Sermon, January 13, 2019
Luke 3:15-17; 21-22
“Living in the Light begins with Living Water”
To live in the light of Christ is our calling in this season of Epiphany. Baptized with living water is our first-gift from God that leads us in a life towards a path of discovery of many God-given gifts. Activating the gifts of the Spirit is through understanding how our gifts are inter-related to the gifts of others here. We are called to stay true to the heart of our God-given gift; the love of God in Jesus. Each Sunday through Epiphany we will explore the gifts of the Spirit; the first being living water that gives us a start on our faith journey. For most of us, our faith journey started at our baptism.
Sometimes we need a reminder that baptism is an epiphany kind of moment; a manifestation of Christ in our lives. Epiphanies are not subtle. Yes, we can look for God in all kinds of people and places, but sometimes God comes crashing through the clouds and stops us dead in our tracks. So, this is where the heavens opening really matters for me; it is when there is an inability of God to be separated from whom God loves, you and I, whether we like it or not. You see, I have this inability of being able to stop going to church; I cannot not worship our God. My baptism was at the age of 14 years old, so I remember my baptism/confirmation as a time of unmerited love of God for me. The very words of God’s desire to make us God’s children is saying God chooses to be in Christ, in our lives.
Adult baptism is also confirmation in our church; it is a boundary crossing, a risk, bringing God close to us. The living water of baptism is about promise; the promise of God’s love and forgiveness. The season of Epiphany brings us closer to the fact that God will be present in our suffering and joys; our death and new life; our pain and our healing. This season also brings us closer to the fact that God will also be seen in the rejection and suffering, death and denial, pain and injustice of Jesus passion. We, all, need awesome moments in our lives, moments of gratitude, moments of re-discovery of who God really is, moments when we look to the heavens and see the heavens being opened and every-thing changes.
Let us go for a moment to the banks of the River Jordan where Jesus is being baptized. Here he makes his first public appearance and begins his ministry. John the Baptist has prepared the people for a Messiah who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. And here he is, Jesus, going under the water and coming up out of the water. Suddenly, heaven opens, the Spirit descends like a dove, a voice comes from heaven and speaks to Jesus so all can hear; You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well-pleased. What an awesome moment for all who witnessed this event.
This reading from Luke begins with a crackle and buzz, “As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning…” It’s a fluid situation that Luke presents here – Jesus’ baptism amongst an energized and wondering people. There is expectation about John which he quickly redirects to Jesus. What is important here is the mindset of the people who witness the baptism – their hopes and expectation. John’s explanation is equally vibrant with the Spirit, the winnowing, the gathering, and the chaff burned in the fire. All of this surrounds the national quest for the Messiah – what will this Messiah be? Who will be this Messiah? John brings the question down to earth, down to sandals and threshing floors, down to the ordinary.
Luke’s baptism happens in a flash, almost a sidelight in this buzzing scene of expectation. What the people are seeking, Jesus also seeks. However, what the people are hoping for will be radically changed by this Jesus who comes to the Jordan. Here in Luke the vision is shared with the people, the Spirit descends in bodily form, and the voice is heard. Is the creation story here as well? That possibility broadens Luke’s rendition of the Baptism of Jesus. All are involved, all are witnesses. A creation is upon them.
January is an exciting time. It is the beginning of a brand-new year. Some people like to make New Year’s resolutions or promises to themselves about what they plan to accomplish in the new year. The number one resolution that people make is, “I am going to lose weight.” I don’t think too many people succeed, since it seems to be the number one resolution year after year. I know that it usually makes my top ten list of things I would like to accomplish in the new year. Even if you don’t make any New Year’s resolutions, this is an exciting time. It is a time that we can forget our past mistakes and look forward to new opportunities that lie ahead of us. It is a time of new beginnings.
Jesus experienced times of new beginnings in his life too. One of those times was when he was baptized. Up until that time, he had not performed any miracles, but with God’s stamp of approval and with the spirit of God upon him, Jesus began to perform great miracles. From this new beginning, many people began to understand that Jesus was truly the Son of God and they began to follow him. New beginnings — God gives us opportunities for new beginnings. Let us make the most of them as we live a new life in Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit and Living Water.
Here is a story to sum up what I am trying to say: it’s called the “Goat’s Hair Monk”. First, I must tell you, the Goat’s Hair Monk wasn’t a monk and he didn’t wear a goat’s hair monk’s robe like John the Baptist. He was just one of the poor street people who roam the shabby streets of any decaying inner city. He got his name because he walked around muttering, “Goat’s Hair, Goat’s Hair”. The monk part came from his visits to an old church several times a day.
He was not your typical pan-handler with his hand out for charity, instead his hand was out giving things away to the poor. Reaching into his old, battered canvas bag he carried everywhere he went, he would pull out a pair of socks for a street-walker who had none, a pair of gloves for a disoriented bum whose hands were blue from cold, or a couple of sandwiches for a hungry old bag lady. With each gift he would mumble in his German accent, Goat’s Hair, goat’s hair. The Goat’s Hair Monk was living in the light.
A local street gang was convinced this monk was a millionaire with loads of money in his bag. One day when he was sitting in this old church, a beggar was given his cloak. Then praying, the street gang member snuck up and was confident he was sleeping and with hands out went to grab his bag. With a karate-like blow the monk grabbed the street kids arm and with a voice of thunder, yelled, God’s here. Wise up kid! Rob others and you yourself will be robbed of what’s precious to you. As the kid ran out of the church, he realized that the old man hadn’t been saying “Goat’s Hair” but “God’s Here”. The street kid began to realize that after his attack from a rival street gang that the comment, God’s here, filled his empty life and he became baptized and when the old man went into the church to pray, he went with him and soon became his body guard helping the poor on the streets. This little story sums up what living in the light can be. The Light of the world manifest in any of us who care. To live in the light of Christ is our calling in this season of Epiphany. Baptized with living water is a first-gift from God that leads us in a life towards a path of discovery of many God-given gifts. Our renewed self from the Living water, in this New Year gives us an opportunity to do something awesome this year. Amen.