”The Strength Comes from Faithfulness

Posted on January 10, 2012

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”The Strength Comes from Faithfulness

Baptism and Temptation of Jesus”

Message on the First Sunday in the Season of Galilee

 

 

There is a famous hymn called “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” This morning we should consider for a while what that means. The song continues, “He is there to always help you. Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Well, Prayer is the way we talk with Jesus, who still lives in God’s time. And why do we need to talk to Jesus? What kind of help does He give?

What Jesus is known for in the Bible – more than his miracles or preaching – is his faithfulness to God and to the poor. He never walked by a poor person without helping him. And he refused to compromise his faith in God even to the point where he was crucified by the Romans. Today in scripture, a voice comes from heaven and says, “This is my son. With Him I am well pleased.”

What being a “Son of God” meant in those days was that you were faithful to God, faithful like a son. You didn’t worship any other Gods. You didn’t bow down to any Kings on earth. You didn’t worship the gods of wealth, or power. In fact, that was the first commandment, “You shall put no other gods before him.” So when it was said that Jesus was a son of God, it meant he was totally faithful to god.

In fact, the people of Jesus, the Israelites, as a people, were called “Son of God” in the scriptures – because they were the people that were supposed to be faithful to god.

So how does Jesus help us? Why is he such a good friend to have? It is because if you have a friend that has a strong faith, who is truly faithful, than talking to him helps you with your faith. You know that from your own experience. If you are in trouble, you want to talk to someone who is strong, because they give you strength. If you are thinking about compromising your principles, and you talk to someone who refuses to compromise his principles, it gives you strength not to compromise, strength to remain faithful. We come to church on Sunday to be surrounded with people who have faith – because that helps us with our faith.

We won another small victory this week on the immigration front. Currently,if a husband is a U.S. citizen and his wife is undocumented, for the husband to legalize his wife, they must leave the country to apply. But if she leaves after having been here without papers, she gets a 10 year bar from returning to the country. We have members of our church in that situation. The new rule, announced this week, means that she will not have to leave to apply for legalization and therefore will not get a ten year bar from reentering the country.

It isalso true now that if someoneapplies for his spouse or child to become legal, citing “hardship”, and the petition is denied than they still don’t have to fear deportation if they meet the criteria for the “discretion defense” we have won for Obama.Therefore, it will both safe and possible for many tolegalize their spouses when the rule goes into effect – and that will be soon.

It is one more step in our struggle to protect our families and our young people from deportation. In this church, we know that it was our faith that kept the struggle for these protections alive. Everyone else had given up but we said Obama has the power and we can get him to use it. We had faith. And by that faith, millions of people have won protection from deportation.

How did we keep that faith strong, strong enough to win victory? We were strong for each other and we talked to Jesus in prayer.  His faithfulness made us strong in our faith. Each of our faithfulness made each of us stronger by being with each other. We help each other with our faith by being faithful.

I want to suggest to you that it is important to us as a people, but it is also the most important thing in keeping together our relationships. You know today that Pastora Emma is in the hospital.  We prayed for her today. But Emma and I had a good talk last night and we were both at peace. We know whatever happens; we will be there for each other. We agreed that we are far from perfect human beings – but we are blessed with a perfect marriage.

In marriage, you make a commitment to be Jesus for each other, to work to be faithful to God in your life so that you can help each other with each other’s faith.

We begin today the season of Galilee. In the next seven weeks, we will follow Jesus in his footsteps. We will learn about Jesus and we will learn to talk to Jesus. Those scriptures will guide us. They will help us in our faith – because Jesus was so perfectly faithful to God and to God’s people.

 

In the scripture we read today, John was baptizing people in the river. This was an act of resistance. It was a movement. He said, “you don’t need to go to the temple to be baptized because the temple is full of hypocrites. The priests have compromised with the Romans who are oppressing you. You can be baptized here in the river with the other poor people and God will give you faith to change your lives, to live lives that are faithful to God.”

John was defying the authorities and thousands of people were joining the movement. Suddenly Jesus appeared and came to be baptized by John. When he was baptized, a dove flew from heaven and landed on his shoulder and a voice rang out from heaven: “This is my son, with him I am well pleased.” That gave confidence to the people that this movement he would lead was blessed by God.

Now  the Scripture says that the Spirit came on Jesus when he was baptized, when he joined the movement. We will find out next week that the Spirit came on him and told him to preach Good News to the poor and to free the oppressed. Jesus felt called by God to be faithful to God and to his people, to save them from oppression and to restore their faith. But the story goes on.

Immediately, Jesus was swept out to the desert where he was tempted by the devil. This is an experience we should all understand. We come to a meeting and we are surrounded by people who are willing to stand up and fight for justice for the people. The people around us, the speakers, make our faith stronger. But then we leave the meeting and someone says, “You will never win this battle, you will just get yourself in trouble.” Our faith grows weak and we begin to doubt ourselves.

Or we come together before this altar of God and we are married. We are surrounded by people who believe in marriage. Our faith becomes strong that we will stay together forever. Then we leave here and there are people saying, “Marriage doesn’t last.” And they weaken our faith and make us have doubts.

 

After Jesus was baptized and felt the Spirit of the Lord, he was tempted by Satan in the desert. Like all of us, Jesus could choose. We can choose to devote our lives to achieving wealth instead of being faithful to God and his ways. We can choose to be reckless, throwing our life away, or we can choose to be faithful to God and his ways. We can choose to try to get prestige and positions of power in the world instead of being faithful to God and his ways. We have free will. We have choices. And faithfulness to God is one of those choices.

