Posts Tagged ‘Epiphany’

As You Hear It 1-27-19

In this sermon, based on Luke 4:14-21, I explore Jesus’ first public proclamation in Luke’s Gospel. We find a heavy emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, which guides the ministry that Jesus will do. We are connected to this same ministry by that same Spirit.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/as-you-hear-it-1-27-19

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

The Grace and Peace of our Triune God is yours, now and forever. Amen

Many of you have heard me talk about my fascination with plants…and how amazing I think they are…and how different species of plants do some amazing things.

One of the things that I appreciate about plants…is the way that they tell you when they need water. If you are a gardener you’ve probably noticed this before…when plants get thirsty…they get all wilted.  Granted, some species are better at this than others…but it happens.

There is a scientific reason behind this…something called Turgor Pressure…basically, if the plant has enough water, the fluid inside each cell keeps it nice and rigid…resulting in the plant, and specifically the leaves upright and perky…but on the other hand, if the plant is lacking water…that fluid pressure inside the cells drops, and it flops over.

This happened part way through last week with one of the plants back in my office. I walked in after lunch and noticed the leaves all wilted over and realized it needed water…which I did…and since I had the thought of turgor pressure in the back of my head…I did a little experiment.

I knew I’d be sitting at my desk working for a while, so I pulled out my phone and started a time lapse video that covered roughly 30 minutes’ worth of time over the course of a 20 second video. If you’re interested let me know, because I can show it to you…and its fascinating.

As soon as I turned the camera off I watched the video and plain as day you can see the leaves starting to perk up as the water was drawn up into them.  It was so cool, at least to my plant-nerd brain, that I watched it a couple more times…but the more often I watched it, the more I started seeing other stuff happening in the video…like the clouds moving across the sky in the background…or shadows lengthening and sunlight shifting as the sun moved across the sky…something really clear during one brief portion where my knee is visible in the video.

It was really amazing to see the passage of time sped up like this…and eye opening to realize how our perception of time affects us…things that we don’t even notice are moving…and changing…and its only when we see time as we know it sped up, that we can begin to witness this movement and action.

And its right there that I start to connect into our scripture for today…because there are times when we struggle to notice or see the way that God is working in the world…and perhaps more specifically…that we fail to see the action of the Holy Spirit.

Now maybe it goes without saying…but it seems like the Holy Spirit is the toughest part of our Triune God to figure out.  We hear about it…we think about the Spirit of God in the world…but more often than not we don’t see it…its only shows up physically a couple of times in the scriptures…one of them quite recently in our gospel lessons…and yet, throughout all of this…the Spirit is there.

And I think its safe to say that of the gospels…Luke, not to mention Luke’s follow up of the book of Acts, does the best job of putting the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit’s action on display…and we’ve already seen that through the opening few chapters of Luke.  We hear about the Spirit coming upon the parents of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  We hear about how John is empowered by the Spirit even before he’s born…we hear the Spirit flowing into Elizabeth and Mary…we hear of two faithful witness led by the Spirit into the temple to witness the baby Jesus…we hear of the Spirit physically showing up at Jesus’ baptism…about how it leads him into the wilderness for 40 days…and that following that event, Jesus is still full of the Spirit as he begins his ministry around Galilee…we even hear it quoted from the Prophet Isaiah as Jesus reads in the synagogue…and that’s just the first 4 chapters.

So I think its safe to say…that whatever it is that’s going on here…the Holy Spirit…the Spirit of God…its at work, whether we take notice of it or not.

Now today’s story is an interesting one.  As we continue through Epiphany, focusing in on the ways that Jesus is revealed to the world…here we have Luke’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ intentional public ministry…as he travels around Galilee, preaching and teaching in the synagogues…and that news spreads around…and that he is praised…glorified even…by everyone. Granted we don’t get much in the way of detail here in the first couple of verses…at least until Jesus walks back into his hometown of Nazareth…and apparently continues in the same trend.

It raises the question…what’s so important about this particular situation…Did he volunteer to read and teach, or was he picked…we don’t know…is he preaching about the same passage as in the previous communities…or is Isaiah unique this time around? We don’t know…did he chose Isaiah, or was luck of the draw…again we don’t know. But what we do know is that he chose the specific passage in Isaiah…because he turned to the place where it is written…and what a passage…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

With that Jesus rolls up the scroll, hands it back, and sits down to start teaching…might seem a little odd but that’s how they did it…and as we hear…every eye is upon him. (pause)
Let me set the stage for you here…because I’ve been to one of these small town synagogues in Galilee.  Its in a big square…with benches lining the walls as well an inner row…Jesus would have been standing in the middle as he read…and then he would have sat on one of those benches…and everyone could see him…the whole structure was maybe 25 or 30 feet across…and he could look everyone in the eye.

