Sermon for 13 January 2019 – Baptism of the Lord
A reading for Baptism of the Lord Sunday from the gospel of Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. Listen for God’s word to us.
“As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 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.’”
This is the word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God!
The College Football National Championship Monday reminded me of the quote that “Sports do not build character. They reveal it. (Heywood Broun, www.brainyquote.com/topics/character). In other words, on the field of play – say when a freshman quarterback has walked onto one of the biggest national stages – just who he is will be seen by all. Despite being one of the youngest players out there, can he calm his nerves enough to throw a 62-yard bomb in the first quarter to get his team poised to score? Might his level of skill, grit, determination be revealed in a cumulative game stat of 347 passing yards and a trio of touchdown passes – something, unfortunately, I’ve not seen outta Aaron Rodgers in like forever! The game reveals the player’s character. It shows the world just what that athlete is made of.
According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus baptism revealed who he was. Being in line with those others at the Jordan River, as the gospel of Luke tells the story, shows the world just what this one is made of. What comprises his character. Who he indeed is and will be. We don’t get a lot of details in the gospel of Luke about Jesus’ big baptismal day. Prior, we do hear John the Baptist’s words that one is coming. A powerful Messiah, holy, set-apart who will breathe the fire of the Holy Spirit upon his followers. Who will ignite the passion of God in his disciples. Like the farmer in the granary, John says, this Messiah will clear away the chaff so that all that’s left in those baptized in his name will be wheat. Substantial food within to feed a world starving for Something More.
As Luke tells it, John’s fiery sermon nearly drew more attention than the day Jesus arrived at the Jordan to be dunked all the way under by John. “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,” Luke 3:21 reads. No exchange with John about “am I worthy to baptize you, Jesus?” No clouds parting and doves alighting on his way up out of the water, as the gospel of Matthew tells it. No booming voice declaring to all: “This is my Son, the Beloved!” as the gospel of Matthew also records. Just Jesus. There. With all the others. And in prayer after his baptism the Holy Spirit comes. His Heavenly Father whispering in his heart: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased!” (Luke 3:22).
Listen to the words of one commentator who beautifully reminds that Jesus baptism reveals his character. Shows the world just who he is. The commentator writes: “According to Luke, all we know about the baptism of Jesus is that it was with ‘all the people’ . . . (which means that) Jesus presented himself for baptism in an act of solidarity with a nation and a world of sinners. Jesus simply got in line with everyone who had been broken by the ‘wear and tear’ of this selfish world and had all but given up on themselves and their God. The commentator continues: when the line of downtrodden and sin-sick people formed in hopes of new beginnings through a return to God, Jesus joined them. At his baptism, he identified with damaged and broken people who needed God” (Feasting on the Word, Yr. C, Vol. 1, Robert M. Brearley, p. 236).
In other words, Jesus’ baptism reveals the heart of God to stand in line with you and with me. Ones wearied by a selfish world. Ones about ready to give up – though the Spirit keeps giving us signs every day of ways we are not alone. God is with us, as the birth of the baby just reminded us at Christmas. For all the ways we’ve been beaten down by our histories, our losses, our challenges, and our sins. For that little flicker of light that dances in our hearts because deep within we still long for a new beginning. Despite all the ways we have damaged and been damaged. Broke and been broken: God in Christ gets in line with us. With all of us who wear the skin and flesh of human kind. So we too hear the whisper of the Heavenly One: “Mine.” The Voice says. “Beloved. I’m so incredibly pleased with you.” Then in the stillness the Spirit stirs within. So we are empowered again. Knowing who we are too. To whom we belong. God now able to accomplish through us!
In the challenges we face. In the heartbreaks yet to come. Let us never forget: who Jesus is – from what is revealed in his baptism – shows who we are. How we are to be in the world. With whom we are to stand. . . . Let us renew the vows of our baptisms so we will be ready to excel in God’s game!
© Copyright JMN – 2019