This One is Mine

Baptism of Jesus: "Gymnos Aquatic Saints"

Isaiah 42:1-9

Two weeks ago I was invited to preside over a baptism at a nearby congregation. My friend Tricia adopted a little girl from Haiti. She had gone down there several times a year for several years, to volunteer in an orphanage, and when she adopted Saraphina as a baby, it took over a year for the red tape to allow her to bring her home. 
We gathered around the font, Tricia, her parents, siblings, aunt and uncle, and nephews and nearly two year old Saraphina, toddling happily between them.  
Before the baptism, I prayed a blessing on Tricia; I anointed her and called her mother, and Saraphina, daughter. We were witnesses to God’s blessing of this little family on that day.  As Jesus himself was adopted into the family and line of David his adopted father, Joseph, I said, today we remember our own adoption as we are brought into the family of God.  And today, in her baptism surrounded by a community of love making promises to her, Saraphina’s adoption is made complete.

And then I made the sign of the cross on Tricia’s head, the sign of her own baptism, while Saraphina, in Tricia’s arms, leaned in watching closely.  When I finished, she gently reached up to touch Tricia’s forehead, and she said, “Mama!” 
Then, I poured handfuls of water on Saraphina’s head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and it ran down her cheeks, and she traced the drips with her fingers, and gazed at me as I spoke the words to her,
For you, little one, the Spirit of God
moved over the waters at creation,

and the Lord God made covenants with the people.

It was for you that the Word of God became flesh

and lived among us, full of grace and truth.

For you, Saraphina, Jesus Christ suffered death

crying out at the end, "It is finished!"

For you Christ triumphed over death,

rose in newness of life,

and ascended to rule over all.

All of this was done for you, little one,

though you do not know any of this yet.

But we will continue to tell you this good news

until it becomes your own.

And so the promise of the gospel is fulfilled:

"We love because God first loved us." 

When we bowed our heads to pray, Saraphina leaned down from my arms and scooped a handful of water. She reached up and dropped it on top of her own head, and then she leaned down again and got another handful of water, and reached next to her and patted her dripping hands onto her mama’s forehead.
The sign of belonging.

When Jesus is baptized, in front of all the onlookers his ministry is begun. 
We jump awkwardly from his toddlerhood and the visiting magi from far off lands to this big grown up man Jesus with almost nothing filling in the gap; he’s been virtually hiding in a super ordinary, pretty typical childhood. But at this moment something changes – as his ministry is kicked off not with anything spectacular that he does, but with God claiming him outloud in front of people. This one belongs to me.

When Jesus argued with his cousin that indeed he did wish to be baptized, Jesus didn’t know what was coming next. Or maybe he did, but it wasn’t rosy. He didn’t go from there into teaching and preaching, didn’t punch his Messiah timecard, eager and ready to get started.  From his baptism, he is led, driven it says, by the Holy Spirit, right into the wilderness.  After he is claimed by God in front of everyone, he finds himself in temptation and doubt, hunger and struggle in the wilderness. Being God with us doesn’t spare him from life’s pain and hardship.  Perhaps being God with us means that’s right where he needs to begin… but we will join him there in Lent to ponder these things.

Right now, standing in the water, defying his cousin’s whole picture of how this was supposed to go down, this is Jesus’ chance to say yes to his calling.  And so he does.
He walks into those waters and submits. Come what may, I am in, he says. 
Godwithus said yes to the human journey, and everything it involves.
I am in this with you.

Look everyone! Here is the light of the world! Right here in the waters of repentence!

It is lovely to me that the Christian church encompasses the practice of infant baptism and adult baptism.  Infant baptism highlights that it is God who does the choosing and the naming and the claiming, that it is God’s work, and even before we can respond we are drawn into God’s love and adopted into God’s family, and the promise is spoken over us that we will spend a lifetime learning to receive.
In Mark and Luke’s version of this scene, God speaks right to Jesus, You are my beloved, and I delight in you!

Adult baptism highlights that we say yes to God, that we submit to the journey whatever may come, that Jesus’ life defines our life and we want that to be spoken outloud and claimed over us, as it was that day over Jesus, as Matthew’s version highlights, when God’s tells everyone there, This One is mine! This is my beloved child! Have I got plans for this one!

I was baptized at the age of twelve. In my tradition, we spoke of baptism as “an outward sign of an inward reality” – meaning, I had given my life to Jesus; I had chosen to accept Christ into my heart, to let God lead me instead of me leading me. And being baptized was the seal of that reality, a sign to the community and affirmation by them that God was my strength and my salvation, and I was putting my trust in God.

 I remember being lowered under the water, the symbol of death as it rushed over my head and the sounds muffled around me and I felt it fill my ears and pool over my eyes as the room disappeared into watery darkness.  Vulnerable, both held up and plunged under – the old is gone, the new has come, and then I was raised up, gasping into the air, water streaming off me and people applauding, into resurrection, a life defined by the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t trust in the baptism to save him or prepare him or fill him for the job ahead of him. He comes to it only with his Yes to the ministry that comes along with being chosen and called by God. His yes, his utter need, his humanity. His willingness. His Yes.
Like Mary before him, and Joseph, and the Shepherds heeding the angels' call, and the magi setting out on their journey, and every scared and wondering king and nomad and giant-slayer and sea-parter and child-bearer and prophet and journeyer before them. He says yes to God.
Jesus comes to baptism to accept grace as grace, and calling as calling – to accept that these things come from God and not from us, that God offers them and we simply say YES.  Jesus says yes to God; and by the divebombing Spirit like a dove and the voice from heaven, God says yes to Jesus.

And no wonder, then, that it is where it all begins.  For Jesus, and for us.  
We submit to - and we hand our children over to - God’s care, God’s calling, and God’s vision for the world that we're now invited to share.
We say, we don’t know what this life will bring, but in it, we say yes to you.
We say yes to not being in it alone.
We say yes to life and light and hope.
We say yes to suffering and struggling and living fully.
We say yes, to grace, and yes to calling, not because we deserve it, but because God wants to share it with us.
We say yes to what God is doing to love and save the world and the astonishing truth that God wants to involve us in it. 
And so our journey begins, and it ends when our baptism is complete in our death.

Throughout the next several weeks in this season of Epiphany we will see Jesus revealed – the light of the world walking among us, and we will also hear the invitation, again and again, the proclamation spoken over us as the covenant people chosen and claimed and named by God’s Spirit as beloved, children of God: you will be light as well! 
The light of Christ lives in us, the life of Christ lives through us. It just does – God does this, not us. How might we keep saying yes? How will we keep watching for the light and welcoming the life?

Tonight, I invite you to hear the dual message of your baptism:
First, that You are God’s beloved child.  God says yes to you.
Second, that You are part of God’s promise, God’s love and hope, given to the world.  You get to say yes to God.

No matter what life brings, or where it brings us, the first and final word over you and me is this:
This One is mine! This is my beloved child! Have I got plans for this one!
And so the promise of the gospel is fulfilled:
 "We love because God first loved us."  

 LNPC Worship practice: Communal Celebration of Baptism
 Tonight we shared a blessing over one another.  With water from the font, we stood in a circle.  
In turn, I stood in front of each one and announced God's blessing, as they dipped their fingers in the bowl and touched their forehead in remembrance of their baptism. 
Leader: (Name) is God’s beloved child. 
All Respond: In (name), God is well pleased!
We closed this time with a prayer of gratitude and sending.

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