Baptism of Jesus
January 8, 2017
Matthew 3: 13-17 You can click on this link to read the text in Oremus Bible Browser.
Back in the day, each of us in the Maas family received a name that connected us to someone in our family: Barbara Ann remembered my mother’s father Benjamin and my Dad’s mother Anna. My family still calls me Barbie. John Steven was named after my Dad and his father – both Johns, and we called him Stevie to avoid confusion. Richard Emmett was named after Dietrich, my Dad’s middle name and my Dad’s Uncle Dick – Dietrich, so we called him Dick. As we grew up, we left our childhood names behind, mostly. They are still stuck in family relationships and conversations. My niece’s husband said, “You all have two names, and I can never remember which one is the one you want me to use.” It’s funny because it’s so true.
Maybe you have similar stories, but one of the names each of us has is the same name into which Jesus is baptized in the story we have before us. Beloved. What a perfect way for Jesus to begin his adult journey, by being baptized. Immediately after his baptism, he ends up in the desert fasting and praying and wrestling with all the questions that will plague him through his whole ministry – how to set aside his own ego, where to find the courage to confront the evils of his time, and how to trust that love will find a way when there seems to be no way forward. Being named as God’s beloved gave him the strength to stand up to his first test and all the tests of his trust is God that followed.
Jesus seems the least likely candidate for baptism – even John was shocked. If we only think of baptism as a washing away of sin, then it does seem confusing. Jesus didn’t sin, did he? In Medieval times, people would come to faith and put off baptism until the last practical moment of their lives because they thought that baptism only washed away your past sins, and that you would just sin again, and then what? But baptism is more than just washing you from the sins you committed up to the moment. It is the beginning of a life-long covenant with God as God’s Beloved. We are joined to God’s family and the human family in baptism. God promises to be with us always and to claim us as God’s own forever. God’s forgiveness flows into our lives through our growing faith that Jesus is the final proof of God’s great love for us. We learn to trust God’s promises because we see in Jesus’ resurrection that God can even break the barriers we think of as permanent. When we are named as God’s Beloved in our baptism, we become part of God’s work in the world. We become disciples.
So, we enter into a covenant in which God promises to love us, forgive us, be present with us, and we make promises too. If you turn in your hymnals to the service of Holy Baptism, here’s a list of promises that we make or that are made for us:
- to live among God’s faithful people
- to hear the world of God, and share in the Lord’s Supper
- to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed.
- to serve all people, following the example of Jesus
- to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
It is our privilege to be part of the way God works to change the world. It is our privilege to be able to worship freely, join the community of the faithful and talk about our faith without fear. It is our privilege to call Jesus our brother, and to see ourselves as part of the family that God has invited into life with God forever. Luther says that every time we feel as if we’ve failed, we can remind ourselves, “I am baptized, I am God’s beloved.” Every time we splash water on our faces, we can be reminded that we have been splashed with God’s grace in our baptismal washing. Just as your family has named you and connected you to its story, so your baptism has named you Beloved and connected you to God’s story forever. Amen.