You Are Mine

downtonBaptism of Our Lord

Isaiah 43: 1-7; Luke 3:15-17; 21,22

January 10, 2016

 

Last Sunday, Downton Abbey began its final season.

For those of you who don’t know the show,

it’s a series set in Britain in the early 20th century.

 

It follows the lives of the Lord and Lady of the manor

and the parallel lives of their servants.

It’s an upstairs-downstairs kind of a show.

 

The show has been quite popular,

partly I suppose for the scenery and costuming,

and partly of course for the British accents

(which make any dialog interesting).

 

But also I think the show is popular because it points out

that there are certain themes of human existence

that all of us have in common, rich and poor.

 

These universal issues do not necessarily

get easier the more money you have:

so if you didn’t win “Powerball” last night take heart!

 

They are themes like the pursuit of love;

dealing with family;

and one of the recurring questions

that both upstairs and downstairs questions people have:

“Who am I?”

And especially, “Am I stuck with being the person whom society says I should be?”

Once a footman always a footman?

What if I marry a lady of the house?

Who am I then?

Once a lord of the manor always a lord of the manor?

What if the manor is sold?

Who am I then?

 

It’s a question all of us have at some times in our lives.

 

“A new student arrives in the high school cafeteria

on his first day,

wondering which group he should join,

how he will be received.

Who am I?

 

“A woman walks down the hall in her empty house

looking at her daughter’s bedroom.

The bedroom has pictures and souvenirs,

left behind when this daughter set of for her first year of college.

The mother wonders what lies ahead-

Not just for her daughter, but for herself.

 

Who am I?

 

An older man lies in bed wondering if he should get up.

It was the right time to retire from his successful law practice

but it leaves him feeling like he has nothing to show for his days.

He feels worthless.

 

Who am I?

 

A younger man drives toward his hometown.

He has been away for two years in prison.

His time in prison is ended,

but he wonders if his sentence is truly over.”[i]

 

Who am I?

 

One of the central questions baptism helps us answer is,

“Who am I?”

 

Isaiah answers it beautifully – “You are mine.”

Through it all…You are mine.

Through loneliness and heartaches,

Through life transitions that we choose or are chosen for us,

Through it all…water, fire, storm…You are mine.

 

On this festival day

we hear Luke’s version of the baptism of Jesus.

It’s an important story…

We know this from the fact that all four gospel writers include it.

 

Neither the gospel of Mark, the gospel of John,

Nor any of the apostle Paul’s letters talk about the details Jesus’ birth

They leave out Christmas!

But Jesus’ baptism?

His baptism is talked about in all of the gospels.

That’s significant.

 

And the gospel writers are also unanimous on this point:

After he is baptized, Jesus begins his ministry.

After the Holy Spirit comes upon him in the form of a dove,

and as Luke says he hears a voice saying,

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

 

Jesus hears this phrase,

“You are my beloved Son.”

You are mine.

And he’s off!

 

For those of you who have brought children to be baptized,

For those of you who were baptized yourselves as infants or adults,

Baptism is first and foremost a gift.

When you were baptized,

The heavens were opened,

The holy spirit came down to you,

And God said to you, “You are mine.”

 

Chances are that if you were baptized as an infant,

You don’t remember those words,

So we remind each other of them again and again.

 

As Luther said,

Each day is a new day,

Each day is a new day of ministry and each day is a gift.

Begin it by splashing water on your face and saying,

“I am baptized!”

“I am yours today…help me know just for today, I am yours!”

 

Yesterday the Washington Post highlighted a new book.

Paul Kalanithi’s book, When Breath Becomes Air,

was written as he faced a terminal cancer diagnosis.

 

Kalanithi was a 36 year old neurosurgeon.

He was in his 6th and final year of training

When he was diagnosed with metastatic disease.

 

Kalanithi said that he knew it was coming even before

he got the results of his CT Scan.

He writes that as he entered the CT scanner,

he knew that  “the future I had imagined,

the one just about to be realized,

the culmination of decades of striving, evaporated.”

 

The diagnosis made him question his identity…

“Who would I be, going forward, and for how long?” he asks.

 

The online review in the post is accompanied by a video

in which Paul talks a bit about these questions.

We see him with his infant daughter Katie

who was born last year after his diagnosis.

 

Katie and her parents are at a church

and Katie is being baptized.

The heavens are opened,

The holy spirit comes down,

And says to her, “Katie, you are mine.”

 

I hope Paul heard those words

As he was dying.

I hope you hear those words

Every day.

 

Splash water and know in your baptism;

Through loneliness or heartache;

Moving away, losing a job;

Illness, death, self-doubt, fear;

Water, fire, or storm…

Who am I?

You are mine.

You are always mine.

 

 

Amen.

 

[i] W. Carter Lester in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 1,

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