(Matthew 3:13-17; Isaiah 42:1-9;Acts 10:34-43)
Two weeks ago we celebrated the birth of a child. In today’sGospel text, Matthew reports that the child that we celebrated at Christmas quickly a threat to the ruling king. This situation ironically led to a flight to safety in Egypt (the land of slavery). Matthew reports after the death of king Herod who sought the child’s life, God called his son out of Egypt ( a second Exodus) and he was returned to Nazareth. Matthew says that through this child, a “branch,” a new beginning was being made for the house of David the son of Jesse. In other words, in this child, Jesus of Nazareth a new beginning for David had re-emerged from the old stump.
In our reading further in the text, Jesus goes through the waters of baptism ( a kind of crossing the read sea). We see John with his clear understanding of the status quo objecting to the development of the events. As Jesus came to him for baptism, he protested until Jesus told him to do it in order to fulfill righteousness. So in this story, Jesus humbled himself to be baptized not because he needed cleansing from sin like we do, but because in his baptism he identified with his people’s and our need for repentance. We can safely say that as we observe the events in this tex, we see in Jesus of Nazareth something new happening; the old prevailing assumptions had to give way but as is always the case not many people were ready for such a change. So John like many of us resisted this new development.
Jesus’ baptism was clothed all over with signs of newness. The dove and the voice reminds us of the first creation story (Gen. 1:2-4). Jesus was called from Egypt and came through the water of baptism (red sea) and became authority to the new formed baptized community issuing the new way of life commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. God confirmed his status as God’s son through the voice from heaven. In Jesus, a New peoplehood emerged. Those who repent and put their faith in him through baptism and continue to follow him will also hear the same voice from heaven as well, “you are my beloved daughter, you are my beloved son”. This new identity is missional as we see in the life of Jesus.
Baptized into Jesus Christ by water and the Holy Spirit, we, too, experience the birth of something dramatically new in our lives, nothing less than being incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation, initiated at baptism. Every time we celebrate baptism and bring in new professing members into the body, we ritually join in what God did in Jesus when the heaven opened, the Spirit like a dove came down, and God spoke — “My beloved child with whom I am well pleased.” This new beginning reminds me of a story of some Christians on a winter night January 21, 1525 in Zurich Switzerland. This group of Christians realized from their study of Scripture and prayer that their way of life then was completely incompatible with what they were discovering in the scripture and decided that then needed a new beginning marked by the waters of baptism. With this new beginning, they sought to embrace the call of Jesus. This bunch was derogatorily referred to as the,” Anabaptists” who are our forbearers.
How does baptismal experience shape how you live as a Christian?
The Acts text reminds us that the waters of baptism are open to all, anywhere, of whatever cultural or other backgrounds, who seek to confess Jesus as Lord and follow in his ways. Consider, then, all that these waters of baptism hold out for us, this day and every day. New creation, new birth, adoption as children of God, means of justice, inspiration to Jesus’ way of embodying God’s justice, availability to all people everywhere who seek to follow this way, seal for the day of judgment and cleansing from sin.
Today, we will give you an opportunity to participate in God’s mission to reach out to those who are needy in our community. In two weeks beginning January 23rd we will be hosting about twenty homeless men here at CCF. I would like to invite you to be actively involved in doing what Jesus did; provide for these needy men a meal, stay here at the church with them over night and provide winter coats and other items. Let us go forth in our new Baptized identity and embody the message of the New Creation to our dying world. Let us also remember the victims of violence in Arizona over the weekend and pray for healing of our polarization as a nation for in Jesus the walls of hostility are broken down and the two former enemies become sisters and brothers in the Beloved amen!