’s Mark Kurowski reflects on the effects of Baptism on Jesus and on us.  What does Isaiah mean on this Sunday and what does it have to do with water, life and meaning?  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the Baptism of our Lord to find out. Please read Luke 3:15-22. #GreatPreaching, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/13/2013, The Baptism of the Lord

Please pause this audio and read Isaiah 43:1-7 and Luke 3:15-22.
    When my children were little and we got ready to leave to go somewhere as a family, they would go through the same type of thing.  They were little and unable to really get their coats and boots on as fast as everyone else.   As hard as they tried to get their things on, we were older, faster and ready to get out the door, get the car warmed up, and they just couln’t keep up.   Amid all of this hustle and bustle to get out the door a fear would creep into their little hearts that said, “I am not fast enough.  They are going to leave me behind!”
     As the panic set in, they began to get frantic and say, “Wait for me!  Wait for me!”   In these circumstances Sandi and I always said and did the same thing.  We stopped what we were doing, knelt down to our child’s level, reached out and touched them on the hand or face and said, “Don’t worry, Honey.  We are not going to leave you behind.  We will get the car started, but we will NOT leave without you.”
    I don’t know if you noticed it as you meditated on what was read for this Sunday, but the passage from Isaiah, and the reading from the Gospel of St. Luke had much in common.  In the reading from the prophet Isaiah, the Lord speaks through Isaiah and says to you, “This is what the Lord says–he who created you,…he who formed you…: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.”
In this passage of Isaiah, we have God speaking to Israel after she had been sent into exile.   It was a terrible time and Israel had lost all hope.   In the midst of their exile, God says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Also, in the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus comes to the waters where St. John was baptizing and heaven is opened, and the as the Holy Spirit descends, the Father in Heaven says, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
    Here we have two passages, one where Israel has been punished for disobedience and is coming out of exile. In the other, Jesus is coming into adult hood and is baptized as a precursor to our baptism.   In both of these events, God says, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” and “You are my Son. I am pleased.”
    Both of these passages teach us something about God.  They teach us that God claims us at the moment that we are the least.  When Israel had been humiliated, God says, “I called you by name.  You are mine.”  Before Jesus is recognized as the adult Messiah, he is claimed by God, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”   Then there is us.  When we are little, helpless and unable to speak, God claims us in Baptism.  He says, “I have called you and you are mine.”
    That is what baptism is.  Baptism is a claiming by God when we are at our least.  When we are still children, helpless to do anything to earn God’s favor, he claims us through baptism and forgives the guilt of our sins.  As adults, maybe having turned our back on him, he claims us and calls us to be baptized and made a child of God.  In baptism, God claims us and says, “I have claimed you, and you are mine–I will save you.”  Just like we were as little children standing there thinking, “Is everyone going to leave me because I can’t get my boots on fast enough?,” God comes and claims us through baptism and says, “You are mine. I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name.”
    There are times in our lives when we think that God is going so fast, that we cannot put our boots on fast enough.  We aren’t good enough, we think.  We aren’t who we should be, we think.  We can’t be what we want to be, we think.   We are right.  But God, like a good parent doesn’t leave us behind. He provides baptism for us to be forgiven of our sins.  He gives us a church community that cares about us.  He gives us a Savior who leads us onto salvation and service to the world.  We may think what we think, but it is God who acts in and through our lives through our Baptism.  His action says, “I have called you by name, you are mine.”
    A few years ago, I wrote a reflection on this passage about how baptism, and Christ’s baptism, too, was like a driver’s license.  You get a driver’s license and are all excited.  But what good is a driver’s license if you don’t drive the car.  A driver’s license is just a beginning.  It is what we make of it, good or bad.  It is an opportunity.
    Baptism, too is an opportunity.  It is no accident, I think, that the Father says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” at two points in the Gospels.  He says it at Jesus’ baptism, just before his ministry.   He says it at the Transfiguration of Jesus just before Jesus enters Jerusalem to die on the cross for you and me.  He is claimed at the beginning of his ministry and at the beginning of his journey to the cross.  At both junctures, the Father says to the Son in essence, “I have called you by name.  You are mine.  I will be with you always, do not be afraid.”
     God has called me to call you to live the life to which you have been called.  Over and over again, I come to this microphone to remind you to be who God has called you to be.  There are times that being who God wants you to be is tiring.   We may think that we are alone just before a big task.  We may feel like we are called on to go out and perform miracles or go out and die on a cross.  But I have a word for you from the Lord.
    Thus says the Lord, “Be not afraid.  I have called you by name.  You are mine.”   Even if it looks like in our personal lives and in our lives in our church that we are facing an uphill battle, we can handle it, because we are no ordinary people.  We are God’s people.  Through our common Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit he has claimed us.  He has called us by name.  We are not depending upon our power.  We go out in His power.  What we cannot do, the Lord is doing already.  Can you perceive it?  He is doing a new thing!
    When I was a pastor in the United Methodist Church,  something remarkable happened.  When I was at lunch with my pastor colleagues and I told them what happened, they nearly fell out of the booth at the restaurant.  I said, “My Lay Leader got up and told everyone how wonderful they were and how much has been happening that is good in the congregation.”  They didn’t fall out of the booth on that part.  They fell out of the booth when I told them that Mrs. Vertelle Staton was brave enough to tell them the truth.  She told them that they all needed to be more dependable and committed to making it work around our Church.  She said that they need not rest upon what that church was in its former greatness, but to look at the greatness that the Lord had ahead of them.
    Those priests and pastors fell out of the booth because most churches don’t want to face the truth.  They don’t want to face the fact that the Church doesn’t exist for itself.  Being part of the Church through baptism is like having a driver’s license.  It is not driving the car.  Driving the car is in what we do after we are baptized.  I want you to hit the road.  I want you to drive without fear.  For you go in the name and provision of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
    So, as you embark on a renewed commitment to Christ in your personal life and in your church to go and do great things, I want you to remember that before the big events in Jesus’ life and the big events in the life of Israel, the Father in heaven said, “Do not be afraid.  I have called you by name.  You are mine.”  Amen?  Amen.
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