“The Heavens Being Torn Open” (Mark 1:4-11)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 7, 2018

“The Heavens Being Torn Open” (Mark 1:4-11)

How many of you know when your baptismal birthday is? Mine is September 10. What’s yours? It’s good to take note of and remember the day of your baptism, that happy day when all your sins were washed away and you became a child of God. So if you don’t know your baptismal birthday, you might want to go ahead and find out when it is and then celebrate it.

But did you know there’s a baptismal birthday going on today? And that it’s one all of us can celebrate? Because today is the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the day in the church year when we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. This is the day we remember that event when our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. So today is, in effect, Jesus’ baptismal birthday.

The Baptism of Our Lord is an event recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and also referred to in the Gospel of John. The accounts are very similar, except here and there one writer may include a detail that another leaves out, or one writer may use slightly different wording to describe the same event. So it is in our text today from the Gospel of Mark. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention that when Jesus was baptized the heavens were opened, but only Mark uses the exact word choice that we find today. He says: “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening.” “The heavens opening,” but more literally it says: “The Heavens Being Torn Open.”

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Published in: on January 7, 2018 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold My Servant” (Isaiah 42:1-9)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 8, 2017

“Behold My Servant” (Isaiah 42:1-9)

“Behold my servant,” the Lord says to us today. Who is this servant, you ask? It’s Jesus, of course. The Christ, the Anointed One, baptized as the Lord’s servant, to do the will of the one who sent him. Jesus, the Christ, anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. And Isaiah is here to tell us about him. Through the prophet Isaiah now, the Lord invites us to look upon Christ, saying, “Behold My Servant.”

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Published in: on January 7, 2017 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“When You Pass through the Waters” (Isaiah 43:1-7)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 10, 2016

“When You Pass through the Waters” (Isaiah 43:1-7)

With the recent floods of late December and early January, we certainly witnessed the destructive impact those waters can have. Highways were shut down. A stretch of I-55 was closed for days. Highway 141 at I-44 was underwater for a week. Homes were damaged. I think the most dramatic and memorable image I saw was video of a house literally floating down the Meramec River. And the people affected by the flooding went through and, in many cases, still are going through, a rough time.

Maybe you yourself were not affected by the flooding. But perhaps you’ve been going through a rough time in other ways. Your home may not be underwater literally, but maybe it is “underwater” figuratively, meaning you owe more on your mortgage than your home now is worth. That’s bad. Or suppose there are other rough situations you’re going through. Your pension has been cut, and you don’t know how you’re going to make it. Your marriage is falling apart, or your kids aren’t talking to you, and you don’t know why. Your heart is acting up, and you find yourself short of breath. These are tough experiences to be going through, and I could list other difficult, even overwhelming, situations that people here in our pews are facing.

So what do we say to people when they are going through such things? What comfort do we ourselves find when we face these situations? Well, today God has a word to say to you, a word of comfort and hope, for those times “When You Pass through the Waters.”

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Published in: on January 9, 2016 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Something in the Water” (Mark 1:4-11; Romans 6:1-11; Genesis 1:1-5)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 11, 2015

“Something in the Water” (Mark 1:4-11; Romans 6:1-11; Genesis 1:1-5)

I don’t listen to pop music or country music on the radio, but recently I read that there is a song that’s popular on the airwaves right now that makes some references to baptism. That caught my attention, naturally, so I looked it up and listened to it online. It’s a song called “Something in the Water,” by a singer named Carrie Underwood. I don’t know if you’ve heard it or not. But it does have to do with baptism. Now very likely it’s coming from a theological perspective on baptism we wouldn’t agree with entirely, but even so, it’s surprising that a song about baptism would even make it on the charts, much less be a big hit.

Let me tell you a little about this song, in case you haven’t heard it. Miss Underwood starts out by singing about a conversation she had with someone who, in the midst of his frustrations, had followed a preacher man down to the river and now, he says, he’s changed, he’s stronger, “there must’ve been something in the water.” Then Carrie herself, the singer, says that one night, when she was out of hope, cried out to God and felt his love pouring down. So she then “got washed in the water, washed in the blood.” And now, Carrie says, “I’m changed, I’m stronger, there must be something in the water.” And so the song proceeds.

