Baptism of Our Lord (Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Sunday, January 9, 2011
They’re probably one of the quirkiest duo’s in music, but Lost & Found is a Christian band of George and Michael playing what they call Speedwood—folky music on acoustic guitar and keyboards. They’ve got strange voices, they tell strange stories, but in the end, it’s all about Jesus. And they’re a huge hit in the Church, especially at places like the National Youth Gathering, the gathering of Lutheran youth that takes place every three times, the gathering that took place last summer, the gathering we’ll hear about this morning from a couple of Bethel’s youth.
But I first heard Lost & Found at the National Youth Gathering in 1989 in Denver. They were on a side stage in the middle of the information booths, and I was completely blown away at their style, their energy, their lyrics, and their joy for the Lord.
I wanted to keep listening and watching, but my friends in my youth group all wanted to keep walking around, they laughed at Lost & Found, they found it silly that I loved the music so much that I bought a cassette tape. I was a bit crushed and embarrassed, getting made fun of for liking this Christian band. I tried to hide my feelings, but I probably didn’t hide them too well. Meanwhile, I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel room and put the cassette in my Walkman and listen to Lost & Found sing about Jesus.
It was another three years before I started seriously thinking about becoming a pastor, but I know that that experience in Denver at the National Youth Gathering had an effect on me. I know that getting made fun of for liking Lost & Found had an impact on wanting to serve the Lord with my life, because I could sense that I wanted to hold onto to something even if the people around me didn’t get it. I wanted to hold onto this faith, hold onto believing in Jesus, take seriously what it means to be a Christian, wanted to find a way to be joyful and fun and quirky with my faith, wanted to serve God with my life.
I know those thoughts started back in Denver in 1989. I know that even while I was getting made fun of, that I was praying that God would keep me strong, keep me believing in Him no matter what.
I’d return from the National Youth Gathering with a tale to tell about the Gathering’s impact, sharing that story with our congregation, thanking them for their support, telling them that the experience was life changing for us.
I’d return from Denver wanting to help our youth group to grow, wanting to help our church to take our faith seriously, wanting to serve God in the congregation.
I’d return from Denver listening to Lost & Found alongside whatever else I used to listen to. I’d sing along with those quirky folk songs about Jesus and wonder how God might use me.
I’d return from Denver focused on Jesus—not only what Jesus did but how that changed me, how that affected me, what that meant for my life.
That was a huge shift. Where before church had always seemed like it was just about learning, about memorizing, about knowing the facts, now I was sensing that Jesus wanted me to do something, wanted my life to look differently, that Jesus wanted to have me serve Him.
I looked at Lost & Found and what they were doing for the Lord. I looked at all of the speakers I heard at the Gathering. I saw what God was doing in the lives of these Christian leaders, and I realized it wasn’t just about knowing the right answers. It’s about Jesus changing you, changing you, making it so that you can serve Him with your life.
Probably what I was sensing way back then in 1989 is what I recognize now in today’s reading from Isaiah. Today’s reading from Isaiah is selected for the Baptism of Our Lord, because it points to the promise that God would put His Spirit on the Messiah, on the Christ, on the Anointed One, and sure enough, at the Baptism of Jesus, the Spirit comes upon Jesus. It’s a fulfillment of this passage: “I will put my Spirit on him.”
But there’s a way in which this passage doesn’t just stop with Jesus, that it isn’t just about what happens for Jesus, that’s it’s not just about Jesus, but that it’s also about us, it’s about what God has done for us.
When I came back from the 1989 National Youth Gathering, I realized that it wasn’t just about what Jesus had done but that it’s also about what happens to us. That’s what’s going on with this passage from Isaiah, too. It isn’t just about Jesus; it’s also about us.
Through our baptisms, through our faith in Jesus, the words of Isaiah 42 can be applied to us: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.” We’re His servants, God upholds us, God takes delight in us, God puts His Spirit on us, God uses us to bring justice in this world. We’re His Spirit-Servants.
Through our baptisms, through our faith in Jesus, we’re God’s Spirit-Servants. That’s what I couldn’t put a finger on back in 1989, but I think that’s what I was starting to sense, starting to realize that God had something in store for me. I wasn’t just a spectator; I wasn’t just learning a history lesson; I wasn’t just absorbing information about Jesus. No, He was calling me to serve Him, calling all Christians to serve Him, calling His people to be His Spirit-Servants, to be given the gift of the Spirit, to be led to serve Him, to go out to tell others about Him.
So these students that have come back from last summer’s National Youth Gathering in New Orleans—they’re not just spectators, they didn’t just go for lectures and absorbing information. No, they’re God’s Spirit-Servants. They can rejoice in knowing that they’ve God’s servants, God upholds them, God takes delight in them, God puts His Spirit on them, God uses them to bring justice in this world. They’re His Spirit-Servants. God is using them to help our youth ministry grow, God is using them to encourage their friends and family to believe in Jesus, God is using them now in His mission.
And today we’ll install our newly elected leaders, install them as leaders in this congregation, and they, too, aren’t just spectators, they’re God’s Spirit-Servants. God has given them their gifts and abilities, God has given them His Holy Spirit, God has enabled them to serve Him and us in this congregation. The leaders we have in this congregation aren’t leading by their own strength; they’re leading through the power of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. They’re His Spirit-Servants.
And you, you’re not just spectators; you’re not just information absorbers. God means for you to be His Spirit-Servants. God is making it possible for you to serve Him with your lives. This Christian faith, it isn’t just about what Jesus did, past tense, way back in history. The Christian faith is also about what He’s done for you, what He’s done in you, what’s He going to do through you. You are His Spirit-Servants. You have been given the Spirit of God; you are being sent out to share His Word of hope with others.
Rejoice, then, that these words apply to you. Rejoice in your baptism, rejoice in your faith, rejoice in the way that God has transformed you, rejoice in what God has done in you. Rejoice and hear these words as applying to you:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.”
We’re His servants, God upholds us, God takes delight in us, God puts His Spirit on us, God uses us to bring justice in this world. We’re His Spirit-Servants.
You are His Spirit-Servants. Experience God. God’s making an impact on your lives. Realize the forgiveness, love, and mercy that God has for you. Realize what God has done for you. He is changing you, renewing you, transforming you, taking you to be His Spirit-Servants.
You will help this congregation to do its work—in small ways, in medium ways, in big ways, you will do the work of this congregation. You will help your friends know about Jesus—in small ways, in medium ways, in big ways, you will share God’s love with others. You will speak words about God, you will act according to God’s Word, you will shine with the Spirit of Christ living in you. You are His Spirit-Servants.
Let’s hear now from two Spirit-Servants who will share their experiences at the National Youth Gathering and how that has had an impact on their faith, and you’ll hear that it isn’t just facts about Jesus; it’s also about what Jesus has done to change them, to make them into His Spirit-Servants.