Baptism of Our Lord Year A
January 14, 2018
Hope Lutheran Church
In the beginning was Good
The spirit moved over the waters of creation- already doing her work in the world. As the Father crafted and created, she danced and inspired- even as the Holy Spirit does for us today. And the Word was with God. In the beginning it was good and God called it so- day after day.
Until we got a little control and suddenly schizo- the ripping apart- a violent separation. We were separated from God by our own actions. The curtain went up, the walls went up and we were sent into the world anxious, afraid, and defensive. Covering ourselves from the beginning and killing our brothers out of jealousy over what they had. We placed limits on goods and good. Believing that there was somehow less in creation than there had been before. Works righteousness found its roots and we began to value the ones who had already produced and were fruitful over those who had not.
Humans= Good; Ego= Evil
In our desire to hoard the goods we limited, we created places that no one wanted to live. Places that did not produce were devalued- they were overrun by the cast offs or worse, even while they were good people there, we called them less. So that when a babe was raised in Nazareth, who would come to save the world, the leaders sarcastically and accusingly argued, “what good can come from Nazareth?”
Of course. And we still do it today. What good can come from Haiti? Somalia? Sierra Leone? Detroit? Compton? Mexico? El Salvador? Syria? Fontana? What good indeed can come from Nazareth?
We remain inherently good as God created us- full of possibility and promise no matter where we hail from. Everyone has the same capacity for violence and laziness as they do for success and profit. Whether from Norway or Haiti, every person is precious and full of potential because that is how God created us. But we do the separating. We do the judging and the limiting of resources. We created the schizo.
So when John was baptizing in the wilderness, he was calling people on their crap. He was getting real. Reminding them that WE are the ones who need to repent- we are the ones who have limited God in God’s own house! Creation and this earth is God’s- perfectly made, every inch of this earth is lovely and full of promise. Only we strip it, sell it, limit it and abandon it when it serves us no more- the people along with the land.
So yeah. We needed John’s repentance baptism.
John’s Baptism- looking back
The problem is that John’s baptism is a looking back. It is repentance for what we have done with an assumption that we are now clean. Until we take the next breathe or get cut off in traffic or approached by a smelly homeless person. John was offering repentance for what is past, preparing us for the future, but not securing it.
True repentance involves sorrow for the past and promise to do better going forward, but the problem is, we created the schism…. And we need more repentance immediately after offering it. It isn’t lasting. Yes, it is preparation for the Lord, but it is only that and nothing more.
Jesus’ Baptism- looking forward
And then along comes Jesus, with a baptism in the Holy Spirit. She danced and moved over the waters at creation and then we separated ourselves from God. So at Christ’s baptism there is a literal breaking in of the Holy Spirit once again. The New Testament only uses the verb schizo twice- once at the Baptism when the Holy Spirit literally rips the heavens apart to get to Christ and at his death, when the veil of the temple is torn irreparably in two and humanity is permanently reconciled with God. The schizo we created is undone.
And that means that the walls and limits we have placed on God are undone. The Holy Spirit is free and moving among us, removing all artifice about who is of more value than whom, ripping apart our understanding of limitations and placing every human as equal heirs with Christ.
In our Holy Baptism, we are baptized in that Spirit. Our bonds of fear and anxiety are ripped away from us, and we we are left naked again, clothed only in robes of righteousness and salvation.
But it is hard- and scary and we have done this for so long- this placing values on others and hoarding the goods and good in the world that we don’t’ easily know how to live another way. So we find ourselves putting more value on people from Norway over Haiti- except that values change and 150 years ago those Norwegians were the dregs of the earth. Poor and ignorant. Nothing to offer the world. But given the chance, given the opportunity to stop limiting goods, humanity will always show its potential. And that is what happens in our Baptism in Christ and the Holy Spirit. We are given the chance to shine and show that we are all beloved and valuable to God.
Baptismal Call- given for all
And here is the best part. This baptismal promise is given equally to all of us. With blue eyes or brown. With brown skin or pink. With education or ignorance. With wealth or poverty. Because the promise of Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not about worth and what you can give. It is about Love and how much God loves you and all of creation.
You are loved. They are loved and there is more than enough love to go around. There is more than enough provision to go around. There is enough; there is plenty!!!! Because love is not limited and neither is God.
So as baptized Christians, we are called to live fully into this promise first and foremost- to forsake father, mother, spouse, child, country, and every single connection we have, if need be, in order to place God first in our lives. We are in Christ first, we are God’s first. And that means we need to live like it.
We are free every day to community and openness. We are equipped by the Holy Spirit to open doors and tear down walls. To live into an economy of bounty and joy, of promise and fulfillment and to remember that our God is not limited or limiting in Love and promise to all of humanity. We are freed in these precious baptismal waters of the Holy Spirit to free people and welcome them in so that God our father will also say, “This is my child, in whom I am well pleased.”