The Baptism of Our Lord (Jan.13.2013)

The Baptism of Our Lord

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in
their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I
baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not
worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy
Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing
fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into
his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been
baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and
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.”

 

On the first Sunday following January 6, churches around the world observe
something called the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday. Today’s preaching focuses on
the Baptism of our Lord and I hope that it could remind you of the importance
of Baptism in your lives.

Baptismal services are very important to the church of Jesus Christ. Through the service,
we are called into being one of God’s family. I was baptized when I was 18
years old. The moment was a turning-point of my life. I was a basketball player
and I was a captain of a team. My dream was to be a professional basketball
player. I spent almost all time in my life practicing basketball. Early in the
morning, I went to a gym and practiced basketball and came back home at
midnight. Before going to bed, I watched a basketball game I recorded.
Especially, I liked the matches of Boston Celtics led by Larry Bird and L.A. Lakers
by Magic Johnson. Their games were very great and I tried to copy their plays;
the passes and three point shoot. Basketball was my dream and life.

One day, I fell and got injured on my back. I couldn’t stand and walk. I couldn’t
continue to play basketball, so I gave it up. It was very hard for me. Every
day, I cried, cried, and cried. The only thing that I could do was to go to the
church and pray to God. Every day, I went to the church and prayed to God for
healing my wounds. As time went by, I came to realize that God was healing my
wounds and my life was a little bit changed to engaging in Christian life.
Then, I was baptized and I was sure that God called me into a Christian life,
especially to become a pastor who shares the grace and love of God that I had
experienced.

At that time, the baptism was a turning point of my life. Before the turning
point, my life focused on my own self to be famous and successful. However,
after the baptism, I have had a different dream for my life and the dream is
for God, the church, and our neighbors. Through the baptism, I became one of
God’s family, and my dream has been to invite people into God’s kingdom. Baptism
reminds me of the moment.

Baptism is the first sacrament, the one on which all else rests. Jesus’ baptism,
although distinct from ours, points the way by which we come to understand more
fully the gift of our baptism. In Luke, emphasis is placed on three events that
surround the baptismal moment: the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the
claim on Jesus as the Beloved, and a life of prayerful holiness that Jesus
begins immediately following his own baptism.

First of all, Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of his public ministry-his public
life and work. Through baptism Jesus is empowered for a life of service and
mission. For those baptized in the faith, there is no life that is not, in
part, public life. There is no life that does not carry with it hope for
relationships.

In his book The Common Task, Thomas
Thangaraj addresses the meaning of this kind of relational living which derives
from baptism. Mission received in baptism has to do with sending and going. It
is both gift and responsibility. According to Thangaraj, sending and going do
not have to do so much with geographic movement, but rather are a quality of
being. In other words, it is not so much where one is sent, but the attitude
one carries wherever one goes. Mission is that which happens in a network of
relationships, thereby making the concept a relational one. He goes on to point
out that mission is being with others. Mission is carried out in the web of
human relationships. It is a communal affair. It is response and
responsibility. One cannot exist without the other. Mission cannot be authentic
outside of relationship. By the same token, “going forth” is the response of
the human to another. In “going forth” one discovers more fully the world,
oneself, and God. Therefore, sending, going, and being with others are
characteristic of those who have been baptized,

Another sign of Jesus’ baptism is the mark of belonging to God, of being claimed and of
claiming. The Holy Spirit says, “You are my son, the beloved, with you I am
well pleased.”

Affirmation surrounds Jesus and serves as a claim by God on Jesus as one who belongs to the
realm of God. In these words we hear God’s claim of acceptance, love, protection,
and nurture. Jesus’ desire for the Holy Spirit suggests being vulnerable and
open in his relationship with God. Rooted in love, that allowed Jesus to be
free to live in relationships and in the world.

One Sunday an infant was to be baptized and the minister invited the children to
the baptismal font for the children’s moment. He described what would happen
and asked if anyone had any ideas about the nature of baptism. A five year old
offered: “Well, it is like this. When the baby is in her Mommy’s tummy she is
surrounded by water that protects her, gives her the food she needs, lets her
rest, not be bumped too much, and takes care of her until she comes out of the
Mommy’s tummy. When she is born, baptism is God’s way of protecting her,
feeding her, keeping her from being bumped too much, loving, and taking care of
her.” What a wonderful understanding of the nature of baptism. Through baptism,
God protects, feeds, and takes care of us. Do you know why? It is because we
are beloved by God and with us, God is well pleased.

There is one last thing that I would like to share with you for today’s sermon.

That is, prayer surrounds Jesus’ baptism. In Jesus’ baptism, prayer points the way
to what a life in mission requires. The account in Luke says, “when Jesus also
had been baptized and was praying.” Jesus’ response to baptism is prayerful and
involves holy living in community. Baptism is not simply a private moment or an
individual possession, but a rite which signifies a commitment to a life of loving
service in and to a larger community.

In the baptismal liturgy of our denomination, the congregation promises to “surround
the baptized with a community of love and forgiveness, that will grow in
service to others.” The church recognized that prayer creates a sense of
community and makes service possible. Just as prayer surrounded Jesus’ baptism,
prayer surrounds our baptism. Prayer makes the child’s growth in the community
possible. Prayer is the openness to being formed and transformed by the Spirit,
by the community, and by the world. Prayerful and holy living replaces prideful
and arrogant living, forming communities that include genuine relationships and
transforming.

In baptism, Jesus entered into life in a larger and more visible world. In the
richness of being claimed for the realm of God, he would now enter into new
relationships, rooted in love.

 

Let us pray.

For the baptism of Jesus, when he was made one with us,
and for our baptism when we are made one with him and one another, we praise
you, O God.  As we enter a new year, help us to remember whose we are, so
that we might glorify and enjoy you forever.  Amen.

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