Epiphany 1 The Baptism of Our Lord January 12, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

EPIPHANY 1 THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD Year A

Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:13-17

(Commissioning of the Assembly for the Capital Campaign)

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

 

 

On the day Jesus was baptized . . .

 

Jesus,

the Word of God,

 

Remember the Prologue of John’s Gospel

we just read at Christmas?

 

Jesus,

who was in the beginning

with God,

through whom

all things came into being,

in whom

all beings have life,

 

whose own life on earth

began

as ours does,

in the waters of a mother’s womb . . .

 

 

On the day Jesus, the Word of God, was baptized,

the great Mystery of Incarnation

began its unfolding . . .

 

He came from Nazareth, his hometown,

to the River Jordan

to be buried

in the waters of his own creation . . .

 

waters that trickle, pour, rage and foam,

waters that cleanse, purify, refresh,

waters that slake thirst and quench fire,

 

waters that give life,

save life,

take life,

change life . . .

 

waters of drowning

waters of rebirth,

waters of new beginnings.

 

On the day Jesus was baptized

in the waters of his own creation,

 

there was

a revelation,

a manifestation,

an epiphany . . .

 

 

As he rose from the

waters of the Jordan

“the heavens were opened . . . ,

the Spirit of God descended . . . on him,”

a voice from heaven announced,

‘This is my Son, the Beloved,

with whom I am well pleased.’ ”

 

Then, the gospel tells us

in the very next sentence,

 

Jesus was “led up by the Spirit”

into the Judean desert

where he wrestled

with the meaning

of what had just happened.

 

His old life,

the carpenter life,

had died

in the Jordan.

 

He was being born

into something new.

 

Where would this new life

take him?

 

 

During those long days and nights

of temptation and testing,

of fasting and prayer,

of listening in his heart

to Scripture learned by heart

in worship and study,

 

the servant songs of the prophet Isaiah

must have welled up in his memory . . .

perhaps the one we heard today:

 

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations . . .”

 

In those words

written centuries before,

it was as if God were speaking to him

right then and there,

in the immense velvet darkness

of the lonely desert night.

 

“I have called you in righteousness . . .

given you . . . as a light to the nations,

to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon . . .”

 

“New things I now declare;

before they spring forth,

I tell you of them.”

 

 

 

Jesus returned from the wilderness

with an urgent sense of mission.

 

In the Nazareth synagogue on the Sabbath,

handed the scroll of Isaiah,

he chose another

of the servant songs

to proclaim  . . .

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor,

sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

“Today,” he said to the congregation,

“this Scripture

has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

[Luke 4:16-21]

 

 

I wonder just how much he really knew

about where that anointing and sending,

that baptismal event,

his experience in the wilderness,

those words of Isaiah  . . .

would take him . . .?

 

 

Word of God

en-fleshed on earth,

God’s Son, yet born of woman,

Divine, yet fully human . . .

 

To be truly human,

truly like us,

to share our experience,

to live as we do,

 

did he not

have to start

from our beginning,

did he not have to

grow,

question,

learn,

experience,

discover,

mature . . . ?

 

and if that is so,

then his baptism,

that watershed moment

from which there is no turning back . . .

 

his baptism was, for him,

as baptism is for us,

only the beginning

of a lifelong process . . .

 

 

the Mystery of Incarnation

unfolding

 

the ongoing

opening of heart and mind

to God and God’s purposes,

to new things springing forth . . .

 

His life would be

a continuing discovering

of what it meant

to be himself,

God’s Son,

God’s Beloved,

God’s chosen,

God’s Servant.,

 

as he went about

healing, teaching,

proclaiming God’s kingdom,

gathering to himself

the poor and neglected,

abused and oppressed,

challenging the powers

of empire and wealth,

responding to events, circumstances,

encounters,

seizing opportunities,

enduring hostility,

pressing on

through disappointment and failure,

living in hope.

 

 

A life of complete self-offering

requiring much prayer,

daring,

willingness,

courage,

adaptability,

faith.

 

 

On the day each of us is baptized

(or will be baptized . . .)

we enter that life.

 

On the day we are

sprinkled with,

or splashed by,

or immersed in,

the waters of baptism,

God begins something new in us.

 

We may have been infants

and remember nothing of it,

or children with a child’s understanding of it,

or adults who thought

we knew what we were doing,

only to realize we had barely a clue,

 

or we may not yet be baptized

and are wondering all about it . . .

 

(in which case,

do please

bring your wonderings to Fr. Torvend

or to me)

Baptism is a watershed moment

from which

there is no turning back

 

the beginning of a lifelong process

of transformation.

 

We are named

God’s children, God’s Beloved,

God’s chosen, God’s servants

to join in the ministry of Jesus:

 

to bring forth justice,

to be a light to the nations,

to open eyes that are blind,

to bring out prisoners from the dungeon.

