Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15–17, 21–22
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
January 10, 2016
You all know how much I love baptisms. I love introducing people, no matter what their age to the body of Christ. I love standing together as a community of God’s people. I love promising to walk alongside anyone who dares to come to the baptismal font.
And I love, love, love naming a person, no matter what their age, a child of God.
In the sacrament of baptism, God’s promise to humanity is realized: “I have called you by name, you are mine!”
From Isaiah again: But now thus says the Lord, the One who created you, O Jacob, who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.
Our creator does not create us and then leave us to go on our merry way. It isn’t as if God, our creator treats us like machines, turning us on and ignoring us until our motor runs out.
God has given us, in the sacrament of baptism, a clear sign that we are not just God’s creation, but God’s beloved ones whom God knows by name and calls by name.
In the Gospel accounts of Jesus baptism there are a few differences. Mark is very short and succinct. Jesus was baptized in the Jordon by John. In Matthew John and Jesus discuss whether or not John is worthy to baptize Jesus. In Luke’s gospel John the baptizer isn’t even mentioned. Jesus is baptized ‘with the others.’
Each gospel writer has a different idea of how to communicate the story of Jesus’ baptism.
But there is one constant in each of the Gospels. One thing that happened at Jesus baptism without a doubt:
The heavens were opened, the spirit of God came upon him and a voice said: This is my beloved son. This is my beloved son.
Before Jesus does anything in his ministry, before he heals a single person; before he turns water into wine, before he walks on water, before he calls his disciples, before the cross, before the resurrection, before Jesus did anything that would mark him as the Savior of the world, God said: “this is my son, my beloved son, I am well pleased.”
I have called you by name, you are mine.
This is, of course, why I particularly affirm infant baptism. Not because I don’t want a child to die before being baptized. Not because an infant is more pure or less sinful. Not because I want to capture a child for the church early in their life.
No not any of those reasons.
The reason I affirm infant baptism is because before the child can do anything that would make them seem worthy of baptism, of being called a child of God, they are named forever and always, a child of God. In whom God is well pleased.
We very much need infant baptism to remind us that nothing we do or don’t do gives us the privilege to be called children of God.
Jesus didn’t have to prove his worth as savior of the world. Just being who he was at that very moment; that was enough for God to rip open the heavens and proclaim, this is my son the beloved one.
Now here is something I want us to contemplate. No matter what changes might happen in our lives, God’s naming of us is the one constant. The one thing that doesn’t change.
In God’s eyes, we are always the beloved one whom God names.
We might get married, divorced, earn a degree, get a job, get fired, have children, never have children, never get married, never want to get married, wander away from God and the church, go to church every Sunday possible and then some. We might die our hair, tattoo our ankles, pierce our bodies; lose a leg or an arm. Need a new heart or liver, donate an organ.
We might go from being liberal to conservative and even back again. We might learn to love something we never thought possible, or someone... We might like red best on one day and find that we hate it the next.
People may think we are something we are not, or may not realize who we really are...
None of this changes what God calls us: You are mine, I have called you by name.
I read of an interesting social experiment this week.
A photographer hired a man for a photo session with 6 different photographers. The man came into the studio with theses six different photographers dressed in the exact same outfit: an un-tucked light blue oxford shirt over a clean brilliantly white tee shirt, blue jeans with conservative black shoes. He was himself of average build, mid 40’s, bald but in a distinguished without being pretentious way.
He came into the studios with confidence. He told each photographer a different story about his life. The photographers where to photograph the man trying to capture his essence.
His stories ranged from a self made millionaire, to a psychic, fisherman, recovering alcoholic, ex-con, lifesaving hero.
None of the stories were true. Each photographer reacted to the man with a different manner. Each one took a photo that reflected what they thought he was. The ex-con photo was roughish and unsmiling, the millionaire was standoffish and smug, the psychic was sparse and modern, the fisherman was relaxed, casual.
This is how the world reacts to us isn’t it. Their picture of us often reflects the part of our story they think they know. Some of which might not even be true.
They even have different names for us depending on our role in their lives: friend, acquaintance, neighbor, mother, daughter, beloved, partner.
And we perceive of ourselves differently in all of our different personas. Some we are comfortable with, some we tolerate, some we grow into and some we grow out of.
Some make us cringe and some make us proud.
And we call ourselves all sorts of names, brilliant, stupid, talented, inept, beautiful, homely, We know that we shouldn’t but we do, no matter how many articles we read on self affirmation, we will call ourselves all sorts of things. Good and not so good.
But God always and only calls us beloved. I have called you by name you are mine. As baptized people of God, that is our identity. Today, tomorrow, always.
Hear these promises: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you, and I will call you from the north and the south. I will gather you, nothing will keep you from me.
Nothing, will keep you from my love.
I truly believe that Jesus could have abandoned all of his ministry. He could have gone back to carpentry in Nazareth. He could have become a rabbi in the synagogue. He could have ended up a beggar on the street corner.
No matter what, no matter what his future held, God still would have ripped open the heavens and proclaimed: This is my son, my beloved one. In him I am well pleased.
Because I believe God rips open the heavens at every baptism and proclaims: this is my child, this is my child, I love her, I love him. I am well pleased.
And I also believe. If you could really believe this about yourself.
That if everyone could believe this, could really believe this. I believe we would have a lot more saviors in this world.