Two Lutheran pastors were traveling through France
and decided to attend a religious service there. Since
they didn't know any French, they decided to sit behind
a dignified looking gentleman and do what he did. At one
point the pastor of the church said something and the
man in front of them stood up so the two visiting
pastors stood up also, only to hear a roar of laughter
from the congregation. Later they found out why. The
pastor had announced a baptism, and had asked the father
of the baby to stand.
Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. Jesus, of course had
an earthly father, Joseph, and a heavenly Father. We often have
three fathers-our natural father, our heavenly Father and a
God-Father. Some even have FOUR fathers: a God-Father, a heavenly
father, a natural father and an adoptive parent father or a foster
But today's Gospel lesson has only to do with the heavenly
Father and our relationship to him through Jesus.
Many people wonder why Jesus had to be baptized. John was
baptizing people for repentance of sins. We know Jesus to be
sinless, so why would he need to ask for forgiveness of sins,
repent of his ways and through the water be washed clean of his
Jesus' baptism was so much more than that, and it's why I
titled this sermon, THE BIG 'B'. The baptism of Jesus is the
reason we have baptism today. In the Lutheran Church, and in
Protestant Churches, Baptism is one of two Sacraments, the other
being the Eucharist or Holy Communion.
A Sacrament is commanded by God, (do this in remembrance of me;
go therefore into the world, baptizing….) and is a visible sign of
God's love through tangible means: the bread and the wine in the
Eucharist and the water in Baptism.
First, Jesus came to John to be baptized because the followers
of John the Baptist were part of a movement where people
recognized they needed more than just what they were getting from
the Pharisees. Jesus recognized that for the start of his
ministry, that is where he needed to be.
Second, when John baptized, it was for repentance. Folks
committed themselves to a new way of living. They repented of
their sins (they turned from sin to God, they turned in another
direction away from the sins they were committing that kept them
from a full relationship with God) and the washing was a symbolic
act that they were washed clean to start again.
Jesus didn't need to repent of anything, but just like it was
necessary for him to take on human form in order to take on our
sins so that through Christ we could be put back into a right
relationship with God, he had to be baptized because baptism is a
public statement of commitment to a new way of life. He himself
was entering into a new life of ministry, (after he was baptized
he started his ministry of teaching and healing) and he was
changing the meaning of John's baptisms.
That is, now when we are baptized, it's a sign that we are part
of a family in Christ. We have our birth family and our Christian
family-all who are baptized are brothers and sisters in Christ. If
we're babies when baptized, our parents and sponsors or Godparents
and the whole family of Christ promise to commit themselves to
teaching us about the love and forgiveness of Christ and the
promise of eternal life.
When babies grow to an understanding age, they go through a
process of Confirmation (called "Affirmation of Baptism in our
Lutheran Book of Worship [LBW]) where they learn what their
baptism means. Then they, along with any folks who are baptized as
adults, commit themselves to a life in Christ, following Christ's
teachings and promising to share that with others in acts of love
Jesus started his ministry of teaching and healing after his
baptism. He committed himself to this ministry. Jesus' example was
an example for us. That is, as he was baptized, he was then
embarking on a new ministry. He was showing us that in baptism, we
take on a new direction, a new life.
Of course, immediately following baptism, he was faced with
temptations, again, teaching us something about baptism and making
a claim, a statement that we are Christians, baptized in Christ.
If through baptism we say (or the parents' say, if we are babies
and can't speak for ourselves) we are committing ourselves to a
life of following the teachings of Jesus, then temptations will
follow because the devil wants to separate us from that love in
When we start paying attention to being a follower of Jesus,
suddenly many things which were part of our life, that we had let
into our life, we recognize are not good for our relationship with
God. Suddenly it is very clear that they are not good, yet they
have been part of our lives and they are now temptations-things
that would block us from a full relationship with God.
There is no way to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, and not
have temptations. The devil will constantly present us with things
that he would like us to take hold of in order to put a block into
our relationship with God. And further, if we weren't tested, how
would we know we are Christians? What proof would there be? We can
say we are, but do we live it out? Do we follow Jesus' teachings,
or do we pick and choose which we will follow? Are we willing to
commit to following Jesus, or only commit if it's convenient for
us? Are we committed to being who we say we are-a Christian? Do we
live that way? If we live our lives picking and choosing which of
Jesus' teachings or commandments to follow, how does that make us
a Christian? That's the way someone who isn't a follower leads
their life. What makes a Christian different from anyone else?
I want to share a little story with you. It is humorous, but
sadly true. We speak who we are in many ways, in spite of what we
show to the public.
A man is driving his car, being tailgated by a stressed-out
woman on a busy street. Suddenly, the light turns yellow just in
front of him. He has time to stop and does the right thing, and
stops at the crosswalk at the light, even though he could have
beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.
The tailgating woman explodes in anger and hits the horn,
screaming in frustration as she misses her chance to get through
the intersection. As she is still in mid-rant, she hears a tap on
her window and looks up into the face of a very serious police
officer. The officer orders her to
exit her car with her hands up. He takes her to the police
station where she is searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and
placed in a cell.
After a couple of hours a policeman approaches the cell and
opens the door. She is escorted back to the booking desk where the
arresting officer is waiting with her personal effects. He says:
"I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your
car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in
front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the
'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'What Would Jesus Do?'
bumper sticker, the 'Follow me to Sunday School' bumper sticker,
and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk.
Naturally I assumed you had stolen the car."
How do we live out our baptism? As parents and Godparents and
sponsors and church family for those baptized as babies, and then
after Confirmation and as adults having affirmed our baptism and
what it means, how do we live out our commitment as followers of
Jesus the Christ, who made baptism a real experience for us in
giving us new life, new opportunity, new direction?
Today is our celebration of Jesus' baptism, and it's our annual
Commitment Sunday in which the Stewardship Board asks all members
to fill out not only a form regarding a financial commitment to
Christ's Church and the work of the Gospel in the world, but also
in terms of other parts of what stewardship means: our time and
To acknowledge one's baptism, to acknowledge that one is
committed to being a follower of Jesus, then one needs to commit
to being a good steward of the gifts each one of us has been
endowed with by God. Some gifts change; some gifts of ability and
talent we no longer have, but we are always given new gifts to
share to replace those former abilities.
There are many things that need doing here at Trinity, that
need you, your God-given talents and gifts. There are spots on
Boards to be filled. This is your chance to make a commitment. To
say, "Yes, I am a committed follower of Jesus." I am not just a
'show' Christian saying one thing but doing another. Not just a
bumper sticker Christian, putting sayings on my bumper but not
living out a life of following the teachings of Christ.
Today, as in other years, I asked you to remember your baptism.
And as the Shepherd you called to lead this congregation in
ministry, I also ask you, in the name of Jesus, to make a
commitment of your time and talent and treasure that honors your
relationship with God and the abundance with which you are