1 Epiphany (Baptism of our Lord) 
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 1:9-11 Sermon
January 8, 2017

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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
128 "Brightest & Best Of The Sons Of The Morning"
127 "As With Gladness Men Of Old"
298 "Baptized Into Thy Name Most Holy"
134 "Songs Of Thankfulness & Praise"
136 "Angels From The Realms Of Glory" 


TEXT (vs. 9-11):  “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

            The dysfunctional family.  Most likely you’ve heard this term somewhere along the line, especially if you’ve browsed some of the magazines while you’ve waited at the supermarket check-out.  People like Oprah Winfrey, and Jerry Springer, and Maury Povich, and Dr. Phil McGraw have been able to capitalize quite nicely on this concept.

            “Dysfunctional Family” is a term used by what is called “Pop Psychology;” that is, concepts and theories about human life and behavior that originate outside of the technical study of psychology.

            When I was a student at Mankato State University in Minnesota, this was a topic of conversation in one of our modern psychology classes.  I remember how our professor handled this. 

            He indicated that in order to understand what a dysfunctional family was, that you first had to define the functional family.  The “functional prototype” was a Caucasian, church-going Christian, single income middle class family, buying a home and living in a suburban neighborhood, with 2.5 children, driving a Vista Cruiser station wagon (those were the days before mini vans), a cocker spaniel and a tabby cat, with everybody doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing.  The worst problems they had to deal with was brother not getting a science project done on time, or what sister was going to wear on her first date with that cute boy from English class. 

            A dysfunctional family would then be a family that deviated from this norm.  This could range from mom having to get a job outside of the home to dad being an alcoholic.  Dysfunction can come in a lot of different forms, which include drug addiction, many different types of abuse, divorce, adultery, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, alcoholism, criminal activity, and the list goes on and on.

            We first have to realize that the typical “Vista Cruiser family” is a complete work of fiction.  As far as I know, apart from television in the 1960’s, this type of family has never existed.  Even the old Andy Griffith Show of the 1960’s depicted a dysfunctional family unit, at least according to the accepted profile.  The show starred a father who was a widower and a maiden aunt who together were raising a young boy.  Even though things worked out well in this TV show, yet a home like this certainly deviated from the “Vista Cruiser Family” norm.

            About 10 years ago or so, a cousin on my dad’s side of the family told my Uncle Ralph that he wanted nothing to do with the Schroeder family, since we were all dysfunctional.  I know that this shocked and hurt my Uncle Ralph very deeply.  And I thought my cousin's assessment was the epitome of hypocrisy, almost to the point of being hysterical for a number of reasons. 

            First of all, I remember that he was often the most dysfunctional member of his parents’ household because of his temper tantrums.  His parents would say that he was “having a tizzy.”  The last “tizzy” of his that I witnessed happened when he was in his 50’s at a family reunion, where he, seemingly without any compunction at all, offended numerous members of our extended family; something that in my estimation he certainly should have outgrown by adolescence. 

            Second, his own son was such a problem that he had to send him away to a “concentration camp.” This is one of those hard-line camps for problem children they’ve shown from time to time on TV, and shouldn't be confused with those torture camps connected with World War 2.  These camps exist to straighten out these incredibly difficult and dysfunctional children.   

            And finally, it seems as if he’s forgotten that half of the blood coursing through his veins is Schroeder blood.  Now what kind of a statement does that make about his own mother?  I know that if my sainted Grandmother were still alive, she would have probably boxed his ears and given him the tongue-lashing of his life for acting that way.  And as far as being dysfunctional is concerned, I think he has pretty much taken that “Vista Cruiser Family” image and dashed it into pieces so small that even the chards would be unrecognizable.

            To his credit however, I certainly recognize that I am part of a dysfunctional family.  Even though my cousin’s boorish and sanctimonious comments exhibit an almost unbelievable amount of arrogance and disrespect, yet I admit the households and people that make up our family aren’t perfect, my one cousin included.  There have been various problems and difficulties over the years, which have deviated from the so-called “normal” prototype.  But we’ve survived it all; and through everything, we’ve been blessed. 

            The Apostle Peter gives the best advice I can think of.  In 1 Peter chapter 4, verse 8 he writes:  “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”   Furthermore, Paul writes in 1 Timothy chapter 5, verse 8 where we read:  “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  All things considered, I think we’ve weathered the various storms in our lives and gotten along pretty well over the years.

            As we get into our text for today, we witness a very dramatic event in the life of Jesus our Saviour.  The event we have before us is his Baptism by John in the Jordan River.  John baptizes Jesus; and immediately afterward, the heavens open up and God himself makes the announcement:  “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” (vs. 11)

            What we have here is the climax of a series of events that we have been studying over the past several weeks.  God the Son not only comes to this earth, but actually becomes part of the human race.  Let’s briefly take a look at these events:

            The Angel Gabriel comes to a young virgin by the name of Mary, who has found favor with God.  She is told that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and make her pregnant.  She will have a son, and she is to name him Jesus because he will save the people from their sins.  So she becomes pregnant while she is still a virgin (an easily verifiable fact, by the way).  She carries him to term, and gives birth to him in a stable.  The angels announce his birth to shepherds.  He is named and circumcised.  He is presented at the temple at the appropriate time.  Three magi from Babylon see his natal star, and come to pay homage to him.  Herod is afraid of him, so he orders all babies to be slaughtered; Mary, Joseph, and Jesus flee to Egypt to avoid this.  Then we see Jesus being brought up in the faith, an example of which is the account of the boy Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple at age 12.

