13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; 17 and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”
Sermon given on 12 January 2020 by The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
The Baptism of Christ by Piero della Francesca Date, 1450s
“This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”
This is the voice of the Lord.
Today we learn what it means to hear voices.
There once was a burglar who had been casing out this particular house in a well-to-do neighborhood. He wanted to rob it for a long time but his fellow burglars warned him that it was haunted. They too wanted to see what was inside but every time they came up to the back window or the door, they heard voices. The burglar would not be hindered by this so he went and broke in. There were fine antiques and beautiful artifacts all around. As he entered the kitchen, sure enough, he heard a voice that said, “Jesus is watching.” He shook it off and went further into the hallway. There, again, he heard, “Jesus is watching.” Now the hair on his neck stood up and he had this creepy feeling. Entering the living room it was much more audible, “Jesus is watching.” He saw at that moment where the voice came from…a paracete. “Jesus is watching, always watching.” The burglar laughed and said, “Bird, you had me scared. You certainly are not Jesus.” With that the bird said, “I’m not Jesus. Turn around. Jesus is watching,” and turning there he saw Jesus; a full grown, Rottweiller, the name Jesus on his tags, with teeth and saliva showing.
Jesus is our comforter, certainly not a Rottweiller, but there is his protective nature that we cannot dispute. I wonder how many of you have heard God’s voice? Was it a time when you were in harm’s way; a place you didn’t belong; a place where your health was in danger and even peril? It is not uncommon. We all have stories when God the Father, the protector spoke to us; or when the God the Spirit and comforter spoke to us; or even God the Son, the teacher and healer spoke to us. These are healthy occasions and reminders that God is always near us because we bring God good pleasure. He wants to be near us and the voice of God is there to protect, to comfort and to teach.
There was a point in time when every Christian heard the voice of God in their life. It was very early on and think about that occurrence. It was the moment that you were baptized. Yes, as the priest used the sacrament of baptism, applying water over the head, or by full immersion into the font, it was the three voices, invoking us to become servants of God. “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” you will be instructed to hear my voice, the voice of the Lord. If any person can remember that voice when baptized as an infant, then that is a miracle in itself. Most of us do not remember that moment because we were too young. It was a real moment however and baptism is the first sacrament offered for a good reason. It is the point in which we are being trained to listen to the voice of God.
The story of Jesus’ baptism in the Gospel according to St. Matthew illustrates the voice of God coming into the world to realign a people to God’s voice. The savior, the messiah of this world showed us through baptism how God is introduced into our lives. He was also coming for more than an individual. He came for a people, a royal nation, the followers of God from ancient days. To make this point clear, listen to the prophet Isaiah who told the people of Israel to regain the ability to listen to God’s voice. He quotes God and His message of the Messiah coming when he said, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.” Now turn to the Gospel of Matthew, “This is my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” “This is my servant…”, “This is my beloved.” The voice of God is declaring the same person from long ago, a time when memories have now faded in Jesus’ day.
The Hebrew and Aramaic transliteration of “Beloved” is “Servant,” meaning God the Son was sent in this world to be a servant. The servant hears the voice of God. When you tell someone you hear God talking to you, it may raise the hair on their neck. They may get creeped out. They may think the God of anger and wrath awaits with judgment and unforgiveness. Our role is to relate to the moments when God has spoken to us, when things may have been difficult and we felt alone. Maybe we felt victimized and things were stolen from us. These are opportunities to draw near to the heart of God, positioning ourselves to receive a word of promise, of assurance and comfort from our Lord and Savior. There are perhaps too many lost souls out there, being depraved and burglarized by the One who intends to prevent them from hearing God’s voice.
Maybe through baptism we learn a sacred action, one of more to come if we simply live into being a servant of the Lord. Maybe through the act of opening ourselves and giving from the waters of God’s mercy, something can wash over those around us. The more you listen to God’s voice, the more you know you are serving His purpose for us. When the day is done, the blessing awaits you and I, as we hear the voice of the Lord who speaks out to us, sometimes in those small and quiet places. Words, that wash over us when we hear, “This is my servant, in whom I am well pleased.”
 Matthew 3:13-17
 Isaiah 42:1