Isaiah 42: 1-9
Matthew 3: 13-17
I have 'splurged' a sermon, which I will take with me as I have a few days away, and will probably hone - but here is the fist draft:
Baptism of Christ
The baptism of Christ is one of these rather unusual events in Jesus’ life: it is an event that is recorded in all four of the gospels. Maybe this isn’t so surprising – it is the start of Jesus’ ministry, it is the point where the obscure carpenter’s son from Nazareth starts to preach & teach & heal.
This is clearly a vital moment in the life of Jesus and I hope we can learn from it.
Here is the point where Jesus claims by his actions that he is part of the community of people walking God’s way.
John the Baptist has appeared, calling people to repentance, to turning back to God's ways. He tells of the nearness of God's kingdom, the time of complete fulfilment of God's promises to humanity. A new era, in which God rules, is almost here!
And Jesus comes because he is part of it.
John seeks to dissuade Jesus from seeking baptism but Jesus insists: he is ready to take this step and make this decision to begin his ministry as God chosen servant.
So we could read into this story a message about taking the plunge (if you’ll pardon the pun) – certainly of having the courage of your convictions.
But in the words Jesus hears when he comes up out of the water, we hear an echo of what Isaiah says about God’s servant. ‘This is my chosen one’. It is not enough just to hear of the baptism of Christ and think – we must be bold. If we are to take the plunge it needs to be as those who seek to serve God’s purposes, not just our own.
We need to take the step of faith as God’s servants.
I think when we hear this story of Jesus’ baptism we hear a story that is about more than just Jesus deciding he will do what God wants of him – it is also the point at which the Spirit of God fills and inspires jesus, and where we see the Father, the Son & the holy Spirit all working together to begin a work that is far more than any human person could ever do.
So how do we recognise what being God’s servant means?
The reading from Isaiah was one of four Servant Songs, poems about God's special agent whom God will select. This servant will be quiet, gentle, respectful of others, and patient. He will be concerned with God's will and he will not fail nor be discouraged until he has achieved God's purposes. He will continue to do what God did in the past – he will be faithful to the God of history. So Jesus comes with a message – a message first of all heard by Jesus “You are my chosen, in whom I delight” – but a message which becomes a message for each person who will accept it – ‘you are chosen’ ‘you are precious’ ‘you are mine’ – God whispers these words to each one of us here.
As we take the plunge, we need to be faithful to all that has gone before and remember the God of history, whose servants we are. And we need to trust in God’s blessing for each one of us – God’s healing, shown in Jesus – God’s strength offered to us when we most need it.
Of course we may feel that sometimes we are biting off more than we can chew – that it’s all too much for us – we are too few, we are not young anymore, we are battling a secular world. Can God really use us to speak peace to our world?
Surely we are too weak and the struggle we face is too much?
But we should never underestimate the power of God. Jesus’ ministry may have begun by stepping into the Jordan, but it ended by stepping out of the tomb, via suffering and death. Jesus was the faithful servant of God the Father, bringing salvation for all, there is nothing that God cannot do.
But even when we are walking God’s way it isn’t always clear at start where we will end up. Jesus was the inspired son of God, yet this wasn’t clear at all times, even to his closest followers.
We began with a story about the start of Jesus’ ministry, with his baptism in the Jordan.
But in it we find a message for the New Year for each one of us.
There is no limit to what God can do with us this year – we are his beloved and he is pleased with us.
We can take a step of faith in 2011 and remember always that we are here serving the God who through all time reaches out to people in love. And we should know, as Jesus knew, the Spirit with us to give us the power to serve the one God, Father Son & Holy Spirit. Amen.