And He tells us that the promise of Christmas is not just about some sweet-by-and-by-time-in-the-sky or about the soppy sentimentality of Hallmark movies. This “promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.” 

Right now. 


In fact, this is a message it’s urgent for us to hear and absorb at this very moment.

So, let’s listen to the sermon of the angel again tonight. 

The word angel, you know, comes to us from the Greek in which the authors of the New Testament composed their writings. The Greek word is aggelos and it means messenger

Angels, servants of God and humanity, are spiritual beings that God occasionally sends into the world in different guises, in order to bring messages to us. On the night of Jesus’ birth, God sent an angel to shepherds caring for their sheep in fields near Bethlehem.

The first thing the angel said in his sermon to the shepherds was this: “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 2:10) There’s a lot of swagger in our world today. People like to talk about the things they’re not afraid of. Christians do this too, confusing fatalism for faith. 

But do you know what we most fear? It isn’t illness or death or poverty. We are most afraid of God and God’s perfection! 

That’s why we don’t like to talk about God at Christmas or any other time.

When we actually come into the presence of God, we see the distance between God in His righteousness and us in our sin and selfish willfulness. We see that, no matter how good we may try to be or seem to be, we’re not worthy to be with God. We remember all the commands of God we break each day: holding other things, like our families, higher than we hold God; murdering others with our anger, intolerance, indifference, and grudges; committing adultery with our minds and words, if not our bodies; and on and on the sorry list goes.

This is why the angel’s words are important for you and me tonight. “Do not be afraid!” 

“I know your sins,” God is telling us through this angel. “But I love you anyway. I want you anyway.” 

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, God’s Word tells us. (Proverbs 9:10) But when God comes to us, as He does at Christmas, we needn’t and shouldn't run and hide!

The angel says next: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10) The Good News of Christmas is that the baby Jesus, born this night in a cave and laid in a phantne, a stone feeding trough, will also one day be laid in a stone tomb, having paid the price for our sin on a cross. 

The Bible tells us that you and I are sinners from the moments of our conceptions (Psalm 51:5), deserving damnation and death. 

But when the sinless Savior Jesus dies on a cross for us, the price for our sin is eternally paid

As we trust in Him, He allows us to live free of the fear of God’s condemnation! 

This is what the angel means when he says that Jesus coming at Christmas “will cause great joy.” 

Joy is life lived in the awareness of God’s grace, God’s undeserved favor and forgiveness. When you know that because of Jesus, you are one with God, you have joy no matter the hard experiences of life! 

A pastor asked for prayers for his family and himself this past week. His wife of 51 years had just died. “We grieve,” he said, “but not as those without hope!” 

We have joy through faith in Jesus, knowing that we still live in His grace, whatever our situation!

Then the angel tells the shepherds and us: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Messiah, the word in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, or Christos, Christ, in the Greek of the New Testament, are words that mean God’s Anointed King

Jesus isn’t a king all about winning elections, wars, approval, or news cycles. The “Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Jesus will later say of Himself. (Matthew 20:28) This King rules through the love of God. It’s the same love that caused God to create humanity in His own image; that caused God to not give up on you or anybody else. 

This King has been born to you and for you

This King is your Savior, saving you from sin, death, and the devil. He saves all who trust in Him to live with Him today and tomorrow when you have your Christmas feast, as you visit loved ones and friends in nursing homes and hospitals, and every day of your life as you make decisions, fail, succeed, laugh, and cry. Jesus comes to be your Savior tonight and always, friends!

Finally, the angel says, “This will be a sign to you…” (Luke 2:12) God recognizes that the shepherds, accustomed to the false promises and harsh judgments of the world around them, may need more than the angel’s sermon to believe the Christmas message. 

So, through the angel, God gives a sign to confirm it. “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths [like the cloth in which the body of this baby, grown to be a man, will be wrapped after becoming the sacrificial Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world] and lying in a manger [like the stone tomb in which He will one day lie and from which He will rise for us].” (Luke 2:12)

What sign will God give you so that you can believe in this Christ child? 

Today, He gives you three major signs by which you can know and believe in Christ: Holy Baptism, by which we go through death and resurrection with Jesus, become God’s own, and the Holy Spirit calls us to faith in Jesus; Holy Communion, in which Jesus comes to us, body and blood, and assures us of the forgiveness of our sin; and God’s Word, in which God speaks to us as surely as the angel spoke to the shepherds on the first Christmas!

