In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1.9-11)
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, who of your great mercy saved Noah and his family in the ark from perishing by water; and also safely led the children of Israel, your people, through the Red Sea, which was a type of holy Baptism; and by the Baptism of your well-beloved Son Jesus Christ, in the river Jordan, sanctified water to the mystical washing away of sin: We beseech you, for your infinite mercies, that you would mercifully look upon this Child; wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Spirit; that he, being delivered from your wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ’s Church; and being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally he may come to the land of everlasting life, there to reign with you age after age, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Imagine with me that at today’s baptism something spectacular happens. After I exhort Nathan, Brittanie, and the church concerning baptism, I begin to make my way back to the font. When I arrive there, all of the sudden, the sky is ripped in two, the roof of the building is pulled back, and Jesus himself takes Liam in his arms and pours the water over his head. The Spirit of God descends through the rent sky and roof and lands on Liam. Then a voice that sounds like thunder clearly speaks, “This is my beloved Son in whom my soul delights.”
I dare say it would be a baptism to remember; a baptism that Nathan, Brittanie, and the rest of us would speak of for years to come, telling Liam as well as others about it.
More than likely we will not see this happen. (But you never can tell what God might do!) However, what happened at Jesus’s baptism will happen today at this baptism just as it does at every baptism. Everyone baptized into the Triune name shares the baptism of Jesus. We are all baptized into his baptism. One of the reasons the events of Jesus’s baptism are recorded for us is so that we will understand just what is going on in our baptisms.
Though it is a simple event, the cosmic order is being shaken. Heaven, the throne room of God, which has been opened up by Christ Jesus, is being joined to earth in this little baby. Heaven welcomes him as a full citizen; one who has all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a citizen in good standing. He is not a half-member (as if God has some half-way covenant!) waiting until one day when he is smart enough so that God will fully accept him. God is his God and he is God’s child, and he should be treated as such by the church.
Because baptism is into Christ Jesus where heaven and earth are united, Liam, being joined to Christ in baptism, is now just another place where God’s plan to unite heaven and earth is being accomplished. Today we see God’s plan of new creation advancing as he reshapes the church and the world by addition of the gift he has given to Nathan and Brittanie. Today, in this seemingly uneventful act, Liam is receiving the gift of the Spirit because he participating in the baptism of Christ’s body, the church. Today, the Father is thundering, “This is my beloved Son in whom my soul delights.”
All of these things are happening today, and we are called to see them through the eyes of faith. Jesus’s baptism is Liam’s baptism.
But just as Jesus’s baptism wasn’t the goal of his ministry but the beginning, so it is with Liam and all who are baptized. Baptism is a call to mission; a mission to be driven into the wilderness by the Spirit given in baptism to test faith in what was declared in baptism concerning the Father’s declaration of being his Son; a mission to take up a cross and follow Christ; a mission to move through death to resurrection. Baptism is the beginning of a life that is to be lived by faith in what God has declared in baptism.
Liam can’t do this on his own. This is one reason he is being baptized into the body of Christ, the church. He is one member among many who needs encouragement and to be taught to observe everything that Christ has commanded. God has appointed Nathan and Brittanie as his special ministers in the church and for the church in Liam’s life. While the entire church has responsibilities to Liam, God gives a special ordination, if you will, to the parents of the child.
Nathan and Brittanie, remember, Liam is a gift to you and does not ultimately belong to you. He belongs to God our Father. You are stewards, and God requires of stewards faithfulness to the commission he has given. Love him through training his heart through the disciplines of our faith. Teach him to enjoy our God and his gifts; worship with him, laugh with him, cry with him, hug him, spank him, instruct him always aiming for his heart to love Jesus with everything. Wherever God may take you in the future, always be a part of a good church and teach him to love Christ’s church and center his life there.
Church, let us recognize what God says about Liam this morning in baptism and treat him as a member of the family. And let us encourage Nathan and Brittanie in their responsibilities so that we may all be found faithful.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.