Worship for Sunday, January 3, 2021

Jeremiah 31:7-14

For thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
   and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
   ‘Save, O Lord, your people,
   the remnant of Israel.’
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
   and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
   those with child and those in labour, together;
   a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
   and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
   in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
   and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
   and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
   and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
   and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
   and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
   and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
   and they shall never languish again.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
   and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
   I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
   and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the Lord.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 147:12-20

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates he blesses your children within you. He grants peace within your borders he fills you with the finest of wheat. He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down hail like crumbs— who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow. He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the Lord!  Amen.

Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.

Who are you?  That is a question we all get asked from time to time.  And our answer – often depends on the situation in which we find ourselves.

My birth certificate says I am Kerri Rene Manning.  But I always hated my middle name – because my parents misspelled it on my birth certificate.  And I found it so incredibly embarrassing to have a misspelled name!  

My marriage license says – I am Jason McFarland’s wife.

My driver’s license says I am Kerri M. McFarland.

When I graduated from seminary I earned the title Reverend.  So sometimes – I am the Reverend Kerri M. McFarland – which sounds awfully official to me.  Certainly the Reverend Kerri M. McFarland must be a very dignified sort of person.  She is probably serious and pious.  I bet she can still read both Ancient Greek and Hebrew.  And I bet she never trips on her alb, knocks off her microphone, or messes up the liturgy.  She and I probably don’t have a lot in common!

When I am at church I am just plain Pastor Kerri.  

At Will’s school – I am Mrs. McFarland.  But I use Mrs. McFarland so infrequently – I usually wonder who she is.

When I am with Jack and Will – I am Mom.  

Other people don’t know my name – but they know me by my knitting.  So to those folks – I am the weird knitter lady.

My niece and nephew call me Aunt Kerri.  Or as my niece Bella used to tell me – I am her “mean aunt” – because I say “NO!”

Other times – I am just plain old Kerri.  

I have lots of different names and roles.  And I am sure all of you do too.  You are husbands and wives.  You are children and aunts and uncles.  You are Christians and Lutherans and volunteers.  You are cousins and friends and coworkers.  

It can be hard to answer the question – who are you?  Defining ourselves can be complicated.  So what about you?  Who are you?  How would you define yourself?

Sometimes when people ask who you are – you answer by sharing what you do to earn a living.  Or you might declare you are retired with a smug – relaxed smile.

If you are a student you might share your grade or where you go to school or your major.

If someone asked you who you are while you were traveling – you might tell them you are a Kentuckian.  Or that you are a Louisville-ian (but spell check doesn’t think that is a word – so it might not be possible to be one of those.)

Who are you?  You are a multitude of things.  None of you can be summed up in few words.  Your grade in school – your profession – and the place you call home – are just a the smallest part of answering the question of “who are you?”

You are all so many wonderful things.  

In our 2nd reading for today – we heard another very important answer to the question of who are you?  Saint Paul declares that you are all God’s beloved children.  And you have been God’s child since the very beginning of time.   

Who are you?  You are a beloved child of God.  God has loved and cared for you since even before he created the world!

And God’s love for you is incredibly special.  God loves you in a way no one else ever will.  God’s love for you is so perfect – it dims all other kinds of love.  God’s love for you is so amazing – it boggles the mind.

Listen to how Saint Paul describes God’s love for you in his letter to the Corinthians.  God’s love for you “is patient.  God’s love for you is kind.  God’s love for you is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  God’s love for you does not insist on its own way – it is not irritable or resentful – it does not rejoice in wrongdoing – but rejoices in the truth.  God’s love for you bears all things – believes all things – hopes all things – endures all things.  And most wonderfully of all – God’s love for you never ends.”  

That sort of love – gives us great comfort and hope.  That sort of love changes our lives –  redeems us for all eternity and reveals to us the beauty of heaven.  

That is the sort of love only God can have.

There is no place you can go that will separate you from the love of God and there is nothing that you can do that will stop God from loving you.  God promises to love you with a perfect love forever.  

God loves you. God has always loved you and God promises he will always love you with a perfect love for all eternity. 

Who are you?  You are God’s beloved child.  And that truly is Good News.   AMEN.

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