“The promise [of Christmas and of God in human flesh appearing] is for you and your children and for all who are far off…” 

This Christmas, don’t avoid Jesus Christ amid the celebrating. 

Receive Him. 

Give your sins to Him. 

Believe in Him. 

Tell others about Him.

Rejoice in Him, knowing that in Christ, you are loved deeply and eternally by God. 

Merry Christmas, friends!


Monday, December 20, 2021

The God Who Runs to You

[This message was shared earlier today during the funeral service for Allen Johnson, the father of a member of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

I can recall meeting Allen Johnson just once, maybe twice. But I wish that circumstances had allowed me to get to know him. 

After all, how often do you have the chance to get to know someone who designs satellite communications systems for the United States Air Force, who travels the world and writes books, who fences, hunts, and holds multiple advanced degrees, who holds patents and reads constantly, who takes pictures, runs marathons, and is a unicyclist, husband, father, and grandfather, not necessarily in that order? But I’m blessed to be with you today as we commit Allen to the God we know in Jesus Christ and take comfort and inspiration from the good news–the Gospel–that Jesus not only brings but the good news that Jesus is. For all of us. Even in the face of the death of whirlwind human beings we know and love, whether the whirlwind is a father, a grandfather, a relative, a friend, a coworker, a neighbor.

Jesus gives us that good news in today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 15:11-32. It’s a passage familiar to most people, even if they’ve rarely or never been in a church. It’s Jesus’ tale of the Prodigal Son. Charles Dickens called it the greatest short story ever told.

But of course, Jesus’ work of fiction is much more than just a short story. It’s a parable. That term comes to us from the language in which the New Testament was written, Greek. The prefix, para, means alongside. The second part is balos or baleo, meaning to throw. So a parable is a story that has a plotline and another story thrown in alongside it. Jesus told His parables to help those following Him to understand what it means to live under His loving reign.

As Jesus tells it, a man had two sons. Unlike most dads in first-century Judea where Jesus lived, this father planned to leave his two sons equal shares in his estate when he died. He didn’t play favorites, just as our heavenly Father loves all of us, including the people you and I can’t understand or can’t abide, with equal commitment and compassion.

But the younger son in Jesus’ parable doesn’t want to wait for his father to die and leave him his inheritance. Like many of us, he doesn’t do well with delayed gratification. Although the father in Jesus’ story would have had a good idea how things would turn out, he gives the inheritance to the youngest son and watches him head off to a faraway country.

Jesus says that once in that place far from his dad, the boy blows the entire inheritance. A famine hits and, broke and hungry, he takes a job with a local pig farmer. Of course, no pious Jew would want to have anything to do with pigs. For Jews, pigs were defiling. But things are so bad that this presumably Jewish boy in Jesus’ parable wishes he could eat the pigs’ feed.

It’s in this place of desperation that the boy thinks of his father, remembering that even his father’s minimum-wage servants had food to eat and places to stay. And though he’s sure that because of the impudence and disrespect he’s shown toward his father, not to mention the way he frittered away his inheritance, his dad will never call him “son” again, he thinks that maybe his dad will hire him on for one of those low-paying jobs. While the boy clearly has some sense of his dad being a charitable man, he still has no idea of how deeply his father loves him. We too often fail to recognize how deeply and completely God our Father loves us.

You know what happens next. The boy heads home rehearsing his speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18-19) But while still some distance from his father’s house, dad spies the son, no doubt looking shabby and defeated, walking down the lane. This dad has every reason to be angry with this son. Nobody could blame him for thinking, “Look who’s come back to take advantage of me again. Look who, after he’s spent all my money, wants to come back.”

But the dad in Jesus’ story reacts very differently. In Biblical culture, it was thought undignified for an adult to run. 
In Biblical culture, it was thought undignified for an adult to run. Yet the hero of Jesus’ parable tears down the road, squeezes his lost son in a bear hug of welcome and forgiveness before the son even has the chance to recite his memorized line. Then, he throws a party and tells everyone, “...this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24)

Friends, the story that runs alongside the story of the father and his son, is good news for us. 

It’s good news for you who mourn today. 

God our Father doesn’t wait for us to clean up our acts or pay Him back for all the ways we’ve hurt Him or violated His holiness before He welcomes us into His kingdom. 

