Monday, January 7, 2013

Heaven's open for business Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Isaiah 43:1-7

Jesus came on purpose—on a mission devised in the council of the Triune God. And the day he was baptized (Luke 3:15-17,21-22) God's glorious plan came to light for all the world. This world changing plan of God was clear the night Jesus was born. Angels sang to shepherds about it. The shepherd left their flocks to come and see how this plan had come to life (Luke 2:1-22). It was clear as the magi came from the east to find Jesus, the new born king, that God's plan had come in flesh and blood (Matthew 2:1-12).

Except for a few moments scripture is quiet about the next 30 or so years of Jesus' story. Suddenly John the Baptist came reflecting the bright light of God in this world's darkness. He came baptizing (Luke 3:15) calling people to turn away from what was hurting themselves and their families (Luke 3:7-9). He was calling them to get ready to meet some one even greater sent by God.

John's message started with a call to turn away from your sins and be baptized. Baptism is the starting point for God to move. It's the starting point where new identity and new life starts. Baptism is God's way of moving us back toward the life that God intended from the very beginning. Reclaiming our baptismal identity is essential to every Christian's story.  In sin our true identity is hidden--but in repentence and forgiveness it's seen again and again.

John's ministry culminated as Jesus came forward asking to be baptized. It was the plan Jesus came to fulfill. He came as key figure in a restoration plan for the whole creation. Jesus came to start things over relationships and families, nations and even the relationships between warring nations: Jesus came to make us and all things new.

God the father rejoiced as Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came down like a dove and voice echoed from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22 Jesus came to be God with us and God for us; and in this God the Father rejoiced. This is a plan built in love and grace. 

Jesus would transform baptism from the beginning of faith—to the beginning of new life itself. In baptism we join Jesus in his death and the rising. Isaiah wrote powerfully of the way God walks with his people (Isaiah 43:1-7). In Jesus we see exactly what God meant to do. No matter the depth of the river or the (Isaiah 43:1-2) or the great distance we might find our selves from God (Isaiah 43:5-7) God has a plan to restore his own. God's plan includes a call away from our fears towards the light (Isaiah 4:1-2,4-5).

The image of the dove coming down from heaven in Luke 1:22 ought never be overlooked as mere dramatic prose.  God was speaking then as he does now in often subtle signs of the new and better life he has planned.  Corrie ten Boom wrote in Tramp for the Lord of a morning when a fellow concentration camp prisoner collapsed during early morning role call.
In a moment a young woman guard was standing over her, a whip in her hand.
“Get up” she screamed in rage. “How dare you think you can lie down when everyone else is standing.!”
“I could hardly bear to see what was happening in front of me. Surely this was the end of us all, I thought. Then suddenly a skylark started to sing high in the sky. The sweet, pure notes of the bird rose on the still cold air. Every head turned upward, away from the carnage before us, listening to the song of the skylark soaring over the crematorium.”  ten Boom, Corrie and Buckingham, Jamie Tramp for the Lord (Revel, Old Tappan, NJ 1974) p83
Christian joy comes with us in faith and for us in the Word and presence of God in the darkest moments. In faith we hear God's voice of pleasure in his son and in us who have been baptized into his death and rising. In faith we trust that the Holy Spirit will come to give us strength for today's trials. Amen.
Peace and thanks for reading, John.

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