Sermon for January 13, 2019 Baptism of Jesus “A New Beginning”
Today is Baptism of the Lord Sunday and we’ll come to the baptism of Jesus, but before we get there, I want to spend a moment listening to the Word of the Lord Isaiah offers. It’s direct, it’s clear. But now, Thus says the LORD, the one who created you, O Jacob, the one who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
I am going to invite you to turn your imagination on to full setting, go back to the year 3BCE. The news is rife with stories of a Messiah. Even though many have made the claim, they turned out to be false. The stories grandparents tell of an amazing birth in Bethlehem are now part of the lore of the ages. Stories continue to grow and speculation is, that John the Baptizer is the one. He seems to fit the bill, weird dresser, crazy diet, seems to have little respect for leaders especially the temple leaders and he has a compelling message.
On this day 2022 years ago, John makes it clear that he is not the one. In Luke there is no discourse between John and Jesus, there is no reference to untying sandals, not even a reference to the action of Baptism. Just: “when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” That’s it. For as verbose as Luke can be, he uses an economy of words in this pivotal episode in the life of Jesus.
For Luke, God once again announces the beginning ministry of Jesus. It is God that ends the speculation about who the Messiah is, it is God that begins the ministry of Jesus with a prayer. Luke has a way of writing that invites the sinner into holiness. It starts with the Baptism of Jesus. He was in line, with all the other ‘filled with expectation and questions’ and in turn was baptized by John. For both John and Jesus, and indeed for all who follow, this moment marks a new beginning.
Since the time of Jesus, the church has tried to be the faithful interpreter of the teachings of Jesus. At any point along the way we have been both really good and really dreadful in this task. 28 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, the USA faced with a president that wants to build it again in a new location. It does not appear to me that this is in line with the teachings of Jesus. When Scott Brison was elected to the house of commons, who he is and how he lives were considered immoral. Today, his family is another that loves each other and strives to be good community members and good citizens of Canada. Our ancestors made Treaty’s with First Nation’s Peoples that were from our perspective more in our interest than in First Nations. We continue to be challenged to figure out how to live into right relations and it is highlighted when issues of economy come up. All this to say that as followers of Jesus, our day is as challenging as all the ones before and most likely the generations to follow will be challenged with the teachings of Jesus.
That may lead to ‘whatever’ of defeatist kind of group think but being faithful does not equate with being right. Or more properly being right forever. We would, for example, have a very hard time in the 21st century living the moral and social code of say 1910. We look back and say…really. And at the same time remember that it worked in that time. We cannot drag into our day the 1970’s. What worked then worked then and most likely will not work today. So we at best can say thank you to our ancestors, learn from their lives and with faith for today live the teaching of Jesus to messengers of justice and love in our day.
As the sun greeted us this morning, as it does each day, we are blessed with a new beginning. Like the baptism story my we begin with a prayer, may we gaze at our self and see deep beauty in what we see (we are after all created in the image and likeness of God), may we recall our baptismal or confirmation vows where we will trust the Spirit and may we seek out opportunities to be the people of God.
As the sun greeted the church this morning, as it does each day, may we begin with a prayer. May we be reminded that like Jesus we are in a line of folks desperate to start new by the waters of baptism. May we with word, action and heart greet friend, stranger and traveler with welcome. In all the noise that distracts us I trust the moment of quiet, utter quiet in the waters of baptism will clear our ears, minds and hearts that we can with purpose and determination live into faith and live out the teaching of Jesus.