THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
 When 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.
 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,  John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.  But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done,  added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,  and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
The dawn is about to break on a new generation in the Reinhardt family. In a few short months my niece will give birth to her firstborn son, which will make my sister a grandmother, my parents great grandparents and little old me a great-uncle. This new little fella will not be a Reinhardt per se, but he’ll have plenty of Reinhardt in him - one quarter anyway. And so he’ll have all that we have to hand down to him, the good and the not so good, the blessings and burdens. Some of it will come to him right away - all the stuff that’s already written in his DNA and some will come over time, as he is raised by a mom who in turn was raised by her mom.
So much of life has everything to do with our birth. As people who are so big into independence, we don’t really like to think of it that way. We want to believe that we can be whoever we want to be, that we can create ourselves in whatever image we want … reinvent ourselves in whatever ways we want … be nothing like our parents or grandparents, if we want. We want to believe that we have a choice. This thinking simply goes along with the whole “be your own god bit”, that we were sold in Eden. Masters of our own identity and destiny is what we want to be, but Holy Scripture and a whole lot of science says that just ain’t so.
Birth decides so much about us, and so, reveals so much about us. The key to knowing ourselves is looking back at who we were born to be. Knowing where we are going is understood all the better by looking back at where we came from. Your birth lays out your path in so many ways - it reveals so much about you. Without question you have choices along the way, but we deceive ourselves, if we think that the choices that we will make have nothing to do with, who we were born as, and how we were raised. All of this of course has so much to do with what the Lord has to show us … reveal to us … deepen us in today, as the Church sets before us Jesus being baptized with all the other people.
Baptism after all is a birth - a new birth from above in the Holy Spirit, as scripture plainly teaches. It follows then, that all that we can say about the first birth, can be said of the second as well. This is made plain for us at the Jordan. Jesus’ baptism reveals everything about His family, and so, about Him, as it makes plain where His life is heading and how He will travel its path. Jesus’ baptism is a second birth in the Holy Spirit as well, not though, because He needed one for Himself. No, as we have all just so clearly heard in these past few weeks, Jesus first birth was a Spirit birth too, as He was conceived by the Holy Spirit to begin with in theVirgin Mary’s womb.
No, Jesus is baptized with the many, for the many. He is baptized with us, for us. He has a second birth from above in the Spirit, to make one possible for the rest of us. But back to what His baptism says about Him. First of all, it shows us who He is and where He comes from. No where else is God revealed to us more clearly than at Jesus baptism. In fact the Christian Church has ever looked to that moment at the Jordan to get God right. Here, the deepest mystery of the Trinity is revealed, as the Three Persons, who are one God, openly take center stage in Human history. To be sure they’re all there in the beginning, but never so openly as they are here, which is a huge clue just how important baptism is for God and so for us.
Equally awesome though, is the truth that is revealed about the path that Jesus’ life will take. The Holy Spirit’s descent upon Him in the form of a dove identifies Jesus as the long promised Messiah - the Anointed one that God would send to save His people. While the words of God the Father from heaven, reveal how He will do that, as the suffering servant prophesied by Isaiah, who would take the sins of the people on Himself and pay for them all - being crushed for their iniquities and healing them by His stripes. The Jews knew that there would be a Messiah and that there would be a Suffering Servant, but only at Jesus baptism is it made clear, that they would be one and the same Person.
Jesus' path to the cross begins right at the Jordan - the baptism that He will be baptized with on Calvary has its start right in the river that Israel passed through to enter the Promised Land. This is no accident of course, because it’s Jesus’ baptism that opens the way for God’s children to enter the land of His promise in eternal life. The Old Testament crossing being just a trial run for the greater New Testament crossing. Jesus’ path to Calvary is laid down here in His new birth, and because of who He is … because of where He has come from … because of who His Father is … He must and will follow it. Sure He could have chosen to leave it, but because of who He has been from eternity, He will choose not to, even wrestling down His own human will to stay true to it. Why? Because His Father’s love for the world is His love … the Father’s love for you is His love.
So much of life has everything to do with our birth. It’s true for our earthly lives, and what the Lord wants us to see today, is that it is also true for our spiritual lives. If you want to know who’s child you are and where your life is headed, there is one time and place, and one time and place alone, that can provide the answers. God would have you look nowhere else to find them, beloved. You must look to the font and the font alone. You must look to that day and that day alone, when you entered baptism’s water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. As your earthly birth has everything to do with your earthly life, your spiritual life all flows from your heavenly birth.
Your Baptism says who you are and where you are going. It says that you are a child of the most high God. Not because you worked for it. Not because you chose to be one. Not because you’ve acted like one. Children don’t become someone’s child by what they do, or what they choose, or how they act. Children do certain things, choose certain things and act in certain ways because of who they are, not to make them who they are. You are a child of God, because God gave you a new birth as one, when He baptized you in His name. There in the font, and in the font alone, He made you a part of His family and because of that, He’s got a place for you in His house … a place Christ prepared for by living, dying and rising for you.
Good things and blessings, yes, we’ve all been given those through our family line, but each one of us also has our share of burdens and not so good things that come down to us from father Adam through that same line. These things of course weigh us down leaving us wearied and heavy laden at times, making us question who we are and where we are going, which is why Christ in mercy comes to us again and again in His body and blood, as He does today, to lay out all that He has done for us and all that He has given to us, reminding us of and renewing us in our baptismal life.
Who are you? And where are you headed? It’s all answered in the font, beloved, all answered in the font. Amen.