Haven’t We Heard This Before 1-10-16

This morning’s sermon for Baptism of Our Lord Sunday comes from Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. I explore the importance of Jesus’ baptism and the promises made for each one of us in our own.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/havent-we-heard-this-before-1-10-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

In any situation, when a person sets out to tell a story, no matter what form its in, every story can break down to one of three different plots. The person verses person…person verses the environment that they are in…and person verses themselves…that’s it…every single story line, in its most basic form will fall into one of those three categories.

And so, many story tellers will often report that there are no original stories…simply that every story is a variation on one of those three plots. And in recent history, no other medium highlights this notion as well as the movie industry. Considering that we are now into a new year, and me being a movie buff…I got a little geeky and looked up the top 10 grossing movies of last year…at least for here in the US…and here’s the list starting with number 10 moving up to number 1. See if you recognize these titles. Spectre, Cinderella, The Martian, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Minions, Furious 7, Inside Out, Avengers Age of Ultron, and the winner…Star Wars The Force Awakens. (pause)
Now…did you sense a trend? Out of those 10 movies, 1 is an original idea…1 is a nearly verbatim adaptation of a book, 1 is a live action remake of the very same story told in animated form, and the rest…7 of the top 10 films of the year…are sequels…and not only are they sequels, but they are increasingly far into different series. There is 1 part 2, 1 part 3, 2 part 4’s, 2 part SEVENS…and finally…the 24th…Bond Movie. (pause)

With these stats in mind…I believe that it is beyond debate…that Hollywood, is REALLY good…and telling the same story over again. Because in the end…particularly with movies…that’s what sequels do…they tell the same basic story with new details…period.

And I bring all of this up, because today’s gospel lesson reminds me of a sequel in many different ways. First off…because the opening portion of today’s gospel was featured just 4 weeks ago as we heard John the Baptist rattling on about NOT being the messiah, and pointing out the important differences between them. (pause) And secondly…because this story…the baptism of our Lord…is one of those stories that we hear, every year…there are a few different ones…Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Transfiguration…and this one…the Baptism of our Lord.

Now, some of those stories are always the exact same gospel…Christmas for instance always comes out of Luke…others from that list will feature the same story but from a different gospel…and today, the baptism of Jesus…well it falls into that second category. For the baptism of Jesus is mentioned in all four gospels…even John gets in on it…but with the other gospels, Matthew Mark and Luke…the details surrounding the baptism are all pretty similar…there are a few differences here and there…but we see those differences within the lead up to the baptism itself…and when we get right down to the nitty gritty of the story…when we get down to the action featured here for Baptism of Our Lord Sunday…no matter which gospel, it’s the same deal…and here…I’ll read it again…the baptism of Jesus.

When all the people had been baptized, and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form and a voice came from heaven saying You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased. (pause)

Wait a sec…did we miss something? Was there a baptism in there…oh yah…Jesus was baptized…talk about a throw away comment…but, I guess it is in there that Jesus was in fact baptized…even if every one of the gospels almost glosses over it…they all do tell us that it happened…but then…in all four gospels…we hear about what happens next…it’s the same old story…SLIGHTLY different details…just like movie sequels.

But you know what…the focus that all four gospels gives on this next part is probably a pretty good indication that we should sit up and pay attention…for following the baptism of Jesus…the heavens open up…and the Holy Spirit shows up with some sort of physical form…one of only 2 times in scripture when this happens…and the Spirit comes upon Jesus…but that’s not all…and we hear, once again, each and every year…the voice of God the Father…You are my son the beloved, in you I am well pleased. (pause)
This moment…this one story, told from different perspectives…is the ONLY time in the entire Bible…when we have all three members of the Holy Trinity present and accounted for. The voice of the father, proclaiming to the world the identity of the Son, who now harbors the Holy Spirit. 1 God in three persons, all of them here. (pause) And let me remind you of the occasion…this all happens because Jesus is baptized…

So what is it about this story…that is so significant…what is it about this story that led the different authors of the gospel to line up some precisely with the details of what has happened…what is that causes us to talk about it, each and every year? (pause)

Great questions…especially when we stop and think about baptism as a whole. For it was nothing new at that time. John was simply utilizing an old Jewish practice to symbolize the purification of the sin that they had repented of…but then John tells the people, when they claim him as the messiah…that no…the Messiah will still baptize you…but it will be different…He will still purify you…but in a way that we can never do…With the Holy Spirit and with fire. (pause)
And we all know that the practice of baptism has continued…most of us in this room, if not all of us…have been baptized…and interestingly enough, at first glance it almost seems like our baptisms are closer to John’s…for we use water don’t we? There’s no fire here…and thankfully so because I don’t think any of us would react very well to being dipped in fire would we? (pause)

But here’s the thing…something that I talked about a few weeks back when this passage came up…something I talked about a year ago when this story was featured…something I talk about in every baptism class with new parents seeking baptism for their child…something I talk about for 2 class periods with the confirmation students…and something that discuss with individuals on a constant basis…
Jesus has taken baptism…and through the ordinary element of water, God does something impossible…God does something new…God does something different…and somehow, someway…in ways that we can neither physically see or understand…God is able to purify us with fire…through the power of the Holy Spirit…in the same baptism perfected by Christ…and just as Christ experienced death and resurrection, we are given the promise in the waters of our baptism that we have joined with Christ in baptism like his…and likewise we join with Christ in a death like his, for the waters of our baptism drown the sinful self and we rise out of that water…with new life…a new creation…and as such we claim the promise that we will join with Christ in a resurrection like his. (pause)
This is the work that God is up to in the waters of our baptisms…its nothing that we do…its nothing that the parents or the sponsors…or relatives or friends…and certainly, this is not the work of the individual who is baptized…this is the work of God…and this is a wonderful thing…that we do…and we do it…because Christ himself told us to…

I mentioned before, that this is the one time when the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are all present and accounted for…but there is one more time when all three are named…and it happens in the great commission when Jesus tells us to Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…one God in three persons.

And we invoke all three for a very specific purpose…remembering that it is not us who does the work…But we are baptized in the name of the Father who created us in the first place…in the name of the Son who redeems us through his death and resurrection…and in the name of the Holy Spirit who comes upon us in our baptism to unite us as individuals into the one body of Christ…and to empower us to be the church…to be the body here on earth until such time that Christ shall return and we will join together in his resurrection.

And this…is a very big deal…something worth remembering…something worth clinging to…and that is why we tell this story every year…remembering that Christ was baptized so that in the waters of our baptism we might join with him…and as God calls Jesus his beloved Son…God is also pleased to claim us as individuals, through our baptisms as His beloved child.

We cling to this promise…in all things…we cling to the hope found in the promise when we face the reality of death, that it does not get the last word…we cling to the promise that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…not even our failings…and so we remember…and as Martin Luther said…every day when you wash your face, remember your baptism…live in the promise that God has given you that you belong to him…that he has claimed you…and yes, we’ve all heard this before…but it is worth hearing it again….because this same old story…is the best news that we can ever receive. Amen

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Teresa O'Brion on January 11, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    we cling to the promise that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…not even our failings…and so we remember…and as Martin Luther said…every day when you wash your face, remember your baptism…live in the promise that God has given you that you belong to him…that he has claimed you…

    I love this verse & it’s a great reminder to me. I just got caught up on your last 3 sermons (little behind) & they were all great. There were great messages in all of them. I really can’t image your dad going off on you when he didn’t know where you were. He always seems so calm !! Keep up the good work. Love you.

    Reply

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