Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sermon: In Baptism God sees Christ

In Baptism God sees Christ

Greetings in the name of Jesus.
This week Pastor Gregg and I received a letter in the mail not for us. It was addressed to heaven, and I guess the post-man in some confusion, delivered it to St. John’s.
The letter contained a job application and a resume.
For the sake of easy access to this resume you can turn to a copy found as an insert in your bulletin.
Name: Humanity

Permanent Address:
Garden of Eden

Present Address:
Throughout the Earth

Email Address:

Several millennia engaged in war.
Regular attempts at Genocide.
Withholding coats and stealing money. (Luke 3:10-14)
Constant judgment of others along with self-justification.

BA in Sin
MA in Hubris, with an emphasis in Disobedience.

Has interned under the likes of Gandhi, Moses, and Jesus, but just as often under the likes of Genghis Khan, Hitler and Pharaoh.

Gardner—dismissed after failing to follow the rules.
Murderer—have been successful at this occupation since the time of Cain and Abel.

Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Gluttony

So of course Pastor Gregg—being the conscientious and responsible man that he is—had the Vicar put in a call to Heaven right away to get things straightened out.
I explained to the angel Michael that there had been a mistake, that we had accidently received Humanity’s Resume.
But Michael responded. “Oh, God received Humanity’s resume. It read quite simply, “Jesus Christ. Your Son, the Beloved, with me you are well pleased.”
“But,” I sputtered, not wanting to disappoint my supervisor, “I have it in my hand.”
“Chris,” replied Michael, “Don’t you remember Galatians. Baptism is putting on Christ and being made a child of God. In Baptism God sees Christ.”

Lord God, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts me acceptable in your sight. Amen.

Please turn with me to the 18th through 20th verse of Chapter 3 of our Gospel of Luke found on page (_____) in the pew bible.
“So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.”
By the time we get to the Baptism of Jesus, John has been removed from the story. By the time the dove comes down, John has been brought down. By the time Jesus is proclaimed Son of God, his cousin John has been put in jail by Herod.
Now, there is a historical reason for Luke removing John the Baptist from the story of the Baptism of Jesus.
At the time of Jesus John the Baptizer was a potent figure in his own right. In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote around the same time as Luke and Matthew, wrote more about John the Baptist than he did about Jesus called the Christ.
You see, when you are proclaiming Jesus the Messiah and the son of God, as Luke was, it doesn’t necessarily help your case that another group of people who are passionate about another man, John, can say, “well, our leader baptized your Messiah and son of God.”
So, historically the reason Luke sticks John in prison before Jesus is baptized is because he wants to focus on Jesus and downplay John.
But my theological imagination has another explanation. John the Baptist disappears at Baptism because in Baptism God sees Christ.
Even John, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” Even the one preparing us for a time when, “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.” Even the one who prepares us for the time when, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Even the Baptizer, in Baptism, fades away, because in Baptism God sees Christ.

And for some this is a scary prospect. Some of us have assumed ourselves to be Abraham’s ancestors by our own merits. Some of us, because of birth or upbringing, class or race, church membership or seminary education, presume we are automatically on God’s good side. But that simply isn’t so, because in Baptism God doesn’t see our self-righteous deeds, God sees Christ.
For others of us this is an unprecedented gift! For some of us have assumed ourselves to be the brood of vipers by our own merit. Some of us, because of birth or upbringing, class or race, church membership or seminary education, presume we are automatically the sons of snakes and not the children of Abraham. We do not see ourselves as worthy of God’s love, let alone God’s parentage.

We shutter as trees in the wind as we await the ax and the winnowing fork,
We are like a piece of pottery precariously placed on a slim window ledge, waiting the iron bar and the unquenchable fire.
But that simply isn’t so, because in Baptism God doesn’t see our sins, God sees Christ.
I remember one constant refrain I heard when I did my Chaplaincy internship at Altru Hospital up in North Dakota two summers ago. I was so often confronted with sick people anxious about the end. No matter their background they would ask the question, in one way or another,
“am I a son of Abraham or a son of a snake?”
Have I done enough to get to heaven? Has my church attendance or born again experience, or good works been enough for God?
And I can say in response that God is able to raise up children from stones.
For in Baptism God sees the very Son the spirit descended upon as a dove.
The very son that in his prayer and in his baptism a voice from heaven called beloved. The very son with whom God was well pleased.
In Baptism God sees Christ.
This is affliction to the comfortable and comfort to the afflicted.
To the proud mountains and haughty hills it is humility,
to the valleys that sag in sorrow this is salvation.
God doesn’t read our resume, he reads Christ’s. In Baptism God sees His son Jesus Christ.
Baptism is God’s unconditional yes to us, for in Baptism God sees Christ.
Baptism is the Holy Spirit coming to us and saying as it was said to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” For in Baptism God sees Christ.
Baptism is putting on Christ and being made a child of God, for in Baptism God sees Christ.
Baptism is an event so powerful it kills us and makes us alive again, for in Baptism God sees Christ.
Baptism is the raising of every valley and the lowering of every mountain, so that all flesh is enmeshed in the body of Christ—both Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, for in Baptism God sees Christ.
Baptism is a great exchange, our resume is made right, because in Baptism God sees Christ.

And if our resume, our past, becomes that of Christ Jesus, our present and our future shift and become a calling.
Baptism is a continued calling. A calling to die daily to sin. A calling to drown sin every morning, and to remember our baptism every time we step into the shower or wash our face.
When we wipe the condensation off our bathroom mirror and see ourselves we are reminded that in Baptism God sees Christ.
It is also a calling caught up in the question “do my neighbors see Christ in me?”
It is a calling into a life where we are seen by others, and hope, and pray, and strive, that, in seeing us they see Christ. It is a calling to be little Christs to our neighbors.
In Baptism God sees Christ, but do our neighbors see Christ in us?
This is also a question for the Church, the body of Christ, do our neighbors see Christ in us?
For that matter do our fellow church members see Christ in us? Do our actions and words reflect the reality of God seeing Christ in us?
Do we act in order to keep our doors open, in order to maintain lofty and drafty structures?
Or do we act in order to open our doors to all who may take refuge in the Body of Christ—in order to continue the mission of our Master the beloved of God?

And on this Sunday primarily focused on Baptism, but secondarily focused on stewardship, it is relevant to ask “are we giving of our time, talents, and possessions, in a way that reflect our new resume and the fact that in Baptism God sees Christ?”
Do I give even a fraction of my countless hours in front of the TV and on the Internet keeping track of national political gossip and international current events, to furthering God’s kingdom? Can my career or my hobbies translate into acts of love and kindness for the least of these? Of my thousand dollars I make a month do I put 100 dollars of it toward the work of the Church?

There is a connection between Baptism and stewardship. This connection is discipleship, the continued calling to be Christ’s body in the world, to be little Christ’s to our neighbors. It is the realization that in Baptism God sees Christ coupled with the question: do our neighbors see Christ in us?
Now, understand me, these things don’t go on your resume, but flow from Christ’s resume. These things don’t make you children of Abraham, these are things children of Abraham do. Stewardship is not the tree, but one of the fruits.
In Baptism God sees Christ. God doesn’t see our rough and ratty resume, but sees Christ. We strive to live into this gracious truth that, in Baptism God sees Christ. We hope and pray that when our neighbors see us, both individually and collectively, they see Christ. We hope and pray that we are good stewards of this resume given to us, even as we cling to God’s promise.
In Baptism God sees Christ, do our neighbors see Christ in us?


Vicar Sam said...

thumbs up!

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