Prepared For Anything
January 11 2015
Baptism of the Lord
Some of you may remember that Sally spent a night in the hospital last September. She had been having what we describe as “fainting spells” where she would pass out since May and her doctors felt that her blood pressure was too low so they were “tweaking” her
medicines to try to bring it back to a more normal level, but one day she was at her doctor and they did an EKG and found her heart very much out of rhythm – what they call atrial fibrillation — and after they consulted with her cardiologist I took her to Duke Hospital in Raleigh. Well, this was on a Thursday, and when the doctor at Duke Raleigh walked into her room that afternoon the first thing she said to him was that he could keep her if need be until that Saturday, but on Sunday we were going on a week long beach vacation and he was not going to mess that up! He assured her that we could go on our vacation, determined that her heart was back in normal rhythm, prescribed some new medicines to help keep it that way, and released her on Friday. That Sunday we did take our week at the beach and while I fished Sally sat on the balcony of our room and watched the tide roll in and out, leaving the balcony to go out to eat but staying on the balcony for most of the week. When we came home she felt much better, but I am not sure if it was the new medicine that helped or the week sitting by the ocean.
Sally and I find something very calming and relaxing about being by the water. Whether it be the ocean, a lake, a pond, a river, or even a pool, there is something about being beside water that we find relaxing. We spend most of our vacations either at the beach or at Sally’s brother’s lake house in South Carolina or at a lake house in South Carolina some of our friends own. We love being beside water and find it very relaxing. Maybe you do also.
There is something very soothing and relaxing about being by the water. It’s easy to “get away from it all” when you’re near the water. That is, until storms hit and the water rises and the potential for disaster increases. Hurricane Katrina, the huge storm Sandy and the tsunami of 2004 are examples of the destructive power of water. One thing that people who live near the water agree on is that preparation for natural disasters is essential. They advise to have an escape route planned, know what to do in the house if water starts to come in and be prepared for the worst.
Today is Baptism of the Lord Sunday, so our Old Testament text brings to mind God’s creation of the earth, His Spirit hovering over the waters, and our Mark text focuses us on Jesus’ baptism and our life in Christ. Many of us know, or were told, of our own baptism and the life-giving imagery of the baptismal ceremony. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism, in a sense, helps prepare us for the worst life will throw at us. Regardless of the storms that rise around us, we can remember that we are in Christ and that we are baptized.
Mark tells us that John came and proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People came from all over the Judean countryside and from Jerusalem to hear his message, confess their sins and be baptized in the Jordan River. John also proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I have baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” When John baptized Jesus, a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Questions have surrounded Jesus’ baptism pretty much ever since then. Christians agree that Jesus did not come to be baptized for forgiveness of sins. Jesus alone lived a sinless life and had no need to be forgiven. Nor do we believe that Jesus was baptized only to initiate the Sacrament of Baptism for the church. So why was Jesus baptized? Many answers have been suggested, but let me list three possible reasons for Jesus’ baptism.
First, the voice from heaven was a strong affirmation for John and for all who heard it that life on earth had taken a dramatic turn and that Jesus was not just a Galilean peasant. No, He was God’s son.
Second, Mark says the very next thing for Jesus after his baptism was the time spent in the wilderness. Luke records the temptations in detail while Mark simply says Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan. Surely, the affirmation by His Father was a source of strength and comfort as Jesus endured the physical, emotional and spiritual trials in the wilderness, and of course the opposition and finally death He would face because He was God’s son.
Third, Mark records that upon returning from the wilderness, Jesus began his public ministry. Throughout the next three years, Jesus lived through incredible joys but also incredible disappointment, great loneliness and great pain. Through it all, He surely remembered His Father’s words, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Certainly one of the life goals for most, if not all, Christians is to hear the Father say to us, “You are my son, you are my daughter, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” While in a real sense, God says this at our baptism,that is just the beginning of life lived in relationship with Him. We also look forward to the day when we see God face to face and hear those words again. If we compare this relationship to a marriage, just as saying “I do” is the beginning of a commitment so our baptism, as wondrous as it is, or was, represents only the beginning of a relationship with God that will never end.
It is good to stop from time to time in our lives to take stock of our relationship with God. It’s good to ask the hard questions:
Am I fully committed to serving God?
Are my priorities God first and everything else second or below second?
Does my checkbook and giving to Church and other charities reflect my full commitment to God?
Are there secret places in my life I don’t want God, or anyone el se for that matter, to know about?
Your list of hard questions may be different from these, but it’s important to ask them, and it’s even more important to look at how your life reflects your commitment to God.
To put it another way, it’s important to ask: “How am I living out my baptism?”
The great reformer Martin Luther viewed baptism as a source of strength and comfort for the Christian. He was not one to say: “I was baptized” but instead would say ‘I am baptized”. In other words, your baptism needs to be a constant source of comfort and strength. You need to be fully aware of the value of your baptism for your daily life. You need to think of your baptism often. For example, do you use the fact that you are baptized as a weapon against sin or a source of comfort in the hard times of life? When you are tempted or you are going through a hard time, do you remind yourself that you are baptized and a beloved child of God, and do these facts give you comfort and strength when you really need them?
At the insistence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus left His baptism to spend 40 days in the wilderness. Apart from His fasting and the temptations by Satan, we know little about how Jesus spent his time, or about his thoughts during that time. Even apart from being without food, the mental and emotional stresses could not have been easy. Most t people find being alone even briefly with their thoughts and with no other distractions such as smartphones, music, reading material, etc. unpleasant. And some would even rather give themselves electric shocks than sit alone thinking for even six minutes! Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative! But Jesus endured that time and, surely, used it well. No doubt, He thought about the next years of public ministry, how He would deal with everything ahead of Him. We can only imagine all the thoughts that were on his mind. Then Satan came when Jesus was hungry and thirsty, and he offered Jesus sinful shortcuts that would supposedly accomplish His goals. But Jesus held strong and resisted each temptation. I wonder if, as Satan tempted Him, He was thinking, “My Father is well pleased with me. I am his Beloved. And … I am baptized! I can face anything — my Father will not let me down.”
What about you?
Some of you may be at a high point of your life where everything is going very well. Praise God for your blessings! Remember your baptism and walk with God. Live each day in faithful obedience and grateful praise.
Some of you may be at a low point where one thing after another is not going as you would like it to go. Praise God for your blessings and for his strength and help as you go through this rough time. Remember your baptism. You are beloved by God. Live each day in faithful obedience, trusting in God, who is your help.
The point is this: In good times and hard times, in good health or poor health, we walk with God as His beloved children. Seek to please God, walk in faith, and you can be prepared for anything.
Remember your baptism.