The Baptism of Our Lord, B – January 11, 2015

 SCRIPTURES – Genesis 1:1-5; Romans 6:1-11; Mark 1:4-11

 

We were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Rom. 6:3

 

Last Sunday, the first Sunday of 2015, I asked if this new year would be a better year. Well, apparently it will not be. For, this new year has brought us old things:

  • Terrorists murdering people and spreading fear.

  • Our new U.S. Congress and our 2nd term President at odds with each other.

    If only we could hit the rewind button and start the year afresh!

     

    Well, that’s what we’re doing today in church. We’re starting over by going all the way back to the beginning with the story of creation in Genesis 1. Now, what is there at the beginning? God! He speaks for the first time, bringing light to the darkness and order to the chaos. We see Him doing wonderful things; and, notice: our reading only focuses on God and His new world. No people are there to screw things up!

     

    Ah, but people are there. Even though Adam and Eve are not created until after everything else has been created, don’t be fooled. Don’t think that we are an after-thought; or, even worse, a mistake and a problem. We were in God’s mind and heart from the very beginning, for God created everything for us. When it came to Adam and Eve, God didn’t say, “Well, I’m done, but it feels like I’m forgetting something.” They were the focus and crown of creation! Everything else was made for them and given to them. They – we – were present at the beginning, present in the heart and mind of God.

     

    Let us keep this in mind as we move on to consider the baptism of Jesus. Mark 1 sounds like the simple record of an historical event in His life: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” But, it is so much more! Mark recounts for us a creation event, a re-creation event, for in Christ’s baptism God is creating all over again.

  • Just as the original creation took place out of the waters, so the re-creation in Christ takes place out of the waters.

  • Just as God spoke, and for the first time, at the beginning of creation, God speaks when Jesus is baptized, and for the first time in the New Testament.

  • Just as the Holy Spirit was present at the beginning, “hovering over the face of the waters” like a bird, so the Holy Spirit hovers and comes down upon Jesus as a dove in the re-creation event of His baptism.

    In Christ’s baptism God is creating all over again! And, you are there. As Adam, although not yet present physically, was there at the beginning of creation because God had him in His mind and heart and was making everything for him, so you were there at the Baptism of Jesus. His baptism was the same as your baptism because it was all about you and for you! You were present not only in the mind and heart of God; you were present in the very flesh of Jesus when He was baptized!

     

    It’s not the re-creation of the world that God holds before us in the good news of Christ and His baptism. It’s your re-creation. God has given you a new life in His Son, in His baptism and in your baptism into Him! Romans 6:3 makes this clear: “We were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” What took place in Jesus’ baptism, then, also took place in yours. As the Father said of Jesus, “You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased,” so He said of you in your baptism. As the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus in His baptism, so the Holy Spirit came to you in your baptism. You were re-created, given a new life with Christ in your baptism! Now, go forth and live that life.

     

    Live confidently, with the certainty that God loves you and is with you always to help you. Now, don’t base this confidence on your own worthiness. No, like John and the people who went to him for baptism, we need to confess our sinfulness and unworthiness. Examine your life. How often and easily do we, like our world, revert back to old sins and old ways and battling over the same old things! How easily do we belittle the power and comfort and strength of God’s works, like Baptism, for works that we come up with and consider impressive. It is because Christ has come to us and baptized us with and into Himself that we can be confident of God’s love and presence to help, and not because of anything we do.

     

    Then, live in loving service to others, for this is how Jesus lived. You have been joined to Him in baptism to “walk in newness of life” His life. Here’s where your life as a follower of Jesus can be seen to be so different.

     

    The terrorists who murdered seventeen people and spread fear throughout France claimed to be devout Muslims. They not only sincerely believed in their God, Allah, but sincerely believed that Allah wants everyone to live in submission to his law. Those who refuse to do so, and especially those who belittle Allah or Mohammed, are to be despised, hated, and killed.

     

    As Christians, we want people to believe in and follow God: God, the Holy Trinity. How different is He! He comes to sinners with mercy and love, desiring to change their hearts. Christ takes our sins and their judgment upon Himself and buries Himself in our death, that we might be set free from them and have a new life. He tells us to love even our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, not murder them. He would change hearts by sacrificial service, and fill hearts with the love and mercy of God.

     

    Baptized by and into His Son, God has re-created you for this. Jesus joined Himself to you in baptism that His new life might be your new life. Turn away from a sinful focus on your own desires, then, and become like Christ in loving service!

  • Serving those you don’t like or get along with, as well as those you do;

  • Serving those who are like you, and those who are not;

  • Serving those who love you, and those who hate you;

  • Serving your family; your friends; your neighbors; to everyone.

    In this you will be like Christ, and in this Christ will be seen in you.

     

    “I am baptized with Christ and into Christ. I am a new person. God is my Father, and He will keep me and will direct my ways.” Say this as you live the new life, the baptismal life that God has given you. Say this because it is what God says of you. He has re-created you in Christ and in His baptism, and you are His beloved child with whom He is well pleased. Life, then, as God’s baptized child in Christ: it is not only better than it was before; it is great! All because of Jesus, who was baptized with us and for us. Amen.