Homily: January 10, 2016

January 10, 2016, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar During his graduate studies,

Dr. Carl Jung, renowned psychologist,

was rummaging around through collections of Latin proverbs,

and came across this phrase:


“Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit.”


Jung had this quotation carved in stone

over the door of his home in Zurich Switzerland.

It is said that these were his last words.

They are also engraved on his tombstone.


We might translate this phrase into English as

Bidden or unbidden, God is present”

Or more roughly

“God is here, whether you like it or not.”


This phrase also characterizes

the scene of Jesus’ baptism in our gospel lesson this morning.


A crowd has gathered to see John in the wilderness,

baptizing sinners in the River Jordan.


Jesus joins the crowd, wading into the muddy shallows.

He gets baptized,

like everyone else.

Then suddenly,

GOD bursts on the scene from above….



The dove swoops down,

The voice of the Heavenly Father booms out

“This is my beloved son; He pleases me. Listen to him.”


This is a disruption,

an interruption,

a divine physical presence,

not expected at all by the people,

nor by Jesus’s cousin John who was doing the baptizing,

…. Perhaps unexpected even by Jesus himself.


How many times have you and I been genuinely surprised

By God’s unexpected presence in our lives?


We come to church,

We go home.

We eat our meals,

Do our work,

Play our games….

Day after day after day.


It’s about time God shook us up,

Stirred the pot,

Upped the ante,

Made us at least a little bit uncomfortable.


That is what being a baptized Child of God means…

being open to the new,

the unexpected,

the challenging.


God calls us to adventures,



In a word ….. growth.


Our baptism challenges us to believe that this world

And we are ourselves are worth saving.


Baptism pushes us to get busy with the work of redeeming,

Healing, saving this physical world

Which God created

And loves so very much.


But that’s about the last thing we think of

When we hear the word baptism.


I was raised in a religious environment,

a home where it was assumed everybody would be baptized.


We viewed baptism like a movie admission ticket

or perhaps even a fire insurance policy

To make sure you’d get past the pearly gates and into God’s presence when you die.


But if there is just one thing Jesus’s own baptism teaches us

It’s that this weird thing called baptism

Is what let’s the cat out of the bag….


It’s the inauguration of a journey

For which no one can see the ending,

And sometimes not even the very next step.


We’ve lost that sense of adventure because we have domesticated baptism

To mean entry into an organization,

The church…

Rather than a rich and glorious invitation to a new and larger world.


Some theologians think Jesus’s baptism

was the very moment at which God entered him,

or at the very least,

When Christ became conscious of God’s presence moving within Him.


When the baptismal water pours out on US,

As it did on Christ,

We too are touched.

We are changed,

and in some sense baptism brings us divine life and light and presence.


This baptismal water is the extension of God into our own lives…

When we see and feel and touch as well as hear,

For our own selves


“You are my beloved Son,

My precious daughter,

My favored child.

I am happy with you.”


That voice comes to us,

The presence enfolds and surrounds us

almost physically

at times when we least expect it

But whenever need it most.


Remembering our baptism is not just an intellectual experience.

It is physical as well as spiritual.


For if God is going to be somewhere

That where has to be HERE.


If God is going to be truly present in our lives,

God is present not as an abstraction or a thought process,

Or even an ethical system.


God is present in with and under the physical aspects of our lives.


Like this water-

Something tangible, real, this worldly.


For far too long we’ve let God remain an abstraction

rather than become a reality,

We’ve seen God as an idea to be thought about

instead of an experience to enjoy.


Jesus’s baptism calls us again today

To recognize God’s presence among us,

Bidden or unbidden,

In every single nook and cranny of our lives.


St Augustine put it this way:


What is it that I love in loving God?


Not physical beauty, nor the splendor of time,

nor the radiance of the light

-- so pleasant to our eyes –

nor the sweet melodies of the various kinds of songs,

nor the fragrant smell of flowers and ointments and spices;

not manna and honey,

not the limbs embraced in physical love –


it is not these I love when I love my God.


Yet it is true that I love a certain kind of light

and sound and fragrance

and food and embrace

in loving my God,

who is the light and sound

and fragrance and food

and embracement of my inner being –

where that light shines into my soul

which no place can contain,

where time does not snatch away the lovely sound,

where no breeze disperses the sweet fragrance,

where no eating diminishes the food there provided,

and where there is an embrace that no satisfaction can cause to end.


This is what I love when I love my God.


Beloved son,

Precious daughter,

Where do you

hear, taste, smell, feel the surprising presence of God

Who loves you so very much today?











SermonRev. Phil Boelter