From the sermon: 'The baptism inaugurates that project of re-making. For we still were waiting, even when Jesus had been made incarnate in the womb of the Virgin and born into the world, we were still waiting. While shepherds and magi adored, as he grew from infancy through childhood and even into adulthood, it was still a time of waiting for the project to become active. In a way, it was still Advent, the time of preparation. But now, at the baptism of Christ, the anointed one, Messiah, the time of waiting is over. The extreme makeover has begun, not from the outside in, but from the inside out.'
The Baptism of Our Lord
January 9, 2022
The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of the Father, with whom he is well-pleased.
Does anyone remember the show Extreme Makeover? I never watched it. It sounds horrible. They’d take these people who were down on their lives – overweight, no fashion sense, no confidence, etc. And they gave them a crash diet and/or plastic surgery, sent them to a hairdresser and a fashion consultant, gave them a new wardrobe. Then they sent them back to their family and friends so that they could see the transformation. Like I said, it sounds terrible. They have one about houses, too: Extreme Makeover, Home Edition.
It does speak to the human understanding that we need renewal, or a fresh start. We human beings are suckers for these kinds of stories. If we don’t want change for ourselves, we want it for other people. And we’re usually willing to listen to any producer, pill-pusher, preacher, or politician who promise that with the proper application of this and that, the world and we ourselves can be made over again.
in one sense, John the Baptist is just another person promising change. But he is not selling something to change us from the outside. He is not even selling himself. He is simply repeating the old story. God will renew his people, cleanse and restore them.
But John’s summons is urgent because the time is near – God is going to makeover the world: toss the old clothes, trim that fat, cut out the bad habits. John calls the people to baptism as a sign to themselves and to everyone else that they are ready to be made over by God. But he is quite open about the fact that he is not selling them anything. He’s not giving them a method of self-help or a prescription: ‘Take ten commandments and call me in the morning, etc. etc.’
He points to the transforming power of God through God’s agent – the one whom God anoints to remake the world. The word ‘Messiah’ means anointed one. John has no authority, no anointing to remaking the world. But when Jesus is baptized, both the Father and the Spirit attest to him as the one through whom the world is to be remade.
And more than that, the baptism inaugurates that project of re-making. For we still were waiting, even when Jesus had been made incarnate in the womb of the Virgin and born into the world, we were still waiting. While shepherds and magi adored, as he grew from infancy through childhood and even into adulthood, it was still a time of waiting for the project to become active. In a way, it was still Advent, the time of preparation.
But now, at the baptism of Christ, the anointed one, Messiah, the time of waiting is over. The extreme makeover has begun, not from the outside in, but from the inside out. The people whom Jesus calls keep the same bodies, hairstyles, and clothes, but are given a new Spirit. We are made over not into our best selves, but into Christ’s self.
It may not seem that we, who are baptized with Christ’s baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, have been made over so much. But at least let it be said that we’re looking for no makeovers other than his. Let it be said that we are not looking for a producer, pill-pusher, preacher or politician to re-make us or the world. If God wills to change the world, it will be from the inside-out through Jesus and no other. The Spirit we are given in baptism is the Spirit of freedom, which frees us from our own or others attempts to make us over, whether well=meaning, indifferent, or malicious.
And because of this, because we are trusting in the new creation of the anointed one, Messiah, Jesus, we may rejoice even before our remaking is complete. We are called daughters and sons of the heavenly Father, not after the big reveal of the extreme makeover, but beforehand. At least for this hour of church, but maybe more appropriately the entire Sunday, we can leave our self-improvement and world-changing schemes alone. Because now we stand at the font with Christ and come to the table of Christ. We are caught up into the life of the Spirit. And with Christ the Father calls us beloved children, and is well-pleased with us.