Sermon for the Baptism of our Lord
Sunday, January 9, 2022
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

Watch Here on Vimeo (Minute 24:34)

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

There are many ways we show our allegiance to something or someone.

  • We wear the logos of our favorite sports teams on our shirts, sweaters, or jackets.
  • We post on social media in support of our favorite candidate or ideology
  • We donate money to people, organizations, to our church … 
  • We make repeat purchases of our favorite products … We keep tuning into our favorite shows, series, or podcasts.
  • Out of our devotion to one another, for a few weeks we don’t gather in the church, but worship at home, together, online, committed to each other’s health … and when we do come back together for in-person worship, hopefully in two weeks, we’ll still wear masks, as a sign of our allegiance to one another – our love and care for one another.  

There are many ways we show our allegiance to something or someone.

U.S. Capitol Building – January 6, 2021

On January 6th of this week, the United States marked the one-year anniversary of a deadly allegiance. While some tried to downplay and minimize the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, it is clear, that both the deadly and shameful insurrection on January 6, 2021, AND the deadly and shameful silence by key political leaders on January 6, 2022, are outward manifestations of allegiance, loyalty, and devotion to one sad and hurting person who continues to show allegiance only to himself at the expense of everything else.

There are many ways we show our allegiance to something or someone.

Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. Professor Amy Lindeman Allen* notes: “In the first-century context it was understood that the act of immersion in water signaled something greater.” The act of immersion in water signaled a turning point – a new way of life. A changed life. The beginning of something new.  

Jesus was not baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus had no sins that needed to be washed away in the waters of baptism. Jesus was baptized to signal something greater – to signal his allegiance to God. Among the crowds who gathered at the river with John for their own baptisms, Jesus publicly signaled his devotion and obedience to God’s will.

While all four Gospels contain differences, all four gospels are similar in that Jesus’s public ministry began in his baptism. All that we know about Jesus on earth, apart from two Christmas stories and a story of Jesus as a 12-year-old boy, come after his baptism in his early 30’s. The baptism of Jesus signified his public obedience to God’s will and the start of his public ministry – the beginning of his public proclamation of the kingdom of God.

On this day we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we are invited to consider our  own baptisms – and what allegiance it proclaims. Again, Professor Allen writes: “Baptism is not a private purification but rather a public signification of a different way of living and being in the world – one in which we, like Jesus, seek to build up God’s realm rather than follow our own desires, which are often at the root of our human sinfulness.”

Baptism is a public signification of a different way of living and being in the world. Christian baptism is not a private ceremony, but a public turning point. Christian baptism is an initiation into a way of life, a sign of allegiance that we will live in Christ, that we will live and act in the world according to God’s rules, that in public lives of service we will seek to build up God’s realm.

This is what you promised as parent, if you brought your children to church to be baptized. You promised to raise your children in Christian community, to live among God’s faithful people, you promised to raise your children in the Christian life so that they would proclaim the good news of God in Christ, through word and deed. You promised to raise your children in Christ so that they would serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

And to those of you who were ever Confirmed, or who have ever attended an Easter Vigil here at Trinity, or who have joined this congregation as an adult, you have made public Affirmation of Baptism. In Affirming your Baptisms, you echoed the promises parents made in baptism, to live in a special and unique way – to live lives that show your allegiance to God.  The promises are listed on ELW Pg 237 (the next time you’re in church, or if you have an ELW at home, you can check out these promises).When you Affirmed your Baptism, you promised to:

  1. Live among God’s faithful people – you promised to live in Christian community. Not to be baptized and then run away and disappear, but to live with Christians.
  • Hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supperyou promised to show up for worship, to listen to the scriptures, to the sermon, to the words of the liturgy – and to hear God speaking to you through them; you promised to receive the Lord’s Supper to experience the risen Christ himself meeting you in the meal – to know Jesus showing up FOR YOU; you promised that public worship would be a regular part of your life.
  • Proclaim the good news of God in Christ, through word and deed – you promised that what you say, and what you do, would reflect the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
  • Serve all people, following the example of Jesus – you promised to live in Christ, and like Christ, with a servant’s heart, to live and love and serve as Christ lived and loved and served.
  • And Strive for justice and peace in all the earth – you promised that you would be a people of justice, making sure all people receive the love and dignity they deserve; and to be a people of peace.

