I’ve been giving homilies (or sermons, if your will) since 1968. I’ve been speaking to a congregation for 52 years. You might think I’m very relaxed in doing so. You see me not using any notes. But inside I am always tense. My mind keeps asking – “What is the next line? Did I just deliver a line or an idea the way I wanted to? Did I just leave out a whole section?”
In the seminary when we had to do practice preaching, I used to get super-uptight and I mean super-uptight. I remember one time I had to get up in front of my classmates and the homiletics professor. I had worked for weeks on the sermon and I had memorized it down to the very last word.
But once I got in front of my classmates and the professor, my nerves got the best of me. I had a panic attack. My mind froze and I forgot everything I was going to say. After several moments of awkward silence, my quivering voice finally said: “This morning only God and I knew what I was going to say. But now only God knows!” A God Flash
I think of those three words, “Only God Knows!” because they fit in well with today’s feast – The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17). The baptisms that John the Baptist was doing were a call to repentance. Jesus was sinless. He didn’t need to repent of anything!
So why was Jesus baptized? Besides “Only God Knows”, we can guess that the right moment in history had arrived. For the first and only time in history, Jews were being baptized. Up to this time, only people converting to Judaism were baptized. Why? Because only the converts were sinners.
The Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t see themselves as sinners. They were kind of like the people of today – Oh, we are sinners, but always sinners with a small “s”. We’re not like the terrorists, the illegal immigrants, the people in the headlines, or even the guy or gal across the street. They are the REAL sinners.
Jesus came and was born and baptized to help us see ourselves as sinners. He did this not to give us a guilt complex, but to help us to be redeemed. He wanted to help us to say: “I’m Saved in Jesus!” But you can’t be saved if you don’t see yourself as a sinner, can you?
We need to grapple with our anger, our lack of patience, our judgements, our bad habits and our sins. Once we finally admit “I Am a Sinner!”, then Jesus can save us.
An 80-year old widow’s air conditioner broke down and she had to call the repairman. When he arrived he immediately found the problem and fixed it. He handed her an itemized bill which included $150.00 for labor. She shouted, “150.00 for labor! It only took you 5 minutes to fix it.”
The repairman said he was very sorry. But his company had a one hour minimum charge for labor. “Then I want my remaining 55 minutes of labor!” she blurted out. And with that she handed him her vacuum cleaner and said, “You’ve got 55 minutes left to clean my carpet!”
God says to you and to me today, “You’ve 55 minutes or an hour today to WORK ON YOURSELF!” It’s about time we got busy!!