Today is the celebration (feast) of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus.
We do have a common theme in our scriptures: water, Water, WATER.
Baptism pre-dates Jesus’ ministry, for John (the Baptizer) was performing baptisms in the Jordon River before Jesus’ baptism and public ministry.
Baptism is a ritual washing for ‘purification’.
Our Isaiah (43) scripture reads ‘when you pass through the waters’. It reminds me that items, especially spoils of war collected, had to be purified.
- The item was to be passed through and refined in fire.
- If the item could not survive the fire, you passed it through water.
- If the item could not survive the water, it was set outside the wall/gate of the city
for an extended period of time in order that it might be purified by the sun and earth.
I don’t know about you, but I do not think human beings survive ‘passing’ through the fire well, so we are passed through the waters.
Our Psalm (29) is a beautify description of the power in God’s voice manifested in nature:
Lighting, thunder, shaking (earthquake level).
This display is a Theophany, which is a manifestation of a God/Goddess. In Christianity it is the manifestation of God, but particularly as the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), which we witness in our Gospel (Luke 3) of Jesus’ baptism.
The epiphany today, in this season of epiphanies, may be Jesus’ alone. After Jesus is passed through the waters and baptized in the Jordon River, he prays. While praying, the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and he hears God’s voice say:
“You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well-pleased”.
In Acts (8), we have a community in Samaria (the Samaritans) who have accepted Jesus as their Christ (Messiah). They had been baptized in the name of Jesus alone and not in the name of the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Therefore, these Samaritans had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, went and prayed with these Samaritans, who then received the Holy Spirit.
This is big! Samaritans were not the uncircumcised pork-eating pagans I discussed last week, BUT were the ‘bastard step-children’ of ancient Israel. So, again not necessarily the people expected to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
All our scriptures have water, but also remind me that the ordinary, for example water, can become extra-ordinary.
God is always present in all times, all places, and all spaces, but we are not always able to ‘access’ or ‘feel’ that presence. However, we have been promised to always access the presence of God at certain times, for Lutherans we call these the ‘means of grace’, or more formally the sacraments.
Lutherans have two official sacraments:
- God promises to always make God’s presence known in the waters of Baptism.
- God promises to always make God’s presence known in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
Although we only have the two official sacraments, we have a third honorary that Luther REALLY wanted to include… and it is Confession and Absolution of Sin. Luther believed God’s very presence was within that word of forgiveness heard.
We (like water, bread, and wine) are ordinary.
We are ordinary people, but we have been made the beloved children of God through the baptism, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
We continue to be made, shaped, and formed into the beloved children of God through the ordinary means of water, bread, and wine that become the extra-ordinary means of God’s grace… tangible, touchable, and edible.
Now, as ordinary people who have been shaped, formed, and transformed into the beloved children of God… it is our responsibility to live into and to act like the beloved children of God.
How do we do that?
We do it by living into and living out the promises we made in the waters of baptism and/or accepted as our own at our affirmation of baptism (confirmation). It is the promise to:
- proclaim the Word of God (Christ) in our words and deeds;
- seek justice;
- act with compassion and mercy;
- care for God’s entire creation; and
- love and serve ALL people.
As we hear about the Baptism of Our Lord, Jesus the Christ,
may we think about how God can transform the ordinary into the extra-ordinary,
may we fully embrace our identity as the beloved children of God and
act like it by living into our baptismal promises… AGAIN:
- to proclaim Christ in our words and deeds;
- to seek justice;
- to act with compassion and mercy;
- to care for the creation; and
- to love and serve ALL people. Amen.