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The Promise of Baptism…

January 9, 2016

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Regular readers of this blog and especially those who have been following me since the end of August, 2015 know that Denise and I have absolutely fallen in love with our new church, community, home, and neighborhood. It is pretty cool when you live at the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park and are able to take a break and hike and/or snowshoe in the park. It is also pretty cool to call Elk, Mule Deer, Mountain Sheep, Bobcats, Marmots, Bear, and Mountain Lions our neighbors. Yes, we have seen and have photos of all the neighbors listed with the exception of the Mountain Lion (we saw him in our headlights in the Big Thompson Canyon).

The picture above was taken on our first true hike into the Park back on October 25, 2015. We started out at roughly 8,800 feet above sea level and ended when we reached Lake Bierstadt at 9,416 feet above sea level. For rookies, it was a challenging hike with lots of switchbacks and rough footing. I wrote about the hike in this blog: The Heart of the Law.

The way the snow was nestled in the crook of the tree stump reminded me of a Baptismal font. Denise had the same thought when she first saw it. This particular picture is on the cover of our Bulletin for tomorrow’s worship service at Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies (PCCR). Tomorrow we will observe a special day in the Lectionary cycle, The Baptism of the Lord. Following closely on the heels of Christmas and Epiphany, the church bridges the gap between the birth of Jesus and the beginning of his public ministry with this festival. Often times churches will celebrate a liturgy that reminds folks of their Baptismal vows and allows them to re-affirm those vows.

At PCCR, we will be reflecting on the promises God gives to us in our baptism and the responsibilities that come with those promises. It is rather fitting as we will be electing a Ruling Elder (church leader) to fill the unexpired term of a Ruling Elder who moved away. In the vows that all ordained leaders in the PC(USA), we remember and re-affirm our baptismal vows. Deacons, Ruling Elders, and Teaching Elders (ministers) are all ordained and installed into their called leadership positions as servants of Christ and Christ’s church.

So what about the Scripture readings for today, Padre? Well, Isaiah 43:1 answers that question! “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” In Baptism, we acknowledge that we are claimed by God. This is not something we do or somehow earn. It is a calling and a gift freely given to us by God. One of the roots of that claim is found in the story of the people of Israel as reflected in this verse.

In three parts, it describes the faith journey of the people.

1. We are created/formed by God. We didn’t create ourselves, we were created by God. Even the most scientific argument about creation ends up with the question… so what started it? The Big Bang? Who or what created the spark that caused the bang?

2. We have been redeemed by God.  God redeems us. We don’t earn it. We don’t somehow talk God into redeeming us. God acts first.

3. God calls us and claims us. Again, God is the initiator and we respond.  It isn’t the other way around.

So, we are created, redeemed, and called/claimed by God. What for? What is our purpose? Our purpose is not to sit back on our “saved laurels” and wait for that crown of gold. Our purpose is to serve. After all, did Jesus come into the world to be served? Did he sit on a comfortable throne in a lush palace where he would be waited on hand and foot? Nope! He was homeless… he washed the disciples feet… the Leader showed others how to lead by serving… The Son of God actually requested that he be baptized!

Remember John the Baptist’s response in John 1:27 and Mark 1:7? The one who comes after me… well, I am not worthy to untie his sandals! In Matthew 3:14, John exclaimed when Jesus came up to be baptized: Me baptize you? Are you kidding? I should be asking you to baptize me! But Jesus said, no, I must be baptized by you, John. The Son of God humbled himself and asked to be  baptized by John. The Son of God came into the world to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28).

So, dear reader, what is the promise of Baptism? Why do we ask to be baptized? Is it simply an eternal life insurance policy? Is it say this prayer and you are going to heaven? If that is the case, you are missing out on so much!

Remember that old camp song, “It Only Takes a Spark”? Or Jesus’ parable about the light on the hill not hidden under a bushel (Matthew 5:15)? We are called to experience that Love and to share it. We are called to follow in the footsteps of the one who didn’t see himself as greater than anyone else. We are called to follow in the footsteps of the one who called the beggars, lepers, thieves, prostitutes, and tax collectors his sisters and brothers.

The promise of our baptism is not just about God’s love for us. It is about what we do with that love. When I responded to God’s call in my life to be a minister, I didn’t fully understand what that calling entailed. I can tell you one thing I knew from the very beginning though. It wasn’t about getting rich (too many false shepherds like Creflow Dollar and Robert Tilton have shown the wretchedness of that path). It wasn’t about fame and fortune. It wasn’t about sitting around with my eternal life insurance policy paid up and waiting for Jesus to come and get me. It was a call to serve the Lord wherever the Lord called me to serve.

Part and parcel of that calling has been the promise of my baptism. I have created you, redeemed you, and called you. God called me to serve wherever God sent me. God called me to serve in uniform. God called me to serve two small country churches in Northern Minnesota. God called me to serve in the Florida Panhandle. God called me to serve in the Rocky Mountains. It has never been about me (although I have had long periods of holding on to the illusion that it was… but God has always been patient with me).

God called… God calls still… the promise of our baptism is that God will claim us and call us. Do you hear God’s call in your own heart? Are you willing to respond? Will you join our Lord in serving those whom society has overlooked? Are you willing to be counted among the least of these?

2 Comments
  1. well said Michael. btw–you’d make a great Catholic! 🙂 We spoke the same images and ideas this morning.

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