Why is Baptism Important?
January 8, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Our title and our topic for today is: Why is Baptism Important?
Let’s talk today about your Baptism.
There are two questions I would like us to answer today.
First, why is Baptism important?
Second, why in the world did Jesus want to be Baptized?
Let's look at the second question. One day, John the Baptizer, the cousin of Jesus, was baptizing people in the river Jordan. Now, you remember John - a rough and tumble sort of preacher, urging people vehemently to repent of their sins, and let their Baptism be the sign of their repentance. People flocked to John, and were glad to be called his disciples.
One day, John saw an amazing sight. Coming down to him over the crest of the hill was One he knew well. It was his cousin, Jesus.
John knew that Jesus had no need of repentance. John knew that Jesus was the Perfect One. John knew that he should be baptized by Jesus and wondered why Jesus was doing it. "I am not worthy to untie His shoelace!" said John. “Why should Jesus need or want this Baptism I am offering?” But Jesus said, "Let it be so for now." So Jesus was baptized, and a voice from heaven was heard saying, "This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased."
So here we are. John is preaching a baptism of repentance, a baptism of water - and here comes Jesus, not needing repentance, asking John to Baptize Him! What do you make of this? John didn't know what to make of this. But Jesus says, "I want us to do this anyway."
It can only mean that Jesus saw more in Baptism than repentance only. He saw more meaning than even John the Baptist attached to it. Let's explore what that extra meaning might have been for the Lord.
There are three thoughts that I would like to share with you about Baptism this morning. They all begin with the letter “C” and they are: Connected, Cleansed and Consecrated.
Think about it with me. Your Baptism means that you are connected to every other Christian in the world who has been baptized! Isn’t that a wonderful thought? You are connected to folks down in Africa who are just beginning to establish a church and becoming baptized. You are connected to folks whose Christian expression may be very different than ours. You are connected to High Church Episcopalians, and you are connected to Fundamentalist Baptists. You are connected to Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Reformed Church members, and you are connected to every other Baptized Christian who embraces the name of Christ. What is the sign of this connection? The sign is our Baptism. What a genealogy! What a family! Your Baptism means that you are connected. No matter what the bloodlines may be, you are part of the Christian family, and we're all connected. This connection answers for me the question of why Jesus did it. He wanted us to be part of the same family. He wanted us to stand together. His Baptism connects us to Him.
Baptism also connects us spiritually to generations gone by. Think about it with me. Were your parents Baptized? Your grandparents? I know that mine were. Back farther than that, I do not know; but I assume they were. How about you?
The point is this: beyond blood relation, by your Baptism, you are spiritually connected to a multitude of ancestors and relatives by virtue of this sacrament. I think that's exciting! Consider this: there is something that you share in common with ancestors you never met. It is your love for Christ. We are all connected by our faith in and love for Jesus Christ, and that's a beautiful thing. Through Baptism, we are connected to many - and most importantly, to Christ. That's why we're celebrating the joy of this sacrament today. Baptism means that we are connected together by the water of the Spirit.
I have a picture that is very, very precious to me. On the back of the picture there is a date, October 15, 1951. This picture shows a handsome gentleman with black hair, holding a bundle in a blanket. His wife is next to him. My parents were standing near by. In the background is an old black car, an Edsel, I think. It hints at the age of that picture. That was my Baptism day. The gentleman was my Godfather, who continues to be very precious to me. October 15, 1951 was when I was blessed into the family of Christ. I thank God for my parents that this is so. I am grateful that they cared so much for me that they saw to it that, before I knew my own name, I was baptized into the family of Christ.
The second thing that Baptism does, is that it cleanses us. I had a wonderful illustration of this point. Someone told me that they know a minister who performs Baptisms. This minister always asks the family to bring a little bottle of water from their home. He adds the water from the home to the water from the church. This is to remind the family that water is scared and precious and that church and home unite in the Baptismal experience.
When you splash water on your face in the morning, remember the waters of your Baptism and think I am refreshed and strengthened, I am a Baptized Christian. You can make a fresh start, you are cleansed. Baptism is the washing away of sin, of error, of limiting thoughts. You can begin the day renewed.
There is a funny story told about a man called Sam Houston. He was a well known politician down in Texas. He had a city named after him! When he was younger, he led a very, shall we say, colorful and morally questionable life. However, as he got older, he decided that he wanted to change, to turn his life over to the Lord and to be baptized. He went down to a river with the minister in order to be baptized. The minister lowered him into the water and baptized him. As he came out of the water, one of his enthusiastic friends from church called out, “Sam, this is wonderful. Isn’t this great! You are baptized and all your sins are washed away into the river of Baptism!”
Sam just shook his head and said, “God help the poor fish.” (Congregation laughs)
People bring children for Baptism. But what do tiny children know of sin? The affirmation is that whatever sin there has been passed down in the human race since the sin of Adam (some call it original sin), baptism makes the child free from it. The child is free to live a life that is filled with the blessing and the love of God. Baptism is a cleansing of the soul.
How about us? Does the soul need a cleansing? Does your soul need a fresh start? You can always reclaim the blessing of your Baptism. You can always be reminded of the waters of your Baptism, and reclaim the courage and blessing you need to make a fresh start. That's what we'll be doing today as we remember the Baptism of the Lord. Baptism is a sign of our salvation, of the cleansing and refreshing of our soul, and as our sharing in the righteousness of Christ.
Baptism is also a consecration. What does that word mean? Consecration means, "made sacred, or holy." What does holy mean? It means "special to God." Baptism reminds us that we indeed are special to God. We have the God spark within us, we are made in the very image of the Creator.
We are made whole, made special to God.
How do we know? As the Scripture tells us, when Jesus was Baptized, God says, You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased. That is the promise of God for Jesus and if so for Jesus then for us also. You are consecrated, that is what the Scripture meant when it talked about the baptism of the spirit. There is more than the connection, there is more than the cleansing, there is an uplifting magnetism to God that is revealed, affirmed and blessed in the sacrament of Baptism.
So my dear friends, rejoice and be glad that you are a Baptized Christian! Rejoice and be glad that you are God's beloved child, in whom He is well pleased! You are a person who is connected, cleansed and consecrated to the Holy Spirit.
And Friend, if by chance you have not been Baptized and would like to talk about that, please give me a call at 908-874-273, and we will talk this over, and perhaps deal with questions you may have. I would welcome your call.
God loves you; I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
PS: At the conclusion of this sermon, the congregation was invited to take part in a "Baptismal Reminder". As people came forward, the Pastor placed water on the forehead in the sign of the cross and said, "(name of person), you are God's beloved child, in whom He is well pleased. Remember the waters of your Baptism, and be thankful. Amen."
© 2012 Anthony J. Godlefski