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Epiphany 1 The Baptism of Our Lord January 10, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
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Epiphany 1: The Baptism of Our Lord   Year C
Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
 
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, January 10 2016
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
 
 
Each year,
on this first Sunday after the Epiphany,
we hear the story of the Baptism of Jesus.
 
The child visited last week
          by the magi
suddenly a grown man!
 
It may seem odd to us,
but the church’s lectionary,
the schedule of readings assigned for Sundays,
is not interested
in presenting a chronological account
          of Jesus’ life,
but a theological account.
 
In this season of Epiphany,
the meaning of the Incarnation
          celebrated at Christmas,
(the fullness of God
          dwelling among us in Jesus . . .)
 is revealed
          and explored
in a series of epiphanies,
          beginning with that of his baptism.
 
We heard Luke’s version today,
the assigned passage
concluding this way:
 
“And a voice came from heaven,
‘You are my Son, the Beloved,
with you I am well pleased’.”
 
The very next sentence,
which the lectionary doesn’t include,
but perhaps should,
is,
 
“Jesus was about thirty years old
when he began his work.”
 
His baptism
is not only the revelation of who he is
but also the inauguration of his true work
          in the world,
his ministry and mission
          to proclaim and enact the Kingdom of God,
          to reveal,
          in his acts of
                    justice, mercy, and peace,
          the God who is
                    justice, mercy, and peace.
 
His work began
with a 40-day sojourn
in the wilderness,
after which
          he went public.
 
More than the other
gospel writers,
Luke connects Jesus’ baptism
to the baptism of everyone else
who had come out to the River Jordan . . .
 
“Now when all the people were baptized,
and when Jesus also had been baptized . . .”
Luke says.
 
. . . Jesus “also” was baptized . . .
 
In the way Luke writes it,
Jesus’ baptism is included in
the baptism of all,
and the baptism of all
is included in Jesus’ baptism.
 
And that
has meaning for us.
 
This baptism
which begins the ministry of Jesus
is part of the baptism
of all his people,
part of our own.
 
When we pass through the waters of baptism
we, too, are proclaimed as God’s children,
God’s beloved,
with whom God is well pleased . . .

and we are entrusted
with carrying on
the work Jesus began . . .
 
the proclamation and enactment
of God’s Kingdom.
 
 
As Jesus’ baptism
defined him (God’s beloved Son)
and directed
his life toward the kingdom,
 
so our baptism
defines us (God’s beloved daughters and sons)
and directs
our lives toward the kingdom.
 
The vows we make
(or that were made for us
by parents and godparents)
at our baptism . . .
 
those vows
are our commitment
to spend our lives for God’s kingdom,
and God’s promise to us in our baptism,
is that in so doing,
we will know
the deepest, richest, most abundant life possible.
         

As we renew those vows this morning,
we might attend to the image
that arises in our mind’s eye,
          the vision of the kingdom
          toward which the vows point us.
 
. . . the vision of the kingdom
          toward which the vows point us . . .
 
The vows may also bring to mind
a picture of
our own lives at this moment in time . . .
 
and, at least in my case,
there is always something
out of whack with that picture.
 
That is why, of course,
we periodically renew
our baptismal vows.
 
To turn our hearts and minds,
our imaginations,
again,
to God’s kingdom,
to our work with and for Jesus,
to what is the meaning
          of life in this world.
 
 
Baptism
has a trinity of implications:
personal, communal, public.
 

Baptism happens to an individual
in a moment
but
what has been bestowed in that moment,
          forgiveness of sin,
          transformation of life,
          participation in the very being of Christ,
 
what has been bestowed in that moment
is only actualized,
only comes to fulfillment
in our daily personal living of it,
through the gift of the Holy Spirit
enlivening, enlightening, guiding, sustaining
and ever correcting and transforming.
                   
Brother Christopher Bryant
of the monastic Society of St. John the Evangelist
described the personal journey
of the baptized this way:
 
“The journey towards oneness with God
will mean a growing desire for goodness.
A person will become increasingly determined
to act with courage and generosity,
to serve the common good wisely and energetically,
to rejoice in the success or good fortune of others.
                                                               - Christopher Bryant, SSJE (1905-1985)
                                              from Brother, Give us a Word, SSJE’s daily email, 1/8/16
 
 
 Baptism is personal.
It is also communal.
 
The baptismal font
stands at the entrance to the place
where the Church,
          the living body of the risen and living Christ,
gathers to proclaim God’s Word
          and celebrate the Sacraments.
 
A sign that the Sacrament of baptism
is our entrance into the fellowship of the Church,
all the baptized,
past, present, and yet to come,
          this body of sisters and brothers gathered here,
          the baptized around the world,
                   and throughout all the ages . . .
 
In the community of the baptized,
in our worship, study, service, fellowship, prayer,
we practice kingdom living –
as we encourage one another, challenge, care for, frustrate,
contend with, forgive, and love, one another.
 
Our communal life is based on
that “growing desire for goodness”
          in each one of us,
teaching us
“to act with courage and generosity,
to serve the common good wisely and energetically,
to rejoice in the success or good fortune of others.”

Within this fellowship of the baptized
the Spirit of Christ,
(our great teacher),
chooses to dwell,
enlivening, enlightening, guiding, sustaining
and ever correcting and transforming
our common life.
 
 
Baptism has personal
and communal implications,
and it also
has public implications.
 
From where we are right now,
we have a different view of the font –
when we turn to look at it
from that perspective,
we see that it
also stands at the entrance to the world . . .
 
When we leave this place,
going out past the font
we enter the world,
the public places,
schools, offices, towns and cities,
streets and alleyways,
marketplaces and parks,
hospitals
the public places
where we are to join
in the work of Jesus,
who spent most of his days
          out and about in public.
What he did, in public,
in word and action,
was to set over against
the distorted values of his society and culture
the values of a different order,
the Kingdom of God.
 
The ongoing personal transformation
          of the baptismal journey
leads to our shared participation
          in the ongoing transformation of the Church,
which leads to our participation
          as baptized individuals,
          and as a community of the baptized,
          in the ongoing transformation
of the society and culture
          in which we live.
 
These are the implications
of the vows we renew today
on this Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord,
at the beginning of this season
of epiphanies.
 
May this be a time for letting go
          of old visions
so new visions may come into being.
 

As another of the brothers of
The Society of Saint John the Evangelist,
Mark Brown,
has put it:
 
Epiphany and our baptism
require us
“to let go of what we think we know,
to make room for new epiphanies,”
[to cultivate]
“a willingness to accept fluidity, flux, change, growth.
The willingness to
not be locked in
          to a previous edition of our selves,
not be locked in
          to previous editions of others
or even previous editions of who we think Jesus is.”
                                                 - Mark Brown, SSJE
                                                from Brother, Give us a Word, SSJE’s daily email, 1/9/16
 
May we live our baptismal lives
in that constant state of freedom and discovery.