Baptism of Expectations!
Tony E Dillon-Hansen (8 January 2017)
Sermon based upon Luke 3:1-22
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock, Our Redeemer.
I – Expectation
I ask you to take a moment with me, and reflect on the particular verse “As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah …”
Now, despite what my mother would say about me and if you might have high expectations of me, let me lower them for you some—maybe quite a bit. Despite what some people might say about all the great things you might expect from me, you just might be here for someone else.
In John the Baptist’s case, they don’t know Jesus (Yet). However, people have heard this mystery prophecy about a messiah coming, and John seems to personify what they envisioned of this “messiah.”
John is getting people motivated by preaching against political hypocrisy, deliverance and liberation. People start envisioning extravagant thoughts and spreading the news about this John-fellow baptizing people in the Jordan while calling for repentance and rejection of hypocrisy. Even though, they have heard similar from Isaiah and Ezekiel, John sounds refreshing, albeit revolutionary, to these oppressed people. He is saying some revolutionary stuff like 1) to share, 2) to do fair business, and 3) to not extort.— very revolutionary!
Also, some people get afraid, very afraid. King Herod also heard this messiah story who is to be the “deliverer of the Jewish nation” (e.g. perhaps challenge Herod’s authority like Moses did in Egypt), and Herod doesn’t like power challenges— especially from some guy in the wilderness.
II – Reflection on Baptism.
A large part of this text tells how John would baptize people using the water of the river Jordan. This is where we, as Christians, base the Sacrament of Baptism not just thanks to John, but because Jesus proceeds to be baptized by John — beginning his ministry in the lands of Roman-occupied Israel, and then later instructing his Disciples to go out and baptize.
What is baptism so important? Believe me, when people get baptized, there are some expectations. Namely, that you recognize the mystery of Jesus and God in your life, and through the waters of baptism, we are born into the body of the Church. What possibly could go wrong here?
Why did Jesus find it necessary to be baptized prior to His mission? Perhaps Jesus saw John bringing powerless people to God via baptism. Perhaps, Jesus was showing a sign of solidarity with sinners. Yet, like the Church says, Baptism is the mark of our acceptance (the sign and seal) of one’s participation in God’s forgiveness, a beginning and new growth into Christian faith and life. We are told that Jesus is beginning to fulfill His mission & growth with God as well.
So when you recognize God, you can always find forgiveness, compassion, and fulfillment.
I am reminded that Baptism is not just about the lives of individuals being baptized, but also a celebration and renewal by the whole church. As people growing in the church, we also have the opportunities to “re-affirm” that which may have been done for us in baptism as a child and to confirm our covenant with & faithful recognition of the Church and God.
III – Cleansing Transformations
Like John, I feel compelled to remind us that there is one greater than any minister for which we are “not worthy to untie the …sandals.”
Water is used to symbolize cleansing, if not actually, because water comes from God and only through God might we be truly cleansed. The water helps wash away and just let go. The power of water in baptism becomes no less dramatic to us as to open the heavens to Jesus.
I am compelled to tell the story of a young man who was baptized at Plymouth. (I should note that this is a public baptism in front of the whole congregation during worship, and the congregation is invited to renew their baptismal covenant as well). This gentleman decided to join Plymouth after many great experiences and be baptized. He proceeds to the front of the Church for the baptism. As he received baptismal waters, he just opened up like a sunflower glistening towards the sun. He was glowing with tears of absolute joy, and total elation flowed from him. (Those tears flowed through the congregation that day.) This was truly a memorable experience—a “conversion of the heart.” I was glad to witness it.
This happened because in baptism, there is a “conversion of the heart” happening (as John tells us) only by letting go of what we thought we knew (i.e. expectations). Then, you can let God’s love fill you and maybe you witness the light upon you too! That is transformational power.
Now, Should Herod be so scared of this power?
Can we expect to have that kind of baptismal conversion throughout our lives, instead of that one moment? Can we understand how suffering can completely transform into grace? When we ask God to be in our lives, there are many things possible.
Perhaps it is better that people know the real deal is coming and it is not me! You do not have to worry about having low expectations of me because there is someone far better than I waiting for you. Your baptism covenant is evident of this.
Perhaps, it is better that people recognize how God and Christ can make true differences in our lives when we let go and open ourselves to the possibility.
Let Go of your Expectations! Open your hearts to your baptism, to God and to the possible— rejuvenate your faith. You just might find your expectations filled.
Thanks Be to God.