Now keep in mind…this was Nazareth…this was his hometown…a tiny backwater community of maybe a couple hundred people…everyone knew everyone…and I can only imagine what was going through their minds as they listened to Jesus…these people who remembered him as a baby and young boy…individuals who were in the caravan when he was 12 and got left in Jerusalem.  People who knew Mary and Joseph…childhood friends of his family. Some who could probably say “dude I changed your diaper 30 years ago” which is a weird thought…but its true.

This is the setting where Jesus talks about the Spirit of the Lord being upon him…and anointing him…empowering him to bring good news of a great reversal…something that sounds an awful lot like what we call the kingdom of heaven.

And initially…everyone seems to like what they hear…as Jesus wraps up the reading and kicks off his teaching by announcing “Today the scripture is fulfilled as you hear it.”  If you’re familiar with the story…his sermon actually stirs up issues and everyone here in his hometown gets cranky to the point of trying to throw him off a cliff…but we’ll save that for next week…and today…we stop with this announcement…this reveal…this epiphany even…that the scriptures have been fulfilled as we hear it. (pause)

Here’s the thing…here in Luke’s gospel…this is the first action of Jesus’ ministry…the other gospels place it a little later…but Luke puts it here…and while these aren’t the first words that Jesus speaks in Luke…they are the first words of his ministry…might as well be his inaugural address…because they line out a pretty solid overview of what his ministry is going to look like.

Good news to the poor…sight to the blind…release to the captives…and even a hint at something they would call the Year of Jubilee…that’s the year of the Lord’s favor that he mentions…and you want to talk about a great reversal…the Jubilee was epitome.

Every 50 years, debts were forgiven.  Land that had been sold or acquired were transferred back to the family of origin. Slaves were freed…which is great news if you’re on the receiving end…but maybe not such great news for those on the other side of it…what if you’re the lender…or the new land owner…or the owner of the slave? Then this news…this reversal…it is going to cost you something isn’t it?

And I can’t help but think that’s important for us to hear…because sometimes the gospel sounds like good news…because we’re the ones who have been oppressed or shoved to the margins…but sometimes we’re also the ones who have benefitted from it…and maybe that good news begins to reveal the cost to us….but you know what, we need to hear that too.

Make no mistake…we are connected to this event as well…it wasn’t a simple proclamation that Jesus made once in his hometown, only to be abandoned and forgotten when he walked away that day…we are connected through the power of the same Holy Spirit which was so active in the background of the gospel…the same spirit which anointed and empowered Jesus in his baptism has done the same for us in ours.

The Spirit is still at work here in the world, even if our perception fails to notice it…and this same spirit connects us all together into the one body of Christ on earth…one body with many members as we hear in 1 Corinthians…we are all gifted and empowered in different ways…both as individuals as well as different congregations and churches and even denominations.  None of us are wired to ministry in the same way…but we are all part of that greater ministry of the church. (pause)

Jesus made this proclamation at the beginning of his ministry…being very clear that in his presence, empowered the Spirit…the scripture is fulfilled…and I believe that today…in our hearing…the same thing is going on…it may go beyond our ability to comprehend…but somehow someway…right now as we hear this…it is being fulfilled and WE are a part of that.

I can’t help but think that with the emphasis on TODAY…we find a sense of urgency…or at least we should…an urgency to follow the guidance…the power…the whisper of the Holy Spirit to us. Now maybe that leads us into the wilderness…or maybe it leads us into Galilee…but it would seem safe to say that the Spirit is leading us join in the same mission of bringing about the great reversal of the Kingdom of Heaven, just as Jesus did through his ministry…through his life…and through his death and resurrection.

Now this is fitting for us to hear today…knowing that in a few minutes many of us will join together in the work of the Annual meeting…as we consider the year that has been and the year that will be…as we consider our budget and how we support the operation of this place…as well as the ministry that we do out there in the community and the world.

And so I pose this question…Where is the Spirit leading us today?  I can’t answer that for you…but it is my prayer that we are listening together…and that we recognize that we are connected into something much larger than we are…and that we will be brave enough, not only to listen…but then to join in and follow…this is our mission as followers of Christ…because as Jesus tells us…The Spirit of the Lord is upon US…because he has anointed US to bring good news…

Today, this is fulfilled as YOU hear it. Amen

Epiphany 1-6-19

In this sermon for the day of Epiphany, based on Matthew 2:1-12, I explore the visit of the Maji, which starts off a season of texts in ways that Christ is revealed to the world.  In this story, we switch focus away from the Magi to the reaction of King Herod the Great. His action reveals truth about those who cling the illusion of power and authority in the world.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/epiphany-1-6-19

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

The grace and peace of our Triune God is yours, now and forever. Amen

You’ve probably heard me talk about some of the congregations that I’ve been connected to in the past…both large and small. I grew up in one about the same size as Underwood. I provided monthly pulpit supply at a tiny country church for a couple of years where a dozen people was a good Sunday…but on the flip side I’ve been at some pretty big ones too.

