3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [NRSV].
At the end of a bowl game, two of the players who are strong enough to lift the orange Gatorade ice cooler but not usually known for much playing time on the field anoint their coach on the sidelines within a few seconds of the ending of winning the game. Have you ever seen the loosing coach receive the icy bath at the games end? Maybe that baptism is only for winners.
Mr Webster: defines baptism as a Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community ( an act, experience, or ordeal by which one is purified, sanctified, initiated, or named )
As United Methodist, Mr Wesley might call baptism a dependable experience of Grace and presence of Christ With Us.
But what is ‘baptism’ to us, today?
It is that rare sprinkling of a baby’s head when they are still small enough to be carried or the even more rare confirmation student who was not baptized as an infant coming with class or the even most rare of all is the adult or teen who comes to accept full baptism into the church.
Baptism is the ticket stub. Do you remember when Hank Arron hit the home run to break Babe Ruth’s record? I had the ticket from the game at the end of the prior season where he hit 713. You say “so what” about that game? It was the game where I was there, in person, a shouting and celebrating fan, cheering hope and faith that history would be changed in my presence. That’s my ticket to the game I attended. I went friends from my class at school. It was a glorious night in the nose-bleed seats of FUL-CO Stadium.
Baptism is our ticket into the church. It is the open door. Once you enter through baptism, you know the heat of Christ is always open. Do you know someone who thinks that door is shut for them? Think what they are missing:
Isaiah 43:1-7 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” [NRSV]
Adoption is a good example of the relationship of Baptism. The parents choose the child knowing much about the child. Gender, health records, birth parent and/or context of life prior to becoming part of one’s family.
God knows us before we are ready to claim God and God’s family. Baptism is as much about God Choosing us and our choosing Christ.
Did you know that UMC clergy/pastor have the right and responsibility to deny someone who they believe should not be baptized and kept out of the church. Generally we are so desperate for members we would do anything to baptism someone. They do put pressure and measure the success-fulness of our ministry leadership by the number of baptisms we have during a year. I struggle with this because we don’t want to be like our Baptist Neighbor churches and focus just on getting people into the heavenly seats, we also want the relationship that should go with the ticket.
Claimed vs Owned
Hear God’s words in text from Luke: “This is my child.” Imagine what this world might be like if more parents would claim their children. We are starting a class for all you guys beginning the last Saturday of this month. Letter’s from Dad. (You don’t even have to be a father to participate) In this class you will learn to write letters of blessing. Your whole family will benefit and you will be the hero. Don’t miss it! You will miss out and so will those you love.
The parent’s claim upon a child is a powerful gift for both the child and the parent. Tell you children that you love them. Tell you parents that you appreciate, love and forgive them. Tell you spouse, significant-other, girl/boy friend that you respect and admire them… butting in writing, say it out loud, make it real.
God speaks and sends a the spirit in the form of a dove. Saying I claim and accept you. I don’t own you. We don’t have to have a relationship but I choose to claim you any way.
The Active Witness
Going to those who are missing the POWERFUL part of faith.
Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. [NRSV]
If there is someone who may have head knowledge about Jesus, but no spirit of joy, spirit of hope, spirit of faith, spirit of forgiveness, spirit of love, spirit of grace, trust, peace… then get to them and lay hands on them.
The first thing I learned about being a brother is that no matter how dirty the diaper, you can always wash your hands. But if you don’t get your hands dirty sometimes, then you all enjoy the foul smell of a diaper gone bad…
Our challenge in hearing this story of God’s claiming and Jesus being baptized is that ALL of use are in this together and if you’ve not been baptized, what are you waiting for? if you have who will you lead to the water and to the Holy Spirit?
Peter and John, go to bring the power of the Spirit and change complete families and communities… This is why we are a church. This is what we do. Baptism in Jesus Christ.
REMEMBER YOUR BAPTISM!