Lectionary: Baptism of Christ A

by Keith Wiglusz

Acts 10:34-43

Peter preached that “God shows no favoritism”. We certainly serve an inclusive God. “Come all those who are tired and heavy laden” seems to be what we all want to hear in this busy world.

I live in a very sheltered world and at times I feel insignificant. I also live in a world of loneliness and deep regret. Could God actually care or even use me still? His word assures me He does and it’s funny how the least of us can actually be used by God.

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Easter Vigil

by Matthew B. Harper

Isaiah 55:7 – Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thought; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon…

Psalm 42:1 – As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

Romans 6:4 – Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death…so we too might walk in newness of life

Matthew 28:7 – Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘he has been raised from the dead

All of these readings come to us from the service for the Easter Vigil, and together they sum up our faith journey.

The words from Isaiah are in a chapter that my Bible titles “invitation to an abundant life.” They are the words that invite us out of our old life of Sin, and into the life of God. We are a fallen people, and the only way back is through a proper relationship with our God. But we cannot go as we are. We cannot be with God when we love our wicked ways.

I am in constant fellowship with godly men who have been criminals of all kinds. The very foundation of their repentance and transformation is to forsake their wicked ways. There comes a day in every person’s life when they are just tired of being wrong, sinful, and alone. To give up what is wrong, and to return to the Lord, is the beginning of all good things.

When we first begin to turn from our sin, and to turn our face back to the Lord we have such a passionate hunger for our God. We want to be with God and to know God’s ways in all things. It is a sad truth that the ways of the world can make that passion dull in our minds and hearts over time. When we are complacent we can forget that there are bigger things than us. We lose our focus on God, and that puts the whole world out of focus. We have to take time to refocus our hearts and minds.

Christ’s death is something we like to talk about, and we cannot allow ourselves to forget that it is our death as well. When we were baptized we were buried with Christ, so that we could be raised in Christ. This Lent we have worked to put to death those things not of God, and to bring forth those things that are of God. This Easter morning we will celebrate Christ’s rebirth just as we celebrate our own rebirth through Christ. Through Christ all of us are in newness of Life.

Mary Magdalene has often been called the ‘disciple to the disciple’ because of the commandment given to her by the angel. It was she that was the first one told to ‘go’ and to tell the good news, and she did. But it did not stop there, and this commandment is given to us as well.

When we realized we are a fallen people, we turned to God; when we thirsted for God, we were filled; when we were crucified with Christ, we were resurrected to new life. In all things we have been given an unbelievable gift from the creator of all creation, and it is the only natural thing that we should go forth and proclaim this goodness to all people. If you are a Christian, how can you not want that very same thing for everyone?

Tonight is the Easter Vigil, and we sit and await the resurrection of our Lord. We sit as if we were children on Christmas Eve; we sit with great anticipation awaiting the new morning. We may already know what will happen on Easter morning, but we cannot allow ourselves to miss the majesty of it. So rise again this Easter. Rise again a new creation, forgiven of your sins, and alive in Christ. Trade your happiness for Joy, find Peace in a troubled world, and pass on the Love of Christ to everybody you meet.

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. BCP 295

 

Epiphany 1C/The Baptism of Christ C

by Matthew Harper

January 10th, 2016

Isaiah 43:1 –7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14–17
Luke 3:15–17, 21 –22

Christ’s baptism is a defining moment in the redemption story. This event is a significant declaration to the world about who He is, and the beginning of Christ’s incarnate ministry. The baptism says a lot about Jesus, but perhaps it says even more about God, and about us.

Isaiah, in one of my favorite passages that we read today, shows us the radical initiative of God’s love. God, the creator and sustainer of the heavens and earth, is declaring a deeply personal love for each of us. God has “called us by name,” (v.1) we are “precious and honored,” (v.4) and we will be ‘ransomed’ (v.4-6). God’s redeeming love is a revelation.

But how will God ransom us? And from whom or what will be be ransomed? And, perhaps most importantly, why?

Luke shows us the beginning of the fulfillment of these promises. We are so loved that God’s only begotten Son, God incarnate, has come to ransom us. Jesus comes with both power and judgment. He has the power to see us as we are; He has the authority to judge; and He has the power to set things right.

In introducing us to the person and mission of Jesus Luke has recorded the words of John the Baptizer. John shows us a truth about ourselves, something we already know but never want to face. The power we are enslaved to, and need ransoming from, is, quite simply, us.

Christ offers us acceptance and forgiveness, but will demand repentance. We are imprisoned by our own sin, and the only way out is through repentance and faith in Christ; only through Him can things be set right.

Which brings us to the most important question for our purposes today: why? The baptism of Jesus is the beginning of His incarnate ministry, the anointing by God into Jesus’ earthly work. The same is true for us. Linked to Christ through faith, adopted into the very Body of Christ, our baptism was not only part of our rebirth it is also the beginning of our ministry.

Knowing we are enslaved by sin isn’t new knowledge to anyone in prison, but facing it is difficult. Bad things and bad people have happened to too many of us, and it is easy to point fingers; but the ultimate blame must always lie with us. It is our enslavement to pride, lust, anger and addiction—our own sin—that has left us destitute and distant from God. Only Christ can ransom us and set us free.

But why would He? Why would Christ bother with one such as me?

Love.

The words of God through Isaiah are a revelation. They are a life-giving breath of fresh air, a light in the darkness. The simple truth is that God loves us that much, not because of who we are, but because of who God is. We belong to God.

God does not ransom us only for our salvation, but also for our sending. Redemption isn’t the last word, there is also mission. What we have received we must share, what has been accomplished must be celebrated and proclaimed.

Being sent is scary. It will take us way outside of our comfort zone, and force us to question ourselves and our purpose. It will mean loving others, even those who are hard to love. We will have to talk, teach, and share our testimony. It will mean caring, and making ourselves vulnerable. But we begin our mission with those other powerful words from today’s reading in Isaiah: “fear not… for I am with you,” (v.1-2).

We are loved,
We are ransomed,
And we have work to do.