Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

The Difference

January 8, 2012 (Baptism of Lord):

Call:           Acts 19: 1-7
Text:           Mark 1: 4-11
Reading:        Psalm 29        (761)

                                The Difference

Well, all kids have to grow up.

You and I had to.
        Although some of our parents might well have wondered whether we would.

Our children had to - or will have to.
        Although we as parents  might well wonder
whether they have or whether they will

Even our parents had to grow up
        Although it is hard for most of us to imagine them as children

And the kid whose birth we celebrated two weeks ago
        Had to grow up as well
        Although I suspect that his parents were a bit more confident
                Than ours were.

The transition from childhood to adulthood is a process
Not a single act or event
However, most of us can look back and identify an event in our lives that marks our move from the former to the latter.

It might be our graduation from high school or college
Or the completion of our graduate work

It might be our enlistment into the military service
Perhaps even our discharge

It might be our marriage
Or the birth of our children.

It is, however, usually something - and that something
Is usually important

For the kid born in Bethlehem
        The event marking his transition           was his baptism by John

That was                and that is             important.

It is so important
That the story of Christ's baptism
        Is the first and the earliest story
Which is related in all four gospels

Only Luke tells the traditional Christmas story
        Matthew, Mark, and John don't.

Only Matthew tells of the visit of the wise men
        Mark, Luke, and John don't

Only John begins his gospel with the poetic imagery
of the word coming into the world.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke don't include it

But all four of our gospels
tell the story of Christ's baptism by John ...

Matthew tells it                Luke tells it   John tells it

And Mark who will furnish most of our gospel scriptures this year       tells it as well

This is how he tells it.                [Mark 1: 4-11]

The event marking Jesus' transition to adulthood
        Was  more extraordinary  by far
        Than the ones marking ours.

The baptism by John in The Jordan
        Was a watershed event in the life of Christ

But it is more than an historical marker
It also informs and teaches us.

It informs by continuing to answer the question posed by the hymn writer,
"What Child is this?"

But now the question is revised to      "What man is this?"

The answer still remains,       "This, this is Christ the king."

For now, in this event, what we understood previously has been amplified by the voice from heaven proclaiming
that Christ is  the Son of God
that Christ is  loved by God
and     that God is     well pleased with him
        that the Bethlehem born boy
is an adult of remarkable importance.

And now, in this event, we have
The Spirit descending like a dove
        imagery confirming the words from heaven.

We knew this kid was important
        When the shepherds watched and the angels sang
We knew that this was a special kid
        When the gift bearing magi arrived from the East

And now, in this event,
        In this event told in all four gospels
you and I have that importance and that "specialness"
        Testified to as he begins shedding his childhood
And taking on his adult ministry.

And now, in this event,
we also learn more about what kind of a king the Christ will be.

For we cannot miss that his authority comes not from humankind
        But clearly from his Father in heaven - who sent him.

And yet we also cannot miss
        That this young man who had every opportunity to be arrogant
                Was instead humble
                Taking part in a purification ritual
        Presided over by one who was not the Son of God.

Jesus could have looked at John the Baptist and sneered,
        "You baptize me?"

But he didn't.
        He willingly and voluntarily walked into the Jordan River
        And was baptized by John
                Thereby giving credence to John's baptism
                And sending the message that repentance was important

Perhaps though, the most important message is one that doesn't jump right out at us.

For this event also teaches us that Christ worked - and still works
        Through people who are not his equal.

And we can say, "Duh!" all we want
        "Of course no one is equal to Christ"

But the point is that despite that inequality,
Christ works through these      "lesser people"
and thus our frequent pleas of inadequacy don't cut the mustard

John, along with Peter and Paul
                Is one of the three most important figures
Other than Jesus himself -
In the New Testament

If this were a movie,
These three would be playing roles
That could well earn them nominations
for the best the Supporting Actor Oscar

John, Peter, and Paul were called by God
        To serve in remarkable ways

John was called to prepare the way
        Proclaiming the need for repentance
        And to announce the coming of Christ.

Peter was called to start the church
        To continue Christ's presence and work in the world.

Paul was called to spread the world.
        Taking it far beyond its Jewish roots
        Opening the church to everyone
                Not just Abraham's biological descendents.

These were great men
These were great servants of God.

The tasks to which they were called
dwarf anything  to which you and I have been called.

And the price they paid for responding to and accepting their calls
        Dwarfs any price we are apt to pay.

Paul was beaten, arrested, and thrown out of communities.
Peter too was arrested, - and he was himself crucified
And John?               Well John was beheaded.

They were, therefore, not only remarkably successful servants,
        They were martyrs as well

We respect, John, Peter, and Paul
We look up to them
We stand in awe of what they did

Not one of us can even imagine being half the servant
        That John was
        Or that Peter and Paul were.

But even they
Although well above us in service
are well below the guy that child grew up to be.

John, Peter, and Paul were called to do his work
        Despite the fact that they were lesser to Christ

John knew that he was not Christ's equal.
        "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."

John knew he was less than Christ - even before meeting Christ
        And yet he was grateful to have the chance to serve

Peter knew he was less than Christ
        He had after all, three times denied even knowing Jesus
        But he was called to feed Christ's sheep and lambs
        And to be the rock on which Christ built his church.
        And yet he was grateful to have the chance to serve

Paul knew he was less than Christ
        Before the trip to Damascus
He had arrested and killed Christ's followers
        He called himself the least of the apostles
        And yet he was grateful to have the chance to serve

They knew that if they had heard their calls clearly
        That they would be successful in God's eyes
                Despite their own inadequacies

You and I are less than Christ
        We know that
You and I see ourselves as less than John
        Less than Peter and Paul as well

Yet despite our inequality
You and I have been called to serve.

Are we grateful?
        Or do we consider it an unfair burden
        Or an infringement on our time and what we want to do?

Do we raise the protests of inadequacy?
        Or do we trust that Christ knows what he is doing when he calls us?

Yes, there is a difference between Christ and us
Christ knows that too.

But despite that difference or those differences
Christ calls us any way.

Will we answer the call like John did?
Or will we let the difference
serve as a stumbling block that generates excuses.

The question is important.

No wonder all four gospel writers
        Told us about the time
        Jesus came to the Jordan        to be baptized by John.