Monday, January 6, 2014

Looking Forward to January 12, 2014 -- Baptism of Christ Sunday, 1st After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 43:1-7
  • 1 Peter 2:9-12
  • Matthew 3:13-17
The Sermon title is That'll Leave a Mark

Early Thoughts:  Whatever we do as people of faith one thing can not be taken away.  We are baptised.  We are named and claimed.  We are God's Beloved children.  And Nadia Bolz-Weber, among many others, suggests that is all we need to know.

In our Baptismal services here at St. Paul's we make the following statement:
By water and the Spirit,
we are called, claimed, and commissioned:
we are named as God’s children,
claimed by Christ,
and united with the whole Christian community
of every time and place.
Strengthened by the Holy Spirit,
we live out our commission;
to spread the love we have been given throughout the world.
We are Baptized, therefore we are named and claimed as God's own.  This is the gift that allows/empowers/enables us to live transformed lives, to share the love of God, to be a force to change the world.

Baptism is something that is only done once in our lives, because it has lasting significance and power.  It does not expire or lapse.  No matter what we do, what choices we make in our lives, nothing can take away the reality that we are baptized, that we are named as God's Beloved children, that we are claimed as God's people.

The Emperor Constantine, even though he "Christianized" the Empire (or Imperialized Christianity depending on your point of view) was not himself baptized until his deathbed.  Was this the cynical act of a dying man wanting to cover all the bases (sort of like Pascal's wager)?  Plausibly.

Or was it a sign that Constantine had great respect for the power and meaning of Baptism?  Possibly Constantine knew that being Emperor meant doing things that were wholly incompatible with being a Baptized person.  He knew that the mark made by the water would (should?) change him.

This Sunday we are invited to remember our Baptisms.  WE are invited to ask what mark the water has made on our souls, our lives, our choices.  But we are also called to remember that whatever happens nothing can take the water away.  We are, we always will be, named and claimed by God.  And that is the most important thing.

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