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In-person Sunday morning services are temporarily postponed. We hope for a return in February.

The Baptism of Our Lord: Sunday, January 9, 2022

A sermon from seminarian Tianna Gocan

Do you remember when you were a kid, and someone told you a secret on the playground? Then, after they told you, they’d hold out their hand like this and make you pinky-promise that you’d keep it?
I still make pinky promises to this day.

There’s something about that tangible, visible gesture of someone’s word that I find comforting and that gives me reassurance that I can put my trust in that person.

However, the older I get, the more I struggle with trusting others based solely on their word. Perhaps it’s the amount of times that I’ve been let down, or maybe I’m just cynical, but I can’t think of a worse feeling than that bitter disappointment that fills my gut when a promise is broken.

It’s not so bad if it’s the promise of someone you don’t know well, or someone you know won’t follow through on their word anyways, but when you’ve fully put your trust in someone and their word, it hurts so badly when they go back on it.

I experienced a lot of this type of disappointment in the past year. I’ve learned that I can’t always count on people to follow through on the promises they make, regardless of how much I may love them, or how good their intentions might be, and it’s a lesson that’s made me take the time to reflect on who, and whose promises I can always count on.
That person is God.

During these tough times, I’m reminded that we can always count on God’s word, because His promises to us are unbreakable.

I don’t mean the things we think God promises to us: money, power, or good health. These temporal, fleeting things can change in an instant, and don’t hold much meaning to our God who is, frankly, beyond space and time and has no need for our earthly societal constructs.

Examples of God’s actual promises can be found in Scripture.

He promises Isaac that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in heaven (Genesis 26:24). He promises Moses that He will free the Israelites from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver them from slavery (Exodus 6:6). He promises King David that He will make his name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth (2 Samuel 7:9). He promises Mary that she will conceive and bear a son, and name Him Jesus (Luke 1:31).

And we know that all of these promises were fulfilled.

But, God doesn’t just make promises to the great patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith from both the Old and the New Testament. He makes promises to all of us.

These promises start at our baptism, the first sacrament that many of us, as Christians, partake in. When we’re baptized, we are called by name and claimed by God as one of His children, and as heirs to eternal life. When we are made heirs to the kingdom, we are also made heirs to the promises of God.

We’re reminded of several of these promises from the reading from Isaiah:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you”
“I have called you by name”
“The flame shall not consume you”
“You are precious in my sight”
“You are mine”

We see some these promises come true again in today’s Gospel reading. When the Holy Spirit descends onto Christ and a booming voice over the waters says “You are my Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). In this moment, God is publicly naming and claiming Jesus as His own.

Through baptism, God sends down the Holy Spirit upon us, just like He did with Jesus, blessing us and marking us as His. It is through this sacrament that we, too, are claimed by God, our Father, and from that moment on, it is to Him that we belong.
After our baptism, we no longer belong to this world. Instead, we belong to a God who promises that we will be never be alone (Psalm 139:14), and the best part is, He means it.

I understand that it’s hard to be reminded that God is with us when we’re going through such a stressful, confusing time and when our governments, the earthly institutions that we’re supposed to trust with our well-being, are unable to commit their word.

Becoming a Christian does not mean that we will be given a life without hardship, and we know that God doesn’t promise us that. Right now, we’re lost and we’re confused and it feels like everything around us is on fire. But, God wants to be with us in the mess and the confusion, that’s why He sent His Son to experience humanity, and why He sends the Holy Spirit down upon us through our baptism, so that when we do go through hardship, which we all inevitably will, we won’t be consumed by it, we won’t have to walk through it alone.

This is not new to God. He has seen His children through pandemics before, and He will see us through this one too. Even though it may feel as though we’re walking through a world on fire, remember that God promises that the flames surrounding us will not consume us.

The ancient matriarchs and patriarchs walked through the flames, Jesus walked through the flames, and the Holy Spirit walks through the flames with each of us every single day. After all, God promises that “In life, in death, in life beyond death, that He is with us, and that we are not alone” (A New Creed, 1968; rev. 1980, 1995), and we don’t need a pinky promise to know that God will follow through on His word, because He has proven Himself time and time again, and because we know, through Scripture, that God does not break the promises that He makes to His children.

So, I ask that we keep this in mind at a time when we’re tired of listening to the promises of politicians that we know will be broken. After all, these are earthly powers will soon fade away along with the rest of our worldly concerns. But in the meantime, bring your fears and concerns to God, and find comfort in the fact that, through our baptism, we are not alone.

Amen.

© 2022 Tianna Gocan