Trinity News and Sermons

12/07/14 Sermon Bullets

Second Sunday of Advent

  • Today we baptize Ethan Estevez into the Christian family. This ritual, most holy and powerful, is an ancient act that goes very far back in history – further back than Peter’s instruction on Pentecost Day that persons should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus; further back that Jesus’ command in Matthew’s gospel that his followers were to “go make disciples . . .baptizing them in the Triune Name”; further even that the baptism that we read about in today’s gospel from John the Baptist.
  • Though the word “baptism” does not appear in the Old Testament – there are references to it: especially Naaman being told by Elisha to go and bathe in the Jordan to be cleansed of his leprosy.
  • Those who had become defiled according to Levitical law were to “immerse themselves as a sacrifice of cleansing.”
  • Alfred Edershem, who taught Jewish history at Oxford University says that when Gentiles wanted to become a part of the Jewish faith in all its fullness, they needed to do three acts: circumcision, baptism and some sort of animal sacrifice.
  • John the Baptist did not “invent” baptism. It was a practice that had an ancient history, not only for Jews but people of many faiths. What makes John’s baptism different is that he was calling for the people to become clean in their lives in order to prepare the way for the Messiah. Hearts were to be transformed and ready for God to do something TOTALLY NEW in the coming of the long-awaited Messiah.
  • What we do today with Ethan is to not only welcome him into the family, but wash him clean. For he has the same chronic sickness we all have – sin.
  • One might think, “How can a two year old have sin as a part of his life?” Certainly this is often asked of a new born child! (There might be times we could ask Ethan’s parents if he ALWAYS is a good boy!)
  • Recently, I was asked to explain sin in two sentences (something not always easy for this) I was able to do it. Sin is when we are not God-centered or other-centered, but self-centered.
  • Pay close attention to the pastoral instruction to Ethan’s parents and godparents this day – they are to engage in certain practices so that “Ethan may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.”
  • This is what EACH of us is called to do.
  • This is in many ways the baptism that John the Baptist was doing. In the instruction that John gives in Luke’s gospel, we read: “And the multitudes asked him, ‘What then shall we do?’ And he answered them, ‘One who has two coats, let the one share with those who have none; and those who have food, let them do likewise.’ Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ and John said to them, ‘Collect no more than is appointed you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And John said to them, ‘Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’”
  • There is a great similarity between John’s instruction and what the pastor today is called to say in instruction to the parents.
  • At the end of the baptismal liturgy, our assisting minister will light a candle – to be lit EACH year on December 7, which is Ethan’s baptismal birthday, and these words will be spoken to Ethan, “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” These are the words of Jesus, the Messiah, to his followers.
  • By virtue of our Baptism, we are called to shine before the world.
  • When we hear these passages about John the Baptist each Advent (and next week we will hear more); when we witness someone else’s baptism, we are called to remind ourselves of our OWN baptism, our own bathing, our own cleansing in the healing and powerful waters of the font. We are called to let our light shine before others.
  • Sometimes I’m pretty good at doing that. Other times, I’m a bit self-centered instead of God and other centered. That is because I am a sinner. I bet the same is true for you too.
  • So we need to hear John the Baptist’s call of returning and cleansing of our hearts and lives. We need to experience the power of God’s Word with Water in Baptism. We need, as Luther said, to DAILY return to our baptism – that moment when we are declared completely clean by God.
  • Hear the words of the hymn we will soon sing:
  • We hail you as our Savior, Lord, our refuge and our great reward; without your grace we waste away like flowers that wither and decay.
  • Stretch forth your hand, our health restore, and make us rise to fall no more; oh, let your face upon us shine and fill the world with love divine.
  • In solidarity with Ethan and all the baptized, this day, as you come to receive Holy Communion, I encourage you to touch the water of the baptismal font. You can make the sign of the Cross if you wish, or just sprinkle it on yourself. As you do, be reminded of the words of John today, and know this: You were not just baptized with water – you were baptized with the Holy Spirit of the Living God!