Sermons and Thoughts from St. Luke's.
This blog is to share Sermons and thoughts written mostly by the clergy of the Parish Church of St. Luke, an Anglican Church in Burlington, Ontario (Diocese of Niagara) Canada.
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15 January 2017
Baptism of the Lord
Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike
St. Luke's Church, 15 January 2017
I’ll never forget
the baptism of one tiny little infant in my first parish. She was a young one
and the whole congregation was excited. Baptisms were a rare event in this
little wooden Church by the sea. We were all too familiar with burying our
people. We were used to endings, and beginnings were so much more joyous.
The parents and
grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents and friends had swelled the
congregation to five times its usual size.
All of the action
was happening at about chest-height - perhaps four feet off the ground - the
same height as the baptismal font. The water was poured into the font, the
prayers of blessing were said over the water. The baby was carried at this
four-foot level and passed on from mother to priest at about the same height.
But down below
this level was a little tyke - about three years old and perhaps three feet
high. He was the infant’s older brother. He was remarkably well behaved. But
perhaps this was because, apart from his tiny sister, he was the only child in
While all of the
action happened over his head, he stood up on tippy-toes, craning his neck to
see what was going on. He silently went from holding his Dad’s hand, to holding
his mother’s hand, trying to find the best vantage point, but he remained
As I poured the
water over her head, three times, I said the words, “I baptize you in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And everyone said, “Amen.”
And I made the sign of the cross on her forehead with the oil of sacred chrism as
I said, “I sign you with the cross, and mark you as Christ’s own forever.
At this point the
little boy’s patience seemed to have found its end and he yanked on my robe and
said in a little voice, “Let me see.”
congregation watched as I knelt down on one knee and he finally was able to
look down on his sister’s face still glistening from the water and the holy
oil. She was silent, but her eyes were open, without focus, but pointed toward
The boy broke out
into a smile and, in a voice which everyone in that little Church could hear,
he said, “My new little sister.” and laughed with pure joy.
congregation laughed with him, except for both grandmothers who simultaneously
burst into tears.
Yes, well, that
little boy got it right.
His sister wasn’t
only quite newly born - she was just reborn.
Baptism is about
re-birth and new life.
But when John was
baptizing people in the Jordan river, his baptism was about repentance and the
washing away of sins. John was preparing the way of the Lord, and while as
everyone was asking him if he was the messiah, he kept on telling them that no,
he was preparing them for the coming of the real messiah. He wasn’t even worthy
to untie his sandals, he said. And they all needed to be washed clean from
their sins before they could receive him
So we can
understand John’s surprise when Jesus comes and stands in line, just like
everyone else, and asks John to baptize him.
“But”, John says, “I
should be the one baptized by you.”
How on earth could
he possibly wash away Jesus’ sins, he thought.
But Jesus knew
that baptism was going to mean a whole lot more than the washing away of sins.
Baptism was about death and life. It was about creation and recreation.
“In the beginning,
when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and
darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the
face of the water. Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light.”
(Genesis 1: 1-3)
Water, to the Jews
represented chaos. But when God’s voice spoke, he created the world out of
In going down
under the waters of baptism, Jesus was going down to a kind of death. By
submitting to John’s baptism, he was taking a step into the void. He was giving
up his control and rushing into his seemingly chaotic life which would end with
his death in the not too distant future.
But, like in
Genesis, God spoke and Jesus heard God’s voice calling him, “My son, the
beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” God’s creative voice is making a new
We know the story
of Jesus’ life: we know how he gave and healed. We know about his courage and
even his fears. We know about his passion for justice and about his vision of
God’s kingdom, which turns our world and our values upside down. And all of his
ministry starts from the point of his baptism.
Baptism is a new
creation, and it is a call to ministry, but it is also a call to risk..
tells this story:
‑One evening the
New Testament professor from Princeton Seminary visited a high school youth
group. After the professor finished speaking about the significance of Christ's
baptism as a revelation of God's presence in Jesus, a high school student said
without looking up, "That ain't what it means." Glad that the student
had been listening enough to disagree, the professor asked,
"What do you
think it means?"
says that the heavens were opened, right?"
were opened and the Spirit of God came down, right?"
The boy finally
looked up and leaned forward, saying, "It means that God is on the loose
in the world. And it is dangerous."
Baptism is a
dangerous thing: it means that God is loose in your life, and you can’t just
depend on things being the same. Baptism means to you and me that we are called
to some kind of ministry in the world.
stepping into the void and trusting that God will recreate anew out of the
chaos. And this chaos and renewal can happen to us again and again.
baptism does mean that we, like Jesus, will burst up through the surface of the
water to new life and will hear God’s creative voice, “You are my child, my beloved, with
whom I am well pleased.” Amen.