Thoughts Between Sundays

Some of what crosses my mind between Sundays

"You are Mine"

Leave a comment

A sermon for Baptism of the Lord Sunday.

Isaiah 43:1-7

1But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

3For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

4Because you are precious in my sight,

and honored, and I love you,

I give people in return for you,

nations in exchange for your life.

5Do not fear, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you;

6I will say to the north, “Give them up,”

and to the south, “Do not withhold;

bring my sons from far away

and my daughters from the end of the earth —

7everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.”

It seems that this is the time of year when we think a lot about promises.  Specifically, promises we make to ourselves to be better people, or promises we make to other people to be better people.  Except, we don’t call them promises, we call them resolutions.  And very often, over 90% of the time, depending on which study you read, these promises are not kept.  Which is why I love that we have the text we have for today – -the reading from Isaiah that is full of the promises God has made and kept through time, and continues to keep today.  Today is a day when we as a church reflect on our baptisms; a day when we think about the promises we have made through the years as a community of faith to each other.

The promises we hear today come from the Prophet Isaiah, spoken to a people that have been conquered by the Babylonians and cast into exile.  These were a people who felt abandoned by God, were lost, wandering, and wondering if God really would keep the promises God made in the past.  These were people who feared what their futures would hold.  They had sinned, and they had been punished.  The prophet has chastised them mightily in the 42nd chapter of Isaiah, and yet the next thing they hear are these words of promise and comfort, the reminder that God has been with them all along their journey.  I wonder what a conversation may sound like between these people of God and the text we have today.  How might they respond to the words of Isaiah?

I wonder how we may respond to these words from the prophet.  Some of us who may feel as if we are in exile, or that we are wandering in the wilderness, some of us who may feel fearful of what is to come, or abandoned or lost.  What does the prophet Isaiah have to say to us this day?  What do we have to say to him?

1But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

We may lose sight of that along the way – the knowledge that we are created by God.  We were formed by God’s own hands into God’s own image.  In the first verse, Isaiah connects the act of creation with the act of redemption, reminding us again that the God who made us is the very same God who saved us.  We may forget the three words we hear over and over and over again from the prophets and the angels – do not fear.  We hear them, but do we listen, do we take them in?   These are the words of God to us.  These are God’s promises to us – do not be afraid for I have delivered you.  I will restore you.  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name and you are mine.

2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

These verses offer comfort and questions.  Do you ever hear them and want to say to God, “Really?  Are you sure?  Those waters of confusion and uncertainty our family just navigated felt pretty uncertain, and I don’t think you were there.  The firestorm we are walking through, well, where are you?”   We all have those times when we pass through the deep rivers, when we feel as though the world burns around us and we wonder if we will be consumed.  Some of you may be getting ready to enter the rivers, some may be in the midst of the oceans, and some may be on the other side.  Maybe it was the months of doctor’s visits and driving back and forth to the hospital.  There were the years of having several small children in the house, or the times of waiting to see if that was even a possibility.  We can be overwhelmed by grief and loss, by change in general – -big or small.  And in those times we may want to say to God when we hear this text, “Really?  Even though it sure felt like the rivers would overwhelm me, they were not going to?  Even though I was afraid, and drowning, and lost, you were with me?”  The images of being in the fire and not being consumed are intriguing, and yet so true.  It is after those times when it feels as though we are undergoing a trial by fire, we can make this claim:  We are still here.  We have not been consumed.  And it is only with God that is possible.

3For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

Oh yeahYou are the one who we are here worshipping.  You are the one who does all of that for us.  You, The Lord Our God, The Holy one of Israel, You are the one who redeems God’s people over and over again.  You saved us through Your Son.  We are not saved by anyone else.  This is a promise and a statement of fact all rolled into one.  But why…

4Because you are precious in my sight,

and honored, and I love you,

I give people in return for you,

nations in exchange for your life.

The questions we may ask are: “Why me?  Why us?  Because I am precious in your sight?  Because I am honored by you?  Because you love me you will do all that?  Am I your beloved child with whom you are well pleased, as we hear in Luke?”

We do hear in the second chapter of Luke, “After Jesus was baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  Do you ask, “God, are you really saying that to me?”  The doubts that creep into our minds from external sources can be strong and vocal.  We wear all kinds of voices that demand perfection in looks, talent, grades, athleticism, and piety — whatever you see your flaws to be.  The voices – internal and external – that say we are not enough get really loud this time of year as we hear about a New Year and a New You.  What we sometimes miss, but cannot mistake in today’s readings is the voice that should be the loudest one of all – -“you are precious to me”, says God.  “You are honored”, says God.  “I created you”, says God.  “I love you”, says God.

5Do not fear, for I am with you;

We try not to be afraid of what may lie ahead of us.  It’s easer once we pass through the waters and the fires, when we don’t feel like we are drowning and burning.    We can be fearless when we remember God is with us in the fires and rivers, when we remember that God claims us as His children.  It’s easier not to be afraid when we remember that.

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you;

6I will say to the north, “Give them up,”

and to the south, “Do not withhold;

bring my sons from far away

and my daughters from the end of the earth —

7everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.”

Everyone.  They will come from north and south and east and west to sit at the table of the Lord.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.  Even though the earth should change and the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.  You are with us.

The conversation may sound something like that – -we as the people of God telling God that we are not always so sure of God’s presence with us and God reminding us that even though God does not prevent evil in the world, God accompanies us on our journey as we navigate to the other side.  When we can spend so much time, and energy on improving ourselves to satisfy everyone else, do we deny our identities as the baptized people of God?  Do we deny our indentities in Christ by buying into all the other voices that tell us we are not good enough?  God made us, God claims us, God will walk through fire and swim through oceans with us and always tell us God is satisfied with us because God made us.

Today’s text is one of identity.  It is when we pass through the waters of baptism that we hear the promises of God to call us by name, to be with us.  It is in our baptismal identities that we are marked as Christ’s own, forever.  We are marked with the sign of the cross on our foreheads, we are claimed as children of God, no matter our age.  We receive the answer to the question, “who are you?”  I am a child of God.  I am claimed by God.  I am Baptized.

There is a story — and it may be one of those clergy urban myths at this point, but I’m telling it anyway – that sounds like this:  Martin Luther used to wake up in the morning and the first thing he would do was place his palm on his forehead and declare “I am baptized.”  No matter what, this is how he would begin his day.  It was in his identity as one claimed by God and marked by Christ that Luther found the strength to face many days.  I wonder if on the morning he walked to the church in Wittenberg to nail the 95 Theses to the door if that’s how he began his day.  If he woke up and affirmed his baptismal identity, declaring, “I am baptized.”  Not “I was baptized” as an act that happened in the past, but “I am baptized” – -it is an act that happened in the past but it is something that continues to happen every day.  The claim of God continues to manifest itself each moment of every day of our lives.

There are days when sometimes if you remind yourself of these things, it is enough.  If you remember that God formed you, Christ claims you, and you are God’s beloved with whom God is well pleased, the rest falls away.  We are the baptized people of God.  If you are not yet, and would like to be, please speak to either Ted or myself.  It is in Baptism we receive the outward sign of the invisible grace.  It is that sacrament that marks us as God’s, that gives us the power to say, “I belong to God.”  Remember that God is the one who says to each of us “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine.”  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

The Pastoral Prayer was from here.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s