January 10, 2021 “Remember Your Baptism”
“Remember Your Baptism”
A man who had obviously had too much to drink found himself stumbling along the river when he chanced upon a Pentecostal baptism service. He proceeded to walk down into the water and stand next to the preacher. The minister asked the drunk, “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?” The drunk said, “Yeah, sure. Yes, I am.” The minister then immersed the man under the water and pulled him right back up. The preacher asked, “Have you found Jesus?” The drunk said, “No, I didn’t!” The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?” The man replied, “No, I did not.” The preacher, getting a little disgusted now, holds the man under for at least 30 seconds this time, then brings him out of the water and says in a loud voice, “My God, have you found Jesus yet?” The drunk wipes his eyes, spits, and sputters and finally says to the preacher… “Are you sure this is where he fell in?”
My apologies to those who might take offense at me poking some fun at the sacrament of Baptism. It is, after all, something that we have been taught to take very seriously. But that being said, I have to ask: When was the last time that you even thought about your baptism? How often does it come to mind? How often do we consider the significance – the importance – of baptism in our daily lives? Well, if we’re going to be honest, probably not so much. I know I probably shouldn’t presume here. Baptism is an important and meaningful event in our lives; we just don’t think about it that much. It was important to our parents that we were baptized, just like it is important for us and our children. Baptism is a sacrament as well as a tradition, but day in and day out, I’m guessing that very few folks listening to this right now give baptism much thought.
I bring this up, of course, because today is the first Sunday after Epiphany, the day that we celebrate the baptism of our Lord. For centuries, the church has struggled with this story. It’s hard to explain and a little embarrassing. I mean, why would Christ, God manifested in the flesh, need to submit to a baptism of repentance? Matthew points out that John the Baptist was uneasy about the whole idea. Why should one who is without sin ask for forgiveness?
Luke only gives us a casual mention of the event. In today’s gospel passage, Mark allows 3 lines. “This is hard,” you might say. “We need more information!” But I’d have to disagree. We don’t need more information; we need to ask a different question. Christ was baptized to be gifted, to tap into, to gain the power of the Holy Spirit. And in so doing, he has gifted and empowered that same Spirit onto us. Now, this may sound a little too lofty and Kumbaya to most us, but bear with me on this.
“Remember your Baptism.” How many of you have heard a preacher say these words? “Remember your Baptism.” Maybe some water gets poured into the font, a liturgy is spoken.
But let’s face it, most of here were baptized as infants. So when I hear the words “remember your baptism” there’s really not much to be said except “Nope, I don’t remember a thing about it.” Even folks who were baptized as youth or adults might find themselves thinking, “Yea- so what about it?” The point is not to remember the actual event. Instead, we are to remind ourselves that we have been baptized in the first place. We are to remember that someone or some ones presented us before the Lord to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness and reject the evil powers of this world. We are to remember that for the love of us there were those who stood up for us to be an example: an example of God’s grace and an example of the joy of a life in faith. And we are to remember that through that faith, we can receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Like Caspar Green said, “Baptism might just get you wet. Or it might just change your life.”
To remember our baptism is to relive again and again the moments when the Spirit truly touched us. These are the moments of love and faith and peace and joy and fellowship that drew us to the community of Christ in the first place. And these are the moments that inspire us to reach out; to reach out beyond our places of comfort; to reach out to the marginalized; to reach out to the other. When we live in the Spirit, it changes everything.
Amen & Shalom