Sunday, January 13, 2013

First Sunday after the Epiphany

The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ
Isaiah 43: 1-7; Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22
Baptism of Drew Steven Marinov

Grace and peace on this great day, with a special word of affection for the Marinov and Filipek families on this most appropriate Sunday morning, the First Sunday after the Epiphany, as we remember the Baptism of our Lord by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

I did see a humorous item that one of my friends posted up on Facebook this week.  A traditional picture of Jesus and John standing in the Jordan.  Jesus says, “Wait, are you going to dunk me?”  And John replies, “if you wanted to be sprinkled you should have gone to John the Methodist.”

In any event, we celebrate the baptism of Drew Steven Marinov.  Much joy in the family, and choirs of angels singing I know in heaven.  Tony and Becky, just a little over a year since your wedding right here, and how wonderful to be here this morning.  Drew is so much a blessing in your lives—and I know even more, what a gift and blessing it is and will be for him to have such a great mom and dad, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and of course this church family, as we watched and prayed with you all during those wonderful gestational months, and now as we all of us have joined with you in promising to support and encourage Drew in all the journey of his Christian life.  As he is a blessing for us, so we are all called to bless him.

The lesson we’ve heard read at the beginning of this service seems to me to be just perfect for this day, both as we reflect on the story of the Baptism of Jesus and as we celebrate Drew’s baptism, because what they are about, both readings, at their very heart, is the faithfulness of God.  His tender love, his care, his good purpose, his blessing, his promise.

We know the story that is the backdrop for the reading from this part of Isaiah.  Defeat and smouldering ruins and exile.  Life in refugee camps and on the run.  Homeless, stateless.  Pulled up by the roots.  Everything of value and meaning stripped away.  Foundational beliefs and sense of identity overturned.  Everything a disaster.  No hope left. 

And into the darkness and emptiness, this word, and promise, of God’s faithfulness and love.  Comfort ye, comfort ye my people:  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name.  You are mine.  I will be with you.  Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.

And then to begin to see these words and promises come true.  What an experience that is, to know who you are and whose you are, and to begin to see new life emerge where there was only death and destruction.  Fresh growth.  What God says through the word of his Prophet: it’s time to come home.  It’s time to come home.

Bishop McConnell at a meeting this week told us about his favorite collect, and it certainly is one of my favorites too.  The concluding prayer in the order of the Solemn Collects of the Good Friday liturgy, and included in the services of ordination as well.  It begins, “O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery.”  And then a little further on these wonderful words: “Let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ.”

Just to pause for a moment at this baptismal font, as we are invited to renew in our own hearts and minds what it is to know the power of God’s love in our Lord Jesus Christ to break down barriers, to overcome adversities, to bring light into the darkest corner of the world and new life even when we had given up all hope.  Even as we had fully known the brokenness of our own sin, the power of evil.   In the world around us, and deep within us.  If we've ever known ourselves what it means to be in exile, then this word for us.

God’s faithfulness.  God’s faithfulness:  which is deep down the one absolutely essential message for us to hear of Advent and Christmas and Epiphany.  God with us, Emmanuel.  The Dayspring from on high.  The reality of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the invitation in response to know him and to follow him as Lord and Savior.

To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

We of course don’t know this morning how Drew’s life will unfold over the days and years and decades to come, any more than we know for sure anything about the unfolding of our own lives, no matter how much we plan and prepare. 

We pray for him, and for his family, for every gift and blessing.  But if he is like the rest of us, with all joy and accomplishment, the usual mixed bag, in some proportion, brokenness, pain, disappointment, loss.  Just the stuff of human life in this world.  Exile.  Who hasn’t known something of that?

But what we know as well, and for us to say this morning,  is that as Drew is taken from our arms and placed in the arms of Jesus, there is this beautiful new life formed which is true at every hour of every day.  That there is Christmas.  Things that were cast down being raised up, things that had grown old being made new.  Christ in us, doing more than we could ever ask for or imagine.

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

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