January 12 – Human Relations Day (Next Sunday)/Baptism of the Lord

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.

A Moment for Mission

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations." —Isaiah 42:1, NRSV

I was approached by one of our pastors about whether I would perform a baptism as part of my visit to his local church. I readily agreed, not knowing the specifics. What I discovered later was that there was a four-year-old boy who was being "poured" instead of "sprinkled."

When I met Sammy, I was pleasantly surprised at how ready he was for his big day. He confidently climbed onto a little stool positioned behind the baptismal font and dutifully bowed his head over the basin. When I tipped the pitcher over his head, I noticed how cold the water was. Yet Sammy never flinched. It was evident that he looked forward to the event, desired the water and seemed to somehow understand the significance. Sammy loved the water.

I thought to myself, "How wonderful it is to transmit God's grace and love through this sacrament." It blessed me to realize in that moment that this sacrament—this act of the church that affirms our place in God's family – was reaching people of all ages. We need the sign of the water and the feel of God's touch on our lives.

What a 4-year-old boy experienced was much more than naive optimism. It was more than liking or anticipating the ritual. It was the power of God at work through a simple basin of water. 

Today, as we celebrate Jesus' baptism, let us remember our baptism and be thankful.

Offertory Prayer
Loving God, thank you for the gift of baptism. We rejoice that we are your children. Nothing can separate us from your love through Christ Jesus. In your name, we pray. Amen.

From Discipleship Ministries: Baptism of the Lord — Holy God of redemption and transformation, this morning we remember the baptism of Jesus, as well as our own. Though there was nothing in your son that needed cleansing, we know our insides are not that clear. We have dark, dirty corners that cannot be redeemed through gifts of money or good deeds. Only as we accept and acknowledge your gifts of grace through Christ can we be made clean, healthy, and whole. We give as those who are dependent on your grace, and we pray that our gifts will help others know the cleansing power of grace as well. In the name of Christ who died for us, we pray. Amen. (Matthew 3:13-17)

Newsletter Nugget
As a pastor, I used a certain ritual at least twice a year. When I first decided to try it, I discovered that the reaction was greater than I ever could have imagined. This simple act—the reaffirmation of baptism—met an unrealized need.

I used simple language: "Remember your baptism and be thankful." I employed a simple action: the sign of the cross with water on the forehead. People longed to know and be reminded of God's claim on their lives.

Those longings for God's presence create a climate for spiritual renewal and transformation in our lives. They open us to the possibility of seeing God in new ways. They give us the courage and hope that God might use us to bless someone else on the journey.

Dear friends, each of us needs reminders. We are loved and are a special part of God's family. It all starts with a basin of water and a simple statement, "Remember your baptism and be thankful." 

—Adapted from "Gratitude for Baptism" by Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, Nov. 20, 2017. Used by permission.

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