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Baptism of Our Lord, Year A

 

Baptism of Our Lord, Year A

Psalm 29

Sermon by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 

I donít know if you discovered it or not, but in all of our lessons, including Psalm 29, there is a common thread, a familiar theme. Did you hear it or see it? It is the importance of Godís voice, Godís word, and speaking Godís message. Godís voice is described in a variety of ways in our passages. However, in that wide variety of descriptions, there is one eternal messageónamely: that God is God; God is in control of the entire creation; God loves and claims us and gives us a mission as his people.

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In our first lesson, we hear the voice of God speaking, or perhaps even singing a beautiful ďServant Song.Ē Godís voice, spoken through the words of the prophet, is echoed in our Gospel today, as John baptizes Jesus and the Spirit descends as a dove and the voice from heaven speaks: ďThis is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.Ē In the first lesson the voice of God says: ďHere is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights.Ē Filled with Godís Spirit, the Servant, Jesus our Messiah-King is loved and claimed by God and given the important mission of bringing: ďforth justice to the nations, (and of being) a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, those who sit in darkness.Ē In this beautiful Servant Song then, the voice of God is certainly a gentle voice of hope, love, and graceófull of Good News for everyone.

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Then, as we move to Psalm 29, we are given quite a picture of Godís voice. The psalmist, in verses three to nine, mentions Godís voice seven times. In each reference to Godís voice, we are given a description of Godís revelation through powerful acts of nature. The psalmist associates Godís voice with thunder and lightning, the wind and the waves, earthquake, fire and tornado. In ancient Israel, such natural activities were associated with a revelation from God. All of these descriptions of Godís voice in this psalm function to remind us that God is God; that God is certainly in control of the entire creation; that God is the King of the universe. Furthermore, scholars believe that this psalm is also connected to the creation stories in the book of Genesisóbecause it refers to God being LORD over the waters of chaos and bringing order to them. If this is true, then if we go back to the account of God creating the universe in the Book of Genesis, we remember there too the voice of God plays a very important role. The voice of God has the power to create the heavens and the earth. God speaks and in that speaking creation comes into existence. God creates, orders and controls the universe by the act of speaking.

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Even though we live in what some today call the post-modern age; even though we are very influenced by the progress of science and technology and the information explosion; does the message of our psalmist today not give us some comfort? Is it not a comfort to us to believe that God is in control of the whole universeóeven though tragic things happen in our world? Is it not a comfort to us that God controls the very destiny of all creationófor God created everything for a purpose and one day, all things shall reach a point of completeness, to live in perfect harmony with God forever? Is not our response to Godís voice not similar to that of the psalmist and ancient Israel, as they worshipped God in the Jerusalem temple and said: ďGlory!Ē As we are witnesses to the vastness and the complex diversity of the universe; and how efficiently it all holds together and functions from day-to-day; are we not, like ancient Israel, filled with awe and wonder as we worship our God of heaven and earth?

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Then, as we move from Psalm 29 to our second lesson, we are given another picture of Godís voice. This time it is through the words of the apostle Peter, and the first generation of the church, as they share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. They are fulfilling their baptismal covenant and calling by going out into the world and speaking the Gospel message. God is present in, with, under, over, and through their words of witness. As they spread the Good News, peopleís lives are changed; they are saved and healed and given new life and freedom in Jesus Christ. The voice of God loves and claims these new hearers of the Good News, and, in turn, sends them out into the world by giving them the mission of spreading the Good News too. Thanks to such people, who faithfully carried out their baptismal mission, the Gospel has been transmitted around the globe, even to us. So the voice of God speaks continuously, through Godís faithful to all peoples, drawing them into Godís realm.

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Then, as we move on to our gospel, we hear the voice of God again speaking at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Here the voice reaffirms that God has claimed and loved his only Son. The voice is one of Good News, love and grace to Jesus, yes, but also to all people. For it is after Jesusí baptism that he begins to fulfill the voice of God through the prophets and the psalmist. In Jesus, God comes to earth to speak and carry out the Good News of freedom and hope, love and peace, healing and salvation.

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What about you and me? What about us, here today? How do we hear the voice of our God speaking to us today? How do we hear the voice of our God during the rest of the week too? Is the voice of God for us a voice of only law and condemnationópreventing us from experiencing any true love and acceptance in our lives? Is the voice of God for us a severely twisted or distorted voiceócausing us to be slaves of anger and hatred? Is the voice of God for us oppressive and dreadfulófilling us with despair, doom and gloom? Is the voice of God for us truly one of Gospel and graceógiving us freedom and forgiveness? Is the voice of God for us a voice of blessing and hopeóraining down upon us good health, healing, and fresh new opportunities? Is the voice of God for us gentle as well as strongófull of kindness, yet keeping us focussed on working for justice and peace in the world? Is the voice of God for us a life-giving and saving oneódo we experience the resurrection working in our lives and the lives of others?

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If we listen carefully, we shall indeed hear the voice of God speaking to each one of us, every day. Listen for it through your own voice, as well as through the voices of your spouse, your daughters and sons, your friends and neighbours, hopefully through me J, along with all of Godís servants who may very well happen to be: the hungry and homeless, the unemployed and imprisoned, the single-parent, the sick and dying, the refugee and ethnic or racial minority, all who are poor and struggling to make their voices heard in the church and the world. For it is in these and other voices that we encounter the voice of Jesus himself, calling to each one of us.

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The voice of God for us, telling us all that God is in control of the universe, we need not live in fear or terror. Telling us that in our baptism we too are claimed and loved by God. Telling us that there is a deep purpose for our lives, which is fulfilled by carrying out Godís mission of speaking the Good News to everyone; in our thoughts, words, and actions. Listen then for Godís voice, today and everyday.

 

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