Summary: In baptism we are signed, sealed, and delivered.
“Signed, Sealed, and Delivered”
A courier service, UPS, or Federal Express delivers a package with a registered receipt. When the receipt arrives back in the hands of the sender it means the item has been signed, sealed, and delivered. The prosecuting attorney sends staff members to arrest a person; but first a warrant is needed from a judge. Once it’s in hand, the arrest can be made; then it’s said that the warrant has been signed, sealed, and delivered. This morning we can say the same for Kiersten and for us because, with her, in baptism we are signed, sealed, and delivered. This is the beautiful language of our Liturgy and the wonderful thrust of Scripture. Let’s take a closer look at what this means.
We say, first of all, that we are SIGNED. We’re all familiar with signs. Life is filled with signs. SIGNS ARE SYMBOLS WHICH POINT TO A GREATER REALITY. Think, for example, of traffic signs. If we come to one that is red with white letters s-t-o-p we know we’d better stop. The greater reality is that if we do not we may well be involved in an accident. Or if we drive up to a railroad crossing and see no train but the red flasher lights are blinking, the greater reality is that we’d better stop or we’ll get smashed by a train.
And there are other signs we see daily. Go to a baseball game and look at the third base coach - after every pitch he goes through a variety of motions. Very few of them mean anything, but behind a few there is a greater reality about what the batter and runner are to do with the next pitch. Husbands and wives, look at your left ring finger - on it is a wedding band. In one sense it’s just a piece of jewelry; but the greater reality is that you are married and have pledged your love in a very special way to a very special person and have taken some extremely important vows about faithfulness to him or her.
And our life of faith is filled with signs as well. Look at the cross - basically just a beautiful structure in the shape of a cross. But the greater reality is that it symbolizes the death of Jesus Christ for us. It carries memory and meaning beyond its physical appearance. So it is with baptism. It appears to the eye as just a fancy ceremony using words and water. But the greater reality is that BAPTISM IS A SIGN WHICH POINTS TO GOD’S PROMISES. The Baptism this morning did nothing to Kiersten, to us, or to God. But as the Heidelberg Catechism, in answer 66, states, the sign of Baptism simply discloses more fully the promises of God. Suppose a dear friend or relative whom you’ve not seen for a long time calls to say they’re coming to see you. Your response is, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” So she sends you a copy of her plane tickets; when you see them you take it as a sign that they will be with you soon. Such is the sign of Baptism.
It’s a sign which, first of all, points to the promise of CLEANSING. The greater reality is that there is no sin too big, to small, too awful, too trite, or too embarrassing for God to forgive. What a promise for (Kiersten as she grows up) (Jenny) - to become increasingly aware that there is nothing she can do that will ever sever the forgiveness through Jesus Christ. And every time Baptism is observed, she, and we, are reminded that this unbelievable forgiveness is available to us. Alex Haley, in his book Roots, shared the story of an old slave who one day drove his master to a great ball at an adjoining plantation. As the slave sat quietly in the buggy waiting for his master to return, he became aware not only of the sounds coming from the big house, but of strange music coming from a small hut nearby. He followed the music until he found himself standing in the doorway of a slave’s home, listening to the music of his childhood in Africa. Later that night, alone in his own cabin, he wept for what he had almost forgotten, but now had remembered. In a sense, the sacrament of baptism is God’s music which calls us back repeatedly to the truth of his forgiveness of us through Jesus Christ. It reminds us that we can always have a new start; no matter what happened yesterday, or this morning, or years ago we can always start again - forgiven and free.
The sign of Baptism also points to the greater reality of the PRESENCE God’s love in our lives. We are reminded that even before we were capable of loving God loved us. Before anyone knew what Kiersten/Jenny would look like, or what her name would be, God loved her. And so He loves us. All who are part of the community of faith, the church, can claim this amazing love of God, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. There is nothing that can ever separate us from that love. It depends not on us but on God, who will never betray his Son by taking away what Jesus died to bring!