January 13, 2019

The Baptism of Jesus

Passage: Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3:15-17, 21&22

O God we come this morning: Knee-bowed and body-bent before your gracious presence.  We bow our hearts below our knees for we come to you like empty pitchers to a fountain full.

If we have really listened to the Scripture this morning we may be completely confused. Baptism by water…understood.  Baptism by the Spirit…not so sure.  If we look at the Book of Common Prayer we see that baptism and anointing by the Spirit are one and the same.  Not some spiritual exaltation or exuberance.  Not some ecstatic emotional experience.  Not removed from baptism but an important part of it.  It’s a blessing to be anointed and receive the Holy Spirit and that same spirit is here among us.  Look at the front of this church.  Baptismal font here.  Altar there.  Together not removed but with each other.  For one cannot receive baptism in this wonderful church of ours, the Episcopal Church, without also receiving both the Spirit and Eucharist.  Done.

In our reading from the book of The Acts of the Apostles there are a few things that have happened previously to Peter and John praying over the Samaritans.  The deacon Stephen has been stoned to death.  Philip, along with many of the other believers have removed themselves from the center of what will become persecution and traveled down to Samaria.  He preaches to the people gathered there and baptizes them. Somehow that baptism did not include the anointing with the Holy Spirit.  But now that happened and it’s a joyous event.  For the Samaritans and the Jews are known to despise each other for the simple reason Jews considered themselves to be a pure race and to them the Samaritans are not.  They are the result of Jews intermarrying with Assyrians during their deportation from their land.  But now the Samaritans are included within the body of Christ…

And that physical body of Christ with whom we are reintroduced in our gospel is included as well.  Only he is included with all the others who come to John for baptism. Nothing special but an act of anointing with both water and the Spirit.  And he presents himself in solidarity with a nation and a people, his people.  Which he still does to this day.  They are a broken people under the scourge of Rome.  Jesus comes to the water of baptism to identify with their brokenness and with our brokenness.  For as this Scripture reads the people are filled with expectation which is leading them to hope. John has predicted the coming of Messiah and everyone awaits with baited breath for that moment to arrive.  It does but not with a lot of fanfare.  Jesus is baptized along with everyone else that day which leads to the reality of his spiritual experience.

The Holy Spirit

A voice from the clouds

Being named beloved.

Now I would surmise not many of us have ever heard a voice from the clouds.  If we have I would imagine some family would be pretty concerned.  God is breaking into this baptism with an announcement which is for Jesus but also for us.  At our baptism we too are named beloved we too receive the anointing of the Spirit and we also are sent on our way to proclaim the good news of Jesus.  But Jesus doesn’t stay around to gloat or chat; he heads off the pray.  For in this season of Epiphany we can begin to understand our own epiphany of baptism is what leads us to prayer: what has begun at baptism becomes a standard practice for Jesus and needs to be one for us.  Can’t have one without the other.  Just like baptism and Eucharist.   And so, we will come. Amen.

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