The great forerunner, John the Baptist, has been imprisoned by Herod Antipas and the time has come for Jesus to begin the public work for which He was sent. He leaves behind His home town of Nazareth and travels to Capernaum by the sea. His movement is like the inbreaking of a great light into a land trapped in darkness. As Isaiah declares, “Those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” For as John had preached and baptized for repentance, as he had so faithfully pointed to our Lord and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world,” now we hear from the lips of our Savior the great call of faith. The light that breaks into that darkness comes in the gift of His Word as he now declares, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Simple questions do not always have simple answers. For instance, have you ever pondered the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Well, we might say a Christian is a follower of Christ or a disciple of our Lord or something along those lines. But then we need to unpack what those things mean and all their various contours and implications. To be a Christian might mean something very different to two Christians sitting in the same room.

A few years ago, I read a fascinating and somewhat controversial book called The Churching of America, by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. In it the authors examined and brought to light the history of religion in America by arguing it works as a free market economy, an economy in which there are winners and losers. The authors were not pastors or theologians, but professors of sociology and they tackled the issue as sociologists. They do not speak much about orthodoxy or heterodoxy or faithful confessions but use the language of economics.

By Paul Koch

We have all known those people who seem to take joy in tearing down what we’ve built up. Perhaps it is the kid at the beach that just can’t help kicking over the sandcastle that you just finished building. Or it is the big sister who knocks over your stack of blocks. When we grow older, these people are still around. They call themselves realists or even pessimists. You speak of something you have accomplished or some great adventure you want to do and all they want to do is tear it down. They attack your planning or your foresight or the practicality of it all. We don’t like to be around those people. We don’t like to spend our days with those who won’t let us dream a little, those who seem intent to kill what we love. Perhaps, this is why prayer and worship are so difficult. Maybe this is why it is uncomfortable to faithfully proclaim the Word of God. Because if we are honest, no one seems more persistent to tear down the things you love than your Lord Jesus Christ.