Are you looking for someone to save you? Are you tempted to play the savior for someone else? No need. Jesus has you both covered.
Baptism of Our Lord (Year C) – January 10, 2016 – Isaiah 43:1-7, Luke 3:15-17,21-22
St. Jacob’s-Spaders Lutheran Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia
You Don’t Need to Be Saved – Pastor Evan Davis
Are you looking for a Savior?1 Maybe you think, well, yeah, I’m in church. I’m here for my Savior. And of course we’re here for our Savior, Jesus, and it’s his Baptism that we remember today. But I’ll ask again – are you looking for a Savior? Are you looking for someone to save you? Now I know you’re not looking for someone to save you as in guaranteeing you a spot in heaven after you die. But are you looking for someone to save you…right here and now?
Have you ever thought, you know, if I could just have that one person in my life, then I’d be ok. Many people are waiting for a man or a woman to come into their life to complete them and make everything better. Married couples who have challenges they need to work through together believe having a child will save them, and save their marriage. It’s easy to believe, whether you’re a high schooler in the cafeteria or a thirty-something at work, that if only this group of peers will accept me, and let me into their inner circle, then I’ll mean something. Then I will have made it in the world. And it’s very tempting for all of us to believe that if only we can make people like us, or if only we would have their approval, then we’ll be worth something. Then we’ll be worthy of love. Are you waiting for someone to come save you? To justify your life with their approval, their attention, their affection? What will happen if you can’t make them love you?
The crowd that day was looking for a savior, looking for a messiah. They thought it might be John. In a crazy way, he kind of looked the part. He spoke the truth, the word of God like the mighty prophets of old. He was getting crowds to flock to him out in the wilderness by the Jordan River. He was turning the hearts of many to God and leading the people into repentance. He had quite a following.
Now if you were John, wouldn’t it be tempting to give the people what they want? He could have donned the savior hat very easily. He could have fanned the flames of his own popularity. I wouldn’t have been surprised if part of him was willing to believe what they said was true. But, I have to believe, the Holy Spirit had given him a real sense that it wasn’t him. That the salvation of these people was not on his shoulders, that there would be another. That their lives did not depend on him. He had the courage to tell them – “I baptize you with water; but one more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John the Evangelist records him saying in his gospel, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
And on the flip side…how often do we catch ourselves believing that someone else’s salvation depends on us? I don’t mean their status with God, but their wellbeing? Have you ever felt that someone just won’t make it or won’t be ok without you? Now, of course, children need their parents and, if we live long enough, we’ll all end up needing care from someone – I’m not talking about this – I mean the times when we might be tempted to think we are necessary for someone else to be whole. Or when we think there’s no way a group or organization or congregation can possibly get along without us.
We may be looking all around us for a messiah. Sometimes we may be tempted to play the savior role for another or for a group, but there’s just one savior. It wasn’t John. No, as Jesus was by the river bank, or maybe still basking in the feel of the water washing over him, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove and the voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Think how rare this is in Scripture: that the heavens are opened and the people enjoy a direct experience of God – it happens in the Garden of Eden, with Moses at the burning bush and later atop Mt. Sinai, with Elijah in the sound of sheer silence from which the voice came. And now, the voice comes to tell Jesus and the world that he is the Beloved Son of the Father, the face of God’s mercy, here for you and me.
Here’s the only Savior you or anyone else will ever need. You don’t need to be saved, because this Christ already has.
Baptism means that you approach the Holy Father in heaven not on your own, but through Jesus. No, even better, the eternal, almighty, hidden God comes to you, comes out of hiding, comes to you in Jesus of Nazareth, embraces you, washes you in this water, and declares to you “you are my daughter, my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” That’s what Baptism means. You have Jesus – your search for a savior can come to an end.2
You don’t need anyone or anything to declare that you are worthy. You don’t need anyone else to validate who you are. You don’t have to justify your existence by someone else’s approval. Because through this Christ, in your Baptism, all the love you can ever have, and all the salvation you’ll ever need, is yours.
So don’t worry what anybody says – be who God created and formed you to be. God don’t make no junk! Be who you are, do what you can do, in the place God has called you to be. We spend an awful lot of time worrying about ourselves, and we can’t turn off that worry entirely. But because you have a savior, you’re free to instead think about how God has equipped you to be there for someone else, to contribute something important for the good of your neighbor, whether that’s simply a smile, or taking a moment listen, or the thing God has put you on this earth to do. Don’t try to be somebody else, don’t live your life trying to make someone else happy, go be who God made you to be.
One of my favorite spiritual poems reminds me that
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.3
1David Lose, “Baptism of Our Lord C: Expecting the Messiah,” http://www.davidlose.net/2016/01/baptism-of-our-lord-c-expecting-the-messiah/ (accessed January 9, 2015). Lose gives me the main idea for this sermon – our search for messiahs other than Jesus.
3Bishop Ken Untener, “A Future Not Our Own,” posted by Daniel B. Clendenin on Journey with Jesus, http://www.journeywithjesus.net/PoemsAndPrayers/Ken_Untener_A_Future_Not_Our_Own.shtml (accessed June 13, 2015).