The Baptism of Our Lord, B – January 14, 2018

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

     Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10-11

     Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore 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. 6:2-3

 

It seems to me that this time of year, January and February, is for most of us kind of the doldrums. First of all, there’s the weather. Mostly it’s cold, with occasional snow and ice (and sometimes even rain). The days are short and the nights are long, and that makes us lethargic. Contributing to the lethargy are the pounds we put on during the holidays and the uncomfortable fit of our clothes. Ugh! Can’t we just skip these months?

It can be the doldrums in church and with our faith, too. We just had one of the greatest highs of the year, the celebration of Christ’s birth, with its joyous hymns and much fuller pews and a beautifully decorated church. But now, the church is fairly bare and will only get more so. Lent is before us. Fewer people are here, and often because of the weather. And even the Scripture readings; I mean, it’s nice, of course, to hear about Jesus’ baptism, but what does that have to do with you or me? If we had been there, had heard the Father’s voice and seen the Holy Spirit come down… well, that would have been exciting! But we weren’t there. It’s just history. So: the doldrums! That’s what we have now.

You know what often wakes you up out of the doldrums? This thing! (Hold up a cell phone) When it rings – and I’ve heard some crazy ring tones: horns and quacks and loud songs, and even “awooga!” – it can make you jump. It does so when you’re in a meeting at work; at the movie theatre; and, dare I say it: even in church. Awooga! How this thing changes our lives! – and in a good way.

Ø  It ties us to one another, and very quickly. Phone calls; texts; emails; pictures and videos that are shared… instantly they connect us to one another!

Ø  Our phones also tie us to places and events. Calendars and date books, and the alerts tied in to them, make sure we don’t miss things. Internet searches keep us up to date. GPS gets us where we need to be.

Boy, this thing has changed our lives! How did we ever get along without it?

You know something? The Scriptures today tell us that your Baptism is like that. Like your cell phone, it has changed your life for the better: here and now, and into eternity! Focus on this and rejoice in this, and you will be shaken out of your doldrums!!

It doesn’t do so with a loud, “awooga!” of course. Have you ever been at a baptism at which the skies parted, God spoke from heaven, and the Holy Spirit came down as a dove? That would be memorable! I’ve never experienced that, however, and nor have you. This only happened at Jesus’ baptism. Ours are much quieter. But: did you know that His was quiet, also? Sure, the Gospels tell us that God the Father spoke, but John’s Gospel makes clear that John the Baptist was the only one who heard His voice. Others probably saw the dove come down, but I’ll bet it wasn’t the only bird flying over the Jordan River that day. It wasn’t until years later, when the story of Jesus’ life was written down, that what happened at His baptism was clearly known. Without the Gospels it seemed like any other baptism John performed. It wouldn’t have seemed any different than yours.

Awooga! The Scriptures, especially today’s reading from Romans 6, wake us up to what happened, to what it really meant, and what it really means. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore 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.” Just as Jesus was connected to all the other sinners by joining them in John’s baptism, so your baptism connects you to Jesus. It joins you to His death for your sins, and so in your baptism your sins were put to death. They cannot condemn you anymore, for the dead cannot speak. Their voice has been silenced. The only One who speaks in baptism is God the Father. Since you are joined to Jesus in baptism He sees you in Jesus and Jesus in you, and so says to you, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” Your sins are forgiven! And, since Jesus did not stay dead but rose to life again after He was buried, you, too, have a new life. His new life is yours, for He gave it to you in your baptism. It’s a life that will be lived forever with God in heaven, but also a life lived here and now with God as your Father, watching over you and helping you and leading you. How blessed you are, you who are baptized into Christ Jesus!

Awooga! Wake up from your doldrums! Realize what is yours through your baptism into Christ Jesus!

It is so important that you listen to these Scriptures, take to heart what they say, and then focus upon Christ’s baptism and your own. For, none of us wants the doldrums, especially in our faith. We want a faith that is real, that is vibrant and alive! We want a faith that will not only get us into heaven but one that will, with confidence and joy, guide us as we live our lives on this earth!

Can you create such a faith? Oh, how you will be disappointed, and find the doldrums, when you think that it is up to you to do so! For, we fail.

Ø  We make promises and then break them. We do this with New Year’s resolutions; with diets; with intended behavioral changes.

Ø  Sometimes we fail because we simply forget, and so don’t do what we intended to do.

Ø  We fail by mistake, doing what is wrong without realizing it.

If you rely on yourself for a faith that will be strong and will not sink into the doldrums you’ll end up disappointed!

Look to your baptism into Christ, and trust in what the Bible says: “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” You must consider yourselves. You must pick up the phone – your baptism – and use it! You must thank God for your baptism and rely upon it by believing what God said to you and did for you in your baptism. You are God’s child, whom He loves! He will raise you out of the doldrums. He will raise you into the vibrant faith that is a new life in Christ.

Awooga! That’s your baptism ringing! Answer it! Rejoice in it! Thank God for it! And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will raise you from the doldrums and keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen!