Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Matthew 3: 13-17
January 8, 2017
“Let us open our ears to hear anew the reading this morning from the gospel according to Matthew, Chapter Three, verses 13-17.”
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
“These words of the baptism of Jesus are not new to us, yet, let us open our hearts to the newness they offer to us!”
Most everyone here is dependent on a computer in some fashion or another. Myself, I depend on our computer system, here at the church a great deal! Without it, I would probably need to resurrect my grandfather’s old manual typewriter… and I can tell you for sure that would really slow me down! With this in mind, I saw a very appropriate story on the internet that speaks to this point.
The unknown author begins this way:
Our new office computer system was down as much as it was working. My co-worker Nanci decided to stay late one evening to catch up on the work that had accumulated. On her way home, a police officer stopped her for speeding. “What a perfect end to an awful day!” she exclaimed. “Our computer is up, then down – up, then down. I stay late to catch up, and now this!” The officer was unaffected by Nanci’s griping, and he went to his car to prepare a citation. After what seemed an eternity, he returned with her license and registration. As he handed them to her, he smiled and said, “Our computer is down.”/Author Unknown/
Then there is this fellow having trouble with the print quality of his printer:
Dismayed, he called a local repair shop where a friendly man informed him that the printer probably needed only to be cleaned. Because the store charged $50 for such cleanings, he was told by the technician how he might be better off reading the printer’s manual and trying the job himself. Pleasantly surprised by his candor, he asked, “Does your boss know that you discourage business?” Actually, it’s my boss’s idea,” the employee replied sheepishly. “We usually make more money on repairs if we let people try to fix things themselves first.” /Author Unknown/
Did you know you can find almost anything on the internet? I found these quotes that were taken from real church signs: Free Trip to heaven. Details Inside! Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons – come hear one! Now this last one is something that many of you will certainly appreciate: Come work for God. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world. /Author Unknown/
These short bits have little to do with today’s scripture. I just wanted to try something new!
I love new things! Don’t you! I must confess my weakness to shiny new cars! (Just don’t lose your keys, replacements for these remote entry and keyless devices are expensive!) Regarding my love of new cars: One of my former secretaries, well she was the Office administrator, said to me one day as I drove up in yet another new car: “O, do I wish I was the car salesperson on duty when you walk into the showroom!” I must confess, she was ‘spot on!’ I have always enjoyed new cars. For that matter I enjoy lots of things when they are new! Don’t you! Now, come on, confess the truth, most of us enjoy something new now and then. Don’t we? New dress, new cell phone, new golf clubs or maybe it’s just a new ball cap or a new pair of sun glasses. Whatever is your heart’s delight, we all enjoy a bit of newness in our lives, at least occasionally. It is in our nature as humans, especially here in these United States!
What is discouraging or disheartening is when that new whatever, gets broken, lost or out of sorts. I remember a red shinny sports car I owned the year before I entered seminary. Wow! It was a beauty! Loved it! Keep it clean and it shined! Great on the corners… it was just right. Then, well, we all know what the then was. My first ‘dingy’ on the passenger door. You could see it from ten yards away. Then that fateful day the gas pedal link broke and I had no control over the speed. That car could really move… burned up a pair of brake pads before I could successfully down shift and stall the engine. It wasn’t new any longer. That’s the trouble with most new things, they break or get old.
During my childhood, I had new things, now and then. It was a big deal too, because we were a big family and both my mom and dad worked long hours trying to make ends meet. So, I learned to look for new adventures and new opportunities to get excited. That’s the way it was. During those years, I enjoyed all the activities at church. Sunday school, worship, and even the youth group and children’s choir. Everything always seemed special and every new story out of the Bible was a new adventure. One memory I have as a young lad, I believed I had walked up to the baptismal font the Sunday morning on which my grandfather, the Reverend Herbert Dixon, had baptized me. I was wrong. It was my younger sister whom got baptized on that particular day. For you see, when I found my baptismal certificate years later, stuck in the Bible which I received in Sunday school, it had the dates and they indicated how I was but an infant on that day! My new beginning, started way back then – I was three months old! I am, also, pleased to know I was there to witness the baptism of my younger sister; as baptism is meant to be done in the context of a family, a community. I never confirmed it, yet I suspect my mom and dad were there, as-well-as possibly my other brothers and sisters.
