Homily for the Baptism of Our Lord, 2008

by The Rev. William Weedon

Isaiah 42:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 3:13-17

The Ethiopian Eunuch had been up to Jerusalem. He was riding home now, maybe with his brand-spanking new copy of Isaiah, and he was reading along and puzzling over what on earth the prophet was saying in what we call chapter 53 - this Lamb that is silent before its shearers, whose generation none could declare. The Holy Spirit sends Philip to run aside and ask him if he gets it. "Course not!" the Eunuch replies. "Come up and explain it to me." Then it gets very interesting. St. Luke says that beginning from that passage, Philip preached Jesus to him.

What do you think Philip preached about Jesus? Well, look at what happened next. The first glimpse that the Eunuch gets of water, he puts the breaks on, and asks excitedly: "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" It gives ones furiously to think, to quote Poirot.

Philip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian Eunuch in such a way that he extolled the gifts of Baptism. Jesus and Baptism. They go hand in hand together. For Baptism is how Jesus gives you all that is His.

Think about today's Gospel. There He stands in the Jordan. John pours the water over His sinless head, and things begin to happen. The Blessed Trinity is revealed to the world with great splendor and glory. First, the heavens are opened. In the parallel account in Mark, the word is "ripped open" above Jesus and John. Then, the Father's voice speaks: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." And as if that were not enough, down comes the Holy Spirit, descending upon Christ as a gentle dove.

Now, what's all going on here? To get it you have to realize what St. John the Baptist realized: Jesus didn't need any of it. It was ALL his ALREADY. To HIM heaven was already open; His heavenly Father was from eternity His heavenly Father; the Spirit eternally rested upon Him from the Father. So what gives? Why the Baptism? Says our Lord: "In order to fulfill all righteousness."

You and I, WE needed what all happened with Him in the water. To US heaven was closed, from the day when the door closed in Eden and the Cherubim began their long vigil. WE were not children of God by our birth - rather, our wills from infancy are allied with God's enemy, the devil. Every last one of us comes into this world insisting: "My will be done." And you know the damage and hurt we inflict on each other as we live out that insistence. WE were bereft of the Holy Spirit, for what is born of the flesh is but flesh and thus the very thing for which we were created went unfulfilled, for we were created to be temples of the Spirit!

Because God was not content that it continue so, He sent His Son not only into our flesh, but sent Him into the waters of Jordan, into Baptism, where sinners gather. He is there because all that is ours, He will take to Himself; and all that is His, He wants to give to us. And the great exchange, the sweet swap, happens for us exactly where He appoints: in the water.

When you get into the water with Jesus - watch out! Miracles happen. Standing with Him in the water, heaven is opened to you, His Father says that YOU are His beloved child with whom He is well-pleased, and you get the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And all this is so because in the water Jesus stands with you in your sin and promises that it will all be His. There's not a bit of it He doesn't lift off your shoulders. When He steps down into the Jordan He is beginning His journey to Calvary where He who had no sin will be made sin for you so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God. When the water pours over His head He is promising already that He is headed for another baptism - the baptism of suffering upon the Cross. He will stand with us in all that is ours so that we can stand with Him in all that is His.

Which means your Baptism is a most precious thing, the greatest moment of your life, in fact. King Louis IX of France so well understood this. He once said: "I think more of the place where I was baptized than of Rheims Cathedral where I was crowned. It is a greater thing to be a child of God than to be the ruler of a Kingdom: [this kingdom] I shall lose at death, but the other [to be a child of God] will be my passport to an everlasting glory."

And so for you: there is no more important moment for you than the moment you were baptized, when the water flowed over you and heaven was opened and God owned you as his beloved child and the Holy Spirit came upon you. It's a moment you can cling to and crawl back to over and over again, as long as you live in this age of grace. The door that flung wide in your baptism remains open to you; God's covenant with you there, His promises to you, He will ever be faithful to. When we forget our high birth and fall back again into living as children of this perishing age, we might think that God will wash his hands of us. But no, in Baptism, He doesn't wash His hands; He goes on washing us! The door stands open and He calls us one and all to come back, to come home, to claim again our adoption rights as His children.

To go back to the Eunuch, do you see what was the Gospel that Philip preached to him so faithfully that day? Just what our Lord said the Gospel was at the end of St. Mark!

"Go and preach the Gospel to all creation."

But what is that Gospel?

"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." That's the Gospel in a nutshell.

That's how Philip preached the good news and so at the first sign of water, the Eunuch is ready to stop everything and take the plunge. He went into the water with Jesus a child of flesh born of flesh, a man destined for the grave. He came out of the water a child of God, filled with the Spirit, and destined for heaven, His true home.

This is the Gospel of the Lord which the Church proclaims in all the world: Come, get into the water with Jesus, that He who took all your sin to death on Golgotha may impart to you all that belongs to Him - forgiveness for all that comes of your thinking and living the lie - "My will be done" - and a life that never ends! Come, get into the water with Jesus, that He may lift you to the joy of being a coheir with Him of an everlasting kingdom! Greater than any kingdom or crown of this earth! Here you are made kings and priests with Him to His God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever! Amen.

Created: January 13th, 2008