Saturday, January 11, 2020

First Sunday of Epiphany Yr A Jan 12, The Baptism of Our Lord

Audio   First Sunday of Epiphany Yr A Jan 12, The Baptism of Our Lord
Isaiah 42:1-9, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:13-17, Psalm 29

Listen to Matthew from Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message. Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected, "I'm the one who needs to be baptized, not you!" But Jesus insisted. "Do it. God's work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism." So John did it. The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and Jesus saw God's Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: "This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life."

In both the passage from Isaiah and the passage from Matthew we hear God’s voice proclaiming you are my chosen, delight of my life. Today, the day that we celebrate Jesus’ baptism we hear these amazing words from God, you are chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.

Some of us spend much of our lives working at pleasing others, especially our parents and our spouse, people we work for, and sometimes even people we don’t even know. Rather than being who we are, we are trying to be someone else. Someone more lovable, someone smarter, someone prettier, someone more athletic. This is reinforced by so much we see and hear today. You will be worth more if you are thinner, or if you change the look of your nose, or cheeks, or lips, or other places, or if you buy a smart phone, or if you buy skinny jeans, or if you …..

Or, the other option is to spend our lives on the other end of that spectrum. We think we should get what we deserve, we are entitled to a good life, nothing should get in our way of the big beautiful house, the fancy car, the perfect children. These stories our culture tells are all about human limitations, and human values. But God is not limited by our worthiness or our worthlessness. God is pleased, before anything else happens, God is pleased, and that is not dependent on anything we do or don’t do. Remember, following this passage in Matthew’s story is Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. God’s pleasure is not even dependent on Jesus’ performance in the wilderness, God’s pleasure just is.

We are loved abundantly and extravagantly, we are chosen and marked by God’s love, we are the delight of God’s life. We enter into that with Jesus in the incarnation, and in the death and in the resurrection. And that is what happens in baptism, because that’s what Jesus accomplishes on the cross and what God accomplishes in the resurrection. We are citizens, heirs, children of the Kingdom, and in this Kingdom we are loved, we are chosen, we are marked, we are the delight of God’s life. We don’t have to change the way we look, we don’t have to be someone we are not, we are priceless.

We are in the midst of celebrating God’s incarnation. I’ve thrown that word around quite a bit lately as if we all know exactly what it means. Incarnation is about God shining God’s clear, bright torch into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations—and the darkness not comprehending it. Incarnation is God, the God of the universe, the God who creates all things, the God who is seen and unseen, that God, taking on flesh, taking on skin, and bones, a brain, a heart. It is incarnation that gives me faith; it is resurrection that gives me hope. Jesus is what it looks like when the Word becomes flesh. Or, if you like, look at Jesus, in the flesh and learn to see the living God.

It is that incarnation, and it is death and resurrection that we enter into at Baptism. It is that incarnation, God in the flesh, the Word walking around on our dirt and in our mud, which makes faith possible. I have faith because God has faith in me; why else would God have given up all power to come into this world as a human being. My baptism, your baptism, acknowledges that reality, and baptism empowers us through the Holy Spirit, to be God’s new creation, to be the Light in the darkness, to be agents of healing and reconciliation in our fragmented and fragile world.

When we enter into this journey through the water with Jesus, we must go home by another way; we hear that from the wise people from the east. When we go home by another way, when we are baptized into the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, when we embark on this path together as pilgrims on the way, our lives begin to be transformed, and there are ways that our lives show forth God’s love and Jesus’ gift. We are people who continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. We are people who persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, we repent and return to the Lord. We are people who proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. We are people who seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are people who strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

That’s a tall order for us. But it’s the road we take. We take it, because we are marked and chosen, and we are the delight of God’s life. It is our response to God’s amazing, extravagant and abundant love, it is our response to God’s pleasure, and it is our ministry.

We acknowledge Jesus’ baptism by John on this day, and it gives us cause to remember our own baptism. Each one of us has been marked as Christ’s own forever. Each of us has an indelible mark on our foreheads, the cross that was traced in oil at our baptism, the cross that is retraced in ashes each lent. The cross that is on our foreheads is much like a tattoo, it is permanent, it’s there for all time. It reminds us who we are and whose we are. It reminds us that we are loved. It reminds us that we are part of something that is wider, broader, deeper, than any one of us, can go. It reminds us that we must travel this other way, this road together.

Jesus’ baptism, our baptism’s mean something. We don’t just dunk and forget. Baptism means that we are the delight of God’s life, that we are loved abundantly and absolutely, that we are chosen and marked, that we are on this road together, and that we are citizens of the Kingdom, the Kingdom that God is creating right here, right now. We have work to do, that is our ministry. Our work is about healing and reconciliation, our work is about mercy and compassion, our work is about making God known in all the dark and dangerous parts of our lives. Our work is about meeting Jesus in each and every person we encounter, our work is about seeing the indelible mark of Christ on the forehead of each and every person we meet.

So today, as we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we will remember and renew our own baptism.

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