Sermon, Baptism of Jesus, Epiphany 1C, Jan 13th, 2013
God’s Decision for you
Isaiah 43:1-4 and Luke 3:15-22
But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
I was baptised 46 years ago in the Spring, in a small Roman Catholic church in the eastern suburbs of Perth. I had only the word of parents, siblings and one small photo to show for this great event of God.
I spent about 1/3 of my life so far not really understanding knowing or believing anything much about this miraculous intervention of God in my life. No one taught me about it. No one reminded me about it. The gift was on the shelf gathering dust while I was going nowhere with no confidence in God presence or help…
But through everyday people of God in an everyday Lutheran Church, God made the gift come alive again. For this other 2/3rds of my life I have been still fathoming the depths of God’s grace in choosing me to be his own child and freeing me from my inevitable death to life beyond and real life now.
I often wonder what my baptism means now. I often wonder what God is really up to with the life he has given me. He seems to only reveal what he has been doing, what he is doing and what he will do in me and around me one little piece at a time. I suppose that’s why we Christians live by faith that comes from God’s Word, rather than by only what we see within and around us.
Where were you baptised and how do you look upon that event now? Do you see that historical event as a gift of grace or something not too great now? Is your baptism something that happened in your past, or does it still keep happening now? Is your baptism something you often ponder, or something a little old and out of the picture now. Does that simple act that we have often seen performed here have much to do with the adult world of you, in all its complexity?
There is great debate about what Jesus knew about his baptism at the Jordan by the hand of John. But did Jesus know fully that his baptism would signal the beginning of full-on public ministry? Did he know that it would mean huge demands on his personal resources and his time? Did he know that it would re-shape his life up to this point? Did he know that the baptism he received and the public affirmation for all to hear that his Father gave would make his whole life step up several notches in terms of service to people? Did he know that baptism meant responsibility before God and to others and all the demands of living as God’s child in the often demanding, unforgiving, needy and dark world? I am not really sure.
Faith says that Jesus knew plenty and yet he was fully human and immersing himself fully in our humanity. Whether he knew what his baptism meant for him or whether he only had a rough idea, it was what he needed to live his life. His baptism was his beginning, his seal of family membership, his identity as a person of God, his foundation for what lay ahead and it was a wonderful gift from his Father-
“This is my Son, whom I love, Listen to him”.
Baptism is the greatest of gifts.
This gift happened to you. God did it. God has done something miraculous in your life. On that day when God formed you and re-created you he said ‘I have called you my your name – you are mine”, as Isaiah once said.
But is that it? Is your baptism a nice present once received now sitting on the top shelf of your wardrobe gathering dust while you are trying to live for God without it?
Well, not according to this text and the whole bible. Baptism is like a stone you throw into a clear still lake. The ripples go on and on. Baptism is meant to be a gift that we open daily and live out of in all our relationships, struggles, sin, hopes and dreams for the future….
Baptism is a daily event. That is what Luke is tells us here. This first public moment was the beginning and the event that established Jesus’ ministry and his whole identity as God’s Son for those around him. So it is for us. Our baptism established us, identifies us to ourselves and others, and shapes the rest of our lives in one way or another.
Now you and I know plenty of people who have been given this life-shaping gift of grace but haven’t woken up to that fact yet. There are many who have lived the baptised life of faith and love for a while and then forgotten about it. You might be somewhere on that scale right now.
But here’s the thing – it happened and God did it and it is still there because God gives his gift of grace and it stays given!
But what about when we forget and we get distracted and we start to live outside of who God has re-created us to be? What about when we reach for other things that tell us try and tell us who we are and seemingly replace this once past event with newer, more colourful, more “relevant”, more immediate benefits?
There’s only one thing for us when life gets like this – and it may be just like this for you now – remember your baptism.
“Because we have already been baptised, we should keep on drowning the old nature we were born with; everything selfish and sinful in us has to die. This happens when day after day we are sorry for the wrong things we have done and ask God to forgive us. And the new nature God has given us in baptism comes to life day after day. We live as new people, who do what is right and good and live with God forever” (Luther’s Small Catechism – Baptism – 4th Part)
This is only possible because, as St Paul declared,
“When we were baptised we died and were buried with Christ. We were baptised so that we would live a new life as Christ was raised to life by the glory of God the Father” (Romans 6:4).
We do struggle everyday with all that stuff in us that we carry around that cries out to us within – stay focussed on you, live for you, don’t do that for them…. The struggle is real. The old person and the new going hammer and tongues at each other right within us. We are really all a bit like Schmeigel and Golom in JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. We are all a bit two faced – talking to ourselves about what we should do and what we should be.
Friends in the heat of the struggle there is daily hope – it is Jesus the Baptised One. He is your anchor and so is his gift of life once and given and now repeatedly given in the same spirit of love. Baptism is God decision for you despite you! He has called you by your name and your are his.
When you pass through deep water I will be with you and through rivers, they will not suck you under. When you walk through the heat of the fire you shall not be singed and the flame will not burn you up…. because? Because I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
Friend, whatever may come, you will never be good enough, perfect enough, honest enough, powerful enough to live this life the way God intends it to be lived without him and his gift of baptism that goes off everyday with your alarm clock. It is just there and it gets you up and at ‘em. You need it. You need Him. We need each other to help us life in the grace of God in our baptism.
Whatever may challenge you identity, your attention, your faithfulness, God calls out each day as you rise and each night as you lay down to sleep – you are my son, you are my daughter. I love you. You are mine. Live well, sleep well – remember who your are.
Remember your baptism. Remember what the Lord has done for you and teach the children what God has done for them. Remember.