The Epiphany and Baptism of our Lord (Pastor Will’s message on a snowy icy Sunday morning)
The first Sunday after the Epiphany, January 8 2017
“The Baptism of our Lord”
During Advent, for four weeks, we reflect on and get in touch with our deepest longing and hunger for a Messiah. During this intentional time we are called to “wait upon the Lord”. As we wait, through the words of the prophets, we hear God’s promise that a Savior is coming, to prepare the way of the Lord.
At Christmas, for 12 days, we celebrate that God keeps God’s promises, that God gifts us with the birth of a Savior. The good news is this, in the birth of Jesus, God became incarnate, became flesh and blood and that indeed Jesus is Emmanuel… “God with us”.
Now, during the season of Epiphany, we unwrap this gift of Christ and explore who this Messiah really is and what God is up to in the life and ministry of Jesus.
January 6th is the day of “The Epiphany of our Lord”. It is a festival day when we read Matthew 2:1-12 and we hear the story of the Wise Men – the Magi – follow a divine appointed star to lead them to the Christ. When they discover the Christ they are overwhelmed with joy and they open their treasure chests. They give the holy family gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. While giving gifts is a natural response to those we love and adore, these particular gifts contain “Easter eggs” and insight revealing who Jesus is and his destiny as the long awaited Messiah.
Gold, a gift for royalty. Jesus is a King, and with the visit of the Magi from the east, this reveals Jesus is not only King of the Hebrews but of all nations and of all people. Jesus’ Lordship goes beyond his own particular tribe and race.
Frankincense, an incense used in worship, used as a means to share that the divine is present. This gift reveals that when you are in Jesus’ presence you are in the presence of the Divine. Jesus is both fully human and Divine and the sole object of our devotion and worship.
Myrrh, a spice used in burying the dead. Basically embalming fluid. This seems like a weird gift to give to a king and a young family seeking refuge and security! But this gift reveals Jesus is not only King and Divine, but he is also destined to die. We will discover later on in his story that his death involves cross for the sake of the world.
I shared with the group who gathered for worship last Wednesday for our Epiphany service that over the course of this season I encourage you to worship and read the scriptures with a pen or highlighter in your hand. I encourage you to pay attention to the prayers, lessons and hymns and to underline or highlight phrases or words that jump out at you. To write in the margins questions or insights you have with what is being preached, prayed and proclaimed. What is being revealed to you over this season of Epiphany? I would love for you to share with me what epiphanies you have.
The first Sunday after The Epiphany is always “The Baptism of our Lord” Sunday and epiphanies revealing who Jesus really is continues.
Read for yourself Matthew 3:13-17.
(go ahead, do it… read it with a pen or highlighter in your hand)
What do you see or notice in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism?
One of the big reveals on the first Sunday in the season of Epiphany is the full presence of the Triune God. Nowhere in scripture does the word “trinity” show up, however while Jesus is being baptized we are invited to see the heavens open up, the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus and a voice declaring “this is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
There at Jesus baptism we see out in the open… Father, Son, Spirit.
Within this revelation of the mystery that God is Trinity (three persons yet One God) Jesus’ identity is revealed, he is God’s son, who fulfills our destiny to be brought into the life and love of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In the Sunday’s that follow we will discover more what this identity means for Jesus and us as his followers.
(I know that is a lot to chew on… take a deep breath… if the mystery of the Holy Trinity makes your head spin, you are not alone, I just had to go get more coffee!)
I don’t remember my baptism.
I do know I was baptized on March 18th, 1973.
The reason I know that is because my aunt gave me a Bible on the day I was baptized and this date is written on the inside cover.
I don’t remember my baptism. But my parents do.
They were there and promises were made. Promises were made by my parents and Godparents, and most importantly by God.
I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever, and God promised nothing can take that away.
My parents made the promise to raise me within a community of faith that strived to follow Jesus and do ministry in his name.
And even though I often gave them a hard time about it, they took me to worship, to Sunday School, confirmation class and youth group. They helped me learn the rhythm of discipleship within the community of faith.
To be honest I don’t remember much about my Affirmation of Baptism (Confirmation) either. I was 13 and pretty clueless, but…
the seeds of faith planted in my life by my parents, youth directors, Sunday School teachers and pastors eventually took root and I was able to confirm and affirm the covenant God made with me in my baptism.
I don’t remember my baptism but most importantly God does.
Jesus was baptized and the Church remembers this every year the first Sunday after January 6th, the Epiphany of our Lord.
This is a big “a-ha moment” for the Church.
There is something different about this particular baptism.
John the Baptist notices it and we should too.
John tries to argue with Jesus about role reversals.
John asks, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”
But Jesus reveals to us and the whole Church, “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
The baptism of Jesus isn’t one of repentance but a baptism that FULFILLS.
That is, Jesus’ baptism not only reveals the full presence of God; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but this baptism also reveals that Jesus (fully human and fully divine!) fulfills our destiny to be drawn into the life, love, flow, and dance of the Holy Trinity.
I’m reading a book on the Trinity by a Franciscan monk named Richard Rohr, the name of the book is The Divine Dance. I encourage you to read it too.
In the book he reflects and shares how the life and nature of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a mutual dance of love. A never ending dance and flow that we are invited to be a part of.
To be honest this is where I got the idea of naming our HTLC blog “Dancing with the Trinity”.
Father Rohr shares…
We do not merely watch and marvel at the dance of God, we are invited to join the dance.
So if Father Rohr is right…
If love is the tune and grace is the rhythm of the dance of the Holy Trinity, then for us Baptism and discipleship are the dance moves.
Baptism is the entrance into the dance we call discipleship and a lifelong process of learning the dance of the Holy Trinity.
Baptism is less about insurance from Hell (fire insurance) and more about a life-giving relationship with the Holy Trinity.
Since the foundation of God’s nature is relational then we are invited into an intimate relationship with God and one another.
Jesus’ baptism not only reveals the nature of who God is, but it also shows what we are baptized into.
We are baptized into the life and dance of the Holy Trinity.
In our baptisms we are brought into the life and dance of the Trinity. The heavens are opened… and a voice is heard…
“You are my child, with you I am well pleased.”
God says this to Jesus and in our own baptisms God says this to us. My question to you is… do you hear this Divine Voice in your daily life?
We hear a lot of voices every day.
We hear so many competing noises and voices trying to get our attention to buy this, do that, look this certain way, dress and act like that particular celebrity or rock star or “cool kid” in class…
yet, do you hear this Divine Voice?
The ONE that says, “You are my child, with you I am well pleased.”
You may or may not remember your baptism but I assure you God does.
And if you are not baptized, you are invited to the font of God’s grace. You are invited into the splash in this water, to hear the words you are baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You are invited into a relationship of unconditional mercy, love and grace. You are invited to learn the rhythm and dance of discipleship. (God knows I still have a lot to learn!)
If you are baptized I encourage you to find out the date, memorize it and remember it.
Remember it daily… when you wash your face, when you take a swim or surf, when you play in the rain or snow… remember you are God’s beloved child and nothing and no one (not even yourself) can take that away. (Read Romans 8:38-39)
I encourage and challenge you to continue to plant the seeds of faith in your family and community of faith, to reach out and support one another, to help remind each other that we are indeed children of God, beloved by God. And with witness of the Magi to extend this good news to all people, even those different from us.
While we may step on each other’s toes every now and then, let us be patient with one another as we grow and learn the rhythm and dance of the Holy Trinity.