January 08, 2008

Looking Ahead to January 13, 2007 -- 1st Sunday After Epiphany, Baptism of Christ Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 42:1-9
  • Psalm 29 (VU p. 756)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17

The Hymns for this week are:

  • 79 Arise, Your Light is Come
  • 449 Crashing Waters at Creation (tune #2)
  • Epiphany Hymn (see insert)
  • 442 Wash, O God, Your Sons and Daughters (Alternate words)

The sermon title is The Servant's Task.

Early Thoughts: We talk about being servants of God, about being sent out to do something. What is that something?

In this week's passage from Isaiah we have one of the so-called Servant Songs. In it God speaks through Isaiah to name what the Servant will do. The list includes words about freeing the prisoners, establish justice, open the eye of the blind.

Traditionally Christianity has tended to believe that the Servant of Isaiah's songs is a reference to the Messiah, to Christ. This is why we have this passage of commissioning read in tandem with the story of Jesus being baptized, and why one of the Servant Songs is traditionally read on Good Friday. What or who Isaiah himself meant is not clear. Some suggest the servant was in fact the nation, the people of Israel. Given the repeated commandments on Jewish law for the nation to establish justice for all and this description of the servant's task this would seem to be a good link.

So if the Servant is in fact the people of God then the servant's task is our task. This means we are responsible for working to establish justice, for helping to bring freedom to those in captivity. This passage is our commission, or rather one of our commissions, since it is a repeated refrain in Scripture.

And so it is indeed a good tie in to our baptism story. In the Gospels, Jesus' baptism marks the beginning of his ministry. It is the point where it all begins. So it is with our baptism. Our baptism, either as a child or as a teen or as an adult, sets us toward a life of service and growth. Our baptism calls us to work towards the coming Reign of God. In our baptism liturgy we talk about being called, claimed, and commissioned. It is time to live as those who have been claimed by Christ, called the children of God, and commissioned into ministry. May God be with us as we take up the servant's task.

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