Some time ago an academic religious writer wrote an article on the Trinity.

He was surprised to get a phone call from a preacher accusing him of heresy.

The writer quietly asked his accuser what he meant.

Well, he was told, you have got it all wrong about the Trinity.

“Is that right?” commented the writer.

“Doesn’t the church teach that the Trinity is a mystery of faith?”

“Yes it does” was the reply.

“Well then, how can I have got it wrong?”
One of the funniest sermons I listen to is exactly that.

Being told that the Trinity is a mystery and then listening to a well-meaning preacher doing his best to explain the inexplicable.

In the Protestant Church we recognise two sacraments, Holy Communion and Baptism.

Both are mysteries of faith.

Today we heard the passage in Matthew about the time when Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan.

I like the ceremony of a baptism, whether it is a baby or a person ‘of riper years’ as the church quaintly puts it.

I am not a lover of full immersion baptism simply because I don’t like water.
If I was a minister who had to do one of those baptisms I’m afraid I would have to say,

“You get on with it, I’m out.”

When we hear this story about the baptism of Jesus

we are sometimes distracted by the opening of the heavens, the descent of the dove and a voice saying,

“That’s my boy, and he’s doing great,”

and we miss the baptism bit.

This was Jesus’ coming out party.

That would have been important for the people round him.

It would have been clear that by going down to the river Jordan to be baptized by John would have stirred up the political and religious waters.

John the Baptist was a revolutionary who made no bones about the fact that the religious authorities and the political rulers were leading the people down the wrong path.

John’s shouting in the wilderness was his way of warning the people to repent;

to literally turn around and follow a different path.

John was doing far more than ranting when he condemned the religious authorities as a brood of vipers;

He was calling on the people to reject the teachings of the authorities.

John’s insistence on repentance was a call to revolution.

A revolution designed to overthrow the status quo.

John was out there in the wilderness because it wasn’t safe for him to spout his own particular brand of fire and brimstone preaching within earshot of the authorities.

By going down to the River Jordon and submitting to John’s baptism of repentance Jesus was identifying with a political revolutionary.

It was as if it was the passing of the torch from one revolutionary to the next.

There was one, I think, massive difference between John and Jesus.

There is no record of Jesus calling people to repent nor is there any record of Jesus ever having baptised anyone with water.

Remember John’s words.

The one who is coming will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.

The point I’d like to emphasize about Jesus’ trip down to the River Jordan, is that by choosing to publicly to submit to John’s baptism, Jesus was making an important statement about his own public ministry.

For, just like John, Jesus intended to challenge the religious and political authorities but he took an entirely different route from John.

For centuries the church has taught that baptism is a sacrament because it meets the two criteria set by the church for sacraments.

One it was commanded by Jesus and two it uses ordinary stuff to make God’s grace visible and tangible.

The Anglican Church, does not believe that God’s grace can be earned but comes as a free gift.

Therefore we don’t need to wait until children are old enough to understand what baptism means before they are baptised.

Grace is a free gift available to all.

Living in the 21st century, we know that humanity has evolved over time.

We also know that we are not perfect beings.

As we continue to evolve we have the capacity to become better.

We also have the capacity to create havoc.

We are capable of doing evil, creating harm, and bringing on great destruction.

The human condition is a work in progress.

Jesus did not die upon the cross to satisfy an angry God. He died on the cross because, in showing God’s love to the people, he upset the authorities who considered he was breaking the Law of Moses.

Jesus lived for the things he believed in.

He lived for love and loved so greatly that he died for that love.

Over and over and over again, the New Testament stories about Jesus tell us that we need not be afraid of God.

He demonstrated that God is love.

Baptism is a mystery of faith.

Each of you will have your own beliefs about baptism and I encourage you to share those beliefs with one another.

That way each of our faith journeys will be enriched.

I know of a priest who complains that most of the people who bring their babies to be baptised never continue with coming to church.

I don’t believe that any of the parents who come asking that we baptise their children do so because they want us

to ritually drown their babies so that they can be born again into the Body of Christ.

Parents bring their babies to us for all kinds of reasons; chief among them is to celebrate.

But why come to the church for such a celebration?

Why not just have a party at home, and wet the baby’s head with a glass of wine?

I believe that most of the parents who bring their children for baptism do so because they are looking for a way of connecting to something larger than themselves.

This is where I believe the church has something to offer.

The parents want to be connected to this story of ours.

They want to be connected to the best of Christianity.

Baptism is a time in which the full potential of love can be seen.

All that hope.

All that potential.

That, I think, is the story behind Jesus’ Baptism.

Jesus is coming out as the bringer of hope through the gospel of love.

The dove that came to Jesus is a symbol of both.

Jesus’ baptism set the scene for what was to come.

Jesus’ message called us to follow Him and his example which is epitomised in the Church Family Prayer.