The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church,
Sermon preached by brother Andrew at Springwood on Sunday 10th January 2016
The First Sunday after Epiphany – the Baptism of the Lord, year C
Isaiah 43. 1-7
Restoration and Protection Promised
43But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 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.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’
The Voice of God in a Great Storm
A Psalm of David.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king for ever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16(for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
The Baptism of Jesus
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Today we celebrate the First Sunday after Epiphany which is the Baptism of the Lord and take an 18-year leap on to the next stage of Jesus Ministry.
This is the beginning of the story of God’s relationship with his people of the New Covenant and began because those of the Old Covenant failed to keep their promises – can we keep ours?
Casting our eyes and ears over the readings today we must be in awe at the mighty wonders of salvation that was meant for Israel with the coming of the Messiah the Lord Jesus Christ, the Anointed one. The day of redemption was at hand for God had called them by their own names and they were his.
Our God knows those whom he calls by name yet so often the call is not answered, for Israel there was promised a mighty restoration with the Chosen gathered from the four corners of the earth into an Israel and Judah united once more as in the time of David.
Throughout all manner of disaster, through fire and flood, nothing would harm them because the Lord was with them and would give their enemies as ransom for them. They were precious in his sight, and honoured, and he loved them, he would give people in return for them, will give a very special person as a ransom for them, and nations in exchange for their life.
Yet as we know they parleyed with the enemy and voided all chances that the Lord could make Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba Ransoms for Israel.
Does anyone here or has done, mountaineering? How often do we hear such glorious, comforting promises from the Lord and then do exactly the opposite cutting our own rope which holds us fast to the Lord? We place such trust in the human keeping us safe on the mountain and few would commit physical suicide by cutting the rope which holds their life by a thread – yet we like Israel commit Spiritual Suicide when we lose hold of rope anchoring us to God.
All those who are called by the Lord are called for his majesty –
The Lord Almighty can do whatsoever he wills, listen to the majesty of the Psalm. He is Israel and Judah’s Saviour he tells them in Isaiah!
From the Benedictus we know that Jesus was sent to fulfil the words of the Prophets, of Isaiah and from the Nunc Dimittis we know that Jesus would be the light to lighten the Gentiles and to give glory to His people Israel.
The Natives and aliens in Judah at the time of Jesus’ manifestation in the Jordan were pregnant with the hope for the Messiah and wondered whether John could be the one.
And again we hear the enigmatic response: –
- I baptize you with water.
- One who is more powerful than I is coming-
- He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
- His winnowing-fork is in his hand.
- He will clear his threshing-floor !
- He will gather the wheat into his granary;
- He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire!
All the glorious promises bound up in the coming judgements will be embodied in this one who is Messiah who will achieve all of this by being the embodiment of the Nations given in ransom for many.
Yet he comes quietly out of the wilderness to be baptised together with the Natives and the aliens in the land – ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ Jesus is made Manifest in the Jordan for all there to know and to learn that this one will carry out the will of His Heavenly Father.
As did John who met his end at Herodias’ Jealousy on a point of Law.
From the mouth of Jesus himself we understand that his first intention was to redeem Israel from its Spiritual enemies -, because he said to go first of all to the lost sheep of the Children of Israel, before going to the Gentiles, Jesus came to redeem his own people. Yet, just as in the times of the Prophets his own people rejected Jesus as they had rejected his Father because they misunderstood what the enemy was from which they would be delivered.
Our second reading reveals that it wasn’t very long before the hated Samaritans, the Half Jews were accepting Jesus as their saviour along with the Promises that went with it. They were on the other side of the wall between politics and Faith and through their eyes of faith they sought and accepted the One who could forgive them their sins, bring them into the Paradise denied them by their half siblings, the Jews. For God had said through Isaiah — “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth & everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.’”
And So It was just after the Pentecostal Fire when Peter and John went down to them they had only received the baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus I am surmising that this is the manner used by John the Baptist and Jesu’s Disciples prior to the giving of the Post – Resurrection Ordinance?
Upon receiving the laying on of hands with prayer and supplication they received the Holy Spirit promised by John the Baptist at the Jordan.
If you desire to be sealed in the Spirit to strengthen yourselves in the Lord Jesus, then come forward during the Post Communion break for the Laying on of hands.