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Baptism and Our Calling

January 11, 2020

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On New Year’s Eve we watched the Moon as it made its slow journey across the night sky. As I watched the moon and reflected on the year closing and the year ahead I was reminded of the one constant in our lives. The presence and love of God. As we consider our Baptismal calling, may we never forget the one who promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age.

In the opening verses of Isaiah 42 God says the following through the Prophet: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. (Isaiah 42:1-4) The prophet was, of course, speaking of the one to come to restore Israel… the Messiah… God’s anointed. What is intriguing to me is the fact that God is not promising some major military figure or some sort of King or Emperor.

The one to come would certainly bring forth justice to the nations. However it would not be at the tip of the spear or the edge of the sword. This Messiah won’t be the noisiest windbag in the room. This Messiah will be so gentle that bruised reeds will be safe and a candle that is having trouble staying lit will not be extinguished. Everyone is waiting for this new teaching. It will be the teaching of the Law–Love God and Love Neighbor. It will be the teaching of Micah–Do Justice, Love Kindness/Mercy, Walk Humbly with God. That will be the teaching and the life of the Messiah according to Isaiah. Who will this Messiah be? If not the conquering warrior or the mighty ruler, who will it be? This Messiah will be the exact thing that the people need but in a far different package than they expect the Messiah to be.

As I think about this passage from Isaiah; a song from Handel’s Messiah comes to mind. For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the Government shall be upon his shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. The song lyrics come directly from Isaiah 9:6. It is the last descriptor that catches my eye and my imagination. The Prince of Peace… not a mighty warrior but one who will establish and uphold his Kingdom with justice and righteousness (from Isaiah 9:7).

This leader will be a far cry from the leaders who control by threats and the sword. This leader will be far different from one who insults, ridicules, and belittles others. This leader will bring a whole new way of living to this weary world. In fact, this Prince of Peace will tell his followers that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword! (Matthew 26:52)

With all of this in mind, when we turn to the Gospel reading from Matthew about Jesus’ baptism, I can’t help but wonder if John thought of this prophesy of Isaiah’s. Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John immediately realizes that he should be the one asking to be baptized by Jesus. After all, he had just proclaimed that while he baptizes with water for the repentance, one who is greater than he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire. As Jesus approached, John immediately recognized the one whom the prophets had foretold. His name shall be called–Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

With his baptism, Jesus began his ministry on earth. He began to teach a radical new way of living as a person of faith. It was the way of peace… a way so different from the way of the world. Saint Francis of Assisi would later write of this way of serving God.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Dear reader, I believe that this is our calling as Christ-followers. This is the calling of our Baptism. A calling to be different from the world. A calling to be light shining in the darkness. A calling to beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. A calling to challenge “the way things are” and to live and teach the way of Peace. For me, it is time to remember my own baptism and what God is calling me to be and to do in the building of the Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. A Kingdom of Love, Justice, Mercy, and Peace. May the Lord indeed make us instruments of Peace.

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