13 January 2009

Baptism of Jesus - Shining God’s light.

St. Luke’s Church, Burlington

11 Jan 2008

By Stuart Pike

Today's lesson speaks to us of the meaning of baptism. The Old Testament lesson gives us the link that exists between water and the spirit, and God's creative force. God speaks the word, and it is so. "Let there be light", and light is created. God brings order out of chaos and for the Hebrew people order was a sign of divine presence. In some translations of the Hebrew Bible it says that God's act of creation was a mighty wind sweeping over the waters; other say that God breathed on the waters. We have the image of the word of God escaping from God's lips in a breath as God commands the primal elements to form out of chaos. Still other translations have the spirit of God moving over the waters. All of these translations are correct for the Hebrew word "Ruach" means all of those things ‑ wind, breath and spirit.


The Psalmist picks up on the same theme ‑ the imagery is of the voice of God. As at creation ‑ speaking and doing are one. it is the voice of God breaks the cedars and creates waves, causes lightnings to split the sky and thunder which shakes the desert. This is the God which creates out of nothing. This is the God which lead the Hebrews out of slavery with a swirling column of smoke and fire.


The description of Jesus' baptism by John in the river Jordan contains the same elements as the creation story. There is water, there is God's spirit, and we hear God's voice. This is what baptism is about. It is about connecting us back to the very beginning of time. It is about bringing all of the elements of creation together with a living human being. What is celebrated in the act of baptism is a re‑creation of the person. It is a new creation which we celebrate at baptism.


At Baptism we celebrate our becoming people of a new age, and becoming citizens of the New Kingdom. And at baptism we take on the responsibilities of this citizenship. By our baptism, we are all called to be servants of God, doing the work of Christ in our lives. That is why in the service of baptism, we have the people of the Church who are already baptize welcome the newly baptized with the words: "We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood."


Just as Christ's baptism immediately preceded the beginning of his ministry. So each of our baptisms is a call to us to share in Christ's priesthood ‑ not only those of us who are ordained Priests, but all of us who are baptized.


Perhaps one of the problems of the Church today is the misunderstanding of so many people that the ministry of the Church is to be done by the Priests. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ministry of the Church belongs to everyone who is baptized. The Priests are supposed to play one small role, while the majority of the ministry must be taken by the people of the Church, if it is to be done at all.


Each of us who are baptized are called to find our ministry and to perform it for the glory of God. It is this way that we become involved with God's plan for the world. What a privilege it is for us to be co‑creators with God of the New Kingdom.


Today we celebrate Jesus' baptism as well as our own. The Gospel story tells of the beginning of Jesus' glorious ministry ‑ yet this began his trials and hardships as well. It is the same for us. Our baptisms are a sacrament of belonging, yet they require of us our labour and our loyalty for the New Kingdom. It could mean hardship. Yet ultimately it will mean glory everlasting.




          A story is told by Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian minister, about a seminar he once attended in Greece. On the last day of the conference, the discussion leader walked over to the bright light of an open window and looked out. Then he asked if there were any questions. Fulghum laughingly asked him what was the meaning of life. Everyone in attendance laughed and stirred to leave. However, the leader held up his hand to ask for silence and then responded "I will answer your question." He took his wallet out of his pocket and removed a small round mirror about the size of a quarter. Then he explained "When I was a small child during World War II, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun could never shine. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places that I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I grew up, I would take it out at idle moments and continue the challenge of the game.


As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game, but a metaphor of what I could do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light ‑ be it truth or understanding or knowledge ‑ is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world ‑ into the dark places of human hearts ‑ and change some things in some people. Perhaps others seeing it happen will do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life." (1)


Do we reflect the light of Christ into the darkness of other people's lives? Will the world be a better place for our having been in it?


From It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, by Robert Fulghum. Ivy Books, 988. 

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