Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Bible reading - Mark 1:4-11
As we have talked about before, the arrow pretty much always points down. If we were to draw a diagram, a simple way of showing how the relationship between God and us works, it would always be an arrow pointing down. This was pointed out by Kelly Fryer in the book “Reclaiming the “L” Word, and it holds true time and time again.
The Christmas story shows us in the most obvious of ways that God comes down to us. God comes down in the person of Jesus to a world that could not save itself to raise us up to be with him.
This week, so soon after the birth of Jesus, having skipped over about 30 years of his life, we hear again of God coming down. John’s baptism of repentance ended with the baptism of Jesus. John was baptising people, exhorting them to repent and wait for the promised Messiah, and with the baptism of Jesus, the Messiah had come. Jesus had no need to repent, he was sinless and perfect, but he was baptised by John in solidarity with us, so that the message from the Father might be the same message that we hear in our baptism.
And what was that message? “You are my son, you are my daughter, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”
Interestingly enough, in Matthew’s gospel, the voice of God the Father is recorded as not speaking to Jesus, but about him, where he says “THIS is my beloved son, I take delight in him”.
So if he was not speaking for Jesus’ benefit, who was he speaking to? It was for the crowd. Letting them know what had happened here, and who Jesus was. These days, we do not have the crowds that they had then. So who are those words for now? Who do we have to witness a baptism? The Godparents and congregation are there as witnesses to tell the person throughout their life: I was there when God said that this (you) are his beloved son, I was there when God said that this (you) are my beloved daughter.
In Mark and Luke, where the voice speaks “you are my beloved son”, even then, it was not for Jesus benefit, he knew he was the son of God, he had been from eternity and would be for evermore. Again, it was for the crowds, and also, as Jesus was baptised like we are, the words were also for us who come after, who are baptised into his name.
So for us, when we are down, and depressed, and hit by temptations that just will not leave us any peace, when God feels far away, and his love a distant memory. When we feel that we can not even face him because of the things that we have done, and the shame we have brought him, when we feel that God must be so angry with us that he never wants to see us again, we can remember that we are baptised, and hear again those words “You are my Son, you are my daughter, with you I am well pleased”. We are forgiven through the waters of our baptism, through the Spirit that comes down, through no merit of our own, but by the grace of the God who ALWAYS comes down.
And do not dare doubt his words. You might be thinking “God can’t be well pleased with me, you don’t know what I have done, or where I have been”. But God does know, and still he says it to you. In John 8 we hear that if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. So if the father declares you free, if he declares you forgiven, if he declares you to be his beloved child, then free, forgiven, and a child you are indeed!
We have a God whose words can make a universe appear out of nothing, a God who can make light out of darkness by the power of his word. If he can do all this, then we dare not doubt that he can bring light into our darkness by the power of his words, his words that accomplish what they say.
God has come down. In his Son at Christmas, in the Spirit at our Baptism and in Holy Communion. And he looks at you and says, and you need to hear this over and over: you are my Son! You are my daughter! With you I am well pleased.
And God has shown us how much he loves us, and what he is willing to do to have us with him, to free us from all that other stuff that drags us down. He did this on the only one occasion that I can recall where God didn’t come down. And that’s when Jesus got up. Up from the grave, up from the darkness and the cold.
Doesn’t his willingness to go through all that prove to us how much we are his Sons and daughters whom he loves, with whom he is well pleased?
God has come down to us. He has raised us up to be with him in the place of his Son. And one day, we will raise us up again. Thanks be to God. Amen.