Today we celebrated “the Baptism of the Lord” in our worship service. I didn’t know that this particular event in Jesus’ life received a Sunday all its own, even though I’ve been doing this “liturgical” dance with the Methodists all of my life. Christ’s baptism certainly is worthy of remembrance as are all his moments, but this one in particular marked the beginning of something special.
It marked Christ’s beginning journey to the cross—his public ministry on this earth. What began in the Jordan would climax at Calvary. When John baptized Jesus in keeping with the fulfillment of Scripture, God introduced his Son to the world with a few words of sacred commendation. With his affirming love and with his “well-pleased.” The Holy Spirit lighted upon Jesus in the form of a dove, empowering him to walk the earthly road assigned to him.
Today, my preacher (a.k.a. “my man”) admonished us to “remember our baptism” as well. To acknowledge that moment from our past when we first “went public” with the grace of God. My public moment came as a young adolescent, kneeling at the altar railing of the Wilmore United Methodist Church. Dr. David Seamands spoke the moment over me. I remember my white dress, the one I desperately searched for because it was so very important to me to look pure—to be adorned in white raiment in keeping with the sacred occasion. A few friends joined me at the altar that day. They other details have long since faded from memory, but I do remember thinking that this occasion was something more than in keeping with religious protocol. It was a day that marked the beginning of something bigger in my own journey… a walk to the cross of sorts, where my heart and life identified with the heart and life of Jesus Christ at a deeper level.
Long before I ever felt the “wetness” of Dr. Seamands’ hands upon my head, God’s grace was working on my behalf. There has never been a time in my life when Jesus wasn’t real to me. He’s always been present; always been part of my thoughts. He began the sacred conversation with my soul at the earliest of ages. It continues to this day, and I cannot imagine my life without him.
I suppose there have been seasons when I tried… tried to live free from him. Times when I deliberately chose flesh over faith, but even in those moments of willful rebellion, the conversation continued. Muffled some days because of my freely chosen decisions, but present nonetheless. Jesus Christ has kept me, friends, all the days of my forty-three years. He is the reason I have peace in my heart. He is the reason I gather with the saints on a Sunday morning to reflect and remember, rejoice and relive the single truth that has claimed me and transformed me.
Today I remembered Christ’s baptism. I remembered my own. I dipped my hand into the water and clutched remembrance to my chest. I knelt at the altar again and considered my “long ago and far away.” I considered Christ’s as well, and I was thankful for his “entering into” that Jordan River so that I could, one day, enter into my very own moment of “going public” with God.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Baptism, for me, exceeds religious practice. I understand the huge denominational divide that separates our views along these lines. I simply don’t get hung up on it. God’s grace and his Son’s moment at the Jordan are too big to allow me to linger in my limited understanding therein. Some of you are dearly devoted to Jesus Christ and have never had a moment of “going public” with your heart. No water has sprinkled its wetness upon your head; your body hasn’t been submerged in a baptistery, much less the Jordan River. Let me assure you of this…
You are no less precious in our Father’s eyes. If Christ has entered into your broken and weary estate, if you have received him as your Lord and Savior, then you have “gone public” with your Jesus. You have been baptized with the renewing power of his Holy Spirit. When it comes to the matter of our hearts, we answer only to One. And if your heart belongs to the King, then all of heaven rejoices and bends low to offer their chorused applause. Your wetness on the inside far exceeds any public display of “wet” on the outside.
Does that mean that “baptism” is nothing, that it accomplishes nothing, isn’t important or not an appropriate response to the working of the Holy Spirit within us? Not at all. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward working of grace. It is one of the ways we “go public” with our Jesus and our profession of faith. And I happen to believe that “going public” with Jesus is always in keeping with his plans for the crucified life. A life that identifies, in part, with the Savior who went public with his commitment to the cross so that you and I could better walk our commitment accordingly.
Today I remembered my baptism, I remembered Christ’s as well. Tomorrow I pray to remember the same—to never walk a single day without the grace of Calvary pulsing through my veins. I want my life to be the lavish expression of the life that he lived and breathed and walked and surrendered some 2000 years ago on my behalf. To offer any less to him, is to live less. And the last time I checked, “less” didn’t fit with God’s agenda of more.
It’s been a long time since my “long ago and far away” moment of “going public” with Jesus. There are few remaining persons in my life who actually remember that moment. I don’t imagine they think on it very often. The water that poured down my head has long since dried up, and the godly man who put it there? Well, he walked home to Jesus not long ago. But there is One who thinks on it very often. His memory is clear, and his rejoicing still resounds throughout all of heaven to announce that I am his, that his working grace continues on my behalf, and that the indwelling power of his Holy Spirit has found a good and spacious rest within my soul.
I am the living temple of God’s living Spirit. So are you. In wearing him, we wear our “going public” display of his witness for all the world to see.
Wear your baptism this week, friends. Remember it well, and walk it into a world that needs the pulse of Calvary moving through its midst. As always…
peace for the journey,
PS: Friends, please refrain from allowing our comments to become a heated debate regarding the practice of baptism. This is not my intent with this post, but rather to allow us remembrance and reflection regarding the importance of wearing our “baptism”–whatever that has been for us–as a living witness to the world. Shalom.
Copyright © January 2010 – Elaine Olsen