The Big "B'

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 parent father.

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 sins?

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 and service.

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 Christ.

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 our talents.

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 blessed.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie