Sunday, January 7, 2018

Baptism promises

Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11; Luke 3:10-14

It seems like yesterday that Jesus was born, and here he is, all grown up and ready to go to work. In the two weeks since Christmas, Jesus has been circumcised, the magi have visited, and Jesus and his family have moved back to Nazareth.

John the Baptist has also grown up and begun preaching and drawing crowds. He has lots of followers, lots of people who come to hear him, to be baptized by him. As an author, Mark doesn’t say much about John, because his focus is on Jesus.

We have to look in Luke and Acts to find out what John talked about. In addition to baptizing people and promising them God’s forgiveness, John also guides people to be grace-ful – share what you have with those who have less; be honest in your financial dealings; be satisfied with your wages.

… One day, when John is at the river, Jesus comes to be baptized. Some say Jesus was baptized to take on the sins of the world, of all the believers, so God can forgive us all. That’s a nice theological answer. By now you know I think more practically, taking the story at face value. It makes sense to me that he was setting an example, showing that for now, John’s baptism is a good thing.  John’s teaching is good for all who will listen.

Jesus’ baptism is also the beginning of his ministry. It appears that according to Mark, God speaks only to him, or perhaps to Jesus with John overhearing God’s message. “You are my Son, my beloved one. I love you and I am pleased with you.”

After Jesus’ baptism, he goes into the wilderness to face the temptations of power – we talk about that the first week of Lent. For now, Jesus finds a home in Capernaum, getting to know the people there. He doesn’t begin his teaching and healing ministry until after John is arrested.

In the meantime, John’s disciples have taken John’s message, his teaching and his baptism far from Jerusalem. They continue this teaching for many years. In Acts we learn that many who became believers in Jesus had been baptized by John or by his followers.

Paul discovered a dozen such folks in Ephesus, in the middle of Asia Minor, which we now call Turkey. They knew that one more powerful was to come, but they had not heard that Jesus had come and changed everything. Paul baptized them in the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and immediately, the Spirit came upon them and filled them.

… As we remember today that Jesus was baptized, it is helpful to remember our own baptisms. When was your baptism? Who was there? What did you wear? Most of us were baptized as infants, and unless someone told us the stories, we don’t remember. Others among us have been baptized as teenagers or as adults, and we remember the day quite well.

My own baptism was on March 14, 1948. I was 6 weeks old. It was at St Luke’s Lutheran Church, Augustana Synod, on the south side of Chicago. My Godparents, Uncle Bob and Auntie Violet, were there. Since my grandparents lived in the area, I assume they were there as well. I remember seeing a photo of me in a long frilly dress, but I couldn’t find it.

My parents told me no stories of that day, but Uncle Bob and Auntie Vi were frequently present in our lives and, in fact, are the reason my brother Dave and I ended up in Confirmation class when I was 13 and Dave was 11. Auntie Vi died while I was in college, but Uncle Bob showed up at my ordination, and on the day Mike and I were married.

They reminded me that I am a baptized, beloved child of God. They reminded me that I am filled with the Holy Spirit. They remind me that promises were made the day I was baptized. They took their duties as baptismal sponsors seriously!

… Does my story trigger some thoughts for you about your own baptisms? What does it mean to you that you are baptized? Do you remember the promises? They were made for you by your parents and sponsors, and the members of the congregation, if you were baptized as an infant. You may have had the opportunity to make them for yourself at your confirmation, and at other times since then.

Here are the promises you made:
·         to live among God's faithful people,
·         to hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper,
·         to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
·         to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
·         and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
Is there a promise you are good at? Is there one you need to work on more?

Do you remember that you are filled with the Holy Spirit and can do anything God calls you to do?

As a congregation, I pray that you will remember in the months ahead that God is with you, that the Holy Spirit will guide you into the next thing you are being called to do. I pray that you remember that you are God’s beloved children, baptized and sent by God into the world to share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness. Amen