Scripture | Isaiah 43:1-5a | Matthew 3:1-17
There are a number of moments in our life that serve as milestones along the journey of our life. Moments that act like guide posts or road signs along the path our life. Events that shape us and end up writing the narrative of who we are. These are stories that we return to again and again, stories we tell whenever our friends and family are around. Stories we remember even when we are alone. We think about the people who were there who got to share in that moment with us, we remember what happened. We return to moments like again and again because these milestone moments are times that remind us of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.
There are milestones like birthdays, anniversaries that come along every year. Milestones that mark the passage of time. We begin to look at them like the most recent facebook profile picture challenge… Where our oldest and most recent pictures are compared and we see how we’ve aged and grown through life’s journey….
Then there are more major milestones, like a graduation, a big move, a new job, a marriage, a birth, a death. Milestones that mark a significant change in the trajectory of our life. Events that mark a turning point, where who we are, what we care about, and how we go about life changes… These are the events that we look back on, and it is like we are transported… We remember who we were then… all of the people there with us, and how in a moment our life.. our life changed forever.
Baptisms should fall in this later category. Baptisms are a major milestone moment, not just for our faith, but for our whole life. Because, we believe, they mark a turning point, a new beginning, where our lives change in a very public way. And before God, and surrounded by a community of faith who promise their support for us, we commit ourselves to a new way of life… the way of Christ.
We believe that in these baptismal waters… grace is poured out… and we are washed cleaned and forgiven of any sin. We believe… that in these waters… we leave our old life behind and are given an opportunity to begin anew that in these waters… we die… and we rise with Christ, into a new life… in the family of God.
We should see this as a major milestone in our lives… An event that changes us… An event that we should come back to again and again in order to remember who we truly are, where we have come from, and where we are going…
This certainly seems to be a major milestone moment for Jesus’ life. It is why three of the four gospels tell the story almost the same way. God is up to something in this story… The wilderness prophet John the baptist realizes it, even Jesus realizes it.
I like to imagine that this story was a turning point for him. That this was a story that helped him to better understand who he was in the world, and how God was calling him. I even like to imagine that this is a story he would return to again and again, throughout his life and ministry…
That whenever he was struggling… he would remember that day with John and his disciples in the wilderness desert… and he can almost hear John preaching… “change your hearts, change your lives, Prepare the way for God’s Kingdom”
Whenever he felt tired and weary… He would return into the waters of the Jordan, and he feel the cool refreshing waters of his baptism flooding over him…
Whenever he felt up against insurmountable odds… he would turn to his friends who would remind him of the words of the voice of God… "This is my Son whom I dearly love; with whom I am well pleased"
I had a friend in college who would always make it a point to go for walks on rainy days. It was Florida, so rain showers were a regular occurrence. And even though they were often unexpected and were almost always torrential downpours, this friend of mine would almost always welcome them.
It was almost like a ritual for her, If she was coming out of class or heading home from work she’d forgo the umbrella and just choose to get drenched, splashing in all the puddles she could and taking her time to make it back to her house. I asked her why she did this once, and she had a surprisingly theological answer.
She said a whole lot of people see rain as a bad thing like it disrupts their day and causes them trouble but for her whenever she was in the rain it reminded her of her baptism. She chose to see rain as an unexpected grace from God. Like, God was reminding her that she was loved, that she was forgiven and given a new start, and she added that whenever she was soaked to the bone with rain it reminded her how her life was soaked to the bone with God’s love and grace.
My worship professor in seminary took this ritual further. On the day that we were discussing baptism in class she shared that every morning when she got up to take a shower, she would splash the water on her face three times. And She would say to herself: “Remember that you are baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”
At the start of her day, every day, she established this ritual to remember her baptism, to remember God’s love for her, Christ’s sacrifice for her, and this reminder that the holy spirit is constantly working to raise her into a new life.
I love both of these images. There is something incredibly powerful about this ritualized act of remembering. Of setting aside a regular time to remember some of the most important moments of our life. Because God’s grace shouldn’t just be reserved for Sunday, but everyday! Because everyday we could use the reminder of God’s over flowing Grace. Because everyday we could use the reminder of God’s wide open welcome. Because everyday we could use the reminder of Christ’s life, his sacrifice, and his new life for the world, that we have chosen to join our lives with.
In a few minutes, at the end of our service, as you leave the sanctuary and go back to your everyday lives… you’ll have an opportunity to remember your baptism… We have placed the baptismal font on the floor, and have placed fonts at the back doors of the sanctuary.
Our hope is that you don’t hurry away… but pause for a moment at the waters edge.
That you touch the water and remember…
remember who God says you are…
remember the new life into which Christ has called you…
Our hope is that you return to the water
and remember your baptism…