Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I am chosen!
Who among us has not stood on a playground waiting to be chosen, waiting anxiously for someone to choose us to be in his or her teams. Waiting and waiting until our names were called, we learned the anxiety and fear of being alone. We often think of faith in terms of our choice for God, for good over evil as if faith were choosing sides between those the Lord and His own and evil and its cohorts. But this is a false analogy. The whole nature of what sin has done to us makes it impossible for us to choose God. What is important is not which side we choose, but which side God chooses. And today Jesus stood and called our your name as He entered into the waters of the river Jordan.
There in the waters of the Jordan Jesus chose sides and He chose you and me. John was not so sure about this but Jesus was absolutely certain. God had chosen in Christ not to write off us sinners to His anger but to forgive and redeem us. At His baptism, Jesus chose us even with our sins, accepting our sins as His own burden and placing upon His shoulders the full weight of our guilt, disobedience, and death. It is the fabulous surprise of grace – Jesus chose you and me!
We are not the ones who choose God. Jesus is the one who chooses and He chooses us. It is as if we were standing alone on that playground, fearful of rejection and abandonment, and then the Lord called out our names as He went down into those waters. We belong to Him. It cost us nothing to hear the sweet sound of that voice laying claim to us but it placed upon Jesus an impossible burden that only the Son of God in human flesh and blood could fulfill.
Jesus stood in those waters as the righteous one who came to redeem the unrighteous. His holiness was earned in perfect obedience to the Law but in baptism He has given it to us as His gift. Jesus stood in those waters as the sinless One who came for sinners. He bore no guilt of His own but He became the guilty for us – a choice marked by His step into those waters to take on all our dirt so that we might step into the same waters and come out clean.
Jesus stood in those waters as the Lord of life whose Word brought all things into being and yet He has willingly exchanged His life for the life of all those dead in trespasses and sin. Now this is no casual choice. This is the informed choice of the Lord who knows what it will cost Him to choose us, what price He must pay to redeem us, and what burden He must bear in order to set us free. And the surprise of grace is that He accepts it all and chooses us in love.
And Jesus is still choosing us. Not by His baptism at the hands of John but when you and I were called to these waters of life, there to exchange our death with His life, there to leave behind the original sin that first claimed us and all those willful sins we have added to them. He accepts them all and gives us in exchange the forgiveness won by His blood shed and His body given into death. In our baptism, Jesus is still choosing sides, choosing us for Himself and clothing us with His righteousness.
Jesus still chooses us in baptism and granting to us the Spirit so that we have the voice and power to affirm His choice with the AMEN of faith. He not only chooses us but gives us the grace that enables us to respond to His choice with faith to grasp hold of His gift and make it fully our own.
Jesus still chooses us and in that choice He unlocks the door to a whole new life for us. We are given a new vocation as the people of God. Our lives are not the journeys of chance lived by those outside the faith, the brief struggle to amass possessions or power or pleasure. No, our lives are free – free of death and all its fears – so that we can live today in fullness, the abundant life that Jesus promised. This life is defined not by what we have or what we accomplish or what we like. This life is lived out in Christ, for Christ. All our days and deeds become grateful offerings to Jesus in thanksgiving for what He has done. Our calling and vocation is one of worship, witness, fellowship, and service. It begins here in Jesus house, but its goal is the world out there.
We might like to frame life as two teams – one belonging to Satan and one belonging to Jesus and we choose which team to play on. But the truth is that we do not choose. Because of sin, we were already marked for Satan's team until Jesus chooses us in baptism, steals us from the grasp of sin and its death to be set free, forgiven, and granted new life. Then and only then is there the possibility that we might know the Lord, live under Him as His child, and live out the new and eternal life that is His gift to us. We do not choose. We are the chosen.
It first began when Jesus stood in the waters – not as one needing to repent and be redeemed but as the Redeemer who brings to us the power of repentance. He chooses us and all our weakness and stands in those waters of old as one clean who has come to be clothed with our dirt and death, that you and I might be set free.
Baptism is not some once in a lifetime event and then it is over. Baptism is the choice of God to be our God even with all that it would cost Him. It is the means to our redemption and it gives us the grace of new life. When we walk by that baptismal font and recall our baptism into Christ, we celebrate the choice Jesus made to set us free and we honor the grace that no works or merits could earn. Baptism is free grace.
Today as dipped our fingers in that water and made the sign of the cross we remembered Him who choose us to be His own in baptism. When He stepped into those waters of the Jordan, He chose us and He chooses us still through His living water, just as Riley did this morning, even with all our sin and death He chooses us. He clothes us with His righteousness, grants us the Spirit to enable us to respond with faith, and sets us apart for a new vocation and calling in life as His children and His witnesses. It just does not get any better than this. Not at all.
God’s own child, I gladly say it. I am baptized into Christ! Amen.