Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Homily for the Baptism of our Lord

Baptism is the beginning.

Baptism is the beginning of Jesus ministry. 

After this, he will go into the desert and be tempted by the devil.  
He will then go the synagogue and say “today scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”.  
He will exorcise a man who is possessed. 
He will then go on to call the first followers. 
He will then begin to preach about the kingdom of God, and heal the sick. 

But it all starts at the baptism.

The crowds have gone to hear John the Baptist preach his fiery sermons about God’s coming

"I baptize you with water;
but one who is more powerful than I is coming;
I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fork is in his hand,
to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary;
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

The crowd who had been wondering whether John was the Messiah now know that he is not. 
They now know that someone else is coming. The baptism they receive from John is only one of repentance and preparation.  

The baptism they will receive from the Messiah will be altogether different.

They are all baptised, but now must be wondering who this Messiah will be.
It is after they have all been baptised, that Jesus presents himself to John.
The crowd must be watching who this man is. He is baptised just the same as they were.
Jesus goes and prays.  The heaven is opened. And here the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove. 

Do the people see this? 
Does John see this? 
Or does only Jesus? 

Then a voice from the cloud

"You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased."

Do the people hear this? 
Or is it only Jesus?

Jesus is baptised, he prays, and he is filled with the spirit. His father announces that it is now time.

It begins.

Our lives as Christians begin at the same point. 
Whether we were bought to church as infants by our parents, or somehow muddled our way through a bit and came to the faith later, our Christian lives begin at our baptism.

It is in baptism that the journey begins.

And it is a challenging journey. 
It is one that challenges the person who is baptised, or in most cases, the parents of the child who is being baptised.

Parents bring their children for baptism for many reasons. 
It may be because grandparents want it to happen; it may be because it is a cheaper alternative to a naming ceremony. 

Or it may be deeper. It may be that there is something going on that is greater than all these. The thing here is that that what is really going on is between God and those about to be baptised.

But baptism is challenging for us a church. 
In baptism we are confronted by many things. 
When we baptise we are in contact with people that have had very little to do with the church, if any involvement at all. 
We are confronted by the fact that there are large sections of our society who we have no contact with. 
We are confronted that they seem to understand very little of what we talk about, what we do, or even what we stand for.

All this is very uncomfortable. 
It is painful, because we can see that the way we have been doing things has lost one or even two generations.

Yet, many people still want their child to be baptised.  

And it is to Jesus’ baptism that we can reflect on to help us make sense of all of it.

We can remember that Jesus asked to be baptised by John. 
We can remember that it was a public happening, it didn’t happen in isolation. 
We can remember that it was the beginning of the whole Jesus movement.

But we can also recall our own baptism. 
We were either bought here by our parents, or we made the decision as adults to be baptised. 

And to be baptised means to be part of the church.
And it is more than just membership. St Paul tells us that in baptism:

it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.
Gal 2:20

In our baptism we are joined to Christ, we become members of the body of Christ. 
Our baptism into him takes us to his own baptism. 

And the words he hears from the Father:

With you I am well pleased

echo down to us and to all who are baptised into Christ.

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