Sunday, January 11, 2009

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

The Baptism of Our Lord
First Sunday after the Epiphany
January 11, 2009
Mark 1:4-11

God has called you. That’s something you may forget in the ordinary things you do each day. You may not see why it matters when you’re working at your job every day. You might not understand what it means at all for God to call you. You might see your life as made up of a hodge-podge of different activities and roles you carry out, with no apparent integration in your life.

But God has called you. The Scriptures show us this. When you look at the Scriptures you may see the same thing you see in your life. No apparent meaning for your day to day activities and experiences, uncertainty about its application for your life. The Bible may seem to you a bunch of stories of people and events that are unrelated to each other and even more unrelated to you and what you experience.

God has called you. Just as He called the many people we meet in the Scriptures. Of all the millions of people in the world, He wants you to know He has called you. Just as He wanted the many people we meet in the Scriptures to know He called them. What He called them to He calls you to. What He wanted for them He wants for you. What was true in their day is true for you in your life.

There is one Lord. He is your Lord just as He was theirs. What their Lord did for them He does for you. He called them, He calls you. There is no difference to the faith they believed in and the faith you believe in. There is one Lord and one faith. He brings His people into the faith through means. The promise from Him is that He will be your God and you will be His people. The promise He gives He makes good on through the means He institutes. In the Old Testament it was circumcision, in the New Testament it is Baptism. The one Lord brings you into the faith through Baptism. There is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism.

In the Gospel reading John the Baptist appears in the wilderness. But He doesn’t appear out of the blue. This is all part of God’s eternal plan. This is part of the unfolding of God’s calling of His people. The Lord John the Baptist pointed people to was the Lord of Abraham and David and Isaiah. The faith John the Baptist preached was the faith of Adam and Moses and Elijah. In introducing Baptism, John the Baptist was introducing something new in the sense that it was distinct from circumcision, but the same in the sense that the one Lord was calling His people to the one faith in the means of Baptism, just as He had done for centuries through circumcision. John the Baptist is the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament, both of which call us to the one Lord, the one faith, the one Baptism.

The Bible uses language the way we do. Sometimes it speaks literally, sometimes figuratively. When Mark tells us that “all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to [John] and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins,” he obviously didn’t mean that every single person in Judea and Jerusalem were going out to John. This is a way of speaking, that John’s arrival made a big impact. But it means something else, also. It means that the one Lord came for all. Not just those who came out to listen to John and be Baptized by him. For all. Jesus Christ came in the place of all. God desires that all people be His people. God gives the one Lord, to call everyone to the one faith, and receive the one Baptism.

When John came on the scene, what did he do? He preached, he baptized. He preached Christ, he Baptized with a Baptism of repentance. He came as a servant. He came to serve Jesus, the one Lord. He, John said, would Baptize with the Holy Spirit. And that’s exactly what Jesus does. He Baptizes you with the Holy Spirit; just as His people received the Holy Spirit through circumcision. He calls you to the one faith through the one Lord in the one Baptism with which He Baptizes you.

When Jesus came, what did He do? Did He Baptize? No, John was doing that. Did He preach? John was doing that, also. What Jesus did when He came on the scene was be Baptized. The one Lord is the Lord of the one faith and gives His one Holy Baptism that we may called by God. So why did He come and not start Baptizing? Why did He come and be Baptized Himself when He is the one who calls, not the one who needs to be called?

Because He is the one Lord of the one faith of the one Baptism. God doesn’t just call us, He calls us through Christ. He brings about faith in us through Christ, the one Lord. He calls us to eternal life through Christ, in whom we are united in Baptism. You are not called out of the blue. God calls you in Christ. He doesn’t call you to strive for obedience to Him, He calls you through the obedience of the one Lord Jesus Christ who came as Servant. All of Judea and Jerusalem needed the Baptism of John. They needed to repent of their sins. That’s because all people do. All people need faith. Jesus does not need to repent, He is the author of faith. He is the Lord.

But all are granted forgiveness through the one Lord who serves by taking their place. Jesus was Baptized by John for you. John didn’t want to Baptize Jesus because he knew Jesus is without sin. Jesus wanted to be Baptized by John because He knew that when He takes the place of sinners He is the one counted a sinner by His Heavenly Father and the sinners are declared without sin by His Heavenly Father. What God the Father declared to His only-begotten Son at His Baptism, God the Father declares to you in your Baptism. There is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism.

The one Lord is the one who suffered in your place, dying and rising for you. The one Lord is the Lord who brings you into the one faith, the faith of those who have gone before you and which is yours in Baptism. What God calling you means for you is that in your day to day life you possess eternal life. What God calling you means for you is that you are a child of God. God calling you means that you don’t just go through ordinary activities every day—that there’s meaning to your life. You’re a servant to your family, your friends, and the people of the world. Don’t you want to tell your brothers and sisters of this world the Good News that the one Lord Jesus has come to serve them and bring them into the one faith of eternal life? Just as the one Lord came in your place to serve and save you, you are in His place as you carry out your calling in your daily activities and interaction with the people in your life and the strangers you meet.

All are in need of the one Lord who has come to serve. All are in need of the one faith to which He calls us. All are in need of the eternal waters of Baptism. This promise is for you in your Baptism. God has called you to serve Him; He has called you to eternal life—by the one Lord, in the one faith, through the one Baptism. Amen.


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