Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Have you ever noticed how the call to remember is a constant in the scripture - in both the Old and New Testaments?
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy - Remember the Lord your God -
Remember the covenant -
Remember God in the days of your youth - Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The call to remember is incorporated into our sacraments... “Take, eat, do this in remembrance of me... drink of this cup, in remembrance of me.”
And, of course, today being Baptism of the Lord Sunday... we’re called to "Remember our baptism."
Remember your baptism...
I remember mine. I was 9 years old... it was November of 1978. I along with some 30 others, had made our profession of faith during a “youth revival” at the church I grew up in... the church I attended faithfully until I was an adult and entered the ministry. So “remembering” my baptism is no problem. And if you were baptized as an older child, teenager or adult... literally remembering your baptism is probably a non-issue.
But... of course... those among us who were baptized as infants, may have no memory of the water... and words that were spoken... the promises made... or the act of baptism itself.
Which raises a pretty good question: How can those who were infants when we were baptized "remember" their baptisms.
Certainly it means more than just recalling an event... a time or place. Something bigger is going on here. And I think the key to answering this question is found in the baptism of Jesus himself. His baptism is a model for our understanding of the sacrament of baptism, as we Presbyterians understand it.
The Bible tells us that for the first 30 years of his life Jesus lived as an ordinary person. He worked every day of the week... he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and the Temple for special holy days.
Of course, one day, as his cousin John was preaching, Jesus knew the time had come for him to fulfill the mission and ministry for which he was born. So he went down to the Jordan River be baptized by John the Baptist.
Now... if your remember... John's baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And many sinners and tax collectors responded to John's preaching by being baptized as a sign that they were repenting of their sins.
But Jesus had no sin to repent of. So something else was going on here - it had to be something else!
Now hang with me... don’t give up and tune out - this is important! The real meaning of the word "repent" is to turn from; to change direction. We all need to change direction at times. We need to turn from self-will to God’s Will... from selfishness to self-less-ness.
But Jesus didn't need to do that - because by simply breathing he was doing God's will. But... Jesus was turning... wasn’t he? He was changing directions: from his life as an ordinary carpenter... to his life as a teacher, example and then redeemer.
So Jesus came to John to be baptized as a mark of this change, this turning point in his ministry and life. And something interesting happened. First the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus. And a Voice, from Heaven... declared, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
Now (of course) Jesus had been God’s Son since before his birth. But in that moment, God was declaring a fact that defined Jesus' actions from that point forward. Jesus came to John because he was the Son of God. He would teach and heal and perform miracles because he was the Christ; the Messiah; the Anointed One. He would ultimately do what we could not do for ourselves. He would die for our sins, and defeat both Hell and the grave... making our redemption possible. Fulfilling the covenant and bringing God’s Chosen into communion with the Father.
Baptism is primarily about what God does! That's where most people misunderstand baptism.
Many think baptism is all about us... what we do... “I have decided to follow Jesus!” It’s on me!
And there’s no doubt... baptism involves our actions, but only as a response to what God has already done. Our action is to come to be baptized (or to bring our children to be baptized) and then to affirm our faith in Jesus Christ. But ultimately, everything we do is done in response to what God has already done.
And what is it that God has done? God has called you to be his child. He has claimed you as his own. The Almighty has declared it for all who care to listen: you are a child of God and you make God happy!
In the Hebrew culture, and faith, circumcision was the mark of the covenant... the sign and seal that you were part of the community of faith. But that seal wasn’t available to half of the people (sorry ladies). So the early church adopted baptism as the mark and seal of the New Covenant... including everyone.
Our Baptism symbolizes the fact that God has claimed us before we were able to say yea or nay. “Before I formed you in the womb (God said to Jeremiah) I knew you, and CALLED you...”
And since God has claimed each of us - and our children - to be His... we mark that claim through the act of baptism (followed up years later, after teaching and rearing our children in the faith, by confirmation - when the child’s status as a believer is “confirmed”).
And just as the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus... so the waters of baptism are poured out on us. In the act of baptizing the church recognizes and affirms that God has called us as his children.
Remember your baptism... which, of course, means “remember your salvation is God’s doing.” To “remember you baptism” is to hear and acknowledge the wonderful reality that we are the children of God...
Julia, you are my beloved daughter. Tony, you are my beloved son. Susan, you are my beloved daughter. Kasen, you are my beloved son.
God has called you to be his child.
And through Jesus, you and I are “grafted into the vine” - we’re part of God’s Elect... if we but receive the offer of God’s grace.
Remember your baptism! Recommit your life to serving Christ... to living, and loving, and serving as a child of God!