A river. Water. Sky. A dove. A Voice.
These are all pretty common and unremarkable things on their own. But when we put them together and add a little bit of Jesus, they become for us a miraculous gift and story.
The Baptism of Jesus is a rich story that connects us in a profound way with our Savior. This morning, at the start of worship, we each remembered and gave Thanks for the gift of Baptism. Most of us don’t remember the day of our Baptism on our own.
In fact, it always surprises me, when I work with our young adults as they prepare for their Confirmation, and we talk about their history of faith, how few have any idea of the date of their baptism, where it was, who was there, or what happened that day.
A few not only know the date but actually celebrate their baptism on its anniversary date, perhaps lighting the candle given them on that day. But most know nothing of the day they were named “Child of God, because they’ve never been told.
Did they cry? Did they reach up and take hold of the pastor’s beard, stole, or microphone? How did the most important day in their life of faith unfold?
We know about Jesus’ baptism. Even this short passage is full of details about things like sky, water, river, John the Baptist, a voice from heaven, and a dove.
We know that Jesus traveled from Galilee and approached his cousin John, known as the Baptist, at the Jordan River seeking to be Baptized by him.
We know that at first, John refused, totally humbled and amazed that Our Lord would ask to be Baptized by him, rather than the other way around. And we know that Jesus won that argument, and he got dunked. Not just sprinkled, but well and fully dunked, just like everyone else who had come to John for Baptism. But unlike anyone else who was baptized there, the voice of God was heard and the dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, appeared. This was a true trinitarian moment, with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in concert at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
As he stepped into the Jordan River, God stepped into the messiness of our human existence through him. The multitude of people who were Baptized by John in that water were reeking of sin and seeking new life, but Jesus, who was without sin, chose to step into those same waters to give them a new life they couldn’t even imagine. Before he began his ministry, performed any miracles or preached the good news of God’s grace and love for all the world, Jesus joined us in our humanity and was washed in those same waters. And God, much as at the Creation, declared this to be good.
We did not choose God, but God chose us. God chose you, and God loves you beyond all telling. For that reason, God promises that you, Child of God, will never be free of God. God will go with you wherever you go, will love you whoever, however, and wherever you are. God is loose in the world and what God promises you, God promises all of humankind. And God neither forgets or goes back on God’s word.
Which is why, wherever we look, when we look with intent and with open hearts. we see God present and active in our lives, in our neighbors, and in our world.
Nothing has ever happened or will ever happen in our lives that has the power and beauty of our Baptism. Nothing in our lives can ever approach the meaning of the love and grace of God we received in our Baptism. Nothing we do comes anywhere close to what God has done for us in Jesus, celebrated through Baptism.
That is why we should remember it. Even if we don’t remember all the details, it’s okay. God’s love for us and God’s promise to us are secure because God has said it is so, and God will carry us through every trial and every storm.
In Baptism God unites us and makes us one Body in Christ Jesus. God equips us to have hope and to be hope for the world. God gives us gifts and assets as individuals and as community drawn into one by Jesus, to live our lives as Baptismal people – people of grace, hope and love, all for the sake of God.
As we remember and celebrate not only Jesus’ Baptism but our own, let’s surrender our whole selves to the power of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Beloved of God, remember and be blessed. Amen.