Do not fear…you are mine: Baptism of the Lord, Year C (13 January 2013)

Readings
Isaiah 43.1–7
Luke 3.15–17, 21–22

Today’s Old Testament passage is well-known, but it deserves to be much better known still. What wonderful words! God says:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

“Do not fear…you are mine.”

These are the kind of words I expect A’s mum and dad to say:

Don’t be scared…It’s ok…Mummy and Daddy are here.

Of course, they would only say those words if A were upset. And God doesn’t say “Do not fear…” unless the people are afraid.

And the people were right to be afraid.

You see, this part of Isaiah was written after the armies of Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC. The elite of Jerusalem had been taken away into exile in Babylon, which was in modern-day Iraq. There they wondered whether they’d ever see Israel again, and whether the gods of Babylon were more powerful than their God. Which god deserved their allegiance? They’d better pick the right team.

Isaiah tells them that God has picked them:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

Sometimes, it feels like God has picked us, like God is smiling on us. Everything’s going fine. Sometimes, nothing goes right and God seems a million miles away. It is especially at those times that we need to remember that God says,

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

It’s no coincidence that parents comfort their children in similar ways. God is our Father-Mother in heaven.

Often, people figure God loves them if they do the right thing. They think they can make a kind of ‘bargain’ with God. But God loves us as a parent loves her child. Annabelle doesn’t have to do anything to make Nick and Elise love her. They just do.

Baptism is a great occasion for us to celebrate that God just loves us. A can’t do anything to earn her baptism. It’s purely a celebration of God’s grace. Earlier, we blessed her by singing the Aaronic Blessing, from Numbers 6:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious unto you;
the Lord lift up his countenance (face) upon you,
and give you peace.

A makes God’s face shine. God smiles upon her, God beams at her. Not because she will never do anything wrong, or ever take a wrong turn, no. God beams at A because she is his daughter too.

When Jesus was baptised, Luke says “a voice came from heaven,” saying

You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

Is A God’s daughter in the same way that Jesus is God’s Son? Not quite. A is God’s own daughter by adoption. Through her baptism, God has adopted her into his family. We can trust this is so because of God’s promises. God is a promise-keeping Parent to each one of us.

So what is our response to all this? We can respond in a variety of ways. We can say it’s all rubbish. We can think “That’s nice,” and walk away.

Or we can respond as God wants us to respond, with grateful thanks and a desire to please him. That’s what God is looking for from Annabelle, and from each one of us.

The response God wants from us is called ‘faith’. Faith is trusting that what God says is true, and deciding to let our baptism mean something—to let it be the beginning of a new life, a life with its centre and a purpose in God.

You are God’s adopted child. Believe it or not, God is pleased with you. You make God’s face to smile.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

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2 Comments

Filed under church year, RCL, sermon

2 responses to “Do not fear…you are mine: Baptism of the Lord, Year C (13 January 2013)

  1. apocalypseicons

    Lovely. It is good to be reminded of this. Thank you Paul.

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