Nice Introduction 1-12-14

Today’s sermon came from Matthew 3:13-17, which is the story of Jesus’ baptism, fitting as today is the celebration of his baptism.

You can listen to the sermon here:

You can follow along with the text of the sermon here. Disregard the indicators to pause and the weird punctuation. Gotta remember those things somehow.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
As many of you might know, I’m a runner. That distinction came about over the course of the past couple of years since I caught the fitness bug. In the past few months, I’ve been training for a marathon, and with the obvious cold weather outside, that means I’m logging A LOT of miles on the good old treadmill.
Over the course of those miles, I do several different things to try and occupy my mind. Sometimes I listen to music, other times I pull up Netflix and watch a movie or a tv show.
But there was one time when I was in the midst of a workout and I did something a little different than normal. This actually happened early last spring. We were still living in the Twin Cities at the time, and Emily and I both belonged to a gym. The day in question was March 13th, 2013. Now, perhaps this date means something to you, or perhaps it doesn’t.
When I arrived at the gym in the early afternoon, I didn’t have a much of a plan other than 30-45 minutes on an elliptical. Now, if you’ve ever been to a Lifetime fitness, the area where they keep the exercise machines is large and open…with row after row of treadmills, ellipticals, stair masters, and exercise bikes…all facing the same direction…and on the wall where everyone is forced to look…a big line of tvs tuned to different channels.
Most of the time when I would be in the midst of a workout, I would tend to ignore those tv’s…but occasionally something on them would catch my attention. During this particular time period, early last March, you may recall that there was a papal enclave happening in Rome. Pope Benedict had recently retired, and the cardinals were trying to elect a new pope.
As I was grinding away on the elliptical, I noticed several of the tv’s showing footage from Rome…White smoke…a new bishop had been elected.  Now if you’re familiar with this situation, it is first announced by the white smoke.  Then after a time of preparation, a priest comes to the balcony…and announces, in either Latin or Italian…I’m not quite sure which…that there is a new pope who will be called by a certain name…Benedict the last time around, and Francis this time.
I didn’t want to miss the announcement during my drive home…so my expected workout…got a little bit longer that day…I finished up on the elliptical, and switched over to a treadmill…and walked while I waited…well, if you remember that day…it took a long time, before they finally came to the balcony…and I walked…and walked…and walked…Honestly, I think I logged more miles walking on the treadmill than I had covered during my actual workout…but finally…the world was introduced to Pope Francis the 1st…and for me personally, grinding away on a treadmill…it was quite the introduction.
Today in worship we are celebrating two things…the obvious one is the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ, which is highlighted in our gospel lesson…but we are also celebrating…admittedly a little more quietly…the 1st Sunday after Epiphany…which occurred…again somewhat quietly, last Monday.
Epiphany, both the actual day, as well as the season, celebrates Jesus Christ, the messiah, being revealed to the world. On Epiphany itself, we celebrate the three Wise Men arriving in Bethlehem and finding Jesus…and now today in our scripture lesson…we see that he is being introduced to the world as a whole. And what an introduction. (pause)
If we are paying close attention, we see that quite a bit of time has passed. We’ve jumped from the season of Christmas and Jesus as a baby, to somewhere around the 30 year mark. Jesus has been hanging out…learning a trade as a carpenter…occasionally getting in a debate with the priests in the temple…but scripture doesn’t give us much else to go through these 30 years.
But today…all that changes…and we find Jesus approaching his much better known at the time cousin John the Baptist…doing his baptism thing in the Jordan River.
I image the scene going a little something like this…picture John…waste deep in the water…hollering about repentance…calling people broods of vipers…tossing a lot water around…he looks up and see’s his younger cousin Jesus walk up. (pause)  “Sup Jesus? How’s your mom? Carpenter work keeping you busy?”  (pause) “Sup John…mom’s good…carpentry is getting a little old though…think I’m gonna give it up…so ah…how about this baptism thing…let’s do this.”
No imagine for a second being John. This whole time he’s been telling people about the coming Messiah…how the messiah is going to change things…how he’s not worthy to even take the guys shoes off…how the Messiah is going baptize differently…and now all the sudden, here he is…in the flesh…asking to perform the very act on him, that you had called inadequate…no wonder we hear the scripture say that John hesitated…no wonder we hear him say that he needs Jesus to baptize him…but that’s not what Jesus has in mind today is it?
“Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” To fulfill all righteousness…well just what the heck does that mean Jesus?  Bit of a stumper isn’t it?
After all, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance…and we all know that Jesus was without sin…so what does he have to repent?  (pause) Bit of a head scratcher isn’t it? But yet…that is exactly what Jesus wants to do.  He doesn’t ask John to change things up…he doesn’t come up with some fancy new wording…and even though John has been proclaiming the Messiah’s baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire…Jesus doesn’t baptize himself…He is baptized by another. (pause)
John agrees…Jesus wades out in the water…and like any good cousin would do…John dunks him…full emersion…Jesus is washed under the water…and now here’s where things get really interesting.  Scripture tells us when he came up from the water something happened…I’ve always sorta thought this meant once Jesus walked up the river bank and was on shore again…but that’s not what it really says…the Greek tells us that the instant he came out of water…the instant he surfaced again…within the microsecond that his head burst back through the surface of the river…the heavens were opened…
And here’s another awesome thing…its not like a the clouds parted and a bright beam of sunshine came through…rather…imagine for a second that we’ve got up here and as soon as I pour some water on his head…the roof gets ripped in half…and then multiply that by a million…the heaven’s were torn asunder…ripped to pieces…and the Holy Spirit decended upon Jesus.
This is huge…in this instant…within the Baptism by John…within this old ritual of purification…placed upon Jesus, the Messiah is revealed…and entry into Heaven becomes possible…the barrier between our reality, and whatever plane of existence where heaven exists got ripped open…and we see the Spirit coming upon Jesus…and we hear the voice of God the Father booming out…BEHOLD!!! THIS IS MY SON. (pause)
In this instant, for the first time…we see the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit together…all three members of the trinity…and from that moment on…baptism…will never be the same again.
This same act…proclaimed first by John…performed by John…has now been changed…has now becoming a part of righteousness…and it happened because Jesus…the Messiah…our Savior and Lord…the one who has instructed us to baptize…was himself baptized.
Think about baptism for a moment…today we celebrate our Lord’s baptism…but each and every baptized believer shares in the very same thing. Jesus was baptized by another person…we don’t baptize ourselves…Jesus was baptized with water…and so are we…In Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit came upon him…as it does for each and every one us…and finally…in the baptism of Jesus he was proclaimed CHILD OF GOD…and in our baptism we share that same name…Granted…the person who makes that proclamation is a little bit different…if we do it here…you hear me proclaim it…Jesus…well he had God make the announcement…probably a little more impressive of an introduction to the community…and really, that’s what happens at baptism…we are introduced into the community of believers…and then we join with that community in our own ministry…just as Jesus begins his ministry, empowered by the Holy Spirit, directly following his baptism.
But there’s more…when an individual joins with Jesus in a baptism like his…we also also believe that the individual joins in a death like his…because Jesus did die…and his death on the cross marked the single most important crossroads in all of human existence.
Picture the cross for a moment…2 beams of wood…the first one vertical…vertical because it reaches between Heaven and Earth…between God and humanity…and the second stretching out horizontally, like the arms of Jesus stretched out wide to encompass all of humanity, across all time…and at the center…at the point where those two beams cross…is Jesus…both God and Human at the same time…Jesus represents God for us…and Jesus represents us for God…a crossroads that enables each of us to be forgiven of our sins and one day…one day…to be raised again with Christ…because when we join in a baptism like his, then we join in a death like his…and because of this…we also join in a resurrection like his.
And so, on this day when we hear Jesus amazing introduction into the world by none other than God the Father…and when we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord…I want to invite you to remember your own baptism…when you were introduced to the world as a Beloved Child of God. Amen

One response to this post.

  1. […] « Nice Introduction 1-12-14 […]


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