13 January 2019

Baptism of Our Lord

Another Sunday, another FEAST! This time, the Baptism of Our Lord, on a snowy, wintry day. The bells sounded off our joy with a prelude on "God's Own Child" by DeLancy. The processional hymn was "To Jordan's River Came Our Lord." Again, the Antiphon we heard a week ago on Epiphany trumpeted forth ("Behold, the Lord, the Ruler has come, and the kingdom and the power and the glory are in his hand.") Pastor chose the Old Testament option of reading from Joshua 3—and it flashed through my head what Kevin Armbrust pointed out: in most of the OT types of Baptism, the people don't get wet. Ha! True. But with the Jordan piled up and the people crossing on dry land, what could we say but the words of the Gradual: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be His glorious name forever!" The Epistle from 1 Corinthians 1 invited us to ponder the Lord's decided preference for the lowly in how He works, what looks foolish to shame the wise, what looks weak to shame the strong. The alleluias rang out as we stood on the banks of Jordan in sacred story and saw heaven opened, the Spirit descend, the Father declare: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." In the Creed we confessed, as always, "one Baptism for the remission of sins." The sermon hymn was Luther's incomparable "To Jordan Came the Christ, our Lord." Awesome text and awesome tune. It still cracks me up that he inserted the words of the Transfiguration INTO the words at the Baptism: "Him you must hear and Him alone." And then it really made me smile to realize that Starke did the exact same in our recessional: "Jesus, Once with Sinners Numbered." Pastor's homily was pure joy and comfort: Jesus coming to us in our uncleaness in the Baptism He received to give us His perfect righteousness in the Baptism He commands. A perfect righteousness that Baptism imparts not once upon a time, but every day, a wonderful cleansing for our persistently sinful flesh. During the offering, Buxtehude's Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn anticipated a hymn we would sing in Distribution. I opened my hymnal and sang along with the communion liturgy, because for some reason my mind does not want to remember the bass line on the Doxology for the Lord's Prayer. I've got 95% down, but there is one point that always trips me up. A quick glance revealed a cheat to get to another note in the chord that would be easier and my mind stopped thinking about notes and turned back to the joy of glorying in the doxology (so similar, of course, to the Antiphon of the Introit on this day). Working on article for Lutheran Witness on the communion of saints in the Eucharist, and so as I knelt down today to receive the Lord's holy Body and Blood, I kept thinking of the countless saints in so many diverse circumstances across all the centuries and in every inhabited place who also knelt and opened their mouths and were bodied and blooded to the Lord. We are all one. Surely one of the joys of life in the Kingdom will be the privilege of coming to know the entire family, of whom we know such a miniscule slice at present. A people put into Christ in Baptism and into whom Christ puts Himself in His Body and Blood at the Eucharist. Due to the snow, it was a slimer crowd than usual at early church. We ended up needing but two hymns at distribution. As we left the strains of Kantor playing Pachelbel's Christ, Unser Herr brought a smile to my face and thanksgiving to God that we are blessed to worship in a parish where Bach and Buxtehude and Pachelbel sound forth so regularly. Blessed Feast Day, people loved by God!

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