This week is Baptism of Our Lord Sunday and is generally a time to remember Jesus’ baptism, our baptism, and God’s steadfast love toward us as expressed in this sacrament.

Passage 1: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Here, we are told that 1) the people are excited and filled with expectation, 2) John deflects attention to himself and directs it at Jesus, 3) after his Baptism, people see the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus and hear the words, “You are my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”

I think an enduring question is What does God think of me? One could answer that by talking about being “in Christ,” which is a phrase found through the New Testament. One could then link those passages with this and say, “What God says about Jesus is also what God says about us,” for we are in Christ, united. Baptism is a statement by God, not by us: You are mine. I love you.

Passage 2: Isaiah 43:1-7 God speaks beautiful words of redemption to Israel, who has been taken in captivity. They are in a foreign land, very similar to Egypt. What does God think of them? “Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you. Do not fear, for I am with you. . . “

This passage could address the wandering and angst we may often feel. Some of us just don’t feel at home in the world. Others of us can testify that we have spent years in captivity: addiction, shame, hiding ourselves, or runing from God. What does God say to those who are “away”?: I will gather you . . . everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” God will rescue because God loves. Also, a hint of hope for the preacher, as God promises the word will go out and find those scattered and gather them in.

Passage 3: Psalm 29 A hymn of praise with a call to worship (verses 1-2) followed by reasons to worship and praise God. This hym would be an elucidation on Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Given the liturgical day, I am not drawn to preach this, but many of the phrases could be used in either the Call to Worship or Prayer of Confession and Assurance. “the voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of hte LORD is full of majesty.” Perhaps we will include this in our prayer before the reading of Scripture.

Passage 4: Acts 8:14-17 I must admit that when I saw it was Baptism of Our Lord and the passage from Luke 3, I immediately thought, “I will definitely preach from Luke.” However, as I read this passage I am struck by a very important idea: baptism unites us in one family.

In Luke 9:54-55, you see that Jesus has sent the disciples out to prepare the way. Jesus would sent disciples ahead to announce his arrival and to make accomodations for his stay. The Samaritans reject this and James and John come to Jesus and ask, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Jesus’ response, “But Jesus turned and rebuked them.” Luke is the author of the Acts passage as well, so this is one book in two acts. Now the good news is preached in Samaria and . . . they believe! Instead of a baptism by fire and judgment, they receive the baptism of water and also the Spirit!

This grabs me: God’s patience and kindness leads us to change. James and John are religious bigots and judgmental and hot-headed, or at least careless with their zeal. The Samaritans change, once hostile now receptive. James and John and the former targets of their fire and ire and now adopted in to the family of God and the sign of that is baptism!

What might this say to us is we ask, “Who do I see as on the outside of God’s grace? Why do I believe I need to judge them? In what ways are we really united?”

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