Baptism of our Lord C 2022 Heaven was Opened
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have you ever been locked out of your house or your car? How did it feel when the key was located and the door was finally opened? Once, when I was young, I came home from school without my house key, and I found myself locked out. I remember I had to wait a couple of hours until my mother came home before the door could be unlocked. I also remember that being locked out was no fun.
In our Gospel reading today, we witness Jesus being Baptized. Now I must admit that in Luke’s Gospel, the actual Baptism is not a big deal. There is no mention of the River Jordan, or Jesus coming up out of the water. Luke simply states: “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized, too. And as He was praying, Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.” Luke 3:21-23
That’s it.If you want to hear more, you will need to read the Baptism of Jesus from one of the other Gospel texts.
But what does strike me about Luke’s account is that when Jesus was baptized, “Heaven was opened.” At the baptism of Jesus, the Gospel of Luke informs us that the door to heaven was opened. To be more precise, at the baptism event, God the Father opened heaven’s door for His Son with whom He was well pleased.
And it is through His Son that heaven’s door has been opened for us as well. But what does it mean that heaven’s door has been opened for us?
In scripture, heaven is described as God’s dwelling place. Heaven is His home and sanctuary. Scripture also tells us that God is Holy. God is separate and distinct from creation and stands above creation in heaven.
Holiness means that God is free from any kind of blemish; that God is perfect and pure in every way. And that is why heaven is locked off to anyone who is less than perfect.
The door is locked for anyone who is blemished or dirty or stained. The door is closed for all sinners. It is only open for those who are clean and pure, like God Himself.
It is a like the family dog who is out playing in the field who comes back wet and dirty and muddy and finds the back door shut tight so fido does not run through the house and leave a trail of mud and dirt.
The door is closed tight until the dog is hosed down and towel dried and cleaned up before being allowed to enter.
The image of being hosed down and towel dried and cleaned up helps us understand our Gospel reading for today. The door to heaven is open to those who are clean. When we are clean we too hear, “You are my Son, my daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
One way to describe sin is to say that we are blemished, and dirty. It is like we are covered in mud and the door is closed so we do not leave a trail of dirt behind us. Scripture tells us that even from conception, before we were born and before we ever did anything wrong, we were sinful.
Yet in our baptism, God washed us clean. We were hosed down. David says it like this “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51:1-2
Like taking a daily bath, this cleansing of all our sin is something that needs to be done daily. Every day God invites us to return to our baptism so we can be made clean again.
In the Small catechism Martin Luther says this when asked what Baptism means for daily living: “It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.”
And how is this possible, you might ask? John the Baptist informs us that the baptism of Jesus is greater than just being washed clean with water. “I baptize you with water. But One who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
In baptism we are washed clean by the Holy Spirit, a holy wind that purifies you and makes you holy. At a zoom lectionary text study group I attended a few weeks ago, one participant put it this way. He said “A few years ago I visited a farm in North Dakota and the farmer showed me his crop. As he was showing me around, the farmer picked a head of wheat, rubbed it in his hands, and gently blew. The chaff – the husks – blew away and only the wheat kernels were left in his hand.
The participant then reminded us that this is the picture God uses to teach us about baptism with the Holy Spirit. God purifies His church, He purifies you. He blows away the chaff, the useless parts, and then holds the kernel gently in His hand.
Our text today also talks about refining fire. Just as precious metals such as gold and silver need to be placed in a fire to remove all impurities, John the Baptist informs us that we too need to be purified.
And this is not an easy process. It is not a very glorious event to be heated up, melted, and the undesirable stuff removed from our lives. Perhaps you have experienced this refining process through fire in your life?
But this process is necessary. And the process is still occurring every day in our lives. We are washed clean when we ask for forgiveness. We are purified when the Holy Spirit blows through our lives and blows away the chaff. And we are refined as we walk through the various fires and trials of our daily lives.
And as you are cleansed, purified, and refined, Heaven’s door is opened for you, and we are welcomed to enter the kingdom that God has prepared for each one of us.
Let us pray: Holy God, you sent your Son to be baptized among sinners, to seek and save the lost. May we, who have been baptized in His name, never turn away from the world, but reach out in love to rescue the wayward; by the mercy of Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.