In pm's words
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January 9, 2017, 12:00 AM

the one about baptism...


Sermon from January 8, 2017

Text: Matthew 3: 13-17

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, as we journey further from the Bethlehem story of our faith – the birth of our Lord – we enter a new season in the church; the season of Epiphany. As I think about this season – which is more than just the ‘buffer’ before Lent, I sometimes like to think of it as the season of ‘Hey, God’s here!’

You see, Epiphany in its most basic definition is ‘being made known.’ And, we begin this first Sunday after the Epiphany as witnesses to a moment in our Lord’s life where again we hear, “Hey, God’s here!” Of course, the moment we look in on is a little weird for us to hear. For this Sunday, we are witness to the baptism of our Lord.

It’s peculiar to look in on this moment because of what we know of baptism. It is for the forgiveness of sin, makes us clean, washes us before the eyes of God, where our faith is poured into us. So, if that’s what baptism is for us – why is Jesus – the Word of God made flesh – being baptized?

That is a question that many throughout the history of this life of faith have asked – we aren’t the only ones. Church historians, brilliant theological minds, and even the precocious young Sunday School student have all puzzled over this moment in Jesus’ life.

John the baptizer understands the awkwardness of this moment. He even states it pretty explicitly within this part of Matthew’s Gospel. Yet, even as Jesus hears his concerns, he is firm in his desire. We need to do this. We are supposed to go through with this. It is to fulfill righteousness – all of it. It is what God wants. Hey, God’s here!

But, yet… even that answer doesn’t seem altogether ‘complete’ for us. An answer like that basically says – just accept it y’all. For many, that’s hard to take. For me it’s difficult to live into as well. When I hear ‘just accept it,’ it can make me very skeptical and suspicious.

So, I’m not sure that is the most ‘sufficient’ answer for us to seek. Or at least, we don’t have to stop at that answer. So, we dive deeper.

The baptism of Jesus also marks the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It all begins in this moment. From here, Jesus will wander in temptation through the wilderness, he’ll call and gather his disciples. He’ll perform miracles, he’ll participate in conversations and sermons – continually pointing to the one who sent him and whom he points towards.

In this, his baptismal moment, Jesus begins the journey to the cross. The journey to death. The journey to resurrected life. A journey of life that is lived, died, and resurrected for us.

In this baptism, Jesus lives fully into what God has done in him. A few weeks ago, we celebrated the birth of our Lord. We proclaimed in thanksgiving and joy about the Word made flesh; about God coming down to be with and among us.

Jesus goes so far in this to be baptized with us. It is here that Jesus joins with all of humanity. Here Jesus states – emphatically – that not only have I, God’s son, come down from on high in my birth but, I also live this life with, like, and for you. I too am baptized. Living the life that each of you will live as well.

Wading into the same waters that we wade through. Jesus takes that on, Jesus walks and splashes with us. He is not an ‘imposter,’ a ‘charlatan’ who only speaks words that sound good to our ears and placates our fears. Jesus walks fully into the life that he proclaims, calling us to follow him. For we know that he too has lived this life as well.

As we get to the end of this short, yet powerful moment from Matthew’s Gospel, we get to hear the voice of God. Though, it is interesting that God’s words aren’t directed at Jesus even though the heavens and the descending spirit appear to be only visible to him. Because of how verse 16 ends, you’d think that God would say, “You are my son.” Yet, God states that ‘this is my son – the beloved.’

God is speaking to someone else. God – my brothers and sisters – appears to speak to each of us.

During this season of Epiphany, we continually look to see where God is being made known. Where God looks to us and says, “Hey, I’m right here.”

God is speaking to us – to you and to me – in these words of Matthew’s gospel. This is my son. The one I love. I am greatly pleased.

God speaks to us and says – ‘yep, I’m right there.’ I was baptized – just as you are baptized. I was sent – just as you are sent. I was called into this life – just as you are called into this life.

In this, God is saying to us that Jesus is here. God is here. For us.

When we are baptized, we are wiped clean. We are forgiven of our sins. Washed and welcomed into this family of God.

One of my favorite depictions of baptism occurs in the movie O Brother Where Art Though where one of the escaped prisoners – Delmar – hears singing and sees many individuals coming down to the river to be baptized by the preacher man in the water. He too feels that call and leaps into the waters to be baptized. Later in the car with his friends he says, “I been redeemed. The preacher said so. All my sins and wrongdoings has been wiped away, including robbing that Piggly-Wiggly.” His friend replies, “Uh Delmar, I thought you said you was innocent of those charges.” “Well, I lied, but I been forgiven of that too!”

Jesus enters with us into this life. Joining with us in spite of our sinful nature. Jesus has not been baptized to wipe away some ill-doing in the past or to come in the future. That’s why we are baptized. Washed clean before the eyes of God. Where we are washed, and adopted into this family and community with Christ at the head of the table.

In Jesus’ baptism, he joins himself to humanity and our checkered past. All of it. The violence, the greed, the loathing, the little lies, the big swindles, everything. In baptism – Jesus joins himself to all the world. He is without the need to repent, but still takes on our stain and is willing to be associated with us rather than remain ‘pure.’

Jesus does that – Jesus does all of that – all of this – out of the love that God has had for all the world. As God came down to be with us, Jesus joins with us in baptism. Aligning himself with us. Not just to say, “See, I’m here too.” But, to live this life fully and completely with and for us.

Where in baptism we too are called into life with Christ. Joining ourselves with God to live the life that has been set before us.

Doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult. Doesn’t mean we won’t mess up. Doesn’t mean we will always be ‘right.’ But, in that abundant life of water and forgiveness we are continually called to live into the life poured over us. A life that God joined in with us through Jesus’ own baptism.

A life that we get to walk together – not only with one another, but with God as well.

Amen.

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