Baptism of Our Lord
January 11, 2015
Mark 1: 4-11
When’s the last time you thought about your baptism? If you’re like most of us, you probably don’t think of it very much. I make my Confirmation kids do some research on their baptisms, talk to their families about what that was like – we want to hear all the details: did you wear something special that was worn by family members in the past? Did anyone cry? Were you a good, curious baby or a crabby, wiggly one? Did the pastor parade you up and down the aisle so everyone could Ohhhh and Ahhh? Some of us have heard those stories, but even then, most of us who were baptized as babies don’t even think about the family stories very much.
But it’s an amazing story. In a world in which people want to “Liked” on Facebook, affirmed by good grades and good reviews, be respected for their opinions and work ethic, baptism goes beyond it all. In our baptism, we are adopted into God’s family forever, told that we are loved and accepted for the gift we are to the world, and promised the presence of the Holy Spirit to lead us and walk beside us every moment of our lives. It is a radical change in who we are in the world. What happens to us in our baptism is the same thing that happens to Jesus; the heavens are ripped apart so that God can come and tell us that we are God’s beloved.
So if you ever wonder if your faults or a past you don’t like to talk about should keep you away from being part of a community of God’s people, remember your baptism. If you aren’t sure you believe all the right things, remember your baptism. If you doubt that God could love you just the way you are, remember your baptism. If you are afraid that the faith you have isn’t enough, remember your baptism. Because your life with God is not about what you do or have done, or even what you believe, it is about what God has done for you. Your worthiness, your lovableness, your usefulness is not based on your behavior or the strength of your faith or even on your adherence to the rules of the church. We are all the same in this. Each of us is invited to be God’s own, and called beloved. Each of us is being faithful in the best way we can. So if you learn to see yourself as being blessed and beloved, you can also remember that those people who may not agree with you politically or theologically are also called blessed and beloved. For all of us, our invitation and worthiness are based on God’s transformation in our baptism. We say, “You are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever.”
As you read the story of Jesus’ life and ministry, including his death and resurrection, you realize that his baptism is not just the beginning of his work in the world. His being named, “My Beloved,” is the foundation on which all of it rests. His healing and teaching are to share the beloved-ness he has experienced from God with others. In his brutal death, the abandonment he experiences on the cross is followed by his resurrection, his restoration to fullness of life in God.
Baptism is always God’s work, the physical extension of God’s promises through something as basic as water. We do it, splashing or sprinkling or submerging the person in the water, but it is God’s promise of life together with God forever that is being accomplished by our hands. We are all chosen to receive this gift, without qualification because it is a gift of grace, pure and simple. And although someone other than an ordained pastor may have baptized some of us, it’s still God’s work, offered to all as a gift, because God wants to call us all beloved.
Just as Jesus’ baptism and his identification as God’s Beloved in the waters of the Jordan is at the core of his identity, so it is the core of ours. Take a moment to make the sign of the cross on your forehead, the mark of your status as Jesus’ own, and say to yourself, “I am a beloved child of God.” You can do it now, we’ll wait. If you love how that feels, you can do it to someone you love, “You are a beloved child of God,” or just say it to someone when we pass the peace of Christ.
Dr. Luther says that when you look in the mirror in the morning and splash your face with water, you can say, ”I am a beloved child of God.” Never forget. It is the truest thing about you. Amen.