We don’t think about it much, but for most of us, one thing that brings us to church on Sunday is the fact that we are baptized.
Some of us were baptized without being given any choice in the matter.
Despite the seeming cries of disapproval at the baptismal font that we sometimes hear the baptism still went ahead.
Some were baptized at an older age and may even have begun receiving Holy Communion on the same day.
Some have not yet been baptized.
Some haven’t been baptized, but are considering it.
Baptism may come at various stages in life but its meaning remains the same.
Baptised into God’s family as loved children of God.
Those who were baptised as infants learn the meaning of their baptism after the fact undergoing instruction in the home and church through worship, Sunday School and Confirmation.
None fully knew what was happening on the day they were baptized as infants.
Years later, as we make our way slowly learning about the Christian faith, the purpose begins to unfold.
We discover what our baptisms mean after the event rather than before and then have the opportunity to “Confirm” our Baptism faith in a Rite of Confirmation.
That’s how it was for Jesus too, at least in Matthew’s Gospel.
The story moves from Jesus as an infant to Jesus as a thirty-year-old, and there’s not a lot of information as to what happened in between.
One day Jesus puts down his hammer, takes off his tool belt, hangs a “Closed” sign on the door of the carpenter’s shop, and asks, “What does God want of me?”
Jesus heads out and finds his cousin John, standing in the muddy Jordan in his camel-hair baptismal robe, smelling of locusts and honey.
Jesus gets in line and waits his turn.
He wades out into the water, right next to real live sinners like you and me.
While three Gospels tell the story of Jesus’ baptism, only Matthew records the curious conversation prior to the baptism.
Jesus is eager to be baptized, but John hesitates.
John insists that Jesus has his teaching on baptism wrong.
They stand together in the river and engage in a serious theological debate concerning who should baptize whom.
The first time Jesus speaks in Matthew’s Gospel, it is to say that he needs to be baptized, because baptism will prepare him for the ministry God has planned for him..
Jesus seeks Baptism from John because he believes that God is calling him to a new life.
When Jesus stands up, the waters of the Jordan dripping down his face, he sees the Holy Spirit descending like a dove to rest upon him.
The Spirit comes, not as an all-consuming fire of judgment, but with the flutter of hope-filled wings.
A voice says: “You are my Son. I love you. I’m delighted with you.”
Then Jesus goes into the desert for forty days to contemplate on what it means to be a child of God.
Jesus spends all the days and years that follow that afternoon in the Jordan discovering the meaning of his baptism.
Jesus gives everything to God his Father —his dreams and deeds, his labors and his very life.
Jesus gives himself to God’s people and takes his place with hurting people.
Baptism was Jesus’ commissioning to ministry.
During the week before his death, the leaders of the temple challenge Jesus:
“By what authority are you doing these things?” (Matthew 21:23).
Jesus answers with a reference to his baptism:
“Was the baptism of John from heaven or not?
In the waters of baptism, Jesus heard the Spirit calling him to speak the truth and live under his Father’s grace.
So Jesus doesn’t die of old age.
He dies because he takes his baptism seriously.
Which is why St. Paul, when referring to our baptism says it is a baptism into Christ’s death.
When Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished,” it is his baptism that is complete.
Baptisms, like many important beginnings, find meaning after the event.
Baptism is an “all of life” event so we are continually learning what our Baptism means to us..
Baptism is the beginning of our life with God – not the end.
In our baptism we’re handed a life map, but then we take the journey.
Without a journey, a map is just a piece of paper.
The journey brings life to the map.
Our baptism is more than just a baptism certificate to say we were baptised.
It takes our whole life to finish the journey we begin when we’re baptized.
Which is why Jesus says in the Baptism text at the end of Matthew’s gospel:
I am with you always till the end of the age – until the end of your baptismal journey.
So what does it mean for us to live out our baptisms?
If we are true to our baptisms, then our lives will not always be comfortable.
We cannot do only what makes us feel comfortable, and we won’t be satisfied with the way things are.
Our baptism will mean that we will struggle with the tension between what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s important and what’s not.
The baptised children of God tell the truth in a world that lies,
The baptised children of God give in a world that takes,
The baptised children of God love in a world that lusts,
The baptised children of God make peace in a world that fights,
The baptised children of God serve in a world that demands to be served,
The baptised children of God pray in a world that waits to be entertained,
The baptized are citizens of a different kind of community where success is not the goal,
A community where our own self interest is not the highest good.
Baptism is our commission to ministry – a ministry to God and our neighbour.
Baptism is our vow to live with more concern for the hurting than for our own comfort,
Baptism is our promise to be prepared to challenge ideas which are contrary to the Word of God even if everyone else disagrees with us.
It means we won’t do things just because everyone else is doing it or because it’s the way we’ve always done something.
Baptism is a commitment to share our time with the poor and listen to the lonely.
What did it mean when you were baptized?
The meaning of your baptism is seen in what you think, feel, and do this day.
Your baptism is not an historical event.
It is a daily event of our life.
You “are” baptised – not you “were” baptised.
We are called to forever answer the question
“Why am I baptized?”
Baptism is not just something we do.
Baptism is something that we are – children of God and loved by God.
Baptism is the beginning steps of our mission in life.
And as we look at Jesus’ life we can see that it was the turning point of his life.
It wasn’t always easy for Jesus after his baptism but he had the assurance of his Father’s love and presence with him through the Holy Spirit.
That is God’s promise to us also.
That through our Baptism we have the right to become children of God.
That through our Baptism we have the right to call God our Father.
That through our Baptism we have the assurance that the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ presence are with us till the end of the age.
In his catechism Luther said that when we wake we should make the sign of the cross on ourselves to remind us of our Baptism at the beginning of our day and the beginning of our life.
He also said when we go to bed at night that we should also make the sign of the cross as a reminder of God’s care throughout the day and all our life.
So may you see your baptism as something precious and to be valued.
Baptism forms our identity as those who are known by God.
We are adopted as God’s own children.
This is the meaning of being Baptised;
Putting on this new family name that guarantees our place in the family of God.
And may the peace of God that surpasses our understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, forever. Amen.