Sunday, January 10, 2021
Message from Reverend Jim Burd
"The Baptism of Christ"
The ministry of John the Baptist is every preacher's dream! He did not have to go in search of an audience. He did not have to candidate in a neutral pulpit. He did not have to practice his delivery to refine his skills in dedication and elocution. He begins his ministry in a remote section of the country and news of his message spread quickly. The crowds flocked to his ministry. They had become tired of the rituals of their religion and warn out regulations to which their leaders subjected them. They were thirsting for a new relationship with God. They knew that something was wrong with their world. They knew they were living a lie and they wanted a change.
John came along and invited them to repent and be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. After their baptism, they rose from the water; changed men and women.
The question this gospel presents us is how can you and I capture the power and meaning of that ritual in our lives today? How can that ancient right become a living reality for us?
First, we must understand that there is nothing magical in the ritual itself. It is just water being sprinkled or poured upon our heads and only human words are spoken. The water and the words cannot create a mystical experience or endow anyone with supernatural powers. Early church rituals for Baptism were suspected by the non-church folk of being a kind of magical formula. In some groups, exorcisms were performed over the candidate for Baptism and the purification rituals could easily be mistaken for some of the magical rights of the culture.
Thus, early Baptism rites were usually misunderstood. In our day also, the Rite of Christian Baptism is often misunderstood.
When someone called me to ask if they could have their baby baptized, I would ask them a few standard questions: "Why do you want your baby baptized?" the lesson would go something like this: "Baptism is your child's entry into the Church. It's a kind of initiation rite. The Church will be present to take vows with you. They will vow to live good examples before your child as members of your child's Baptism Family. They will vow to provide a place of learning and acceptance of your child as your child grows up in our midst." (As you may have guessed, many parents their minds about having their child baptized because they didn't realize the implications. That's because people misunderstand Baptism. As you can see, parents are included in setting a good example by coming to church themselves and showing their good examples that the Church is important. Not all people want their children baptized because they may be asked to follow through with their vows. Some people have taken the vows and never come back to church until the child is ready for Sunday School or old enough to be confirmed. In some cases, they may not come back until they, or their children want to get married. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
The Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist really has the same meaning as Baptism in the modern church! Jesus' baptism was his entry into the ministry God was calling him to commence. We are baptized for the same reason. God calls each of us in Baptism to be part of the community called the Church to carry out the work God calls the Church to do.
Immediately after his Baptism, Jesus was sent into the desert to confirm that He really had been called by God. But I'm getting ahead of the story. Let's look at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
What we hear said when Jesus came up out of the water is important. I call it the greatest blessing God can give us. Do you remember what God said to Jesus? "You are my beloved Child. In you I am well-pleased!" "You are my beloved Son." "You are my beloved daughter." God is well-pleased with you!
I believe whenever we present our child for Baptism or whenever we present ourselves for Baptism, that we are blessed with water and God's blessing on our lives.
Baptism is not a Right; R-I-G-H-T. It is a RITE; R-I-T-E; like Holy Communion. We are invited to the Rite. It is not our Right. It's not everyone's right. Just because the church building is here, everyone within its proximity is automatically Baptized. Those who request it and are willing to know its meaning, may be baptized. I, as a Pastor, consider it the highest honor to perform a Baptism. But I expect those who seek it, who desire to know its meaning, to take the vows for themselves or on the part of their children, to keep their vows. Look around you. Are all those who have been baptized, keeping their vows. I don't know. You know.
What a blessing Baptism is! I have always been proud to be a Pastor who offered Baptism to everyone! The blessing doesn't come from me, but from God!
Peace I Leave with You, My Friends