Baptized into Serving
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 1:41–1:11
The Baptism of Our Lord
January 7-8, 2011
“Baptized into Serving”
Christmas has come and gone. Those mysterious visitors from the east bearing their extravagant gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, have headed back home. Time seems to be moving very quickly as we head into week two of the new year. The “little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay” is all grown up and ready to begin his earthly ministry. Today we find ourselves on the banks of the Jordan River as the Lord Jesus steps down into the water and is baptized by John. Jesus’ baptism launches him into a life of serving. If Jesus was baptized into serving, can it be any different for us who follow him? It all began at the Jordan for Jesus, and it all begins at the Baptismal font for us. Jesus’ baptism is one of those instances recorded in Scripture at which all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are present: the voice of the Father affirming “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11); the Son who is Jesus, true God and true Man; and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, descending upon Jesus. Today as we reflect on the Baptism of our Lord, we also begin our congregation-wide focus of Being SJLC: Serving Jesus – Living in Community. The message for this day is entitled “Baptized into Serving.” May the Lord’s rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus’ sake.
First off, it’s important to understand that Jesus was not baptized as we are – for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the sinless Son of God, and had no need to have any sins washed away. Rather, Jesus’ baptism marked him as the Father’s chosen and anointed Son who would fulfill all righteousness, doing for us what we could never do for ourselves: living that sinless and perfect life of obedience to the Father’s will. The waters of the Jordan would carry Jesus all the way to Calvary where his mission would be completed. It was at Calvary that Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). He lived the life we could not and he died the death we justly deserved because of our sin. The words of the angel to Joseph before Jesus was even born start to be lived out there at the Jordan and are fulfilled at Calvary: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It is through the cleansing waters of holy Baptism that we are joined to Jesus and his saving work, as Paul tells us in today’s Epistle lesson: “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” (Romans 6:3-4). So, what does it mean to “walk in newness of life”? My friends, this is what Being SJLC is all about.
Let’s take a look at the graphic for Being SJLC (point people to the image on the screen). Our Baptismal “walking in newness of life” begins with Jesus himself, who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus was revealed to the nations beginning with the Magi, those mysterious visitors from the east who came to worship Jesus by the leading of a star (upper left image). This is Epiphany; the season in which Being SJLC is taking place. Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River marked him as God’s chosen Servant to bring salvation to all. The baptismal shell and water droplets remind us of our own Baptism that ushers us into a life of servanthood, following Jesus’ own example. Our servanthood, rooted in Jesus’ sacrifice of his life upon the cross, flows out to the world (note St. John’s image of the three crosses with the river image in lower left). This harkens back to the stewardship theme from last fall and the Why Give? devotional book, in which we learned how God calls us to be “rivers of giving.” Finally, through works of love done in Jesus’ Name, we become the hands of Jesus to touch the lives of others (heart in hand image in lower right). We are baptized into serving.
Still, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? That’s why I want to show you a very brief video clip that captures what Being SJLC is all about (show video clip from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk8ERxqCZqQ&feature=share). That’s pretty powerful! It changes and challenges our thinking about what it means to serve – not just here at church, but in the places where God calls us in daily life, where we spend most of our time: our homes and families, our places of work, our schools, our neighborhoods. What does it look like to be baptized into serving in these settings? That’s what we want to explore in the weeks ahead, and I want you to be part of this journey. Through preaching and worship, through Sunday morning learning and small group huddles, through fellowship and serving opportunities, we will grow in what it means to serve Jesus and live in community.
There are a million reasons – maybe I should say excuses – why we can’t participate; why we can’t do this. “I’m too busy right now.” “My kids are in lots of activities.” “My work schedule is really heavy.” “I’ve put in my time. Been there – done that.” And on and on it goes. But it all comes down to this: are we walking in that newness of life that we’ve been baptized into? Are we growing and maturing in what it means to be Jesus’ disciples? Or are we content with the status quo – being neither cold nor hot, but just lukewarm (see Revelation 3:15-16). Being SJLC begins with the truth that we are baptized into Christ Jesus, into his death and resurrection. This one-time event has ongoing and daily significance and meaning for life here and now. We have received the gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus. And being baptized into Christ Jesus, we are also baptized into serving. Welcome to Being SJLC: Serving Jesus – Living in Community. May the Lord’s blessing be upon us in the journey ahead. Amen.