All Lessons ? Baptism of Christ

Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

January 12, 2014 by Ken Dale

? ? ? ? ? ? Last Sunday we considered incarnation ? the thought that Jesus was fully human and fully God.? I wonder what your image of God might be?? Incarnate or not.? Not necessarily image of flesh and blood, skin color ? but more in terms of being?? I was struck by the contrast in this week?s Old Testament readings.? Isaiah gives us an image of God through ?the servant? ? ?bringing forth justice? but ?he will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench? ? but ?faithfully bring forth justice?.? See the tender care ? for those who are vulnerable, for still ideas coming to fullness, small efforts struggling to plant roots, protection for what is weak until it is strong enough to stand ? we see that in the image of the burning wick shielded by gentle hands.

But then there?s the 29th Psalm ? ?glory and strength? – thundering glory over mighty waters, a powerful voice that breaks cedars and flashes forth flames of fire ? shaking the wilderness, causing oaks to whirl and stripping the forest bare.? This is the same God ? one and the same God ? not quenching a dimly burning wick and yet whirling oaks stripping the forest bare.? The voice of God that can create, agitate, comfort, destroy, wound, heal, curse, bless.? This is the God incarnate in the person of Jesus.? This is God incarnate perhaps in some way in each of us as bearers of Christ.

Today we remember the baptism of Jesus and the beginning of his ministry.? Last Sunday we remembered how strange a story this incarnate God was.? It continues ? his ministry begins standing in the muddy Jordan River to have this strange figure John the Baptist baptize him.? Jesus is the passive recipient of this act ? as we all are.? Even John the Baptist is uneasy as we hear him say ?I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?? ? this should be the other way round. ?John seems to know who Jesus really is and being who he really is ? messiah ? how is it that he comes out in the desert subjecting himself to this wild desert preacher? ?But in this act Jesus actually redefines ?divinity,? and ?messiah? which was a term for supreme ruler or divinely sent representative of Almighty God ? sent to rectify what?s wrong with the world. ?And here he stands in a muddy river.? ?Jesus says that he does this to ?fulfill all righteousness? ? righteousness being to submit to the will of God ? to align oneself with God?s intentions.? This is a public sign.

In like manner, each of us, through baptism are redefined ? redefined as followers of Christ, obedient to the Living God.? Today we are called to remember our baptism.? What does that mean?? No doubt we all have our stories ? and they are different.? I don?t remember my baptism.? I was just an infant ? I have no memory of it.? I know where it took place and I can find out when ? I know that it did happen, but I have no memory of it.? I remember a lot of other things ? grammar school and Sunday School experiences, changing churches in the 4th grade ? my idea, not my parents.? I just wanted to go to church with my friend.? I remember lots of things but I don?t remember my baptism.? I do remember during a worship service when we offered the opportunity for reaffirmation of baptistm.? A man in his early 90?s named Lawrence Bigney came to me as I stood behind the baptismal font.? As I dipped his hands in the water, I said to him, ?remember your baptism and be thankful.??? He said, ?I do? and he began to tell me about it.??? Remember your baptism.

I do remember that I was baptized ? that I am baptized. ?And I think that is what the church calls us to on this day ? remember your baptism means remember that you are baptized ? that you have been redefined as a follower of Christ ? that you have been claimed by God and the love of God.? Remember what God has done for you in Jesus Christ.? God not only wants to give us life ? but a life with meaning ? a vocation, a sense of direction, a part to play in the panorama of the work of God?s love in this world.? I would say that?s something to remember ? but do we?

When Jesus was baptized by John, Matthew?s gospel says as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.? And a voice from heaven said, ?This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.?? Interesting story ? and notice it says that the heavens were opened to Jesus and Jesus saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.? It does not say everyone there ? or even John himself saw it ? Jesus saw it.? There was nothing showy about it.? And it was God?s initiative ? it was God?s doing ? it was important for Jesus to know it.

Henri Nouwen is big on the importance of our remembering those words are also spoken to us ? remembering God also says to each of us ?you are my child, the beloved? ? and how important it is that we remember that.? Martin Luther said long ago that there is no greater comfort to the Christian, especially in times of testing and difficulty, than to remember your baptism and be thankful.? The major reason being that baptism is a sign that the Christian life

is not dependent on what you do but is rather dependent upon what God has done for you in Jesus Christ.? I wonder why we can?t just trust that??? We think it is all about us and what we do.

I got a kick reading about a book by Peter Hiett called Dance Lessons for Zombies.? In it he satirizes some of the frantic efforts of the contemporary church to build itself up rather than allowing God to use our obedience to grow the church.? He speaks of Marketing, Management, and Mastery.? To steal an example of marketing – a needed pithy slogan, how does this sound for you:? ?Second Congregational Church, UCC ? Where Jesus Goes to Church.?? To make his? point on management he took 5 books on building a successful church with these titles:

Twelve Keys to an Effective Church, Four Principles of the Disciple-Making Pastor, Six Stages of Building a Contagious Church, Five Points of the Purpose Driven Church and the Popular Model for the Prevailing Church.? He combined them into: Dynamic Salt and Light Strategy for Global Conquest: Twenty-seven Key Disciple-Making Principles, Purposeful Stages of the Contagious, Prevailing Church.

??????????? He concluded that the more the church markets itself like big business the less people believe, the less we look like Jesus, and the less it must seem we rely on him.? Churches in this country are not growing.? But then he lifts the reality of the church where the church is growing ? the same place where marketing, management and professionalism are illegal ? Russia, Africa, China.? And he says discipleship is not a program ? it?s a life ? and it?s a life that rubs off on another life, seasoning, flavoring, and permeating that life like salt.? Note ? it rubs off ? it doesn?t get pushed on ? it just rubs off ? seasoning, flavoring, permeating that life like salt.

Nah ? that couldn?t work ? there?s no plan.? I wonder what would happen if we who have been baptized just remembered and remembered to a point where we just simply were very intentional about living the Christian life ? a life of those gifts of the Spirit ? love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

One thing we should always get in weekly worship is that much needed reminder that we are God?s beloved children ? and as such God is seeking to, can and will do something good in and through us ? if we would just get ourselves out of the way.? We need that weekly reminder because it is so easy in life in this world ? to forget what matters, and lose sight of who you really are and are meant to be.

So you?ve all got a piece of string to tie on your finger to help you remember.? And I would end this sermon with a simple request.? Would you simply turn to one another ? and not just the person you?re sitting with and remind them ? ?you are God?s beloved child?? that?s all ? nothing more nothing less ? ?you are God?s beloved child?

And all God?s people said: