Notes from the pastor


Read Isaiah 42:1–9 & Matthew 3:13–17

Did you read the passages? If not, stop and read them first!

Baptism marks our entrance into this shared life of grace, love, and service to others we call the Church.  In baptism, we recognize the gracious action of God to seek us out when we’re lost in ourselves, trapped in the dark of trying to figure out who we are.  The sacrament of water and Spirit reminds us who and whose we are.  Whether we baptize infants or adults, or that we simply pause to remember our baptism, we declare the abundant grace of God that simultaneously washes us of sin and incorporates us into the done and ongoing work of God’s deliverance through Jesus Christ.

In this text from Isaiah, the prophet draws our attention to God’s power at work within humankind, particularly Israel.  Through the lens of Christ, we may surmise that God’s work in the world is to be enacted by God’s people.  That is, God wants us to be part of what God is doing to heal the world, to participate in it.  According to Isaiah God will transform Israel’s way of relationship away from privilege and toward compassion as God’s people.  They will become God’s agent of mercy and justice.

Enter Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River by John.  This is an incredible moment in the Gospels, in which John, seeing Jesus approach, rightly recognizes his need to be baptized by Jesus in the Holy Spirit.  Jesus, however, tells John that he must be baptized in order “to fulfill all righteousness,” (Matt. 3:15).  Jesus, the agent and embodiment of God’s justice and the law of Torah, submits to these things so that we might be recipients of God’s justice and mercy.  Jesus’s baptism gives us a foretaste of this Christ who in loving solidarity will submit death and so conquer death once and for all time.  Jesus, declared by the Father and anointed by the Spirit, is unleashed into the world.

Consider this:  What is said of Jesus is said of you and me. “This is my son, my daughter, the beloved, in whom I am well 

pleased.”  This is my beloved son, my beloved daughter, who, baptized in my name — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit —I have also called to the work of compassion and justice for the oppressed (Isa. 42:1–4).  This is my son, my daughter, whom I have sent into the world as carriers of the good news to those who need healing, who are bereft of community and provision — those on the outside looking in.  You and I have been given a new way of relationship, the way of family that includes brothers and sisters beyond our reckoning, and a Father who draws all people to himself.

The Church is God’s vision, not ours, and baptism reminds us that our life together depends totally on God’s grace going ahead of us even as it works through and in us. Yes, you and I sin though we have been washed.  True, we may not remember the moment we were baptized, but when we remember our baptism in worship, we remember not the sentimental moment, but that God’s grace in baptism is stronger than a lifetime of miserable failures and weak moments.  We remember that even you and I have been called to be living embodiments, imperfect though we are, of God’s perfect love.

Remember, then, that you are God’s beloved, as is your neighbor, and that in Christ God has “called you for a good reason,” (Isa. 42:6).  Most of all, allow God to delight in you simply because you are.

~ Pastor Patrick Murphy

Last Published: January 13, 2017 11:07 AM
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