Baptism of Our Lord
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
January 10, 2021
The text for our consideration today are these words from the Gospel of Mark – "You are my Son, the beloved. With you I am well-pleased.”
In the Old Testament reading in Genesis we heard the very familiar words – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But if we take a closer look – we will see something very interesting -- “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” There is something mysterious and ominous about that phrase – a formless void with darkness covering the face of the deep, don’t you think?
And we go on to read that God spoke into that dark void – what some have termed primordial chaos – God spoke a word, and behold, light appeared – and God separated the light from the dark and the light he named Day and the dark he named Night.
And then he looked at the Day and the Night, and saw that it was good. And the creation account continues day upon day – God spoke, it came into being, and God saw that it was good. God spoke a Word and things changed forever.
And, we have just concluded the Christmas Season where we have celebrated the Incarnation of God in Jesus – God made flesh, God with us, Emmanuel. God’s very Word right here among us. As the Gospel of John tells us, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Words. We all know the importance of words. In recent days, haven’t we seen the truth of this. Words are vitally important to each of us. And sometimes the word spoken can change things forever.
“It’s a girl.”
“I’m sorry, there’s nothing else we can do.”
“I love you.”
And in our Gospel reading today, we hear once again the Word of God. Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, came to the Jordan River to be baptized by his cousin John who was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus – who had nothing to repent of – stood with the crowd – people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people from Jerusalem – who knew full well their need for forgiveness.
He stood with liars, thieves, prostitutes, the ungodly. He stood with men and women and children and the aged. He stood with the able-bodied and the infirm. He stood with humanity in an act of humility.
You see, Jesus didn’t need to be baptized. Rather, we needed to see him fully being one of us. The Word of God Incarnate standing in the Jordan River being dunked by John.
And then, when Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens “torn apart!” – remember that phrase – we’re going to hear it again on Good Friday as the curtain in the temple separating God from humans is “torn apart.” And then Jesus hear a voice sounding out, “YOU are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
God spoke and things were changed forever. We might wonder why God said that. Well, Jesus was fully one of us. Jesus was human. God spoke these words to Jesus because Jesus needed to hear them. In the same way that he needed food and drink for his body, laughter for his soul, he needed encouragement and affirmation for the ministry before him. And he needed it from his Father who sent him to us, for us, with us.
“You are my child, the Beloved.”
Jesus was loved by God before he had started any of his public ministry. God was well-pleased with Jesus before he had done any miracles or healings or delivered any sermons.
Jesus’ beloved-ness was proclaimed by God in Jesus’ baptism. Jesus’ beloved-ness – and ours – is based upon God’s spoken word: You are my child. There is not one thing that we can do to make God love us less than God does right now. And there is not one thing that we can do to make God love us more than God does right now.
Now there are three things that I want you to remember about today. The first is that our baptisms don't have anything to do with anything we have done or will do for God. Baptism is all about what God is doing for us. In our baptism, God blesses us and claims us as his children before we ever do anything. We are blessed, and nothing can ever change that fact, no matter how badly we screw up. We are beloved of God, and we are marked and sealed with the sign of the cross as Christ's own forever. It is like starting out the semester with straight A's in school, before we even take our first class. When we are baptized, God claims us, just a surely as God claimed to Jesus in the Jordan River. In our baptisms, we are adopted as children of God.
The second thing we need to remember is that through us, Christ's love for the world is made known. That is what Epiphany means: making God's love for the world known by making Christ known in the world. As important as our baptisms are for our own personal journey with God, we should never lose sight of the fact that we are called to proclaim the love of God through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit empowers us all, so that we become part of God's continued revealing of Christ to the world. The world comes to know Christ through us, and through the love that we share as members of the Body of Christ.
The third thing to remember is that our baptism is the lens through which we live in relationship with God and with each other. At every funeral there is a lit candle, the same candle placed in front of the baptismal font in our sanctuary. It's the candle we light at Easter and burn for 50 days afterwards. It's the candle we light at every baptism, and again whenever a baptized person dies. It's the candle that represents that we are baptized children of God, who have been marked as Christ's own forever. We believe our baptisms mean something because in them God has acted.
You see, our baptisms change how we engage the world. No longer do we have to worry about how we are measured and evaluated; God has already adopted us and taken us as his own. No longer do we have to compete with our neighbors for some small advantage; by God's abundance, there will always be more than enough love for us all. No longer do we need to worry about approval or affirmation for being smart, or pretty, or rich, or anything.
In our baptism, we engage in the world walking wet – blessed, beloved, forgiven and sent. And can we not see how desperately the world needs to hear God say, “You are my beloved!” As the beloved children of God we live each day in this world of God’s creating – this world broken by sin. This world redeemed in the life and death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
In baptism, God has adopted us as God’s own. In it, God's spirit moves over the water, descends on us, and lives within us forever. Through it, we too can hear God speak a blessing as God says, "you are my child, my beloved; in you I am well pleased."
God has spoken and things are changed forever.
Thanks be to God.