Summary: Baptism of the Lord Sunday; a sermon on remembering your baptism.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
“Where There’s Smoke…”
by: Kenneth Emerson Sauer,
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church,
Newport News, VA
Do you remember your baptism?
If you were baptized as a baby, you probably don’t.
But I bet that if you were baptized as a baby you have some pretty early memories that have something to do with your baptism.
You probably remember entering the church that your parents took you to every Sunday and maybe some other days during the week.
Maybe you remember glimpses of some faces of the people who smiled at you and made you feel loved and important.
You might remember some Sunday school teachers who taught you about the Bible.
There may even be some snippets from some sermons you remember.
We celebrate infant baptism because we believe that there is a grace that goes before us.
We believe that God is working in our lives from the time we are born to bring us to the point in our lives where we accept God’s free gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ for ourselves and become children of God.
When a baby is baptized his or her parents make a vow to God before the church.
They promise to nurture their child in Christ’s Holy Church, that by their teaching and example their child may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life.
And the church makes a promise to God and to the parents of this child.
“With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ.
We will surround this child with a community of love and forgiveness, that this child may grow in his or her service to others.
We will pray for this child.
That this child will be a true disciple who walks in the way that leads to life.”
For many of us, this is our first initiation into God’s Church…
…the beginning of an amazing journey.
And it is the foundation upon which our lives are built.
For in Christ we are never homeless…
…we are always surrounded by God’s grace and love.
This past week, a colleague of mine said “children without a Christian upbringing must feel like orphans.”
What would it feel like to be a child who is never surrounded by a compassionate community who believe in God’s unconditional and unmerited love?
Why, some children, only think that Jesus Christ is a swear word!
No wonder we live in such a graceless and cruel society.
We cannot know the love of God until we experience it for ourselves.
God is the One Who initiates that love, and the Church is the body of Christ called to live out that love on earth.
Now, if you were baptized as a Youth or adult, that means that you made the decision to dedicate your life to Jesus Christ, and your baptism was an outward sign of the decision you made and the conversion you experienced…that you have been born of God.
We do not believe that infant baptism saves us, but we do believe it is a sign of God’s grace going before us until we can make the decision to accept Christ for ourselves.
Neither do we believe that adult baptism saves us.
And we don’t believe in baptizing persons more than once.
With that behind us, let’s look at our Gospel Lesson for this morning.
A thousand years before John the Baptist came on the scene David became the king over Judah and Israel, and God promised that his descendants would reign forever.
But after David’s son Solomon died, Israel rejected a Judahite as their king and chose their own king.
Then Israel was conquered by Nineveh in 722 B.C.; and Judah fell to Babylon in 587.
The Jews, however, remembered God’s promise to David and looked for a descendant of David to rise as an anointed king or messiah, reunite the scattered peoples, and establish God’s reign of peace and prosperity.
In the meantime, though, the Jewish people must have felt like orphans.
The crowds who came to hear John preach and to be baptized wondered if John was the messiah.
John said he wasn’t, but another was coming Who will “baptize…with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Now what in the world does that mean?
Let’s look again at verse 17 of our Gospel Lesson.
This is a pretty heavy passage, and it has a number of meanings.
One of the meanings is that it is a picture of the present reality of the saved and unsaved living side by side in a fallen world…
Those who repent and allow Jesus Christ to be Lord of their lives are born again…become the children of God…or are no longer orphaned—receiving the Holy Spirit of God.