Epiphany 1 A*Isaiah 42:1-9 *Psalm 29* Acts 10:34-43* Matthew 3:13-17
This is a time in society where there are a lot of messages out there. You’re not good enough…You need to change, adopt this meal plan this resolution and you’ll finally be your best you, and live your best life…
This is in stark contrast to the Christian calendar that is stockpiled with feasting around the Incarnation, feasting at the Epiphany, and today yet another feast day where we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, but just like at every baptism we are celebrating something specific: God love’s the heck out of you! God is crazy about you. God has been shouting from the heavens, “I love you.” And at Christmas God the Son reveals to us even more deeply how much God loves us! And last week at the Epiphany we heard God not only loves us, he loves everybody, and put a star in the sky to reveal his light to the gentiles.
Today is the first Sunday after Epiphany or Three Kings Day on Monday. Remember Epiphany is a word from Greek that means to make clear, or make public, or make obvious, it’s that AHA moment. Christians at Epiphany celebrate that Jesus Christ’s mission was made known to the world!
But there is not just one instance in which Christ was made known to the world. Often times you have to hear or see something many different ways in order to truly understand or learn something. And so God revealed Christ’s loving mission of salvation in many ways: His birth, the coming of the three Kings, His baptism…on and on throughout Christ’s life God continually revealed Jesus as his Son and Savior.
In this Epiphany season in the church we remember, celebrate and learn about the ways Christ was revealed. What God might do, or how God might speak, or how God might bless us. Isaiah reveals to us the promise that the captives of darkness will be set free. God is doing this for us and is revealing in Christ a light to all the nations. Sometimes however we stand in the way of God making himself known. In our own humanity we place limits on what God might do, or who God might work through.
John the Baptist in today’s gospel almost stopped God from providing one more Epiphany! When Jesus came to John to be baptized at the Jordan, John said, I object! It is I who should be baptized by you.
I understand what John meant. Baptism, the way we have traditionally understood it does two things. It cleanses from sin and it provides entrance into a community of faithful people. Jesus did not need to be cleansed from sin. He was sinless and walked in the way of the Lord already. He was already as a Jew, committed to a community of faithful people through the old covenant of circumcision. So Jesus seemingly did not need to be baptized, and we can understand why John would object. Yet Jesus insists on being baptized by John to “Fulfill all righteousness”, whatever that means.
God had bigger plans for this baptism than John could understand. He wanted to make this and Epiphany moment, an “Aha” “I understand” moment. You see baptism does a third thing beyond cleansing from sin, and providing admission into a community of faith. It also expresses publicly a commitment to who God is and a commitment to live in relationship with God and fellow believers.
Jesus is opening his public ministry by confirming as an adult his commitment to live according to God’s will. And so, the bible tells us in brief that John consented.
And then what happened….something that wouldn’t have happened if John stood by with his objection, because he was unworthy for God to work through in this way.
Immediately, right after Jesus was baptized…Can you picture it? John is in the Jordan with Jesus, Jesus is rising up from the water…and Scripture tells us Heaven opened!
Heaven opened and the Spirit of God descended from the sky like a dove. And this Spirit lands on Jesus, and then a voice, a voice from heaven says.
“This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased”
Wow! Talk about an Epiphany! Talk about an Aha moment! Can you imagine being there…hearing a voice from God! This is my son. What a moment and a miracle.
You’d think that would be an unforgettable and life and mission affirming moment for both Jesus and John. And yet a few years later from a prison cell John would send some of his followers to Jesus to ask. "Are you the Messiah we've been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?"
We as human beings have short memories…When life gets tough we forget about the ways God has revealed himself to us…we forget about the light we’ve seen in the past…John, despite having seen heaven opened, and a spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove, came to a moment of questioning and doubt years later when he was facing death in prison. And yet God is so gracious to us. And was so gracious to John. God is continually giving us new moments of revealing himself and his love for us, because he knows we need them.
When John’s followers came with the question of should we expect another Jesus replied. Jesus told them, "Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen--the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, 'God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'"
In life we are prone to forget the good news. That we are all beloved children of God Even sometimes like John we stand in the way of God being made known. We stand in the way of someone else’s Epiphany because we like John, feel unworthy for God to work through us. John wanted Jesus to baptize him. Saying I object. I am happy he consented eventually.
It is my prayer for you in this New Year that it will be filled with Epiphanies. In moments of doubt or stress, I pray you will be able to remember the good things and times when God has blessed you and revealed that you are his daughter. You are his son. You are his precious child. And God loves you and cares for you so much.
I pray you will look back at Jesus’s birth, the coming of the Kings, Jesus’s baptism and his resurrection, and you will know that God loves you. God loves this world. He will not abandon or forsake us.
And I also pray that when God wants to work in and through you, you will not say, “I object.” Because it’s not about whether you are worthy, or perfect or even good enough. God wants to manifest himself in your life, in your home, in you! So that you, and the light of God that shines in and around you will be an Epiphany for others. So they can share in the Aha moment that Jesus is God’s son, and by baptism we share with him, and are children of a living God who loves us.
Now as always the world needs Christians who are committed to live according to God’s will. Committed to seek and serve Christ in every person so today we will renew our baptismal covenant…
I don’t ever want to get in the way of what God is working in someone else’s life because I don’t understand it or aren’t prepared… In Acts 8:36 as Philip and the Ethiopian were travelling along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?"
Here's water friends let’s let nothing stand in the way…by water and by our profession of faith let us renew our baptismal covenant together as a community, but if any of you have never been baptized, or perhaps were long ago but you’ve lived a prodigal life. I invite you to come forward, for here’s water...