Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 • 01.13.13
Our worship today began with a special Thanksgiving for Baptism – something I don’t think we give much thought to in our daily run through life. And the title of today’s sermon may be the most frequent question I ask people. If it’s not at the top of the list it’s pretty close to the top.When I ask the question, “do you remember your baptism?” to confirmation aged students, 99.9% of the time the response is “No. Are you kidding me, I was just a baby. Of course I don’t remember it”.
When I ask adults, the response is pretty much the same although it is usually accompanied with a blank stare. You know the stare that says, “I should probably give the pastor an answer, but I have no clue what the answer to that question really is.”
As Lutheran Christians we lift up the Sacrament of Holy Baptism as one of the most central and significant experiences in our life of faith. So why does it seem like so many of us have no interest in actually living our lives in ways that reveal our identity as baptized children of God. We’ve already moved on to another identity even before the water has evaporated from our forehead with no real interest in actually living life as a baptized child of God.
There was a business man walking by a fishing pier on his way to yet another meeting when he noticed that his neighbor who was a professional fisherman had already docked his boat for the day on the pier and was wasting valuable fishing and money making time playing catch with a young boy from their neighborhood.
“Why aren’t you out fishing?” asked the businessman.
“Because I caught enough fish for one day,” replied the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch some more?”
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money,” said the businessman. “Then with the extra money, you could buy a bigger boat, go into deeper waters, and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. With the nets, you could catch even more fish and make more money. With that money you could own two boats, maybe even three! Eventually you could have a whole fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
“Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman.
“Then,” said the businessman, “you could really enjoy life.”
The fisherman gave the businessman a confused stare and said, “What do you think I am doing right now?”
Are you enjoying life as a child of God, a baptized son or daughter in the body of Christ? Do you remember your baptism? Or is your baptism a onetime event that you can’t remember because you were just a baby and you don’t think it has any significance or importance in your life today. Or is your baptism significant for you because you think you now have a get out of hell free ticket or some extra fire insurance from God just in case you really screw something up in your life. Or do hear voices around you tell you that your baptism as an infant didn’t really count because you weren’t the one making the decision to have Jesus in your life.
The baptism of Jesus that we celebrate this weekend is an invitation for all of us to remember our own baptisms – not as something that happened in the past, but as something that is important to every day of our life in Christ.
The story of the baptism of Jesus appears in all four gospels, but I want you to note the differences in Luke’s gospel. Luke doesn’t seem too concerned with the actual moment of the baptism. Luke is more interested in what happens after the baptism. Interested in telling us the story of a savior named Jesus who remembers his baptism long after the event of the baptism has taken place. And take note of who baptizes Jesus in this gospel. It’s not John the Baptist. By the time Jesus is baptized in Luke’s gospel, John has already been thrown in jail by King Herod.
This encounter at the river in Luke is nothing less than a divine moment between God and Jesus Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is baptized by the Holy Spirit. And you know what, it’s the same Holy Spirit that you and I are sealed with in our baptism.
Professor David Lose says that “Our relationship with God [through our baptism] is the one relationship in life we can’t screw up precisely because we did not establish it.”
And Pastor Shelly Cunnigham offered a wonderful devotion on our gospel reading this week. She wrote, “We say that in baptism a person is marked with the cross of Christ. That mark confers identity. Like a tattoo or a scar, it tells a story. But it’s not simply a story of something that has happened in the past. It’s a story that is still unfolding.”
She goes on to say, “Your life story is still unfolding. Every day brings possibility, challenge, and opportunity to serve. How will your baptism affect how you live? Will God’s word of love give you the strength to follow Christ’s path?”
And the question I ask today as we seek to follow Christ’s path is, do you remember your baptism?
As Jesus remembered his baptism he cared for the sick and those who had been thrown out of the community. He fed the hungry and helped the poor experience the riches of his love. As Jesus remembered his baptism he died on a cross for you and me. And you know what, it’s that cross you and I are marked with in our baptism.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, remember your baptism in emails and text messages that you send and in every conversation that you have. May they carry words filled with the peace and love that God has for all children of God.
Remember your baptism as you care for friends and family and neighbors in need. May your care help them experience the gentle touch of Jesus’ healing hand.
Remember your baptism as you take time each day to pray. And in these times of prayer, may you hear God speaking directly to you, calling you his beloved son. His beloved daughter.
I think we should begin remembering our baptism right now. Martin Luther even thought it was important for us to bless ourselves with the holy cross each morning and evening and say ‘In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.’
In my own life in Christ I say similar words. As I make the sign of the cross. I say “I am a child of God. Marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.” No, as a matter of fact, the ritual of making the sign of the cross is not reserved only for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, it’s for Lutherans too. And whether you do it with a small cross on your forehead or a large cross over your entire body, it’s a great way to remember your baptism.
Do you remember you baptism?
Let’s try it. I invite you to make the sign of the cross and say these words after me, “I am a child of God. Marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.”
- Communion Meditation: Wash Yourselves and Eat with Jesus! (apologus.wordpress.com)
- Morning Prayer ~ January 13, 2013 (ronpogue.typepad.com)