Saturday, 9 January 2016

Defined by Baptism

The reading from Luke 3 provides an opportunity for us to talk about something that is really
important. Something that is fundamental to who we are and more importantly to whose we are.

Today, we heard the story of Jesus’ baptism.

Jesus hears that his cousin John is baptising in the wilderness and Jesus goes out to the Jordan River and Jesus is baptised.

He was not baptised using a little bowl of water in a building like this one – as many of us were.

Jesus was fully immersed in the river as a sign of being made clean by God’s love and mercy.

It was a dramatic sign of God’s cleansing love and a sign of God’s promise made real in Jesus – to get rid of the chaff and to clean the threshing floor of our lives.

Jesus baptism, and God’s work and promise in and through Jesus, are affirmed in God’s presence and the words that came from heaven when Jesus was baptised, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

What Jesus did in baptism was identify fully with what it means to be estranged from God and through his life, his death and his resurrection he transformed estrangement to engagement.

Jesus is indeed God’s Son sent into the world to bring the fulfilment God’s promises in our lives – forgiveness, mercy and grace.

The invitation of the scriptures and the injunction of Jesus himself ever since is that people who hear the story of Jesus life and would like to commit themselves to Jesus story in their own lives are baptised.

More than that from the very early days of the church families were baptised, even children as a sign that God’s love was supreme.

Baptism does not require you to understand everything perfectly or to have a perfect faith.

Rather, it invites you to recognise Jesus as God’s son and to confess that it is in and through Jesus that God can draw us home into life with him.

Like me most of you here are baptised and like me for many of you your do not remember your baptism because your parents bought you in faith as an infant for baptism.

As a teenager I was given the opportunity to confirm what my parents did on my behalf and make a commitment to following Jesus.  An opportunity that did involve growing in my understanding of God’s love and forgiveness but an opportunity that was more a beginning than an ending understanding.

The same is true when we baptise adults, and again some of you here have been baptised as adults, we do not expect a perfect faith or a perfect understanding simply a willingness to be open to what God did in and through Jesus and to be joined into that by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It sets on a journey and relationships that defines the rest of our lives.  Once we are baptised our life is joined to God’s life and our lives are joined to one another’s lives as the church.

Each one of us will understand our relationship with God differently, each one of us may discover along our life journey new insights or challenges in our faith, each one of us will grow in our relationship with God but none of us ever really arrive at that perfection.

Rather we know that affirmation that Jesus himself heard belongs to us as well because our lives are joined to Jesus life. God says to us “You too are my Beloved, my son and my daughter”.

What defines us in life is that we are baptised people.

We live out the promise of God as we live out our baptism.

Yes this means being involved in the life of the church and worshipping God.

But more than that it means when asked that perennial question “So what do you do?”

Your answer should always be prefaced by the words “I live out my baptism…

I live out my baptism…

As a teacher, a programmer, a lecturer, a researcher, s sales assistant, or a retiree

Or maybe I live out my baptism…

As a mother, a father, a child, a friend, a grandparent, a neighbour, an enemy

Our baptism defines us as to who we are and more importantly whose we are.

In every setting we are in we are God’s children, loved by God and on a trajectory towards life with God eternally.

We live out our baptism not to earn God’s love but to celebrate what God has done for us in Jesus, to be a part of his story and to glorify God.

When we live out our baptism we also become living invitations for others to join us in the discovery of God’s life and love for us.

So often I read or I hear that what happens in a church on a Sunday does not relate to everyday life but if we understand that what happens on Sunday is a reorientation to living as baptised people every day of our lives and helping us to do that then what we do here matters to every other moment.

Living out our baptism can impact on our ethics and morals, it can shape our relationships with friends and enemies, it can influence our views of family, it can lead us into deep spiritual practices and reflection, it can help us decide how we will approach our work – living out our baptism can shape every other aspect of our lives.

The history and teaching of the church is as deep as it is wide and as we discover what it means to hear those gracious words of God you are my beloved and to live in the light of Jesus love, to recognise our lives defined by his love and to follow him.

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