My internship congregation was about 1200 people…and for about a decade, my wife and I were members and staff at the largest congregation here in our Synod, which at its peak had nearly 2000 members. Now the thing about a congregation that size…there’s a lot kids…and therefore…there was a pretty good sized Confirmation program…and it took a lot of people to make that happen…small group leaders, prayer partners, mentors, and of course…teachers.

Now that church had 2 pastors on staff…but with the large number of kids and classes, they needed more than just the two pastors to teach…and so by the time I was about 25…they started asking me if I’d help out…but let me tell you…I resisted that like the plague…I never thought of myself as a teacher of any sort…and so I kept saying no.

This went on for about 3 years…until finally reaching the point where I knew I’d be going to seminary and becoming a pastor…and since teaching confirmation comes with the territory, I figured it was about time that I start saying yes.

And wouldn’t you know it…it became one of my favorite things to do. I love teaching…and as you might have seen I do so in a lot different ways and formats…but teaching confirmation is one of the most enjoyable…and not only that…but I’ve got a favorite lesson that’s grown over the years.  Of all the different subjects that we cover in the 2 year cycle of confirmation…hands down…my favorite one is the Birth of Jesus.

I love it…because over the course of the lesson we debunk a few traditional aspects of the story that aren’t actually present…for instance…many of you have heard me point out that there’s no donkey for Mary to ride anywhere in the story…but the other one that always comes out…ties us into today’s story.

Epiphany…a focal point that only pops up here in worship on rare occasions…its always the same day of the year…and so it is typically happening during the week…but every once in a while it lands on Sunday…and we get to hear today’s gospel.  Now…I can’t help but think that a moment ago as I was reading the lesson…that someone out there…at least one person, reacted to our story like this. (Pause) “THE MAGI?  Wait….Christmas was like 2 weeks ago…they’re just showing now?” (pause)  Yep (and nod).

There is a common misconception that the Magi or wise men or three kings, whatever we chose to call them…were part of the nativity…but…they…weren’t. And based on a few bits of info we’re given throughout the course of their story, the best guess is that they showed up anywhere from a couple months up to a couple years after Jesus was born.

Now…as much as I love the Magi…we really don’t know a ton about them.  We know they’re from the East…and tradition has filled in all kinds of possibilities about them that we really can’t confirm…including names and even ethnic varieties…but best guess…they were likely from Persia…the remnants of a once large and powerful empire…and their title of Magi indicates that they were likely the court magicians or astrologers…maybe even the “scientists” of the day…and in their work, they’ve witnessed the rising of a special star…an event that has told them of the birth of someone with incredible importance…and so they’ve come looking.

History does tell us that this sort of thing occurred…there are records of Magi visiting the Emperor of Rome at one point…but this time around they head into Jerusalem…apparently whatever sign was present in the heavens through this star…it only led them so far…and they needed some assistance. And so…they go right to the top…stopping off at the palace to inquire with King Herod about the one born king of the Jews.  You know how the rest of the story goes…they figure out Bethlehem…Herod tells them to go and find the baby and then come back to let him know so that he can go worship as well…wink wink…they go searching…the star pops up again, pointing them to the right house…in they go and there is Mary and Jesus…they kneel down….open up their gifts…worship him with joy…and angelic warning dream points them away from Herod and they depart…very likely into the sunset with a lone violin playing a poignant song…and other than one brief reference back to them a few verses later…their part of the story is done.

That’s the story of the Magi…the story of Epiphany. Now Epiphany in itself is important…by its very definition it means a dramatic reveal or revelation about something…and that’s what we see. Jesus…the divine made flesh…is being revealed to the world…and as we move through the season of epiphany through the next several weeks we’ll continue to find stories of similar nature…as Jesus continues to be revealed. We see it in many different settings, with different types of people…some quite small and intimate…others on a much larger scale.

