Baptize Your Day
January 8, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
4John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! We’re talking about baptism today. One of the children asked, “Is somebody being baptized today?” That was a really good question, because in a way, we all are. The bowl of water here is to remind us of our baptism and of the baptism of Jesus, which we’re reading about in this morning’s gospel.
I was in a diner with some friends one night and the waitress was in a hurry and, as she passed me, she dumped a glass of water on me. It was cold. She stood there, aghast, not knowing what to say. I looked at her and said, “Madam, I am reminded of the waters of my baptism. I am thankful, so thank you very much.”
It is good to be reminded of the waters of our baptism. Usually we don’t think about it very much, do we? We only think about it in those sacred moments when parents do that beautiful thing for their children, bringing them forward to be baptized so that they know, before they even know their own names, that they are the beloved of God, that the sins of the world are taken away by the grace of Jesus Christ. That’s when we think about our baptism.
But we ought to think about it more often. Today is a great day for that, because we are contemplating the baptism of our Lord. Let’s take a look at what happened in the Gospel.
The Gospel tells us of an unusual gentleman named John the Baptist. He is calling people to repent, to rethink, to change their lives and come forward and be baptized in the Jordan River. We understand he was an unusual chap; he dressed austerely and he had a very no-nonsense way about him. He ate wild honey and locusts. (Do you really think they were locusts? I don’t think so. I think they were more likely a carob bean-type pod shaped like a locust.)
John was giving something special to the folks, and they were gathering at the river, being baptized by him. Why? If it were you, why would you do it? Why would you gather at the river and wait to be baptized by John? What would draw you there?
May I suggest two things? If you were a Jewish person living at that time, you were probably burdened by so many laws. In order to get close to God you had to do so many things that were so difficult, it was almost impossible, and almost impossible not to feel terribly guilty. So if you were a Jewish person living at the time who wanted to be close to God, you were probably carrying terrible burdens of guilt and shame and regret. But here comes John, and he says, “There’s still a chance for you. Come and be baptized.”
What will it give you? Two things. First, an inner cleansing, a spiritual, emotional cleansing that will take away the sins of the world and that will make you acceptable to God. So one thing they came for was cleansing.
And the second was closeness, because inside of each of us there is a God-magnet. Inside each of us there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill. They came to the river and they were baptized, because they were cleansed from their regrets, from the sins of the past, and they were made close to God. Cleansing and closeness – that’s why people came to be baptized.
What a thought! What an opportunity! Don’t we want that, too? Don’t we need it too, even today? I suggest that we do. I do! And so, the thought occurs, why don’t you and I baptize the day? When we get up in the morning, why don’t we let one of our first thoughts be “I baptize this day in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”? “I accept the grace of Christ to cleanse it from all the mistakes and the regrets I have of the past. I’m not going to drag a trunkload of guilt and regret and sin into this day. I’m going to let the Lord cleanse it; I’m going to baptize this day, because it is fresh and new and unique, and there has never been another one like it ever before. And there will never be another one like it again. I’m going to let the Lord hold sway over this day. I’m going to let the Lord into my life with a simple, child-like faith. I’m going to baptize this day.”
How about we begin our day like that? You know, there has never been a day like today. Someone said once that people think about 200,000 thoughts a day. Wow! But if 199,000 of them are the same thoughts we thought yesterday, then that takes something away from the freshness of today. Baptize your day! Be in the spirit of the people who came to John. Jesus thought it was such a good idea that He lent His support by being baptized Himself. So why don’t you and I let this day be our baptized day?
I invite you to consider a few JFT statements, and you might want to make a JFT statement, yourself. What is a JFT statement? It means “just for today.” I heard someone say, “I can do for an hour what I cannot imagine doing all day long, and I can do for one day what I can’t imagine doing for a lifetime.” But we can just live in day-tight compartments and say, “We’re going to try this on our baptized day, just for today.” I invite you to write down what you would like to see happen in acknowledgement of the fact that this is a unique day, a God-blessed day, a day that doesn’t have to be like the past, a day that frees you from the burdens of the past, and that lets you do the creative thing that God has given you to do.
* Just for today, I’m going to count my blessings instead of my burdens.
* Just for today, I will remember that what I concentrate on I give power to.
* Just for today, I will accept the things I cannot change. I will accept it with grace and relaxation. I will also work gently and diligently to accomplish what I can do.
* Just for today, I will declare the day terrific. I will count just being alive a success. I will look for every chance to smile and laugh.
* Just for today, I will not criticize, condemn, or complain. I will give people the benefit of the doubt.
* Just for today, I will place myself in other people’s shoes.
* Just for today, I will let my faith be simple and trusting like a child’s. I will ask God for the things I need, and I will ask Him again and I will ask Him again and I will ask Him again. And I will believe in the power of love to change things for the better.
* Just for today, I will practice letting go, letting go of tight feelings, and letting my soul be open and free. I will remember that the most useful part of my favorite cup is the empty space inside. And I will practice openness.
* Just for today, I will see my job as a way for God to bless the world.
* Just for today, I will look for the good in everyone, including myself.
* Just for today, I will listen to my intuition, the voice of my inner angel, leading me to do good and loving and productive things. I will follow it.
* Just for today, I will listen more closely to the inner guiding voice and be flexible.
* Just for today, I will lose fear and choose faith.
* Just for today, I will intentionally make someone’s life brighter with a good word and a smile.
* Just for today, I am going to read something inspiring. I’m going to start a stack of books and magazines called my inspirational reading collection and read a little from it each day, so that God can fill my mind with new, inspiring ideas.
* Just for today, I will do something that is profoundly good for my physical body, whether that is to exercise it or rest it or feed it healthfully.
* Just for today, I forgive myself as I forgive others, and I will practice freedom of the soul. I will invoke for myself the mercy I would invoke for others. I will give myself a break; I will give others a break as well.
* Just for today, I will listen intently to my family and my friends and especially to children, and treat them with all the love and respect they deserve. I will be interested in what’s important to them.
* Just for today, I will put God first. I will let God love me. I will place myself in the center of His love and care and be open to the good news He has in store.
* Just for today, I will work a modest day and then go home. I then will declare the day a good one. I will allow myself a peaceful rest.
Does this get your wheels turning? Is there a “just for today” statement that an angel of the Lord is calling you to? Take a moment, my friends, to think of your own JFT that you want to see manifest on this, your baptized day.
And so, I invite us to baptize this day. Make it a unique one. Make it different from any other. The Holy Spirit of God will empower you to do it and give you the energy and the peace you need.
God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed day and a blessed week. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski