Help Wanted

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Year A
12 January 2020

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

O God the creator of all,
at his baptism you proclaimed Jesus your beloved
and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.
Make us faithful to our calling to be your daughters and sons,
and empower us with your Spirit,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

Today’s reading from Isaiah is a great introduction for Jesus and his ministry, amongst us, still today.

Today, like a job description, we see what the prophet has declared in the expectations that we see for Jesus, for the Messiah, from God.

And looking at this, it’s a rather impressive list of what God says we can expect from the Messiah, from Jesus.

• Bring justice to the nations
• Be collected and quiet (interesting that this one is so high on the list, isn’t it?)
• Be compassionate
• Be tenacious
• A teacher who brings hope
• Bring a covenant for the people
• Bring a light to the gentiles
• Opening of eyes that are blind
• Freeing captives from prison
• Releasing from dungeons those who are in darkness.

Now in some ways we can see the poetry and the figurative language used by Isaiah at use here, but at the same time, we can see that this is a pretty impressive and daunting list of tasks to be accomplished by Jesus, by the Messiah.

So, I wonder what this would look like as a job ad?

“Wanted: Messiah to fulfill Isaiah’s prophesy and provide salvation for all of humanity.

Must be willing to bring justice to all nations, in faithfulness; be compassionate, yet tenacious. Be willing, at all times to teach and provide a covenant for all who believe. Open the eyes of the blind, free the captives, bring light to those who are in darkness, and other duties, as assigned.

At all times be collected, and quiet in carrying out the above.

Serious inquiries, only. Please reply in person to John on the banks of the Jordan River.”

And when we look back on the life and ministry of Jesus, we see that he does fulfill all of this, both to and for the people of Israel, and to and for those of us who have come along, and come to believe since.

But if we’re to look at this as a job application, how many would apply, do you think?

How many would come, in a sense of love and compassion, to open the eyes and the hearts of those of us who are captive and blinded to the structures of this world?

Who would come to bring the light of God’s presence to those who sit in a darkness of our own making, teaching us to love the light, instead?

And God sees this.

God knows our hearts and our ability to fulfill this grand list of tasks, of talents, of God given gifts.

In fact, to find all of these talents and skills in one person is to identify the person of the Messiah in our midst.

But, at the same time, when we look at our own lives, at our own skills and talents, we might not possess the whole of the list, but perhaps we can do one or more of these tasks, that we see in Isaiah’s impressive list of qualifications.

And when we join together with others who are equipped with their own unique and special talents and skills that may not be ours, but will work in concert with our own talents and skills, then the phrase “the body of Christ” is able to take on more meaning than we’d previously envisioned.

After all, we are the baptized body of Christ, as a whole, and each one of us, has received the spirit of the Lord, of the Holy Spirit, in our lives.

And isn’t that a remarkable place to be, to come from, to call home? The body of Christ.

In our gospel for today, we see how God, through the person of Jesus, the Messiah, fulfills this list, in and through the life and ministry of Jesus as he goes to John to receive, from him, the baptism of absolution, of forgiveness for one who has committed no sin.

And isn’t this an interesting paradox, we see in the gospel, today? The one person without sin receives the baptism of repentance, of absolution.

John points this very paradox out to Jesus as they meet in the midst of the current of the Jordan River, but Jesus points out that, in this instance, in this time, and in this place, they’re both fulfilling the will of God, today.

“Jesus came … to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.” (Mt 3:13-15)

So, today Jesus responds to God’s job ad, found in the writings of Isaiah, and today we see the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon him as well, and isn’t that incredible?

“16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” (Mt 3:16)

So, today we see Jesus being commissioned for the work of God in the world, in the same way that we are, still today in the rites of baptism.

And in that same stirring up of the Holy Spirit that we experience, that Jesus experienced, as the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, we too are commissioned.

So, then, we too, are expected by the love of God for each one of us, to fulfill some if not all of what Isaiah lists as the tasks of the Messiah, in the world, still today.

And, really, if we think about it, we experience the same enabling, this same call to action, to God’s service as we in the depths of our baptismal promises, as we remember the promises made with us, or on our behalf, at the font.

The words of our individual baptismal promises are, and to which we respond with the promise “I will with God’s help”, are: (so let’s remember them, together…)

“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” (BAS pg 159)

And so, not only are we able to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, and the spirit of John’s baptism, we’re able and encouraged to continue the work of Jesus in the world.

We’re able, and by the same baptismal promises, we’re expected to live into these promises, to the best of our ability and talents.

But as we’re not the Messiah. We know this. We’re only able to follow in his footsteps, and we have the comfort that we’re expected not to do this alone.

We’re able to work hand in hand with our brothers and sisters in Christ, not just here, but around the world, with those who are able by their talents to support and enhance our own, as we support and enhance theirs.

We’re able to look at the words of Isaiah and take hope that we don’t do this alone.

“5 This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:” (Isa 42:5)

So, we see that God watches over us, and our actions.

We know that God guides us to be where we need to be and when, and places those who need the love of God, the encouragement of the Messiah, and the freedom of the teachings of Christ, before us always.

In each of our lives, we may look at this as a difficulty, as a challenge, but if we’re supported by the love of God, as we are, then its just another day, and another step toward making the kingdom of God a reality in this world, in our lives.

Isaiah tells us: “5 This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isa 42:5-7)

And when we’ve done all that we are able, to uphold the love of God, to free the prisoner, to bring justice to the world, light to the darkness, and to do it all with compassion and love being earnest in our efforts, then we will hear the voice of God say to each one of our hearts:

“[You are] my [Child], whom I love; with [whom] I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17b )


About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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