Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Baptism of Our Lord Jan 11 2015

Audio 1.11.2015

Do you remember your baptism? Not many of us do, we belong to this tradition in which we baptize babies, most of us were baptized at weeks or months. Only a few of us were baptized at an age so that the memory is first person rather than by a story told by our parents. Some of us are baptized by desire, we may never have had the water thrown on us as a child, but we've been here enough times that we've made these vows our own.  Today I want you to think about your baptism, the story you may know about your baptism, a story you tell about baptism, think about Jesus' baptism, and our lives beyond. 

We read this passage from Mark on this day to mark a liturgical movement, the Baptism of Jesus. Mark's gospel gives no birth narrative, it begins with, "this is the Good News", and then John is baptizing Jesus in the Jordan. Throughout Advent and Christmas, we have been wondering about incarnation and what that looks like. We've been talking about incarnation and showing up, God shows up for us, we show up for others. 

Well, God shows up in this story, and when Jesus comes up out of the water, the Spirit, like a dove, says to Jesus, You are my son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. Wrapped up in these words of love are the blessings of identity, worth, and unwavering regard. And then in the gospel of Mark, immediately following Jesus baptism, Jesus goes into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan, and then Jesus calls the disciples, and they get to work. This event, Jesus' baptism, isn't incidental to Mark's story about Jesus, it's foundational. It is the foundation of all Jesus does and is. Again and again, as Jesus casts out unclean spirits, heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and welcomes the outcast, he will only do to others what has already been done to him, telling them by word and deed that they too, are beloved children of God with whom God is well pleased. 

And the darkest moment of the story when Jesus feels absolutely abandoned is followed immediately by the story of resurrection, where the messenger testifies that God has kept God's baptismal promise and continues to accept and honor Jesus as God's own beloved Son. So also, at our low moments, we might remember that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is the same one who promised in baptism to never abandon us and to love and accept us always as beloved children, even and especially when we have a hard time loving and accepting ourselves.

Baptism, Jesus' baptism and our own baptism, and the times we remember our baptisms together, are incredibly important. It reminds us that we are loved by the Creator of the Cosmos, and thereby empowers us to love and accept others in turn. Baptism reminds us that wherever we go and whatever we may do or have done to us, God continues to love us, to hold on to us.

Rick and I have a running joke, and I hope you will not take offense to this, about trophy's and awards. We have been through a generation now, our sons are a part of it, where everyone got a trophy. At the end of the season, there was no championship game played, trophies were handed out all around. Every kid got a trophy for participation, but I think every kid knew the difference. They were keeping score on the bench, I think it was us parents who couldn't handle the winning and losing. But somehow when everyone wins, everyone is affirmed as a participant, we mistake affirmation for love. And each one of us, deep down inside, still knows, we don't deserve it. But in our family, we were fortunate to lose. Many of you know our Willie, who played football from the time he was in third grade until his junior year in college. We lived in Texas when Willie was in 3rd through 5th grade. We were involved in a football league that at times seemed a bit too serious for us, the score was kept in those games. From that time forward, Willie never played on a team with a winning record. And some of those losing scores were like 56 to nothing. Sometimes, the score was so skewed and our team was far enough behind to call the game at halftime. Willie would say to the coach, let's just play football. I learned from Willie what it means to persevere, to keep going in the face of desperate odds, not because you'll win, not because everyone gets a trophy at the end, but because of love. He loved that game, and knew it for what it was, a game. 

Baptism isn't about affirmation. Affirmation is about everyone getting the participation award and everyone knowing that it really doesn't mean much. Affirmation is about how many "likes" you get on your facebook post. Affirmation is about how many followers or friends or fans you have on your twitter feed. Now don't get me wrong, affirmation is nice, but it's not sustainable, it has no depth. Baptism is about being knocked down so many times that you don't know if you can get up again and you do because somebody loves you, in Willie's case that may have been his mom and dad, but in baptism, it's the God who creates us, sustains us, and walks with us. 

In baptism you live the reality that you are a beloved child of God, that you are marked as Christ's own forever, and that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that will change that. It is our identity, that is who we are. It is not an affirmation, it is a claim on our lives and our hearts. You, my beloved, are worthy of my life, just as you are.

So what do we do with that? What do we do with God's loving claim on our hearts and our lives? It changes us, it has to change us. What do we do with baptism? In this world where there is violence and tragedy, right in our neighborhoods and around the world, in this world where people we think are important make huge mistakes, in this world where people go to sleep at night hungry and cold; we walk the road of incarnation, death, and resurrection with Jesus. 

We show up, incarnation. 
We don't give up even when it seems like the world thinks we should.
We wake up each day confident that the love that we bear, the love that wins, the claim God has on us, is enough. 

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