January 8th, 2017: "Light Unto the Delight!"

Text: Isaiah42:1-9[ Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43;     Baptism of the Lord Sunday            Sandy Nuernberg

Matthew3:13-17                                               Epiphany Sunday                           Pastor

Title: “Light Unto the Delight!”                          Congregational Meeting Today

1st Presbyterian Church                                    Sunday, January 8th, 2017                 Pardeeville, WI

 

Please pray with me, Oh God of Light and Delight, our texts today are about God’s character and identity in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This day, we ask that you lead us in identifying our own character, and  what our purpose is through you, as you have called us by name. We pray in your Name, AMEN.

             Sometimes I think we ‘under-sell’ this important day in the church, similar to ‘over-selling’ all at Christmas time in the shopping arena! Today, in this winter season of the year we are just after Epiphany, and we find that little-by-little all that we hear and read in our Bible scriptures become slowly, oh, so gradually clearer and clearer. Epiphany was celebrated this last Friday, January 6th for Christians; it ends the twelve days of Christmas! Epiphany is a ‘revealing’ or some say ‘showy’ time ‘seeing’ the Light of the incarnation of Christ to us, as the Magi followed that bright star to Bethlehem.

            Importantly, we could say that what happens from now until Easter in the church calendar year is ‘tinier’ epiphanies (bright lights) that get larger and larger as we become a part of them, knowing where we have come from, to whom we belong, and whose we always will be. I think of Epiphany as ‘the beginning.’

            Now before we get carried too far with words, definitions, and practices, it is an important season in the church because today, indeed, Baptism of the Lord Sunday does accentuate or recognize that ‘known’ person in Christ Jesus being shown to us as he is baptized by John the Baptist. For us to see who Jesus is, and to relate to Him personally, we begin to comprehend, vividly, that Jesus is washed in the waters of the Jordan River, baptized in the power of the Holy Spirit resting on him like a dove, as his Father calls him ‘my Beloved.’ We might ask ourselves, ‘What does all this mean?’

            I had the pleasure of seeing, hearing Rev. Peter J. Gomes, that soft-spoken, mellow chaplain at Harvard Divinity School in his visit in Madison about fifteen years ago now (2001) at my church, and he said about Epiphany, “it is that manifestation of God in the world where the message is greater than the manger and goes well beyond it.” (also, Peter J. Gomes, “Baptism” from Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living, Harper, San Francisco, CA, 1998, p.31).

            In this season where the light outdoors is slowly coming to brightness in the day, we are going further in understanding the Light coming to us in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, and what that means is we reflect that Light in our own lives through our creation, our baptism, our being in and of the world in God’s Name.

            In my confirmation classes I meet with youth right after the holiday break and we gather here by the baptismal font and talk about our birthdays, our baptism; one follows the other in our life as it did for Jesus, and in our scriptures. Usually, we can mot remember the enactment of our being baptized in church. Also, usually, the confirmands are so smart---before we talk of the text as we read today, or in any of the gospels, they do remember who baptized Jesus (John-his cousin) and that it is a sacrament in our church.

            One lad in my class a number of years ago admitted, “I wasn’t in the river though, wasn’t it just my head?” We also learned that Presbyterians are usually, but not always, baptized publicly as infants, only once, and we are given the similar words that Jesus heard of being ‘beloved’ by God and called to new life as ‘joint heirs of Christ.’

            I can admit to you today an epiphany for me; on January 2nd this last week, I was asked by a church Mom to have a confirmation class here at church. Just Thursday the Session gave me permission to have a class; I am elated---I love these kids and we really do learn together about our faith, answers to our ‘churchy’ questions, and what makes us God’s own. Classes begin in February; we welcome any to join us any time we meet.

            Yes, baptism represents our first step, kind of, on the journey of or faith, assuring us of God’s presence as we travel through what life has to offer us. Each Sunday in worship we are reminded of our baptism, in filling the font with rushing waters; it is a reminder of our seeing and hearing God’s presence in our lives, knowing we belong to God, as brothers and sisters, members in our congregation of God’s family, and with Christians everywhere.

            Matthew’s text initiates, along with the other Gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism, the powerful messianic act of empowering the church of Jesus Christ to continue  bringing new life to all who come in His Name. Jesus did what He wants us to do in His Name! That is the Light that comes to us that we might delight! In John having Jesus baptize him, Jesus’ messianic message is He (Jesus) is the ruler of all the earth, and we as God’s people ‘serve’ others in His Name

            The O.T. prophet Isaiah had much to say about leadership; he declared to his people new things would spring forth as he foretold them. He described a leader in ancient religious times as a ‘servant’ or ‘king’ who was bold, brave, pious in words, secret in actions, wearing the ‘knight in shining armor’ in proof of power. Isaiah was talking about leadership in Israel in his time, yet we can get the point that leaders then and now are to be as Isaiah said, ‘a light to the nations.’ It is not only that light for us, but for those weak who can not speak or stand up for themselves

            Isaiah prophesied/Matthew fulfilled the notion of a leader showing no partiality in any way, but as Jesus the Christ, saying, “the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting him.” The confirmation of Jesus in his baptism by his cousin John was that he, Christ, was to come in the presence of God, his Father, as His ‘Beloved.’ It was the beginning, not the end, of Jesus’ calling to be of the world.

            In our baptism, at our confirmation as members of the church, we can’t forget this important part of becoming and belonging—as God’s people. Baptism is the beginning of our identity, our relationship with Christ; we are God’s own and ‘beloved.’ God’s Spirit sends us out with a new vision, insight and mission for what lies ahead. In this New Year, we who follow Jesus can keep our eyes and ears aware, our minds and hearts full of the Spirit where God is leading us.                      

Thanks be to God.             AMEN.   

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