Monday, February 04, 2013

Baptism of Christ


Luke 3: 15-17. 21-22

Nobody is born a Christian. You can be born into a Christian culture, just like you can be born into a Jewish culture. But one can be an atheist in still be Jewish. You cannot say that about Christianity. You must choose it, at some point.

It may feel like you can; some of you were born into Christian families, and have been attending church since you were brought in a baby-carrier. But there was some point at which you made some sort of a decision, either in small portions, or all at once, to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

I was in and out of Methodist and Episcopalian churches my whole life, wherever my father was hired as a singer or a choir conductor. But I did not become a Christian in either of those denominations; instead, I became a Christian at 26 years old in a non-denominational church. I remember the day well, and am still friends with one of the people who were also baptized that day. It was a time when I needed help, and I saw in God the strength to do what I needed to do, but that I could not do myself.
Those of us who were baptized as infants do not remember the day. You were brought to the church by your family or friends, and the congregation (if it was Methodist) pledged to bring you up in the ways of the faith, until such time as when you were able to be confirmed, and at that time, you took responsibility for your own salvation.
For each of us, there has been a time when we were not Christian. Whether it be for a few weeks, a month or two, or a year, or whether it was much longer, like me, there was a time when we were not marked as God’s own. Baptism was the sign that we all participated in to mark us as Christ’s own.

Today is the baptism of Christ. Today is the day we acknowledge that even someone who had the connection with God that Jesus did; access to the bandwidth that Jesus did, had to start with a very mundane procedure to mark the acceptance of God’s grace in his life; his “repentance”.

John, in another account of the story, sees Jesus coming and, since they’re cousins, and since John knows who Jesus is, since his birth, says, “I should be baptized by you!” Jesus tells him “let it be so for now.”

No one is worthy of being the person who performs baptism, but it still has to happen. Baptism is for us the “outward and visible sign of an inward movement and change.” Someone’s got to do it, but we all know that we are not anything more than just the vessel through which the Spirit works.

There are some churches, as well, who believe that you must be baptized again each time you change churches, but we in the United Methodist traditions do not. We do not “rebaptize”, whether you come from Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, whatever. If you were baptized in any church that believes in the Trinity, that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he was resurrected; if the church claims that doctrine, even if you personally have issues with it, you are still not rebaptized.

But I do know that it can be hard to find meaning in baptism, or in being baptized, if you don’t remember. For others, our baptism is a memory that needs to be claimed and cherished.

So this morning, we do a re-affirmation of our baptisms.

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