And that’s true today as well…because the story of the Magi following the star and stopping off for directions in Jerusalem points us to some intriguing facts about this big reveal.  Now remember, Bethlehem is only a couple miles away from Jerusalem…and even though Jerusalem was no longer the ultimate center of life in the region at this time…it was still important and the political and religious big wigs spent a lot of time there…so you’d think that by this time they’d have caught wind of the messiah’s birth…months, maybe even a couple years have passed…but based on their reaction to the Magi…it would seem that they are oblivious…

What we do hear…that with this news…with this inquiry about the one born King of the Jews…they loose their minds.  Some translations say Herod and the city were frightened…others say they were disturbed…but when we dig in we find that their reaction was earth shattering…the type of thing that you see in a fear filled mob…and to understand just why that is…we need to step away from the Magi and focus in on Herod…who might seem like just a secondary character…but who’s presence actually casts a really wide shadow over this whole deal.

Now when we hear the name Herod…it could mean a lot of people…the Herodian dynasty lasted the better part of a century…and included about 3 different generations of individuals who all went by the name and held various roles of leadership as granted by the Roman government…but in this case…we’re talking about the original…the OG Herod…Herod the Great.

History remembers him…as a strong leader…as a great builder…but also as a backstabbing, blood-thirsty tyrant. This was a guy who claimed power by marrying into an important family…finagling his way into the title of king by sucking up to the Roman authorities…and then promptly terrorizing anyone and everyone that might threaten his position…up to an including murdering several of his own kids…not to mention countless officials.

If you started to gain any popularity…or maybe gave an inkling of future plans…Herod would have you killed…because you can’t be a threat if you’re dead right? And honestly, this knew no bounds…because if we continued reading through Matthew chapter 2 we would see that once Herod realizes the Magi avoided him, he had every baby boy in Bethlehem 2 years and under killed…simply because of the rumor of a future king.

I can’t help but think that this reveals insecurity…and fear.  Even though he had been given pretty much the ultimate power in the region…I can only think that Herod was secretly terrified that someone would take that power away again. (pause)

Now I don’t know about you…but when I hear the name Herod…and when I think about this whole story and all the stuff he did…I just think…man, he’s just the worst. But then I stop and think about it…and I think it sounds pretty familiar.

We live in a world that is pretty constantly defined by might makes right…an idea that my way is the best…and I’m right…and you can join me as long as you agree with me…but if not I’ll destroy you.  We see it in our interactions…we see it in our conflicts…we see it between individuals, we see it between nations and political leaders.  We blame the other…we demonize…we shout them down…we threaten…we dig up dirt…we do whatever we can to destroy or discredit ANY opponent to get them out the way.

And what’s the motivation? It might be a lot of things but I think the base of it all is fear…fear that we have been given will be taken away…fear that the illusion of power and authority that we hold might crumble…fear that the things we’ve come to rely on will fail and we’ll suffer because of it.

Herod was guilty of this…all because some random guys from the east showed up asking for the one born to be king of the Jews…because if there is one born to be king…then that means Herod’s not…no wonder he reacted with turmoil and fear…lashing out to kill a helpless baby. (pause)

Now here’s the thing…you’ve all heard me say this before…but whatever it is that God is up to through the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus…whatever God is accomplishing by the divine becoming flesh and dwelling among us…it shows all the world that might makes right doesn’t cut it anymore.  God is showing us that there is a new authority…a new definition of power…but to those who hold to the world’s way of thinking…to the illusion of control…that’s a threat…and they’ll do anything to beat that down.

In Jesus God was showing us the new way…a way of humility…of love and humbleness…a way of care for our neighbor…and harmony with one another…and the world…the apparent powers that be…killed him for it.

But if the Christ event taught us anything…its that this tiny baby…would grow up…would continue to show us that that the old way of thinking…the old way of being…the old notions of power and authority can’t win…they might of killed him…but not even death can shut this news up…and three days later he walked out of the tomb…overcoming that which should be the last word.

And that should make us sit up and pay attention.  We don’t have to look very hard to find present day Herod’s…and if we are honest with ourselves, we probably even see him when we look in the mirror…I know I do more often than I care to admit…and maybe, just maybe that’s why we hear this story and we think about the atrocities that he committed and we think “he’s the worst.” Because then we don’t have to feel so bad about ourselves…but those same tendencies are alive and active today. (pause)

But…the promise also remains that somehow God has already overcome those powers…even if it doesn’t seem like it when we turn on the news…see the junk that’s going on…and hear our “authorities” screaming about who’s to blame for it.

The promise remains that in the end…God wins…and no matter how messed up the world might be…and no matter how hard we ourselves crash and burn as we try to live out our lives…the love of God will never be taken from us…and that true power lies in vulnerability…something God showed us by bringing ultimate power into the world in that which is ultimately vulnerable…a tiny baby who’s very birth threatened those the world called powerful.

And that promise…that’s earth shattering…it’s a revelation…and when we hear it…and I mean really hear it…we might even call that an epiphany. Amen.

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:http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/nice-introduction-1-12-14

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