What is your life worth?

The Pas           The Baptism of our Lord

Year C

13 January 2019

Psalm 29 pg 738

Isaiah 43:1-7

Acts 8:14-17

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Holy One of Israel, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit and revealed him as your beloved Son. Keep all who are born of water and Spirit faithful in your service, so that we may rejoice to be called children of God, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

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Reading Isaiah, today, I was struck by a single question: What is your life worth? What is my life worth? And to whom? Who sets the price on our lives?

And as we look at the readings for today, this is a question that, perhaps, we need to contemplate more often than I’m sure we do, in our day to day circumstances.

In looking at the second part of the question the obvious answer that we find in both Isaiah’s passage, and in today’s gospel, is God.

It is God who puts value upon each of our lives. It is God who urges us to be a to benefit each other, to be an active part of God’s creation, to love each other as we are loved by God, to love each other as we love ourselves. 

So, then, it’s God who puts the value upon our lives, upon our interaction with the world, and with each other.

Isaiah tells us, tells all of the people of God, what the price is that God is willing to pay for each one of us, those of us who have gone before, and those who will come after us.

He tells us: “43 But now, this is what the Lord says—
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isa 43:1)

“I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

God tells us that we are redeemed. God tells us not to be overwhelmed, not to live in fear, not to live without hope.

God emphasizes, in this passage that we do not walk this life alone, no matter what tries to overwhelm us.

At the same time, when we look at the gospel passage, for today, we find Jesus being baptized by John in the River Jordan.

We find that Jesus has just quietly slipped into line, and that the only response to his baptism is from God, when Jesus is praying, afterwards and “heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”” (Lk 3:21b-22)

So, according to Luke, today, Jesus just walked into the river when John was baptizing and was baptized himself, by John, with the baptism of repentance.

He was baptized with a baptism to remove sin, to encourage change, to urge the recipient to open their lives to the will of God.

 But since Jesus is the one born with out sin, the Messiah, who takes away the sin of the world, then in his baptism, he is able to experience what we do, when we lay down our sins, and open our hearts and lives to the love of God.

Jesus intentionally and consciously opens his life to the will of God, for not only his life, but for our lives, as well, so that God’s will is able to be fulfilled, throughout the rest of Jesus’ life, and through his actions, to bring about the will of God for all of humanity.

And in this action, this intentional opening of his life to God’s will, God declares “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Lk 3:22b)

But that’s not the whole of answering the questions that today’s passage from Isaiah prompts. Rather it brings us back to the question asked at the beginning, what is each of our lives worth?

Isaiah tells us that we are called by name. He tells us that we are redeemed by God, that we already belong to God. We are called, we are redeemed, we are guided and protected in all things, when we open our lives to God in return.

God tells us, through Isaiah’s words: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isa 43:2)

And as I read this, I’m speechless by God’s protection in and about and for our lives.

I’m stunned by the value that God places on each one of us that we will not be swept away, overwhelmed, or otherwise harmed by the world around us.

I remember growing up that, really, we had a lot of freedom. We could go, pretty much where we wanted, as long as we told an adult where that was, and as long as we were home in time for either dinner, or the street lights coming on, depending upon the time we set out on our childhood adventures.

But throughout all of that, we were loved and cared for. People knew where we were, and when we weren’t back, at the expected place and time, then searches would begin to find us, make sure we’re alright, and to give us heck for missing the deadlines.

But this is human oversight in and for our lives. God’s love and protection is so much greater than that. Sure, God loves to hear from us in and through prayer, every day. After all, prayer is like having a conversation with one whom we love.

At the same time, we’re told that even in the midst of trials and tribulations, in the midst of events that should overwhelm us, we are looked out for, we are guided, and we are and protected, because we are loved by God.

So, in answer to the questions of what is the value of our lives? It is worth the life of Jesus who dies on the cross for each one of us, because, today, Jesus opened his life to God and received the baptism of repentance.

The value of each of our lives is immeasurable, its unable to be tallied, because “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,” (Jn 3:16-18a)

All because God declared through Isaiah, that “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; … you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,” (Isa 43:3a & 4a)

Now we have to remember that this is poetry, but the fact that God is willing to give huge quantities in order to secure our lives, our freedoms, and our place in God’s heart, in creation is enormous.

But for some reason, we have difficulty holding onto this teaching, this promise that God made through the prophet Isaiah, that God redeemed in the gospels, that God still carries on today because of the love that God has for all of God’s people.

We get mired down in the ways of the world, we get distracted by ways and patterns that have pushed a life of faith to the outskirts, and made it something on the fringes of society, instead of a mainstay of our lives.

We get distracted by the newest, brightest, the shiniest. In the midst of all of this, we forget that we are the children of God, and that God has given everything for us, and to us for our day to day needs, as well as for the assurance we need that tomorrow is better than today will ever be.

We forget what was promised, what was proclaimed, what was prophesied, generations before Jesus was born.

We do this because we are human, because we are able to make mistakes, and because those mistakes are able to be such that we feel it interferes with our relationship with God.

But when that happens, we are able to come back to the readings for today.

We’re able to return to the promises made by God through Isaiah when God tells us: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”” (Isa 43:5-7)

And in this way, we are reminded, through such promises that we are loved, protected, and valued by God, so that in the trials and tribulations of life we are not alone.

We are upheld, and we are guided, we are redeemed now and forever, in God’s actions on the cross, in Jesus teachings from this point to the time of his ascension.

Today we witness the baptism of the Christ in the river Jordan.

Today we witness what is ultimately the beginning of his public ministry. We see the willingness to open his life to the urging of God’s direction, and throughout the gospels we see where that urging takes Jesus for you and for me to fulfill Isiah’s prophesy, today.

Today we see that its all grounded in love, that its all grounded in God’s desire to be an active part of each of our lives, now, and forever.

And we see this in God’s words, in Isaiah’s prophesy when we’re told ““Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isa 43:1b)

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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