The baptismal waters caught fire in this morning’s Let Me Shine Preschool chapel message. I wanted the children to imagine how God’s love is transformed into the light of Psalm 27:
Lord, you are my Light and my Savior, so, why should I be afraid?
As I look at the font, the flame reminds me of the lighted candle given to the newly baptized, as the assisting minister says,
Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
This holy light from holy baptismal promises moves us to see God’s light in and through the people around us in the Body of Christ.
We give thanks to God for the way gospel light has shone in and through Tracy Hackworth, who has gone beyond all expectations in her service as office administrator. The position became a ministry, attending to our needs, sharing our joys and sorrows, while transforming an office into a holy space and place of welcome and hospitality.
We give thanks for the light of this congregation’s generosity. Through your financial gifts, we ended the year “in the black,” supporting the mission entrusted to us. Beginning this year, our offerings make a difference in reducing our carbon footprint with building renovation.
The light shines through the witness of Rodney and Erin Schroeder, faithful in worship and leaders in stewardship. In our farewell blessing, the light of their witness extends to their new home and church in St. George, Utah.
The light shines through our baptismal witness all the way to Faith and Poverty Day on the Hill, where we “strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”
And, dear beloved sisters and brothers in Zion, in the waters of baptism we are “beloved.” Now, in faith, we walk in God’s promise envisioned by the prophet Isaiah:
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God.
Pastor Steve Klemz +
Do-Not-Be-Afraid New Year
Do not be afraid.
When Gabriel appears to Mary with shocking, life changing news of her wondrous, impossible pregnancy, the angel looks into Mary’s troubled face and says: Do not be afraid.
When Joseph is devastated upon finding out that Mary will give birth to a child he knows is not his, he decides to choose divorce over stoning, an angel counsels him: Do not be afraid.
When the shepherds are out in the cold, night fields --- shepherds who are not even considered worthy of being counted in the empire’s census, when these no-count shepherds are terrified upon seeing the sky break open in otherworldly song, the angel speaks to them: Do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid rings the Christmas proclamation. Whatever can this mean when there are so many reasons to be afraid?
What if the cancer returns?
What if the diagnosis means…….?
What if my loved one loses sobriety? ---- or never embraces it?
What if our congregation cannot meet its financial needs? --- loses heart?
What if the loss (of loved one, our plans, our way for doing things) overwhelms?
What if we lack the will to get global warming under control?
What if dark division rips the community we share?
We all have the “what ifs” that stir up anxiety and fear.
Still, let’s imagine some different “what ifs?” What if the message of the angels and shepherds and stars of Christmas offer real hope in the face of real fears? What if Jesus is “God-with-us” and “God-for-us” in all times and places? What if the presence of a vulnerable baby is the very love that enters our cold world and harsh hearts, causing us to celebrate generosity? What if the manger birth moves us to believe that in weakness we will find strength? What if we discover how the light shines, even in the valley of the shadow? And, what if we find that it is love that cradles us, even if it feels as prickly as manger straw?
And, what if, we live in the hope and the joy of a “Do-not-be-afraid” new year?
+ Pastor Steve
It was enough for me to struggle in my study with Hebrew, if only to discover that Jesus’ name means “The Lord makes room.” I shared my discovery with “our homeless friends” in a recent morning devotion. It is not uncommon for someone to interrupt, if not challenge me during these devotions. “If that is true,” exclaimed one of our worshippers, “that changes everything!”
Yes, it does. This is why Luke, the gospel writer, plays with that name in telling Jesus’s story. He says they laid Jesus in a manger, because there was “no place for them in the inn.” The baby Jesus grows up to befriend any and all with no place, making a place for them at his table. Everyone has a place with Jesus.
Once Jesus visited the home of Zaccheus, a man without any friends. He was a sinner, a tax collector. “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus announced. He was playing with the name salvation, which was also Jesus’ name. “Today the Lord makes a place at your house, Zacchaeus!”
As we enter this holy season, we are named as God’s beloved, baptized as we are in Jesus’ name. There is no place we can be but that God, the Lord, makes room for us.
Wherever your place, that is God’s place, too. This is our Christmas joy of Jesus, Emmanuel, the Word-made-flesh, who dwells among us in grace and truth.
And, that, dear friends, changes everything.
Pastor Steve Klemz
CONNECTING THROUGH GRACE
We are a Reconciling in Christ community. All are welcome!
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rocky Mountain Synod
ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
8:15am Awakening Worship
9:15am Sunday School
10:30am Traditional Worship