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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Remember Y'all's Baptism

2017-01-08 Mt 03 13-17 Remember Y'all's Baptism



Remember Your Baptism.


Do you remember your baptism?


Yes, some of you do. You remember the date, the time, the church. You remember what you were wearing. You remember the temperature of the water as you stepped into the baptistry. Or waded into the lake, or the river. You remember the preacher putting his hand on your face and holding your nose and pushing you under, the bubbling, muffled sounds from above, and then pulling you up – new, clean, and reborn. You remember the sound of the water as it splashed from your hair, back into the pool. Yes, you remember your baptism.


Or maybe it was just a sprinkle of water, cupped in the hand of a priest or pastor, but you remember how it felt, his palm pressed against your forehead, the drops trailing down your cheeks, not all that different from tears. Yes, you remember your baptism.


But a good number of you don't. You don't remember your baptism at all. Because you were baptized as infants or as toddlers. Maybe there are pictures or a video to prove it. Maybe your family pulled it out at Christmas. See, there's your parents with smaller chins and bigger hair. So you must have been there. But you, personally, can't recall anything about it.


Or maybe you were baptized, but you're reluctant to talk about it because, you're afraid it might have been the wrong way. Churches can get more in a wad over baptism than carpet. Was it real baptism? Or christening? Or dedication? Believer's or infant? Immersion, submersion, aspersion, or affusion? (fancy names for dunking, drowning, sprinkling and pouring)? Almost as many ways as churches. People worry: will this transfer? Will it count in heaven? Some churches tell you no. This is one time when Presbyterians are not picky. If you're baptized in a church that believes in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it counts. You're baptized and you'll stay that way.


But maybe you're feeling kind of excluded right now. Because, as far as you know, you've never been baptized. All these other people are smiling and nodding like members of a secret society. But for whatever reason, that palmful of water, or that pitcher, or that pool isn't part of your life. So, no, you don't remember your baptism because there isn't any baptism to remember.


So, for me to stand here and say, "Remember your baptism," can mean a lot of different things. It depends on who you are, on your parents, on where and when you were baptized, if you have been baptized at all. Your baptism could be a joyful memory. The best day of your life. But not always. To tell you to "remember your baptism" could be telling you to remember nothing at all.


But it is something. Baptism is something. It counts, even if we don't always understand why.




Today in the church calendar is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. Today, we remember Jesus's baptism. It's always the Sunday after Epiphany. Epiphany was Friday. Epiphany's the day the Wise Men finally got to the stable and officially ends the 12 Days of Christmas. So the Sunday after Epiphany we always celebrate the start of Jesus's adult ministry by remembering and celebrating the Baptism of Our Lord.


When Jesus was about 30, he went down to the Jordan River, to be baptized by John, his cousin, a prophet, who prophesied that God's anointed Son, the Savior, the Messiah, was coming. God's Anointed went to be anointed. And if that sounds like a mental circle to you, you're not alone.


John himself said, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"


But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness."


I don't know exactly what that means, and I doubt John did, either, but it was good enough, and he relented.


John was baptizing people in waters of repentance. And you say, "But what sins did Jesus have to repent?" And again, kind of a circular question to which there is no good answer. Just, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness."


In other words, Jesus says, "John, James, you in the pew: you don't have to understand everything. Just work with me." And it was good. Good enough.


So, today is the day we remember Jesus's baptism, even if we can't remember our own.


But we can't literally remember his, either. It happened 2000 years ago. None of us were there. So what does it mean, what does the Bible mean, when it tells us to remember?


Well, thankfully, remembrance doesn't always depend on our memories.




How's your memory?


Thank goodness for smartphones. The best part of having a smart phone is that it dings at you when it's time to do something. Of course, you have to remember to set the reminders.


"OK Google, remind me on Tuesday to tell Siri that Alexa has a doctor's appointment Friday." (I may have just hacked all your phones. And I'm not even Russian. Tuesday you'll get a reminder and you'll have no idea what it means. You're welcome.)


There's a reason Dory got her own movie. Nemo's cute, but everybody loves Dory because we identify with the little blue fish with short-term memory loss. Why did I come into this room? Where are my keys? Why did I just call my daughter the dog's name? Remembering is hard. It takes help. None of our memories are as sharp as they used to be.


Unless it's a grudge. Or an insult. Or a hurtful word. We can always remember not to forgive someone. Totally opposite of Jesus; he remembers to forgive you all the time. And he reminds you to forgive everybody else all the time. If only remembering to forgive were as easy as remembering not to forgive. It's hard. There should be an app for that.


And there is. We call it Baptism of the Lord Sunday. The church sets it as a reminder, to remember your baptism, at least once a year. It reminds us of the forgiveness we share in Jesus. So "Remember your baptism" is really, "Remember who you are."




Who are you? There's something we surely forget.


It's said that when the great reformer, Martin Luther,

"was holed up in a castle translating the Greek Bible into German so that for the very first time somewhat regular folks could read the Word of God for themselves, well, while he was doing this he struggled mightily with doubt and discouragement from what he understood to be the devil. And he was known to not only throw the occasional ink pots at whatever was tormenting him and causing him to doubt God's promises, but while doing so he could be heard throughout the castle grounds shouting "I am baptized". (Bolz-Weber, 2011, Sojourners Magazine)


Notice what he said: Not I was baptized, but I am baptized.


"Ich bin getauft!"


Luther wasn't remembering an event. He was remembering his identity. You see, because he remembered his Bible, Jesus made him who he was. He and Jesus were both baptized. That was one thing he had in common with his Lord and Savior. And that was good. Good enough to keep him going when his brain couldn't remember why he was doing this ministry he was doing and when wanted to just give up and forget. He might not have remembered the water. He might not have remembered what he was wearing, or whether he was dunked or sprinkled or poured. Luther remembered he shared, somehow, in the person of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit. And that was enough.


"I  - AM - baptized." It's not only something that's happened to you. It's who – you – are.




So, this day, Baptism of the Lord Sunday, we tell people, "Remember your baptism." If you can recall the details of the event, bless you. But if you can't actually remember, or if you have actually nothing to remember, the church still says, and God still says, bless you, too. Because in a mysterious way we'll never fully understand, we all share in the blessing of Jesus's baptism. If you'd like to be baptized, we can do that. No matter your age, no matter your past, it would be a blessing to share the experience with you, and we would be honored to remember and celebrate the sacrament among this church family. Remember your baptism can still happen.


Now, I keep saying, "your" baptism.


The English language can be deceptive. We say to remember your baptism and we think the your means yours, alone, as if it's your personal property. Your phone. Your car. In church, whenever you hear us say "your" in relation to scripture, probably 7 out of 10 times, it's plural. Church, faith, is not an individual sport. The church is not the isolated individuals of Christ; it's the body of Christ. We can't get along without each other, even though sometimes we might wish we could. Just like your family. They're yours, but they sure don't belong to you. But they're part of you and you're part of them, bless their hearts. So, yes, remember your baptism, but remember it's not yours alone. Remember y'all's baptism. All y'all together are the body of Christ. All y'all together share a baptism that isn't completely yours to begin with. Who you are begins with Christ.


Jesus was baptized.


I am baptized.


We are baptized.


This is who we are.




And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."


On his baptism day, Jesus was told who he was. Which means we, his followers, are also told who we are. Remember who you are. Forgive who you are not. And remember to forgive those who aren't what they should be.




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