Nor does He hold off for some “sweet by and by” moment to sweep us up into His arms.

Instead, God, like the father in Jesus’ parable, lays aside His dignity and the comforts of heaven and, in Jesus Christ, runs to us. 

This is the God Who ran into our lives, not waiting for us to be perfect, gave Himself up on the cross for our eternal good. God’s Word tells us, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) 

In Christ, comes to us in the midst of our grieving and our messiness, our sins, and our imperfections, then takes our sins and imperfections into His very body so that everything that separates us from God can be crucified and so that, all who turn from sin and turn to Christ, have everlasting life with God. 

And, right here and now, He holds out His loving arms to all who, like the boy in the pig slop, understand their need of God for strength and new and everlasting life.

Today, I invite you, like the prodigal son, to fall into the arms of the God we know in Jesus Christ. He will give you comfort, eternal life with God, and the freedom to live with the dignity, peace, hope, and joy for which God made you, which Jesus died and rose to give freely to those who believe in Him. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus tells us elsewhere in the New Testament. (Matthew 11:28) 

May Jesus' rest and peace be with you today and in the days and years to come, and empower you to live in the freedom of the God Who loves you completely, unreservedly, eternally wants you to have. 

It can be yours in Christ. 

As Jesus tells us elsewhere: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) 

Jesus is tearing down the road to embrace you at this very moment. You can trust in Him. Amen


Sunday, December 12, 2021

A Reason to Rejoice!

Here is both today's modern worship service with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio and the text of the message shared. Have a good and blessed week!

Luke 7:18-35
The Third Sunday of Advent has historically been known by its Latin name, Gaudete Sunday. The word Gaudete means Rejoice! The focus of this day, unlike that of the first two Sundays of this season, is not repentance, but joy! With Paul we say: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Our Gospel lesson for today doesn’t begin joyfully though. John the Baptist is in prison. There, John sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:19) In prison, John doubts Jesus is the Messiah. Friends, even saints sometimes doubt. Even saints sometimes take the wrong measure of God. John, with good warrant, on the basis of Old Testament prophecy, had earlier said of the Messiah, “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:17) 

But Jesus doesn’t seem to be doing much winnowing. Instead, Jesus is reaching out to notorious sinners, trying to bring them into fellowship with God and His people. Jesus is inviting people to repent and believe in Him. John wondered, when was Jesus going to get around to damning people, sending them the wrath of God that comes to all who choose to live apart from God? 

Don’t we, in moments of doubt or self-righteousness, ask similar questions, “When are you going to fix things, Lord? 

"Why do rotten, irredeemable people (or those we think are rotten, irredeemable people), get away with murder?"

When are You going to do something about the ills in my life and the ills of the world, Lord?” 

Some Christians become so consumed with questions like these that, instead of praying that God will do His will in their lives and that God will bring His kingdom into their world, they lose faith in God, some of them turning to things like politics to force their versions of the Kingdom of God on their communities, states, and nations. Political engagement is great, but to do so thinking that you’re going to bring God’s kingdom into the world by your efforts is sinful self-delusion!

When John’s disciples pose his question to Jesus, Jesus points them to what He is doing in His ministry. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” “Go tell John” about these things, Jesus tells them. (Luke 7:22) Back near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, after He was baptized by John and underwent the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, He worshiped at His home synagogue in Nazareth and read a portion of the prophecy of Isaiah, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, about the Messiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners  and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2) Jesus scandalized the hometown crowd when, after reading those words, He said that right then and there, those words had been fulfilled in Him. “I am the Messiah,” Jesus was saying.

From that moment in Nazareth, Jesus had gone about fulfilling things Isaiah had said the Messiah would do. But there’s one thing that Isaiah said the Messiah would do that Jesus didn’t mention in Nazareth and had not yet performed…still hasn’t performed. Isaiah said that the Messiah would also proclaim, “...the day of vengeance of our God.” (Isaiah 61:2) Despite all the wonderful things Jesus was doing, John the Baptist observed that  Pontius Pilate and the Roman occupation army were still in Judea, Herod was still putting preachers of God’s Word in chains, the poor were still poor, and God’s people were still exploited and colonialized. So, John asks, are you the Messiah, Jesus, or is someone else coming to get us out of the mess this world is in?

