Tag Archives: baptism

The Baptism of Our Lord

Tear Open the Heavens

Today, let us consider successive forms of God’s creation. The  first one is found in Genesis:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.   (Genesis 1:1-5)

God gave us the sun. He also gave us his light, the glory of his presence. God called the light good. But part of it did not remain good. The sun still shines but his light was diminished due to the fall of humankind. Though humans were made in the image of God, they lost that image. Without God’s presence, the world gradually turned to spiritual darkness. God’s word was no longer respected. Something had to be done to save God’s creation. The Prophet Isaiah cried out to God:

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
    so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
     as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
    so that the nations might tremble at your presence!   (Isaiah 64:1-2)

God answered the prayer of Isaiah. He tore open the heavens and came down. Reading from today’s Gospel of Mark:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”   (Mark 1:9-11)

Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, came to join human kind, to share our nature as one of us. This was a second great creation. By so doing God would reconcile the world to himself. Through his death on the cross to pay the price for our sin, Jesus would cause another tearing open of the heavens. We read from the Gospel of Mark:

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”   (Mark 15:37-38)

God had joined us. Christ has now made it possible for us to join God. This is the third great creation. No longer would God call the Temple in Jerusalem his House. Jesus became the New Temple. All the fullness of God was embodied in Christ. Not only that, but the separation between God and humankind was no more. The Holy of Holies no longer existed.

God invited us to join him in Christ. Jesus told his disciples:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.   (John 14:15-17)

The Spirit of God would knit our spirits together with his.

“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.   (John 14:21-23)

We are the new creation of God. We are not part of the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.   (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Jesus, the agent of creation, who made humankind in the image of God, has restored that image which we lost through our his sacrifice on the cross. He has done even more than that. Reading from John’s Gospel:

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   (John 1:10-13)

We have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to become the son and daughters of God.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.   (Romans 8:14-18)

Are we ready to step into our inheritance? The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;   (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

God has given us the power of his Holy Spirit which recreates us into the glorified sons and daughters of God. Do we receive his Power today, with thanksgiving and praise?

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.   (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Leave a comment

Filed under Baptism of our Lord, Epiphany, Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year B

Third Sunday of Advent

He Came to Testify to the Light

John the Baptist seemed to spring up out of nowhere. The religious leaders in Jerusalem were not prepared from him. Reading from today’s Gospel of John:

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.   (John 1:19-23)

The Pharisees wanted to know why John was baptizing Jews. Baptism was required for Gentiles who were converting to Judaism. Jews were the rightful children of Abraham. They were the people of the Covenant. For the Pharisees the ministry of John the Baptist seemed irrelevant. Why was the ministry of John the Baptist needed? Again, reading from John’s Gospel:

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”   (John 1:24-27)

John the Baptist’s ministry was preliminary. His purpose was to testify to the light of Christ that was coming into the world. From John’s Gospel:

He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.   ()

John the Baptist’s was twofold: He came to reveal the darkness and then to point to the One who would dispel the darkness and illuminate the world. But before the people were able to see the light, they would first have to see the darkness.

Today, are we not surrounded by darkness? The darkness seems to be advancing, not retreating. Chaos has been planned by the Prince of Darkness. What must we do? Do we look for a leader that will lead us out of all this? God does lead through his anointed ones. King David was a good example. But even David fell for short of the glory of God. He was a man after God’s own heart. But he was also an adulterer and murderer. John the Baptist was a leader sent from God, but he could not deliver the people out of darkness on his own. He pointed to Jesus.

Unfortunately, we have false prophets and false teachers in our churches today who are not pointing to Jesus. In fact, many of them are not addressing the darkness in their sermons. We have self-help, happy sermons. Before we can understand, appreciate, and fully embrace the light of Christ, we must see clearly the darkness. We must see the darkness that is within ourselves.

The Apostle Paul gives us a prescription:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

Rather than despair, we must seek the truth of God’s Word. We must seek the Word made flesh. All true prophecy points to Jesus. We must shut out the falsehood of this world. We have false prophets and we have false journalists. Everyone who does not give glory to the Lord is not of him.

Mary, the mother of Jesus proclaimed:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.   (Luke 1:46-53)

Jesus is our savior. Do we fear him? Have we humbled ourselves before hm? Do we hunger and thirst for his righteousness?c

The Apostle Paul blessed the Church of Thessaloniki:

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.   (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Advent is a season of not only preparing for the coming of the Christ child, it is also a time of preparation for the return of the Lion of Judah. The Lamb of God who was slain for us to take away our sins, is the sovereign ruler of the age to come. Does he rule our hearts today? Are we allowing his light to deliver us from darkness? Let us take our eyes off of this fallen world for a moment and reflect upon the light of Christ that is coming into the world today. Many people are opening their eyes and hearts to One who is the true light of this world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Eucharist, Gospel, homily, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year B

Second Sunday of Advent

Comfort My People

We have begun a new liturgical year. We will be reading from the Gospel of Mark. This is how the Gospel of Mark begins:

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”   (Mark 1:2-3)

The liturgical season of Advent is all about the coming of the Christ Child. Mark has quoted from the Prophet Isaiah.

