January 9, 2018
“Remembering Our Baptism” ~ Sermon for January 7, 2018
Our new year starts with Jesus’ first recorded day of adult ministry.
He has traveled from his home in Nazareth to the banks of the Jordan River where his cousin John the Baptist has been preaching repentance for sins and baptizing with water.
We heard the beginning of this passage during Advent, as we anticipated the coming of the Savior.
Today we hear the additional passage of Jesus’ baptism and declaration as the one in whom God is well pleased.
Hear now a reading from the gospel according to Mark: 1:4-11.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
God of heaven and earth, we gather in the name of Jesus to hear your holy Word and to be immersed in your Spirit.
Speak to us with grace and truth and pour out your love upon us so that this temple may resound with joyful shouts of glory.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
The psalmist tells us The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
This is the voice that tears apart the heavens to proclaim to Jesus: You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.
Imagine the power of hearing those words.
This moment of baptism for Jesus is an important turning point in his life.
It marks the start of his public ministry, but also tells us a lot more about Jesus than we may realize at first.
John’s baptism was about confession of sin and receiving forgiveness.
Since Jesus was without sin, he had no need of John’s baptism – which explains John’s shock when Jesus arrived at the river.
There are several theories about Jesus’ participation in John’s baptism ritual.
One is that Jesus chose to be baptized because he wanted us to know that he stands with us in our brokenness and sinfulness.
He did not keep himself separate from us because we failed to meet his standards of holiness.
Rather, he jumped right into the mess of our lives.
Another theory, promoted by Franciscan Monk Richard Rohr resonates with me.
Rohr argues that we were created in the image of God and that our family of origin is divine.
He says “We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. Our core is original blessing, not original sin. Our starting point for life is that God saw us as ‘very good.”
Jesus’ baptism marked the moment in time when triune love would permeate our beings.
Jesus began by becoming one of us, and then he began to create a new community by inviting us into a different way of thinking, speaking, and being.
This means that Jesus’ baptism was not just an event that happened to Jesus a long time ago.
Jesus’ baptism is an invitation that continues to beckon us today – to belong to a God-created, God-called community.
When we choose to accept this invitation, we discover that we, like Jesus, become those who are called to stand alongside the broken and hurting, the sinful and wayward people of our world.
We also realize that we are divinely made and that just as God’s love has the power to transform us, our love has the power to transform others.
We are called to invite our neighbors and friends, through our acts and words of grace, love, justice and challenge, to become part of God’s new community – to make all things new.
In my Pastor’s Page for January, I outlined some of the spiritual practices that we might adopt to create a sense of newness or renewal in this new year.
I reiterate them for you now, in case you are among the 50% of newsletter recipients who don’t open their email or simply because the standard marketing adage is that a person must hear something seven times before it registers.
- Prayer, particularly meditative or contemplative prayer, gives us the opportunity to meet God in silence.
When we quiet our minds and our environment we create the conditions for hearing God’s voice in our lives.
Jesus modeled this behavior repeatedly during his ministry.
He often left the crowds to pray.
- Worship presents the opportunity to pray in community.
We gather to give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives and to support one another when life’s challenges are great.
In worship we are reminded that our relationship with God requires effort on our part.
- Spiritual Reading is for me a particularly effective way to contemplate my relationship with God.
Often, other people’s words give voice to my own experience and I am able to see more clearly how God is working in my life.
- Bible Study is an opportunity to hear the Word of God, to meditate on it’s meaning in our lives and to discern what God might be calling us to do in this moment in time. Sharing insights with one another gives each of us a greater understanding of our own sense of call.
- Participating in the life of the church may not always seem like a spiritual practice, however, when you share your gifts and talents for the well-being of the faith community you are serving God. Whether you are feeding a hungry neighbor, singing in the choir or facilitating a committee meeting, each action, when conducted with love glorifies God.
Let this year be a turning point for you.
Just as Jesus jumped into the Jordan and allowed hisself to become part of a movement, let your guard down a bit and step into the fray of life.
Don’t sit on the sidelines and complain about the government, society or the church.
Work for justice. Work for peace.
Work to make this church an image of the divine Creator, spreading love in thought, word and deed.
Henri Nouwen gifted us with these words:
A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour,
yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity
to make everything new… Imagine that we could live each day
as a day full of promises. Imagine that we could walk through
the year always listening to a voice saying
to us: ‘I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it!’
Let us pray.
Gracious, loving, creator God we thank you for the opportunities you provide to renew our faith and our lives.
Grant us the grace, we pray, to understand the many ways that transformation is available to us.
Help us to open our hearts and our minds to see the wonder of your creation in our neighbor’s face.
Let our baptism into Christ transform us. Let us live as the loving beings you created.
O God, anger and hate have seeped into the cracks in our world. Help us find a way to mend the earth and to minister tenderly to those who live here. Remind us that we were created out of love, and for love.
We have been nourished at your table and we now ready ourselves to spread the Good News of your love throughout the world.
Hear now our prayers for those we hold close to our hearts.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For those who have forgotten their baptism we pray that your Holy Spirit might renew their faith.
We pray this day for the people of this world who are caught in webs of addiction, mental illness, anger and violence. Free them, O God and let them know the wonder of your presence.
Hear us now as we turn our hearts to you in the sacred stillness of this Meetinghouse….
Jesus taught them to pray together in these words…Our Father