Tuesday, January 11

Sermon- Sunday January 9, 2005 Baptism of the Lord

I have attempted to reconstruct what ended up being a completely extemporaneous sermon. I ended up not following my Sermon notes. I had suspected though, that I might find myself doing that this time as I prepapred the sermon. So what follows is a summary of what I think I did in my sermon.
If you know it or not today is about water. What God does with Water. Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Today we also remember our baptism. God reveals himself as Trinity and Jesus and his Son the Word in water through the Baptism of Jesus. "This is my Son, the Beloved, with who I am well pleased". We are to connect this up with this passage about God's Servant in Isaiah 42:1-9. "...I have put my spirit upon him..." (42:1) The spirit descends on Jesus as he comes up out of the water. Water is significant throughout salvation history; Israel passes through the Red Sea, and then through the Jordan, John baptizes in the Jordan, Jesus commands his followers to baptize in the Name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit.
Yet, I am mindful of the tsunami and the hundreds of thousand dead in its wake. We know water as not only as salvific andgiving life, but as dangerous and bringing death. There is dissonance here for me. And then I read in verse 4 of Isaiah 42 "and the coastlands wait for his teaching." There seems to be something significant here: the tsunami and its destructiveness leaves us reeling in the disordered reality in which we live. Yet did not God create this order in which water can be so destructive so much the antithesis of life? The Orthodox theologian David Hart reminds us however, that Christianity teaches that we live in a disordered world. Due to the fall all of Creation is out of wack and dominated by death and sin. The effects of the fall are cosmic and effect the very fabric of the created order. Christ's coming and thus Christ's baptism has relevance not only for us as individuals but the entire cosmos.

The icon of the Baptism of Christ is indicative of this cosmic dimension of Christ's baptism. If you look at the bottom third of the icon you will see two figures a bearded man and a dragon. In the top icon the man has wings in the bottom icon the man sits on the back of the dragon. The man symbolizes/represents the spirit of the Jordan, the dragon is the great leviathan representing the ancient chaos/waters overwhich the Spirit hovered at creation. The action is one of both being repelled and brought back under the rule of their creator. In the top icon we have the more ancient form of the icon with Christ's hand in the water in blessing. The Icon shows also the tension we still live in Christ has come the work of the bringing of all things back into right relationship with God has been accomplished and is being accomplished, we pass through water in identification with Christ: dying and being brought back to new life in the waters of baptism. Water remains both in service to life and death.

Jesus baptism, our baptism, has cosmic significance. Water, that potentially destructive force is that which we pass through to new life, that in which we are identified with Christ.

Since it is customary in some Covenant chruch's to remember one's baptism and renew the vows of baptism, I place on the table a bowl of holy water, and invited any who wished to come forward and dip their hand in the water and make the sign of the cross (the sign of the trinity Father Son and Holy Spirit)in remeberance/renewal of their baptism.