This was yesterday's sermon. I left all of it even the parts that were more just for that particular congregation. Also, I tend go ad-lib a lot so it's missing a little here and there and probably has some that I chose to leave out when the time came. The scriptures were Isaiah 43:1-7, Acts 8:14-17 and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22.
So, I was thinking this week, we finished our service last week almost 30 minutes early, so… How about I just add that time on this week? I don’t want you all to feel cheated.
Just kidding. You have no worries. I’ve never had a sermon last longer than 20 minutes and honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever had one last that long. Besides, this week’s message has really had me stumped. I think it’s because this is my third January preaching and so I’ve written a sermon on the topic for today, the Baptism of our Lord Sunday. The scriptures are a little different of course but I’ve really struggled this week in preparing for today but hopefully, this is it, hopefully, this is the message I’ve been praying for God to give me to share with you.
Would you please pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Our reading from Luke this morning tells us of John the Baptist telling the people of the one who would come and be mightier than him, the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. And then we get to hear about Jesus’ baptism. I want to read that part to you again if you don’t mind.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,
and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
Now, a couple of things stood out for me. One was that he wasn’t baptized alone. Others were baptized there with him. Another was that Luke’s version of the story says, “and he was praying…” In both and Matthew and Mark, it says as Jesus came out of the water the Holy Spirit came upon him. But here in Luke, he says after he was baptized and was praying the Holy Spirit came down. I think that is interesting. Now, many people think that his baptism marks the beginning of his ministry so I have to wonder, if in his knowing that if he wasn’t praying for his Father’s help, for God’s guidance, his blessing, even his approval as he was starting out on his journey of ministry. Then at that moment, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descended on him as a dove and a voice came from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Could that be an answer to his prayer? The Holy Spirit comes upon him so that he would not be alone on this journey, so the he would have guidance and help on his way and then he receives his father’s blessing and approval. You are precious to me son, I believe in you. You’ve got this.
This actually kind of reminded me our reading from Acts. If we go back a few chapters to chapter 2, we read of the Holy Spirit coming and filling the disciples as they begin their ministries. Then in our reading from today, we read of Philip preaching in Samaria and they were receiving the Word of God. So John and Peter go and pray for them and come and lay their hands on them and the Holy Spirit comes to them. They are not alone. They are loved.
Now in our Baptism and Confirmation services it says that Baptism is the starting point of our a life of discipleship. It could be said it’s the starting point of our ministries. I know, some of you are probably thinking you aren’t in ministry but if you have heard me preach before you know that we are all ministers, we all have the ministry of loving each other, of nurturing each other, of sharing God’s love and message to everyone we meet. So, yes, we can think of our Baptism and confirmation as the starting point of our ministry just as it was for Jesus. This can all be pretty scary at times.
Our reading in Isaiah today tells us some really comforting things. It says that God has called us by name and that we are his, just as he called Jesus son, he calls us sons and daughters. It says that he will be with us and that he IS with us. It says that we are precious in his sight and that he loves us. Again, just like he told Jesus he was beloved, we too are loved and precious to him. And just like Jesus, through baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit so that we are not alone, so that we have guidance, and help in our lives and ministries. Which, well, as Christians, our lives are ministries.
I think this is a great time for us to remember and focus again on our Baptism or Confirmation. Our baptism or confirmation is the starting point of a life of discipleship, a life of ministry. It’s a reminder of the connectedness of all Christians. It is by water and the spirit. We are connected to Jesus, to the apostles, and to all those who have gone before us.
Now, at our baptism or at our confirmation we renounce evilness, we reject evil and repent. We promise to put our whole trust in him, and we profess faith in Christ. We promise to be faithful and to represent Christ in the world. There’s our ministry. We promise to nurture one another in Christian faith and life and we receive the Holy Spirit..
I think we often think on these promises when we are witnessing a baptism or someone joining the church but we don’t really think on them on a regular basis and I really think we should.
We should take time to think on these promises to reflect on how we are doing in keeping them and then work on doing just that. Let’s take a moment and close our eyes and think back on your baptism, or if you were an infant or can’t remember your baptism, think of your confirmation or a baptism you have witnessed. Be present there, remember the water, can you hear it as it was poured into the font? Or as it dripped from the hand of the minister as he scooped some up? Feel the water and the hands of the minister on your head or your shoulder. Think of the words that were said. Hear them. I must mentioned some of them. Feel the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God wash over, and fill you. Now think about how Jesus experienced this very same thing, as did all the saints before us. (PAUSE) Honestly, until I was writing this, I had never thought about it like that. We are all connected through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God with us, and in us. Take time often to listen carefully and you’ll hear quiet whispers of love and guidance every day of your lives. You’ll feel his tiny nudges to spend time with a sick friend or a grieving neighbor instead of worrying about the messy house or the work that needs to be done. You’ll hear him in the voice of a child begging for one more story. When you are fearful of the unknown, of the world and all it’s confusion, know that he is with you and that he loves you, remember that he said, Do Not Be Afraid. Do Not Fear. Remember to put your whole trust in him, to rely fully on him in all things. Remember that you are not alone and that we are all connected in ministry through baptism and the Holy Spirit.