4I therefore, the prisoner in the
Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have
2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8Therefore it is said,
ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to
his people. 9(When it says,
He ascended, what
does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of
the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended
far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all
things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be
apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and
teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come
to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to
maturity, to the measure of the full stature of
Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro
and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by
their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the
truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head,
into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit
together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is
working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in
12As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Children are all different… and every baptism is different… with Natalie's baptism… and Michaela's
Baptisms are always special and they've always been one of my favorite
things to be a part of at a church because it points to something so
much bigger than any one person… It brings me hope to see
people, young or old incorporated into the Church. It warms my heart
to see the parents and the congregation go through the ritual of the
questions and the promises that are made. It's a hopeful thing for me
to see family and friends, loved ones and the entire
congregation… so many people gathered together to say a
yes, we promise that we will do everything in our
power to build up this person so that they will be able to become a
dedicated follower of Christ. What happened today and what happens
with every baptism is so much more than the simple ceremony of water
and words that it may seem to someone who just stopped by to watch.
Our scriptures lift up a whole bunch of images of what baptism is. In the book of Romans, baptism is identification with Christ's suffering and death, and participating in a new life that's based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Corinthians, it's a new start because sin has been washed away. In the gospel of John, the book of Acts, and the letter to Titus, it's understood as a rebirth where the Holy Spirit gives and renews life. In Ephesians and Galatians it's the act of being united with Christ and united with the community that's made up of the people of God throughout history.
The practice of Baptism may look different at different churches… some immerse people putting them totally under water. Some pour water, some sprinkle it. Some churches only baptize people who are old enough to choose a relationship with Christ, others, like us, will baptize people of any age. And yet, through all the differences, our reading from the letter to the Ephesians claims there is one baptism… no matter what the externals look like, there are two things that remain constant. Baptism always proclaims that we are recipients of God's love, and it always points to the fact that we are claimed for God's service.
When we baptize a child, as parents and as a community of faith we say
God loves this child. There's no way around it.
When we remember our own baptism we can be certain that God loved us
before there was anything we could do, and God loves us without
anything that we must do. When we baptize an adult we recognize God's
love has already been at work in that person's life to bring them to
the point where they want to be baptized, where they want to be part
of a faith community... God created us, God formed us, God made us to
be exactly who we are, and before we ever knew it, God began working
in us. And God will continue to work in us until the day we die and
maybe even longer. Why? Because God loves us. That's the first
message of baptism.
The second message of baptism looks toward our response to that love.
I look around and think that many, if not most of us were baptized as
infants… too young to remember anything about the
ceremony… and even if we do remember the ceremony, it can
quickly fade to simple sentimentality if we forget the meaning it
holds. When we celebrate baptism we say
Yes, God… I want
you to work in me and through me… not just today but every
day. Baptism isn't just a ceremony… It's an initiation
into a new way of being. When we remember our baptism, we recognize
God's claim on our lives.
A few weeks ago, we commissioned a team of youth and adults to go serve in Appalachia. Later today a couple of them are going to share a bit of their experience with us. I look forward to hearing it. They gave a week of their summer to go and serve… and by doing so, whether they realized it or not, they were living into their baptismal responsibility. There are people in this faith community who serve God and serve their neighbor on a daily basis… some of them here at the church, some of them in other areas of the community and whether they realized it or not, they were living into their baptismal responsibility… You see, our baptism is also our life's commissioning. Even though every one of us is different, we've all been grafted into the body of Christ and we've been sent out to live every day seeking to grow in knowledge and service of Christ. We've been sent out to live every day seeking to love of God and love our neighbor. And we've been sent out to live every day bearing witness to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
By our baptism, even if we don't remember it, we've become a part of something that is larger than ourselves. So on this day, I'm glad that you're here to celebrate and take part in Benjamin's baptism… but at least as important as that, I pray that you remember the implications of your own. We have been given much and we are loved much, so let us lead a life worthy of the calling to which we've been called. Thanks be to God. Amen.
This Sermon relies heavily on the World Council of Churches document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry.
The foregoing sermon was given by Rev. Dan Holland at the United Parish of Bowie on August 8, 2010.
© 2010 Daniel Holland