A Baptism to Remember

Bulletin TL 1-13-2019 YC E1

Scriptures: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Let us pray:

Illumine our way, O Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove; Give us insight through these scriptures that we might bring your life-giving message to others. Amen.

Why did Jesus submit to baptism if he was the sinless Son of God our theology claims him to be? I have pondered this question off and on; this year I read something that finally made sense to me. Robert M. Brearley, commenting on today’s passage, observes that the church has sometimes forgotten Luke’s brief nuanced version of this event, instead focusing on the more detailed accounts in Mark and Matthew. But one phrase from Luke stands out: his Baptism was with “all the people.” Brearley interprets it this way:

“Jesus presented himself for baptism as an act of solidarity with a nation and a world of sinners. Jesus simply got in line with everyone who been broken by the “wear and tear” of this selfish world…[having] had all but given up on themselves and their God…. At his baptism, he identified with the damaged and broken people who needed God.”[1]

Taking the Spirit Dove’s view (or the 10,000 foot level), three things in Luke’s brief passage reflect elements all of us called into Christian fellowship should take to heart: First, Jesus identifies with the people, joining in solidarity and community with them as they move to John’s baptism of repentance. Second, Jesus shows his personal dependence on God by being in prayer with the community of worshipers. Third, he hears God’s affirmation as the source of purpose and calling in his life.

We take these to heart because they illumine our process of spiritual formation. First, we identify with all people, since God our Creator claims all of us: for through our own baptism, we are claimed and marked as God’s own. Secondly, supported by the centrality of prayer, our personal faith journey exists in dependence on God; and third, perhaps the most difficult for me, is a personal recognition of God’s affirmation. Ideally, even as we consider our personal faith journeys, we also need to understand that we are not alone, and that community is what we are called into as we seek to follow God’s will in our lives – showing by example how a life marked as God’s own lives day-to-day carrying out the will of the One who has claimed and marked us through the waters of baptism. At the crossroads of personal and communal spiritual formation, God meets us, and also, in many cases, affirms our adoption into the family of God.

Let’s look a little deeper into Luke’s account. We actually begin today’s account in verse 15 with the people being filled with expectation and questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah. Luke has John answer in the negative, using an agrarian illustration they understand: separating out wheat and chaff. It is worth noting that for some of us, myself included, in the illustration the most active agent is the wind, for it is the wind that does the separating out of the wheat and the chaff. If we interpret wind to be the Holy Spirit, than this points to the fact that the Spirit Dove descended upon him in bodily form indicates his anointing as the heavenly winnowing fork set to earth, for the winnowing of our own spiritual “wheat” and “chaff.” In short, the Holy Spirit will assist us with discarding the old and worthless and allowing the precious seeds of goodness to be caught and gathered as we take on new life.

What Israel was looking for, and perhaps why they were coming to John for repentance, was because of the mess they found themselves in. They were looking, as some of us might also be looking, for:

“…Hope for someone who can lead the people out of their current difficulties … especially [as one commentator wrote,] when elections are at hand, economies are down, or nations at war. What expectations are people filled with today? What are they looking for in a leader? How can they discern whom they should trust and support?”[2]

But there is more. Only Luke records that Jesus is in prayer with all the others after their baptisms. As we shall see in later chapters of Luke, prayer becomes central for the ministry of Jesus.

This offers a shift in perspective from that recorded by the other synoptic gospels – to focus not so much on the act of baptism as the revelatory moment for God’s annunciation but on prayer as revelation.

“What began in baptism is lived out through the practice of prayer by which one receives the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus was empowered for and guided in his ministry through prayer, so too are his followers, down to this day.”[3]

Moreover, the location of this story in Luke’s narrative also shows us something. As important as the baptism of Jesus is theologically for us, those with whom he has chosen to be in solidarity, it is still second place to Luke’s birth narratives for John and Jesus from the first two chapters. This is the turning point in Luke that sets the closure for John the Baptist’s ministry of preparation, “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” and the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus.[4]

God affirms it – “You are my son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” (3:22)

This affirmation once and for all lays the dual claim upon Jesus, causing him to indeed be both the “Son of Man” and the “Son of God.” Can you imagine being there and hearing God’s voice? It is a powerful thing.

“When we experience this kind of honest affirmation from a parent or other significant person in our lives, we are strengthened in identity, will, and ability to act from that secure identity. Without it, most persons will struggle with low self-esteem. The good news is that in Christ, we are all Beloved.”[5]

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

Questions for Reflection

How may I live in the power of the Holy Spirit this day?

What in my life is like chaff that the Holy Spirit burns away in order for me to live as a free and faithful child of God?

Household Prayer: Morning

Loving God,
we begin this new day in the sure knowledge
that you have claimed us as your children.
In all that we do,
keep us mindful of actions that are pleasing in your sight. In all that we say,
make us attentive to the witness we give to your love. Let our lives be an example to all whom we encounter, living as daughters and sons of God
who follow in the path of Jesus,
our Lord and our brother. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

As evening comes and we end the labors of this day,
we thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have been our companion.
If we have disregarded your fellowship, forgive us.
Where we have strayed from your path, correct us.
Let us rest this evening as children of God,
sheltered in the love of those who belong to your holy family of grace. Amen.

[1] Robert M. Brearley, “Pastoral Perspective, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] Ernest Hess, “Homiletical Perspective, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[3] Ibid.

[4] Linda Mckinnish Brdiges, “Exegetical Perspective, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[5] Ernest Hess, “Homiletical Perspective, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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