Baptism of Our Lord

It’s a pleasure to be in Manhattan, Kansas this morning.


I actually have some roots here.

In the 1950’s my grandfather went to theVeterinary School a few miles away and went on to have a practice in Southwest Iowa where I was raised.


And now, after several decades of life, who would have thought I’d wind up here?


Like some of you I am from a rural setting.


I have not always appreciated my roots but one day I realized that Jesus was born and raised few considered important but in a town like Leonardville or even Fostoria.


He came to a place like Kansas and Iowa.


He went out of his way to be out of the way.


I grew up in town out of the way but my friend Zach grew up further out on a farm. 


We did so many things at Zach’s house that we couldn’t do at mine.


One that sticks out today was this silly game we used to play in the mud.


In the Spring as the snow melted, a very small stream would form right at the base of Zach’s treehouse.



When it was really flowing we would put on boots and go play in it.

It was so small that we could form little dams and alter the course of the stream.


With our elementary engineering we could make it twist and turn, make it narrow and fast or wide and lazy.


We played in that stream for hours having the time of our life.


Years later, I found the source of that little stream. 


And a noble source it was not.


You see the stream didn’t come from very far. It flowed underneath a little gravel driveway and started… in the small cattle lot on the other side of the road.


I’m not sure that information would have made a difference to my younger self but I will tell you I have not played in that muddy stream since finding out its origin.


I did not know what sort of waters I was getting into.


Today Jesus finds himself on the banks of an actual river and at the edge of a crowd.


A great many have come a long way to hear a message.


It is a message of repentance.


It is a message of a clean start.



A crowd from cities, towns, and farms have come to John because they want another chance to do it right.


They want another chance to try again.


A swath of ordinary people with ordinary sins have come for a chance to do it right this time. 




They will fail.


They will fall.


They will sin again.


They will be unfaithful to God.


There Jesus watches them go into the Jordan.


One by one he sees them go down and up and down and up and down and up.


Down into a Jordan River that looks an awful lot like the stream I played in.


A river that bathes human and livestock alike, cloudy with sediment and other stuff.






Up into a world full of disease, sin, and death.


A world that intimidates, dulls, and kills.


After watching this line move for a while Jesus decides.


He leaves the edge and makes his way through the crowd toward the river.


Further and further, he pushes toward the baptizer.


He will go into those muddy waters with all of these ordinary people.


He will not sit on the bank.


He will join them and us in the cloudy, dirty stream.


Jesus has chosen to come into the waters with us.


But unlike Zach and me, he knows the waters into which he goes.


He knows that by this baptism he will live life on life’s terms.


When he entered that river he knew he would subject himself to life’s twists and turns, it’s intensity, it’s boredom, it’s dangers.


This decision inaugurates Jesus’ ministry of full submersion into the human experience.


It means Jesus has chosen to be with us in all of the best and worst of our lives



He will know lies.


He will know betrayal.


He will know violence.


He will know fear.


He will know death.


And he will know them all for our sake.


He will know them because he loves us.


And in order to love us perfectly, he will need to be completely human.


He will know the worst the world has to offer.


And it is this willingness to enter fully into our humanity that delights God.


A delight that interrupts the proceedings and overflows from the heavens.


Now that’s my boy!


Today we are gathered here to bear witness to a little one who will go down into the waters.


He might not quite know what waters he goesinto but we, the baptized have some idea.



The waters of baptism are scary, chaotic, and dangerous.


These are waters that take the baptized to places we would not otherwise go.


They make us say what we might not otherwise have the courage to say.


They wash away the stains we once thought were permanent.


They drown those chasing things that we cannot ourselves outrun.


They are the waters of a womb.


And when we come up, the life we are born into is no longer the same.


Soon we will pray for this little one.  Before we pray imagine all of the places God will lead himfrom this day forward. Imagine all of the people he will love. Imagine the times he will be afraid. Imagine his highs and lows. Pray that he might always know how close God has come.


Soon we will make promises. Some of us for the first time and some of us for the last. Before we make these promises, consider their audacity. Contemplate why we would dare make these outlandish vows.


We make them not because we will finally get it right this time.


We make them because these are God’s promises.


And God always keeps his promises.



He kept them when he brought Israel out of Egypt.


He kept them when his son was baptized in the Jordan.


And he will keep them today in this little one, just as surely.


For neither Cole nor we may know into what waters he goes but today we trust that God does. 


And from this day on he will be with Colealways.



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