SERMON Baptism of Our Lord January 9, 2011

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1 SERMON Baptism of Our Lord January 9, 2011 Isaiah 42:1-9 Psalm 29 Acts 10:34-43 Matthew 3:13-17 Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus, who is the Christ. Amen. I would guess that every one of us has our own road rage stories, especially when living in a large metropolitan area like Houston. Here is one of my recent ones. A couple of weeks ago I was driving through my neighborhood in front of Timbers Elementary School in Atascocita South. It was in the afternoon right at about the time school was getting out. The yellow lights were flashing which warns you that the speed limit at this time is 20 mph. But besides school getting out, there must have been some event going on at the school. Cars were parked bumper to bumper on both sides of the street and parents were crossing with small children all up and down the street. Therefore, I was going slow, maybe 20 mph or even a little less, since there were so many children crossing the street. My window was open because the weather was pretty nice. Suddenly, I heard this yelling and screaming. I thought that there must be a fight, or some other altercation going on. I looked around and didn t see anything. So I just continued driving past the school. Then, out of the blue, this white van behind me floored it, and sped pass me hitting at least mph while still in the yellow flashing school zone.

2 As he passed, he gave me a friendly gesture that involved only one finger. His face was beat red and he was screaming not so nice comments at me. It was scary because there were still children crossing the street. I mean, the school zone was only two blocks long. It wasn t that I was tying up traffic for miles. So what was it that this man somehow needed to be first, needed so bad to be ahead of me? Road rage is something that we have all seen or felt. We can either respond with anger and aggression ourselves, or we can bite our tongue and say; Please go ahead, I want you to be first. Our Gospel story this morning tells us about the Baptism of Jesus. We heard in this story how a man named John the Baptism stepped aside for someone else. Please Jesus, go ahead, I want you to be first. People had been coming to John from all parts of the countryside we are told. They were looking for cleansing. They were looking for healing. They were looking for a new start. And they believed that John was the one that could give them new life new hope. Now if you think about it, John had a pretty good gig going. People were following him by the thousands. They were captivated by his every word. They were perhaps even thinking that he just might be the long expected Messiah. All John had to do was keep on doing what he was doing. But he didn t. Can you imagine the scene when John first sees Jesus? The crowds all of a sudden became silent, because they know that something was different. John was not treating Jesus like the others. Perhaps it was at that point, John new that his time was over. Perhaps he remembered the prophets before him who told of the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Perhaps John knew that the time of the prophets had now come to an end. The way had been prepared. The one had now come into the world.

3 So when Jesus comes to John to be baptized, John says, I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me? Jesus answers, Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness. And so John baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan. And a voice from heaven said, This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Now this is interesting. This voice from heaven says, Jesus, I am well pleased with you, right? But pleased about what? Jesus hadn t done anything yet! In other words, God declared Jesus to be his Beloved before Jesus is recorded as doing any type of ministry. No miracles, no healings, no great sermons, no expressing love for sinners and outcasts. God declared his love first. So, what was said to Jesus when he was baptized, is the same thing that could also be said to anyone when they are baptized in his name. You are my child, my loved one, with whom I am well pleased. Now, it can be difficult for us to hear that voice. For there are a lot of other voices out there, the voices of friends, strangers and family members, the voices of the culture at large that speaks with a voice that is impossible to escape. The voice that calls us beloved can be all but drowned out by those other voices that may say very different things. Things like, you re nothing special, You re nobody, You don t matter, not really. And then there are still other voices that also make it difficult for us to hear the voice that calls us beloved. And, ironically, those are the voices of praise. These voices say things like, You re an excellent student, You re going to go places, You re really a special person, You re a good father or mother, Your children are so polite, You have a lot to be proud of. Now, obviously, we all need praise on occasion. But words of praise can make it harder for us to hear the voice that calls us beloved. After all, to be praised and to be loved are very different things.

4 You see, praise is something you earn. You have to do something to be praised. And if we seek praise often enough and receive it eagerly enough, it can then come to seem as if everything even love, must be earned. But you are God s beloved. Not because of what you do, but simply because you are God s beloved. Therefore, even before you had a chance to do anything that could be called special, God whispers in your ear, This is my child, my loved one, in whom I am will pleased. But again, it is hard to hear that voice. For we seem to do almost anything to distinguish ourselves as special. Think of all the praise we seek. All the recognition: the trophy, the degree, the office, the job, the promotion, the grades, the exclusive address, the accomplishments of our children. Think of all the ways we endeavor to stand out, to enlarge the scope of our lives. All the ways we use to assure ourselves that we matter, that we have a place in the world, that we are loved. All because we assume we have to do something to be valued. Let me give you an example. Now, I don t remember the first time I walked, but I imagine it went something like this: I stood at one side of the room hanging on to the edge of the couch. My mom and dad stood several feet away. Before that day, I had probably dangled around a lot with someone holding my hand. But this is the day when I will try to actually walk on my own all holds barred with just two eager parents, miles apart, there to cheer me on. So, I set out, wobbling at first, stumbling at second, but unmistakably making it on my own from the edge of the couch into the arms of my parents. And then I imagine my dad lifting me into the air and joining in the shouts of praise as if no one in human history had ever walked before. Then, after numerous kisses and high fives, I probably felt like the most loved boy in the entire world.

5 Of course, after some time, I started to walk pretty good. However, the praises and accolades became fewer and fewer. In fact, I can t remember the last time that anyone praised me for walking across a room. Therefore, I had to do other things that were even more spectacular to feel that sort of love again. So you see, for the most part, we don t have much experience with unconditional love. So we try to create conditions in which we will feel worthy of love. We do not entirely trust love without reasons, so we strive to create reasons for someone, even God, to love us. And in all of that striving, it s easy to lose sight of the fact that my parents did not praise me because of my accomplishment of walking from one side of the room to the other. Rather, they praised my accomplishments because they loved me, and would have loved me if there were no accomplishments to praise. Did you catch that? Indeed they would have loved me if I was never able to walk. It is the same with God. God values us not because we have distinguished ourselves in some way accomplished certain things, but because we are God s beloved. So, remember this when you hear all of those other voices in your head. Whether they be voices that tear you down and say that you are not good enough. Or whether they are voices that praise you because of something you have done. Some of those voices are probably encouraging, while other voices you may have spent much of your life trying to silence. But before all of those voices, and above all of those voices, is the one voice that, before you could do anything, or before you could say anything to distinguish yourself in any way, said, You are my child, my beloved, and with you I am well pleased. This is what happened the day Jesus was baptized. And this is what happens when we are baptized in his name. And we must never forget that. Amen. May the peace that passes all understanding be with you now and for life everlasting. Amen.

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