Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baptism of Jesus Sermon

“When we touch our baptism, we touch our past, but also our present and our future. Whenever and however our baptism took place and however much or little regard has been paid to it since, it is a sign in our flesh of the enduring love of God.” (Daniel Stevick)

On this day when we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we also remember our own baptism (even if it is what our parents did for us long ago) we think about the baptisms that have taken place here in this church for 210 years, as we also look forward to Katelyn Elizabeth Bender’s baptism this morning at 10:15 AM. The Past, Present & Future are all wrapped together in baptism and God is in the midst of it all.

As we imagine the scene of the baptism of Jesus, we think of John the Baptist standing near the river, wearing camel’s hair, people are flocking to him, to confess their sins, out in the wilderness.

Several Jewish groups of that time observed some type of ritual baptism, and yet John knows that what he does, his proclamations, his baptisms, are just a beginning, they anticipate the one who is to come, the messiah. His baptism by water for repentance will become the baptism by the Spirit.

John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord much like his ancestors did from Abraham and Sarah to Moses and Miriam to David and Jeremiah. It all comes to fruition when Jesus of Nazareth comes and all that John had anticipated happens; Jesus is baptized.

And it is Jesus who sees the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon him and a voice that proclaims, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

It is God’s Spirit who descended that day, anointed Jesus for the mission and ministry that would encompass his life for the rest of his time on earth and that same Spirit sent Jesus away from his baptism to go and do.

In our own day, baptism is our ritual of initiation into God’s community the Church. As our rite says, “In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.”

Today, Katelyn will be baptized into the household of God.

There will be many people around the world who will be baptized on this day, and God will hear their names presented and it is God who will act by sending the Holy Spirit upon them. And no matter where that baptism takes place, it is that baptism that propels them & us into the future.

For the Spirit of God also rests on us, reminding us that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God, for we are all sealed by the Spirit and marked in Christ’s name.

And it is that same Spirit that calls us, moves us to live out our baptismal lives in this world, where so many people are in need of that love that God gives to us; which reminds me of a story…

Two friends are having lunch at a local restaurant when one woman is distracted by a scene two tables over.

"What's the matter?" her friend asks. "See that couple over there? We're sharing the same waiter except they're being so demanding that he barely has time for anyone else. Look at how they turn up their noses at everything he brings them."

"Maybe their order just isn't to their liking." "No, that's not it at all. I was a waitress in college and I know the game. They're just trying to berate that kid into a free lunch."

Just then, they watch as the manager walks over to the table and stands next to the waiter. The couple complains loudly about the food and service. The manager takes the check from the waiter and motions him away. "See what I mean?" the woman says.

The embarrassed waiter comes over to the women's table. "Is there anything else I can get you?" he asks, his eyes downcast as he places the check on the table between the two women.

The former waitress snatches the check before her friend can even look at it and pulls out several bills from her purse. She hands everything to the waiter.

"Keep the change."

"But ma'am, that's . . ."

She takes the young man's hand and squeezes it. She looks him in the eye and says, "I know the kind of afternoon you're having. You're a terrific waiter. And you've earned every dime of this. So don't argue with an old lady who's been there." [From The Other Ninety Percent by Robert K. Cooper.]

It is a simple act of generosity, a simple act of love. And when we become vehicles of God's love, when we become the means for manifesting God's presence in our world to others, we live out of our baptism; of that knowledge that we too are God’s beloved and God is pleased with us.

In time Katelyn will join us in that, but for now, it is all of us gathered here, her family, friends and this praying and caring community who will witness to the great love of God by what we do in this world.

May all that we hold, may all that we touch, may all that we are, realize the true miracle of God who came among us in Jesus, who lives in each of us now, and who guides us on our journey for just as Mother Teresa put it, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Amen.

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