Remember Your Baptism
REMEMBER YOUR BAPTISM
1 CORINTHIANS 12:13
I remember a lot of things about my life. But as a Presbyterian, I was baptized as an infant, by my grandfather, and I don’t remember that. So I found it strange when I entered seminary and attended a Christian education class. One day, the professor started talking about the importance of “remembering your baptism.” And me, being the infallible man called by God that I am (just kidding), raised my hand and responded, “Well, I was baptized as in infant; I can’t remember my baptism.” Let’s just say my teacher did not appreciate my smart aleck response.
What are we doing today anyway by baptizing Luke? Are we saving him? Washing away his sins? That is what Emperor Constantine thought. Emperor Constantine is considered to be the first Christian Emperor of the Roman Empire. It is said that Christ appeared to Constantine before a major battle and told him to put the sign of the cross on the shields of his troops that he may win the battle. When he did so and Rome won, Constantine saw this as a sign and granted tolerance to the Christian religion, a religion that had been persecuted before his rule. Thing is, Constantine didn’t get baptized till 25 years after that famous vision and battle. He didn’t get baptized until he was on his death bed. His decision was not unusual for the day, since many Christians believed one could not be forgiven after baptism and as Roman Emperor, Constantine had to do some pretty unseemly things.
But we know on the face of it how that doesn’t make sense. I just can’t get a super soaker and go squirting people to save them. The Book of Order, the constitution of our church, describes baptism “as a sign and a seal” of God’s grace in our lives. For an infant, baptism is a sign of God’s grace before we know what is going on, a sign that the promise is for us and for our children and for all who are far off. The seal is the community’s commitment to raise that child in the love, grace, and fear of the Lord. So that one day they may choose to follow Jesus, as well. For an adult who is being baptized, perhaps it is a sign to those who are watching who have not been baptized. A sign of faith made manifest. And the community is recognizing that faith and affirming that faith. However old we are, baptism says to us that God is calling us. Calling us from death to life. From the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of Christ.
The Bible talks a lot about remembering. Remembering the works of the Lord in our lives. I believe as much as we are grateful, that is how much the Lord is able to use us as His instruments. I don’t have a clue how to rejoice in all circumstances as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. But ten years ago when I asked the Lord to teach me how to love, I was not a very loving person and I know the Lord has taught me a lot about love, so I pray he will continue to teach me about gratefulness and rejoicing. I pray the same for you. I know the key to that is remembering. I have thought a lot about what my seminary teacher meant by remembering something I couldn’t remember, that being my baptism. I know through working with older people with memory loss of one form or another that though we may lose our memory, that doesn’t mean we lose our blessings. Some blessings are unforgettable. The Lord, he is faithful even when memory fades.
Remember your baptism. Those words echo in my mind, they echo in my heart. I don’t remember my baptism, I don’t remember my grandfather who baptized me. He died when I was three. What is the Lord calling us to remember today, both you and me?
First from the book of Acts we learnt he need for conviction and repentance. Baptism can easily become a crutch. It is something we can see. We can control how and who we dunk, sprinkle, or whatever, with water. It’s harder, as today’s passage from Acts suggests, to be cut to the heart by our own sins. Theology and Christian education is great. But it doesn’t take the place of repentance. It doesn’t take the place of being cut to the heart.
Second, Romans 6:3 says that we were baptized into Christ’s death. I am all for eternal life, sounds like a great idea to me, but being baptized into death doesn’t sound fun. Especially Christ’s death. I’ve seen Mel Gibson’s masterpiece The Passion. It’s the kind of movie you can only watch once. We want to deny it, but we know in our spirits that any new life requires pain, requires a death of sorts. But we bear it for the joy set before us. A mother bears the pain of child birth for the joy she knows is coming. Hebrews 12:2 says for the joy set before him Christ bore the cross, scorning the shame, and sitting down at the right hand of God. We need to remember that baptism says we have to die to the past. The pain, the shame, the loss, the disappointment. We have to forgive. We have to be open to new life. Baptism reminds us that we need a resurrection. And only God can bring life from death.
Finally, In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul says that we were all baptized into one body – Jews and Greeks, slave or free – and we were made to drink of one Spirit. Baptism reminds us that Jesus, in John 17, prayed for the unity of his disciples, that we may love one another. Baptism is a sign of our unity. Not that we all agree all the time. Not that we will never hurt each other. Instead, baptism says that we share a Spirit that binds us together as a body, many parts, but a working whole. So as we baptize Luke today, may we remember our own baptism. May we die to ourselves. May we be raised to new life. May we be one.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.