Sunday, January 8, 2017
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
How did we get from baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas to the celebration of the baptism of Jesus today in a matter of only a couple of weeks? Jesus sure grew up fast! It’s as if someone hit the fast forward button on the remote in the life of Jesus. We’ve fast forwarded our scripture readings as if we wanted to get to the next best part. What we’ve done is fast forwarded to another great epiphany or revealing of God. The first appearance happened at Christmas when God became flesh in the person of Jesus. Angel voices announced the birth of the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Today, we celebrate the next great appearance -Jesus’ baptism- when God’s voice proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God, and God’s beloved. In both of these instances, God is revealed to us through Jesus. God has come close to us through Jesus. God has become one with us through Jesus. It’s almost shocking when you stop to think about it.
Imagine John the Baptist’s shock when Jesus waded into the Jordan river asking for John to baptize him. Once again, God came close in an unexpected, surprising, and shocking way. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized. He didn’t need his sins forgiven. But Jesus did need to go deep into the murky, muddy Jordan river with everyone else. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty. In fact, he deliberately sought the Jordan out, the same river that the Israelites traveled through to escape the slavery of Egypt. He knew that would be the place where the people were going to John to repent of their sins. John no doubt chose that river because of that history. He knew that would be the place where a person had to go all the way in the murky water in order to come out changed. He knew this would be the beginning of something very different in his life. Jesus went into the water without everyone knowing who he was – perhaps a great prophet – and came out with God’s voice echoing through the ripples in the water “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” And the ripples from Jesus’ baptism continue to affect us today in our own baptisms. Through our baptism we are joined through the Holy Spirit with Jesus who is joined with the Creator. In baptism, Jesus was born again only not just as an infant in a manger, but as the anointed Son of God. It was a new beginning for Jesus. His mission was now proclaimed to everyone; Jesus was on a mission to save the world. The Jordan water may have been murky, but God’s voice was clear. “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We’ve all been in deep murky waters at one time in our lives or another. There have been instances where we have gotten ourselves in situations that seem way over our heads. We’ve found ourselves wading in the dark waters of suffering, grief, or sin wondering if we will ever find our way out. And if we do, how will we be changed? Will we let the challenges we’ve faced break us and turn us into synical or judgmental individuals? Will we let these difficulties harden our hearts? Or will we let these trials transform us into images of God’s redeeming light? The waters of baptism have the power to deliver us through our trials and bring us into the kingdom of God.
Jesus experienced this before any of us, and led the way for us. Immediately after he was baptized the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. Yet, Jesus was able to overcome these temptations because of the anointing of grace he received at his baptism. Jesus was given the strength to overcome evil by the life giving waters of baptism. It was the promise of God’s voice that Jesus held close to him when he faced any kind of adversity. He carried that promise all the way to the cross. He carried it all the way from death into resurrection and new life. It is that same baptismal promise that we carry with us when we are faced with any kind of trial. Our baptismal promise of eternal life and eternal union with God is what we carry with us each and every day.
When we are looking to find God, we don’t have far to look. God is revealed in Jesus, and Jesus is revealed in unexpected places. Just as John the Baptist was shocked when Jesus came to him to ask for his help in carrying out God’s mission, we too are often shocked when Jesus comes to us asking for our help in carrying out God’s mission. But God works through ordinary people and ordinary things. John the Baptist’s hands carried out God’s mission in anointing Jesus. Jesus hands carried out God’s mission in healing and saving the world. God needs our hands too in carrying out God’s mission for the world. It may not always be easy,
but we too have been anointed and sealed by the Holy Spirit. We have been anointed to serve. We have been anointed to love. We have been anointed to do God’s holy work. And there’s a lot of work for us to do in spreading God’s love and peace in a world that desperately needs it now more than ever.
Whenever we find ourselves in a situation that seems overwhelming, fast forward to that baptismal moment when at our baptism- like Jesus’ – God spoke those words of promise and love: “This is my son, this is my daughter, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Take these words wherever you go and there is no day, no moment, that will seem hopeless for you are God’s beloved. Amen.