The Baptism of Jesus
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 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. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
I’ve shared this story before, but so appropriate for this week’s gospel lesson…when I was 8 years old, my best friend, Rob Waddles was baptized. When I saw him get baptized, I thought that was pretty cool. So, I asked my parents if I could be baptized. We set-up a meeting with our Baptist pastor, we talked about it, I got real excited…and the next Sunday, I was immersed in this huge tank that was in our Sanctuary behind our choir.
I don’t remember much about my conversation with our Baptist preacher. I just remember that it was something that my best friend did and he was glad…and it sure did make my parents happy.
Jesus comes to the river Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John. As we’ve said in the past, John came preaching a message of repentance, of a change of heart and mind to a new way of living. Baptism symbolized a dying of the old and living into a new life.
As followers of Christ, we need to recognize this need in our lives daily. It is tempting to be in a church setting, and in our lives outside of this church building to live as we always have, which oftentimes looks much like how everyone else in this world lives. We settle into old patterns that bring only death and decay over time, rather than living into a new life of being present with God’s imagination and creative spirit. And, we forget that there is only one Lord as the early church subversively proclaimed, not Caesar, not kings, dukes, or even presidents. Our allegiance is to God alone and living in God’s reign.
God doesn’t promise life will be without suffering, but God does promise to be with us in it and as we cultivate a sense of God’s Presence in our lives, a life filled with live giving and growing relationship with God and with others.
Yet, it is so hard to break free of those old patterns isn’t. Often, in church world, those patterns are reinforced in the way that we do church. Too often we let how the world operates in a negative way determine how we operate in our lives together in the church. We fall into patterns of negative thinking, of gossiping, scapegoating others, control, etc. Whereas God calls us towards freedom, positive engagement with others, honoring others when they are around us and when they are not (which, by the way, political correctness or “saying it like it is” are not excuses for being mean spirited in front of others or behind their back), and of self-awareness to where we ask ourselves how can we serve others rather than blame others.
We cannot live in the way of Jesus without help. We cannot love others, God, or even ourselves until we’ve learned to receive love. That’s why we have to live in recognition of Christ’s baptism for us.
This is Jesus’ example to us in his baptism. When he came to John, John didn’t think he should baptize Jesus, that Jesus should baptize him. Yet, Jesus says no, that in order for righteousness to be demonstrated, that Jesus should be baptized by John. Jesus knew who he was, that he was representing all of humanity and that he was God’s son, God’s human representation on earth. He was connected to the flow of God that created, saved, and sustains all of life. Yet, he also knew that to be righteous, or right in relationship, means to submit to someone else, to live in humility. So, he submits to John’s baptism.
His dying to self on our behalf cuts to the core of who we are, tells us that we too are a part of the flow of God that changes everything. The question for us this morning, is our we willing to let go of those old ways of thinking and being and live into the new reality that Christ’s baptism represents?
When Jesus is baptized, we read that the Spirit of God descends on Jesus life a dove. God’s Spirit is always with Jesus, even before this, and also with us. In the story of Noah, when the floods recede, there is a dove flying over the chaos, reminding us of the hope of new life.
Friends, the same spirit of God is descending upon us even now, are we willing to receive God’s Presence in our lives and live fully in this new reality? If we are, then we will see evidence of changed behavior on our part, we will see our lives change and this church become all that God intends.
As Jesus comes up from the water, there is a voice from heaven, God’s voice that has these amazing lines. “This is my son, the beloved, with whom I’m well pleased”.
Jesus represents all of us, God is telling us that God is well pleased with all of us! God does believe in us, now let’s get on with being the people God’s called us to be…to not be arguing over minor things, not to be focused on things that defeat us, but to live into the dynamic presence of God, to be live into our baptized new life in Christ, and to say “YES” to the opportunities for growth in our lives and “YES” to the opportunities before us to become the church together in a new way, a way that isn’t about one group or persons over another, but a way of living filled with humility and love as we model what it means to be the body of Christ.
Hear these words from author Jim Kast-Keats wrote in 2016, but are so true for the year that we just had!
“These are turbulent times. 2016 was a turbulent year. But the waters of baptism invite us to hope. We hold our breath, the water splashing against our skin. We hold our breath, anticipating what is to come. We hold our breath, we remember our baptism, and we have hope.
Jesus, raised from the waters of the Jordan River became the hope for those who followed him, inviting them to discover a new way to live in the world, loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us, realizing that the reign of God is already among us, with us, and within us.
Hope must be as tangible as despair. The greater the chaos, the greater our hope. Whatever waters wage around us, we remember a story of God hovering over the surface of the deep, the people of God walking through the parted sea, and the son of God rising from the river to hear the words that echo at every baptism to follow: “You are my Beloved.”