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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On April 23rd, 1978, in a small seaside chapel in San Juan, La Union, in the Republic of the Philippines, my father, speaking the local dialect of Ilocano, baptized me, his son. He said I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. On that day, the heavens didnít open, no dove flew down and lighted on my shoulder, no disembodied voice said, ďthis is my son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.Ē But on that day, I became not only my fatherís child Ė but I became Godís adopted son as well.
You would think that this was an important day in my life. You might actually think that I would celebrate it annually. I should be able to tell you what day it was, how it happened, and who was there. I would think that too. That is, until I got a letter from the Concordia Historical Society, which keeps tabs on Lutheran pastors, asking me to fill out important dates like my birthday, the day of my ordination, andÖoh yeah, my Baptism date.
Going through the form, I was stymied by the blank after baptism date. I knew it was in April. I was even pretty sure it was close to my dadís birthday, April 22nd, but I couldnít pin down the exact day until I had sent a text message to my mother who had to go look in a box somewhere in our basement. Without that record, I could have never said authoritatively, I was baptized in April 23rd, 1978.
Even in visiting the town where I was raised for the first two years of my life, San Juan, there was no evidence of my baptism. All that was left of the seaside chapel was a concrete slab that had served as the floor. No plaque that read ďOn April 23rd, Jay Allen Winters, was baptized here.Ē No circled number on a calendar. No reminder on my pda. I was even too young to realize really what was going on.
No matter what the circumstances of your Baptism, each of you have a story of your Baptism. Each and every one of those stories is different in some way. Some of your Baptisms happened when you were children. Some of your Baptisms happened when you were adults and some of your Baptisms happened somewhere in between. Yet each one of your Baptisms have something in common. Each one of your Baptism stories reach back in time to even before you were born, to the day that Jesus was baptized.
It is that story, that larger story, is what Peter is talking about in our reading from Acts this morning. That story is the story of someone who God anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power that was His from the beginning of eternity. That story is the story of someone who went about doing good things and healing those oppressed by the devil. That story is the story of someone hung on a tree. That story is the story that you are called to be witnesses of. That story, on the day of your Baptism, became your story.
When Christ comes again to judge the world, He isnít going to ask you when the date of your Baptism was. That isnít going to be the clinching question that tells Him if you are a believer or an unbeliever. He isnít even going to go back in His records to see what the exact date was in some massive book of Baptismal dates. He isnít going to look at your record of church attendance. He isnít going to look at how much you
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