Summary: A sermon for an outdoor baptism service in Toronto, Canada
Baptism Sermon - September 2016
There’s a story of a minister who like most ministers, conducted a lot of baptisms using the phrase, as we do, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”. One weekend his family went to a friend’s home in the country.
Their four children went outside to play with the others. After a short while, they heard only silence and wondered what the children were up to. They were found behind a barn quietly playing "church."
Their 4-year-old daughter Susan was conducting the baptismal service. She held a cat over a barrel of water.
Trying to be as solemn as her father, she repeated the phrase she had heard many times: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and in the hole he goes!"
Misunderstandings about baptism aside, today is a big day. It is a day when 3 people will personally vow to follow Jesus – to live their whole lives as Christ-followers, people who follow the Way of Jesus – the
teachings of Jesus, the life of Jesus, all for the glory of Jesus.
It’s a day where we celebrate God’s work in the lives of people He has redeemed for Himself. It’s a day where the fact of who our baptismal candidates are and to Whom they belong is made very public.
We will be witnesses to their public confession of faith, to their profound commitment a life-long belonging to Jesus, following Jesus.
And the Bible gives us at least two dominant ideas about baptism. Forgiveness and Belonging
In Acts chapter 2, the Apostle Peter is telling a story where he is recounting some recent history, the story of Jesus’ life and death on the cross.
He said this: 22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Peter then spoke of King David’s prophecy about Jesus being the Messiah.
This caused the people listening to understand both their sinfulness and their need for God.
So they asked Peter: What shall we do? 38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
When God moves in a life He reveals His love. He reveals His goodness. He reveals His holiness. And at the same time when God moves in a life He reveals to a person his or her need for God.
God reveals what’s in a person’s heart, the darkness that’s there. The sinfulness that’s there. The absence from that life of fullness of joy simply because God is not yet in control of that life.
But also the person’s belovedness to God is revealed, just how much affection God has for the person. How willing God is to do anything to prove His love.
And in the midst of all this revealing, God gives an invitation.
It is an invitation based on the cross.
The one who is the object of God’s great love, whose ears and mind and heart have been opened by God to the gospel, starts to understand that the journey to the cross that Jesus made was for them.
For her. For him. Christ’s body broken, His blood spilled. All for the love of me and you. All to make us right.
French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935) tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War.
One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other man, “Listen, Dominic, you’ve led a very dodgy life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police.
But there are no convictions against me.
My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death.”
The Good News is that through Jesus, God makes a similar offer. He offers to make us right with Himself.
When we are baptized, we identify ourselves with Jesus. We publicly declare that we belong to Jesus, that we look to Jesus and desire with all our hearts to be like Jesus and follow God’s will for our lives. When we are