Old Testament: Daniel (7:1-3, 15-18)
In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: “As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever.”
The Response: Psalm 149
Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; *
let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise his Name in the dance; *
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people *
and adorns the poor with victory.
5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph; *
let them be joyful on their beds.
6 Let the praises of God be in their throat *
and a two-edged sword in their hand;
7 To wreak vengeance on the nations *
and punishment on the peoples;
8 To bind their kings in chains *
and their nobles with links of iron;
9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed; *
this is glory for all his faithful people.
The New Testament: Ephesians (1:11-23)
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
The Gospel: Luke (6:20-31)
[Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
by the Rev. Mike Kreutzer
It’s all about the kingdom of God, the reign of God, the dominion of God on earth.
The story told in the scriptures begins with God bringing all things into being; but the world that God creates is far from perfect. So God fashions a community of creatures, made in God’s image and likeness, a family of creatures to be co-creators with God of a world transformed, a world brought to the perfection that is God’s intention for it: the kingdom or dominion of God.
Over and over again in the biblical account, God’s calls people to serve that purpose and to dedicate themselves to that work. They are not the only ones whom God loves or to whom God desires to give the fullness of life. But they are intended to be a people who have been chosen by God to take the lead in transforming the world and in bringing the fullness of God’s blessings to everyone. As the book of Isaiah puts it (49:6): “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” They are to be a minority in service to the majority.
Repeatedly, the prophets of Israel called the people back to their responsibility of carrying out that vitally important mission. And in his life and ministry, the prophet Jesus likewise focused on the coming of the kingdom, the dominion of God. He, too, called his followers to join together in being that “light to the nations,” to be that minority in service to the majority, to dedicate themselves to transforming the world for the sake of all people.
It’s all about the kingdom of God, the reign of God, the dominion of God on earth. And that “all” includes the sacrament of baptism, which we are celebrating here today.
Baptism is sometimes described as the way that people, including infants, become “children of God.” That is not exactly true. Ben and every other child born into this world are already and always dearly loved children of God.
Some people choose to quote individual verses of scripture out of context in order to assert that only they, and those who happen to think and believe the same way that they do, receive the fullness of God’s life and love in this world and will receive it forever in the world to come. But the overarching message of the scriptures, taken as a whole, is one of God’s parental care for all people and of God’s desire to share the fullness of God’s life and love with all people. Those of us who have been baptized are not at all alone in that.
So, if baptism doesn’t place us in some sort of privileged position in respect to receiving God’s blessings, what does it do? Our baptismal promises make that clear. Baptism incorporates us into, it makes us members of, the Body of Christ, the Church. In doing so, baptism does not grant us some special privilege but entrusts us with a special and sacred responsibility. It commits us to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ”; to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbors as [ourselves]”; to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” It affirms our commitment to live our lives as part of that minority in service to the majority. In short, it commits us to being a vital, active part of that community that is to serve as a light to the nations, that God’s salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
Today’s gospel reading, which includes Luke’s version of the beatitudes, proclaims God’s intent to relieve the burdens of and lift up the poor, the hungry, and the suffering of the world. But God is not going to do that alone. God is not magically going to make everything the way God intends it to be. That is our job. We are the ones who are commissioned by God to proclaim Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God, of the world as God intends it to be. And we are the ones commissioned by God to help make that vision a reality by dedicating ourselves to relieving the burdens of and lifting up the poor, the hungry, and the suffering of the world.
By bringing Ben here to be baptized, Jen and Logan are promising to God and to the church that they will bring Ben up in such a way that he will be filled with and will embrace God’s vision for a creation renewed, for God’s ultimate intent for all that is, and that he will live his life helping to make that vision a reality for those whose lives he touches, and ultimately for all people. And by witnessing and joining together with them in renewing our own baptismal promises, we recommit ourselves to that same sacred vision and to that same sacred work.
It’s all about the kingdom of God, the reign of God, the dominion of God on earth. And we, who have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, have the great honor of joining with one another and with the God who deeply and passionately loves all people as co-creators with God of that world transformed.