In pm's words
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January 11, 2016, 9:00 AM

the one about baptism...


Sermon from January 10, 2016

Text: Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

I read something this week that kind of floored me. It floored me not because it was anything truly different than what I already felt, but it floored me because it put into words so beautifully and matter-of-factly. It floored me because I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard it stated that way before.

But, before we get to that we get to learn a little about baptism.

We celebrate this day – this Baptism of our Lord – by remembering our own baptisms and remembering that Jesus himself was baptized.

The coolest thing about baptism is that it involves something that we as Lutherans probably don’t talk enough about – mostly because we don’t understand it too well and it isn’t as ‘tangible’ to us as other parts of our faith. So, not only do we hear so much about baptism and water throughout all our readings this morning, but we hear of that other aspect of faith – the wilier part of our faith – the Spirit.

We don’t talk a whole lot about the Holy Spirit as Lutherans. We don’t understand it. It isn’t as readily ‘identifiable’ as God the father or Jesus the son. We don’t really know how to wrap our arms around it. So, naturally those things that we don’t fully understand we normally tend to shy away from speaking about them.

The wonder and beauty of the Holy Spirit is that it cannot be understood. It is one of those great and beloved mysteries of our faith. However, even though we are not capable of understanding or corralling the Spirit, that does not mean we cannot experience it or see it at work in our lives.

Even in baptism we truly believe that the Spirit descends upon us because we are baptized in the name of the Trinity – father, son, and holy spirit. But, it isn’t that we say magic words ala reciting the name of Beetlejuice three times to ‘force’ the Spirit to show up. It is not we who control God’s breath – God’s holy Spirit. Instead it is something that we cannot control at all.

As we gather together in celebration of baptism and as we are witness to baptism taking place, it is the Spirit that gather’s with us – because the Spirit is present in those waters. We have faith that Spirit is present with us as we are witness to God’s baptism upon another sister or brother in our life and family of faith.

We believe that where many are gathered, Christ is present – the Trinity is there. We don’t ‘call’ upon the Spirit to show up, but the Spirit shows up because we are gathered in Christ’s name.

Now, baptism itself – especially in this part of the country – can be seen in a multitude of different ways. Even in an area where there are lots of Lutherans running around, there is still the thought that we are baptized so that God might love and be with us.

That because our lives are ‘messed up’ that we need baptism to wash clean ourselves and our lives so that God might look upon us favorably. Where the act of baptism becomes more about us than it is about God. I’m sure y’all have heard that thought before – perhaps deep down you’ve believed baptism to be that. The golden ticket – saving grace – get out of jail free card that we need for God to be present with us.

But, I’m not sure baptism is quite that.

Yes, we are washed of our sins. Yes, our old self dies and then a new creation rises out of those blessed waters.

But, I don’t think – I really don’t think – baptism is what causes God to love us. Far from it.

In fact – I truly feel that it is because of baptism that we know that we are loved. It is God’s sign of love for us that we are gifted baptism. God already loves us and then washes us. Not so much that God will love us, but so that we can see and understand that God does already love us.

Where in that act of baptism God calls down to each of us – with you I’m well pleased – now you know that. It isn’t God saying, “Now that you are washed, I’m happy with you – finally.” In that realization – in those waters we are changed.

We rise to a new life that seeks to honor the gift that we have been given – to live into and honor that gift of love, grace, freedom, and forgiveness from God. That gift of new and renewed life in Christ’s name.

And now we come to that part where I mentioned I was floored by something this week. It comes from a really inspirational individual name Shane Claiborne – he’s really a great person in the faith that seeks to live out his faith, but also recognize the struggles that goes a long with it because being perfectly honest – living out faith following Christ in our life isn’t easy. It isn’t our first thought or inclination. Shane writes it this way…

I know there are people out there who say, “My life was such a mess. I was drinking, partying, sleeping around; and then I met Jesus, and my whole life came together.” God bless those people. But for me, I had it together. I used to be cool (I was prom king, for heaven’s sake). Then I met Jesus, and He wrecked my life.

 

The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued and hoped for upside down. I am still recovering from my conversion.

Those aren’t usually the words and thoughts we hear from people who live into the faith of following the one who calls us, washes us, and sends us. Except for many – if not most – of us that is exactly how we feel right?

We read our bibles, we participate in studies and devotions, we come to worship, we listen to the pastor flapping his gums, we receive the bread and wine, we talk with one another, we hear this message of love, and faith, and forgiveness, and we go out into the world after our time in worship and we are confronted by thoughts and voices that don’t line up with what we here in this place and read in this book.

We hear – love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you from our Lord, but that’s not what we hear outside these walls all the time.

We hear – you are loved because God created you, but out there we might hear, “God loves you only if you’re like this…”

We hear – You. Are. Forgiven. Always. Yet, when we leave this place we are confronted with and sometimes live into the thought of – “You’ve screwed up too much. Get out.”

And in hearing that we are conflicted. As Shane wrote – all the things that I value, believed in, and hoped for are turned upside down. It’s all that wily Spirit’s fault.

For you see – as much as baptism is one of those concrete signs from God that we are loved and cherished. Baptism is also a beginning – it is not an ending.

Baptism isn’t the washing away of our messy and dirty life, but instead baptism is the sign for us that God is present in the midst of the mess and dirt. That in baptism – as faith is poured into us in those waters – God is there saying, “yeah – it is messy. But, I love you and we’re going to do this together.”

Not only is God present there in our baptismal life helping to guide and direct us as we struggle with living into the life of our baptismal promises, but God has surrounded us with others who struggle as well – each and every one of us.

That in this community – Christ is present. Christ too is baptized within the community of God. Jesus walks with us in this life – this messy and dirty life. This life full of struggle as we are pulled between what we know we should do in living into the baptismal life and the ‘easy’ life of falling victim to the sin that exists in this world and in us.

We struggle. We hurt. We are confused.

Baptism doesn’t wash that away.

But, in baptism we know, we have faith in, we remember that those struggles, those hurts, and that confusion is not what defines us. That in these waters we are reminded that we are loved, called, forgiven, accepted, and sent into a world that yearns to hear the same. That we are surrounded by a community of saints that struggle too. That we come together by the wiliness of the Spirit in our lives that points to God at work in us, around us, and for us.

We remember that baptism is the beginning of our life of faith; not the finish line.

Yet, throughout this life – this life lived in the shadow of our baptisms – we walk as Luther would say, “Wet.” We walk wet in remembrance of God’s gift to us. Of God’s presence in our life. Of God’s love for us. A love that was and is and will be so strong that we are washed to remind us that we are loved.

Yes, being baptized changes us. It may even ‘wreck’ our lives. But, we live in this life of baptism together – together with God, together with Jesus, together with the Spirit, and together with one another.

In baptism we live to God. Amen.

 

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