January 16, 2022, Sanctuary Worship, Sermon, "Connection"
January 16, 2022, Sanctuary Worship, Sermon, "Connection"
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Scripture: Luke 3:15-22
And so, we enter the season of Epiphany – the season of revelation and discovery. Three weeks ago, Jesus was a newborn. Two weeks ago, Jesus was eight days old and being presented in the Temple. One week ago, the wise men from East offered their gifts to a possibly two-year old Jesus. And today, Jesus is thirty years old and at the river to be baptized.
Because the Gospel of Luke will be the predominant gospel for us this year, we need to take just a moment and recall what has preceded the baptismal story. In the first chapter of Luke, we are introduced to Elizabeth and Zechariah. They were to be the parents of a miraculous baby – in that Elizabeth and Zechariah were well into enjoying their AARP discounts – such a baby would be miraculous. On the heels of that story, the angel Gabriel, who had appeared to Zechariah and was evidently racking up frequent flyer miles for Christmas travel – appeared to a young woman named Mary and told her that she would bear God’s Son. Mary accepts this news and then heads off to visit her relative Elizabeth. Upon greeting her, Elizabeth proclaims that “the child in my womb leaped for joy.”1 Jesus and John then grow up. Not much is said about any of that.
But in chapter three of the Gospel of Luke, they are together again. John is an end-of-the-world preacher and baptizer, warning everyone that God is about to intervene in the world’s story. He was challenging both the religious and civil authorities. He called those who came to hear him preach a “brood of vipers.”2
Then, something strange happens. John begins talking about one is coming – whose sandals John is not worthy to untie – who will “baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.”3 It is at this point that Luke tells of John being arrested and imprisoned by Herod. And then we read “now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized…” It does not say clearly that John baptized Jesus, but the likelihood it that is what happened.
Consider the connections that Luke has made:
∙ miraculous conceptions and birth stories
∙ Elizabeth and Mary being relatives
∙ the in-utero acknowledgement by John of Jesus
∙ John and Jesus at the Jordan
Luke has connected these two lives. He has John speaking of the One who will come after him.
And the connections will continue. John has been arrested. Jesus will be arrested. John is imprisoned. Jesus will be imprisoned. John is killed. Jesus will be killed.
But, from now on in the Gospel of Luke, John will disappear and Jesus will emerge again and again.
In baptism, we are connected to Christ. The Apostle Paul makes the case for that in the Letter to the Romans. Paul writes:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.4
In our baptism, we are joined to Jesus Christ. Not just to the joys of being a sibling of Christ, but also into the sufferings of Christ.
The story is told about the baptism of King Aengus by St. Patrick in the middle of the fifth century. Sometime during the rite, St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king’s foot. After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king’s forgiveness. Why did you suffer this pain in silence, the Saint wanted to know. The king replied, “I thought it was part of the ritual.”5
Pain is part of being a follower of Jesus. It’s a part we don’t talk about very much, Perhaps we should. Perhaps it’s not physical pain, but it could be. Perhaps it’s not emotional pain, but it could be. Perhaps it’s not spiritual pain, but it could be. Perhaps as many times as Jesus’ heart was filled to overflowing, there were as many times that Jesus’ heart was broken. We don’t talk about that very much either.
The Book of Common Worship tells us:
Baptism marks the beginning of new life in Christ. The new way of life to which God calls us is one of deep commitment, disciplined discernment, and growth in faith. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, given with and through baptism, equip and strengthen us for the challenges of Christian faith and life.6
Baptism marks our connection with Jesus Christ – his life, his teachings, and his death and resurrection. In baptism, we are connected to Christ.
In baptism, we are also connected to each other. Again, in the First Letter to the Corinthians, we read:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.7
In baptism, we are connected to each other – now and always.
The Book of Common Worship instructs us:
Baptism is the bond of unity in Jesus Christ. When we are baptized, we are made one with Christ, with one another, and with the Church of every time and place. In Christ, barriers of race, status, and gender are overcome; we are called to seek reconciliation in the Church and the world, in Jesus’ name (Gal. 3:28)8
In baptism, we find the roots of the doctrine of the communion of saints. This is made even clearer in the new liturgy for witness to the resurrection, when we give thanks for one “whose baptism is now complete in death.”9 As our journey of faith begins with baptism, so – at our death – is our baptism complete. We have died with Christ and we have risen with Christ.
The Letter to the Galatians tells us:
But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.10
Baptism joins us to each other – sisters and brothers in faith.
Finally, as if it needs to be said, baptism joins us to God. The greatest reminder of this I ever received was during the baptism of a little boy named Chase. The baptism went as it was supposed to go. But in that sanctuary, there were two entrance doors – one far more used than the other. As my friend, Roy Sharpe, walked Chase into the congregation, Chase’s sister, Adrienne, thought Roy was heading for the door. She got out of her pew, ran down the aisle, across the chancel, and up the other aisle, got between Roy and the door, tugged on the sleeve of Roy’s robe, and said in a very loud voice, “he’s mine.”
At that moment, Roy said to the congregation, “Did you hear the voice of God?” “He’s mine.”
Luke tells us that following Jesus’ baptism:
the heaven was opened, and 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.”11
There may not have been voices from heaven or earth at our baptism that said, “You are mine,” but it was implicit in our baptism. In baptism, God claims us as God’s own.
This morning, we have the opportunity to renew the promises that we made, or were made for us, in baptism. We have the opportunity to reconfirm the promises we made in our confirmation. We have the opportunity to be reconnected to Christ, reconnected to each other, and reconnected to God. We can recommit ourselves to being God’s people of light and life. We can make a new promise to join with God in revealing the love and grace that is sorely missing for so many in our world today.
This is what life is all about – being connected to Christ, to each other, and to God.
For now and evermore.
1) Luke 1:44b
2) Luke 3:7
3) Luke 3:16c
4) Romans 6:3-5
6) Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), p. 404
7) 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
8) Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), p. 404
9) Ibid., p. 786
10) Galatians 3:25-28
11) Luke 3:21b-23