Service & Sermon
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Sermon — January 16, 2022
First Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7
Second Reading: Acts 8:14-17
Gospel: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
I really have strong feelings against shopping.
More specifically, I struggle when it comes to simply browsing a store,
looking for something that I don’t know I’m looking for;
and also…waiting in line.
I don’t know of many people that enjoy waiting in line,
but there is just something that makes me angry at the world
when I am stuck waiting in a line at a store.
I don’t get mad at the cashier, particularly if the store is understaffed;
I’m not mad at other shoppers, they’re doing the same thing I am;
But there is an impatience with waiting in line,
even when I don’t have somewhere else to be.
In confirmation class, we had a really great conversation about church.
We focused around two questions:
“What do we think of when we think about church?”
And “What is something we wish we could change about church?”
One of the answers that a student gave
about what we wish we could change
was waiting in line for communion, and I hear that!
But there is something so profound and beautiful in that answer:
that they can’t wait to reach the front of the line
where the most personal good news is spoken to each person:
“this is the body of Christ, given for you;”
“this is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”
I love that! They can’t wait to hear this good news proclaimed to them!
Well, today, our scripture finds Jesus waiting.
Did you catch that?
Today, the Sunday that celebrates the baptism of our Lord,
Jesus is waiting.
We hear, “Now when all the people were baptized,
and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying…”
In other words, John the Baptist wasn’t just hanging out in the Jordan River waiting for Jesus to meander on down and have his big moment in front of the crowd,
but instead Jesus was one of the crowd waiting in line to be baptized.
John the Baptist was busy doing what he did,
baptizing with water; ritually cleansing people as was their custom.
But this waiting they were all doing,
it wasn’t like at a department store.
When we wait today, we might be in a long line waiting a long time,
but there’s air conditioning in the stores,
or it’s warmer than it is outside in the winter;
when we wait there might be some music playing,
but there’s a general quietness to it all;
most people with the means to go shopping and wait in line
have access to water that they bathe with, so it isn’t smelly.
The waiting for this crowd was outside so hot,
and likely sweaty and smelly; and I’m sure it wasn’t quiet:
at the very least there was the sound of the river going by.
And they were all “filled with expectation,” as we read.
They were “filled with expectation,”
and questioning if John might be the one to save them.
These people were expecting a saving
from whatever situation they found themselves in,
out there waiting and sweating and hoping
that this washing they were in line to get might do something for them.
Maybe on a deeper level though,
they were waiting and hoping and expecting to be saved
from their shame, or their guilt, or their broken relationships,
or their grief, or their poverty, or their loneliness, or…
And John, that one out their proclaiming a prophetic message
and doing the ritual washing,
maybe he was the one that was going to do that!
But he wasn’t.
Instead, the one to do those things was in their midst,
waiting with them.
Jesus, the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit
and with a cleansing fire,
fire like a winnowing fork that sorts out our chaff from our wheat,
was baptized the same way all the people were…
the same way we baptize: with water.
And it wasn’t until all the people were baptized
when Jesus had a moment to himself,
that God spoke, “You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.”
There wasn’t really anything that Jesus had done,
and God proclaimed God’s love for him.
And it’s Jesus’ own waiting in line with us,
in the mucky waters of our lives from which we need saving,
that Jesus calls us “Beloved.”
This is the time of year when so many challenge themselves to do better,
to be better in the new year.
Did you notice our sign just outside the front door?
“There is no resolution that can make you more worthy of love.”
It’s really true!
God’s love is already true, here and now,
for me and for you,
purely because it pleases God to love us.
You are a pleasing thing to love.
That is maybe a difficult thing for some of us to hear
if we have a hard enough time loving ourselves,
but if that is true for you, hear it again:
it is pleasing to God to love you.
In baptism, we are named, “Beloved.”
In addition to anything that may be written on a tombstone—
parent, child, sibling, neighbor, friend…even our names—
what comes first is that we are a beloved of God.
We’re going to do something a little different.
But turn to the people sitting around you.
Say, “you are beloved.”
I want to hear noise in the air, “you are beloved,”
let’s try that.
You are beloved! You are beloved by God!
When is the last time you have heard that?
Perhaps, if you were baptized as a child,
you don’t remember yourself named as,
“beloved child of God,”
but today, on this Sunday, celebrating the baptism of our Lord,
hear that clear proclamation found in our baptism,
a proclamation that we don’t need to wait to hear:
you are a beloved child of God.
I’ve shared with some of you about my baptism story.
That Pastor Laurie, Calvary’s interim, was the pastor that baptized me,
and I screamed.
I did not want to take a bath in front of the congregation.
And yet, Jesus does exactly that:
takes a ritual bath alongside each of us,
in the muck with us,
cleansing each of us from all that we need to let go of.
Beloved people of God:
remember that you are baptized.
Remember that God loves you.