Have you heard Heaven’s Voice speaking: “You are my child, my Beloved; I rejoice in you”? Do we believe the Good News that “God loves us” and that “God loves the world”?
When Jesus was baptized, Jesus was praying. Jesus was praying and heaven itself opened up. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus mysteriously in a form like a dove. Jesus heard heaven speak: “You are my child, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
When our souls hear, “You are my child, my Beloved; I rejoice in you”, it changes everything.
In Baptism grace confronts our sin. Paul Tillich warns that sin and grace are difficult but inseparable concepts. Tillich describes sin as a state of separation. This separation is threefold: a separation from others, a separation from oneself, and separation from God…. (This separation) prohibits us “from losing ourselves in love”. Our state of separation means we are not capable of a great and merciful divine love towards ourselves.
Grace is mysterious and elusive. (“But) do we know what it means to be struck by grace?… Sometimes at that moment (of grace), a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know…. Do not try to do anything now. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” After such an experience of grace, you may not be better than before, and you may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed.” (A transcript of Tillich’s sermon can be found at Patheos.com: You are accepted what a strange idea Paul Tillich)
Our baptismal vows acknowledge that baptism is about what God is doing in us- not what we do for God. We are “being incorporated in God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth by water and spirit.” But we like to think we can work our way into heaven and earn our spiritual keep.
Oh, that our cloudy skies might break open and we might hear God’s holy whisper: “You are my child, my Beloved. You are accepted by God…. Simply accept that you are accepted!”
Now we may think the heavenly voice is not for us, only for Jesus. Some thought it was just some rumbling thunder. How can God’s amazing love finds us? The deep love of God struck Paul down with grace, even as he breathed murderous terrorism. Grace flows from God’s love not our striving. Grace transforms, Grace refuses to “count our sins against us” (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:19). Let us be struck by Jesus’ startling words ,”Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” May the crosses we wear remind us of grace. Hear Heaven whisper, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?..Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… No! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)
Let us pray… Lord, we come to these baptismal waters and ask for the sky to be torn open, so that the clouds of our separation from you, from each other, and from your image within us, might dissolve within your deepest grace. We ponder your love and our alienation from you, our alienation from each other, and our alienation from our very selves. Show us the places of our separation from You, from each other, and from our own souls. Help us believe the Good News that you love us and your world. We believe that Nothing can separate us from your love. Let us know that we are accepted, accepted by You, One greater than us…. Help us Accept that we are accepted, so that your deep acceptance might change everything in us. Wash us with your great love so that we might come to love ourselves, love our neighbors, and love your world.. Amen.
Jesus baptism comes in Luke 3:21. Its location matters, not for some numerology or Bible prophecy chart, but simply because Jesus’ mission begins with God speaking to Jesus, “You are my child, my Beloved; I rejoice in you.” It all begins with Love. Baptism is not the end of faith, hope or grace but the beginning. Matthew places Jesus’ baptism in 3:13. Mark goes straight to the water in 1:9. Luke offers 153 verses before the baptism and another 989 verses to follow. Baptism sends us out into a journey into grace.
There are crowds to feed, sick people needing healthcare, legalists to challenge, outcasts to embrace, disciples to forgive, and Good News to share. Grace sends us out to work as changed people. Baptism is not a fixed in time event, a rite, or magic bean that gets into heaven. The font is not a stagnant pool. We stand at the end of the dock ready to jump into life’s unfolding river, trusting in a current of divine mercy to uphold us. We ride an unseen grace-filled wave that mysteriously moves us along.
So believe the Good News. Dive in. “You are my child, my Beloved; Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We are accepted, accepted by God who is greater than us…. Accept the fact that you are accepted! And be transformed!”
Echoes of the Baptismal Pool
Lord, we come to these waters with a hope beyond our words.
Let the Good News, that You love us and love our world, soak deeply into our souls,
for we long to draw closer to You and to live inside Jesus’ example.
We confess Jesus, trust in Your grace, and strive to serve Christ as Lord.
We come remembering these waters are not about our worst or best efforts.
Grace alone renews, restores, and recreates us.
Love, Mercy and Grace begin-end-and-guide us.
But sinful tides pull us away from love.
Empower us to resist evil, unjust, and oppressive streams.
We repent of sin and turn away it’s deceptive pull,
We claim Your freedom and power to be born anew.
We enter these waters inside Your church.
Here, together, we strive to build a community of love and forgiveness.
Jesus’ Love requires that our God’s church be open to all people,
and so we welcome everyone with Christ-like love.
Give us, Divine Grace, so we might to see Your grace working inside others.
And buoyed up by Grace,assist us as we
increase each other’s faith,
confirm each other’s hope
and perfect one another in love.
So come, Living Water:
pour your Spirit into our hearts,
wash away our sin,
end our separation from your Love,
clothe us in righteousness,
and raise us from death,
so that replenished in Love’s Living Water,
we might become streams of grace,
living as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen.