"The Baptized Step Out in Faith"

Date Sunday January 13, 2019
Service The Baptism of Our Lord
Text Text: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Author Pastor Jean M. Hansen
Previous Sermon "Coddiwomple?"

     Last week we coddiwampled. If you were not here, let me explain that coddiwample was a new word to me that I shared in the sermon, and it seemed to be new to nearly everyone else too. It means to purposefully set out, but the direction or destination is vague. So, we talked about the challenge of having a purpose, yet the way to accomplish it is unclear. That’s not necessarily all negative since such vagueness can cause us to need and want guidance from God.

     More than one person commented to me that to live is to coddiwample. That’s true, which is why our understanding of baptism is so important. Today we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, which means that we hear again the story of Jesus’ baptism. I want to acknowledge the Gospel reading, but focus primarily on our baptisms because our grounding and purpose are revealed in baptism. That’s vital in a world of coddiwampling.

     There are two points that I want to make about baptism. First, that baptism is about identity. Please notice that in Luke’s account, after Jesus was baptized, as he was praying, a voice from heaven announced, “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The same thing occurs in our baptisms, it’s as if an announcement is being made: “This is God’s loved and forgiven child, in whom God is pleased.” God has unconditional regard for us. We belong to God’s family, and baptism is the tangible sign of that reality.

     The second important point is that baptism is God’s work. That’s why we baptize people of all ages, but particularly infants. What better way to indicate that we cannot earn God’s love, and forgiveness, than to declare that a child who is too young to do or say anything is loved and forgiven, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever?

     Listen to Dr. David Lose’s bold statement about this: “Baptism, then, is wholly God’s work that we may have confidence that no matter how often we fall short or fail, nothing that we do, or fail to do, can remove the identity that God conveys as a gift. Our relationship with God, that is, is the one relationship in life we can’t screw up precisely because we did not establish it. We can neglect this relationship, we can deny it, run away from it, ignore it, but we cannot destroy it, for God loves us too deeply and completely to ever let us go.” (1) WOW!

     That’s our grounding and we need to grasp its significance because, having been claimed and named, we also are sent to make a difference in the world. And, the astounding thing is that we can do so!!! That’s because of whose we are, and who empowers us - the Holy Spirit.

     When there is a baptism, parents, in the case of a child, sponsors and the church promise to nurture the faith of the newly baptized. There’s a reason for that; it’s so that this person will know and follow God’s way, and potentially make a positive difference in the world. And, when young people, or adults, participate in Affirmation of Baptism (which we used to call Confirmation) they affirm those baptism promises.

    Two of them focus on continuing to nurture their own faith by living among God’s faithful people, hearing God’s word and receiving Holy Communion. The other three promises put that faith, and one’s role as God’s child who is filled with the Holy Spirit, to work for the sake of others. They (we) promise to proclaim the good news of God through word and deed, serve all people, following the example of Jesus and strive for justice and peace in all the earth. The question is, then, what’s the best way to fulfill these promises? In other words, HOW?

     At the end of worship today, and on Wednesday evening, that question will be addressed. Outreach Director, Bob Manning, is going to share a new outreach format, as well as opportunities for this congregation, and any family and friends you would like to invite to join us.

     We’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to direct us, and now we are stepping out in faith, purposefully intending to live out of the gift of baptism. It’s what we are compelled to do because of whose we are. Please join this effort, there will be many ways to do so. Encourage other church members, especially those who have yet to find their niche for ministry, invite your friends and family to join us in making a difference in the world.

     There may still be some coddiwampling; how to fulfill our purpose may be vague at times, but we’ll keep asking for guidance as we head in this new direction together. AMEN

 

(1)    “Preaching a More Meaningful Baptism” by David Lose, January 6, 2013, www.workingpreacher.org