Sermon – Epiphany 1; the Baptism of Our Lord
January 7, 2018 – Romans 6:1-11 ‘Act of God’
CT: Baptism is God’s work for us in every way.
Preacher: Rev. James Wood
Intro: The earth shakes and buildings crumble; tidal waves wash entire towns out to sea; wildfires rip through the forest and wipe out homes, schools, businesses; a funnel cloud leaves a path of destruction, and people call it an act of God. When all of creation groans with uncontrollable power, it’s suddenly God’s doing; He’s to blame! But when it comes to the gentle washing of water according to the command and promise of God, that seems to be too timid, unlikely, more of a human gesture or a church made ritual than the work of God.
On a cold day in late September a congregation gathered at Sandy Beach Park for a Baptism. Standing waist deep in the frigid water, the preacher reminded everyone that through Baptism we are adopted as God’s children, all sins are washed away, faith is given—strengthened, and the Holy Spirit becomes part of our living, changing how we live, even unto eternal life. The young man being baptized was now completely drenched with the icy water, and noticing his blue lips the preacher asked him, “Are you cold?” Not wanting to spoil the moment, the young man replied, “No, I’m fine!” Then a loud voice was heard from shore, “Dunk him again preacher, he’s still lying!”
Baptism Need: A big part of our inability to see God’s work in Baptism is the difficulty we have admitting our need for it. Sin can be so insidious, and we hide it, we avoid talking about it. As we gather for funerals, as we did this week, and then today for the Baptism of these children, we’d rather shy away from the truth about our sin. We’d rather talk about how nice a person was or how cute the children are, but no matter how hard we work at denying it; sin is there. We’re born with it and we die with it, eternally separated from the possibilities that God would have us live in, unless He intervenes. From the youngest to the oldest, we need Baptism. In one simple act—Baptism, God makes clear our dependence on Him. God doesn’t need Baptism for Himself; Christ instituted Baptism for your sake—for your need for forgiveness—for your need to be attached to Him and His power for living.
Baptism’s Power: But how could such ordinary water have such power over your life and mine? Its power does not lie in the quality or amount of water being used, nor does it depend on some church rite or tradition or the skills of your pastor, nor is it dependent on the baptized person’s dedication to the Christian faith. Baptism’s power always lies in the command and promise that God attaches to the water of Baptism; it’s effective because He makes it so.
Baptism is to us as Christ is to Christmas. God came into our world in real flesh and blood. Jesus stood in the Jordan River taking on the sins of the whole world out of His Father’s love for us. Baptism says, “You are not alone in your struggles in this world; I, your Lord and Saviour am with you.” In Baptism God takes an active role in your life. He chooses us, He calls us His beloved sons and daughters for the sake of His Son’s work for us. The Mystery—the Sacrament of Baptism is God’s action for me!
As Good Friday laid the ground work for Easter, where death burst out of the tomb into life, so the death of your sin in Baptism unfolds into the new life God would have you live. Baptism conveys the power of the cross and the resurrection—all that Jesus truly did for you in history, here in this one place and time. Your Baptismal life is powered by the Holy Spirit, whereby you and I can say, “Because He lives, I live and will never die!”
Baptism’s Goal: We have this certainty because “all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death…” The old sinful nature is washed away and a new nature arises that seeks to do what is right and good through our baptismal connection to our Saviour. It’s a beautiful and profound connection, yet because of the sin, it is under constant attack. There are so many aspects of sin that continue to affect the way you function as a child of God. I think of how those model airplanes fly as an extension of the person holding the remote, yet every time these models take to the air there is danger involved—so many things that can go wrong, not only with the model, but also in the environment they fly in.
A child of God can be separated from the Father because he simply doesn’t know—was never taught—picked up on our poor examples of Christian living—or was pulled away by the cares and pleasures of this world. But you never stop being the child of God that He seeks for, reaches out to, and embraces at the first opportunity. God’s goal is that He would actuate His gifts in your life. (NB of sponsors and our Christian living…lest “dunk him again, he sinned)
Baptism’s Hope: I grieve for the loss of comfort and strength caused by those who diminish God’s work in their Baptism, as something less than an act of God. I’m uneasy when parents treat an act of God for their children lightly or fail to follow through on the commitments they’ve made. But I live with those inadequacies just as you have to deal with mine, trusting in what God will do in the lives of people today, tomorrow, and every that He gives us to draw breath. You do have the certainty of the most powerful act of God; the cross of His Son embedded into the waters of your Baptism. His promise is certain: “I have called you by name; you are mine!”