Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).” (John 1:29–42, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
John the Baptizer is very focused. He's focused on Jesus. Behold! The Lamb of God! who takes away the sins of the world! He sees Jesus, the man standing before him on the shores of the Jordan River, and understands clearly that he has come to forgive the sins of the whole world. Not only that, but he knows that he will do it by sacrificing himself. Families brought lambs to the temple to sacrifice them. The did it by slitting their throats and draining their blood and separating the parts. I don't think you and I would call it family-friendly. So when John points to Jesus and calls him the Lamb of God, the one who takes away the sins of the world, he's talking about a bloody sacrifice. The one sacrifice for human sin. Jesus is John's focus. He stands hip deep in the water of the Jordan River pointing at Jesus, telling everyone exactly who he is and what he has come to do. It's a single-minded focus. Behold! The Lamb of God!
We are not so focused. We let our lives get in the way. We let our families get in the way. We let our jobs get in the way. We let our church get in the way. We set aside Sunday morning, but only Sunday morning, (and no later than 12 noon!) to point to Jesus who sacrifices himself for our sins. The church is busy. Attendance is up. Our reputation in the community is good. But is our focus single-minded like John's? Are we thinking more about budgets and boards and new locations and coordination than we are about the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? It's easy to love the church when everything is going smoothly, and we don't really need it. As long as it doesn't interfere too much with my busy life.
And don't get me wrong. The things the church does are important, Sunday school, budgets, committees and boards. But the church is not the end. The church is the means through which God delivers to us forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross. It is through the church, God's mouth house, that he speaks to us reminding us of our need, and then giving us what we need more than any other thing, Jesus. And everything we do here is for the sake of that message. It is to be our single minded focus. Anything else is damned-able sin.
Remember the First Commandment. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind. It is a single minded all-encompassing focus. Even Jesus says in light of God's providing everything we need, if we don't in relation to God, hate our family, our church, our community, we are not loving God nearly enough. And any love of God that is not complete, total, and single-minded is not enough. It is more than we can do. You and I fall well short. After all my wife is here, I can touch her and talk to her. God is only present in ways that I can't fully understand. My relationship to my wife is closer to my heart. We have meals together. We have children together. It's all here in seems so important.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church has been here since 1928. The buildings, the pews, the carpeting, the hand made altar, the paved parking lot, the bricks and mortar, and the people. There is so much to do. Building maintenance. Boards and committees. Families and children that don't attend. It's all here and seems so important. My relationship to the church is closer to my heart.
We have work to do to support our families. Our employers don't pay us to be lazy. The harder we work the better off we are. There are bills to pay. Car loans and utilities and entertainment and meals to put on the table. It's real and practical. It's all here seems so important. My relationship to my job is closer to my heart.
Where is our focus. Is it on Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world? Is it on things we must do to make a living, to make the church run, to keep our families knit closely together? I know, it seems wrong for God to require what I can't possibly accomplish. This is the nature of our sin. It is so deeply embedded in our heart that we do not see that if we loved God with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind, everything else would fall into place. Without sin the world would work perfectly. There would be no need to focus on keeping our families together. Our relationships would be perfect. If God was our focus, everything we did would be perfect. But sin has so perverted our nature that all we can see is what we have to do. And it pushes the most important thing far from our hearts. And with our relationship to God broken, there is no place for us to spend eternity except the place he is prepared for those who reject him.
The baptizer lived in the desert. He had ruddy clothes and ate bugs. The people came out to him to hear what he was saying because it wasn't a message they were used to hearing. John's message was clear. Repent or go to hell. When Jesus appeared John pointed to him as the focus of their repentance. This is the one to trust. Don't forget, repentance, that is being turned from your sin, is faith and trust in the one who forgives it. He is the Lamb of God who has come to take away your sin. He is the one who will die in your place. He is the one God has sent to be the bloody sacrifice for your lack of loving God with your whole heart, whole soul, and whole mind.
There is no more important message that John could've preached. It is the message we have to preach. It is the purpose, the mission, of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. We are here to teach about Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We are here to learn for ourselves that Jesus is the one who restores our relationship to God by taking our punishment. We are to care for our community. That caring has it's heart in the message of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.
There is a lot to do in the church, in your home, and where you work. As you do all of the important things you do in the places that God has given you to do them, you may well ask the question: "Is my focus on Jesus?" You will get distracted. I work in the church building and I get distracted. My full-time job is telling people about Jesus, and I get distracted. That's my sin and yours. And that's the good news of the message about the Lamb of God. He comes to take away the sin of the world. It's not just a generic message. It is a personal specific message for you. For me. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away my sin by his death on the cross. He suffers the punishment of hell in my place. He is the reason for this congregation. He is the single-minded message that we have to bring. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.