St. Augustine of Hippo


Episcopal Church

 


“Where Are We With Our Resolutions?”

(Matthew 3:13-17)

January 12, 2020


The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre


Are you of those who make resolutions for the year to come? I have heard all kinds of resolutions this past week. Some want to stop smoking; others want to start exercising. I’d like to eat healthily and lose weight. You may ask, “What weight do you have to lose?” I weigh 176. The doctor wants me at 165.

Jesus came to John to be baptized. John, based on what he believed was the normal hierarchy, didn’t want to baptize Jesus. He thought, because Jesus was the Messiah, he should be the one to baptize him. Jesus convinced John to abide by God’s plan.

Did Jesus need to be baptized? What resolutions have been made at our baptism that are worth remembering? Why is it so difficult to keep our resolutions?

Jesus did not need to be baptized per se. He was sinless and had to repent for nothing. But everything we do can be used by God to reveal Godself in us. God used Jesus’ baptism to reveal Jesus’ identity. And that’s what Jesus meant when he told John: “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” In every gesture, we must inquire of the outcome so that we don’t just drop a bomb without any idea of the consequences. If our goal is to seek for peace, our gesture must not start a war.

Our baptism is both a moment of repentance and a moment God can use to reveal Godself in us. It is a moment of covenant; a mutual commitment between God and us, initiated by God. At the time of our baptism, many resolutions were taken on our behalf or by us. If we were children when we were baptized, godmothers and godfathers took the commitments to raise us in the Christian faith and life. If we were adults at the time of baptism, these commitments were taken by us. In both cases, at confirmation, we pledged to renounce Satan and evil oppressive forces, we renounced sinful desires, we expressed our decision to turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as our savior, while putting our trust in his grace and love.

Those resolutions – far from being to eat well, stop smoking or start exercising – are deep in social and spiritual meanings. They define the way Christians must live. But we don’t keep them. We treat them in the same way; in the second week of the year, we have the tendency to forget our new year’s resolutions. We have not lived up to God’s expectations. Instead, we think of baptism as a unilateral decision of God to be with us, without any commitment on our part to respect God’s plan for us.

Maybe we should look at Jesus’ baptism as a commitment to sacrificial love. Jesus did not see his divinity as something to exploit and present himself as the ruler (the autocratic king) for whom the world was craving. He instead accepted someone who was lesser than he to perform a sacrament on him that Jesus did not even need. He submitted himself to God’s will and humbled himself to become human so that through him salvation could enter the world.

Jesus had the power of God in him. Not once did he use that power to show off his might. He preferred to show his humility, to be perceived as weak and insignificant. He preferred to show his powerlessness. Although he had the power to call the army of heaven to come and rescue him, Jesus decided to accept humiliation and to dwell among those in the margins, the forsaken. He rejected arrogance to extend acceptance. He became human instead of remaining God.

This, my friends, is the perfect model we need to follow. Although baptism restored our legitimacy as children of God, this newly acquired status must not give us superiority over anyone. We do not become preferred by God by baptism. Instead, baptism must open our hearts to sharing the salvation received in Jesus Christ. The mark of the cross did set us apart but did not single us out. It made us part of a movement of sharing words of hope, fighting against oppressive systems, with no other weaponry than divine love. In the Jesus Movement, we are not called to conquer by military power. We are called to bring people to God by extending to them the same love by which we are redeemed.

Let us go into the world keeping this resolution to love one another in the same way Jesus loved us. Let us go to proclaim the year of the lord’s favor: We were anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to announce freedom to the captives, and joy to the afflicted. Our position of privilege whatever it is, must not be used to “other” people. Human dignity must be the common denominator of how we treat one another. If we were to love one another, we wouldn’t want to change others because we are of different opinions. We wouldn’t force all to adhere to our views because we are afraid of diversity and divergence. We would remember to be the change we want to see. 

Let us be the message proclaimed by Isaiah:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”