What John failed to understand in his time of discouragement, is something we often forget when we are discouraged, defeated, downhearted. There will come a time when those who have believed in Jesus, will see their faith vindicated as the Lord tells them, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34) And the day will come when He tells those who have rejected or ignored Him: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

But out of His charitable love for all of us, Jesus, God the Son, comes into this world not one time, but twice. The first time Jesus comes into this world has already happened. He was born in a stable in Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, proclaimed new life for all who repent and believe in Him, gave signs of His authority to do those things, died for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended back to heaven, and gave the Church the Holy Spirit to tell others His saving good news. One day, He will return to “judge the living and the dead.” That will be Jesus’ second coming. The mission of Jesus’ in these two comings is different.

In the first one, says Bible scholar Arthur A. Just Jr., Jesus brings “the mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of God” to us. And on the cross He “absorbs the wrath” we deserve on the cross. The wrath of God isn’t God lashing out angrily to kill sinners. God does get angry. But the wrath of God is the natural consequence of living away from fellowship with God. “I don’t need God,” some people insist. Or, “I don’t think there is a God. This whole universe just fell into place.” God respects us and lets us choose to walk away from Him. But it doesn’t stop the God we know in Jesus from continuing to bless us with the gifts of life, His Word, His promises, His presence with those who want Him. In Jesus, at His first coming, friends, you see the God Who wants to give you life with Him that never ends, that will be lived out beyond death in an eternity free of evil, sin, loss, pain, or dying. His kingdom hasn’t fully come yet, but because His death and His resurrection are already accomplished, we can live each day with joy, even in the face of pain. And we also can look ahead with joyful anticipation to the day of His return. As surely as Jesus has acted decisively to save you and me from sin and death in His first coming, you can be certain that at His second coming, He will make all things right! As Peter says elsewhere in the New Testament, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Why hasn’t Jesus yet condemned the proud, insolent, adulterous, idolatrous, unbelieving people of this world? Because He loves them! Just as He loves you and me, not because of our perfect righteousness, but because of His perfect righteousness! In the midst of this sinful world, Jesus invites us to rejoice in His love for everyone, in His desire to save everyone. He also calls us to share our joy with others. The apostle John said that one of the reasons he wrote the letter we call 1 John in our New Testaments was “so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4) We who have been reached and saved and sanctified by the Gospel Word about Jesus and His holy sacraments know a joy that passes all understanding, a joy in knowing we belong to Jesus whether we’re laughing at a wedding or crying at a wake. And our joy is made complete when we share Jesus and His saving Word with others.

John the Baptist needed to hear what you and I need to hear. Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and there is no other. One day He will execute justice on this fallen world. But for now, rejoice that, if you believe in Him, you belong to God eternally, then share your joy with the world. “Joy to the world / The Lord has come / Let earth receive her King!” Amen

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Prepared to Meet Jesus

[Here is today's 11:00 AM worship service from Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. Below that is the text of the message that was shared during worship.]

Luke 3:1-20
Advent, the season of the Church Year through which we move these four Sundays before Christmas, is like Lent, the season that comes before Easter. Both Advent and Lent are seasons of preparation. Both seasons remind us to daily prepare ourselves to meet Jesus face to face.

But how exactly do you and I prepare for seeing Jesus in person? The short answer is through daily repentance.

A life of daily repentance is a life of constant turning back to God. We have to keep turning back to God because our inborn, treasonous hearts--the old sinful Adams and old Eves we all are at our cores--constantly want to go our own ways, no matter how doing so may hurt God, or others, or ourselves. We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We do fail to love God with our whole heart and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If you and I follow our hearts, as the world so often tells us to do, or if we follow our thoughts, the things that “make sense” to us, our feelings and our thoughts will inevitably lead us away from Jesus Christ and away from the life and salvation, which is the eternal restoration of our bodies, minds, and spirits, that only Jesus can give to us. We have a daily need to repent, to turn back to Jesus, the life-giver. As Martin Luther said, “All of a Christian’s life is one of repentance.”