Well, good. It’s refreshing to see a song that at least alludes to the Christian faith make it big on the airwaves. While this song “Something in the Water” doesn’t use the word “baptism,” and it doesn’t mention Christ by name, the song is nice as far as it goes, I suppose. But it only scratches the surface. I don’t know, can you scratch the surface of water? In any case, today I would like to take us deeper into the water of Holy Baptism. Yes, there is “Something in the Water”–a number of things, actually–so let’s find out what they are.

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Published in: on January 10, 2015 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“To Fulfill All Righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-17)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 12, 2014

“To Fulfill All Righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-17)

The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ is an event recorded in, or referred to, in all four gospels. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the account of the baptism itself is recorded. In John’s gospel, it is referred to. Clearly God wants us to know that this is an important event in the life and career of Christ, an important event for us to know about. And so it is. Thus the church has set aside the First Sunday after the Epiphany every year for us to focus on the Baptism of Our Lord.

As I say, this event comes up in each of the four gospels, and it comes up early. For this baptism really marks the launching of Christ’s public ministry. From here in the Jordan, Jesus will set out to do what he came to do, which is to bring in the kingdom of heaven by saving his people from their sins. This is Jesus’ inauguration day, if you will, the day when he takes up his office as the promised Messiah. The Spirit comes upon Jesus, anointing him with power and blessing for the performance of his office. The Father’s voice attests to Jesus as his beloved Son, with whom he is well pleased–his chosen one, in whom he delights.

The other gospel writers, Mark, Luke, and John, bring out these points about the Spirit’s descent and the Father’s voice, as does Matthew in our text today. But it is only in Matthew’s account that we find the little dialogue that goes on between John the Baptist and Jesus, before John consents to baptize him. And so we will give some added emphasis to this part of our text this morning, under the theme, “To Fulfill All Righteousness.”

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Published in: on January 11, 2014 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Christ the Baptized and Baptizer” (Luke 3:15-22)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 13, 2013

“Christ the Baptized and Baptizer” (Luke 3:15-22)

Today in the church year is the Baptism of Our Lord, which we always celebrate on this, the First Sunday after the Epiphany. The Baptism of Our Lord is that auspicious occasion when our Lord Jesus Christ, as he was about to start his public ministry, was baptized by John in the Jordan, and the Spirit descended on him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, attesting to Jesus as God’s beloved Son, with whom he is well pleased. And so every year on this day the Holy Gospel is the account of Christ’s baptism, as we have it in either Matthew, Mark, or Luke, depending on the year. This year it’s the account in St. Luke, reading especially these verses. “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”

But notice that today’s reading is prefaced with some words from John the Baptist about the Christ and what he will do, particularly these words: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

So, taking these two sections together, what we find in our text is that Christ was baptized and that he will do some baptizing of his own–he will baptize us. Thus our theme this morning: “Christ the Baptized and Baptizer.”

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Published in: on January 12, 2013 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Christ’s Baptism and Ours” (Mark 1:4-11; Romans 6:1-11)

The Baptism of Our Lord
January 8, 2012

“Christ’s Baptism and Ours” (Mark 1:4-11; Romans 6:1-11)

Today the church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord. On the First Sunday after the Epiphany, every year, we hear an account from one of the gospels of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan by John. “OK, so Jesus got baptized,” you say. “Big deal. Why should I care? What does this have to do with me?” A whole lot. As we shall see. Our reading from Mark and our reading from Romans will make the connection, as we consider the theme: “Christ’s Baptism and Ours.”

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Published in: on January 8, 2012 at 12:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Lord, What Are You Doing Here?” (Matthew 3:13-17)

The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 9, 2011

“Lord, What Are You Doing Here?” (Matthew 3:13-17)

You know, so far, both at Christmas and at Epiphany, we’ve found Jesus in places you wouldn’t expect. The shepherds were told to find the newborn Messiah lying in a manger, not in a palace. Then, when the wise men come looking for the one born king of the Jews, they find him in the little town of Bethlehem, rather than in the royal city of Jerusalem. Not where you would expect for such a glorious king. And now, when we fast-forward to Jesus as an adult, once again we find him where you would think he doesn’t belong. Today, it’s at John’s baptism at the Jordan. This is not where Jesus should be! Or is it? This, in a way, surprising appearance of Jesus, coming to be baptized, is what throws John for a loop. He basically asks Jesus, in effect, “Lord, What Are You Doing Here?”

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Published in: on January 9, 2011 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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