Sunday, January 10, 2016

Child of God, You Are

SLIDES can be found at this link

Previously titled You are baptized, what did you expect?

Luke 3:15-22, Commerce Pres, Commerce GA. Jan 10, 2016

[Much of the ideas and outline for this sermon came from Joanna Adams sermon broadcast Jan 10, 2010 on entitled "God Believes in You". She retired Jan 10, 2010 after faithful parish ministry.]

A few years ago, dear friends, Jeff and Renee, came from out of town for a visit with their energetic and wonderfully curious four-year old twin girls. One of our stops--A children's Museum--fun with face paint, bubbles, magnets, insects... we had a blast!
While we were admiring giant Costa Rican cockroaches…Jeff asked me:
"Hey Topple (that's what my old friends would call me), Renee and I were wondering if you would baptize our kids tomorrow at church?"
He caught me off guard. “What?”
Participating in people's baptisms are some of the most sacred and treasured moments I have as a minister. What an honor and a privilege!
But, tomorrow? I...I...I need session approval? What will your connection be with the church when you go home?  What about your home congregation?
All of these things came to my mind.…
but, all I wanted to do was say: YES!
Let’s baptize them, let’s claim their inheritance as beloved children of God! I’ll do it!

The next day, Sunday, we didn’t baptize my friends’ girls....
Looking back on it, maybe we should have captured that spontaneity.  

Looking at John’s practice of baptism out in the doesn’t look like he was overly concerned with church order.
There was just a line of people coming to claim their inheritance...
You sins are forgiven! Next!
You are reconciled with God! Next!
You are made clean again. Next!

Slide: variety of baptisms
The way baptisms are done in many churches these days is a curious thing.
Some churches, upon session approval, baptize tiny tiny infants using all kinds of words and proclaimations....  
Others in the middle of worship might have altar calls, and invite anyone who responds to the call to be baptized in a large pool--even if they been baptized many times before!
And the practice of going down to the river to pray--Yes we’ll gather at the river...the beautiful the beautiful river--hopefully not too polluted river!  
River baptisms are some of my favorites, really.  

Technically speaking, the various techniques are submersion, emersion, and aspersion--
go home and look up the definitions or do it right now on your phones.
And yes, some churches insist their way of baptising is the true and only way...

In the Presbyterian Church, while sprinkling infants with water is a common practice, we are not limited to just one style.

We may baptize older children and adults who were not previously baptized.
A sign and symbol of being made clean.
claiming God’s promises,
of claiming our identity as children of God.

We baptize infants,
We make promises to them
we acknowledge that they are loved and claimed by God before they can utter even a word—

infant, child, adult baptisms for us, are all about that grace---
we cannot earn our salvation,
It is "A visible sign of invisible grace" as the ancient catechism puts it.

But, we do consistently gather around person to be baptized,
and I say:
Slide: "Hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'"

During the sacrament, everyone present is invited to:
Slide: "Remember your baptism and be thankful."
"Remember your baptism and be thankful."

Remember our baptism…? Well, I was just 6 months old…
My earliest church memory is when I was small enough for Matt Moore to lift me over his head and I promptly lost my breakfast on his suit and tie.  

How can a baby remember?
Actually, Trasie, our infant mental health expert says we remember more than we might think from our first years...
But,  (whisper) I don’t remember my baptism when I was a baby…
This is when our practices can help us to live into a both/and reality.
We can both baptize infants and ask that we remember...

And we remember our baptism, we remember because stories others may tell us about our baptism…
we remember when we see others being baptized--babies, children or adults for that matter-- and we say..that was once me!  Yeah, been there done that.

Slide: Child of God (2)

And we have this ritual all because, way back in the day,  
An adult Jesus heard that voice of John the baptist’s call--”Repent and be Baptized!”
for reasons we don’t fully know, he joins the back of the line waiting for their turn to take a bath in the Jordan river.
He stands before John; John dips Jesus into the cool water, the rush of the river flows over his head. He comes up from the water and prays.
He prays….
He prays...