In the desert, when Satan tempted Jesus with choices, Jesus stayed faithful to God. When Satan said, “I will give you wealth;” Jesus said “Man does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God,” by the way God teaches. When Satan says, “you can jump off this cliff and live,“ Jesus says, “You don’t test God by throwing away your life.” And when Satan says, “Follow me, forget about God’s law, I will give you great power and position; I will make you a King,”  Jesus says, “It is written, put no other gods before me.”

That is the story of the temptations. It meant to the people that Jesus was strong in his faithfulness, that he was committed first, above all other things, to living in God’s way. That faithfulness made him someone people wanted to follow, someone who made their faith strong. It made them want to stand up to the hypocrites, to injustice, to be restored to God and to spit in the face of their oppressors.

Now Jesus was in the desert 40 days. Let me tell you what that “40” means. God saved the Israelites by bringing them to Egypt where they could find work and food. He said go there and I will make you to have many children and to become a great people, to be “as many as the stars in the sky.” And then, when the Egyptian Pharaoh began to oppress them and make them into slaves, God saved them from the Pharaoh. But after they were saved, they wandered in the dessert for “40” years. And during that time they failed to stay faithful. They broke God’s law. They worshipped the golden calf. They chose to worship wealth and power. They chose to be reckless with their lives.

You see the story of Jesus in the desert was a way of telling the people that Jesus was faithful where his people had failed to be faithful. And in this way he would be there savior, their redeemer. He was strong in the desert, showing them again what it meant to be faithful to the God who had saved them. Being around Jesus restored their faith.

And when Jesus chose faithfulness, he became what he was called to be – for his people. As we learn about the life of Jesus again in the next weeks, we will be learning in many ways what it means to be faithful to God.

 

We will learn through Jesus that our God is a God of life. We were very fortunate to get Emma to the hospital quickly to get very good care when she had her heart attack. As a result she will be back with us working again soon. We were fortunate because we have insurance and because we have as our doctor the medical director of one of the best hospitals in the country.

Only a week ago, we went for a “posada” at that same hospital and we got the hospital to admit 7 people who were undocumented and needed health care even though they had no insurance.

In fact, there are millions of our people who have no insurance. The 12 million undocumented will not be permitted to even buy the new national health insurance. Remember Obama said, “This insurance is not for those he called “the illegals.”

What that means is that they will die 20 years sooner than those who have insurance. Those are the statistics in Chicago.

Now, 12 million times 20 years is 240 million years of life that will be lost because we don’t get early detection and treatment of treatable diseases. Yet in the Bible it says that where God rules, no child will die when they are only two or three years old and no adult will die before the age of 100. And if we are faithful to God, then we will fight to get health care for the undocumented this year and that is what we are going to do.

And we are taught that what “God has joined together, no man shall separate” and that is why we will continue our fight to stop the deportations that separate families. We have won a “case by case”moratorium and that means we must inform the community and help them to prepare their defense.

And we know we will win these fights, step by step, as we began last year to change the policies of the nation and win case after case.

Yet the question is not whether we will win these fights, but what kind of people we will be when we win.

For God has given you a destiny. Like he did the Israelites, He brought you here, some walking across the desert, some in the trunks of cars, so that you could work and eat and raise children to become a people as many as the stars in the sky.

And when this nation began to persecute you and try to destroy your families, he has been with you to defend your families and last year we saw great progress in this fight. I am telling you today that not one person in this church today will be deported or separated from their family and many will become citizens along with their children and have a voice in changing this country!

God has done this for you, and with you, because he wants you to grow in numbers in this nation to change it, to be his witness to his ways in a nation that is dominated by greed and selfishness and has forgotten the ways of God.

God has done this for you and with you because He wants you to change this nation from one that makes Mexico and Latin America poor to one that helps to raise up those countries out of poverty and suffering. In fact, you are already doing that: the remittances you send back home are larger than any foreign aid package this government sends to any country in the world! That is a foretelling of what is to come !

Yet to live out this destiny, you must have a strong faith. You must not give up when times are hard. You must be faithful in your friendships and your marriages, in your church and in the struggle.

Jesus says, ”Don’t test the Lord; don’t be reckless with the gift of life he gives you.” But when the young “wanna be” gangster draws a gun and shoots at a car for almost no reason, he is throwing away his life, he is testing God.

And when young people “hook up” and make babies before they are married, before they know they are with someone who will help them with their faith, who is going down the same path of faithfulness, and then they are being reckless with their lives and testing God.

And when men or women spend half their lives working and the other half spending their wages getting drunk, they are testing God and being reckless with their lives – and they will pay the consequences.

God has given you a word to live by, a destiny and a place in history. And to do that, you must be Jesus to each other. It is good to pray and talk with Jesus. It is good to study Jesus. But we need to commit to walk in his footsteps, to put God and God’s ways first in our lives, so that by being strong in our faithfulness, we make each other strong.

I cannot stay strong in my faith if you are not strong in yours. We need each other. The miracle of Jesus is not that he made a blind man see but that he left behind a people who helped each other see. You too can be sons and daughters of God. That is the journey with Jesus we start today again this year.

Join us! Put God first! Be like Jesus! You are not perfect but you are going on a perfect journey. Come with us this year – and bring others!

Your faith will make them stronger and their faith will make you stronger!

Our walk with Jesus has begun this year! Walk with us. Walk with your friend!

 

 

Scriptures for the First Sunday

in the Season of Galilee

Isaiah 61:8-11

“For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”  I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,  and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

 

Matthew 3:13-17    The Baptism of Jesus

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

 

Matthew 4: 1-11  Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

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