You Are Mine…

Baptism begins with repentance.

This water is cleansing water.
By diving in,
by letting this water pour over our finger tips,
we are saying that we want to live differently.

A strange man named John was led to call people to repentance.

He set up camp there at the Jordan River

and people were so moved by his call:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,”

that they came to him from all over the place.

They were yearning for a chance to let go of their pasts,

to confess their sins,
and to be made clean.
There were of course other ways of repenting.

Official ways of repenting.

They could go to the temple and offer sacrifices for their sins.

The Day of Atonement was a yearly chance to let go of their transgressions.

They could pray for forgiveness like so many
of the prophets and psalmists and kings had done throughout scriptures.
But they were drawn in by John’s call.
They were moved by this tangible act
of letting themselves
be washed
by the waters
of the Jordan.

As the cold water drifted passed them,
the current took their sins away.

Baptism begins with repentance.

But it certainly doesn’t end there.

John the Baptizer himself knew that this repentance wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t enough to say, “I’m sorry.”
You actually had to live differently.
You had to bear fruits of repentance.
And he was aware we don’t always have what it takes.

John the Baptizer knew that this was only the beginning.
That water wasn’t enough.

He proclaimed that one was coming
Who would baptize with
The Holy Spirit
And with fire.
He proclaimed that one was coming
Who would not only forgive,
But set things right.
Someone was coming who would judge.

And then, out of nowhere
And I really do mean out of nowhere,
Because a couple of decades have passed between
We last saw him…
Jesus shows up.

He is no longer a baby.
No longer a child.
But a man.
And he steps into the river…

John is beside himself –
This isn’t right!
What are you doing!
You have it all backwards!
I’m supposed to be baptized by you…

But Jesus replies back gently:
It’s okay.
Let’s do it this way.
It’s proper.
It’s necessary.

Trembling, John helps to immerse Jesus
And as he comes up
Out of the water
The heavens open.

What that means, I don’t know.
Do the clouds part?
Does a gap in the blue sky appear?
Are their angels singing like at his birth?
Could anyone see it but him?
I don’t know that,
but I do know the heavens opened.

The heavens opened.
The Holy Spirit came down.
Like a dove it came down from the heavens
And landed on him.
t rested on him.
And there were words.
“This is my Son.”
“This is my beloved.”
“With him, I am well pleased.”

Jesus went into that water
Not because he needed to repent.
Not because he was unclean.
But for us.
He went into that water
So that we might go into the water.
So that we might let go of our sins
So that we might be made sons and daughters of God
So that the Spirit might flow into our lives.
Jesus went in that water
To fulfill our righteousness.

And then he leaves.
Jesus gets up from the water.
The Spirit takes him into the wilderness.
And we are left standing at the Jordan.

Only not really.
Because we know the rest of the story.
We know that what began
As water for repentance
Became water and spirit
Became newness of life
Became a beginning that was not only a fresh start
But the power to be different

What began as water for repentance
Became a mark on our souls that can never go away.
“You are mine,” God says.
“I love you,” God says.
“Don’t forget it,” God says.

Don’t forget it when you look out on this world:
This broken, bleeding, bruised world.
Carry my mark with you.
Love others, serve them, bind up their wounds.

Don’t forget it when you listen to the hatred in this world:
Remember I have called you to bring peace.
I have called you to trust in grace and mercy.
I have called you to renounce evil.
Carry my mark with you.
Don’t be afraid.

“You are mine,” God says.
“Don’t forget it.”

But how often do we forget.

How often do we forget that Jesus is our Lord and Savior
And try trusting in something else… like money or security.

How often do we fail to be Christ’s disciple
And we disobey his very word.

How often do we embrace evil and take pleasure in violence
Rather than stand against them.

How often do we use and abuse God’s name
To get what we want…
Not what God wants.

Many of us have taken the vows of baptism.
We have said them as adults.
Or we have confirmed the vows our parents took.
Some of us are parents
Who hold these vows for our children
Until they are ready to accept them themselves.

These vows are not just words we say
They are promises.
Promises that we have left behind us evil and sin and injustice
Promises that we will stand with our Lord.
Promises that we trust in his grace.

Martin Luther once said:
Everytime you wash your hands
Everytime you wash your face
You should remember your baptism
You should remember that you are God’s child
You should remember that you have made promises.

We need to remember.
We need to remember so that
When violence breaks out we can shout, “no.”
When pain is felt, we can say, “no.”
When darkness rears its ugly head, we can say, “no.”

We need to remember.
So that
we can say “YES” to hope.
“YES” to life.
“YES” to the good news that God has not abandoned us.
We need to remember
So that we are not afraid to say, YES and NO.

A colleague wrote these words yesterday
In the wake of the shootings in Tuscson…
In the wake of remembering Jesus baptism
In the wake of remembering her baptism:

“How do I preach on baptism and not address that we have witnessed the power of evil in this world practically firsthand today – and yet vow to renounce it.

“How do I preach on baptism and not address that obeying His Word and showing his love are action verbs, especially in the light of an event that is dangerously close to stunning us into silence and inaction?

“How do I preach the Good News in the shadow that has been cast by the news of a 9 year old girl’s senseless death?

“Our nation’s rhetoric has once again driven someone who is unstable to do the unthinkable and although we may not be in Arizona, there is still blood on our hands and ONLY the waters of baptism can wash them off. (kathrynzj)“

These vows are our calling.
They are our responsibility.
These waters wash us clean.
And the spirit gives us strength.

It has been said that we should
Face the world
With a newspaper in one hand

And a bible in the other
(Karl Barth)
We need to be able to face the world

And face it in all its reality
Good news and bad
Tragedy and pain, joy and celebration
And we need to be able to say, YES and NO

Yes to the things that bring life.

No to the things that bring death.

But we cannot do it

Without our baptisms.

We cannot do it
Unless the Spirit has our back.

“Do not be afraid,” God says.
“I love you.”
“You are mine.”

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