Suddenly, heaven itself opens, the Holy Spirit incarnate—a dove— flies down;
a voice from heaven that all who are gathered can hear:
"You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well-pleased."
Words any son or daughter would cherish like none other from a parent….imagine this coming from God....

Are any of you familiar with the brilliant Atlanta-based actor, Tom Key?
Years ago he produced the play, "Cotton Patch Gospel."[2]
In the play, Tom Key played God....
During the scene of Jesus’ baptism, Tom Key as God stood on a ladder on the stage.
When Jesus was just baptized, he stood below God on a ladder and looked up with hope and perhaps a little bit of anxiety in his eyes.
But he needn't have worried.
Finally, God speaks in a voice loud enough to be heard all the way down to the High School
: "You are my boy, Jesus. I am so proud of you!" (J. Adams)

Slide: Baptismal Scenes
And, let me ask: doesn't something similar happen between God and us in our own baptisms?
Aren’t we made one with Christ?
And doesn’t God say: "This one is mine! I see my image in her! Don't you see my image in him? And here comes my Spirit, my Spirit to sustain and guide as you go about doing what I put you on earth to do." (J. Adams).
God brings us into this world.
God's grace claims us and reclaims us over and over again.

Sometimes, I get worried…maybe all of us do…
whether or not I’m good enough or worthy enough of God’s love, of anyone’s love.
We who are baptized struggle, just like everybody else, to be decent human beings.
We are tempted, just like anybody else, to be less than God created us to be.

Church Reformer Martin Luther so often worried with a sense of unworthiness and despair,
so kept an inscription over his desk that read, "Remember, you have been baptized."
He used to touch his forehead and remind himself, "Martin, you have been baptized."
I don’t do that often enough, but I did it as I was preparing for this sermon... I touched my forehead and said, “Craig, you have been baptized—you’re a beloved child of God.”
Take a moment, touch your own forehead, and remember: baptized or not yet baptized, you are a beloved child of God. (J. Adams)

Our baptism—that real, wet, cold, sometimes frightening experience—reminds us to live into the promise that we will have a strength that comes from another world--that comes from deep inside-- that enables us to desire and to work for God's good purposes here on earth.
And as we walk our road of discipleship, imagine God standing on a ladder somewhere or even better, sitting on a star in the heavens, saying, "Do you see my girl down there? I am so proud of her. She's not perfect, but she's mine." (J. Adams)

God has compassion and love for us far beyond anything we can imagine, more than anything we have experienced from anyone else!

When we are told, when we can accept,
when we can remember that we are God's child...
by touching our foreheads, by washing our hands or taking a shower, when the rain falls on our faces....Baptism!—
we are free from all that would attempt to defeat us...

In his book Craddock Stories, Fred Craddock tells of an evening when he and his wife were eating dinner in a little restaurant.       An elderly man recognized Craddock and went over to their table and introduced himself and began to tell them his story:
"I grew us just down the road from here," he said.
"My mother was not married, and the shame the community directed toward her was also directed toward me.
Whenever I went to town with my mother, I could see people staring at us, making guesses about who my daddy was. At school, I ate lunch alone.
In my early teens, I began attending a nearby church but always left before church was over, because I was afraid somebody would ask me what a boy like me was doing in church.
But, one day, before I could escape, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
It was the minister. He looked closely at my face.
was he too was trying to guess who my father was?

'Well, boy, you are a child of. . .' and then he paused,
before finally he said,  
'Boy, you are a child of God. I see a striking resemblance.'
Then he gave me a pat on the back and said,
'Now, you go on and claim your inheritance.'
I left church that day a different person,"....
"In fact, that was the beginning of my life." (as told by J. Adams)

go down to font

You, dear people, are Children of God…
I see a striking resemblance...
What did you expect?

splash water

Remember your baptism and rejoice. Celebrate!
If you never have been baptized,
then find a church…maybe this church,

I love to do baptisms…claim your inheritance.

Affirmation from Brief statement

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