But what does that mean? The crowds who come to undergo John the Baptist’s “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” and hear John in today’s lesson wonder the same thing. After he’s called them a “brood of vipers,” children of the devil who, through the serpent, tempted the human race to sin and death, he tells them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Now, we need to take a brief side-trip here. As you’ve heard me say before, John’s baptism should not be confused with Holy Baptism. John’s baptism was one in which people who heard John’s call to repent in preparation for the return of Jesus pronounced that they were sinners who needed to be saved from their sin and their death.They turned from their sin to be ready to see Jesus. Holy Baptism, as instituted by Jesus, is a sacrament in which God acts and God pronounces, not us. In Holy Baptism, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God drowns our old sinful selves and raises us up as children of God. Holy Baptism is God’s Word moving over the water in the font to create new life, as happened when God’s Spirit moved over ancient chaos and created the universe. Holy Baptism is the Word of God speaking a Word akin to what the Father spoke to Jesus when Jesus was baptized and when He was transfigured. “This is My child.,” God says of the baptized. “She or he belongs to me because of what Jesus has done for them. I claim them for all eternity!” In Holy Baptism, God’s Word invades us to constantly drown our old sinful selves and raise our new, eternal selves who, when hearing God’s Gospel Word about Jesus, are given the gift of faith in Jesus. First Peter tells us, the water of Noah’s flood “symbolizes baptism that now saves you also...It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21) John’s baptism could not and did not save the way Holy Baptism does. The Spirit enables us to say, “Because I am baptized, I belong to Jesus!” John himself summarizes the difference between these two baptisms in today’s lesson: “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16) When the fire of Holy Baptism comes to us, it’s to help us see our sin and to burn it out of existence. When the Holy Spirit Himself comes to us in the sacrament, it’s to fill us with the very life of Jesus, the risen Savior!

Confronted with the reality of their sin, the crowd in our Gospel lesson asks John, “What should we do then?” (Luke 3:10) What, in other words, does a repentant life, a life preparing to meet Jesus, look like? The answer to those questions will, in a way, look different in every life. Although we all are tempted and we all sin, each of us is confronted with temptations and sins that are unique to ourselves alone. And so, John tells the tax collectors, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” (Luke 3:13) He tells soldiers of the occupying Roman army, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:14) But, because we all deal with temptation and our sinful natures, John also tells everyone listening, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11) The point is that a repentant life, a life turned constantly to Jesus for forgiveness and life, will, as John puts it, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8) And, he warns us in so many words, don’t begin to think that because you’re a member of the church or because your parents were pious or because you were in a Bible study once or because you chucked a few bucks into the Salvation Army bucket at Kroger at Christmastime, you are eternally saved. You’re not saved by works, whether your own or someone you’re related to. You’re only saved by Jesus!

All of which is to say that even we who are baptized need to daily repent. In Holy Baptism, when we share Jesus’ death and resurrection, God declares, out of His love and grace, “You are mine! You are My child, indelibly marked with the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit, forever.” But even the most dearly loved of children, even those who once declared their bottomless love for their parents, can wander away from home. It’s possible for a person to be baptized and catechized, yet become contemptuous of God’s grace, intent on making their own way in the world, and to lose life with God. And every Christian should pray for those wandering from God and ask God for opportunities to share the Gospel with them. After all, what will eternity be like for those people, baptized or unbaptized, who say they have no need of Jesus? John the Baptist tells us that Jesus will not force Himself on anyone. He will allow those who turn away from Him to live without Him for eternity. “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn,” John says, “but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:17)

Right after noting these words of John’s, Luke, our gospel writer today, says, “And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.” (Luke 3:18) Do John’s words seem like good news to you? The good news in John’s word to us today is this: Every person prompted by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, who turns to Jesus and confesses their sins will be forgiven. When we confess our sins: our resentments and our pettiness, our prejudices and our unholy thoughts, words, and actions, our worship of self and our worship of things, when we lay our sinful selves before Jesus each day, Jesus will forgive us our sins and send His Holy Spirit to empower us to live in the undeserved grace that God gives to all who trust in Jesus.

In the end, I think of repentance as a two-act play. In Act One, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and our need to stay on course with Jesus by confessing our sins and all our needs, perceived and real, to Him. In Act Two, the Holy Spirit convinces us that, by His death and resurrection, Jesus has washed away our sin with His life-giving blood, and shows us that what we need above all else is “our daily bread,” Jesus Himself. As we respond to the Holy Spirit’s call to play our parts in this play, God will daily prepare us to meet Jesus face to face. Today, heed Jesus’ words found elsewhere in Scripture: “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) When we repent and believe in Jesus and His good news, we are ready to see Jesus face to face. Amen