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First Impressions: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

January 5, 2010

The shepherds have long gone back to their flocks.  The magi are back at home.  The adult Jesus is left to ask himself the question, “What then should I do?”  He decides to go out to the Jordan to see about this John, supposedly a relative.  Before he knows it, Jesus is wet.  He has stepped out into the river and is baptized.  What happens next is the beginning of something quite extraordinary.

3:15-17 This is a reprise of the text from the third Sunday of Advent.  John emphasized the difference between himself and the true Messiah.  The Holy Spirit is more powerful than mere water.  But this Messiah is also judge.  Different hearers will respond differently to the prospect of judgment.  You can use that to good effect in a sermon.

3:21-22 Yet it is remarkable that the Messiah himself submitted to a baptism of repentance.  Of course, we say that Jesus didn’t need this baptism.  But is that true?  Was this act of obedience an integral part of his growing into his role as beloved son?  Was it a mark of his acceptance of his mission?  Or was it a vital confirmation that we was indeed on the right path?  I reject the idea that Jesus was so self-aware that he knew his true self and future at a very early age.  Like all of us, I think he grew into his mission.

One of my colleagues in our Lectionary group has remarked that the announcement of Jesus’ baptism is quite pedestrian.  Jesus is just one member of the crowd, the mass of humanity that passed through the river.  One way to understand it is to say this is Jesus’ way of identifying with each of us.  His simple, obedient act marks him as one of us.

When he emerges from the water, however, something unique happens.  He is proudly claimed by God.  It is a great thing to be claimed by a proud parent.  How might Jesus have felt?  More importantly, how do you feel, knowing that you emerged from the same waters (if only symbolically) to be claimed by the same proud Parent as Jesus was?  If that is the gospel, what is our joyous and grateful response?

I am preparing my sermon in that final direction.  If we are claimed by God, it is appropriate to give thanks.  How do we best do that?  Perhaps I can give thanks by sharing love more freely and generously with others, letting them know they are accepted, too.  My personal tendency is to share more criticism than praise.  I am trying to change that.

What did Jesus do in grateful response?  How can I follow him?

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