1st Sunday after Epiphany: The Baptism of Jesus
As the river Jordan sprang from the eyes of Jesus let us stand at the water of our baptism and allow the Spirit once again pull us out of ourselves and cry out our names.
For we, too, God of baptism, are your beloved children. Amen.
What is baptism, anyway? Forgiveness of sin? Welcoming into the parish family?
According to our gospel it is a commissioning even for an infant. A calling to a higher standard set by the world and often the church. John, baptizing out in the netherland
of the Jordan river had no idea what to do with Jesus. Not just because he proclaimed Jesus as God’s lamb, or because Jesus was the fulfillment from ancient prophecies,
but that he has come in obedience to God. And John, ever proclaiming to the people
of God’s forgiveness and righteousness does not see that in Jesus. What John does see, however, is someone come to fulfill God’s dream spoken through Isaiah.
Those ancient prophecies, one of which we read this day, are filled with God’s longing for both Israel and the nations. Here is one of the ‘Servant Songs’ written during the time of the exile to Babylon. A servant come to bring freedom, to open the doors of the future into what could be. To bring compassion to the most needy and to command justice to all the earth. We forget the ancient promise of God to Abraham that all the world would be blessed through him. It’s not solely Israel; it’s all nations, all people, everywhere. And we are part of that blessing but we often live in forgetfulness of such.
To be a blessing requires action. God’s action in both Isaiah and Matthew is to fulfill God’s dream for all. Justice, peace, gentleness, freedom. And people all over the earth are seeking crying out for these still.
But in order for justice and the rest to become reality we must become more and more
like Isaiah’s servant. This new thing which is directed to Israel even while in exile
is still new for us today. For many are in both physical and spiritual prisons even here among us. Many are begging for justice in government, in families, at work and at home. Justice is not something new but it’s always fresh when it is given and received.
And with Jesus’ baptism and Isaiah’s prophecies there is a sense of urgency, a mission
and a dream to fulfill.
A number of years ago I was part of a study from a book entitled ‘The Dream of God’
by Verna Dozier. Her main focus was that again and again the Christian church has fallen away from the dream God has for it, a dream in which we are called to follow Jesus and not merely to worship him. A reawakening our sense of calling and our desire for truth and justice. Do we have that desire or have we just become lazy?
And what is the essence of the dream for this parish? That dream lies far beyond our labyrinth and Memorial Garden but that is a place to start. That dream lies far beyond our Annual Meeting to call forth leaders from and for this parish but that too is a place to start. That dream lies far beyond making prayer beads to give to those who we encounter or hospitals or hospice but that is also a place to start. That dream lies far beyond giving food and money to places like Manna but that too is a place to start.
As your priest my calling is to exhort all of us to seriously contemplate our responsibility
not only to this parish but to those who are imprisoned in their souls blinded by both sin and anger. A calling to change and embrace what Jesus embraced when he came out
of his baptismal water. A call to be and continually become God’s beloved chosen and sent. Jesus was the Servant to bring the just reign of God to humanity in peaceful and gentle yet persistent ways.
The baptismal font has been filled with water as if there were to be a baptism today.
I invite us all to dip our hands as we come forward for the Body and Blood of Jesus
to remember our own baptism written in our souls and to reconfirm our longing to follow
God’s dream of justice and peace in this place so we, too might be servant and beloved
renewed with the Spirit and sent forth. Amen.