Sermons

"Becoming Who We Are Created to Be," The Baptism of Our Lord, Year B

"Becoming Who We Are Created to Be," The Baptism of Our Lord, Year B

Jan 07, 2018

Passage:Mark 1:4-11

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Epiphany

Category: Mercy, Epiphany

Keywords: baptism, epiphany, mercy

Summary:

In this reading from the Gospel of Mark, we see the beginning of Jesus' ministry. It begins with John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River and God proclaiming that Jesus is the Beloved Son. Our baptism reminds us of who God created us to be. It joins us to the Body of Christ, gives us freedom, and commits us to following the way of Christ. But we don't do this alone. Our baptism bonds us others in the Christian Church.

Detail:

May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

​In her newest book, Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott tells us why we need mercy more than anything else.  Mercy will redeem us as individuals.  Mercy will heal the world.  She explains that we all come into the world with loving and merciful hearts.  We came into the world as God created all of us...with big hearts filled with love. 

We also came into the world as the individuals God created.  We came into the world with love and mercy that each one of us, and only each one of us, were designed to give and receive.  We are the intentional creations of God. 

Unfortunately, over time, we forget that part of who we are.  The memory of that loving heart is exchanged with worries about what others think of us:  Are we good enough?  Are we successful enough?  Are we enough?

Our Scripture readings today hold some of the answers to these questions.  In the beginning...God created.  In the beginning...John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus.  In the beginning...Jesus set forth on his mission to save the world.

The Gospel of Mark doesn’t begin like Matthew or Luke.  There is no genealogical history.  There is no account of Mary and Joseph wrestling with this strange news that will change the course of their lives.  There is no birth narrative...no manger....no shepherds...no wise men....  Mark begins at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

John the Baptist is described pretty much like the messenger prophesied by Isaiah.  John’s out in the wilderness baptizing people who repent of their sins.  Mark’s description of him makes him seem like a man on a mission, literally, on a mission.  He’s focused.  He’s doing what God has called him to do.  He’s not a self-promoter.  He’s baptizing people with water to receive forgiveness of their sins.

But John the Baptist tells us that he’s just the messenger...that God is sending another, more powerful man.  This man will call down the Holy Spirit to baptize us. 

Then Jesus appears on the scene and is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.  And, for Mark, this is a new beginning, not only for Jesus, but for the whole world.  Mark says:  “And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’.” 

For Mark, it’s not the birth of Jesus that rearranges all of history.  It’s the baptism of Jesus.  In that moment, “the heavens are torn apart!”  The veil is lifted and heaven and earth are one again, just like at the beginning of Creation.

In this moment of Jesus’ baptism in Mark, God’s love and the Holy Spirit break into this world to declare that Jesus is the Beloved Son.  And just as God proclaimed that creation was “good,” God proclaims the goodness of the Son. 

Mark makes clear that Jesus isn’t just a prophet, Jesus is God walking around this world in the flesh, in all its joy and sorrow and fragility.  Jesus is the one the world has been waiting for.  The one who will bring God’s kingdom to earth.  This is a new beginning.

Baptism is a new beginning for us, too.  When we’re baptized, we take part in the rite that uses the outward and visible signs of water, oil, the cross, the Paschal candle, and the people of God.  All of these things connect us to the Body of Christ, to all of those people who have gone before us, walk with us now, and will follow us on the journey of following Jesus. 

This is our initiation into the church as Christians.  It’s our proclamation that we will strive to bring love and justice and mercy to the world.  But we know that we can’t do it alone.  We need God to walk with us on this path.  We need Jesus to show us the way and the Holy Spirit to guide us.  And we need God’s people to walk with us.

When we’re baptized, the waters that are poured over us are the very waters that were present at creation.  They’re the waters upon which God breathed and creation began.  These are the same waters that baptized Jesus, that announced to everyone that the Savior was in the world, offering a new beginning. These are the waters that create new life in us, too. 

Baptism is sometimes referred to as our “new life in Christ.”  This new life doesn’t mean that who we were before wasn’t good enough.  It’s not like we aren’t God’s children before we’re baptized.  We’re God’s children from the moment God creates us. 

Baptism is when the veil between heaven and earth parts and we remember who God created us to be...each and every one of us.   Through Baptism, we receive freedom.  We make the commitment to be who God created us to be.  We return to that person God created us to be with new awareness and dedication and connection.

[As we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord today, we also celebrate the baptism of Ben Drake.  We know that God created Ben to be the very special person he is.  A person that the world needs.  And we also know that Ben’s baptism is a new beginning in his life as part of the Body of Christ.  He is now and will forever be a part of the Church.  And he will have his parents and godparents who vow to lead him in that life.  He will have the rest of us to pray for him and walk alongside him as he tries to follow the life of Christ.]

Baptism and the renewal of our baptismal vows reminds us of that loving and merciful person that God created us to be.  It reminds us that because God created us and loves us, we are good enough

As Anne Lamott says:  “It gives us the chance to rediscover something both old and original, the child in us who, all evidence to the contrary was not killed off, but just put in the drawer.”  (p. 14)  Today, we take all that kindness and mercy and justice out of the drawer and put it back on as we love one another and the rest of the world.  Amen.