A sermon preached for The Second Sunday of the Epiphany: The Baptism of Christ at the Anglican Church of St. Thomas, Kefalas, Crete, Greece, 11:00 am January 13, 2019.
Do you know your birthdate?
Well, of course you do. You may not want to admit just how long ago it was, but you know it and you probably have proof of it.
Now, do you know the date of your baptism? Probably not, eh? I know mine, December 23, 1962, because when I was born over 56 years ago my baptismal certificate was also the registration of my birth – so I have seen that date repeatedly. Over time the province of Quebec moved to a secular form of registration, so I have now gone through three different birth certificates, but they all refer back to that baptism.
Should we celebrate the day of our baptisms? Consider what is happening.
- For many of us, it was the day of naming.
- We are signed with the cross to show that we are Christ’s forever.
- It is the day on which we formally enter the church.
- It is the day on which we mystically become part of the body of Christ. We are spiritually “incorporated”. We become part of the one who was the Word made flesh. We become Jesus.
- Like Jesus, we are given a sign that we are beloved. It is a mark of the love of God, that we are accepted as God’s children. We are loved, and we are lovable. No matter how little we or others might think of us, God declares that we are worth loving. We have value, we are inherently good and marvelous creatures.
- Paul describes it as a burial with Christ, and a rising again from the tomb. We die with Christ and rise with him in new life. It is a mystical union. The same power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead is at work in us.
- Just as John washed away sins, so in baptism sin dies to us. We are washed, we are pure.
- Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit upon us, and empowers us to do wonderful things for God.
- And so we are new creations.
- We are commissioned as part of the royal priesthood, and sent out as ministers into the world to carry on the work of Christ. Not just clergy, but all the people of God have this baptismal calling. It is the original calling from God, from which the ordained ministry is derived.
But so what? Lots of people are baptized, and not all of the act like this has happened amongst them. The idea of baptismal regeneration – that one is actually changed in baptism – seems hard to believe. At best, is it not just a mere sign?
Do not underestimate the power of baptism.
Wade in the water, wade in the water, children,
Wade in the water, God’s a-gonna trouble the water.
- An old hymn developed when slavery was part and parcel of the United States.
- Various versions, even tunes differing slightly.
- Some have speculated it was a code for the slaves to seek liberation, like the Israelites who were slaves in Egypt.
1. See that band all dressed in white, God’s a-gonna trouble the water,
The leader looks like the Israelite, God’s a-gonna trouble the water.
2. See that band all dressed in red, God’s a-gonna trouble the water,
Looks like the band that Moses led, God’s a-gonna trouble the water.
- The first two verses connect baptism and exodus, washing and freedom.
3. Look over there, what do I see? God’s a-gonna trouble the water,
The Holy Ghost a-coming on me,! God’s a-gonna trouble the water.
- The third verse talks about the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit transforming the singer.
4. If you don’t believe I’ve been redeemed, God’s a-gonna trouble the water,
Just follow me down to Jordan’s stream, God’s a-gonna trouble the water.
- The fourth verse is a call to the listener to join in the liberating transformation.
- The song speaks of the power of God in the midst of slavery, of grace in the midst of oppression, of hope and joy when confronted with despair.
- In the end, the people were freed, and they are being freed now.
If baptism did that with an enslaved people 150 years ago, what will it do with us today?
My brothers and sisters:
Let us hear that voice say to us, in Christ, You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.
Let us hear God tell us we are precious in his sight and that the divine is always with us.
Let us hear the invitation to his banquet hall and join in the gathering from the ends of the earth.
Let us welcome the Holy Spirit and be set free from anything evil that possesses us.
Let us wade in the water, again, and celebrate.