Baptism, Christian Baptism, is a ritual of cleansing and blessing via the Holy Spirit, in the name of our Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it is a welcome into the Universal Church of Christ. It is the moment, the occasion, whereby we are welcomed into the family of Jesus Christ. It is the occasion when we are told, for the very first time, that we are loved by God, and like Jesus, God is ‘well pleased with us’! We are, through our baptism, children of God; adopted and reborn into the saving grace of Christ, touched and blessed by the Living God.
When I discovered that I was an infant at the time of my baptism… it was fascinating. It was something new for me to grapple with. It didn’t necessarily change me. Yet, the information itself changed my perception of the event for me, and that was something new. I still cling to the knowledge that my grandfather was the pastor, when I was welcomed into the ‘family’ the family of Christ by ‘virtue’ of his ordained standing within the church. He did so, through the ritual of the baptism of water, by means of the laying on of hands, his hands, onto my forehead with the baptismal waters of which he had asked the living God to bless with the Living Spirit of God, the very essence of Christ himself! When he said the words: I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, just like when Jesus himself was baptized, I became something new in Christ. This is what baptism is all about!
Now, as an infant, I did not immediately begin to preach and follow the teachings of Jesus; nor did I begin to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather. That came a long time after. Yet the journey had begun. Those that were responsible for me, began to teach me about the love of God. The church of my parents, my grandparents, and my parents themselves, nurtured me and began my training into the life of a Christian, a follower and a disciple of Christ. The baptismal ritual, with water, was a powerful tool to get me started on my journey. The adults whom were first responsible for my training and development into the Christian faith, they were tools by which I was welcomed into the faith, and the teachings of the gospel accounts of who Jesus was and is. This is something that we as a church are responsible to do for the children that do come to us by their parents. Even though there are so few children with us now, at this time, we still must be diligent in our efforts to make ourselves open and keep available a Christian Education program… so that when they and others do come, we will be ready.
As time, has passed, since our individual baptisms, we have been able to take on the responsibility of our continuing growth and nurture in the church. Coming to church, studying the Bible are all part of this process. As adults, we become responsible for this journey of faith. If you are not doing this for yourself, it is time for you to begin something new in your continuing journey. Getting involved in the fellowship and volunteering for a few things is helpful as well. New opportunities to help around this our church come to us every week. This week we learned that John, our volunteer sexton for these last few years, has had to focus his energies on a new job and family responsibilities. First, we must acknowledge our gratitude and thanks for his generous contributions in this regard. But, secondly, we need new volunteers to help fill the need, the void that is caused by his redirecting his personal priorities at this time.
At each stage of our journey we have opportunities to initiate new things. And as we reflect on how baptism is a part of our journey, how God’s love is bestowed upon us, we can always remind ourselves that this never gets old. The blessing of God is not like a car… it never gets old, it never breaks down! God’s love is always bright and shiny new, every day. What we need to acknowledge for ourselves is that our acceptance of God’s abundant love may get stale for us when we stop welcoming God into our lives every day and at every opportunity! True disappointments come when we pull away from God. Darkness comes when we turn away from the light. Loneliness comes only when we turn away from the ever-present companionship of the Living God. A Spirit filled and a spirit filling God, whom comes to us through the Spirit of Christ. Reach out to the next stranger that reminds you how God’s love is present in their lives! It maybe the invitation you need to make God’s blessing and love fresh and new in your life!
We can wake up every day to something new. New life, new opportunities and most importantly, the new abundant love of God, just like the day we were first baptized! Your baptismal certificate may be old and faded, but the Spirit of God which was bestowed upon you is still fresh and new! You may have lost the record of the date and time, yet God’s blessings are still upon you. Every time we cleanse ourselves with water, we can be reminded of how God has, like Christ, come down from heaven to welcome us into the family of God! Something new is here with us this morning… can you not feel it! Amen.