These are the promises you made, these are the outward acts of allegiance to God you promised in response to your baptisms. Theologian Joni Sanken* writes: “our baptismal calling is to serve others … to direct our daily activities and lives through God’s call to servanthood … every aspect of our lives (how we spend/invest/donate every penny, how we spend/ invest/donate our time, what we say with our words and what we say with our actions) must pass through the waters of baptism and be claimed by God and repurposed for God’s realm.”

Specifically, on this Baptism of our Lord, in the year 2022, I believe there are  three central ways we are to publicly live out our faith.  At this point, I would go so far as to say we are not faithfully following Christ, if we don’t in some way address these three things:

  1. The preservation of democracy in this country.
  2. Reversing the effects of climate change and living in ways sustainable for the earth and future generations
  3. Establishing racial justice and rooting out all ongoing effects of this country’s original sin of slavery, racism, and white supremacy. 

When I was home in Iowa I was looking for a movie to watch with my Dad. As we were flipping through the possibilities we saw one movie that looked interesting and so we watched it. Without giving anything away, the movie Don’t Look Up” is based on the discovery of a massive comet on a collision course with earth.

Currently available on Netflix

The movie is satire on many things: science vs. science deniers … politicians serving their own re-election campaigns vs. the public good …  But more chilling, is what it says about society … it points out all the ways society obsesses on personal drama and ignores public crises. When the comet becomes visible, but after the President of the United States, played by Meryl Streep has taken no action to stop it, the scientists start a movement:  “Look Up.” They encourage people to just look at it and see it. 

But that spawns an anti-look up campaign:  “Don’t Look Up. ”The “Don’t Look Up” crowd says it’s all just a big conspiracy – don’t trust the scientists and their warnings. There’s no reason to look up or take action – look around, everything is fine, everything will be ok, God will protect us. How could anything possibly go wrong?

The movie convicted me. In what ways do I place my own comforts, conveniences, and dramas ahead of the public good? In what ways do I, do we, obsess over the trivial and spend such trivial time on the profound?

As Christians baptized into the life of Jesus we do not have a choice. Baptized into the love and servanthood of Christ, baptized Christians must look up, and look out, and look around. Promising to love and serve like Christ, and promising to strive for peace and justice in the earth, baptized Christians must act up, and act out, and act for those around them.

The Christian life is NOT about you and Jesus in love with one another. That view is a luxury we can no longer afford. The stakes are too high. The Christian life is about you and Jesus in love with your neighbors; it is about you and Jesus in love with your neighbors and with the world, and working for their healing and wholeness.  

The Christian life, that emerges with Jesus from the waters of baptism, is about proclaiming God’s love announced in Christ. It is about proclaiming that love in both private actions AND public policies. Emerging with Jesus from the waters of our baptisms, our call is to work publicly  for economic justice, environmental justice, racial justice; and the peace that is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.

Joined to Christ in our baptisms, our call is to do these things with the servant’s heart of Jesus Christ. In lives of faith, love, and service, to manifest our allegiance to God’s creative and redemptive work in Christ.

Ultimately, the Good News announced in baptism, is not the promises we make to God. The Good News of baptism is God’s promise to us. God’s promise to us that the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ is ours forever. In faith we can hear the same words spoken to Jesus as spoken to us: “You are my child, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Nothing can take that from us.

Our Christian life is not lived to earn that promise, or to keep that promise, but to SHARE THAT PROMISE WITH THE WORLD. In response to God’s announcement in his baptism, Jesus was obedient to God’s will, even to the cross, for the sake of bringing salvation to the world.

In response to God’s announcement in our baptisms, may the Holy Spirit give us the strength and courage to be obedient to God’s will and follow where God lead us …

May the Holy Spirit grant us the courage to participate with God in bringing healing and salvation to the world …

May the Holy Spirit grant us the courage to show our allegiance to God, by living out our baptismal promises, living among God’s faithful people, showing up for worship, serving our neighbors, and striving for justice and peace in the world.

To God be the glory!  Amen.


*Theologians referenced in this sermon contributed to the worship resource Sundays and Seasons which follows the three-year lectionary cycle and provides everything you need to support worship ministry in one convenient location, always accessible online.