Loose in the World

On Thursday of last week I was hanging out with Cheryl Baggs, our Faith Formation Director, and Tod Mitchell, our brand-new Facilities Manager, and thinking out loud about how high school seniors are really getting serious about their choice of college.
Tod and his wife Jackie have sent three off on their own and Cheryl is getting ready to send her oldest son to college in the fall.
Both agreed that parenting is a profound blessing, and you do all you can do as a parent to form a child, you try to teach them and shape them and help them to come to a place where they can think critically, act independently, and live confidently. You try to prepare them for a life beyond yourself. But at a critical point, all you can do – all that’s left to do – is to say “I love you,” and to turn them loose in the world.
At his baptism, God the Father says “I love you” to Jesus and then turns Jesus loose in the world.
Just as a parent shapes a child with their values and the child’s life is an extension of their own, so Jesus is let loose in the world to bring God’s values to the world and to be an extension of God in his ministry.
At Jesus’ baptism, God looks down on him and speaks, and this is the first time we hear God’s voice in Luke’s gospel. Angels have spoken to Zechariah and Mary, magi have worshipped Jesus as divine, but only now does God speak, and he say, “You are my Son. I love you. With you I am well-pleased.”
Now, in Jesus of Nazareth, God makes baptism something new. No longer will it be a ritual washing that communicates our best intentions to do better and love God more. Now baptism is the opening of heaven and the pouring out of the Spirit that moved over the waters at creation, bringing about a new creation in the one who stands under God’s voice, which says, “You are my beloved child, and with you I am well pleased.”
It is significant that God speaks these word of blessings and love over Jesus as a gift — before he has done any work: before he has cured diseases or healed anyone, before he has preached a sermon or taught a single lesson, before he has cast out demons or bested the devil, before he has raised a person from the dead, and before he has stilled the storm.
Jesus hasn’t don’t anything yet, really, but God speaks words of love and encouragement and lets Jesus loose in the world.
In fact, its these words of love and blessing that make Jesus ministry possible. With these words and the gift of the Holy Spirit God empowers Jesus life and work.
These words of love and blessing make it possible to heal, cure, preach, and point to God. Only the love of the Father gives Jesus the power to be the one who hold the winnowing fork to clear his threshing floor and separate the wheat for his barn and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Only the love of God at work in Jesus makes him the one who burns my brokenness and sin and your brokenness and sin– our chaff – as he works in us through the days and the weeks and the years and the lifetime we have been given, as we spend time with him in prayer and reading the word and living in Christian community.
In baptism, God pours out his love on you and me and we are made to be a part of God. We die to ourselves and are raised up to live in Jesus Christ.
We are made a part of his team.
A few weeks ago, we were really having football fever in our house. Sarah is a huge Green Bay Packers fan and we had been watching the Packers on tv. We were outside in the front yard and in the road and the children wanted to play football.
They aren’t able at 3 and 4 years old to comprehend many of the rules or even much beyond getting touchdowns, tackling, and end-zone dancing, but they knew that a football field had to have a logo in the middle of it.
So we got out the sidewalk chalk and I asked them what logo they wanted me to draw. They agreed that the logo should be Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, because Lucia, said, “That’s our team.”
We are made a part of Jesus’ team in our baptism.
He is our leader and he faithfully calls the plays that his Father would want us to run: He calls the play of forgiving, of bearing with our enemies, of working for healing. Jesus calls plays that we wouldn’t run if it was just up to us.
In our reading from Acts we hear how God the Father and Jesus his Son have called a play that has everyone sitting on their heels. They have turned the Holy Spirit loose in the world which brings people together, even though they wouldn’t choose one another.
These Samaritans and Hebrews would not choose to talk with one another, work together, or be a part of the same team, but the word of God is loose in the world and the Spirit sends Peter and John down to them to lay hands on them, pray with them, and be the vehicle through whom the Spirit will come to them.
We live in a world the plays up our differences – socioeconomic differences, differences of race, political differences – and we talk to people who are like us less and less, work together only if necessary, we build walls and imagine those who are different from us or who disagree with us to be evil.
The Holy Spirit says that all who are in Jesus are on the same team. The Spirit will separate our prejudice, judgment, and broken relationships out as chaff and leave us with our shared humanity, all people made in God’s image and people whom God has spoken over with the words, “You are my beloved child. I love you. With you I am well pleased.”
From Jesus’ baptism I think we learn three things about ourselves:
Because we are joined to Jesus in baptism, we can be obedient to God. Before the cross, Jesus kneels on the Mount of Olives and prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me, but not my will but yours be done.” Because Jesus is obedient to God and we are joined to Jesus, we can be obedient.
Because we are joined to Jesus in baptism, our prayers have power. Jesus’ prayer has the power to open heaven and when we pray our prayer is joining Jesus’ prayer, already in progress. We do not have the pressure of beginning to know what to ask for but are invited to join our Lord as he prays.
Because we are joined to Jesus in baptism, we are called to mission. God speaks over you and me, before you have done any work or any good thing: “You are my beloved child.” And yet, we are reminded that in that love we are sent out to a world in need, because God loves the world so much to and wants its healing through our lives.
Brothers and sisters, rejoice! We are baptized and our whole life is found in God, who turns us loose in the world. As a team.
Thanks be to God!

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