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Sermon Notes, January 9, 2022

1As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

  21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Grace and peace-

“He will baptize you,” John the Baptist says of Jesus, “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 granary,

But the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

What might we expect from those words?

Maybe that Baptism at Jesus’ hand will be more of a threat, than a promise, more something to fear, then to greet with joy;

“His winnowing fork is in his hand . . .”

“To Clear his threshing floor . . .”

“The chaff he will burn . . . “

But when Jesus does appear in the River Jorden, nothing quite like that happens. 

No winnowing fork, no burning chaff.

Jesus doesn’t use the power of threat to move to the water or else, at all.

Jesus enters the water with them.

Without fanfare.

Without fireworks.

He’s just there, with them.

The Holy Spirit does appear—but as a dove, a creature of peace.

Jesus doesn’t summon an ominous God-

But God does open the heavens and speak.

“You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

John the Baptist heralded Jesus.

But maybe not even he completely saw what God’s Son would do, in saving the people from their sins.

He saves by presence.

He saves by entering the waters with.

He saves with a quiet dove.

He saves with the fire of one beloved;

He saves as one who comes from a relationship of joy, and peace.

Your baptism into this Lord is no small matter.

Your baptism into this Lord is to have your life taken from you-

        Only to receive it again.

When you were baptized, Jesus entered the water with you- as he did with the people, on his own baptismal day.  He took the drowning that comes as a result of sin- drowning, death, that comes every single time, in one way or another, with every single sin, every single falling short of the glory of God-

And he made it his own.

When you were baptized, Jesus entered the water with you,

Taking on any winnowing fork that might- at any time in your life- be poised at you.

You are saved not by your own strength, not by your own power, not by your own might-

But by his self-giving in the water, to bear you in it, and to carry you through it.

The absolute power your sin has to destroy- he bears.  His bearing- that is his winnowing fork.  His bearing—that is the threshing floor.  His bearing—that, only that—is the destruction of sin.

Your baptismal waters are grace, given without earning.

Love, given without hesitation.

Relationship, given when there should be none.

Unquenchable Life, given for unquenchable fire.

Those waters are your first identity.

And they will be your last-

As they are, and ever will be,

Your path, every moment in between.