Sunday, January 10, 2010


First Sunday after the Epiphany
The Baptism of Our Lord
January 10, 2010
Luke 3:15-22

I think all of us are in a state of expectation. There’s always something we’re looking ahead to, something we’re needing, something we want. What is it you’re in expectation of?

The people in the Gospel reading were in expectation. Was John the Baptist the Messiah? He put that to rest immediately. No, I’m just a guy who baptizes with water. The Messiah, He’ll Baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. That’s what you should expect if you’re looking for the Messiah.

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it’s real. It’s filled with a bunch of people just like us. Sure, they lived a long time ago. They had strange customs and ways of thinking. But basically, they were a lot like you and me.

One of these ways is expectation. People back then were expecting things just like you and I do. Will I get the job or not? Will I find someone to marry and have a family with? Will my loved one suffer a prolonged illness or be called home quickly? Or will they be healed? Will I find a way to sleep through the night or will my mind continue in overdrive?

The people in the Bible had the same experiences we do, even if their way of life was different from ours. What do you think the Wise Men were expecting? Here were these men from far off countries who who knows what they knew about the Messiah and what they thought of Him. Who knows what they were expecting when they saw His star.

But what we do know is that they were expecting something big. Something was up. There was that star. There were those prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, what we now call the Old Testament. There was something about this child to be born. Something about a Messiah, a king, one who was greater than they were. They were expecting big things and so they went to the biggest man of all in the land, King Herod.

Speaking of expectations, can you imagine what it was like to be a king in the ancient world? Especially if you were one of great power and you liked it that way. Always looking over your shoulder. Wondering when the next one would turn up to try to unseat you. Herod was not expecting these wise guys to come along and interrupt his kingship with a prophecy about a new king, and an infant one at that. Go worship that little boy and then return so I can worship him too. That would give Herod plenty of time to figure out exactly how he would kill the little boy. Herod was fully expecting to retain his power.

Then we come to find out thirty years later, the son of Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, has his own expectations. And oh are they so very much like his father’s. No, he didn’t like it one bit that John was interupting his kingship with all this talk of adultery.

On the other end of the spectrum was a faithfully married couple. We know what Zechariah and Elizabeth were expecting. To live out the rest of their days in godly service and thank God for the life they had even though they weren’t able to have children like they had wanted, and probably expected. We know what people were expecting when the unexpected happened and they were given a baby in their old age. A child to follow in his father’s footsteps, serving in the temple. When John turned out to be yet again what no one expected they began to think. Their wheels started turning. They wondered, Could this be the one? Could this be the Savior so many generations had longed for?

So when John had to tell them that, sorry, I’m not what you were expecting, we could understand if they felt like God had gotten their hopes up only to dash them. And when John said that, while I’m not the guy, He’s right over there, we might understand if the people there thought that Jesus was anything but what they expected in a Savior. With all this talk that He would Baptize in a way wholly different from John, with the Holy Spirit, with fire, we can understand if their expectations didn’t seem to match reality when Jesus came on the scene and didn’t Baptize anybody but rather was Baptized Himself.

What kind of a Savior was this? What kind of person who came to save people from their sins was Himself undergoing a baptism of repentance?

The same kind that can take what you think is and do what you don’t expect from it. Because while all those people were being baptized by John in the Jordan for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus most assuredly was not being baptized for that reason but rather for their very forgiveness. And for yours and mine too.

Which really goes to the point of all this talk of what people expected back then. What do you expect? What do you think of Baptism? What do you think of who Jesus is and what He does? Is your Baptism for you just something that happened to you at some point in your life? Or is it something that is daily active in your life?

When you come here into the House of God, what is your expectation? Do you expect God to help you out in your need? Do you expect that God will make your life easier because you’re a Christian? Do you expect that the great things God does in your life are through simple things like water and words, bread and wine?

Admittedly, it’s hard to remember your Baptism daily. People tell you that, Remember your Baptism. But when you’re Baptized as an infant it’s hard to remember. But I suppose it’s like that sermon you heard six years ago, you don’t remember a word of it or what it was about or even if it was very good. But it did something. It forgave you of your sins. Just like your Baptism, it brought the Gospel to you to give you Christ.

So that’s why we need to keep hearing the Gospel proclaimed. That’s why we need help in remembering our Baptism. That’s why we begin our worship service the way we do: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Invocation begins the worship service as a reminder to us that we began our Christian life in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What you should expect, then, is that since you became a child of God in Baptism that daily you are in His care. That’s what remembering your Baptism is all about.

The Old Testament reading has God saying it this way to us: “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.’” He redeemed you and called you by name in your Baptism. You have passed through His saving waters. You are His.

At the end of the worship service we go from the House of God in the same way we began, with the name of the Lord placed on us. The Benediction may not seem all that similar to the Invocation with its specific Trinitarian formula “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” but the Benediction is given in the way it is because it is the Triune God who is placing His name on you and blessing you. Notice the three-fold pattern:

• the Lord bless you and keep you
• the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you
• the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

The question really shouldn’t be, What do you expect? There really should be no question at all. Simply expect it. Expect God to do the great things He has promised to do. Know that you are Baptized. Know that He sustains you in your life as His Baptized child by feeding you with the Body and Blood of your dear Savior, your Savior who suffered for all your sins on the cross.

Know this, what you prayed for a little bit ago in the Collect: “Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are Baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life.”

Know that it’s true. Expect it. Amen.


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