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Baptism: The Journey of Discipleship

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Baptism: The Journey of Discipleship

Let us pray. Lord god we do thank you for the baptism of Jesus. We thank you for John the Baptist and the incredibly powerful message that he proclaimed. We thank you Lord that we can be people who today also assume that type of role that John the Baptist had. As he helped prepare the way for the Lord’s first coming, we’re blessed to help prepare the way for the second, though we know not when that might be. May we, like John, be your faithful disciples. May we live in the light. May we celebrate our baptism and live it through our faith relationship with Christ and our love of each other. Amen.

Baptism is an incredibly powerful thing that happens. Theologically speaking, it is the most important day of a person’s life. How many of you remember your baptisms? Probably not too many. If you’re like me, you were baptized when you were six or seven weeks old. Let’s go to my baptism. Do I remember it? No. But I’ve been told about it. I was baptized on Reformation Day, which happened to be a Sunday that year, October 31st. And I was baptized by my grandfather, the husband of the person who gave me this cross. Unfortunately he died when I was about 4 years old. But I’ve been told by my mother and father that at my baptism, when I was six or seven weeks old, I screamed through the whole thing. That’s always a concern for parents, isn’t it? Any baptism conference  I have before I baptize their first child they almost always bring that up. “Oh gosh, what if he yells, what if he screams?” And you can tell that they’re embarrassed before it even happens. And I try to assure them, “Look I can’t say anything because I screamed the roof off during my baptism.” Now what annoyed my grandfather wasn’t even so much that I cried and screamed during my baptism, it was that at the little get-together afterwords at my grandparent’s house guess who was sleeping like a log… “Now you sleep kid?!” 

That’s the story of my baptism. That’s when I was united to Christ’s death and resurrection, that’s when I was made a Christian. The Holy Spirit descended upon me and my life as a disciple ensued. John the Baptist was about baptizing too. Now, John’s baptism was a water baptism. John was convinced that the Messiah was coming and his point was: you need to be ready for the Messiah. You need to be prepared for the Messiah. And one way to do that is through the washing of sin. So water is a cleansing agent, right? Water and repentance. Repentance: say you’re sorry, turn back onto the right path, have a change of heart or disposition. That’s what he was saying to all the people that came to him to be baptized. And Jesus came. Not that Jesus needed to repent of anything, of course, but in fulfillment of Scripture Jesus was baptized. And we read that the Spirit descended upon Jesus in His baptism and then His formal ministry began. Now Jesus- and John set this in motion too- he talked about Jesus’ baptism, the Christian baptism, being even much greater than John’s baptism. Because in the Christian baptism, as occurred to me and everyone one of you when you were baptized, the Spirit came to you in a very special way. The Spirit is present. And that’s what we talk about in the Christian baptism. Again, we’re united to Christ’s death and resurrection in the waters of baptism. And in baptism, what happens? What does Luther tell us in the Small Catechism? We receive the forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the Devil and evil, and everlasting salvation for all who believe what God has promised. And the good news is as the Spirit works in our lives, often times through other people working in the church, working out there to indeed instill in us that saving faith. 

So, as Christians, as the baptized, we’re on a journey of discipleship. And where does that journey take us? It takes us to worship, where you are right now, to worship where we’re fed, where we’re nourished, where we’re guided, where we experience the love of God anew each and every time and the forgiveness of God, and we’re united to our sisters and brothers in Christ through the worship service with us. Worship is when we praise God, thank God, and receive God in a special way as God comes to us in the Word and Sacrament. Worship is at the epicenter of the church. This church has all kinds of things going on. Just check out the bulletin and you’ll see for yourselves. All kind of things, good things, going on. But the heart of what we’re about- the bullseye- is this: the worship experience. And everything else radiates around that and comes and radiates around that and comes and springs out of that experience. Other things we do on our journey of discipleship as baptized Christians is we learn. We should never feel like were too old to learn. Each and every one of us should be humble enough to be willing to learn until our final breath. We learn from others and others learn from us. The Spirit guides that process too. 

Then there’s the fellowship, the Christian fellowship. We have, I would suggest, a lot of differences among us. Maybe we’re different political parties. Maybe we have, as were coming into another presidential election, different candidates that we’re wanting to front. We have all kind of different hobbies and interests and occupations and skills. We have different ways that we use our time and our talents and our treasures. We have different sports teams, right? Although I know we’re all united in rooting for the Steelers right now, other than that we have differences, right? But we are united in who? In Jesus Christ. That’s what were united in. And when you think about it, isn’t that the most important thing in the world for us? To be united in Christ. All these other superficial differences that come between people at times and create animosity and hostility and distance and stress, they’re all out there. And we let them do that to us, let them fester in us, let them control our lives. Let’s stay focused on Christ. And as a church, who cares who the person beside you is going to vote for this year. Let’s stay focused on serving Jesus Christ, receiving Christ’s benefits as Christ comes to us, again in word and sacrament, prayer, music. Let’s be about being united in Christ. Its okay, these other differences we have. But what we have in common, what unites us is far more important than the differences that divide us. 

And then there’s service. Together, separately we engage in service. We love our neighbors as we’re commanded to do. We work in our own ways to enhance the common good of society. We work to promote peace and justice, we work to spread God’s love in the world. Again, I’m very pleased at how this church is doing that. Can you rest on your laurels? No! There’s always something new you can do, something different you can try, something you can revise, someone else out there in need. So let’s continue that good work. Giving thanks and praise to God for being with us through it all. For without the spirit none of this happens.

So then, did you catch at the end of our gospel lessons- and you’ll catch another variation of it at the end of our gospel lesson on Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday of this church season. What do we hear the voice from heaven say, God saying to Jesus? “You are my Son, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.“ That’s what God said about Jesus. On the day when we’re face-to-face with God are we going to be as perfect as Jesus was? Of course not. But may Our Lord say to us, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. You have run the good race. Yeah, you fell. Yeah, you stumbled. Yeah you did this wrong and you did that wrong and you sinned here and you sinned there. But I love you, I care for you, I died for you in the Son, and I welcome you into my heavenly abode.” Amen.