“Today we Say Yes”
FPC Cartersville, GA 1/11/2015
Today is the day we liturgically remember the Baptism of the Lord. Just 2 weeks ago we were talking about the infant in the manger, and today we see him as an adult hearing the voice of God proclaim that he is beloved, and God is well pleased with him.
Today is the day we think about our own baptisms. Whether we were adults or infants, or somewhere in between. Some of us are looking forward to them, for yourselves or your children or grandchildren. Some of you remember the water splashing on you, and some of you only remember through the stories told to you by those who were there.
When we baptize, we hear echoes of God’s voice, claiming us as God’s and telling us that God is well pleased with us. We hear echoes of a formless void and darkness covering the deep. We remember in the beginning with the breath of God, and the story of creation, the separation of the light from the dark. This is the story that leads to each of us being created in the image of God.
We begin with the creation, with God’s spirit moving across the waters. We hear the echo of the prologue from Christmas Eve, and know that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. We imagine the land rising from the water, imagine the formation of forests and mountains and lakes and rivers. It is on one of those rivers that appeared just after “in the beginning” that we find ourselves today with Jesus and John as Jesus is baptized.
Jesus is baptized. He emerges from the river, dripping wet and hearing the voice of God. In that voice we hear echoes of all who love us and teach us and form us. Today is the day we remember that in Baptism we are claimed by God – -you are my beloved. We are claimed by God and welcomed into a faith community. We are now numbered as part of the body of Christ, we are the church. Today is the day we remember that when we were small, folks made promises to us – to teach us and nurture us and support us. We remember that we too have made these promises to others. We remember that these promises last a lifetime, that when we make our own adult statement we make promises to others, just as others made promises for us.
Baptism is a requirement for membership in the church. But it is so much more than that. And this membership requirement is not like joining the country club, or a civic organization. The only test is that whether you — as an adult, or your parents — if you are a child, affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. And in the baptismal promises we make and keep, we are forming disciples. We create community, we teach, give, serve and worship as a part of the body of Christ. We do all of this in response to the love of God that breathed us into being. We do it because we love God.
Being a specific part of a specific body of Christ, not just this congregation but any congregation, is not like being part of a secular organization. It is in church that we develop our faith which sustains us through life’s rough places. It is in church where we learn to pray and to talk about God. It is in church we first experience being part of something that is bigger than ourselves. It is in church that we learn, over and over again, it is not about me. It is about us. Us as a body of Christ. Us as a haven, as a place of welcome and nurture. It is in church that we experience a community unlike any other. A community of sinners who come together to worship and praise and mourn and laugh. A community that will uphold and support us all our lives. In baptism we make the promises to be part of this community, both on the receiving and giving end.
The promises god makes to us are many. God promises that through the death and resurrection of his son, we shall inherit eternal life. Christ did not die after we recognized we were sinners and in need of redemption, but rather, before that moment, while we were still sinners. God promises that in baptism we are claimed by God. We are marked as belonging to Christ forever. We are accepted into the household of God just as we are. In baptism we become part of the body of Christ – one part of people joined through time and around the world who have passed through the waters. In our baptisms, we lose the distinctions of nationality (neither jew nor greek), social status (salve nor free), gender (male or female), or anything else that divides us– we are one.
Henri Nouwen said, “The one who created us is waiting for our response to the love that gave us our being. God not only says, “You are my Beloved.” God also asks: “Do you love me?” and offers us countless chances to say “Yes.”
How do we as a community of faith say yes? How do we say yes in ways that are different than the ways of the rest of the world? How do we show God’s love to the world outside our doors? How do we respond to being named as God’s beloved and claimed by God?
We say yes. Yes, God we love you.
We say yes when we take casseroles to the family who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
We say yes when we teach Sunday School.
We say yes when we volunteer to help with Youth Group.
We say yes when we visit those who are unable to come to worship.
We say yes when we help feed those who cannot feed themselves.
We say yes when we serve in leadership roles in the congregation.
We say yes when we refuse to participate in gossip.
We say yes when worship through word or song.
We say yes when we provide a genuine, warm welcome to a stranger, whomever that stranger may be.
We say yes when we make our offerings – be they time, talent, or money.
We say yes when we strive to learn more about the Gospel and our faith.
We say yes when we live as Christ called us to live, no matter how contrary it may seem to the world we see around us.
We say yes, God, we do love you. You loved us first, but we love you and we live our lives in response to that love.
God calls out to us, and we say yes. At each baptism once again we hear the call of God and we answer. As we enter into a time of renewing our promises to the church and to each other, I invite you to not only remember your baptism, but also to consider your baptism. I invite you to think about the children you have seen at the font, and the adults who gathered there. To come forward after worship and remove a stone form the font as a way to once again touch the water and have a visible reminder of the water which claimed you. To remember the promises you made and the promises made for you. To listen for God’s voice to you – to listen for the words of God – “you are my beloved with whom I am well pleased.” You belong to God, how are you responding? Are you saying yes?