Summary: A sermon for Baptism of the Lord Sunday.
"Remember to Whom You Belong"
I was baptized as an infant so I don't remember my baptism, but I know I was baptized and I know who baptized me...
...I also, know the churches I grew up in...
...and of course, my parents who made the decision to have me baptized.
And I am thankful!!!
I am thankful because baptism is an early step in a person's lifelong journey of faith.
It marks the beginning--not the end.
I'm thankful that I was baptized, because in doing so, my parents made a promise to God and to the Church that they would bring me up in the Christian faith.
And the Church made a covenant with me and my parents that they would love me and nurture me in the faith as well.
Infant baptism has been the historic practice of the Church from the very beginning.
We have ample evidence from Scripture, and in very early Christian doctrine that this is the way it has always been.
That being said, baptism isn't something that saves us, but it represents how God works in our lives toward our salvation.
The truth of it is that all of us, adults and children are helpless in becoming the people God wants us to be; we are completely dependent on God's grace.
Even the ability to believe is a gift from God.
So, the glorious, joy-filled truth is that God loves us beyond what we can imagine and God takes the action necessary to bring us to a saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ!!!
We can choose to turn the other way and reject this gift of faith and salvation; we have free-will.
But God pursues us, God seeks us out.
Salvation is God's doing.
And baptism reflects that!!!
When we baptize children, I like to use this analogy:
"Before your child could eat, you fed them.
Before they could walk, you carried them.
Before they could dress themselves, you dressed them.
And before they could believe, you believed for them.
Then when they get to a certain age, they can decide for themselves whether they will accept the faith that you have accepted for them."
Again, I am so glad and so thankful that I was baptized.
It was the beginning of my journey with Jesus.
I might not be here today if it had not been done for me.
Nobody fully understands baptism, and so most of us learn the meaning of our baptisms after the fact.
Years later, as we make our way following Jesus, the purpose often begins to unfold.
I shared this in my newsletter article for this month, but I think it's worth repeating.
A good friend of mine, who happens to be a United Methodist Minister as well, told me that as a young boy...
...when he was leaving his house on his way to school, heading out to play or going to a friend's house his mother would call to him as he made his way out the door: "Johnny, remember: you are baptized."
That was his mother's way of reminding John who and Whose he was.
And John remembered.
He still remembers.
When we keep in mind or remember that we are baptized members of Christ's Body on this earth, the Church--we are embracing the fact that we are not our own.
God has called us out, God has purchased our salvation with God's own blood.
We embrace the fact that we belong to God, and God loves us and will never leave us.
And that God has great plans for our lives.
Jesus began His public ministry by approaching John the Baptist at the Jordan River so that John would baptize Him.
Of course John was astonished!!!
But Jesus said, "Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness."
We are told that "when Jesus was baptized," as the waters of the Jordan were dripping down His face, He saw the Spirit of God coming down out of heaven like a dove and resting on Him.
Then a voice from heaven confirmed: "This is my Son whom I dearly love, I find happiness in him."
After this Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days to think about what it means to be God's Child.
And Jesus spends all the days and years that follow discovering the meaning of His baptism and living out that meaning.
And this is what we are called to do as well.
Baptism was Jesus' commissioning to ministry.
And of course, in Jesus' ministry, He gave everything--His dreams, His deeds, His work and His life itself.
He gave everything to humankind, and took His place with hurting humanity.
In Hebrews Chapter 2 Jesus is called "the pioneer of salvation," and we are told that, "since [we have] flesh and blood, [Jesus] also shared the same things in the same way. He did this to destroy the one who holds the power over death--the devil--by dying...he had to be made like [us] in every way.