traditional sermon baptism of our lord
Has anyone noticed a certain little thing that is happening these days. You’re in your car and you park it, turn it off, open the door, get out, go to close the door and ZAP!
You’re watching tv, get up from the couch to go get a tasty snack from the cupboard, you switch on the light in the kitchen and ZAP.
You’re at work and you’re about to hand that important document to your boss and as you reach over ZAP. Zap? Yes—Zap! It’s those electric shocks that come from no where to zap you in the finger, or hand, or wherever! You don’t always expect it to hit, but when it does—yowza! It’s particularly dry these days and so the prevalence of being shocked or zapped seems to have gone up—especially if you’re wearing your wool sweaters, or enthusiastically petting your cat, or rubbing a balloon on your head for some strange reason—I don’t know what you guys do on Saturday nights!
This electricity… it seems to be all around us—and we’re not even aware of it. Sure, sometimes your more aware of it…like when you get the electric bill…but most times we just take it for granted. It’s there.
People like Benjamin Franklin were aware of this—or at least extraordinarily ingenious about it—I’m sure we’ve all heard of the tale of him going out into a storm armed with a kite, a key and curiosity.
My uncle, a meteorologist and specialist in severe weather, has made it a life career to chase phenomena like electricity—to fly into hurricanes and watch what happens from electricity in the air. He may not be able to see the ionic charges in the clouds, but he can certainly see the enormous and awesome thunderheads that form within the hurricane.
As a youth I spent my summers up in Maine in a house that resided on a granite slab. Let’s just say that I saw many a bright lightning storm. In fact one lightning storm of note came over our house, charged the area to such an extent that a blue electric streak shot from our electric oven to the fuse box four feet away.
That got our attention.
And yes, electricity can be frightening. It has great power—it has the power to bring about death… and yet can restart a heart…and bring about life. It can move over water, and packs a mighty punch. But just looking—you might miss it—you might not even see the sheer power that is around you. That is until you’re walking across the floor with your slippers on and ZAP.
In many ways electricity is like God’s work in and through the world. It’s electric. Much of God and God’s ways are a mystery to us. We often can’t see what’s there, but you can see the result of God’s work. ZAP—God is with us!
Throughout our scripture lessons today we hear about the spirit of God working in, through and under the matter around us.
When we speak about God’s great creation—regardless of whether we speak in scientific eons or poetic meter–there’s an energy that we as Christians identify as God’s hand at work. Energy and will and word that cannot be seen, but its actions can be realized.
In fact when we read about God’s Spirit moving over the waters—the Hebrew word that describes this is breath—life. God’s breath breathing into this world, into us. A breath that has a charge that can create and make and work.
And again we see this this Spirit in our Gospel. And in that moment—with John the Baptist’s work, the waters flow, and ZAP. The Spirit of God—the Holy Spirit—rushes in like on the wings of a dove. The spiritual charge of God is made apparent then. The clouds ionic charge change and are opened—the disconnect between God the Father and the world in which God so tenderly loves is bridged—a conduit is made—no not made—begotten.
Yes—this conduit is none other but Jesus Christ. There’s no doubt about it! The spark was there when the angel visited Joseph and eased his weary mind about Mary’s pregnancy.
God’s spark formed in her womb—and in this spark—a promise was made—Emmanuel—God with us. And now in the Gospel of Mark as the River Jordan’s waters flow over Jesus, God’s spark once again ignites with the energetic declaration “You are my son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
This same spark is present today. It was present the day the pastor poured water over your head, and with Spirit-filled waters marked the cross of Christ on your forehead.
God’s energy, God’s love, God’s care flowed over you that day and is with you today. You couldn’t see it. Your parents couldn’t see it, your Godparents and even the pastor couldn’t see it… but God’s spark was most certainly there.
“I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” ZAP!
And like electricity—this spark can bring death and life. In baptism humanity’s isolation and sin, the old Adam—as St. Paul called it—dies…but with this spark the new life in Christ charges into you. A new life that transforms now and continues after our earthly lives have come to an end. This spark is not simply felt the day you were baptized, but is with you this very day.
That’s the spark that continues to recharge you—whether you’re aware of it or not. On the day of his baptism, a newly charged child of God was told by his pastor these words “you have forever have been bound to our God through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It also means that this binding and strange freedom will be with you—sometimes chase you when we try to run away, but refuses to let you go—no matter how much you rebel, no matter how much you scream, no matter how much you refuse to listen, no matter how much you refuse to talk.”
Rather than going away—God’s spark continues to be a live wire within our lives. That is the power of God’s transforming work that flows through the waters of our baptism.
The waters that may consist of H20 have a saturating power that seeps into every pore of our being.
In baptism you have been identified “This one—this person right here…”
You have been claimed “You are God’s child.” You have been made right with God. And God says “I forgive you. Yes…there may be a time that you run away, rebel, fight back… but guess what…I love you and I forgive you.”
Daily God reminds us that we are beloved. We are beautiful. So believe it!
And this message is repeated—daily. It’s a message that transmits like electricity. It’s there, it’s on, it’s hot… it can bring about a lot of life. We’re not always aware of it because we may have turned off our light…. but the ability to shine—the power is always there.
That’s why we’re reminded of our baptismal calling.
What is that?
It’s the reminder that God’s spark is in us, flowing through us, we can be conduits of it—we just have to let our light shine.
To get plugged into God’s energetic mission. This baptismal calling flows, surges through us—in all we do. We see this spark here today in the installation of our council members and officers—they are being installed—plugged into leadership roles of this church.
You all have the ability to be plugged into God’s energetic work—whether it be here, or at work, at school, in the community—with how you conduct yourselves with others, on the field—with the type of energy you expel, at home—with the warmth of God’s force emanating from you to your loved ones.
Don’t be afraid to let God’s spirit flow in and through you in all you do—I promise that you will get quite a charge out of it.