The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s168g13  Baptism of Jesus  Epiphany 1  13/1/2013  Halswell

'when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him'  Luke 3.21-22

Luke's recollection of these events is that this was a rather more private experience than was remembered by Matthew, Mark and John.   There the Spirit comes on Jesus as he was baptised amongst the throng of people, and the voice of God is to those around: 'This is my son'.   Here, after the ritual and away from the crowds, in a time of solitude, the Spirit comes to Jesus and the voice addresses him personally: 'You are my son'.

Luke's gospel focusses on Jesus praying seven times. (1)  It is only the last - in the garden of Gethsamane - which is included by the other evangelists.  

And here my thoughts follow on from those of the Sunday after Christmass where I said: (The focus on the importance of what happens up the front in worship) seems to me to be contradictory to the message of Christmass; contradictory to the message of the incarnation itself'.   I suspect God is not interested in how many people are reciting the Nicene Creed or how many do so with their fingers crossed behind their backs :-)     I guess God is not actually interested much in the latest Papal Bull, rant from GAFCON, or the Westboro Baptist Church.   I guess God has heard all that before, and they will never change.

Mind you I suspect that God would approve of the latest word from Archbishop Rowan Williams who recently: 'has urged people to go and ‘join the human race’ this Christmas and become agents of transformation and renewal'.  (2)   I note that this is a word to the Church, not to society at large, and my take would be subtly different, for it is precisely in joining the human race that we transform and renew ourselves and the world around us.   For this is what Jesus did in the incarnation, and this is what the baptism of Jesus initiated, a ministry of incarnation.

So I suspect that God is actually taking much more notice of the multitude of individual blogs on the internet as good people journal and express their faith as well as their doubts.   They express them semi-privately, hoping only that their spiritual journey might aid someone else.   God is actually more interested in the real expressions of faith and doubts that we all have - those that are rather divorced from Bible, Prayer Book and Creed.

Prior to his baptism of course, Jesus was already 'incarnated' into the real world - what on earth did his baptism urge him to do differently?   The answer is, of course, that Jesus was baptised to institute a kingdom of inclusion with God's approval and in so doing to challenge the 'god' of exclusion that the church of his day, as well as the church of the following centuries has proclaimed.

In his baptism the Spirit says to Jesus, 'you are you, God's child, with whom I am well pleased', and sends Jesus out to say to others: 'You are you, God's child, with whom God is well pleased' whether they be straight Anglicans or whatever.

If we are looking for a Messiah then we are in good company, including John the Baptist, but Jesus distances himself from this title which implies: 'I am he', one we should avoid.

We all look outside ourselves to find a Messiah, myself as much as anyone else, yet the Messiah comes and says to me and to you and to all, 'You are you, God's child, with whom God is well pleased', whether we are straight Anglicans or not.   We, in fact, do not need a Messiah to do anything more, for our happiness is in our own hands as we acknowledge this in ourselves and go into the world saying to others: 'You are you, God's child, with whom God is well pleased' whether they be straight Anglicans or whatever.

Recently my attention has been drawn to the Prayer of La Faba  (thanks Jessica) which says:

Although I may have travelled all the roads,
crossed mountains and valleys from East to West,
if I have not discovered the freedom to be myself,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have shared all my possessions
with people of other languages and cultures;
made friends with Pilgrims of a thousand paths,
or shared Albergue with saints and princes,
if I am not capable of forgiving my neighbour tomorrow,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have carried my pack from beginning to end
and waited for every Pilgrim in need of encouragement,
or given my bed to one who arrived later than I,
given my bottle of water in exchange for nothing;
if upon returning to my home and work,
I am not able to create brotherhood
or to make happiness, peace, and unity,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have had food and water each day,
and enjoyed a roof and shower every night;
or may have had my injuries well tended,
if I have not discovered in all that the love of God,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have seen all the monuments
and contemplated the best sunsets;
although I may have learned a greeting in every language
or tried the clean water from every fountain;
if I have not discovered who is the author
of so much free beauty and so much peace,
I have arrived nowhere.

If from today I do not continue walking on your path,
searching for and living according to what I have learned;
if from today I do not see in every person, friend or foe
a companion on the Camino;
if from today I cannot recognise God,
the God of Jesus of Nazareth
as the one God of my life,
I have arrived nowhere.   (3)

Does the church encourage people to 'discovered the freedom to be' themselves, or simply reward compliance and servitude?   Is the church 'capable of forgiving' others who do not worship like them, believe like them and live like them?   Is the church 'able to create brotherhood or to make happiness, peace, and unity' insisting on it's own way?  Is the church able to 'see in every person, friend or foe a companion on the Camino'?

If the church actually did these things then pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela (and lots of other places) would be unnecessary

For me, the closest expression of this prayer is the mantra of Bishop John Shelby Spong: 'living fully, loving wastefully, and being all that God intends us to be' is what the gospel is all about.

I have to question if the church actually loves people, insisting on it's own way, when St Paul tells us that love .. 'does not insist on it's own way'.  (4)

We are baptised into a church community that is inherently inclusive, saying to one and to all: 'You are you, God's child, with whom God is well pleased'; or we are 'baptised' into another holy huddle of sanctified selfishness from which Jesus would surely save us.

(1)  Luke  3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 11:1; 22:40-46
(4)  1 Corinthians 13.5