Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Sermon on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord

So what are you going to do with your gift from Christmas?
No, not that gift…I am talking about the gift of Jesus Christ.

We are now in the season of Epiphany, the season of Jesus made manifest, revealed in our world…We ended Christmas with yesterday’s celebration of the Epiphany, of the three wise men, three kings coming to the manger, of Christ being manifested to those gentile magi…

And so here we are today, with a gift, we all have it. The gift is God’s only son, Jesus. What will you do with your gift?

This is no ordinary gift and although filled with all the joy, love, hope, and peace we could ever want there is more there…As John the Baptist said, “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.”

He was talking about Jesus, the One from God who is more powerful than we can imagine, who baptizes with fire and Spirit, but first Jesus was baptized like we were, and when he came out of that water, those beautiful words rang out, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And when we were named and presented to God in baptism; we were adopted, grafted in to God’s family, and in that baptism is a gift.

John said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Indeed we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. We are cleansed and given a new life in Jesus’ name.

It is that same Spirit and fire that touches all that we are, from our beginning to our end.

As St. Ephraim the Syrian of the fourth century wrote:

See, Fire & Spirit in the womb that bore you
See, Fire & Spirit in the water (river) where you were baptized
Fire & Spirit in our Baptism.
In the bread and Cup, Fire and Spirit.

It is the gift that enlivens us, that reminds us that God dwells with us, in all our steps, has been with us from birth, from baptism and continues to be with us, even in the midst of communion, of bread and wine, God is there. Fire & Spirit. And that same fire and Spirit will carry us to God on our final day.

But too often we forget the gift of Jesus, forget the Spirit that is in us. We have more important things, we have work to do, and the days become weeks and we wonder why our lives seem to ebb away and why we have lost meaning, lost the spirit to do things, why that joy and peace we long for is not in our hearts…

But the gift of Jesus, the gift of that cleansing Fire and the Holy Spirit that he gives, is there for us, if we but take hold of it, indeed our lives will change, and what was missing will be in us.

Evelyn Underhill, an Anglican writer of the last Century said, “The birth of Christ in our souls is for a purpose beyond ourselves: it is because his manifestation in the world must be through us. You are the light of the world because you are irradiated by the One light of the world, the holy generosity of God. And being kindled with that light, we have to get on with it, be useful, let the light shine.”

I believe we who are baptized who have that Spirit are made restless, bothered, feel it when things aren’t right with us, because we have God inside of us, to bug us when we are not getting on with it and being useful in this world, when we don’t let that light shine.

For when we no longer manifest Christ to our world by what we say or do, I think that fire and Spirit gnaw at us and unsettle us, to help us see our need for God and God’s need for our work and love in this world.

This is all grounded in our baptism. Today (at 10:15 AM), Charlotte will join us in being part of God’s holy tribe, and the fire and Spirit will be given to her, and we will recognize in her as we are reminded ourselves that God is at work in our lives and has given us things to do.

In this time after the Epiphany, when we are to manifest Jesus to the world with our lives, even as we continue to learn and grow in what it means to follow him, it is what we do now that defines what we do with our Christmas gift. It is as Howard Thurman once put it,

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make music with the heart…

And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.

And the gift of Jesus, who came down for us at Christmas, we will share with the world, by making his love, his joy, his light manifest in our lives, and the Fire and Spirit will guide us…

For we will witness like Peter did so many centuries ago, in our words and actions that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power for he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

To that ministry and to our God we live our lives today and every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say. So let the light of God shine forth in your lives, by the fire and Spirit given to us at Baptism. Amen.

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