January 10, 2016 – Beloved

Baptism of the Lord   January 10, 2016   Psalm 29, Genesis 1:1-2, Acts 2:37-42, Luke 3:1-18, 21-22   Beloved ***************************************************************** Our daughter Rohi has some odd expressions she likes to say – and one of the oddest is the way she likes to tell me, “Oh daddy, you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.” While my mother was still alive, Rohi liked to call her up and say, “Granny, your beloved son would like to talk with you.” And my mother, God bless her, would say “you are indeed my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased…” Which is kind of pleasing to hear. Yet also pretty weird. These words are wildly excessive. I really don’t see myself as much like Jesus – who is, of course, uniquely the Son of God… The one with whom God is always well pleased. And just as I still struggle to understand all the parts of my life story – I also struggle to connect all the parts of this story of the baptism of our Lord. All the gospels tell the story of John the Baptist and Jesus, but (in my opinion) none quite as well, or in as much loving detail as St Luke – who introduces us, first, to the parents of John and Jesus – then to infants John and Jesus in their mother’s wombs (telling us, by the way, Elizabeth and Mary, John and Jesus are all related) – then letting us listen to beautiful prophetic poetry from Mary, mother of Jesus, and Zechariah, father of John, foretelling what the adult lives of their sons will be about… And all this just in chapter one of Luke’s gospel. St Luke, who is an excellent journalist, also tells us who is in power at the time in government and in the religious community, as he prepares us to see Jesus as true king of the universe… in sharp contrast with all who hold power in the Empires of the day… then and now. Now about thirty years have passed since the births of John and Jesus. Now here’s John, reintroduced as son of Zechariah (remember the elderly priest we met in chapter one who couldn’t quite believe the angel Gabriel’s words.) John is doing now just as the angel and his father predicted – preparing the way for the Messiah in fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah. (Prepare the way of the Lord… And all people will see the salvation of our God… ) John preaches forgiveness of sins through baptism unto repentance, meaning turning, changing direction… A type of preaching familiar to the Jewish people, much as revival preaching was familiar to the early Methodists. John Wesley famously often used John the Baptist’s stock phrase “flee the wrath to come…” to coax the complacent to come to Jesus… (Though I think Wesley usually stopped short of calling his parishioners a ‘brood of vipers…’) And revival preaching is still a popular mode of preaching in many parts of the church today. Some people enjoy revivals. Some are reached with the gospel through strongly worded sermons that cut to the heart and challenge us to discipleship… I didn’t grow up in church, and revival preaching is usually not the kind of preaching I’m most...

read more

January 12, 2014 – Baptism of Christ/Epiphany 2 – Cataumet UMC

Isaiah 42: 1-9, Acts 10: 34-43, Matthew 3: 13-17 “Bruised Reeds” – January 12, 2014 As always I agonized over my sermon or rather which direction I should go in. Should I use the scripture reading from Isaiah or the reading from Matthew? Reading them both several times it occurred to me, that they work together as a whole. In Matthew, Jesus is baptized, in Isaiah, the newly baptized Jesus is presented with the work or ministry which lies ahead of him. I must confess my reading of Matthew left me confused.Why did Jesus wish to be baptized? Surely he being the son of God must be sinless, what did he have to wash away? He was baptized by John, who was equally puzzled and felt unworthy to baptize the man who would be his savior. What I found was Jesus did not want special treatment, in fact he was baptized with many others. What makes this significant is that Jesus was willing to stand with sinners, and be baptized. I doubt it was lost on Jesus that along with the baptism, he would very shortly become a part of these peoples lives in a way they could not imagine. Jesus even in these earliest days was making humility and respect corner stones of his ministry. Jesus was making another statement with his baptism, “This is important.” Jesus says these words to John, “I need to be baptized by you for it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness.” While ideas about baptism can be different and the urgency to be baptized has been diminished, Jesus wanted us to see how we are joined together by baptism. Whether Protestant or Catholic, with baptism we join in a sea of Christianity, that allows us to share and exchange those beliefs and faith that makes us Christians. As a former Catholic, baptism was a sacrament not to be trifled with. Babies who passed away before being baptized went to limbo, limbo is no longer part of the church doctrine, falling out of favor with current church teachings. What I have for you today is my baptismal certificate. Reading it, makes it clear how important baptism was seen. I was born March 13th and baptized just 13 days later! Mom and Dad I suspect wanted to make sure my spiritual underpinnings were secure. Baptism is one of those singular events in our lives that joins us with our fellow Christians. We may take a different spiritual path from our family, neighbors and friends, but we will always share the water poured over our foreheads, as we became part of the family of Christ. Perhaps baptism is a ticket with no specific route, only a destination, a ticket with no expiration date, the fine print says only, to be used in time of joy, hardship, or sorrow. The ticket could be purchased wherever there is water and the love of God. The price is found in the eyes and love of our parents and all those who contribute to our spiral life. Baptism, first sends us on our own spiritual journey, but ultimately joins us with all our fellow pilgrims. What we have in Isaiah is a job description, it is Jesus’ job description. The trajectory of the life that will be...

read more