When it comes to water marking our life of faith it is difficult to come up with water more critical to that faith than the water of baptism. The water of baptism itself is just the earthly element required to be a sacrament. To be real honest, ours here comes out of the tap in the kitchen. It is not particularly special.
But when combined with God’s word the water becomes very different.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/255796-it-s-the-water-and-a-whole-lot-more.mp3]
It is the water of baptism that marks us as belonging to Christ. It is what I was talking about last Sunday in the sermon at that point where God may not recognize us but instead recognizes the Christ that we’ve been claimed by in baptism.
There is a movement in some parts of the world to have an unbaptism. You go online, fill out a form, print and sign it and voila, you’re unbaptized. Yeah, right. It doesn’t work that way. You can disassociate yourself from religion. You can disassociate yourself from a church. You can disassociate yourself from God even. But guess what. God doesn’t disassociate from us.
On one website’s frequently asked questions sections there are even instructions on what to do if you unbaptized yourself and then change your mind. The response? “Go to a clergyman or clergywoman of the religion you believe in, advise them that you have been unbaptized and request to be baptized again.” Yeah, not so much.
It is another example of the mistaken belief that what we say and do has a direct effect on God. The reality is, and always has been, God has been doing the work. Faith is a gift from God. Forgiveness is a gift from God. Salvation is a gift from God.
And for the record, if someone comes up to me and tells me they’ve been unbaptized and want to be rebaptized it ain’t gonna happen. We’ll have a conversation about it but once baptized, always baptized.
Which is certainly something we can thank God about. In all of the mystery of baptism there is a certain feeling of security of knowing that we can trust that baptism is not a fleeting thing that depends on us.
I came across a pretty good analogy from Lutheran pastor, author and seminary professor Mark Allan Powell and he likens this situation to a game of hide and seek. Everyone hides and tries not to get caught but the game isn’t over until everyone is found. He goes on to make the point that psychologically it is interesting because the hiding part isn’t really the fun part of the game. I mean, if you ask anyone if they want to go sit very still by themselves and keep quiet for a long period of time most folks aren’t going to find a lot of fun in that. It is in the being found where the joy of the game comes from.
So it is with us and God finding us in our baptism. Never to leave again, unbaptism or otherwise.
Tonight we hear about Jesus’ baptism. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan river which would be fairly significant to the hearers of Mark’s gospel. They would understand the implications of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan as opposed to, say, water from the tap in the kitchen. The Jordan river is the demarcation point between wilderness that Moses had led the freed Hebrew slaves into and entry into the promised land, the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Likewise the water of baptism is the demarcation point between ‘our wilderness’ and entry into the fulfillment of God’s promise.
I wonder sometimes if we don’t take that for granted. Myself included. We love baptisms. We love to see the typically young person have water put on their head and enter into a life of faith. We love to hear the words ____________, I baptize you in the name of the father, son and holy spirit. We love to answer the baptism questions.
And then what? That is the kicker. The parents make promises, the sponsors make promises and the congregation makes promises. To the person being baptized. And we live that out but do we think of the promises we make and that have been made for us at some point as we are living out our faith.
Did you ever wonder why Jesus needed to be baptized? Maybe that is something of an arcane question similar to asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Still, it is kind of a thing. I mean, Jesus was God so what’s the point?
I think the point is that while Jesus is God come to us in human form we remember the God part and forget the human part. What with all the miracles and healing and whatnot that Jesus does in his God form, his divinity it is relatively easy to gloss over the human side. And for us to really grasp that God is joining us to Godself, we need Jesus to be baptized.
With that in mind, be secure in your baptism. It’s the water… and a whole lot more.