Former things have come to pass - Reflections 1-4-17

 Texts for Sunday, January 8, 2017

 Isaiah 42:1-9
 Psalm 29
 Acts 10:34-43
 Matthew 3:13-17

 This Sunday the text  from Isaiah is just jam-packed with vision! It has wonderful words from the prophet for the people of Israel. But it also offers the vision and foundation for Jesus ministry which is about to begin in the story from Matthew.  (In fact, Matthew refers to Isaiah later on in chapter 12 to describe Jesus’ ministry.)

God cares…. about the world, about how the vulnerable and “bruised” are treated in society, about how we treat each other. God plans to act in the midst of this mess by sending one with God’s spirit within who will bring justice and righteousness to the nations. And this someone will tenderly care for those who are “bruised” or “dimly burning”. Within the whole passage, you can feel that God does indeed “delight” in this servant.

Back to Matthew ….Jesus comes to John the Baptist at the Jordan to be baptized. Earlier in chapter 3 we hear: In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Many people from surrounding regions came to be baptized and confess their sins. 

John seems to recognize who has come before him, but seems uncertain about what to do. But Jesus tells him that this is the right thing to do.

Afterwards, God sends the Spirit and says that Jesus is beloved. You could say that God delights in Jesus. God knows that this vision in Isaiah is about to be lived out in Jesus’ ministry. 

I really don’t know what Jesus’ baptism “accomplished” in this story from Matthew.  Jesus said it was right, and, well, I believe him. Some commentators think that Jesus learned more fully who he was and what he was to do, in other words, confirmed Jesus’ identity. Others say that through his incarnation - becoming flesh - he waded into the muck of the world with us. And yet others use it to point to our own baptisms.

I know that for Jesus’ followers who lived post-Jesus ‘death, baptism focused on new life in God through Christ’s death and resurrection (that includes us). 

St. Paul says in Romans 6, “We were buried with Christ through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Sounds a bit like Isaiah 42: 9. "See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them."

And also sounds a bit like Luther discussing Baptism in the Small Catechism. Luther wrote that in the baptized person, day after day, a new self arises to live with God.

Henri Nouwen wrote a book called Life of the Beloved in which he makes a case that each of us can hear a voice echoing through our life that “You are my beloved”. That we can take on Jesus’ ministry and vision because we too have been touched by God’s Spirit through baptism. 

Your comments are welcome below.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245