Summary: Baptism means that we have been forgiven, cleansed, healed, initiated into God’s family, and set on a mission.
Baptism of our Lord
January 8, 2006
Toni and I moved to Denver, Colorado in the late summer of 1977 in order to get settled in for the beginning of my first year of seminary. From our student housing unit, you only had to look west to see three of the fourteen thousand foot peaks in the Colorado range. Long’s Peak was fifty miles to the north in Rocky Mountain National Park; Pikes Peak was fifty miles to the south, just outside of Colorado Springs; Mount Evans was straight west. On a clear day, when the smog of the city didn’t obscure them, you could see them all, snow-capped even in the midst of the summer.
I was twenty-four years old when we moved out there. Some of the best advice I got was from a friend who told me not to let seminary get in the way of having fun. So I did my best to follow that advice. Most weekends, when the weather was good, Toni and I would pack up and head for the mountains: sometimes to camp overnight, but other times just to have a picnic. I decided right then that I needed to have a jeep.
After my first two years of academics, I took a yearlong internship before my final year. I finally was making enough to buy a jeep. It wasn’t one of the fancy ones, but just a plain, no-frills Jeep CJ7. When I got back to Colorado after my internship, I couldn’t wait to get up into the mountains. I always took it as a badge of honor when we would return from the mountains with a dirty jeep. That meant that we had really been serious about our fun. My parents came out to visit that summer and we packed them up in the jeep and went four-wheeling up to St. Mary’s glacier about an hour’s drive west of Denver. Had a great time. Scared my mother to death.
Before too long, however, my family life began to interfere with my four-wheeling weekends. The problem was that by this time, Toni was pregnant. The last time we had the jeep in the mountains was the middle of September of 1981. Matthew as born on October 13, so by this time Toni was incredibly pregnant. If you talk to her today, she will tell you that she thought she was going to deliver him out on the Continental Divide in the middle of the Arapahoe National Forest as I was bumping along having the time of my life.
I’m amazed at all of the SUV’s that we see today. Did you know that only about five percent of all off-road vehicles are actually ever taken off-road? You see a whole lot more SUV’s at the mall than you do in the wilderness.
On Saturday mornings at 10 o’clock or Sunday’s at noon, I always try to listen to “Car Talk” on National Public Radio with Tom and Ray, also known as Click and Clack, the tappet brothers. Just about the only thing I know about cars is that you put gas in them and they go. But this show is really funny, and I learn all sorts of interesting things.
A few weeks ago, they were talking about a new product that had just come on the market: spray on mud. For $14.50, you can buy a quart of this stuff to spray on your vehicle to make it look like you have actually been off-roading. The promotional material says, “If you’ve got a 4X4 or off-roader, Sprayonmud will send a message to anyone who disapproves or is just plain envious – you use your off-roader, off the road as well as on it.”
I was appalled. There is so much deceitfulness in the world today. You can’t even trust that the mud on someone’s truck is real mud. I’m not sure what the world is coming to.
As I was preparing this sermon, I was reading one of the preaching magazines to which I subscribe (www.homileticsonline.com). The author of one of the articles said that Jesus began his public ministry after being baptized in the muddy waters of the Jordan River.
When I baptize people, I use water from a big bottle of water from the Jordan that I brought back with me when I was lucky enough to visit. At the bottom of the bottle there is a whole bunch of mud and sediment that has settled there. It’s not a very clean river.
There was an article in the December 13, 2005 issue of “The Christian Century” which reported on the high levels of pollution of the Jordan River. There is a dam just a little south of the Sea of Galilee. Above this dam, the water is safe enough for swimming. This is the area of river from which I collected my water. South of the dam, the river is different. The article says, “…the river is tainted with untreated and partially treated sewage, saline water and fish pond effluents that tumble from large drainage pipes built into the riverbed. The stench is choking.”