A sermon for 1st Sunday in Epiphany; Isaiah 43:1-7 Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Last week our daughter was a child who got left at school and set off a fearful search. Today she is grown, married, has a child of their own, and is about to set out on an adventure that will define her life’s work; that’s the plan anyway. Last week Jesus was a child who stayed behind and off a fearful search. Today he is grown, though not married and without child he is about to set out on an adventure that will define his life’s work; that is John the Baptist’s proclamation anyway.
It is important to know that the three verses the lectionary skips this morning are about the end of John the Baptist’s ministry, with his arrest by Herod for chastising him for marrying his dead brother’s wife. Luke places these verses between John’s revealing the coming of one more powerful than him and Jesus’ baptism.
So, here we are presumably by the Jordan River, all the people are baptized; Jesus is baptized. But remember, John is in prison, and it is not likely he gets a weekend release to do community service. So ~ who baptizes all those people? Who baptizes Jesus? A question worthy of exploration, perhaps another day. This morning I’m wondering what is Jesus praying for or about?
Attempting to stay just with what Luke has written so far two possibilities arise. We know from Jesus’ adventure in Jerusalem that he has some idea of his identity. He did talk about the Temple as his father’ house. Perhaps his prayer emerges from what it means to be God’s child? We also know that Mary and Elizabeth meet at least once before the births of their children. It seems clear that John knows who Jesus is when he points to his baptism of fire. Our imaginations can lead us to see Jesus and John coming to know each other as they grow up. It sounds reasonable that, Jesus, is concerned about his cousin’s circumstances. Being a political prisoner is never safe, and to held by any of the Herds is to expect the worst; after all, they have no compunction about killing each other, so a bothersome trouble maker like John, well ~ you can see how Jesus might be concerned.
What Luke tells us is, that as Jesus is praying the heaven opened, the Spirit descends upon Jesus, and a voice proclaims: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. There is a potential connection to Psalm 2, which is a coronation Psalm used in crowning kings. But divine muse is nudging me another way.
The muse is pointing toward the change that is happening in Jesus life, and how God is a part of it. We’ve already explored how Jesus and John knew each other. We know John is in prison. We know Jesus is present where the baptisms were continuing, perhaps coming to an end, Luke does say, “all the people were baptized. “It is perhaps apparent that, Jesus, is stepping into his role, as defined by John. After nearly twenty years, half a lifetime in Jesus day, the time has come. Jesus is praying for the beginning of his ministry. I am hearing in the heavenly voice encouragement, a reminder that God is with Jesus in the ministry to come, no matter where it may go. Jesus now knows he is not alone.
Like Jesus, St. Stephen’s is at the very precipice of change. As financial resources are drawn down St. Stephen’s will have to discern how to continue to be the living proclamation of the kingdom of God on earth right here right now. There are possibilities; but at the moment, as Paul said, we see darkly.
In just a bit we will renew our baptismal vows. We will be with Jesus at the Jordan. Each of our baptisms has been a personal event. We or parents and or sponsors made the vows to believe and to act as the Baptismal Covenant describes. The remembrance of Jesus’ baptism is a fitting time to renew, to reconnect with those vows. This morning I invite us to do so not just as individuals, but as St. Stephen’s, a community of Christian faith. I invite us to stand with Jesus on the precipice of change and pray for the beginning, and the renewal of ministry. I invite us to stay in the silence to hear the voice from heaven:
You are my children,
I am pleased with you,
I am with you wherever you may go.
So, [move to Baptismal Font] please join me around the baptismal font as we prepare to renew our vows, and renew our awareness of Emmanuel – God is with us.
Renewal of Baptismal Vows Book of Common Prayer, page 292.
Allen, Ron. Commentary on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. 10 1 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/>.
Ellingsen, Mark. Baptism Of The Lord, Cycle C (2016). 10 1 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/>.
Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary January 10, 2016 – The Baptism. 10 1 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly>.
Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. 10 1 2016.
Lewis, Karoline. Baptismal Epiphanies. 10 1 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.
Lose, David. Baptism of our Lord C: Expecting the. 10 1 2016.
Warren, Timothy G. “Manifesting God’s Love, Epiphany 1(C) – 2016.” 10 1 2016. Sermons that Work.