Sunday, January 12, 2020: Baptism of our Lord
Why baptize? Why Jesus? Ever since the early Christian church decided there should be an ebb and flow to the church year, certain Sunday’s like Palm Sunday, Easter, Christ the King celebrated and certain seasons such as Lent, Easter and Advent and Christmas they’ve set aside this Sunday that starts the season of Epiphany as a day to celebrate the baptism of our Lord.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time addressing the sometimes troubling question of why Jesus who had no sin needed to be baptized. I’m going to hope that the simple answer will do for those with a simple and strong faith. Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, meaning God sent him to earth to become one of us in order to save us. Jesus in becoming God in human flesh was to identify with us even to the point and especially for the purpose of identifying with and carrying our sins in our place. Jesus’ Baptism identified him with humanity’s need to be delivered from sin and when he came up from the water God put his seal of approval on this plan for Jesus, his only son to save the world. “This is my beloved with whom I am well pleased.”
And this is what I want to concentrate on today. This idea of identity is so important and so overlooked. I think this is one of the major reasons the early church wanted this part of Jesus’ life account to be retold and revisited and proclaimed each year. It’s his identity. As the Old Testament lesson’s first line says “Here is my servant whom I uphold my chosen in whom my soul delights.”
What an important thing!! I watched a very disappointing marvel movie this week- Spiderman far from home. While it had so many weaknesses the one thing that stuck out to me was how often Hollywood knows they can blunder through a story and not loose the audience simply by making the characters struggle with finding their true self, their calling in life. The interesting part of the movie wasn’t that Spiderman saved the day or the world but that these teenagers got a sense of what was important in their life and who they were deep down.
What is your identity? What makes you, you deep down? I want to encourage to answer that question not with your genetic makeup, or your Myers Briggs personality type, or your socioeconomic status but first and foremost with a spiritual identity. You are a child of God in the waters of baptism God the CEO of the universe, the prime mover, the first cause, the beginner of the beginning reached out through these waters and said “I claim you your mine, I’m gonna love you for a lifetime and beyond”
Put an imprint on your forehead, sealed with the Holy Spirit and claimed by Christ forever. Doesn’t matter your country of birth, color of skin, native language…you are a child of God, you are loved with an everlasting love, you are worth so much that God’s son sacrificed his life for yours. You have an intrinsic value not because of what you do, have accomplished but because of who you are… you are God’s special child. God has reached out and designed you in such a way that there will never ever be another you, when God said I want a special creation he thought of you. You are so precious and special to God that he doesn’t want you to ever be separate from him. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, my beloved in whom my soul delights.”
The devil wants you to think because you’ve failed, because you don’t live up to society’s every detail of beauty or success or wealth, or health, or age that you’re value keeps going down a notch with each imperfection in those columns. That’s how he gets you to be anxious, upset, depressed, angry focused on the imperfections of your life, your body, so that you forget about your soul.
But here in the waters of baptism, God sees your soul, sees who he created you to be and loves you for that. Here in the waters of baptism those muddy waters of uncertainty of value and worth are purified to crystal clear love of God in Christ Jesus who died on a cross for you rather than be separated from you.
Identity is key to so many things in life. Especially the key to joy and wisdom and peace in life. Research says kids without a positive stable identity are 80% more likely to be in risk taking behaviors. A family identity can help kids be 80% less likely to drop out of school, do drugs, act violently. A key factor to establishing a family identity is the family meal: eating together three times a week. I used to say the average American family eats together 30% of the time, new data suggests that has plummeted to less than 25% of the time. We are training our children to be human doings not human beings.
Some how the good life is found “out there” doing things, impressing people, getting grades, scoring goals, baskets, touchdowns, best times, longest jumps rather than in here with God. That’s not just bad parenting, its bad adulting too. I know so many screwed up adults that the major reason they struggle so much is because they just longed for a word of approval from a parent, an authority figure that would assure them they had worth and it didn’t come, or it came at a cost often an unhealthy cost, a very complicated and conditional string attached.
Many of these grown up messes I’ve met had everything I longed for- great careers, lots of wealth and yet they were a mess. Their relationships were a collection of dumpster fires. All this talents and skill and drive and for what? No joy, no peace, no wisdom.
Yet, they could have found that word of grace, and assurance and value, and unconditional love if their primary identity had been in Christ. I’ve known folks who had little to enjoy and little to offer in the worlds opinion who had the most joy and peace and wisdom I’d ever seen or experienced because they had Christ. Their primary identity was Christ. When they wanted to see a true picture of themselves they didn’t look at themselves the way the world sees them they didn’t even look in a mirror instead they looked in the waters of baptism.
I am a child of God. How important is that? Story of Martin Luther “be gone Satan!! You have no claim on me I am a baptized child of god!” Folks wonder why catholics make the sign of the cross- can be done for all the wrong reason but let me tell you the right reason. When baptized God made a promise and sealaed it with a cross on their forehead. Remember me I’m your child- the reason I come to worship is not I’m so good God owes me… see I even know the secret handshake NOPE… I’m a mess, but thank God I’m your child…thank you Jesus that’s why I’m here. That’s why I come to this table, I have failed in so many ways I admit I’m a mess but I lean on, I cling to, I depend on the fact that God who doesn’t change hasn’t changed his mind about me… he still loves me and wants me to be part of his forever family.
I’m amazed by grace and I’m saved by love… Christ’s love… not my bank account, not my family tree, that’s all bankrupt, that’s all passing. The one thing that counts, the one thing that lasts is God’s love in Jesus Christ. Five hundred years from now when all the things I’ve struggled with and worried about and fought over are so passé its pitiful I’m gonna be singing God’s praises and enjoying life eternal because I am a child of God.
That’s worth remembering, that’s worth celebrating, that’s worth proclaiming- to know Christ and to make Christ known. Lets do both of those- remember and know Christ has claimed us through his cross and lets lift high the cross of Christ so it can be a beacon of love and grace to lost and hurting world. Amen.