“Remember Your Baptism”
Genesis 1: 1-5
Mark: 1: 4-11
January 8, 2006 Baptism of the Lord Sunday, Leadership Sunday
Rev. Deborah A. Koontz
Today is Baptism of The Lord Sunday, traditionally observed by the Church on the first Sunday after Epiphany. Today we ponder the account of creation as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters bringing forth life, we ponder the baptism of Jesus, we remember our own baptism as we reaffirm our faith, and claim our own ministry- the general ministry of all baptized Christians.
In the very beginning, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters and brought forth life. In baptism, the Spirit of God hovers over humanity and brings forth the Church. Life is a gift of God who loves to bring something out of nothing, to bring form out of void, order out of chaos.
Do you remember your baptism?
Perhaps like me, you needed to be taught to remember…
Jesus told a story of a boy who left home, saying to his father, “Give me what I deserve and I will leave this place.” The boy went out from this father’s house and into a ‘far country’ where he wasted himself and his inheritance in loose living. He began living like a pig. And then, one day, Jesus said the boy came to his senses. The boy said, “Wait a minute. What am I doing out here in this far country living like a pig, starving to death, groveling…I have a father. I’ve got a home.” The boy remembered who he was. He remembered home. That remembering put his feet back on the path towards home. At the moment he remembered, he did not become his father’s son for the first time. He did not become suddenly something he was not. Rather he remembered who he was. As Cardinal Newman said of his conversion, “I knew, but until then I did not know that I knew.”
When I remembered my baptism, I came home from a far country…. “I knew, but until then, I did not know that I knew.”
Early seeds of faith planted, my mother took me to be baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic Church. Years later, I needed to learn to remember my baptism in the sense that I learned to appreciate what had happened at that time, when my mother and my godmother made a promise on my behalf and presented me for Christian baptism. It was the beginning of my Christian journey. God began the journey with me, by reaching out to me in baptism. Later, I learned to respond to that gift of baptism. I learned that God is relentless in his searching of us. I learned that in Christian baptism God said: “You belong to me.”
What is the meaning and significance of Christian baptism? It’s God’s Act, that’s important. Baptism is the initiating sacrament of the Church, rooted in the ministry of Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection. Baptism is a gift of God, and in administered in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is both God’s gift and our human response to that gift. Our common baptism is a basic bond of unity with all other Christians. Baptism is best understood as a communal event. It’s not some individual, purely personalized experience. Baptism says right from the beginning, that to be baptized isn’t just about you and your friend Jesus. To be baptized is to be grafted into the Body of Christ. All Christians (with the exception of our Quaker brethren) believe that baptism is in water and the Holy Spirit.
What do United Methodists believe about Christian baptism? United Methodists recognize all Christian baptisms. We believe that baptism is God’s act, and thus does not need repeating, despite our human failure to live in God’s grace. We do believe that our baptism needs to be constantly remembered and reaffirmed throughout our lives. You might say it is a continuing process for us. United Methodists ‘live wet,’ if you will. United Methodists practice baptism by any of the three methods including sprinkling, pouring, and full immersion.
United Methodists believe that people of all ages are suitable candidates for baptism because Christ’s body, the Church, is a great family that includes people of all ages. United Methodists practice infant baptism, as well as the baptism of professing adults. While we respect that others have different beliefs about baptism, we take our belief in infant baptism from the New Testament accounts of household baptisms. Repeatedly in the Book of Acts, (Acts16:15, 33) we see that when a new believer was baptized, his entire household including infants and children were baptized. Nowhere does the New Testament suggest that parents delayed the baptism of their children to such a point as they could make their own profession of faith. We take our belief from Jesus’ invitation to the children and Apostle Peter’s words that this promise is for you and your children. As United Methodists we do believe that baptism of infants should be practiced only for children whose parents or sponsors are committed Christians promising to nurture their children in the ministry of the Church.
As Jesus prepared to enter into his life of ministry,
he came to the River
When I remember my baptism, I remember who I am. A friend, a wonderful Christian wife and mother, never let her kids leave the house, without saying to them: “Remember who you are.” She was telling her children something very important- that as God’s cherished children, they were somebodies.
Who first told me, Who first told you, who you are? Many, many times in this old world, we are told that in some way we have fallen short, we are not quite ‘good enough….’ Who first told you that you were a bad little boy or a bad little girl, a disappointment, disobedient, an offender, a sinner? Was it your parents when they first got after you, scolded you, and told you to behave? Was it your teacher, when they put you at the back of the line, or the corner of the room? Was it your boss, who told you, you better shape up and produce, get it right the next time, or was it your own children, who looked at you, judged you, and just rolled their eyes. Each in his way, was saying something about who you are….intentionally, unintentionally….you were not quite fitting the mold, making the grade, you were not quite what the Creator had in mind when he molded you ‘in the image of God.’
You might have even thought to yourself: I am a nobody…
My friends, the Bible teaches:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,….once you were no people, but now you are God’s people…” 1 Peter 2:9-10
In baptism, you became a somebody…
I fear sometimes that we have
perverted the gospel, we have done this when we put the emphasis on ourselves;
we present the Christian faith as some kind of achievement, a goal, we say we
did it, we ‘got right’ with God, we had ourselves
baptized. That may sound right in an
individualistic, achievement oriented world, but it does not sound like Good
News to me.
The Good News does not say we need to ‘get right’ with God….the Good News says, by the saving blood of Jesus Christ, we are right with God. Jesus paid the price- a costly grace.
We are not Christians because we are basically good people after all….
We are not Christians because we are basically bad people who got living right….
We are who we are by God’s Amazing grace, God’s grace alone in Jesus Christ!
It makes all the difference in the world whether we think of being Christian as something we ought to do….as opposed to something we are….because of what God has done in Jesus Christ.
Beloved Ones, Who Tells You Who You Are? Don’t allow this old world to beat you down…
Say with me now,
“I was a nobody, but now, thanks be to God, I’m a somebody!”
Remember Your Baptism… Live Wet! and Keep Remembering…
Beloved Children of God, Remember Who You Are…
Come to the Font, and Remember Your Baptism…