Sermon 01/08/2023 – Come to the River

Matthew 3:13-17

           Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Sermon Text

            Jesus was baptized… I’m gonna say it again in case it is not hitting your ears as strange. Jesus was baptized! The perfect son of God, the only sinless human in all of humanity, that God-man was washed with a bath that is described by its administrator as, “for repentance.” The waters of baptism, a sign of a transformation of self, was given to someone who had no need for transformation. You and I, we need to change our lives to abandon evil, to embrace life and not death. Yet, the person who modeled it for us was someone who had no purpose for it.

I say no purpose, but I doubt that God does anything without purpose. Think of your life, for all the moments that you are able to say, “God did that, no doubt!” and tell me if it felt random at all. I cannot think of anything in my life that matches both descriptions. I have had plenty of random things happen and I have had plenty of God things happen, and they have never crossed paths. The people who tell me about their problems with diabetes in the grocery store – that tends to be random. The people I meet in public and am able to give some kind of word that applies to their life in that moment – that is God at work.

Jesus, the incarnate word of God, therefore is not doing anything that is just a happenstance. Jesus would not go out of his way to drop into a muddy river in Israel unless it had a definite purpose. That purpose? Well, that is for us to discuss today. What comes to mind when I say Jesus was baptized, why do you think that he would have done that? Was it to wash himself of sin? What sin? Was it to meet God’s requirements of Jewish worshippers? Baptism develops later on and for converts rather than people born into the faith. What about as an example to us as believers? Now that is something we can talk about.

Jesus is not just someone we look at from a distance and think about. Jesus is supposed to be the person that we imitate in everything we do. Scary isn’t it? The things that Jesus did are the things that we should do. Think of anything you have done in the past week and ask, “Would Jesus do that?” I have not seen y’all since Christmas, so we’ll include New Years in that equation. I ain’t gonna shame anyone for having a good time, God has given, “wine to make the heart glad,” but still we can probably think to something from the holidays and say, “Yeah, that ain’t Jesus-like.”[1]

The example that Jesus gives is an example in and of everything. That includes the start of our life. Christ goes into his ministry only after receiving baptism, and we too can only begin to do the work of God after we are washed in the water of rejuvenation that is baptism. There is nothing magical about water, but there is the work of the Spirit giving us some kind of grace. We are shown that the water takes away the life that was, and we are given the chance to live into the life that is. There are many vows taken in baptism, the United Methodist Church liturgy asks the believer if they affirm the Apostle’s Creed, but also:

“Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?” Those are heave promises to make.”[2]

[1] Psalm 104:15

[2] United Methodist Publishing House. “The Baptismal Covenant I” The United Methodist Hymnal.

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