the one about doing things backwards...
January 13, 2020, 9:00 AM

Sermon from January 12, 2020
Baptism of Our Lord

Text: Matthew 3:13-17

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior 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, this is always an interesting story within our scriptures. This moment when Jesus is baptized by John the Baptizer. It’s interesting because John asks the very question that I’m sure many of us think when we read this story.

Shouldn’t I be baptized by you? This doesn’t seem like the right way to do things.

Let me tell you a story. As a pastor, I’ve been to a few more ordinations than most people because I tend to have a few more friends who also happen to be pastors. I remember every single one I’ve been to or been a part of, but one ordination service stands out to me. It happened just over four years ago – just a few months after I was called here to be the pastor at Redeemer.

Normally, at the ordinations that I’m a part of, I’m there as a friend of the ordinand or even just as a colleague. Where I’ve struggled with that individual through seminary and classes, or on a very few occasions, I was there to help and guide them through their formation. Yet, this particular one was different. It was for the pastor at Mount Pilgrim Lutheran in Prosperity – Bobby Morris.

What makes this different is that Pastor Bobby was my Hebrew professor in seminary. He is the one who helped teach me – and many others – the distinct cadence of the Hebrew written language. He helped me and others discover the beauty in the literalness of that language. For example, ‘yad’ means left and the sea. Because, as the legend goes, as the Hebrew people walked to the promised land, the sea was on their left.

Pastor Bobby was my professor, yet I was there at his ordination. I laid my hands upon him during that holy moment of an ordination where all clergy present are invited to give their blessing as they welcome this new sister or brother into this odd and wondrous call of leader.

I remember telling Pastor Bobby after the service that I think we did things backwards. Because he was my professor, he should be the one laying his hands on me in that moment – because he helped form and shape me. We both chuckled at the oddness of that moment we shared and thought that maybe perhaps it was one of the few times that has really ever happened.

It was different. It felt a little strange.

But, as I read this text from Matthew’s Gospel, it makes me think of that moment all over again. John too knew that there was something odd about this moment. It seemed backwards. The optics of this moment would make it seem like John was more ‘powerful’ than Jesus. Yet, he relents in his misgivings when Jesus responds that we must do this in order to fulfill all righteousness.

Jesus desired to be baptized. Yet, what we know of Jesus he couldn’t have approached it the same way that we do. At least, not completely. We see baptism as the moment when we are cleansed of our sin. We are washed and welcomed into God’s family as children.

Yet, Jesus was already God’s son and he didn’t need any cleansing of his sins. Hard for the Son of God – the Word of God made flesh – Godself – to be sinful.

But, Jesus still insists on being baptized. And I’m wondering if it has more to do with the second part of baptism. That we are washed and welcomed into the community and family of God.

Jesus begins his earthly ministry in this moment, and he is baptized. Perhaps it is here that he desires to be baptized to be a part of something with us. To be in this with us. After rising from the waters of the Jordan River, Jesus proceeds to call us into new life and faith as one of us.

He too, is flesh and blood.

He too, is baptized.

He too, is one of us.

Last Sunday we had the joy of welcoming Palmer Grace Kopp into not only this community of faith, but welcoming her into the family of God. It’s done. She’s a part of this. She’s a part of us. She is one of us because she has splashed in those same waters of baptism that we have.

Baptism is done in community. It isn’t a solo act. You need another person there to welcome you into this group that is open for all. She is joined into the same community and family that Jesus has been baptized into. She is one of us, just as Jesus is one of us.

Our God has come down to be with us. Our Lord has washed in the waters of welcome and community. Our Christ begins his ministry where we do.

In water. In the knowledge that he is good enough already. Our lives of faith begin in those waters, and in the knowledge that we are good enough already.

How could Jesus do what he did, be who he was meant to be, if he were not one of us? How could we possibly look to him as not only our Savior but also our model for how to live faithfully in this world if he did not do what we do, including participate in our rituals? It wasn’t that Jesus needed baptism to wash away his sins, but he chose to be baptized so to fully embrace his own humanity, to share in the human journey with us, to be part of our family. This is what baptism does. It brings us into the family of Jesus and gives us a place of belonging.

Jesus enters into this rite of the faith, not to be washed, but to be a part of us. To show us not only who God is, but who we are to God. That we are in this together. We are in this community and fellowship with one another. In this baptism, Jesus is stating I’m here with you – all of you. I’m not special in the sense that I don’t have to do all the things you do. I am washed and welcomed.

Jesus’ ministry begins in welcome. Being welcomed into the community and family of God’s children, but also being welcomed into the ministry that is laid before him. Jesus begins in these waters. It is from this moment, through these waters, that he’ll begin to gather those around him. Not only his disciples, but followers, friends, helpers, listeners, and more.

He’ll gather and welcome those many would never (and still don’t) expect or respect. He’ll have conversations with those on the outside, he’ll proclaim forgiveness to those others wouldn’t dare go near.

His ministry begins here in these waters.

That call of faith and welcome also begins with us in the waters of baptism. Our ministry begins there too. We too, from these waters, are sent out in God’s love to welcome, forgive, and love those around us. It is through those waters that we know we belong to something far bigger and grander than we could ever imagine. And, beginning within those waters, we get to tell everyone that they are a part of it too because they are already good enough.

You know, that was an odd moment in that ordination a few years ago. Yet, even as I talked to Pastor Bobby about it, he said something pretty important to me, that has sat with me since then. When I mentioned that oddness of a student laying hands on a teacher in a moment of blessing during their ordination service, he said this, “You know it might’ve been a bit backwards, not something we’re used to seeing. But, regardless – thanks for being a part of welcoming into this.”

In baptism we are welcomed.

In baptism, Jesus is welcomed into our life.

In these waters, we are sent to welcome all. Jesus is there with us, too. He started in the waters as well. Amen.


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