Lent 1 A: Identity as Gift and Promise

Matthew 4:1-11 Dear Partner in Preaching, I’m going to boil the heart of this passage down into one, probably pretty familiar, saying: You only know who you are when you realize whose you are. I usually mention this in terms of Baptism, and I’ll get there in this passage, I promise. But for now, I want to reference some research I read a long time ago (and so can’t remember the source, though I suspect it might be Seth Godin’s Tribes). Essentially, it contended that while we typically think of identity as something we forge on our own, most of our sense of ourselves comes from the community we belong to, our family of origin, and the...

Baptism of our Lord A: Family Name

Matthew 3:13-17 Dear Partner in Preaching, In the summer of 1906, my great-grandfather, a pastor and professor of theology at Wittenberg Seminary, ventured east to look for a summer cottage. The cottage he bought, on Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, New York, has been in our family ever since and has served as a wonderful retreat for several generations of pastors and their families who otherwise would have had a hard time affording a summer getaway. The last name of my great-grandfather, and the majority of my aunts and uncles and cousins descended from him, is Gotwald, and as a kid I would go by that name, rather than my own, while at...

Baptism of our Lord C: Expecting the Messiah

Dear Partner in Preaching, The first line of this week’s reading really grabbed my attention: “As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John….” What I find fascinating is not actually how John responding to all this attention; rather, I’m intrigued by the wondering and perhaps murmuring and even hoping among the people about whether John might be the promised Messiah in the first place. And that got me to thinking: “Are our people still expecting a Messiah?” Or, perhaps more accurately, “Who are our people looking to with...

Baptism of Our Lord B: Baptism & Blessing

Dear Partner in Preaching, I want to start with a question: how often do you think about your baptism? Perhaps your family reminded you of its importance by celebrating the anniversary of your baptism each year and so baptism has always been important to you. Or maybe you learned to appreciate it later, at confirmation or sometime as an adult. Or maybe your appreciation of baptism was deepened during your study at seminary and now you think of it every time you wash. Or maybe you know the theological significance of baptism but, truth be told, don’t think of it all that often. (Don’t worry, I’m not judging, just asking.) Now I want you...

Matthew 3:16-17

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him 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, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” I think it’s...