+ A homily for the Baptism of Our Lord at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on January 12, 2020 +
Texts: Isaiah 42:1-9; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17
Martin Luther once said that there is so much that could be written about the sacrament of baptism that the books it could fill would span entire libraries.
So on a Sunday when we are celebrating the Baptism of Our Lord and yet trying to make time for the next phase of our future planning process, I’ll do my best to keep this short.
In his Flood Prayer, Luther also wrote that through Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River all water is sanctified, that in this act God has infused Godself to every drop of water, that all the waters of the earth have been declared holy.
Every drop of water: the rains from the heavens, the fluids within our bodies, the water we drink, the oceans and rivers, even our morning showers, all water is holy and is filled with God.
Just as in Christ’s incarnation, all humanity has been reminded that our bodies are sacred, that each of us bear the image of God, that our bodies have been blessed with the holiness of the divine.
Every body: no matter race or color, no matter sex or age, no matter size or ability, no matter our orientation or identity, every body holy and bears the beautiful image of God.
In each of the four gospels, Jesus’ baptism is the beginning of his earthly ministry.
The Spirit of God moves over the waters of the Jordan River, just as she moved over the waters of Creation, and rests on Jesus who is proclaimed and revealed as God’s beloved son.
Jesus’ ministry is rooted in these waters, in this Spirit, and in this proclamation, and in his ministry we see a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy of the one who would be a light to all the nations, who would “open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
In Jesus we see the one who proclaims God’s love for all people—a love that knows no partiality—one who works for peace, one who went about doing good and whose power sent the forces of evil reeling.
And just like it was for Jesus, baptism is where it all starts for us, my friends.
We trust that this indeed is more than just water, this is water infused with God.
We trust that baptism is more than just a cute ritual for newborns, this is about our identity, this is about our belonging, and this is about setting our lives to follow Jesus.
In these waters, the Spirit of God falls anew upon us and we are given an identity that remains long after the water dried from our foreheads, an identity that will never fade away: a beloved child of God.
In these waters, God names us and claims us as God’s own and clings to us forever.
In these waters, we find a beginning and basis for our ministry.
And in these waters, we find our calling each week to pattern our lives in the example of our Lord Jesus.
This is where we promise to live into our God-given identity, to trust in our belonging to God, to follow Jesus.
This is where we are called to be in community with each other and live among God’s faithful people, to faithfully come to worship and celebrate at Christ’s feast of life and love, to diligently study and wrestle with scripture trusting in the power of the Spirit.
This is where we are invited to transform our lives so they witness Christ in word and deed, to love and care for the whole creation and every person we meet, and to persistently strive for peace and justice throughout the earth.
And this is where we are united together with these saints here and with all the baptized in the one Body of Christ, to support and pray for each other, to nurture faith in each other, to lovingly challenge each other so we might grow together, to work together in our common mission.
In a few minutes, we will renew the promises that we made or that were made on our behalf as we are reminded what this covenant with God entails.
That we will cling to our God-given identity, that we will trust in God’s claim on us, and that we will join together with Christ in continuing his mission on earth.
And we will recommit ourselves and our congregation to a life of following Jesus.
That we will continue working until all people know the love of God and are treated with the dignity they deserve.
That we will continue working until all water, until every body, until the whole creation is recognized as and treated as holy.
That we will continue to work with God to transform our lives and our community until the whole world reflects Christ’s love.
As we consider our future together as this expression of the Body of Christ we cling to the identity we gained in these waters, an identity that can never be taken away: beloved children of God who have been united together in Christ.
As we search for certainty, we trust that we belong to God who loves us and who will never let us go.
As we discern the future of this congregation, we root our life together in this font and find our marching orders in these waters.
Today we recommit ourselves to continuing the work of Christ, joining his ministry to bring light and healing and hope into the world.
And with every drop of water, we remember the promises we have made and the promises that were made to us.
With every drop of water, God unites us together in common mission.
With every drop of water, God clings to us and reminds us how beloved we are.