One Big Happy Family
Text: Mark 1:4-11
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the past couple years, the date of January 6th has begun to take on a much different significance than its history for the past 2,000 years. But January 6th is, and always will be the celebration of the Epiphany. The 5th is the 12th day of Christmas, making that day twelfth night, or the Eve of the Epiphany. Epiphany being the celebration of the arrival of the wise men to celebrate and worship the newborn King. You’re probably thinking to yourselves, that’s all well and good, but today isn’t January 6th. It’s not Epiphany. We didn’t hear that Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 2. You are correct. It’s not. But to understand the season of Epiphany that we’ve now entered into, we need to remember the day that it begins with. So now in the season of Epiphany, we focus on the revelation of who Jesus is. The manifestation of His divine nature, which is what epiphany means. And then from a clearer understanding of who He is, we’ll be in a better position to know who we are. Because the two are related. Literally related. Like mother/daughter, father/son, brother/sister related. We’re all part of
ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY.
If you remember is the Wizard of Oz, you’ll likely remember the one line from Dorothy, “There’s no place like home.” And she’s right. There’s no place like home, when that home is happy and healthy. A happy and healthy home is one of the best places on earth, while an unhappy and unhealthy home can be one of the most miserable places. God designed the family, and the home, to be the place where we can be safe and secure, happy and healthy. So, how can we have a happy and healthy home? While there’s much to be said about each of our own homes and how they can be these things, today’s reading, and our remembrance of the Baptism of Our Lord helps us to understand the larger family that we’re all a part of. The family of God which has its home in the church. Christ’s bride, where His people come together as brothers and sisters. There’s no place like this home. There’s no place like this family. But to understand this family we are now a part of as a result of our own baptism, we need first to look at what it means that Jesus was baptized, as we heard today from the first chapter of Mark.
As Jesus of Nazareth rises up from the waters of the Jordan, the heavens are ripped apart. The Holy Spirit descends as a dove upon Jesus, and the heavenly Father proclaims of him, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” In the washing of this one man, it’s as though the heavens can no longer contain themselves. They spill over onto the earth. Heavenly sights and sounds that are extraordinary, and familial, are seen and heard upon the earth. But the Baptism of Jesus begins in a rather plain and earthy way. John’s message is powerful, but his presentation is humble. Similarly, while the Jordan river has an honored past among the Jews, it’s nothing more than a muddy creek compared to the great rivers of the world. And then there’s Jesus. He’s not from one of the great and populous cities, but rather, he’s from the relatively unknown village of Nazareth. All of this is quite ordinary.
But following the Baptism of Jesus, the extraordinary occurs: our heavenly Father anoints his beloved Son with the Holy Spirit. Mark paints a bright and vivid picture for us of our God; It’s a wonderful picture of the Holy Trinity. Present all at once in this essential moment. The heavenly Father who first spoke at creation speaks again. The Holy Spirit who initially hovered above the waters of creation now descends upon the waters of the Jordan. And Jesus stands at the very center of it all. He‘s the Son of God and His heavenly Father proclaims it for all to hear.
It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of this event. In the midst of something quite common and ordinary in appearance, the one true God reveals himself to a people who would not otherwise know him or about him: God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This heavenly reality in now made known to all people. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God.
The Baptism of Jesus is awe-inspiring—one of the most beautiful pictures in all of Holy Scripture. And at the same time, it’s quite overwhelming in that it shows to us what we’re lacking, which is proper relations.
Because in this picture, we’re reminded of our failed family relations here on earth. The commandment is rather clear: children must honor their parents. Likewise, a wife is to love her husband, and brother is to show respect to his sister. These God-pleasing relations within the family, though, are too often absent. Children, even at a very young age, disobey their parents. A wife covets her neighbor’s husband, and a husband looks in lust at a woman who is not his wife. Sisters and brothers fight as children, and many times as adults those relationships don’t get any better.
Even worse than all that though, is that the perfect and intimate Father-Son-Spirit relation so clearly portrayed in the Baptism of our Lord reminds us of your failed familial relations with our heavenly Father and our brother, Christ. The commandment is so clear. You shall have no other gods. At worst, we worship at the altars of other gods and become an unfaithful bride who fails to honor her Bridegroom. At best, we fail to trust in God to give to us a fish rather than a serpent, or an egg instead of a scorpion. And so, we act like spoiled children, making it seem like our heavenly Father doesn’t truly love us. That He’s not as generous as a father should be toward His children.
When it comes to familial relations, we have to admit that we don’t often live up to the Godly model that’s been set forth for us. But the ultimate purpose of the Baptism of our Lord, is not to remind us of these failures. It’s also not to show us something we can’t obtain. Instead, the Baptism of our Lord reveals to us the ultimate family relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit, and at the same time shows us the promise of new family relations for us.
In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we’re born again into a new family. This is where we become precious children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus. Old family ties are cut and dissolved, while new ones are formed. Human parents are replaced with a heavenly Father, and a brother who is both divine and human takes the place of human siblings. In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, our past familial failures are cast aside as we’re brought into a heavenly family. That’s not to say that our earthly families aren’t important. They are. Extremely important. But once we understand the new family we’ve been adopted into, this family serves as a model for the home. For our earthly families.
Before His baptism, there may have been questions about who Jesus was, but following it, there can be no doubt. Jesus is the Son of God. And so, it was at your baptism. When the pastor sprinkled water on you and said the words Jesus commanded, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the heavens were opened up. God identified Himself as your heavenly Father and you as his sons and daughters, and consequently brothers and sisters of his Son, Jesus. The work of Jesus at the cross became yours. The sin against God, against husband, wife, brother, sister, child, which separated you from each of them, was forgiven. And when your heavenly Father anointed you with the Holy Spirit in that same moment of your Baptism, you were made sons and daughters of God.
This is the family we are privileged to be a part of. A family that has its home in the church. Of course, the church is much bigger than Emmanuel, but as a home, I can’t think of one much better than here. The bond that holds our family together is not one of blood. At least not our blood. It’s the blood of Christ.
There’s a story that’s been told about Henry Ford. It’s said that one day he and his wife were driving in the country and they came across a man whose Model T had broken down. He was under the hood trying to figure out what was wrong when Mr. Ford asked if he could take a look. In just a few minutes, Mr. Ford had the Model T running. The owner was amazed and said, “I’m impressed with your knowledge of Model T’s, and I’m amazed that you fixed it so easily.” To which Mr. Ford replied, “I ought to be able to fix it. I’m the one who designed it.”
The family is a complicated thing. Both our earthly families and our church family. It doesn’t always operate correctly. Not because it wasn’t designed correctly, but because of user error. Our error. Our sin. But the one who designed it is also the One who is always here to fix it. And He does so through the forgiveness of our sins. He makes it right. He’s made it right through the relationship He’s given to us with His one and only Son. A relationship begun at our baptisms and carried out through the work of His family in the church. What a blessing it is to be a part of this family, because the church is not a place you go to, it’s a family you belong to. And while you might not always describe it as one big happy family, God’s grace and forgiveness are there for those times as well.
As we remember, throughout this season of Epiphany, the manifestation of the divine nature of our brother Jesus, we also rejoice in the family He has brought us into. And we pray the model of family He’s given us in the church would be an inspiration for the families we’re blessed with at home. Families that love God, love one another, and seek to serve Him in all ways. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.