 

Who could predict

what such a life would become,

where such a life

would take us?

 

Who could guess today

where it will take us

tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow . . .

 

 

But . .

led, pushed, prodded,

enticed, challenged, empowered

by the Spirit of God resting upon us

 

we go on exploring,

and sometimes wrestling with,

the meaning of our baptism

in every place and time and circumstance

of our baptized lives  . . .

 

What does it mean

to be ourselves . . .

to be

God’s children,

God’s Beloved,

God’s chosen,

God’s servants?

 

We do not explore

or wrestle alone,

for our baptism incorporates us

into a community, a communion,

of exploration,

 

into the Church,

which is the Mystical Body of Christ

living and active in the world . . .

 

the Risen Christ incarnating

in a particular people

gathered in a particular place,

as we are today gathered

in this place.

Everywhere the Church becomes,

the Mystery of Incarnation

continues

to unfold.

 

 

We are the Body of Christ . . .

 

along with every community of the baptized

all around the world,

in Mystical Communion with all the baptized

past, present, and future.

 

The baptismal font

at the entrance and exit

of this place

where we manifest as Christ’s Body

reminds us,

coming and going,

who we are,

and of our unity with Christ

and one another

across all space and time.

 

All the baptized

have died in these waters

and risen

to new life in Christ.

 

 

And on the baptismal feast days

of the Church,

we renew our vows,

remind ourselves of

the promises we made

or that were made for us

at our baptism . . .

 

promises that guide us in baptismal living:

define our mission and ministry,

tell us who and what we are . . .

 

the Body of Christ

alive and serving in the world

at this particular time,

in this particular place.

 

 

So today,

the Feast of Jesus’ baptism,

we will renew our baptismal vows,

be sprinkled with baptismal water

as a sign and reminder of our baptism,

and . .  .

 

after we pray and share God’s peace,

we will be commissioned

for a special baptismal ministry,

a ministry to ensure

the continuing unfolding

of the Mystery of Incarnation

in this place . . .

our capital campaign . . .

 

 

A ministry to provide

sacred grounds

welcoming spaces,

for anyone and everyone

who wants to be here

to come apart from the world,

to dwell here in peace,

to worship and learn and grow here,

to explore and wrestle together here

with the meaning of incarnation:

God in Christ,

God in us.

 

 

Sacred grounds

welcoming spaces,

where the Body of Christ

in its many members

can coalesce and manifest,

 

be strengthened in its communal identity,

be fed, encouraged, healed, find hope

be sent into the world

to feed, encourage, heal, bring hope.

 

 

Sacred grounds

welcoming spaces,

for Sacramental engagement with God —

this place where baptism happens,

this place where Eucharist happens,

this place

where the gathered assembly itself

becomes a sacrament of the risen and living Christ,

 

called by God to be a light to the nations.

 

 

Here in years to come,

new things will spring forth

through this ministry . . .

 

new generations will

incarnate the Body of Christ,

the love of Christ,

the servanthood of Christ,

 

new generations

will pass through

the waters of drowning,

waters of rebirth,

waters of new beginnings.

 

will learn and make and practice and love

the vows of baptism:

 

 

Long after we are gone

they will continue here . . .

 

in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship

in the breaking of bread and in the prayers;

 

they will persevere in resisting evil,

proclaim by word and example

the Good News of God in Christ

seek and serve Christ in all persons,

loving their neighbor as themselves.             

strive for justice and peace among all people,

respect the dignity of every human being.

cherish the wondrous works of God,

and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation.

 

They will make these vows

and support one another in living them,

 

in these sacred grounds

and welcoming spaces

we have provided.

 

 

In the simple words

attributed to the 16th century mystic

Saint Teresa of Avila:

 

“Christ has

no body now on earth but yours,

no hands but yours,

no feet but yours,

Yours are the eyes

through which to look out

Christ’s compassion to the world;

Yours are the feet

with which he is to go about

doing good;

Yours are the hands

with which he is to bless now . . .”

[From Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, p. 260]

 

The ministry we undertake today

is nothing less than making sure,

with God’s help,

and for Christ’s sake,

 

that these buildings and grounds themselves

will always be a sacrament

of Christ’s presence in the world,

a location of Incarnation,

a place to seek and to find the Christ

alive in his Body the Church,

 

 

a place to become

Christ’s hands and feet,

Christ’s eyes and ears,

Christ’s heart,

Christ’s love and mercy,

Christ’s compassion

 

Christ’s blessing of peace

for the life of the world.

 

 

People we will never even know

(this side of death)

will find their lives enriched

and full of meaning,

will find joy and purpose,

and pass on those gifts to others . . .

 

because of what we begin here today . . .

 

this holy endeavor

this sacred trust,

this Capital Campaign.

website by Branded Look LLC   |   photos by Winfield Giddings