The Baptism of Our Lord; Year C (1/9/2010)

Salvation Is Proclaimed

Lessons:      Isaiah 43:1-7      Psalm 29      Acts 8:14-17      St. Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Prayer of the Day:      Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit and revealed him as your beloved Son. Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service, that we may rejoice to be called children of God, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” [18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19 But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added to them all by shutting up John in prison.] 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  


St. Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

There are very few symbols that stand as close to the heart of our faith as Baptism does. A helpless young baby is handed to the Pastor, who holds the child over a font. Water moves. Words are spoken. Perhaps the baby cries, or sleeps, or looks around in wonder… and a life is changed forever. Years before a child will ever understand what has taken place, God’s claim is laid on this one’s heart. God takes the first step in the long journey that becomes a life of faith. Grace is shared. Forgiveness is promised. Salvation is proclaimed. There are indeed very few symbols that stand as close to the heart of our faith as Baptism.

On this coming Sunday, the first Sunday in the mid-winter season called Epiphany, it is our tradition to turn our attention to the baptism of Jesus. From a visual perspective, there isn’t much that it has in common with baptisms we experience today. Jesus walks out into the heavy waters of the river Jordan with John, his cousin. John takes Jesus by the head, forces him under, raises him up again, and looks on with wonder as the Spirit bursts from the clouds, and the voice of God booms across the waters: You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. The Spirit moves, God speaks, and the world is forever changed. Immanuel has arrived. Salvation is at hand. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is about to begin his public ministry.

The baptism of Jesus (along with the descent of the Spirit, the proclamation of God, and the witness of John) is a sign to the people of his day – a sign that something extraordinary is having its beginning among them. Despite centuries of speculation, the church has never been able to agree on a reason that Jesus needed to be baptized. God simply desires to become one of us – fully and completely one of us. And so when the people of that day go out to hear the fiery preacher in the wilderness, Jesus goes with them. When they become convinced of their sin, and request the waters of John’s baptism as a sign of their new intent in life, Jesus goes with them. When John thrusts their heads into the current, and hauls them up into a new life, Jesus goes with them – fully and completely one of us.

Yet different. God’s Son. The One whom God loves. The One who pleases God. And as God’s Son, One whose life and death and resurrection and ascension will give baptism an entirely new meaning. No longer does baptism signify our brokenness, and our hope to turn back towards God. Now baptism is a symbol of nothing less than the death and resurrection of Jesus. In baptism, we are joined to his death. In baptism we are promised his resurrection. The One who becomes one of us – fully and completely one of us – now promises that we will become one with God – fully and completely one with God – in a resurrection from the death that we experience.

There are very few symbols that stand as close to the heart of our faith as Baptism does. In the waters of baptism, God’s claim is laid on our hearts. God takes the first step in the long journey that becomes a life of faith. Grace is shared. Forgiveness is promised. Salvation is proclaimed.

May the baptism of Jesus be a sign for us of the depths of God’s love, expressed in a sacred desire to become fully one of us.  May the waters of our own baptisms become a sign of the grace that we have received, and the call that God extends for us to be witnesses to that grace in our world.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor        

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What images do I carry of Jesus’ baptism?
  2. What did God’s announcement on that day mean?
  3. How is John’s “Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” different from being baptized “into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I know about the day of my baptism?
  2. What promises have I received from God in the waters of my baptism?
  3. What responsibilities have I accepted in becoming a baptized member of God's family?