|Jesus' Baptism by Angelo Romano|
It’s Baptism Sunday. And because our 600 pound late Victorian Baptismal font is in the Chapel, due to Antigona in the Sanctuary, we will worship there this morning. Dion is there when I arrive, getting everything ready. And John Roggie will be our musician. A young couple with a 2 month old named Jack is visiting.
We’ll share a lot of good Baptism songs today, like Take Me to the Water, and Baptized in Water, and of course, When I Went Down to the River to Pray. We read Isaiah 43: 1-7 and Psalm 29 and Luke 3: 15-17 and 19-22, the story of Jesus’ Baptism.
I ask everyone how many remember their baptism. About a third received adult baptism. Including one by full immersion in a baptistery in public.
So we’re talking about Baptism. In Isaiah, we’re told that God calls us by name…..you could say that it is at baptism , when you receive your name, , is when YOU become YOU so to speak.
I’m wearing today my father’s watch. My mom told my sister she wanted to give it to one of the boys someday, and my sister said, Do you know how old the boys are? So my mom gave o tot me for Christmas. Baptism was really important to my dad. SO it was really special when he was so pleased at the bris (Jewish circumcision /naming ceremony) when my son received his name. My Dad said, ..at least he’s not a nameless waif… a blessing had been invoked, a name given, our friends and family celebrated.
At Baptism we receive our Christian name…..we only baptize using the first (and second) name….Our last name is shared by family, but the first and second names, those are unique to us, make us who we are.
We sometimes used to say Christening as an alternative word for baptism pointing to being dedicated to Christ and also the receiving of our Christian name.
Isaiah speaks of redemption . In the Old Testament, it related to debt, to debts owed. Your redeemer was the one who paid your debt, thus setting you free. The pawn bought back to its original owner.
Isaiah also says Do not fear….a common theme, like the angels in the Christmas story. Do not fear…
So we have water baptism ….and by fire…the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Of the three basic elements, Sun, air and water…does everything need all? No…creatures can live without sun or without air (in the water) but no creature can live without water. Water is primordial…it’s where life begins…and we ourselves are 98% water.
By tradition, water was Chaos…God brings order out of chaos. …Defeats Tiamat of the Babylonian creation story. But Tiamat, chaos is always there…as my friend Pastor Heidi…of Trinity Lutheran likes to say.
In Luke, John speaks of Jesus coming to separate the wheat from the chaff…..separating out…we have come to see this not only in the individual but in the communal sense as well. At the end of the day, we are both. We have both within us and Jesus comes to burn the chaff part out of us.
But there is a communal issue as well. The question always arises, so Why Jesus? If Jesus was sinless, why did he need to be baptized? I’m not going to get into “sinless” discussion. The story of Jesus in the Temple spoke of him as needing to grow in wisdom and stature, even as normal children do.
At any rate, some commentators see this as Jesus’ commitment to be in solidarity with humanity. In the middle verses, before Jesus’ baptism, we find John in prison…SO Jesus in essence picks up John’s mantle…To understand this, you have to understand John. He left security of the Temple world where his father was an official. The center of Jewish religious power living in collaboration with the Empire.
John’s baptism was an act of protest/judgment against temple system, a call to come out from empire…So after Jesus lived within the system for 30 years, he had to COME OUT too. Separate his life from the power of the Empire to where only God the creator has authority. Baptism is a public witness to that authority.
So what does it mean for us? First we are called to answer and demonstrate the question of what authority is primary. We need to understand that if Jesus is our redeemer, in the time of Jubilee, all debts to empire cancelled…
Hear this…and know this…YOU are God’s child…in YOU God is well pleased…you have your own name, you have your own ministry…name it, claim it and live it…
After our prayers, I lead evryone to the baptismal font. Tell the story of its florid Tiffany design. The uncommon water lily, lotus motif rising from the waters of chaos, rippled by the breath of the Holy Spirit. How the lid disappeared during Occupy and how a very special mother, Sheryl Jaffe, made us a new ceramic cover. How the one on the other is a metaphor for who we are.
I say the Thanksgiving over water. Pour drops of Jordan River water in. And invite every one to come up for laying on of hands and a blessing. I remember doing that for so many years with Katherine and how I felt the first time I did it alone.
We have our benediction. Sing Amen. And go out into the world….
FIRST READING ISAIAH 43:1-7
1But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6I will say to the north, "Give them up,"
and to the south, "Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth —
7everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."
1Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name;
worship the LORD in holy splendor.
3The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over mighty waters.
4The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
5The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
8The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, "Glory!"
10The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king for ever.
11May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!
15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."