Summary: Baptism is a beautiful symbol of God’s grace to us and our commitment to Him
Why Baptism March 4, 2007
When they were trying to discover if life ever existed on Mars, the first thing they looked for was water. We cannot imagine life existing without water.
In his early days, the poet W.H. Auden, wrote – “We must love one another or die” at a later more cynical time he wrote "Thousands have lived without love, not one without water." – from “first things first”
It is not surprising that God would use water for the initiation rite into the new life that we find in Jesus Christ.
The novel “Gilead” is a letter that the old Presbyterian pastor John Ames is writing to his young son to be read when the son is old enough to understand. He quotes the theologian Ludwig Feuerbach
“Water is the purest, clearest of liquids; in virtue of this its natural character it is the image of the spotless nature of the Divine Spirit. In short, water has a significance in itself, as water; it is on account of its natural quality that it is consecrated and selected as the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. So far there lies at the foundation of Baptism a beautiful, profound natural significance” – Ludwig Feuerbach as quoted in the novel “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson p. 23-4
‘That mention of Feuerbach and joy reminded me of something I saw early one morning a few years ago, as I was walking up to the church. There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me. The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet. On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a branch, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running, the girl sweeping water off her hair and her dress as if she were a little bit disgusted, but she wasn’t. It was a beautiful thing to see, like something from a myth. I don’t know why I thought of that now, except perhaps because it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash. I wish I had paid more attention to it.” – John Ames in the novel “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson p. 27-8
Today I want to talk about the blessing of the water of Baptism
Baptism is a sign and commitment to new life
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
"A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
’Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ "
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Baptism is a picture of starting a new life, of turning over a new leaf.
The very few times that I have played golf, the guys I played with were very gracious and if you completely flubbed a shot, they would grant me a mulligan – a “do-over” - without counting the previous shot in your score.
The amazing thing about God is that he allows mulligans! When we realized that we’ve really flubbed our attempt at life, He allows us to start again, and he doesn’t hold our last attempt against us.
Baptism is a sign that we want to get a restart in life. We are saying that the person that we once were is not who we want to be, the way that we used to live is not the way that we want to live now.
Baptism is a powerful image because it is an image of death, burial, and resurrection. We are saying that our old way of living is dead, and we are leaving it in the watery grave as we come back out into a new life. This is what the people we saying as they came to John to be baptized – “we want to start again, we have not been living for God, and now we want to live for him.”
The funny thing is that Jesus shows up to be baptized!
Baptism is an act of obedience/ righteousness
The Baptism of Jesus
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"