FacebookTwitterStumbleuponLinkedinRSS FeedPinterest

The Baptism of Our Lord – First Sunday after the Epiphany - Series C

Text: Isaiah 43:1-7

Title: “Our True Worth in God”

Date: Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Even though the Christmas and New Year holidays are over, do you have guilty feelings for not getting a Christmas gift for that certain someone? Do you feel bad for not sending Christmas cards or emails to people you wanted to? How about a New Year’s resolution you made but have already broken? Are you still trying to go on that healthy diet or still thinking about exercising? Perhaps you want to stop smoking or stop drinking or stop some other addiction. When you combine these things with other pressures, anxieties, and struggles of life…is it any wonder that you may be feeling a bit down-in-the-dumps or even a little depressed. Sometimes we can feel so burdened and troubled by the trials of life that we wonder whether anyone, including God, really cares about us.
         Well, guess what? You are in good company! That is exactly how the people of God felt during the prophet Isaiah’s time. When God’s people were living in exile…courtesy of the Babylonians…they were feeling that God didn’t give a hoot about them. They even felt the LORD God had abandoned them. The Israelites were living in a foreign land as a defeated people. They were down-in-the-dumps. They were depressed. Their hopes and dreams of the future had all but dried up and disappeared.

But then a wonderful, upbeat message of Good News comes to them from God. The prophet Isaiah delivers a message to them that is momentous. It’s a message of God’s love and hope…a message of restoration and deliverance…a message of affirmation and acceptance. Listen again carefully from our Old Testament reading to what God promises to do for those who are disobedient, oppressed, and down-in-the-dumps…for those living in exile. The LORD declares through His prophet Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…. Fear not, for I am with you….” (vv 1-3a, 5a)

         What a fantastic message! Upbeat and full of hope, this message clarifies who God is…who Israel is…and, most importantly, who Israel belongs to. The Israelites belong to the LORD. Feeling down, depressed, and vulnerable…the LORD comes to the Israelites and picks them up again, reminding them of their true identity and worth. Because they are very special to Him, they are not forgotten. God loves them and He promises that they will be restored and delivered from His punishment and judgment. 

There’s a story about a man who bought an old dilapidated and banged up organ that had been magnificent in its day. It hardly plays any more. So he calls in experts from all over the world, hoping they can restore it but they all fail. Then one day a small, withered, half-blind old man knocks on the door. When the owner opens the door, he chuckles and says: “What makes you think you can fix it? Experts from all over the world have been here and could not fix it.” But the owner decides that it can’t hurt for him to try. So this elderly stranger begins working on it. After a few days, he has that old organ operating like new. When asked how he was able to restore that old organ and give it new life, the old man simply says: “I made it.”

         Likewise, God is able to restore you and give you new life because He formed you and made you. He created you for His glory. (cf. v. 7) The LORD proudly says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…. Fear not, for I am with you.” (vv 1b, 4a, 5a) When you and I read and hear these words from God given to His people thousands of years later, we find comfort in them because you and I are created, chosen, and loved by the LORD. This is the true God who knows the number of hairs on your head and He is the only One who can truly fix you, restore you, and give new life to you. St. Paul makes this point in our Epistle reading saying: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom 6:3-5)

         Christ’s baptism and your baptism are connected and linked together. This baptismal covenant is what gives you the assurance of God’s true identity and your true identity. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17) Years ago, in the wide-open spaces of the West, a little girl was baptized. The next day at school, her friends asked her why. She said: “When I was baptized, the Jesus mark was put on me. And now, everyone knows that I belong to Jesus.” At your baptism, God called you by name. At your baptism, He claimed you and marked you as His own. Belonging to the LORD, you are so very precious to Him that He created and implanted faith within you. That’s why those who confess God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the One true God and confess Jesus Christ as their Savior and the Savior of the world “…are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, so that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

         Having been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you share in the awesomeness of Jesus’ baptism. Luke points out in our Gospel reading when Jesus “had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on [Jesus] in bodily form, like a dove” (Lk 3:21b-22a) as a public witness to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah…the Christ…the Anointed One. (cf. Isa 42:1; Acts 20:38) Then God the Father puts His seal of approval on Jesus by declaring: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Lk 3:22b) Christ now takes humanity’s place to receive the wrath of God against sin.

In the play titled “The Deputy,” a young priest discovers the truth about the World War II Jewish extermination camps of Hitler’s Third Reich. This young priest makes it his mission to stop the orders that put in motion the slow extermination of a race of people. The priest appeals to everyone in authority, including the pope. But all turn a deaf ear to him or plead excuses that remove them from any responsibility. When all avenues of protest have been exhausted, our young priest…the hero of the play…sews the identifying six-pointed star on his sleeve. He then presents himself at an extermination camp and goes to the ovens with the condemned people.

         Like this young priest, who willingly identifies with those who are going to be exterminated….our Savior Jesus, by being baptized by John the Baptizer, willingly identifies Himself with sinners. He is the One who is your true source of hope and deliverance from God’s wrath and the effects of sin. Being sinless, Jesus was baptized as the One to bear your sins and my sins. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21) He came as the God-man to fulfill every righteous demand by God (cf. Matt. 3:15) and joined His baptism with the baptism of all sinners in order to take their place on the cross.

Yes indeed, you belong to God. He claimed you and made you to be His own through water and the Holy Spirit. When you were baptized, the LORD declared to you: "This is My beloved son, whom I love" or "This is My beloved daughter, whom I love." At that point, the heavens were opened for you and God the Father called you to be His own dear child. And since you are His, you are to confess Him…serve Him…and work at connecting other people to Him. “Fear not,” declares the LORD, “for I am with you” and “you are mine.” Amen.

We have 7 guests and no members online