Baptism of Our Lord

Isaiah 43:1-7
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O fontIsrael: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Text from Oremus

One of the interesting things I noticed when I became a Lutheran some years ago was the amount of time people spent talking about baptism. ‘Remember your baptism’ was a phrase unfamiliar to me but commonly on the lips of the Lutheran pastors I knew. When kids were confirmed they were ‘confirming’ their baptism. There were other times during the year that we were specifically called to remember our baptism, one of which is the festival we celebrate today—the Festival of the Baptism of Our Lord. The ironic thing about all this to me was that virtually none of the Lutherans I knew could not remember their baptisms at all because they were infants or young children when they were baptized.

Because my parents were of different denominations—my mother Methodist and my father Missionary Baptist—there was much discussion between the two of them about when and how I would be baptized. My father won the discussion and I was, therefore, baptized not as an infant but as a slightly older child. So, unlike so many Lutherans, perhaps even unlike many here today, I do remember my baptism. Quite well, actually. More than anything else, I remember being terribly afraid that the curls my mother had fought and struggled to get into my hair would all be washed away in the small amount of water the pastor would place on my head. However, I have a suspicion that the injunction to ‘Remember your Baptism’ is a little something more than this.

Baptism is not something we enter into lightly, be it as an adult, a child or an infant, even if it is something we’ve come to view as routine. We do it at the command of Jesus who told the disciples and us to go into the world and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And in this, in these waters, we are joined with Him with all that entails. Joined with him in his baptism, joined with him in his life, and joined with him in his death.

In the Old Testament text above (the first lesson from this Sunday) we have a powerful statement about God’s love for us that has a particularly baptismal sound to it. But Now, says the Lord, he who created you, Do Not Fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. .. you are precious in my sight and I Love You.

This is the same thing God says to us all in our baptisms: “This one is mine!” God says.

It is quite possible that our emphasis on baptism comes from Martin Luther and his own focus on this moment and all it means. He wrote that every morning when you wash your face you should remember your baptism. In other words: remember that you ARE baptized. Luther is famous for his struggle with overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and questioning whether or not he deserved God’s love and grace. Legend says that he even had this written over his desk: Remember, you have been baptized.

Luther’s emphasis and ours is well founded. The truth is that God chooses to bring us into the world and he claims and reclaims us over and over again. Luther knew that we don’t need to spend a whole lot of time fretting over whether or not we are adequate or worthy. With the exception of Jesus, none of us are truly worthy. But we have sure hope in God’s grace and mercy so freely given to us. Freely poured over us like running water. In our baptism we are united with that grace, with Jesus himself, and we are granted the gift of the Holy Spirit. From our baptism onward, we live inside the promise that we will have a strength that comes from God enabling us to live our lives differently. God says: “Do you see my child down there? I am so proud of him. She’s not perfect, but she’s mine.”

—-Want to hear more? Join us in worship Sunday mornings at 11am. This sermon can be read in full at Shepherdess Writes

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