God, in Christ, has Earned it For Us

To many the baptism of the Lord has always seemed like something of an oddity. And if it mysterious to us why Jesus underwent baptism at the beginning of his ministry, we should remember that it was no less mysterious to John the Baptizer. What we do know about the Lord’s baptism, though, is that it occasions an extremely radical divine event: the Father himself speaks and the Holy Spirit is seen in physical form. This is nothing to be trifled with. Here the whole Trinity is seen, speaks, and is spoken to in the presence of a great many flabbergasted individuals.

Our Lord’s baptism is seen, in Luke’s Gospel, as the first proclamation of God about the identity of Jesus. The verdict that will be affirmed and vindicated in the resurrection is proclaimed for the first time here, by God’s own voice. This is the Son. This is the one who speak for God, who does God’s will, who brings about God’s work. This is the one that all of you have been expecting (cf. 3:15). All human eyes are on Jesus. All divine speech points to Jesus. This is the one and no other. Read more

Setting Nature on Fire


James 3:1-12

As a young person growing up in the evangelical church I remember always considering James to be my favorite book of the Bible. In reflecting back on why I found it so important at the time I think what drew me to James was the sort of clarity I seemed to find there. It is certainly no accident that this passage is paired in the lectionary readings with the Proverbs. Among all the books of the New Testament there is a sort of practicality to James—strong vestiges of the Hebrew Wisdom tradition.

Because of this sort of practical approachability James has long been a field ripe for memory verses and nice practical sermons. James’s statements about the tongue have been a particular source of this sort of hortative guidance for many of us. In my days in youth groups and the like it was trotted out regularly to make clear to us younglings why cussing was inexcusable for Christians. Read more

On Receiving Gifts

by Halden Doerge
(2 Sam 11:26–12:13a; Ps 51:1-12; Eph 4:1-16; John 6:24-35)

The readings for this week offer an odd combination of themes. Both the Old Testament and Psalm readings are quite clearly concerned with the fallout of the affair between David and Bathsheba (though perhaps rape might be a more appropriate characterization). The Gospel and Epistle readings however seem, at first glance to have little if anything to do with the first two readings. In the Gospel we hear about Jesus being the bread of life whom the Father sends down from heaven to give life to the world. In the Epistle we are reminded of the fullness of Christ’s gifts in and to the church, as manifested in the multiplicity of charisms and ministries which build up the body in love.

What, we wonder do David’s sexual exploits have to do with Jesus being the bread of life? Or the fullness of Christ as given to the church in grace? Much in every way, I think. Read more

The Metaphysics of Discipleship

Perhaps the recurring issue in discussions of Christian discipleship regards simply whether or not it is something that Christians should think they can actually do. Not long into the established church’s history the notion became prominent that the ethics of Jesus, particularly as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and other prominent texts in the gospels (cf. Luke 6:17-46; 14:15-34), simply cannot be done by people who live in the real world. They are rather “counsels of perfection” which are either only for a specific clerical or monastic caste (as in Medieval Catholicism) or they are simply there to remind us all of our complete inability as sinners to conform to God’s commands (as in Luther and most of Protestantism after him). Read more