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Sunday, January 8, 2017

I Have Given You

Pay attention to what is happening in these baptisms today: in these words and actions we find ourselves, our call, and our life in Christ for the sake of the world.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   The Baptism of Our Lord, year A
   Texts: Isaiah 42:1-9; Matthew 3:13-17

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

You might want to pay close attention to what’s happening with Jesus at his baptism, and what Isaiah says about it.

Since Pentecost, the Church has claimed we share the same call and promise and purpose as Jesus. We should watch Jesus closely, then, because what’s happening affects us.

But if you’re paying attention to Jesus, it might be easier to pay really close attention to what’s happening to Julia and Margaret this morning. To what we pray for them. To what we claim for them. We always see the water, the washing in God’s name. But as it was with Jesus, there is so much more to see, so much happening through that water and that washing that changes us.

From the beginning of this liturgy, when we blessed the waters of baptism and gave thanks for God’s gift, until the end when we are sent in peace to serve God, this day centers us so we find ourselves, we find our call, we find the life in Christ we are meant to be for the world.

If we do pay attention to this, what is happening and being said is stunning.

I have given you as a covenant to the people, God says.

Jesus claims this for himself as he begins his ministry. And we know it’s true: Jesus is the physical sign of God’s promise of eternal love and grace, God’s promise to the world in the flesh.

But here God says it’s true of us as well. Look at what we say about these girls. Their parents will promise to raise them in the faith so that they may proclaim Christ through their words and their deeds, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. We will welcome them into a mission we say we all share, to bear God’s creative and redeeming Word to all the world.
We bear God’s promise, God’s redeeming Word, to the world.

How have we forgotten this? We are God’s covenant, God’s enfleshed promise to the world. In us God’s Word is borne into a world of pain and sorrow, and we are, each one of us, tangible signs that God has not abandoned this world.

I have given you to the world for this, God says in our baptism. Are you paying attention?

I have given you as a light to the nations, God says.

Jesus claims this for himself, too. “I am the light of the world,” he says in John. (ch. 8) “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.” And we know it’s true: Christ brings light into our hearts and minds, and through the Spirit helps us see even in the deep darkness of this world.

But Christ says it’s true of us, too. As we heard Friday on Epiphany, Jesus said the same thing about us: “You are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5)

And look at what we say to these girls. They will each receive a candle, and Jesus’ next words after “you are the light of the world” will be said to them: “Let your light so shine before others so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are God’s light, shining in the darkness, so others can see and know God.

How have we forgotten this? We are God’s light in a world filled with darkness and fear and hatred. Each of us already is light, we don’t have to create it. And when people see us, when we shine, even in our own little, timid, or as Isaiah puts it, “dimly burning” ways, they find hope and light and God. Let your light so shine, Jesus says.

I have given you to the world for this, God says in our baptism. Are you paying attention?

The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism and he is named the beloved Son of God.

And we know it’s true: Christ Jesus is God-with-us, the Son of God who shows us the heart of God’s love for us and for the world. In Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection, we know God’s love in ways we never could before.

But the Apostle Paul says it’s true of us, too. He tells us and the Galatians (ch. 3) that in the waters of baptism we have been clothed in Christ and in Christ Jesus we are all children of God.

And look at what we ask for these girls. After they are washed, hands will be laid on their heads, and we will pray for the Holy Spirit to come on them, using the same words the prophet declares about the Messiah: we will pray for the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the Spirit of joy in God’s presence, to come upon them.

We are given the Spirit’s wisdom, understanding, joy, counsel, so many gifts in our baptism, that we might, like Christ, bring God’s grace to the world.

How have we forgotten this? Time and again we’ve heard this, at every baptism, at every confirmation, at the Easter Vigil, at Pentecost. We are God’s Spirit-filled, beloved children, in whom God is well pleased. In that Spirit, like Christ Jesus, we are sent from our baptism into our mission in the world.

I have given you to the world for this, God says in our baptism. Are you paying attention?

What does this mean for us? It means we already are what God needs for the life of this world.

Pay attention to all that we are saying and doing when we baptize, to all that is said about and done to Jesus at his baptism and after, because that is our truth, too. These stunning truths belong to us in God’s grace, and God needs us for the life of the world as it sits in darkness and fear.

What will it look like for us to be God’s covenant in the world, tangible signs of God’s promise?

What will it look like for us to be God’s light in the world, shining into the darkness?

What will it look like for us to be filled with the Spirit and called beloved children, and sent with God’s power and life into the world?

That’s why we’re paying attention today. So we can begin to pray and discern together what God means this to look like in our lives.

I have given you as a covenant, as a light, as my Spirit-filled beloved children to the people of the world.

This is God’s baptismal promise to us, as much as it was to Jesus, as much as it is to Margaret and Julia today.

So let’s live that way. Be who we are. Trust who God says we are. In us people will know God’s promise in the flesh. In us people will see God’s light in the darkness. In us people will be touched by the work of the Spirit.

We’ve heard this for a long time. We might just have forgotten to notice these important things that have happened to us.

Now we see.

Now, with the grace of God, we go as God’s blessing into the world.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

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