(You might recognize parts of this sermon as it was used on January 8, 2017. It is essentially the same with a few changes and bears repeating today as we remember our baptism)
In life, water is the essential element. All plants and animals must have water to survive. Without it, there would be no life on earth. In the human body a mere 2% drop in our bodies water supply can trigger dehydration. We use it for everything from drinking to cooking to cleaning to sustaining food supplies and more. Our lives are dependent upon water.
Water is also a sacred substance, used by God to wash and heal the world. Genesis records that in the very beginning of creation, the spirit of God was moving over water. Later, God saved creation, and humanity though a flood and an ark. In Exodus, God liberated God’s people by parting the red sea. In Joshua, the river Jordan was parted to bring the people of God into the Promised Land. And then there is the mystery of baptism—where water is used for the cleansing of the soul. (some parts inspired by http://illuminationsbymike.blogspot.com/2015/02/walking-wet.html) Water is the special symbol of life! Have you noticed that each Sunday a big pitcher of fresh water is brought in and poured into the font as a reminder of our baptism.
So what is baptism all about, what do we believe, why do we do it? These are important questions to ask and today is a good day to ask, as we remember the Baptism of our Lord.
Perhaps by looking at the details of Jesus’ baptism, we may gain a deeper understanding of our own. Why did Jesus even need to be baptized? What was the purpose? That’s one of the first questions theologians ask. Certainly, he was without sin, so his baptism was not about forgiveness of sin. And on this point there is agreement – baptism is not simply a mechanism for forgiveness. Yet, in our understanding of our own baptism, assurance that God forgives our sins is an important part. Water gives us a vivid visual of cleansing, and purification and renewal and in the waters of baptism we are marked as God’s own and are enabled by the Holy Spirit to accept God’s forgiveness through repentance. So in baptism, we are assured that God forgives our sins.
In today’s passage from Mark, we witness the baptism of Jesus by John. John, who was Jesus’ cousin, (remember he is the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth) knew he was preparing the way, that “the one more powerful” was coming and that one was Jesus. In the baptism of Jesus we see the inauguration of his mission and ministry along with the assurance of God’s presence. In our own baptism, we are initiated into the church. It is an important step on our journey of faith in which we are united with Jesus Christ and called to our own ministry in Christ’s name. Remember, the words of scripture that we are all a part of the body of Christ – there is one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all. In baptism we use these words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” All are present in baptism.
We also believe that you need only receive the Sacrament of Baptism one time, yet it remains a source of strength throughout our life, reminding us of God’s great love for us. While we are baptized only once – within our faith we are reminded many times of our baptism – when we share in communion, when we see the water poured into the font each Sunday, when we welcome new members, when we gather as the body of Christ, and in many other ways, we are reminded and renewed. Today we will have the opportunity to again remember what our baptism means to us as we renew our baptism.
Looking again at Jesus’s baptism: this baptism of Jesus announces God’s favor and establishes his identity. Our passage vibrantly describes what Jesus sees: the heavens opening, the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and a voice from heaven declaring, “You are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.” This is a sure and clear sign of God’s grace, and of the presence of the Holy Spirit establishing Jesus’s identity as God’s beloved.
In our own baptism, we too, have our identity established in God’s good and gracious acceptance and affirmation. In baptism, we recognize the profound words of empowering grace that are spoken here to Jesus and also to us. For we, too, are God’s beloved children, those with whom God is well pleased. In our own baptism, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our identity is secured.
Our identity as Gods beloved is secured!! This is such an important and timely message. For we live in a culture that promises acceptance only if we are skinny enough, strong enough, successful enough, rich enough, popular enough, beautiful enough, young enough, and so on. Which means that the message of baptism — that God has declared that we are enough, that God accepts us as we are, and that God desires to do wonderful things for and through us — may be just what we desperately need to hear.
We all crave a sense of identity, we are all too susceptible to false promises that are offered to us. For this reason, there is no better time than the present to hear the word and promise that Jesus was born, ministered, lived, died, and was raised again to demonstrate in word and deed just how much God loves and accepts us. For this reason, there is no better time to remember our baptism. To come and wash in the water of life. To remember who you are and whose you are, your true identity– you are God’s beloved child, deserving of love, respect, and called to a life with Christ.