Mark 1: 4-11
We live in a crazy world. Wouldn’t you agree? We live in a crazy world. Now maybe I pay too much attention to the news – both in what I see on TV and what I read in the newspaper – but it seems like there’s never a shortage of things to worry about.
Like the headline this week that said, “U.S – Iran Tensions rise; Oil Prices Spike.” So we worry about Iran. We worry about higher gas prices. Again.
A week ago folks were concerned about what a new leader of North Korea is going to mean for that area of the world.
There is always the constant reminder of the threat from terrorism.
The Republicans and the Democrats can’t seem to work together in Washington these days. We’re still looking at massive federal deficits.
And then there’s the economy. The employment situation is still pretty bad. Even though the economy appears to be slowly getting better, businesses are slow to hire new workers. These are just some of the things making headline news.
We live in a crazy world. And it’s not just what we see and hear in the news. Some things simply make us mad – or simply frustrated. Like not being able to watch Sabre’s games on TV. Or the Bills didn’t make it to the playoffs. Again.
But sometimes it’s our personal lives. Sometimes our personal lives can be crazy too. It could be a relationship. Or a job – or not having a job. Maybe there’s not enough money left over at the end of the month. Or someone you’re close to has a drug or an alcohol problem. Or maybe it’s a sump pump that doesn’t work – or the house needs a new roof. I don’t know. But oh, don’t you look for a little relief from some of the craziness every now and then? I know I do.
And just when it seems like things just might be a bit overwhelming – perhaps you’ve even run out of hope – into the world comes good news! Folks – I’m here to remind you once again that God has invaded our world.
Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated a life-changing – world-changing event. More than 1,200 people were here to celebrate that event. I’m talking of course about Christmas. God invaded our world through the birth of Jesus.
The Gospel writer John tells us that “The Word became flesh –and when John uses the word “Word” he’s talking about Jesus – The Word became flesh and lived among us.” The meaning of the Greek word for “lived among us” is actually “Set up his tent.” God – in the person of His Son Jesus Christ – came into the world and set up His tent among us.
Know what that tells me? Even though we live in a crazy world – it is a God invaded world. God has invaded our crazy world. When the world gets crazy – and it does and it will – we can remind ourselves – as Martin Luther used to do when things got crazy for him – “I am a child of God. I am baptized.” We can say the same thing. Because we are baptized, God gives us the power to keep on going.
We are currently in the season of the church year that we call Epiphany. It is called the season of light. Of revelation. A season that points to Jesus to tell us something about who He is.
– So, again, as the Gospel writer John tells us, Jesus is the Word made flesh who dwells among us – who sets up His tent – among us.
– Today we learn something else about Jesus. We hear that Jesus is baptized by John. Baptized in water – as we were once baptized in water. And it is the Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit – who descends upon Jesus – in the form of a dove. You see, the human Jesus needed power to keep on going. As Jesus begins his public ministry – Jesus needs power to keep on going. It is the Holy Spirit that gives Jesus the power to keep on going.
And do you remember John the Baptizer’s words? “I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Well – doesn’t that tell you that when we are baptized we too receive the power of the Holy Spirit? Of course it does. It is the power of the Holy Spirit within each of us that is the power that keeps us going. Just as Jesus had the power of the Holy Spirit to keep on going – we have the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us going too.
Now granted, we might not always feel the power of the Spirit. We might not always feel the presence of Christ. But thank God our faith does not rest on our feelings. Let me say that one more time. Thank God our faith does not rest on our feelings. Our faith rests on the promises of God.
Let me give you just this one baptismal promise from God’s holy Word.
Galatians 3:26-27. “You are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
There are times when we might not feel the presence of Christ in our lives, but the Word of God promises us that – through our baptism – we have been clothed with Christ – we have put on Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is here.
So never think of yourself as a loser. Don’t ever think of yourself as a failure. Don’t ever think of yourself as inferior or inadequate. You’re not. Don’t let the craziness of this world or of your own personal life keep you down. God gives you the power not only to make it in this crazy world – but to overcome – to overcome and to rise above – the crazy things that go on your life and in this world. God gives you the power to overcome and to rise above.
Let me share with you a story. Wilma was born in a shack in the backwoods of Tennessee. Her parents were very poor. She was prematurely born, and weighed only four and a half pounds. At age four she had double pneumonia and scarlet fever that left her with a partly paralyzed left leg. She had to wear a steel brace.
But Wilma had a mother who constantly told her that she could do whatever she wanted to do with her life, that all she needed to do was have faith and persistence and courage and a never-give-up spirit. So at the age of nine, Wilma did away with the brace. In four more years, she finally developed a rhythmic stride that enabled her to run. At 13 she entered her first race and came in dead last.
But Wilma kept running. And one day she started winning. Finally she made it to the 1960 Olympics to run the 100-meter race against the unbeaten, world record holder, Yetta Mynie from Germany. Wilma won. She won again in the 200-meter. Finally came the 400-meter relay. She was the anchor – the last runner on the U.S. team, and her competitor was – you guessed it – Yetta Mynie. Just as the baton was handed to Wilma she dropped it, giving Yetta the lead. Yet, somehow Wilma caught up and won!
We know her today as Wilma Rudolph, the little girl with the steel brace and a paralyzed leg [who] became the fastest female runner in the world. And as Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story.
And yet, you and I know that Wilma Rudolph’s accomplishments didn’t come from the outside. They came from within. On the outside she had every reason to give up. To quit. But there was something within her that gave her the drive – gave her the power – to overcome.
You and I have the power to overcome. No matter how crazy the world gets – no matter how challenging our lives become – we have the presence of Jesus Christ – and we have the power of the Holy Spirit – within us.
How can I say that? Because I have been baptized. Because you have been baptized. And that means something much more than we just happen to be nice people – as true as that may be.
No. We are more than just nice people. We have the power that keeps us going. Folks let me remind you. You have the power of the Holy Spirit in you. And if you will let Him, that power will get you through and help you rise above all the craziness that you will ever experience in your life. That doesn’t mean life will always be easy. It doesn’t mean challenges will never be there. But through the person, and the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, you have the power to overcome and to rise above.
You have been baptized. And today I want you to affirm that baptism. I invite you to affirm your faith in Jesus Christ – I want you to claim your rightful place in this world as a beloved son – as a beloved daughter of God.
God has invaded our world. Jesus Christ – present with us. The Holy Spirit – at work in us. And that, my friends, is the power that keeps us going.