By Paul Koch

The moment when our Lord steps into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized by John is of great significance for the understanding of our faith. Here the identity and purpose of our Lord’s arrival come into focus. John the Baptist is doing what his namesake calls for him to do: He is baptizing. He is washing the repentant children of God in the Jordan River as a testimony of their confession of sins and their longing for a new hope in the coming Messiah. Remember, John is preparing the way for the Messiah. He is the voice calling out in the wilderness. Things are going well. People are flocking out to him, to be part of this new thing. But all of it takes a strange turn when Jesus enters into those waters. The people had been entering the water to repent and so be ready to receive the Christ, but why does Jesus enter? What does he have to repent of? What sins does he confess?

By Joel A. Hess

In his argument with Erasmus about free will, Luther makes a profound case for the clarity of Holy Scripture and knowing the mind of God. One of Erasmus’ methods of dismantling Luther’s assertions was to point to the mystery and unknownness of God. He called to his side verses such as Isaiah 40, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” and Paul’s similar statement that “his judgments are incomprehensible.” (Romans 11:33). At first these words seem to make the case that we should always be wary of ever talking about God as if He is comprehensible. Many quickly shut down any conversation about the interpretation of Scripture by pointing to these verses. How often do aspiring theologians on the airplane conclude their opinions by waxing eloquent about God’s incomprehensibility, pretending to preserve God’s godhood?

By Paul Koch

When we are quiet, when we give ourselves moments without distraction or entertainment, when we allow silence to occupy our space, we begin to think about our lives, about our world and our place in it. We begin to realize that there is something wrong, something misplaced or broken about our existence. Maybe for you it begins when you realize how bad your joints ache or how difficult it is to do things that once seemed to do with ease. Or perhaps, in your contemplation you struggle with inner demons, with things no one else can see, with depression and anxiety. Some days are a dark and confusing battle where hope seems to be in short supply, and you can’t seem to get a hold of the reason why. Then again, maybe your quiet moments are consumed with thoughts of guilt and shame. You think of friendships that you’ve lost, of loves that have grown cold. When we enter the quiet we often find that we quickly seek the distractions, the diversion from what is broken within ourselves.

By Cindy Koch

Have you followed the footsteps of Jesus? Sometimes I think I can be kind enough, sometimes I think I can love like he did. Every once in a while I have a really great day when the sky looks a little bluer and I’m pretty proud of myself for my gentle tongue and thoughtful actions. But then there is the day when I lose it, I am angry at just about everything. How can I possibly get any better? Is this Jesus stuff not really working for me? Sometimes I think I need to take a good hard look at my walk.

By Cindy Koch

Whole faith systems are built to keep you away. Churches and teachers go over and over the roads of escape. Narrow paths are forged. Gated communities are constructed. Actions, music, words, and deeds are scrubbed crystal clean so that you might be protected. When someone starts to slip back into the pit of darkness, you have to fix them up quickly. When you begin to lose your seemingly solid foothold, it just might be too late.