The Baptism of Our Lord; Year C (1/10/2015)

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, 22and 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.”

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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.

 

I Am Your Father… You Are My Son

We couldn’t wait: my family and I went to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” a few days after it opened in theaters. We weren’t quite fanatic enough to hit the midnight showing on the first day, but we were among those who saw it in the first week. Hundreds of thousands, evidently. They took in $686.4 million worth of receipts through New Year’s Day, and this  movie is on track to be one of the most profitable movies ever filmed.

vadorWe watched a few of the earlier episodes to get excited for the event. And so this week, as I’ve been preparing for this coming Sunday’s sermon, I have had in the back of my mind that moment during “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” when the deep resonant tones of James Earl Jones, the voice for Darth Vader, called to Luke Skywalker, saying, “I am your father.” It was an announcement that altered the course of the story, and one that has been remembered and repeated countless times.

I don’t know what sort of voice called down from the heavens in the 22nd verse of this Sunday’s Gospel lesson, but there is a part of me that wants to believe it sounded like James Earl Jones. St. Luke tells us that when John baptized Jesus the heavens opened up, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and a voice called out: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

It too is an announcement that alters the course of the story. It is a sign to everyone that Jesus is no ordinary rabbi. He is not simply an encourager of faith and a teacher of wisdom. He is the very son of God, living among us, and inviting us into the presence and power and promise of God.

This past Thursday was a festival day in the church year: The Epiphany of Our Lord. And this coming Sunday is the first of five Sundays after the Epiphany. During this “in between” time of the church year (in between the Christmas season and Lent), we will focus on epiphany — a Greek word that, translated into English, means “to shed light upon.” It is a time when the church focuses on scripture passages that “shed light upon” how God becomes present to us through Jesus Christ.

And so we begin with his baptism. As the people from all over the land go out to listen to John’s preaching and be baptized by him, Jesus goes with them. For them, it is a chance to repent of their sins, and receive the promise of forgiveness. John thrusts them under the water putting their sinful selves to death, and raising them up into new life. For Jesus, it is a chance to hear these powerful words from God: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In Jesus, it is the pleasure of God to forgive us, renew us, and give us the promise of new life. This is what Jesus’ baptism reveals to us. May we hold this promise close to our hearts.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why do people go out to hear the preaching of St. John, the Baptizer?
  2. What does it mean for them to be “filled with expectation?”
  3. How does John’s ministry prepare the people for the coming of Jesus?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does the gift of baptism mean to me?
  2. How does the promise I have in Christ affect my life?
  3. As I have read the Bible, what has been revealed to me about God?