LIVING OUR BAPTISMS
The Rev. Dr. Russell Rowland
January 7, 2018
A LITTLE GIRL TURNED TO HER DAD
During a baptism at their church, and asked:
“Daddy, why is the minister brainwashing that baby?”
How to explain to an impressionable child
The difference between baptism and brainwashing!
OUR BAPTISMS ARE NOT JUST “HISTORY.”
They are also our “identity”:
Crucial to our understanding of who we are,
And the reason we are on this earth .
Having remembered our baptisms,
We then proceed to live them.
WE LIVE THEM IN A SPECIFIC CONTEXT.
Our personal and family lives are in constant flux,
Our town celebrates its anniversary.
Our state faces its opioid crisis.
Our nation struggles with its dysfunction,
Our world with terrorists, climate change, and nuclear weapons.
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS
Did not happen in a vacuum either.
The context of occupation by a military empire
Was real enough to get him nailed to a cross,
Within a few years of his baptism.
WITHIN DAYS OF HIS BAPTISM,
The Spirit drove him into the wilderness to be tempted.
Why not think of himself first? He was worth it!
Why not go after the power and affluence
To which his gifts obviously entitled him?
Why not be catered to, if God loved him so much?
Why not just sneak back home,
Do carpentry with Dad, stay out of trouble,
Let the crises, changes, and controversies pass by?
TEMPTATION COMES WITH OUR BAPTISMS TOO.
How easy it is to consider our baptized selves
To be the apples of the heavenly Eye,
And coast on our spiritual laurels.
HOW WE LONG TO COME TO CHURCH
To find comfort, and feel comfortable,
To escape from distressing headlines,
The duties, responsibilities, neediness all around us.
How we would love to get our own needs met,
And let it go at that.
WHY DOES SATAN
Find it so important to tempt and distract us?
Because, otherwise, we will do as Jesus did,
When he returned from the wilderness,
Having resisted every temptation put in his way:
We will start going about doing good.
EVIL WANTS US TO THINK OF OURSELVES FIRST,
Not so much because we will start doing evil,
But because we will start doing nothing--
About the sorrow, suffering, and injustice around us.
BAPTISM IS NOT A PAT ON THE HEAD.
It is a call to take one step forward,
When those in line around us
Noncommittally take one step backward.
ONCE JESUS RETURNED FROM THE WILDERNESS,
He “talked the talk” of good news: The time is fulfilled,
The kingdom is at hand; repent, and believe!
HE “WALKED THE WALK” OF GOOD NEWS.
Disciples were recruited.
A man with “unclean spirits” was exorcised.
The sick were healed, the troubled put at peace.
IF WE RESIST THE SAME TEMPTATIONS,
Then what we say and do as individuals--
When we shop in town, when we go to the Post Office,
When we are guests in others’ homes, when we vote--
Gives others the message that the kingdom is near.
In effect we become good news.
PUT US TOGETHER IN THE CHURCH--
And we become one modest, humble model
Of what God’s kingdom can be like.
Our baptisms are not just a piece of history.
They are the primary piece of our identity.
Before we belong to anyone or anything else--
To a family, a neighborhood, a political party--
We belong to God.
Is to discern God’s purpose for us,
In the specific, daily, diverse, confusing, challenging,
Circumstances in which we find ourselves.
WHATEVER THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE MAY BE,
It will include being a “person for others,” as Jesus was.
It will challenge us to put them first, ourselves second.
It will invite us to save our lives by losing them.
It will encourage us to become Christ toward others,
And to perceive him in those we meet.
IN THE WORDS
Of Caspar Green, a retired pastor--
“Baptism might just get you wet.
Or it might just change your life.”
Whether that’s a promise or a warning,
He is absolutely right!
CRISIS, CHANGE, AND CONTROVERSY--
The context in which we live our baptisms.
Whatever you and I must deal with this year,
May we never forget the faith into which we were baptized:
That “nothing in life, death, or all creation can separate us
From the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”
IN A NATION
Almost too torn-apart to govern itself,
Remember that every administration, government, and authority
Stands, at the end of the day, under the judgment of God .
How were the poor cared for; the widows, the strangers?
Were the leaders great by being servants of all,
Or did they prosper at the expense of others?
Did justice roll down like an ever-flowing stream?
WE CHRISTIANS LIVE
Both in the nation in which we are citizens,
And in God’s kingdom, of which we are members.
As citizens and as disciples, we are called
To make earth more like heaven.
THE JESUS IN WHOSE NAME WE ARE BAPTIZED
Is not entirely on anyone’s side.
He has a way of restructuring stalemates.
When we ask, What would Jesus do?
The most probable answer is,
Something we would not have thought of in a million years.
Are not the expressions of an opinion,
They are, rather, outward signs of new life.
To live our baptisms, finally,
Is to live in Christ, in his family, in his love.
We may hold opinions, we surely will make mistakes.
We have our prejudices, our shortcomings,
Our expensive security blankets, our aches and pains.
ALL THAT WILL PASS AWAY, OF COURSE,
What remains, what never changes, before or after, or ever;
The Alpha and Omega, is this:
Jesus loves me, this I know.
That’s the base model; everything else is options!
Now as the communion hymn, we will sing something we have used for several years when remembering our baptisms. The author is Jane Jenness,
and the reason I use it on this Sunday is as a recognition of how Jane lives her baptism every day, and as an encourage to us all to live ours as well. AMEN!