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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
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Why Baptize Jesus?

Why Baptize Jesus?
 
Matthew 3:13-17
 
 
Yesterday was a day that started out with lack of promise. We found that the roads over at our home were ice covered and very slippery. When we ran a small errand, the going was really slow. Our first warning sign that things would not be easy came when we practically slid through the intersection of our street and the one leading to the paved road. When we got to the paved road we didn’t fare any better. That road was ice covered as well. We only had to go three miles, but those three miles might as well have been 10. We made it there and back, but determined that we would have to start back on our way to Newaygo. It took us about an hour to get to Highway 10, but from there the roads were much better. It seemed that it was just our neighborhood and surrounding area that were so ice covered. But the signs were there for what we were about to experience in ice slicked roads. Our sliding through the first intersection and later a truck that had already slid off the road were clues to pay attention to. 
 
The book of Matthew gives us an important clue very early on in his writings. We come to the description of Jesus’ baptism and may wonder why Jesus had to be baptized in the first place. Wasn’t he the perfect Son of God after all? What need did he have to be baptized by John, something John himself wondered. In this passage Matthew establishes Jesus’ identity right away. It is God himself who identifies who Jesus is, “beloved Son”! John is the first one to know for sure. He has already recognized Jesus’ greatness. Now he knows the true identity of Jesus and baptizes him in obedience to what God wanted. And, Jesus shows his obedience as well, doing the will of God in being willing to submit to John’s baptism. He sets the model for future generations of Christians, the model of obedience and the model for baptism. 
 
John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, of turning from worshipping other gods, including material wants and desires and turning once again to the true God to worship and obey. But something new took place when Jesus was baptized. The Holy Spirit descended upon him, much like a dove descending on him. Future baptisms into the Christian faith would be baptisms of the Spirit. When one accepted the truth about Jesus’ identity, when one was able to proclaim the belief that Jesus was and is the Son of God, and was willing to live in obedience to God’s will made known through him, then one was given the Spirit to guide and lead them into right living. The act of baptism makes known our identity as children of God, even when that baptism is for an infant. Parents proclaim the belief for the child and make the promise to help the child to come to that same belief for him or herself.
 
Why is this so important for the Christian faith? Baptism is a way of proclaiming publicly who we believe ourselves to be, obedient followers of the Christ, the Son of God. And we promise to do all we can to live up to that identity. Through baptism and the giving of the Spirit we are empowered to live the Christian life. When we are baptized, God claims and names us as children of God and does all in his power to help us live up to our new name as child of God. 
 
Does one have to be baptized to be saved? No, one simply needs to proclaim that Jesus is Lord of his or her life. But baptism is a public proclamation of believe and in that proclamation, the surrounding community of faith is asked to help the newly baptized grow in faith. Being a Christian becomes a community event, and identity that is part of the whole community. Baptism is a way of making a stronger commitment to and covenant with Christ. 
The important thing is commitment to a way of life, that sometimes is at odds with the “norm” of a culture. Making a commitment to Jesus becomes a way of obedience to God’s will. 
 
We live in a society where almost anything goes. Strong, lasting commitments are hard to find. Marriages frequently end in divorce, jobs are changed as easily as another one can be found, people bail out of projects when the going gets difficult. 
 
And our faith gets put on hold when it interferes with other distractions in life. Or we choose not to step up and speak out when we see injustices being done. Are our lives being lived without commitment to Jesus? God proclaimed who Jesus was. Are we just as willing to proclaim him as well? Are we timid in our faith, unwilling to step up to the plate and let others know what Jesus means to us and to the world? Are we unwilling to step out in faith and let our friends and family know what it means to follow this man we call Jesus? Do we reserve out time with Jesus to times when it is popular to do so, such as when we come to church, or gather with a group of Christians? Where is our commitment to Jesus? 
 
Proclaiming Jesus can be the absolute most important thing we do when someone who doesn’t believe is in trouble. Having the courage to say, “I will pray for you because I know that God listens and responds!” may be the one statement that helps a person turn the corner in their difficulties and may set them on a journey toward faith. We do not know how God is working in another person, but proclaiming our faith in our statements about God and Jesus may be the tool that God uses to claim yet another soul in the victory of faith. Hiding our faith will not change the world. But living by the Spirit may make a huge difference in the life of another. 
 
Opportunities to share our faith abound in life. But our commitment to Christ is the key to finding and using those opportunities to make a difference, to bring hope to a sometimes very dismal, broken world. On a scale from 1-10, where is our dedication to our faith. Are we at 1 or 2, willing to hang out with other Christians, but timid in telling the story, or are we at 10, where we are dedicated and living in our faith whole heartedly, willing to share our hope with others as often as we can. My guess is that most of us dwell in the middle ranges where we share our faith when it is convenient.
 
Maybe now is the time to examine our faith, to rededicate our lives to Christ. I would like us to take a look at the statement of faith that is central to our lives consecrated to living with Christ and rededicate ourselves to those belief statements. 
 
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. There is no other power able to create as God did, the whole vastness of the universe. There is no other power that loves what has been created.
 
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. At the heart of our faith is the belief that Jesus is truly the son of God who came at a specific time in history, acted in specific ways to show us how we are intended to live and reveal who God is to us. We believe absolutely that Jesus was killed but death could not contain him. His death and resurrection was made available to all of us in what we call the kingdom of God, heaven.
 
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. It is through the Holy Spirit that we come to belief in what God has done in history through Jesus. It is the Spirit that works in us enabling us to live a right kind of life, one dedicated to following Jesus, one that leads us to life everlasting with God at the center. That is what we are created for and Jesus is the way provided to get us there.
Living the life we are intended to live means commitment to following the path that gets us there the best. It is the right time to rededicate our lives to our Lord and Savior! Hopefully together this year we can come to know what that means more fully and with renewed dedication. 

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