Monthly Archives: January 2022

The First Sign – Sermon for Epiphany 2C on John 2:1-11

January 16, 2022
Video

We are in the season after the Epiphany, when Jesus is revealed to the world as God’s Son. The themes that weave through this season include revelation, glory, baptism, and Christ as the Light of the World. There is a sense of celebration in this season, a sense of joy being released into the world as we recognize who Jesus is.

I don’t know about you, but these days I could use some joy. We wear ourselves out struggling with issues of greed and poverty, power and powerlessness, fear and anger, and an overwhelming sense of futility and weariness. People 2000 years ago had to deal with these same things. And yet, in the midst of it all, there was room for celebration. There was room for joy. And Jesus was right in the middle of it.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole (Hot Dish)

This is adapted from another recipe that made 14-16 giant servings, and used a boxed fast cooking rice blend. Go search for it on myrecipes.com if that’s what you are looking for. This makes a healthy amount of food for 6-8 people, served with a nice salad and some crusty bread. Since we live in Minnesota, where every casserole is called a hot dish, and where most wild rice is harvested, you might want to call this a hot dish, too. Or casserole. It’s good, either way!

2 c. cooked brown rice
2-3 c. cooked wild rice* (See cook’s notes, below)
3 T. butter
2 large celery ribs, cleaned and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 c. cooked chicken, cut into cubes or bite-size pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup (cream of chicken also works)
1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 c. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, or 1/2 c. sour cream**
1/2 c. milk (use this to rinse out the soup can)
salt and pepper to taste
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese, plus another 1/2 c. for the topping
1 c. bread crumbs
2-4 Tbsps. sliced almonds, toasted***

Toast the almonds and set aside to cool. Cook the rice (if you don’t have any leftover in the fridge, as we usually do) – note that wild rice and brown rice cook differently, so don’t try to cook them together unless you are using one of those boxed mixes. If you are doing that, one box of Uncle Ben’s cooked to package directions, will be enough.

Cook a couple of large boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a quart or so of water or chicken broth (with a couple of bay leaves if you have them). Remove the chicken to a cutting board to cool (reserve the broth for another use, like maybe cooking the wild rice?), then cut into cubes.

Sauté the celery and onion in the butter in a large skillet. Remove from heat. Add the chopped chicken, soup, water chestnuts, yogurt/sour cream, and milk and stir to combine all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 2 c. cheese, just to blend. Transfer everything to a buttered 9×13 baking dish. Top with bread crumbs.

Bake at 350° for 35 minutes, or until top begins to brown and the casserole is bubbly around the edges. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 c. cheese and the toasted almonds over the top, return to the oven for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and it all looks toasty.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before dishing it up.

You can put together everything but the bread crumbs and cheese/almond topping, cover tightly and freeze this for later. Thaw it in the fridge overnight, and maybe allow some extra baking time to make sure the center gets hot.

COOK’S NOTES:

* Cooking wild rice is not hard, it just takes time. My son’s father-in-law insists the only proper way to cook wild rice is to pour boiling water over it to cover, let stand until water is absorbed, and repeat this process until the kernels “bloom” (pop open, but remain firm, not mushy), then fluff with a fork.
I’m sure he’s right, but I find putting a cup of well-rinsed wild rice in a pan with 2-3 cups of water, bringing to a boil, then reducing the heat to simmer until the desired doneness is reached works just fine. This makes 2-3 c. cooked rice. You may need to add more water, or you may find that not all the water gets absorbed when the kernels start to bloom. When the skins start to pop open, the rice is done, either way. You can also soak it overnight to reduce the cooking time.

** I use plain non-fat Greek yogurt for just about any recipe calling for sour cream. The flavor and consistency are nearly identical, without the calories or fat. If you insist on using sour cream, use only 1/2 cup.

*** toast almonds 4-6 minutes in a 350° oven, or 2-3 minutes over medium heat in a skillet, stirring and shaking constantly – remove from heat as soon as they start to turn caramel-colored, or you’ll burn them!

Remember you are baptized! Reflection on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

January 9, 2022
Video

Look! The wise men have arrived at the manger. It just so happens that this service is being recorded on the Day of Epiphany! (practice saying it) An epiphany is a moment when something is revealed to you. It’s an “Aha!” moment when you recognize something that didn’t make sense before. We celebrate the day of Epiphany on January 6th, as an “Aha!” moment when people realized Jesus was God’s own Son. Specifically, Jesus was revealed to people who weren’t Jews – Gentiles like us. But today, we are celebrating TWO things – not only Jesus giving the wise men their “Aha!” moment, but also Jesus being baptized, and revealed as God’s Son by the Holy Spirit.

Do you know your purpose in life? Do you have a clear idea of why God made you, and what you are supposed to do with this one precious life you’ve been given?

Jesus did. He understood that his primary purpose was to bring us humans into right relationship with God. That was the whole reason he came into the world – God With Us, Emmanuel – not to condemn the world (John 3:17), but to save it. To accomplish that, he had to become one of us.

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all,
“I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

The first thing Luke wants us to know is that John the Baptist isn’t Jesus. That may seem like a no-brainer to us, but at the time these events take place, people weren’t so sure. People think maybe he IS Messiah. But John compares what he is doing to what Messiah will do in terms of the elements. “I can get you wet,” he says, “But Messiah will do much more than that.”

John’s emphasis is on action – what Messiah will do. John may bathe you with water to symbolize the washing away of your sins, but the One who is coming will breathe Holy Spirit into you and burn away all the chaff.

Jesus is not only immersed in water,  he is immersed in the light of God’s presence, and the breath of Holy Spirit. His baptism is not for the forgiveness of sins, like all those other people coming to be baptized. Jesus is baptized into his mission, the mission the Father has given him – to redeem the world, to save us from our sins.

And God is pleased with him. “This is my son, whom I love, and with whom I am well pleased.”

When we allow ourselves to become fully immersed in God’s mission to make right what is wrong, to heal what is hurt, to save what is headed for destruction, we can know God’s pleasure just as surely as Jesus did there on the banks of the Jordan river.

When we commit ourselves completely to following Jesus – not only in baptism, but in every aspect of living, we can experience the full depth of God’s love for us.

See what love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God – and that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

Let’s pray.

Almighty and loving Father, we want to dive in, but we aren’t sure how deep the water is. We want to submerge ourselves in your life-giving floods, but we are afraid of drowning, Lord. Help us to know the peace that comes with trusting in you. Give us the courage to dive into your promises and help us submit our wills to your will. Make us your own. Fill us with the life-giving breath of your Holy Spirit. Let your fire burn in our hearts, we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

I invite you, if you have some water at home with you – a bowl, a pitcher or a glass of water – to dip your fingers in it and remember your own baptism. And be thankful!

Now, on this Baptism of our Lord Sunday, I am going to try to get you wet… because I want everyone to feel the water, and to know that God loves us so much, he washes away our sins in the act of baptism, and makes us his very own. So, remember that you are baptized! And be thankful! (asperges).