            And now, as Jesus begins his ministry on earth, we witness one of the most fantastic events ever at Jesus’ Baptism.  Here we see all three persons of the Trinity all together at once.  God the Son being baptized; God the Father speaking from heaven, and God the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove.  God has now completely joined together with the human race in every aspect.  God is now part of this human dysfunctional family.

            If we look at the Bible, we can see some classic examples of dysfunctional families; and these are examples of dysfunction based upon what God says.

            A man gets jealous and murders his brother in anger; that’s the story of Cain and Abel.  A man in his advancing years hasn’t had any offspring, so he sleeps with one of his wife’s servants and makes her pregnant; that’s the story of Abraham and Sarah’s servant, Hagar.  A man cheats his brother out of his birthright; that’s the story of Jacob and Esau.  A man gets roaring drunk, runs around naked, and then passes out in front of his sons; that’s the story of Noah and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  A man commits adultery, and then commits murder to cover up for it; that’s the story of David and Bathsheba.  There are lots more examples of dysfunctional people and families in the Bible, but I think you get the drift.

            This should all point us to one thing, which is how dysfunctional the entire human race is.  Every family is dysfunctional to one degree or another.  Yes, that's every family, and every family member!  Even the families of the great Biblical figures weren’t without dysfunctional episodes.

            We are infected by sin, and sin is the cause of dysfunction.  When sin entered the world, so did dysfunction.  When people do things their own way instead of God’s way, then things don’t function as God intended.  When people choose to separate themselves from God and “go it on their own” so-to-speak, they only invite misery and heartache for themselves. 

            We’re guilty here as well, all of us.  Sin has infected us too; and with that sin comes dysfunction.  How often have our actions created problems?  It is often so easy to see how the sinful actions of others have affected us and our families; but are we willing to point the finger at ourselves when it’s our fault?

            God saw the sinful state of humanity, and chose to do something about it.  Instead of wanting nothing to do with the dysfunctional family called the human race, he reached out in love.  He hasn’t ignored us or written us off, rather he has shown that he wants everything to do with us.  This is what he has clearly demonstrated to us as we recount the various events of his life during this season.

            Jesus, who is true God from eternity, came to this earth as true man by actually taking on human flesh and being one of us.  He loved our dysfunctional human family so much, that he did the only thing possible to save us from an eternal separation from God.  He became true man, and kept God’s law perfectly.  He lived the totally functional life that would be impossible for us dysfunctional human beings to achieve.

            God the Holy Spirit then works a miracle in our lives.  He gives us the faith to believe in Jesus our Saviour so we would also now be a part of his holy family.  Through faith, God no longer sees us as dysfunctional, sinful people.  Jesus did everything necessary to redeem us, who by our very nature were lost and condemned creatures.  He took our sins and dysfunctions and carried them all the way to the cross, so that through nothing but simple faith, we would experience complete forgiveness and a new existence as members of his fully functional family of Christians.

            The image of Jesus’ Baptism is a fantastic picture for us to have in mind as we witness someone being baptized, and as we remember our own Baptism.  God has not only entered the human race through Jesus’ coming into the world through human flesh, but he comes into the life of an individual through Baptism.  Through Baptism, God brings what would otherwise be a dysfunctional member of the human race, and makes that person a functional member of His family.

            As the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at his Baptism, the same happens when we baptize a small baby today.  God the Holy Spirit enters into that person’s heart through the simple application of water, and creates faith in that person’s soul.  Even though a small child cannot express it in words, God has created a saving faith in Jesus Christ their Saviour through this act.  God promises the gift of the Holy Spirit through Baptism in Acts chapter 2, verse 38:  “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

            Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God redeems each of us individually.  Through faith, he makes us part of his heavenly family one at a time, and we can be assured of our position in that family.  In Romans chapter 8, verses 16-17 Paul writes, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”  And God hastens to remind us how precious we are in his sight.  In Isaiah chapter 49, verses 15-16 we read:  “…I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”

             So is the Schroeder family a dysfunctional family?  You bet it is…so is the Jones family, and the Smith family, and the Johnson family, and the Mayfield family…in fact, just get out your phone book and pick any family at random.  If the family has human beings in it, then it fits the category.  There isn’t one family on this earth that sin hasn’t affected in one form or another, or that couldn’t in some way be described as dysfunctional.

            I’m not sure what caused my cousin to want nothing to do with the Schroeder side of our family.  It hardly seems fair; we’ve been putting up with his quirks and antics for years.  I guess we’ve always believed that’s what families have to do sometimes.  The “Vista Cruiser Family” model isn’t realistic, and I would suspect his highly subjective definition of a functional family is equally flawed.  He certainly couldn’t be using his own family as a shining example.

            I can definitely be thankful that God operates in a completely different manner than my cousin does.  God looks at dysfunctional, sinful old me, and through faith in Christ he has adopted me into his family, just the way I am.  Through my Baptism over 60 years ago, God the Holy Spirit entered into my life, and I knew and believed in Jesus my Saviour.  I know without a doubt that I am a saved sinner, saved through Jesus’ blood and merit, and that I will be part of God’s heavenly family forever.

            As God’s children, we can with all confidence give the same proclamation Luther did, when he said that Jesus Christ “…has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood, and with his innocent sufferings and death:  in order that I might be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true.”