August 9, 2020

Why Do We Baptize

Passage: Matthew 3:13-17

August 9 (Baptize Rory Morris) (Baptize Karsyn?)
Matthew 3:13-17
“Why Do We Baptize?”
This morning’s sermon illustration comes from a website called More, and is titled, “The Branded Maverick.”

Out on the cattle ranches of the West the unbranded calves that roam at large are known as "mavericks." They are claimed by the man who, is first to get his brand on them at the annual round up. A little Western girl had been baptized one Sunday by the Methodist minister of the town. Her schoolmates questioned her the next day as to the meaning of the ceremony. "Well," she said, "I will just tell you. I was a little maverick out on the prairie and that man put the Jesus mark on my forehead so that when He sees me He will know that I am one of His children." This little story came from a magazine called The Evangelical Christian, and leads me to the question, “Why do we Baptize?”

The question of why we are baptized has been a source of confusion for many. Even John the Baptist did not understand when Jesus came to John in the Jordan river and asked to be Baptized. John thought he needed to be baptized by Jesus. Jesus told John, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15).

Baptism is an outward sign of something God has already done within us. Baptism is not about God claiming us. Baptism is about recognizing God has already laid God’s claim on us and we have accepted God’s ownership; lordship, and our salvation because of the love God has for us. But why does God need to do something within us if when God created us in Genesis 1 we were created “good” (Gen 1:31)?

The answer comes from Genesis chapter 3. Church, what happened in Genesis chapter 3? (pause and wait for the answer, “the Fall”) Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God (Gen 1:27; 2:7, 20-22). In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve chose to willfully disobey God. They chose to damage their relationship with God. They were no longer righteous because they were no longer in right relationship with God. The definition of righteousness is to be in right relationship with God and with one another (make the sign of the cross). When Eve was tempted by the snake to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil, and then handed it to Adam to eat our relationship with God was broken. Then when God held the snake, and Adam and Eve accountable Adam and Even turned on one another and the snake. Their relationship with one another and with creation was then damaged as well. 

My sisters and brothers Adam and Eve are the representatives for all of humanity. When they sinned against God we all sinned against God. We are all born with this innate desire to have it our own way; to bend or break the rules to get what we want. A lot of the time we are so passionate about what we want, or so caught up in the good we are trying to do we are willing to do it at any cost. The argument is the ends justify the means. (pause) I hate to break it to you, but it is not that way with God. God is alone is responsible for the ends; and God equips US for the means.  We get to choose to do God’s work; but to do God’s work we HAVE to choose to accept God’s help.

Too often we have chosen not to accept God’s help. Amen? Amen. Too often we have not chosen to accept God’s grace. Amen?! Amen! Too often we have chosen to go our own way. Amen? Amen. We have continued to damage our relationship with God. We have damaged our relationship with one another. We have damaged God’s good creation which is our responsibility to steward. Everyone has done what they believed was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). We have all gone maverick.

The result of our sinful choices is the evil we see in the world today. We have taken prayer out of schools. According to the last census the number of those who claim to be Christian are in sharp decline. Honestly, I’m a little scared of where the current census will place the number of those who identify as Christian. There is a startling divide in this country between the rich and the poor. Around the world children are being mistreated and treated like property or worse. Women and young girls are being abducted and sold into prostitution. There is a pandemic raging, perhaps worse in our country than in the rest of the world. In 2020 there are still problems with racism, agism, and sexism. Our world is seeing a decline of natural resources. Honeybees are a precious commodity because they pollinate our crops making it possible for humanity to grow more food, but our pesticides are killing them off. We have poured chemicals into our rivers, creeks and oceans, and polluted our air. There is global warming. Our planet is letting us know something is not right. Adam was created from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). We are connected to this world. When we fell, creation fell with us. That is why there are hurricanes, earthquakes and heaven help us all viruses. We are not righteous. We have continued to live in Adam and Eve’s sin. We are NOT in right relationship with God. We are NOT in right relationship with each other. We are NOT doing our job to take care of our planet. (pause) We are NOT right. (pause) And we are definitely NOT righteous. We have gone our own way for too long and done unspeakable damage to our relationship with God, with one another and to our environment. Every one of us is guilty. Every one of us is complicit. Every one of us has played our part. Everyone of us is a sinner.

Into our brokenness God sent God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was born like one of us. Jesus grew up like one of us. Jesus had to get a job to support His family like one of us. (pause) When it was time to start Jesus’ earthly ministry Jesus came to His cousin, John the Baptist.  John the Baptist knew the world was broken. John the Baptist recognized none of us are right with God and we all need to repent. We all need to turn back to God. However, what Jesus was showing John is the ends are God’s, and God chooses to work out the means to God’s ends through humanity. Jesus is showing John that Jesus must be baptized for things to go according to God’s will and not ours. God’s will must come first. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Blessed are those who eagerly seek a right relationship with God and one another. Through grace God motivates us to seek righteousness. Seeing righteousness is an act of God. It is something God does to us and for us on the inside. God’s prevenient grace leads us to salvation. Baptism is our response to God’s work of salvation in us. Baptism is our way of announcing to the world just what God has done in us and for us through the sacrifice of God’s only Son Jesus Christ. God’s prevenient grace draws us from our sinful maverick wandering to the cross of Jesus Christ where we encounter our risen Lord. Jesus calls us through prevenient grace. Jesus paid the price for our mistakes and our willful disobedience through His sacrifice on the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible for God to offer us saving grace. All we have to do is accept God’s free gift. We don’t deserve it, but God sent God’s only son to die that we might have this free gift. 

The question I asked at the beginning of this message is why do we Baptize? The simple answer is we come to be Baptized as a response to God’s grace at work in our lives. We come to be Baptized because Christ said it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness. The only question left to ask is what are we going to do? How are we going to respond to God’s grace? Can we honestly say we hear God’s call upon our lives every day? (pause) If not, why not? I honestly believe it’s like any other relationship. Either we are listening to one another or we are not? If we are not listening for God’s voice how are we ever going to hear God say, Now is your time to act. Now is your time to serve. Now is your time to allow God to make your life better. I give thanks to God that today Karsyn Riley Layne has responded to God’s grace and is coming forward for Baptism and initiation into the family of God and membership in our church. Remember Christ’s words from Matthew 18:3, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” My sisters and brothers this child is responding to God’s grace to be Baptized. How will you follow her example? What is God calling you to do?

In the Name of Jesus Christ,

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