I Am Baptized -
January 11, 2009
I Am Baptized
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching
a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole
Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to
him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the
Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a
leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
And this was his message: "After me comes the one more powerful
than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop
down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize
you with the Holy Spirit."
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was
baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out
of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending
on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are
my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Mark
"Twice in Mark's gospel the word 'torn,' is used to draw
us [into the dramatic action of Mark's story.] The first is as
Jesus rises from the waters of baptism and the second is at the
end of Mark's 'good news' as the temple curtain is rent. The
first event presents the in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven
and the second the tearing away of the religious barrier between
God and humanity.
"Mark presents a startling and awe filled punctuation, like
sudden lightening, for us to consider." Here, at the beginning,
God tears open the heavens, the Holy Spirit descends and God
speaks out loud. Can there possibly be a clearer sign that God
has opened the floodgates of heaven to be with humankind?
You see, John the Baptizer, the one who was called by God
even before his conception, was baptizing in the wilderness a
baptism of repentance and those who recognized their need to
repent came willingly to John for baptism. They came out from
the towns, from the countryside, from the villages. They even
came from Jerusalem. He began a renewal movement: a movement
that prepares the way for the Lord. Eventually Jesus comes to
John for baptism. And "Jesus himself is baptized into the
renewal movement that began before him."
Leonard Sweet reminds us that "Baptism in water, as an
act of repentance and re-birth, is a 'once-and-for-all time'
gift from God, a dying to self and a living to Christ. But Baptism
in the Holy Spirit is a 'new-every-day' infusion from Christ
to all his disciples for their mission in the world."
Baptism by water and the Spirit frees one from sin but serves
many. Being born through the waters of baptism is to be a minister.
To be born of the Spirit is to be a missionary. "It is the
Spirit that creates not just ministers but missionaries, disciples
of doing, disciples of daring. It is the Spirit that gives faith
its feet." It is the Spirit that changes us from pew potatoes
to Methodist Movers and Shakers, from the chosen frozen to the
Freshly Fired Followers.
All too often we don't attend closely enough to what happens
in the baptismal covenant. We seem to miss first of all that
it's a covenant; a covenantal relationship that is made. When
infants and children are baptized, parents make promises about
how they will be trained up in the faith community, and the church
promises to help these parents raise their children. Youth and
adults make these promises for themselves. And then God acts
in the covenant. God's side of the covenant is established for
all time. God does not break covenant which is why we don't re-baptize
people in the United Methodist Church. Regardless of what we
may do or fail to do, regardless of our understanding or lack
thereof God keeps covenant with us.
Billy Strayhorn wrote, "Forty years ago a Philadelphia
congregation watched as three 9-year-old boys were baptized and
joined the church. Not long after, because they were unable to
continue with its dwindling membership, the church sold the building
"One of those boys was Tony Campolo, now author and Christian
sociologist at Eastern College in Pennsylvania. Dr. Campolo remembers:
"Years later when I was doing research in the archives of
our denominations, I decided to look up the church report for
the year of my baptism. There was my name, and Dick White's.
He's now a missionary. Bert Newman, now a professor of theology
at an African seminary, was also there. Then I read the church
report for 'my' year: 'It has not been a good year for our church.
We have lost 27 members. Three joined, and they were only children.'"
[Only children-but look at who those children became in their
service to God and humankind!]
"Now, not everyone who is baptized grows up to be a Tony
Campolo or a Seminary professor like Bert Newman. And while we
might not go on the mission field like Dick White, we all become
missionaries through the water of our baptism because, that water
is the water of life.
"It changes everything. It cleans us up and gives us a starting
over point. And it reminds us just how much we are loved. And
all we're asked to do is drink deep from the water of life."
The thing is Baptism reminds us of who we are. Or at least
it should. Washed in the cleansing waters of baptism, set aflame
with the Holy Spirit and renewed each day with a fresh infusion
of Holy Spirit power in the name of Jesus; we are able to do
anything God calls us to do and far more than most of us ever
imagine. And love is poured out on us in Baptism. If there is
anything we must remember it is this. Baptism, like Holy Communion,
is a sacrament of God's amazing love.
In the movie My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding Toula, a girl from
a Greek family, falls in love with a non-Greek man. Her father
Gus, a staunch Greek, won't allow his daughter to marry the non-Greek
Ian Miller. But Gus will allow Ian to marry Toula if he's baptized
in the Greek Orthodox Church.
Back to Past Sermons
| Home Page
Ian is baptized in the manner of the Greek Orthodox church, being
immersed 3 times (once in the name of the Father, in the name
of the Son, in the name of the Spirit). Toula and her brother
Nick are talking. Toula's brother Nick turns to her and says,
"It's not so bad, huh?" Toula, who has had some self-esteem
issues, replies in horror, "Are you kidding? Any minute
now he's going to look at me and go, 'Yeah, right. You're so
not worth this.'"
Nick says, "Yes you are."
And that's exactly what God says to us. Not only the day we are
baptized, but every time we see and participate in a baptism.
God looks at us and says: "You are so worth it."
We just have to change the way we view ourselves, our baptism,
and God's amazing love and grace. You see, Baptism is not just
an event of the past. Baptism is a present fact. You can remember
your baptism every time you step into the shower if that's what
it takes for you to know that you have been renewed and cleansed
from sin in the waters of Baptism. During his darkest moments
Martin Luther clung to these words "I am Baptized."
Our baptism is a current event as much as it was a past event.
We must hold it present with us as the gift of God. A gift of
LOVE. You are so worth it. Amen.