Psalm 27:1-14, Matthew 3:13-17
January 8, 2017
A few years back, we started seeing “God Speaks” billboards. Do you remember them? I don’t know who was responsible for them, but they were all black billboards with simple white lettering. And they had “messages” on them – “from God.”
They said things like, “They’re not called ‘The Ten Suggestions!’” And “That ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ thing? I meant that!” And then my personal favorite! “Don’t make me come down there!” And then there was always a “– God.” They were called “God Speaks.” And you could get T-shirts and bumper stickers – if you knew where to get them!
Well, I was thinking this week, what if God really did speak? I mean in an audible way. I know he speaks in our hearts. Sometimes we hear words. Sometimes we get impressions or leadings or feelings. But what if God spoke so everybody could hear his voice. What would that be like? What would his voice sound like? (Would he have a Jewish accent?)
Well, that’s what happened here in this story. (Though I’m not sure about the Jewish accent – but of course he didn’t speak in English!) Here, at the Baptism of Jesus, we have what has been called a “Theophany.” And a Theophany is “An appearance of God.” In this case there was the visible dove, and the audible voice.
Those people knew stories like that. Probably the one they would have thought of the most would have been the story of Moses and the mountain. That was a powerful image! Thunder an lightning, very, very frightening! (I couldn’t resist that!)
But such things didn’t happen all that often. And they hadn’t happened in a long time. For the people in Jesus time it was same as it was in the days of Samuel. Maybe you remember that story. Samuel was a boy serving in the temple, when God spoke to him. And that story starts with this. “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days, and there was no frequent vision.” Samuel thought it was Eli calling him. Remember? And he went in and asked him what he wanted.
It was the same for the time of Jesus. For whatever reason, like the time of Samuel, God had chosen not to speak audibly very much, or not a all. But now he did! Now the people heard it! And what this ended up being was God confirming Jesus – commissioning him – at the beginning of his ministry. God was saying “This is my Son!”
This is a good story to think about today. Because today, I’m asking you to start the new year by renewing your commitment to Jesus. And it’s always good to know we’re following the right person. And that’s hard to be sure of sometimes, isn’t it? Even John the Baptist sent word from prison asking Jesus, “Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another?” Do you remember Jesus’ answer? “God tell John what you have seen and heard. The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the Good News preached to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5)
Even if that’s all we had to confirm who Jesus was and is, that would be enough. But just to be sure, God himself has said that Jesus is the one. God’s own words tell us Jesus is his Son, the one we should follow.
So that’s what I’m going to ask you to do today. I’m going to ask you to re-commit your life to him. Or to commit your life to him for the first time. We don’t want to overlook that possibility. If that’s the case for you, come and tell me about it! But in the meantime, we will say these vows together. But, it’s up to you as to whether or not you mean them!
Take out your bulletins and turn to the Baptismal Vows on the back. And let’s confirm together our faith in Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, in whom God is well pleased. Then I will “re-introduce” you to the “waters of Baptism.”
Eternal God, as we begin a new year, we ask for your strength and your guidance, as we seek to follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Help us to know the indwelling strength of your Holy Spirit, and perhaps even your voice speaking to us. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.