Monday, January 6, 2020

Looking Ahead to January 12, 2020 -- Baptism of Christ Sunday

On the first Sunday after Epiphany we are invited to reflect on Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. And to reflect on our own Baptism.

During Children's Time this week we will be invited to choose a "Spirit Word" to carry with us for the year. The idea is that we draw a word and are "asked to reflect on that word for the coming year. The people are invited to ponder what significance this word might have in their lives, and how God might be speaking to them through that simple message" (source and more on the idea here). Often this is done with Stars on Epiphany Sunday but we will use Doves, an ancient symbol of the Holy Spirit. and link it to the dove in the Baptism of Jesus story.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 42:1-9
  • Matthew 3:13-17
The Sermon title is Beloved Servant

Early Thoughts: Baptism. In Baptism we acknowledge the Baptisee as a child of God. In Baptism we are, as our Baptism liturgy says:
By water and the Spirit,
we are called, claimed, and commissioned:
we are named as God’s children,
claimed by Christ,
and united with the whole Christian community
of every time and place.
Strengthened by the Holy Spirit,
we live out our commission;
to spread the love we have been given throughout the world.
 When Jesus is baptized, over John's objections, Jesus is named as God's Beloved Child, with whom God is "well-pleased". As Matthew tells his story of Jesus' ministry this is the beginning. Yes we have a Christmas story with visitors from the East before now but this moment is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, the beginning of Jesus starting to live out who he is called and formed to be.

Whoever that is...

In the writings of and stories about Isaiah we have these odd passages we tend to call the "servant songs". They talk about God's servant and what that servant will do.  We read one of those this week. There has been much debate about who the servant in these songs is meant to be. Is it the nation? Is it the "prophet like Moses" that tradition says will come? Is it the Messiah? Many Christian writers have read these passages and assumed that the servant is Christ. I think this is a reading backward, reading Christ into a passage that was not about him in the first place, an interpretive choice. Which does not make it automatically invalid, I just think we need to be honest about what we are doing.

If we read the servant songs of Isaiah and we see Christ then what to they have to say about Christ?

If we combine the "job description" from the servant song and the baptismal blessing then where do we end up? We end up with a Beloved Child and Servant. We end up with a vision for what Christ is all about. And since it has long been understood that to be Christian is to strive to be Christ-like we have a glimpse of who we might be called to be.

Are we ready to be Beloved Servants as well?

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