Summary: A sermon on the Baptism of Jesus
"Included, Equal, Responsible"
One of the favorite children’s stories is the many tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. When Anthony was a little younger, he enjoyed carrying around his stuffed Winne-the-Pooh and wanted us to read to him over and over again, the different stories of Pooh bear as he called him. As I read these stories I found Pooh bear to be a pathetic thing who is at the mercy of his surroundings. For example, in one story, Pooh bear comes down the stairs bump, bump bump on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin It is as far as he knows the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way if only he would stop bumping for a moment and think of it.
In the same way, many of us go through life, bumping our heads against the brick walls of our own brokenness and despair wondering how we might change, but never quite succeeding in that change. Many of us are our own Pooh bears not enjoying life, but not knowing how to change or shift the direction of our lives. We go along bruising, bumping ourselves wishing life would change, but not stopping long enough to think about how we might change or shift the direction of life.
As one of the great radio commentators used to begin each broadcast many years, ago with" I’ve got good news tonight." This morning I can say the same thing to each of you as you live your Pooh bear existence, I’ve got good news for you. There is a hope and promise of better thing to come in your life. Yes, no matter how desperate, how low, how depressing your life is, no matter how directionless life seems, I have good news for you. That good news is Jesus Christ loves you and has made you a member of his family by the waters of baptism and because of that, there is hope, there is a promise of better things to come in your life.
Our gospel lesson this morning is the story of Jesus’ baptism as He used this event to understand his ministry - his mission among us. The first lesson and the second lesson are a commentary on the life of Jesus as he was seen as the servant of God among the people calling them into righteousness and hope. In Jesus’ ministry, he calls all people into a relationship with him. He calls them as equals into a fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ, and then asked each one to live responsibly as they seek to love Him and their neighbor. This morning we are going to see what it means to be in the baptized community of faith, what it means to be brothers and sister in Christ.
As baptized children of God, we can say about ourselves that God has included all people as his children. Each of us are in God’s picture of salvation, not by our merits but by his request, his claiming us in baptism. After this event, our lives are a response to God’s saving grace in baptism. A response, not an insurance policy. Baptism brings us into God’s picture of salvation, but unlike real paintings, we can take ourselves out of the picture by living a life which does not respond to God’s act of grace.
Conrad Thompson formerly of Lutheran Vespers tells this story: "An artist was standing along a beautiful river in France where he was painting a picture of the landscape. A group of children came by and watched the artist as he caught the beauty of the clouds, the river and the trees with his brushes. Finally, one of the girls in the group could not contain her enthusiasm any longer and asked, ’Mister, can you get us into that picture?"
God brought us into the salvation picture by His power through our baptism. It is a picture of beauty, however, we can make salvation something less than beautiful if we remove ourselves from it by rejecting God, his word, his supper, his grace by removing ourselves from the community of faith..
Baptism is not an insurance policy to heaven, but baptism is our boarding pass to a lifetime with Jesus. Baptism begins a relationship with Jesus which is nourished, feed, strengthen, enriched and kept alive by faithfully availing one’s self to God’s means of grace, the word and the sacraments, especially communion. Our journey through life with Jesus needs the encouragement, the strength, the lasting power of a faithful presence in and with the community of believers.
A pastor visited a man who had been missing from the community for a number of weeks. The pastor called upon him and they sat down opposite the fireplace with its warm glowing fire. The pastor took the fireplace tongs, reached in to the fire and took a glowing coal and placed it outside the fireplace on the hearth, They watched as the coal lost it glow, as the heat soon disappeared from it. Then the pastor placed it back into the fire. Soon it was glowing and heat was rising from it. The man said, "Pastor, I get the point, I’ll be in my seat next Sunday." The pastor smiled.