Baptism of Our Lord 2021 Sermon
In our world today, we hear a lot about being born again. Television evangelists are constantly inviting us to be born again. Books on the subject are often on the best-sellers list. An invitation to accept Christ and be “born again” is central to many denominations in the world today.
And this, I think is a good thing. The “born again” movement has led millions of people to Christ over the years through a sudden and dramatic experience that they would call a second birth.
But the “born again” movement has also had a negative side to it; because the movement has caused some Christians to doubt their faith.
Many Lutherans have been troubled by the “born again” movement because cradle Lutherans cannot remember the time when they were baptized because most Lutherans are baptized as infants. And this has led to some Lutherans to wonder if their faith is authentic, since they have not had a quote “born-again experience.”
Considering this, I think it is well for us Lutherans to remember that Christ’s baptism is a model for us that can help us ease our fears and calm our concerns about our relationship with the Risen Lord.
As we heard today in our Gospel reading, it was at His baptism that Jesus was revealed as God’s Son. And it was at His baptism that Jesus received the power of the Holy Spirit. And so it is important to point out that Christ’s ministry and mission hinged on His baptism.
Jesus taught no one, Jesus healed no one, Jesus raised no one from the dead, Jesus did not cast out a single demon until He had been baptized.
And so, the message is clear, there is no power, no authority, apart from God’s Spirit given to us through the water and Word of baptism.
Jesus began His ministry by being Baptized by John in the River Jordan. In His baptism Jesus received the power of the Holy Spirit to do the ministry our Father in Heaven had sent Jesus to do in our world.
We too begin our Christian lives with our Baptism. In His baptism Jesus received the confirmation that he was God’s beloved Son. In our Baptism we are adopted by God and we too become Children of God.
And so, if Christ’s baptism is a model for us, we Lutherans can conclude several things about our baptism as infants.
First, our Baptism was our second birth, the time when we were “born again” into the family of God. We therefore have been raised as Christians from the moment of our Baptism even though we were just infants and had no say. And so instead of a single dramatic event in which our life was turned around, our whole life from the day of our Baptism has been a gradual growth in faith.
Rather than one dramatic experience of conversion, we have a whole lifetime of experiences of the Holy Spirit working within and around us. Because we have been baptized as an infant, we have never been without the love and salvation of God. Because we had been baptized as an infant, we received our identity as a child of God early in life.
As the words spoken at the baptismal service inform us, “We are born children of a fallen humanity; in the waters of Baptism, we are reborn children of God and inheritors of eternal life. By water and the Holy Spirit, we are made members of the church which is the Body of Christ.” Yes… In Baptism we are reborn. Our Baptism is our second birth.
But our Baptism is not a single, completed event. It is renewed daily. Jesus’ baptismal experience was renewed in His experience of Transfiguration when God again declared him to be the divine Son. Our Baptism should be renewed too, not occasionally, but day by day.
Martin Luther wrote this in the Small Catechism: “What does Baptism mean for daily living? It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.”
So, if you are asked if you have been born again you can joyfully respond “Yes, hundreds of times! Every day I am born again, and every day I am renewed by God’s grace and God’s love.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ; when you were baptized you became a member of God’s Church. And as a member of God’s Church, you have been kept close to God’s Word and you have had the opportunity to participate in the Lord’s Supper. And hear this… You never need to feel lost or alone. Your Baptism unites you with God and brings you into fellowship with all God’s people.
And that is not all, because as one of God’s people you have been given a great task. God wants you to bring the Good News of His mercy and love to the whole world. You have been given the opportunity to go and tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
So today, on this Baptism of Our Lord Sunday, let us cling to the promise that was made when we were baptized which said: “Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ forever.” Why… because these Words are our hope. And because these Word are our hope, we too can now see the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon us like a dove; and we can hear a voice declare “You are my child, my beloved; and with you I am well pleased.” Amen.
Let us pray: Let us pray: Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at His Baptism with the Holy Spirit; and revealed Him as your beloved Son. Keep us, your children born of water and Spirit, faithful in your service, that we may go and boldly proclaim the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.