13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.”
The church celebrates many different holy days than the secular world. They were sometimes called feast days as well. That’s how we got the notion of holidays and festivals. Since the Christian year has started we have been on long series of holy days, and we cap it off with this week’s celebration of Baptism of the Lord. There is not another holy day for us this year until the end of next month when Ash Wednesday rolls around and we begin the season of Lent. Today is pretty special in the life of the church because remember the baptism of Jesus.
In our Reformed church known as Presbyterianism, we have only 2 sacraments, baptism and Communion. Sometimes I laugh that these two events are such important signs of the church yet we don’t celebrate them that often. When I was a kid growing up we only celebrated communion once every three months and now we are so liberal that we have moved to once a month. The feeling sometimes is if we do it too often then it loses it’s special place. Some churches celebrate it every week. They grew up that way and think it’s strange because we don’t celebrate it more often. I sees both sides of the coin and am happiest when you are.
Baptism is a rarer occasion. The reason being is that you have to have a candidate. Someone who wants to be baptized and/or parents who want their child to be baptized. When we have an opportunity to baptize someone, we often use the words “Remember your baptism” prior to confessing what it is we believe. I often have us say the Apostle’s Creed following that statement but others statements can be used. I remember one time after I had been doing this routine on the occasion of baptism I had a lady come up to me and say, I don’t remember my baptism because I was a baby when I was baptized.
It dawned on me then that many of us don’t remember our baptisms. How many of you were baptized as babies? We are asked to remember something that we can’t. So how do we reconcile that? Well in our denomination we have a thing called confirmation. This is when we confirm our baptismal vows and learn about our relationship with Christ and some of the fundamentals of the church. One of the things we learn about is this mystery of baptism. When we examine the passage from Matthew today we review the story of Jesus’ baptism.
Tell the story…
Baptism is an outward sign of inward grace. This is really important in understanding God’s renewal and transformation of our lives. There is a ton of theology wrapped up in this little event. I could talk for hours about it and really enjoy doing so, but I know we have other things to do today. But a couple heady things to ponder and then something more practical. When Jesus submitted his body to John the Baptist to be baptized, even though John didn’t want to he was giving himself over to the will of the Spirit. He was not in need of sins being washed away. He willing accepted the relationship and future role that his body would also play on the cross.
When God speaks the words and the Spirit descends like a dove over Jesus a new thing has taken place. It is again a reminder that the Light had come into the world. The Incarnation of the flesh being born in the world we live in is a reality. The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of putting the Spirit on the servant is complete. And because of this God’s people are now being re-commissioned for service through their own baptisms.
When we remember our baptism, a new thing is occurring in our lives. It’s the story from the book of Acts between Peter and Cornelius…
The Bible seems to be going against him
The Law is greater than the Gospel in scriptures, yet How is God doing a new thing in us?
Experience of life does it allow for the new
Who do we label as unclean?
Who do we withhold the gospel from?
The outward sign of inward grace comes to us in our baptism. It is important for us to remember our baptism even though we do not remember the exact event we know the importance of it. We know that because of our baptism we have been marked as a child of God. We can no longer live in this world without being changed. We are called to live as children with wonder and awe. We are called to be inclusive of all God’s children. We are called to share God’s love with whatever resources we have. When God said “This is my Son my beloved listen to him”, he says the same to us when we are baptized. This is my child, my beloved listen to her, listen to him.
In the season of Epiphany, we are called to let the light shine through us. While we are singing the hymn, I invite any who would like to come forward and remember your baptism. I will mark the sign of the cross on your forehead anointing you with oil as an outward sign of inward grace give to us by God. Amen.