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.   (Isaiah 40:1)

This was the message of John the Baptist:

A voice cries out:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”   (Isaiah 40:3-5)

John was saying that the kingdom of the Lord was coming. But first, things must be straiten out before his return. The kingdom of the Lord is stilling coming. It is not here yet. In our day, sin appears to be on the rise. Has the message of John the Baptist been lost? I believe that we have certainly lost part of it. The message began as a comforting one.

The psalmist wrote:

You have been gracious to your land, O Lord,
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

You have forgiven the iniquity of your people
and blotted out all their sins.

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.   (Psalm 85:1-2,8-11)

The psalmist was celebrating what God had done for Israel. God was speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him. God is still doing that to those who will listen. The good news is that God is prepared to do al the straightening out for us. All we have to do is turn our hearts toward him. We cannot clean up and straighten ourselves out on our own.

This is the promise which the Lord makes through the Prophet Isaiah:

See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;

his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,

and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.   (Isaiah 40:10-11)

Are we willing to step aside and watch his hand move on our behalf?

Make no mistake, the Day of the Lord is coning. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.   (2 Peter 3:8-1)

We need to be living lives of holiness and godliness. That is the message. How we accomplish that is the part that the Church may have misunderstood. The message of John the Baptist was a comforting one for those who believed what he was saying. Many Israelites gave themselves to baptism by John in the Jordan River. Those who refused to listen did everything they could to deny Christ, eventually crucifying him,

This Season of Advent, are we able to admit to God the realities of our lives? God is able to cleanse us and restored us. If we are hearing this word for the first time, now is the time to come under the comfort and protection of Christ.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,   (Isaiah 40:11)

God is still saying:

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.   (Isaiah 40:1)

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year B

Resurrection Sunday: Easter Early Service

Do Not Be Afraid

One of the following readings from the Old Testament:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a [The Story of Creation] 
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13 [The Flood] 
Genesis 22:1-18 [Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac] 
Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea] 
Isaiah 55:1-11 [Salvation offered freely to all] 
Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 [Learn wisdom and live]
Ezekiel 36:24-28 [A new heart and a new spirit]
Ezekiel 37:1-14 [The valley of dry bones] 
Zephaniah 3:14-20 [The gathering of God’s people] 

Romans 6:3-11 
Matthew 28:1-10 
Psalm 114

Do we believe that we are living in difficult times? Our whole way of life is under attack? The future appears to be uncertain? This was true for the disciples of Jesus, after his crucifixion. Fear had taken over most of the disciples. In their minds all had been lost. The miracle worker was no longer with them. The promise of Israel’s had been dashed. Governmental and church authorities were breathing down their neck.

But the scene was about to change. The women went to Jesus’s tomb on the first day of the week. We read in Matthew:

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”   (Matthew 28:9-10)

Jesus is risen. As Christians, we do not have to live in fear. On this resurrection Sunday, we celebrate the triumph of our Lord over sin, the grave, and Hell. What we could never accomplish on our own, Jesus has won for us, through his death and resurrection. He paid the price of sin on the cross and opened, for us, the door to heaven,

The good news of the Gospel is that our Lord’s resurrection is also our resurrection. The Apostle 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.   (Romans 6:3-5)

Does this sound too good to be true? Again, Paul writes:

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 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.   (Romans 6:6-11)

Today, Jesus is telling us, as he told to the women at the tomb: “Do not be afraid. I have risen. Go and tell others that you have seen me.”

Are we still so focused on the world around us that we miss what he is saying? The disciples of Jesus were, at first. They had not yet encountered the risen Lord. But when Jesus appeared to them their whole world changed. If fact, the whole world changed for everyone, but especially for those who believed.

Have we encountered the risen Lord? If we have let us encourage those who are in despair with little hope. From the Old Testament reading of Zephaniah:

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you[a] in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.   (Zephaniah 3::14-19)

If we have not had an encounter with the risen Lord, it is not too late. Today is our day of salvation. Today is the day of our deliverance. All we need to do is to look away from our present circumstances for a moment and look to Jesus. Let us listen to the voice of the Lord:

Peace I leave with you; my own peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.   (John 14:27)

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.   (John 11:25-26)

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 2Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.   (Matthew 11:28-30)

If any of us have never embraced Jesus as our Lord and Savior, now is the time to do so. He has been raised up so that he may raise. us up. Let us cry out to him for forgiveness. He wants to give us newness of life. He wants to pour out his Spirit upon us. He wants to impart to us the hope of glory.

Tribulations are very much a part of this world we live in. But this world is passing away. Jesus said:

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.   (John 16:33)

His victory is our victory. The Apostle Paul writes:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   (Romans 8:37)

Let this be our joyful refrain:

Alleluia!  The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

1 Comment

Filed under Easter, Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Resurrection Sunday, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A