Background: During the week of January 12th, 2020, Pastor Rodney Klinzing of Zion Lutheran Church had a heart attack. As he was on the mend, he asked me to do the sermon at the early, 8:00 AM, service at Zion on January 19th. My sermon for the church, which was founded by my great-great grandfather, focused on John 1:29-42 which is about the lamb of God and John's baptism of Jesus. Here's the transcript of my sermon....
He needed two stents and spent a night in the ICU at Buffalo General. We’re blessed that he knew what was happening and that doctors could address it in a timely fashion.
He wanted to come back this week, but the doctors told him “no” ….and so did Janice.
It was imperative that he rest.
So, I told Janice that one of the best ways to make stubborn people rest is with a right hook.
She must have given him one…because he called me Thursday night to ask, “will you handle the sermon Sunday?”
No one in the right mind would ask me to do that.
But here I am.
Today’s sermon? We’ll give it a title of a “The lamb arrives…and so does a New Era.”
Once Rod told me what our scripture was this week I thought "Lamb. Delicious.”
It was fresh in my mind because I made lamb kebobs for our special New Year’s Eve dinner at home.
I’m sure that you either went out for dinner or stayed at home and made something really swell for New Year’s Eve.
Why do we do that?
To say good-bye to the era that was. We savor the good but we wish away the bad things that happened in our lives.
To welcome a new era. We get excited about what the future holds.
So, it’s fitting that I had lamb when I said “Goodbye 2019. Hello 2020.” because it mirrors what we’ve just read and how it impacts the universe as we know it.
Let’s go back and see how that New Era reflects our New Year celebration.
This is the first time we see adult Jesus in the New Testament. Look at John’s exuberance.
He knows the man -- the son of God -- before him is newness, a brighter future. His excitement can be felt throughout the reading. It’s the same excitement you had looking at what 2020 will hold.
John said: “he forgives the sins of the world!”
That’s the same outlook we had on New Year’s Eve when the change in calendar forgave the sins or bad moments of 2019 and put them in the rear view mirror.
John’s analogy was spot-on, too: Jesus was the Passover lamb.
You might ask, “what’s a Passover lamb?”
Well, according to the Tora, which defines the rules of Judasim, each Jewish household had to sacrifice a lamb WITHOUT BLEMISH each year during the Feast of Passover.
It was killed on the evening of Passover and eaten the next night with herbs and matzo.
So, the Passover lamb was a perfect, clean lamb and a sacrificial lamb.
That’s what Jesus was in the hands of his father.
As we know through his teachings and of those who walked with him, Jesus was without sin. He was, like the Passover lamb, without blemish.
There are the stories of his trial in Wilderness and how he denied Satan’s wishes 3 times. There are stories of how he turned away riches and influence to stay with and protect the common man and even the uncommon man, the lowest of the low.
He was then sacrificed just as the lambs were.
It was said that butchering the Passover lamb was necessary as it would die in place of the First Born child during the 10th Plague of Egypt.
Jesus, like that lamb, then died in your place, and he died in a special way, for our sins.
Had he not, sin would have led to separation from God – and eternal death.
And, to round out this whole “Passover lamb” thing – when did Jesus die?
Some will say Passover, others say the last supper happened on Passover. Any way you put it, it’s when the lamb went to slaughter.
So, the title the “lamb of God” was incredibly fitting in so many ways-- and it stuck. That’s why even nonbelievers or irregular church goers know Jesus as such.
This got me thinking about the whole concept of Jesus as food.
This is the first time was see Jesus as an adult. He’s compared to a lamb that is eaten during the Passover feast.
The last time we see Jesus as a minister before becoming a prisoner is during the last supper. There, he offers bread and wine as his body and blood.
So, the entire Jesus ministry, the whole adventure of Jesus, is bookended with him being the embodiment of food.
He’s food for the soul.
That got my thoughts going back to my New Year’s Eve dinner, my lamb kebob.
What’s the critical part of New Years? Resolutions.
We resolve to be better people, in some way, shape or form.
We set goals.
For many of us, it’s focusing on better health.
What does that take?
And sometimes, a personal trainer.
And that’s what happened when Jesus appeared on the scene to be baptized and go down his chosen path of sacrifice.
He asked everyone to commit themselves to the wonders of his Father and the wonders of loving your fellow man and the wonders of eternal life.
But, he understood we couldn’t do it on our own.
We needed a spark. We needed a personal trainer for our souls.
He was it.
He motivated our spiritual exercise with parables, sermons, and actions.
He made sure mankind resolved itself to be better in a new era, just as we do in a new year.
So it’s important we follow his lead and put his teachings to use….to exercise our hearts and souls….
Let’s make sure his sacrifice was not put to waste.
He was our Passover Lamb.
Let’s enjoy the feast.