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Beloved Child

Date: 
January 7, 2018
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
Mark 1:4-11

Baptism of Jesus                                   January 7, 2018                                      Mark 1:4-11

BELOVED CHILD

THEME: Just as the baptism of Jesus confirmed his identity, your baptism confirms your

             identity.

 

INTRODUCTION

  • A number of the sermons in the coming weeks will focus on the Gospel of Mark, the shortest of the four gospels… I encourage you to read Mark’s Gospel at home.
  • Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not begin his gospel with the birth of Jesus…
    • Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus and we are immediately immersed in a breathless journey through the life of Jesus…
    • I say “breathless” because one of Mark’s favorite words is immediately
    • In Mark’s gospel one event quickly follows another with barely a moment for Jesus or for us to catch a breath… Jesus moves quickly from one episode to the next…
    • Mark’s Gospel is a very simple, straight-forward Gospel… he presents the stories from Jesus’ life with much less detail than either Matthew or Luke and without the theology of John… Mark shares just the bare facts….
  • As we begin our journey through Mark’s Gospel today, I invite you to hold this question in the back of your mind – What do you remember about your own baptism?

 

THE DRAMA BEGINS   (from God’s In-Breaking)

  • Our focus this morning is the baptism of Jesus…
  • I invite you to use your imagination this morning as the drama unfolds before you…
  • As you take your seat in the pew you become a member of the audience… your eyes are drawn to a banner hung above the chancel illuminated by a bright spotlight… the banner reads, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
    • A group of figures are gathered here in the dark shadows of the chancel, not yet illuminated, so we do not know right away who they are… at the moment they are just shadows… and these shadows can not see the banner overhead…
    • After a few moments of silence, we hear a voice from the balcony say, “As it is written in the Prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
    • The shadows in the chancel remain motionless in the near darkness, not hearing the voice that we hear.
  • Then from the balcony we hear the voice of the narrator saying, “John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”
    • As the narrator speaks these words, the lights illuminating the figures in the chancel slowly come up… we easily recognize “The Baptizer” in the foreground by his wild and wooly appearance.
    • John bellows to the crowd in a deep, intimidating voice: “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
    • The crowd murmurs among themselves, questioning what John’s words might mean…
  • Again we hear the narrator’s voice: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”
    • A spotlight shines on the door at the back of the meetinghouse…
    • A lone figure strides purposefully down the aisle into the chancel where he kneels before John, symbolizing his baptism by immersion in the waters of the river…
    • As Jesus struggles to his feet, clutching his wet robe about him, the lights go dark except for a low-power spotlight that allows us to see Jesus looking up… we follow his gaze upward, and with the help of a bit of “theater magic” we see the form of a beautiful dove descending from the ceiling and covering Jesus…
    • And we hear a new voice from the balcony saying, “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
    • Jesus bows his head in a gesture of humility and gratitude.
  • It is clear from the reaction, or non-reaction, of the other figures on the chancel stage, John the Baptizer included, that they have neither seen the dove or heard the voice.
    • The figures in the drama quickly disperse to Jerusalem and Judea…
    • Jesus returns down the aisle to Galilee…
    • Only the banner remains, high above the chancel, as the house and stage lights come back up…
  • Mark begins his gospel with this dramatic event and we are immediately immersed in the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the Beloved Child.

 

KNOWING THE SECRET

  • Do you remember Paul Harvey, the newscaster? I used to love the human interest stories he crafted with such great detail… it was never until the very end of the story that you would you discover who the story was about… and once he revealed his subject, Paul Harvey would close with the famous words, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
  • In the Gospel of Mark we are not kept in suspense… we don’t have to wait for “the rest of the story.” We know from the very beginning who the story is about!
    • That is how Mark’s gospel gains its power – by knowing the secret from the very start…
    • Mark’s first words are, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
    • Let the divine drama unfold…
  • John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah… John knew the identity of Jesus from the very start, even before he emerged from the wilderness…
  • John delivered a powerful message and folks responded by flocking to him to be baptized with water for the repentance of their sins…
  • John announced that the One who was coming after him would baptize them with the Holy Spirit…
  • Jesus came to John to be baptized, too… John recognized him immediately…
  • The dove descending upon Jesus and the voice of God saying, “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased,” had confirmed the identity of Jesus.
  • And because Mark has let us in on the secret, we, too, know that Jesus is the Son of God…
  • And we know the rest of the story… we know how it ends – on a hillside… on a cross… and an empty tomb… the end is really the beginning – the beginning of new life, eternal life, for you and for me.

 

THE BELOVED CHILD

  • At the baptism of Jesus God declares that Jesus is the beloved child…
  • By joining ourselves to Jesus in baptism, we, too, become beloved children…
    • Baptism is an outward sign of an inner grace – an visible sign of our commitment…
    • Just as baptism confirmed the identity of Jesus, our baptism confirms our identity as followers of Jesus and as beloved children of God…
  • At the beginning of the sermon I asked what you remembered about your baptism… If you were baptized as an infant, as many of us were, you may not remember anything about your baptism…
  • Chances are that you did not hear God’s voice when you were baptized as Jesus did, but if you could hear God’s voice today, what would you want God to say to you?
    • Would you like God to call you “beloved child?”
    • Would you like God to express his delight in you?
    • Our God delights in all who believe in Jesus Christ.

 

CONCLUSION

  • There’s one important thing I want you to remember about baptism – baptism should make a difference in your life… baptism should make you a different person, a new person…
  • I began this sermon with a drama… let me close with a story…

 

     Sarah Jo Sarchet is a Presbyterian pastor in Chicago. Recently a 10 year-old boy in her congregation named Cameron walked into her office and said he needed to talk to her. Fresh from soccer practice, and wearing his Cincinnati Reds baseball cap, he had a request for her. “I’d like to be baptized,” he said. “We were learning about Jesus’ baptism in Sunday School. The teacher asked the class who was baptized, and all the other kids raised their hands. I want to be baptized, too.”

     Using her best pastoral care tone of voice, she said, “Cameron, do you really want to be baptized because everyone else is?” His freckles winked up at her and he replied, “No. I want to be baptized because it means I belong to God.”

     Pastor Sarah was touched by his understanding. “Well, then,“ she said, “how about this Sunday?” His smile turned to concern and he asked, “Do I have to be baptized in front of all those people in church? Can’t I just have a friend baptize me in the river?” She asked where he came up with that idea. “Well, Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in a river, wasn’t he?”

     Caught off guard, she conceded, “You have a point, Cameron. But, if a friend baptized you in a river, how would the church recognize it?”

     Realizing this was a teachable moment, she started to reach for her Presbyterian Book of Order. But before she placed her hand on the book, Cameron responded, “I guess by my new way of living.”

     Cameron’s understanding was neither childish nor simple. It was profound! BAPTISM CALLS US TO A NEW WAY OF LIVING!

 

Sermon Seeds

  • Daily Study Bible – Mark – William Barclay
  • Life Application Bible Commentary Mark – Tyndale Press
  • www.sermons.com/theweeklydetails - a sermon illustration shared by Sarah Jo Sarchet
  • Knowing The Secret – a sermon by Thomas Long
  • God’s In-Breaking  - a sermon by Doug in Riverside – http://desperatepreacher.com

 

Worship Bulletin

Worship Insert