Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Aren’t the many attributes of water amazing? There are not too many elements that are stronger and have the power that water does. Water gives us life, and it can also take it away. From the story of the flood in Genesis to our present day floods down south where we can witness houses swept away, the destructive power of water is made very evident and real. Yet, what is it that we turn towards to quench us and refresh our spirit? It cleanses us and gives us new life.
Water can quench us on a hot day or while in the midst of exercising. It is also used as we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This isn’t just any old baptism that we are speaking about this morning. This is Jesus’ baptism! This is the Son of God being baptized before he is about to begin his ministry! There is power in this action and the water that washes over him. In Jesus’ baptism he acknowledges that he was born into a world that is full of sin and is in solidarity with it.
Many of you, if not the majority of you, do not remember the day that you were baptized. You may have a certificate of that day, possibly even pictures of the actual event or celebration that took place afterwards. In the Lutheran Church we baptize infants and it is a joyous event, as well as any baptism at any age. It is just much easier to carry an infant around the sanctuary welcoming them to the family of Christ than it is an adult.
I guess the one thing that I like to think I have in common with Jesus is that we were baptized at about the same age. Many of you know my story or have heard bits and pieces of it along the way. Our celebration today of the Baptism of our Lord is actually the Tenth Anniversary of my families baptism. I have the ability to remember the events and reflect upon the pictures that were taken. The funny thing is though, I was a little disappointed.
I truly wanted to see some doves or experience them descending upon me. I wanted a huge AHA! moment to happen within my baptism. Yes, it brought tears and I was happy. However, where were the fireworks? I had high expectations. Not much different than those that were following John the Baptist. They were looking for a Messiah and they were hoping that he was it. In a way I expected a total life change in that moment, right there! It does not happen quite like that though, unless by chance you are the Son of God.
Even post-baptism there is still a lot of stuff that goes on in our lives and at times a lot of the stuff we wish did not happen. It is in our baptism though that we may start to see a few more glimpses of Christ and the burning away of the old. As John says, “His 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.” We all carry around some chaff. Some crap that we would just like to be rid of. The promise that comes in our baptisms is not one of perfection. We are not suddenly in this utopian wonder place where everything is neat and clean and we get everything we want. There is a promise that we receive in our baptism!
The promise that comes in our baptism is a promise of love. No matter what mistakes we make in life or what fools we make of ourselves. Christ is present in all of them. Lenny Kravitz sings a song titled Baptized. It speaks to this love and the redemption that comes in the cleansing waters.
And be turned to stone
All my darkest days awoken
I’m looking for a new way
I can’t make it on my own
Lead me to a place wide open
So high I’m never coming down
Take me down to the water
Wanna be baptized in your love
Far away from the loneliness
Take my heart and wash away the fear
Let me be baptized in your love (1)
The story of Jesus’ baptism in Luke is slightly different than our other gospel writers. He is not singled out. He does not have a conversation with John the Baptist. Jesus is baptized with many other people. People that are broken and in need of healing. People that are weighed down by the pressures in their lives. I picture them lining up as John baptizes each person individually, eventually coming to Jesus. That same love is bestowed upon Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
That love is multiplied as we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is in our one baptism that we are surrounded by God’s love with is perpetual; even when it feels we are surrounded by darkness.
We find Jesus praying after he is baptized and this should be an example for us. What begins in our baptism is lived out through our daily life and in prayer as we continually ask for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. Jesus was empowered and guided through prayer throughout his entire ministry, so too should we embody the same life of prayer.
It is here that Jesus’ ministry begins.
So, Now What? Where are we called to go? For our ministry has already begun. In everything that we say and do we reflect what is important in our lives and where our heart resides.
How do your words and actions reflect the water that washed over you in baptism? How do you reflect that never-ending love that you receive? May you always remember that love.
(1) Baptized written by Terry Britten, Gerry DeVeaux, Lenny Kravitz)