January 8, 2017 – Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord   January 8, 2016   Psalm 29, Isaiah 42:1-9, Matthew 3:1-12, 13-17      To fulfill all righteousness ******************************************************* John the Baptist protests mightily when Jesus comes to him to be baptized, saying, “I need to be  baptized by you – what can you be thinking of, coming to me?” John somehow understands – Jesus is the one he’s been expecting. The one who comes after him, whose dirty sandals he, John, is not worthy to carry. The one who baptizes, not with water, as John does, but with the Holy Spirit and fire. We call this day Baptism of the Lord Sunday – but – the more time I spend here at the water’s edge, the more I believe… Baptism isn’t the main thing at all – even for John, the Baptizer. Baptism is important for John and for Jesus, to be sure – but only as a sign that we who are baptized are serious about hearing the main message – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Repentance is an ancient and very familiar message in John’s time, one all the prophets of Israel have preached… Repentance, meaning turning and re-turning to God – till we are living entirely in harmony with God’s word – doing God’s commandments – living by God’s teaching… An old and familiar message for Israel…. Except that it’s been a long time since a full-fledged indisputably prophetic prophet’s been on the scene preaching this message with power and conviction. Malachi, the last prophet in the bible before the New Testament, came more than 400 years before Christ and John the Baptist. It’s been quite awhile since anyone preached like John. And most all the prophets warned, like John, of dire judgement on those who fail to repent. But few if any put so much emphasis on the nearness of God’s kingdom as John does. None name the kingdom of God as close at hand, the way John does. Other prophets say “in days to come,” or “on the day of the Lord it shall be…” Only John says “the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” A message we’ll soon hear Jesus preaching – in exactly these same words – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near…” *** John the Baptist, of course, is a major figure in the New Testament. He or his followers are mentioned at least seven times in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus says no greater man of God has walked the earth then John. (Though he also says the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. Something to ponder at length, but…)There’s no evading John’s importance in the gospels. Especially since John and Jesus start out together here in the waters of the Jordan River – John laying hands on Jesus in the waters – John and Jesus so very close together, bodily and in their common message at first… that we surely expect they’ll be together all the way, in long-term partnership… Yet a little further on in the story, John seems to be not-so-very-sure of who Jesus is… As we read on into Matthew chapter 11, we find John, now in prison, having second thoughts about Jesus. John, in jail for delivering a prophetic warning to King Herod, sends...

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January 11, 2015 – Water washed – Spirit sealed

Genesis 1:1-5 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Acts 19:1-7 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them. Mark 1:1-11 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” *** Baptism of the Lord   January 11, 2015   Psalm 29, Genesis 1:1-5, Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1;1-11          Water-washed, Spirit-sealed ******** Sometimes in church we sprinkle with water on this Baptism of the Lord day, and the pastor will say, “Remember your baptism and be thankful.” I don’t think I’ve said that yet – mostly because when someone says that to me, I start thinking – ‘Wait a minute. I was four months old when I was baptized… Do you really think I can remember that?’ But…even though I don’t remember anything consciously about my baptism, the more I remember the job description of being a baptized...

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