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Well Pleased

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." -Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

So we begin this part of the New Year by turning to and being reminded of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and the stage is set, and each of the Gospels have an account of Jesus baptism and they vary somewhat, but those words that Jan, read at the beginning of the reading this morning in chapter 3, verse 15 of got Luke's gospel, it says, as the people were filled with expectation and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah. John began to answer their questions.

Now, imagine that scene, people who have come out to see this off-kilter, bizarre guy who came wandering out of the wilderness proclaiming a message, calling people to repentance and offering them a baptism, his words, his message, maybe it's just the novel to your curiosity about who and what he was... But people came nonetheless, and there was a buzz, there was a stir, there was an energy in that time and along the shore of that river as people were coming and waiting and expectation fill them, waiting to see what was going on.

Well, when our reading plays a trick on us, because we're here to talk about the baptism of Jesus and the excitement is building, the energy is there, and then we jump down to Verse 21, it says, Now, when all the people had been baptized, and when Jesus said I'd also been baptized. Well, wait a minute, did we blink... How do we go from everybody being excited to after the fact... It didn't say when Jesus was baptized. It we says after he had been baptized. We just missed everything. What happened? What was this baptism? What did it look like? The church gets so caught up in how baptism is administered, that there are debates and arguments about it, is it appropriate to have water to sprinkle it or pour it? Do you need to be fully immersed? And if so, is one time enough or three times, in some traditions, they believe that it needs to be living water, which means that the water is flowing and moving. So in some churches, they actually have elaborate fountain systems, so that the water is coming down cascading, others, they believe that no living water means you have to be out in the river or creek.

In some traditions, they would even suggest that the colder the water is, the better because you need to shock the bad out of people... We don't know necessarily what Jesus' baptism looked like. Did John sprinkle it? Did he pour it? Did he dunk Jesus? If you've ever traveled to Israel, you... Hopefully, you had an opportunity to see the Jordan River. I did, and I have to say, it was rather underwhelming, it didn't look much different than any creek that we have here in Indiana, you could mostly see the bottom of it, but it wasn't all that clear.

You think of sparkly, shimmer and water, and let me say the Jordan River was not that. In fact, there were some fish that looked like carp swimming around on the far side of the river from the place that we visited, there was a pasture with some mules and donkeys, and other livestock walking around. It looked like any old Indiana River or creek. And yet, at that place, something happened.

What words did John say? Did he use the liturgy out of our Methodist hymnal? No, maybe it was Lutheran. What words did John say? How did this baptism take place? Apparently, Luke didn't seem to think that the baptism itself was that important, because all we know is it happened. And the thing is, this sacrament that we've observed in practice as a church is a wonderful one, it's a beautiful one. It's one that I love administering and admittedly, we don't have that many. I've been able to participate in a number of them throughout my ministry, some of them more memorable and meaningful to me than others, the very first baptism that I participated in was... Well, I was still in seminary, I wasn't even a licensed local pastor yet, so I couldn't officially preside over it myself, so I had to have my mentor who was a Methodist pastor in another church, come and be the one to actually bless the water. But this was a young man who was in our youth group who had not grown up in a Christian home, who had started coming to our little church because his math teacher went there and his best friend went there, and so he came to check it out. And somewhere along the way, God got a hold of him and said, I wanna be baptized.

I had grown up in Methodist churches and a font in the sanctuary was what I was used to. But this young man said, I wanna be immersed. I had no idea how